The First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Lent 4, Year B March 15, 2015 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21
Lent 3, Year B March 8, 2015 Third Sunday in Lent, Year B 2015 Exodus 20:1-17
Lent 2, Year B March 1, 2015 Second Sunday in Lent, Year B, 2015 Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Mark 8:31-38
Lent 1, Year B February 22, 2015 Lent 1, Year B Mark 1:9-15
Ash Wednesday, Year B February 18, 2015 Ash Wednesday, Year B Matthew 6:1-6,16-21
The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B February 15, 2015 Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B 2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Year B February 1, 2015 Luke 2:22-40 Luke 2:22-40
The Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 25, 2015 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B Mark 1:14-20
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 18, 2015 Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B I Corinthians 6:12-10
The First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 11, 2015 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B The Book of Common Prayer –Holy Baptism
Second Sunday after Christmas, Year B January 4, 2015 Second Sunday of Christmas, Year B Luke 2:41-52
Two Christmas Eve Meditations December 24, 2014 Christmas Eve, Year B Luke 2:1-20, John 1:1-5, 14, 16
Advent 3, Year B December 14, 2014 Third Sunday of Advent, Year B Psalm 126, I Thessalonians 5:16-24
Advent 2, Year B December 7, 2014 Second Sunday of Advent, Year B Mark 1:1-8
Advent 1, Year B November 30, 2014 First Sunday in Advent, Year B Mark 13:24-37


The First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

Sermon Date:January 11, 2015

Scripture: The Book of Common Prayer –Holy Baptism

Liturgy Calendar: First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

"The Baptism of Christ", Daniel Bonnell

PDF version 

On our church calendar, today is the day that we remember the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ,

And because Holy Baptism is one of the two central sacraments of our church, along with the Holy Eucharist, I’d like to spend some time today reviewing what it is that we Episcopalians believe about baptism. I’ll be glad to try to answer any questions you have after we’ve looked through this service.

The Book of Common Prayer service of Holy Baptism has developed out of the entire history of Baptism in the Christian church, looking back into Jewish initiation rites, moving through the earliest days of Christianity, through the changes brought about by the acceptance of Christianity by Rome, through Medieval times, through the Reformation, and through the various editions of the Book of Common Prayer, beginning with the first Anglican Prayer Book put together by Thomas Cranmer in 1549.

So please get out your prayer books and turn to page 298.

The Prayer Book states that “Holy Baptism is the full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble.”

So what happens in Baptism?

Now go to page 302.

This liturgy points out that we have some choices to make in our lives. Two, to be exact……

We can choose either “Satan, spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God, evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God,” or the Love of God, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and God’s grace and love for each one of us.

It’s as if we stand in the middle of these two choices, and we are making a decision when we come to the baptismal waters on which way to turn—toward Jesus Christ, and his grace and love.

And once we turn in that direction, then we promise to obey Jesus as our Lord.

On page 303, the congregation then promises to support the person being baptized in his or her life in Christ. (An aside here—this is why we place an emphasis on having Godly Play for our children in this parish—so that they can learn the foundational stories of our faith and begin to know God’s grace and love for each of them. We make a financial sacrifice as well as the sacrifice of time on the part of those of you who volunteer and help to make this program possible.)

So turning in the right direction, promising to go toward God, and supporting one another as we do so are key elements in this service.

This process is ongoing throughout our lifetimes and we remember this fact when we renew our own baptismal covenants in the question/answer format in which the baptismal covenant appears in this service.

And in this covenant, on page 304, we state what we believe and then make some promises.

Here’s what we say we believe. “I believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and in God the Holy Spirit.”

And we make some promises based on what we believe.

First, we promise to be participating members in a Christian community—coming together on a regular basis to be reminded of and to learn from the apostles’ teaching, to share in the breaking of the bread, and to pray for one another.

Second, we promise that we will make every effort to resist evil in all its forms, and that when we do sin, we’ll repent and return to the Lord.

Third, we promise to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ. In other words, our lives—both our actions and our words, need to always point toward the good news of God’s love for all of creation.

And we promise to look for Christ in all persons and to serve others, loving our neighbors as ourselves.

We also promise to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being.

In other words, we review the job description that we agreed to when we were baptized and promise all over again to be intentional about living into that job description.

These promises provide the map and the directions for our journeys through our lives as Christians.

Next, on page 305, come the prayers for the person about to be baptized. We ask that the person be delivered from sin and death, that the people being baptized will be opened to God’s grace and truth (these two prayers reflect that first choice being made at the beginning of the liturgy), that they will be filled with God’s spirit, that they will remain within the faith and communion of God’s holy church, that they will learn to love others in the power of the Spirit, that they will be witnesses in the world to God’s love, and that they will come into the fullness of God’s peace and glory. We hear echoes of our baptismal job description in these prayers.

Now we come to the prayer that I say, “Grant, O Lord, that all who are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ your Son may live in the power of his resurrection and look for him to come again in glory; who lives and reigns now and for ever.”

This prayer brings out the symbolism of death and resurrection in baptism and it also reminds us of the fact that baptism holds within it the hope of the fulfillment of God’s kingdom here on earth. This prayer reminds us that by virtue of our baptisms we enter into that time of now and not yet, when we, by turning toward God, can see those glimpses and glimmers of God’s kingdom here on earth, and hold onto our hopeful belief that this reign of God’s peace will someday come to pass.

The next words we hear are in the Thanksgiving over the Water. Marion Hatchett, in the Commentary on the American Prayer Book, says that “the prayer recalls the waters of creation, the exodus, and the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, and portrays the font, in the classical manner, as a bath, a womb and a tomb. Prayer is made that those baptized may be cleansed, reborn, and buried and resurrected in Jesus Christ.”

On Maundy Thursday of each year, the bishop blesses the oil that we priests use throughout the year at baptisms and for other anointing. This oil reminds us of Jesus as the Anointed One, the “seal” and the “royal priesthood.”

Then we come to the baptism itself. This formula is based on Matthew 28:19. “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

And then I mark the newly baptized with the sign of the cross. This marking is a reminder that through baptism, through the action of the Holy Spirit, we are marked as Christ’s own forever.

And then we welcome the newly baptized into the community as we exchange the peace with one another.

Are there any questions about this sacrament of Holy Baptism?

And in closing, I have one question for you.

What ongoing differences has your own baptism made in your life?

When we renew our baptismal vows, as we are about to do, think about what being marked as Christ’s own forever means to you.

And then decide how you want to live ever more fully into your Christian job description this year, and pray that God will give you the grace to do it.


Resource: Hatchett, Marion J. “Holy Baptism” pgs 251-285. Commentary on the American Prayer Book. New York: The Seabury Press, 1981.

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