|Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 7, 2021||Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||John 2:13-22|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||February 28, 2021||Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Mark 8:31-38|
|First Sunday in Lent, Year B||February 21, 2021||First Sunday in Lent, Year B 2021||Genesis 9:8-17, Mark 1:9-15|
|Ash Wednesday sermon – “This is the season to unlock the doors of our hearts”||February 17, 2021||Ash Wednesday, Year B||Isaiah 58:1-12, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 14, 2021||The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 7, 2021||Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 24, 2021||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||I Corinthians7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 10, 2021||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Genesis 1:1-5, Mark 1:4-11|
|Epiphany, Jan. 2021||January 6, 2021||Epiphany, Year B,||Psalm 72, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Eve, Year B, 2020||December 24, 2020||Christmas Eve, Year B||Luke 2:1-20|
|Fourth Sunday of Advent – Messages of Hope||December 20, 2020||Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B 2020||Luke 1:26-38, 46-55|
|Third Sunday of Advent – “I’m not the one”||December 13, 2020||Third Sunday of Advent, Year B||Isaiah 6:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8,19-28|
|Second Sunday of Advent – Repentance||December 6, 2020||Second Sunday of Advent, Year B
||Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8|
|First Sunday of Advent – The Waiting||November 29, 2020||First Sunday of Advent, Year B 2020||Isaiah 64:1-9, I Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-27|
|Last Pentecost – Christ the King, Year A||November 22, 2020||Christ the King Sunday, Year A||Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46|
First Sunday after Epiphany
Sermon Date:January 13, 2013
Scripture: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Liturgy Calendar: First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C
The designers of our lectionary have chosen scriptures for the season of Epiphany that allow us to see that Jesus , the human being who is born as a tiny child and grows up to live and die as one of us, is truly the Son of God, and our Lord and Savior.
Knowing Jesus helps us to see beyond the things that are around us, to understand with a wisdom that is deeper than human knowledge.
The story of the baptism of Jesus is always the first Sunday after the Epiphany. In this story, after his baptism, Jesus sees in a new way, he gains new sight.
There beside the River Jordan, standing on the muddy bank in the midst of the other people that have been baptized on that same day, Jesus sees beyond his physical surroundings as he prays. He sees heaven open. The Holy Spirit descends upon him in bodily form like a dove. And Jesus hears a voice from heaven.
“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
For Christians, baptism is the rite of initiation into the Church. Through baptism we become members of the Body of Christ.
And baptism also brings to us the opportunity for a new way of seeing. Through baptism, we also are given new sight.
Although we don’t have a baptism today, and those of you who were baptized as infants don’t remember your baptisms, we know what happens at a baptism. After the blessing of the water, I pour water over the person’s head and I say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
And then, I mark the person’s forehead with the sign of the cross, and say,
“You are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and marked as Christ’s own forever.”
This place on our foreheads has been known throughout history as the place of the third eye, the all seeing eye. This tradition has been passed down through ancient mystery teachings. This eye is the eye that is depicted on our dollar bills.
I was fascinated to find that the pineal gland is called the third eye.
The pineal gland, in case you’ve forgotten your high school biology, which I had, is located deep inside the brain, tucked into the area where the two hemispheres of the brain come together.
Mystical traditions since the time of ancient Egypt have considered this area of the brain, the pineal gland, as the connecting link between the physical and spiritual worlds.
Today we know that the pineal gland controls the biorhythms of the body, and it produces melatonin, the chemical that controls our sleep/wake cycle, and this sleep/wake cycle is incredibly important to our physical, mental and spiritual health.
Richard Rohr is a Catholic Franciscan friar who has written extensively on how we integrate our times of prayer with the actions that we take in our lives. In his book The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, Rohr describes the idea of the third eye as a way of bringing together everything we take in through seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and feeling along with our knowledge and reason into an integrated way of understanding—what Rohr calls “presence.”
