First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C January 23, 2022 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Luke 4:14-21, I Corinthians 12:12-31a
Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C January 16, 2022 Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C John 2:1-11, Psalm 36:5-10
First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C January 9, 2022 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Second Sunday after Christmas, Epiphany Gospel January 2, 2022 Second Sunday after Christmas Matthew 2:1-12
Christmas Eve, Year C 2021 December 24, 2021 Christmas Eve, Year C Luke 2:1-20)
Advent 4, Year C, 2021 December 19, 2021 Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C 2021 Luke 1:39-45
Advent 3, Year C December 12, 2021 Advent 3, Year C 2021 Luke 3:7-18
Advent 2, Year C 2021 December 5, 2021 Second Sunday of Advent, Year C Baruch 5:1-9, Luke 3:1-6, Canticle 16 (Luke 1:68-79)
Advent 1, Year C 2021 November 28, 2021 Advent 1, Year C 2021 Psalm 25:1-9, I Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36
Christ the King, Year B November 21, 2021 Christ the King, Year B John 18:33-37, Revelation 1:4b-8
Pentecost 25, Year B November 14, 2021 Pentecost 25, Proper 28, Year B, 2021 Daniel 12:1-3, Psalm 16, Mark 13:1-8
All Saints, Year B November 7, 2021 All Saints' Sunday Year B Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9, Psalm 24, Revelation 21:1-6a, John 11:32-44`
Pentecost 23, Year B October 31, 2021 Pentecost 23, Proper 26, Year B Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Mark 12:28-34
Pentecost 22, Year B October 24, 2021 Pentecost 22, Proper 25, Year B Mark 10: 46-52
Pentecost 21, Year B October 17, 2021 Pentecost 21, Proper 24, Year B 2021 Psalm 91:9-16

 

First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

Sermon Date:January 9, 2022

Scripture: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Liturgy Calendar: First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C


Let us pray: “Come Holy Spirit and kindle in us the fire of your love. Take our minds and think through them; take our lips and speak through them, take our souls and set them on fire.” Amen 

This sermon is about the Baptism of Jesus which we celebrate today. 

I am going to begin with a subject I know little about – centerpieces which adorn dining room tables.  My idea of getting dinner ready is setting out silverware and plates – I am more concerned about what goes on in the food department rather that deciding about a centerpiece for a table. The centerpiece doesn’t relieve my hunger.  So why is the centerpiece important ?  Why is so much time and effort put in them? 

A centerpiece is an important item of a display in a table setting. Centerpieces help set the theme of the decorations and bring extra decorations to the room.  They are themselves a prime adornment, a focal point.  Your eyes are drawn to it.  Flowers, for instance, always make a gorgeous centerpiece. 

Baptism is the centerpiece of our faith.  Conveniently the symbol of baptism, the font is at the center on the altar.   I will say it once more.  Baptism is the centerpiece of our faith. They tell me if you can provide one thought that people can take home in a sermon you have done your job. So that’s it. Baptism is the centerpiece of our faith shown by the font. I can sit down now. 

The church is not just a gathering place, but where God lives and people are reconciled and united in Christ. Christ is our focal point. Like centerpiece on a table which is a symbol, baptism is also a symbol of the active presence of Christ in our lives causing us to action.  Action is the key word to make it a reality.  We say at the end of the service, “Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit. 

We entered Epiphany this previous Thursday. Epiphany represents the essence of God coming the form of Christ. 

He has been born and now for 8 weeks we see God making God known in the world through Jesus/  It is the gradual unfolding of the identity of Jesus and his ministry through scripture and song. 

Jesus’ Baptism is reported after the arrest of John signifying John’s work is complete and Jesus is just beginning.    Like Mark and Matthew, Luke records John’s denial of his own importance.

Jesus is born and then is given a kick start into his ministry through his baptism which we celebrate today.  It is no wonder that Jesus baptism is celebrated at the beginning of the year.

What is this kickstart ?Jesus would not have been able to carry out his ministry without the blessing and empowerment from God which is a part of the baptism.  Baptism is important for establishing Jesus identity 

Spirit and sonship are distinctive parts of Jesus identity. Let’s look at both of these.

1 Coming of spirit upon Jesus commissions him and empowers him for ministry

The emphasis is on prayer and sprit descending in bodily form like a dove. This action represents the blessing from heaven.

The Holy Spirit is the creative side of God and we become part of God’s work on this planet. We walk in newness of life.  John baptized emphasizing the forgiveness of sins. But Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit  which changes us from the inside out as opposed to John’s repentance which only washed the sin away. As the scripture from Acts indicates we must receive the Holy Spirit to be baptized.  

