Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Mark 1:4-11; Acts 19:1-7

Traditionally this Sunday is Baptism of the Lord Sunday. Because of the “scrunched” nature of the liturgical calendar this year as I mentioned last week (with Christmas on a Sunday, Epiphany and the first Sunday after Christmas were sort of scrunched together), some churches may be celebrating Epiphany this week and be using a different set of Scriptures.

Genesis 1:1-5 is the familiar beginning of our Bible. We often think that before God created light there was nothing, but it does say in the scriptures that the earth was a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep. What was the deep? And how did a wind from God sweep over the waters? The primordial beginning is still a mystery for us, despite scientific theory and despite creationist’s who claim the Bible says how the world was created–the Bible actually leaves a lot of room for mystery and wonder, for the story of life to unfold right out of the depths of darkness.

Psalm 29 is a song of wonder and amazement towards God our Creator, where the voice of God thunders over the waters. Beautiful imagery about creation is woven into this beautiful psalm, calling us into worship and praise.

Mark 1:4-11 is the familiar beginning of the ministry of Jesus, which actually begins with the ministry of John the Baptist, the voice coming out of the wilderness, as God’s voice hovers over the face of the deep. God calls forth light, and therefore life; John the Baptist calls forth repentance and forgiveness, and through baptism, a new life is born. Jesus comes to John to be baptized in the River Jordan. It says that “and just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart” (vs.10). As Jesus’ head rises above the waters, breaking through into our world, God breaks through from heaven as well. Baptism is the re-entry of God into our lives, and the re-entry of ourselves into God’s intended goal for creation: goodness and life. Repentance and forgiveness is our way of turning back, of re-breaking into the reign of God on earth. We have built up the walls of sin–oppression, ignorance, injustice, hatred, violence, breaking of relationships, abuse, neglect–we have built these walls up that keep us away from God’s intention for us, which is life. Repentance breaks down the ways, and our baptism reminds us that God is continually breaking in and breaking down the walls, bringing light back into darkness and life where there was death.

Acts 19:1-7 is the story of Paul baptizing some of John the Baptist’s disciples. They understand the need for repentance, but they do not understand that God through the Holy Spirit is now at work in their life. They had not heard about the Holy Spirit, and they did not understand how they could participate in the reign of God now. There are many who have been brought up in the church but don’t understand who Jesus is as the Messiah, nor do they understand what Jesus really taught about love and forgiveness and the gift of new life in Christ. Many people who call themselves believers still understand Christianity as a set of rules to follow for a good moral life, not a new life that God has gifted us, in which death is defeated and life is forever. It’s easy to think of Christianity as a “wrong or right” religion and that the commandments are simple rules to follow, rather than following Jesus himself.

As we begin this New Year, we recommit ourselves to following Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Messiah. Christianity isn’t about rules to follow or “right or wrong” ways of doing things: Christianity is about following Jesus. And if we truly follow Jesus, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, to proclaim the message of eternal life and new life here and now in Jesus. We are called to proclaim that the reign of God is near and that we can participate now. We are called to bring in, not exclude; to heal, not to harm; to rejoice, not reject; to bring wholeness, not destruction. We are called to speak out where there is injustice and oppression, but God’s goal, from the beginning of all creation, was light and life. We are called to bring the light to the world, and the light of the world was life, as stated in John 1:1-5.

Call to Worship:
Leader: God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light.
People: We are called to bring God’s light to the world.
Leader: Arise, shine, for your light has come.
People: We are called to bring God’s light to the world.
Leader: The life was the light of all people.
People: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Leader: As we enter a New Year, let us be God’s light to the world.
People: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
All: Let us share the light of God with the world through worship, prayer and deed.

Prayer of Confession:
God of Light, we confess that at times we live as if we are in darkness. We grumble and complain and worry. We make mountains out of molehills and we hold grudges. We predict gloom and doom and darken other’s bright days. Forgive us, God, for not being the light you made us to be. Forgive us, God, for not living into the new life of our baptism. Call us out of the darkness inside into the light You desire for us, so that we might bring light to our world, love and hope for all to see. In the name of Jesus, the Light of the World, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:
God has known us from the beginning, God knows our thoughts, God knit us together to be the person that we have become. We are loved, we are forgiven, we are restored. Go and share this Good News. Amen.

Prayer:
Ancient of Days, You know our human history, You have witnessed it firsthand. You know how we as people can be caught up in waves of anguish and despair as well as waves of glory and triumph. You know how we can turn as a people to be used as instruments of war or peace. We can unite our voices in protest or unite in silent ignorance. You sent us Jesus, who knows us all too well, as we crucified Him on that cross, yet follow Him in the resurrection. Call us away from the voices that would call us to charge with the mob and instead into unity with those who are oppressed, marginalized, sick and dying. Call us away from mob mentality and instead into communion with You as disciples, followers of The Way. Call us into new life as we pledged on our baptism, a way of love and reconciliation, hope and peace. In the name of Jesus, who went alone to the cross, but calls us into the marvelous communion of saints, we pray. Amen.

Music Suggestions:
“Let the light of His love” was one of my favorite hymns as a child–we sung it as a benediction some Sundays. Any songs around light and love would be appropriate as we begin this New Year.

4 Responses to Worship Resources for January 8 2012–first Sunday after Epiphany

  1. Christine Johnson says:

    Hi Mindi,
    I’d like to use your materials. Is that okay? How do I credit you? Thanks, Christine

  2. Rev. Mindi Rev. Mindi says:

    Dear Christine–for weekly worship resources, if you are simply using them in the worship service or in a printed bulletin, there is no need to credit me–feel free to use!
    Blessings,
    Rev. Mindi

  3. Kris says:

    Mindi, I look forward to your thoughts & resources each week and am grateful for them as a worship resource. In which hymnal or from which publishing company did ‘Let the Light of His Love’ come from? (My childhood favorite was, “Jesus Bids Us Shine.”) Grace & peace!

    • Rev. Mindi Rev. Mindi says:

      Dear Kris–I do not know, because it wasn’t in the hymnal we had growing up, it was one that our pastor knew and added to our hymnal as an insert. It went like this:
      Let the light of his love, shine forever in you
      Let the hope that he brings spring eternal in you
      And let the light of his love, shine forever in you
      Let the light of his love forever shine through.

      Blessings, Mindi

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