A Service for the First Sunday of the Epiphany


A Service for The First Sunday of the Epiphany, 10th January, 2021

The Baptism of Christ

 

Preparation:

Before beginning to read this short service, you may wish to find a space for prayer in front of a cross or a candle.  

 

 

O Lord, open our lips

and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

 

Because God was merciful,

he saved us through the water of rebirth

and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.

But through sin we have fallen away from our baptism.

Let us return to the Lord and renew our faith in his promises

by seeking his mercy in penitence.

 

God be gracious to us and bless us,

and make your face shine upon us:

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

 

May your ways be known on the earth,

your saving power among the nations:

Christ, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

 

You, Lord, have made known your salvation,

and reveal your justice in the sight of the nations:

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

 

May God who loved the world so much

that he sent his Son to be our Saviour

forgive us our sins

and make us holy to serve him in the world,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

The Collect

 

Silence is kept.

 

Eternal Father,

who at the baptism of Jesus

revealed him to be your Son,

anointing him with the Holy Spirit:

grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit,

that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

 

The First Hymn

Songs of Thankfulness and Praise:   please access Simon’s accompaniment here: 

 https://youtu.be/LQyOhowynng

 

Songs of Thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise, 
manifested by the star 
to the sages from afar; 
branch of royal David's stem 
in thy birth at Bethlehem; 
anthems be to thee addressed, 
God in man made manifest.

Manifest at Jordan's stream, 
Prophet, Priest and King supreme; 
and at Cana, wedding guest, 
in thy Godhead manifest; 
manifest in power divine, 
changing water into wine; 
anthems be to thee addressed, 
God in man made manifest.

Manifest in making whole 
palsied limbs and fainting soul; 
manifest in valiant fight, 
quelling all the devil's might; 
manifest in gracious will, 
ever bringing good from ill; 
anthems be to thee addressed, 
God in man made manifest.

Grant us grace to see thee, Lord, 
mirrored in thy holy Word; 
may we imitate thee now, 
and be pure, as pure art thou; 
that we like to thee may be 
at thy great Epiphany; 
and may praise thee, ever blest, 
God in man made manifest. 

 

The First Reading:

Genesis 1:1-5

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

This is the Word of the Lord

Thanks be to God

 

Psalm 29

1    Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven,  

ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

2    Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name;  

worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

3    The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;

    the God of glory thunders;  

the Lord is upon the mighty waters.

4    The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation;  

the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice.

5    The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees;  

the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

6    He makes Lebanon skip like a calf  

and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7    The voice of the Lord splits the flash of lightning;

    the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;  

the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

8  The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe

    and strips the forests bare;  

in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’

9    The Lord sits enthroned above the water flood;  

the Lord sits enthroned as king for evermore.

10  The Lord shall give strength to his people;  

the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

 

The Second Reading

Acts 19: 1-7

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptised?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptised with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— altogether there were about twelve of them.

This is the Word of the Lord

Thanks be to God

 

The Gospel:

Mark 1: 4-11

 

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.

Glory to you, O Lord.

John the baptiser 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 baptised 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 baptised you with water; but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised 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.’

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

Praise to you, O Christ.

 

Homily

In our readings from Acts and Mark today we have heard of journeys; journeys with a purpose.  Paul on a missionary journey finds his way through the country around Ephesus until reaching that city, where he meets with disciples who have only received the baptism of John.  In Mark’s Gospel then we heard of John travelling to the Jordan and of many others journeying to see him from Jerusalem and from all Judea.  Jesus himself made the long journey from Nazareth specifically for the purpose of receiving baptism at John’s hand.  Last week we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, and in fact we transferred it from Wednesday 6th January to last Sunday.  We recalled the journey of the Wise Men from the East to visit the new-born king, Jesus.

Travelling with a purpose is a common theme in these readings.  Paul, John, Jesus, the Wise Men, and countless followers; disciples who had also felt compelled to make long, arduous, and frequently dangerous, journeys for a reason.  Today we often speak of life as a journey, and of rites of passage; and, particularly from a Christian viewpoint, of pilgrimage.  Today, though currently curtailed by the pandemic, more people travel physically than ever before, for business and pleasure, and also sometimes as part of their spiritual journey. 

