Readings: Isaiah 43: 1-7, Psalm 29, Acts 8: 14-17, Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22
Water cleanses by virtue of the fact that it is water. That is what water does. It also gives life by virtue of the fact that it is water. The power of water to wash is not in our keeping, the power to sustain life is not in our keeping. The fact that it does is the reason we use it to wash and to sustain life. Our power only lies in our choice to use it or not.
The only time that water does not cleanse or give life is when it is contaminated by something else; something impure. If you walk alongside a river that has flowed a great distance from its source, you will know the number of things that seek to contaminate it. If you have ever cleaned up a river that is full of contaminants, both natural (from nature) and cultural (man-made) you will know the effect the contaminants have on altering the fundamental characteristics of the water. The effect is so great, that it can not really be called water anymore because it is unable to clean or give life. When you add a lot of water to sewerage; it is no longer called water, it is called diluted sewerage.
There are many ways to purify water once it has been contaminated (natural and cultural), but obviously, the best way to keep water pure is to not allow it to be contaminated in the first place.
Christ is pure and holy, cleansing and life-giving and even though He faced the same temptations as the rest of humanity, even though there was so much that was on offer that would contaminate the purity of the Son of God; He remained steadfast in His love for the Father and His commitment to the purpose of His birth. Since we have not remained uncontaminated, it is Christ who provides a way to cleanse that which has been soiled and unhelpful to the cleansing of the world and to the life giving purpose of our creation. It is Christ who baptises with the Holy Spirit and with fire, it is Christ who purifies and renews and convicts us of our sacredness; it is Christ who restores because it is Christ who has identified with us through His birth, His life, His baptism, His death. It is because Christ identified with us, we can identify with Him in our renewal, in our resurrection, in our sacredness and purity.
By being baptised; Christ said to God that He would go to the people of God and serve as God had set Him apart to serve. By being baptised; Christ owned His calling and agreed to answer it. Each time, we wash our face or our hands or the dishes is a moment in which we are reminded of how Christ has renewed us and how we are set free to bring life wherever we are. Each time we wash with water, we are presented with an opportunity to affirm our calling and renew our commitment to it.