1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 

Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church (Sunday worship under one roof)

Sunday, January 17th 2020.

Genesis 1:1-5

1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.


From Altar Glass in Peace Lutheran Church


What would it mean for God’s Spirit to brood over the face of our world? What would it mean for God’s Spirit to brood over the face of your circumstances? What would it mean for God’s Spirit to brood over the chaos of our hearts? Will you take a moment to prayerfully ponder and ask the Spirit of God to brood over the chaos in the world, in your life, in your heart so that we shall hear and respond to the voice of God to bring light in the darkness? Let’s take a moment of prayerful reflection.

Reflection music


Creator of all worlds,

we confess to sporadic beliefs and inconsistent faithfulness.

Before the mystery of the universe

our minds cannot grasp a God who embraces infinity.

In the face of natural disasters and cruel inhumanity

we doubt that love reigns.

Between our own actions and the best we know

we see a wide gap that we cannot bridge.

O God, reclaim us and help us to reclaim our baptism;

we need your healing, forgiving, transforming Spirit. Amen.

Song                           ‘Jesus You Have Come to the Lakeshore ‘

Welcome and Notices

Praying the Psalm

In this part of the service we pray a psalm together. We listen in on the story from which the psalm arises in order to pray these words for us and for the world. We will pray Psalm 29 together. Before we do, I will paint a picture for us.

This is a Psalm of praise. These words praise God as the one whose glory and power has no match. In recalling the beginning of creation, the psalm reminds the people that all that is needed is God’s voice to bring life, to animate life, to awaken life. The very things that seem immovable, unaffected, too great and too powerful, shall be impacted, shall be moved by the voice of God. So therefore, the psalm of praise ends with a benediction for the people that this very God give peace to his people, channel his power to move all that is to bring shalom, wholeness, enduring peace.

People of God, what dismays you about our world? Have you ever felt powerless against the powers of injustice, of destruction, that seem immovable? Those powers and systems and traditions and habits that render us powerless and surrender to believe that this is the way it is, this is just how it is. Let the people of God be encouraged, let the people of God hear the voice of God who shall move over the chaos to bring order, who shall break walls that tower over, who shall awaken even the most stubborn and prideful heart of stone to the tender heart of babes. God shall bring peace. Let the people of God ascribe greatness to God who promises peace.

Let us pray the psalm together. Please respond with the words in bold.

Psalm 29:1-6; 10-11 (abridged for worship)

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendor.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Prayer for Others

We respond by singing the Lord’s Prayer together [offering to be brought up during the chorus “Amen”]

Offering and Dedication Prayer

Song                           ‘Take My Gifts’

 Scripture                   Mark 1:1, 4-13 New Revised Standard Version

1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Sermon Reflection

Baptism of Jesus by Dave Zelenka

Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Mark 1:1-13

I’ve been thinking about the word “new” in our celebration of the New Year. Can I be a cynic and say that there is nothing new about the earth orbiting the Sun once more? Yet we say that this is a new year. Why do we say this? What do we mean by it?

I think what we mean by the new year is to say to ourselves that here is an opportunity for a new beginning. We pack away our old calendar, filled with past schedules and circumstances, memories and history, some joyful, some heart breaking. Then we hang up the new calendar, yet to be filled, a blank canvas. There is hope, there is possibility. This is a ritual of letting go of what has happened and starting afresh.

I don’t know if you even make new year resolutions but if you have made some, how is it going? In most cases apparently the new year resolutions don’t go past the first month of the new year. I’m sure some of it is actually down to the fact that we don’t have strong enough a will. But I often wonder whether most of it is actually down to the fact that we don’t believe that it is new, there is a new beginning.

Well, if I do believe it, others around me don’t. They scoff at my new resolutions and laugh it off. Don’t kid yourself. I know you. Just accept it, that’s just who you are. When we do fail to live up to our resolutions, that voice rings out: “I told you so. I knew it!” May be there is no new beginnings. May be the old baggage of our failings, our mistakes, our history determines who we are.

