Staying Connected
Join us this weekend for worship.
Sunday at 9:00 am in the sanctuary, or
The service is also posted on our website

"The Baptism of Jesus"

The Episcopal Church devotes the first Sunday after the Epiphany to the commemoration of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by John. Years A, B, and C all include a variation of Jesus’ baptism.

Jesus' baptism by John — or rather, John the Baptist's ministry prior to Jesus' arrival — was not the first time baptism occurred in the ancient world.

"Baptism" derives from the Greek words bapto, baptizo, or baptein, which imply to wash, immerse, or dip. Additionally, it can indicate "to overwhelm," as in suffering. Given that the Gospels were written in Greek, the authors undoubtedly intended for their audiences to recall that Christ's baptism in water was followed by his baptism in suffering on the cross. "Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" Jesus asked James and John, alluding to his death. (10:38) (Mk 10:38).

Baptisms, or ritual baths or washings, were not uncommon in the ancient world. The ancient Greeks dedicated new ships to the sea deity Poseidon by pouring water over them. (The Romans adopted a similar practice, dedicating ships to Neptune.)

Additionally, in ancient Greece, the oracle of Trophonion was associated with a ritual bath that was associated with both seeking immortality and obtaining insight from the gods.

The ancient Babylonians and the ancient Egyptians, whose religion was centered on death and the River Nile, both employed baptism for purification. As such, it was not unusual for them to include ritual washing as part of their preparations for the dead — as was done in the narrative of their god, Osiris.

The importance of ritual washing and purification was demonstrated in Jewish culture by the presence of mikvahs outside the ancient Temple and several synagogues. These ancient ritual baths, many of which remain in Israel today, were meant to cleanse oneself prior to approaching God. According to Midrash, the writings of the Jewish sages, Adam and Eve spent days standing in the rivers that spilled out of Paradise following their expulsion from Eden as a kind of penance. Jews in Israel and abroad continue to construct and use modern mikvahs.

In Jesus' time, it was considered impure to approach God while suffering from a disease (leprosy or skin rashes), touching a body, or handling certain insects or lizards.

Simple washing rituals were also a part of daily life during Jesus' time, as evidenced by the Gospel accounts of the wedding at Cana (Jesus' first miracle in John's Gospel) — "Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding 20 to 30 gallons (Jn 2:6) — and Matthew: "Why do your disciples violate the elders' tradition?" They do not wash their hands after meals" (15:2).

Baptism was also a requirement for conversion to Judaism throughout the Temple's era. Converts went through a period of preparation and were immersed in flowing water and given a new name, generally on the feast of Passover. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the baptism aimed to wash them of the taint of idolatry.

While John the Baptist was not an Essene, he shared several characteristics with this group of men who went into the desert to purify themselves for the end times. They lived in the Judean desert, close to the Qumran caves. Fasting and ritual bathing for the purpose of repentance were a part of their way of life.

When John arrived on the scene, he also preached "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Mk 1:4). His baptism entailed confessing his sins and being washed with water, which was often flowing in the Jordan.

According to Fr. Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, a Dominican priest and New Testament scholar, "Clearly, John was envisioning a profound transformation of the individual along the lines of one of his predecessors..."

That forerunner was the priest-prophet Ezekiel, who lived 600 years before Christ and recorded God's promise to Israel: "I will pour clean water on you to purify you from all your impurities, and I will cleanse you from all your idols." I will implant a new heart and spirit within you, removing your bodies' stone hearts and replacing them with natural ones. I will infuse you with my spirit" (36:25-27).

Naturally, all of these washings and baptisms served as precursors to the actual baptism "with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Mt 3:11) that came to us via Jesus Christ.

The sacrament of baptism was instituted by Christ for the life of the church.
Sacraments have always been communal events. Luke sets the scene this Sunday of Jesus’ Baptism by first describing the crowd: “The people were filled with expectation.”

Everything we understand about sacraments tells us that it was the presence of the crowd—their energy and anticipation for what was to unfold, the prayers and wonderings held fervently in each heart—that allowed the flow of God’s grace to be made manifest in Jesus. This is what it means to be "church" - to be present with and for one another, to lift each other, hold one another and pray together.

When we are baptized, it encourages us to remember that we are a part of the entire family of Christ. It is the beginning of a close personal relationship with God, but it is not the conclusion of the story. By virtue of our baptism, we are called to reach out to other members of our congregation and those outside the church's borders. Baptism not only draws us closer to God, but it also sends us out into the world to care for the people of God all around the world. We are called to something greater than ourselves by our baptism.

Following this Sunday's celebration of The Lord's Baptism, a period of time in the liturgical calendar known as Ordinary Time will begin. Ordinary Time is the period during which we are led chronologically through Jesus' public ministry, through His entry into Jerusalem, and finally His death and resurrection; an event for which we interrupt the cycle of Ordinary Time to celebrate during the Easter season.

This weekend, we renew our Baptismal Covenant and recall Christ's gift of salvation to us all.

Blessings in Christ,
Mo. Allison+
You may call Mo. Allison for a pastoral visitation at 551-697-6133.
The Anglican Rosary
This week at Holy Hour, we prayed for those on our prayer list and for others using the Anglican Rosary.

