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In the Beginning

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EPIPHANY 01

Genesis 1:1-5 Year B

In the beginning

Genesis 1:1-5 (NIV)
The Beginning

1     In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was a formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.


בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

These are the very first words of Holy Scripture.  This is the explanation for it all; “In the beginning God…”.  Scripture does not ever endeavour to explain God, or indeed the actions of God.  It simply states that:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth[1]

There is never any discussion regarding the origin of God as God’s presence is simply accepted and it is from that beginning everything else in creation cascades out.  Much like a stone dropped into a mill pond.  You see the concentric circles of ripples radiate out from the centre – all affected by that single event of a stone in the water.  Everything in creation takes its lead and direction from that single act of creation on the part of God and continues to this very day. 

Today in the lectionary of the Church we celebrate a Sacrament – that of Baptism.  Specifically we remember Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan river which marked the beginning of His public ministry.  The other baptismal readings of Acts 19:1-7 and Mark 1:4-11 highlight the importance of baptism both in Jesus’ life and also in ours. 

There’s one continuing joy that I have and that is in baptism.  It is such a joy to be with the parents and God-parents and to serve our Lord by administering the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  I always tell parents that when a baptism takes place there are several parties to it.  Firstly, the parents bring their child to be baptised.  The God-parents undertake to help provide for the Christian nurture of that child; relatives, friends and family come to witness this event; our Church rearranges the normal Sunday service to accommodate the baptism; many others are involved in the numerous aspects of a baptism and the pastor performs the baptismal rite.  However, notwithstanding all that has happened to enable a baptism to occur, the real work in all of this is undertaken by one whom we have not yet named.  God is the one who is at work in a baptism. 

Baptism is for all people who have not yet been baptised[2].  I’ve baptised adults, teenagers, children, toddlers and infants.  Scripture does not have a ‘cut off date’ for baptism.  Any person who has not been baptised needs for their own sake to participate in this important rite[3]. 

Mostly however, I am involved in baptising infants and toddlers.  When I have the privilege of conducting a baptism I am often stunned by the calm presence of the infant as they gaze up.  I often wonder what it is that they can see that I am not privy to.  Do these young ones actually see the face of angels – as we know that their angels look upon them[4].  There is indeed a divine audience present at every baptism and during the solemn and joyful time it can be so easy to completely forget that a congregation is present as the presence of God can be so deeply felt on occasions such as these. 

In a baptism and as with all worship services there is a greater congregation present than the one that the eyes perceive and the ears can hear[5].  

Let us now consider these verses from Genesis, chapter one. 

The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.[6]

The world was created but awaiting for God’s command for light to come forth.  It’s a world on the cusp of being, of becoming, where the Spirit of God was already present.  This word from Genesis which pictures our world also parallels our life without God’s active presence in it.  Our life without God is formless and empty even though the Spirit is hovering around until God speaks into our life and that word is willingly received. 

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light[7]

These are the first words that God speaks and in speaking brings all things into being.  God’s first creative word calls forth light in the midst of primeval darkness.  Light is necessary for making God’s creative works visible and life possible.  In Old Testament writings light symbolises life and blessings[8].  Interestingly we have light here before the creation of the sun which did not occur until the fourth day[9].  Even without the sun there was still the passing of time with evening and morning occurring.  The light was the light of life emanating from God Himself. 

It struck me that it is not the purpose of the light to cast shadows.  However, when the light shines, shadows are inevitable.  You can’t have one without the other.  When the light of God shines on our world and especially when this light of God shines on us, we are bathed in it.  However, a result of that light shining is that shadows are created.  When we walk in the light of God, a shadow will be cast.  These shadows can be shadows of self doubt – am I good enough for God? (“No”, but that’s not the point).  These shadows can be ones which may seek to engulf you and to draw you away from the light.  These shadows can be trials and temptations in your own life that may seek to draw you away from the light – into a place of darkness.  Of course it is only in a place of complete darkness that you cease to cast a shadow.  And the only place that can occur is if you are separated from God. 

