Baptism of Christ – 10th January 2021

Downloads:

This week’s Alive Gang service is here. It is a short Epiphany video from Kate.

This weeks childrens activity sheet from Roots at Home is available here

You can get the latest Roots at Home sheet  by clicking here

Welcome

Whether you are a regular attendee at All Saints, or have been following our online services – welcome to our online service today.

Here we are at the first Sunday of Epiphany and only the second Sunday of the new year – and things have changed yet again and we are faced with another lockdown.  Originally this was to have been a communion service in church led by Ali but on Monday the lockdown was introduced which was inevitable in the light of the increase in infections and demand for hospital beds. 

Although the guidance would have allowed us to continue to meet for worship, the PCC felt it was important to move back online for the time being to look after one another but it is still with a heavy heart that we have had to turn to sharing our worship together online only.  We do not know how long this will last but as Ann said in her announcement ‘Please continue to pray for one another and keep in touch as we adjust to the new restrictions.’

So let us start our worship today with an opening prayer:

 

Worship

Lord God, giver of light and life,
by your word you bring everything into being –
the far-flung galaxies and the tiniest atomic particle.
You have given us a world to enjoy and to care for.
Give us compassion in the use of its resources,
wisdom in our stewardship of your gifts,
and reverence for all that you have made –
for Jesus’ sake.
Amen.

Confession

Lord, when you came into the world, things changed. When we came into a relationship with you, things changed. Life became filled with a new sense of purpose and peace. But, Lord, sometimes we let you down by doing wrong things or failing to do right things.
We are sorry, Lord.

Sometimes, Lord, through pride, stubbornness or fear we build barriers and keep others at arm’s length – even you, Lord. 
We are sorry, Lord.

At times we give in to our weaknesses and temptations, failing to draw on your strength. At times we are troubled by difficult situations and find it hard to trust you. 
We are sorry, Lord.

Help us to turn such things around and turn to you. Help us to learn from the past and, drawing on your strength and peace, make a better future.

Assurance of Forgiveness

O God, when Jesus was baptized, you spoke of your love for him. You showed your love for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. By the power of the cross, the darkness of our wrongdoing is banished by the light of your loving forgiveness.

We thank you Lord
Amen.

Declaration of Faith

When we are buffeted by unseen forces around us, when freedoms and activities we took for granted are curtailed, and when nothing seems ‘normal’ it is important to remind ourselves of what is true.  Here is a version of the Creed sung by the Newsboys, written years before Covid, they pick up on the challenges that life can bring and the importance of what we believe.

lyrics:

In this time of desperation
When all we know is doubt and fear
There is only one foundation
We believe, we believe

In this broken generation
When all is dark, You help us see
There is only one salvation
We believe, we believe

Chorus
We believe in God the Father
We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit
And He’s given us new life
We believe in the crucifixion
We believe that He conquered death
We believe in the resurrection
And He’s comin’ back again, we believe

So, let our faith be more than anthems
Greater than the songs we sing
And in our weakness and temptations
We believe, we believe

Chorus

Let the lost be found and the dead be raised
In the here and now, let love invade
Let the church live loud, our God we’ll say
We believe, we believe
And the gates of hell will not prevail
For the power of God, has torn the veil
Now we know Your love will never fail
We believe, we believe

Word

4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptise you with[e] water, but he will baptise you with[f] the Holy Spirit.’

The baptism and testing of Jesus
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’

Mark 1
4-11

I don’t know about you but I was glad to see the back of 2020 and looking forward to a better and more positive 2021.  A new beginning .  But as we face a third lockdown and the emotional, financial, social and mental pressures it will bring, the idea of a new beginning can seem very remote.  And yet our Christian lives is about new beginnings – about having hope in situations that seem hopeless, of knowing that God is with us, and that whatever the future holds and whatever is happening in the world, God is in control.

And so we come to another very familiar story but one which is a seminal moment in the life of Jesus and indeed His ministry.  It is the first record we have of Jesus as an adult and it is the moment when Jesus was anointed by God to commence his work on earth – the beginning of something different that was to change the world.

The Old Testament reading from today’s set of readings is from the first passage of Genesis which relates another beginning – ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’.  This was the beginning of everything – everything was new – when God created the planet on which we live, the land and sea and every creature within it, including human beings.

The New Testament reading from today’s lectionary is from Acts 19 and tells the story of Apollos, who had only heard about the baptism that John gave but Paul then baptised him and the Holy Spirit came upon him.  For Apollos, and indeed for all who have been baptised, this too was a new beginning.

Finally, although our reading today started with verse 4 of Mark, if we look at verse 1 it reads ‘The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah’.

