Baptism of Jesus Sunday Year B
January 8, 2012
Let us pray: O God, on this first day of the second week of a new calendar year, our thoughts are still focused on beginnings. How will this year go? What does it hold for us? How can we shape the way it is for us, and the people around us? May these words I speak be words that help us to understand the place you hold in our lives, the desire you place within us, and the presence which both comforts and disturbs us. Amen.
As if it wasn't enough to open up new calendars and place them on our walls, and to remember to write 2012 in places where we normally place the date, we had those scripture passages we just heard which also address the topic of beginnings.
The first reading, from the book of Genesis, as was mentioned, comes from the very beginning of our bible and gives an imaginative depiction of the way in which God created the earth dividing the time of creation into a week of days the same day that we heard about this morning when dark and light were separated to create the first one. When we read a bit further in the story, we hear not just about the busy work of creation, but also of the importance of finding time for rest Sabbath.
Then we moved over to Mark's gospel and heard another story of beginnings the baptism of Jesus which is part of all four gospel accounts and marks the starting point of Jesus' adult ministry.
I don't know how often in the course of a week your thoughts turn to such things as how we got here and what difference the story of Jesus makes in your life. I expect that such questions are familiar to you, but I also expect that they are not the sorts of things that pop into your head on any kind of regular basis. And so the question that comes to mind is this: What purpose do the stories we heard today have for us as we go about our lives struggling to live our lives as citizens of the world? Do they set us apart in any way from the people around us? Do they help us make decisions, or do they serve as guideposts for our journey? What would it be like if we didn't know the stories?
It's hard for me to answer those questions because I am steeped in those stories and I therefore cannot answer the question of what it would be like without them. I can only offer a perspective, hopefully a helpful one, on what the stories mean to us as people of faith. You may not be drawn to think about such things on your journey through a week I understand that I could say the same thing, except that as part of my vocation as a minister I am blessed by having time and in fact I am expected to do some thinking about these sorts of questions, and if not answer them for you which in fact is something I would never claim to do I can at least make space for their consideration.
What is important for us in the consideration of how the world came to be? I say world because when the words of Genesis were written, the world was all that was known and even the world was a very limited view. It would be more accurate in these days of cosmology and quantum physics to ask what is important for us in the consideration of how the universe came into existence.
I could say that on one hand it matters very little. However, on the other hand, these stories and the ways in which in our modern context we try to fill them out by adding data, are a celebration of the creation that the creation stories tell us about. These stories such as the one we heard from Genesis this morning open a view on ancient mystery and questions of existence and on power that is greater than anything we can claim for ourselves. We know a lot more about how the universe came into being than did the writers of Genesis, but the story we heard this morning is still vital to us not because of any factual claim about how creation happened, but because of the importance it gives for God as Creator.
God also shows up in the gospel passage expressing divine blessing on what has just happened when Jesus is baptised by John. As much as I doubt that we think about the importance of this event on our lives in the course of a week, it is hard to imagine what our lives would be like without this story having been told.
The story of Jesus has had an inestimable influence on the way we live our lives. How much of our decision making, amd the morality and ethics that under-gird those decisions, are based on the perspective that Jesus offered for us on our relationship with God. That all started with the event described in Mark's gospel and which we heard this morning. Mark is perhaps the gospel writer who makes it most clear. There are no birth narratives in this most concise and straightforward of the accounts of Jesus' life. For Mark this is the beginning the inaugural event in a life that has had untold bearing on our own.
Finally, these stories are not just about what happened and how they have had a role in the shaping of our lives up to now, they are about what is happening and what will happen as they shape our lives in the future. In these beginning days of 2012, they provide insight for us into the way in which God is present as Creator of the universe, creating in the present and future, and as Creator of creativity the creativity that inspires us to explore, to ask questions about the mystery, and for us to explore through the life and ministry of Jesus what it means to be faithful people in the world living lives that are dedicated to serving God. Amen.