Jan 10th Service

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Service for the Lord’s Day
~Baptism of the Lord ~
January 10, 2021

Pastor Joan Priest, Worship Leader
Mr. David Warfield, Director of Music MinistryElder, Dale Green Liturgist
Recording Operations
Elder on Duty, Jeff Snider                                                         GATHERING WE PREPARE OURSELVES FOR WORSHIP BY PASSING THE PEACE OF CHRIST, ACKNOWLEDGING WHO WE ARE, 
PRELUDE                                        Shall We Gather at the River                              Gordon Young                                                                  

CALL TO WORSHIP                                                                                                                               Elder Dale Green
 God is with us always and calls us each by name.
When we pass through difficulties and stress,
God is with us and calls us by name and gives us peace.
When we are discouraged and feel lost and alone,
God is with us and calls us by name and heals us.
Blessed be God who knows us and calls us by name.      
*HYMN                    35                        Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty              LOBE DEN HERRENPraise ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy heath and salvation.
All ye who hear, now to his temple draw near;
join me in glad adoration!

Praise ye the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been granted
in what he ordaineth?

Praise ye the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before him!
Let the amen sound from his people again;
gladly for aye we adore him. This very strong 17th century German hymn employs many phrases from the psalms, especially Psalms 150 and103:1-6. It did not receive an effective English translation until the mid-19th century, but has remained popular ever since, thanks in part to its stirring tune.                                           PRAYER OF CONFESSION

God of peace and light, you have called us by name, knowing each of us and loving us.  And yet we know that we have behaved in very unloving ways which do not promote your love and peace.  Forgive us for our blindness.  Help us to be people who not only recognize the light, but who are willing to live in that light, bringing help to others in your name.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.
HENCE WE PUT IT AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORSHIP.FIRST READING                                                                                                                                       Psalm 29
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendor.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!
The Word of the Lord. 
Thanks be to God. 
                                                                                                                        SECOND READING                            Matthew 3:13- 17                                                                                                                                                                                                    Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

 The Word of the Lord. 
Thanks be to God. 
                                                                                                                                                                                   PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION 

                                                   Called by Name                     The Rev. Joan Withers Priest

     Danielle Franzoni was working at Thunder Bay River Restaurant in Alpena, Michigan on New Year’s Eve last year.  The restaurant bill she laid on the table for her customer was 23 dollars, but the tip, her tip at that small-town restaurant was much larger – the tip on that bill was 2020 – that’s right – 2,020 dollars.  The credit card receipt said: “Happy New Year. The 2020 Tip Challenge.”  Seems like a very long time since we were even in a restaurant and able to leave a tip!

     Well, Ms. Franzoni, a single mother, could not believe the number, for just one year before she had been living in a homeless shelter, but her manager assured her the tip was legitimate.  So, she used the money to reinstate her driver’s license and build up her savings.  She spoke about the couple that left the tip saying, “They don’t know nothing about my story. They don’t know where I’ve come from. They don’t know how hard it’s been, they don’t even know my name.”  And the next week she left a tip for another waitress, paying it forward.  It was $20.20.  They don’t even know my name.

    Today’s scripture passage from Matthew is all about Jesus being named, all of us being named, chosen, in the eyes of God. 

     Jesus had been through a lot, according to Matthew, since making his journey from heaven to Bethlehem and beyond.  Still as an infant, he was almost killed by the deranged tyrant we heard about last Sunday, he had to travel hundreds of miles to Egypt and lived as a refugee there, his parents couldn’t return to their paternal birthplace because even the new ruler of Judea had some surly insecurity issues.   It had been rough.  Protected and cautious, Jesus had grown up with his parents, been presented at the Temple at age 12, learned to be a fine carpenter, all the while, knowing he was special but not really knowing who he was, waiting for a sign, a moment. 

     John had been that sign.  The journey for Jesus to the River Jordan was short but it called him out of the village he had known his entire life, away from his family and friends, into the larger world filled with insecurities, dangers, challenges but also the purposes of God.   Wading into the water on that day was the beginning of an entirely new life for Jesus, for all of us.

     Jesus’ baptism was a moment of decision and empowerment.  After Jesus is baptized, he comes up out of the water and the Heavens are literally “ripped apart,” according to Luke.  The holy spirit comes down in bodily form – shaped like a dove, meaning it is here to stay, with Jesus and with us forever.  The spirit descending upon Jesus was an anointing or an empowering of him for his ministry. 

     But keep in mind, baptism isn’t a Christian tradition, it began in the Jewish faith.  Even today many Jews, especially Orthodox Jews are baptized in a ceremony they call Mikvah.  In that ceremony which many hold yearly, they are cleansed, renewed.  That is where many Christian denominations’ belief came to be that in baptism one is cleansed of their sin, they are reborn a Christian, some even going so far as to say if you aren’t baptized, you won’t go to heaven.

