Sermon - 1/7/18
2018.01.12 14:36:45

EPIPHANY 1/B (2018): Gen. 1:1-5; Rom. 6:1-11; Mk. 1:4-11


Heavens,     In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (v. 1).


Scripture’s first words reveals for men the sum and substance of God’s identity; he is our marital Creator. We tend to think of Adam and Eve as God’s first ordained partners; but the union of man and woman is a reflection of the greater coupling (Eph. 5:32), the pairing of “the heavens and the earth”. 


In context, creation “ex nihilo”, i.e., from nothing, “the heavens” necessarily refers to the physical and angelic cosmos beyond “the earth’s” boundaries.  By their pairing, “the [created] heavens” is cypher for true heaven, the eternal, un-create place and abode, the heart and will of God (Jn. 1:1). 


It is Heaven’s coupling by the HS hovering over the face of the deep and initiating Speech; “Let there be Light” (vv. 2, 3) that expresses God’s unbounded love for the creation, his delight in it, and his marital intent toward it. 


From eternity it has been God’s pleasure to enter into a union of oneness with his creation through his reigning creature, man and woman, made specifically in his “image and likeness”, and so his “fit help mate”, if you will. 


Satan is a created spiritual being, to be sure he is a “power”, “authority” and “dominion” of the cosmic heavens. Of Satan and angelic cohorts we well ask, “whence arises sin; how is it that the creature rebels against his Creator?”  It is of course a mystery, other than to observe that abuse of God’s gift of free will has resulted in its loss for both angel and man alike. 


Satan’s rebellion in the heavens employed a false word (“fake news”) ingested by man and resulting in earth’s poisoning and corruption of his dominion in it. By sin “the [cosmic] heavens and the earth” were condemned to death and destruction. 


It is one thing that God should unwind and destroy the physical creation for a new one; it is, however, quite another that the Creator whose ethical character is revealed (Ex. 20:13, 14; 32:9-14, 30-33; Deut. 5:17, 18; 9:13-14) should destroy or in any way be unfaithful to man made in his image and likeness.


Like Judas, who turned from his apostleship to “go to a place of his own” (Acts 1:25), Satan and angelic accomplices were consigned to a place of darkness, a formless and void place, a chaotic watery place, absent God’s ordering light and so without hope (Mt. 25:41, 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6,), and there to gloat in the false belief that they had thwarted God’s love, will, and delight toward his good creation. 


But what Satan meant for evil; God means and employs for good that many in the new creation be kept alive (Gen. 50:20). On account of sin man was cast from the Garden.  The HS departed his habitation with man until the advent of the new creation.  With the HS’s descent out of heaven as a dove and resting on the man Jesus, the enfleshed Speech of God, the new creation was coming into being.  


JB baptized in water to repentance, preparation for the coming HS in Christ, the promise of the Father (Luke 24:49). The sin-laden Jordan from JB’s washing was, as at the first creation, “a formless and void deep”.  The HS hovering in Heaven awaited Jesus’ arrival to sanctify all waters and reveal God’s Light in word. 


JB’s washing was also a preparatory cleansing of the bride intended for Jesus (Ex. 19:7-11, 17). Jesus, the Elect of God, entered the water of the bride’s repentant bath taking-on to himself the just wages of her sin (Rom. 6:23). 


As Jesus breached and rose from the deadly water of his baptism the barrier separating heaven and earth was irrevocably sundered. Out of Heaven the HS, the purifying fire of God, alighted and remained on Jesus, now, Christ of God.  God spoke to his Son in his native tongue, i.e., Holy Scripture, “You are my beloved son; in you I have taken delight (Mark 1:11). 


That God declared Jesus his “son”, speaks (not to his eternal Sonship), but his Davidic kingship prophesied in the Psalm, “You are my son, today I have begotten you” against whom the kings of the earth and heavenly rulers plot in vain (2:2, 7).


That God “delights” in Jesus designates him Suffering Servant whose destiny is the cross in place of Israel, and so surety that Israel’s “warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned” (Isa. 40:2a, b).  At Jesus’ Baptism God registered his delight toward man conjoined with his Word, prophetically echoed from Isaiah, “Behold my Servant, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him…” (Isa. 42:1). 


Heaven’s violent opening and the HS’s descent came at the price of holiness, specifically Jesus, “the Holy One of Israel” and “of God” (Isa. 12:6; Hos. 11:9, Mk. 1:24).  The revelation of Jesus’ baptism into our sin is that he came for death and on its execution, his abandonment by God (Mt. 27:46). 


From the moment of his baptism, Jesus’ journey would be the Way of death on the cross. There, he would hand-over the HS for our peace and life of the church in the new creation. 


As heaven was torn open at Jesus’ baptism so on its completion in his death, our holy access to God is accomplished. At Jesus’ death the temple veil, separating men from the Holy of Holies of God’s presence was torn from top to bottom.  Now, our comfort consists, not in distance from God’s holiness, but in the promises of God by our joining in faith in the torn flesh of Jesus; thus our access to the Father as sons and daughters. 


Finally, in the language of Scripture, the Father declared Jesus, “Beloved”, affirming the crux of his Office.  Jesus is “Beloved of God” for the very reason that Isaac was Abraham’s “beloved only son”; his free consent to being bound on the altar of sacrifice, a whole burnt offering to God (Gen. 22:2ff.). “[In this manner] God loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn. 3:16a).  In Christian Baptism you and I are thus joined to God’s “Beloved”.  


If JB’s baptism was a washing of repentance, today St. Paul clarifies our greater Christian Baptism in water, blood, and Spirit issuing from Christ, crucified Word. Christian baptism is foremost not about self-generated faith and repentance.  Specifically we receive, or more accurately, we do not reject the stuff of new life given in Christ for reordering and recreating out of chaos’ water by the word of God come for spiritual Light. 


Amazingly, the church is baptized into that which Satan intended for our evil, the death of Christ in whom the Father delights. In Baptism we are united with Jesus in a death like his and so to participate in a resurrection like his (Rom. 6:5).  Our resurrection Life in the Spirit is our surety of God’s delight with us that we are forgiven sons and daughters in the new creation coming into being. 


God delights in us through Jesus. The Father has given to him the church as spotless bride united in his shed blood. It is God’s word and sacraments that conjoin and binds us to God in his image and likeness in the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).  Amen.





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