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Sermon and Liturgy for The First Sunday after Epiphany - Year C
(The Baptism of Our Lord)
Isaiah 43:1-7; Acts 8:14-17; Psalm 29; Luke 3:15-17,21-22
"Something More From Someone Greater"

READING:  Isaiah 43:1-7; Acts 8:14-17; Psalm 29; Luke 3:15-17,21-22
SERMON :  "Something More From Someone Greater"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or01sn.y-c 762000

   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: Story in Sermon from Jody Seymour, "The Arrival", in
   Looking For God In All The Wrong Places: 75 Glimpses of The Not So
   Obvious God", Judson Press: Valley Forge, PA., 1990, pp 106-107.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Isaiah 43:1-7)
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  The Lord calls to you today.  He speaks with words of old - words meant
   also for  this day.  He calls to you and says: "Do not fear, for I have
   redeemed you.  I have called you by name, you are mine."
P  Because he knows us and goes with us, 
   when we pass through the waters and walk through the fire,
   we will not be afraid.
L  The Lord will not let the waters overwhelm you or the fire consume you. 
   You are precious in his sight.  He honours you and loves you.  He has
   given people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.
P  The Holy One of Israel is our Saviour.  
   He is with us.
   Glorious is his name.

* INTROIT: "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" (verse 1)               - VU 232

Gracious God, Holy One of Israel, Holy and Glorious indeed is your Name. 
We praise and thank you this day for being our Saviour, for counting us as
your precious children, for knowing us and being with us when we pass
through the waters and when we are called to walked through the fire. 
Truly, O Lord, your rod and your staff, they comfort us.  So it is we ask
today that you manifest your presence to us.  Help us in this time of
prayer and worship to see you anew.  Be especially present in this, your
holy sanctuary, and inhabit all our prayer and our praise.  Help us to lift
up your name and to hear your word and to do it.  Amen.

* HYMN:  "Breathe On Me, Breathe of God"                           - VU 382

CHILDREN'S TIME: "What's Your Name?"
Theme     God loves us as his special children.
Source    Self
Object    Water For The Font

Good morning...... Today on the communion table we have a jug of water.  It
is there to help us remember a very special time in the life of Jesus - and
in the life of millions of people who believe in him.  Can you guess what
that time is???   It is the time of our baptism.   How many of you have
been baptized???   Well perhaps you were so young you can't remember - you
should ask you mother or father about it   but lets see how many of the
adults here have been baptized.....
Today we will hear the story from the bible about how Jesus was baptized by
John in the River Jordan.  Lots of people were baptized by John out in the
wilderness, and ever since Jesus was baptized, lots of people who believe
in Jesus have also been baptized.  Some, like him Jesus, have been baptized
in rivers, others in special pools that some churches have up behind the
choir loft -- and still others have been baptized with water poured into a
font - or special bowl like the one that we have in this church.
Do you know why people get baptized???    We get baptized to show that we
are washing away all our old sins and becoming a new person.  Adults do it
to show that they are giving our their lives to God, and that they want
their hearts to be clean and pure, that they want to be part of God's
family   and they bring their children to be baptized as well for the very
same reasons - they want you to be touched by God in a special way - and to
be known as part of his family.  We believe that the water of baptism helps
to wash our hearts - that God does something special at that time.
Special things happen at the time of baptism   one of those things is that
We ARE NAMED by our parents - or our God parents.  Some of us have many
different names    Can you tell me some of  your names????  Sometimes
during life, we end up with a new name - we take the name for ourselves -
or others give it to us for some reason.  In the Bible - Simon became known
as Peter, and Saul became known as Paul to indicate  that they were new
people.  Names are special, because they tell us something about who we
are.  When Jesus was baptized by John, he was called, by a voice from
heaven - "God's beloved child".   That is a very special thing   and each
of you, today, like Jesus, is also called by God "his beloved child".  You
are a part of his family - and I, and each of the people here, are your
brothers and sisters.    Now I would like all of you to stand up --- and to
come to me one at a time -- and tell me the name you are called - and I
will tell you what God calls you one more -- come, and after you come, and
your teachers or special friend with you   we will sing a hymn, say a
prayer, and then you can go downstairs to your Sunday School classes......

