There was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. – Luke 1:5 (NRSV)
Imagine being John the Baptist’s mother. Or father.
Imagine, alternatively, what it was like to be the mother of a 25-year-old who overdosed and died, right after spending two great weeks with his family and assuring them all that he was drug-free. Or being my daughter when her two-year-old said she had eaten a water bead, the kind that expands to 40 times their size once placed in a balloon. (The child had not eaten the water bead but that was only proven after five hours in the emergency room, trying to decide about surgery, since water beads are translucent and don’t necessarily come up on the x-ray.) We found the water beads, both of them, on the floor after returning from the emergency room. You can sign the online petition against this children’s game. Or join my daughter in saying, “Jesus Crisis!”
Parents never know what is going to happen to their children. John the Baptist was beheaded, likely long after Elizabeth was gone. Or we certainly hope so.
But before he died an awful death, he “invented” baptism, a super-soaker ceremony if there ever was one. A water bead of a kind, capable of great magnification. Just water, we say. But then again, is there any water that is just water?
Albert Einstein is said to have said that there are two kinds of people, those who don’t believe in miracles and those who think everything is a miracle. Mothers have to believe everything is a miracle. Why? Because like Elizabeth, like Mary, they watch their children grow.
Let us remember our baptism today and know that we are really and truly all wet, all miracle, all birthed. Amen.
Donna Schaper works nationally for Bricks and Mortals, a NYC-based organization that provides sustainable solutions for sacred sites. Her newest book is Remove the Pews: Spiritual Possibilities for Sacred Spaces, from The Pilgrim Press.