By Rev. Lori Ethridge
Minister to Senior Adults
In late November, we were still in the midst of a lengthy and serious drought. You may remember that restaurant servers did not automatically bring glasses of water to your table without being specifically requested. Also, there were restrictions on lawn watering and on non-commercial car washings at that time. I recall, on the Sunday following Thanksgiving, the clergy were gathered in Dr. Matthews office for the pre-service briefing, and Elaine reported that in Jacksonville, FL, where she had spent her holiday, the radio stations were reporting the number of days that Atlanta had been without rainfall. Dr. Matthews expressed surprise, thinking the Floridians were especially kind and thoughtful, perhaps even praying for the predicament. I spoke up and burst his winsome bubble saying that they probably were keeping tabs because Georgia and Florida have been at war over water for decades, and the drought was aggravating the situation. In fact, Florida is suing Georgia in the U. S. Supreme Court claiming that Atlanta uses too much water, and that not enough water is making its way down the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers to Florida’s Apalachicola Bay.
For the last two weeks, the gospel readings in the Common Lectionary have included the topic of water. On Sunday, January 8, Dr. Matthews preached on baptism from Matthew 3:13-17 and on January 15, he preached on the power of John the Baptist’s witness, saying that John baptizes with water, but the Lamb of God baptizes with the Holy Spirit. We experience water wars in the church; denominations still argue over baptism. Is it better to be sprinkled or dunked? Is baptism itself salvific, or simply a
symbol? Thankfully, there are no restrictions on the waters of baptism. I am so grateful that John the Baptist and Jesus did not engage in water wars, arguing over which baptismal method was more efficacious! Both are necessary; baptism by water and by the Spirit. Each brings cleansing and ushers in a new relationship with God. I am basking in my baptism, and I hope you are, too!