Reflections for the First Sunday After the Epiphany, January 8, 2017

Reflections on the First Sunday After the Epiphany
January 8, 2017
The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck, Vicar

“Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it, and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you…..” (Isaiah 42)

“I have taken you by the hand and kept you….”

Today marks the first Sunday in the season of Epiphany. Friday evening some gathered in the Chapel to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany itself. And we were reminded of the coming of the wise men, the sages from afar, to the birthplace of Jesus. By that story we are told that Jesus came, not just for a few, but for all. For all of “us” and for all with whom we share this world.

In the words of St. Peter in Acts of the Apostles: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality.”

And today, today we hear the story of the baptism of Jesus. (We had a little fast forward of 30 years in 30 hours…) In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus is full grown. A man.

Today’s story is not just the story of John the Baptist and the River Jordan and the cleansing ritual and Jesus.

Importantly, the Gospel story we hear today is also a story of the Holy Spirit, descending upon Jesus, in bodily form like a dove. It’s the story of a voice coming from heaven declaring, “You are my Son, the Beloved.”

That dove and voice bit is essential to the story. Because by it we learn, just as the witnesses of old learned, that somehow in this person Jesus God is made (here’s the good Epiphany word) God is made manifest in Jesus the man.

As the old hymn goes: “God in man made manifest”.

In this person Jesus,
God is.

And because God is in this person Jesus, in this human being born like one of us, in this human being dwelling on earth like one of us, because God is in this person Jesus, we understand that God has chosen to engage with us in an incredible, powerful, awesome and efficient way.

So that now we can hear the word of God in the prophet Isaiah and know it true,
“I have taken you by the hand and kept you.”

Throughout the season of Epiphany ahead we will recognize, embrace, celebrate, that God has taken us by the hand and kept us.
We will celebrate that God has been manifest in Jesus, and, as such, has engaged with us, closely.

In the season of Epiphany, we will hear story after story that reveals that manifestation of God in Christ. We will hear stories of Christ’s miracles, of Christ teaching with authority, of Christ shining with a holy glow like none other – in his transfiguration on the mountainside.

This is all very cool. And exciting. Not only because we are talking about God –
“the God who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it, and spirit to those who walk in it”.

But because we are talking about that God engaging with us. we who are frail and floppy, self-centered and arrogant, fearful and flailing.

Epiphany is not a story of God’s “outreach” — of God reaching out to us and giving us what we need. Epiphany is a story of God’s “engagement”. In Christ, God has engaged with us. And, in Christ, God has called us to engage with one another, and with the world in which we live.

It begins today as we hear the story of the Baptism of Jesus. And we consider again our own baptism. The Holy Spirit was present at both.

If we were in worship together this morning, we would renew once more our baptismal covenant, reminding us of what it means that we are baptized and what we are called to be and do because of it.
I’ve pasted that covenant below.

In Christ, God has engaged with humanity.
In our baptism, we have become engaged with Christ.
So it is that God has chosen to take us by the hand
and keep us close.

That is the stuff of the season.

Amen.

The Baptismal Covenant

Celebrant                  Do you believe in God the Father?
People                                    I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Celebrant                  Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People                                    I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Celebrant                  Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People                      I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Celebrant                  Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?

People                      I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant                  Will you persevere in resisting evil, and , whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People                      I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant                  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?People                       I will, with God’s help.

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

Celebrant                  Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People                        I will, with God’s help.