Index

Sundays
1st Quarter
2019-2020

 

J Nichols Adams et al

January 12, 2020, Baptism of the Lord, 1st Sunday of Epiphany, 1st Sun of Ord Time

 

 

LectionAid 1st Quarter 2019-2020

January 12, 2020, Baptism of the Lord, 1st Sunday of Epiphany, 1st Sun of Ord Time

A Cosmic Experience

Psalm 29; Isaiah 42:1-9; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

Theme: Community of Believers

Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON

Starting Thoughts

The conversation between John and Jesus is unique to Matthew. Perhaps it was added to Mark’s version to answer questions such as, “Why was Jesus baptized?” or “Did his baptism imply his sinfulness?” Alfred McBride offers a plausible answer: “If he, the sinless one, can publicly go through the ceremony of moral cleansing, then why should those who really need it not do so? Jesus accepts the baptism of John to encourage the Baptist’s mission of repentance and baptism, but also to signal the beginning of his own evangelical career.” The Interpreter’s Bible proposes three possible answers. First: Jesus was renouncing, not any guiltiness, but his sheltered home life in order to consecrate himself to his mission. Second, at his baptism, Jesus took upon himself the sins of all mankind to share in their shame and pain; he repented with men, to redeem sinners. Third, Jesus sought baptism because he had a deep sense of destiny, and perhaps because he believed that the voice of God would come to him through his ascetic cousin’s ministry. (Alfred McBride, O.Praem., The Kingdom and the Glory: Meditations and Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew [Huntington, IN; Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1992] pp. 35-36), (George A. Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. VII [Nashville; Abingdon Press, 1951] pp 266-268)
Like the Red Sea, the river Jordan was associated in the Old Testament with divine intervention. Just as the waters of the Red Sea parted under the leadership of Moses during the Exodus, the waters of the Jordan parted under the leadership of Joshua when the Israelites were ready to cross over into the Promised Land (Jos 3:14-17). Also, the Syrian Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy when he followed Elisha’s instructions and entered the waters of the Jordan seven times (2 Kg 5:14). Both Old Testament miracles at the river Jordan prefigured the saving power of the Sacrament of Baptism. We must note, however, that water alone cannot cleanse us of sinfulness, as was shown in Noah’s day. Water with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in baptism cleanses us of sin and makes us adopted children of God.
The Spirit of God descending like a dove upon Jesus as he emerged from his baptism alludes to a rabbinic interpretation of the creation story of Genesis 1:2: “The Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters...like a dove which broods over her young but does not touch them.” Fenton parallels the work of the Spirit of God at creation, bringing order out of chaos, with the work of the Spirit of God at the new creation, first on Jesus at his conception and baptism, then upon his disciples (Mt 3:11; 10:20; 28:19). The dove and the water also suggest that Jesus will be the new Adam of the new creation.
The voice from heaven declaring, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” speaks in words similar to those found in several Old Testament sources. For example, in Genesis 22:2, God put Abraham to the test: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go the land of Moriah.” We have already at the very beginning of Christ’s consecration to his ministry a hint of the sacrifice on the cross he will have to make to complete his mission. In Psalm 2:7, we read: “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’” Finally, Matthew 12:18 quotes and applies Isaiah 42:1: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit....” (J.C. Fenton)
St. Thomas Aquinas taught that Jesus’ baptism prefigured the Christian sacrament: “As stated above (Art. 5), that which is accomplished in our baptism should be manifested in Christ’s baptism, which was the exemplar of ours.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: Part III, Question 39, Article 8) Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch cite this statement by St. Thomas Aquinas in making their summary of the effects of baptism. “The water, Spirit, and divine voice signify the effects of Baptism whereby the soul is cleansed (Acts 22:16), the grace of the Holy Spirit is imparted (Mt 3:11; 1 Cor 12:13), and the recipient is adopted as a beloved child of God (Mt 3:17; Gal 3:26-27).” Another effect to note is that baptism is a cosmic experience that not only incorporates us into Christ’s community of believers, but also connects earth with heaven, matter with spirit, time with eternity, and the visible with the invisible. Gerard Manley Hopkins had it right when he wrote, “The earth is charged with the grandeur of God,” and Teilhard de Chardin caught the concept in two words by calling it the “Divine Milieu.” The conjunction of earth, water, sky, and dove at the baptism of Christ is convincing evidence that the elements of the world are never commonplace but sacred to people of faith.
