Remember, and Be Thankful

Do you remember your baptism? Like many people, I was baptized as an infant, so I have no recollection of mine. My baptism took place at the Huntingdon Methodist Church in Huntingdon, PA. My parents met in the choir at that church and were married there, so it was fitting, if not memorable. In my career I have participated in hundreds of baptisms, and the sacrament is one that is joyful and bathed in hope every single time.

Methodists mark the baptism of Jesus with a special service where we invite people to remember their own baptisms. This is an invitation to remember not so much the when of your baptism, but the why. Why do Christians baptize? What happens in baptism?

First, it is important to remember who the agent is in a baptism, and here is a hint: it’s not you. Even if you were an adult and took your own vows, you are not the star of the show. God is the focus, and we acknowledge that he is the one who has called you to that moment. In my denomination, we do not re-baptize. We understand that a baptism is a result of the power of God in a person’s life and thus does not need to be repeated, regardless of whether or not the person stayed on a righteous path. People may falter, but God doesn’t make mistakes. There is no need to re-do what he has already done.

And so the vows renouncing the spiritual forces of wickedness; repenting of sins; accepting God’s freedom and power to resist evil, injustice, and oppression; putting your whole trust in Christ’s saving grace; pledging to serve him and his people, etc. all come together in that holy moment. Water is used symbolically to signify a new beginning….a cleansing, as it were….and an acknowledgement of God’s mighty acts of salvation through water and the Spirit. We are named, and claimed.

Take a look at what happened at Jesus’ baptism:

Mark 1 (Common English Bible)

John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals.I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. 11 And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

I think God says the same thing with every baby, confirmand, squirming teenager, and wide-eyed adult whom we baptize. I think heaven opens up every time and God looks at that person and says, “You are my child, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

Ponder your baptism today, and remember why you were baptized. As you remember, be thankful. And if you’ve never been baptized and you’re ready, find a preacher with a pitcher. It’s never too late.

God Claims You

Unsearchable Riches

I became fascinated with Mel Fisher’s discovery of the Atocha a few decades ago after reading about it in a National Geographic magazine. The Atocha was a 400-year-old Spanish Galleon that sunk somewhere in the waters outside of Key West. Fisher spend the majority of his life looking for it. Along the way he and his team experienced much hardship, poverty, illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and fights with the Florida state government and the US government over keeper‘s rights. Worst of all, he suffered the deaths of his son, daughter-in-law, and a diver when one of their search boats sank in the middle of the night.

When the treasure was finally discovered, it contained almost 1,000 silver ingots weighing 32 tons, 114,000 silver coins, huge masses of coins still fused in the shape of treasure chests, silver and gold artifacts, gold bars, discs, coins, and chains, and 3,000 emeralds weighing up to 77 carats. A few years ago I visited the museum in Key West that houses a good portion of the treasure, and it is overwhelming.

The world would look at such a haul and think that Fisher had hit the mother lode of riches. How do you define riches?

Paul speaks of the unsearchable riches of Christ in the third chapter of Ephesians. Let’s explore what he defines as “riches.”

Ephesians 3 (English Standard Version)

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 

Paul clearly identifies the unsearchable riches of Christ as the plan for the salvation of not just the Hebrew nation, but of all nations. This was a radical teaching for the Jews of the time. Their anticipation of a Messiah who would come to conquer the warring nations around them did not match the gentle shepherd from Nazareth. Paul’s task was to convince not only the Jews, but the Gentiles, who had no expectation of being included in the redemption plan that was offered to them.

It was indeed a mystery hidden for ages in God from the very beginning, and it was up to the church to explain it to everyone:

10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Mel Fisher’s riches cost him everything. The good news for us today is that the unsearchable riches that are offered in Christ cost nothing. The price has already been paid. When we search for him we will find him, and the manifold wisdom of God is made known in the process.

I believe the church itself is one of those riches. If you don’t have a church home, I pray you will find one. The church is the vehicle God uses to make his riches known. If you’ve been burned by a church, find another one. The online options are endless.

