Isaiah 43: 1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8: 14 - 17, Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22
THE REV. JAMES M.L. GRACE
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Almost twenty years ago, my brother Randall and I travelled to the Middle East. Our trip took about a month, and along the way we visited Athens, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Amman, Petra, and Jericho. With only a few days of our trip left, we crossed the border from Israel into Egypt.
Once in Egypt, we found someone willing to drive us and several other travelers across the Sinai peninsula to Cairo. At some point during our journey, the car broke down. We all climbed out of it, and I scanned the desert horizon around me, and it was miles and miles of endless desert – for a self-confessed Star Wars nerd, the landscape looked like the desert planet of Tatooine. As the deep red sun began to set in the west, I knew that as long as we followed the sun west, we would eventually arrive at Cairo. So we began walking, following the setting sun, until a kind person driving along the road picked us up and brought us to our destination in Cairo.
Thousands of years before, a group of travelers also came from the east, following a star in the nighttime sky. These travelers were presumably astrologers, people who studied the stars. The stars have helped people travel for centuries, whether a sailor at sea, or those who travelled the Undeground Railroad alongside Harriet Tubman. Today, we don’t know what star these astrologers followed, or what it looked like. Some think it was a comet, or maybe the joining of two planets in the sky, or even a supernova. We don’t know.
We do know that they left their homeland because they believed that astrological phenomena, like a bright star, indicated that something important had happened on earth. We know the star, whatever it was, lead them to meet God’s child, Jesus of Nazareth.
That story marks the beginning of the season Epiphany, which we are in now. The word “epiphany” simply means an event that reveals something about who God is and who we are in relation to God. This morning we hear another story of an Epiphany - the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. He is an infant no longer, the visiting astrologers have long since left. Jesus is now a man, and his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist is one of the few moments in the entire Bible where all three persons of the Trinity are present: God the Son, emerging from the waters, God the Father, whose voice proclaims “this is my son, with whom I am well pleased” and God the Holy Spirit, who rests upon Christ as a dove.
Today at St. Andrew’s is a day for baptism. It is a day of Epiphany for us as well. Today we will baptize Fiona Berlanta Kirk, Claire Evelyn Woodruff, Robin Michelle Thelen, and Ella Victoria Major. These four beautiful girls are epiphanies to us, they are our teachers about God and about what God is doing in our midst. Each of these young girls come to us with a timeless, ancient message they proclaim in their squeels, their crying, their laughter, and their sleep. The message is this: God is here, present amongst us and through us in our humanity and in our divinity.
The message of Epiphany is not just Christ’s manifestation to the world through miracles, but the fact that we are God’s Epiphany – we are God’s miracle, we make God manifest in the world today. That is the proclamation of Baptism - it is the voice of God speaking to you now, saying: “You are my child, and with you, I am pleased.” AMEN.