Sermons  SSLR  Illustrations  Advent Resources  News  Devos  Newsletter  Churchmail  Children  Bulletins  Search

kirshalom.gif united-on.gif

Sermon & Lectionary Resources           Year A   Year B   Year C   Occasional   Seasonal

Join our FREE Illustrations Newsletter: Privacy Policy
Click  Here  to  See  this  Week's  Sermon
Sermon and Liturgy For The First Sunday After Epiphany - The Baptism of the Lord - Year B
Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7 and Mark 1:4-11
"A Good Beginning"

READING:  Genesis 1:1-5, Acts 19:1-7, and Mark 1:4-11
SERMON :  "A Good Beginning"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or01su 864000
   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.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Genesis 1:1-5)
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  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  
P  The earth was barren, with no form of life.  
   It was under a deep ocean and covered with darkness.  
L  But the Spirit of God was moving over the waters - and God spoke,
   saying "let there be light".  And there was light.
P  God saw the light was good, 
   and he separated the light from the darkness.
L  God called the light "day" and the darkness he called "night".  And
   there was evening, and there was morning - the first day.

* INTROIT: "This Is The Day"  (VU 412, verses 1)

Let Us Pray:  Eternal God - we when truly pause and consider the universe
in which we dwell - when we calm our hearts and our minds and gaze about us
- we are filled with awe and wonder, and we feel the force, the Spirit,
gathering about us, brooding over us, reaching out to us.  In the silence,
O Lord, your voice becomes clear to us.  We remember, indeed we sense, how
it brings to life all that is - and how it is good.  Today, most Gracious
God, in this day you have made, we pray that we might truly sense the
wonder of who you are and what you have done and are still doing - and we
pray that in this and in all that we do we may bless your holy name and be
united with you and our brothers and sisters in a holy love.  We ask it in
the name of Christ Jesus.  Amen.

- Announcements
- Birthdays This Week:
- Gathering in of Prayer Joys and Concerns

* HYMN  "Here At This Font"                                        - VU 450

CHILDREN'S TIME: What Baptism Means To Us
Title     The meaning of our baptism
Object    Display the Font
Source    Self

Good morning.  Today we remember in our worship the baptism of Christ at
the hands of his cousin John the Baptist.  Baptism is a very important part
of our faith - and often we have young and old, babies and adults, come up
to this font and with great joy and with tears of gladness and much prayer
- have the minister splash great amounts of water over their heads and say
the words  "I baptize you, Mark Edward / or Mary Sue / or Richard John, in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".  

Jesus was baptized - and he commanded his disciples to go into the all the
world and to teach people all that he had said and to baptize them - with
those words "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy

Got me to thinking - what does it mean to us here today?  So  today, here,
as we consider our life as a congregation of God's people, I thought I
would have you all say some of what it means for you to be a baptized into
Christ, to be a part of God's people - here in this place - and beyond.

For me - it means connectedness.  Knowing not only that do I have a family,
but that I have a God who cares - and who reaches out - in life - and in
death - and in life after death - who reaches out and touches what he has
made - my baptism - is a sign and seal of the invisible power of God and of
the communion that I have with all who call upon the name of his living

   Let us Pray -- Grant o God, that the cleansing waters of your love -
   - might wash over us again and again -- and that the fire of your
   Spirit -- might burn fiercely and deeply within us -- and that we
   might be the people you call us to be.   Amen

* HYMN:  "Come In, Come In And Sit Down"                           - VU 395

   (NIV)  While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the
   interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples {2} and
   asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They
   answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." {3}
   So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive"?  "John's baptism"
   they replied. {4} Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of
   repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him,
   that is, in Jesus." {5} On hearing this, they were baptized into the
   name of the Lord Jesus. {6} When Paul placed his hands on them, the
   Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. {7}
   There were about twelve men in all.

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

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 29, VU-756 and Sung Refrain


   (NIV)  And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a
   baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. {5} The whole Judean
   countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing
   their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. {6} John
   wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his
   waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. {7} And this was his message:
   "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose
   sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. {8} I baptize you with
   water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." {9} At that time
   Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the
   Jordan. {10} As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven
   being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. {11} And
   a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am
   well pleased."

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

* HYMN:  "Out of Deep Unordered Water"                             - VU 453

SERMON: "A Good Beginning"

   Let us Pray - Creator and maker of us all - bless the words of my
   lips and the meditations of our hearts - grow thou in us and show us
   your ways and inspire us to live by your truth.  Amen

Sometimes when you are watching TV or reading a book or otherwise engaged
something happens that grabs your attention - 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.

I want to share with you today one such "attention grabber" -
at least it was for me,
and I rather think it may serve as one for you as well.

