First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

Title:First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Jan. 12, 2020 (full size gallery)

The 1st Sunday after Epiphany celebrates the Baptism of Christ by John in the river Jordan. (Ironically, it is in the coldest month for us!)  We have a dedicated baptism page.

The sermon was on the baptism covenant.

The essence of the covenant is on 5 concepts:

BELIEVE! – God, the Father almighty; Jesus Christ, the Son of God; God the Holy Spirit

CONTINUE! – in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers

PERSEVERE! in resisting evil and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord

SEEK AND SERVE! All people, loving your neighbor as yourself

STRIVE! For justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity for all

The readings for this Sunday touched on baptism. (Baptism did not start with John baptizing Christ). Isaiah describes a servant called by God, who will persist until he establishes justice. In Acts, Peter preaches about Jesus of Nazareth, anointed by God and the Holy Spirit. In today’s gospel, Jesus receives the anointing of God’s Spirit and hears the voice of God’s affirming love.

Baptism as an act was a step beyond the norm at the time. The Jewish saw it is a cleansing but not as extensive as the Christian which changes you from within. Baptism also brings you as a member into the church. Some objected to gentiles being brought into the church.

The conversion of Cornelius in Acts marks an important turning point in the outreach of the Church. Some Jewish Christians rejected and feared the possible inclusion of Gentiles in the Church, but Luke shows that Peter began the mission to the Gentiles under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Rev. Lance Ousley writes about the significance of this passage. “What Peter’s 1st century audience hears that we often miss is that the kingdom of God has broken forth into the world. And those who are, or become, baptized disciples of Christ are compelled to proclaim and enact this reality through word and deed as Isaiah describes unveiling this truth in the world. So often it is through this public ministry that we each discover for ourselves that we are all God’s children, we are all beloved and God is well-pleased with us. And we are transformed.”

The baptism of Jesus is a central event in Matthew’s revelation of God in and through the incarnate Son. Matthew examines both Jesus’ role and John’s to answer questions raised by the baptism: (1) Does this mean that Jesus is sinful? (2) Does it imply that Jesus is somehow subordinate to John?

Both concerns are met by Jesus’ reply in verse 15. Though sinless, he identifies himself with sinful humanity. He also emphasizes his obedience to and fulfillment of Old Testament expectations.

Rev. Canon Lance Ousley wrote this week “Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by John proclaims the beginning of his public ministry and marks his solidarity with us and us with him through our baptisms. ”

Bishop Michael Curry says it this way “In baptism, Jesus has made us family. I am convinced that God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to open the way and to show us the way to become more than merely an aggregation of individual self interests, more than simply the human race or the human species. Jesus came to show us the way to become the human family of God.”

Matthew describes the words of the “voice from heaven,” which of course is God’s voice, as a formal (“This is”), public proclamation of Jesus’ divine Sonship (v. 17). The words themselves, drawn from Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1, identify Jesus as both King and Servant.

As the bulletin mentioned, many of the hymns  considered water and baptismal imagery. The first hymn, "Come Thou Fount" refers to God’s love as a “fount of every blessing” from which flows “streams of mercy.” The song of praise and the closing hymn are both baptismal hymns, containing baptismal references and themes. The sequence hymn, "Sing praise to our Creator" refers to baptism " you of Adam’s race —God’s children by adoption,baptized into his grace." The communion hymn, “In Christ There is no East or West” echoes today reading from Acts. “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God.” The last hymn “We Know That Christ Is Raised” includes the lyrics “We share by water in his saving death. Reborn, we share with him an Easter life as living members of our Savior Christ.”