Text: Exodus 17:1-7
Today we are celebrating baptism. It is God’s “yes” to us, and our “yes” to God. It is in baptism that we affirm life, the gift of God, and that each of us is affirmed as a child of God. Baptism is a profound and liberating ritual that we must revisit every once in a while. It is here that we are fully known, accepted, loved and understood just as we are. We don’t have to be someone else in order to belong. What a gift! That is dramatically different from the world we live in. We say no to the world that labels people often unfairly.
There are so many categories that put people into boxes in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation, skin color, education, religion, ability, class and appearance. The problem is not categorizing itself but how it has been used to benefit the powerful and the privileged in the society, resulting in more division, more isolation, and more inequity. Baptism does the reverse; it unites us and connects us.
It takes disillusionment to truly appreciate the radical meaning of baptism. More than anything, it is the love of God that is manifested in baptism. Such love is so powerful that it dissolves all the boundaries that separate us from one another, and from God. Paul proclaims the fundamental connection with the love of God which knows no boundaries:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
In baptism we say no to how the world sees us, and yes to how God sees us; the beloved, the radiant being, the image of God, the spark of the soul, the blessed, the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. God claims us, identifies with us, and loves us. We are from God. We are of God. Nothing else matters.
We are also celebrating communion together with sisters and brothers in Christ throughout the world. If baptism speaks about our fundamental identity, our relationship with God, communion speaks about our fundamental togetherness, our relationship with each other and the world.
Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper commemorates the last super Jesus had with the disciples on the night before he died. Jesus and his friends probably ate together countless times at numerous places before the night. What’s so special about the supper other than it was the last?
We first have to know its context. It was on the night he was betrayed that Jesus gathered together his beloved friends, took bread, broke it, and gave it to them saying ‘this is my body broken for you.’ In the midst of brokenness and pain he lifted up the bread, and gave thanks to God. In the midst of fear and uncertainty, he affirmed the gift of life he was given, and celebrated the presence of God in sharing of bread among the gathered community. We can hear the echo of the psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.”
If God is with us, nothing else matters. This radical way of life – the life of thanksgiving turns our world upside down, moving us from the place of scarcity and fear to the place of abundance and love, and from wanting more than we need to sharing until no one goes hungry. Every time we celebrate communion, we are invited to be mindful of all our relations for whom the body of Christ broken. We become the body of Christ by participating in the work of God’s radical love and welcome.
Here we have bread and water, the most basic human necessities. We can’t live without them. It’s not that they become something else, other than what they already are. Rather we see something holy in them. They are wonderful reminders of God’s presence. They evoke in us the transforming power of God’s love that dissolves all the boundaries we created, including between what’s spiritual and what’s bodily, and between what’s sacred and what’s mundane.
Every time we break bread together, we can lift up our lives to God with thanksgiving. Every time we give a piece of bread to others, we become the body of Christ, broken for the world. Dorothy Day, the founder of Catholic Worker movement, and the inspiration of thousands of soup kitchens, sums up well what it means to be the body of Christ in the world: “Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.”
Every time we drink water or use it, we are invited to be in awe of what it symbolizes. It quenches our thirst, it enlivens us, restores us, refreshes us, revives us, reshapes us, and reconnects us. It fills our emptiness. It symbolizes God as the inexhaustible fountain, being available and used but never used up, providing us with infinite possibilities.
God blesses all of us with bread and water. That’s what we are witnessing today. Jaxson is much more than anyone in the world can ever define. Jaxson is blessed, loved, welcomed, known and claimed by God, and we know that nothing else matters. We, the whole congregation, are behind Jaxson and his family, supporting and nurturing them with the radical love of God, which will dissolve all the boundaries that separate us. God will continue to be present to each of us every time we break bread, and every time we receive or give a cup of water.