Summary: Out of chaos comes the words, "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased."
Baptism of Our Lord B 12 January 2003
Rev. Roger Haugen
The Genesis reading is one of my favourites. You get a sense of this wonderful, foreboding mass of moving water. This is the little Hebrew I still remember. Verse 2 “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.” Formless void is “tohu wabohu”, wonderful words. This is chaos yet there is the promise of something about to happen. Aha, yes, there it is – “a wind from God swept over the face of the water.” We have no idea what that might mean but then ‘God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.’
In our reading from Acts, Paul was visiting some disciples in Ephesus and in the course of the conversation he asks if they received the Holy Spirit when they became believers. And the said, “No, we have not even heard of that there is a Holy Spirit.” An odd idea, what we would call theological chaos today. So Paul laid his hands upon them and they received the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God moving over the chaos, people hungry for faith, people who were baptized into John’s baptism of repentance and now ready to be baptized in the name of Jesus. These are the people, new in faith, to whom Paul writes the wonderful letters of Ephesians. Some of the most wonderful of Paul’s writing that speak so highly of the faith that was part of their lives. The Spirit of God moved over the ‘face of the waters’ in Ephesus and great faith was created.
Many of you will remember Chad Moir, who was our intern here several years ago. I had a wonderful phone call from him this week. He was calling with a problem, well not really a problem but a situation that he had caused to some extent, and wasn’t sure how to proceed. It seems after about 8 months of life in Gravelbourg, working on his old cars, playing his music around town and simply being who he is, there is this great influx of people showing up in church on Sunday. There was chaos happening, people in church who knew nothing about how church functions, people for whom the liturgy is like a foreign language, children who have no clue of what proper behaviour would look like. The language he was using in his preaching was not the theological language they knew. He didn’t call it chaos, but it was a wonderful problem he now had to figure out how to handle. Many people are looking for something that the church offers, and Chad embodies in that community. A “wind from God swept over the face” of Gravelbourg. And God said, “Let their be light” and now Chad needs to figure out how to teach those who are already in church to put their Lutheran grace into action, and to help those searching to hear the words that God declares for each one of us, “You are my Son / my daughter, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” It well may be chaos for a time, but chaos filled with God’s presence and hope.
In Newmarket, Ontario there is a church named Christ the King Graceland Anglican Church of Canada. You might have imagined by the name that it isn’t your ordinary church. The “Graceland” part should give you some hints. The pastor is Dorian Baxter who rather goes by Elvis Priestly. He has caused not a little chaos in his church by dressing like Elvis and singing Elvis favourites with a Christian twist. “Well its one for the Father, two for the Son, three for the Holy Spirit and your life has just begun” to the tune of “Blue Suede Shoes.” And after the offering he says, “Thank you, thank you very much.” The situation can only be described as chaos. He has been removed from his parish and has had his marriage registration revoked. The “Graceland independent church” operates in a hall where some 200 people a week go to hear the gospel with this new twist.
Here are people looking for God even though they may not know the words to express their longing, people who know the language of Elvis but not so much the language of the church. Here is a pastor speaking their language and in that language speaking to them of God’s love and acceptance. “A wind from God swept over the face of Newmarket” and it sounded a lot like Elvis.
In the late 4th Century, Irish pirates invaded northeast England and took a number of young men captive, to be taken back to Ireland to be sold into slavery. Among them was a young man named Patrick. Patrick came to love his captors, to identify with them, and to hope for their reconciliation to God. He came to understand the Irish Celtic people, and their language and culture. He began to tell them about God, who was a God of love. He spoke to them in terms that they would understand, shaping the parable of Jesus in the folklore of their culture. This young man became known as Saint Patrick, the missionary who brought Christianity to Ireland. Into the chaos of slavery and a pagan Druid culture, “ a wind from God swept over the face of” Ireland and there was light.