Saturday, January 14, 2006

Baptism of the Lord Sunday (Jan 8) Sermon

My tool box……….—haven’t done much creating---don’t have a tool shed or a workshop like some of yall. I’ve looked with great admiration on some of our member’s workshops. I’ve seen workshops that Santa Claus himself would feel very at home in. Growing up in the church, I gained a lot of “surrogate grandparents.” One of my surrogate grandfathers—Walter Losey, used to show me around his workshop. This family had a 3 car garage, and the 3rd part he’d walled off and turned into a little shop. He was a woodworker, and I’d watch with wonder as he’d make beautiful details in what before was simply a board of wood.
I’ve been impressed with Jack Wengert’s workshop where he graciously hosted church members who put together the Christmas parade float. Jack’s tool shop is deluxe!!! Plenty of space, a woodstove, and scores of Pringles cans holding every kind of screw or bolt or whatever it takes to hold something together.
Creative Power of Tools----
God’s Word—Christ—the creative word of God, holds us together too. Tighter than any screw or glue. God claims us through grace. The ritual of Baptism celebrates this fact—God’s claim on our life.
In the beginning, God’s workshop was the inky blackness and primordial storm of Chaos. In the beginning, God’s only tools were Wind and Word. Have you ever had trouble understanding the importance of the Trinity? I have heard several people in this congregation ask, “What is the Trinity, anyway?” Well—this is one way to envision the Trinity. It is all there in the first few sentences of the Bible. God is the “One who speaks.” Present in the act of speaking are Breath and Word. This falls into line with the classical doctrines of the Trinity, which say that the Son, or Word and Spirit, or Breath “emenate from the Father, or the One who Speaks.” For me, this way of thinking about the Trinity is a very powerful image, and it is helpful to see how each aspect of the Trinity is involved in the Creation. The Trinity is pre-existent of Creation, and as the Book of John says, “All things come into being through the Word.”
Into the Light, into the Waters, into the mud, into the sky God breathes the Breath of Life and articulates the Creative Word to give each thing form and function. Psalm 104 proclaims that God gives Life Breath to all Creation. In Genesis 1, The Breath of God is pictured in this passage as “hovering over the waters.” The word used for “hovering” is the same word used later in Deuteronomy 32: 10-11 when an eagle is pictured “hovering” over its young. The word “hovering” is meant to evoke feelings of nurture. God looked with satisfaction on each detail of creation and exclaimed—It is good!
We believe in a God who has created the heavens and the earth—all the universe—with something as subtle and intimate as God’s own voice. God divides light and darkness by breathing the word “Light” into the chaos. As the Psalm we read today proclaims, “The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.”
God speaks us into being as well—into what scripture tells us is God’s last thoughts of Creation, God makes humans in his own reflection, so that we may express in Creation God’s unparalleled beauty and compassion.
We know that this is our purpose because God’s Creative Word—the Logos—lived among us in the flesh and now lives among us in the Spirit, and this is how Christ lived—with beauty and compassion. Because we had lost our meaning, because we had in a sense forgotten how to pronounce the Logos through which we have all come into being, God spoke the pure, unblemished Word into our human story once again—so we could see who we really are: children of God.
At Jesus’ baptism, Mark tells us that the sky is torn open, and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove on Jesus. Then God once again speaks Life giving, creative words—“You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” The words were Creative because Mark tells us Jesus is “immediately driven by the Spirit into the wilderness.” The words are creative because the word “Beloved” in God’s proclamation refers to an act of will instead of a “feeling.” It is also translated as “the chosen.” God creates a new possibility in the life of Jesus through this experience, and Jesus is open to it because he is infused with the Holy Spirit.
These words of Creation open the eyes of Jesus the man, the dusty carpenter from Nazareth. “What good could come out of Nazareth?” was the question on many people’s minds when they would meet this man and contemplate his identity. For Jesus of Nazareth, the Words that poured out of the sky like the water poured over his head were the sparks that started the fire of his ministry.
