Jan 10th Welcome & Announcements: Good morning church! We continue to offer on-line worship through ZOOM and Facebook Live at 9am on Sundays.
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Meeting ID: 854 4146 8430
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Please gather a bowl of water, soap, and a towel and have ready for the end of the sermon time.
I invite you to prepare your hearts for worship by lighting a candle and welcoming the presence of the Divine at your home.
Call to Worship:
L: God offers a relationship with God’s self that is healing.
P: Lord, we need to be in relationship with You.
L: God offers us hope.
P: Lord, we need that hope in our spirits.
L: Come, let us trust in the Lord. God will abundantly love and forgive us.
P: Lord, come to us, and help us to come to You for healing, forgiveness, and renewal.
L: Praise be to God who always is with us.
P: Thanks be to God for all mercies and blessings. AMEN.
Opening Song: by LUMC Praise Band
This is Amazing Grace
Whose love is mighty and so much stronger
The King of Glory, the King above all kings
The King of Glory, the King above all kings
You lay down Your life that I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for all that You've done for me
The King of Glory, the King of Glory
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Worthy is the King who conquered the grave (repeat 3 times)
Worthy, worthy, worthy
God who watches over us, be with us this day. Help us to remember Your healing, cleansing, and claiming love for us. Remind us again of the many ways in which You reach out to us. Bring us closer to You, loving God. We open our hearts to You this day. AMEN.
Children’s Time: It's our children's time and I want to start with a question I ask you each and every week: Who are you? Children Respond: Special Gifts of God!
PJ: That's right, you are special gifts of God each and every day and I'm so lucky to spend time with you!
Today we are going to hear the story of John the Baptist and his role in getting people ready to receive Jesus. Have you ever had to get ready for a special guest? Maybe your best friend was coming over to play and you wanted to make sure they had the best time. So, what would you do? Maybe you would clean up your room. Maybe you would ask your parents to get a food you know your friend liked. And you would probably even tell your family what your friend was like before they came over.
That’s what John did. But instead of cleaning his home or room for he and Jesus, he offered people to clean their hearts. And we all can clean our hearts when we confess, that is when we talk about the mistakes we made that we know hurt God and hurt others. And by cleaning our hearts, we are prepared to receive Jesus’ love and warmth and friendship.
Today we will have an opportunity to clean our hearts through prayer and the hope is by doing so we can move into this new year feeling closer to our friend Jesus.
Let’s pray: Thank You God, for our friend, Jesus, who helps us each day. Amen.
Sharing of Joys & Concerns:
Prayer & Lord’s Prayer:
Holy God, as this is the day we remember Your Son’s baptism, we are thankful for all this sacrament offers to us. Through Jesus’ own baptism, the ancient prophecies were fulfilled as You revealed the Messiah, the one born to save us. And even though He was without sin, He received the gift of water and the Spirit so that He was able to go forth in ministry for Your kingdom, a kingdom of mercy, compassion, and hope.
Many of us here have also received the blessing of being washed anew by Your Spirit and water, cleansed of our sins, claimed as Your beloved, and given new life so that we may make Your kingdom known by our actions, our words, our deeds.
As You have adopted us all into Your family through this gracious sacrament, we ask that in this time of sharing joys and concerns that we may all be reminded of the call baptism gives us, to live the Good News of Christ with our lives so that those we have lifted up to You this day, may turn to us and see us as instruments of Your peace, strength, and love.
For it is in such actions and deeds along with the work of Your Spirit that Your comfort may be given in Your holy name, and an optimism may be reached in this faith for those who are disheartened.
So, we pray keep us faithful, keep us open, keep us humble, and aware of Your everlasting blessing through Your beloved Son, Jesus the Christ, who taught us to pray, 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, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Invitation to the Offering:
In thanksgiving for countless blessings from God, let us give back a portion of what we have received.
Bless, O God, the money we give to this church, that it may touch the lives of many. And bless as well the money that remains in our pockets that our choices may be careful, faithful, and wise. As we pay for gasoline or groceries or gifts may we remember Your love that sustains us in all times. Amen.
Sermon: Moving Forward
If you are like me, the Christmas tree and stockings came down, the wreaths on the doors were changed, and yes, the manger scene was carefully wrapped and boxed away for another year.
It’s a new year and we are moving forward. Just like Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had to move forward to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath, and the wise men had to travel home by another road. But what about Zechariah, Elizabeth, and their son, John?
Just like the stories of Jesus between birth and his adulthood are scarce, those same years for John are not mentioned at all in the Scriptures we know.
However, there is an apocrypha writing about that time for John. Apocrypha, you may recall from my previous messages, are texts that are not part of the Holy Scriptures we know and follow, but they can be read and used for an understanding of the early Christians beliefs. In other words, they are not divinely inspired, but written specifically by humans.
The apocrypha that tells of the growth of John the Baptist is titled, The Life of John the Baptist and it is told through the voice of Serapion, an Egyptian bishop of the fourth century, on the occasion of a feast day for John in the year 390 AD.
The writing begins with the same details of John’s birth we read in the Gospel of Luke, how Zechariah and Elizabeth were an older couple, and the angel Gabriel visits Zechariah to tell him they will have a son who will prepare the way for the Lord.
After the birth of John, and then the birth of Jesus, this apocrypha writing then shares that Zechariah dies protecting his family from Herod’s soldiers, while Elizabeth flees with John into the desert.
