Epiphany-1 (Yr A) Jan 12, 2020

 

Old Testament: Isaiah (42:1-9 )

 

“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. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.”  Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.  I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.”

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The Response: Psalm 29

 

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.

 

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The New Testament: Acts of the Apostles (10:34-43)

 

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem.  They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 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.”

 

 

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The Gospel: Matthew (3:13-17)

 

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 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.”

 

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TODAY’S HOMILY

by the Rev. Mike Kreutzer

 

Most of you know that, when I was ordained, I first served as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.  Sixteen years later, in 1991, when Bishop Herbert Thompson was prepared to “receive my orders” — that is to authorize me to serve as a priest in the Episcopal Church — I met with him to plan the celebration.  Judy and I were then active members of Christ Church in downtown Dayton.  The bishop was scheduled for one of his regular visits to Christ Church on June 9, and he said that he could receive my orders when he was there that day; but he hesitated a little bit.

 

He had just received information about that service, and it was obvious that it would already be a very busy and full celebration.  He would be presiding over the baptism of a baby girl, several people would be confirmed, a few others would be formally received into the Episcopal Church, and a couple others would be reaffirming their baptismal promises.  He was concerned that receiving my orders then would allow it to get lost in the middle of all that was happening; and so he kindly offered to schedule another time to come back to Christ Church that summer in order to give the reception of my orders the attention that he thought it deserved.

 

I thanked him for his consideration and his willingness to add yet another event into his already busy calendar.  But I offered another possible approach.  I had already been active in adult education for too many years to pass up what I saw as a perfect teaching opportunity.  “What if,” I suggested, “What if we went ahead with all those things planned for that day, including receiving my orders?  And what if we put the focus of the entire celebration on the baptism?  That would give you, Bishop, the opportunity to remind everyone that all these things we are celebrating – confirmations, receptions, renewals, and the exercise of ordained ministry – all these things are essentially different ways of living out our baptismal promises; that baptism in fundamental; and that the commission for ministry comes not with ordination but with baptism.”  He liked that idea, and so that is what we did.

 

My life as a member of the church began, of course, when I was baptized, way back in September of 1949.  I began my ordained ministry in this part of the church on that day that Bishop Thompson received my orders as we celebrated baptism in June of 1991.  And so it seems very appropriate that I conclude the full-time exercise of that ministry today as we focus once again on baptism, here on this feast of the Baptism of Jesus.

 

The Book of Common Prayer teaches (p. 298) that: “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church.”  When it comes to being commissioned for ministry, baptism is everything.  Unfortunately, in so many cases, the members of various churches have lost, or chosen to ignore, that fundamental reality. 

 

But not everybody.  Back in 1996, when I first met with members of St. Mark’s Calling Committee and began learning about this parish and about its life and ministry, one of the most powerful things that struck me about this church was the fact that these people get it!  Since 1938, when St. Mark’s began, this has been a church engaged in ministry.  This has been a church for the community.  Its two-fold focus has been on welcoming the wider community into the church while, at the same time, also going out themselves into the wider community to serve those in need.  It has been, as I have put it many times, a minority in service to the majority.

 

Over the past 23½ years, I have had the great joy and privilege of being part of that ministry, of encouraging the members of this church in that ministry, of extending that ministry in new directions, and of supporting the ministers of the church – that is, all of you – as you fulfilled your baptismal promises and exercised your baptismal ministry.

 

I leave with a deep sense of gratitude to many people.  I join with you in giving thanks, first of all of course, to the loving and gracious God from whom all blessings flow.  As a close second, I give thanks to Judy who has been with me through this entire journey and who continues to be with me through the far greater journey of life; I could not have done what I have done without her and her love.  I give thanks to Mark and Micaela, who were born into this church, who grew up in it, and who have been a very important part of my life here, as well as a central love of my entire life.

 

And I give thanks to you, the people of St. Mark’s, for receiving us here so lovingly and graciously and for allowing us to be, not only a part of your ministry, but, even more than that, a part of your lives.  That, to me, has been an awesome and truly humbling gift.

 

Over these many years, there have been times when I have been in my office and received a call from an excited new mother, one who has just given birth, sharing her joy with me and asking whether I could come right now and see her new baby.  As you can imagine, there was nothing in the world that I would rather have done.  And very shortly, I would be standing there in the room with her and her husband, holding in my arms this beautiful child, literally just a few hours old.  What an awesome gift and privilege!

 

There have also been many occasions when I have had the privilege of being with members of this church at the other end of life: standing with them and their families at the moment of their death, commending them to our loving Father, and knowing that the next face that they would see would be the face of God.  What an awesome and humbling honor that is!

 

To be with the people of St. Mark’s from virtually their first breath to literally their last breath – and at countless other breaths in-between, at times both big and small: for all of these, I am profoundly grateful and give you heartfelt thanks.

 

And now, my ministry here is complete.  I leave with confidence that the people of the greater-Dayton area and of the world beyond, will continue to be blessed in you for many years to come.  And I leave with the prayer that the God who began the good work in you will continue to bring it to completion as you live out faithfully your baptismal covenant.

 

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Webmaster’s Note:

 

This is Father Mike’s last sermon with St. Mark’s.  The Episcopal Church requires that the retiring priest makes “clean break” with their parish.  We will all truly miss his presence among us and thank him for his past twenty-three years of faithful service.  He will be especially missed by that small “hard core” group of Adult Forum attendees, where year after year, he generously shared with us his seemingly infinite knowledge about the Bible and its rich history.

 

Dave