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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 01 - Year A
The Baptism of The Lord
Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17
"God's Time of Affirmation"

READING:  Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17
SERMON :  "God's Time of Affirmation"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or01sm.y-a 647000
     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
     SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

     Sources:  Sermon citations from Lloyd Bruce, "A Sermon on Luke
     3:21-22 for the First Sunday After Epiphany - Year C" posted to
     the TELOS INORMATION SERVICE, Group:  LECTIONARY, message 270;
     5 Jan 95.  The children's story is based on one for this Sunday
     in "The Whole People of God" Curriculum (1992)

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                          (* = please stand)

GREETINGS & CALL TO WORSHIP: (based on Acts 10:34-43)
L    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
     and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P    And also with you.
L    God shows no partiality.  In every nation anyone who respects him
     and does what is right is acceptable to him.
P    God has sent a message to all nations through his people Israel.
L    He has proclaimed to everyone the Good News of peace through Jesus
     Christ, who has been made Lord of all.
P    He was anointed by the Holy Spirit and filled with power.  
L    He went everywhere doing good 
     and healing those oppressed by the devil.  
P    God was with him.
L    He was put to death on the cross, 
     but God raised him up on the third day.  
P    He is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.
L    All the prophets testify that those who believe in him 
     receive forgiveness of sins through his name.

INTROIT: "This Is The Day" (verse 1)                             - VU 412

- Welcome and Announcements    
- Birthdays and Anniversaries     
- Special Matters     
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


Gracious and all loving God - you call to us across deep waters and dark
places.  Yours is the light which guides us and the voice which we
follow.  We pray that you would reveal yourself to us as we worship you.
May those without hope be encouraged; those who are sad, cheered; those
who are seeking, find you; and may all things be according to your will. 
In the name of your beloved Son we pray. Amen.

CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Together With God"
Object:   Robe Tie Up Belt
Source:   Whole People of God for This Sunday (1992)
Theme:    Baptism - God's promise to be with us.

Good morning.  Today, in the Sunday School you will be looking at the
promises that God makes us to when we are baptized and the promises that
we make to God.  How many of you have been baptized???  At our baptism
God renews the promise with us that has been with there ever since we
were born.  God loves us and promises to be with us forever.  God never
breaks his covenant promise, ever.  God never forgets.  

Now I have a totally different question.  How many of you have ever been
in a three legged race???  Why were you in a three legged race???  Was it
fun???  Well today I need two volunteers to get tied together....  (Run
two kids tied together up and down the aisle)   Now - why don't you try
to go that way - and you go the other.... (doesn't work).  Try running
without holding onto each other...  Now one of you close your eyes - and
go with the other...

When you get tied together in a three-legged race you are saying that the
two of you will go together until the end of the race.  And when you are
in a three-legged race, you have to hang onto each other.  You can't act
separately or you won't be able to move.  If you hold onto each other it
is easier.

Baptism is like a three legged race.  God promises to be with us always -
for our whole lives.  God will be with us and help us to walk where we
should go - and when we are not sure what to do - if we hold on tight to
him - if we close our eyes - and we pray - we can feel him trying to lead
us and we can do what we promise to do in baptism - which is to walk with
him wherever he goes.  At our baptism God promises to always be with us -
he ties himself to us with the invisible ropes of love.

     Loving God - we thank you for our baptism - and for your
     promise - to help us day by day - as we walk and as we run -
     the path you have set before us. - Amen.

     Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
     come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us
     this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we
     forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into
     temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the
     kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen

CHILDREN'S HYMN:  "One More Step"                                - VU 639

READING: Isaiah 42:1-9
     (NIV)  "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I
     delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to
     the nations. {2} He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in
     the streets. {3} A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering
     wick he will not snuff out.  In faithfulness he will bring forth
     justice; {4} he will not falter or be discouraged till he
     establishes justice on earth.  In his law the islands will put their

     This is what God the LORD says-- he who created the heavens and
     stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out
     of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on
     it: {6} "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take
     hold of your hand.  I will keep you and will make you to be a
     covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, {7} to open
     eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release
     from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. {8} 

     "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another
     or my praise to idols. {9} See, the former things have taken place,
     and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce
     them to you."

L    This is the Word of the Lord
P    Thanks be to God.

RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 29 and Sung Rrefrain (Voices United 756) 

     (NIV)  Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by
     John. {14} But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be
     baptized by you, and do you come to me?" {15} Jesus replied, "Let it
     be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all
     righteousness." Then John consented. {16} 

     As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that
     moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending
     like a dove and lighting on him. {17} And a voice from heaven said,
     "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

L    This is the gospel of our Risen Lord
P    Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ..

