Call to Worship & Gathering Prayer
Beloved of God, come, turn to Christ.
When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan
and the Holy Spirit descended upon him,
he knew he was beloved by God.
Let us know the warmth of God’s love today.
Loving God, we come to worship.
You have called each of us by name, we belong to you.
Pour out your Spirit on us, we pray,
that we may know your love and our belovedness today.
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Lord Jesus, illuminate the darkness in our hearts:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, open our eyes to your saving love:
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, unstop our ears to hear your living word:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
May almighty God have mercy on us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Today as we look at our short gospel readings, the verses we’ve heard are fairly well known – but what we read on the surface and the connections and links that they have go much deeper and give us a much richer view of all that is going on here.
What is going on is obviously important – Jesus baptism appears, by degree, in all the gospel accounts. But how do we get there, and more importantly what are we being told in this narrative of Jesus being baptised? How often do we stop (have we ever?) and wondered why is it necessary for Jesus to be baptised? What is the purpose here? His baptism obviously isn’t the same as the one we know – so what is going on?
In v15 following John’s baptisms and preaching the Jews are questioning just who John is. This baptism John refers to is summed up in Mark 1:4.
4 …preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Now how new this concept of baptism was to contemporary Jews is uncertain. It’s certainly something that we are familiar with today – either in terms of infant baptism and confirmation, or as a full adult event – all outwardly signifying faith and change. It is possible the Jews were familiar with it from the initiation rites for proselytes or converts to the faith. The Essene Jewish sect, smaller in number than the Pharisees or Sadducees, in Qumran also practiced a ritual bathing in large pools – suggesting a full immersion rite as part of cleansing.
However what John is preaching is definitely unique. Rather than converts to the faith, or it being the unique practice of a sect what John is calling for is all Jews to be baptized in a once-for-all action signifying their repentance from sin. What John is telling them is that their inheritance and ancestry as Jews is on its own, not enough to keep them in Gods favour. There has to be more than that. This is important to call out as the common translation of these verses in Luke is “…a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin.”
It is unlikely what John was preaching was a baptism that resulted in forgiveness, That doesn’t cohere with the rest of the NT, or with our understanding of baptism today. So what is going on here? Translation is a tricky thing, but a less literal alternate translation of this verse gives “…a baptism of repentance with reference to the forgiveness of sin”. Other translations give this same sense – “baptism produced by repentance”, or “baptism of repentance”.
Linguistics aside – John’s message would have been radical at the time. Effectively calling all Jews to wake up from their complacency and realise that their ancestry alone wasn’t enough to secure God’s favour (v8-9). John was calling them to righteous lives, justice toward one another and piety toward God. These were requirements to be acceptable before God and therefore prerequisites for the repentance he preached.
However radical though, John was just the start. He was the forerunner of the one to come. He is asked if he is the messiah (v15), but he points to the “coming one”, a messianic title (Ps. 118:26 or Isaiah 5:26-27). One that makes John by comparison look like a menial slave – one who is not good enough to untie his sandals (v16).
Why is that the case? Because John baptized merely in water, the one who was coming, identified and confirmed as Jesus in our later verses, would baptize in the Spirit. Almost all of the references to baptism “in”, “with” or “by” the Spirit in the NT cite this expression of John. Looking at this through the lens of Acts 1-2 we can clearly see this is at least a passing reference to the outpouring of God’s spirit on Jesus followers at Pentecost and the resulting “church age” brought about post-resurrection.
So again we can ask – why is Jesus being baptised? John’s baptism is intended to signify repentance, and the baptism that Jesus will provide in the future is in the Spirit. What is the purpose of Jesus himself being baptised at this point? Let me suggest three things here this morning:
Firstly: There is in important hint in the Gospel of Matthew here – when John asked essentially the same question. Jesus answers that it is ‘fitting to fulfil all righteousness’. John knew Jesus didn’t fit the requirements for his baptism – Jesus had no sin to repent of. What is in sight here is instead an affirmation of John’s work, and Jesus identifying with sinners. In order to complete everything God had promised Jesus participates in this baptism ceremony, corporately acknowledging the nations sins and thereby does all that God requires. In John’s gospel the Baptist also point Jesus out as the one who would go on in God’s will to atone for the sins of the nation and humanity.
Secondly: The voice of God from heaven declares Jesus to be his beloved Son in whom he is well pleased (v22). Most commentators here find an allusion to Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. The intended link here is to a royal Psalm and to one of the servant passages of Isaiah.
Psalm 2:7 English Standard Version
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Isaiah 42:1 English Standard Version
42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
Both the use of son and servant here in these OT allusions appear to have been understood in the messianic sense in Jewish thought. Therefore this declaration from God of Jesus as his beloved son in whom he is well pleased is forthrightly announcing Jesus as both the kingly Messiah and suffering servant of prophecy. The one who would come as a royal saviour to establish the worldwide rule of a holy God.