Rohr says that “presence” happens when “by some wondrous ‘coincidence,’ our heart space, our mind space, and our body awareness are all simultaneously open and nonresistant….it is experienced as a moment of deep inner connection, and it always pulls you, intensely satisfied, into the naked and undefended now, which can involve both profound joy and profound sadness at the very same time.” Rohr refers to this level of awareness as “having the mind of Christ.”
This level of awareness, having the mind of Christ, comes through prayer—the opening of the third eye, connecting heaven and earth.
In the gospel today, Luke tells us (and he’s the only one of the four gospel writers who provides this detail) that Jesus was praying when the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended, and he heard the voice from heaven telling him that you are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
And for me, this detail is a key element of the baptismal story. Jesus was baptized only once, as we are baptized only once, but the renewal of our baptism, and the opening of our third eye through prayer, is a lifelong process. And we gain this renewal, this energy, this openness, this awareness, this deeper way of seeing, through the daily practice of prayer.
I went to a collage class this past Tuesday, and the process that the artist taught us made me think of my daily prayer time.
First of all, each one of us took a blank sheet of water color paper. We used paint to make a background, and then on top of this painted background, we added the pictures we found that brought to mind the projects that we want to focus on in this New Year. The completed collages give each one of us something to focus on, to help us be mindful about what we’d like to accomplish this year.
When I sit down to pray each morning, I allow at least twenty or thirty minutes of time. You might say that I start out with that blank sheet of paper. As I enter into silence, the people I’m praying for come to mind, like paint going onto the paper. Other concerns and intentions show up in the silence, and these go onto the paper. My many blessings and praise of God go onto the paper. All of these things provide the background for the next part of my prayer.
For me, the next part of the prayer is about entering into God’s presence and love, just seeing into the darkness, listening into the silence. It’s during this time that sometimes the heavens open and I feel drenched in God’s love. Sometimes I feel that profound joy and profound sadness that Richard Rohr describes. Sometimes nothing happens.
But if I’ve really prayed that day, then the events of the day and God’s ongoing presence with me through the day, help me create the rest of that day’s prayer collage with the mind of Christ—Christlike things to place on the background of prayer that I’ve painted on my blank sheet of paper that morning.
At the end of the day, the prayer collage I’ve created tells me whether or not I’ve spent the day in God’s presence, or if I’ve wondered away from God. Those dissonant pieces that end up in my collage tell me what I need to confess and where I need forgiveness. So I offer those up, knowing that due to God’s mercy, I can start the next morning with a blank sheet of paper, and the chance to create something more pleasing to God the next day.
In our prayer book, we have the service of Compline, a short worship service which some people use as a way to end their day, and there’s a beautiful prayer there that goes like this.
“Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.”
You might say that we are praying that even when we go to sleep, our third eye, our connection between heaven and earth, is still open, so that even in sleep we know that God is guarding us, and with that knowledge we can rest through the night in peace.
At the beginning of this sermon, I said that knowing Jesus helps us to see beyond the things that are around us, to understand with a wisdom that is deeper than human knowledge.
Baptism helps us begin this process. We have the rest of our lives to develop this wisdom, through the daily renewal of our baptisms through prayer.
For the past two years at this service, I’ve come around to everyone and sprinkled water on you to remind you that you are God’s beloved child. The bowls of water in the windows are reminders that each one of you is a beloved child of God.
Today, instead of sprinkling water on you, I’m going to come to each of you and anoint you with this oil that has been blessed by our bishop for use at baptisms. I’m going to make the sign of the cross on your forehead, as a reminder to you that part of living into our baptismal vows is to keep our third eye open through the daily practice of prayer, because daily prayer helps us to fill us with the mind of Christ, to experience God’s constant presence with us—heaven open, the Holy Spirit descending on us, and God’s love washing over us in streams of mercy, like a cleansing flood.
(Each person receives the sign of the cross, and this statement—“May the Holy Spirit fill you with the mind of Christ and the fullness of God.” Amen)
Following Love into Mystery: The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers, by John Shea. Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN. 2010.
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, by Richard Rohr. Crossroads Publishing Company, 2009.