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Weaving a Garment of Identity

February 18, 2018

Helen Jacobi

Lent 1     Genesis 9:8-17     Psalm 25, 1     Peter 3:18-22     Mark 1:9-15

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“What does repentance sound like?

How does the kingdom of God smell?

What colour is the good news?” [1]

Barbara Brown Taylor asks these questions of today’s gospel; she asks us to use all five of our senses to engage with scripture.

We could add – what does temptation taste like?

If we could touch God, what would God feel like?

We are invited to walk into scripture with our whole selves, our bodies as well as our minds and hearts.


Today’s readings have a lot of food for our senses:

In the gospel Jesus is baptised in the Jordan – think about the touch of water, the stones or mud underfoot, would the water be cold or warm?

Would the water be clear or muddy – the Jordan today is pretty muddy.

Then the heavens are “torn apart” – the same word Mark uses for the tearing of the veil of the Temple in two after Jesus dies.

What would that sound like? thunder? a lightening crack?

Then a dove is seen to descend –we think of the dove that is part of the Noah story – the dove that Noah sends out to search for land after the flood begins to subside.

Mark says the dove is the Spirit – like the Spirit, the wind, the breath that moved over creation.

It would be white, can we hear its wings beating the air?


Then if that is not enough a voice is heard – does everyone hear it? or just Jesus?

“You are my son, the beloved” – how much do our hearts long to hear that voice from a parent, from a lover, from God.

You are my beloved.

Then when we are in sensory overload Jesus is driven into the wilderness.

The hot, dry, desert.

Cold at night, hot in the day.

Empty? maybe.

The other gospel writers expand this part of the story – Mark just gives an outline – Jesus is tempted by Satan – what does temptation sound like, smell like, taste like?

The angels wait on him – what do they sound like, smell like, can you touch an angel?

Then we get a summary of Jesus preaching: the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news”

Hence BBT’s questions

“What does repentance sound like?

How does the kingdom of God smell?

What colour is the good news?”


The story of Noah also gives us a sensory overload – a flood, devastation and destruction, the animals that are saved, the rainbow in the sky – forever a sign of hope.


BBT encourages us to think of our worship in the same way.

“Worship is a bodily experience and not one for our spirits alone. There are faces to be looked at, voices to be heard, hands to be touched, bread to be tasted, and wine to be smelled.

We sing things we could just as easily say and bow when we say other things, some of us touching ourselves gently on forehead, chest and shoulders as if we were tracing across.

Sometimes we kneel, assuming a posture that is all but gone from this world – like troubadours, like lovers, like servants, we kneel, and our hearts follow suit. Then we stand to sing, and sit to listen, dancing the peculiar ballet of the people of God.” [2]


At the very beginning of our worshipping life we are baptised.

Whether as a baby or as an adult we feel the water poured over us; just as Jesus was baptised, or maybe as the flood of Noah washed everything away.

The font is at the entrance of the church to remind us as we come in of our beginnings in faith.


In our confirmation group we have been discussing baptism.

We read together an article by Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.

That led us to talk about how if we take our baptism seriously it is a long way away from our lovely images of a baby in a baptismal gown cooing at the godparents.

RW says “if being baptized is being led to where Jesus is, then being baptized is being led towards the chaos and the neediness of a humanity that has forgotten its own destiny.” [3]

“It is also a ceremony in which we are pushed into the middle of a human situation that may hurt us, and that will not leave us untouched or unsullied … you don’t go down into the waters of the Jordan without stirring up a great deal of mud!” [4]

Oh we thought – bother – that sounds very challenging.

Which is why we need to come together each week to support each other on the journey and to hold each other accountable to the promises of our baptism.

As Jesus came up out of the water and was immediately driven into the wilderness so we come out of worship ready for the “wilderness” times of our lives and world.


Jesus discovers his identity at his baptism – you are my beloved Son;

what identity do we discover or form for ourselves in worship?

Anglicans hold to the tradition lex orandi lex credendi – what we pray is what we believe.

What does an Anglican believe about the nature of God, or the eucharist, or baptism – look in the Prayer Book – what do we pray? what do we sing?

At St Matthew’s we wrestle with our liturgy, and our hymns;

what theology do we want to reflect?

how do we decide?

we each have a unique understanding of our own beliefs – how do we come together as one to worship? and to be formed in our faith by that worship?

What colour is our faith?

What does our prayer taste like?

What does the word of God sound like?

What do our inner most beliefs smell like?

What if we could touch God?

Over the next 4 weeks of Lent we will be exploring these questions together as we seek to understand more deeply our life of worship together.

We have in our service begun to weave a garment together and we will talk more in our after church discussions.

As we dance the peculiar, and maybe dangerous, ballet of the people of God.


[1] Barbara Brown Taylor in Feasting on the Word Year B Vol 2 p 49


[2] BBT p 63 The Preaching Life 1993


[3] Rowan Williams Being Christian – Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer p 5 2014


[4] ibid p 6 

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