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Monday, January 02, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings -- Of Water and Spirit Edition


AS we move further into the new calendar, let us pray (prayer source):
God of grace and glory,
you call us with your voice of flame
to be your people, faithful and courageous.
As your beloved Son
embraced his mission in the waters of baptism,
inspire us with the fire of your Spirit
to join in his transforming work.
We ask this in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

It seems there are a couple of choices this week.  In some congregations people may be having a delayed celebration of Epiphany.  (Some others may be having a service to mark this feast on Thursday as well).  Epiphany readings can be found here.

Others of us will be talking about Jesus, and John, and baptism.  The readings for the Baptism of Jesus Sunday are here.   Lots to work with there.  From the waters primeval, to John at the River, to Paul moving folks beyond John's baptism to Christian baptism.  The Spirit is there, and water is there, and what does it all mean?

Baptism of Jesus
Maybe you will include a "remembering your baptism" moment -- with or without asperging.  Maybe you could use the ocassion to highlight the differences between John and Jesus.  Or maybe you are following the same rabbit trail I am and exploring what baptism means in your tradition and theology.

I am tempted to use this on Sunday (I forget where I first heard it):
On the way home from church the Sunday he was baptised little Johnny sat in the backseat sobbing.
"What's wrong honey?" asked his mother.
In between his sobs Johnny answered: "The minister said he wanted me raised in a Christian home.  But I want to live with YOU!"
SO kings and camels, John by the river, the meaning of Baptism, or something non-lectionary related.... possibilities abound.  Let us know in the commments where you see your congregaton headed this week.
I love the lambs


  1. I swear that Blogger is out to get me!

    When I finished this yesterday it was listed as "Scheduled" and set to go up at midnight. THis morning it was listed as "Draft".

    Sorry for the delay...

  2. My early thoughts for this week can be found here

    ANother thought as I plan out the sermon:

    It is customary in UCCan congregations for folks to complain about people who come to get their kids "done" and then rarely darken the door again. Why don't they take their promises seriously?

    But what, besides complaining, does a congregation do to help encourage the parents to live out the promise made in the baptismal service? The congregation also makes a promise in that service. They promise to support the family. How do we do that? How does your congregation do that?

  3. I am doing baptism, and am pondering doing a renewal of baptismal vows, or a blessing, or both..........

  4. If you offer renewal of baptism vows during worship, what about inviting parents to renew the vows they took for the their children at infant baptism? Parents and children stand in place facing each other while the questions are posed to the parents. It could be a powerful moment for parents to renew those vows in the presence of their growing children and for the children to hear what their parents promised when they were babies and what they still promise to God. It would also be an opportunity for the preacher to say a few things about how parents keep those promises. At the very least the preacher could point out to the kids that when parents "make you come to church" they are keeping a promise to God.

  5. I was all excited about Baptism, but then I learned music director has mostly Epiphaniac music.

    So, back to the drawing board...but either topic is good for me.

    Obviously, I don't have any thoughts right now, but I like what Carolyn said.....

    And the UCC here has the same problem, Gord. I really try to remind the congregation about the vows WE make to the children and the families...
    food for thought here.

  6. I LOVE the idea for renewing the vows you made at an infant baptism! I'm with the Baptists these days but I grew up Presbyterian and my oldest child was baptized as an infant - this is such a powerful idea which I would have found so meaningful, both as a parent and as a child. (Obviously not usable in my current context...)

    Our church participates in 2 consecutive weeks of prayer for Christian unity in January (feel free to ponder the obvious absurdity) The first is organized by the Evangelical Alliance and starts Sunday. The second is run jointly by the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. As part of a slow move to greater unity, both weeks now use the same text, and as I represent our congregation on the local instance of the latter body, and as I'm preaching Sunday, I figured I'd use it.

    Except the text is 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 (proposed by the Polish churches) and way outside my comfort zone. So far the prep is definately stretching me. Maybe by Sunday I'll have something usable. Its gradually filtering into my brain that there is something there that I need to hear - so that feels like the starting point for something!

  7. Epiphany here - complete with pageant

    Carolyn - love that idea - filing it away.

    Will not preach at the service with the pageant, but will at the other two services. I have a new commitment to the process of sermon-writing taught by Homiletics prof - it works well when I use itm but I get busy and forget about it sometimes. It starts by leading me to ask questions which is where I am today: Was King of the Jews a foreshadowing (and wasn't the myrrh foreshadowing also)? King Herod had the official power, but the Wise Men held the power of information to share in the beginning and then to withhold at the end. Where is Joseph in this? These are my starting points. I am also struck by this being Matthew - yet the Gentiles (in the foram of Wise Men) are being introduced to the Christ child from the onset. Hmmm...

