One Little Word

The First Sunday after Epiphany; The Baptism of Our Lord; Year A (1/8/2017)

Texts: Isaiah 42:1-9 Psalm 29 (3) Acts 10:34-43 St. Matthew 3:13-17

Prayer of the Day: O God our Father, at the baptism of Jesus you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized into Christ faithful to their calling to be your daughters and sons, and empower us all with your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3.13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

St. Matthew 3:13-17, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

”This Is My Son”

Those of us who worship regularly during Advent will find this (and next) Sunday’s Gospel lesson(s) to be somewhat familiar. The middle two Sundays, every Advent season, are given over to John the Baptist, and the baptism of Jesus. Now, as we begin this span of time between Christmas and Lent, we do the same. On Sunday we will once again turn to the account off Jesus’ baptism (St. Matthew 3:13-17), and next week we will focus on the teaching of John about Jesus (St. John 1:29-42).

We do so under the theme of epiphany. Our tradition used to be that a season called “Epiphany” was located between the seasons of Christmas and Easter. Now we have two times during the church year that technically are not seasons. There is the “Time after Epiphany” which begins on the first Sunday after January 6th (which is the “The Epiphany of Our Lord”) and continues until Ash Wednesday, and there is the “Time after Pentecost” which begins after the Day of Pentecost, and continues until Advent begins. During the Time after Epiphany, we focus our attention on what we can learn about God. Epiphany is a Greek word, which means “to shed light upon.” The question of the season is: “How do these passages from the Bible shed light upon who God is, and what God is seeking to accomplish for us and through us?”

This shifts the conversation about Sunday’s Gospel lesson. During a different time of year, we might reflect on Jesus’ baptism, and ask what it means for us. How can a careful and thoughtful conversation about our Lord’s baptism help us better understand what baptism means for us?

But during this Epiphany season, we ask what St. Matthew 3:13-17 has to teach us about God.

  • Why did Jesus travel all the way from Galilee to where John was baptizing, so that he could be baptized, and what does this teach us about God?
  • What does John’s reluctance to baptize Jesus teach us about God?
  • What does Jesus’ insistence on being baptized teach us about God?
  • How is it that by being baptized, Jesus “fulfills all righteousness,” and what does that teach us about God?
  • What does the descent of the Spirit on Jesus after his baptism teach us about God?
  • What does the voice from the heavens teach us about God — especially about how God is present in the person of Jesus?

Epiphany is a rich season, as we explore the depths of God’s presence, promise and power in our lives. And it appears there is much to explore this Sunday. Come join us for Bible Study on Wednesday (at noon), or for worship on Sunday (at 8:30 or 10:45). Or better yet, in the next day or two, log in to www.OneLittleWord.org and let me know what you think. Maybe together we can learn something about the God who is made known to us in Jesus, the Christ.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What point does John make in resisting the invitation to baptize Jesus?
  2. What connection does Jesus make between baptism and righteousness?
  3. How does the voice from heaven put this entire story into context?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What have I come to believe about my baptism?
  2. How is this similar to — or different from — what I believe about Jesus’ baptism?
  3. What does the voice from heaven teach me about God? About Jesus?