Devotional Subject: Epiphany

Devotional Subject: Epiphany

Epiphany -- Toward a Just and Beloved Community: Martin Luther King, Jr., Sunday

A Litany for Martin Luther King Sunday
First Sunday after Epiphany

All of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s work, from the very beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, was oriented toward the creation of a community characterized by love and justice, a society completely integrated among different races, a vision he called "the Beloved Community."* Legislated desegregation was just the beginning; although laws could correct injustices of housing, education and employment, such legislation could not effect the change of hearts and minds which would foster true community. A wholehearted integration of society was King's hope and the hope of the movement he led.

Today, in the year which marks the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., society's work toward full integration continues; within communities of color the cry out for equity or a level playing field across the board still remains a constant challenge. The church's work toward the Beloved Community continues as well. The work for this whole-hearted integration in both society and church includes today not only people excluded by race, but also those excluded by gender, disabilities, and sexual orientation.

From my position, vocationally as Minister for Racial Justice and personally along the varied intersections and continuum of systemic and personal oppression, I pray for deliverance from the forces which foster the societal evils and spiritual deaths of segregation in all its contemporary guises. To that end, the following litany has been inspired by Psalm 86 and Dr. King's vision of the Beloved Community.

Let us pray:

Incline your ear, O God, and answer us,
for we are poor, hungry, naked, homeless and sick.
Preserve our lives, for we are devoted to you;
save your servants who trust in you.

Dr. King's work reminds us:
church and state must work together for the common good;
laws must establish justice for all,
but hearts must change for the Beloved Community to flourish.

We will do the work of justice for all;
we will open our hearts to an ever-expanding vision of community.
We will trust the Spirit of God to guide and move us between the present and the anticipated Realm of Justice.

You are our God; be gracious to your children, for we cry out to you all day long.
Bring joy to the soul of your servants, for to you, O God, we lift up our soul.

Dr. King's vision inspires us:
"We are tied together in a single garment of destiny caught in an inescapable network of mutuality."

We will work for a world where lives are enriched by difference;
where people of different genders, races and sexual orientations work together in Shalom for the good of the whole.
We will work for a nation where persons will be judged solely upon the content of their characters.

For you, O God, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
Give ear, O God, to the prayers of the marginalized; listen to our supplications.

Dr. King's words challenge us:
"...injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

We will listen to the cries of the poor;
we will stand in solidarity with those who suffer oppression;
we will take as our own the hopes of all who long for full human life;
we will create in our midst the Beloved Community with room for all, justice for all, joy for all, Shalom for all.
We will listen to the voice of the Christ, who stirs about liberating all minds, hearts and spirits.

In our days of trouble we call on you, for you will answer us.
There is none like you among the gods, O God,
nor are there any works like yours to the ends of the earth.
Teach us your way, O God, that we may walk in your truth.

Dr. King's life inspires us:
"I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land...I still believe that someday we shall overcome."

We will overcome because of our faith and trust in God.
We will reach the goal laid before us without faltering.
We will never give up our hope for equality with one another.
We will live Dr. King's dream into our reality.

Toward a Just and Beloved Community: Martin Luther King, Jr., Sunday was written by Rev. Dr. Bentley de Bardelaben, Minister for Racial Justice, Justice and Witness Ministries.

*The inspiration for this prayer is taken from Vision of the Beloved Community, in Search for the Beloved Community: The Thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Kenneth L. Smith and Ira G. Zepp, Jr. © 1998, Judson Press, Valley Forge, PA. All but the final quotation is taken from King's work within this chapter. The last quotation is taken from "Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech," in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington, © 1986, Harper Collins Publishers, San Francisco, CA.

Psalm 86 is adapted from the Psalms and Canticles section of The New Century Hymnal © 1995 by the Pilgrim Press. Words are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, adapted by The New Century Hymnal.

©2007 Local Church Ministries, Worship and Education Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved.

Epiphany -- Remember, Baptism

A Celebration of the Baptism of Jesus and Our Baptisms
First Sunday after the Epiphany, the Baptism of Jesus

On the First Sunday after Epiphany, the church remembers the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist as recounted in the gospels. In that story, the power of the Holy Spirit is evident at the very outset of Jesus' public life of faith. Jesus surfaces from the waters of the Jordan, the heavens open, a dove descends, and a voice from heaven declares, "You are my beloved Child; with you I am well pleased."

