The Spirit has been poured upon us

By Vinal Van Benthem | For The Compass | January 6, 2021

According to recent news reports, as water from the Jordan valley is diverted elsewhere, the water level of the Dead Sea into which this water previously flowed is shrinking at a rate of more than one meter per year.

The Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance is a planned pipeline intended to carry water from the Red Sea to replenish the Dead Sea and to provide potable water to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. The project represents a rare example of cooperation between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians. It would seem that water, albeit salty and almost unusable, is so precious that even people divided by war will come together in order to preserve it.

What comes to mind when we think of water? We know we need water to drink, but what about all the other things we do with water? Here in Wisconsin, we enjoy boating, fishing, swimming and water skiing. We bathe in water. We use water to cook our food.

But we also realize that water can be dangerous. A person can drown in water. In times of drought, water can mean the difference between bringing a crop to harvest and watching clouds of dusty soil blow away on a hot, dry wind. When rains are heavy, entire towns can be destroyed, homes swept away in torrential floods. The presence or absence of water can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Is it any wonder, then, that we use water when we baptize. For John the Baptist, water used in baptism symbolized cleansing from sin. At Jesus’ baptism, water came to symbolize much more.

“On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open.” Jesus, the Messiah, would reunite heaven and earth in an unbreakable bond of love. As the waters of baptism poured around him “… the Spirit … descend[ed] upon him.”

In baptism the Spirit has also been poured out upon us. Do we understand what that means? Are we open to all that baptism requires of us? Is our baptism a sacrament of unity? A pipeline of grace? Or an excuse for war in a divided world?

Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.

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