10 January 2016

Baptism and finding new hope
in the waters of floods and flight

The Baptism font in Saint Bartholomew’s Church … Epiphany is a reminder of our own Baptismal commitments (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin,

Sunday 10 January 2016,

The First Sunday after the Epiphany

9 a.m.: Said Eucharist

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

In the name of + the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I know well now that it is neither the custom nor the practice to have a sermon at this early Sunday Eucharist. But once again I want share, for just a brief moment, some of the things I am thinking about for my sermon at the later Eucharist this morning (11 a.m.).

The feast of the Epiphany celebrates not one but three Theophanies, reminding us what Christmas is truly about and who this Christ Child is for us.

1, The Visit of the Magi, in which the kingdoms of the world bow down before the King of Kings, laying before him all the wealth of the world and recognising the Christ Child as Priest, Prophet and King.

2, The Wedding at Cana, which we read about next Sunday [17 January 2016], a foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet and a story that contains the promise that, to parody the words of Frank Sinatra, “the best is yet to come.”

3, The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan, which is told in this morning’s Gospel reading. It marks the beginning of Christ’s public ministry, and it is a Trinitarian moment, when the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit come together, acting as one, with distinctive personal roles.

This story is a reminder of our Baptisms. At the beginning of the new year, it is good to be reminded of the promises at our baptism, and a good example of how this is done at the beginning of the year is the Methodist Covenant Service and the Methodist Covenant Prayer.

But this morning’s Gospel story is also the story a new beginning in every sense of the meaning. It is a retelling of the Creation story in Genesis with the Holy Spirit appearing over the waters as new life emerges.

But this morning’s Gospel story also forces me to ask two questions this morning:

● What would a parting of the waters and the promise of a new beginning mean for people devastated by the floods in Ireland?

● 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 in this winter weather?

In both cases, would suffering people be able to believe in the hope that “the best is yet to come”?

And these are some of the questions I am going to ask in my sermon later this morning.

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

This reflection was shared at the Said Eucharist in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin, on Sunday 10 January 2016.


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.

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.

Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22

15 Προσδοκῶντος δὲ τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ διαλογιζομένων πάντων ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν περὶ τοῦ Ἰωάννου, μήποτε αὐτὸς εἴη ὁ Χριστός, 16 ἀπεκρίνατο λέγων πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάννης, Ἐγὼ μὲν ὕδατι βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς: ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ: αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί: 17 οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ διακαθᾶραι τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συναγαγεῖν τὸν σῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ, τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ.

21 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαὸν καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος καὶ προσευχομένου ἀνεῳχθῆναι τὸν οὐρανὸν 22 καὶ καταβῆναι τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡς περιστερὰν ἐπ' αὐτόν, καὶ φωνὴν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ γενέσθαι, Σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα.

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.’

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