Pilgrimage, as with all the journeys mentioned in today’s readings begins with a purpose.  Now you may say, “Well all journeys have some sort of purpose whether it is just to go to the Co-op for half a pound of butter, or round to the post box to send a letter, or even, in days of lockdown, for our once a day exercise.”  Pilgrimage, though, as most people would think of it, as with those journeys spoken of in today’s readings, has some kind of spiritual purpose.  Paul went as a missionary; his aim was to spread the Gospel, John went into the wilderness, to the Jordan to preach, to baptise, and to live the life of a hermit – to find God.  Those who travelled from Jerusalem and from all Judea went to hear a man of God.  They thought it worth their while, and undoubtably it was worth their while.  Jesus went for baptism to John; he went to link his coming ministry to that of John the forerunner.  The Magi had one clear purpose: to see the new king whose star they followed from the East.

However, the strangest thing about such journeys and pilgrimages is that they frequently produce the unexpected.  We have little detail of the journeys in today’s readings, but what we have demonstrates this very point.  Paul went to Ephesus to teach and preach.  He found there some disciples who had only received the baptism of John.  This is several years after John’s death, and many miles from where he baptised.  How could such a group still exist, still holding the teaching of the Baptist and going no further?  But, this unexpected situation actually occurred, and Paul dealt with it by baptising them in the name of Jesus.    John, for his own part, was shattered when the unexpected happened to him: Jesus coming to him for baptism.  How could this be?  He was taken back entirely and utterly, yet he did as Jesus instructed.  The Magi must have been consumed with wonder and awe when their following of a star led them to a stable as the birth place of the new-born king, but they opened their gifts as they would have done in a palace, and offered the baby Jesus, gold, frankincense and myrrh.  

The lesson of the pilgrimage is often in the unexpected, in the surprise, in the meeting of the hearts and minds, where the presence and guidance of God is clearly to be seen.  Jesus promised that when two or three are gathered together in his name that he would be in their midst.  That does not necessarily mean a formal gathering or two or three – it can equally be those on a journey of faith, whose paths cross and at that point of meeting with each other, Christ reveals himself, as he did on the Emmaus Road, and on many other occasions, and still he does today.

But it is not always a comfortable meeting.  There is often an element of challenge, and even of emotional and spiritual disruption.  Frequently this happens on a retreat or pilgrimage, where we are brought face to face with ourselves, as we have time to cast aside the distractions of day to day living, the next job to be done or whatever.  We might not always like what we see, or know how to deal with it spiritually, and require direction, but that is part of it.

T.S. Eliot in his wonderful and familiar poem the “Journey of the Magi” gives us a good picture of pilgrimage, as he identifies himself with the purpose and striving, and, indeed, difficulty of the Wise Men’s task. He paints a picture in words of the three men travelling in winter, of hardships and cold, of visions of the palaces they had left, and ease which they have sacrificed; at one point he has them thinking, “voices singing in our ears, saying, this is all folly”.  He sees them travelling at night, all in cold and dark and winter, but, as Bethlehem is approached, it is dawn, they descend below the snow-line and smell the damp vegetation.  He has us seeing the light and the life and the promise of Spring, but Eliot doesn’t end it “happily ever after” – for the message has still its ultimate twist.  The Magi see signs of what is to come – three lone trees, six hands playing with dice; pieces of silver.  Calvary is etched on Bethlehem, and he ends with a strange interconnection of birth and death.

The journey has been travelled, the goal has been reached, but not without its pain, not without its lessons, not without lives having been disturbed and challenged.  That is true pilgrimage, isn’t it; not a holiday, not rest and relaxation, though it may include these things, rather more importantly it is a journey in understanding, of spiritual growth and a chance to be drawn more deeply into the life of God.  I am quite certain that the Magi returned home tired and emotionally shattered, but happy, that they like Simeon had witnessed the dawn of salvation.