The word Epiphany comes from the Greek epiphania, which means manifestation or revelation and suggests a shining light. On this day, the church recalls God's manifest presence in this and the many other episodes of Jesus' life. As we reflect on Jesus' baptism, we might follow Martin Luther's advice, in his larger catechism, to consider and recall our own baptism as well. Luther did not support repeating baptism but called on us to make repeated use of our baptism. He said, "A truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism once begun and ever to be continued." Whether we have been baptized or not, remember it or not, we have opportunity today to claim and rejoice in the very real ways in which God comes to light in the church and in our lives. Through baptism, God declares that we are beloved children of God. God is well pleased.

In this service, Christians are invited to "remember their baptism and be thankful." It is a time to renew the baptismal covenant. This liturgy is adapted from the "Service of Water" found in the "Order for the Great Vigil of Easter" from Book of Worship: The United Church of Christ (pages 238–42). If you are to include baptisms, this liturgy, at key moments, refers you also to the "Order for Baptism" also found in Book of Worship (pages 129–44).

Call to Worship

One: In the beginning God created.

People: And it was good.

One: In the present God creates.

People: And it is good.

One: In the future God will continue creating.

People: And it will be good.

One: Let us gather to worship our God.

People: Who creates goodness in, through, and all around us. Amen.

Hymn "Crashing Waters at Creation" TNCH 326

Unison Confession and Assurance

People: Gracious God, too often our lives reflect chaos instead of creation. Living in disorder and turmoil, we exist as though you do not. Rather than the tender hovering of your Spirit, we feel the buffeting currents of change and doubt. Have mercy on us. Blow through our lives like a mighty wind this day, clearing away the clouds of despair. Shine brightly among us, renewing our reason for hope. Rain your love upon us, creating in us a new day.

(Silent confessions)

One: This is the good news: The One who goes before us is more powerful than we are. Christ baptizes us not just with water but also with the Holy Spirit. As we receive that baptism, we become a new creation. We are forgiven. And God sees that it is good. The peace of God is yours.

Passing the Peace

(The congregation may greet each other with a sign of reconciliation and peace, such as a handshake or embrace, and they may say these or similar words.)

One: In Christ, we are a new Creation.

People: Thanks be to God!

Responsive Psalm Psalm 29 TNCH 638

Readings for the Baptism of Christ/First Sunday after Epiphany

Genesis 1:1–5
Acts 19:1–17

Hymn "What Ruler Wades through Murky Streams" TNCH 169

Gospel Reading for the Baptism of Christ/First Sunday after Epiphany

Mark 1:4–11


Service of Water


One: Dear friends, on this day of re-creation we recall Christ's baptism, and we claim and remember our own.

People: We gather at this font of living water to celebrate the gift of God's redeeming grace.

One: For just as the body is one and has many members and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

People: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, male or female—and were all made to drink of one Spirit.

One: Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

(When there are candidates for baptism, present them at this time. Follow the presentation with the "Questions for Candidates" and "Congregational Assent" found in Book of Worship, pages 136–39.)

Affirmation of Faith

(All who are able may stand. The following traditional questions or a full creed or statement of faith may be used. The questions are addressed to the entire congregation.)

One: Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil and renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?

People: I do.

One: Do you believe in God?

People: I believe in God, the creator of heaven and earth.

One: Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

People: I believe in Jesus Christ, the only one begotten of God before all worlds.

One: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?

People: I believe in God, the Holy Spirit.

One: Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and community, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer?

People: I will, with God's help.

One: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being?

People: I will, with God's help.

One: Let us pray.

People: In this and all we do, keep us faithful to our Savior Jesus Christ, forever and ever. Amen.

Blessing of Water

One: Let us pray:

We thank you, God, for the gift of creation called forth by your saving Word.

Before the world had shape and form, your Spirit moved over the waters.

Out of the waters of the deep, you formed the firmament and brought forth the earth to sustain all life.

In the time of Noah you washed the earth with the waters of the flood, and your ark of salvation bore a new beginning.

In the time of Moses and Miriam your people Israel passed through the Red Sea waters from slavery to freedom and crossed the flowing Jordan to enter the promised land.

In the fullness of time you sent Jesus Christ who was nurtured in the water of Mary's womb.

Jesus was baptized by John in the water of the Jordan, became living water to a woman at the Samaritan well, washed the feet of the disciples, and sent them forth to baptize all nations by water and the Holy Spirit.

