Baptisms and exoduses

Iraq: Baptism
Image by slagheap via Flickr

Baby moses is not killed, despite the Pharoahs orders.  He is placed in a water proof basket and “sailed” down the Nile.  That infant moved into mystery itself: a whole new world. 

Moses would later lead his people across the Red Sea, as God parts the waters to let the Israelites pass.

These two events are like book ends… Or portals, even.  As an infant, the baby travels atop the water from his broken and fallen Jewish World and into the Egyptian one.  As an adult, he travels across the place that the water had been, leading the Jews into a new world.

That second journey is a journey into both freedom and destiny.  It is a moment of liberation, a precursor of a later journey into the water.

John the Baptizer leads people on a journey into freedom through the water, too.  This journey is an individual one.  It is one that even Jesus himself takes.

When Jesus is baptized, the Spirit of God comes back to the water, just as it was at the beginning.  And just as the Spirit of God at the beginning of creation pronounced that the creation was good, when the Spirit of God returned to Jesus’ baptism, he announced that Jesus, too, was good.

This suggests that Jesus was returning the creation to the path it was meant for.  Perhaps it even suggests that the entire span of history between the spirit’s visations to the waters was an aberration, a foot note, an irrelevancy.

We are called on to be baptized just as Jesus was baptized.  And the bible says that when we are plunged into the water we are plunged into death.  When we are raised up and out of the water we are raised into a new life.

The whole affair is (pardon the pun) drenched in mystery.  But more than that, it reinforces the idea that the water is mystery itself.  Death is a mystery for all of us.  It is doubly mysterious that Jesus died and was returned to life.  It is triply mysterious that somehow we participate in this too.

We go down into something which can not be expressed or explained.  But we come out on the other side of it, able to illuminate it, at least, expected to live and testify to this new life; just as Jesus came up out of his own death, just as the Isrealites left their own slavery, walked through the parted red sea, and came out on their own path toward the promised land.

We have so much in common with those ancient Isrealites.  Knuckleheads, tempted so often to return to our slavery, engaging in rampant idolatry, taking this idiotic and circular path but still headed toward that amazing Kingdom God promised us, a Kingdom in which He will reign.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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