What a wonderful week of daily readings as we kick off the powerful Old Testament story of Moses and the Exodus of the Hebrews out of Egypt.
There are so many powerful images in this story – brutal slavery, making bricks without straw, drowning the first-born males in a futile attempt to control a nation. Later there will be more drama – a burning bush, plagues on Egypt and of course, the ultimate parting of the waters … the waters of baptism.
The story of Moses is really the story of baptism – the saving of a nation through the grace of God in cleansing waters.
It brings to mind other stories of baptism – one from the early book of Genesis and another from our own lives today.
In all three instances, it comes with tears … the tears of the children of God.
Let’s face it, as the Hebrew people start to learn in today’s first reading from Exodus, the process of salvation is usually painful. It’s always painful to be born (or born again).
Painful because it begins in relative peace and harmony before entering a period of pain and anguish before the final salvation takes place.
Consider Noah and his Ark. He and his family were pretty happy tending their fields, loving each other and embracing all that God provided.
Same with the Hebrews, who had grown quite content living in Egypt with a ruler who had known and respected Joseph.
Now consider the child conceived in the womb of his mother. Warm, safe, his every need provided with love.
And then the turbulence begins.
As Noah and his family remain peaceful and focused on God, the rest of humanity slips into decadence and depravity, an existence solely focused on themselves and their own wants and desires.
So, God taps Noah on the shoulder … build an ark!
And the Hebrews in Egypt, suddenly under the rule of a new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph, but knew he was jealous of their prosperity, envious of their lives, outraged at their obedience to a desert God. Enslaved and persecuted, the Hebrews needed a savior.
So, God taps Moses on the shoulder …
And your child, growing in the womb, suddenly with arms, legs, fingers, toes … a brain, a beating heart. But the womb is so small and he keeps getting bigger. Why must he change? Where can he go? It’s a scary world out there …
So, God taps the child on the shoulder … it is time!
Next come the waters of salvation.
Noah and his family (along with the animals) left floating on the Ark for 40 long days, 40 long nights … rain, rain, rain … washing away the sin of the world so that humanity could start new.
The Hebrews, led by Moses to the edge of the water. Pharaoh and his soldiers pressing in … the people suddenly in turmoil … where can they go? And then Moses raises his staff and the waters of the Red Sea part.
A nation passes through to its salvation.
And your child, in a sudden rush that nearly takes his breath away, passes through his own waters of salvation. A jarring experience that usually ends with loud cries and wailing.
And then smiles from his mother and father.
On Sunday mornings, when we reach into the font to make the sign of the cross, we are not just dipping our fingers into water from the parish tap.
These are holy waters.
They have depth … history … meaning.
The same water that God cleansed the world for the sake of Noah. The same water he divided for the sake of saving his people from Egypt. The same water that delivers the next generation of God’s chosen children from their mother’s womb.
And the same water used to baptize our children.
So, why do the babies cry? Why do we cry?
Because it’s not easy to grow up and let God guide us out of our sin and slavery. It’s painful to leave the comforts of what we know, in order to journey toward the unknown.
But thanks to our Faith in a loving creator God, a saving Jesus Christ and the sanctifying Holy Spirit, whose graces are contained in these historic waters of baptism, we can journey on.
Remember that as we read the journey of Moses and his people this week.
We are on that same journey today … still.