List of Sermons
First Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B
St Peter's Episcopal, Port Royal, VA
First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B
And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart, and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
James Wallace says that
When Jesus is baptized in the River Jordan, three things happen in quick succession.
First, Jesus sees the heavens torn apart.
Second, the Spirit descends on him like a dove.
Third, a voice from heaven confirms his identity.
“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
“This is the moment of Jesus’ own epiphany, the Father revealing Jesus to himself as beloved Son.” (James Wallace, Lift Up Your Hearts: Homilies and Reflections for the “B” Cycle, p 52).
And our baptisms are the moment of our own epiphanies. We, too, are the beloved children of God.
God gives us three gifts at our baptisms.
The first gift is the gift of an open door.
At Jesus’ baptism, as Joel Marcus states so poetically, “God has ripped the heavens irrevocably apart at Jesus’ baptism, never to shut them again. Through this gracious gash in the universe, he has poured forth his Spirit into the earthly realm.” (Joel Marcus, Mark 1-8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, p 165.).
This great gash in the universe is the gift of the open door, the door in heaven which stands open in Chapter 3 of the last book of the Bible, Revelation.
This open door is set before us, which no one is able to shut, the doorway of God’s saving grace present in our lives.
The second gift is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Just as the wind or spirit of God sweeps over the waters and a new creation comes from the formless void and darkness,
And just as the Spirit descends upon Jesus,
So through the water of our own baptisms, we are reborn by the Holy Spirit, and we have the opportunity to become a new creation, just as the formless void became God’s new creation of heaven and earth, at the beginning of time in Genesis,
just as at the end of time as we know it all will be made new when the reign of God comes down from heaven to earth. “Behold, I make all things new.”
The third gift is the gift of God’s blessing.
God said to Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased. God delighted in Jesus, just as God delighted in all of creation and saw that all that God made was good.
We human beings are part of God’s creation, and God delights in us, just God delighted in the miracle of creation that God brought forth at the beginning of time, especially in humankind:
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them;… and God blessed them.”
An open door, the Holy Spirit, God’s blessing.
These three gifts of baptism stand before us.
First, choose to walk through the open door into the presence of God. God will never leave you, even when you are in danger, or trouble.
God will be with you even in the valley of the shadow of death.
Second, choose the Holy Spirit so that God can make you new.
When we choose to be made new, we become a part of making God’s creation new—because when we are filled with the Holy Spirit , we are equipped with the power to do God’s work, which is, as Howard Thurman describes our work as Christians--
“To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner
To rebuild the nations
TO bring peace among the people,
To make music in the heart.” (James Wallace, Lift Up your Hearts, pg 53).
Third, receive God’s blessing.
Imagine what it would be like to hear your father or mother say to you,
“You are my beloved child, and I am delighted in you, and pleased with you.”
From what I hear, very few people actually hear these words from their parents. Instead, our earthly parents constantly challenge us to do better, to measure up, to improve, to correct us, and to punish us when we don’t measure up. Unfortunately, many people have never heard their fathers say to them,
“I love you, son.” “I love you, daughter.” “You thrill me, I am delighted in you.”
But God says these words to us at our baptisms, and even when we mess up, even when we need improvement and don’t measure up, God corrects us in the context of His love for us.
Imagine what your life might become if you lived in the freedom of God’s love and blessing and delight in you, rather than feeling that you will never be good enough.
Today, as we renew our baptismal vows, may each of us have the audacity to accept these gifts that God has freely given to us at our baptisms, so that each one of us can become the manifestation of God’s blessings and love in this world.