The Holy Family in the crèche at Trinity Church Wall Street

Five Ways Into Sunday’s Scripture: Celebrating the Call to Belovedness

LUKE 3:15–22

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The first Sunday of Epiphany is an invitation to reflect on the moment when “heaven was opened” at the baptism of Jesus. It gives us a glimpse into the mystery of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the heart of all things. From his bountiful sense of belovedness, Jesus begins his public ministry and shares the sense of being God’s beloved with us who are baptized into Christ. Jesus’ baptism reminds us that our own baptism in Christ requires that we live as Jesus did. Our calling is to follow the model of Jesus, by orienting ourselves toward mission and service to others. This week’s collect links Jesus’ anointing and revelation as God’s son to our baptismal call to faithful living: 

Eternal Father, who at the baptism of Jesus revealed him to be your Son, anointing him with the Holy Spirit: grant to us who are born again by water and the Spirit, that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

—Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones


The Baptism of Jesus in painting — from Giotto to Rubens.


Why is it easier to believe that someone else is beloved of God than to believe that I am? A small group curriculum on Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved with excerpts and reflection questions.

A guided visualization. Listen to an imaginative Ignatian journey into the day Jesus begins his public ministry. Walk with Jesus.

Prayers of Jesus’ Baptism and our Baptismal vows from Vanderbilt Divinity.


What does Jesus’ baptism mean for our own?


Jesus’ ministry begins at personal and communal levels, offering life for the world. A reflection on the interplay of Sunday’s readings for the life of the world.


Listen to the Malcolm Guite and Steve Bell’s Epiphany on the Jordan.

Coming Up

This Epiphanytide, join Dr. Peter Ajer, Professor of New Testament at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, for an online two-week discussion of Philemon, and Dr. Lisa Bowens, Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, for a two-week discussion about her book, African American Readings of Paul: Reception, Resistance and Transformation, in the new Discovery series, Race, Slavery, Freedom, and the New Testament, beginning this Sunday, January 9. (Please note: Discovery will meet online only during the month of January.)

On January 13, join Father Phil and Dr. Rob Gore, founder and executive director of Kings Against Violence (KAVI), for an online discussion about violence as an endemic public health issue, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, greatly impacting children and teenagers.

Save the date: On February 3, Canon Stephanie Spellers and Dr. Catherine Meeks will be in conversation about the meaning of reconciliation and Canon Spellers’ book The Church Cracked Open: Disruption, Decline, and New Hope for Beloved Community.