A couple weekends ago the whole family went to Chicago for the baptism of my namesake nephew, Samuel Ronald. John and Michelle honored me by inviting me to perform the baptism, along with their own pastor, at their own church, Pilgrim Congregational in Oak Park.
At their request, we splashed Sammie good with freshly imported water from Lake Michigan. As I looked at the somewhat murky pitcherful on the table, I thought that we were certainly following the ancient advice to use "living" water when baptizing (that's Johnny and his oldest, Gabriel, laughing at the abundant moisture).
John and Michelle (Sammie's parents) were eager to use real Lake Michigan water for the baptism because both sides of the family have summer cottages and deep connections to the "Big Lake" as home. So in the service I pointed to the link between family initiation and initiation into the larger family of God.
But more than that, I suggested that using water from this natural resource -- so dominant and precious to us in the midwest -- highlights the deep connection between the grace of God offered in baptism and the responsibility we gratefully take on as Christ's disciples to care for the world in which that grace is manifest. It says something damning to us if the water in our great lakes (or backyard streams, or rivers, or oceans) is so polluted that we cannot in good common sense bathe in it, or in good conscience call it "living" water. Perhaps my nephew Samuel will grow up, in service to Jesus, to be a biologist who concerns himself with the health of Lakes Michigan, Superior, Huron, Ontario, and Erie.