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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Begin at the Beginning" Edition

Lessons for this coming Sunday are found here .
This coming Sunday we're going to be preaching and praying about beginnings.

We begin at the beginning, so to speak, with the soaring poetry of the first Genesis creation story. We continue with a Psalm to the Creator, in the wake of the awe inspired by the power of nature. Our Epistle lesson visits the beginning of some early believers' lives in the Body of Christ as they are baptized. And we meet Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry, as his cousin John baptizes him in the Jordan.

Beginnings are also about change -- and there's certainly a lot of change going on in our lessons: the development of the created world; a transition in understanding of what baptism is in the context of Christianity; and a literally heaven-rending, cosmic change in the course of history as Jesus the carpenter from Nazareth is revealed as Son of God.

Where are Sunday's texts -- or any other texts you may be using instead as themes -- taking you as you plan, pray, discuss and write your way toward Sunday worship?


  1. i'd like to examine the "voice of the Lord"--the power to create by speaking, to make mountains jump like a calf, so then when God's voice proclaims Jesus as his son of whom he is proud--what does that do or change?

    how or when do we hear God's voice? Elijah heard it in the still breeze. I'm fascinated by the thought of God's voice being quiet/whispering and yet powerful enough to make life.

    it's all pretty raw for me right now and i'm not sure i'll be preching it but those are my first thoughts/questions.

  2. I like what revcrystalk says...

    I plan to preach on the gospel text, because we're having ordinations and installations of deacons and elders. I associate baptism with call, at all points in the journey.

    And... that's all I know as of this moment.

  3. Due to circumstances beyond my control I ended up not preaching this week. But my plan was to have a big bowl of water and some floating candles to use as a visual aid. THen I was going to talk about how water + light = new life.

    Mind you I had no idea how that was going to work--and now I can save the idea for another year...

  4. I'm going with the gospel text and thinking about all the senses it engages - the Lord's voice, John's clothing, tasting locusts and wild honey, touching and seeing and hearing water.

    Not sure where that is going to take me, but it's what i'm pondering at the moment.

  5. Gord, I like your idea. Better than my idea one year when I was going to create a floating Advent wreath with floating candles in a basin of water surrounded by evergreens...I'm not sure what my rationale was, actually, but I thought it'd look cool. LOL Keep your concept on file!

    I also like the idea of theming a sermon around the topic of God's word/voice.

    Great thoughts! Keep them coming!

  6. I hope to concentrate on the Acts passage, about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I don't want to get totally doctrinal on this, but I think the text raises questions for us Presby types who don't "do" speaking in tongues etc.

  7. I'm preaching on Mark and have my installation at my new congregation. I like these visuals and do want to hit on beginnings. Need more inspiration at this point.

  8. 2009 was designated as "The Year of the Steward" in our church, to place a year-long emphasis on stewardship in all its various forms.
    So what better way to kick it off than to start with baptism, our entry into stewardship?
    Lots to work with, so I'll have to be sure to keep it focused, but otherwise I think it will work out very well. Many (good?) ideas floating around at the moment...

  9. I'm tickled and also seriously caught by the people who never even heard there was a Holy Spirit--how many of us are like that on the practical level? So focusing on Her work in us with the practical example of breath prayer, which I am also teaching tonight at the first meeting of our church's spiritual formation group. Nothing written yet, though, and it needs to be in the next several days as it's for posting rather than oral proclaiming.

  10. Somewhere I have a fairly recent sermon on John as the last of the OT-style prophets. I think it was probably for Advent, so probably not this week's passage. It was fun to pull out the imagery surrounding John, as others have pointed out.
    I'm working on a back-up sermon; senior pastor's back on the roster but I'm concerned he might not make it. Thinking maybe about going back to John 1 from last week--there was such great discussion here!

  11. I'm sitting here on Epiphany considering the leap from the magi to John, and from Jesus' birth to his baptism. The beginnings of sermonizing are there... something about beginnings, certainly-- with gifts from unanticipated sources, leading in unpredictable directions.

    We'll see where it goes; but I think that's what I'm hearing this week.

  12. We are going to make a new start by 'washing the slate clean'. I have rescued some old pieces of slate from a building site. We will write our regrets on them with chalk and then wash them clean

  13. I am going with the Gospel text - our annual "Remember Your Baptism" service each year on this particular Sunday is always powerful!

    I have almost always had bowls of water with shells in them - and people were invited to come and retrieve a shell as part of the ritual. This year I want something different and thought about having the shells in bowls of sand. Each person can get a shell from the sand and then dip it in the bowl(s) of water... "Remember Your Baptism and Be Thankful!"

    This idea occurred to me while meeting with a colleague for worship planning. I commented that I have been in a pretty dry, barren, wilderness place lately and that the idea of lifting the shell from that dry place to a place of refreshment was what I needed.

    She of course understood but also challenged me to see baptism as more than just a rescue - it also comes with a responsibility. She called me on my "cheap grace" and challenged me to fill things out a bit.

