1st Sunday after the Epiphany [by Rev Dr Rachel Mash]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isa 42:1-9
2nd Reading
Acts 10:34-43
Matt 3:13-17
by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator, Anglican Church of Southern Africa



Lord God
In water you reveal to us the attributes of your Spirit
Deepen in us a deep respect for your waters of life
That we may more fully drink the gift of your life giving Spirit
Through Jesus Christ our Lord

A Call to Persevere

Following three years of devastating drought, Cape Town was threatened with having its taps turned off “Day Zero”. What lessons can we learn from Scripture when faced by similar challenges?

Matthew 3: 13-17 The waters of baptism

Jesus was baptised in the Jordan river – what does it mean for us that we entered the family of God through water? We have become separated off from the sacredness of water – it comes to us from a tap or in a bottle. In the Old Testament the Old Covenant placed great emphasis on ceremonial cleanliness. Priests and other worshippers had to follow certain washing rituals in order to communicate with God (Exodus 30:18-21). Jesus, as he often did, was freed from narrow restrictions. He chose to go out into nature – to a river with all its movement and mud – to be baptised. He was cleansed by the water but also made the water sacred by his presence. What does it mean that we have taken the waters of baptism back into the church building and changing them from a roaring torrent into a few splashes of water from the tap?

Do we know where the water that we use in that tap comes from? From which river or dam does it come? And how polluted is that river with plastic or toxins? What does it mean that our river Jordan is polluted?


God, whose Spirit moved over the deep at its creation,
and whose Son Jesus entered the waters of baptism and hallowed them forever:
We thank you for the gift of water—the waters on the
surface of the earth, the waters beneath the ground, the water in
our atmosphere, and the water in our bodies—and for all that
dwells in the waters. Make us mindful of the care of all the
planet’s waters, that they may richly sustain life for us and for
those who will come after us; through Jesus Christ, who is the
source of living water. Amen.[i]


Loving Creator,

you care for the land by sending rain;
you make it fertile and fruitful.
What a rich harvest you provide!
All your creation sings for joy.

When we take care of the land,
sowing the seed and reaping the harvest,
All your creation sings for joy.

When we keep streams and rivers clean,
when we respect the purity of lakes and seas,
All your creation sings for joy.

When we recognise that we are one family,
brothers and sisters together,
with responsibility for the land and the waters,
All your creation sings for joy
for you bless us abundantly all our days.[ii]

Confession and thanksgiving for Holy baptism

In our baptism God calls us to be Christ-like:
Let us recognise ourselves just as we are
Fallen yet re-made in his image
and let us pray for his renewing and healing Spirit
A time of silent reflection

Your spirit in baptism bring freedom
but so often our lives are weighed down by burdens we carry within us
Forgive us Lord we pray

Your Spirit in baptism brings courage
but so often our lives are ill at ease
so full of fear for what the day may bring us
Forgive us Lord we pray

Your Spirit in baptism brings wisdom
but we find it so hard to recognise your gentle whisper speaking to us
Forgive us Lord we pray

May we know the power
that breaks these chains
that bind our hearts and souls
and grace to live the life you give
Renew us Lord we pray


Water from the font is sprinkled on the people as a reminder of our baptism

Almighty God
who in Jesus Christ has given us
a kingdom that cannot be destroyed
forgive you your sins
open your eyes to God’s truth
strengthen you to do God’s will and
give you the joy of his kingdom
through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen[iii]

Affirmation of Faith

We believe that God creates all things,
renews all things and celebrates all things.
We believe Earth is a sanctuary,
a sacred planet filled with God’s presence,
a home for us to share with our kin.
We believe that God became flesh and blood
became a piece of Earth,
a human being called Jesus Christ,
who lived and breathed and spoke among us,
suffered and died on a cross
for all human beings and for all creation.
We believe that the risen Jesus
is the Christ at the core of creation,
reconciling all things to God,
renewing all creation and filling the cosmos.
We believe the Holy Spirit renews life in creation
groans in empathy with a suffering creation
and waits with us for the rebirth of creation.
We believe that with Christ we will rise
and with Christ we will celebrate a new creation.[iv]


Jesus Christ teach us to empathise with Earth.
Make our spirits sensitive to the cries of creation,
cries for justice from the hills and the trees.
Jesus Christ make our faith sensitive to the groans of the Spirit,
groans from the deserts, the wetlands, the rivers.
Jesus Christ make our souls sensitive to the songs of our kin,
songs of celebration from the sea, the land and the air.
Christ teach us to care. Amen.[v]

Prayer over the gifts

God of living water, welling up to eternal life,
Send your Spirit upon these gifts
That they may bring sustenance and renewal to all who receive them:
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord

Pilgrimage Blessing

As you go into the wilderness of the land and of your heart—

May you experience the ever-flowing grace of God’s presence!
May you be immersed so fully in God’s love that you learn to let go and swim!
May you engage deeply and radically with the natural world, as steward, co-creator, and friend!
May you drink anew from the divine source, the stream of living water!
And may you be transformed, may the stagnant waters of your spirit begin to flow,
and may all which is dead in you rise again!
God is here. The river awaits. [vii]


This week we remember that water is sacred, we also reflect on the lack of water justice in our society.

The altar can be decorated with bowls of water.

During the procession children can enter holding symbols of rivers and lakes, reeds, wet rocks, and pictures of frogs and whales and other sea and river creatures.

The Sunday School can lead the procession out of Church as a sign that they were the most recently baptised.


As the deer longs – Bob Hurd. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxKFtiPfxTM

Mercy as endless as the seas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vcps8EQUOt4

Prayer song “All who are thirsty and all who are weak https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrUEfAXum5Q

by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, South Africa

[i] Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music, Liturgical Materials Honoring God in Creation

and Various Rites and Prayers for Animals, (TEC)

[ii] Per Harling, from Gloria Deo, Prayers & Hymns

for the 12th Assembly of the Conference of European

[iii] Diocese of oxford Clergy Conference

[iv] Season of Creation River Sunday Liturgy https://seasonofcreation.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/liturgy-river-sunday-1.pdf

[v] Season of Creation Liturgy for River Sunday https://seasonofcreation.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/liturgy-river-sunday-1.pdf

[vi] Diocese of Oxford Clergy Conference 2018

[vii] The River of Life Pilgrimage: Conneticut River Pilgrimage 2017