A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.

Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Prayers of the People: Staking our Claim ~ 1st Sunday after Epiphany '23 Yr A

For Sunday, January 8, 2023, Readings: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 3:13-17

  Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.  [Isaiah 42:1]

   Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. [Psalm 29:2]

   He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. [Acts 10:42-43]

    And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3:16-17]

    We’re in fast-forward mode. Two days ago the Magi visited the Christ Child, leaving town in a hurry to avoid Herod. In between then and now Joseph received a dream that caused him to take Mary and the Child to Egypt as Herod was killing all the children under two. It was after Herod’s death that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to settle in Nazareth. Of course, the “real” time for these events took several years. But the Church Calendar advances swiftly. We now pick up where we left off in Advent just after John the Baptist called the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers” for their false piety when they presented themselves for Baptism. John is a God-sent herald to warn them to turn away from their corruption. As he says “one more powerful than I is coming” and this Sunday, Jesus, now a grown man beginning his public ministry comes to John for Baptism.
     But why ever does Jesus ask to be baptized? Even John wonders and is reluctant. After all Jesus is without sin; God’s own Son brought to human incarnation to lead Israel from the old Law of Moses into the new Way of The Great Commandment [Matthew 22:36-40]. Yet Jesus prevails ~ as he does with Peter and the foot-washing later on ~ and chooses to identify as the good Jew he was raised to be. Through Baptism he assumes his place in the Hebrew nation by participating in this communal rite of repentance and purification.
     As Jesus rises from the water, Matthew tells us that God announces from on high, "This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" and that the Holy Spirit descended as a dove to mark this man Jesus as God-sent, of God-nature, One with God, God’s own Human Image.
     In this awakening season of Epiphany, let us begin again to discover and define our own public and private ministry. With the glitter of Christmas put away, all the turmoil in every corner of the world claims our attention or repels us and it’s easy to be distracted and distanced from the calling of Jesus. Whether you were officially baptized or not, take some time to think about the ritual of Baptism and its deep significance. For many Christians, though not all, Baptism is a Sacrament of Purification, a Rite of Initiation, a formal adoption into the Christian faith. A simple definition is that the word comes from a hybrid of Latin and Greek and literally means "washing." This Sacrament is intended to be a means of and a visible form of God’s grace, just as the dove descending was for Jesus. It was, for Jesus, the beginning of his journey as Messiah.  
     You can read and pray through the ritual of the US Episcopal Church, learn or revisit its purpose and understanding at www.BCP.org and clicking Holy Baptism on the left sidebar. The five questions* are asked of and answered by either the one being Baptized or, in the case of a child, a Godparent or Sponsor. Along with the five promises* that are part of the Baptismal Covenant, these questions and promises are our operating principles, our acceptance of our charge and responsibilities as followers of Jesus. They are intensely serious and not meant as mere platitudes in a sweet ceremony. We revisit them at least five times per year in the Liturgy to remind us of what we might need to work on, a chance to reflect on how we managed at the end of a day or a month, an opportunity to renew our own commitment to Christ. One or more of them may even point to possibilities to shape our mindset for daily activities, or perhaps a new direction in vocation or volunteering as we make our way through our brief human existence.
     My favorite part of this Sacrament is near the end, after all the words have been spoken and the water has been poured. It is then that the Celebrant takes the chrism that was blessed in the prior Holy Week and anoints the forehead of the one Baptized. The words at that moment stir my heart and my self-reckoning: you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever
     Whether by actual Baptism or a Baptism of desire, whether or not officially anointed, we are each claimed as Christ’s own for ever. As mortal beings we will fail and fall away yet we can and may always return to the One who raises us with Him. Our hearts love to claim the Babe in the Manger. Let us now stake our soul’s claim to the Christ who leads us on His Way to our Salvation whatever comes during our earthly lives.

*The Questions: 
-Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?       
-Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
-Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
-Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
-Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?

*The Promises, the answer for each is I will, with God’s help:
-Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in
   the prayers?
-Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the
-Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
-Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
-Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every
   human being?


Leader:  ~ Jesus, God’s Beloved, You are the Covenant God has made with us all, the bright beacon of love that can reach into the darkest of hearts and blindest of eyes. Animate our wills to answer Your call, enter the beauty of holiness, and worship You best by our lives.

                                                         Jesus, Lord of All
RESPONSE:                 Our Hope and our Salvation 

~ Jesus, God’s Beloved, as a Light to the Nations give strength to Your people and the blessing of peace. Grant all who lead the governments of this World, this Country, and this Community, open hearts filled with mercy and justice that they may work together, and with us, to serve all Created Beings and this Earth with humility and righteousness. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Lord of All
                                                       Our Hope and our Salvation

~ Jesus, God’s Beloved, shower Your healing mercies upon all those who are ill or filled with worry and dread, and refreshment for those who give them careWe now join our hearts to pray for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Lord of All
                                                       Our Hope and our Salvation   

~ Jesus, God’s Beloved, grant solace for those in sorrow through joy in the memories of those well-loved, now returned in eternal glory to You. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Lord of All
                                                       Our Hope and our Salvation

~ Jesus, God’s Beloved, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials, aloud or silently… add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Lord of All
                                                       Our Hope and our Salvation                

~ Jesus, God’s Beloved, endow all who lead us in Your Church with the grace, wisdom, and strength of spirit to shake us from the wilderness of apathy, and guide us to the fullness of faith and forgiveness in You. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Lord of All
                                                       Our Hope and our Salvation                                                                                                     
The Celebrant adds: Living Jesus, in Whom God’s soul delights, You rose from the waters of Baptism to bring new life to God’s people. Raise us up with You again, that through renewal and repentance to purify our souls, we may live into and give the glory due Your Name, and always claim You as our Redeemer Christ. We ask through the Holy Spirit, the Fire of our Faith; and the Creator of All That Is, who together with You are One God, now and for ever.  Amen. 




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