2 Sonship –  As Jesus was praying (in Luke often a prelude to major events), the Holy Spirit descends. Jesus is now openly called the Son of God, dramatizing and confirming what was implicit in his conception (1:35). Thus Jesus is anointed for his mission and now ready to go. 

In that spirit, people entered the waters of the river, and Jesus joined them. Not only is he baptized, but he also hears the assurance of the Holy Spirit. A voice proclaims him God’s beloved, empowering him and sending him to the blind, the lame and the prisoners awaiting his good news.

The opening of heaven is the signal that he is the messiah. He is beloved and God is well pleased with him as well as the fulfillment of Israel’s longing for messiah.  The words “Well pleased” is an attribute reserved only for God in the Gospel of Luke.  He is part of the family. 

Baptism also gives us our identify and affirmation as a part of the family. Our own baptisms mark the moment in which we claim our identities as God’s beloved children. We claim the fact that, as The Book of Common Prayer puts it in the closing prayer of the Rite I Eucharist, “we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of God’s Son, the blessed company of all faithful people.” We belong not only to the church but to God as “Christ’s own forever.”  

And our own baptisms mark the beginning of our journeys through this life, journeys on which hopefully we are trying to listen to God in prayer as Jesus did, and to carry out the ministries on earth that God has laid out for each one of us to do. 

We get a certificate for baptism.    For too many people baptism is an end in itself but it is just a beginning. Just don’t hang it on the wall, make it an active part of your life.. Looking closely at Jesus baptism – It concentrates on, only the events that followed. 

The founders of St. Peters had a wonderful vision by placing the font in the center of the altar.  Baptism is central and essential to whom we are as a people. We gain our identify as Jesus did from baptism. It is in front of us each time we are in the church. 

How many of you remember Bishop Gulick?  He was passionate about two things – Baptism and Shrine Mont.  I was with him one June weekend at Shrine Mont – What an experience of joy and exuberance on that mountain top! The last time Bishop Gulick  was here in 2016 he noted the baptism font was fixed in the altar. He loved it! In many churches it is a separate table that is wheeled in for baptisms. 

Bishop Gulick made the argument that creation is not over – we are vessels of creation with our baptism. St. Augustine wrote,  “But the sacrament of baptism is undoubtedly the sacrament of regeneration.”  While the world was created, our baptism provides a necessity for us a keeping creation alive. Gulick says that we are created into the image of God but that baptism makes us three dimensional.  Baptism opens to us the possibilities of the Kingdom of God, keeping creation alive.  

From the Diocese of New York – Above all baptism speaks of action and change 

“By using the language and imagery of death, burial, and resurrection, the early Christian community ceremonially expressed, that in Baptism, we die to our destructive and distorted ways of being, relating, and acting, and that by the goodness and faithfulness of God, we are raised from death to a new life, guided by and filled with the Spirit of God. It was an outward and visible sign of the spiritual transformation God was doing in one’s life.” 

The Apostle Paul in Romans 6:3-4  talks about  a “walk in newness of life.” You can easily name examples from people your know that are experiencing newness. It can be those who feel like they need a new start or trying to keep  new years resolutions, or those beginning a new chapter in their lives , those trying to reconcile relationships, those adjusting to being released from prison.  It is on step on the road to redemption and fulfillment. 

So how to convey that we are embarking on a new life in a scriptural sense?  What is involved ? Enter the baptismal covenant that provides the answers.   

The baptismal covenant is recited with each baptism and on the anniversary of Jesus’ baptism. In lay language it is our mission statement on how we are called to live our faith in the world. 

Let’s go through the covenant, point by point  as our mission statement – this is what we should do and strive for so it is important.  Take out your prayer books and turn to pages 304-305 and you can follow along.   I will emphasize key headings and ideas some of which are from the Diocese of San Diego. 

  1. Worship and Formation

“Will you continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers? ”   “I will, with God’s help. “ 

Translation—Come to church, get renewed by meeting Jesus in the bread and wine every Sunday and every other opportunity you get, spend time with your fellow Christians, not only in worship, but also in fellowship, and to be people of prayer. We worship in connection with one another. 

I would encourage you in this new year to come to church either in person or on Zoom.  Think of the scriptures through the week and how they can work in your life. 

  1.  Repentance and Reconciliation

“Will you resist evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? “

“I will, with God’s help. “

That is, try really hard to resist evil, and when the devil gets the upper hand in spite of your efforts to resist, confess and turn back to God. 

We value repentance and reconciliation, acknowledging when we have turned away from God and one another, we then seek wholeness and healing by turning back to God and one another. In this we seek to be a welcome and open community for all. If you have turned away from God, if you have tried to follow Jesus and have failed, or are trying for the first time, you are welcome here.  

But you have to seek forgiveness. as Desmond Tutu wrote.  In order to truly forgive oneself, one must either explicitly or implicitly acknowledge that one’s behavior was wrong and accept responsibility or blame for such behavior. 