John Mann

 

Second Hymn 

When Jesus Came to Jordan: 

https://youtu.be/nAxSCGnl75Q

 

When Jesus came to Jordan

To be baptized by John,

He did not come for pardon,

But as his Father's Son.

He came to share repentance

With all who mourn their sins,

To speak the vital sentence

With which good news begins.

 

He came to share temptation,

Our utmost woe and loss,

For us and our salvation

To die upon the cross.

So when the Dove descended

On him, the Son of Man,

The hidden years had ended,

The age of grace began.

 

Come, Holy Spirit, aid us

To keep the vows we make,

This very day invade us,

And every bondage break.

Come, give our lives direction,

The gift we covet most:

To share the resurrection

That leads to Pentecost.

 

Prayers 

 

We pray for the Church and for the World

 

Gracious and compassionate God, after the example of your Son Jesus

Christ, and in the power of your Spirit, teach us how we may reveal your

life more fully and more lovingly to the world.

 

Strengthen, bless and guide us today as we respond in thought and prayer

to a violent and broken world.  As we pray for those who are the victims

of conflict, we remember too the perpetrators of evil, that the hearts of all

may be changed, and the path of justice and peace be found and restored,

in a redeemed and renewed society.  

 

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

 

Almighty God, in mind and heart, we walk the way of Christ to the desert

place where John the Baptist drew many by his words and life. We thank

you for your creation, and pray for the earth you have given us to cherish

and protect. Nourish us in your love for all you have made and open our

eyes to the beauty of your world.  Help us, and all people, to take

seriously the need to confront the issues of environmental destruction and

bless the efforts of those who seek to prevent further damage 

 

Lord in your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

 

Father, at the baptism of your Son, the people saw something revealed

of your unity of purpose and love as Jesus sought your blessing

at the hands of his cousin John.

Guide and bless us in our work for a just society.

Be with all children and young people as they study under unusual circumstances;

shape the patterns of our country’s political and economic life

in these dark and difficult days, and bring healing and renewal

to communities and individuals who have been affected by poverty,

unemployment and poor housing,

and raise up and strengthen those who support those in need.

 

Lord, in your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

 

Awaken our hearts to your presence in all people:

in those we love; in those whom we find it difficult to love;

in those who differ from us, and those who are familiar to us.

As your Son, Jesus Christ, after his baptism was led to temptation and

trial, be with us as we struggle with issues and attitudes that we find

difficult and challenging.

 

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

We thank you for the gift of life with its blessings and its sorrows.  Shield

the joyous, comfort and strengthen those in any need or trouble,

especially those who seek healing and support in the Church in this place.

 

Bless those who will be born today and those who will die,

joining in the company of all your saints,

that we may rejoice in one unending song of praise.

 

Lord, in your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

 

Through Jesus Christ our Lord

we offer these our prayers and thanksgivings to you, Lord God,

source of all that is true and holy, now and for ever. 

Amen.

 

The Peace

 

Our Saviour Christ is the Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

there shall be no end.

 

The Lord’s Prayer

 

A few moments of silence before we pray:

 

Lord of all time and eternity,

you opened the heavens and revealed yourself as Father

in the baptism of Jesus your beloved Son:

by the power of your Spirit

complete the heavenly work of our rebirth

through the waters of the new creation;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

 

Conclusion

 

May God the Father,

who led the wise men by the shining of a star

to find the Christ, the Light from Light,

lead us also in our pilgrimage to find the Lord.

Amen.

 

May God the Son,

who turned water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana,

transform our lives and make glad our hearts.

Amen.

 

May God the Holy Spirit,

who came upon the beloved Son

at his baptism in the river Jordan,

pour out his gifts upon us all,

who have come to the waters of new birth.

Amen.

 

And the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among us and remain with us always.

Amen.

 

Voluntary: Communion - Guilmant: https://youtu.be/uNzCusA0c-I

 

Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is included here,

is copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2006 and published by Church House Publishing.

 

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