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11th January 2014 – The First Sunday of Epiphany – Jack Noonan

Sermon (Click Link to Listen)

Bible Readings: Genesis 1. 1-5 ; Acts 19. 1-7; Mark 1. 4-11

Sermon 11.01.2015

Focus Scriptures : Gen.1. 1-5; Acts 19.1-7; Mk 1.4-11.

Invitation

It must be an auspicious sign of the times that on the occasion, some weeks ago, when Ricky invited me to preach today, without a blink of the eye, I spontaneously said:’ Yes’. Later that day, I wasn’t so sanguine…as I realised I had not seen the set readings!

Usually Ricky would offer me a number of dates and I would deftly, to use a rugby term , kick the ball firmly into touch until I had seen the Scripture readings. For while some texts are readily accessible even to a 2and a half year old Reader, like myself… other texts can appear terrifyingly tough, obdurate and flint like refusing to part with the least nugget of wisdom….and I am not yet the Holy Spirit’s brightest student!

READINGS

But I need not have worried for today’s readings explode like fireworks….as accessible as they are profound. As straightforward as they are complex. Rich layerings of truth on truth; designed to give us firm hope, increased faith and an assurance of us being divinely overshadowed.

The 3 readings this morning are rich in intertwining themes, which like shafts of light ricochet everywhere in the full spectrum colour; each reading relating to one of the Persons of the Trinity.

In Genesis we see the Spirit of Father God our Creator. In Mark we encounter Jesus our Saviour while in Acts we see God the Holy Spirit ,our Helper.

Genesis, the Book of Beginnings is the beginning of all beginnings.

FatherGod in the Spirit brooding/hovering over the deep, the void and the chaos… and with His Creative Word calling that which is not into being..

‘’Let there be light and there was light. And God saw that it was good’’.

God the Creator, anticipating unfolding history, commences by dispelling primordial Darkness, illuminating the Void and replacing Chaos with order.

Genesis is also the Book of Seedings.

The seeds of our God’s great historical redemption plan nestled quietly for generations within its chapters and typologies….waiting for the fullness of time when the mystery hidden for generations would be revealed…

when the Light of Jesus, the Word, would enter space/time … Jesus, the very image of the invisible God………in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell….

a mystery in which you and I ,through faith, participate …

the mystery? …..…. Christ in us….the hope of glory. ; )

In the Seed Book of Genesis we are introduced to many themes in seminal form which recur and to grow in both clarity and substance.

In just 3 short chapters in the Book of Seeds

We learn that God is the sole author of all that exists.

That His omnipotence is reflected in the total effectiveness of His Word to achieve His intention.

That He created humanity in His image and likeness.

We discover the cause of our propensity for sin and gain insight into our relationship with evil.

But we also discover the delicate seed of our salvation imperceptibly rooting itself in the infallible intention of God. The promised seed of the woman which would crush the head of evil and restore us to communion with God.

In Mark’s gospel there is also new beginning heralded by John the Baptist. The promise made in Genesis, generations earlier, comes into being… reaching its fullness. The Seed that crushes evil and death has arrived.

Mark states that his work is; The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God .

The word ‘beginning’ strongly echoing the opening words of John’s gospel .

John’s; ‘In the beginning…’ ranges through the vaults of eternity and is cosmic in range and dimensions … coming to earth and aligning itself quietly beside Mark’s less dramatic ‘beginning’ with the phrase ; ’There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.’

In both gospels we see God the Word …God the Son …Jesus the true Light emerge from the depths of the Jordon… having sunk His sinlessness into the chaos of our fall from grace and the moral voids in our hearts.

And as Jesus rises from the Jordon, God tears heaven open, with the redeeming Spirit of Love… assures and confirms Jesus in his rescue mission before sending Him headlong into a wilderness of conflict with the demonic prince of this world. .

Jesus who knew no sin is now on the journey to become our sin.

It is easy to glance over Mark’s succinct opening ; ’The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ ….without a pause or thought.

