|➤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|
|Pentecost 24 – Diocesan Convention (Rt. Rev. Phoebe Roaf, Bishop of the Diocese of West Tennessee)||November 15, 2020||Pentecost 24, Proper 28||Matthew 25:14-30|
|Pentecost 23, Year A||November 8, 2020||Pentecost 23, Proper 27, Year A||Matthew 25:1-13|
|All Saints, Year A||November 1, 2020||All Saints' Sunday, Year A||1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12|
|Pentecost 21, Year A||October 25, 2020||Pentecost 21, Proper 25, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; Matthew 22:34-46|
|Pentecost 20, Year A||October 18, 2020||Pentecost 20, Proper 24, Year A||I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Psalm 96|
|Pentecost 19, Year A||October 11, 2020||Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year A||Philippians 4:1-9|
|Pentecost 18, Year A||October 4, 2020||Pentecost 18, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B
Sermon Date:January 10, 2021
Scripture: Genesis 1:1-5, Mark 1:4-11
Liturgy Calendar: First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B
The Baptism of Christ – Joachim Patinir (1510-20)
This is the Sunday when we recall the baptism of Jesus.
One reason we return to the banks of the Jordan River on this first Sunday after the Epiphany every year is because Jesus’ baptism makes clear his identity as God’s beloved Son.
Mark does not start his gospel with an account of the birth of Jesus.
Instead, for Mark, this baptismal scene is serves as the creation/birth story of Jesus, with John the baptizer serving in the role of a midwife.
Jesus’ baptismal birth mirrors the way we humans are born.
All of us are born out of water, having been surrounded by amniotic fluid while we are in the womb. Those of us who have given birth have experienced a tearing apart as a child has pushed its way out into the world from the security and comfort of the womb water which has surrounded the child until birth.
As Jesus comes out of the baptismal water of the Jordan River, the heavens are torn apart. God is giving birth to God’s Son.
God is no stranger to giving birth. At the beginning, God gives birth to creation itself, creating heaven and earth out of a formless void, the deep, the shapeless face of the waters.
God speaks and says, “Let there be light.” And with these words, the formless darkness is torn apart, and light, just born, rushes out.
God also speaks at this baptismal creation story of Jesus. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
We parents say similar things at the birth or adoption of our children. “You are my son! You are my daughter! I love you, little one! Look how beautiful you are!” God said to Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
For Mark, this birth story of Jesus is also a birth story of our understanding of the Trinity.
The nature of the Trinity becomes visible as the Spirit descends like a dove on Jesus and God’s voice speaks. Readers and hearers of the gospel according to Mark can see that each person of the Trinity is in relationship with the other two, in divine and creative continual love, like womb water, in which all reside together, complete and inseparable throughout eternity. Not only does the Trinity exist in love but is also continually giving birth to love.
Our baptisms are also our birth stories.
God calls us into a new creation—at our baptisms, God calls us in and welcomes into the loving womb water in which the Trinity resides, so that we too can grow up into love, complete and inseparable from God.
Jesus Christ also welcomes us into the love of the Trinity at our baptisms. Our baptisms remind us that Jesus came to pitch his tent among us, and to live and die as one of us, to suffer with us, to overcome death and to show us the way through suffering to resurrection life. The cross, the symbol of suffering and death, comes to mind at baptism as the person being baptized is (in many baptismal traditions) submerged in baptismal water and then brought up and out of that baptismal water into new life, a reminder that it is through the grave and gate of death that we pass with Jesus to our joyful resurrection, as the Book of Common Prayer says.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus remind us that not only the joys, but the hardships and sorrows of life, and the journeys through suffering and death which we must all undergo, are sacred, and that birth and new life will follow death.
At our baptisms, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever.
A dove is such a perfect image for the Holy Spirit. Homing pigeons are doves. These birds are trained to fly home from long distances.
So when we are “sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever” at baptism, the Spirit resides in us—and the Spirit can bring us home—the Spirit is continually showing us the way back to Jesus when we get off track, and the Spirit draws us back home into that Trinitarian love in which God welcomes us to live in now and through eternity.
Today’s service opened with the opening lines of Holy Baptism.
“There is one Body and one Spirit; There is one hope in God’s call to us; One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; One God and Father of all.”
A familiar hymn by Peter Scholte says that “we are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord, and we pray that all unity will one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, and they will know that we are Christians by our love.”
Oneness, Unity, Love. Our new baptismal births help us to grow into an awareness that we are to live lives of Trinitarian love, growing into being One in the Spirit and One in the Lord. Living in God’s love then makes our love for each person of the Trinity a reality, and our ever deepening love for one another possible.
Our mission is to carry this life restoring Trinitarian love out into the world through our own humanity, as Jesus did. Our baptismal vows give us specific directions for bearing God’s love in the world. But we can’t be “on” all the time! Each one of us will go through our own unique birth, deaths and resurrections in this one lifetime. Sometimes we will be tired, or discouraged, or our faith will be challenged. But the Holy Spirit will always be bringing us back home to exist ever more deeply in that Trinitarian love, where we can rest and then grow some more and be born again into the world as God’s welcoming people, united in love and uniting in love.
There’s something to that phrase, “Being born again.”
Birth and the results of birth are generally very visible. When a baby is born, people celebrate. When the winter wheat appears, I don’t know about you, but my heart leaps with joy because of this very visible sign that spring is surely on the way even though there’s snow on the ground. We celebrate the harvests that result from the fullness of birth from seeds sown in the spring. These celebrations extend back to Biblical times.
Baptism is a cause for celebration. Today, we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, a visible birth of new ministry in the world.
During the season after Epiphany, we will be witnessing the very public ways in which Jesus carried out his ministry in the world, so that people became more and more aware of who his Father was. These reactions were not always positive and eventually led to Jesus’ death on a cross.
His example is one we must take to heart, as baptized people. A sign of living in Trinitarian love is that the results in our lives of that love are visible, and proactive. Resting in the womb of love is the prelude to the work of love that Jesus calls taking up our crosses and following him.
We have had to spend almost a year now on the internet due to the virus, but that time of gathering by simply sitting in front of our computer screens will end and we will be able to gather in person once more.
And during this odd time, God’s love has surrounded us and united us in some new ways even as we’ve been separated in person. I’m starting to feel that we have been in the Trinitarian womb of God’s love. We are in the process of being reborn. We will be a new creation when we return.
I strongly believe that God is bringing us, this church, to new birth, so that we can more fully give birth to God’s love out in the world.
So let’s pray for God’s help as prepare for our own rebirths and the rebirth of our church in this world, and for the ways that God will be giving us to bring God’s love to birth in the world.