Baptism Sunday

Genesis 1. 1-5

You know, context is crucial. The same exact word or phrase can have very different meanings depending on the context of the situation; grammar sometimes helps with that. The phrase, “Let’s eat, Grandma!” with a comma after “let’s eat” says I am hungry and ready to eat your delicious food. Whereas without the comma, “Let’s eat Grandma,” is what the big bad wolf said before he ate her.

We say, “I’ll see ya later!” all the time as we are parting from friends or family. It means I will see you soon. But when whispered to a dear friend in her last moments of life, “I’ll see ya later,” means something very different. Context is important and sometimes words, that by themselves seems to mean very little, help set the context for us.

“Once upon a time” prepares us for a fictional story. What follows might be “there were 3 little pigs” or it might be “there was a beautiful princess,” or it might be “in a galaxy far, far away.” Those 4 words – “once upon a time” prepare us to settle in for a great story, they free our minds from daily thoughts; they free our bodies to relax, and they free our spirits for a journey.

“In the beginning” is one of those phrases that signal our hearts, minds and spirits for something great. Those words conjure up for most of us an image of darkness and nothingness with God’s spirit moving across the waters creating light out of darkness, creating something out of nothing, creating everything from emptiness. “In the beginning” is sometimes followed with “was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

But of course no one was present taking notes “in the beginning” as all this creating was happening because life was not yet alive and human life came much later. “In the beginning” is a remembering of what happened. It is a story creation of how creation might have taken place. It is a theological testimony. And since the compilers of the Bible had two really great stories as to how life may have come to be, the editors included them both, back to back, “in the beginning” of the first book, Genesis. There are two creation stories; God creating the heavens and the earth in 6 days with a day of rest following and starting in verse five of chapter two, a stream rises forth from the ground where there is nothing and God created the first human out of the dust of the ground, planted a garden for the human, created all the animals, and then a partner. The second creation story is the story we call “Adam and Eve.”

“In the beginning” does NOT signal that we are about to get a history lesson to be filed away in our brains with other history lessons and dates like In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue or 1776 the United States declared independence. No – “In the beginning” should be a signal to our minds, bodies and spirits that a story of God is about to be told. It should be a signal to our hearts to be open to God’s power. “In the beginning” should be a signal to our bodies to relax and surrender. It should be a signal to our minds to let go and be ready for new understanding. “In the beginning” reminds us that our spirits are connected with God’s Holy Spirit that has been present since the beginning. The words, “In the beginning,” should prepare us for the best story ever told.

In the beginning is the story of God’s word starting with the cosmos and moving to the mundane. It is the story of the Holy coming into chaos and nothingness and creating beauty and life and light. The story following In the beginning is a story of order and hope. It is a story that we can draw from and that we can lean on when our lives are full of darkness and chaos and void of hope.

Where can we look in order to trust the ongoing ordering of the Lord when our lives are falling apart, when the world seems a mess, when nothing makes sense? The ongoing division between night and day may be our only sign that the Lord is still creating order out of chaos, the wind is still moving over the waters and Christ is still alive in the world. This is a story we can draw on in our weak days when we need harmony and stability in our lives and we need to be reminded that God chose to come into the chaos of the world and God chooses still to come into the chaos of the world and the chaos of our lives. —

Light is the first step for order to be established. The separation of light from darkness begins a crescendo of creative action that ends with the creation of humanity, formed in the image of God. By separating light from darkness, and by naming the light “day” and the darkness “night,” God established the origin of time and divine dominion over all of history.  Light is the palate for further creation; making it possible to see color and shapes, movement and beauty, mystery and the sacred. Light brings warmth to the cold earth enabling movement and strength. Christ was created to be the light of the world and the life that was the light to all people. It is good and right for Christ to be light, to bring light and to shine light in a dark, dark world.  Light is the basis of life and order but we must remember that light can only bring order in its relationship with darkness. Without darkness there would be no life and no order, no rest and no growth and there would be no possibility to see the vastness of the universe in the stars and moons and comets and planets. Light gets all the glory, but without darkness – it means very little.

In the beginning we were baptized. Baptism is our beginning – whether as infants being claimed by God in a community of faith or as believer’s who claim our place in the Christian family and God’s great story. Baptism is our beginning and water symbolizes both death and new life – both darkness and light. We die to our old selves and are raised to new life, a new beginning in Christ.

In the beginning is a theological testimony, it is the start of the story and, at the same time, it is the whole story – the complete story and the rest of the Bible is simply commentary to it. In the beginning …God. That IS the story. God was present from the beginning, Christ was present as WORD from the beginning, the Spirit was present sweeping over the face of the waters. It IS the story of God – God’s eternal presence – God’s power and God’s love. And it defines God – not as noun, not as a person, place or thing – but as a VERB – an action, a movement, a process. God is not stagnant and stationary but always moving and creating. In the beginning is the story of God.

And it is our story. Our DNA comes from the original light, our spirit comes from the spirit of God that swept over the face of the waters, and Our Story began “in the beginning” with God. Each day, each moment even is another chance to begin again. The beginning for us starts now.