1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 1:2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 1:3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.1:4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
1:5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
29:2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor.
29:3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters.
29:4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
29:5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
29:6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
29:7 The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
29:8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
29:9 The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, "Glory!"
29:10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
29:11 May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!
Mark 1:4-11: "John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
Epiph1B 2009 “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our God. Amen
I don’t know particular issue/ dilemma,
But I recall several years ago,
Driving down the road,
having earnest conversation w/ Θ.
(do LOTS of praying in car …)
I said to Θ, re: whatever it was,
If you would just be clear, specific ..
Tell me what & why, I’d just do it w/out arguing.
As soon as I said that out loud,
I knew it = lie.
I never do anything w/out arguing – w/out asking questions.
I argued w/ parents, w/ teachers, w/employers ,
Even a bishop (politely, I hope) a time or 2.
Even, prior to this,
even when I clearly heard God's call for me to go to seminary and work towards ordination,
I have said to Θ – “no way”, “you’ve got to be kidding”,
Or, when things werent going my way, “this isn’t how you should be treating a friend!”
Why did I think this car conversation would be any different?
I realized that day in the car, w/ out a doubt
That whether Θ appeared to me in a burning bush Or in a dream,
Or on the road in form of angel, “Earl” from “Saving Grace”
I’d have a question or an argument.
I might even end up with a sore hip,
Like Jacob, who became Israel after wrestling w/ Θ.
(although getting physical— in an argument isn’t generally my style.)
Unquestioning obedience/ compliance, ≠ in my nature.
But there are some voices it ≠ pay to ignore!
The Dr. who says, get treatment, or die;
The IRS who says, pay up now or pay more later!
The beloved who says, “Marry Me”.
To voices such as these,
One ought pay serious attention.
Θ does not want to be ignored.
Θ ≠ wants grudging acknowledgement
w/ dismissal -- spiritual equivalent of “eye rolling”.
What Θ wants is for us to pay attention!
To sit up, take notice, to actually hear His Word
& then do something re: it, do something with it.
And so, in these weeks during Epiphany season,
We’ll be hearing Scripture read in which
We witness Θ making himself known,
Where Jesus is revealed as X, Θ’s Son.
May help to know: the word “epiphany” means
Discovery, revelation, to be made known –
In terms of the spiritual, it is a “aha!” moment,
That moment of clarity when something significant
Becomes unmistakably, unquestionably apparent.
And in today’s readings, there is no mistaking Θ’s voice.
No “sheer silence” or “still small voice” (Elijah, 1st Kings) here;
No tiny babies in feed troughs, No coo- ing doves, no Quiet lambs w/ shepherds.
No. In this morning’s lessons –
A voice big enough to be heard over the chaos of “the beginning” –
big enough to say, “let there be!” & there was.
In the Psalm, we read:
The voice of the Lord is on the waters
The voice of the Lord has power.
The voice of the Lord has splendor.
The voice of the Lord breaks mighty cedar trees.
The voice of the Lord bursts forth like lightening!
The voice of the Lord makes the desert shake.
The voice of the Lord un-does the forests!
Finally, we read in Mark,
That @ Jesus’ baptism, the heavens tore apart.
(violence here: ripped w/ force, no quiet little window …)
& from that rending in the heavens,
Θ pronounces His affirmation of Jesus’ son-ship, ministry.
No still small voice here –
Definitely, Θ trying to get someone’s attention!
God’s powerful voice to get our attention
What is it trying to say?
1) God is in control: over waters, Over chaos of our lives.
Brings light (let there be)
2) God loves us – just the way we are,
But way too much to leave us that way.
Θ offered sign of his grace
(un earned, un earnable favor/♥):
Baptism (waters = both life & chaos – diff only being “Θ in control”)
a bit of doctrine:
“God brings baptism & its power to us (like Jesus to John),
not us “make decision for him…
God chose us “in the beginning.”
Of course, just like child,
chosen by parents either @ birth or adoption,
who can wander away –
-- argue w/ Θ like I do
– we can drift away, even stomp off angrily,
away from the cleansing waters, and the voice of Θ.
But ≠ changes the fact that Θ claims us as his own.
& Θ will not relent until we are restored to him.
So Θ will continue to call to us
in whatever way we will finally hear :
storms of life, quietness of surrender,
whatever it takes to make us finally hear
– not just in our ears , but deep down in our souls:
“YOU are my dear child. With you I am well pleased.”
Now, is Θ always pleased w/ us??
• When we ignore his pleading, his invitation to live lives worthy of our being called his children;
• when we abuse our bodies w/ too much of any good thing;
• when we ignore the cries of the poor, turn a blind eye to violence & pain,
• when we don’t lend our voice to the voiceless,
• when we trust other things for our security:
MORE than we trust Θ
– Θ is not pleased – his ♥ breaks;
Scripture even tells us that the Θ who ♥s us so deeply, gets angry!
(♥ & anger can co-exist: ask any parent, or married person!
In fact, the ones who make us most angry = often ones we ♥ most – perhaps because ♥ has
such high expectations… ♥ knows the beloved’s potential..
Θ knows the awesome potential in each of us -- after all, he put it there!
