First Sunday After Epiphany

Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

First Sunday After Epiphany

Genesis 1:1-5, Psalm 29, Acts 19:1-7, Mark 1:4-11

January 7, 2018

I come to you in the name of one holy and living God.

   The seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany are interesting mix to me. Throughout Advent, we are encouraged to slow down and be more intentional with our actions as we wait in anticipation for the arrival of the baby Jesus.  Once he is born, time suddenly speeds up – at least in scripture it does– we leave our slow world of anticipation as the shepherds arrive…quickly move on to the naming of Jesus… then hear of the wise men being sent forth by Herod…to witnessing their arrival in Bethlehem bearing gifts…to suddenly…Jesus being a fully grown adult who is now being baptized and a voice from heaven acknowledging Jesus as God’s son – both divine and human. 

         Within this whirlwind, we have the opportunity to experience so much.  In such a short time, we’ve remembered the birth of Jesus…God incarnate to walk this Earth with us…the gifts of the wise men and what it might mean to offer what we have up to God…and now…today’s reading – Jesus rising from the waters of baptism…changed somehow…and what that might mean for us if we were to reflect on our own baptism.  My…trying to combine all of these events in hopes of looking for some central message for us  - some overarching guidance or some nugget of information…would cause us to risk losing the beautiful and powerful essence of each of these incredible moments.  So, though I am tempted to meld them together somehow while still capturing their relevance, I will resist – each of these events are too important on our lives now to be watered down by a summary.

         Instead, I will turn our attention to just one of the events – to the Baptism of our Lord.  We know very little about his life after his birth in the manger until he appears as an adult.  The gospels give us a few snippets, but overall their focus is on his adult ministry.  Today’s Gospel reading brings us to the familiar story of Jesus being baptized by John in the river Jordan. 

         Why is this moment in time so very important?  It’s baptism…we know that…but let’s focus a little closer.  Through his baptism in those waters of the Jordan river…Jesus seems to have become an entirely different person.  He goes from being that clever boy, the son of Joseph…to being revealed as the Messiah, the chosen one – God’s son, the beloved, with whom God is well pleased.[1]

         It’s as if the waters of baptism washed away what was hiding who Jesus truly was.  The water in the river that day changed him somehow – as he emerged from its bubbles and was engulfed by the Holy Spirit…the person known as Jesus…became who was meant to be.  In that moment of baptism…he was given the power and inspiration to begin a mission and ministry that would change the world for ever.

         As he rose from those waters, Jesus was given something else.  This day, one of the few occasions on which Jesus is seen to be passive, is heard the words, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased.”  These words are very powerful – not just because they come from God – but because of what they give to Jesus.  They are words of acceptance…identity…blessing…and commitment.  In these words, Jesus hears WHO he is…and WHOSE he is…and also hears that he is accepted, loved, and who he is pleases God.  I can only imagine how much strength those words must have given him throughout his life and ministry.[2]   

         To be claimed by God – to be identified as a child of God – to be blessed and to be acknowledged as “good enough” in the eyes of God are all such powerful ideas


         If you were to have the choice now to be baptized  - as if for the first time – would you? 

         Would you risk being changed by those waters?  Would you allow those waters to wash over you – to free you from the rules and expectations of this world?  Would you allow those waters to wash away what is hiding who you truly are –who God created you to be?

         Like Jesus, we too become who we really are through the waters of Baptism.  It is through our Baptism we find acceptance, identity, blessing, and commitment.  We don’t have to do anything to receive God’s promises. We are called God’s beloved children not because of something we do but because of who God is. 

         In Baptism, God chooses us!  In Baptism, God says we are enough – just as we are!  Our identity of being God’s beloved child cannot be taken away from us or even be lost by us.  It is an identity and relationship established by God.  Throughout our lives God calls out to each of us – reminding us of WHO we are….WHOSE we are… and whispers to us that we are accepted, loved, and pleasing to God regardless of what the world around us may say.[3]

         So, as we walk out into this day – as we look ahead and contemplate how we want to live in 2018…

         Be who God made you to be – rejoice in who you are…the gifts you possess…and share them with the world.  This world is in desperate need of some good, kind people who are willing to share who they are and the gifts and talents they bring to the world.  

         Let those waters of baptism wash over you, and remind you that you are created by and loved by God.  And then stand back up and embark on your mission and ministry in this world…knowing that God is well pleased.

[1] The Rev. Barrie Bates, “Christ’s Own For Ever ,” Episcopal Digital Network

[2] David Lose, “Powerful Words for a New Year,”

[3] David Lose, “Powerful Words for a New Year,”

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