Baptism of the Lord / 2nd Sunday of Epiphany [by Rev. Vincent Schwahn]

1. Reading
Isaiah 43, 1-7
2. Reading
Acts 8.14-17
Gospel
Luke 3.15-17,21-22

Holy Baptism Sermon “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Luke 3.

by Rev. Vincent Karl Schwahn Rykman, Mexico City

I have always felt a bit sad on the Feast of the Baptism of Christ. It is still one of the higher holidays of the Christian Church. The Orthodox are smart enough to stick it in with Christmas and Epiphany as one of the Manifestations of the Divinity of Christ. Also for some orthodox this is the day that people jump into half frozen lakes and rivers to commemorate the Baptism. For me one Baptism is enough. Most babies cry because the Water is cold. Wait till they get bigger snd have to jump in the Lake. For Western Christians the Feast falls after Christmas and Epiphany and is almost an afterthought. Some churches are lucky to have a few Christmas Poinsettas to keep the season alive. Most have replanted them or the thrown them in the trash.

The Baptism of Christ is for modern Christians probably even more important than the Christmas Cycle. Why is this? Because the Baptism of the Lord is really about Identity. It was Christ at his baptism where he discovered his filial relationship with God the Father and soon would be sent out into the Desert on a God-Quest.

It is our Baptism too that gives us our real identity as Christians. It is what defines us and makes us followers and disciples of the message and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. As water covers and penetrates the skin of those who dare to bathe in its splendorous wetness so is our spirit penetrated with the essence and identity of Christ that is indelible and permanent. We are one in Christ, and Christ is one in us. Every time we receive Communion we are reminded of that Fact. Communion is the daily and weekly extension of our Baptismal life.

And then of course we are sent out to do the same ministry that Christ performed; To heal, to reconcile, to bring forth peace and justice, to share our Baptismal live with those around us.

There is a powerful story of a priest who Baptized the child of an unchurched family. They were just doing a Baptism out of tradition. In the discussion and teaching with the priest before the Baptism she reminded the family that Baptism was about death and resurrection, about self sacrifice and giving of self to others out of love as did Christ. What might this Baptized child be called to do in his life to imitate Christ in his sacrificial love.

Years latter this same priest was called upon to go to ground zero to attend the spiritual care and needs of the firefighters and police and emergency crews only a few feet from the downing of the twin towers on 9/11.

It was there that she discovered that this little black boy that she had baptized many years latter was killed in active duty trying to rescue people in danger at the twin towers. He had given his life for the life of others and obeyed his Baptism Call to its bitter yet heroic end. The family returned to this priest to thank her for explaining the meaning if this Baptismal Covenant. It was for them a Baptism of the Holy Spirit and with Fire.

The Gospel today makes it clear that at our Baptism it is Christ himself who Baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and with Fire. The fire of love, of passion, and burning desire. Many of us at our Baptism are not aware of its searing mark.

This is why it takes an entire lifetime to take in the depth and profundity of these Baptismal waters.

Our task on this feast is to rekindle that flame we once received at our own Baptism. If we have lost it, it is time for a vision quest to rediscover it again. (That is what Lent is all about.) If we still feel its heat, now is the time to stoke the fire and increase the flames.

We need not jump in a cold lake or river to regain that sense of call or certitude. But we may just bless ourselves again with that water from above at a nearby Baptismal font and remember that we too are his beloved and his chosen to carry out the work begun at that watering hole in the middle east so many years ago.

Water and Fire. Fire and Water.

by Vincent Karl Schwahn Rykman, Mexico City

[Epiphany]

1. Reading
Isaiah 60, 1-6
2. Reading
Eph 3, 1-12
Gospel
Mt 2, 1-12
No preaching suggestions available. Find own links (tell us)!

Notes: Arise, shine, and others will come to your light (Isaiah 60); the Gentiles should be with us in freedom and confidence (Eph 3); be careful with your deals – trust in God (Mt 2)

by N.N.

Naming and Circumcision of Jesus / New Year’s Day [by Archimandrite Athenagoras Fasiolo]

 
Naming and Circ.:
New Year’s Day: 
1. Reading
Num 6, 22-27
Ecc 3, 1-13
2. Reading
Gal 4, 4-7 / Phil 2, 5-11
Rev 21, 1-6a
Gospel
Luke 2, 15-21
Mt 25, 31-46

Phil. 2.5-11

by the Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne Athenagoras Fasiolo
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

Written for the First Ecumenical Prayer Meeting for Creation in August 2019 in Assisi. Meeting in the Room of St Francis’  Renunciation – where we recall how Francis himself stripped himself of everything in total surrender to God (radical discipleship). Jesus in this passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians also surrendered everything to God so as to be obedient to God’s will.

