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Here are my sermon notes for Jan. 12, 2014 when we renewed our baptismal vows using water from the Capilano watershed.

Epiphany the Season

This is the season of Epiphany. For a long time Epiphany, was one of the three principal feasts of the church—Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost—Christmas did not gain prominence until much later


the earliest observations of Epiphany, in the mid 300’s, celebrated a number of events in the early life of Jesus: his birth, the visit of the Magi, his baptism, the wedding at Canan.


In the Western church—the feast day of Epiphany focuses on the visit of the Magi


In the Eastern Church, orthodox church the central event is the baptism of Jesus –which we celebrate today--and the celebration includes blessing water and local rivers.


The word Epiphany comes from the Greek “to show forth” each of the stories about the early life and ministry of Jesus shows something essential about him


Another word for epiphany is watershed—watershed is a geographic area where all the water that falls or flows or melts all moves in the same direction to the same destination.  A watershed moment is an  “aha” those times when we deeply get it, when we get a glimpse of the deep pervasive sacredness that surrounds and upholds us. –we may find that in worship, in music, in scripture, in our relationships with one another, in creation


Baptism of Jesus


The baptism of Jesus is an epiphany. (a watershed event) an event on which the church hung some of their understanding of Jesus.


Mark, the earliest gospel has a very matter of fact description where Jesus shows up, John baptizes him and Jesus sees God’s spirit like a dove and hears a voice—the focus seems to be on his own Epiphany.


In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew


—John protests, “I should be baptized by you” and Jesus answers “let it be this way to fulfill all righteousness”—this represents Matthew’s emphasis on fulfillment but also the early church’s anxiety about Jesus’ baptism by John (was it really ok that Jesus was a disciple of John? What does baptism mean—good to know that 2000 years later we are still working that out)


in Matthew the voice is addressed to the crowds who have come seeking baptism “this is my son,”—and I think for us, the baptized and those seeking baptism this is emphasizes on baptism as a corporate, not a private experience is critical. we are witnesses and supporters of one another.


Consistent in each of the gospels is the emphasis on wilderness—John is a feral character in dress and diet, John’s baptism re-enacts the Exodus where the Hebrews cross the sea of reeds into the widlerness, consistently in scripture Jesus goes away from the urban centers to find God. –he goes from baptism into wilderness temptation,


The idea that we know and find God in creation, that god speaks in the land, waters and animals of the place where we dwell is pervasive in scripture. (It is not something that the church has always understood very well but although it is something my Indigenous Christian friends tell me they have always known and it’s about time we got with the program)


But the church in the midst of an epiphany in regard to creation. Thinkers and theologians, prophets and farmers, folks like Wendell Berry, Sallie McFague are talking about climate change, species extinctions, access to drinking water, and the error and harm of the Christian focus on dominion, conquest of creation. Instead they focus on our identity as creature and our relationships of dependence with the rest of creation.


Christ Grataski and Ched Myers and others talk about Watershed Discipleship.—the idea that we know God and follow the way of Jesus best when we are deeply rooted in and responsible to the physical place where we live.


Watershed –focuses not on abstract “care for the planet” but relationship with the geography, species and people of the place where the water we depend on flows.


Watershed –is about a new understanding—an Aha.


And Discipleship –because it is not just about what we say or believe but about what we do together on the Way.


Does anybody know what watershed we at St. Catheirne’s are called to be disciples in? (Pacific Slope) The Capilano watershed which supplies on third of the drinking water to Metro Vancouver Area.


In the Anglican Church this epiphany or watershed around creation has found expression in a change to our baptism service. At General Synod in 2013 we adopted a new baptismal vow based on one of the 5 Marks of Mission, which we share with the whole of the Anglican Communion.


Together we covenant to “strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?”


Blessing of water

This morning as we remember the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan we will renew our baptismal vows together with water from the Capilano river. –please stand


We use the same verses from Isaiah as the Orthodox Epiphany service and although we bless this water we remember that it also blesses us.


The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,?the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,?and streams in the desert; ?the burning sand shall become a pool,?and the thirsty ground springs of water; (Is 35”1, 10)


everyone who thirsts,?come to the waters;

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,?and do not return there until they have watered the earth,?making it bring forth and sprout,?giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;?it shall not return to me empty,?but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,?and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Is 55: 1, 10, 11)


Baptismal vows P 159 BAS—

While we say our baptismal vows together, Christine and the youth and children will go out into the congregation using cedar branches to bless us again with the water of baptism.


Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

We will, with God’s help.


Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

We will, with God’s help.


Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?

We will, with God’s help.


Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?

We will, with God’s help.


Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

We will, with God’s help.


And here is the new one:

Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?

We will, with God’s help.


Think about the promises we have made—before God and one another. That we make again whenever we baptize a new member of our community. We are witnesses and supporters to one another as we seek to live a new way.


These promises are not primarily about Sunday morning or heaven. They are practical here and now commitments that we carry with us as we approach our vestry meeting, as we look at stewardship, as we imagine a new future with Gloria Dei Lutheran, as our regional eco-justice group works with the Metro Vancouver Alliance. We must ask how here in the Capilano Watershed, are we going to resist evil? How do we plan we serve Christ in all persons? In what practical ways will we strive for justice? and what steps will we take together to safeguard the integrity of creation?


As we go to live out the promises of our baptism I close with words form

the prayer for the newly baptized:


Give us an inquiring and discerning heart,

The courage and will to persevere,

A spirit to know and love you,

And the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.