We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sermon, First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B – Rev. Tom Hughes

“Good morning to you all and welcome. I am sitting here with the Sun shining in and sitting in warmth and in comfort and peace and safety together here in the Lord’s house. What a blessing that is! So many people in places in the world do not have this service this morning and we take it for granted.

“The whole idea, however, of the way the world works was captured by me during this Christmas season in “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”.  Verse four captured for me what I want to share it with you because it really was a kind of a high moment for me.

“For lo the days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old
When with the ever circling years shall come the time foretold”

“The ever circling years” phrase carries real power for me because if you think about the way time moves there’s a real sense in way things move on from day to day and there seems like there’s some kind of repetition in the way things occur from generation to generation but most ways it seems like time moves in a straight line but in fact that’s not entirely true. It also moves in a circular way so God’s timing seems to move like this. It’s moving in a in circle as well as moving forward and so God’s purposes for us always are moving forward and that’s really what the basis of our time together this morning is as far as the scriptures are concerned because we read from the  Old Testament.

“The beginning of the history how God has acted in the earth in the lives of people and what have been revealed to us is that God has created the universe of matter.  God created the universe, created the stars and the planets and their courses and this island earth where we live so the idea that God created substance, mass, the elements of creation. is really the beginning of the movement of God’s power leading up to where we are today. That’s just the first stage that we have. It’s all recorded right here in Genesis which Elizabeth read so beautifully the beginning of these amazing things that God has done.

“The second is the life that was created in the Garden started with mass then God moved to the reality of life upon the Earth this thing we call life that we don’t really understand fully but it has to do with a forest that makes trees grow and little animals live the kind of Life they live and human beings be what we are but that didn’t come quite first. God created the mass God created life here in the Garden of Eden and then God created the human being awareness. Awareness of one another, physical awareness of the elements around us,  of the world around us and of each other mostly that God gave us that gift. This is another step of what it means to be a human being and of the movement of God’s power through the Earth.  First the mass then the creation of life and then the reality of awareness of one another. All happens right there in the beginning of scripture with  Genesis.

“But the next major thing that happened I refer to the 31st chapter of Jeremiah which is some 700 years before Christ. The next thing, if you call it a breakthrough of our understanding of God, comes in the time of the Prophet Jeremiah. This was a time of great transition in our understanding of God. God is saying this is the Covenant which I will make with the House of Israel in those days says the Lord I will put my law within them and I shall write it upon their hearts and I will be their God and they will be my people. I will write it upon their hearts.  God says through Jeremiah so you have here another unfolding of the of the power of God and the movement of history, now of human history that not only are we just creatures but we are creatures having put in our hearts the very spirit of God.  I will write it upon  their hearts God says So this is another advancement in the understanding what I means to be a human being, the idea of becoming what we are today so that’s spiritual  awareness

“The next thing is this idea of divine life. The spiritual awareness and the divine life are really very similar because we have a revelation of what it means to have spiritual awareness and divine life.  For example with the burning bush where Moses observed the bush that was burning but it’s not consumed. You see the power in that that’s the Holy Spirit. That’s the first revelation we have of God’s power to be a part of human life where God does not consume us but God gives us power of what was observed in in the burning bush, that Power of Love, that power of the presence of God that transforms human life and so you see there again is another step in this this development of what it means to be to be human.

“The next step along the way after the divine life is the coming of Jesus. We just read about that when he stepped upon the stage of history today. It’s a human being and in fact we know now the only perfect human being there’s ever been and he stepped upon the stage of history in this lesson we have today where he was baptized by Joh .  John was a very righteous servant of God. But John only understood the relationship with God that had to do with the keeping of the law – doing right . doing wrong. Now, doing right and not doing wrong are good things but they don’t transform the soul. They don’t make us.

“What Jesus brought then on that on that occasion was that in his baptism was a  new understanding of what it means to be in relationship with God, even another new understanding with the history of God’s movement from just the mass of creation to creation of life and creation of human awareness to the coming of the Holy Spirit and the fulfillment of the divine life. Christ is the fulfillment of the divine life.   Christ being baptized, baptized into our lives in the same way that we are baptized into His life because we usually think baptism is being is being baptized in Christ which is right that is certainly true but you know also that in becoming one with Christ he is baptized into our life in this occasion as well. That’s the commitment that he made to all humanity from that point on when he was baptized by John there in the river Jordan. The voice of God and the angel appeared and said this this is my chosen, my beloved, listen to him. So the development of our understanding of God and how God has revealed to us across more than just centuries across the Millennium across the vast expanse of the existence of the Earth from its very beginning to now has been a constant new revelation of God in the lives of human beings.

“Now, one of the problems that I keep reading about time to time as current culture is people feeling stuck, kind of purposeless,  particularly many younger members of who live a “no way out” sort of syndrome to where we are in the world that accounts for a lot of drugs and suicides and things like that. People feel hopeless . That kind of opinion is held in complete ignorance of the revelations of God. If you understand what God has already revealed to us about the purpose of  life, about always just becoming things of life, there’s a new horizon every day, there’s a new opening, a new direction, a new purpose, a new understanding that can come to us every day in life and the life is always moving in that great circle of the years. It’s always moving forward. God is always alive and moving in our lives. But we have to open ourselves to it. I think that’s the great problem we have today is that so many young people are brought up with no awareness of this dimension to life of all the things that have already always been true that we already know about which they’re not being taught and so they grow up with a sense of hopelessness and purposelessness you read about in the paper every day.

“So, the answer is that is obvious – Jesus Christ is the answer to all these questions. Jesus Christ is the one who came to us from God became a part of our lives is right now part of our life, the life of this church,  part of the life of you and me and so his baptism is of incredible import in the development of the history of the world and of each individual human life. We all are called to be that train of people walking through this earth, not in ignorance or fear or doubt or hopelessness but in the sure and certain knowledge that God’s movement through the world is always a movement towards life towards fulfillment towards new openings and new beginnings and new realities that are before us all the time. So the life of a follower of Christ then is one that is filled, if one will allow it, one that is filled with the always hopeful joyful sense of the becoming of whatever is next, always with the sense of something not quite here, yet something that is coming. We don’t know what that might be yet but we know through the promises of  God and what Christ has done for us in becoming one with us in baptism. There’s no limit to it. So even though we might look around us and feel despair sometimes, don’t let it linger because the purposes of God are always moving on. We might get caught in some bad event that happened in our life in the past, we might get drug drugged down by some event that happens that we read about the paper that might impress us,  don’t let the past control  the present or particularly our future because the over circling years are always bringing something new and something new of the purposes of God into our life and into the world.

“So, as we begin this this new year let’s do so with hope in our hearts and real sense of the unfolding of God’s purposes in the world we don’t know what they are yet exactly but we know they’re going to be magnificent just look at what’s already happened – the creation the beginning of life, human awareness of one another human awareness of the presence of God, human begin being transformed by the power of God, it’s all in the line God’s of holy purposes in the world.  Personally, I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next!”