Just before Christmas Day a few years ago I was reading the London Free
Press - a rather large Newspaper along the lines of the Calgary Sun or the
Vancouver Sun.  As I was cruising along through the various pages a picture
suddenly reached out to me and caught my attention.

No - it wasn't the Sunshine Girl - nor the Sunshine Boy for that matter.
It was a picture of a young man sitting on some steps outside a school.  

The young man 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 next to the picture 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

That item really touched my heart when I first saw it.
It still does.

It is so neat - so precious - so loving
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.

Indeed, the very first hymn of the church that we have a record of,
   the hymn which is quoted in the second chapter of Paul's Letter to the
speaks of this identification,
this solidarity,
this total commitment,
this love.

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus", Paul writes

   Who, being in very nature God, 
       did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
   but made himself nothing, 
       taking the very nature of a servant, 
       being made in human likeness.
   And being found in appearance as a man, 
       he humbled himself and became obedient to death
       - even death on a cross!

In his birth and in his death Jesus completely identified himself with us.

Today - in the story of the baptism of Jesus we see another example of
totally Jesus identified himself with us.

We see the ministry of Jesus begin - with an act - and a sign.  
An act of love, and a sign of God's compassion....

He who later commands his disciples to baptize all nations in the name of
   the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is himself baptized
   - even though - as scripture states in another place - there was no
   need for it 
just as there was no need - in the strictest sense of the word - for Mark
   Busses friends and class mates to shave their heads.

But they did.  And he did.

Jesus is baptized - with water - and with the Spirit - 
just as we are called to be - 
   And God smiles upon Jesus as he comes out of the waters, saying: "You
   are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased",
much as God smiles upon us when we are baptized and makes us part of his
people - part of his family.

   Indeed in baptism we become the children of God - sons and daughters of the
   most high in a way that those who are un-baptized cannot know.  
   We are made part of the church - we are made to be inheritors of the
   promises -participants in the covenant established by Jesus when he
   went to the cross and was buried in the tomb.

Mark Busse of Reardon, Washington, despite his illness, despite the
sureness of his approaching death, was a very lucky young man - no - not
lucky, blessed.  He was blessed because he had the best kind of friends
anyone can have - for they, although they were not sick, although they had
no reason in the world to shave their heads and experience some of what
young Mark experienced - did so anyway.  

They identified with him.  They walked in his shoes.  They showed him that
he was not alone.  They gave to him a sign which he could treasure, a sign
that made real to him and to others their love for him. 

That is what the sacrament of Baptism is all about.

It is about making love real --
- God love for us.
- and our love for God.

Just as the baptism of Jesus was an act by which he identified himself with
us, so our baptism in his name identifies us with him.

Paul writes of baptism these words: (Romans 6:3-5)

   Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ
   Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried
   with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised
   from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in
   newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death
   like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection
   like his.

Our baptism unites us with Christ
in his death,                                
and his resurrection.

But more yet, just as in a mysterious and yet real way baptism unites
Christ with us and us with him - it also unites us with all whom he has

It makes us part of him and it makes us part of his church 
- the church which he died to give birth to,
- the church which is called, throughout the scriptures - his body.

In the Basis of Union which is the foundational document of the United
Church of Canada, there are twenty articles of faith which the founding
members of our denomination agreed summarized our faith.

Article Fifteen, on the Church, says in part:

   We acknowledge one Holy Catholic Church, the innumerable company of
   saints of every age and nation, who being united by the Holy Spirit
   to Christ their Head are one body in Him and have communion with
   their Lord and one another.  Further, we receive it as the will of
   Christ that His Church on earth should exist as a visible and sacred
   brotherhood.... organized for the confession of His name, for the
   public worship of God, for the administration of the sacraments, for
   the upbuilding of the saints, and for the universal propagation of
   the Gospel....

And in Article Sixteen - on the Sacraments - and the sacrament of baptism
in particular, it says:

   We acknowledge two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, which
   were instituted by Christ, to be of perpetual obligation as signs
   and seals of the covenant ratified in his precious blood, as means
   of grace, by which, working in us, He doth not only quicken, but
   also strengthen and comfort our faith in Him, and as ordinances
   through the observance of which His Church is to confess her Lord
   and be visibly distinguished from the rest of the world.

   Baptism with water into the name of the Father and of the Son and of
   the Holy Spirit is the sacrament by which are signified and sealed
   our union to Christ and participation in the blessings of the new

Note some of the key words and ideas here.

