And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in a boat, just as he was.
Today we come to deep waters. Troubled waters, too. And into those waters, the disciples took Jesus with them in a boat just as he was. Jesus is always just as he is, isn’t he? And those who follow him turn out to be just as they are, too: afraid.
This story has a lot to say about why you and I need Jesus. Troubled waters come as they will, and on them and in them we are often afraid. For us, the reality of being “just as we are” exposes our inadequacy, our need for help and guidance; and reveals our ultimate reliance on the peace of God.
Like the disciples in that long-ago boat, we come to the deep waters of Holy Baptism today. The weather outside seems good and right for a Baptism. No storms in sight. I’m guessing back in the old days, when people entered actual rivers for baptism, they needed the hope of good weather. It’s worth remembering, because Baptism, like our gospel today, takes place in the storm-struck waters of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. It is the Lord’s doing: and it is full of fearsome grace.
By the grace of God, other hands than our own carry us to the waters of Baptism. The generative hands of God Almighty, who formed each and every person. The pierced hands of Jesus, who knows what it is to be one of us. And then again, by way of the Spirit moving over and through the riptides of life, we also come to baptismal water through the hands of all those who carry and have carried us.
Today two children come to Baptism through the hands of parents who love them and look after them, and who dare not let them go. Not yet. And they in turn come to those waters through the hands of the many who have carried them here today. Mothers, fathers, brothers, friends. What would we do without those other hands bearing us up? Holding onto us when we are afraid.
To be carried by other hands than our own is to admit our own weakness for each other, for mercy, and also our weakness for God.
Over the weekend, I went to a bookstore looking for something to give our baptismal candidates today. I was hoping for to find a book of prayers for the very young. The clerk directed me to the religious section for children. Unfortunately, I didn’t find what I wanted. And yet among the books there, one in particular snagged my attention.
It was called, I Am Enough. It was a book lifting up the hope that every child will come to believe that they are enough just as they are. Few children in the world live within reach of such a hope. That they are enough. It is a scandal to foster self-sufficiency when we are surrounded by so many unanswered prayers.
Sure, self-sufficiency seems a lovely idea. Spiritual even. But it isn’t true. Not at all. Though child of God you be, you are not enough. Not one of us is enough. The disciples were not enough when the wind whipped the wave. They were afraid. All children, in and of themselves, lovely and bright, are not enough. Nor ever will be. They need their parents and godparents. They need all of us here today to nurture them in the life of Christ.
God loves us just as we are. But just as we are, we are not enough. We need others. And others need us. We rely on the hands of parents to hold onto us. Most especially when we are young and hoping to learn what trust is made of. But we also need the hands of others when we are old. Willing hands to steady us on our feet, to remind us who we are: the Beloved Children of God, and to have mercy on us in and through our own troubles.
To believe individuals are enough on their own, to believe everybody gets what they deserve, or that everybody is able to thrive without help from anybody, is a lie. Every living person, every living child, depends on the mercy of God and the compassion of other people. God made us that way: for God and for each other.
Baptism calls us to practice the love of God when it’s easy and also when it’s hard near impossible, when the storm blows up and we need Jesus to tell us to have no fear, to have faith instead.
We are not enough, yet surely baptized in Christ, we are good enough to do right, and to think right and hope right, by and about other people. Because, as St. Paul puts it in his letter today, You are not to accept the grace of God in vain.
Instead, by that same grace, you are to open wide your hearts and minds because the grace of God has saved you. And through baptism that same grace calls you to live and love like Jesus did. Today, alongside two children, we’re here to remember that everyone is a child of God who relies on the hope of mercy, from God and from each other.
It’s God who saves us, and God who sends us out to keep the promises we make and made in Baptism.