This week’s Gospel:
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.”
I won’t spend a lot of time on the Gospel since I’m preaching on it this week, but I would like to point out that we began our transition into 2021 by switching to Mark’s Gospel. The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ was Wednesday, the 6th of January, which makes this Sunday the First Sunday after the Epiphany and The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Epiphany is a season of four to nine weeks. It goes from the Feast of the Epiphany (this year it is January 6th Wednesday) through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on the 16th of February. The length of the season varies according to the date of Easter. Our National Church wrote:
Our Gospel stories of this season describe various events that manifest the divinity of Jesus, including the coming of the Magi, the Baptism of Our Lord (this Sunday), the wedding at Cana, the calling of the disciples, and other miracles and teachings of Jesus.
This is truly a good time to learn about who Jesus was as he walked among us.
At church we are looking back at the last calendar year. It is time for two big events that occur each year about this time; the annual meeting and the parochial report to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Both events require enormous preparation and planning to inform the people of St. John’s in St. Cloud, and two organizations (ECMN and the National Church) that rely on to being kept up to date not only on the goings on of our church but on accounting for the property and for the dollars and cents that are received. To put it lightly it is time consuming and necessary.
So many things come to the forefront this time of year for me and I’m guessing for you as well. We are starting a new year with a fresh clean slate, with the hope and promise for the future. There is the possibility of a cure that many are praying for, in the vaccines for the Covid-19 virus. We also have the things left over from the last year that we still have to deal which include among other things, changing our political structure (Senate & House) and administration (Executive branch).
My sister-in-law gave my wife and me a plaque which hangs above our kitchen sink that states “if it were not for the last minute, a lot of things would never get done.” While we find this to be true far too often, I’ve learned as I age that I need to be more mindful of how I get things done. In the rush and the hurry of all the things we try to do, of all the balls we are trying to keep in the air, of that one-more-thing that we feel we need to accomplish, please stop for a moment and reflect on Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” Take a moment for yourself and take a moment to be alone with God in the stillness of that moment. And then like the shampoo bottle says: rinse and repeat.
I would like to leave you this week with this poem from the Poet Mary Oliver.
By Mary Oliver
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music– like the rain pelting the trees– like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
Only you can be the change you seek.