Sermon for January 7, 2018: “More Than Words Can Say”

Sermon for January 7, 2018
“More Than Words Can Say”

Reading: Mark 1:4-11

Sometimes putting into words how we feel about someone or something can be difficult, sometimes impossible.
When Kristen and I were waiting for Paul to be born, we would ask our family and friends what is was like to be parents, and they all said they could not fully describe what it is like.
Their words could not do justice to their feelings.
So when words are not enough, the best way to describe what you are feeling is to show it as well as say it.
Let me give you an example.
It comes from our Gospel lesson today.
Our lesson is from the opening chapter of Mark.
It is the story of Jesus being baptized by John in the River Jordan.
Let me say a few things about the Gospel of Mark before I get into the example.
Mark is the shortest Gospel in the New Testament.
It is only 16 chapters in length.
Mark does not waste a lot of words.
And the gospel reads very quickly because Mark uses words like “immediately” when he tells the story of Jesus and his ministry.
Jesus could be healing a leper and immediately he is in another town preaching the Good News and feeding five thousand people.
So as we read the Gospel of Mark throughout the year, remember that things in Mark happen very quickly.
And at first glance, Mark sometimes gives you the feeling he is not writing a book but a summary.
Take Mark chapter 1.
Here is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus.
Then comes John the Baptizer.
And here comes Jesus being baptized by John.
Oh, and there is a dove.
Okay, that might be too fast of a summary but my point is when you first read and hear Mark, there is not a lot of detail.
AT FIRST that is.
But if you take another glance at the Gospel, and dive deeper into the text you will uncover really spectacular and beautiful events, especially in our text this morning.
And in my opinion the beautiful event that happens today in our Gospel lesson can be found in verses 10 and 11.
Verse 10: “And just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.”
For many years, I always pictured the heavens opening up like one opens up a curtain.
Nice and easy.
But that is not what the scripture says.
The heavens do not open like a curtain.
They are torn apart.
There is a great commercial out now, from a company called Grub Hub.
And in the commercial a man is trying to order some food over the phone.
And the restaurant worker on the other end of the line cannot understand the last four numbers of the customer’s credit card number.
After repeating the numbers over and over again, the customer becomes so frustrated he pulls hard on his phone line and
wham!
He pulls so hard that the restaurant worker BURSTS through the wall.
The worker literally CRASHES INTO the customer’s apartment.
It’s a great commercial, and my point is that just as the worker crashes into the apartment, the heavens are not gently opened, they CRASH INTO our reality.
This is a violent wrenching of a hole in the ceiling that bounds heaven and earth.
To “tear something” does not happen neatly, or with a tool.
It is usually done with hands.
And who is that does the tearing?
God.
Not just God the Creator.
But God the Father.
And why does God rip open the heavens?
To get the best view possible of his son as Jesus beings his work on earth.
Think back to the moment your child or your godchild or grandchild was baptized.
Did you sit in the back of the church or at the front to watch the event?
No!
You sat in the front.
You wanted to get the best view.
God wants to get the best seat in the house for this special moment.
And what makes this verse even more spectacular is after this violent action of the heavens tearing apart; the Holy Spirit makes an appearance as a dove.
Can you think of another moment in the Bible when a dove makes an appearance?
If you said, Noah, give yourself a pat on the back.
The dove was an image of peace.
It still is today.
And back in the story of Noah, the dove was the symbol that the flood had subsided and a new creation had begun.
The dove makes a return appearance today just as Jesus begins a new creation in the story of humankind.
Now I could stop at verse 10, but it is verse 11 that really tugs at my heart.
Verse 11 says- “A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
“Beloved” is a wonderful term.
It is a term of endearment that is usually reserved for those who are especially dearly loved, as one’s spouse or child is.
Like the first time you told your significant other you loved him or her.
That you REALLY loved them.
God is saying the same thing today.
And I have to be honest, up until last February they were just words, and then when Paul was born and I held him in my arms for the first time,
All I could say over and over and over again was, “My son! My son! I love you! You are so beautiful! My son!”
That is when it hit me how deep these words in our verse are.
This is not God making an announcement.
These are the words of a father.
This is God putting into words his love for his Son.
“You are my Son, the I really love you.”

Sometimes words are not enough and the best way to describe what you are feeling is to show it as well as say it.

And in this short Gospel lesson, we have a father who rips open the heavens to see his Son and then tells his son how much he loves him.
He tells his son how proud and pleased he is.

And the amazing thing is that God does and says the same thing to us.
God shows and tells us he loves us.
Through the waters of baptism, through the bread and wine of communion, it is God who shows and tells us what we mean to him.
That is why at Baptism, we say the name of the one being baptized as the waters are splashed over his or her head.
That is why at Communion, I saw your name, so that you know that this meal, this sacrament, was given for you as a person, as a child of God.
What God says to Jesus in our Gospel lesson, is the same thing he says to us.
And not just on Sundays, but every day of our lives.
He sees us as He sees Jesus, as His children.

Now if you please, take out your bulletin, and look at verse 11.
And right where God starts to speak, I want you to put your name in front of what God says, and either say that verse out loud or silently.
Do this a few times.

Do you hear what God is telling you?
Do you see what God is showing you?

There is a lot that is going on in these verses.
Sometimes we just need to slow down and let the words soak in.

God is calling you each by name.
God loves you.
We thank God for showing and telling how he feels about us.

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