  8. Thanks, Carolyn, for the suggestion of parents and children renewing vows together. I think I will adapt this to include parents standing with children, and then invite any in the congregation who were present at one of their baptisms to stand - with the idea that nearly everyone will be included! A reminder that we all have responsibility to help one another live into our baptismal vows. Then thinking of ending by inviting the children to walk with me down the aisle and "sprinkle" the whole congregation with water as we remember our baptism with thanksgiving. Not sure if that last part will get too messy (or have kids tripping over each other, etc)...hmm...

  9. Carolyn, love the idea. a church I was a member of before I went to college, had an annual Baptism service, where all the people that were baptised that year were invited to come to the service - mainly infants, and rarely regular attenders. After 5 years here, maybe it is time to plan such a service, and include your idea.

    I too have had comments about 'those people', and how we would have a youth group because they could lead it. I reminded the person of our promise as a congregation, and the conversation dried up pretty quickly.

    this Sunday, epiphany and the massacre of the children. I feel a bit of a grinch, but the world Jesus was born into was violent and dangerous, and the world is for many today.
    including this hymn, probably as a solo a voice was heard in Ramah

  10. Ultra short sermon for me. "The Magi came, bowed, gave gifts, and departed." That's about all the time for sermon as we are celebrating communion as well as installation of our ruling elders.

  11. I have done renewal of baptismal vows in services before with many of the aspects noted here, but never with the ideas you suggested Carolyn. Love, love, love!

    However, I'll have to file it away for another time because I will be ON VACATION this week. I don't get to join the lovely gals and pals on the BE trip later this month because somehow (I'm still trying to figure out how) I convinced my husband that we should go on a cruise together. We fly out Friday, set sail Saturday, and return next Thursday.

    Thinking ahead to John on Jan. 15, but I won't bother you all with that here now.

  12. We're on Baptism of Christ/the Lord, and I'm planning an Act of Remembering, but it seems harder with this congregation than others in my past. There's a formality I can't seem to breach, and yet a lack of feeling for ritual that also stumps me. So I've put it in the bulletin without greater explanation, so far, and I'm pondering the many ways we might do this.
    In the past, and elsewhere, I used a big, glass bowl on the Communion table, and I like the visual of water. Our font holds only a very little. So I imagine I will use the bowl.
    It's an intergenerational service, so I suspect I'll invite people to come up and touch the water themselves, to give the children a tactile experience. It will follow an all-ages message about water, and being under it and over it, with some reference to the fact that the Jordan was generally shallow and John the Baptist would have sought out the deep places to be able to really sink people fully into the water. (Thanks to my in-person Tuesday lectionary group for exploring that topic!)
    It's our first regular Sunday using our new Chalice hymnals, and it was fun picking what to sing!

  13. Epiphany all the way, it "vanishes" into the midweek fog otherwise, and it's much more important in the calendar than the Baptism.

    So we will consider what it means for us and how central it is that God should seek intentionally to Be Known.

    I may read some Auden to them also.

  14. Epiphany for me. I am following the idea of what happened to the shepherds and magi afterwards. As Christmas comes to an end, here we are all returning to school, jobs, etc. Are we changed by Christmas? Wondering how to add in the suggestion seen on another blog as to how the magi sought, found and worshipped. I'd love to use T S Eliot but this congregation are not literary inclined.
    But I love Carolyn's idea and I too will file it away. Have had 2 weeks of actual baptisms and did renewal of vows, but I can't wait to do that next time!

  15. I love Epiphany but we don't celebrate it if/when the Sunday closest falls after the 6th, so we are on the baptism texts and I'm doing Genesis. Just got back from our holiday trip, though, and am still trying to push my sluggish brain back into gear.

  16. Merry Epiphany Eve, friends! RevGord, thanks for hosting us.

    Anybody familiar with Women's Christmas? There's a wonderful tradition, rooted in Ireland, of celebrating Epiphany as Women's Christmas. I've written a post about it here at my Sanctuary of Women blog: Celebrating Women's Christmas. The reflection includes a blessing and also a special mini-retreat that I've designed to use on Women's Christmas--or whenever you're in need of a break! The retreat, which includes reflections and art, is available to download as a PDF (at no cost) and can be shared with friends.

    I also have Epiphany on my mind at The Painted Prayerbook, at this new post: Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel.

    Merry Epiphany, Blessed Baptism of Jesus, and Happy New Year to you!

  17. Lots of good ideas here, Carolyn I love your focus. I am focusing on the baptism with a re-commitment/not quite renewal of baptismal vows. My congregation is nondenominational with a former pastor in residence who does not believe in creeds and is very vocal about their usage. Theological backgrounds are rather diverse in the congregation. However last year I focused on the very ordinary-ness of the symbols which when transformed by God are no longer ordinary - and neither are our lives. I used a well worn glass bowl that had belonged to my grandmother - scratches and all. I sprinkled water from an evergreen branch (Christmas tree of course)as I walked among the congregation. I talked about some memories of her and that bowl, all ordinary of course, and included memories of some of her actions. I would like to do something similar, but will new images and stories this year with the focus on the transforming power. May invite the congregation to share. Of course it is still a work in progress, so who knows where it will go!


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