The First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord
Genesis 1:1-5, , Acts 19:1-7, Mark 1:4-11, Psalm 29
God creates separation. God separates dark from light; calling them night and day. In day two, God uses a dome to separate the waters beyond the sky from the waters of the earth. We are modern people. We understand that there is no dome separating the earth from what lies beyond. The earth is here, all around us and below our feet but the heavens are somewhere beyond the imaginary dome. “God created the heavens and the earth.”
We know that the sun and the moon are not hanging within this dome either. Through our explorations of space, we have proven that there are no chaos waters just waiting to pour down upon the earth through holes or cracks in this dome. Yet for some reason when asked where heaven is, we still point up; as if the heavens are just beyond the edge of a dome in the sky.
This ancient description, of how the earth and the other celestial bodies move, is likely from times beyond 8,000 years ago. Even with this primitive explanation and our modern science pushing forth, most of us feel a distance or a separation between us and our creator.
About 20 years ago, there was a highly acclaimed movie called The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey. Truman Burbank is unknowingly the star of a reality T.V. show. He is raised on a large movie set in which he is the only non-actor. He grows up with the world peering in on his life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Until Truman is 30 years old he doesn’t realize there is anything unusual and he believes he is living in the real world. But at age 30, he notices strange talking on the radio, repetitive and unusual movements of people.
Eventually, Truman is so convinced that his world is fake that he wants to leave town, but all the roads out of town are blocked. Truman ends up stealing a boat and sails it into the ocean which soon becomes stormy. His boat eventually crashes into to the edge of his world, much like piercing the Old Testament dome. Truman finds a stairway nearby, walks up, and discovers a door marked exit. As he is about to open this door, a voice rings out from the heavens. It is Christof, the producer of the show. Christof warns Truman not to go through the door. Christof’s all-encompassing voice, much like God’s, says I am the creator. I was here when you were born. I was here at your first steps, and I have been here throughout your entire life.
Today, God’s voice rang out from the heavens, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” But moments earlier, “just as [Jesus] was coming up out of the water, he saw . . . the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove.” Unlike Truman, it is God who breaks the barrier that separates us from what lies beyond. God allows a different light to shine; a light that shines into our very being. This light is Christ and like Truman’s boat, it is Christ who bridges the divide between the unknown God and ourselves. Jesus is God and He is the presence of God who lives among each of us.
We, unlike God, cannot manipulate darkness, we can only spread light. From the human perspective, darkness is a concept and not a thing. We cannot hold it, we cannot spread it. Darkness is merely the absence of light. For example, we can shine light into a dark room but we cannot move darkness into a lighted room. Where there is already darkness we can increase the light, but where there is light already, we cannot increase the darkness.
When we use the metaphor of light and dark for good and evil; we will find that through Christ’s baptism, God made known to us that Christ is the Light who conquers evil. Where this Light is, darkness cannot be found. And through our baptism, the same Spirit that descended upon Christ and hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation, is the same Spirit that descended upon you and bound you to Christ. Through Baptism you, Christ, the Spirit, and God are all bound together, forever. The marks of this relationship, of this light, are love, joy, peace, and justice. Yet because we are human we have the ability to turn away from this Light, and we do this all too often.
Wherever we see inequity and do not speak up we are closing a curtain, preventing the Light of justice to enter in. When we see strife and avoid making amends or helping others to reconcile, we are not letting the Light of peace shine in. Each of us has the ability to gladden the hearts of those who suffer. When we prevent this light from spreading we are not only blocking Christ from entering their lives but we are putting up a bearer that separates us from God as well. Sin is the bearer that separates us from God; not an invisible dome.
Christ came into the world so that God would be with us. Though our human nature we sin; not only by the things we do but more often by the things we do not do, by failing to help others where we are able. Each of us has the ability to let others know that God is not far off behind some impenetrable barrier. We can let others know that God is here with us by shining light even in places where we may not think this Light can reach.
All we have to do is reach out our arms; so that as we embrace Christ we embrace those in need; spreading the light of love, joy, peace, and justice into the dark places of our community. When we remove these human barriers that separate us from one another, we will also remove the heavenly barriers which we perceive separate us from God.