OWAAT January 7: Jesus’ Baptism (the First Sunday After Epiphany)

Okay, now we’ve put away our Christmas trees and are into the liturgical time either of Epiphany or the weeks following Epiphany until Lent begins, depending on one’s liturgical tradition. While we’re on the subject of changing liturgical seasons and times, I know that most of us who call ourselves Christian have some understanding of the liturgical year – but have you ever wondered how the liturgical year came into being? I have to admit, I hadn’t thought much about it until recently, when I began truly paying attention to these various liturgical seasons throughout the year and their meaning. If you’ve been curious, thankfully there are some really lovely books that help us to understand the liturgical year. One I’d like to highlight at at this point is The New Handbook of the Christian Year, Based on the Revised Common Lectionary. I really like how it gets into how and why the liturgical year came into being:

“The priorities of the early church’s faith are disclosed by the way Christians of the second, third, and fourth centuries organized time…. What was the faith of the early church as witnessed to by the church’s use of time? It was, above all else, faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Second, it was trust in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, known and experienced in the holy church. And third, it was belief that witnessed to those signs by which God had become manifest among us in Jesus Christ.” (p. 18)

Daily Bible readings:

January 7 – Psalm 135
January 8 – Psalm 136
January 9 – Psalm 137
January 10 – Psalm 138
January 11 – Psalm 139
January 12 – Psalm 140
January 13 – Psalm 141

Think:

As we consider the way the lectionary (for many of us, the Revised Common Lectionary) interacts with the liturgical year, there is a Psalm included in each week. Howard Neil Wallace in Words to God, Word from God says about this, “The psalm is explicitly regarded as ‘a congregational response and meditation on the first reading and is not intended as another reading.'” (p. 138) The Revised Common Lectionary provides “Principles for Psalm Selection in The Revised Common Lectionary (1992),” noting that the selected psalm should “fit harmoniously within the general tenor of the celebration” and express “the breadth and diversity of the Psalter.” (p. 217)

In your experience in worship and faith communities, have the Psalms been used these ways in worship? Why or why not?

Pray:

How is your experience of creating a personal Rule of Life going? Are you finding it easy, difficult, fun, boring, or some other feeling? Some reminders from last week:

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook encourages us to consider 5 questions or points when writing a rule for our life: when, where, and the practices by which we feel closest to God; our most important values and life aspirations; what one is currently doing to reach important goals; the practices that suit who we are; where we would like to change; and the disciplines we would like to try to affect that change.

The above concepts are more fully explained in this document from the CS Lewis Institute, “A Personal Rule of Life.”  Please read it and experiment with the composition of your rule of life. Please share any insights you have from doing this activity! Consider not only what you are doing to experience God in your life, but also how you are using God’s power available to all of God’s people.

Act:

“Historically, the original special day in this whole [Advent-Christmas-Epiphany] cycle was Epiphany. This day of “theophany” or of manifestation of God’s light and power in Christ was, along with Easter and Pentecost, the third chief event in the Christian calendar of the early church. It speaks to the archetypal human experience of longing for the light in the midst of the shortest and darkest days of the year.” (p. 53)

What specific action will you take this week as a person of faith to use your power, which comes from God, to share the light of Christ in our world?

Check the Think! Pray! Act! calendar for things to do.

Find your local faith- or congregation-based community organizing network/organization and participate in their work and actions. Here are links to the major faith-based community organizing networks and their local affiliate organizations:

DART – Direct Action and Research Training Center

Gamaliel

IAF – Industrial Areas Foundation

IVP – InterValley Project

PICO – People Improving Communities through Organizing

What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.

References:

Benedict of Nursia. Benedict’s Rule. Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 2017. https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/study/module/benedicts-rule

Consultation On Common Texts. The Revised Common Lectionary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2012.
Hickman, Hoyt L. The New Handbook of the Christian Year: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary. Abingdon Press, 2010.

“Instructions for Developing a Personal Rule of Life.” CS Lewis Institute, n.d. http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/338

Wallace, Howard Neil. Words to God, Word from God: The Psalms in the Prayer and Preaching of the Church. Taylor & Francis, 2017.

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