First Sunday after the Epiphany

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary
Genesis 1:1-5
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11
Catholic lectionary:
Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2:1-12

Genesis 1.1-5
Creation – the world belongs to God. The Holy Spirit broods over the waters from which will come life.

Psalm 29
The voice of the Lord is over the waters. The voice of the Lord is heard in creation – in the trees, the wilderness, the forests, in fire and floods, through animals… and over the waters.

Acts 19.1-7
Baptism/water, the Holy Spirit, revelation, changed lives and prophetic witness combine in this passage.

Mark 1.4-11
John baptizes with water – a baptism of repentance.  Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, who brings new life. At Jesus’ baptism, water is the place of revelation: a voice from heaven declares Jesus to be God’s beloved son.


Water is the unifying theme of the four scriptures set for today: the waters that the Spirit was brooding over at Creation’s dawn; the waters that God’s voice thunders over, which the psalmist sings about; the waters of the baptism practised by Paul and John, and which Jesus himself goes through, where once again God’s Spirit is present, revealed and active in acts of re-creation. In these passages, water is the source of life and a symbol of new life. Water is the means of revelation and a metaphor for crisis / a turning point (for new believers and for Jesus).

Water continues to be a powerful metaphor and place of revelation in our world today:
The United Nations World Water Development Report 2023, which looks at progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation for all), says, ‘At current rates, progress towards all the targets of SDG 6 is off-track and in some areas, the rate of implementation needs to quadruple, or more. According to the latest figures from 2020, 26% of the world’s population (2 billion people) did not have access to safely managed drinking water services (Target 6.1), and an estimated 46% (3.6 billion) lacked access to safely managed sanitation (Target 6.2).’ What is the voice of the Lord saying over these waters?

Water is also the primary means by which climate change is experienced by millions of people across the world: whether through rising sea levels (leading to salination of soil, crop loss and land loss), stronger and more frequent stormsflooding or drought. What is the voice of the Lord saying over these waters?

And, as Christians, we are bound through the water of baptism to fellow Christians – and all God’s children –  around the world who are at the sharp end of poverty, injustice and environmental degradation.  What is the voice of the Lord saying over the shared water of our baptisms?

One of the joys of being part of the Anglican Alliance is to see some of the life-giving endeavours Christians across the world are engaged in daily – bringing relief to people who have been through flooding, storms and other disaster; bringing clean water and sanitation to their communities; working to tackle climate change in myriad ways.

This video, Troubled Waters, offers a visual reflection on many of these themes.

Where do you see the Holy Spirit hovering, creating and recreating, bringing new life?

What action can you take to make water more of a blessing than a challenge to people this coming year?


Further prayers and reflections here:

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Dr. Elizabeth Perry

Programme and Communication Manager, Anglican Alliance, London (UK)

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