APC 10th January 2021 “The Baptism of Jesus.”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Sunday morning worship. Today we begin our journey to Easter following Jesus through some of the main events during His life and ministry. As we enter a New Year, it’s a huge concern and disappointment that the number of Covid infections has been rapidly increasing and we are back to full lockdown. But let us remember that in all of this, God is still the same. He is faithful and His mercies and help are new every day. So let us approach God as we worship Him through the words of the beautiful hymn, “Great is Thy faithfulness”.
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Opening Song “Great is Thy Faithfulness”
Let’s take a moment to talk to our heavenly Father, let’s pray…
Gracious God, we thank you that you are always with us, in the bad times as well as the good, the difficult as well as the easy, the sad as well as the happy.
Lord of all hopefulness, hear our prayer.
We thank you that though we have sometimes been unsure of the way ahead, you have always been there to guide us, though we have felt discouraged, you have offered us fresh inspiration, though we have been in despair, you have given us hope.
Lord of all hopefulness, hear our prayer.
We thank you for the assurance this brings us that your steadfast love never ceases, that your mercies are new every morning, that great is your faithfulness.
Lord of all hopefulness, hear our prayer.
May that conviction give us confidence in the days ahead, so that whatever problems we face, whatever disappointments we experience, whatever sorrows may befall us, we will still find reason to look forward, reason to believe in the future and reason to hope.
Lord of all hopefulness, hear our prayer.
In Jesus name we ask it, Amen.
Join me as we say the Lord’s Prayer thoughtfully and sincerely together…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Introduction to Kids Video
We come to the part of the service which is especially for the younger members of our church family. So if your kids aren’t beside you right now, why not pause the recording, and call them in to watch a short animation about the baptism of Jesus. And at the end of this video I’ve a few words to say to the children so don’t let them rush away.
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Kid’s Video The Baptism of Jesus
Kid’s Talk Summary
Happy New Year boys and girls. I hope you’ve enjoyed the little video about Jesus’ baptism today. It’s hard to understand exactly why Jesus was baptised because He never did anything wrong so He didn’t need forgiven and He didn’t need His sins washed clean. Most people think He did it to identify with us, to really understand what it’s like for us to need to say sorry to God and stuff like that. That’s one of the great things about Jesus - as well as being completely God he was also totally human. He understands everything we go through. So if you’re finding it hard again not being able to be in school, talk to Jesus about it because He understands and He will help you when you pray. If you ask your mam or dad they can go onto the church website scroll through and find a link to a colouring sheet of John the Baptist Baptising Jesus. Don’t forget to tune in again next Sunday. Bye for now and I hope your online schoolwork is still fun.
Colouring Sheet Link
Bible Reading Matthew 3 v 1-17
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”[a]
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Reflection Why was Jesus Baptised?
Over the next few months I want to bring you on a journey following the lectionary readings for 2021. Along the road we will stop off at various moments in the life of our Lord Jesus and prayerfully reflect. We will walk with Him as he teaches and heals, as He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. We will see Him cruelly betrayed and nailed to a cross. We will marvel at His resurrection and reflect on His ascension. We will consider the outpouring of His Spirit and the impact this had on the earliest believers. All the time we will be asking, “What does this mean for us?”
Today we begin at His ordination for public ministry. Picture the scene- Joshua, a local carpenter, the son of Joseph and Mary, makes his way through a crowd of people gathered beside the banks of the Jordan River. His cousin John is standing in the water as one by one, people from the crowd step forward and allow themselves to be ceremonially washed. It’s a strange scene. Controversial in fact. Jewish people didn’t get baptised. Circumcision was their sign of identity. Baptism was only for people who weren’t Jews but who wanted to convert.
Something new was happening, a spiritual awakening among the Israelites. The movement was led by John, nicknamed ‘the Baptist’. He was an eccentric chap, living out in the desert, wearing clothes made from camel skins and dining on nothing but locusts and wild honey. But he was also deeply spiritual, a man of prayer.
It was this closeness to God that made His message so powerful even if it was difficult to hear.
Here’s a snapshot of his sermon-
“Do you remember Elijah and Isaiah, Ezekiel and Hosea? Well, just like them, God has told me to give you a really important message. He says, “You need to turn around!” “God’s special King is about to hit the scene and you need to get ready!”
“Don’t think because you’re Jewish that will be enough! Don’t think just saying ‘sorry’ will be sufficient either! God is perfect. If you want to be ready to stand in His Royal presence then you’ve got to change your ways! You’ve gotta show that you’re sorry by the way that you live. If you’re a tax collector that’ll mean no more greedy fiddling of the books. If you’re a soldier it’ll mean treating people fairly and not grumbling about your pay. If you know someone’s in need it’ll mean helping them out by sharing what you have.
If you do this God will bless you and invite you to be part of this new era. But if you don’t, he’ll come down on you like a tonne of bricks.
If you want to be part of this, then come down into the water and show God you’re serious by confessing your sins and allowing me to baptise you with water as a sign of God’s forgiveness and cleansing.”
