First Sunday after the Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord, Ordinary Time
MARK 1:4–11/1:3–9 IV
Genesis 1:1–5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1–7; 3 Nephi 12:10, 13; Doctrine and Covenants 164:3a–b
How often do you think about your baptism? What stands out to you the most as you remember that day? On this first Sunday after the Epiphany, we remember Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. It is the first glimpse of Jesus as a grownup that the Gospel of Mark provides. The scene in today’s scripture establishes Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, a theme which is repeated throughout the book of Mark. Today’s worship offers us the opportunity reflect on our own baptismal experiences and claim more fully the promises of that day.
Call to Worship
Psalm 29:1–5, 11
Hymn of Welcome
“Draw the Circle Wide” CCS 273
OR “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” CCS 92
Focus Moment: Lollipop Ministry
Read or summarize this mission story.
My husband and I are volunteers with the World Service Corps in Taipei, Taiwan. We don’t speak Chinese, but many residents understand some English. However, we have become very good at gestures, and the people are very patient.
A 7-Eleven convenience store sits two doors from our church entrance. Every Sunday we stop to pick up milk for the coffee we serve in Bible class. One morning in the store, I noticed a young mother struggling with three small, disruptive children. The frustrated mother was trying, unsuccessfully, to calm the children. As I stood at the counter, I spotted a jar of lollipops. I quickly bought three and gave them to the children.
The mother was startled. In broken English, she began to talk to me. I was struggling to understand when I saw one of our bilingual church members, Tina, walking by the store. I called her in and asked her to explain to the woman who I was. As soon as the mother heard “minister,” her eyes lit up. She asked for directions to our church, saying she would come the next week.
The following Sunday she arrived with her three children. She came in time for Bible class and stayed for worship. Our members welcomed her, and she told us what had prompted her to accept our invitation. She said the morning we had met; she had felt overwhelmed by life.
“I just looked up and cried out, asking if there was any place for me where I could find peace,” she said. “The smile on the face of this lady and the gift of the lollipops reminded me there are good people in the world. I love this little church. Already you feel like family.”
Since then she and her children have attended faithfully, bringing other friends. She was present when Apostle Mareva Arnaud Tchong visited Taipei. During worship, the mother asked her for a special blessing.
In our pursuit of peace I had not valued lollipops as ministerial tools, but they opened the door to possibilities.
—Vera Entwistle, World Service Corps, (www.CofChrist.org/mission-stories#/189/lollipop-ministry)
- Identify locations close by your congregation or elsewhere in your community where you might encounter strangers and invite them to Christ.
- Brainstorm possibilities in your community where your congregation could partner with another organization (for example, a school or community group) that would provide an opportunity to talk with people and invite them to Christ.
- What congregational interests would provide a service for others and allow for invitations to Christ? (Examples include: tending a community garden, participating in an ecology project, hosting children’s activities, planting trees or flowers in the community, stocking a local pantry, walking in a 5K for a worthy cause, picking up litter.)
Reading: Remember Your Baptism
Voice 1: All church members are urged to examine the depth of your baptismal commitment.
Voice 2: And the disciples whom Jesus had chosen began from that time forth to baptize and to teach as many as came to them.
Voice 1: Having been baptized and confirmed, become fully immersed in the servant life of Christ.
Voice 2: And they who were baptized in the name of Jesus were called the church of Christ.
Voice 1: Live the meaning of your baptism daily!
Voice 2: Restore Christ’s covenant of peace, even the Zion of your hopes!
Voices 1 & 2: Remember your baptism and be glad!
—adapted from 3 Nephi 12:10, 13 and Doctrine and Covenants 164:3a–b
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Ask someone prior to the service to be prepared to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for baptism and the promises of God.
Hymn of Baptism
“See What Love We Have Been Given!” CCS 496
OR “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” CCS 499
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
Prayer for Peace
O Lord, we pray today for the many people of the world who are divided into countless nations and tongues. Deliver us from every evil that gets in the way of your mission, and fulfill the promise of peace on Earth among persons with whom you are pleased; through Christ Jesus.
Deliver us, we pray:
From the curse of war and the iniquity of humans that causes war. From pride that turns its back on you, God, and from unbelief that will not call you Lord;
From the self-righteousness that will not compromise, and from selfishness that gains by the oppression of others;
From the lust for money or power that drives people to kill;
From trusting in the weapons of war, and mistrusting the councils of peace;
Creator and Sustainer, by the power of your Holy Spirit we have been drawn together by one baptism into one faith, serving our Lord and Savior. Do not let us tear away from one another through division or argument. May your peace embrace our differences, preserving us in unity, as one body of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org /daily-prayer-for-peace.
Based on the sacrament of Communion and Mark 1:4–11/1:3–9 IV
Moment of Reflection and Preparation of the Emblems
Play hymn CCS 244, “There’s an Old, Old Path” in the background as the emblems are prepared and the congregants quietly reflect on their own baptisms or the possibility of a future baptism.
Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
Blessing and Serving of the Bread
Blessing and Serving of the Wine
Hymn of Dedication
“With a Word, You Birthed Creation” CCS 17
OR “By Gracious Powers/Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben” CCS 268
Disciples’ Generous Response
Read aloud CCS 621, “Help Us Express Your Love.”
Use the following to prepare your statement on A Disciple’s Generous Response:
- How do you express love through generosity?
- What does it look like to accept God’s grace in one’s own life in order to share unconditional love with individuals and community?
- The first Sunday of the month focuses on Abolish Poverty, End Suffering which includes Oblation and World Hunger ministry.
Six principles of A Disciples’ Generous Response guide us in managing and sharing our resources: Receive God’s Gifts, Respond Faithfully, Align Heart and Money, Share Generously, Save Wisely, and Spend Responsibly (www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response).
When we consider the ways each principle applies in our lives, we respond faithfully and begin to align our priorities with God’s priorities, align our hearts with God’s heart.
One way we are called as disciples to spend responsibly, is learning the importance of living within our means and the appropriate use of debt.
Questions for Reflection
- Do you allow God into all aspects of your life?
- Are there changes in your budget when you allow God into all aspects your finances?
As you share financially through Mission Tithes, or if you give regularly through eTithing, please use this time to consider your commitment and how you will tithe to your true capacity of time, talent, and testimony.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
Hymn of Generosity
“Take My Gifts and Let Me Love You” CCS 609
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Hymn of Commitment
“I Will Sing, I Will Sing” CCS 112
“Now Let Us from This Table Rise” CCS 644
Benediction and Sending Forth
May God’s Spirit of peace rest upon you, God’s beloved. By your baptism you have been marked as God’s own forever. May you go forth in joy, knowing God’s grace. May you have hope, walking the path together and may you know love—God’s love of all and your love for one another. Amen.
First Sunday after the Epiphany Baptism of the Lord, Ordinary Time
Exploring the Scripture
Before diving into today’s text, it may be helpful to briefly consider the book in which it is contained. Mark is regarded as the earliest of the four Gospels, probably written sometime around 60 CE. The author focuses throughout the book on three primary themes: (1) Jesus’ suffering servanthood, (2) the person and authority of Jesus, and (3) the total commitment involved in life as a disciple. The primary concern, however, is declaring who Jesus was.
Although the story of John the Baptist begins the book of Mark, the author doesn’t say much about him. Rather, the focus is more on John’s ministry and his baptism of Jesus as preparatory for Jesus’ continuing ministry. Mark, as does the book of Luke, uses the experience of Jesus’ baptism to make a Christological statement. John is quoted as identifying Jesus as “one who is more powerful than I” (v. 7). Describing the Holy Spirit “descending like a dove” on Jesus and a voice from heaven saying, “You are my son, the beloved; with you I am well-pleased” shows Jesus as the Son of God (vv. 10–11).
However, the reader is left to ponder the question, “If Jesus was the Son of God and therefore seemingly without sin, why did he need to be baptized for the remission of sins?” Water baptism was practiced in that time for that specific purpose. Some scholars suggest that seeking baptism showed Jesus’ wish to be united with humans through this ritual act and, by it, solidify the human part of his nature. Looking to the book of Matthew, one finds more suggestions Jesus wanted to show his identity and solidarity with humanity. He is quoted as saying he needed to be baptized, “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). It is as if he was saying, “I am one of you and, therefore, I need to experience what you experience.” Finally, it suggests something of Jesus’ deep humility; a characteristic of Jesus worth our emulation as his disciples.
Regardless of any lingering questions, today’s text makes clear the value, importance, and connectedness of both water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Followers of Jesus use temporal means (water) to display their willingness to surrender fully to and connect with the Divine and the supporting community. God uses spiritual means (Holy Spirit) to connect with people and the assembled community, thus completing a covenant.
This experience prepared Jesus to face the temptation in the wilderness that followed immediately. It also marked the beginning of his earthly ministry. This chronological order is not lost on the careful reader—baptism of water and of spirit is a beginning, not an end in itself. Just as Jesus was prepared for his earthly ministry, so too are we prepared by the sacraments of baptism and confirmation to engage fully in the mission of Jesus Christ which is “what matters most for the journey ahead” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:9f).
- Jesus is shown as the Son of God during the experience related in today’s text.
- Jesus displayed his connection and solidarity with humankind and modeled the importance of baptism for all who would follow him.
- Baptism of water and spirit represents a covenant between an individual and God and marks the beginning of that individual’s life as a disciple rather than being an end in itself.
Questions to Consider
- What do you remember about your own baptism of water and spirit that needs to be shared with this congregation on this day?
- What strength or power does baptism of water and spirit bring to our daily lives as disciples?
- How should baptism by water and spirit change our life priorities and commitments? How have you been transformed by your own baptismal experience?
- Would you feel comfortable including as part of your sermon an invitation to join Jesus in the baptism of water and spirit?