Baptism of the Lord

January 10, 2021

You can find this week’s worship service here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abE2ANLxirs&t=20s

Follow along with the bulletin and hymns:

On first Sunday after Epiphany each year, we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord. May the Spirit bless our reading of the Word:

Mark 1:4-11

  • Where Matthew has magi and Luke has shepherds, even John has the poetic “the Word became flesh” as we read last week, Mark is the only gospel without any account of the birth of Christ. He jumps right in to the action of Jesus’ ministry with this moment at the Jordan River. And in a style that Mark exemplifies throughout its 16 chapters, the narrative is brief and to the point, without a lot of the details we find in the other gospels. What do you notice missing from this familiar story? Why do you think the details Mark decides to include (John’s camel hair clothing for instance) were important to him? Why is it helpful to have multiple accounts of Jesus’ story, even when they sometimes don’t agree with one another?
  • “John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Repentance in the Greek is μετάνοια, which means to have a change of mind. In Hebrew the word that is used is שוב, which means literally to “turn around.” How do you define ‘repentance’ for yourself? What changes are required when we repent of something? How do we practice repentance and forgiveness as part of our daily discipleship?
  • “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (verse 8). What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? Our baptism liturgy says that when we are baptized and made members of the church, we are “joined to Christ’s ministry of love, peace, and justice” (PCUSA Book of Common Worship). What gifts of the Spirit have you been given to participate in that ministry? How are you using them in this season?
  • Ponder the most memorable baptism you’ve ever participated in – Your own? Your child’s? A friend’s? What about it made such an impression? We affirm that baptism is a sacrament of the Church, a moment when Christ is made present in a tangible, special way. How have you felt Christ’s presence in a baptism? What aspects of the liturgy mean the most to you – the profession of faith? The questions to the congregation? The prayer of thanksgiving over the water? The welcoming of a new member to the Body of Christ?
  • Last week, for the first time in 5 decades, there was a worship service held at the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism on the Jordan River. This is because the area has only recently been cleared of landmines left over from conflict between Israel and Jordan. Sometimes we feel disconnected from the real places we read about in scripture, because they are on the other side of the world and our stories are thousands of years old. But it can be powerful to think of the people who still live on the land where Jesus walked. What do we understand about those people and their daily lives today? What do you imagine it would have felt like to worship in that place after it had been closed so long? How do we pray for peace in a region where people on every side have been hurt and wronged? Why might that question be especially important for us to consider right now?

This week every time you wash your hands (which I hope is often!), feel the water on your hands and remember your baptism. You are a beloved child of God. I pray you feel the Spirit’s presence of peace and abundance in the coming days.

Blessings!

Pastor Maggie Rust

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