First Sunday after Epiphany- Fr. Chris- January 7, 2018

January 7, 2018

As I was growing up, my mom had four simple letters that when spoken could get my brother and me to shape up and immediately behave. We knew when we heard those four letters we were expected to stand at attention and keep our hands to ourselves. The only caveat to those four magic letters was that they weren’t pertinent in every situation. These letters were reserved for situations like walking into antique stores or the china section of a department store. They were reserved for art museums or homes with expensive items. Yes, my mom had four little letters that when spoken in the right circumstance would strike the fear of God into us: L-B-D-T. Look But Don’t Touch. We are in Macy’s and a beautiful crystal vase calls out to be held… L-B-D-T… Look But Don’t Touch. We are at my grandparents’ house and the 14th century Chinese painting appears to have an interesting texture, I wonder what it feels like… L-B-D-T… Look But Don’t Touch. We are in the Houston Museum of Natural Science and a pin holding the dinosaur bone in place looks to be within reach… L-B-D-T… Look But Don’t Touch. Yes, from a young age, we knew these four letters and knew what it meant that if we did touch whatever the precarious circumstance presented, then “our goose was cooked.”

With those four letters drilled into my brain from such a young age, I always get skittish about things breaking. However, a paradox exists that turns this whole idea on its head. LBDT begins with the assumption that breaking something will decrease its worth. And yet certain things are better when they are broken. For instance, unless an egg is cracked by the tapping of a beak, new life does not begin for the bird. Unless rain falls the drought is not broken and the farmers’ crop is ruined. Unless fresh bread is broken, it is useless as it grows stale, and is never eaten. And the list goes on with things that are better when broken: unhealthy relationships, awkward silences, baseball gloves, new boots, piñatas, water balloons, bad habits, and in honor of the upcoming Olympics: world records. Yes, some things are better when broken.

“And just as [Jesus] was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’”

There are two great tearings witnessed in the Gospel of Mark, a breaking of sorts, and they bookend the ministry of Jesus. The first instance occurs, as we heard this morning, when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. As Christ’s soaked body emerged from the water, the very heavens above were torn apart and a theophany or epiphany or manifestation of God is revealed with the Spirit and a voice crying out even louder than that of John the Baptist’s: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The second great tearing or breaking in the Gospel of Mark comes when Jesus breathes his last from the cross. This time the voice is that of Jesus crying out… But then Mark tells us that the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The significance here is that it was the curtain that separated the unwashed masses from the Holy of Holies, the place believed to be the earthly dwelling of God. Thus another theophany or epiphany or manifestation of God is witnessed in Mark’s Gospel.

Both tearings are important, not solely based on what happened in the moment, but because of what they signify to us still today. The tearing of the heavens at the River Jordan marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Notice how before Christ does anything, we already know all we need to know about his identity and purpose. Jesus is the Son of God; he is beloved of the Father; and his faithfulness is well pleasing to God. In fact, Jesus has not even said a word in the Gospel of Mark up to this point. John the Baptist has been the focus preparing the way, and yet, in this moment the heavens are torn apart. The veil between God and God’s creation is forever removed. Through the incarnation, God’s taking on of human nature, Christ eternally alters the relationship between the Divine and mere mortal flesh.

Similarly, in that second great tearing, as Jesus breathes his last, the Temple curtain breaking open signifies something equally notable. While the heavens being torn open at Jesus’ baptism represents God’s willingness to become human and to sanctify that, thus signifying a change in relationship between creator and creation, this tearing open of the curtain symbolizes our ability to enter into the nearer presence of God now and forever more.

“Through the Incarnation of Jesus, God became present to humanity. Through the death of Jesus, humanity can be made present with God. These two great tears forever change the landscape of our relationship with God. No longer does God seem like a far off deity…”[i] or one hidden behind a curtain. Rather, God is made fully available to you and to me.

Today we gather as we always do on Sundays, to share in the holy meal of bread and wine, body and blood. But at the same time, today, we welcome three new souls into God’s holy Church through the sacrament of Baptism. We will receive them into the household of God and encourage them to “confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”[ii] Yet, something bigger is happening here beyond just human actions of pouring water and speaking certain words. There is a tearing in the veil between heaven and earth where each person is adopted as God’s child and made a member of Christ’s body, the Church. In that process, we, ourselves, are also broken apart from our old life and raised up with Christ in his death and resurrection and given new life in the Holy Spirit. It is a holy breaking…

And so it is that we participate in and receive the benefits of those two great tears in the Gospel of Mark. Yes, a paradox exists in which certain things are actually better when broken. In this way, the fullness of God’s love and God’s grace are thus opened up to us. And through a great breaking of sorts, a holy in-breaking, there is a tear in the very fabric of creation in which heaven and earth are joined and we are each invited into the very presence of our creator.

[i] (Author: The Rev. Steve Panky, Viewed on 1/5/2018)- Many of the ideas of this sermon come from Panky’s exegetical work.

[ii] Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 308

Service Schedule

Sunday Services
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite I
9:15 a.m. Christian Formation
10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite II

Weekday Services
Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Holy Eucharist


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5373 Franz Rd
Katy, Texas 77493
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