An act of worship at home
Reading Mark 1 vv 4-11
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
For thirty years or so Jesus had been with his family in Nazareth then came the day when a new preacher called John began to wake up the crowds. Jesus left home, made his way to the Jordan and was baptized by John. As Jesus came out of the water he had an overwhelming experience of God. It’s as if the heavens opened and he heard a voice: ‘You are my son, my beloved, with you 1 am well pleased’.
It was like a new birth, a sense of being filled with power, with happiness and joy. He knew he had experienced the living God and found him to be in a very special sense, his father. In that moment he gave up his old life and began again.
This was an amazing, special event in the life of Jesus. But Jesus isn’t alone in having moments like that, all sorts of people have similar kinds of experience. The philosopher A. N. Whitehead put it like this: ‘Only at rare intervals does the deeper and vaster world come through into conscious thought, but they are the memorable moments of life. It is then, if ever, that the door of the invisible world silently swings open, and something of the wonder and greatness of the spiritual universe is flashed upon the soul.’
‘John appeared in the desert, baptizing and preaching’.
Perhaps for Jesus on this occasion it was in part the starkness of the desert which seemed to dramatise his experience. For us it might be the mountains or the sea, or the grandeur and beauty of a great cathedral, or in the peace and simplicity of a friends meeting house.
So for Jesus there was the place but there was also the speaker who provided the spark that set Jesus’ life and ministry alight. Listening for his word spoken by those around us is one of the ways God choses to reach into our lives. Just as for Jesus a spoken word can be the way that God speaks to us.
There are times when we cry out for some word from God. For Jesus it was when John came preaching. The word touched him deep in his own being. It can happen for us like that too, but for Jesus it was the impact not only of the words but of the person who spoke them.
Looking at John the Baptist we probably wouldn’t have found him the most attractive of people. He was an austere, sombre man. Dirty, unkempt, unshaven. But there must have been something about this man that brought God close. When people met John they felt God was near them. And I hope there are people you know who do that for you too.
Many of us can probably think of someone we’ve met whose life seems to show us God. Above all this is true of the person of Jesus. We can talk about the divinity of Jesus in all kinds of ways. But where it began was simple enough. When people met Jesus they felt God was close. Like no one else Jesus reveals God to us.
When Donald Soper was a young man he lost his faith, but he never stopped going to church. He played the piano for the Sunday School. And one of those childhood hymns stayed one of his favourites right through his life. It went: “I think when I read that sweet story of old, When Jesus was born among men, How he called little children as lambs to his fold; I should like to have been with them then.”
We look at Jesus and we see God in him.
Places, words, people – all can be ways to God. There are many other ways. It may be the quietness of prayer or the experience of caring. But there is one other thing which is important. At the root of Jesus’ experience there wasn’t just what was happening outside him, but what was happening inside him.
All those years when he had been carving wood and driving in nails something must have been stirring in him.
Like us he must have asked himself “why am I here?” “what is God’s will for me?” So when the moment came he was ready.
Maybe like Jesus we are searching for an answer, maybe we’ve hit one of life’s difficult moments and are searching for strength to face it. Or maybe something wonderful has happened, maybe love has filled our life with a happiness we never thought possible. If ever we are open to God it is in those kinds of moments. Then we may have a glimpse of heaven.
I’m going to end by reading one more of CS Lewis’ thoughts for us to reflect on: “Think of yourself just as a seed patiently wintering in the earth; waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener’s good time, up into the real world, the real waking. I suppose that our whole present life, looked back on from there, will seem only a drowsy half-waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But cock-crow is coming.” Thanks be to God. Amen.
God’s voice was heard above the dark waters of chaos.
God spoke, and there was light. God’s voice was heard beside the baptismal waters of the Jordan.
God spoke, and Christ’s sonship was made known.
God’s voice was heard in the words of the apostles to the baptized.
God spoke and they received the gift of the Spirit.
God our Creator, we pray: for the dark and chaotic areas of our world;
we pray that your voice be heard and your light be shed…
God our Saviour, we pray: for those searching for a new way of living;
for people longing to be set free
from guilt and emptiness and fear.
We pray that your voice may be heard offering them life…
God here with us, we pray: for a deeper faith in your love;
for a deeper awareness of your presence, refreshing our thirsty souls
and binding us together in love and joy and peace.
We pray that your voice may be heard healing, guiding and inspiring.
Breathe on me, breath of God:
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love
then do what thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until we thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.
Breathe on me, breath of God;
‘til I am wholly thine,
until this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, breath of God;
so shall I never die,
but live with thee the perfect life
of thine eternity.
Let us go into this day filled with the spirit of God’s love for the world, and let us go with the blessing of God,