    So - I am working toward baptism as both/and. We got some ideas from a sermon ( calling baptism a "dangerous covenant" - So baptism as both/and is about a source of refreshment/renewal/company in the chaos/wilderness AND as something much bigger than that - involving my surrender and participation in something more.

  14. I like the beginnings idea. In addition to the beginning of Jesus' ministry with his baptism, I have an actual infant baptism this week. I love it when my suggested dates/plans work with the family, too. My initial thoughts are baptism as the beginning of ministry - - even with an infant, sort of our "ordination" into the life and ministry of discipleship. I've only briefly read the Acts passage, but thought between waking and sleeping last night about the baptism of the Spirit that unites us to Jesus and to each other - - sort of baptism as the entrance into the community united by the Spirit of God.

    I'll probably stick pretty heavily with Mark and Jesus, though, because I really plan to stick with Mark a lot this liturgical year. I was heavy in the OT last fall and during Advent, so I'm going to follow the gospel much of the spring, I think.

    Also, I'm teaching an intro to Mark for a couple of weeks during Adult Ed and we're having a performance of "Mark's Gospel Live" in March. I found this guy in my last position and we had him come. It was AWESOME!!!!

    Anyway, I want to really dive into Mark for myself and for the congregation.

  15. I love the renewing the baptismal covenant idea! I've been toying with that as well, and have a liturgy we used in my last position. It feels more wordy, though, than awesome. Any suggestions or places that have good stuff to steal or borrow?

    I also like the dangerous covenant idea. wading in the water washes us clean of things we'd prefer to hold onto. old grudges, old feuds, old prejudices, old bitterness-es, old bad habits...

  16. I'm thinking along the lines of revcrystalk...the voice of God in the Genesis text and the Psalm and the baptism. For some reason, it feels like I've preached on the baptism approximately 700 times before, so I think I'm concentrating on the OT this week. Last Sunday was vacation, and it only takes one week for me to get out of the groove. Not to mention it only takes one week to be buried in mail.

  17. We were supposed to have an infant bapt this Sunday last year, but then the timing fell through, so instead I did a reaff of bapt covenant. It was my second week and I was still "testing the waters" so I didn't go too crazy creative.

    However, Nutella (hi - - glad you got on FB!!!), in my last place one year for the reaff I did a slightly less wordy and more "off the cuff" or personal version of the liturgy in BCW and then people came forward (as able) to the baptismal font for a number of options.

    At the bottom of the font were those little glass beads, a mix of different blues so it looked cool. People could simply reach in and take one. People could reach in, take one, put the rock or water to their head to remember their baptism. People could come up as families or friends or couples and gather around together and offer one another blessings. A lot of parents did this for their children which was neat, and even neater where the parents who let their children bless them.

    Now you know my sort of uppity former congregation. It went over pretty well there. I was going to do something similar here (where they would LOVE it), but haven't yet. Maybe next year since we've got the baptism this week. Or maybe in our Wednesday night service one of these coming weeks.

    What I'm dying to do sometime is a good old-fashioned water flinging like they use to do for Convocation at seminary. That would shake them up! (No offense to any who do that. It was just a shock for most of us life-long Presbys who had never seen that before.)

  18. I'm going with Mark and will also do a reaff of baptism - did it for the first time with this congregation last year and it went well. Now I'm trying to imagine how I can incorporate some of the ideas shared here. I like the idea of having something to either cleanse or fish out of the font...hmm...

    I also will be doing an adult baptism and need to figure out how to incorporate the renewal.

    Sermon-wise, I had planned to speak on spiritual formation this week (its one of our four focus areas for 09) and the connection with baptism and community. Still noodling...

  19. So now I am singing, " Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start..."
    Maybe I have seen Sound of Music too many times.
    Anyhow, I was inspried by a Childrens Sermon on text week and will be preaching the baptism text. Title is Soul-ed Out for Jesus.
    This is our Sunday to ordain new eldes for year. So, new beginnngs, baptism of Lord, and rememberign who we serve and our own baptism will be a part of it all.
    we will have our own little founatin at the front running at beginning of service to help us focus auditorily.

  20. It seems like ages since I preached - we've been doing all sorts of creative alternative things. I was dreading getting back into it but, as usual, RGBP comes up trumps - all these inspirational ideas. I love the idea of getting folk to come to the font and, thanks to you guys there are all sorts of trains chasing around my head - and my heart- right now. I'll share where they end up at the preachers party. Thanks for starting the ball rolling. This is an awesome site.

  21. oh Sarah - i really like the slate idea! connective in so many ways...

    but having no slate on hand, we'll see what happens... we did not celebrate epiphany last week - but christmas 2 - is it cheating to return to epiphanY? uh no... it still is the season right???

    light. water. fire.

  22. Wife, Mother, Pastor is my spot! My initial reflections move me to marvel at God's claim on Jesus--and us--as beloved children. I can't say that's where the sermon will end, though!

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. Sorry about that delete, but after I hit post I realized how horribly long it was. I just put my latest thoughts over at my blog. Didn't want to seem like I was monopolizing the space here. If you get a chance, though, pop over to let me know if I'm completley crazy. There's definitely a lot to be worked on still, but it might be a new road to walk down.

