First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at dsmith@ontario.anglican.ca  . 

Reflections on the Baptism of our Lord: Readings Genesis 1: 1 - 5; Psalm 29; Acts 19: 1 - 7; Mark 1: 4 - 11

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Saturday, January 10, 2015
Hi Everyone,

Baptism of our Lord readings: Genesis 1: 1-5, Psalm 29, Acts19: 1-7, Mark 1:
4-11

Here is the link to the readings
http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=60;

Thanks to Feasting on the Word Year B Volume 1 pgs 218-241

We continue to focus during this Epiphany season on the manifestation of God to the world in particular through Jesus, the Word and light of God. In our Gospel reading this is dramatized when in our Lord's baptism the heavens were torn apart and the Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus and a voice came from heaven saying you are my Son, the beloved with whom I am well pleased. This story certainly shows that Jesus is from God and that He has an important ministry.

In the three verses that describe our Lord's baptism we find themes that run throughout the other readings. Any one of them  would be worth exploring.  God reveals his glory through voice, the Spirit and water.

Of the these three themes the one that grabbed my attention was the role of God's voice.  As mentioned God's voice came from heaven declaring Jesus to be God's beloved son with whom he was/is pleased.  In the O.T. reading, the opening verses of Scripture from Genesis, it was God's voice that (along with His Spirit) initiates and empowers creation,
"Then God said let there be light".

Our Psalm for Sunday is a call to worship Almighty God who is sovereign and powerful. This power is described by the description of God's thunderous voice, the voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is full of majesty".

I remember preaching on this Psalm many years ago when a parishioner was killed in a car accident. She was in our choir and had the most beautiful voice and I described the power of that voice to change and to make new and made the connection to God's voice.  Just this week I was reading a commentary on Hebrews by Dr. Thomas Long.  As an aside unlike many commentaries it is a great read and most inspiring and I would recommend it for learning and devotional purposes. Anyway he is commenting on the importance of hearing the Gospel and tells the story of a T.V. reporter who
does a very negative piece on the president of the USA, but the taped footage  of the president were supplied by the white house and of course were very flattering. The day after the negative and critical report was broadcasted the white house staff called the reporter and thanked her for such a good piece.  In reply she said," but my words were critical" to which they replied "yes but the visual was good and in the battle of eye versus ear the eye always wins." Long goes on to argue that the author of Hebrews does not agree with this assessment " The eye may win for a little while but when all is said and done, it is the gospel heard through the ear that turns out to hold the full truth." Interpretation Hebrews pg 38

Certainly our readings for Sunday seem to be saying this as well.

Our reading from Acts also refers to the power of the voice and speaking when it references those baptized speaking in tongues. All three of these readings would be appropriate for Pentecost as well as Epiphany.

I am most tempted at this time to preach on the Genesis reading. It certainly continues the Epiphany theme of light overcoming  darkness and fits in very well with Kathleen's inspiring contrasting description of light and darkness in last week's sermon. Of course there is a great deal of controversy these days about the creation stories science vs. religion kind of debates which I think miss the whole point of the stories in the first place. But there is also a  debate about when and who wrote the story . Many argue that it was written during the exile in Babylon and if this is the case then the reference to God saying let there be light and it was good would be a wonderful way for them to proclaim that even through  the darkness and pain and chaos they were experiencing as exiles they could put their trust in a God who brought the world into being and who still is sovereign over them and  the nations and all of creation. They can trust the
God who made light out of darkness. If you were away last week you can listen to Kathleen's sermon at our website for a discussion on this theme at   http://www.parishofmarysburgh.ca/;

I also am always drawn to the loving , supportive, declaring statement offered by God to Jesus as he began his ministry, you are my beloved son with whom I am pleased. Obviously this was a unique context none of us share in but I do think our faith speaks to us that we too are God's beloved daughters and sons and this is such encouraging good news. I always enjoy reading his books or listening again to Jean Vanier, the founder of Larche.  One of his great themes is that we are beloved by God. I think it is fair to say that this emphasis was central to his remarkable life of love.

But in case we get a bit too cozy with God our Psalm points us to a spirituality of awe and reverence for God  through the metaphor of the thunderous, powerful voice of God, the same powerful voice of God who made all things .

I have been thinking about the difference between hearing and seeing.  Obviously they are both important and for this Sunday maybe the voice wins out but pictures are worth a thousand words and when I went to the website to get the link I noticed that Fran had put a wonderful picture of our Lord's Baptism which says a lot without saying anything. Thanks Fran

Blessings