St. James' Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church in Old Town, Maine

Epiphany Homily

Epiphany, 2017 – Deborah Dunkle

January 8, 2017

Today is the first Sunday of Epiphany. The actual feast day and beginning was this past Friday, January 6th. It is also called Theophany or three Kings day and celebrates the revelation of God in his son Jesus Christ. Christians also celebrate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River and the Spirit of God lighting on him with a voice from Heaven saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased”

As with most aspects of the Christian liturgical calendar, Epiphany has theological significance as a teaching tool in the church. The Wise Men or Magi who brought gifts to the child Jesus were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as “King” and so were the first to “show” or “reveal” Jesus to a wider world as the incarnate Christ. Their presence was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, all nations, and all races

The day is now observed as a time of focusing on the mission of the church in reaching others by “showing” Jesus as the Savior of all people. It is also a time of focusing on Christian community and fellowship, especially in healing the divisions of prejudice and bigotry that we all too often create between God’s children.

Today’s lessons were all about waters. The flowing waters of the Jordan, the water of the womb, the flowing waters of the Penobscot river and the ocean at Acadia and the water that nourishes our crops and bodies. You can do without food for a few days but without water you will perish.

Hiking on the Appalachian trail I have time to reflect on water, which is all-important to a hiker. Clean flowing mountain water is a gift that cools, cleanses and refreshes tired hot bodies.

I have had some time to reflect as I hike. Is it a spiritual journey I am on out here in the woods? Certainly my entire being is completely engaged in the moment: emotionally, physically and mentally. As I hike I wonder sometimes what it would have been like back in that era. Imagine being there to be Baptized by John the Baptist. Would I feel differently? Be different in some fundamental way? Would you?

This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, our own Baptisms and the water of life. As we remember these Baptisms we need to remember that God is present in the lives of those who have not been baptized as well.

I am going quote the work of Reverend Bruce Epperly South United Church of Christ in Centerville MA :

“as we remember our baptisms, we need to affirm God’s presence in the lives of those who have not been baptized. Baptism is referred to as a sacrament, an invisible sign of a visible grace. But, God’s grace is manifest in a variety of ways and not just the rites of the church. Saving grace comes to us in the touch of a friend, a word of forgiveness, a loving home, and the opportunity to begin again. God’s graceful interdependence is manifest in all things, and on occasion we discern these occasions as “thin places,” to use the language of the Celts, in which heaven and earth are transparent, and the word is made flesh in life transforming ways. The waters of baptism join us with the waters of creation and the call to care for the Earth’s wondrous, yet fragile, ecosystem.”

When Jesus comes to the Jordan for John the Baptist to Baptize him, John does not feel worthy to do so. Yet Jesus says let it be so for now for it is proper in this way to fulfill righteousness. How do you think John felt at that moment? (Pause)


Continuing from Reverend Epperly:

“While some believe God’s voice defines Jesus as other than us, I believe that Jesus’ baptism and God’s affirmation is, in fact, an affirmation that Jesus is part of our story and that we share in God’s love just as Jesus did. In our own unique way, we embody holiness. Contrary to those who believe we are born into “original sin,”

I believe that God says the same word of grace to everyone who comes for baptism, and to every child who is born. We are God’s beloved children, whether or not we are aware of it or even if we believe that we have fallen from grace.

Our reading from Acts10:34-43 today talks of God’s love being inclusive of Jew and Gentile. We are all children of God and he is Lord of all. No one is excluded from the grace of Gods love.

These words are especially powerful these days: our nation seems to be divided: racially, ethnically, politically, culturally, and sexually. Many persons assume that God’s grace is absent from their opponents and that they are bereft of truth and good will. Acts 10 is not just about Cornelius and Peter, but the unity of humankind. We are all standing in the need of grace, finite, broken, dependent, and mortal. And God’s grace is offered to all of us regardless of whether we’ve been baptized, our political viewpoint, ethnicity, or nation of origin. All are welcome to share in the waters of grace.

An Epiphany Prayer : author unknown

Father, we thank you for revealing yourself to us in Jesus Christ, we realize that it was not because of our own righteousness, or our own superior wisdom, or strength, or power, or numbers. It was simply because you loved us, and chose to show us that love in Jesus.

As you have accepted us when we did not deserve your love, will you help us to accept those whom we find it hard to love? Forgive us, O Lord, for any attitude that we harbor that on any level sees ourselves as better or more righteous than others.  Will you help us to remove the barriers of prejudice and to tear down the walls of bigotry, religious or social?  O Lord, help us realize that the walls that we erect for others only form our own prisons!

Will you fill us so full of your love that there is no more room for intolerance. As you have forgiven us much, will you enable us with your strength to forgive others even more? Will you enable us through your abiding Presence among us, communally and individually, to live our lives in a manner worthy of the Name we bear?

We thank you for your love, praise you for your Gift, ask for your continued Presence with us, and bring these petitions in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen

St. James' Episcopal Church - Old Town, Maine | A member of The Episcopal Diocese of Maine, The Episcopal Church, and the Worldwide Anglican Communion