By Alan Finch.
We are now into Epiphany; a word with more than one understanding especially for us as Christians. One meaning of the word epiphany is a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of something that is very important to you and secondly, at least for us as Christians it is describes a powerful religious experience.
For us as Christians our Lord Jesus coming for baptism and then receiving the Holy Spirit is indeed our Epiphany. We see the Spirit from God alighting on Jesus in the form of a Dove and from that moment forward Jesus changes He is seen by the people as the one who brings Hope and that an end is in sight; being baptised with the Holy Spirit means that life is everlasting as became clear as Jesus’ ministry unfolded.
It was John’s role as prophet to foretell the great story of salvation as known in the person of Jesus Christ; well, that role is fulfilled with Jesus’ baptism today.
John is sometimes seen as the last of the old order: the last prophet in the line of Isaiah and Jeremiah, the last to baptise with only water; not also the Holy Spirit, and the last to demand repentance before the immanent coming of the kingdom of God.
For Jesus proclaims over and over again that the kingdom of God is not something in the distant future but has drawn near to us; it is here, and now. No longer coming, or far off, or even just the other side of a thin divide; but here, very near us.
Mark’s gospel starts, with no birth story or indeed the story of a twelve-year-old ‘wowing’ them in the synagogue; Jesus is at the start of His ministry at approximately thirty years old. And from this moment, the moment of a simple ritual of living water, Jesus is changed. No longer just the son of a carpenter, no longer a refugee in Egypt, no longer just another human being to walk the face of the earth.
He moves on from here to teach in synagogues and have all people sing his praises. He will heal the sick, and make the dead live again. He will preach, and perform miracles. He will astound people with his teaching, and confound us even today by submitting to death even death on a cross. And he will then appear again over forty days until he ascends into heaven, prophesying of his return in glory to judge the earth; a second coming which we are still awaiting, two thousand plus years on.
In the beginning, people knew him as that clever boy, Joseph’s son and the next he’s revealed as the Christ, the Messiah, the chosen one—God’s son, the beloved, with whom God is well pleased. It is in and through his baptism, that Jesus seems to have become an entirely different person.
It’s as if the waters of his baptism have revealed the true Jesus; somehow changed him, made him into who he truly is, giving him the power and inspiration to begin a mission and ministry that will forever change the world.
This is not unlike our own baptism: Now none of us is the Christ, but each and every one of us is the beloved, with whom God is well pleased. We are forever changed and transformed in that moment of baptism, we continue to be changed and transformed sometimes in small ways yet other times in bigger ways which is the situation that continues throughout our ministry on earth, no matter what your ministry is; none being bigger or better than anyone else’s ministry.
So just as Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit so, we are commissioned and sent forth to proclaim the good news of God’s love for humankind from the moment of our baptism.
So how does this Epiphany reveal itself in our lives? Well, it’s about knowing that we have been forever changed through accepting God is working in our life. That we are cleansed of sin and been accepted completely into the body of Christ’s Church been given the courage to persevere, and a spirit to know and share the love God, along with the gift of joy and wonder in all God’s works.
Baptism is an amazing gift. By it, we share in his death and resurrection and through it, we are reborn by the Holy Spirit But along with the gifts we receive comes a great responsibility. We are no longer simply to live as ordinary people in the world but are bound to boldly confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour; to reach out with all our resources for justice and peace among all people; and to look for and serve the Christ in everyone we meet.
Those of us who profess and call ourselves Christians are called to live a different kind of life, a life set apart from the world around us and yet somehow also very much in its midst.
A life forever changed and forever changing, searching to proceed on our journey going from strength to strength in our determination to reveal God’s Kingdom, where we are, amongst the people we serve.
Through baptism, we are forgiven, loved, and free to become more fully who God has created us to be; living members of Christ’s body, incarnate examples of divine love, living examples of God’s glory here on earth.
But just as Jesus’ ministry was unique to him, each of us is called to our own unique ministry. We are called, in fact, to grow into the fullness of ourselves as we were created by God to be. Part of our life after baptism is to discern just who we are called to be, and then to live it out as fully as we can — with God’s help. The creation story is not over; it is not finished; God is still creating and has declared us as co-creators, co-authors, of the next chapter. Tomorrow is up to you so during this season of Epiphany it should be a good time to spend some time remembering our role as the Body of Christ in mission to the world. It is also a good time to renew the work of discerning who God has called us, individually, as a community, and as a whole church, to be. Because whether or not you saw the Dove alight on you, whether or not you heard the voice say it, you are a Child of God, a beloved one, and with you God will be well pleased.