The Gospel according to Mark begins with the words: “The beginning of Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” I guess this isn’t intriguing in itself. The reality is there is a beginning to everything. But what is intriguing is that as the beginning point, as the first scene of the story, Mark takes us to Jesus’ baptism in the waters of Jordan. It is significant that Mark begins the story of the good news of Jesus in this way.

We began our worship today with the first words of the Bible “In the beginning…” This is a story that proclaims the truth that God created us. God’s Spirit broods over the face of the waters and God calls out into being all that is. One of the most important aspect of the truth of this story is that there was nothing that made God to create us. There was nothing that forced God to. There was no sense of obligation for God to create us. There was no cause, no reason, no plan in the sense that there was no agenda behind God creating us. As God looks upon what he has created and joyfully declares it is good, we get to the heart of why God creates at all. God creates because God wants us. Nothing less and nothing more.

The voice of God we hear from creation, the voice of the word spoken, is God’s love for us. The foundation and the order in which our world stands is God’s love. This shall not change. This is the very constant that sustains us. This is the very constant that there is hope. So when the psalm we prayed speaks of the voice of God being powerful, it is never about brute strength. Rather it is a proclamation of the strength, the faithfulness, the resolute determination on God’s part that love will prevail over all that is evil.

God’s Love prevails over evil not through destruction. Let’s get the record straight. Evil destroys. Evil and its minions leads us down the path of destruction. What about love? What is your experience of love? What does love do? Love creates. The power of the voice of God, the word of love for all creation, is the power of creation. Love creates because God is love of creation, our foundation, our beginning.

Mark begins the story of Jesus with these words too. “The beginning of Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” It is no mere coincidence that Mark begins this way. Mark echoes the story of creation love. We are to hear the reverberation of the voice of creation, God’s love for us. Just as in the creation story where the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the primordial waters, we hear of the waters of the Jordan. As Jesus is baptized, as he is immersed in the river and rises, the Holy Spirit who was present at creation descends on Jesus like a dove.

Just as you may have expected there is a voice as there was at creation. A voice is heard from heaven, like the voice of creation, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” This voice from heaven expresses pleasure, expresses love. Remember, this is at the very beginning of Mark’s telling of the story of Good News of Jesus. Jesus has achieved nothing, Jesus has done nothing that we can point to and say he has earned his Father’s love in heaven. Yet Jesus is the beloved. God’s Love precedes all things, all doings, all efforts, all toils.

In overlapping and interlacing the story of beginning of all things and the story of the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, Mark is asking us to consider the reality that in Jesus’ life God is beginning once again, God is recreating. God is beginning anew. The image is ripe with a sense of birth, the water of the womb, the brooding of a bird. There is a miracle of birth at hand. God’s recreation is as new as an infant born, as filled with hope and possibility as a baby.

There is a centre of gravity in which God begins anew. It is in and through Jesus Christ. It is in and through his humanity, divine recreation breaks into our world. The very life Jesus lives is the new history of humanity and the new humanity. As we will see in the days to come, Jesus lives life faithfully on behalf of us to fulfill God’s loving purposes for all creation. His death and God’s victory over death in rising Jesus to life and taking his humanity to the heart of divine life of the Holy Trinity, is the first fruit of recreation.

Therefore, in Christ Jesus, there is a possibility of new beginning for us. Because God’s love for us is the very word of creation, which in Jesus, God fulfills for all humanity. The Holy Spirit broods over us in Christ Jesus for the voice of God to break forth to create anew, for light to shine in the darkness. Yes because God is Love and Love creates, because in Jesus God we are born as the children of Love, because we are the Beloved, we are people of new beginnings. Yes, there is new year for us to begin anew, afresh, with hope and with anticipation for new possibilities. In fact, each day is a new day. New in that in and through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit God’s love creates us anew for a new day.

Henri Nouwen says: Yes, there is that voice, the voice that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: “You are my Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout: You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody—unless you can demonstrate the opposite.”

When these voices of destruction whirl around us, this is what Henri Nouwen suggests that we do:

“First of all, you have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World

Song                                       ‘Nothing is Lost on the Breath of God’

Sharing in the Peace of Christ                                              ‘The Peace of Christ be with you.’

Song of Sending                  ‘Like a Rock’


The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forever. Amen