& he yearns for us to live into being who & what he created us to be in the 1st place;
stands to reason our behavior might anger him sometime)
But Scripture also teaches us that Θ is slow to anger
(very patient) & he gets over it quickly
– Θ is pleased beyond measure when we trust that his ♥ for us = deeper than any displeasure,
& when, in trusting that ♥, we turn to him for forgiveness.
The voice we listen to then ≠ the voice of guilt & shame, ≠ voice of worthlessness & sorrow, but the voice of Jesus on †:
“ Forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing…Into your hands, I commend my Spirit.”
That is the voice to which we respond, & which we echo, in our own baptism: “into your hands, o Lord, we commend our spirits” .
All that is left = the “so what”.
So what: However you hear Θ’s voice, in quiet or above chaos,
Hear this: GOD LOVES YOU!
GOD CLAIMS YOU AS HIS OWN
You belong to him in ♥ that will not let you go.
Nothing you do ; Nothing you fail to do can change that Good News.
This is foundational – all else built on this;
if we get it out of order, our spiritual house will tumble.
But when we rest on that, w/ Θ, all things are possible --
even that order can come out of the chaos in our lives.
God can & will speak order into our chaos, and help us live anew.
Θ can & will even use our ordered chaos as example To help others discover hope for their own peace.
We call that – being born again.
And here is more of the GN – We get to do it fresh each day.
Martin Luther described baptism as a sort of life raft on the chaotic waters of the soul.
We fall out, we fail, we sin; but we can climb back in the boat, repent, receive forgiveness, and begin life’s journey anew. God’s grace is ours each day we will receive it.
Next part of so what: then: invite others – enough grace to go around -- we don't have to hoard it for ourselves, it doesn't run out -- there is enough for the whole world!
I ≠ advocate door knocking strangers; nor trying to convict others of their sins by accusing & pounding them over head w/ biggest bible you have.
(Js ≠ do that: only confrontational w/ leaders. w/ those whom society considered “sinners,” i.e. woman @ well, tax collectors, etc: compassion.)
But don’t be silent either: One author wrote: “During the past 30 years, the objective of most church goers was
‘don't appear pushy about the faith.’ The goal has been achieved. We have been so successful at being low-keyed evangelists that most of our denominations have declined by ¼ or even more”
The Jesus way: to first live and speak like child of the kingdom.
And then invite those w/ whom you already have relationships & trust.
Another pastor put it well when he said, “Take your baptism seriously. Be an Epiphany.
Make known the presence of Θ by the witness of your life.”
I Recently read, each Xn in U.S. knows ≈ 8 un-churched people.
Also, Stats re: how often invite any of those Θ people.
One minister was lamenting that the average person in the denomination invited someone to church
once every 18 years. A sigh of relief was heard from the back row when one older member said to a neighbor,
"Whew, I don't have to do that for another 3 yrs!"
So, after “be an Epiphany” -- The next key word for us is INVITE.
maybe ≠ church @ first – although that is great -- and is my first choice. But if that is too strong, take baby steps. Try:
– circle or bible study;
– friend to confirmation or youth group;
– our occasional potlucks, etc.
(relationships built in those places,
Foundation of trust & mutuality laid)
– But also risk telling a faith story of your own.
Other denominations call it “testimony”.
A word intimidating for Lutherans, but anyone can share in a conversation with someone else,
a bit of where they experienced Θ’s grace in their life.
Me = brave enough once, when kids little, Grocery store line: person behind me: “beautiful kids.”
Me: “Θ did good work” (risky for me..)
Her response (also risky) “and don’t you forget that!”
That brief encounter reminded me -- In a nation where folks consider themselves,
“Spiritual, not religious” there really is openness o such conversations.
In our living, and in our speech, each one of us who is claimed by Θ in baptism
is called to reveal the Θ who controls the chaos, = called to point to the Christ who lights the way in our darkness;
we each called to breathe in the Spirit who gives new life to our souls, & breathe out that Spirit around us.
I’ll admit, no matter how deep our commitment,
@ best of times, can be difficult to “be epiphanies”.
And sometimes, the chaos, the cacophony of other voices
Seek to drown out the powerful voice of Θ’s ♥. Sometimes, they are successful.
The voices of exhaustion, rage, discouragement, Hate, shame & guilt, grief, simply sap us;
The glittery empty promises of lust & status & $$ Overwhelmingly seduce us at times. The “easiest” way is > attractive than “narrow” way.
But as long as there is Θ (which is eternity) there is hope. We can live as the new creations in X that we are.
Just as the disciples in Ephesus were empowered
to speak w/ Θ’s voice when Paul laid his hands on them after their baptism.
We too: individuals, families, and as a congregation are invited to be filled w/
& live in the power of the presence Of Θ’s Holy Spirit –
Then, 1st we are changed; Next, thru us, Θ can change the place in which we live.
Lately: news papers, internet, tv broadcasts =
preaching, perpetuating, W’s like, “ escalating, spiraling, grim, doomed, worst in decades;
they pepper the “facts” of stories w/ commentaries like “terrible” “sad” “awful” “devastating”.
Feeds on itself – or rather consumes us, self-perpetuating; Focuses on problems & fear rather than seeking Θly solutions.
Kingdom of Θ rips its way into chaos & cries out new words:
joy, peace, light!
Which voice has your attention?