Paul invites us to come before God with boldness and confidence. Christ is the access. The church is the door. It’s time to discover his riches. Today’s the day!

From the Mel Fischer Museum in Key West

Honest and Fair

If you could pray one thing today for the leaders of our country, what would it be? On this official day of Epiphany, when we celebrate the three kings who followed a star to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Messiah-king, our thoughts turn to those who rule and govern over us. It is no accident that we find ourselves in Psalm 72, which is designated as a “Psalm of Solomon.” Some scholars believe that this was a prayer for Solomon written by his father, King David, at the beginning of Solomon’s reign. Others say that Solomon wrote this for himself as a prayer when he was about to take the throne.

Lutherans pray this prayer every January 6th to mark Epiphany. You will see in verse 5 that the language changes from an earthly king to a heavenly one, who will live forever and bring a reign of peace and justice.

With everything that is happening in our country today, it is a perfect prayer for us to pray together. We must especially pray for peace in our land.

Psalm 72 (Contemporary English Version)

Please help the king
to be honest and fair
    just like you, our God.
Let him be honest and fair
with all your people,
    especially the poor.
Let peace and justice rule
    every mountain and hill.
Let the king defend the poor,
rescue the homeless,
    and crush
    everyone who hurts them.

It is the job of every king, president, senator, mayor, and local dog catcher to be honest and fair in all of their doings. It is the job of every king, president, senator, mayor, and local dog catcher to defend the poor, rescue the homeless, enforce peace, and provide justice. Earthly leaders are entrusted to judge fairly and rule compassionately on behalf of, and FOR the people until the King of Kings returns and brings HIS peace…a peace that will last until the moon falls from the sky.


Let the king live forever
    like the sun and the moon.
Let him be as helpful as rain
    that refreshes the meadows
    and the ground.
Let the king be fair
    with everyone,
and let there be peace
    until the moon
    falls from the sky.

Today is a critical day in American politics. May justice and peace rule every hill, and may all who lead be honest and fair.

I hope you will join me in praying this psalm as our fervent prayer for our “kings” today.

May Peace Rule Every Mountain by Becca Ziegler

Arise and Shine

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? And the follow-up question is, did you choose something realistic? I would love to be 5’ 10” tall and have long, silky, naturally blond hair. But God gave me brown curls, my hairdresser provides my blond highlights, and no matter how hard I try, I will never be 4 inches taller. Wider, sure, but taller? Nope.

The new year causes us to pause and reconsider. We are reconsidering our lifestyles, our habits, our choices, and our daily routines. “Choose a goal and change” is the message of early January. Every new year brings a chance for a do-over.

Whatever you set your mind on this week, I hope daily scripture reading is a part of your makeover. This truly is one thing you CAN change. At Water’s Edge was developed to help you in this quest. It is in your inbox every morning and will always offer you a lectionary scripture and some musings. You can take or leave the musings, but the scripture is guaranteed to speak into your life every day.

Today’s passage encourages us to arise and shine. Think about that for a moment. God is trying to free you from whatever imprisonment has you locked up. Most of the time what imprisons us is of our own making. What are you currently doing that has you feeling trapped and hopeless?

Isaiah 60 (New Revised Standard Version)

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

When we read this proclamation of the Lord “rising upon us,“ we know it refers to his healing mercies, his power to overcome all oppression, and his unconditional love for his people. We are invited to tap into the ONE force that can truly obliterate the darkness we are all fighting.

For darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will appear over you.

When Isaiah wrote this, he was forecasting the return of the Israelites to their homeland and their place of worship. They had lived in darkness long enough. A savior was on the way to deliver them. We are still in the process of seeing this come to full fruition, but in faith we know that every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess him as Lord when the fullness of time has come at his second coming. Then nations will all live in light, and kings will bow down as well.

Nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn
.

So while we wait, let’s get better. Let’s do better. Let’s live better, love better, give better, speak better, wait better, and study God’s Word together.

Let us arise and shine in 2021.