But I sense this is more than a mere title. It contains seeds of wisdom for our quest for deeper union with the Christ.

The clue may be in the word ‘beginning’ .

The word contains the possibility that the Gospel itself is only the beginning of the good news of Jesus…suggesting the possibility that Mark’s Gospel is only the beginning of a story that initially draws us in ….but that the story does not end with his final chapter but … continues beyond where his writing stops… for in truth the gospel of the resurrected and ascended Jesus does continue…. and is continuing…right to this very second through you and me! We are the outworkings of the gospel. We are the Living Word’s work in progress. We are not yet where we should be but we are not where we started.

This realisation leads neatly into Acts .

The Book of Acts is post Ascension, post Pentecost… where we encounter God’s new, dramatic, unprecedented provision of involving Himself with us corporately and individually. Hands on, so to speak. Guiding us, supporting us, protecting us… His adopted children and joint heirs in Christ.

For God now manifests Himself in the Holy Spirit, actually indwelling, enlivening, transforming those believe into Jesus for everything.

The One Spirit now gifts us… with transformative faith and transformative grace…steadily changing us from glory into glory.

For now when we look to Jesus we see abounding grace and…. when Jesus looks at us He sees hearts of faith reaching and yearning for Him.

Now on this orphaned planet, the True Light of Genesis, of Mark, and of Acts shines on us, and through us draws people into the kingdom of God and of His Christ.

For NOW

What God initiates in us His grace maintains.

What Jesus demands of us Jesus supplies us with.

On Ascension Day, Jesus gave us authority and a job description;

proclaim the gospel….baptise believers… cast out demons…speak in new tongues… lay hands on the sick and they will recover’

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit gave us the power/ the dynamite to perform and accomplish these great exploits.

APPLICATION ; ))

This time of year is a time of beginnings….

Imperceptibly seeds stir in their resting places.

The variety of seed sown in us by the Holy Spirit through the intimacy of grace stirs in our desires, hopes, and aspirations.

The gestating Seed-Word sown by God into our mind, heart and spirit will… with His enlivening breath metamorphose in us creating new growth in us … seeking fruition in us as we submit in obedience to the husbandry of the Holy Spirit.

So how do we appear through the lenses of our readings:

From Genesis:

Where in our lives, loves, thoughts and personality is there…. a void……. A formless chaos….? Have we a darkness over the deeps of our body, heart, mind, soul and spirit?

God, who loves us is….brooding…..anticipating….hovering…..waiting…

waiting for us to be brave and say this January day……’Yes Lord, ‘’let there be light’…… light our locked rooms…our obscure recesses with lingering suspicions and terrors, light into our thawed deep freezes of rancid bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness.

God’s light is good. For we are the people who dwelth in darkness too long….and upon us hath the light shined…..and it is good….bask in it.

In Mark we have Jesus the Light and Word of Life sinking in to our Jordan-mire. His rising becomes our rising …He slams the sins that so easily beset us to His Cross with such forceful love that we can now reckon ourselves dead to sin and are aeons beyond condemnation.

In the words of Martin Luther King we are ; ‘Free at last….Free at last…Thank God almighty we are free at last’’.

Finally in Acts we realise that though we may know a lot about the things of God and about Jesus, we may still not be ‘in Christ’. This is worrying.

Personally knowing about Jesus is not the same as personally knowing Jesus. Our lives must be graced by relationship not religion.

The Ephesian disciples were ‘there’ but not yet quite ‘there’. They needed to progress further in understanding and experience the saving significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, be baptised into His name, and receive His Spirit……..before the fullness of God’s blessings, fruits and gifts could manifest in their lives………………………………………………….

Conclusion

*From Genesis we can call for God’s light to dispel our darknesses.

*From Mark we can ask the Lord Jesus to be our saving Light and Life-Giver.

*And from Acts we can seek the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out enabling us to gloriously enjoy enriching our lives and the lives of all those around us…… Amen.