     In our faith tradition, while we believe God’s spirit is present and there is a mystery to that spirit, the sacrament of baptism is an outward and visible sign of the grace of God. Some people have had a hard time with this passage because in their view, if Jesus is sinless, divine, he wouldn’t need to be baptized because they believe baptism is only the removal of sins.  And it is questionable, even by John, that John should be the one baptizing him.  But this passage is to help us recover and reclaim baptism as a dynamic, present-tense activity, rather than being seen as a quaint ritual or ceremony for babies.  Yes, we believe baptism symbolically washes away sin but more important it promises ongoing forgiveness of sin and an ongoing relationship with God.  But baptism is also some so much more, it names us as beloved and gives us our identity, we are a child of God.

     Jesus’ baptism was also a moment of identification and approval.  It is then that he heard the voice of God.  And with a voice like in our Psalm, a voice that is powerful and full of majesty, which proclaims to Jesus, “yes, you are my son, my beloved, my chosen one, now go.”  

    In Flannery O’Conner’s story “The River,” a woman named Mrs. Connin, who has been employed for the day to take care of the son of some wealthy and uncaring parents, takes the boy to a riverside baptismal service being led by a preacher named Bevel Summers.  Standing on the riverbank, they hear Summers warning the crowd that if they have come for an easy miracle, to leave their pain in the river, for they have come for the wrong reason. “There ain’t but one river,” he states, “and that’s the River of Life.”  Suddenly Mrs. Connin lifts the boy up in the air and tells the preacher that she suspects that the boy has never been baptized, and Summers commands her to hand the boy to him.  He asks the boy if he wants to be baptized.  When the boy says yes, Summers responds, “You won’t be the same again.  You’ll count.”  

      In our own baptism our identity is revealed and we are no longer the same, we do have the spirit of the Lord in our hearts, but a new identity.   We have been named, we have been called beloved, we matter, we count, and nothing that occurs after, can take that away.  Like the waitress who was recognized for being important even if they didn’t know her name.  God has named us, for we are all God’s beloved children. 
     As the Jewish faith has a Naming Ceremony, we see revealing the entire name of the person being baptized as an important part of our baptism ceremony.  Our names identify who we are. 

     Now, I am asked more often than you can imagine about my name.  When I was in Seminary and about to be married, most of my friends said to me, well, you aren’t going to take his name are you – Priest?  That’s ridiculous. But I did.  And if you ever see my full name, I kept my maiden name because Withers is very important to me.  It symbolizes a part of who I am, for my grandfather was a Presbyterian minister most of his adult life and it is one of the reasons I thought it would be possible to become a minister myself. 

     So I ask, what is the significance of your name?  Why is it important to you?  Maybe let me know during Coffee Hour.  If I ever enter the Parma South Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, Ohio where my grandfather served for nearly 50 years and mention my name is also Withers, I am his granddaughter, I am immediately raised to some kind of higher status, honored, admired.  Nowhere else does that happen.  Our names are a significant part of how we are identified.

     Have you ever looked up the meaning of your first name?  Joan means gracious.  Just saying.
     We live in a time and place where we are identified by so many names:  Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, American or foreigner, gay or straight, rich or poor, black or white, etc.  And we are identified by the products we use and the stores at which we shop.  Nike, Apple, BMW, Prius, Tiffany, Target, Walmart.  These are not just company names but lend a particular sense of self.  Think about what they stand for, how they do business.  And the brand labels on our shirts, shoes, cars, and computers convey a great deal about our identity. 

       As Rev. Lose states, for we live in a culture that promises acceptance only if we are — and here you must fill in the blank, for the messages of our commercial culture are as manifold as they are insidious – accepted only if we are . . .  skinny enough, strong enough, successful enough, rich enough, popular enough, beautiful enough, young enough, and so on.

     Which means that the message of baptism is even more important — that God has declared that we areenough, we count, that God accepts us just as we are, and that God desires to do wonderful things for and through us.  It’s not that the other names are worthless, some may be quite important to us.  But those names describe us, Baptism names define us.  And when we recall that we are named, we are far more able to flourish with what comes next, the wilderness times in our lives, when we wade into the waters of baptism, we are reminded whose we are and can then step out into the unknown strengthened and renewed.  

