One of my favorite experiences of the church has been writing songs for our Sunday meetings, and I’ve been honored to see how they’ve circulated in our community. Translating the poetry of Scripture and the church mothers and fathers into music is a meditative act for me, and I hope that you can get a sense of that this week. — Andrew Yang
Today’s Bible reading
This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.
More Thoughts for Meditation
Born through the water and blood
You who will reap all death that we’ve sown
Break now the jaws of the flood
Rise in the life we can claim as our own
The author of the Gospel of John famously begins his Gospel with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and a description of the world being made. But then he zooms in from a cosmic bird’s eye view to a comparatively intimate, human one; a specific person in a specific point in history. He writes, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.”
For the author of John, the story of Jesus’ divine person starts before the making of the universe, but his human story begins with John the Baptizer. The author of the Gospel of John doesn’t actually describe Jesus’ baptism, so drew on Luke 3 for the imagery I use in the song.
Baptism has been considered a ritual death going all the way back to the Apostle Paul, who writes in Romans 6 that we who are baptized are joined to the death of Jesus. Similarly St. Ambrose of Milan writes that “the [baptismal] font is a kind of grave.” In this way, Jesus’ baptism, his entering into the darkness of the water, prefigures his entry into the darkness of the tomb. As his emergence from the water prefigures his resurrection, so our emergence from the water prefigures ours.
Suggestions for action
I’ve done a lot of growing since I was baptized at around 12 years old, so I can’t say that the moment of my baptism carries a lot of emotional significance for me. Even so, I love watching people get baptized in our community. I love watching people brave the cold water of the Delaware or the Wissahickon, and the joy on their faces as they stumble soaked back onto the riverbank to all of our applause.
It’s important to remember these rituals that connect us to resurrection. As a kid, my grandfather taught me to pray before going to bed, “Heavenly God, forgive me for the wrong that I’ve done as the sun sets, and make me new as the sun rises.” He said this all in Taiwanese Hokkien, and honestly as a teenager I felt like this prayer felt a bit pagan, like I was predicating my salvation on the rising and setting of the sun or something instead of my personal faith (I was a brat).
As an adult I love it. I need these rituals and the truths they remind me of. And I don’t think God hesitates to use every opportunity to convey more grace to us, as often as we’ll allow God to do so, so I’ll take all I can get. As John says, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”