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Many Waters Cannot Quench

Mark 1: 1-8

The Rev. Jon Roberts

7 December


Good Shepherd Episcopal

Venice, FL

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight—” 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”


John the Baptist preaching by Peter Brueghel the Elder, 1566

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.
Love is strong as death. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.[1]

Thousands upon thousands have come to love this tune. Written by the English composer, John Ireland, it is a moving anthem, that emphasizes the ultimate act of love. It portrays the act of one who lays down his life for his friends. As Christians we find that there have been many who have laid down their life for those who they love. Yesterday was the feast day for a very beloved saint of the Church. One who repeatedly laid down his life for those who he loved. he is the patron saint of sailors but he is most widely known, as the patron saint of children. Little ones rarely refer to him as St. Nicholas these days. Instead, he has been adapted to Americana who now calls him, simply, Santa Claus. But the story of St. Nicholas is one that all Christians should cherish. One, we should tell with equal importance and enthusiasm. It is yet another story of one who loved deeply for those around. In his own right, he was like a voice that cried out in the wilderness; teaching people how they were to prepare the way; to make straight what was crooked.
Nicholas was one of the people. He loved them but he would discover the path to the heart is one filled with many waters. It is a path where there are tears, at times appearing to flood us out. Nicholas knew this because he experienced this flood early on. A terrible plague came down on his village. Many lives were lost in a short time. His parents included. With the help of his uncle, the Bishop of Lycia, he took young Nicholas under his wing, and gave him comfort. From his uncle’s teachings, he too would learn to comfort “those who sit in darkness, mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load."

One story has it, that he observed the sorrow that overcame a struggling widower who had three daughters, and had fallen from riches to poverty. A suitor came calling for one of the daughter’s hand in marriage. The father owed him a dowry but he had no money to give, and the family shed tears over this problem. The eldest daughter decided she would sell herself as a slave in order to raise money for the amount needed. When Nicholas heard about this sacrifice, of one giving their life for another, he was moved. That night, he secretly went to the eldest daughter’s window, and with monies he had from his parent’s estate, he dropped a small bag of gold into her room while she slept, to pay for the dowry. On other nights, he secretly provided the two remaining daughters with dowries of their own. Word got out, and Nicholas eventually became known as the patron saint of young women seeking husbands. By the age of nineteen he was made priest, and his reputation of caring for others continued. It also was a time for the miraculous. Once there were two school boys that were taken captive by an evil innkeeper who eventually murdered them. Worried of what happened to them, the boy’s parents asked the newly appointed Bishop, Nicholas, if he could help. He tracked down there whereabouts to the Inn, and found the innkeeper. seeing the bishop, his heart was convicted and he confessed all, telling him that he hid the bodies in two wooden barrels, out back. Putting on his miter, Nicholas turned towards the barrels and waved his crozier over them. In a matter of moments, the barrels moved about and the boys jumped out, without a scratch. The parent’s tears turned into joy. There were many occasions when tears turned into joy for Nicholas. He made straight the path to the hearts of many, because they saw how much he cared; how much he loved them.

When people felt their lives had been broken and made crooked, they called upon him to help straighten them. He lived out the ultimate act of love; as one lays down their life for their friends. He helped them prepare the way. The way straight to their hearts with a love and devotion for our Blessed Lord and Savior, by his word and example. Remember, as Christians, we are called to go forth and prepare the way, as one who cries in the wilderness, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ; letting our tears turn into joy for all to see and if necessary, we are to use words.

For others who have cried in the wilderness, like Isaiah, John the Baptist, their life on Earth, was spent in the many waters as well. The waters that fell upon the ground watering the grass which God created, the waters that were cupped in the hands, poured upon the head of the Savior. The waters that flowed upon the paths of our hearts preparing the way for Him, and him alone; tears, rain, baptism, are the many waters that flow upon us, preparing our lives for the greatest love. It is the greater love of the Creator for His creation, who laid down his life for us, that leads us into righteousness. It is in Jesus, that we comforted, who has the power over death, who, by his love for us, becomes the many waters that quench our soul.

[1] John Ireland, Vexilla Regis, 19th C., Canticle 8, Jn 15, 1 Pet 2, 1 Cor 6.
[2] 1980 Hymnal, #67
[3] Ann Tompert, St. Nicholas, Illus. by Michael Garland, Boyd Mills Press: PA, 2000.
[4] Mark 1:1-8

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