* HYMN: "O Love, How Deep"                                       - VU 348


     Most gracious God, bless the thoughts of our hearts and the
     words of my lips.  Help us to grow in faith and in love that we
     may be pleasing to you and a blessing to others - we ask it in
     the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

After Christmas, after the birth at Bethlehem, 
there is a another beginning in the life of Jesus, as there is with us 
- it is the beginning marked by baptism,
by the acceptance of one's relationship with God, 
and of one's calling to do God's will and to minister to others as God
has chosen for us.

That beginning for Jesus - one sweltering hot day by the dusty dirty
banks of the River Jordan was heady stuff - stuff that not only had a
message for him in it, but also has one for us.

Matthew records what happened this way:

     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".

Mark and Luke both record it in similar terms 
     but the voice that is heard by Jesus is even more personal than it
     is in Matthew's recollection. 
The voice from heaven doesn't proclaim to all what God thinks about the
young man standing, dripping wet, before John; 
     rather it speaks directly to Jesus, saying:
     "You are my Son, my Beloved, with you I am well pleased".

What powerful words of affirmation these are.
What a way to begin a new stage of one's life
What a way to feel before setting out on a new course.
What a thing to know before any special act has been undertaken, any
special thing done.  What a word to carry with you into the light of a
new day.

Today I want to talk to you about affirmation 
- about what it is and how special it is,
and about when it is God affirms us 
and about when we might, therefore, affirm others.

The word affirmation is not a word that often mentioned in our vocabulary
these days.  We talk of loving and supporting - but we don't tend to use
the word affirm very often.  Perhaps it is because we don't engage in a
lot of affirming action?

To affirm means to state positively or to assert some truth or other; 
especially some truth concerning  the nature of another person 
and the relationship that one has with them.

The person who affirms something or someone stands by his or her word.
     They put all their conviction, all their presence, all their care
     into what they are saying,
          They invest themselves and their understanding of all that is
          true into their speaking - and seek by their word to bring
          light to others.

To affirm something means to value it.

I remember as a child longing to hear words of affirmation from my
father.  I would bring home a report card that I was proud of.  I would
show it to him, longing to hear the words "well done Richard".

And yes, I did hear those words.  But all too often they were followed
with, "Don't you think you could have done a little better here in this
subject... don't you think if you had taken more time, or if you had put
more effort into it, you could have made won the trophy, or got on the
honour roll?"

I longed for words of affirmation...
We all do.  

We long to be praised. 
    We long to be held in value as worthwhile, 
       as people who can accomplish something of worth,
    especially by those whom we love
       by those whom we respect
       by those upon whom we rely each day...

All of us long for affirmation 
but too often, it seems, those words come too late,
     they come after we have gone out from our homes and families, after
     we have struggled with things and won over some and lost over
too often they come after some victory or in the midst of some crisis,
     as if we had to prove ourselves worthy of them, or in desperate need
     of them.

Such is the way in many people's lives, in many families, in many homes.

But, praise be to God, God's affirmation of us as is his children is

The whole story of Jesus' ministry begins with affirmation.  
Even before Jesus had any idea what God had in store for him... 
even before Jesus had told a single story, 
even before he had healed a single person, 
there is affirmation.

God speaks those longed for words, "With you I am well pleased." while
Jesus is yet coming forth from the water - before Jesus has taught one
lesson or called one disciple to follow him.

It goes without saying that this is a significant moment in the story of
Jesus' ministry, a significant moment in Jesus' life as a whole.

It is significant for Jesus and
- if we apply the meaning of this moment to ourselves 
    as God means us to do, 
it is significant for us.

If we think of our own experiences of giving and receiving affirmation,
it usually comes after having done something well...  
In this case however, Jesus has done nothing to merit the profound words
of love and respect that God grants to him when he says:  "With you I am
well pleased."  

Normally, as I have said, these words come afterwards...

But God speaks them before - to Jesus and to us.  
He speaks them before any action which might lead one to think that he
has earned the affirmation,
     before any action or event which might be interpreted as cause for
     us not to receive or not receive affirmation.

This, my friends, is the cornerstone of grace; 
     the hallmark of a godly love; 
          and the radiant sign of the power and the ability of God to
          create and to sustain new life   

And it is when we can come to understand that we ourselves are children
of God, that we can receive this grace, this affirmation, this love that
can soothe our soul and empower our spirit.

This is what our baptism, our profession of faith, our confirmation, is
all about - - reminding ourselves and our children that we are indeed
children of God.  It is about affirming the inherent worth of each and
every person in the sight of God.

Since the day that Jesus was baptised at the river Jordan, baptism has
become a sign, a symbol if you will, of God's unconditional love for us.  

