“Liturgy of the Ordinary: Waking Up”

Mark 1:1-11
January 7, 2024
Matt Goodale

Life in many ways, is a series of choices that we make along the way to figuring out who we are. The key question we are trying to discover is not “Who will I be?”, but “Who does God say I am?”

Today we begin a new sermon series called “The Liturgy of the Ordinary”, based partly on a phenomenal book by Tish Harrison Warren by the same title. Each Sunday morning our service has a liturgy: elements of the service that direct our worship. Every service has a similar rhythm to it. We always begin with a Call to Worship, we sing hymns, we say similar prayers and receive blessings.

Our lives also have a liturgy to them. We all wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, you probably brush your teeth, some of need to start the day with coffee and slowly ease our way in, and some of us hit the ground running with young kids or a busy work schedule. But there are elements in all of our days that are routine, and if we are willing to pay them a bit more attention, can become a liturgy that guides us to think more deeply about our spirituality.

In short, the goal of this series is to hopefully give you a lens to find sacred practices in your everyday life. And today we begin with the liturgy of waking up: something you all did this morning, and something some of you might do again at the end of this sermon…

I don’t know about you, but most mornings I wake slowly. Even when the day demands that I rally quickly – when my alarm blares or my daughter starts crying – I lie still for the first few seconds of the day, stunned, orienting to a new day, thoughts still dulled, usually yearning for one more snooze cycle to remain in the warm comfort of my bed. “Then comes slowly, the dawning of plans to make and goals for the day. But in those first delicate seconds, before the tasks begin, before I have to be on my game, I’m greeted again with the truth of who I am in my most basic self.” (Harrison Warren)

Whether we’re children or heads of state, whether you’re a stay at home parent or a business person, our first moments of the day are all spent sitting in our pajamas for a moment – some of us for several moments—yawning, messy hair and bad breath, unproductive, minds orienting to the day ahead. As we first emerge from sleep, we are all nothing but human—unimpressive, vulnerable, newly born into the day as our pupils adjust to light and our brains emerge into consciousness.”

Soon we’ll get buttoned up into our identities: mothers, business people, students, friends, citizens. We’ll spend our day conservative or liberal, rich or poor, earnest or cynical, fun-loving or serious.” (Harrison Warren). But in those first few moments after emerging from sleep you are who you are at your most basic level: no suits or make up or put-togetherness; you haven’t yet done anything productive or impressive; in those first few moments of waking up your successes and accomplishments or lack thereof don’t matter. You’re just waking up again to a world that has kept on turning without you while you slept.

Have you ever thought about the fact that when Jesus shows up to be baptized, at the ripe age of 30, he has done absolutely nothing noteworthy? He hasn’t yet healed anyone or preached to thousands or multiplied bread. He hasn’t yet been crucified or resurrected. When Jesus shows up at the edge of the Jordan River, he arrives from a life of relative anonymity, being known mostly as a carpenter or as Joseph’s son. After hearing about Jesus’ birth and a brief story about his boyhood, we find him again as a grown man at the banks of the Jordan. He’s one in the crowd, probably squinting in the sun, sand gritty between his toes.

And so it’s remarkable that when Jesus emerges from the water after being baptized, the heavens part and a voice is heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus hasn’t yet done anything that many would find impressive. It would make more sense if the Father’s proud announcement over Jesus came after something grand and glorious—a triumphant moment after feeding the 5,000 or the big reveal after raising Lazarus from the dead. But instead, this proud announcement over Jesus is made before he has done anything noteworthy.

Did you know that this same pronouncement is spoken over you each morning you wake up? You may not see the heavens part, doves descend, or hear a booming voice, but each morning you open your eyes, before you have done anything productive or impressive, as you lay there with tangled hair and bad breath, God speaks the same blessing over you: “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”

This blessing is spoken over each and every one of us whether we know it or not. But it is one thing for the blessing to be spoken, it is another for us to believe it.

Because when you first wake up, if you’re anything like me, it’s hard to believe that anyone could be well pleased with me, as I sit there in my pajamas, wiping crusties from eyes and trying to remember what I’m supposed to do today.

