Sermon for the First Sunday after Epiphany

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friends in Christ, after the horror of last Wednesday what words I had prepared about the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, seem less apposite. With your leave, then, I want to make just one point, relatively briefly, about this morning’s readings, and then to share with you our presiding Bishop’s “Word to the Church” released on Friday.

This one point I want to make has to do with the nature of water. It is necessary for life. It is the means by which we are given new life through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. It is a blessing.

And yet water, in itself, is chaotic. Our historic prayerbooks, with their many prayers for those at sea and those facing storms, capture this reality in a way missing from our contemporary book. Take for example the following from our 1928 Book of Common Prayer For a Person, or Persons, going to Sea”:

O Eternal God, who alone spreadest out the heavens, and rulest the raging of the sea; We commend to thy almighty protection, thy servants, for whose preservation on the great deep our prayers are desired. Guard them, we beseech thee, from the dangers of the sea, from sickness, from the violence of enemies, and from every evil to which they may be exposed. Conduct them in safety to the haven where they would be, with a grateful sense of thy mercies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This and prayers like it from our liturgical storehouse were clearly written by people for whom the great waters were more than the place for a leisure cruise.

And so, in itself, the primal element of water is a thing of chaos and danger. But what does scripture tell us about what God has done? In the very opening lines of the bible, from which we heard a few moments ago, the Holy Spirit descends upon the waters, ordering the chaos. In the 29th Psalm, which we just recited, we are assured that God sits above these chaotic waters in majesty and judgment, that he reigns even above the flood.

My brothers and sisters, we experienced this week chaos in our nation’s capitol like the rushing of dangerous waters. We saw the dams burst with rage and violence by those whose hearts and souls and minds were given over to a spirit of destruction. But God reigns. He is the only one whose word can transform this powerful primal element into a blessing, as the Prophet Amos foretold: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” Pray that God will accomplish it, and that right soon.

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.