The first readings this week are about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. At first the pharaoh had let them pack up and leave, but after second thoughts, he sent his army to cut them down.
The Israelites, arrived at the Red Sea and looking back, saw the chariots bearing down on them. Like the expression goes, they were “between the devil and the deep blue sea.” So, Moses told them that God wanted them to pick up their things, and to march into the sea. You can imagine how uninviting that must have been to a mob who had never learned to swim.
It was a test of faith. Would they trust God or not. Even though they were a grumbling crowd, they trusted God. They waded in, and God rewarded their trust, backing up the waters, making a path for them.
St. Paul would later refer to that happening by saying that they were baptized in the sea. The significance of Paul’s saying they were baptized in the sea is that by our baptisms we equivalently put our full trust in God.
Let me turn from theology to one of the old stories I like telling. In Korea a hundred and sixty yeas ago, adherence to a foreign religion was punishable by beheading. A young man named Andrew Kim slipped down to Shanghai where after five years he was smuggled back into Korea as a priest, and he was put ashore in a flimsy little boat, along with a French bishop and a French priest.
Fifty years ago a movie maker repeated that scene with a handsome Korean gent playing St. Andrew, with me playing the French priest, and my friend Father Jack Lynch, bearded up, playing the French bishop. Lynchy was shaking badly when we were slipping away from shore in the flimsy boat.
I can still hear him saying, “B-japers, Sull, I can’t swim!”
I image those Israelites were muttering their version of B-japers. If we knew all that was in store for us following God we would say B-japers at our baptisms.