Baptism of Our Lord – January 7, 2018   

Rev. Lyle McKenzie      Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1: 4-11

We thank you God for the waters of creation and the life they hold for the world and each of our lives. We thank you God for the waters of Baptism and the life they hold in Jesus and your Spirit, for our lives and the life of the world. Renew this life in us and your world, today and tomorrow, and forever. Amen.

– The Baptism of our Lord Jesus. It is a Holy Day each year, following immediately after the Epiphany that celebrates the people of other lands who follow a star to find Jesus and proclaim him King, causing fear and retribution by those who want to be king.

– the next great epiphany is Jesus’ baptism by John, who, as we heard in Advent, is Isaiah’s prophesied voice crying in the wilderness, Elijah-like in appearance, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; and as all the people of Judea and Jerusalem come out to see him confessing their sins, John proclaims, the more powerful one is coming, I am not worthy to untie his shoes, I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

– And in as quiet a way as could be imagined, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

– But the epiphany happens as Jesus is coming up out of the water, and Jesus “saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’”

– The Baptism of our Lord Jesus and Epiphany – God’s showing who Jesus is, in his Baptism and the vision and voice that Jesus sees and hears, and we see and hear with him again this morning.

– Did some you follow the story last fall of the woman who jumped from the ferry and survived after five hours in the water?

– I wonder if it is a Baptism story, an Epiphany story…

– based on articles in the Victoria Times Colonist by Katie Derosa and Jeff Bell…

– It was October 30, on the Queen of Cowichan about half way on its crossing between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay in Nanaimo, at about 5:45 pm that a woman was seen on the car deck, removing her clothes and jumping into the water.

– the person who saw her was Christopher Wood, He immediately pulled the fire alarm and threw an orange life ring and emergency beacon into the water to mark the place she had gone into the water.

– Rescue boats from the Queen of Cowichan and nearby Queen of Oak Bay were in the water almost immediately and were joined by Coast Guard vessels and a helicopter in a search to locate the woman as night fell…

– After five hours the search was called off, and a crew went to retrieve the life ring they had checked countless times, and to their shock and amazement they found a woman floating inside the ring, alive and conscious…

– Jason van der valk of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue said, “Five hours is long time.”

– A person in the Strait of Georgia could be expected to survive two to three hours, “She had somebody looking over her, that’s for sure.” He said.

– Christopher Wood who threw the life ring, when he heard the news of her survival, said, “It made me happy just knowing she knew we cared and changed her mind and grabbed that life ring.”

– It’s an amazing story… I wonder if it is a Baptism story, an Epiphany story.

On December 5 we learned more of the story…

– the woman who survived was 52 year old Mya DeRyan, an artist from Ladysmith

– in March of 2017 she was diagnosed with a terminal illness

– she spent the summer and fall with her adult son in Vancouver, and opting not to treat her illness with traditional medicine, she decided to end her life on her own terms, which he understood and supported

– she departed for the ferry that morning leaving a note for her son, saying, “My body hurts, my heart is full, its time, I love you.”

– she had decided to die in waters that provided the inspiration and medium for her art

– as she quietly jumped into the water that late afternoon, leaving a note on her clothes saying she had a terminal illness, what she did not know is that someone had seen her…

– almost immediately the search lights from the ferries and rescue boats began scanning the darkening waters as she tried to swim away from the ferry to not be seen…

– she floated and mediated but increasingly the search efforts concerned her and she was overcome with guilt..

– she felt the intensity of the crisis and desperation to find her…

– near the end, exhausted, she said, “I was breathing heavily, I couldn’t calm down. I was begging the universe to give me a log or something to grab onto.

– “As if an answer to prayer,” the article states, “a glowing orange life ring floated straight towards her.”

– “I have tremendous faith,” she said, “but this was beyond my comprehension.”

– Despite her body’s numbness, she grabbed onto the ring, “I had to make a conscious decision to let them rescue me.” she said…

– She spent a week in hospital recovering, and received the most shocking news, that she had been misdiagnosed, and was in good health…

– As she is embracing this second chance at life, she expressed her hope that she could meet her rescuers and thank them…

The final chapter in the public story was in an article in the Dec. 12 paper…

– Two days before on Sunday, Dec. 10, Mya had the opportunity to meet the four people in the rescue boat that pulled her from the water.

– in an emotional meeting, the rescuers recounted their shock and amazement to find her alive… and the words and feelings exchanged in the brief time she was in the boat before being transferred to hospital…

– One rescuer said, “It is something we will reflect on for the rest of our lives.”

– Mya said to them, “I can’t even express my gratitude for what you did. Thank you doesn’t even begin to cover it. I don’t know if there are words for this, but there’s heart for this.”

– It’s an amazing story, a Baptism and Epiphany story…

Why is the baptism of Jesus so significant to the early Christian Community?  Why is it to us?

– Most scholars suggest it identifies Jesus – as the image of the heavens torn apart or open from Isaiah 61 shows, and the vision of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove, and the voice proclaiming, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” all of it points to a new and exceptional beginning of God’s being with, God’s incarnation with humanity, God’s Epiphany or being revealed to humanity and all creation, in the person of Jesus. In Mark’s gospel, this is where it all begins.

– And!, the Baptism is about Jesus identifying with all humanity in the repentance and forgiveness that God desires and offers by grace that is our new beginning, as shown and shared in the waters of Holy Baptism and the gift of God’s Spirit given, and renewed every day after, as we rise to new life as God’s beloved and well pleasing people, in the grace of Christ Jesus forever.

To hear this story of a dying woman entering the waters of death only to be pulled from these same waters raised to new life, and the epiphany that is for her and those who witness this new life out of death, is to hear a baptism story as we know it, and an epiphany story as we know them, and to celebrate and give thanks for her new life, and this same amazing baptismal story and epiphany story that is ours, that is yours, by God’s grace in Christ Jesus.

– It makes living today and tomorrow and the next filled with possibilities and newness as only God can offer.

Blessed Baptism of our Lord Jesus! Blessed Epiphany!

Amen.