In baptism, by the promises of support and nurture, by the water of new
creation, by the faith we profess, and by the action of God, we are
marked as God's forever. 

Leaving aside any words concerning repentance,
     leaving aside any talk of sin and forgiveness,
          baptism is an act which celebrates the inherent value that God
has placed upon us.

It is act in which we rejoice over the fact that we and whoever may come
forward, or be brought forward by another, are creations of love, that we
are the special children of God,
     a God who says to us - as he said to our Lord and our brother, "You
     are my daughters, my sons, my beloved ones.  With you I am well

In our baptism, as in the baptism of Jesus, 
     we celebrate God's welcoming love,
          a love that comes prior to anything we may have done and prior
to anything we may yet do.

And the wonder of it all is that each day God renews his loves for us
each day he speaks to us tender words about who we are and what we have
done and what we can do.

God's love always remains unconditional -
it always affirms us 
it always nurtures us
and calls forth from us a like love.

All we need to do is remember whose we are
and turn to Him and open our hears and our minds to his caring presence,
his gentle guidance,
his quite and encouraging word..

God helps us begin our relationship with Him,
     and he helps us continue our relationship with him each day,
          with his word of affirmation
               with his unconditional love,
                    his unquestioning forgiveness,
                         and his unfailing support.

God creates an environment of peace for us to dwell in,
and to meditate on, 
and to pass on to others.

As companions to one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ, and yes
as parents, to others who are on the journey of faith, it does us well, I
think, to hear these familiar words once again and to consider what they
might mean for our care for one another, for our affirmation of one

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn
If a child lives with hostility she learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, she learns to be guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, she learns confidence.
If a child live with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, she learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, she learns to like herself. 
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love
in the world.

Brothers and sisters,
God loves you - right here - and right now.

In his family,
     In his word,
          In his holy and powerful and spiritual presence
he loves you and creates for you the environment in which all good things
come to pass, the environment in which you - in which we - can grow
straight and strong - and ever more caring, ever more loving.

Turn anew to God and to his word.
     Turn each day to your brothers and sisters in the faith.
          Turn to worship and to prayer
and feel within, in the time of quiet and in the time of sharing, God's
affirmation concerning you.

Show forth the love that God has for you by affirming one another as God
affirms you:
- before being asked,
- before the other has done either good or bad,
- before they deserve or do not deserve your favour and your

And after affirming one another - after creating an atmosphere of
encouragement, praise, fairness, acceptance, and love - pray and thank
God - and do it all again - knowing that this is how God greets you each
morning of your life.

Only good can come of it.  
The good that we all seek 
- the good that we all need.

Blessed Be God, Day by Day, Amen

* HYMN: "Out of Deep, Unordered Water"                           - Vu 453

O God, you love us surrounded us from before the time we were conceived,
your love and your care for us has been, is, and will ever be, a part of
you because of your promise to yourself, and to Christ Jesus your Son,
and to us that it would be so.

So often, O God we seek your love as if it was somehow lost to us - as if
we had to win your approval, or worse - is if we had to find you - as if
you had wandered from us rather than we from you.  Yet when we pause for
a moment, O God, as we pause now, we know that your love is still here,
present to us, present for us, and that all we have to do is embrace you
with our heart and our mind, and your warmth will flood our souls....   
Lord hear our prayer.  (And in your love answer).

We thank you God, we thank you; and we pray the blessings of new
beginnings within your love upon those who around us.  We pray the
blessing of being able to go forth with a hug, the blessing of knowing
that there is someone to turn to, the blessing of  trusting that one's
daily needs will be met, the blessing of companionship and assurance, the
blessing of scripture and the indwelling Spirit, the blessing of  truth
and compassion, upon all people.  Listen as we name people we know to you
in our hearts and as we remember those less known to us - those in
positions of authority and those in lands of hunger and need and those
afflicted in body, soul, or spirit....   Lord, hear our prayer...

These things we praise for, these things we thank you for, these things
we ask for, in the name of Christ Jesus.  Amen


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of

     Gracious and all powerful God, your love for us is as obvious
     as the things we have and the life we have been given.  Receive
     these our offerings as a sign of our love for you. May our
     giving teach us more about who you are and encourage our faith
     and trust in you. In your name, and by the power of your
     Spirit, we pray.  Amen.

* DEPARTING HYMN: "She Flies On"                                 - VU 380

* COMMISSIONING     In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go forth into
                    the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of
                    God, the body of Christ.

Go in peace, love and care for one another in Christ's name, 
- and may God bless you and keep you safe in the knowledge of Christ Jesus 
our Lord, 
- and may his accepting and embracing love, his warm and holy peace, his
caring and grateful joy, and his eternal hope and truth, abide in you
this day, and forevermore.  Amen

* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"          - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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