God’s light shines on us and into all parts of our life.  This is nothing to fear for those who have put their faith in God.  However, for those who seek to live life on their own terms, then they rightly may fear this light which penetrates the entire being for light reveals that which is hidden in darkness. 

And God saw that the light was good.  Then he separated the light from the darkness.[10]

At creation God ordered the world by bringing light to it.  When the light arrives, darkness must recede.  Darkness cannot overcome the light and must always give way to it.  You’ll note that God saw that the light was ‘good’.  In fact everything that God has made is good, yet some have used God’s good creation for purposes that are other than what God had in mind.  Therefore they can become distorted and changed from that which they were purposed for.

God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”  And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.[11]

In ancient times to name something or someone implied having dominion or ownership.  Remember that both day and night belong to the Lord even if night is at times equated with disorder and chaos. 

In His Son, Jesus Christ, the Creator of the ends of the earth set about restoring goodness to His creation that was there in the beginning.  And as the instrument of that restoration, He called forth once more His special light, the light given by His word that was incarnate in Christ Jesus.  By living in that light, by walking in it every day, by clinging in trust to the light that is Christ and putting off the works of darkness, you and I, too, can be servants of God’s transformation of His world.  So come.  Let us walk in the light of the Lord.  Come; let us show forth His light. 

This is the beginning!  Note that I said we are to ‘show forth His light’.  In John’s Gospel we read:

God sent a man, John [the Baptist], to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony.  John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.  The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.[12]

As John was not the light, neither are you or I.  We are only witnesses to that light.  In walking in the light of God as this year begins to unfold it may mean some painful adjustments for us.  For example it may mean being more open to others and even being vulnerable.  It may mean removing that tough exterior that we may have erected around ourselves so that we cannot be hurt by others.  However, in opening ourselves up to all that God has for us we will find a release and a peace that we simply cannot put into words. 

In the beginning God created[13] (your name).  God saw all that He had made and it was very good.[14]  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”[15].  For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.[16]

You are chosen, you are created, there are plans for you.  God wishes you to be holy and blameless.  Where is the downside in this God who is proclaimed here? 

The only way for you to doubt God’s love for you is because you are blinded by sin[17] which is clouding your judgment and causing you to doubt the veracity of this statement.  God does not change[18], nor does God lie[19].  The only one who propagates and perpetuates a lie is the one who masquerades as an angel of light[20]. 

God loves you and only wants the very best in life for you and as you remain open to His leading, you will grow into all that He has planned for you since the beginning. 

Amen. 

X The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. X

Information, illustrations, literature and themes, for this sermon are gleaned from a variety of sources.  If I have violated copyright held by an individual, then please contact the writer of the sermon and your source will be acknowledged, or removed at your request. 


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 a  Or possibly became

[1] Genesis 1:1 (NIV)

[2] Ephesians 4:5 (NIV)

[3] Matthew 28:19, 20 (NIV)

[4] Matthew 18:10 (NIV)

[5] Matthew 13:16 (NIV)

[6] Genesis 1:2 (NLT)

[7] Genesis 1:3 (NLT)

[8] 2 Samuel 22:29; Job 3:20; 30:26: 33:30; Psalm 49:19; 56:13; 97:11; 112:4; Isaiah 53:11; 58:8,10; 59:9; 60:1,3 (NIV)

[9] Genesis 1:14-19 (NIV)

[10] Genesis 1:4 (NLT)

[11] Genesis 1:5 (NLT)

[12] John 1:6-9 (NLT)

[13] Genesis 1:1 (NIV)

[14] Genesis 1:31 (NIV)

[15] Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

[16] Ephesians 1:4 (NIV)

[17] Romans 6:14 (NIV)

[18] Hebrews 3:18 (NIV)

[19] Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18 (NIV)

[20] 2 Corinthians 11:14 (NIV)

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