In The Beginning
Genesis 1:1-5 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.
Mark 1:4-11 [1:4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 1:5 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. 1:6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 1:7 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. 1:8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”] 1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 1:10 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. 1:11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
- Here we are, still in the early days of a new year.
- Our texts today take us to two beginnings, one is the beginning of time and the other, the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In our time together we are going to look at what these two scenes have to do with each other and even more, what do they have to do with us and what we may be experiencing personally and what we all are experiencing collectively as we move into this new year?
- #1—God can bring order and something good out of chaos. There was something BEFORE the passage we read: Genesis 1 has been used to support the classic Christian doctrine that God created out of nothing, creation ex nihilo. But the passage indicates that there was indeed something there already (earth- as formless void, water); in the case of Jesus’ baptism, Jesus was 30 years old and he was born into what was chaos for God’s people—the experience of exile and Roman oppression. He goes into the waters of the Jordan, with the water representing all of this. Water represents cleansing and salvation, but it can also represent chaos and trouble. Mark doesn’t focus on how Jesus was baptized, just that he was baptized. It is more important what was going to happen next!
- The first thing that happened next in Genesis is that the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. God installs sky to put limits on the chaos and create order where there was none. This is not as much a story about God creating something from nothing (which is the doctrine of creation ex nihilo) as it is about God redeeming the chaos and all that would threaten, drowned out, or thwart life and the conditions for thriving.
- In Jesus’ baptism narrative, what happens next is Jesus begins his ministry as he is driven out into the wilderness for a time of tempting and preparation. This is after we see the Spirit of God move in the midst of the chaos surrounding Jesus, coming down out of heaven like a dove. Here was God symbolically and literally appearing on the scene, through Jesus and the Spirit in form of a dove, and through God’s voice indicating hope was on the way, chaos would be subdued, and something new was about to happen through Jesus.
- God looks at the light on the face of the waters and calls it good. God looks on the one who will be called the light of the world, Jesus, and essentially says the same thing, calling him good with these words, “this is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”
- #2. Words matter. Through words, we can build things up. We can contribute to peace and blessing of others or we can tear things down. We have the power to influence lives and shape circumstances. (Death and life are in the power of the tongue- Proverbs 18:21; cursing and blessing can come from the same mouth James 3: 8-10)
- In a week, where we have seen the unimaginable occur in our nation’s capital- with riots and a mob storming the seat of our democracy. Chaos abounded and rumors of continued attacks loom large. God knew we might need some encouragement to recognize that when it seems that order in our lives has been destroyed, we can look for signs of God’s creative work bringing things back into balance and order when they are beyond our control. (EX. On the evening before we saw the cauldron of White supremacy and nationalism, White privilege, come to a full boil, an African- American minister from Martin Luther King’s former church and a young Jewish journalist and film maker were elected from the deep south state of Georgia to the US Senate, unseating two opponents who were supporting at the minimum, through their silence, the forces that were on display on Wednesday. Order coming from chaos.)
- As God continues to order our lives as day follows night, God can one day create order once again out of the chaos left by death of a loved one, loss of a job or significant relationship, illness or the treatment of illness that may be almost as devastating as the illness itself, homelessness or any other circumstance that upends our lives. The reality is we are constantly moving between highs and lows, periods of rejoicing and seasons of mourning, struggle or strife. One scholar writes it’s like our lives are constantly being taken apart and put back together. Yet the Spirit is an ever- present companion throughout.
- The beginning of the year is a good time to remember our own baptism and that God sees the light that is within us and declares it good. God is not done with any of us, the work of perfection is not complete, but we are good. God’s words are creative pronouncements but they are accompanied by action (word and deed).
- Remembering our baptism is a call to live in such a way that we are continually on watching for the movement of the Spirit, especially where there is chaos. We can choose to focus on the positive, joining with God in co-creating something good instead of cowering in fear and disillusionment.
- I invite you to grab hold of that hope that even in the midst of what seems like the heavens are being torn apart, strain to see something new, something good coming. Day is breaking on the horizon.
- In the beginning, there was chaos. In the beginning, there was God. Amen.