First Sunday After Epiphany
Holy Eucharist (Rite II)
Sunday, January 10, 2021
The Celebrant and LEM stand, maintaining physical distance. There is no procession.
Celebrant: Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
LEM: And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever.
Celebrant: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Celebrant: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One,
LEM: Have mercy upon us.
Opening Hymn: ‘I come,’ the great Redeemer cries Hymnal 1982 #116
‘I come,’ the great Redeemer cries,
‘to do thy will, O Lord!’
At Jordan’s stream, behold! He seals
the sure prophetic word.
‘Thus it becomes us to fulfill
all righteousness,’ he said.
Then, faithful to the Lord’s commands,
through Jordan’s flood was led.
The Collect of the Day
Celebrant: The Lord be with you,
LEM: And also with you.
Celebrant: Let us pray.
The Celebrant says the Collect.
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.
The Old Testament Lesson Genesis 1:1-5
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he 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.
LEM: The Word of the Lord.
Celebrant: Thanks be to God.
Psalm of the Day Psalm 29
1Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,[a]
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendor.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,[b]
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
The New Testament Lesson Acts 19:1-7
1While 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.
LEM: The Word of the Lord.
Celebrant: Thanks be to God.
Gradual Hymn: “Sing praise to our Creator” Hymnal 1982 #295
Sing praise to our Creator, O you of Adam’s race –
God’s children by adoption, baptized into his grace.
To Jesus Christ give glory, God’s co-eternal Son;
as members of his Body we live in him as one.
The Gospel Mark 1:4-11
Then, all standing, the Deacon or a Priest reads the Gospel, first saying
Celebrant: The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.
LEM: Glory to you, Lord Christ.
4 John the baptizer appeared[a] in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with[b] water; but he will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit.”
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;[d] with you I am well pleased.”
Priest: The Gospel of the Lord.
LEM: Praise to you, Lord Christ.
The Sermon: “The Baptism of Repentance”
Epiphany 1 B
Owing mostly, I’m sure, to my wife’s great skill as a mother and her training as a clinical social worker and therapist, our children’s younger years were spared many of the dramas and minor traumas that affect, or afflict, so many young families. Also, we rarely had dogs, and the one greyhound we did have functioned, most of the time, as a cat, silent and sleeping. What this means is that a nightly, or near-nightly, occasion for drama in many families was one that we were spared: bathtime. Oh, the number of young families I’ve witnessed or counseled whose children hate getting in the bath more than they hate eating broccoli or Brussel sprouts, and for whom certain ages of child express their dislike with rather more insistence than is good for them. “I won’t get in the bath” one former student’s four-year-old regularly insists. “I won’t, I woh not. And you can’t make me.” “Me neither,” chimes in a sibling who by this point should know better, but hey, if that one gets away with it, why can’t I?
“We’ll see about that,” replied the mother.
“Oh, no, we WON’T” replied now both children, scampering off to the living room, starkers, to hide with and cling to the family Labrador, who always takes this as good sport and an occasion, indeed an invitation, to join in. Such evenings when first one, then the other child is deposited, against both of their wills, in the now not quite as cozy as it had been water, the Lab inevitably joins tail-waggingly in. Much tile, many towels, and all mammals involved proceed to get soaking wet, but it’s never clear whether much washing gets done. “At least they had a rinse,” my former student tells me, exhausted and eventually laughing at all this. “At least they didn’t get any more dirty.”
You can imagine John the locust-eater, Wildman John, the one who will baptize with water and who has a thing about sandals, having much the same reaction to the people who came down to the river, at his insistence, to be washed clean of their sins. He hoped it’d do them some good, given what was coming – one would baptize them with the Spirit and with fire, neither of which water could quench or soothe. He had no way of knowing, with most of them. He didn’t know them, and they knew him only by firebrand and reputation. They knew what he said, and what this water meant to him, and what he wanted them to do once they got in it, confess their sins and be free of them. He knew he couldn’t do it for them, but he knew they needed it done. He knew he could only lead them to the water, but couldn’t make them drink and couldn’t make them get in, not and mean it. They had to want to, and he had to encourage them to want to. He couldn’t make them.
That’s the thing about repentance and remorse. You can’t make people do the first and you can’t make them feel the second, as much as you might want to, feel they need you to. You can make it easier or harder for them to retain their dignity while they do, and that can help immensely. When they want to, all you can be is ready. John the Baptizer, you might say, was born ready, and by the time the people of Judea and Jerusalem had not only heard of him but listened to him, they were ready as well. Down to the river they came, and in it they went, repenting and confessing and setting themselves, thereby, free.
