First Sunday after the Epiphany, Baptism of Jesus

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Last Sunday after the Epiphany February 26, 2017 Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Matthew 17:1-9
Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany February 19, 2017 Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Leviticus 19:1-2, I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 12, 2017 Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany February 5, 2017 Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Reflections on Annual Convention, Susan Tilt January 29, 2017 4th Sunday after the Epiphany Matthew 5:1-12
Third Sunday after the Epiphany January 22, 2017 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Psalm 27:1, 5-13, Matthew 4:12-23
Second Sunday after the Epiphany January 15, 2017 Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42
First Sunday after the Epiphany, Baptism of Jesus January 8, 2017 The Baptism of our Lord, Year A The Book of Common Prayer
Epiphany January 6, 2017 Epiphany 2017 Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12
Christmas Day, Year A December 25, 2016 Christmas Day, 2016 Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-4, Psalm 98, John 1:1-14
The Eve of the Nativity December 24, 2016 Christmas Eve Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2: 1-20
Third Sunday in Advent, Year A December 11, 2016 Third Sunday of Advent, Year A Psalm 146:4-9, Matthew 11:2-11
Second Sunday in Advent, Year A December 4, 2016 Second Sunday of Advent, Year A Matthew 3:1-12
First Sunday in Advent, Year A November 27, 2016 First Sunday of Advent, Year A Isaiah 2:1-5, Ps 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44
Christ the King Sunday, Year C November 20, 2016 Christ the King Sunday, Year C Jeremiah 23:1-6. Ps 46, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43


First Sunday after the Epiphany, Baptism of Jesus

Sermon Date:January 8, 2017

Scripture: The Book of Common Prayer

Liturgy Calendar: The Baptism of our Lord, Year A

“Baptism of Christ” – Dave Zelenka

PDF version

This is the Sunday each year when we renew our baptismal vows. This renewal also happens at the Easter Vigil. 

Baptism is one of the church’s sacraments.

Sacrament is a church word that you need to know.   A sacrament is something we can see, “an outward and visible sign” of an inward and spiritual grace.  In other words, we can see, through a sacrament, something that otherwise would be invisible.  The act of baptism makes our covenant with God as God’s adopted children visible.  Bread and wine make Jesus’ presence in our midst at the Eucharist tangible, a presence we can see, touch, and receive.

And so today I’d like to spend some time looking into The Book of Common Prayer at Holy Baptism.  In The Episcopal Church, we are blessed with a baptismal liturgy that fleshes out the words with which all Christians are baptized—“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The liturgy helps us to understand being brought into the life of God, as God’s adopted children actually means, and how our lives are changed when we become God’s adopted children. 

As God’s adopted children, we are given a new way of life, spelled out for us in our baptismal vows. 

Sometime you might want to read page 298, Concerning the Service, and the Additional Directions on 312.  These pages set Holy Baptism into the context of Sunday worship, provide directions,  and give some specific instructions regarding sponsors.

Here at St Peter’s, we usually baptize infants.  On Page 301 in the BCP is the Presentation and Examination of the Candidates.  The parents and godparents who bring a child to be baptized take responsibility for seeing that the child will be brought up in the Christian faith and life.  New to this prayer book is asking the parents to  make a commitment to prayer and witness to help their child grow into the full stature of Christ, but the idea goes back to prayer books as early as 1551.

The questions and answers at the bottom of page 302 are known as The Renunciations.  In this section the parents and godparents renounce three things–Satan, the forces of wickedness and the evil powers which corrupt and destroy, and sinful desires that draw us from the love of God.  These are the things that keep us from enjoying the goodness of God’s creation, so we renounce them.

The Act of Adherence is at the bottom of page 302 and the top of page 303.  This act exchanges Satan, whom we’ve just renounced, for Jesus as Lord of our lives. In this section are three things to which we agree to adhere.   In his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, Marion Hatchett states that “the three questions summarize what it means to be a Christian:  to turn to Jesus and accept him as our Savior; to put one’s whole trust in His grace and love; and to follow and obey Him as Lord.”

So already we see that in baptism, we are actively turning to Jesus as the Lord of our lives, the one we will try to follow, to love and to obey. 

