Rev Olwen Woolcock

Service for 10th January 2021

Service for 10th January 2021

Service for 10th January 2021

Service Video

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Order of Service

Good morning everybody. A warm welcome to our service this morning. In the church calendar we are in the season of Epiphany. This season is about the revelation of Jesus to the world. We proclaim Him as the King of the Nations and the Light of the World. We see his glory. This morning we are celebrating the Baptism of Christ – that is our theme for this service.

I have adapted a morning prayer liturgy for the Epiphany season which includes a psalm so our service has a different feel today. You may like to follow and join in with the liturgy on the blog below while listening to the service on the video.   

Morning Prayer for the Epiphany Season

O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Your light springs up for the righteous
and all the peoples have seen your glory.

Blessed are you, Sovereign God,
king of the nations,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
your name is proclaimed in all the world.
As the Sun of Righteousness dawns in our hearts
anoint our lips with the seal of your Spirit
that we may witness to your gospel
and sing your praise in all the earth.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.

Hymn: Name of all majesty

The night has passed, and the day lies open before us;
let us pray with one heart and mind.
Silence is kept.
As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
now and for ever.
Amen.

Invitation to confession
Because God was merciful,
he saved us through the water of rebirth
and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.
But through sin we have fallen away from our baptism.
Let us return to the Lord and renew our faith in his promises
by confessing our sins in penitence.

Lord Jesus, illuminate the darkness in our hearts:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to your saving love:
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, unstop our ears to hear your living word:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Our sins are forgiven.
May the God of love and power
Forgive and free you from your sins
 Heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
 And raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Psalm 29 (you may like to join in saying the psalm)

1    Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven, 
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2    Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name;  
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
3    The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
the God of glory thunders;  
the Lord is upon the mighty waters. 
   The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation;  
the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice.
   The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees;  
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
   He makes Lebanon skip like a calf  
and Sirion like a young wild ox. 
   The voice of the Lord splits the flash of lightning;
the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;  
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
   The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe
and strips the forests bare;  
in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’
9    The Lord sits enthroned above the water flood;  
the Lord sits enthroned as king for evermore.
10  The Lord shall give strength to his people;  
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Open our ears, glorious Lord Christ,
to hear the music of your voice
above the chaos of this world;
open our eyes to see the vision of your glory,
for you are our King, now and for ever.

Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever.
Amen.

Reading: Genesis 1:1-5

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

HYMN: New every morning  (Audrey Assad) 

Gospel Reading: Mark 1:1-13

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    “Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight”’,


John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’


In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved;] with you I am well pleased.’


12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

SERMON
Being who we truly are.

Have you taken up a new hobby or activity over the last few months? Have you gained a skill or tackled a challenge you’ve been meaning to get around to? We have become gardeners and artists, bakers and makers, wood workers and seamstresses, cyclists and musicians. We haven’t been able to fill our lives with commitments, but we have been given the gift of time. There have been difficult challenges in not being able to mix as we would want to – and we recognise those – but for many – the way through has been creativity or developing a physical activity. There is satisfaction and pleasure in mastering a cartwheel, making a dress for a granddaughter, producing crab apple jelly, digging a pond, planting a kitchen garden, running, cycling, walking, meeting the personal goal.

We have discovered something more about who we are and what we can do. Today we are marking the baptism of Christ. The description in Mark’s gospel of Jesus’ baptism shines a light on who he truly is. It also shines a light on who we truly are. We are following the gospel of Mark in the readings in this church year and Mark’s gospel doesn’t give us a birth story to tell us of the origins of Jesus, (those are in Matthew and Luke) nor do we get the theology of the prologue of Gospel of John to explain Jesus and his place in God’s big picture.  Instead, we get this big, bald statement and proclamation in the very first line of Mark’s gospel that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, ‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God’ – and then we get the story of his baptism to reinforce and confirm his identity.

There are three ways in which Jesus’s baptism affirms who is he is. The obvious way Jesus is affirmed in his identity is through the words spoken by the voice from heaven. You are my Son, the beloved, in you I am well pleased. This is the affirmation of unconditional love. The love of a father for a son, the love of a parent for a child. The love which isn’t dependant on achievement or behaviour or being good enough. At this point Jesus has done nothing. This is the affirmation of belonging and being loved for who he is – a Father’s son.

The point is that that is also God’s word to each one of us today. It doesn’t matter what skills or abilities we have or don’t have – an intrinsic part of who we are is that we are a beloved child of God. Beloved for who we are, not what we do. ‘You are my child, the beloved, in you I am well pleased’. These words are spoken to you and me. This is our identity too. How amazing – to be the beloved child of God – can we take that in? Can we realise that?

