On New Year’s Day I drove our dog Sally to Magnuson Park. It’s her favorite place to play. Along the way, I noticed an unusually large number of people gathered at the entrance to Matthews Beach. Cars were parked for a long stretch on either side of the road. Some of the folks getting out of their cars carried swimming gear. I wondered what in the world was going on and then it dawned on me. It was the annual Polar Bear Plunge.
Every year people take the plunge into a bitter cold Lake Washington. For many people, this has become a New Year’s Day ritual. Despite the bitter cold, many people enjoy the invigorating rush of dipping into cold water.
Last Sunday we began a new year with the celebration of the Baptism of our Lord. And every Sunday, worship begins when water is poured into the font. We begin worship in the name of the one in whose name we were first baptized.
Last Sunday gave us opportunity to renew our baptismal vows. We renounced again those things that separate us from God, renewed our trust in the triune God, and renewed our promises to remain in the community, keep worship central, and to practice the ways of discipleship. All of this took place around the pouring water that was felt on our bodies when the entire assembly was sprinkled with the water and we dipped our hands into the font. We renew these promises, not by our resolve, but in and through the power of the Spirit.
The jury is out as to whether I’ll ever take the Polar Bear Plunge. If it were up to Sally, we would give it a try. You can probably guess the final verdict. Though I’m loath to jump into the lake, there is something I can say with great certainty — I will continue to join you in returning again and again to the pouring water and the font.
There we remember who we are by remembering whose we are. Join me in taking the plunge!