In the introduction to a book he edited titled, Reading the Sea, Kevin Alexander Boon reflects on why much of the world’s history is in large part “a history of our relationship with the sea.” Historically, people began to navigate the Nile and Mediterranean about the same time they started developing a written language using pictograms. Consequently, sea adventures were an integral part of our earliest recorded stories. The oldest written tale in western literature is the Gilgamesh epic in which the hero crosses the sea in a quest for immortality, thus beginning a tradition and “establishing the sea as a border separating the physical from the metaphysical—the known from the unknown.” Since then we have continued to be intrigued by the majesty, might, and mystery of the sea “that is paradoxically a source of life and death, abundance and want, and bliss and suffering.” Through our advances in civilization we have achieved some measure of dominion over unexplored surfaces on the planet, but not the sea. “Sailors are never more than sojourners on their way somewhere else, crossing at the sea’s mercy...the sea is the negation of home, a chaotic region between destinations, a country with no rulers and no citizens.” The sea naturally became our first human metaphor—“a vehicle for expressing all manner of concern about the mysteries of life and death, an object of metaphysical longing...It symbolizes the infinite possibilities of the unknown.”
On the one hand, the collection of essays in Reading the Sea explores how the creative process of writing literature and especially poetry parallels our struggles to penetrate the sea’s mystery, “frequently rewarding us with its bounty, yet always tempting us further into its depths with a promise of more.” On the other hand, the book investigates how our fascination and relationship with the sea “reflect our attitudes about cultural exchange, spiritual awakening, race relations, gender identification, and the politics of power.” One of the essays in Reading the Sea is Stephanie Harzewski’s, “Submersion as Metaphor in Adrienne Rich’s ‘Diving into the Wreck,’” by Stephanie Harzewski. “The poem employs diving and submersion as necessary figurative acts in the creative process,” Harzewski writes, “The wreck, inextricable from the deep, symbolizes that which is ravaged, buried, and unknown. The unearthing of the wreck, the excavation of figurative language from the psyche, enables the creation of new mythologies as well as the resurrection of those lost.”
Adrienne Rich’s poem abounds with symbolism and myths within the sea’s environment—the flowing properties of the water, the ladder connected to the schooner, the wet suit of the diver, and the tools employed for the exploration. Harzewski writes: “The fluid boundaries of the ocean complement the characterization of self-knowledge and creativity, as a wave of crisis, flux, and insight. The suppleness of water reflects the necessity of a fluid identity in the artistic and personal quest. In ‘Delta,’ Rich employs water imagery to comment on the elusiveness of grasping a definitive interpretation of literature, the author and self: ‘If you think you can grasp me, think again: / my story flows in more than one direction / a delta springing from the river-bed / with its five fingers spread.’” Harzewski interprets even the increasing darkness and labor in diving to symbolize “the difficulties of an inner dive, the creative process...the writer’s block, self-doubt, and the sometimes psychologically exhaustive nature of introspection and writing...”
The book Reading the Sea provides some exciting insights into the richness of the symbolism of water in the Sacrament of Baptism. The paradoxes of death and life connected with the crossing of the Red Sea during the Exodus, the Spirit of God bringing order out of chaos in the book of Psalms, and the numerous texts in which water was associated with Jesus in the gospels all serve to emphasize the significance of water in baptism. Furthermore, the parallel the book makes with the challenging process of writing creative literature stresses how important it is to see baptism, not just as an event in the past, but as an ongoing call and commitment to grow in grace and virtue. (Kevin Alexander Boon, Reading the Sea: New Essays on Sea Literature [Bronx, NY: Fort Schuyler Press, 1999] pp. xi-xiii, 101-109)

