|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting||January 19, 2020||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational Meeting||Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42|
|➤First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2020||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 3:13-17|
|Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2020||The Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas 2, Year A||January 5, 2020||Christmas II, Year A||Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Psalm 84|
|Christmas Eve, Year A||December 24, 2019||The Eve of the Nativity||Luke 2:14|
|Advent 3, Year A||December 15, 2019||Advent 3, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10|
|Advent 2, Year A – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||December 8, 2019||Advent 2, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|Advent 1, Year A||December 1, 2019||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Pentecost, Year C||November 24, 2019||Last Pentecost, Christ the King||Luke 23:33-43|
|Pentecost 23, Year C||November 17, 2019||Pentecost 23, Year C, Proper 28||Luke 21:5-19|
|Pentecost 22, Year C||November 10, 2019||Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:38|
|All Saints, Year C||November 3, 2019||All Saints’ Sunday, Year C 2019||Luke 6:20-31|
|Pentecost 20, Year C||October 27, 2019||Pentecost 2, Proper 25, Year C||2 Timothy 4:6-8|
|Pentecost 19, Year C||October 20, 2019||Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24||Luke 18:1-8|
|Pentecost 18, Year C||October 13, 2019||Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A
Sermon Date:January 12, 2020
Scripture: Matthew 3:13-17
Liturgy Calendar: First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A
Selections from the “Baptism Covenant”, Book of Common Prayer
What if you truly believe that the power of the Holy Spirit has been set free in you?
How would your life change?
Look what happened when the Spirit of God descended on Jesus!
Jesus left his hometown and his life became an electrifying ministry of preaching, teaching, healing, casting out demons and making God’s kingdom visible to all people who had their eyes open.
So how would our life together here at St Peter’s change if we truly believed that the power of the Holy Spirit has descended on us and set us free for ministry?
St Peter’s has gone through some changes over the last year or two that have a discouraging feel.
We have lost members—the Muhlys and Dave Fannon and the Gayles have moved away and more moves are coming.
Our budget is smaller because the people who left aren’t pledging this year.
In 2019, our Sunday attendance at Sunday worship dropped from 40 people to 37.
And the list could go on.
But through the power of the Holy Spirit, despite these changes, our lives together are actually full of power, resurrection and new growth.
Our baptismal vows give us the words to help us remember how to stay powerful, and to keep growing, even if we get discouraged.
And so, as we remember the baptism of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we get to review our own baptismal vows again today. These vows spell out the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, the people of God, here at St Peter’s.
Open your prayer books to page 292.
The first thing we do is to reaffirm the fact that at our baptisms we have said a BIG FAT NO to evil and that we renew our commitment to Jesus Christ.
And, we remind ourselves of what we believe as this the body of Christ in this world.
And then, over on page 293, “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?”
When we gather to worship, when we gather to study God’s word, when we gather to pray, when we gather to share the Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven together, then we grow more powerful as a church.
In 2020, to make time to worship together is a choice that we make in the face of many other competing interests. Our present-day culture offers any number of things to do on Sunday morning other than to spend an hour with our fellow Christians in worship.
Show up! Ideally, coming to worship is to help yourself and everyone around you get your spiritual batteries charged up for the week. Get encouraged, support one another, maybe even get challenged to see something in a new or more complete way! Ideally, spending an hour in worship helps us all to go out to love and serve the Lord with intention when we leave this place each week.
The next vow is to persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord.
To persevere in resisting evil is important for us to do—because evil is constantly trying to separate Christians from one another. Remember that old song, “United we stand, divided we fall?” by the Brotherhood of Man? “And if our backs should ever be against the wall, we’ll be together,” the refrain goes. And Jesus himself said that a house divided against itself cannot stand, a statement famously quoted by President Abraham Lincoln.
Part of persevering in resisting evil is to examine with regularity the ways in which we are tempted to separate from one another, or to settle for division. Church splits are ugly—when people get so convinced of their own rightness that the community ends up dividing. These splits can happen over something as trivial as what color to paint the front doors of the church to something as profound as a theological doctrine like whether or not the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son or proceeded only from the Father—a debate that split the Eastern and Western Church way back in 1054, to the ongoing detriment of all Christians in the centuries since.
Does this desire to be united mean that we all must have the same viewpoints or understandings in our church about controversial subjects?