The ritual Words of acceptance and induction at our Baptisms communicate this creative power in a special way. The Beautiful Words, Wonderful Words, wonderful words of Life mold us as a new creation. They strip us of the veil of abandonment and fill us with the assurance of adoption. This is why at a baptism, I ask the parents to tell me “what name is given this child?, though I may full well know what the child’s name actually is. It is not a chance for me to make sure I have everything straight so that I don’t embarrass anyone—this question is asked so that the child or person who is baptized is “named” ritually. AS they are “named,” they are also claimed—by the family of faith that is this very congregation. You might notice at our next baptism later this month that I don’t use the child’s last name or family name in the ritual of Baptism—that is because in a ritualistic sense, through baptism, we claim the child as our brother or sister, and in a sense their family name is “Christian,” or “child of God.”
Henri Nouwen said, “The one who created us is waiting for our response to the love that gave us our being.”
What is our response? We reflect that creative word that gave us being by telling the story that saves lives. “We’ve a Story to tell the Nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right, a story of truth and mercy, a story of peace and light.” Our response to being graciously Spoken into being and claimed by the family of Christ is to be “Co-Creators with God.” God creates new possibilities in each moment for redemption, peace, understanding, reconciliation. As co-creators, our task as followers of the Risen Christ is to help those possibilities become realities.
Telling the story of Christ is sharing those gifts with a hurting world. Though the consumer making, conflict breathing, caste perpetuating, illness spewing world utters Words of destruction, domination, and division, the Life Giving, Ego shattering, Bondage Breaking Word of God speaks unity, empathy, and liberty. We worship and celebrate the God of Creation—but the world around us would have us instead worship the opposite: Destruction! There are times when it seems that the powers of destruction have the upper hand. Doesn’t it sometimes seem like the world around us is filled with nothing more than heartache and war and hatred and ignorance?
But we know that God will quite literally have the “Last Word.” Yes! The Creative Word that was with God at the Beginning and through which all things came into being will also be there at the End. In Revelation 21, Christ says “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the Spring of the Water of Life.” We believe that the Logos through whom we are made is at judgment at the End of all time—and we are once again made into new Creations through this Judgment. We may get caught up in the idea that the aspects of our lives are being judged at the end of time—but what this scripture says is that “to the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” Let me ask you today church—are you Thirsty? Are you thirsty for the life giving spring? Are you thirsty for the Holy Breath of God to be breathed into your being and Create you anew? Let me warn you—quenching the Thirst for the Holy Spirit may lead to a thirst for justice and peace and compassion. The Life Giving Breath and Word of God may send us running into the wilderness to face the demons and Wild animals of our lives! Quenching the thrist for the Holy Spirit may mean taking up our cross and following Christ! The Powers and Principalities that love destruction and division and death have a firm grip on our perception of reality. Remember, Jesus really did die on a cross. There really is a “dark night of the soul.” Faith in the Living, Loving, Life Giving Word of God means that we are ready to stand up to the cold, dark, chaotic realities of destruction, division, and death with nothing more than a candle of hope. Victory may not be apparent if we give up the foolish hope in the resurrection.
We must carefully listen to the Life giving, Creative, word of God that has been ringing in humanity’s ears since the beginning of time. God molded the Good Creation out of the formless, lifeless Earth and the chaotic, dark waters, and sometimes it seems like the world is spiraling back towards its primordial origins. But if we listen closely, if we search deeply, who we are is apparent. God makes Creation and declares “It is good.” Because we forget and we corrupt and we ignore, God sends the Word directly to us—You are good! He says. You are beautiful and God loves you no matter what the world thinks of you, he says. Turn around and face the light of your Creator, Christ says.
Do you hear your Creator Speaking? God is still speaking and creating and Loving and Proclaiming “It is Good!” All we have to do is take our fingers out of our ears and accept it! God’s Creative Word is challenging us to live the lives we were created to enjoy. Listen closely, the Word is here among us! What is it saying to you?


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