Sunday Sermon 9th January
Baptism of the Lord Sunday
Welcome to our first Sunday in Epiphany – as I am sure you traditional folks will all know as you won’t have taken your tree down until Twelfth day the 6th of January? Epiphany – when through the Magi, the 3 kings, that Jesus is revealed.
Epiphany has traditionally not been of spiritual significance in the Church of Scotland, but it was one of the earliest feast and celebration days of the Christian church. We celebrate the baptism of Jesus in recognition of his manifestation as the Son of God to the world.
Call to Worship
God our Father calls us from darkness to light
Guide our footsteps
Jesus Christ his Son is the light of the world
Banish all darkness
Holy Spirit enlighten our minds
Fill us and shine through our worship
Your light has come!
HYMN MP 740 We three kings of Orient are
We give thanks to God for the blessings of this and every day. May you accept not just the offerings of our money, but also the gift of our lives that we might make a difference in Alva and beyond
Prayers with Lord’s prayer (Gill)
Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I invite you to stop for a short while, and join with us in prayer.
Let us all pray.
Gracious and merciful God, we have come to worship you. You are the creator and sustainer of all things, and without you nothing could exist. Your power is far beyond anything that we can understand, but we can see your handiwork all around us in the beauty of our world. As we discover more and more about our surroundings, from tiny sub-atomic particles to the vast reaches of space, we see that your creation is indeed wonderful.
We thank you for everything that you do for us, and we especially thank you that you sent Jesus to be our example. He showed us that in spite of all our weaknesses and failings, your love is unconditional, and you want the very best for each and every one of us,
Merciful God, we confess that time and again we fail to follow the ways that Jesus taught, and we do not live our lives in the way that we should.
Jesus told us that the most important commandment is that we should love you, but we easily forget that you are the source of everything, and often we forget to thank you for all that you give us. Sometimes we are careless, and wasteful with the gifts that you have provided, and we do not always take proper care of the world that you have given us. When we have done things that we know to be wrong, and we have deliberately gone against your ways, we tell ourselves that it doesn’t really matter. Help us to remember that we cannot hide from you, but that if we are truly sorry, and confess our faults, you will give us a fresh start.
Lord, forgive us, and help us to remember to put you first in our lives. Guide us to make proper use of all that you have given us, and help us to do our best to protect our environment.
Jesus also told us that the second most important commandment is that we should love our neighbours, and he made it clear that this includes all people everywhere, even those whom we may think of as opponents or enemies. We confess that we have not always treated other people in the way that we should. We have allowed our disputes and resentments to continue unresolved, and too often we have made judgements about people, and put them into categories, instead of looking at them as your valued children.
Lord, forgive us. You know that we are often afraid to make the first move towards ending our disagreements with others, so we ask that you will give us the courage to set aside our resentments, and prejudices, and give us the strength to try to bring an end to our disputes and arguments.
We offer our prayer in the name of Jesus, and we further pray in the words which he taught his followers:
Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation.
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever.
Reading 1: Isaiah 43:1-7 (Gill)
Restoration and Protection Promised
43 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia[a] and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; 6 I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth— 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
HYMN CH4 191 Do not be afraid
Reading 2: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 (Gill)
HYMN CH4 600 Spirit of God, unseen as the wind
Sermon: Baptism of the Lord
I have saved anyone the bother of googling, ahem, academically researching the meaning of Epiphany. It means - manifestation – and originally celebrated the 4 manifestations of Christ, revealing God to mankind.
His birth – the angels witness and the shepherds bow
The adoration by the Magi – the 3 kings bringing gifts
Jesus’s baptism – where he is revealed to the world as the Son of God as the Holy Spirit descends and Goddeclared Jesus’ identity
SPOILER ALERT FOR NEXT WEEK: First miracle – Jesus has divine powers over nature
All about God making himself known to us so that we might know God but for this week the focus is on the baptism of Jesus.
And we start with the role of John the Baptist, John who prepares the way and the gospel of Luke gives us a careful historical setting.
Luke describes the contemporary rulers, the powerful figures that form the backdrop to the religious revival led by John. During advent we heard the proclamations of John, clear messages of repentance and turning towards God. I wonder how your festive break was for you all, I hope it was a time of peace and enjoyment.
But the festive period can also be an intense period of emotion, old wounds caused by those closest to us can feel fresh. Memories of sore stuff , that all of us have, can re-surface and cause fresh emotional pain.
Sometimes we feed our resentments, we re-play them. Perhaps we think, och I let bygones be bygones on that ages ago and yet you find yourself re-telling it.
Everyday frustrations over ‘when are you going to get that rubbish to the dump’ or ‘do we have to watch that rubbish’ – to be fair the New year telly was pretty rubbish!
So how do we let go and let God take our resentments so we can journey light into this New Year? Not gripping on in some sort of tussle with God. How do we have empty hands – let God, let God.
