First Sunday after Epiphany (B)The Baptism of Jesus
The Collect of the Day
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
1st Reading: Genesis 1:1-5
The Bible begins with a faith statement: “In the beginning God…” There is nothing to prove here, just something on which to stake one’s worldview. “Wind” and “spirit” are the same word in Hebrew, so there is a double-meaning in what is sweeping over the waters. Notice it is water whose creation is not told. It is the substance “before all things came to be.” Then light is the first created thing. Water and light are the two predominant images of this day, and, arguably, of the biblical record.
1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 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. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Psalm 29 is a song of praise. Its setting is a council of heavenly beings. The word “gods” in the first line is misleading. In Hebrew the actual term is “sons of god,” and most scholars today translate it as “heavenly beings,” implying angels. Psalm 29 shares many characteristics with a Canaanite hymn to their “storm god.” This psalm is probably an appropriation of that hymn, but also a refutation. Israel’s God is God alone. The voice of God on the waters echoes our first reading, and anticipates our gospel reading.
1 Ascribe to the Lord, you gods, *
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due 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 a powerful voice; *
the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendor.
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 Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord splits the flames of fire;
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.
9 And in the temple of the Lord *
all are crying, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned above the flood; *
the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.
11 The Lord shall give strength to his people; *
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
A follower of Jesus from Alexandria named Apollos had been preaching in Ephesus and a small community formed there. In encouraging new believers to Baptism, he spoke only of the Baptism of John. Soon afterward, Paul made his first trip to Ephesus and teaches them about Baptism in the Name of Jesus with the Holy Spirit, who would empower them for ministry. Through the Spirit they would join in God’s revealing of himself to the world.
19:1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. 2 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.” 3 Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John's baptism.” 4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied—7 altogether there were about twelve of them.
Our Gospel reading is Mark’s version of the story of Jesus’ baptism. It is spare, just three verses, and, unlike the accounts in Matthew and Luke, only Jesus himself sees the phenomena and hears the voice. Mark clearly understands this event as the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, his revelation to the world.