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Monday, January 07, 2013

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Passing Through the Water Edition

Baptism of Christ
AS our week begins, let us pray (this is the opening prayer we are using this Sunday):
God you have given us a name, it is Yours.
You have claimed us as Your people and given us a Way to live.
In this time of worship refresh and prepare us to serve you,
embolden us to face the water and the fire, sure that they will not overwhelm us.
We pray in the name of Jesus, who showed us how to live in You, and who taught his friends to pray saying...
 Another week, another annual observance.  Which always leaves me wondering how to deal with the same story every single year (and don't get me started on T-Fig at the other end of this season).  But as David Lose asks this week at Working Preacher, do we preach the text or do we preach about Baptism?  I have done both in various years.  And Lose suggests doing both at the same time (in an argument I find compelling, even though I am not using Luke this year).

Isaiah 43
So this year the RCL readings for Baptism of Christ Sunday include a passage from Isaiah, the Psalm, a couple verses from Acts, and the closest Luke comes to describing Jesus' baptism.  You can read them here.

What will you be doing this Sunday?  I know when preparing last year's sermon I delved into the various (and variant?) understandings of baptism within the UCCan.  Are there multiple understandings and theologies of baptism in your congregations and/or denominations or is it a more uniform topic?  Anyone planning a re-affirmation of baptismal vows?  Or maybe the Wesleyans among us might be using Wesley's service of covenanting (which sort of is a re-affirmation of our baptismal vows)?  Maybe you will be doing asperging (is that spelled right?)...

Let us know in the comments where you think you will be going this year...
Do we hear God naming and Claiming Us?


  1. I am going with the Isaiah passage this week. Early thoughts here

    ANd here is my sermon on the various understandings of baptism from last year.

  2. ...for maximum effect in "asperging," equip pre-teens with bunches of parsley. It is astonishing how much water a bunch of parsley can carry.
    Broccoli also works well, but if they lose their grip on the parsley, no harm done; flying broccoli (raw) can inflict painful contusions.

    1. hahahahahah!! I love this. Too bad it's my first Sunday in my new church, otherwise I would TOTALLY be doing this. (we're going to come forward for the reaffirmation instead....)

    2. This is funny! Whne I was in the pews instead of in front, I was not a fan of being asperged, though, so I usually skip this part. Although maybe if the kids did it, it would seem more like fun and less like an assault....

    3. Hey, Teri-- it's MY first Sunday in MY new church, too! This is a small rural congregation with a pretty good sense of humour, so I'm gonna do it--partly because I think it'll be a blessed sensory awakening for people who have been in the doldrums for quite a while. I'm using the line from "The Great Blessing of the Waters," where one dips evergreens into a bowl and flings the droplets out over the congregation, saying, "remember your baptism and be thankful!"

      My general approach to this service, with a tip of the hat to David Lose, will be to celebrate that we, too, along with Jesus, are God's beloved children, and that we are going to live into that identity/vocation together.

    4. I thought about giving the confo kids squirting devices for 'asperging' - but reconsidered when I remembered that these were the same kids that put 58 staples in one of the shepherds when putting up the bulletin board.

      Seriously, my congregations have a deep seated fear of being 'too Catholic' so, as much as I'd like to, we are skipping any water sprinkling. And since both baptismal fonts have lids that are permanently attached (they swing open), I can't really set them in the aisle or back of sanctuary so people can dip fingers in the water. That would be 'too Catholic' anyway. I'm still trying to figure out a way to incorporate water in our remembrance of baptisms!

  3. Well, it's my first Sunday in my new call. I think BoL is a fantastic first Sunday, but in order to do that I'm probably going to have to go more with "baptism" sunday and less with the Luke...because there's so little of the baptism in the Luke story--it's nearly been sanitized right out. Of course, I could always talk about why that is, I suppose.
    I'm leaning toward Isaiah, and talking about how God claims us and in baptism we recognize that claim, or something.
    Must write liturgy and choose hymns today...I think hymns are one of the hardest things about a new place. What do they know? What do they hate? Are they good singers or anemic singers? etc etc...