  25. SheRev, thanks so much for the ideas...I'm going to be hashing it all out tomorrow to see what I can make work. I also think you're on the right path with your thoughts on your blog...maybe your "Go! Do!" moment could be "Go! BE God's children!" I think it's interesting that at the beginning of the gospel, before we hear of anything Jesus DOES, God is telling him "with you I am well pleased." Not to be too "everything goes" but I think there's a message in this for us, that God is already pleased, and already claims us at our baptism, often before we've been able to do anything to deserve that because many of us were infants.

    And just an fyi, there's an awesome song "Come to the Water" that I found on You Tube and itunes sung by Matt Maher. The song is written by John Foley SJ and is just beautiful. I might use it during the reaf. of bapt.

  26. Nutella, I'm totally into that. But I'm UCC, so that's okay. :-)

    I'm working with the idea that both infant and believer's baptism acknowledge something that is already true (God knows and names us), but each involves a commitment to move toward God. For those baptized as infants, remembering our baptism allows a chance to recommit (just as our young people do at confirmation). Or something like that.

  27. OK. I found a way to keep going with my sermon to get it out of a parents-only theme. Now I know that the whole church is called to raise and nurture children, and I think there's a great sermon in there (I did that one on Children's Sabbath actually), but as the mother of young ones who make themselves known in church and worship, I'm over-conscious of preaching only "parenting" sermons. So anyway, I found the next step for my sermon to help it ALSO move out of the parenting realm. It feels more wide-reaching without diluting the nurturing, baptismal covenant aspects.

    Anyway, here's another link that takes you to the whole page. My second post was written better the first time, but it got lost in cyber-space and it's DEFINITELY time for me to go home! I need to do some parenting myself tonight before those kids go to bed!

  28. Sarah--i LOVE the slate idea, very cool.

    i would love to do a reaffirmation of baptism but the only connection i'm getting with "the voice of God" is to assert similiar to that which Nutella said--God is pleased with us as well. i'm worried that it would be trying to do too much.

    so many great ideas! i totally love the Tuesday Lectionary Leanings!

  29. Good song, Nutella!
    Really strong idea, Sherev!
    I am thinking of beginning with a founation running and our first hymn be Christ, When for Us You Were Baptized.
    Hopefully sermon will lead from Christ's Baptism and obedience in his calling, to our obedeince in calling (elder or otherwise).
    We will end with Baptized in Water.
    I may be trying to do too much for an hour with ordination part in there too.
    We shall see...does it count tht I have let them out at 10 til on more than one occasion?

  30. Homelitically speaking, is anyone else a wee bit excited about the Festival of Homies beingin Hot-lanta?
    I know those of you in the midwest, northeast, and westcoast, and across the pond, etc may not be as happy about it...
    but, I am in the Southeast, and I am close enough to go without flying...well, I could fly, but that would mean checking in at airport an hour in advance and the airport is 35 minutes away and get the idea, I can drive it in 2 hrs and 15 mintues.
    I am excited. I wish I could also be going to the BE, but unable to do it on Little Church in the Wildewood's little budget(and mine). One day I will go to a BE!
    But for now, festival of homies!!!!
    I called it first for a RGBP meetup!!! hee-hee
    My cold drugs are fun!!!!!!!!

  31. There is much in these passages.

    As a guest preacher I can't be too innovative on them, but see water as a huge symbol of Grace. God moves over it, God's Voice also moves over it. Jesus' baptism changes that Sacrament from water and repentance, to water and the gifting of the Holy Spirit.

    Water means life literally. Jesus saw we were dehydrated and calls us to drink his 'living water'. Body and soul need both kinds to have life and live it well.

    Also the do we know it's there? By the results left after it has been through. Like the wind..unseen, but known.

    Our life as a baptismal people will leave results. The call seems to be to live that out, for we know who we are and we believe we play a part being the water for others too; and giving the water; leaving results.

    Baptism, water, the Spirit, all show us ways to live and leave the best results we can.

    So, I will touch onn all passages but go into Mark mostly. The differences in Paul's way of baptism and John's isn't spoken about much.

    I sometimes like to raise questions that I don't answer so people can do some of their own thinking and working out.

    In the long run what the results of our taking the challenges of being baptismal people is doing some sorting out and de-cluttering, so God can pour out the living water more deeply into us.

    I really like the idea of stones, or marbles in the font, so people can reach in and take one home...a reminder of our baptism.

    Water is like life, we can talk about it, but the word 'water' won't make you have to jump in to experience it.

  32. Hey, all.
    There are some GREAT ideas here this week. You are a creative bunch!

    When I was taking my first read through the scriptures for this week, the phrase "John the Baptizer kinda jumped out at me. Why Baptizer and not Baptist? Pretty soon I was working with the idea that "We Are What We Do," and I'm exploring what it means for the church to focus more on the specific acts by which we live out our baptismal calling, instead of just maintaining the institution we know as the church.

    I LOVE it when that happens, as it usually means I've just gotten the seed that will become the sermon. Sure enough, it is turning out that way. Guess I'm just lucky this week, huh?


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