In the above context, it is indispensable not just to examine the situation of creation from a scientific point of view, and to identify remedies, but it is also necessary to wonder whether the whole of humanity is capable of not being considered as something to be exploited before the beauty of the creation, but whether it is capable of humbling itself and becoming obedient before the destruction of all this wellbeing and uncontrolled consumerism.  As the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church has declared: ‘it is an imperative obligation of the Church to contribute, through the spiritual means at its disposition, to protect the creation of God from the consequences of human greed’.  It is necessary that there is a ‘reconciliation’ of the whole humanity everything, with every living being, with the elements, with the whole universe. Such a possible ‘humbling’ would enable each believer and each human being to be more capable of understanding his own neighbour, more capable of healing the wounds caused to the environment, but above all, more capable of leaving behind the egocentrism of contemporary society, which has placed him in the position of God. Mortification and reconciliation are typically spiritual issues which involve our  innermost being and which which strip from us all our self centredness. Perceiving the importance, will enable us to glorify God, will enable us to bend our knees on heaven, on earth and everywhere to praise God in Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Christian believers have the obligation, before the world, to embrace this challenge in order to be advocates of a true ‘metanoia’ – repentance, of a radical change of mentality concerning the gifts of creation. Thus, to reconcile ourselves with the creation will mean asking for mercy from the water – for the excessive wastefulness and for the poisoning caused; from the earth for the abominable use that we have made of it through an economy of gain, forgetting that nature was created by God, and given to humankind ‘to work and preserve’. (Gen. 2.15); from the air and the climate, as pollution due to selfish wellbeing, has resulted many times in catastrophes, rebellion of the natural elements on which contemporary humankind would like to impose his own system of exploitation; from the whole cosmos, that is on the way to becoming the largest dumping field of this sick planet. But we must also ask mercy from every human being, for whom this human greed has become a source of great shortages, of social injustices, of biblical migrations and many other evils.

Therefore the Orthodox Church emphasises the protection of God’s creation through the cultivation of human responsibility for our God-given environment and the promotion of the virtues of simplicity and self-restraint. Then, we can proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, because then we will be stripped of ‘ourselves’ and we will be reconciled to him and to his creation, made for us.

Archimandrite Athenagoras Fasiolo

 

[1st Sunday of / after Christmas]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1. Reading
1 Sam 2.18-20,26
Sir 3.2-6,12-14
2. Reading
Col 3.12-17
Col 3.12-21
Gospel
Luke 2.41-end
both

No preaching suggestions available.

Notes: forgive each other if you have a grievance (Col 3); boys and girls really want to learn … / Creation – our Father’s house (Lk 2)

by N.N.

Christmas Day [by Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi]

Principal Service
Set III
1st Reading
Isaiah 52.7-10
2nd Reading
Hebr 1.1-4[5-12]
Gospel
John 1.1-14

Christmas Day – John 1:1-14

by Archbishop Bernard, Representative of Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and Director of Anglican Centre in Rome.

John’s Gospel provides a wealth of materials on Jesus’ life and ministry not found in the other Gospels. His work is considered the most simplest yet the most profound of the four Gospels. Only John is written from a divine perspective, in which Jesus is portrayed as the ‘Son of God.’ In the beginning was the Word…. and the Word was with God… and the Word was God….’ John writes in order to persuade his readers to believe in who Jesus is. He writes ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.’ (Jn 20:31) That is his identity.

As Christians, we gather as many sorts and kinds and conditions of people, with varying languages and positions and opinions. Yet all of us know one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, and we claim one God and Father of all of us. It is a blessing and a miracle, that we can claim our unity as often and deeply as we do. We are the Body of Christ. We are all members of one Body, that of God’s creation, whether we talk about the human part of that creation or the whole planet. This planet is filled with the glory of God, if we are ready to look for the Creator’s creativity.

God’s creativity is abundantly evident in human responses to massive human challenges. As Irenaeus said that the glory of God is a human being fully alive. When God’s creatures are filled with creative energy, God’s glory is indeed most alive and evident. When we are passionately invested as partners in that creativity, we are becoming more of who and what God created us to be.

Jesus speaks of that same kind of passion when he tells of the two sons asked to work in the vineyard (Matt. 21:28-32). Both were sent but only one answered the call by actually going to work. Which one of us will answer that passionate call to creative labour in God’s vineyard? The vineyard is all around us; it is an ancient image of creation, ready to become fruitful and life-giving. The question now is whether we are willing to cooperate and become co-creators. Who will go and work in the vineyard and what does the working in the vineyard really mean?

Is it tending the soil, ensuring adequate water is available to all, digging out the weeds? Or have we been invited to prune the wild growth out of the vineyard? Fertile soil always invites weeds, and if they are left alone, they eventually steal all the nutrients from the soil. Human communities without caretakers experience the same thing-the weedy behaviour we call exploitation or greed or corruption. The human vineyard needs gardeners of justice so that tender growth is protected, so that fruit is shared and no one outside the gate goes hungry.

Life in this changing planet will make it harder for the poorest among us to survive. Once we start to get our hands dirty, we begin to see that the state of the vineyard or the garden affects all of God’s creation and that the same vulnerable populations are the same that still suffer: the widows, orphans, immigrants, the landless etc. The rich can move, the wealthy can pay higher prices and the powerful can build strong houses to avoid the cruelty of changing weather patterns. Who will go to work in the vineyard and who will challenge those who misuse or waste the vineyard? The Body of Christ is called for that purpose so that the glory of God may be evident.

by Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, Rome