Exegetical Comments

In keeping with his characteristic use of the Old Testament, Matthew finds in John the Baptist’s garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist a link to the prophet Elijah (2 Kg 1:8), a figure who was expected to return before the Messiah (Mal 3:23) to re-establish the tribes of Israel (Sir 48:10). John’s preaching is succinct and clear: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” words that Jesus himself will use later (1:2; 4:17). Matthew does not stress baptism as the primary object of John’s preaching but repentance. John Meier writes: “Repentance is not an emotional and often fruitless remorse over the past. It is a determined turning away from a sinful past and full-hearted turning to God. ‘Repent’ means basically: change your heart and mind about what is important in life, and then change your life accordingly.” (John P. Meier, New Testament Message Series: Matthew [Wilmington, Michael Glazier, Inc., 1981] pp 22-25)
All four gospels give the quotation from Isaiah 40:3 outlining John’s mission to be “the voice of one crying in the desert” and urging the people to prepare the way of the Lord. This quotation appears at the beginning of the central section of Isaiah, and thus conjures up a whole string of biblical promises that will be fulfilled by Jesus. For example, he will rescue the poor and oppressed (Is 41:17; 42:7), pour out the Spirit (44:3), and restore Israel (43:5-7). At the summit of this central section are the Suffering Servant passages from chapters 52 and 53 that picture so poignantly our Lord’s Passion and Death on the Cross.
In his commentary on the actual baptism of Jesus by John, J.C. Fenton calls our attention to the fact that this was the first and only time they met. When Jesus came to John to be baptized by him in the Jordan, he fulfilled an event foreshadowed in the history of Israel in the Old Testament—”Israel came out of Egypt to the Red Sea where, to quote Paul, ‘our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; by the cloud and sea all of them were baptized into Moses’” (1 Cor. 10:1-2). Matthew takes verses 13-17 from Mark’s gospel and makes some changes. Two significant changes are: first, Mark’s he saw the heavens opened is changed to and behold, the heavens were opened; second, Mark’s You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased becomes This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. “The effect of these changes,” Fenton writes, “is to make the event more public than it had been in Mark—the voice of God speaks to the world in Matthew, but only to Jesus in Mark.” (J.C. Fenton, The Pelican New Testament Commentaries: Saint Matthew [Middlesex, England; Penguin Books, 1971] pp 58-60)

Preaching Possibilities

This week gives us an opportunity to explore the practical ways God’s Spirit enters into our lives and the life of Jesus. The wonderful image of the dove descending gives real clarity to what needs to be underlines.

Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON

Different Sermon Illustrations

The book Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers is based on conversations between Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers that were edited for a six-hour PBS series in the 1980s. Chapter IV spans a variety of sacred spaces that provide cosmic experiences that lead people into encounters with God. In his opening statement, Campbell says, “The sanctification of the local landscape is a fundamental function of mythology” (to which we could add, “and of theology”). His first example is the Navaho tribe who identify a central mountain and then a mountain in each of the four directions—east, west, north, and south. They build their dwellings made of logs and mud with the door facing east where the sun rises, locate their fireplace in a symbolic cosmic center, and leave an opening in the ceiling so that smoke from the fire can rise through the hole like incense for the gods. “The landscape, the dwelling place, becomes an icon, a holy picture,” Campbell said. “Wherever you are, you are related to the cosmic order.” Navaho sand paintings always have “a surrounding figure with an opening to the east so that the new spirit can enter.”
Campbell gives another example that was inspired by Cicero who said that when you go into a great tall grove, you experience the presence of a deity. One can find sacred groves all over the world. The Buddha often sat under a bo tree or fig tree to receive divine inspiration; he also faced east in the direction of the rising sun. Hunters often refer to the woods where they search for game as “God’s outdoor cathedral.” How can anyone visit Redwood National Park in California, look up at a giant Sequoia that is tall as a 35-story skyscraper, realize that it has lived over 6 centuries, and not sense something sacred there?
Campbell’s book includes a picture of William Blake’s famous painting called Jacob’s Ladder. It pictures Jacob lying in sleep with a stone under his head and angels going up and down a stairway to heaven. (Gn 28:10-22) “You remember the story of Jacob’s dream,” Campbell says. “When Jacob awakes, the place becomes Bethel, the house of God. Jacob has claimed that place with a certain spiritual significance. This is the place where God sowed his energies.” It should not surprise us, in fact, that our Creator uses even rocks and stones as instruments of grace and impart some transcendental meaning to them for us. Is this a form of idolatry? Not if we understand what sacred places are and how religious statues are used. We don’t worship an inanimate stone or statue, for example, but simply use them as visible aids to encounter and worship the “invisible and living God.”
In spite of its advances in science and technology, modern civilization has lost much of its capacity to appreciate spiritual symbolism. “You can tell what’s informing a society by what the tallest building is,” Campbell observes. “When you approach a medieval town, the cathedral is the tallest thing in the place. When you approach an 18th-century town, it is the political palace that’s the tallest thing in the place. And when you approach a modern city, the tallest places are the office buildings, the centers of economic life.” Campbell is convinced that we have get “back in touch with the essential achetypology of our spiritual life.” Ministers and priests have to become more than ritual functionaries; they have to develop a deeper inner life of spirituality in order to communicate their experience, vision, and convictions to the people they serve. To continue growing grace beyond their baptism, all believers must increase their sensitivity to the signs of God’s presence throughout the cosmos—in ordinary things, in every person they meet, and in their own hearts. (Joseph Campbell, Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers [New York: Doubleday Publications, 1988] pp. 91-98)

