Water! We use it every day for drinking, washing, and cleaning. Water is one of the most abundant chemical compounds on earth. But have you ever thought about what water is? I am not a chemist, nor did I take anything more than basic chemistry in high school, but I know this: water is made up of two elements, hydrogen and oxygen. I also know that each water molecule contains not one, but two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. That is about the extent of my chemical knowledge. But think about what I just said. Water contains two atoms of hydrogen. Hydrogen is a highly inflammable element. Chemists know this and have invented the hydrogen bomb. Chemists have learned not to use hydrogen in blimps after the Hindenburg disaster in the 1930s. They now use the lighter-than-air helium to lift balloons and blimps.
The third atom in the molecule of water is oxygen. But the water molecule contains only one atom of oxygen. Two atoms of hydrogen, a highly flammable element, coupled with oxygen, the very ingredient needed to allow the hydrogen to burn and explode when a flame is applied. So, we drink, wash, and cleanse with two elements that, when brought together with fire, produce a tremendous explosion and burst. And when man tries to put these two elements together near a fire or flame, the outcome worsens because of the volatile nature of hydrogen. Remember the Hindenburg.
OK, now think about this. When God puts these two elements together in His arrangement of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, we get what we call “water.” And when this arrangement is used around a flame or fire, this substance puts out fire. Think of that: hydrogen coupled with oxygen puts out fire rather than exploding. This is nothing short of a miracle, the miracle of water which we drink and use to wash our bodies and cleanse so many things in our daily life as well as put out fires. Is this not a wonder, indeed, one of the great wonders of the world which God created?
However, there is another miraculous aspect to this substance we call “water.” When God adds His Name to His arrangement of the two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, we get an even greater miracle, the miracle of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. This “compound,” if I may humbly call it that for the sake of this discussion, saves us, for it cleanses not the body, but the conscience from guilt as the Apostle Peter describes: Baptism now saves us, not by washing dirt from the body, but by guaranteeing us a good conscience before God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21). Here is the real miracle of water.
Water can be a most destructive force. The Flood of Noah’s day reveals this. Water carved out the Grand Canyon. Water can move huge boulders and destroy entire cities in a matter of a few moments. Just think of the tidal wave that enveloped Japan a few years ago. But God uses the water of Holy Baptism to destroy our sin and the power of the devil. Baptism destroys death and brings life, as the Apostle Paul says, (God) saved us by the washing (Baptism) in which the Holy Spirit gives us a new birth and a new life (Titus 3:5). Praise God for His miracle of Water and the Word.
Reverend Joseph Burkhardt
Ascension Lutheran Church
St. Helens, OR