The second way that Jesus’ baptism affirms his identity is in what it leads to. John is standing in the river Jordan and offering a baptism to symbolise repentance and a new start for those coming to him confessing their sins. Your sins are washed away – you have a new beginning. Jesus comes down to the river. Jesus does not need that assurance of forgiveness, his is not a baptism of repentance but it is a baptism which signifies a new beginning.  Jesus is baptised in preparation for a new ministry. Immediately after his baptism Jesus is led by the Spirit to the desert to be tempted and then his ministry begins. In the next verse of Chapter 1 we’re told;

Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

This is Jesus’ new ministry to proclaim and show the people a new rule of God, that is – God’s kingdom.  In brief; God’s kingdom of love, forgiveness, healing, acceptance, compassion, righteousness and justice. Jesus’ baptism enables and liberates him into that calling. The Kingdom isn’t made known without him. It comes into being because of him. 

This is our calling too. We are children of God and people of the kingdom. The proclamation of the kingdom and the building of the kingdom is in our hands. As Christians this is where we stand. Later in the gospel Jesus sends his disciples out to proclaim that kingdom of God is at hand. This imperative is an intrinsic part of who we are.

The third way in which Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is confirmed is through the activity of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Spirit is to bring things into being. The Spirit is a prompt and a guide, the Spirit quickens, the Spirit is creatively active. 

If we go back to the creation story. When the earth was a formless void, and darkness covered the deep – a wind from God swept over the waters. God’s Spirit was at work bringing a new world into being.

When Jesus was standing in the river Jordan, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. God’s Spirit is present, quickening Jesus’ ministry, bringing it into being. This is a renewed world which is coming into being with the coming of Jesus. The first thing the Spirit does is to drive him into the wilderness to be tempted. The activity of the Spirit is not always comfortable.

The manifestation of the Spirit there at the baptism also confirms Jesus as belonging to the Trinity. This is the Triune God that Marks depicts. The figure of Jesus standing in the river, the dove of the Spirit hovering above him and the voice of the Father coming from heaven. The trinity united in this moment. This is who Jesus is – of the very nature of the triune God.

We have also been given God’s Holy Spirit. This is also our identity – the Spirit is active within us to prompt and guide and quicken our hearts towards God and God’s purposes. And we can pray to be filled with God’s Spirit, to be flooded and moved by God’s Spirit to dedicate our lives and purposes to his kingdom and his glory. Again, this may not be comfortable,  but it is infinitely fulfilling.

Jesus, standing before John in the river Jordan, being plunged under the water – that action- reveals Jesus as the beloved son of God whom God has sent to his people to draw them to himself in a new way.

Our identity is confirmed through our baptism too – not our innate abilities or intelligence or hobbies or taste in music – but our true identity as a beloved child of God, filled with God’s Holy Spirit and with a calling to be God’s person in the world. This is who we are.

It’s natural to relate the story of the Baptism of Christ with a new beginning a and a new year. That connection is difficult to make as we enter into 2021, when it seems we are going to have to postpone a new start to life for several months until the pandemic is brought under control. But the point is that nothing can change our God given identity. Please know – you are beloved of God; you have God’s Spirit and God’s calling – and can walk secure in that identity into this difficult year.

 Let us pray.

Lord God, teach us again who we truly are. May we discover again the depths of your love for each one of us and what it means to be a child of God.   

RESPONSORY

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.
Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is King.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Tell out his salvation from day to day.
Let the whole earth tremble before him.
Declare his glory among the nations
and his wonders among all peoples.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.


THE PEACE
God has made us one in Christ.
He has set his seal upon us and, as a pledge of what is to come,
has given the Spirit to dwell in our hearts. Alleluia.

The peace of the Lord be with you

Let us hold one another in the peace of Christ in a moment of prayer.

HYMN: Breathe on me breath of God


PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION


The Collect
Eternal Father,
who at the baptism of Jesus
revealed him to be your Son,
anointing him with the Holy Spirit:
grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit,
that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

THE LORD’S PRAYER
Believing the promises of God,
let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us

Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that 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

BLESSING
Christ the Son of God perfect in you the image of his glory
and gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom;
and the blessing …

HYMN: Thou whose Almighty word

May Christ, who sends us to the nations,
give us the power of his Spirit.
Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.



HANDEL ORGAN CONCERTO OP.4 NO.1 – ANDANTE –
1829 RENN ORGAN OF ST PHILIP’S SALFORD

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