The Rev. Jennifer L. Adams
Epiphany 2, Year B: Genesis 1:1-5, Psalm 29, Acts 19:1-7, Mark 1:4-11
This morning is about beginnings. From the readings to the Baptism to the time of year. And the timing is good because we could use a few beginnings. The news has been hard. The weather has been harsh. The holidays are over, even snow days might be over for a while and as we get back to it – whatever it happens to be, this morning here at Grace, we’re about beginnings.
Couple of things about the beginnings we share as Church. First in the very beginning God created it all and God saw that it was good – all of it. It’s important that we remember that. We got a little taste of that whole story this morning from the book of Genesis, but you know how it goes. First there was light. Then waters and sky and land and vegetation, plants yielding seeds of every kind and then there were stars, and the sun and the moon too. Then God made creatures: sea monsters, birds, fish, cattle, creeping things, wild animals and every living thing including human beings who were made in God’s image. And in that beginning, the very beginning that we share, God saw that it was good, all of it.
And it’s important that we remember that – the goodness that God saw, the goodness that God intended and created us to embrace, to enjoy, to foster – the language of Genesis says that we human beings are to be stewards of that good creation and of one another too. So essentially in that beginning, we were created to care. Created in God’s image to care for that which God saw was good.
Fast forward now to a world in which the beginning of each day brings hard news. When the light and the darkness that separates the days from the nights is blurred with stories of violence and fear. That’s not all that’s happening in this world by any means but every week now we hear of shootings or kidnappings or some sort of larger scale violence that runs absolutely counter to the goodness that we believe runs through us all. God saw that it was good, but we see on a daily basis that goodness is not all that there is. So what can we do?
Well, to put it very simply, we can begin again. In fact it’s absolutely critical that we begin again, all the time. And we begin again not in a way that ignores the past or that closes our eyes or hearts to the pain and suffering in this world. In fact, just the opposite. We begin in a way that opens our hearts and our lives to all of it and makes room for the grace-filled goodness that comes in the form of redemption. The thing about hearts is that they can be heavy and open all at the same time.
In the gospel today Jesus is out in the wilderness; and he was out in the wilderness beginning again. Jesus was out on the absolute margins with John the Baptist (dressed in camels hair, eating locusts and honey); he was with the outcasts, the sinners, those in whom society refused to see the image of God. Out there in the wilderness Jesus was surrounded by stories that ran counter to that which God intended. Jesus was surrounded by criminals, sinners, those who had risked everything and lost too much, those who had challenged and fallen, those who cheated and stolen things and told lied and drank too much. He was surrounded by suspicious Religious authorities who had so warped the message of grace that they didn’t know it when they saw it. And then there were also those out there who were just plain lost and hungry, desperate even for something new. And so Jesus looked around that mess of creation, that mess of humanity and here’s where the story turned: he saw that it was good, or at least that it could be. Which is when their story, where our story began again:
Jesus saw the water and knew that it could bless and cleanse and so he waded in. He looked at the sky and just like it did in that first beginning, it opened up to the Spirit of God. Jesus looked around and saw the people, all the weary, hungry people and knew that the image of God was still there in them all. And that’s when their story, and our story too began again.
And that’s why what we do today matters. This is why baptism matters. Not because it’s magical, not because it defines who is in and who is out. And very importantly not because being Christian is the only means by which goodness can be achieved. We hear in Genesis that goodness was there in the beginning – woven into everyone’s beginning.
Baptism matters because it reminds us, we of this faith, of who we are, of whose we are and who we have been created and redeemed to be. In baptism we begin again, all of us.
Now Everett you’re just beginning in just about every way. Not a lot of regrets at this point, not a lot of heaviness or concern about this world yet, not a lot of that for which you need to be forgiven. And so essentially what’s happening is that we are welcoming you into a household that has committed itself not just to certain belief but to a way of being in this world, a Christ-like way of being in this world. And with God’s help we will help you grow in that way. And you’re giving us the opportunity to remind ourselves what that way is all about.
I would guess that while as a people we need to consider and evaluate the violence that has permeates our society, the first step is for us to let go of our cynicism or hopelessness or helplessness, whatever it is that stifles our response to that which runs counter to that which we were created to be. This way that baptism reveals to us is a way of hope, a way that demands we work for justice and peace, a way that invites us to gather together, to see Christ in all people, loving our neighbors as ourselves. This way grounds us and re-grounds us in the goodness of our beginnings and reminds us that that goodness runs through the lives of all the people of this world.
And so today we come together in the wilderness of this world, and we look at this water and we remember that it heals, that it blesses all who thirst especially those who struggle or thirst. We look at one another and in that other we are called to see the grace-filled goodness, the Christ, the image alive and well among us always. And from here we look out and remind ourselves that this world is forever vulnerable, forever open to the Spirit’s presence. And the Spirit can do amazing and surprising things at any time in any place.
As we awaken every day to the hard news, we have been called to share and to be the good news. The good news of our beginnings and the potential to begin again. Goodness runs deep. It’s in our DNA and the very essence of this world. Redemption is not only possible – it’s among us all the time. Thanks be to God. Amen.