January 21 10:30 a.m.

January 7, 2018. Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, B* St. John's Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                                                 Gen1:1-5;Acts 19:1-7;Mk1:4-11

Today little Henry Berry will begin a life that is wholly new. "But he's hardly started the life he already has," you may think. True, but today he enters into a Christ-shaped life, and is born into Christ's community of faith and love. He might choose to wander off from it, but he will always belong as a member, always have a place, as Christ's own, sealed by the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. For this moment, his family and sponsors choose for him, to open this potential path of discipleship and service into which they are promising, before God, witnessed by all of us, to nurture and guide him. He will go down into the water of baptism, and the Church likens this to going down into the grave with Jesus to be reborn into an eternal life.

A story: When I went off to Hidden Lake Girl Scout Camp, near Lake George, NY, in the fifth grade, I discovered I was the only child in my unit who did not already know how to swim. This quickly became public knowledge since on the first day, a swimming test was administered to assure that all campers who would be using the canoes and rowboats were swimmers. We were all forced to jump off the dock into the deep end, even me, protesting (rather quietly) that I didn‘t know how to swim. I had to be hauled out mortified and a bit scared by one of the counselors like a drowning cat. Horribly embarrassing! The good news was that I had one to one instruction from a lovely counselor and in three days I was floating and swimming and then boating with the rest. But I remember the dark lake water closing over my head.

Maybe you have happier memories of being underwater…the way the shock of the cool water hits your dry skin; the change of light from underneath the surface looking up; the haze of bubbles around you; the way sound suddenly stops after the roar of the water in your ears and then is muffled and strange; the way time seems to slow down in that dense environment and your limbs move differently. It can be delightful (if you know how to swim): diving in with this rush of sensory change - a liminal experience, a boundary crossed into a new world where everything familiar is disrupted just for a moment or two. I want to invite you to go down with the young man Jesus under the water of the Jordan this morning. Close your eyes and call back an underwater experience, whether pleasant or not. The moment before…the going in and under…the underwater sensations…the coming up to light and breath.

Resurfacing after crossing that water boundary can be a visceral reminder that this moment is entirely new. In this moment - every moment of our lives in which we are awake and alert and attentive - is the moment when we are crossing into something new and in which we may hear again God summoning us into our true vocation - the calling for this piece of life (the change of direction, or holding a steady course, the arrival of a new potential, the seizing of some sense of urgent summons or concern we’d held at bay or been distracted from); and the deep summons to the trajectory of our whole life and being from God, to God, because of and despite everything we are and we do, being drawn into our perfecting in the purpose and time of God.

On this feast, we all remember our commitment to our baptismal promises in solidarity with Jesus the baptized one, whose Spirit is given to us. And we recall that baptism isn’t just a few drops of water on the forehead after which usual life goes on, but a passage with Jesus through death and the grave, a parting of the seas of the ordinary into a promised land of both peril and life abundant.  Baptism is intended to be a bit scary; a life-and-death matter. When an infant wails upon being dunked or splashed, most adults feels a little clutch in their stomachs, some anxiety - and properly so - for the baptismal moment is a microcosm of both our mortality (the inevitability of our dying, our suffering in life, and the way that following Jesus leads us to the cross); and also of our immortality - as we are raised into newness of life now and in the future. We will not be left under the water, in the grave of the earth, in the oblivion of our sin and separation from God and each other. No, we will be raised into light.

At the start of the book of Beginning, Genesis, in archetypal language we hear of the primeval universe. In beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was -in Hebew tohu v’ bohu - unformed and empty. In the beginning, God. That’s the first word we have in our holy Scriptures: in the beginning God; and in the lovely flexibility of Hebrew, also: in beginning, God created. Tohu is the vacuum, chaos, confusion, unreality, purposeless waste. In the midst of it, God brings order and life, boundaries, and direction, full of evolving possibility.

Our moments of coming up from the waters of birth into the light and air, the environment of our life and labor, bring us, too, into this world set in order by God and called to be good. Whatever the nature and direction of our vocation for this piece of life, whatever the tasks before us and the virtues required of us to do them, we may be confident that God establishes an order in and from them, and that they participate in the divine goodness. The work of today, of tomorrow and the next day, for us who have died and risen with Jesus in our baptism, is part of the overarching unstoppable divine purpose which is to bring order from chaos, meaning from emptiness, good from all of it.