People who genuinely seek to forgive themselves are people who want to change. They don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past. To want genuine self- forgiveness you must be a person of conscience. If you feel guilt, shame, regret, or remorse for something you have done, this is the place to begin. 

We need to rethink our ways just as the Magi did after visiting Christ 

  1. Evangelism

“Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of Jesus Christ? “

“I will, with God’s help. “ 

So as St Francis said, “Proclaim the Good News, and if necessary, use words.” Live your lives as if you really are beloved children of God, even when life would be easier just to follow the ways of the world. 

We are agents of God’s kingdom who instinctively live and share the good news of Jesus Christ within our communities and without, feeding those who are hungry to hear and receive the transforming good news. 

We need to be disciple makers.  The Parochial report for 2021 shows we dwindled from 46 to 40 communicants. It doesn’t take much to be active – 3 times of communion.  We need people to invite people to come as well participate in and contribute to our ministries and  help establish new ones. 

It is more than invite people to come but to help them fit in.  Connection helps the newcomer answer these questions:  Where do I fit in?  Can I make friends in this church?  Is there room for me relationally?  Does this church need me?  Can I find a place to belong and serve?  

  1.  Outreach

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? “I will, with God’s help. “ 

We vow to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. 

We bridge the several borders God calls us to transcend by offering our time, talent and treasure for the transformative inbreaking of God’s kingdom, and so meet Christ face-to-face in the hearts and lives of our neighbors, near and far.  

We did this in Jamaica, we did this here in Port Royal helping with the  sanitizer distribution and through the donations the ECW, ECM and the church gave in 2021.  We do this through the Village Dinner and Village Harvest. 

This fits in with #3 proclaiming the word of Christ.  People may be attracted here if the feel like they have a connection to our outreach ministries 

  1. Advocacy

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? “

“I will, with God’s help.” 

We offer our voices and presence to confront the brokenness in our lives, and the systems of which we are a part, with the healing and transforming power of the love of Jesus Christ. 

We need not be silent and we should not be. 

An example from the Old Testament – Amos ministered to the northern kingdom of Israel during the height of its prosperity (760–750 BCE). Its wealth and power rested, however, upon injustice. In scripture, justice is more than the carrying out of abstract legal standards. 

Amos simple advice -“Seek good and not evil, that you may live; Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; ” 

In the recent past we have confronted environmental issues with the Season of Creation in September and early Oct.  We have looked at how we are handling energy, waste and how we can revitalize our surroundings.   We have tried to understand Climate change as a real force in our lives 

The second area has been racial discrimination.  Catherine led the 10-part Sacred Ground course in 2020 and then in the last year have turned to recent books on the subject to educate us. This year they hope to be active in the community, for example sponsoring a scholarship 

  1. Stewardship

“Will you be a faithful steward of all that God has entrusted to you, living a life of gratitude and generosity?  ”  “I will, with God’s help. “ 

Stewardship is … Everything I do after I say, “I believe.” Stewardship is our thankful and intentional response to the question, “What is God calling me to do with the gifts God has entrusted to me?

We are stewards, caretakers of God’s gifts. Everything we have was a gift from God, and God asks us to use it all for God’s purposes. Generosity flows naturally out of our gratitude for the gift of love, family, and life itself. 

We need to be generous toward both supporting our internal operations and outreach ministries. 

I would encourage you to pledge to the church a regular gift. Pledging is not a specific amount of money but an action, one that shows your engagement and connection with the church and its mission.  We are part of that mission = stewardship is all about mission. 

Outreach donations were a major theme in 2021 with the church contributing over $12,000 to the local community, the nation and the world. Outreach helped us connect to those outside the church to continue our mission but also those inside as participants. 

Convince people that the church is doing God’s mission and that it will truly transform our lives and our communities … and each of us is an integral part of that mission … heart, mind and body … and the money will follow. 

In summary

The baptismal covenant is the centerpiece of our faith explaining baptism.  It is a combination of belief and actions:

Belief

-Believe in God
-Believe in Christ
-Believe in the Holy Spirit
-Continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship with communion

Actions 

-Resist evil but when you sin repent and return to the Lord
-Proclaim the good news of God in Christ
-Serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself
-Strive for justice and peace 

Poet Malcolm Guite adds these lines for this Sunday   

“The voice that made the universe reveals
The God in Man who makes it new again.
He calls us too, to step into that river
To die and rise and live and love forever.”

As the Gospel of Matthew concludes (Matthew 28:19-20)

“Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….and remember I am with you always.” 

 

References Diocese of San Diego for the Baptismal Covenant , Diocese of New York on Baptism, New Intepreters Bible on Luke