Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Christian Baptism (10/18/07)
By JoAnne Potter
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Broken reeds and riverbank stones scrape the bottoms of my feet as I watch the familiar, slow Jordan slide by. So many cool mornings, I have come here to bathe, but not this time. Though John is long gone, I come here today to be baptized. I am like a sheep or bull brought to the temple, split wide open, in need of washing from the inside out. Even now, I feel like the sacrifice, a sin offering, and that the priest holds my very heart in his hand.
“Come,” he says. “Be clean.”
I step into the running water. “Wash away not dirt, Oh Lord, but iniquity. Cleanse my heart of guilt and my hands in innocence. Make me new.”
I walk all the way in and lay my head beneath gentle waves.
WE WERE THEREFORE BURIED IN HIM THROUGH BAPTISM INTO DEATH. Rom 6:3
Underneath, the water closes over me in darkness. Even with eyes open, I see only dim, swirling silt. No kind sun shares its warmth. No friendly breeze brushes hair against my cheek. I am alone, falling into the Styx. My heartbeat slows. I don’t dare breathe, but sink deeper. The black undertow pulls me further down. I am caught. My sin has killed me. Bit by bit, invisible, lost, I drift downstream.
“Oh Lord, though I die, even now you are here. My life belongs to you. Your will be done.”
“Come to me,” you say.
My eyes close and I let go.
…BURIED WITH HIM IN BAPTISM AND RAISED WITH HIM THROUGH YOUR FAITH IN THE POWER OF GOD, WHO RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD. Col 2:12
Somewhere at the end of the deep, my fall stops. I come to rest, settling on a silent breath. Too soft for hands, too warm for wings, it wraps me half around and bears me up. Strength and buoyancy return and as I rise, bright heat warms bones, then flesh, then pale water. When I break the river’s surface, now silver in a broad glow, clean sheets of water stream away. Each falling rivulet carries ancient burdens of sin and guilt.
No quakes split the earth, no curtains tear, no stone rolls away, but still I rise, new and alive. I am Isaac released from the altar, Rahab escaped from Jericho, Moses snatched up from the basket. My grave yawned and took me in, but you did not abandon me. You rebuilt the temple. You birthed hope.
“You, Oh Lord, are the Resurrection and the Life.”
Through the reeds, a new path winds into view. As I glide toward the bank to meet it, the river releases me.
AWAKE, O SLEEPER, RISE FROM THE DEAD, AND CHRIST WILL SHINE ON YOU. Eph 5:14.
I stand, step lightly into the sunshine, and walk.
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