Almost 10 years ago now, CBS aired the first episode in a new drama series that featured a 16 year old girl named Joan, whose family had just moved to the fictional town of Arcadia. Right. She’s Joan… of Arcadia. About the time that they move to this new town, Joan starts noticing that she’s being followed, but the problem is that the person following her is different every time she notices him or her. For example one morning she notices an older gentleman out in front of her house that she just senses is there for her. Later, there’s a young man on a bus. Another day a store clerk, another a janitor at school. And what’s even more strange, especially to this pretty much secular young girl, is that these people all claim to be God.
Joan, whose family had given her next to nothing in the way of a religious up-bringing, was the last person anyone would expect to be called and used by God, especially the last person SHE would expect. In the first episode (and most others really), like the prophet Jonah, she tries to shake God, throw God off her trail, lose this divine pest who keeps interrupting her life.
If Joan could have found a boat to board to take her to the end of the earth, she probably would have tried. Like Jonah being sent into the center of his enemy’s nation, in every single episode she’s given a new and more unlikely task to complete, a task that takes her far behind the enemy lines in her carefully laid out high school social geography. This slightly awkward, somewhat clumsy girl on the fringe of high school society is told by God to try out for the über-popular cheerleading squad. (While she’s there she unexpected ministers to a young woman facing ridicule and serious depression.) Completely tone deaf, Joan is directed by God to join the concert band. Understandably, episode after episode she always resists the special task at first, suggesting someone else is better, pointing out the danger, anything to try to shake God
God was already there, and by the power of the Spirit of God, the people believe. God was there and spared the people. And even still Jonah turned away, if not from the presence of the Lord, than at least from the will of the Lord, angry at God’s mercy, and steadfast love for Jonah’s enemies, God’s relentless grace. But God never turned away from Jonah. God never let him go.
Sometimes God asks us to scary thing - - things that are very foreign, things that are totally outside our comfort zones, the LAST thing we would expect to do in the name of God, especially things that make us open up our closed understanding of who God wants included in the heavenly kingdom. Sometimes God asks us to go against our own best interest and impulse toward self-preservation and do something different so that
THOSE people who play THAT music,
THOSE people with THAT vice,
THOSE people with THAT Device (what are they doing on those phones all day anyway)
THOSE people from THAT country,
THOSE people who use THAT kind of language,
THOSE people who vote THAT way,
will hear the Word of the Lord who is already in their midst, too. Sometimes God asks us to do really scary things, but God never abandons us.
These waters never dry. Their mark never fades. These waters that welcome even the tiniest child of God still drip invisibly on the spirits of the oldest men and women among us and everyone in between, calling us to repentance, welcoming us with grace, and sending us with hope and good news for the world. As we baptize Abel and Kaylie this morning, remember your own baptism and the water that never dries.