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Environmental Stewardship Commission

Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

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Lectionary Reflection

Year C, First Sunday After Epiphany Gospel Revised Common Lectionary

Luke 3:15-17,21-22

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

Reflection on Luke 3:15-17,21-22 by The Rev. Thomas Harries

If you want to add an element of Creation celebration to your preaching on this Sunday, you could focus on some of the ways water actually does at the physical level what it does symbolically in baptism.

The sacramental act at baptism is immersion in water (unfortunately a mere pouring on the head for most Anglicans). Spiritually, one is cleansed from sin and death. Water is the perfect symbol because in the physical world it also cleanses. We use it to wash our hands before cooking or eating, we use it to wash our whole bodies in the shower. Sometimes we use it to cleanse our muscles of stress when we soak in a hot bath. In all of these ways water blesses us quite directly with its cleansing power.

Why is water such a good cleanser? Its molecular structure allows it to dissolve a lot of different things and to hold others in suspension. And the warmer it is, the more it can wash away. Water cleanses more than our bodies, though. I'm sure you've felt and smelled the cleanliness of air after a good rainstorm. Many of the particulates have been washed out. And of course we use water for cleansing in many industrial processes. That causes some problems, but it is still a major contribution to our overall wellbeing.

Baptism is the beginning of a new life in Christ and water is the source and sustainer of all life. To the best of our knowledge life began with complex molecules in suspension in seawater. Driven by the love of God to greater complexity and collaboration these molecules formed cells and, ultimately, multi-cellular organisms. Within our cells today is still a solution similar to, though not as salty as, seawater. Each human begins life in a watery bath in his or her mother's womb. Even though we can now artificially inseminate eggs, the only place they will mature into a person is in the womb.

Water is essential not only in starting life, but in sustaining it from moment to moment. A person can fast for a month, but can go only a couple of days without water. All of our crops depend on it, as do our livestock. In short, water is an essential foundation for life. In order to bring us these wonderful blessings, water must be fresh and free of contaminants. That is our challenge: to care for this fabulous and essential gift, so that our children and our children's children may enjoy a rich life on this earth.

Copyright Statement

To Reflections on other RCL Readings for Year C, Epiphany 1:

Old Testament Isaiah 43:1-7
no reflection available
Psalm Psalm 29
no reflection available
New Testament Acts 8:14-17
no reflection available
Gospel Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
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The Rev Tom Harries, was Co-Chair of MEESC and Priest-in-Charge of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, St. Peter, MN, when he originally wrote this reflection in 2007. Tom and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to the Rev Tom Harries or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

MEESC c/o C. Morello 4451 Lakeside Drive Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.

This page last updated 2007-01-16.

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