Artists throughout the history of Christianity have endeavored to illustrate their vision of the cosmic experience found in the baptism of Jesus. In the Arian Baptistery in Ravenna, there is a mosaic dating from the 500s A.D. on the ceiling of a round tower, directly above the pool in which baptisms took place. It shows Christ as a naked, shaven young man standing in water and being baptized by John the Baptist who is standing on the right bank of the river Jordan. God the Father gives his blessing from the left and God the Holy Spirit descends from above in the form of a dove. Sometime between 1304-06, Giotto di Bondone painted his Christus Rex very similar to the Ravenna mosaic, except that he positioned God the Father at the top, angels on the left holding the garments of the nude Jesus in the water in the center, and two other disciples with John the Baptist at the right.
The mediums used by artists are many. For example, there is a 1427 gilded bronze panel created by Lorenzo Ghiberti on one side of the baptizing fountain in the magnificent 7-sided baptistery of the Cathedral consecrated to St. John the Baptist (the patron saint of Florence). Fra Angelico painted a fresco around 1441 titled Baptism of Christ; it is now in a museum in Florence. Sometime during 1473-1478, Leonardo da Vinci painted his Angels and Landscape of the Baptism of Christ. Albrecht Dürer made a woodcut in 1489 of the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan. El Greco fashioned a triptych icon (1560-65) with the Nativity on the left, the Resurrection in the center, and the Baptism on the right. An elegant stone sculpture of Christ’s baptism is located in the Cathedral Church of St. Peter in Exeter.

In her contemplative little book Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh shares some profound insights of how seashells bear surprising gifts from the sea for those who see beyond their outer surface. She then shows by analogy how our minds, left to their musings, bring up their own treasures from the deep. Seashells became for Anne symbols of aspects of life she pondered. The sea, the beach, and the seashells led her into a cosmic and sacred experience.
As she studied a simple seashell with its spiral shape, pointed apex, texture, and colors, she began to wonder about the shape of her own life with its various aspects of being a woman, wife, mother, artist, and citizen. Anne sought to be at peace with herself by finding “a central core” to her life so that she could “live in grace” and carry out her numerous obligations in the best way possible. “By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony....I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God.” Is there a finer description of what it means for disciples of Christ to grow in the life of grace they began at their baptism? (Anne Morrow Lindbergh The Gift of the Sea [New York: Random House, 1965] pp 23-24)

Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a French Jesuit mystic who wrote on theology and philosophy and was a first-rate scientist in geology and paleontology. Robert Ellsberg describes him as a “mystic afire with a vision of the divine mystery at the heart of the cosmos.... According to Teilhard the history of the earth reflected a gradual unfolding of the potentialities of matter and energy.” What was the destination of this process that began with creation? The Omega Point— Jesus, the God-made-man in whom “the spirit of God and the principle of matter were definitively joined.” His profound appreciation of the Incarnation enabled him to see the divine in all creation. Nothing material could be merely profane for Teilhard, because he saw something sacred in everything. Lest we think of Teilhard as an unrealistic and overly optimistic visionary, we must remember that part of his view of the universe was shaped in the midst of death when he served as a stretcher-bearer during World War I. (Robert Ellsberg, All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses [New York: The Crossroad Publishers, 1997] p 162-163)

