Sunday, April 29, 2018

Over Mighty Waters

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his Name; worship the Lord in holy splendor.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!
—Psalm 29

Like many Christians, I associate the 29th Psalm with the gentle and life-giving rite of baptism, since it is appointed for the First Sunday after the Epiphany (the Baptism of the Lord). But this psalm is actually much wilder and much more primitive than just about any other. So what do I do with those dueling first impressions?

The water images of life and refreshment are overwhelmed here by their destructive powers. And that's the aspect of baptism we try to avoid thinking about. But life and death are both integral parts of baptism.

Therefore we have been buried with him  by baptism into death,
so that,  just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of
the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.       —Rom. 6:4

Just as Christ was crucified before he was resurrected, before we can experience new life, sin within us must undergo death. 

So just as the 29th Psalm invites us to remember that the God of life has the power of both creation and destruction, so the baptism God gifts us with has the capacity to destroy one part of us even as it gives life to the rest. In the end, "let us be assuredly persuaded, that since God's power is infinite, we are defended by an invincible fortress" [John Calvin].

God of mystery and power, open my eyes to your power even as you open my heart to your love. Amen.

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