Renew Our Baptism

CALL TO WORSHIP: Praise the Lord’s glory and power. Praise the Lord and honour His name! Worship the Lord in all His holy beauty.

God of all our lives, we are here because You have called us; some have heard Your voice in the words of friends, saying; ‘Come to church with me.’ Others have heard You speaking through the pages of scripture.

Some have felt Your prompting in their hearts. Others may have felt Your call as a powerful force, or heard You in a whisper. But however it may have happened, Your call came first; Your idea; Your plan, not ours.

So we come to You responding to Your voice. Help us to keep listening to all that You have to say to us today. Show us how You want to work in our lives, and give us the will to obey You. For Jesus’ sake. Amen

HYMN 20: BE STILL FOR THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD -StF.

PRAYER OF ADORATION: The Lord will rule as king forever. In His temple everyone shouts, “Glory to God!”

Lord, Your voice is heard in creation. You spoke and all of creation began. Your word brought light into the darkness. Your voice is powerful and strong. We catch a hint of it in the mighty roar of a great storm. We glimpse a little of your brilliance in the flash of lightning. You are in command over all things, and Your power will never end.

The Lord will rule as king forever. In His temple everyone shouts, “Glory to God!”

Lord, Your voice is heard in Jesus. You called Him Your Beloved Son when He was baptised in the Jordan river. When He spoke, He did so with Your authority, telling people about You, showing them how to live, healing in Your name. He died on the cross for us, but You raised Him to life, Your action showing more clearly than words that He had pleased You in all that He said and did.

The Lord will rule as king forever. In His temple everyone shouts, “Glory to God!”

Lord, Your voice is heard through Your Spirit. You came upon the disciples with a sound like a mighty rushing wind; You gave them the power to speak about You to others; You filled them with the desire to praise You.

The Lord will rule as king forever. In His temple everyone shouts, “Glory to God!”

Lord, You are Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You still speak to Your people today. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that we may offer You all the praise and all the honour that You deserve. The Lord will rule as king forever.

In His temple everyone shouts, “Glory to God!” Amen

TALK FOR ALL: THE BAPTISM

Over the past three weeks we’ve spent time talking about important things that happened early in Jesus’ life.

On Christmas Jesus was born. And you may remember that we spoke next about Jesus’ presentation in the temple as a baby (where he is held by Simeon) and his visit from the magi – or wise men – all of whom had important epiphanies. They all recognized that Jesus was the Son of God.

This week we mark one more important event that happened while Jesus was very young: his baptism.

You may or may not remember being baptized yourself – or maybe you’ve not yet been. Baptism is a special act – using water – in which our sins are cleansed and we become members of God’s Family, the church.

In today’s Gospel we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan. Do you know who did it? (I’ll give you a hint: it’s someone we’ve spoken of recently – he baptized many, many people – and lived in the wilderness.) That’s right: John the Baptist.

In today’s reading from Mark, Jesus is not only baptized, but as he comes out of the water we hear the voice of God announcing to all that Jesus is his Son.

Together all of these stories from Jesus’ early life help us to understand – right from the beginning of the Gospel stories – how important he would be. And as we move forward over the next few weeks we’ll hear about the beginnings of his ministry as a grownup.

Can we pray?

Dear God, we thank you for the gift of baptism and the saving works of your Son Jesus. Watch over us during the week to come. Amen

HYMN 6: FATHER, WE LOVE YOU – StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING: John the Baptist came, calling people to say that they were sorry for the wrong things that they had done. For the things that we have done said or thoughts that have hurt others, Lord forgive us.

For the good things that we have left undone, deliberately or by accident, Lord forgive us.

For drowning out your voice with other noises, Lord forgive us.

To all who are truly sorry, Jesus says ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Thank You Lord for the new start offered to us through Him. Help us to receive this forgiveness thankfully, and by the power of Your Holy Spirit, to live in a way that pleases You. Amen.

READINGS: MARK 1: 4-11

HYMN 233- WHEN JESUS CAME TO JORDAN– StF

SERMON: RENEW OUR BAPTISM - MARK 1:4-11

Today is the 10th day of 2021. What resolutions did you make for this year? How many are you still following or abiding to? How many you didn’t within the first few days?

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is the defining trait of all Christians. Whether Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Evangelical or Reformed, all Christians are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Baptism assumes a profession of faith, one youth and adults make for themselves. In the case of an infant, the profession of faith is made by the parents and affirmed by the congregation. The child then grows in the strength and knowledge of his family’s faith – and that includes the whole church family – until he/she is old enough to make his own profession and confirm his own faith in Jesus Christ.

Finally, we’re baptized only once. Yet, we’re invited to renew our baptismal vows often – when someone else is baptized.

By renewing our baptism, baptism becomes a living sacrament, much like the covenant of marriage. When a man and a woman get married, they exchange their vows before God and then they spend the rest of their lives living out the promises they’ve made to each other.

Every once in a while, I’m asked to conduct a service of renewal of the wedding vows. I did this for a couple on their 50th wedding anniversary. I’ve done it for others on their 25th anniversary. As far as I’m concerned, it’d be a good idea for couples to recite their wedding vows to each other every year on their anniversary day. You don’t need a minister for that.

Renewing your promises – whether as a husband or wife or a child of God – is a good way to reaffirm your commitment and get a fresh new start towards fulfilling your vows.

Let’s take a closer look at the gospel lesson for today and ask a basic question: Why did Jesus come to John to be baptized in the first place? He didn’t have any sins to be cleansed of. He didn’t need to repent and turn back to God.