Thirdly: The Holy Spirit’s presence. Apart from the early hint of thinking about the Trinity – God speaking, and the Spirit descending on the man Jesus – there is another important implication the description of the descending Holy Spirit. All four gospels describe the Holy Sprit coming like a dove. Of course we have no idea what was literally visible at this event, but the dove motif has become embedded in art and our thinking around this event. In any case – something reminded onlookers of a dove. The image of the dove is linked with peace, love and divinity, but a link can also be made between the Messiah and to the activity of God’s Spirit in creation: The ‘hovering’ and ‘brooding’ Spirit over the waters in Genesis 1:2. Jesus therefore, the one there as part of the Trinity at the beginning of everything, is the bringer of a new creation – he is beginning a work of re-creation at the start of his ministry.
That was the message of God given by John the Baptist: A Jewish ancestry is not enough, nor is lip-service to God. But the one who is coming, a royal saviour, the Messiah, will baptise in the Spirit and make salvation available to all humanity. John was preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus and this moment captured in the gospels at the start of that ministry sets the tone and expectation for what is to come.
So what we see crystallized and re-affirmed in the baptism of Jesus is him as the full and final revelation of God to humanity. The one to bring about that promised redemptive act that makes it possible for all humanity to be brought home – that breaking-into-time by the creator to take upon himself in love the cost of, and make himself the means of, redemption and re-creation for all of creation.
The words of our reading from Isaiah this morning remind us of that great love of God – that imperative that drives him to seek humanity out. In speaking to the exiled Jewish nation in those verses God says “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” God’s people are “precious and honored” in His sight because He loves us – we who are created for His glory, formed and made by Him who calles us. As we were reminded in our first song this morning – that love and all that it means and entails should make us sing this morning.
Affirmation of Faith
Let us declare our faith in God.
We believe in God the Father,
from whom every family
in heaven and on earth is named.
We believe in God the Son,
who lives in our hearts through faith,
and fills us with his love.
We believe in God the Holy Spirit,
who strengthens us
with power from on high.
We believe in one God;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Open the heavens, Holy Spirit,
for us to see Jesus interceding for us;
may we be willing to share his baptism,
ready to share his cup
and strengthened to serve him for ever.
The Lord is here.
His Spirit is with us.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.
All honour and praise be yours always and everywhere,
mighty creator, ever-living God,
through Jesus Christ your only Son our Lord:
for at this time we celebrate your glory
made present in our midst.
In the coming of the magi
the King of all the world was revealed to the nations.
In the waters of baptism
Jesus was revealed as the Christ,
the Saviour sent to redeem us.
In the water made wine
the new creation was revealed at the wedding feast.
Poverty was turned to riches, sorrow into joy.
Therefore with all the angels of heaven
we lift our voices to proclaim the glory of your name
and sing our joyful hymn of praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Lord, you are holy indeed, the source of all holiness;
grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit,
and according to your holy will,
these gifts of bread and wine
may be to us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ;
who, in the same night that he was betrayed,
took bread and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of me.
In the same way, after supper
he took the cup and gave you thanks;
he gave it to them, saying:
Drink this, all of you;
this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as you drink it,
in remembrance of me.
Great is the mystery of faith:
Christ has died:
Christ is risen:
Christ will come again.
And so, Father, calling to mind his death on the cross,
his perfect sacrifice made once for the sins of the whole world;
rejoicing in his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension,
and looking for his coming in glory,
we celebrate this memorial of our redemption.
As we offer you this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving,
we bring before you this bread and this cup
and we thank you for counting us worthy
to stand in your presence and serve you.
Send the Holy Spirit on your people
and gather into one in your kingdom
all who share this one bread and one cup,
so that we, in the company of all the saints,
may praise and glorify you for ever,
through Jesus Christ our Lord;
by whom, and with whom, and in whom,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all honour and glory be yours, almighty Father,
for ever and ever.
The Lord’s Prayer
As our Saviour taught us, so we pray
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
We break this bread
to share in the body of Christ.
Though we are many, we are one body,
because we all share in one bread.
God’s holy gifts
for God’s holy people.
Jesus Christ is holy,
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Prayer after Communion
we thank you for feeding us
with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ.
Through him we offer you our souls and bodies
to be a living sacrifice.
Send us out
in the power of your Spirit
to live and work
to your praise and glory.
Blessing and Dismissal
May God, who in Christ gives us a spring of water
welling up to eternal life,
perfect in you the image of his glory;
and the blessing of God Almighty,
Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer
be with you all, now and for ever.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.
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.”