There’s a vulnerability in our waking up. If we’re honest, few of us want to be seen as we first emerge from bed in the morning. We haven’t yet showered or dressed or brushed our teeth or applied make up. It’s kind of like that horrible recurring dream where you show up in public wearing nothing but your underwear. Who has had a dream like that?

Well, that’s happened to me before. And it wasn’t a dream.

It was my junior year of college and I was a resident assistant, in charge of enforcing dormitory codes and offering events for about 20 guys on my dorm floor. And one Friday night, I wanted to offer a fun, safe alternative event for guys who normally liked to go party, so I had the great idea of going to play Frisbee golf on campus in our underwear.

Frisbee golf was a campus tradition where you took a Frisbee and tried to get it to hit different markers across campus in the fewest number of throws. So I thought it would be a fun twist to go do it after dark in our underwear. Which was great; it was a lot of fun…until one of the guys accidentally broke a window on the all-women’s dorm.

So if you can picture the scene. It’s dark outside, there’s about 20 freshmen guys running around in their underwear, kind of freaking out that one of them just broke a window. Meanwhile, about a dozen women come pouring out of the dorm to see what the ruckus was. And in the midst of such chaos, wouldn’t you believe, one of my bosses, a quite stern resident director walks up to me with a look on his face that is not too happy. And remember, I’m in my underwear. He walks up to me and I’ll tell you that he didn’t come up to tell me that I’m beloved and he’s well pleased in me. It was quite the opposite.

So standing there in nothing but my underwear I had to explain the situation and apologize and wrangle all the guys to head back to our dorm. It is probably in my top three most embarrassing moments. I’ve never felt so exposed before.

If I had to guess, I bet that most of us have a fear of getting caught in our underwear. Because when you’re in nothing but your underwear, you’re exposed and vulnerable. You don’t have anything to cover up with.

It may be weird to think about, but Jesus was probably baptized in his underwear. In front of the crowd he probably stripped down to his underwear before wading into the water to be baptized. I wonder if Jesus felt a bit exposed and vulnerable like I know I would.

But as Job shamelessly said, “Naked I entered the world from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall leave it.” We came into this world naked and vulnerable, not yet able to cover ourselves with any achievements or a dress ourselves in a put-together identity. We’re not yet able to work to prove how impressive or worthy we are.

And the same is true of us when we die. There’s something about aging and nearing closer to death that makes all those things we try to cover ourselves up with seem less valuable, even trivial.

Waking up each day, especially those first few moments of opening our eyes and reorienting to the world can be a sacred practice of receiving God’s proud blessing over you. Because whether you wake up with aches and pains, whether you wake quickly or slowly, whether you wake looking forward to the day or dreading the day ahead, imagine how it might feel to wake up and receive God’s blessing spoken over you: “You are my beloved child and in you I am well pleased.”

Ironically, I think the morning is when we are most able to receive this word of grace. Because in the morning we are most stripped and laid bare of all our accomplishments and productive successes that we think make us put together and worth something; we’re probably still in our underwear or our pajamas, we haven’t yet buttoned up into our identity that we will wear around for the day. In the morning as you first wake up, you’re just you at your most basic level. You’re vulnerable, you’re unimpressive. And you are beloved exactly that way.

Today we get to return again to the communion table. And we are invited by God to come receive communion in nothing but our underwear. Not literally of course. Please keep your clothes on…we are a pro-clothes church. But metaphorically you are invited to come receive God’s grace exactly as you are underneath all the things you try to cover up with to feel put together. God doesn’t care if you’re put together. God doesn’t care if you’ve done anything impressive or noteworthy. God doesn’t care if you’re wearing a suit or nothing but your underwear. All God cares about is blessing you.

May you receive God’s blessing over you today. And when you wake up tomorrow and each day following, may you receive the gift of a new day as a wonderful grace. A grace that as time you wake up and begin rubbing your eyes, whispers, “You are my beloved child; in you I am well pleased.”