The Lord be with you! Welcome, Cheviot churches and also those joining us from elsewhere. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well and keeping safe. Come, people of God, let us worship together on this 1st Sunday after Epiphany.
Call to Worship
This the day that the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
We are the family of God.
And are called by God’s name.
We are heirs of Christ’s kingdom.
And born of the Spirit.
Let us, therefore, come together in worship
Hymn 327 – Brightest and best (vv 1,3,4)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
On this first day of the week, you began your new creation, raising Christ out of the darkness of deathand breathing new life into your world and your people.On this first day of the week, you call us to waken from our slumbers and come together in your holy name. We gather, wherever we are, to listen and wonder, sing, pray, and be fed.You call us to be your instruments of hope in a hurting world, and so we come to answer your call and bring you our prayer and praise.
Trusting in God’s steadfast love, we offer our prayers of confession:God of majesty and mercy, forgive our wrongdoing:things we have done knowingly…things we have left undone…hurts we have inflicted unintentionally…and hurts we have tried to disguise.Forgive our acts of selfishness,harmful things we have done to please others,and those done to please ourselves.In the week ahead and the year ahead, help us choose a better way.
Hear the good news! Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us,
Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us,
Christ prays for us.
Believe the good news of the Gospel!
In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and set free to make a new start
Readings – Genesis 1: 1-5
Mark 1: 4-11
Hymn 334 – On Jordan’s bank (vv 1,2,5)
Creator God, we thank you for the light of your love which shines upon us dispelling our darkness. Help us to be like the seed that fell on good soil producing much fruit, and thank you for the promise that you listen to our supplications and answer our requests. Amen.
During the week I received a video of one friend and the photo of another, being vaccinated. Both live in Israel, where they seem to be quite forward in their vaccination programme. There was almost a party atmosphere, a sense of a new start after the long months of the pandemic.
Here we too are excited by the roll out of the vaccine, but also face a stricter lockdown again. Some of us cope better than others, but all would agree that it can be quite oppressive.
The people of Palestine at the time of Christ were feeling oppressed and longed for a new start. They were under Roman occupation and had to endure the daily humiliations that occupation brings. So, when John started to preach in the wilderness about repentance and a new start, people began to flock to him. He was somehow speaking their language and giving voice to their hopes and yearnings, especially when he talked of the Messiah to come. They came from all over and queued to be baptised in the River Jordan. And Jesus came from Galilee and joined the queue.
Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at Matthew and Luke’s accounts of the Jesus’ birth. But Mark doesn’t focus on that at all. Mark dives straight in and tells us about the baptism. There are a lot of years between his birth and the baptism that we know very little about, but for Mark the baptism was the beginning, the new start, where his ministry all began by Jesus joining the queue to be baptised.
Queuing has become a way of life for us, especially during this pandemic. We wait patiently till it is our turn to go into the shop or wherever. What would Jesus’ thoughts be as he joined the queue? He didn’t need to be there. We see Jesus as being without sin, so he had no need to repent. But for Jesus, being there was so important. He was standing shoulder to shoulder with the people; people who were not particularly religious, but were aware of their shortcomings, and so it was an act of solidarity with humanity. Although the Son of God, he stood alongside us – and still stands alongside us today in all the trials and tribulations that life throws at us.
For Mark and the other Gospel writers the baptism was vitally important. Jesus goes into the waters and is baptised, and the heavens are torn open and the dove descends, the sign of the Spirit, the same spirit who was there in Genesis at Creation. And the voice comes from heaven, saying ‘This is my beloved son; marked by my love’.
These words showed identity – Jesus was God’s son, God’s pride and joy.
But it was also affirmation and acceptance, and with these words Jesus was able to start his ministry, strengthening, encouraging, showing the people that they are accepted by God.
All of us need to be affirmed, to know that we are valued. The baptism of Christ was a celebration, where he was affirmed, but he went from there to affirm others in God’s love. The baptism was the start of Christ’s ministry; but every day can be a new start for us, as we ever seek to live our lives more like Christ.
Hymn 336 – Christ is our light (vv1,2)
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
God our Maker, we bring our gifts to you in thanksgiving for your gifts to us in Christ and in creation. Bless what we bring and who we are, so that our gifts will bless the world you love in Christ’s name.
We thank you for the work of your church
and for all we are able to do to bring your love, healing and justice into the world.
We pray for churches that are struggling financially,
for churches enmeshed in conflict,
for those that are tired and in need of renewal;
and for congregations that have found a new sense of purpose. Give them all wisdom and strength.
As the pandemic still haunts lives and nations,
we pray for those struggling with COVID-19 and its lingering effects,
for those whose emotions are raw from fear or isolation,
and for those exhausted by caring for others and serving the public day by day. We bring all who work in the NHS before you.
We pray for children and young adults as their schooling is disrupted; for parents and teachers, forced to adjust schedules.
We pray for our brothers and sisters across the world
who are striving for unity in places of division;
for justice in the face of oppression;
for peace where violence has broken out;
We pray especially for the United States at this time of division and transition and pray for the Biden administration as they prepare to take over.
Give them hope and courage as they face many challenges.
We pray for one another, our families,
our communities, our church.
May we support those who are unwell or grieving.
May we bring fresh hope to those who feel forgotten and are vulnerable,
and may we – both practically and prayerfully – share our faith
in your Son Jesus in whose name we entrust these prayers to you. Amen
Hymn 331 – Unto us is born a boy (1,2,5)
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