T HE FIRST SUNDAY in Epiphany always focuses on Jesus’ baptism from one of the gospels. Epiphany is a moment of sudden revelation or insight. An “Aha!” moment. The instant a light bulb comes on in our brain.
The fog clears and suddenly we see clearly — when suddenly everything makes sense. It is the moment when someone is suddenly struck with a life-changing realization which changes the rest of the story.
The divine anointing during Jesus’ baptism is that revealing moment. The spirit descends as a dove, the voice from heaven speaks, and Jesus is revealed as the One who fulfills John’s words of prophecy. God appears in person as Jesus Christ. Jesus will baptize people/followers with the Holy Spirit; his heavenly anointing validates just that.
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THE READINGS from Genesis and Mark address our Lord’s baptism in the context of the creation and the “New Creation.” Jesus came up out of the water and saw the heavens in the process of being ripped apart. This is an act of God.
“Ripping apart” is exactly what takes place in Mark 15. The temple curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the “common area” was “torn in two (ripped apart) from top to bottom” when Jesus died. Jesus’ ministry answers the long-deferred hop in Isaiah, “Oh, that you would rend (rip apart) the heavens and come down.”
The heavens are ripped open and the Spirit descends. The Spirit at creation and the spirit here are one and the same. There is a parallel between the Spirit hovering over the formless void, bringing about creation, and the Spirit hovering over Jesus, ushering in a New Creation.
There is also a parallel between the voice at creation and the voice spoken at the baptism. The message of Genesis is that all creation owes its being to the God who brought it into existence. God brought everything into being by his spoken Word. The message in Mark is that what God did at the beginning of time he also does at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
The voice that speaks from heaven while the Spirit hovers over Jesus is a revelation (an epiphany) that the Creator is, by his personal appearance as Jesus Christ, about to bring forth a new creation.
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AS THE SPIRIT HOVERS, God says:
“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
And God saw that it was good. Jesus knows who he is by means of an experience that cannot be publicly verified. Others, everyone — we must discover this truth of Jesus as “beloved Son” by listening to what he says and by watching what he does.
Jesus brings about a new creation. New creation is the spiritual rebirth through Christ Jesus. The new creation is new life and a new person. Maybe this verse from 2 Corinthians 5:17 helps explain:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Those who are “in Christ” can already celebrate what God has done. Paul can say — we can say — that the old has passed away and that the new has already come.
“New creation” describes the actions of the faithful in the here and now. New creation is to talk the talk — and walk the walk.
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THIS IS THE CHALLENGE to the church — to live as God’s new creation now. To be ambassadors for Christ now. To bear witness to the good news of a God who is in the business of reconciliation and re-creation.
Every day we can get up with a fresh start and be a new creation, living as God’s person.
■ Too often we give up on the people around us. We expect some people to always threat us kindly and we expect others to always cause problems for us.
■ We even give up on the people we live with. We think we know them so well that we know what they will do and say in any situation. We Harley give them a chance to do something new and different and wonderful.
■ We give up on ourselves. We think we will never be able to do any better than we have done in the past. We worry that we will always do and say the wrong things. We feel like junk.
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“YOU ARE a new creation.”
It is the promise of endless second chances. Every day with new opportunities.
Like when children who go off to camp or join a summer sports team where no one know them. They can become a different person because no one knows what to expect of them. They can be “a new creation.”
Changing schools or taking a different job. Moving to a new town. All around us are opportunities to be something new/different.
But God says we don’t have to go to a place where no one knows us to be a new creation. Every day we can get up with a fresh start and be a new creation, living as God’s person.
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NEW CREATIONS with new possibilities and new challenges!
The Sprit of God has come upon us at our baptism. You are a new creation. Every day is new. Every day provides possibilities to live in Christ.