Text: Genesis 1:1-5
Date: The Baptism of Our Lord + Epiphany I X 1/8/12, 1/12/14
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters” (Ps 29:3). Another psalm says, “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created” (Ps 104:30). Today we are called to attend to the Voice, the Waters, the Spirit, and creation. When Jesus, the Word of God from the beginning, stood in the water of the Jordan, He set apart all water so that when the Word is in the water of Holy Baptism we are born again, created anew.
At creation the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, “hovered over the face of the waters” while “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep” (Gen 1:2-3). The creation of the universe, of “the heavens and the earth,” took place at the mere urge and will of the goodness of God. Then, at the speaking of God, “And God Said,” time was created first as, without source of a sun, light and darkness mysteriously alternated. God so loved the world that He declared it all good. So is the mystery of the creation of all things, the Spirit, the Voice and the waters.
The Holy Spirit hovered over waters again, over the face of the Jordan River, and descended on Jesus of Nazareth at His baptism by John. And there again was a voice from heaven. A new creation was thus inaugurated to replace, or rather, renew the old that had become disjointed, disfigured, corrupted, sick and dying of sin, for God still so loved the world. Jesus’ baptism was to fulfill all righteousness. It was to take His place, shoulder to shoulder along side of us in this world as our substitute, as our Savior. As on the evening and the morning of Day One of creation God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, so on this day, God said, “You are my beloved Son” and the redemption, the recreation of the world was begun.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters, and when He sends forth His Spirit, creation happens.
God’s act of creation was an act of pure grace reflecting His very character. Not only was the light “good,” even the darkness was good. After creating time, over six days God ordered the elements and then vegetation, sun, moon and stars, living creatures of the air and the sea and everything that creeps on the ground and finally man. And the thing is, first, it all happened by His mere speaking things into existence and, second, it all was very good.
Even after the fall into sin, however, much of the goodness of God’s handiwork remains. The main difference now is rebellious, destructive, corrosive evil and sin defaces and destroys, infects and kills. There were no cemeteries before sin entered the world. Now they are piled on top of each other the world over. All have sinned therefore all die. But death was not in God’s original plan and creation of grace. Still God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45); “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people” (Fourth Petition). But, after all, “life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Lk 12:23).
Because of sin now darkness is where evil hides. Because of sin we have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25). We confuse God with His creation, life is emptied of the Spirit and we do not hear the Voice, the life-giving Word of God.
When the voice spoke over the waters of the Jordan that day and the Spirit descended on the Son of God in the water, the trajectory was set for Him and for us. For Jesus it meant, first, the defeat of the devil’s temptation by the power of the Spirit and the Word. Then He preached and proclaimed good news, “liberty to captives and recovering of sight to the blind” (Lk 4:18-19). In His preaching, teaching and healing He brought the recreating grace of God to hungry, dying souls. Finally, He destroyed death itself as He allowed it to win over Him on the cross and in the tomb. Yet because of His pure holiness He nevertheless burst forth in glory from the tomb thus ending death’s reign. Now all who believe in Him are delivered from death to eternal life.
And how are we to believe in Him? There is no philosophy, theory or myth concerning the beginning of faith. Only mystery. Faith is itself the creation of God when the Holy Spirit hovers over baptismal waters and the voice says you are God’s beloved. You do not claim God as much as He claims you, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In Christ not only the seven days of God’s original creation is redeemed but also you have come to the eighth day, the eternal day, the day of resurrection, light and life. For, it is “according to his promise that we are now waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13; Rev 21:1).
The voice of the Lord is over the many waters: at creation, at the Jordan River, at the font of your new birth. When God sends forth His Spirit, creation happens. Praise God for His good gift of life—created, restored, to be resurrected by grace. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.