Season 7 - Week 4
“It is good, very good”
In the beginning.
Three small and powerful words that begin humanity’s best effort at telling the story of God.
It was good.
Three small and powerful words that sum up God’s view of all that was made.
It was very good.
Four small and powerful words that tell us God’s reflection on creation as given to humankind.
At the beginning of everything God affirms. The Hebrew suggests that all of creation is blessed (spoken well of) into being. God says of the creation- it is good, it is very good. And God says this before creation and humanity has even had the chance to do anything.
Like so many things in the Bible we see this pattern repeated. John’s Gospel opens with the same phrase; even Mark’s hurried scrawl begins with “the beginning”.
Just a few verses later we encounter another repeat - marking the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Turn with me if you will to Mark’s Gospel, chapter 1, verses 9-11. Before Jesus did anything, before he called forth life from chaos or beauty from pain; Jesus received God’s affirmation- “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
I sometimes think we have got it all wrong. In twenty odd years of Christian service (dare I say ministry) I have noticed that we are better at review than preview. We sit in planning group or staff meetings and discern what went wrong, or what we could do better. We congratulate what has gone well, but rarely affirm each other. When something has not gone well, I suspect I am not alone in delving into the reasons why, sometimes realising that I am the reason why.
And so the ‘Jesus Prayer’ as we have received it, makes sense for our culture. It’s a prayer that has been around since about 400CE, and that has brought transformation to many. Its words are simple - “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”. It acknowledges that something has gone wrong, and that it is Jesus who can fix it. It owns our place in that failure and gives us words to put Jesus back into lordship of our lives.
The Jesus Prayer is prayed repeatedly for many minutes; those who pray it use it to still the soul and bring a centredness that is rare in our world.
But I can’t help but wonder if it misses something of God’s ways?
At the beginning of everything, before Jesus did a thing, he was reminded that he was beloved of God, and that God was pleased. Jesus’ ministry flowed from that affirmation - through temptation, good times, rejection and death. I don’t think this affirmation is just for the divine Jesus. All of creation is rejoiced over in Genesis, and this affirmation comes right at the point where Jesus identifies with our broken messiness in baptism.
In our messiness, before we do anything, I invite you to receive your belovedness. And so I commend to you this prayer.
“You are my child, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased”.
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Try praying the prayer of belovedness. You probably want to find the form of words you are comfortable with – "you are my child" or "son" or "daughter". The Jesus prayer is traditionally repeated over and over, but you might need to get you stamina up (think about it like a couch to 5k!). Maybe you could start with five minutes, and work up to ten, simply repeating this phrase slowly outloud, in faith that God speaks it over you.
“I am your child, the Beloved, with whom you are well pleased”