Praying the rosary is a tactile aid to focus on prayer. Our minds naturally tend to wander, and it can help to have something we can hold onto physically – sometimes, just the touch of an item dedicated to prayer can remind us of the peace of God and put us in a prayerful frame of mind.

There is a great deal of symbolism woven into the design of the Anglican rosary. There are thirty-three beads, representing the thirty-three years of Jesus’ life. The Cruciform beads form the cross and can also represent the four compass points of the earth. The seven beads of the Weeks can represent the seven days of creation, the day of the Sabbath, and the number seven is often used in the Bible as symbolic of perfection.
To enter into prayer, there is an Invitatory bead, much like we say an invitatory collect at the beginning of our services to invite us into worship.

The rosary can be prayed alone or with a group. It is recommended a person pray around the circle three times – a symbolic number for the Trinity. Doing so also invites us to go deeper as distractions fall away.

In general, the rosary is used in three basic ways:

1. Repetition of the same prayer or devotion.
2. Repetition of several different prayers in some pattern, sometimes interspersed with or accompanied by meditations, whether spoken, silent, or with music or chanting.
3. Meditation on a series of spiritual themes.

When praying, the idea is to be unhurried and calm. The goal is not so much to finish, as to develop a rhythm in prayer. I tend not to think of it as repetition, but sinking deeper with each meditation into the presence of God
Your Presence is requested:
January 23, 2022
Congregational Meeting
Nominations are Happening Now

St. Mary's Annual Congregational Meeting
January 23, 2022
following service
We will elect:

Convention Delegates
Convocation Delegates

The finances and annual budget will be presented.

If you are interested in running for any of the above, please contact Mo. Allison or a member of the vestry.

2022 Altar Flower Chart
The 2022 Flower Chart is now posted on the bulletin board in the parish hall. Altar flowers are a wonderful way to honor loved ones throughout the year. Choose a date on the chart and fill in the name of who you would like remembered and by whom. A donation may be sent to the church office. Flowers may be removed after the service and taken home or delivered to a shut-in.
If you shop on Amazon, please remember The Branches can receive a percent of your purchase. It's easy! Simply go to this link and shop with your Amazon account as usual. A percent of your purchase will automatically be given to The Branches. Thank you!
Benefit Brunch at FINS rescheduled for April 17th
Congratulations to The Branches!

The Branches has been chosen to be a recipient of a 2022 Fins Sunday Social Event. The planned Jan. 9th event has been rescheduled for April 17th due to covid concerns.
Please mark your calendar and join us for Brunch or Lunch on April 17th.
Happy Birthday to
Louis Schweickhardt on January 10th!
Connecting the Dots
Remember dot–to–dot puzzles? By drawing lines from one number to the next, you wound up with a picture. It could be anything from Noah’s Ark to George Washington!

By itself, each dot means little. Even a large group doesn't show the total picture. Only when every number is connected can you see the design the artist intended.

We know that God has a plan for our lives. What each Christian gives to God joins with the donations of others in the church. Together, they can form a wonderful pattern. Perhaps the “picture” is of people repairing the stairs. Or, it may be one of someone driving a shut–in to worship.

Leaving even one connection out of a dot–to–dot puzzle causes a gap. Although it may seem small, nevertheless, the picture is incomplete. We must remember that while God gives the “numbers,” it is our responsibility to finish the pattern with time, talent, and treasure.

Ways to donate are:

  • The Sunday collection plate

  • Send a check payable to St. Mary's to:
St. Mary's Church,
9425 Third Ave., Stone Harbor, NJ 08247
(Your envelope and number is not necessary, only your name.)

  • Setting up a personal online banking "bill pay" option. The bank will mail the check for you to the church office.

Please note: Offering envelopes will no longer be used. Only your name is needed in order for the counters to record your giving.
Surrendering like Mary
Everyone who has surrendered his or her sufferings to Christ knows that in that surrender there is already a peace that begins to root in the heart like a seed that we know will flower.
Before surrendering, we are anxious and afraid and full of anger. We wonder why God is permitting this to happen to us. We are bitter and unhappy. Because we refuse to let go, we cannot experience the resurrection that is already beginning in our suffering. But once we surrender like Mary and say in effect, “Let it be done to me according to your will,” our every suffering begins to seem like a rising to God.
Mark your Calendars
Looking Forward...
January 2nd: (POSTPONED) Altar training following the 9:00 am service.
January 6th and continues weekly: Holy Hour Devotion at 3:00 PM (chapel)
January 6th and 7th: Epiphany House Blessings
January 11th: 5:00 pm Finance meeting
January 11th: 7:00 pm The Branches Board Meeting
January 16th, Following the Service, Vestry meeting
January 23rd: Following the Service, Annual Meeting
February 12th: Vestry Mini-Retreat 10 am–2:00 pm
12 Step Meetings in the Church Hall

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Monday at 8:00 pm
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Tuesday at 8:00 pm
Alanon Friday at 10:00 am
CHECK OUT OUR CALENDAR on our website for all activities taking place throughout the week.
Lectionary Text for
The First Sunday after the Epiphany:
The Baptism of Our Lord
Worship Services
Saturday 5:30 pm (Chapel)
Sunday 9:00 AM in person (church)
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