“In those days, John the Baptizer came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’ …Then people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him. They were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Matthew 3:1-6)

Clearly, something was up. A new day was dawning. The Kingdom of God was at hand. Jews of every tribe and from every corner of Judea were coming to be baptized. But that’s not all. Mark say’s “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.” (13)

Why? Evidently, John wondered the same thing. “But John would have hindered him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?’

But Jesus, answering, said to him, ‘Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he allowed him.” (Matthew 3:14-15)

Jesus came to John to be baptized in order to fulfil all righteousness, to take the next step in God’s plan to reconcile the world to himself. Commentator John MacArthur puts it this way. He says,

“Jesus’ baptism was the first act of his ministry, the first step in the redemptive plan that He came to fulfil. He who had no sin took His place among those who had no righteousness. He who was without sin submitted to a baptism for sinners. In this act the Saviour of the world took His place among the sinners of the world.” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew)

He humbled himself, to use Paul’s words, in obedience to God: “…who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:6-7)

He became as one of us so that, by God’s grace, we might aspire to become more and more like him.

This transformation from sinfulness to righteousness begins with baptism and it goes on as long as we live, as we continue to grow in the knowledge of God’s grace and love.

And so, whether as an infant, youth or adult, first we’re baptized, then we renew our baptismal vows time and again as we “press on towards the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

So, do we remember what we promised – or what our parents and congregation promised on our behalf – when we were baptized? There are three vows. The first goes like this: Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce all evil and its power in the world?

How do you define sin? That can be a slippery slope. You could say that sin is breaking one of the Ten Commandments or committing one of the “seven deadly sins.” But then, we all know that sin often sneaks up on us in subtle ways.

Sin is whatever separates us from God and each other, no matter how innocent and harmless it may appear on the surface. To pursue a life of righteousness is to walk a straight path and speak the truth in love. It’s also to turn from evil. The Psalmist says, “Depart from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it.” (Psalms 34:14)

The second vow is this: Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Lord and Saviour, trusting in his grace and love?

To turn to Jesus is first to acknowledge the fact that he died for our sins. He bridged the gap between us and the righteousness of God. Because Christ died for our sins, we are counted as righteous, even though we’re not. That, in itself, is a reason enough to turn to him.

But there’s more. To turn to Jesus is not only to accept the sacrifice he made for us; it’s also to follow his teachings and examples.

• While the world still believes in the age-old doctrine of revenge – an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth – Jesus taught his disciples to forgive: “but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39)

• While the world still believes in a doctrine of exchanging things or ideas for mutual friendship – you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours – Jesus taught his disciples to give to those who couldn’t give in return and to love their enemies, as well as their friends. (Matthew 5:44)

• And while the world still believes in looking out for Number One, Jesus taught his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

To turn to Jesus is to trust the leading of his Holy Spirit, to speak and act in his name, to live in such a way that others may see the very image of Christ in your face and hear the very voice of Christ in your words.

Finally, the third baptismal vow is this: Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his Word and showing his love?

To be a disciple is to be disciplined, and to be disciplined is to be subordinate to a higher authority than your own. In football, it’s to execute the play sent in by the coach. In the orchestra, it’s to follow the conductor’s baton. In the Christian faith, it’s to ask ourselves, in every situation and circumstance we face, “What would Jesus do? What would Jesus say?” Then do likewise.

Let’s sum it up. We’ve been baptized. We bear the mark of the covenant. We belong to Christ and to God’s great family of faith. Today we have an opportunity to renew our baptism and affirm once more our commitment to live as children of God and as disciples of Jesus Christ.

The questions are before us. I invite us all to answer them in the affirmative, not only with our lips, but with our lives; not only today, but throughout the coming year.

AMEN

HYMN 689: SUMMONED BY GOD WHO MADE US– StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: Today, we have heard about how You call people to serve You. In our prayers, we will remember those who have tried to listen to Your voice and to respond.

Let us pray.

Lord, we live in such a noisy world where so many voices clamour to be heard. We pray for world leaders, and especially for our own Prime Minister and for the government. So many voices call for attention. So many different demands are made, that it must be very hard to think clearly. Give them time for thought and reflection, and help them in the decisions that they make.

Lord, speak to Your people; and help us to listen to Your voice.

We pray for Your church everywhere, struggling to keep pace with new developments, but also seeking to be true to the good news of Jesus. May it always provide places where people may go to hear Your voice and respond to Your call.

Lord, speak to Your people; and help us to listen to Your voice.

We pray for those who are going through difficult times; for those who long to hear Your voice, but for whom You appear to be silent. For those whose ears are filled with the noise of war and violence; for those who used to listen to You, but who have closed their ears to Your word. For those who have never had the chance to hear Your word of love and forgiveness. Be with them, speak to them in ways that they can understand; and show us if You want us to be the ones to speak Your word to them.

Lord, speak to Your people; and help us to listen to Your voice.

Now we pray for ourselves. We find it so much easier to speak than to listen. Let us keep silence for a short time, and invite God to speak to us.

Lord, speak to Your people; and help us to listen to Your voice. Amen

We have thought today about God’s voice, its power and its

HYMN 345: AND CAN IT BE -StF

BLESSINGS: Lord God, You called us here and You have been with us by Your Spirit.

Now, as we go from here, go with us, and keep calling to us, so that we may learn more of You day by day.

The blessings of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon us and remain with us always. Amen