Precious, Beloved and Called

Precious, Beloved and Called

Genesis 1:1-5; Mark 1:4-11

There are a lot of directions a preacher can take with the Baptism of Jesus. A lot of erudite theological,

homiletical and exegetical points she can make.

And if you pick up a copy of the Bible Background Sheet you’ll get some of those and maybe you’ll like them and want to hear (or preach!) a sermon on them.


Today I want to talk about this candle.

This is our candle, that we process in every Sunday in front of the Word,

and the worship leader;

and then place,

front and centre,

on our communion table.


This is the Shiloh-Fifth Avenue United Church candle,

representing God in our midst.

Reminding us that once there was a man

who said such amazing things

and did such wonderful things

that people followed him.

But they didn’t know who he was.

One day they asked him and he said “I am the Light”:

the light which was the first act of Creation

when the Spirit of God moved across the the waters,

when all was formless and void.


That’s why we have a candle.

We have this candle because we used to have a candle that was a white plastic column with an oil canister insert. When we ran out of oil canisters, Vilma and I were appalled by how much it cost to get more and how much more you had to get as a minimum order. I forget where Vilma pulled this candle from when she said “Let’s use this” and I said “Okay”.


The rainbow was obviously a good choice for us –

it fits with our logo,

it fits with our inclusivity,

it reminds us of God’s promise after the flood, of a time when sunshine streams through grey skies after rain.


But now it is many years later.

The colours are faded, and they kind of run together.

It’s a little wonky on one side on the bottom.

And the wick started to drown

so Vilma dug out a space

and we stick a tea light in it.

The tea light sometimes runs out during the service.


I have suggested that we get a new one.

So have other people.

A nice crisp, maybe white? new one –

fresh and with a wick that works.

One that looks like a church candle.


But first Vilma and then Rowan have pointed out –

separately and independently

– that this is theologically unsound.

They ask (indignantly) if I am implying

that only the fresh, the crisp, the beautiful,

the white (metaphorically not racially) (I hope) belong here?

If I am suggesting that anyone who doesn’t fit

the traditional mould

of what a church person looks like isn’t welcome to stay?


And they are right.


We are not here because of our good looks

and we do not get to stay only as long

as we look or feel beautiful.

We come and we stay even when we are not

fresh and shiny and perfect.

Especially then – this is the place for us.


We are here because we fade and blend

and are a little wonky in spots

and sometimes need a little outside help

to be able to shine.

We are here because we are imperfect.

Especially to the wider world.


We are here because here we remember

that we are much more

than our tired, wonky, imperfect, un-beautiful bits.


We are here because here we remember

that God has made us in all our glorious wonkiness

and because here we can be seen as God sees us:



Children of God.


Here we know that with all of our imperfections,

the light that is God’s first act of creation,

the light in the darkness,

the light that shone through the man who said such amazing things and did such wonderful things,

that light shines in us.


And while baptism may be the rite of initiation into the church

it is also intrinsically bound up with these words:

You are my child.

You are my beloved.

You are precious in my sight.



Baptism is a sacrament.

That means that it is the outward sign

of an inward grace.

That inward grace is in those words

and they are true with or without the water.

They are true even if you cannot imagine

God calling you any of those things.

Because – remember –

God is far beyond our imagining.

So never mind your logic or you life story

or what your parents told you.

Just believe.


Just believe and remember what is said at the baptism of Jesus and what is true for us even when it is not said:


You are God’s.

You are beloved.

You are beloved.


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