Arise and Shine by Michelle Robertson

By Another Route

I suppose it’s time to talk about New Year’s resolutions. First, let me state that I hate New Year’s resolutions. Psychologists tell us it takes at least six weeks of sustained discipline to either make a new habit or break an old habit. They also tell us that six weeks is the average length of time that it takes most of us to abandon a well-intentioned New Year’s resolution. So why bother?

On the other hand, resolutions are like mini-Lents. We analyze our behavior, feel God leading us to change, and make a good effort to follow his guidance. So maybe what I hate is my inability to make a New Year’s resolution stick longer than Lent.

OK, so let’s give it a try. After all, New Year’s resolutions are biblical. Think about it! A resolution is based on:

1. Acknowledgment of a harmful behavior.

2. A confrontation of that behavior.

3. A repenting of the behavior.

4. A conscious decision to turn away from the behavior.

5. A change in direction.

One of the most poignant parts of the story of the three Magi who follow the star to see Jesus is what happens at the very end of the passage:

Matthew 2 (The Message)

9-10 Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!

11 They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

12 In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.

“They worked out another route.”

Having experienced the Messiah and encountering him PERSONALLY, they changed direction.

I suppose that is a New Year’s Resolution in a nutshell. Encountering Jesus in a personal, life-changing way…and then never going back to the old things. And by personal, I mean the on your knees, heart open wide, spilling your guts, and pleading for mercy kind of personal. Followed by accepting him as Savior and changing direction so that you commit to following him for the rest of your days.

Where is God calling you to work out another route? Where do YOU need to change direction in your life?

Christmas was all about encountering the Christ child. New Year‘s is all about finding different routes in your behavior.

And so we begin.

New Routes by Michelle Robertson

And So It Ends

(This is a re-post of a devotional I wrote on Jan. 1, 2020. It is interesting to read this with the eyes of experience. It was impossible to know what 2020 would bring…did I hit the mark? Did I miss it entirely?

Notice that in offering examples of “things that distract us from God” I mentioned Netflix and too much screen time. I now find that HILARIOUS. Netflix may have just saved our sanity in this pandemic, and “too much screen time” was the only way to go to work/go to school/attend staff meetings/go to church/keep in touch with your friends and family. There are truths in this writing and the scripture is just as relevant and fresh today, but I am obviously not a prophet!! Enjoy….)

According to the American Optometric Association, 20/20 vision is defined as:

20/20 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/100 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet.

Today we begin a new year. A decade has closed, a year has been added, and a new beginning is offered. Looking back at the year just ended, what do you see? Joy, regret, growth, retreat, inertia, advancement…what did the last 12 months bring into your life?

Now looking at the next 12 months, what do you HOPE to see? And no matter what those hopes are, do you see God being active in your year? Does your vision for your life match HIS vision for your life?

One of my favorite scriptures on vision comes from Isaiah, Chapter 6:

Isaiah 6

6 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 

Here is the quick take-away: King Uzziah was a great and powerful king. Isaiah served as his temple priest. If you look closely at the first sentence, you’ll notice that Isaiah says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I SAW the Lord.” Kinda’ makes you wonder if the charismatic and powerful earthly king was a distraction. It took his death for Isaiah to see the Lord, who obviously was there all the time. Could it be?

In a smaller sense, we are all guilty of putting things on the throne that distract us from seeing the Lord. Indulgences of every kind, gossip-spinning, hours of Netflix, too much screen time, grudge-holding, over-indulging our children, vanity, laziness…fill in your own blank.

2020 is an opportunity to capture God’s 20/20 vision for your life. We get a do-over.

What earthly “king” is keeping you from God’s vision for your life?

What have you put on the throne in place of God?

What are you worshipping that has become a replacement for God?

Why are you so distracted?

When we clear out all the junk, vision becomes clarified. When we sweep away the debris of our past, we can capture God’s vision for our future. Putting God back on the throne of our hearts will enable us to enter the new year with hope, peace, joy, and love.

May 2020 bring us 20/20.

(Editor’s note: And may 2021 bring us healing, in the name of Jesus!)

