08 January 2012

‘Because you’re worth it’

Rathfarnham Parish Church, in the heart of Rathfarnham Village (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 8 January 2012,

The First Sunday after the Epiphany,

Rathfarnham Parish Church, Dublin.

8 a.m.: The Eucharist (Holy Communion 1).

Genesis 1: 1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19: 1-7; Mark 1: 4-11.

May I speak to you in the name of + the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I know [the Revd] Ted [Woods] does not have a sermon or address at this early Communion service. But I thought I might share one or two of the ideas I have prepared for my sermon in Christ Church Cathedral later this morning.

Because I am going to ask this morning in the cathedral just how many of us have already broken our New Year’s Resolutions. It’s only a week since New Year’s Day. But what happened to all those good intentions: to walk a little each day? to eat more sensibly? to give up smoking? to be kinder in word and deed?

We all promise ourselves a new beginning, not just because I want others to think more of me, but because I think more of myself too.

Yes, I am worth it. Not because L’Oréal tells me “Because you’re worth it.” But because I am created in the image and likeness of God; because I am a new creation; because I reflect that new image and likeness, that new creation – at any time of the year, and not just in the seven or eight days after New Year’s Day.

The Birth of Christ brings the promise of the renewal of creation and the birth of a new creation. And Saint Mark’s Gospel is very blunt and direct about this. For Saint Mark, there is no account of the Birth in Bethlehem, the Visit of the Magi, the Flight into Egypt, or the Childhood in Nazareth.

Instead, he begins his Gospel story, as we heard it this morning, with the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan. For Saint Mark, this is not just the dramatic opening that any good storyteller would like. It is, truly, a new beginning, the story of a new creation.

For both the creation account in Genesis and the new creation in Saint Mark’s Gospel, we are told about the light that comes into the darkness, the waters being separated or parted, the Spirit of God hovering over those waters, and the voice of God says this is good.

L’Oréal’s original slogan was: “Because I’m worth it.” In the middle of the last decade, this was replaced by: “Because you’re worth it.” In 2009, this was changed again to: “Because we’re worth it” – following motivation analysis and work into consumer psychology.

The shift to “we” was supposed to create stronger consumer involvement and more consumer satisfaction. But God does not see us as mere consumers to be motivated to buy into what God produces and markets. God creates, not produces.

And, in Christ, at the Incarnation, on that first Christmas, God takes on our image and likeness. Because we’re worth it, you’re worth it, I’m worth it.

The Genesis account of creation goes on to say that when God looked at all he created, he said it was good. But when God looked at humanity, he declared we are very good. In Christ, we realise how very good God thinks we are.

If all your New Year’s Resolutions have gone out the window in the past week, then why not resolve to simply accept that God accepts you, that you are made in God’s image and likeness, and that when God looks at you, new every morning, God sees God’s own image and likeness, that when God looks on each of us as a sign of his new creation, he sees that it is good, and that we, them, all of us are his beloved children in whom he is well pleased: ‘And a voice came from heaven ... I am well pleased’ (Mark 1: 11).

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. This reflection was shared during the early morning Eucharist in Rathfarnham Parish Church, Dublin, on Sunday, 8 January, 2012

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