January 2024

7th January 1st Sunday in Epiphany – The Baptism of Christ : Mark 1 v 4-11

John the baptiser appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  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.  I have baptised you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  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. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

What does baptism do? John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, and people were coming to confess and symbolically be washed of their sins. This suggests that John the Baptist’s form of baptism is a once and for all act never to be needed again. Today we don’t practise John’s form of baptism. John himself said that he baptized with water, but the one more powerful than him would come after him and baptize with the Holy Spirit. And it’s that baptism that we practice today. Yes, we use water, too, but the water is secondary. The water’s not what does all the action in baptism. Our Christian baptism is something God does, witnessed by us and signified by the water. It is a sacramental act, an outward and visible sign of an inward and visible grace given to us by God


14th January 2 nd Sunday of Epiphany John 1 v 43 – end

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’  Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’  When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’  Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’  Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’  Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’  And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

Whatever it was that attracted Philip to follow Jesus, excited him, so when he came across his friend Nathanael he encouraged him to join them too. Nathanael was far more sceptical at first. Who was this person? What was he about? Part of Nathanael’s scepticism was because of where Jesus came from. As we know some places can, often unfairly, get a negative reputation. As far as Nathanael was concerned Nazareth was one of those towns. However when Nathanael saw Jesus something clicked inside him. There was something about this man that won him over.

I wonder whether you have come across someone in your life who you have felt drawn to and in whom you felt you could place your absolute faith and trust even when you are tested and challenged? What was or is ‘it’ about them? What does it mean for you to follow Jesus? Come and see says Philip.


21st January: 3rd Sunday of Epiphany: John 2 v 1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

In the days of Jesus, weddings were a major community event and would have lasted up to seven days. It was very much a community celebration. The host would be judged in his community by how well the party was handled. So to have the wine run out before the party was over would have been a catastrophe. However, this passage isn't just about a wedding or the wine running out. It's about seeing a sign of God's presence in our midst and that leads us to believe. This story records the first of Jesus’ public miracles. It was by this miracle that people sat up and took notice, and it was with this miracle that Jesus really began his ministry.

What would your response have been to the wine running out?


28th January 4th  Sunday of Epiphany (or Presentation of Christ in the Temple Candlemass) Mark 1 v 21-28

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.  They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,  and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’  And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.  They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’  At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

This passage can be read in many different ways thus perhaps revealing contrasting insights. Firstly from the perspective of the man with the unclean spirit, who may have felt put down by Jesus’ forthright response to his rant; secondly from the vantage point of the congregation who watched in amazement this interaction between Jesus and the man, were acutely aware of a possible hostile reaction from the scribes and elders. Then again what did the elders and those in authority really think of this man Jesus, not even a bona fide Rabbi, who didn’t have an official role in the synagogue, other than as a member of the congregation. All listened spellbound to this relatively unknown preacher who spoke with such authority demanding ‘the unclean spirit’ to leave the man.

What response does this passage evoke in you?

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