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Sermon and Prayers For The First Sunday After Epiphany - The Baptism of The Lord - Year B
Mark 4:1-11
"The Baptism of The Lord: His Beginning and Ours"

READING:  Mark 4:1-11
SERMON :  "The Baptism of The Lord: His Begining and Ours"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild b-or01sm 526000 CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 29) L The Lord be with you. P And also with you. L Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. P Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name; worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness. L The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. P: The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. PRAYER OF INVOCATION Almighty and Eternal God - whom we worship in awe and wonder - you are the author of all beginnings, of all that is pronounced good. In you both day and night have purpose, both calm and storm have meaning. Open the eyes of our imagination that we may be ready to receive your gifts and discern your activity in our midst. Keep us, your children, born of water and the Spirit, faithful to our calling in Jesus Christ our Lord. We ask it in his name. Amen. SERMON: "The Baptism of the Lord: His Beginning and Ours" Sometimes when you are watching TV or reading a book or otherwise engaged something happens that grabs your attention - someone like a radio or TV announcer proclaims - "We interrupt this program to bring you a special bulletin" - or - you see something that strikes you as significant or important - and you pause in what you are doing, you focus your attention and take note. This happened to both Charlene and I a few years ago when we were reading a newspaper - it was just a before Christmas that year. There, sitting in the paper was a picture of a young man sitting on some school steps. He was bald, and all around him were his classmates, about 25 of them, some wearing school jackets, others in T-Shirts and regular jackets, their heads bowed towards the camera - and they too were bald. The Headline read: TRUE BLUE PALS and the caption said: Mark Busse, 16, of Reardon, Washington, poses with classmates from his high school in this eastern Washington state town. His friends shaved their heads to show support for Busse after his hair fell out following chemotherapy for inoperable lung cancer. His buddies said that they didn't want him to stand out in the 180 student high school. Wow! That is so neat - so precious - and I was struck at the time - thinking as I was of the coming Christmas Service - that this is so much like what God has done in Christ Jesus - he has come among us - and identified with us - he has taken on our flesh and our blood - our experience - our joys and our concerns, our trials and tribulations - so that he might help us, so that we may know that we are not alone, so that we may know that we are loved. God often gives us signals that say: "Stop and Listen: this is a very important event - this is full of meaning and significance for you - and for all those who have eyes to see and ears to hear." Today - in the story of the baptism of Jesus we see something highly significant about how God deals with us - and how we, when we are moved by the Spirit of God - we should deal with others. Today we see God's process of identifying with us - so that he can save us - continue. We see, as in the story of creation itself - water, and the holy Spirit, and the spoken Word of God come together and create something new We see the ministry of Jesus begin - with an act - and a sign. An act of love, and a sign of God's compassion.... Mark Busse of Reardon, Washington, despite his illness, despite his troubles, is a very lucky young man - he has the best kind of friends anyone can have - for they, although they are not sick, although they have no reason in the world to shave their heads and experience some of what young Mark experiences - do so anyway. They identify with him. They walk in his shoes. They show him that he is not alone. They perform an act, they give him a sign.. We too are lucky - we too are loved this much, we too are not alone. Come with me to the River Jordan, to that place where John, clothed in camel hair, with a leather belt around his waist, is preaching the need for repentance and washing clean of their sins to all those who come unto him. Jesus did not have to be baptized. He did have the sickness we have. He was not a sinner. He had no cause for repentance. He had no need to undergo the baptism of John. Yet he did. It says in Matthew's version of the baptism story that Jesus did what he did to fulfil all righteousness By some this is taken to mean that Jesus was baptized to set an example for us of what is involved in getting right with God - that he did it because we should do it, because it leads us toward a good relationship with God . And there is surely truth to that - but it is far more than this I see the baptism of Jesus as an act in which Jesus takes upon himself our burdens an act by which he shows how complete his identification with us is an event by which he demonstrates what the saving love of God is like, much as the act of Mark's Busse's friends demonstrates their love and care for him,by taking on one the burdens he must bear . The baptism of Jesus is the act which begins his ministry - the event which commences his process of proclaiming the good news of salvation, the start of a career which ends in our redemption. It is worth our attention for this very reason. And attention to it is found in all four gospels. Some of the most important words of our holy book surely are those ones that are found in the first chapter of The Gospel According To John - the ones that are found just before John tells the story of Jesus' baptism. They are words that explain the significance of all that follows: I read from verses 14 through 16 -- "And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out: "This is he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me'. