Revd Paul Salaman's Sermon for Sunday 10th January 2021

Sometimes, but by no means always, the lectionary gives us a clear sense of a biblical theme, one to pick up and explore. We see this in today’s readings which speak to us of the Lord’s power and of our own place in the order of creation. We heard the great opening narrative of creation, where God created light and darkness, through our psalm which emphasises God’s creative power and rightly reminds us of our duty to ascribe due reverence to the Lord. So when we come to the narrative of Jesus’ baptism we are being invited to read it in light of God’s creative power and the order of creation. That gives us a particular emphasis I think and says something specific about Christ.
 

We are living through tough times aren’t we? We are all, I think, thoroughly sick to death of this seemingly, never ending drama. Oh that life would be normal again! Oh that we could actually do some normal things like we used to. The challenges we are working through at the moment should really give us pause for thought about our own place in the world. I think there is something humbling about the panic induced by covid and the world grinding to a halt because of a virus. I think it shows us that we are not actually the masters of our own destiny and reminds us a little of our place in creation. If you read through the Bible, you will see the trials and tribulations of people down the ages and how they have responded to threats to their health and prosperity. Some respond well, others do not. What those who respond well do, is turn themselves upon the Lord and find a way through in prayer, hope and trust.

 

The Baptism of Christ is a real moment of hope. We are, of course, in the season of Epiphany, which is a time of joy at the promises of the incarnation. In a rather extraordinary jump we move from Christ as a baby to the beginning of Christ’s ministry in the space of a week. In the baptism of Christ today we see Christ’s ministry confirmed by God. Christ is marked out as God’s beloved son with the spirit descending upon him. What a remarkable image this is. God and humanity meeting in an extraordinary moment of revelation. In that moment we are reminded of the voice of God in creation bringing light into the darkness and order into creation. In the moment of Christ’s baptism, we see clearly, I think, a sense of our place in the order of creation.

 

There is a wonderful scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet where Hamlet finds himself in conversation with his father’s ghost. Hamlet’s friend Horatio along with the officer Marcellus walk in on the conversation. Horatio, is a deeply rational man, and so struggles to get his head around the impossibility of the situation. Hamlet’s famous response is ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ It is a brilliant remark and one that is worth sitting with I think. It reminds us of our own finiteness, our own limitations, and our own inability to see beyond ourselves.

 

What we see in Christ’s baptism is a moment that transcends all our normal categories of understanding, it crosses all those normal boundaries of how we understand the world and what it means to be human. In the moment of Christ’s baptism we see heaven and earth coming together and the incarnation affirmed. In Christ’s baptism we get a foretaste of our salvation won through Christ.

Life is certainly difficult for all of us at the moment. What I think we really must do is seek to place Christ at the centre of our lives. Christ who drives out all fear and makes us complete. We are reminded today that ultimately it is God who is in charge of heaven and earth and that we are saved through the incarnation. No matter what is thrown at us, no matter how difficult and dark things may seem, we can continue to rest in Christ who is our refuge and strength.

 

There really is only one thing we can do in response to situations that are beyond our understanding and beyond our control, that is trust in the Lord to take care of us. We cannot continue to live by our own strength as ultimately that will lead to failure. We will not be saved by our wealth, our status or even our own personal health, but only through placing our complete hope, trust and faith in Jesus Christ. We may not be able to see it, but there is order in God’s creation, there is purpose and design in what goes on. The psalmist today speaks to us of the Lord as overseeing everything: The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare. The Lord is in charge, and we are therefore bound to bow down in worship and trust in the Lord alone who sits enthroned over the flood; - i.e. nothing happens without the Lord. It is beyond our understanding, yes, beyond our philosophy, yes. We are called not to understand, but simply to bow down in worship before our Lord and console ourselves in the safety of the loving kindness of the Lord and our redemption in Jesus Christ

the Lord sits enthroned as king for ever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

 

 


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