Confirmation is the sacrament in which a person who is baptized as an infant makes the decision for himself or herself to turn from Satan and to turn to Jesus and to follow and obey him as the Lord and make a public affirmation of that decision. A person being confirmed is confirming his or her allegiance to Jesus as Lord and Savior.   The presentation of that person to the bishop takes place on page 303.

Then we come to the question asked to the congregation at the bottom of page 303.  Here we promise to support the person being baptized in his or her life in Christ, and then we renew our own baptismal vows.

Look on page 304 for The Baptismal Covenant.

Remember that a covenant is a contract between two parties. In the Bible God makes promises to the people and expects certain behavior in return.  In the Baptismal Covenant, as God’s adopted children, we behave in specific ways based on who we believe God to be and on our relationship with God.    

Hatchett says that “from New Testament times, to be baptized was to confess the faith.”  The creeds themselves grew out of the forms used during baptism—I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

The next five questions spell out what we need to do to keep God’s will and commandments.  We often hear these promises referred to as our baptismal vows because these are the things that we are promising God that we will do as part of our covenant with God through our baptisms.  We promise to be committed to our community life as Christians.  That means that we participate in teaching and in fellowship.  We participate in the Eucharist, and we pray together.  We promise to resist evil, and when we fail, to repent and return to the Lord.  We promise to proclaim by word and by the ways in which we live what we have said we believe—the Good News of God in Christ.  And then come the really challenging promises about how we will live a life of service out in the world—seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being. 

In the Prayers for the Candidates, we pray that they can carry out what has been promised and to be brought at last into God’s peace and glory.  

The Thanksgiving over the Water is on page 306.  Although the early church fathers stated that all water is blessed for baptism already because of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan, prayers over the baptismal water go back to the year 215.  The prayer in our prayer book recalls the waters of creation, the exodus, and the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.  In addition, the water in the baptismal font is portrayed as a bath, a womb and a tomb.

We pray that those being baptized may be cleansed, reborn, buried, and resurrected in Jesus Christ. 

In our Diocese, the Consecration of the Chrism, the oil used for anointing, is done by the Bishop on Maundy Thursday and given to the priests for use throughout the year.

Anointing oil is rich in meaning.  Oil is a symbol of baptism in the New Testament.  The title “Christ” means “anointed one,” and the use of oil at baptisms dates back to the 2nd century, or maybe even earlier.  The custom fell into disuse in the reformation churches and the custom of using oil was not restored to the prayer book until this 1979 addition.  It symbolizes the connection between baptism and the bishop.  

The words for The Baptism appear on Page 307.  The person’s name is spoken, followed by the baptismal formula which comes from Matthew 28:19.  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Hatchett points out that we all say Amen after the baptism to show that we as a congregation “pledge to support the newly baptized in their life in Christ.”  This Amen is our congregational seal on the baptism.  

At last we come to The Post Baptismal Rites.  I mark the head of the person who has just been baptized with the sign of the cross with oil or with the baptismal water to indicate that the newly baptized has been sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. 

And then there is a prayer of thanksgiving for the baptism, including the following petitions—to give the baptized person an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love God, and the gift of joy and wonder in all of God’s works.

And then we welcome the newly baptized into our midst with these words that all of us say.  “We receive you into the household of God.  Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”

When Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan, he was indicating his own adherence to the reign of God that the prophet John proclaimed was near.

Jesus, through his own baptism, made visible his allegiance to God’s reign on earth.  Jesus is making a public and visible commitment to a right relationship with God, and promising to lead a life of faithfulness and justice in front of all who are gathered on Jordan’s banks. 

The fact that Jesus chose to be baptized helps us to see that we too are promising to lead lives that reflect the realities of God’s reign of peace, justice, and righteousness present on this earth here and now, even though this reign has not yet been fully realized in the world. 

But through our baptisms, God’s reign begins to work itself out visibly in the world in ways both large and small, through us, in the ways we choose to live out our baptismal vows.



Resource:  Hatchett, Marion J.  Commentary on the American Prayer Book. New York:  The Seabury Press, 1981.   


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