Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4, NASB)
As this is my last homily on iMonk, I hope you will allow me some leeway. Today is the Epiphany of Jesus; that should be our topic. Next week is the Baptism of Jesus. I’m sure whoever writes the homily next Sunday will do a much better job relating the Gospel reading with baptism. But I wanted this topic to try to describe what is going on within me right now.
In baptism we have two actions: the going under, and the rising up; the burial, and the resurrection. Much of the focus on baptism is our rising up from the watery grave to become the new creation St. Paul tells us we are. We don’t want to spend much time on the burial under the water. I remember when I was baptized—on my birthday, July 17, in 1974. It was in a creek in Centerville, Ohio, behind the house of a family in my church. Even though it was summertime, the water was freezing. And it seemed like the preacher held me under forever. I began to wonder if I was ever going to come up again.
Burial. Finality. Death.
Let us not rush past this. There can be no resurrection without death. And with death comes burial. Baptism is that burial.
One of the greatest dangers for surfers, especially those who ride giant waves, is being buried by a wave beneath the surface of the water, pushed and twisted so that he doesn’t know which way is up. Deaths occur when the surfer begins swimming as quickly as possible toward what he thinks is “up,” but in reality is swimming “down.” Thus the phrase “he doesn’t know up from down” can be a death call.
And that is where I am right now. I don’t know up from down. I am once again in the burial stage of baptism. I have been pushed under the waters by the crushing wave of depression. Just as I thought I was about to break through to the surface, I find myself fighting to find the way up once again. I am about out of breath, but there is no breathing underwater. Or in the grave.
Is there always the promise of life after death? Or is it that we find life in death? Or perhaps it is life through death. Whatever the words used, right now I in the grip of the wave that is pushing me down down down.
Please don’t ask me what I think God is trying to teach me through all of this. I don’t think he is trying to teach me anything. I don’t know that he is interested in anything but my death. That is Jesus’ call to his followers, you know. He calls each of us to embrace death and accept our burial. And we are to do this again and again every day. How is it that others can do this so well where as it has led me to a place where I often pray to not see another sunrise? Is this what Jesus means by dying to self?
There’s a movie I have yet to see. It came and went on only one screen here in Tulsa without me getting to it. Perhaps I can see it once it hits RedBox. I have read about it, however. The movie is called All Is Lost, and it stars Robert Redford. Redford is alone on his boat, the Virginia Jean, in the middle of the Indian Ocean when he collides with a much larger cargo ship, which rips a hole Redford’s boat. Redford tries all he can to patch the hole, but finally realizes his boat is doomed, so he takes what he can and boards a life raft. He tries to find his way to shipping lanes before his scant supplies run out. On the eight day in his raft he writes a note, puts it in a jar and throws it overboard. The note reads, I’m sorry. I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried. I think you would all agree that I tried. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right. But I wasn’t. All is lost.
That is the note I am writing today. I’ve tried. I’ve done all I know to do, but my raft is sinking. I want to keep going, but I can’t. I don’t know know how the movie ends. I don’t know know if Redford’s character lives or dies. I do know that my ultimate end is life eternal. But right now, I feel as if all is lost. I have tried to keep going through the darkness of depression that I never saw coming. I’ve tried as publisher of this site to be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right. But I cannot do it any longer.
Thus, I am leaving this post. I have enjoyed every moment I have been able to spend with you. We have wrestled and struggled through some challenging topics over the years. We have laughed and cried together. We have rejoiced and we have questioned and we have resolved. I have already received messages from many of you saying you will be praying for me. I know you will, and that brings me more comfort than you can imagine. Thank you for everything. Take care of one another, ok?
I don’t want to end on a negative note. I confess here and now that I trust in the God of the living. That I believe he has not forgotten me. I trust that, by his grace, I will rise above the surface once again.
All is lost—that is the burial of baptism. What was once lost, however, will be found once again. There will come the rising out of the water. I don’t know when that will occur. I hope it is soon.
Let us pray.