After five years, when John is seven and half years old, Elizabeth dies. Jesus, “whose eyes sees heaven and earth” (7:3), sees John grieving and spirits himself and Mary to the desert where John is. They bury Elizabeth and Jesus and Mary remain with John for seven days, teaching him how to live in the desert. Then Mary and Jesus return to Nazareth, leaving John under the protection of Gabriel and watched by the souls of his parents. 
From there, the Scriptures carry on. Like this morning’s text taken from Mark 1:4-11
Scripture Lesson: Mark 1:4-11
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And 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. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He 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. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And 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. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Now, we don’t know if John actually had interactions with Jesus prior to this, like the apocrypha suggests, but what we can learn from John is his understanding of his role in the story of Jesus and that was to prepare the way for Jesus, the one he knows who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. John knew Jesus was the Messiah, the one the Israelites had been praying for to save them.
So John called people to confess their sins, to acknowledge that in their humanity, they made mistakes, they did things they know God would rather they did not, and John told them to admit those things in order that they could experience the joy and hope of God’s salvation. That is what we call repentance, being honest with oneself. John provided the opportunity for people to do so in his day. They came from the Judean countryside, the text says, as well as Jerusalem, to confess their sins. And once those things were admitted, what happened next was the baptism of forgiveness. So, the people acknowledged those things they did that were wrong against God and/or others, and in being baptized in the river, they were washed away.
You see, by doing all that, the people were ready for the coming of the Lord who would baptize with the Holy Spirit, meaning the power of God that would make things better, that would heal holistically, a power of God’s grace and will to save them.
Friends, to move forward from our aches and pains, to move forward from our hurt and anger, we must repent, in order to recognize how powerful grace is.
Now I know that we of the church today are not always so quick to confess our sins, are we? That is to name them. Yes, we pray “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” in the Lord’s prayer. And occasionally we include a prayer of confession before communion. Sometimes we include a prayer of confession during our worship services through the season of Lent. But outside of those, do we take the time to confess what those sins truly are?
When you and I think about 2020, we have to admit it was a year of inner reflection, wasn’t it? Learning to take a look not only at our world, but ourselves. We took stock of what we had and what was important. And that was not easy. We had to dig deep and confront some things that had been happening prior. The protests, the rallies, the sickness, made us look at our lives, and the part we each play in this world. And as we did, many of us admitted we were so busy with other things, we were losing touch with our communities, our friends, with family, and with God. And we had to face the question, “What was my role in this dissension?” It wasn’t an easy question to face. It’s still not. However, the Scriptures come to us and confront us with another question, that is, “What should I be doing to be part of the solution moving forward?”
A few weeks ago, Pastor Lew spoke about face masks, how they annoy us at times, but ultimately how they protect us, and allow us the opportunity to be face to face in a time where our socialness is limited. To be face to face to deal with the dissensions, and still see God.
Today I want to talk about washing hands. We know that washing hands was the very first directive we were given to help prevent the spread of COVID. And we were all taught some tricks on how to be certain we washed them long enough to get the germs gone. 20 seconds. So, you could sing the chorus to Gloria Gaynor’s I will Survive for 20 seconds. Or Happy Birthday twice. But this is my favorite: https://youtu.be/xdJGrqgOgm4
Here’s what I am going to suggest to us, Church. To move forward after the Christmas celebration, to move forward in this new year away from 2020, doesn’t just take us packing it away, rather we need to reflect so that we learn, in particular, we learn from mistakes. And in doing so, we prepare the way for the power of Jesus’ Spirit. A Spirit we know that can heal and assist. A Spirit that is powerful with justice and grace. A Spirit that is willing to work through each and every one of us to save and help us, when we are open to receive it. And today those of us gathered this day can do that, can move forward if we start with repenting and end with washing hands, as a symbol of new beginnings.
So, this is the time I invite you have to that bowl of water, soap, and towel ready. And we will begin with a prayer of confession.
Prayer of Confession
We are incredibly stubborn, O Lord. We have entered the season in which Your Light has been given to the world, Your blessings have been poured out on the world, and yet all we can think about is our own problems, our own needs, our own desires. Help us to desire You, Lord. Help us to yearn for Your presence. Pour Your baptismal waters over us again, cleansing us from our self-pity and arrogance. Nourish and heal us so that we may joyfully serve You. Wash away our jealousy, greed, and all negative thoughts and behaviors that stand in the way of our truly being the people You have called us to be.
(Privately confess the sins that have kept you from being closer to the Lord)
Washing of Hands:
Now, get that bowl of water and soap and towel and let us wash away our transgressions, while singing the doxology.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen.
Pastoral Prayer: May the power of the Holy Spirit heal you in mind, body, soul, and relationships this year. Amen.
Words of Assurance
The grace of God is always offered to us, freely, joyfully. Rejoice, dear friends, this is the Good News of our Lord that we carry with us in 2021, the good news for all eternity. Thanks be to God, AMEN.
Closing Song: Amazing Grace by Donna Farver
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found Was blind but now I see
Was Grace that taught my heart to fear And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that Grace appear The hour I first believed
Through many dangers, toils and snares We have already come
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far And Grace will lead us home
Benediction: It’s a new year, as we move forward, may we never forget we move forward with the power and grace of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.