In his book The Divine Milieu, Teilhard de Chardin discusses how all human endeavor cooperates to complete the world in Christ Jesus. In order to redeem the elements of the universe, the Word of God penetrated matter itself by becoming human. We may imagine that the creation and Incarnation were finished long ago but that would be wrong. They continue more magnificently through our participation in them by even the humblest work of our minds, hearts, and hands. “That is, ultimately, the meaning and value of our acts,” Teilhard writes. “Owing to the interrelation between matter, soul, and Christ, we bring part of the being which he desires back to God in whatever we do.” Consequently, even our most ordinary actions when done out of love of God and neighbor become “living extensions” of God’s creative and redeeming power.
In a section titled “The Spiritual Power of Matter,” Teilhard dwells on the symbolism of baptism in the history of matter. When Christ immersed himself in the waters of the Jordan, he sanctified not only the water but all matter. In the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, “As Christ emerges with the water which runs off his body, he elevates the whole world.” Because of his view of the divine milieu, Teilhard can conclude: “Immersion and emergence; participation in things and sublimation; possession and renunciation; crossing through and being borne onwards—that is the twofold yet single movement which answers the challenge of matter in order to save it.” (Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu [London: William Collins Sons & Co., Fontana Books, 1964] pp 62-65, 110)

Before conducting a baptism, especially an adult baptism, visit the website for Voice of the Martyrs (www.voiceofthemartyrs.org). This is the community of believers our new converts are joining. As you pour the baptismal water over the head of your congregation’s newest member consider this: there are places today where taking such a step is likely to bring ostracism from family, ridicule, outright persecution and death. It was just so for the earliest church – and they grew because of their love for one another. Dare we hope for such growth and spiritual vitality?

Somewhere in The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis has Screwtape tell Wormwood that in essence his patient’s joining the church is not a cause for great alarm. After all, ‘he now has to contend with the very people he has heretofore avoided,’ Screwtape counsels. Screwtape urges Wormwood to never quite allow his patient to overtly question his discomfort – or recognize it as a signal for needed growth; instead, if Wormwood simply keeps this nagging dis-ease in the forefront of his patient’s mind, he will soon have his patient right where Wormwood wants him.

The psychiatrist Albert Ellis is alleged to have said the following, “If you talk to God, that’s prayer; if God talks to you, that’s schizophrenia.” Not only was Jesus not schizophrenic, his prayerful obedience to the Father creates a community of liberating power and transforms selfish individuals into contributing citizens.

Regarding the kind of community to which we belong, Rick Warren notes, “I believe the most important class in a church is the membership class because it sets the tone and expectation level for everything else that follows. If little is required to join, very little can be expected from your members later on.” (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church [Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995], p 315) 4

Here are the values of membership, according to Rick Warren: ‘worship helps you focus on God; fellowship helps you face life’s problems, discipleship helps you fortify your faith, ministry helps you find and develop your talents evangelism helps you fulfill your mission.’ Is this what we tell our new members? (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church [Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995], pp 313-14)

Rick Warren counsels us to turn the unchurched into attenders, attenders into members, members into mature members, and then mature members into ministers. I saw this pattern first work in a Chicago inner-city church on the fringe of Cabrini-Green Housing Project in the early 1970’s. We grew when other congregations were fleeing. It worked because the leadership expected commitment to Christ and to one another, had a clear membership covenant and a lively style of worship. We got the pattern from reading the Acts of the Apostles carefully. Rick Warren has put the pattern into 21st century lingo; St. Peter was doing it in the 1st century.

The ancient worshipers of Mithra had an entrance rite that was, in some regards, similar to Christian baptism. Those who were being initiated into the cult of Mithra participated in a ritual known as taurobolium, a so-called baptism of blood. The ritual most likely originated in Persia. The new member was led to a subterranean shrine where a wooden platform was erected. A bull was then brought in and placed on the platform as the initiate stood beneath. When the bull was sacrificed to Mithra by the priest, the blood from the bull poured through an opening in the floor of the platform and showered the initiate. Those who participated in that “red baptism” were thought to experience a new birth to eternal life (Jonathan Kirsch, God Against The Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism [New York: Viking Compass, 2004], p. 97).