A New Year Dawns by Michelle Robertson

20/20 Vision

According to the American Optometric Association, 20/20 vision is defined as:

20/20 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/100 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet.

Today we begin a new year. A decade has closed, a year has been added, and a new beginning is offered. Looking back at the year just ended, what do you see? Joy, regret, growth, retreat, inertia, advancement…what did the last 12 months bring into your life?

Now looking at the next 12 months, what do you HOPE to see? And no matter what those hopes are, do you see God being active in your year? Does your vision for your life match HIS vision for your life?

One of my favorite scriptures on vision comes from Isaiah, Chapter 6:

Isaiah 6

6 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 

Here is the quick take-away: King Uzziah was a great and powerful king. Isaiah served as his temple priest. If you look closely at the first sentence, you’ll notice that Isaiah says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I SAW the Lord.” Kinda’ makes you wonder if the charismatic and powerful earthly king was a distraction. It took his death for Isaiah to see the Lord, who obviously was there all the time. Could it be?

In a smaller sense, we are all guilty of putting things on the throne that distract us from seeing the Lord. Indulgences of every kind, gossip-spinning, hours of Netflix, too much screen time, grudge-holding, over-indulging our children, vanity, laziness…fill in your own blank.

2020 is an opportunity to capture God’s 20/20 vision for your life. We get a do-over.

What earthly “king” is keeping you from God’s vision for your life?

What have you put on the throne in place of God?

What are you worshipping that has become a replacement for God?

Why are you so distracted?

When we clear out all the junk, vision becomes clarified. When we sweep away the debris of our past, we can capture God’s vision for our future. Putting God back on the throne of our hearts will enable us to enter the new year with hope, peace, joy, and love.

May 2020 bring us 20/20.

A New Year Dawns by Michelle Robertson

Turning the Corner

I live on an island off an island off an island. My commute to work requires me to travel over two bridges and drive on an incredibly curvy road for three miles. At one point the road curved around a small Methodist church that was large enough to block your view as you drove around it, causing several accidents. The DOT finally came along and straightened out the road after centuries of curviness. As we traverse Colington Road, we all have to be alert to what is just around the corner. It might be a political sign, a muddy rut, or even a chicken. Turning each corner is a challenge of staying alert.

As we say goodbye to an old year and welcome a new one, we have an opportunity to “turn the corner,” offering us a time to reflect on the trajectory we’ve been on and possibly change direction. It is not uncommon to see people back in the gym, (regular gym-goers hate January with its crowded classes and busy weight rooms!) starting new diets, pledging to be more thoughtful and intentional, and otherwise making changes that promise to turn the corner on some aspect of their lives that needs fixing.

You know, Jesus was all about the turning-the-corner-life. God sent him to get us out of the muddy rut humanity was in, and offers us a way out through belief in him:

Acts 3 (The Message)

19-23 “Now it’s time to change your ways! Turn to face God so he can wipe away your sins, pour out showers of blessing to refresh you, and send you the Messiah he prepared for you, namely, Jesus.

For the time being he must remain out of sight in heaven until everything is restored to order again just the way God, through the preaching of his holy prophets of old, said it would be. Moses, for instance, said, ‘Your God will raise up for you a prophet just like me from your family. Listen to every word he speaks to you. Every last living soul who refuses to listen to that prophet will be wiped out from the people.’

The act of turning toward God and having him wipe away your sins results in God pouring out showers of blessing to REFRESH you. In all the ways we will seek a refreshing this new year, this soul-refreshing is the most significant. And we need to be alert to what is just around the corner. If we meet heartache, illness, betrayal, despair, or even death there, we had better be prepared with God at our side.

Want to lose weight? Take off the heavy burden of sin. Want to get fit? Exercise your belief. Want to be more intentional and thoughtful? Immerse yourself in scripture. Ready to turn the corner? Give your new year over to God and see what HE will do with it.

The showers of blessing that come from turning toward God are peace, hope, joy, and contentment. Wouldn’t that make for a wonderful 2020?

Colington UMC on curvy Colington Road