The Sunday Sermon – The Baptism of our Lord
Let us discern the will of God for us.
+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This past Tuesday, we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany. The word Epiphany means “manifestation,” or “the act or event in which something is made apparent or known.”
During this season, between now and Ash Wednesday, we will be reading Gospel Lessons in which Jesus’ identity, Jesus’ mission, and Jesus’ authority and power to carry out that Mission are revealed to us and to the whole world.
The Gospel we read on Epiphany was the same Gospel we read last Sunday at Mass. You may recall that we read the account of the arrival of the three wise men from the East – the Three Kings of the Orient, who came to Jesus bringing him the Gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.
In that event, it is revealed to us something of the true identity of this Child of Bethlehem. The revelation, though, is not found simply in the prophecy which the scribes and chief priests of the people told King Herod about.
That prophecy simply reveals to those who read it that there will be a Christ and where that Christ is to be born.
IN the Gifts of the three wise men, we learn what KIND of Savior we have:
Gold symbolizes that our Savior is a King – Christ the King of all creation, worthy of our allegiance.
Frankincense symbolizes Christ our High Priest – A priest is one who stands between God and the us and makes intercession on our behalf.
And Myrrh – well, that is the symbolic of the victimhood of Christ – the one whose blood was spilled in place of our own – to make atonement for our sins.
This giving of the gifts of the three wise men has come to be known, in the western liturgical tradition, as the feast of the Epiphany.
But the older, more ancient Feast of Epiphany, celebrated 12 Days after Christmas, wasn’t about that event at all.
In the ancient tradition, one still held by our Orthodox Brothers and Sisters, the Feast of the Epiphany was about commemorating the event we have read about Today: The Baptism of our Lord.
Now, there is Good reason for reminding ourselves of the visit of the three wisemen on the Feast of the Epiphany. It lays the foundation of all the things we’re going to hear about in the next few Sundays: That is, Jesus’ Identity, Jesus’ Mission and Jesus’ Power as Priest, King, and Atoning victim for our sins.
But today, we come to a powerful and most important manifestation of Jesus’ Identity: His Baptism by John in the River Jordan.
For on that day all three persons of the Holy Trinity were revealed to us – made known to us and to the world.
As John lowered Jesus, the Son of God, into the water the Holy Spirit descended on him from heaven, and a voice cried from the heavens “You are my son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Here in this moment, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit reveal themselves in a glorious theophany to the whole world.
But why did God choose to reveal himself on that day and in this way?
Well, I I think the chief reason he chose to do it for you and for me.
Let that sink in to your mind and your heart for a minute.
God – the almighty creator of all things, the ruler of the universe, who holds time in his hands – came down and revealed himself for you and for me, so that we might know his love for us and knowing his love for us, we might respond to his love with our love.
And that is true of every manifestation of God – in the scriptures and in our lives.
Because God does reveal himself to us, everyday, every hour, every moment of our lives, God is showing himself to us, asking us to respond to him.
Not because he needs us to answer his call to love him, but because we need to love him.
The real challenge is, especially in this busy world we live in, are we listening and looking for those manifestations in our daily lives? I truly believe that if we would only just take the time and look and listen, all of us would be amazed at how present God really is in our lives, at every moment, good or bad.
And so, today, as we meet for our annual meeting and election, as we go into that meeting – I want to call all of us to a deeper listening and discerning for the will of God in our lives. I want us, this year, to spend time praying about and listening for God’s will for our parish.
We certainly need to spend time, as we prepare next year to enter into our 150th year as a consecrated and incorporated parish church, reflecting on all the grace that God has poured out on our parish family through the years.
But we also need to listen and watch for God’s presence among us. Where is he revealing himself? Where is he leading us? What does he want for Holy Cross?
Nothing you and I do can be successful here unless it is God’s will. Think back on your own lives. Where were the doors shut? Where were the doors open? Do you think that those were coincidences? Hardly.
God’s will prevails, even in our weakness to desire and carry it out. But the best way to know the blessings and joy which God has in store for us as a parish family is to listen.
What new ministry is he calling us to under take? Is God asking you to give yourself to something here that you haven’t yet given yourself to?
Is there a nagging idea on your heart and mind which you think we ought to look into undertaking as a parish?
Each of us here are drawn together by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ, the family of God, children of the Father.
And each one of us is challenged this day to help discern the will of God for our Parish Family.
And so, I invite you, in the name of our Lord, into a discernment process. Where is God leading us? Let us listen, let us be attentive, let us seek to know, the will of our God who has revealed himself to us as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.