    1. Teri-- do you have access to a copy of the UCC New Century Hymnal? "Crashing Waters at Creation" (#326) is a very singable alternate set of words to the same tune as "Child of Blessings, Child of Promise." (The tune is Stuttgart, meter I just learned this recently and am planning to use it this Sunday.

  4. Thanks for the Wesleyan prayer reminder -- going to use that (again) in my Presby(me)-Methodist (most of them, sort of) congregation.

    Baptism here. In my congregation of many stripes, there are a number of people and/or their family members who have been baptized multiple times. An opportunity for a gentle reminder that once is enough.

  5. Preaching baptism this week. Also, it is our annual meeting, with some big decisions in the works, so leaning toward what it means to be called by name as a whole community. More later, hopefully coherent.

  6. The formatting is funky because I cut and paste from a Word document and don't have the patience to fix it, but here's my sermon from last Sunday. I'm using the narrative lectionary so we did Luke 3:1-22 then instead of this week.

    On the NL (and in a congregation that isn't tied to the traditional liturgical year much anyway) I don't have quite the same attachment to some of the liminal observances like Baptism of the Lord, so I didn't have the pressure to add that it when, like Teri pointed out, Luke doesn't deal with it much anyway. I focused in on John the Baptist instead, since his preaching didn't come at Advent for us. Here it is if it's any use to anyway.

    I'm on to Jesus's hometown sermon and the crowd's subsequent attempt to push him off a cliff. All sorts of fun. I think I'm going to look at the larger message of inclusion that we're already starting to get this early in Luke - - the tax collectors and soldiers are the folks named as "early adopters" in the scene before Jesus's baptism. Jesus himself uses two foreigners as a GOOD example in his "sermon" after the Isaiah reading. From the start, his message is one of the widening reach of grace.

  7. Ok, back after some more thought and SO CAPTIVATED by the acts passage! (wondering how much I can wander backward into Simon Magus and forward into Ethiopian Eunuch. So juiciness there.) In terms of setting up our annual meeting, I think the notion of asking if we are truly baptized in the spirit as a community is a pretty good one, so I'm starting there and will see where that takes me.

    But first going to read yours, Steph :)

  8. I love the Isaiah text- it's one of my life verses. I'm going to look at the promises of that passage and the promises of baptism. I'm also thinking about the Acts passage and the Holy Spirit - how the Holy Spirit works to bring us to God, works through baptism, works to fill God's promises to us.

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  10. I had a baptism on All Saints and asperged folks with an evergreen branch, so this Sunday we will renew Baptismal Covenant without water.

    As for preaching: I think in the past I've tried to both reflect on a text and incorporate the idea of baptism - Jesus', ours. I seem to have a lot of old notes/outlines for Year A & B, less for Year C, but general ideas I may have come up with around baptism could cross over.

    Earlier today I was reflecting on Isaiah & also the repeating ideas of God's Voice and glorifying God in the Psalm. Then I noted that Acts is so brief, yet there seems to be much bigger ideas going on behind such short statements and wondered about that. Then I scribbled some notes and highlighted some things in the Gospel.

    Then... my mind was kind of blown. In skimming Karoline Lewis's commentary at working preacher she had noted that the verses that get omitted in RCL have John thrown in prison, Jesus' baptism is mentioned in verses after that... so who baptized Jesus? I was really intrigued by that idea, because I don't think it had ever occurred to me before that it might *not* have been John. If I remember correctly from some coursework, writings at the time weren't necessarily written chronologically and linearly like we tend to do... So I suppose in Luke's account it's possible John could have baptized Jesus before he was arrested. It just says when all the people & Jesus had been baptized... it doesn't say it happened right at that moment that day. Mark & Matthew both have John doing the baptizing too. But still... I was curious. Who else might have baptized Jesus, and does that change anything for us, because it did surprise me. Would it freak others out to consider the baptism might have gone down differently?

    So that's what was rolling around in my mind, I'm not sure which text and ideas I'll eventually run with.


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