John’s message was powerful stuff. Despite its gravity it attracted hundreds of Jewish people. In fact, there was such a crowd it had the Scribes and Pharisees worried. So they had gathered to listen to the message and to see what was going on. But none of them were joining the crowds stepping down into the water and confessing their sins.
Knowing their resolve to keep the Jewish faith and to guard it against any form of heresy, it’s not surprising that none of the religious leaders responded publicly to John’s message. But what is surprising is that also lining up, was Jesus. It wouldn’t have been surprising to the crowds. To those who did know Him, he was just Joshua the local carpenter, Mary and Joseph’s son. But when he reached the front of the queue His cousin John nearly fell over – He knew, that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
In a whisper he said, “Josh, what are you doing? You’ve no sins to confess. You don’t need forgiveness or baptism. In fact, why don’t we just swap places?”
Jesus looked up and replied, “I’ll explain later, for now just go ahead and baptise me. I need to do this to fulfil all righteousness.”
You know as I began to study this passage this week I felt very much like John. I was asking myself, “Why on earth would Jesus bring himself to be baptised when he had never sinned and didn’t need to be forgiven or cleansed?”
What did Jesus mean in his answer to John, “This is to fulfil all righteousness?”
Having studied several commentaries and read several more online articles, to be honest with you, I don’t think anyone can say for sure what Jesus meant by this phrase or why exactly he got baptised.
It may be that since this was the time for Jesus to begin His public ministry this was the best way of announcing Himself to as many people as possible.
Jesus’ mission was to introduce a new covenant, a new agreement, a new way of being part of God’s family. He, in fact, would be that way, through His death and resurrection. This new way would not depend on your gender, ethnicity, social standing, education or religious affiliation. It would be based on your trust in Him and on your willingness to turn away from all that is wrong and to live God’s way.
It made sense for Him therefore to align Himself with the message that John was preaching because this is what His own Kingdom message would be like in the days to come. But in addition to aligning Himself to the message, I think Jesus allowed Himself to be baptised in order to identify Himself with the people who He had come to save. What exactly this identification was, or how it fulfilled all righteousness, we cannot be certain. What we can be sure of is that His baptism was an act of humility. Perhaps like Nehemiah and other leaders of the past, as he was baptised, Jesus may have represented the people by confessing the sins of the nation before God.
What we can also be sure of is that to be our perfect human representative, Jesus had to live a perfect human life. Therefore, I think that somehow even this moment of submission and humility enabled Him to experience what it would mean for a human being to bow their head and heart before God. I think this was just another piece of the mysterious jigsaw that would allow Christ who is completely God to also live a perfect human life in order to be fully righteous and provide a perfect sacrifice for human sin.
You know when I spent time in Africa, we ate food that I would never normally choose to eat simply because we did not want to offend the people who had so kindly killed and cooked one of their most prized and costly possessions. How could we have expected our hosts to listen to our message about Jesus if we had not willingly eaten the goat’s head and goat’s intestine stew that we were served? It may be the fact that he had gone through the same religious right of baptism, that would enable Jesus later on to call people to follow Him. Certainly no- one could say to Him, “Well if this is what you believe and what you want us to do, why didn’t we see you down at the Jordan when John was baptising?”
It may even be that Jesus asked John to baptize Him simply as an act of obedience to God's purposes. You see in v 33 of John Chapter 1 we discover that God had given John the promise of a coming Messiah and had told him that “the man on whom you see the spirit of God come down and remain – He is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” By being baptized, Jesus fulfilled that promise. His baptism was simply the right thing at the right time: the last act of His private life.
In addition to identifying Himself with all humanity in obedience to God, many believe that Jesus’ baptism also provided a very public opportunity for God to officially ordain His Son into the Priesthood and to reveal His identity to a watching world.
You see in the Old Testament before someone could become a Priest they had to be ceremonially washed or anointed for the ministry to which they had been called. Jesus, is our Great High Priest and so many see His baptism by John as an ordination into His High Priestly ministry to fulfil all righteousness.
There is no doubt that as Jesus was baptised He was in some way ordained and commissioned by God the Father for His ministry to the world. That is one reason why as soon as he was baptised, the heavens opened, the spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove and the voice of God was audibly heard saying, “This is my Son whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.”
We don’t have time to look at all the details of this amazing incident this morning, but let me just bring your attention to one or two things.
The Dove and the voice from the heavens would have been very familiar to the gathered crowd. God’s spirit was often depicted as a dove in the Old Testament and on many occasions God spoke directly to His people as He did with Moses on Mount Sinai.
These miraculous signs would have informed the crowd that this man who had just been baptised was special and that God was speaking.
What they heard God saying was, “This is my Son who I love. I am well pleased with Him.”
Again, to those well versed in Old Testament scriptures, these two phrases would have been familiar. The first is a direct quote from Psalm 2. There David is described as the Son of God. But it is also mentioned that a King would come who would be even greater than David. One to whom even he would bow. From this, the people listening would have been left with the sense that this carpenter, Joshua, was somehow also a very special King, even God’s promised King, one greater than David.