I had mixed emotions on hearing that the Methodists have decided to divide their denomination over the issue of homosexuality. Apparently, each Methodist church can decide on its particular stance on this issue and then become part of the side of the denomination that has that same viewpoint. Is that good or bad? I don’t know, but I think that perhaps the chance for challenging growth on both sides of the issue gets lost when a division of this sort takes place and people can quietly retreat to their own corners. Peace, of a sort, is maintained, but what gets lost?
Our baptismal vows remind us of the essentials of what we, as Christians agree on—our belief in God: God being Trinitarian, and then that we are to be the church in the world by loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. People in the church, being in love with God and with one another, can persevere in resisting the temptation to become divided and split apart over our differing ideas on how we are to go about loving God and one another–although the peace that comes of being only with people who think alike is certainly a temptation.
The next vow is to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. Several years ago now the Holy Spirit freed us and empowered us to share the good news of Christ through the Village Harvest food distribution. Good for us! But what else is the Holy Spirit empowering us to do? Freeing us to do?
We Episcopalians tend to keep the Good News under wraps. You can see glimpses of the Good News based on the things we do in the community—but the power of the Holy Spirit is calling on us to be more direct in our words and actions as we proclaim the Good News of God in Christ Jesus—not just the Good News of God, but the Good News of God in Christ—because we are Christians!
Who would like to cover Port Royal with a door to door campaign, sharing the love of God through Jesus with our neighbors? If we took that project on, would the Holy Spirit give us the power to do it? I believe that the answer is YES.
The next vow is to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. This vow starts in our families. If we can’t love and serve the people in our own families, how can we love and serve our neighbors? Again, this is a tricky issue. My guess is that all of us have heard the news about The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, who have decided to step back from their roles as senior members of the royal family. Whether or not you cheer them on as they claim some freedom, or wish they would keep their traditional roles, this latest rift in the royal family is an echo of rifts that go back for generations. Closer to home, do you routinely fight with your spouse or family members? If so, are you actively trying to be a more loving person by working on your temptation to fly off the handle, working for reconciliation rather than continuing an ongoing war or even an uneasy truce? And of course, reconciliation is a two way street. The only way to solve a rift may be to leave. But to love one another is to exit, if that becomes necessary, with forgiveness, even when reconciliation seems to be out of the question.
One of my friends once told me that before she divorced her first husband, she was so angry that one day she took all of their Waterford crystal outside and hurled each piece to the sidewalk, turning something functional and beautiful into a pile of dangerous shards. Maybe a trip to the thrift shop would have been a better approach, although not nearly as satisfying in the moment.
What about you? How could you love God better in the ways that you deal with the people that God sends your way in this life? I guarantee that the Holy Spirit will set us free to love powerfully if we open our hearts to God’s love for us and remember that God loves our enemies just as much as God loves each one of us.
The next vow–Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
This vow is particularly tricky, because our understandings of what justice is and what peace is vary wildly, even among Christians.
For instance, Christians are right to life people who want Roe vs. Wade abolished, and Christians are also the “women should have a choice” people, who want abortion to continue to be legal.
Well meaning Christians on both sides of this issue both believe in justice—but justice for whom? And dignity for every human being—how does dignity for every human being play out in this issue? Issues around abortion are an example of how issues about justice can divide Christians—and this issue has no easy answers, even though we give in to the temptation to define this issue in either/or terms.
Another controversial topic that divides Christians today is that phrase we hear—”The sin of racism.” When it comes to peace among all people, sometimes the better plan seems to be not to even mention the word “racism” in this country—because that one word can create so much ill will and shut down conversations before they even start. We Americans know that our country has suffered from its inception over issues around skin color. So how do we even talk about justice and peace around an issue that has been relegated to a distant past by some Christians but an issue that is still very much alive and still problematic for others?
So by now you are probably wondering what you have gotten yourself into by ever taking these baptismal vows or renewing them, or even coming to church at all!
But remember! This church is already full of power, resurrection and new growth.
The Holy Spirit empowers us and frees us to do God’s work in the world as we struggle, question, and discern as the people of God, doing so alongside one another in our differences.
So let’s celebrate the power of the Holy Spirit and keep supporting one another as we struggle and work together to bring the Good News of God in Christ to the world–
Remember! The Holy Spirit really has filled us with power and set us free to love God and one another through our baptisms, both at home, here at St Peter’s, and out in the world.
So let’s do this thing! Let’s go forth peacefully rejoicing in the power of the Spirit to love and to serve the Lord. And let’s go together.