Reading: Genesis 1 v 1-4
Mark 1 v 1-11
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
It won’t be long until we see the inauguration of the new president in the United States.
I remember sitting up until I simply couldn’t stay awake any longer watching the election back in November.
And then being woken at 4am by some friends over there who just had to share the incredible news that Obama had been elected.
Their celebrations however were tinged, as were those of many others, by the acknowledgement that his was an uphill struggle.
That the issues he was going to face with his country and with the rest of the world were momentous.
And since then there has been no let up or reprieve.
Indeed things have spiralled downwards.
Global recession and war continue to escalate.
Its hard to see how one man can even begin to address injustice and oppression and poverty and war and yet folks, not just in America but all over the world wait with hope and expectation.
Recently I’ve been putting together some ideas for officebearers of the sorts of issues that we in Castlehill church might address over the next few months.
Suggestions of things we might tackle in order to serve this community.
Ways that we can bring some hope and the love of God to the community in which we find ourselves today.
But its so easy in the church, as in the world, to see the task as too great – and the folk called to serve as not up to the task.
Its like we make our excuses for failure before we even begin.
But if the advent of the Christ child that we have just celebrated is to mean anything to us then it must bring us hope.
God sent his son into the most unlikely place, into the midst of the most unlikely circumstances into the lives of folk who had given up hope.
The story of God’s people throughout the ages is a story of hope dawning when it seemed there was no future. God has always turned up in the seemingly God forsaken places.
So who are we to limit God and not to expect God to turn up here – to transform us and what we do together into things of great potential?
Who are we to say- it will never work, not here, not now.
If there is one phrase we can borrow from the president elect, I’d like to borrow the title of one of his books – The audacity of hope.
A book written to herald Obama’s election campaign, the future president calls us, against the odds to go on hoping – hoping that things can change for the better.
Hope based not on blind optimism, wishing the evils away but hope based on the changes that history has brought and that can be wrought again by folk getting together to work for change.
And surely in the church our hope can afford to be audacious – because we have the Holy spirit working among us, fanning the flames of our efforts, making a difference to us and to our world.
And we have a God who tells each of us – you are my child. With you I am pleased.
As we await the new American president, the jokes about George Bush continue to rumble on.
I’m sure it will be a long time before those fade out.
Like recently when George Bush was visiting a nursing home, he stopped one of the elderly residents in the corridor and asked him: Do you know who I am?
To which the resident replied: No I don’t but if you ask that kind nurse up there, I’m sure she’ll remind you.
This morning, as we read of Jesus’ baptism, we are reminded of who we are – children of God, with whom God is pleased.
And more than that – we are beloved children of God.
Dare we believe that?
That is where it starts.
That’s where the difference is made.
When we can each believe ourselves to be beloved children of God.
Because knowing ourselves loved – knowing that God is pleased with us makes all the difference to how we live and act in the world.
It sounds so easy.
And yet virtually all of life conspires to cover up that fact that we are beloved children of God.
From our earliest years we are told we are not good enough, we don’t measure up, we need to try harder.
In God’s eyes, we are beloved.
We are already good enough.
Before we amount to anything in the eyes of the world, we are loved by God.
The curious thing is that for us as human beings, that kind of love, that kind of acceptance scares us.
Its something we find great difficulty in coping with.
We get so used to having to earn love, having to earn our place in society that to accept that God loves us just because we exist is really difficult.
The status that God places on us is hard for us to deal with.
Marianne Williamson sums this up well when she says:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
Powerful beyond measure is what God makes us telling us that we are loved.
Powerful beyond measure.
That, we cannot handle.
For all the confidence we might display in our private and professional worlds of our everyday, to feel empowered by the status God bestows on us as beloved children is something we resist.
Suddenly we become shy. We become modest.
We refuse to own that God rates us.
In baptism, our inauguration into service in the church, God claims us as beloved.
Our response to that, in time, is to serve.
To serve with the same extravagance that God shares with us.
An extravagance that won’t be held back, that won’t be beaten down.
An extravagance that has the audacity to hope.
Hope that lives will be changed and that communities will be transformed and that the spirit of God will work through us to bring about God’s kingdom where war and poverty and injustice and neglect are things of the past.
History is full of stories of love triumphing over evil.
Our past tells us that poverty can be overcome , that the needy can be helped that those struggling under great burdens can be liberated.
All that is within our power.
And when we begin to think, not here, not now, lets stop and ask, why not?
Lets’ cultivate the audacity of hope.
Lets accept ourselves as God accepts us – beloved children, with whom God is pleased.
As children of God, we are brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous. God says so. And if we won’t believe that for ourselves then we cannot believe it for others.
If we’re prepared to accept it of ourselves then we must also accept it of others – be able to look around and see this place and the places of our daily lives populated by children of God – beloved children.
And when that small voice of doubt creeps in, with a persistence built up through years of believing otherwise, lets have the audacity of hope that each of us, a beloved child of God has a part to play in changing this congregation, this community, in changing the world for the glory of God.