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  • Water, Baptism, and New Life

    Last month I was rejoicing about Spring coming to Cache Valley, and it seems like I’ve cursed us with a very ‘springy’ Spring. More rain than we know what to do with! While I don’t like to see all of the flooding that can arise, I am thankful for the ways that rain nourishes the earth.

    Water is very symbolic to our faith. On Palm Sunday this year we had a beautiful worship service at 11am when we had baptisms of Zoie Peterson, Sebrina Cropper, and Dirk Vanderwall. On that same Sunday we had 11 new members join the church, and we have six other who will be joining in coming weeks.

    We also hosted a foot washing service on Maundy Thursday, with our friends from St. John’s and Prince of Peace. I love the symbolism that we take away from the use of water for baptisms and foot-washings. Water cleans and washes. It nourishes our bodies and the earth. It enables new life and growth. It refreshes and renews us.

    It’s also a precious resource—a gift from God that we must use wisely. Parts of the western United States have been in a severe drought in recent years. Even northern Utah has technically been in a drought, although it seems like we haven’t felt that in Cache Valley as much as we might in other parts of the state. Having just celebrated Earth Care Sunday, I hope we are all aware of the precious resource water is in the western United States.

    From my time living in Zimbabwe I remember how scarce water is for most Zimbabweans. That is a nation where most of the population grows their own food, and does so with no irrigation and little access to running water. If the rains are good, there are enough crops and food to feed everyone. If the rains are late or insufficient, then crops are weak and millions of people go hungry. It is a stark reminder of how important water is, and how fortunate we are in our community to have access to water.

    I was constantly amazed by the faith of my Zimbabwean friends when it came to water and crops. They often said to me, “God will provide.” I know that they believed it; I believe it too, but I often felt like they believed it… more. I also believe they might have learned many difficult lessons in their lives because of the scarcity of water, and putting on a smile and proclaiming their faith in God’s provisions might have been a good way for them to persevere.

    I’m also reminded about the ongoing support that First Presbyterian Church has given to SeeeMe, to help with their many efforts in Uganda. One of SeeMe’s important projects in Uganda is wells for fresh, clean water. I hope you will join me in continuing to support SeeeMe’s efforts in that nation.

    Thinking about water also brings to mind the scripture passage that we recently heard in worship (on April 30th). After the disciples had left Jerusalem following the crucifixion and resurrection, they seemed like they were a bit…. lost. They didn’t know what they should be doing. They weren’t sure where to go. They ended up going back to the sea. They went to the water, knowing that it could sustain them.

    It seems to me that they went back to the sea because it was something they knew, deep in their souls. Their old trades before they had become disciples of Jesus connected them to the water. They knew boats and nets, how to use them and how to repair them. It was familiar to them.

    And so, in the early morning light after they’d spent a night on the water fishing, they spotted a man on the shore. That man was Jesus, and he invited them ashore and prepared a meal for them on the sandy beach. It’s a stunning scene that I can imagine in my minds’ eye very easily. The sand. The faint noise of the water and the calmness that only an early morning seems to provide. The bounty of fish from the sea. The small fire Jesus had prepared to cook the fish. A meal shared among closest of friends. I feel like that moment, on the shore with Jesus in the early morning light, was when the disciples finally felt grounded in their new mission and ministry to spread the good news and establish the church as a group of people following Jesus. Perhaps that night on the water gave them new life, just as water gives us new life, just as in baptism we are washed clean and given… new life.

    Grace and Peace to you all,
    Pastor Derek

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