There’s something about being immersed in water, particularly flowing water, that feels cleansing, even if the river is has not the purified sterility of a swimming pool or the fresh, potable bathwater whose presence, right there, under pressure in our homes is one of the great achievements of human civilization and cooperation. In myth and song, to go down to the river – and one can never go ‘up’ to the river, by definition – to go down to the river – or as the great gospel song has it, “go down in the river” – is to be cleansed, healed, and reborn. Whether one goes down in the river with sisters, with brothers, with fathers, with mothers, or with all sinners to study about that good old way and discern who will wear that starry crown, one has to go down oneself. No-one can do it for you, no matter how many do it with you, and when it’s all over, no matter how warm the water or the air surrounding, you will feel the chill of it, the damp of it, and how the water doesn’t all wash off or wash away. Dirt it may wash away, and sins physical and metaphysical, but the water itself does not wash away, not entirely. You go down in the river, way down in the river, and you’ll come out taking some of that river with you, and it will stay with you a while. Nothing bad about that. Give you something to remember, to have clinging to you when the desire to un-repent comes upon you, which it will.
When I was a kid, the only sins anyone in church circles seemed to care about were smoking, sex, and swearing. If you managed to get through adolescence untouched by any of these, nobody in the church or near it seemed to much care whatever else you did. Falling into any of them, however, it was made very clear would be neither forgotten nor forgiven. The social and legal consequences for lying, cheating, drinking, gambling, acting out racism, sexism, homophobia, or other kinds of evil, busting out a company, starting a war, or applying a personal five-finger discount at the five-and-dime were not great, from what I could tell; more’s the pity and shame. I’d like to think that such a work as Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time would’ve spoken to me out there in the white-flight zip codes, had anyone put it to my attention, but none did, and knowing how little I understood the world back then I fear that it might not have. Yet I did know one kid who once tried to take money out of the collection plate during service. He got quite a slap for it, in the pew, in front of everybody, which no doubt made it in his mind all the more worth it. He was one of those nasty little boys who liked to pull the wings of flies and beat frogs to death in a ditch, so some sort of intervention was surely warranted, though I don’t think he ever got one. Maybe the Eater of Locusts from ancient Judea could’ve reached him, I don’t know. But if ever a child needed to go down in the river and pray….
Most of the sins against which our scriptures warn us, and that John wanted his people to repent of, involve deceit, abuse, idolatry, or exploitation. These are, in each of the covenants God made with his chosen people, of a piece. The surest way to spot a wicked person or a fool was to find someone who denied in his heart that God existed and would do anything he or she could to lie, cheat, steal, exploit, abuse, bust out, or otherwise use other people as a means to an end. Find someone denying the divinity of God, they thought, and you’ve sure as sugar found someone who’ll deny the humanity of man – we would say ‘people’, but you understand.
The converse is true, too: find someone who exploits other people, cheats them, steals from them, lies to them, throws them out of their jobs or their homeland of their homes, is violent or racist or sexist or otherwise abusive toward them, and you’ve found someone who is no friend of the Almighty any more than s/he is to the rest of us, whether or not they bleat “Lord, Lord!” every Sunday. These sins can be – indeed, are – as systemic as they are individual. Repenting of them requires both systemic and individual decisions, turnarounds, reworkings of how we think and what we do. But you can’t take an entire country or economic system down in the river, and you can’t make an entire nation or way we do things repent of its sins and call on the Almighty to save. People have to change, one by one, and then one by one change those things, systems, ways of doing things that keep so people all over the world poor, downtrodden, ignorant, misled, misguided, exploited, and in chains.
The year that was, and the quadrennium that in ten days will finally end, have taught us many things the absorbing of which will, I suspect, feel very much like repentance. For instance: Lies matter and are always wrong. We all need one another – and are either a healthy society that functions well and generously together, or an unhealthy society of people trying to get over on one another and tear each other down. Self-serving behavior by people of great power and authority can get us all killed. It is easier to kick down a barn than build one, easier to divide a nation than unite one, and easier to raise healthy children than heal broken people. If the task appears daunting, that means we grasp its scope and seriousness. But let us not forget that, though each person who came out to see the Locust-Eater down in the river and be by him baptized came along, there were rather a lot of them, and some of them, at least, helped change the world God chose to create, and Christ that loved enough to die to save. In that, we can find hope – and that is something we need to find, just as we need to find the love it engenders and the faith it inspires, that the world might be blessed by them in our day as it was in his.