Although baptism is a sign of our incorporation into community with Christ, many of the ecclesiastical terms that we continue to use betray the firm bonds we often still feel to the secular world. For instance, when the Constantinian era of the church began, Christians quickly adopted a number of terms that had previously been used by their pagan opponents. The word “vicar” is derived from the Latin vicarius, a title that had originally been used by the emperor Diocletian, an arch persecutor of the church, to identify the deputies he placed in charge of his various provinces. Similarly, “diocese” comes from the Latin term that was used to describe the area that the vicarius administered. In addition, “basilica” originated from the Latin name of the public building that housed the imperial courts and other government offices (Jonathan Kirsch, God Against The Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism [New York: Viking Compass, 2004], p. 178).

Baptism is one of the ways that we fulfill our desire to belong. As sociologists have discovered, some people around the world will do the most seemingly odd things to fit in. In order to feel a part of American culture, Peruvian Indians have been seen carrying rocks that have been painted to look like transistor radios. People in China often purchase designer sunglasses and then wear them without removing the brand tags. Shanty-town dwellers in Brazil frequently place television antennae on top of their homes, even though they don’t have a TV. In Papua New Guinea, natives substitute Pentel pens for boars’ nose pieces (Juliet B. Schor, The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need [New York: HarperPerennial, 1998], p 90)

There is nothing in secular culture that can quite compare to the way that baptism is able to unify people from such diverse social and the good—to use conversation and narrative to make moral sense of the world—is balanced by our fears of what outcome the conversation might reach” (Stephen L. Carter, God’s Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics [New York: Basic Books, 2000], p 108)

Even though we live in a culture where disunity often seems to be the norm, baptism reminds us of the solidarity that we are meant to share with one another. A witty Dutch proverb declares, “One Dutchman, a theologian; two Dutchmen, a Church; three Dutchmen, a schism” ((Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation: A History [New York: Viking, 2004], p 363)

Baptism emphasizes that our Christian lives are not meant to be lived in isolation, but as part of a community of faith: “Satan watches for those vessels that sail without a convoy.”(George Swinnock)

Part of being incorporated into a community is the acceptance of the fact that some of the people who are in that community are people that you might not necessarily have chosen to be there: “Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives” (Henri Nouwen).

Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)

Call to Worship

Leader: Worship the Lord, all You angels in heaven! Worship the Lord, all You people of the earth!
People: Sing praises to God! Glorify God’s holy name!
Leader: The Lord sits on high and rules over all creation!
People: May the Lord strengthen us! May the Lord bless us with peace!

Prayer of Confession

Gracious Lord, You have given us baptism as a sign of the unity we share with one another and with You. Through baptism You seek to cleanse us from our sin, so that we might walk in newness of life. Yet we often allow sin to hold sway in our lives. We permit temptations to lead us astray, and we hesitate to resist their pull. We confess that because of our sin, we allow our relationships to become broken—our relationships with one another and our relationship with You. Merciful God forgive our sinful ways that muddy those baptismal waters. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

Eternal God, through the waters of baptism You invite us to the new life that is found in You. In all that we do—through what we say, through what we do, and through what we give—empower us to show forth that we have accepted Your invitation as we strive to be Your obedient disciples. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer

Holy God, with the water of baptism You welcome us into Your family of faith. Throughout our lives, help us always to remember our baptism so that when times of doubt or testing come our way, we can be comforted with the knowledge that we never face those challenges alone. When times of trial enter our lives, we can trust with confidence that You and the community of all the faithful surround us, providing us with the comfort and strength we need. We rejoice in that wonderful gift, knowing that we are never alone.
Every day of our lives, O Lord, enable us to feel the waters of baptism washing over us. Each day of our lives use the waters of baptism to cleanse us from our sin, so that we might present ourselves spotless before You. Fill our lives with that life-giving water that our spirits might be nourished and that we might be empowered to grow in Your ways. Allow the baptismal waters to flow through our church, washing over us, and binding us firmly together as a community of faithful disciples. Flood the whole world with Your baptismal grace. Bless us and make us worthy of Your amazing love. In our Savior’s name we pray. Amen.