11 January 2015: The Baptism of Christ
10.30 Sung Eucharist
Genesis 1. 1-5; Mark 1. 4-11
Lord, may the words that I speak be guided by your holy spirit; and may our hearts and minds be open to you Lord. Amen.
Happy New year to you all. Two weeks into 2015, am I too late to wish you Happy New Year? Did you, though, make any New Year resolutions, and are you still sticking to them? Could you imagine a resolution that would actually make you happy – permanently happy? Hold that thought…
Interesting that this morning’s reading and gospel give us a way:
Right back at the very beginning of time, God created the heavens and the earth, created light from darkness and saw it was good.
These familiar statements at the beginning of Genesis tell us two simple truths about God: the first being that he is way beyond any earthly limitation we can imagine – including today’s fashion for non-belief. Many people delude themselves that human intellect rules over all other existence: ‘I don’t believe in God; because I prefer to believe in my own individuality, in my own freedom, in my own power’. This inversion of power is the zeitgeist of to-day’s self-centred Western culture.
The other truth is that God is good, creating light out of darkness. With that goodness, God came down to earth in the name of Jesus. He came down to our level, to meet us in our smallness, to give us hope.
Amazing. God the creator of all things is a God of goodness, of love; a love which turns out to be a self-sacrificing love on the cross. He gave up his power to be with us, simply to love us.
Wake up and smell the coffee! God existed forever before us, and will exist forever after us. Our smallness, our sheer insignificance in the big drama of life can be difficult for us to accept. If God’s full power was revealed to us, we most probably would not be able to comprehend its enormity. We would in all likelihood be completely awestruck, feel utterly trivial, utterly fearful and utterly hopeless.
We are told in the Gospel, when John baptized Jesus, the Heavens were torn open and the Holy Spirit descended: you are my Son the Beloved, with you I am well pleased. God’s love for his son is joyful and complete.
Our Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to Jesus. Life is be met with goodness, with meekness, with us looking beyond our own insular power. When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and plead: Lord, you are full of grace, help me to be like you.
In preparation for Jesus’s ministry, John was baptising people, asking them to repent of their sins. Repentance is an unfashionable word suggesting contrition, regret for wrongdoing. When it actually means to turn around and go the right way. John is asking us to turn round and face God instead of facing into ourselves. To learn to live with love in our hearts, to bring ourselves closer to God. This of course is easier said than done; shining a light into the deeper recesses of our hearts can be uncomfortable, we have to face up to ourselves, who and what we are. To make a commitment to personal change, to live a more humane life by turning to face God. That sounds like a New Year’s Resolution worth making, a real investment.
Being a Christian has nothing to do with wishful thinking. It is to do with real life choices; simply to love beyond ourselves or not to. To draw into God’s light or to hate it and move away to darkness. In Jesus, people saw a great light and were drawn to him. In his words, in his actions, in his loving embrace of all those that the world had abandoned, those first disciples saw a light that overcame darkness, a love that would rise above every hatred. Jesus calls us to see within ourselves, and especially within our neighbour and even our enemy, to see the very best. We are invited to be image bearers of God, to be part of a creation with endless possibility and transforming love.
The ‘power’ of our God lies in his becoming human, in his utterly selfless act of solidarity of becoming one with us. In this act, we see that true power is not in violence, is not in disparaging others, is not in the need to control, but rather in the self-sacrificing love that bears all things and hopes that in the end death does not win, but instead love and life will triumph.
It takes courage for us to move away from any arrogant belief in self-power and to accept that God continues to love even as we continue to hate. God believes in us though we continue to deny him. God bears our inhumanity while we continue to act inhumanely!
Once we accept we are the cause of our own unhappiness, God’s gift of selfless love becomes our only hope for permanent happiness.
Last week Simon reflected that ‘Christ comes to us as a sheer gift’. So stop being so busy, give yourself time to receive Christ’s gift. Let yourself be loved by a God who has an infinite capacity to love you. Despite our arrogance, despite our hatred, despite our lack of faith, God still loves us, God loves you, God loves me. Make a New Year Resolution; to take time to stop, to accept and rejoice in God’s grace.
With these two resolutions, to turn to face God and to take time to accept God’s grace, I do wish you a Happy New Year.Amen