John tell us how as he is not the important one in this story and points us towards Jesus as our saviour. It is not John that baptises Jesus but God.
The divine power of God is what we need to let go and let God, of our life-long deep pains and struggles. According to Luke, the Holy Spirit has been in the world since creation.
Jesus will baptize the community of believers in the Holy Sprit, we have been baptized in that spirit.
After the baptism of Jesus the Holy Spirit is described as descending in bodily form as a Dove, not literally a dove but like a dove.
The Spirit bodily entering and filling Jesus is witnessed by people who try in human words to describe this power. The same power and Spirit that causes an upsurge in religious revival in the church.
I don’t know about you but the Holy Spirit didn’t come up much in my Sunday School teaching and it wasn’t until my teaching on Pneumatology – theology of the Holy Spirit that I felt really challenged to reflect on how much we actively worship and engage with the Holy Spirit in church today.
So, New Year and New ways of worship so I know you will be up for a new worship experience this morning, let us welcome the Holy Spirit to fill us afresh. I would have passed round the baptism font and ask you all to place your hands in it but that won’t be an option so I have plan B (Big super soaker). Oh no, wait a minute I think this is Jim’s idea for the ‘water into wine’ next week!
So Plan C, a wee bit of hand gel to put on.
As you rub some hand gel over your hands, I invite you to reflect:
To think about what you need to let go and give to God.
To remember as you feel the gel drying on your hands of the water of your own baptism as a child or as an adult.
To remind you that you are a Child of God, you are loved and pleasing to God.
To receive fresh affirmation this morning from the Holy Spirit that you have repented, that are forgiven.
If you have not yet been baptized – you will not the dirty the water for anyone else joining in and if you feel you want to start the journey towards your own baptism it would be our great joy to do this.
You are a child of God, you are loved and pleasing to God.
This baptism of Jesus wasn’t a private event, it was a very public space as John preached in the wide river valley of the lower Jordan, near Jericho.
The people who came to listen to John were a mixed bunch – Jews, gentiles, tax-collectors, soldiers – ordinary folks.
To the Jews, washing in the River Jordan was rich with symbolism and meaning – showing God’s forgiveness for those who repented and seek to live a cleaner life.
So this presents a problems when Jesus comes as He was without sin – In Him the father was well pleased.
So why do it? It was a public declaration and affirmation – a way to identify himself with you and me. Telling us all that Jesus is the beloved Son of God – sent for us – the beloved children of God.
This small communal experience here this morning of cleansing of our hands together, reminding us that when we were baptized we became part of that new world.
Many people today are still searching for something to be part of , to feel connected to, they feel alone but we are blessed. We are brought into the family of Christ and through our baptism are joined to each other as the body of Christ in this church serving Alva.
At the start of this New year with new plans in place for the church, we need to be filled afresh with the power of the Holy Spirit and what it means to be cleansed afresh.
Now I come from a home where New Year means cleaning your house, your windows, your front steps, your back steps. My strongest childhood memories of New Year aren’t everyone having a party piece to sing or perform, cherry cake, Steak pie or Scotch and Wry on the telly. They were all great, but it’s the smell of bleach to make sure everything was gleaming before the bells.
We had to open the back door to let the old year out and the front door to let the New Year in.
The time of Epiphany isn’t about New year challenges but about giving time to God to let him remind us about what is important. A clean front step – a lovey new noticeboard or more Facebook posts are no use to God without faith, church family and making room for others to join in. We will give our time to God to reveal to us what we need to let go.
Let us pray:
Jesus as we go out with cleansed hands, cleansed hearts
Start our New Year afresh with the power of the Holy Spirit to restore us.
Prayers for others and ourselves
The season of epiphany extends the message of Christmas by calling us as believers to share and show the gospel to our world, our community.
A celtic tradition for centuries in Scotland involves drawing a circle around yourself in your imagination – grounded in the awareness of the constant protection of the Holy Spirit.
I would like us to try a wee imaginative prayer this morning, I want us to imagine standing in the centre of a clock face with 12 oclock directly in front of us. Repeat after me a few lines and then a time of silence for others.
Start facing 12, Circle me O God, keep me from harm and grant me protection.
Turn to 3, Circle me O God, keep me from darkness and grant me light
Turn to 6, Circle me O God, keep me from despair and grant me hope
Turn to 9, Circle me O God, keep me from turmoil and grant me peace.
PLEASE SIT IN SILENCE
Extend our circles O God help us to help those who are troubled about money, health, work or relationships.
We pray for your strength, comfort and presence to circle us all. SILENCE
Now I know this might be a new worship song, I promise it’s not but it is a great way to end our worship feeling uplifted and refreshed by the Holy Spirit.
HYMN MP 1012 These are the days of Elijah (youtube)
Sing together and look around and sing it to each other - the traditional baptismal blessing: CH4 796
The Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord make his face to shine upon you
And be gracious unto you
The lord lift up his countenance upon you
And give you peace.
and three fold amen