January 7th 2018 Sermon


SUN 11 JAN 2015


Preacher: Revd Angus MacLeod MA BD


In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee

and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Mark 1:9


Parents of a school pupil who know this building well

told me a delightful story about the start of the school day.

One of their daughters had reached the primary school age

where the customary kiss/hug at the school gate, had suddenly become uncool.

Embarrassing, definitely something to be omitted.


The Dad in question however, was not to be denied.

“You better get used to it, but I am always going to give you a kiss goodbye

at the school gate.”


Shortly thereafter, a new school day.

The daughter in question wriggles free from the impending show of affection

and strides towards school, leaving Dad clutching thin air.

Unfazed, Dad pursues her, catches up

and plants a smacker on the top of her protesting head.


Later, one of the girl’s teachers informs the parents.

“Because of where the staff room is

I could watch the whole scene play out before my eyes.

Your daughter hurrying towards school, you in pursuit,

capture, kiss, complaint.

But the one thing that you couldn’t see,

as you departed and your daughter continued towards school…

was the big grin on her face!”

To my mind, that’s a pretty good image for Beloved.

And beloved is a pretty good word for Finley’s baptismal day,

because it is the profoundest word of Jesus’ baptismal day.


American writer, Raymond Carver, crafted the short, dialogue poem, Late Fragment:]

And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved,

to feel myself beloved on the earth.


After all John the Baptist’s fiery pre-publicity

about the One who was to come after him,

the long-expected one, comes unexpectedly

no fanfare, no ceremony.

He simply joins the line of shuffling humanity going down into the sacred river.


At the outset of his public ministry,

he quite deliberately identifies with the people of

“the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem.”

By wading into the waters with them

he stands alongside the faults and failures,

all the brokenness, that those battered crowds represented.

Christ is not aloof. He is baptised with us and for us.

It would be only a short while later, that the religious leaders of his day

would deride him for being a “friend of gluttons and sinners.”

They were right.

To which you could add prostitutes, tax-collectors, soldiers and lepers.

All manner of outcasts/excluded would flock to him –

for in his company they found acceptance and welcome.


In the late 1980’s Martin Scorsese made the then controversial,

The Last Temptation of Christ .

In it Jesus is portrayed as completely human.

He confesses his sins, wonders if he’s merely a man,

and he anguishes over the people he didn’t heal.

In his “last” or ultimate temptation, during his execution

Jesus battles a hallucination sent by Satan.

He imagines marrying Mary Magdalene, growing old, and having kids,

before his disciples reproach him for abandoning his special mission.


Many Christians were outraged by Scorsese’s film and considered it blasphemous. Blockbuster Video even refused to carry it.

What bothered many Christians was the suggestion that Jesus

experienced trials and temptations, faults and failures – just like us.

That he knew doubt, loneliness, questions, fantasies, confusion, despair,

and, in his final hours, feeling abandoned by God.


Earlier this weekend I spoke with a lady

describing the recent death of her very elderly mother.

The last months had been a sad, drawn out, and at times painful end

to a long and happy life.

The mother had questioned repeatedly at the end:

“Why won’t God take me?”

There was almost a sense she felt that she was being punished.

Perhaps the only answer to that distress

is the understanding that the road we travel is one

that has been travelled before us, by Christ himself.

And so perhaps wordlessly transmit the continued sense of being Beloved.


We can sometime take courage from the example of those

who travel such roads with faith apparent.

I received just before Christmas words from Peter Millar of the Iona Community,

theologian and writer and encourager in the faith.

This year his Christmas message came with the shadow of terminal illness.


I would also like to say that as we celebrate Christmas,

and God’s Great News for the whole world,

that my Christian faith sustains me each day.

I know I will not “get better”

but live in the knowledge of God’s enfolding light and love.

So may we all wish for one another and for our global family

that we are able to move into 2018 with inner peace and a thankful  heart.

And a voice for lasting justice.


Martin Luther, of Reformation fame,

reputedly scribbled on his desktop in times of severe anxiety

in the exiled safekeeping of the Wartburg Castle:

“I am baptised” – and so kept his despair at bay.


Is it possible that they might get what they wanted from this life

child smiling in a school playground,

infant welcomed into a community of faith,

adult consoled amid dark days –

Yes, because as Jesus steps into the waters of our humanity –

He discovers and bestows the confidence and gift, of belonging.


Heavens torn part, Spirit descending and a voice:

“You are my Beloved – all of you – with you I am well pleased.”