Baptism is a means of grace
which works in us
to quicken and strengthen and comfort our faith in Him.
It seals our union with Christ
and makes us part of his covenant people.
It gives us communion with him and with one another.
It is one of the means by which we confess Christ as our Lord
and are visibly distinguished from the rest of the world.

Jesus began his ministry among us, those three brief years of glory,
by identifying himself with us through the act of baptism.

We begin - as his followers -
- to identify ourselves with him and with one another 
- to commune with him and one another
in the same manner.

We are called to be one with Christ,
and one with his church - visible and distinct within this world.

Baptism is for this purpose - a good beginning - indeed it is the beginning
that has been instituted for us by Christ himself.

My brothers and sisters, we are called to identify ourselves with Christ
and to identify ourselves with his body - the church,
and to do so visibly and distinctly within the this world.

It is through Christ, and in Christ
and through the church and in the church
that the new covenant of forgiveness of sins and eternal life is made

Over the next few weeks - till the time of Easter in fact,
I am going to be stressing these things.

Starting in about two weeks or so we will be holding Membership Study
classes - classes meant for those age 12 and over who are considering being
baptized or renewing their baptismal vows - and for all those who want to
deepen their understanding of God of the Church, of the Bible and the
Sacraments, of the Christian life and of that part of the Christ's body we
call the United Church of Canada.

These classes call for commitment - 
just as Christ calls for commitment -
they call for a commitment to learn and to share what you know -
a commitment to study and to pray -
a commitment to be present to one another and to God - and to be open to
God's love and guidance.

And in the sermons over the next while - we are going to look at what the
church has always taught - what the bible has taught - what Christ has
taught - about the sacraments - about faithfulness and obedience - about
stewardship - about unity - about pain and suffering - and about
righteousness and healing.

It is my prayer - that in this period you may come to know the depth of
meaning behind that statement I introduced in last week's sermon on how
this is the Year of God's favour - the year of Jubilee.

That statement was "Let us live by our faith so that our faith may cause us
to live."

In the next while we are going to learn more deliberately than perhaps we
have for a while what our faith teaches us - and hear more clearly than
perhaps we have in a while - how our faith - how our Lord and our God not
calls us to identify with - to belong to - and to commune with - Christ
Jesus - but with his church as well.

May the good beginning that was begun in Christ be your beginning -
and may we together, as his body, grow in righteousness 
till the time of his coming 
the time of judgement and of resurrection.  Amen

Gracious Father, you are Lord of our beginnings and our endings and all
that lies between.  We praise you: for how you have poured out upon us
blessing after blessing; for how you have reached out to us; for how you
have come to us; for how you have spoken to us.  Help us to live the faith
you have given us...  Lord, hear our prayer...

Loving God - we thank you for how Christ Jesus came among us and identified
himself completely with us - going so far as to take upon himself our sin,
our suffering, and finally our death.  Help us Lord to not hold back
ourselves from identifying with him and with the church that he
established.  May we indeed be united with him in his death so that we
might also share in his resurrection.  Help us to commit ourselves to him
and to the family he has called us to be a part of - to be members of his
visible body here in this place - to be his disciples and his apostles -
his evangelists and his teachers - his feet and his hands - his eyes and
his ears - his light and his salt - day by day....  Lord, hear our

Anoint, O Christ, those who will take part in the Membership Study over
these next three months so that the foundations that will be laid - and
those that have been laid - will support a glorious temple of your
presence.  Bless both the young and the old who will join together in study
so that each may grow in faith and so that your body may be strengthened
and your glory be proclaimed....  Lord hear our prayer... 

Anoint all the people of your church, O God, that your will may be done and
your name be glorified.  Make us one as you are one... both those who are
near and those who are far off...  Lord, hear our prayer...
Anoint the grieving with your comfort, so that they may know your light
even in the time of their deepest darkness...  Lord hear our prayer... 

Anoint the broken in body and spirit with your healing, so that they may
know you are Lord of all their days and so that they may praise you each
day no matter what it may bring...  Lord hear our prayer...

Anoint, O God, all those for whom we now ask in the silence of our hearts.  
We especially remember before you today, O Lord  (Bidding Prayer)
.... Lord, hear our prayer....

O God of infinite mercy, pour your love out upon us each day. We pray
through Jesus, your Anointed One, he who first taught us to pray to you
saying... Our Father

* 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

   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 -

* DEPARTING HYMN: "Would You Bless Our Homes and Families"         - VU 556

* COMMISSIONING (Unison): 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

Go in peace; love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- 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

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

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 - 2006
             please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

Further information on this ministry and the history of "Sermons & Sermon - Lectionary Resources" can be found at our Site FAQ.  This site is now associated with

Spirit Networks
1045 King Crescent
Golden, British Columbia
V0A 1H2