   As children come forward, name them and bless them.  Then, while
   standing at the font continue with hymn and prayer...

   __________, you are God's beloved child,  Jesus is your brother..

* CHILDREN'S HYMN:  "Out Of Deep Unordered Water"                  - VU 453

   Dear Father in Heaven   thank you for calling us   your special
   children   your most beloved children   help us to be like our
   brother Jesus   and to please you in all we say and do.   we ask it
   in his name.   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

- Announcements 
- Sharing Joys and Concerns
- Birthdays and Anniversaries


   (NIV) When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted
   the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. {15} When they
   arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
   {16} because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they
   had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. {17} Then
   Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy

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

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 29 (VU 756 and Sung Response)

A READING FROM LUKE 3:15-17,21-22
   (NIV) The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in
   their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. {16} John answered
   them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will
   come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will
   baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. {17} His winnowing fork
   is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat
   into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

   When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as
   he was praying, heaven was opened {22} and the Holy Spirit descended on
   him in bodily form like a dove. 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:  "Jesus, Stand Among Us"                                   - VU 396

SERMON: "Something More From Someone Greater"

   O Lord,  we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
   and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the
   thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. 

There is more to our faith than those things that we do and say,
- more than keeping commandments and trying to live moral and upright
- more than striving to live up to John's exhortation to bear fruit
befitting repentance,
- more even indeed than receiving the sacraments of holy baptism and
partaking of the Lord's Supper and worshipping with God's people on a
regular basis.

There is a mystery in our faith: a component to it that is beyond us and
our ability to grasp it, or earn it, or work for it.  And that is a good
thing, a wonderful thing - a thing we should praise God for!

John the Baptist speaks of this mystery in today's Gospel reading when he
says to the people who come out to him in the wilderness beyond the Jordan:

   I baptize you with water, but one more powerful than I is coming.  I
   am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.  He will baptize
   you with the Holy Spirit and Fire."

And Peter and John refer to the same thing - to that something more - to
that thing which is greater than us and what we do when, as we heard in the
reading from the Book of Acts, they go down to Samaria to visit with the
believers who live there  and laid hands on them:

   "and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for as
   yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them - they had only been
   baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."

There is a power, my friends, that is greater than human power,
a spirit, that is greater than the human spirit,
a person great than any human person 
- and it comes to us - it is available to us -
   it can touch us and change us -
   it can fill us and use us -
   it can lift us up and inspire us -
   it can give us strength and  heal and comfort us
   and it can convict us of sin and wash us clean of all stains.  

That power is the Living God.
That spirit is the Spirit of The Living God -
that person - is the Son of The Living God
   and they are greater than we can conceive
   more real than we can imagine
   more loving and caring than we can - or do - expect.


Can you say Amen to that??  
Can you say Amen to the power of God which comes upon his people??

Say it again - say Amen to that which bigger than us  
Say Amen to that which takes us by surprise and makes our hearts glad!
Say Amen to that which we long for - but do not dare believe will happen!
Say Amen to that which comes when we have faith - and even when we do not!
Say Amen to that which we cannot control 
   to that which we cannot earn,
   to that which we cannot buy
to that wonderful thing that comes to us - freely - lovingly - and with
wholeness in its wings.

Say Amen to the Lord Jesus
Say Amen to the Holy Spirit
Say Amen to God our Father.

Amen and Halleluiah!
Praise God!

There is something more my friends 
something more than we normally dare expect
something that fills the void 
something that goes beyond the water of baptism
   - even the water that washes us in the name of Jesus
something more than even our believing in his words 
   - as the disciples in Samaria believed
and that something is nothing less than the God in whom we believe.