Darkness covered the surface of the original deep and a wind from God swept over it; or another rendering of the Hebrew: the spirit or breath of God moved gently (murmured, cherished, fertilized, hovered over, brooded over) over the face of the waters. That divine Spirit which cherished and subdued and made fruitful the original waters, which evoked their goodness and purpose, is the same Spirit which descended upon Jesus seen as a dove, and that same Spirit, the apostle Paul says repeatedly, which was in Jesus is given also to us. It is the breath breathed into the first human creature Adam in the second creation story of Genesis, the sign of divine life in all the breathing and transpiring creatures of the planet. It is Henry's first and every breath. Each breath we take reminds us that we share in the divine breath. And at no moment are we more conscious of receiving that life-giving breath than when we come up from submersion under the water where we cannot breathe and live.

So this morning, in this moment, give thanks for your baptism, and breathe in your next breath as a sheer gift and grace from the Holy One whose Spirit you bear and whose work you are called to do. As you bring order to the world, as you point to and repair and restore its goodness and health in every way you can, as you brood over the stuff of creation and cherish and make it fruitful by your energy and imagination, your love and labor and breath; as you repair and conserve it for Henry and all the children now and to come, claim your calling to collaborate in God’s work of creation in every moment. You are making the world new alongside your Creator. You, too, are being made new.


WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Office Hours:  
Tuesday 2:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Thursday 2:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Friday 2:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Sunday Worship:  10:00  a.m. 
Wednesday Eucharist: 10:15 a.m.

This is St. John's Episcopal Church... please click on photo below to see more photos of church life!

This is St. John's Episcopal Church, Westwood MA

Want to check on the readings for a particular Sunday or other day?  Click below to go to the Lectionary page...  all readings available for 2017:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips

Tuesday, January 16, 7:00 p.m.
Bible Study, followed by Celtic style Compline

Wednesday, January 17, 10:15 a.m.
NO Eucharist ~ Jennifer away

Sunday, January 21, 10:30 a.m.
Worship ~ The Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Proclamation of the Date of Easter

Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us until the day of his return. Through the rhythms of times and seasons, let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation. Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum* of the Lord: his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising, celebrated between the evening of the 29th of March and the dawn of the1st of April. Each Easter, each Sunday the Holy Church makes present that great and saving deed by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death.


From Easter come forth and are reckoned all the days we keep holy: Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, on the 14th of February; the Ascension of the Lord, the 12th of May, and Pentecost, the 10th of May; the first Sunday of Advent, the 2nd of December.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed. To Christ, who was, who, is, and who is to come, the Lord of time and history, be endless praise for ever and ever. Amen.


*Three Days

Christian Discipleship in Action via St. John’s

Come join in:

Oasis Ministrieswe cook and serve a monthly hot chicken dinner to about 100 homeless neighbors in down- town Boston on 2nd Mondays.

Ecclesia outreachwe invite homeless and poor neighbors to Hale Reservation for a summer picnic and for a Spring bowling afternoon in Norwood.

Tutoring after-school reading and homework help for city children at Church of the Holy Spirit, Mattapan on Tuesday afternoons.

Pantry support for the Westwood Food Pantry and the Center for Life elderly housing complex in Mattapan – bring non-perishable groceries to church year round.

Habitat for Humanity home buildcoming soon, a St. John’s team to help build an affordable home in Westwood.

Prayer Shawlsknitting group prayerfully makes shawls for people facing illness or crisis.

Urban Promise Honduras missioners from St. John’s & CHS travel to learn and work with children at a school in Copan every few years.

Boston B-SAFE summer program our team works during a July week each year to provide meals and a field trip & picnic for this large city children’s program.

Eucharistic Visiting members are trained and take the Sacrament, offer healing prayer, and make friendly visits to people who are homebound, in hospital, or other institutional settings.

Speak to Rev. Jennifer if you’d like to put your discipleship to work in one or more of these parish ministries!

Above: warming many pans of chicken; Below: a moment of levity with fellow volunteers from Church on the Hill, Boston (January 8)