The Baptism of Our Lord

Sermon Title: The Baptism of Our Lord
Date: 7th January 2018
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers 2018
Church Calendar Date: The Baptism of Our Lord
Lectionary Reading: Genesis 1:1-5, Psalm 29, Acts 19:1-7, Mark 1:4-11

The Creation

James Weldon Johnson, 1871 – 1938

And God stepped out on space,

And he looked around and said:

I’m lonely—

I’ll make me a world.

And far as the eye of God could see

Darkness covered everything,

Blacker than a hundred midnights

Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,

And the light broke,

And the darkness rolled up on one side,

And the light stood shining on the other,

And God said: That’s good!

Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,

And God rolled the light around in his hands

Until he made the sun;

And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.

And the light that was left from making the sun

God gathered it up in a shining ball

And flung it against the darkness,

Spangling the night with the moon and stars.

Then down between

The darkness and the light

He hurled the world;

And God said: That’s good!

Then God himself stepped down—

And the sun was on his right hand,

And the moon was on his left;

The stars were clustered about his head,

And the earth was under his feet.

And God walked, and where he trod

His footsteps hollowed the valleys out

And bulged the mountains up.

Then he stopped and looked and saw

That the earth was hot and barren.

So God stepped over to the edge of the world

And he spat out the seven seas—

He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed—

He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled—

And the waters above the earth came down,

The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,

And the little red flowers blossomed,

The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,

And the oak spread out his arms,

The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,

And the rivers ran down to the sea;

And God smiled again,

And the rainbow appeared,

And curled itself around his shoulder.

Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand

Over the sea and over the land,

And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!

And quicker than God could drop his hand,

Fishes and fowls

And beasts and birds

Swam the rivers and the seas,

Roamed the forests and the woods,

And split the air with their wings.

And God said: That’s good!

Then God walked around,

And God looked around

On all that he had made.

He looked at his sun,

And he looked at his moon,

And he looked at his little stars;

He looked on his world

With all its living things,

And God said: I’m lonely still.

Then God sat down—

On the side of a hill where he could think;

By a deep, wide river he sat down;

With his head in his hands,

God thought and thought,

Till he thought: I’ll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river

God scooped the clay;

And by the bank of the river

He kneeled him down;

And there the great God Almighty

Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,

Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,

Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;

This great God,

Like a mammy bending over her baby,

Kneeled down in the dust

Toiling over a lump of clay

Till he shaped it in is his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,

And man became a living soul.

Amen.      Amen.

What a wonderful playful way to tell the story of the beginning of the story of God for a particular people!

Genesis 1 is a dance between divine desire and creative possibilities as we know in poets like Johnson and as we know in Jesus, Emmanuel, God becoming one of us.

The beginning of creation was a joyful, cosmic dance and we hear this also in our translation from our NRSV reading of Genesis: “the wind swept across the face of the waters.(can be translated) .the wind or spirit of God danced over the waters!

And God said “it was good.”

Valerie Bridgeman in her commentary on Genesis 1, said “The journey of creation becomes the journey of a people.  Genesis does not intend to be a science lesson, not even a history lesson, but rather a theological treatise. It is expressing how much God loves and wants the world.  God delighted in this amazing world!

At Christmas we celebrated the birth of Jesus and today we now hear about him as a grown man.

The baptism of Jesus was the beginning of his ministry. He has left his home… his mother and father (if Joseph was still alive), lots of hugs from his family and a ‘knowing’ that Jesus needed to go and use his God given- gifts and experience life outside of the protection of ‘home’.  His mother remembers the words of Simeon in the Temple “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed- and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:33-35

Jesus walked into the water at the river Jordon. He went down under the water and was baptised by John the Baptist. The water of life… the water of chaos.  He rose out of the water dripping and taking a breath, the heavens tore apart and the spirit descended upon him like a dove and he heard a voice from heaven say “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

As  I sit with these images of the beginning of creation and the connection between heaven and earth through the Spirit, a tearing of the heaven’s that never closes, I am in awe of the mystery and the love of our creator for all living things… including us.

All beginnings have their challenges.  The ‘high point’ of his baptism and the words confirming his identity as God’s son, began in the wilderness and then he leaves that place and is thrusted into another wilderness to be tested. So it’s interesting that the ‘wilderness’ is a place of growing and finding true identity.  This is not creating a Jesus who is aloof and doesn’t care. Just because he was baptised and told he is God’s son and God was well pleased with him, didn’t go to his head.  What it did do, was to open himself up to the wider mission of God and to continue the work of God.

What was the work of God… well, if the story of creation has anything to say to us, it was that he delighted with what was created! The dance will go on!  And Jesus through the stories we know, continued the dance of connecting the divine desire and creative possibilities for us humans.

As we contemplate this new year, 2018, and contemplate our own baptismal identity as son and daughter of this God who delights in us, what are we going to chose to do and be?

This is an invitation to us to look beyond that which holds us back from achieving… those doubts, apathy, fears, the criticisms, to become our best selves!

We are part of this joyful, cosmic dance! Still with darkness and light, chaos and calm.

And God said ‘it was good’.

The Lord be with you.