Come with me for a minute or two and visit John the Baptist.  Listen to the
words of a story written by a woman called Jody Seymour about the day we
observe today - the day of Christ's baptism.  Listen - and imagine yourself
being there.  Hear the longing -- a longing in every human heart - and hear
the answer to that longing - the answer that comes from the heart of

   Gnats flew patterns around his matted beard.  The desert left trails
   of salt which disappeared into his hairy face.  He was tired, but
   full of fire.  His weariness stemmed not from the draining heat of
   the Judean sun, but from the growing burden he carried.  His words
   weighed him down.

   He called the Pharisees snakes and shouted to them that their white
   robes could not hide their slithering deceit.  His arid voice caught
   the attention of Herod when the foul-smelling desert prophet
   pronounced his sentence upon the king: crown or no crown, adultery
   was adultery.

   John's voice was indeed in the wilderness, and his solitude grew
   deeper, even as the seeking crowds came to him to be baptized.  The
   dryness in his mouth could not be quenched even with the water he
   used to give the people hope.  It was the fire in his words that
   left him longing for the dampness of a salvation he seemed unable to
   provide.  So many eyes were looking to him for answers and for light
   in the growing darkness of a world that often seemed to be forgotten
   by God.

   John could give them water and the promise of forgiveness, but he
   could not give them what he, too, sought.  The longing in the wet
   faces of those he brought up out of the water asked him if he was
   the one for whom they waited.

   He tried to hide his own disappointment at not finding the Messiah
   among the people.  He shouted all the more the promise so at
   convince even himself.

   His mind wandered somewhere far away into the desert, though his
   body was waist deep in the slowly-moving flow of the Jordan.  At
   first he did not even see the pilgrim who knelt before him in the
   river waiting to be baptized.  But then he caught the sunlight
   reflecting from the beads of sweat on the man's face and recognized

   "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?", he managed
   to speak.

   In the background there was thunder, and a white dove dipped down
   near them in its sweeping flight.  Still dripping with the water of
   John's baptism, the pilgrim walked toward the desert, leaving behind
   the solitary prophet drowning with joy.  He was here!  John splashed
   water onto his own face as one who had finished a long journey.  For
   the first time in many months he felt his thirst satisfied.

A story -yes,  we do not know how for sure how John felt.  But we do know
- I know - and many other believers know this day - that there is something
more to our faith in Jesus - to our discipleship - to our believing in the
promises - than all the "ours" in that sentence.   That something comes
from beyond us - and touches us now and again - and satisfies our thirst.

There is something from beyond that reminds us that there is indeed
something called baptism in the Holy Spirit - that indeed we live in a
world where there is spiritual power, a good power, and that this power can
come upon us and wash over us - and through us - that it can be as fire in
the bone to us and use us to God's purposes in ways that we neither plan or

I am talking about a reality that is separate from us in our normal
awareness and consciousness, but which intersects with our lives and breaks
into our lives 
   - sometimes gently - in the still small voice - in the sense of peace
   and well being we have, 
   - and at other times with signs that are more dramatic - in healings
   that we that we have sought, but not thought possible, in times of 
   reconcilation that we prayed for, but did not dare hope for.

God is real - and does some amazing things -     which is very good - 
because what needs to be done in my life - I can not do on my own;
and the changes that we all need to have - we can not, no matter how hard
we try, bring about by ourselves.

A few days ago   God used me and touched mein the midst of my busyness to
answer the need of someone else in a way I had not expected, and which I
could not have arranged by my own wisdom or skill.

I went to visit someone - someone I had talked on the phone to a couple of
times over the last few months - but had never met.

For me - it was a duty call - the fulfilment of a promise I had made to
them and about I had become somewhat guilty, not having yet done what I
said I was going to do.

During the first part of the week I kept thinking "I really ought to go see
these people" and then something would come up - something else I had to do
- and I would put it off,   only to have the feeling re-emerge afterward.

Finally a schedule change left me with an afternoon in which I could go
visiting, and while there were many I could have visited the promise I had
made came back to mind and the guilt I felt over not fulfilling it sooner
made me pick up the phone and ask if a visit that day would be a timely
thing   and it was.

