• Steven Marsh

Worshipping–Appearings: a Reflection on Psalm 29, Genesis 1:1-5, Mark 4:1-11, and Acts 19:1-7

Have you ever begun your day this way? When you first wake up, ask yourself, “When was I baptized? And, what was I taught about the meaning of baptism?” I’m sure that prior to your asking those questions, you’ll need some time to clear the cobwebs, emerge from your sleep, wipe those “crusties” from the corners of your eyes, and perhaps even do a few quick stretches.

If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, here’s what’s going on in the background of your existence. You are beloved of God. And God is well-pleased with you. As you shake off your sleepiness, the Holy Spirit awakens you to the truth of your identity, just like the Spirit did for Jesus when he was raised from the water after being baptized by John the Baptist. You are marked by God and belong to Jesus. The waters of your baptism, whether as an infant or adult, claim you as God’s.

This is Baptism of the Lord Sunday and the First Sunday After The Epiphany. What is Epiphany? Epiphany is a “…season of appearings of gifts, and gift givers, and a unique gift from God.”[1]  Jesus was baptized for all humanity. All are invited to begin the journey of renewal. Epiphany as a season has been celebrated since the 4th century. Like the wisemen, we are called to honor the One who is the King of the Jews and the Savior of the world. Jesus’ baptism confirms the truth of the Epiphany. And that, my friends is the background, like “white noise,” in your life as you sleep, wake up, and live each day. The light of the world, this Jesus who was born in a stable, is for all people. Jesus is God’s gracious gift to each one of us. “Epiphany unveils, proclaims, celebrates God’s gifts to all people.”[2]  Do you realize that the Christ child was born for you? Mark Labberton, the author of The Dangerous Act of Worship, reminds us that offering our belovedness in God as a gracious act of worship is important for our encounter with the Holy One. It brings about change. Labberton writes, “When we measure ourselves against those around us, we usually find enough evidence to convince ourselves we are doing well enough in the change arena. But Scripture’s description of human change is profound transformation. We should compare ourselves to Jesus, not to our neighbor.”[3] Worship is about an appearing…the appearing of God in our midst.

According to Acts 19:1-7, the appearings of God happen innumerable times throughout our waking hours. How? First, God gives us spiritual gifts. Whether the gift of hospitality, healing, generosity, teaching, exhortation, word of knowledge, or compassion, to name a few, each of us has received gifts. Second, we experience the benefits of spiritual gifts through others. Fellow journeyers will come to us, like the wisemen, and share their gifts for our benefit. And third, the Holy Spirit is God’s unique gift to all who believe in Jesus. We are created in the image of God, the imago Dei. God lives in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts, fellow journeyers bringing gifts, and the unique gift of the Holy Spirit are all appearings of God. These appearings demand that we claim Jesus Christ is Lord, with humility. Jesus is Lord of all creation and not just the church’s.[4]

Human is God’s final act of creation and we are all made in the imago Dei. Your life was purposed by God. It is not random or accidental. God appears to us through prayer, one another, reading the Bible, and worship with the purpose of equipping and sending us out into the world to serve and love others. You are loved. God makes innumerable appearings to you every day.

[1]Clyde Fant in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word Year B, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 231-233.

[2]Thomas R. Steagald in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word Year B, Volume 1, 207.

[3]Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 75.

[4]This idea of Jesus’ Lordship is adapted from Elton W. Brown in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word Year B, Volume 1,238.

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