January 8, 2017

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Working Preacher

Working Preacher – Jesus’ Baptism


St. Luke’s United Church
January 8th, 2017
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Welcome to St. Luke’s, a proud congregation of the United Church of Canada. If this is your first time with us, please be sure to come across the hall for coffee/tea and snacks after worship. We have visitor offering envelopes available from the greeters, as well as a “Welcome Brochure” outlining our contact information. If you have come looking to speak to someone, please be sure to find one of our Pastoral Care Volunteers wearing an “I am here to listen” nametag.

Hymn Sing Till Sundown VU 78

Lighting the Christ Candle & Centering

Call to Worship:
One: We come today to grow light: To nourish our light, to ignite our light, to prepare to pass the light on to others.
All: In our worship we celebrate our abundance and we acknowledge our losses. Together, we work for justice, strive for equality and dream about peace on earth.
One: Together we sing our faith, speak of our experiences, and share our hearts.

Opening Prayer:
Spirit of Gentleness, be with us as we worship and pray, sing and share, celebrating your love present in us. Amen.

Hymn Song of Thankfulness and Praise VU 101

Epiphany Moments

Readings Luke 3:1-22

Hymn Hail to God’s Own Anointed VU 30

Dear John….
It’s been an interesting week of pondering John the Baptist. The feast days for the Epiphany otherwise known as the visit from the magi and the Baptism of Jesus both fall on January 6th. Different faith traditions and even different popes had different priorities about what should be celebrated during Christmastide. The lectionary which is a joint effort of numerous traditions chooses to alternate the years. This year, it’s the Baptism of Jesus of the Sunday after Epiphany. If we were part of a faith tradition that celebrated all feast days, we likely would have celebrated Epiphany on Friday and the Baptism of Jesus today. Because we in the United Church tend to be a little more relaxed about feast days, we’re left to fill Sunday with both topics. Most of us choose to alternate. So this year we’re looking at the Baptism of Jesus, more specifically, looking at John the Baptist’s role in that event.
I have to admit; I love John the Baptist. He spent many of his young adult years in the wilderness, wearing clothes made of camel hair and eating locusts with honey. He didn’t drink, nor did he cut his hair. When he wasn’t in the wilderness, he was protesting the actions of society, challenging people to live better lives. He was humble enough to recognize that Jesus was the stronger leader, but still worked with him to fulfill a common goal. He did his own thing, but had no problem sharing his ways. In my mind John is the picture of resilience. I can’t imagine that he would have been terribly popular. He was constantly pushing people to be better, to do more, to love harder. He looked different. He refused to drink. He ate bugs for Pete’s sake. I’m sure he was ridiculed. But still he got up every day, bushed the dirt off, and made his way into the crowd to try and convince people to think of others instead of themselves.
We’re not so different in the United Church. We seem to specialize in being different, in challenging people to be better, to do more, to love harder. Sometimes we look different and do odd things: our worship is less formal, we’re quite open about who we love, we celebrate everything, and we practice something called essential agreement – meaning we’re ok that we have a variety of words to describe our understanding of God and what we are called to do, as long as they are in the same spirit which is a spirit of loving kindness and the good of the whole. Oh and we’re like John the Baptist in our preference of Welches over wine.
We too, are resilient people. We face ridicule from other churches from time to time. We deal with declining population and how that impacts church. We face changes in church trends. We face challenges from people inside and outside of the church. We rise, and sometimes we meet the challenge, and sometimes we don’t. But we continue to accept the challenges put before us. Similarly, as the United Church, we challenge government and society. Sometimes they pay attention and sometimes they don’t, but we still keep challenging power and privilege hoping that we can narrow the gap.
On Christmas Eve, we heard the call – Jeff sang it as John the Baptist did. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” then John baptized the people, giving them a new beginning and a chance to make a better path for everyone. I’m going to ask you now again, just to reinforce it. In a time when people no longer understand what it is they are called by God to do, what will you do to make a path so that others have easier access to God and to the good of the whole? How will you help others to prepare for the presence of Divine Love, when they don’t even understand what that is? How will you give people fresh beginnings? What new beginnings are you making yourself? Prepare ye the way of the Lord otherwise known as what can we do to make the world a better place? What challenge are you looking at this week? Will you practice resilience? May it be so.

Hymn When Christ for Us You Were Baptized VU 99

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Today we remember our abundance: people, places, things. We give thanks for all that we have, and give what we can.

Offertory Though I May Speak VU 372 v. 2

Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR be a sign of our compassion for others and our desire reach out. Amen.

Prayer Music Pure Love MV 31

Prayers of the People
Ending with a sung Prayer of Jesus.
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing Behold, Behold, I Make All Things New MV 115

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