Sunday, 13 January 2019

‘You are my Son, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased’

The Baptism of Christ by Saint the Baptist depicted at the Duomo in Florence (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 13 January 2019,

The First Sunday after the Epiphany (Epiphany 1), the Baptism of Our Lord


9.30 a.m.: Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick, the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2).

Readings: Isaiah 43: 1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8: 14-17; Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22

An icon of the Baptism of Christ, worked on a cut of olive wood by Eleftheria Syrianoglou, in an exhibition in the Fortezza in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Epiphany celebrates not one but three Theophanies or great events, reminding us what Christmas is truly about and who this Christ Child is for us.

We celebrated the Visit of the Magi last Sunday [6 January 2019], and we read about the Wedding at Cana next Sunday [20 January 2019], events that show us, even before his time has come, who Christ truly is.

Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22), Saint Luke’s account of the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan, marks the beginning of Christ’s public ministry.

It is an Epiphany or Theophany moment, and it is a Trinitarian moment, when the Father, Son and Holy Spirit come together, acting as one, with distinctive personal roles: when Christ is baptised, heaven opens, the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ ‘in bodily form like a dove.’ And the voice of the Father comes from heaven declaring: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’ (Luke 3: 21-22).

This morning’s Gospel story is also a reminder of our Baptisms, and it is the story of a new creation.

The Baptism of Christ is about new beginnings for each of us individually and for us collectively as members of the Body of Christ, the Church.

This Gospel reading is also the story of a new beginning in every sense of the meaning. Did you notice how after the waters are parted, and Christ emerges, just as the waters are separated, earth and water are separated, and then human life emerges as in the Creation story in Genesis (see Genesis 1: 1 to 2: 3). Here too the Holy Spirit appears over the waters (see Genesis 1: 2), and God says ‘I am well pleased,’ just as God sees that every moment of creation is good (see Genesis 1: 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25) and with the creation of humanity it becomes ‘very good’ (verse 31)?

But this Gospel reading also poses two sets of questions for me.

My first set of questions begins by asking:

● What would a parting of the waters and the promise of a new beginning, a new creation, mean for us today?

● Do we believe that what God has made is ‘very good’?

● Are we responsible when it comes to the care of the creation that has been entrusted to us?

And my second set of questions begins:

● What would a parting of the waters and the promise of a new beginning mean for people caught as refugees in the cold waters of the Mediterranean or in the English Channel between France and England in this winter weather?

● Would they be able to believe in the hope that is offered at Epiphany?

It is at the very end of the creation cycle, after the creation and separation of the waters, when God has created us in human form, that God pronounces not just that it is good, but that it is very good.

In responding to our promises at Baptism, we must take responsibility for creation and for humanity – those responsibilities are inseparable. But they are at the heart of the Epiphany stories if we show that we truly believe that ‘the best has yet to come.’

And so, this morning, instead of the Creed and intercessions, we are going to renew our Baptismal promises in the Book of Common Prayer (see pp 398-401).

In those promises, we not only affirm our faith in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but also promise to be faithful in our prayer life, our sacramental life, to resist evil, to show our faith in word and deed, to serve all people, to love our neighbours as ourselves, to pray for the world and its leaders, to defend the weak and to seek peace and justice.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

The Baptistry at the Duomo in Pisa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Renewal of Baptismal Vows:

[The Book of Common Prayer, pp 398-401]

A form which may be used at Easter, Pentecost, the Baptism of our Lord, on Ash Wednesday, at the close of a mission or on other suitable occasions.

The renewal of baptismal vows may be made at Morning or Evening Prayer, or at Holy Communion after the sermon, and the creed may be omitted. The prayers of intercession and of penitence may be omitted.


The minister says:

In our baptism we died with Christ and were buried with him, so that we might rise with him to a new life within the family of his Church.

We now meet to renew the promises made at our baptism, to affirm our allegiance to Christ and our rejection of all that is evil.

Stand

The minister says:


Do you renew and affirm the promises made when you were baptised?
I do.

Do you turn in faith to Christ?
I do.

Do you then renounce all evil?
I do, by God’s help.

Will you obey and serve Christ?
I will, by God’s help.

Do you believe and trust in God the Father,
creator of heaven and earth?
I believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ,
who redeemed the world?
I believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit
who gives life to the people of God?
I believe and trust in him.

This is the faith of the Church.
This is our faith.
We believe and trust in one God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


The minister continues:

Those who are baptised are called to worship and serve God.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you persevere in resisting evil,
and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you proclaim by word and example
the good news of God in Christ?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all people,
loving your neighbour as yourself?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you acknowledge Christ's authority over human society,
by prayer for the world and its leaders,
by defending the weak, and by seeking peace and justice?
With the help of God, I will.

The minister says:

Let us pray.

Almighty God,
you have given us the will to do all these things:
Give us the courage and strength to achieve them
to the honour and glory of your name,
and the good of your Church and people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith,
that you may be rooted and grounded in love
and bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. Amen.

The Baptismal Font in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22 (NRSVA):

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming’ (Luke 3: 16) … a fresco in a church in the mountain village of Maroulas, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical colour: White

The Penitential Kyries:

God be merciful to us and bless us,
and make his face to shine on us.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

May your ways be known on earth,
your saving power to all nations.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You, Lord, have made known your salvation,
and reveal your justice in the sight of the nations.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Eternal Father,
who at the baptism of Jesus
revealed him to be your Son,
anointing him with the Holy Spirit:
Grant to us, who are born of water and the Spirit,
that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

Our Saviour Christ is the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there shall be no end. (cf Isaiah 9: 6, 7)

Preface:

For Jesus Christ our Lord
who in human likeness revealed your glory,
to bring us out of darkness
into the splendour of his light:

The Post Communion Prayer:

Refreshed by these holy gifts, Lord God,
we seek your mercy:
that by listening faithfully to your only Son,
and being obedient to the prompting of the Spirit,
we may be your children in name and in truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Blessing:

Christ the Son be manifest to you,
that your lives may be a light to the world:

The Baptism font in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick … a reminder of our own Baptismal commitments (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

22, You shall cross the barren desert (#2, CD 1, Love of God, Life of Faith)
(Alternative, 204, When Jesus came to Jordan, CD 13)
136, On Jordan’s bank, the Baptist’s cry (CD 8)
294, Come down, O love divine (CD 18)

The Baptism of Christ … the fifth century mosaic in the Neonian Baptistry in Ravenna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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