The second phrase is a direct quote from Isaiah 42. There Isaiah talks about how God would send a suffering servant. This suffering servant is more fully described in Isaiah 53 as one who would be despised and rejected and who would die, bearing the judgement for the sins of God’s people, sheep who had gone astray. Somehow, mysteriously through that death, His suffering would bring healing and peace to God’s people. From this, the people watching would have been left with the sense that this cousin of John was a special servant of God who would experience much suffering. Somehow that suffering would bring them healing and peace.
I can imagine the conversations went on long into the night. I’m sure many a jar of wine was consumed that evening.
Like those first century followers of John, we too are left wondering at the baptism of Jesus. How exactly did he identify with all humanity when He went into the water? How does their understanding of His Sonship contrast with ours all these years later? What was happening when Jesus suffered on the cross? How do I feel about being a son or daughter of the King? How do I feel about being loved so much by God? And how can the suffering of Jesus help me in mine?
We thank God for His word, Amen.
Introduction to Song of Response
It’s amazing to think that Jesus identified with us completely, not only at His baptism but through every experience of life. Let’s respond to that by listening to a song that reminds us of the amazing Hope that Jesus understands everything we go through for all our ways are known to Him…
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Song “All my ways are known to you”
Prayers for others
Heavenly Father, we thank you that you love us and that your Son identified Himself completely with us. Lord, you understand our disappointment and our fears with the increasing numbers of Covid 19 infections and the restrictions that we are facing because of the new lockdown.
So Lord we look to you for the help and strength to go through another period of uncertainty.
We remember especially all those working in hospitals and in care facilities. Father, give to each one protection, energy, wisdom and patience. Grant your peace to those who are anxious and afraid.
We pray for all who are working to administer vaccines. Give them wisdom, strength and perseverance. May this process go as smoothly and successfully as possible. Grant that over the next number of weeks that many countries around the world will develop an overriding immunity to this disease that will enable life to return to normal.
We pray for all those who are currently sick and whose own treatment is facing delay because of the Pandemic. We remember too all those who have died in this past year and the people who continue to grieve their loss. Grant each one your comfort, your help and your healing.
We pray for our children and young people. Help them to readjust to online schooling. Thank you for all the work of their teachers in hugely difficult circumstances. Give them energy and wisdom to know how best to deliver their teaching online and help each student to engage with the work as enthusiastically as possible. We ask that you might calm the fears of those who are due to sit important exams this year. Help them to trust that you are in control and that you have a plan for them that is good. We think especially of Pre School teachers as they provide care for the children of Frontline workers. Grant them courage and help in their planning for reopening and health and safety in the days ahead.
We remember those at college, especially those who are finding this lockdown particularly isolating and lonely. Give them and their friends and family wisdom to know how best to receive the support that they need in these days.
We pray again for our government and ask that you will continue to give them wisdom, resilience and clarity in their decisions. Help us all to be patient with each other and to do all we can to support one another in these days.
We think also of the ongoing discussions between Britain and Europe over Brexit. Father may the relationships and the discussions of all concerned be positive and ultimately result in agreements which will be helpful to everyone concerned and enable smooth and peaceful working relationships to continue in the future.
We pray for all church leaders in these difficult days and ask that you will guide them and give them energy and creativity to keep pastoral contacts alive and to provide opportunities for worship that will be helpful ad meaningful to their congregations.
Take a moment now to pray for one or two people you know who need God’s help at this time….
All this we ask in the name of Jesus, our Great High Priest who can empathise completely with our humanity and frailty, Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s reflection. Please do spend some time in quiet over the next couple of days reflecting on Jesus baptism and the wonder of how much He identifies with us in every way.
As I said on Wednesday I want to thank you for all your support and encouragement throughout 2020. There has been a great sense of togetherness and mutual support in our congregation despite the difficulties we have faced. You have also shown a great spirit of generosity in contributing towards the needs of many charitable causes. Just recently, I received a very nice thank you letter from Springboard for your donation of Euros 640. So thank you to everyone who contributed to that.
As is our tradition, on Christmas Day we had a special collection for the poorest and most vulnerable in our world who have been especially affected by the Covid 19 pandemic. The money that is raised through this Moderator’s Appeal will be channeled directly through our Partner Agencies ‘Tear Fund’ and ‘Christian Aid’. If you weren’t able to make it on Christmas day then you can still contribute to our Moderator’s Appeal. You can donate online using the Church bank details on our website, just mark your donation for the Moderator’s Christmas Appeal. You can also contact our treasurer Aleida Van der Flier to pay using a mechanism that is more suitable for you.
I’d like to thank Aleida for leading our service online on Sunday 27th and to thank our Moderator for leading us last Sunday. I think you’ll agree they both did an excellent job.
Unfortunately, but understandably, for the foreseeable future church services will only be allowed online. The good news is I will be providing online services on Wednesday and Sunday mornings until church reopens. So let me encourage you to tune in again on Wednesday to help keep the embers of your faith aglow. As the challenges of Covid continue I’m conscious that this is a very difficult time for us all. If you are feeling particularly low, then please do reach out and let me know. I’ll be more than happy to meet and pray with you in a safe and socially distanced way. And let’s keep a special eye out for each other whether that means just picking up the phones and seeing how someone is.
But for now, let me lead you in a Benediction after which I invite you as always, to say the grace together…
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.