Mitchells Presbyterian Church

Audio/Video Service January 10, 2021

1st Sunday after the Epiphany/Baptism of the Lord

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the Earth”

Welcome and Announcements:

Welcome everyone to Mitchells Presbyterian Church on this 1st Sunday after the Epiphany, the Sunday that we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord! I’m Reverend Michael Clang, Covenant Pastor here at Mitchells and I am so glad that you all have tuned in to our YouTube channel to worship with us today. It’s my hope and prayer that the next 30 minutes will be a real blessing to you.

On this day when we remember the Lord’s Baptism, we also want to remember our own. So after our Affirmation of Faith we will have a Thanksgiving for Baptism where we offer a prayer of thanksgiving for baptism and pour water into the font. At home, I would invite you to have a cup or bowl of water available so that you can touch the water as that tactile reminder of your own baptism.

Please remember to complete the brief survey that is in this month’s newsletter regarding these services. We really want your feedback as we endeavor to improve in any way that we can. Thank you! United together as one, wherever we may be this day, let us now call ourselves to worship.

Call to Worship:

L: The voice of God resounds upon the water.

P: The Spirit of the Lord hovers over the stream.

L: The Son of God is named, “Beloved.”

P: And all who worship shout out, “Glory”.

L: Ascribe to the Lord majesty and strength.

P: Let us worship God in holy splendor.

Hymn of Adoration: #466 “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (verses 1-4)

1 O for a thousand tongues to sing

my great Redeemer’s praise,

the glories of my God and King,

the triumphs of God’s grace!

2 Jesus! the name that charms our fears,

that bids our sorrows cease,

‘tis music in the sinner’s ears,

‘tis life and health and peace.

3 Christ breaks the power of reigning sin,

he sets the prisoner free;

his blood can make the sinful clean;

Christ’s blood availed for me.

4 My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim,

to spread through all the earth abroad

the honors of Thy name.

Prayer of Confession:

God loves us and calls us each by name. Knowing that we are eternally forgiven and infinitely loved, let us confess our sins before God.

Gracious God, we acknowledge that we have not always remembered our baptism. We have forgotten that we are marked as your own. We have not acted as members of the body of Christ. We have gazed contentedly on the status quo and ignored the voice that calls us to repent. We do not believe that we need to be forgiven for anything. Forgive us our arrogance, O God. Help us to look on your Son as our model and to take his humility upon ourselves (time of silent confession). Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:

Hear the good news: As a voice from heaven said to Jesus, so God says to each of us: You are my beloved child, and with you I am well pleased. Know that you are forgiven and be at peace. Amen

Prayer for Illumination:

Send down your Holy Spirt, O God – tear open the veil of heaven and speak to us as beloved children so that we may hear and believe the good news of your Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lessons: Genesis 1:1-5 and Mark 1:4-11

Sermon: “Cosmic Remapping”

I love maps. All kinds of maps. Road maps with their tricky folding technique; atlases with their huge collection all in one place, and especially, topographic maps with their sense of adventure. I love them all. As I pondered that this week, I’m really not sure where the fascination began. Maybe it’s the smell of the ink on the paper; maybe it was the accordion style folding; or maybe it was the memory of sitting in my Grandfathers car, folding, and unfolding his road map and just being fascinated at him showing me where we were on it; where we were going; and how many ways there were to get there. That sense of movement and adventure.

I know that is what intrigues me about topographical maps. When Tracie and I hike I purchase one of these (don’t trust the electronic ones completely yet) and map out where we are starting, where we are going, and what is the best trail to get there. I can see what our elevations will be; what type of terrain we will encounter; and generally how much time it should take us. And “most” of the time it works well, but not always. Once, when we were in Colorado, I had plotted out a nice hike that would take us about 3 hours and would have us encountering minimal elevation gains. Well, somewhere I missed a calculation at one of our trail crossings and while we never got lost, we ended up with a 6-hour day instead of 3-hour one and an EXCESSIVELY big elevation gain. All was fine in the end, but it remined me of the importance of orienting and especially RE-orienting as you go.

It’s a great metaphor for our baptism because the whole idea about repentance is to turn around and start going in a different direction. To re-orient.

