January 12, 2014 – Baptism of Christ/Epiphany 2 – Bourne UMC

Chilly and Cold Jordan

The River Jordan is chilly and cold, chills the body but not the soul…this traditional song was popular in the 1960’s along with our thought for the day “I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken, I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children, … And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.” This uses Bob Dylan song A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall and as we approach this topic I felt its use here was needed for as you know I am a child of the 60’s, so here we go. …Rain upon the earth is a form of God’s baptism. A Granting of His Grace upon us. We listen here for the rain. I lived a long time in the rain, almost ten years with it constantly coming down in my quiet town of Aberdeen, Grays Harbor, Washington state. For years we lived there and the rain came down almost constantly, or so it seemed. Let me take you there now. It was a town of two spirits, or so it seemed to me. There were the Hill people, living in houses build by wealthy lumber barons of a hundred years before… whose homes were still occupied by the rich and the prosperous of that community. I was one of those. I lived on the hill. The main hill. Broadway Hill. My husband worked for Ocean Spray and we had a good stable income. Our town’s unemployment was twenty percent and this was very much felt in the lower part of the town, the Flats. There the migrant, temporary workers lived. Two very, very separate lives. It had long been that way. The Hill people shopped during the day on the flats, only coming down in the daylight. The flats were too unstable for one to go about. Even the land was unstable, marshes and bogs filled in with sawdust and planks. People sleeping under bridges. Families sleeping in cars. I worked for a short time in the downtown area of Aberdeen, in the Campfire office and one night had to walk quickly to escape a gang of young men with baseball bats. This sounds pretty dark, but we often do not see the worse part of our own society here, do we. I must go on but here we learn that Christ was given to us to escape a life filled with the drudgery of the cold world. We all have seen hardship but do we all know what hardship is.

Thrift Shop

Here at Bourne we are lucky to have a gifted bunch of people who work in our Thrift shop. (Please do offer to help out there if you have some spare time, all hands aboard.) Our helpers there give weekly time and talent to help those in need in our community by offering good clothing and stuffs for very small prices. We all benefit from their careful tending of our planet, so to speak. Our arms reach out a weekly thank you for their time and effort. If you do not see the direction I am going, let me explain here. I see that, we, as a people often feel that our baptism is a form of rebirth, a gaining of life after a sort of death. Let us begin again here with the phrase from the thought of the day, it’s a hard rain a-gonna fall. What does this mean here, placed against a steady work of charity that we see in our Thrift shop. Some of our children will grow up unwanted without care as I felt they did in Grays Harbor. I remember preaching here once about a Grays Harbor favorite son, Kurt Cobain. His life ended quickly due to a gunshot, too quick, too soon. I hope time allows me to continue to remind you of our work here as good Christians. But here I go again to attempt to tie up my good imagery of a town that time has forgotten. Here in Bourne we often try to remember our baptism. We speak of it in those terms for in any case we only are baptized once after all. Some of our sub-culture here feels that our life is a part of a distant past without anything new in it as some of you might feel as I speak of my time in the rain forest of Grays Harbor. But as you all know I am very much in the here and now as you all might feel as I give you one more story. This one much more recent for I still feel a little wet from it as not so wet behind the ears to tell it. So here it goes.

Holy Land

A few years back, Steve, my husband, and I journeyed to the Holy land, some of you do know this but did you know that I thought of bringing back to you a small bottle from there as a piece of the holy Jordan River, or at least we do reference it often as we did in the previous song about how wide and wild it is. When I was walking it banks, I saw a small brown mink slip into the water from the Jordan side. Surprised? I bet most of you do not think of it as still wild. The area we were in had a resort set up for tourists so that anyone could approach the banks and feel the water. It was a little chilly. Our pastor for the day stood in ankle deep water to baptize each one of us again or as we call it here to remember our baptisms. Some of our group, particularly the pastors decided to rent a small white garment to place over their swimming suits and be fully immersed into the waters. A few young Chinese men also were baptized. They were new Christians and it was asked of our Bishop by their translator if he would baptize them in the waters by a full immersion. Some from our group gave them our travel weary bibles so they could be blessed. It was very moving as we sang the songs as each person approached the Jordan and was blessed. Thank you for finally allowing me to tell this part of my journey there.  Now… Jesus’s baptism by John, we should probably talk about that for a minute for today is the Baptism of our Lord. Here we go again. How to explain this? Has it not already been covered by this willing soul here in the pulpit for this Sunday.

United Methodist Church

I myself was baptized at the age of ten, Surprised? Some might be for I often talk about my life as a child here with reference to the fact that our lives do seem to be so intertwined. Many here were baptized as babies, many as older children, some as adults and some yet to do it. Why? It is a big decision. Many in other churches considered baptism as a dedication rather than a sacrament and is a gift of God’s grace. We here in the United Methodist Church have a text that we reference as the “By Water and the Spirit” which is our official teaching document about baptism adopted by the General Conference in 2008. This document refers to how we came about. With John Wesley’s view of sacramental baptism to how our pioneer beginnings used our lay people too frequently to baptize that we lost the sacrament. A tide now that we as a people have so worked and tried to reclaim in the past fifty years, since our 1960’s. Our view here is how do we continue to baptize as we did before in the early time of our faith to how do we continue to baptize today with the same reticence and with full knowledge of the need. Jesus was our beloved, too. He was God’s only son, his beloved one. We are blessed today to be part of that tradition, one in which we continue to trace our roots back to the rain as it fell to earth eons ago, on that dried parched place called Earth. Our beloved Earth created by our beloved God. Let us stop a moment to place this all together here. A man can walk as far as he can, but without God he is lost. Here we hope to regain a little of that view casting out the big loss and gathering the big gain. We the people of the United Methodist Church do hold dear our baptism and believe in the use of baptism to help create a more unified world in which God can hope and does feel the love he once loss for us return. Amen.

– Rebecca Hewett