Creating Goodness

This morning we remembered Jesus’ baptism and then celebrated our own.  What a wonderful service!  After church we had a Membership Exploration Luncheon – it was awesome to see so many people who are interested in becoming part of RCC!  If you feel like you are searching for something in your life, I strongly encourage you to get involved – really involved! – in a church community.  Not only are there opportunities to serve others, but there is also such an amazing sense of family within church communities that can fill you in ways nothing else can.

Anyway … here is this morning’s sermon!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
January 11, 2015

Genesis 1:1-5
Mark 1:4-11

Creating Goodness

Creationism according to Grey’s Anatomy:

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth … at least, that’s what they say. He created the birds of the air and the beasts of the field – and he looked at his creation and he saw that it was good. And then God created man. And it’s been downhill ever since.

The story goes on to say that God created man in his own image, but there’s not much proof of that. After all, God made the sun and the moon and the stars – and all man makes is trouble.

And when man finds himself in trouble, which is most of the time, he turns to something bigger than himself – to love or faith or religion – to make sense of it all.

Okay, so maybe that is not exactly how it happened.

But – with the chaos that sometimes tends to fill our newspapers and other media outlets – perhaps Shonda Rhimes was not that far off when she was writing the script for the voiceover on Grey’s Anatomy that week.

We live in a world that is not perfect. We live in a world that is plagued with disease, tragedy and violence. We live in a world that is often broken by the darker side of human nature. We live in a world that was created first and foremost to be full of light and yet often is overcome by darkness.

Last night’s headlines on CNN told stories of terrorism and a hostage crisis in Paris, a 200-vehicle accident in Michigan, a college gang rape in Oregon, an outbreak of measles at Disneyland and racial tensions in our justice system. Tragedies seem to be happening all around us and these days you have to click from page to page in order to find any kind of good news happening.

Do you ever look around and want so desperately to create something good in the world, but then just not know where to start? You are not alone. The turmoil and confusion that surrounds us in our community and that exists throughout the world often leaves us feeling helpless and unsure of what kind of difference we could actually make.

But I believe that the creation story gives us hope.

This morning’s reading from the Old Testament can be found on the very first page of the bible.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth …

Do you know what the most amazing part of the creation story is? God started with absolutely NOTHING.

… when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep …

There was NOTHING – and God created the heavens and the earth. There was nothing and God brought light to darkness. There was nothing and God created land and sea. There was nothing and God created plants, fish and animals. There was nothing and God created humankind. There was nothing and God created a big and beautiful and majestic world. In the midst of a deep darkness, God created something amazing out of absolutely nothing, proving to us that we can create something good out of the oftentimes-dark world that we are living in.

If you think about it, from the very beginning, the creation story is a story of action.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth …

The heavens and the earth did not just appear, God created the heavens and the earth. God created something good for this world.

And we are called – in our reading and in our living out of this story – to create something good for this world as well.

Even if we have to overcome some darkness in order to do it.

This morning we remember Jesus’ baptism, a moment on the shores of the Jordan River where God broke through a human act of baptism through water and opened the heavens to connect his creation in a new way. This moment changed baptism for the generations upon generations that would soon follow Christ. We are connected, not only through the waters of baptism, but also through the Holy Spirit that descended upon Jesus that day nearly 2,000 years ago.

And we are connected through the Holy Spirit that continues to descend upon us today.

Baptism is not a one-way street. It is not just a decision that we make; it is also a commitment that God makes to us. Infant or child baptism is more than just a moment in our lives when our parents dress us up in adorable outfits and everyone pledges to raise us in the Christian faith. Adult baptism is more than just a moment where someone commits his or her life to Christ. Baptism – in any tradition – is a moment where – once again – God breaks through the human act of baptism by water and opens the heavens to connect us to his creation. Through our baptism, we are connected to one another. Through our baptism, we are connected to those who have come before us. And through our baptism, we are connected to our God who created the world to be good – and who calls us to create more good in that world.

Last fall, Carrie Underwood came out with a song called “Something In The Water,” written about a person whose life changed after their baptism. The lyrics to this song create such a powerful image of baptism:

Felt love pouring down from above.
Got washed in the water, washed in the blood.
And now I’m changed.
And now I’m stronger.
There must be something in the water.

When we look at the world and feel overwhelmed at how we are supposed to create goodness in it – or even how we are supposed to live in – remember that love poured down from heaven when you were baptized and in that moment you were changed and now you are strong. Through the living waters of baptism, God promises to us that we are strong enough to live in this world and even more so that we are strong enough to create goodness in that world as well.

I was out in Connecticut visiting my family after Christmas and – in the spirit of our love of all things Sondheim – we all went out to see the new Into The Woods movie. Plenty of great sermon illustrations came out of the movie, but for now I want to talk about the preview I saw for the new Cinderella movie that comes out in March. The previewed showed Ella – who would eventually be named Cinderella by her stepsisters – as a young girl talking to her mother. Her mother appeared to be giving her final words of wisdom before she passed away. Ella’s mother said to her:

Where there is kindness there is goodness; and where there is goodness there is magic.

Creating goodness in the world may not be easy, but it is magical. And I truly believe that the love of God that comes down from heaven and fills us in our baptism gives us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to create goodness in a world that is sometimes filled with darkness. We are not alone in our journey through life.

Creation is not something that happened in the past; creation has always been and always will be an active act of God’s grace. It is an act that allows us to create goodness, magic and grace – unexpected.

So let us – children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ – create goodness. Let us create goodness in our lives, let us create goodness in this church and let us create goodness in the world. Let us be tangible expressions of the love that washed over us in our baptism. Let us not be defined by the chaos that often surrounds us, but by the goodness that we create out of it.

Let us be who God created us to be. Let us be who Christ called us to be. And let us be who the Holy Spirit is strengthening us to be.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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