In our Gospel lesson today, we heard Marks account of the baptism of Jesus. Matthew and Luke will give similar accounts and one of the questions that I have wondered, and maybe you have as well is “why did Jesus need to be baptized”? I mean, if he is without sin, why be baptized by John? I’m not sure that we will ever know why exactly. The text does not tell us. Most scholars who have studied this question agree that it was a moment of decision in Jesus’ life. For thirty years he had stayed in Nazareth with his family. We can assume that he faithfully had done his days’ work, and as commentator William Barclay says, “discharged his duties to his home”.

Shakespeare writes, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their lives is bound in shallows and in miseries”.

For Jesus, this rising tide must have been John’s emergence on the scene, preaching that the kingdom of God is here. By being baptized by John, Jesus is identifying with this movement; re- orienting, if you will. He is leaving the home of his childhood and early adulthood and moving into the larger world of the purposes of God. And it’s possible that at the beginning he did know all that this meant. But John knew the map. He kept telling the crowd that one is coming whose sandals I’m not worthy to tie. I baptize you with water but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

Listen to what Mark said again. “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”. Can you picture it? Remember that Mark does not give us an infancy narrative like we have in Matthew and Luke. We get no angels speaking to Mary or Joseph about a divine conception. We get no heavenly choir of angels announcing to the night shift shepherds that a savior has been born. We get no visiting Magi presenting gifts to Jesus marking an epiphany.

For Mark, this baptism is the epiphany.

I think I shared with you all before the story of my first encounter with seagulls. Tracie and I were visiting her brother when he was living in Boston and we were spending this glorious day on the beach out on the Cape. Around lunchtime, we spread out a blanket to eat and these cute seagulls came up to join us. Being a beach “newbie” from the country, I did not know any better so I tossed these cute little birds one of my crackers. Well, you all know what happened next. You can’t just feed the one or two that are next to you. No, they come swooping in from everywhere! It was like a scene from “The Birds”. I definitely learned my lesson about seagulls.

Well this is the image that I get from Mark’s passage. This was not a dove just gently floating down on Jesus. That would be too tame. This was a ripping apart of the sky and a dove dive- bombing down to Jesus, identifying and empowering him as the one in whom God would work to reclaim and restore creation. A dove full of God’s creative power, like we heard earlier in our Genesis passage; the power that hovered over the primordial chaos and separated the light from the darkness. Mark wants us to know that something world altering is happening at this baptism.

In his book, “Holy Ground”, liturgical scholar, Gordon Lathrop calls this a remapping of the cosmos. A hole has been ripped in the cosmic map of the universe. What had separated us from God is no more. All our made-up boundaries are gone. Our world, the very cosmos, has been remapped! A colleague of mine has said that it is this hole in the map of our universe that orients our lives, which means for Christians, the center of our Christian map is the baptismal font. Like Jesus, “it’s where we hear a voice that tells us the truth about ourselves, claiming us as God’s own beloved children, and where God’s own Spirit claims us and anoints us for service” 1

“And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”. What powerful words of acceptance, identity, blessing, and commitment. Did Jesus need forgiveness? No. But to know who he is or rather whose he is; to hear that he is accepted and loved would have been powerful words that I’m sure gave him strength as he oriented and re-oriented his ministry.

And what about us? Don’t we all long to hear those words of acceptance, identity, blessing, and commitment. That is the beautiful gift of our baptism. God chooses us, just as we are. The Psalmist reminds us, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” God says that we are enough already. That we are pleasing to God and deserve to be loved. And thanks be to God, that can’t be taken away.

God has broken through and re-mapped our world. And through our baptisms that unite us with Christ, we too are called to re-orient our lives. To be lifted out of our near horizons and set in the larger framework of the will of God. We are called to be the light; to be the manifestation of Christ for the world; to work at breaking down the barriers that separate us; to bring peace, and justice, and reconciliation, while challenging everything that that distorts and disfigures human life and God’s good creation. And while that is exciting; it can also be a little scary and overwhelming. Until we remember that God is with us through all of it. God is on our side. God will not abandon us but will walk alongside us, strengthening us and encouraging us, every step of the way.