My former student is a good mother, I should say, here at the end. Her children are well-loved and, for the most part, well-disciplined. She and her husband solved the bathtime issue by finally asking the children what they hated about the experience, and learned that they’d been letting the water get too hot all along. Oops. By the time the running around was all done and the Labrador had gotten bored with having gotten involved, the water had cooled down enough for the little ones to sit down in, and all could be well. Once they had a meeting of the minds, as it were, children and parents could go up in the bathwater and cleanse those most in need of it, and at least no-one got dirtier. Things have a way of working out when people try to make them do so and are honest about it. Let’s hope what worked in the home can work in the nation, too, and across this, the only world we’ll ever have, and that we have to learn to share with others well. Amen.
The Deacon or Priest prepares the altar and sanctuary for the Eucharist.
The People make ready their gifts of bread and wine. The LEM continues
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God, begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Prayers of the People
The LEM prays. In the silence after each bidding, the People offer their prayers without speaking.
I ask your prayers for all God’s people; for our bishops, our clergy, and this gathering, and for all ministers and people. Pray for the Church.
I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among nations; and for the well-being of all. Pray for justice and peace.
I ask your prayers for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, and those in prison.
Pray for those in any need or trouble.
I ask your prayers for all who seek God, or a deeper knowledge of God.
Pray that they may seek, and pray that they might find.
I ask your prayers for the departed [especially N.N.]. Pray for those who have died.
I ask your prayers for those on the prayer list of this parish, and those whose needs are known to you alone.
The Celebrant adds a concluding collect.
The People stand.
Celebrant: The peace of the Lord be always with you,
LEM: And also with you.
The Ministers and People greet one another in silence while keeping physical distance.
The Holy Eucharist: The Great Thanksgiving
Celebrant: The Lord be with you,
LEM: And also with you.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
LEM: We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
LEM: It is right to give God thanks and praise.
Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant proceeds
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, because in the mystery of the Word made flesh, you have caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to give the knowledge of your glory in the face of your son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the host of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to the glory of your Name:
The LEM says
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
The people stand or kneel. The People hold forth their gifts. The Celebrant continues
We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son. For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you. In him, you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.
On the night he died for us, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.”
After supper he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me.”
Therefore, according to his command, O Lord:
LEM We remember his death. We proclaim his resurrection. We await his coming in glory;
The Celebrant continues
And we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, O Lord of all, presenting to you, from your creation, this bread and this wine.
We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country where, with [N.N. and] all your saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation,
By whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. Amen.
Now, as Christ taught us, we are bold to say,
The LEM prays
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The Breaking of the Bread
The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread, and then keeps a period of silence. The Celebrant continues
Celebrant: [Alleluia.] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;
LEM: Therefore, let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]
Celebrant: The Gifts of God for the People of God.
The People come forward to retrieve the hosts, maintaining physical distance. They consume the hosts upon returning to their seats. They consume their gifts. After Communion, the Celebrant says
Let us pray. The Celebrant prays
Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessing and Dismissal
The Celebrant says
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord be with you, this day and always, and give you peace.
The LEM says
Let us go forth, in peace, to love and serve the Lord.
“O love, how deep, how broad, how high” Hymnal 1982, # 448
O love, how deep, how broad, how high,
how passing thought and fantasy,
that God, the Son of God, should take
our mortal form for mortals’ sake.
For us baptized, for us he bore
his holy fast and hungered sore;
for us temptations sharp he knew;
for us the tempter overthrew.
The Celebrant, the LEM, and the People depart, maintaining physical distance.
We hope that today’s service has been a blessing to you.
We are here to serve you, and hope to see you again.
Please feel free to call us, email us, or visit us online.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Fairland, MD
12621 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
email@example.com * 301-622-5860 ext. 101
The Rev. Dr. Christopher Wilkins, Priest-in-Charge
firstname.lastname@example.org * 301-622-5860 ext. 102
Linda Lee, Parish Administrator
email@example.com * 301-622-5860 ext. 104
Beresford Coker, Musical Director
Joyce Walker, Administrative Assistant
Charles Smith, Senior Warden
Lee Mericle, Junior Warden
For information about St. Mark’s, please visit our website:
The table for readings in Year B (Epiphany) may be found here: https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/lections.php?year=B&season=Epiphany.
 Sermon text © 2021 Christopher Wilkins. All rights reserved.
Resources (available for free online)
These resources contain the prayers and worship services used in The Episcopal Church and by Episcopalians in their daily devotions.
Book of Common Prayer, www.bcponline.org
Enriching Our Worship 1, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-1/enrichingourworship1.pdf
Enriching Our Worship 2, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-2/enrichingourworship2.pdf
Hymnal 1982: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/EH1982
Hymnal 1940: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/HPEC1940
Lift Every Voice and Sing II: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/LEVS1993
Wonder, Love, and Praise: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/WLP1997
This source shows the readings assigned for use in Sunday worship and for daily office use for each day of the year, with links to online biblical texts.
Links to church websites – National, Diocesan and our church’s website.