At Totley it is usual to have just one reading from the lectionary during a Sunday service, normally a gospel reading.  But we can learn a great deal from looking at other readings from the lectionary for that day.  Now I don’t think it was by pure luck that when the lectionary was created all these passages were put together but a great deal of thought went into it.  On this occasion, the common theme of ‘beginning’ is clear throughout and reminds us that God is a God of new beginnings, of new starts, of new creation, of new life.  For Christians, as it was with Jesus, it starts with baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The baptism that John offered was based on the traditional Jewish ritual cleansing but John focused on the need for repentance and forgiveness in preparation for the One who is to follow.  This was signified by much more than the washing of hands but by immersion in the Jordan.  John talks of repentance and, whilst repentance is indeed necessary, sometimes it seems it can become a stick to beat you with and to keep looking back on rather than a looking forward   But the Greek word metanoia translated here as repentance means much more than regret or remorse at what has happened in the past and a desire to do better, but is more about a fundamental change in thinking that leads to a fundamental change in behaviour and/or way of living.  John was seeking something much more radical than the traditional Jewish rituals offered.

But what about the baptism of Christ?  It is mentioned in all four gospels and is obviously a momentous moment and yet Jesus was without sin.  If John was baptising people to signify their repentance and turning away from the past, why was Jesus baptised?  John did not initially want to baptise Jesus because he knew that Jesus was greater than he was so what was the point?

Well, as you might expect, there are numerous theological arguments which would take up too much time today – and cause us to go off on a complete tangent!  However, I think there are a couple of reasons that are worth mentioning:

  • John’s calling had been to prepare people for the arrival of the Messiah – and here was Jesus fulfilling that expectation.
  • It shows Jesus aligning himself with humanity, being baptised alongside other sinful human beings and revealed his true humility
  • It was an example for others to follow. Jesus begins his public ministry with his own baptism.  He ended his ministry by commanding his followers to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”  
  • And finally, and significantly, this is the first time in the New Testament that the three elements of the Triune God are mentioned together.

This public event signified the end of Jesus’ private life and the beginning of his public ministry.  Baptism for us signifies the end of our old life and the beginning of our new life in Christ.

As I said earlier new beginnings are central to the gospel. Accepting Christ means a new relationship not only with God but also with each other, it means a new purpose and a new direction and it also brings a new power, that of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to live this new life.  In 2 Corinthians we read “ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[ The old has gone, the new is here” (2 Cor 5:17)

The light and life that Jesus brings turns around hopeless situations and people and creates something new – you only have to look at the stories of Peter who denied Him, the paraylsed man who was healed, the Samaritan woman whose world was turned upside down, Paul who persecuted Him, and of course the countless millions who throughout the last two millenia have been changed by the work of the Spirit in them.

So, no matter how dark the future may seem, no matter how the start of the New Year is tinged with sadness and anxiety and, for many, grief, no matter how world events can shatter our understanding of what is normal, we need to hold on to the fact that God is a God of new beginnings.  I’ll leave you with a verse from Lamentations – a book that is renowned for being particularly bleak and addresses overwhelming suffering and yet the prophet is still able to proclaim:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-33 (ESV)

Witness

Prayers

Eternal God, it feels as if the whole world has changed
and yet in you there is stability and the opportunity of a new beginning.
So, we pray now for those whose lives are in turmoil,
those whose lives have been turned upside down, those who feel lost.
May they feel supported, find fresh hope,
and use our prayers in Jesus’ name to strengthen them.

We pray for those for whom the lockdown has come as a relief,
for those who now feel safer,
but we pray too for those who now feel desperate,
alone and worried about their jobs, their finances, their mental health.
May they feel supported, find fresh hope:
Lord, use our prayers in Jesus’ name to strengthen them.

We pray for children and young adults as their schooling is disrupted,
we pray for those who enjoy learning from home,
but pray too for those who will lose confidence,

for those who do not have access to the internet,
who miss their friends, who feel vulnerable.
We remember their parents
and the parents of children with special needs,
struggling to cope on their own.
We pray for teachers, administrative staff,
and all those who feel overwhelmed.
May they feel supported, find fresh hope:
Lord, use our prayers in Jesus’ name to strengthen them.

We pray for the people of a divided America
at this time of political and racial tension and transition.
We pray for peace and reconciliation and a recognition
that disagreement does not mean division.
We pray too for countries around the world
struggling with ethnic violence and militancy
and now struggling with the added devastation caused by Covid.

We pray for those who work in the emergency services,
those whose work is dangerous and traumatic
and those who are fearful simply to go to work.
May they feel supported, find fresh hope:
Lord, use our prayers in Jesus’ name to strengthen them.

We pray for one another, our families,
our communities, our church fellowships.
May we support those who are unwell or grieving.
May we bring fresh hope to those who feel forgotten and are vulnerable,
and may we – both practically and prayerfully – share our faith
in your Son Jesus in whose name we entrust these prayers to you.
Amen.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2021.Reproduced with permission.

Final Prayer and Blessing

O God of new beginnings we pray that you be with each one of us
as we start this new week.
We ask Lord that you walk ahead of us so that we may follow You
We ask that you walk beside us as our Comforter in times of difficulty
We ask Lord that you walk behind us to protect us
We hold on to your promise
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut 31:8)

And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
The love of God
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us all, now and for evermore

Amen

Community

The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.

The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.

“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”

The Wardens of All Saints Totley have been producing regular newsletters with helpful links, thoughts and resources. The latest of these is here.

 

Reminder

If you have any feedback on this service or any other ideas, suggestions or contributions, for future services please do send these to comments@allsaintstotley.church