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READING                     I Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm                             29
READING                     II Acts 19:1-7
GOSPEL                        Mark 1:4-11

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark + (May the Word of the Lord be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart).

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Christ!

Friends, welcome to this First Sunday after Epiphany. The feast of Epiphany was celebrated in the Episcopal Church calendar yesterday recalling the visitation of the magi from the east bearing gifts for the Christ-child. The magi story only appears in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. The magi brought three gifts: gold, recognizing that Jesus is the King of Kings; incense, to acknowledge Jesus’ divine nature; and myrrh, to symbolize Jesus as consecrated to the role of King and God. We know the meaning of the word Christ means “anointed one” in Greek. This homily teaching is about the baptism of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel.

In today’s readings, we read Genesis and the beginning of creation of the first day, particularly light and darkness, night, and day. In this reading, we appreciate the majesty and the logic of the mind of God in creation. Firstly, only God can make something out of nothing. Secondly, all God creates is good with purpose. Thirdly, God creates light and separates it from darkness creating the alternating periods of night and day. God does this act to create time for humanity.

In Psalm 29, we hear the psalmist praise the Lord’s glory and strength, particularly in His voice. His voice is a supernatural power that calls all beings to worship Him. His voice creates and tears down. The Lord is a voice of splendor (29:4) and we are called to praise Him.

In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, written by Saint Luke, we read of the distinguishment between John’s baptism of repentances with water, and the baptism of Jesus including the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism is for the forgiveness of sin. The baptism of Jesus, through the laying on of hands from Saint Paul, includes membership in God’s church, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In this story, a little church is added in Ephesus of 12 believers, a symbol of the 12 Apostles. In our baptism as Christians, we were baptized in water, and anointed with Holy Chrism oil as a “priest, prophet, and king,” like Jesus. We received the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

In Mark’s Gospel, we hear the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. John prophesied the coming of Jesus. Jesus appears, and John baptizes Him. Significantly, we see Jesus coming out of the water and the Holy Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then we hear the majestic Voice of God proclaiming Jesus is the Son of God and that God is well pleased with Him. We might note that in this point in the Gospel, Jesus has not conducted any teaching or miracles. God is well pleased with Jesus because He is His Son. God loves Him for who He is, not for what He has done. Yet, Jesus heard the Voice of God calling on His life and He accepted the call to be the Christ for our world. Jesus did not underestimate His calling, and neither should we.

I think this story has a powerful message for us to consider in our lives. We are baptized believers in Jesus, and God is well pleased with us because of who we are, not because of anything we have done or not done. Certainly, God is pleased with us when we act rightly and for our good works of charity. Yet God is pleased with us even when we sin and fall short. God loves us in all times because we are His children.

When our son, Luke, was born, we loved him from the very start because he was ours. The more he grew and developed, the more time we spent with him, our love for him grew stronger. Certainly, the few times he was naughty, we were disappointed in his behavior, yet we still loved him, maybe even more so because we did not want to see him upset or hurt by his failings. This type of human love is an image of God’s love. God loved us from the start, in our mother’s womb. He loved us more when we were born, and grew, and developed. He loved us when we sinned, and He loves us when we do not. He loves us because we are His child. As Saint Paul said, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Let’s close this message by talking about you. When was the last time you thanked God for loving you? When was the last time you told God you loved Him? And when was the last time you knew that God loves you no matter what you have done or left undone? Today is your day to move forward and answer the call of God.

Today, I prophesize that you have a destiny to fulfill. A calling exists on your life to use the gifts of Holy Spirit to make our world a better place. You have the power of almighty God right inside of you in your baptism. You are called to be faithful, forgiven, creative, and talented, loving, and charitable. You are called to live an abundant life in Jesus Christ. You are called to leave a mark on this generation. No matter what you have done, or where you been, or where you are right now, you are a new creation in Jesus Christ. The Voice of God calls you to make a difference for good in this world. Maybe God is calling you to pray more? Or maybe He is calling you to volunteer and serve on that church committee? Or maybe God is calling you to forgive someone who hurt you? Or maybe God is calling you to go back to school, or to seek a new job, or to apply for that promotional position at work? Maybe God is calling you to write that book, or paint that painting, or crochet that blanket for a friend?  Maybe God is calling you to love your friends and family members more closely and be more involved in their lives? If you pray and seek God’s guidance, you will know what to do. Today is the day to answer God’s call. Do not underestimate God’s calling on your life. You are loved, you are forgiven, you are called to fulfill your destiny in the Name of Jesus Christ. In faith, I claim this message for you. Amen!

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