During our holiday skiing vacation in Colorado, our host, Rodney, shared a story he’d never told us before — about being buried in an avalanche.
Skiing in the backcountry with other expert skiers, Rodney heard an ominous “craaaak” and suddenly was overtaken by freezing, paralyzing darkness — “like Plaster of Paris,” he said. Against the unbearable weight of the snow, Rodney tried to move his head a tiny bit, to create an air pocket to breathe. As he strained with all his might to move his head back and forth, his eyes suddenly glimpsed the sky. He knew at that instant he might live. But he would never be the same person – that encounter with death had changed him, for the better.
This Sunday we’ll look at the ritual of baptism. Many faiths perform baptisms by full immersion in water, a dramatization of drowning and rescue, as the submerged person is drawn out of the waters to new life.
It’s a mistake to think of those baptismal waters as benign or cleansing. No, the waters of baptism represent danger and death. And, not just our final dying, but especially the “little deaths” we must suffer throughout our lives – disappointments, job loss, divorce, moves, loss of friends, disability, the death of a spouse.
With Christ’s companionship and power, however, we are pulled from the waters and rise again to light. Like Rodney, we glimpse the sky and know: we will live, we have been changed. . . maybe even better.
For the next seven weeks we’ll explore the seven sacraments of the Christian Church. It’s fitting to begin with baptism, the sacrament that brings us into the Christian family, and the sacrament that dramatizes the realities of adult life – dying and rising, dying and rising.
This Sunday we’ll also renew our own baptismal vows, sprinkling of baptismal water over the congregation — a favorite moment in Church in the Forest’s calendar!