     Jesus is baptized and then is led into the wilderness. The wilderness! While we know how the ordeal ends, we shouldn’t be too quick to bank on Jesus’ divinity. If we do, we lose what it means to be in the wilderness — because when you are in it, you are in it. And my friends, we are in it right now.  Personally, with the threat of this virus, and as a country in turmoil.  We are in the wilderness.  Period.  And baptism, baptism assumes wilderness. Not to test our loyalty. Not to tempt God’s commitment. Not to get us to turn on the Spirit. No. Because none of that is actually biblical. A quick review of the Book of Numbers should remind us that being in the wilderness is part of what it means to be the people of God.
     While you recall your name and the other names that identify you.  Also recall some of the more difficult names you have been called during your life, the names that no matter how long ago they were uttered, endure in your memory.  Names like “Stupid” or “Fatso” or “Ugly.” Names like “Loser” or “Idiot,” or “Know-it-all”. What names were you called?  Recall them for a minute and then hear God say to each of them, “No! That is not your name. For you are my beloved child, and with you I am well pleased.”    
     As this first Sunday after Epiphany, we are reminded that with baptism comes identity.  And with Baptism also comes wilderness and that wilderness is not an individual affair. The Israelites were not in the wilderness alone. They had each other. Jesus was not in the wilderness alone. He had the Holy Spirit and the promise of God’s declaration. We are never in the wilderness alone. Our baptism propels us into community.  And we are reminded of the promise that Baptism brings — the promise that even in the wilderness, even in spite of it, and sometimes even because of it, our call to bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven is meant to be manifest to all.

     Remember, when God spoke to Jesus on that day, Jesus had just left home, he hadn’t done anythingyet, he just showed up, he hasn’t even spoken a word.  He is just willing to wade into the waters and begin his ministry and God states, “with you, I am well pleased.”  Already?  He hasn’t done anything!  That’s because it’s not about doing works to please God, it’s about the fact that we are already loved, called by God, named by God, beloved in God’s eyes. 
     The word beloved means adored, to love someone with our whole heart, it also means to be chosen – how often we as parents get so caught up in our responsibilities as parents and grandparents, in teaching our children, our grandchildren, guiding them, nurturing them, feeding them, driving them, speaking to them, and in our own fatigue; that we forget to say the one thing that is most important – that our children are beloved, loved beyond measure.  How often do we forget to say that to one another? 

     As we wade into the waters of this new year, remember your baptism.  Remember that God has declared that we are enough, that God accepts us just as we are, and that God desires to do wonderful things through us.  For we are chosen, we are righteous, we are loved.  For our new identity in Christ is being part of the community here – even now – which can guide us and sustain us, for the former things have come to pass and God is creating a new thing in us right now.  May it be so, Amen.
 Lose, The Rev. David. Commentary on Matthew 3:13-17  “Baptism of our Lord:  A Family Name” 
TODAY. * HYMN          688                      Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart                     MORECAMBE
 Spirit of God, descend upon my heart,
wean it from earth, through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art,
and make me love you as I ought to love.

 I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
no sudden rending of the veil of clay,
no angel visitant, no opening skies;
but take the dimness of my soul away.
 Did you not bid us love thee, God and King,
all, all thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind?
I see the cross there teach my heart to cling.
O let me seek thee and O let me find!

 Teach me to feel that thou are always nigh;
teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
to check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
 Teach me to love thee as thine angels love,
one holy passion filling all my frame:
the baptism of the heaven-descended Dove;
my heart an altar, and thy love the flame.  This reflection on Galatians 5:25 was written by a literary Anglican clergyman whose preaching drew people of many social classes to one of the formerly poorer London churches. The tune was created for “Abide with Me” (No 836) but more often appears with the present text.


 Sentences of Scripture

There are varieties of gifts, but it is the same Spirit who gives them.
There are different ways of serving God, but it is the same Lord who is served.
God works through each person in a unique way, but it is God’s purpose that is accomplished.
To each is given a gift of the Spirit to be used for the common good.  


Do we, the members of the church accept Katey, Kelly, Anne-Marie, Linda and Marisa. as deacons and elders, chosen by God through the voice of this congregation to lead us in the way of Jesus Christ?
We do.

Do we agree to encourage them, to respect their decisions, and to follow as they guide us, serving Jesus Christ who alone is Head of the Church?
We do.




(We invite you to make your offering online. Thank you to everyone for your generous support!)

      O God, we come before you today with gratitude, gratitude for the opportunity to share with each other and to give to each other. Gratitude for the example of Jesus, who teaches us to love our neighbors and serve those around us. Guided by your Spirit, confident in your voice showing us the way, we give these gifts faithfully, joyfully, in the name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen. 

                                                                                                                            SENDING     WE HEAR THE CHARGE, RECEIVE THE BENEDICTION, AND ARE SENT TO CARRY GOD’S WORD INTO THE WORLD.*CHARGE & BENEDICTION
*POSTLUDE                                              Morecambe                                                      Healy Willan

                                                              * Please rise in body or in spirit.