Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009. First Sunday after the Epiphany

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Genesis 1:1-5.

How do you count a day until you have day and night to mark its boundaries?

How much time is there between the first two verses of Genesis? How much of God’s time, even God’s creation time on earth, occurred before God made day and night to mark the boundaries?

These questions are strained: they are the questions some ask in an effort to reconcile the language of Genesis and the language of science. Might the many millennia of evolution and of geologic time have occurred between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2?

I find all such concerns a distraction from the power of Genesis, which derives not from an attempt to create a true and accurate measure of who God is, but rather from awesome humility before creation and the Creator.

The writer of Genesis emphasizes a theme from a play written before Genesis was written, namely the play called “Job,“ in which God stresses how much more powerful and awesome creation and the creator are than our ability to account for God and for what is going on in our own lives: “Job, were you there to see me create the earth?”

Who do you think you are to be a ‘know-it-all’ regarding God and God’s purposes?

On February 2nd, Ernest and I will begin the 36th year of our marriage.
On November 4, 2008, voters in four states took it upon themselves to outlaw marriages like ours, and many of the voters said that they opposed us because God opposes us.

Who do they think they are to know God’s purposes for the two of us?

Psalm 29

The psalm begins,
“Ascribe to the LORD, you gods, *
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

“You gods”? This verse assumes there are more than one, as do several other verses in Scripture, in opposition to the Ten Commandments which assert that there is only one.

In part, this is Scripture’s reality check. Obviously in any time many gods are worshiped. Scripture can acknowledge that fact without ascribing any power or divinity to the competition. Psalm 29 rhetorically goes the competition one better: all you other gods: you must bow before the one true god, and ascribe to the one true god the glory that is due.

As in Genesis, God’s wonder and power manifest themselves in creation itself.

Acts 19:1-7

I was baptized at age 8 in October 1945 at Parker Memorial Baptist Church in Anniston, Alabama. The church was remodeling, and we who were baptized had to go from the baptism pool inside the main auditorium to the cold outside and down to the basement to get out of our drenched clothes. I caught a severe cold. Did that signal that my baptism was invalid? Was it was like a vaccination that did not “take“? Surely not!

Paul asks the Ephesians if their baptism was like his. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit?” “No,” they reply. We were baptized “into John’s baptism,” a baptism of repentance. They did not even know what or who the Holy Spirit is. Upon hearing this, Paul baptizes them again, in the name of Jesus; and the Holy Spirit comes upon them. The second baptism “takes.” The audible “proof” is glossolalia and prophecy.

What test does your own baptism meet to “prove” its authenticity?

Or as others have asked, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, what evidence could be produced to convict you?”

Mark 1:4-11

In Acts, Paul stressed that John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Scripture stresses that Jesus was without sin. From what, therefore, was Jesus repenting?

The decent of the dove is meant to symbolize the Holy Spirit, and Jesus’ baptism is a special occasion when the three persons of the Trinity are present and distinct -- God, a man, and a bird, as flip critics sometimes put it. (The doctrine of the Trinity is never stated as such in Scripture, but was a formulary of the Church accepted credally by the end of the fourth century.)

From a rhetorical point of view, the text clearly establishes the link between John the baptizer and his younger first cousin, Jesus. It is rhetorically important to note who comes first and who has the higher rank. Had the baptizer stayed around long into Jesus’ ministry, he might have upstaged him. Even after death, his followers might have been threatened by the attention given to Jesus. This narrative names the only acceptable terms under which John’s followers might relate to Jesus. In this account, John himself dramatically acknowledges Jesus’ superiority.

Not all readers of Hebrew Scripture immediately grant superiority to God vis-a-vis his arch rival, Satan. Some readers of Milton’s Paradise Lost and of Scripture too find Satan far more interesting and endearing as a character. For some, the God of Hebrew Scripture is a great blusterer, not at all like Jesus, always threatening to destroy those whom he has made because they have hurt his feelings. Lot becomes a Christ-like hero in pleading with God not to destroy them. God sometimes laughs as he destroys human beings, but never laughs with human beings. By contrast, underdog Satan seems clever and witty, seeking to bring knowledge and pleasure, for which gifts God credits him with destruction.

See also


Summit in Honduras said...

thanks for posting this. I listened to you talk after the documentary in the basement theatre at the 2007 Breckenridge Film Festival in Colorado. I'm leading a Wednesday Men's Prayer breakfast tomorrow at the Episcopal church next door to where you spoke tomorrow and plan on using some of your comments to provoke some good conversation. (You would be welcome at this church.) Wish you could be there tomorrow to raise a few eyebrows among your early retiree contemporaries that frequent this gathering. At a mere 50 years old, I am among the "younger" crowd at this church.
Greg Wright

LouieCrew said...

I hope you are being well received at the breakfast at St. John's, going on as I write.

Ernest and I attended the Sunday service there while in town for the premiere of Not That Kind of Christian. We did not have an opportunity to interact afterwards.

It was Ernest's first time in the Rockies, and we were both awestruck for the week.

I hope my contemporaries respect the energy and vision that you bring.

I can pay my way to Denver fairly easily if ever there is an interest in my visit in Breckenridge. I would need for someone to fetch me and put me up.