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.." When I was a teenager I went through a stage most all of us go through in our younger years. I wondered if I was normal. Now before some of you go and say that the answer to that question is pretty obvious, let me tell you that this was no easy period to live through - it was period of self-doubt, of anxiety and of worry. That period passed, and I felt more whole, after I was convinced by several people, people by the way with the same question as I had, that they experienced the same thoughts, feelings, and emotions as I did. Their identification with me, and my identification with him, was healing. I discovered that I was not alone - that I was understood, that I was OK. This discovery was a grace unto me - it was nothing that I had earned or deserved,it came simply because other people came to me and shared their thoughts and feelings with me, thoughts and feelings that I had. How much more so with Jesus - the word made flesh? From his fullness, From his dwelling with us, From his identification with us, We have received grace upon grace. Charlene and I have speaking with someone recently who is discovering the power of Jesus in his life - he is discovering that he is not alone - that Jesus went through all that he is going through and has won for him the victory over meaninglessness and despair. He has discovered Jesus not only as Lord and Master, as the righteous one in whom their was no sin, the one we should obey, He has discovered Jesus as a brother, as one who walks with him, as one who can help him, because he is like him, as one who knows whereof he speaks, not simply because he is God, but also because, he is truly man. Jesus began his ministry among us by identifying with us - by doing as we are commanded to do - by taking upon himself the sign of repentance and righteousness that we are to take upon ourselves, And when he did so he received power - - the power of healing and of saving, - the power of the Holy Spirit - which descends upon him like a dove - and he goes forth from that point to teach and to heal - to forgive and to empower - until, at the end, he does as he does in the beginning, as he did all during all his ministry, he takes upon himself the identity of every person - he takes upon himself the burden of all, and offers himself to God in their place. Our ministry, our power, our ability to heal and be healed begins in the same place as did that of Jesus. When we identify with Jesus, when we believe in him, and see ourselves as his and he as ours, - when we move past the stage of the disciples in Ephesus who were only baptized with John's baptism of repentance and reach out instead for the baptism that is into Jesus, we receive the same power that Jesus had, the same abilities - I am speaking of mysteries, of the mysteries of faith. There is power in the sacrament that most of you here have taken part in. There is power in doing as Jesus did, and more, there is power in believing in him, and that power is the power of the Spirit, and of the power of the Word. By it we are made part of Jesus, and he is made a part of us. His life and his death, and his resurrection - become ours - and by it we are made able to be a healing part of the lives of others. The baptism of the Lord, his identification with us as lost and lonely sinners, began his ministry - a ministry in which he took upon himself our yoke and our burden, and returned to us God's love and his concern. Our baptism into him, our acceptance of his healing love and our desire to be as he was, begins our ministry: - a ministry in which, we are called to do as he did, and identify with those who are lost and those who are cry out for wholeness and proclaim then, and only then, the word that Jesus has given us. Our new year together can be full of the power of God, if we believe in and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour and our brother and if we heed the cry of those around us, if we sit up and take notice of those signals that God sends us, and learn the lessons that they teach and walk as Jesus walked - as Mark Busse's friends walked - with one another as friends, as helpers, as ones able and willing to share the love of the Lord who is in us. Praise be to God our Creator and Maker, to Jesus our Lord, our Friend and our Saviour, and to the Holy Spirit, our teacher, our guide, and our comforter. AMEN SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: O God, from you comes all the good things we enjoy - we give in response to your giving, we identify with your compassion for those in need, your pity for those who suffer and cry out. May our gifts and the daily offerings we make with our thoughts and actions touch the lives of others and bring eternal praise unto you - Amen BENEDICTION Go in peace - and may the Spirit of God which filled John and Jesus, fill your hearts, souls and minds; - may the power of God which upheld them, strengthen you for each day; - and may the love of God which directed their every action be your guiding light and your shining star, both now and forevermore. Amen copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1997 - 2006 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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