When I arrived at the persons home and heard them begin to speak about
their life and situation I realized that God was doing something and had
done something, that one greater than I was there and had brought me there
at that precise time for a reason.

I was told not too long after I arrived - that my phone call had come just
as they were thinking about calling me - and asking me to pray for them -
that there was a need that they wanted lifted up.

God, I was told, had brought us together that day,
and I could not help but agree.

There was a spiritual bonding that occurred that I had not anticipated, a
sharing that happened that went beyond the usual answers to the question -
how are things going, and at last a prayer offered - as they had hoped a
prayer might be offered - a prayer that will indeed be answered - since God
made it possible for it be prayed in the first place.

God intervened - and did something more, gave something more, than I can
give or the people that I visited could give - and God did it 
- through the ordinary things of my life and work, 
- through the promise made a long time ago, 
- through the sense of duty and obligation I felt, 
- through what I interpreted as the nudges of "guilt"
God did it to bring me to some people  at the very time they wanted someone
from God to come to them, at the very time they wanted a sign of hope, a
prayer, something more than they had to keep them going another day.

And that is what it is all about.  It is about ordinary things - human
things - being touched by the divine - - being washed by the Spirit - being
given new life - new hope - new joy.

Water - the gift of God - without which there is no life, no cleansing; 
   ordinary water - plain water   symbolic of our dying to self and coming
   alive to God -
and the Spirit of God - the fire of God - 
   nothing ordinary at all - yet it comes to us in the ordinary - in the
   arrival of a pilgrim at the River Jordan, in the laying on of hands of
   the faithful and in prayer   in the flight of a dove - in the  blowing
   of the wind, in the visit of a pastor - and in the prayer of those in

Blessed be the one who is greater than John and us,
And blessed is the Spirit that he pours out upon all who call upon his

Gracious Lord God, we give you thanks today that is more to our faith in
you than our belief in you, than our efforts to do those things that you
command and to not do those things that your most Holy Word calls sin.  We
praise you for the fact that there is something more to our baptism than
water and ritual words shaped by the human tongue, that there is those
things that you bestow, and which you bring to fulfilment in the time that
you choose.  We thank you O God for your continuing presence - for the
promises that you make to us - for the light you shed upon us when our
pathway is dark - for the fire that you put into our hearts to drive back
the coldness of this world, for the Spirit that you energize us with when
our own power fails us...  Help us, Father, to remember all that you have
already done for us in making us your precious and beloved children and to
claim as our own all those things you have promised to grant us when we
follow you.... Lord hear our prayer....

We pray today O God for all who live by the law instead of the Spirit, for
those who have not yet discovered the power of your Living Word nor
received the healing touch that comes from his most  holy hands....  Lord
hear our prayer....

We pray for all who long for the fulfilment of your promises, for those who
are called to pass through the waters and are afraid, for those who must go
through fire and who worry that you may not be with them....  Lord hear our

We pray for those who despair over their sinfulness and the sinfulness of
others, for those who have not found the peace that Christ grants nor the
transforming power that he bestows upon his brothers and sisters, that they
may be used of him in this world.....  Lord hear our prayer....

We pray for those who we have named this day in our time of sharing - and
those we name now in our hearts before you.  We especially remember before
...Lord Hear Our Prayer....

We pray to you, most loving one, in the name of your most beloved Son
Christ Jesus our Lord, he who is our Saviour, our Brother , and our Friend,
both now and forevermore.  Amen


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:   The Offering Is Received and as it is
presented all stand for The Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings
Flow - VU #541) and the Prayer of Dedication

   Loving and Eternal God - we present ourselves and our offerings to
   you this day as a sign of our thanksgiving and an expression of our
   trust in you.  We pray that will bless all that we give to you,
   touch it with your Holy Spirit and use it to accomplish your purpose
   - both in heaven and on earth, now - and forevermore.  Amen

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "I Feel The Winds of God"                       - VU 625

* 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 blessing of God Almighty -
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
be poured out upon you 
- and may you remain his faithful servants, his beloved children,
both now and evermore.  Amen

SUNG BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                                  - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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