(As the following words are spoken, the water may be poured into a basin or font.)

One: Bless by your Holy Spirit, gracious God, this water that by it we may be reminded of our baptism into Jesus Christ and that by the power of your Holy Spirit we may be kept faithful until you receive us at last in your eternal home.

People: Glory to you, eternal God, the one who was and is, and shall always be, world without end. Amen.

(If there are candidates for baptism, follow the "Act of Baptism" through the "Prayer for the Baptized" found in Book of Worship, pages 143–44.)

The Congregation Remembers Baptism

(All who are able and desire to renew their baptismal covenant stand. The leader prays the following prayer or similar words.)

One: Eternal God, you have come to us in Jesus Christ, given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins, Bless us now with the grace we need to fulfill what we have promised.

People: Keep us faithful to our Savior Jesus Christ, forever and ever. Amen.

(Pastors or liturgists may sprinkle the congregation with water from the baptismal font. Sometimes sprigs of an evergreen tree are used. Congregants may also be invited to come forward, as they are able, to dip their fingers into the font, put water on their forehead, or bless each other with water from the font and then return. The following words may be used during this time.)

One: Remember your baptism and be thankful.

People: Amen.


Celebration of Holy Communion TNCH 16–20

Hymn "Wonder of Wonders, Here Revealed" TNCH 328


One: Renew in us, O God, all the gifts of baptism—strength for life's journey, courage in time of suffering, the joy of faith, the freedom of love, and the hope of new life; through Jesus Christ who makes us one. Send us in your Name, Holy One, Amen.

This worship service was prepared by David J. Holden, minister for adult education and men's ministries, and Sidney D. Fowler, minister for worship, liturgy, and spiritual formation with the Worship and Education Ministry Team, Local Church Ministries. For more information about worship and liturgy in the United Church of Christ, see or contact the Worship and Education Ministry Team, 700 Prospect Avenue East, Cleveland, Ohio 44115-1100.

Copyright 2002 Worship and Education Ministry Team, Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ, Cleveland, Ohio. Permission is granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved. Designed and printed by United Church Resources, Local Church Ministries.

TNCH refers to hymns or resources from The New Century Hymnal (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1995). Similar resources may be found in other hymnals.

Suggested Hymns - Year C

Epiphany / Year C - 2010


"These accompaniments, played on gorgeous instruments by gifted artists, will not only meet the needs of congregations currently without a resident musician, they will also creatively enhance many other ministries and programs of the church…I remember, for example, my home communion visits as a pastor. How wonderful it would have been to take with me the cherished music of the church that had always been such an important part of their life.” --John Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

Hymn numbers and titles are from
The New Century Hymnal

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The New Century Hymnal
See “Epiphany” 154-166

Sunday, January 10, 2010
The Baptism of Christ/Baptism of Jesus – First Sunday after Epiphany – First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Seasons of the Spirit Theme: Affirmed by Love

The New Century Hymnal
167 – Mark How the Lamb of God’s Self-Offering
285 – O Holy Dove of God Descending
169 – What Ruler Wades through Murky Streams
82 – Go, My Children, with My Blessing
354 – God, When I Came into This Life
407 – How Firm a Foundation

Sunday, January 17, 2010
Second Sunday after Epiphany – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Seasons of the Spirit Theme: Extravagant Sign

The New Century Hymnal
50 – I Sing the Praise of Love Almighty
177 – God of Change and Glory
163 – Many are the Lightbeams
459 – Come, O Fount of Every Blessing
1 – Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Date: January 24, 2010
Third Sunday after Epiphany – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Seasons of the Spirit Theme:  Good News, Good Ways

The New Century Hymnal
154 – Go Tell It on the Mountain
584 – I Am the Light of the World
273 – Praise with Joy the World’s Creator
177 – God of Change and Glory
394, 395 – In Christ There is No East or West
163 – Many Are the Lightbeams
401 – O God in Whom All Life Begins

Date:  January 31, 2010
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Seasons of the Spirit Theme:  Prophet on the Edge

The New Century Hymnal
161 – Amen, Amen
496 – Ekolu Mea Nui
61 – Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost
461 – Let Us Hope when Hope Seems Hopeless
411 – Praise the Source of Faith and Learning
540 – We Plant a Grain of Mustard Seed

to be continued