As this year 2021 begins to unfold; I encourage you to keep “remembering your baptism”; remembering that you have been set apart; that you have been given special gifts that only you possess for the good of God’s kingdom. And most of all remembering God’s words to you: “You are my beloved child. With you I am well pleased!” May it be so. Thanks be to God!

Affirmation of Faith (Apostle’s Creed):

As our response to the scriptures being read and proclaimed, let us affirm together what we believe by reciting together the Apostles Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

1 Reverend Roger Gench

Thanksgiving for Baptism:

Let us now give our thanks to God for our baptism. I would invite you at home to join me with some water in a bowl or a cup and when we finish our prayer to touch and feel the water and to trace the sign of the cross over your hand or heart or forehead remembering that you have been sealed in God’s amazing love.

The Lord be with you. And also with you.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Glory to you, O God – your voice is over the waters, full of power and majesty. Your word shakes the wilderness and blesses us with peace.

We give you thanks and praise for the new thing you have done in Jesus Christ our Savior. Baptized by John in the river Jordan, you anointed him with your Holy Spirit and claimed him as your beloved Son.

We give you thanks and praise that by the grace of our baptism, you have claimed us as well and poured out the gifts of your Spirit so that we might be dead to sin and alive to you in Christ Jesus.

Continue to pour out your Spirit upon us. Empower us to love and serve you and live as your faithful people, bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one god, now and forever. Amen.

Every time we touch water, we can remember how God has; claimed us; forgiven us; and grafted us into Christ to be the hands and feet, the full embodiment of Christ, in our world. God’s kingdom has broken in and reoriented our lives. Thanks be to God!

[Placing hands in the font and lifting up water]. Remember your baptism and be thankful. [take some water and trace the sign of the cross on your forehead or your heart or your hand as you say these words] In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Call for Offering:

“From the fullness of God, we have all received grace upon grace.”

Thank you everyone for continuing to send in your tithes and offerings to the church office. For the offerings that we have received this week, let us pray:

Prayer of Dedication:

We give you thanks, O God, for every blessing and spiritual gift you have poured out upon us. Let the gifts of our lives be a source of blessing in your world, all to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer (with Lord’s Prayer):

As we gather together across time and space in this time of prayer, join me in taking some nice cleansing breaths as we calm our busy minds and open our hearts to the presence of the living Lord. Let’s breathe [go 30 seconds]:

Glorious God, as you poured out your Spirit to Jesus at his baptism, providing him with sustenance and strength, so pour out your Spirit upon us as we offer our prayers for the church and world saying, Spirit of the Living God, stir us with your power.

We pray for your church: may your word spark our lives with truth and joy as we serve one another to the glory of your name. Spirit of the Living God, stir us with your power.

We pray for all leaders and people, at home and abroad: may your justice provoke us to shape a world where all us regardless of race or creed or political affiliation work together for the common good of all. Spirit of the Living God, stir us with your power.

We pray for the well-being of your creation: may your goodness startle us to the horror of our exploitation and abuse. Spirit of the Living God, stir us with your power.

We pray for all who lack the essentials of life: may your righteousness raise us up to walk together with respect and dignity for all. Spirit of the Living God, stir us with your power.

We pray for all who suffer grief or sickness of any kind and for all of those who are on our prayer list: may your tender presence abide with us and hasten our healing. Spirit of the Living God, stir us with your power.

In the silence of this moment, we offer to you our own intentions this day [silent prayer]. Spirit of the Living God, stir us with your power.

O God, you have made us, formed us, and called us by name. Receive our prayers this day, in the name of the one who taught us to prayer saying: 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. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Closing Words/Benediction:

Remember your baptism. Remember that God loves you AND that you are called for service. The events of this past week brought tears to my eyes, as did those of this past summer. There is still so much hate and division in our country. During Advent, we lit the candles of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love as we awaited the coming of the Light. These weren’t just pretty candles that we lit for fun. The light has come. It’s our job as Christians to work for reconciliation and peace and to share that light. Let’s do it! Remember your baptism.

You are so loved. Here is your virtual hug .

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord be kind and gracious to you.

May the Lord look upon you with favor and grant you peace.

God’s Shalom! Today and every day! Amen.