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Lent 1, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
February 18, 2018

Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25; Mark 1:9-15

‘Angels of compassion’

Jesus was one of many who came to John for baptism. Hoping in God. Trusting the promise that God made to Noah and the animals in the sign of the rainbow. Water can mean new birth, new beginnings, new life. God be with you

When he comes up out of the water, Mark tells us, Jesus saw a dove – like the dove Noah sent out to find signs of new life (an olive branch) after the flood. The dove, then, means peace. Jesus sees the Spirit of God, the Spirit of peace.

The dove is also a symbol of the Spirit who sits like a bird, hovering over the waters in the beginning when God created heaven and earth. Jesus sees the Spirit of God, the Spirit of creativity. The dove appears to him and blesses him for the renewal of Israel/Church and the world.

Can you relate to this? How might you relate to this? …

Last week, Catherine and I went to visit an artist who likes to paint flowers. She had more than 50 paintings of flowers in her home. Catherine can tell us some of their names …

When I was very sad and tired after my father’s funeral, friends encouraged me to go away for a few days. I caught the train to Melbourne and walked around the city as I remembered Dad and gave thanks for his life. I took my note book to write what I was seeing and feeling. I noticed the beauty of the river, the sand and the boats on the water at St Kilda, the sunshine on the steps at Federation Square, the crowds (like those pilgrims walking with Jesus) in the mall. Every kind of beautiful thing can become a symbol of peace – and a source of creative power.

Is there something (a bird, a flower, a river …) you’ve seen that might also be a vision of God’s peace and power? …

When I was a boy I used to listen to music on my headphones, and I used to make my Dad listen to my favourite songs. I’d put the headphones on his head and hand him the lyric sheet to read the words of the song. I remember he liked Cold Chisel best.

Music trains us to listen. Sometimes I wonder what we’re really listening for. An assurance that we’re not alone? An assurance of understanding? An assurance of new possibilities?

Before he goes away for a few days – to walk in the desert and pray – Jesus hears the voice of God assuring him that he is loved. Jesus hears this on behalf of everyone (all those in the water with him, all those waiting for baptism, all of us here …).

Jesus sees the dove. Jesus hears the voice of God who says: “You are my Beloved, my Own. On you my favour rests.”

How do you imagine he felt? …

How important to see and hear, to be inspired and to know the promise of God. We don’t feel it all the time.

When Jesus is in the desert, Mark tells us he was “with the wild beasts”. This doesn’t mean that he cuddled the animals. It probably means that he learned from them and learned to show them respect. He felt he was being tested, prepared for ministry and life – sometimes dangerous, difficult, even strange.

What do you think? …

And Mark says that “the angels looked after him”. Even when we feel the absence of God –Jesus knew deep sadness in life – we can believe in God’s goodness and care. Even when we don’t experience God – Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) – we can believe in angels of compassion.

This is a great and beautiful mystery. May it be so for you and for each of our six candidates for baptism. Even when you don’t experience God, you can believe in angels of compassion. May it be so for us. Amen.