First Sunday after the Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord
GENESIS 1:1-5/3-8 IV
Wind Upon the Waters
Psalm 29; Mark 1:4-11; Acts 19:1-7; Doctrine and Covenants 150:7, 164:3, 4c
Create a worship center that incorporates symbols of water by displaying waterskins, jugs, bowls, bottles or pitchers of water. Have Lion and Lamb puppets or stuffed animals and puppeteers ready for the Focus Moment. If you plan to include “Surviving on Bread and Water,” have gluten-free crackers (or bread) and small cups of water ready. Prepare children and youth, if available, to distribute them to the congregation. A chime is needed during this activity or have someone play a chord on the piano as an alternative.
Welcome with Sharing and Caring
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…” (Genesis 1:1). With these words, ancient Hebrew priests imagined a story of Creation where God is at the center of the story. Today we, too, are invited to imagine so that we can see the Wind Upon the Waters and hear God’s voice echo the words “let there be light” over the deep that we might honor the Sacredness of Creation and bring praise to the Lord.
Hymn of Praise
“Earth and All Stars” CCS 102
OR “All Creatures of Our God and King” CCS 98
OR “Many and Great” CCS 3
Call to Worship
A Psalm of David
Leader: Ascribe to the Lord,
People: O heavenly beings,
Leader: ascribe to the Lord
People: glory and strength.
Leader: Ascribe to the Lord
People: the glory of God’s name;
Leader: worship the Lord
People: in holy splendor.
Leader: The voice of the Lord
People: is over the waters;
Leader: the God of glory
Leader: the Lord,
People: over mighty waters.
Leader: The voice of the Lord
People: is powerful;
Leader: the voice of the Lord
People: is full of majesty.
—Psalm 29:1-4, adapted
Song of Creation
“With a Word, You Birthed Creation” CCS 17
OR “God Turned the Spirit Loose in Wind” CCS 484
OR “O Breath of Life” Stanzas 1, 4, and 5 CCS 486
Statement of Confession
Our theme today is “Wind Upon the Waters.” What better time to pause and consider the scarcity of pure water in our world and our role as stewards of water conservation and purity? As a community, are we doing all we can to conserve water and ensure the supply of safe drinking water to all in our community? As a congregation, are we conserving water in our facilities and during our time together? Have we considered rain barrels and low-flow devices to enhance our Earth stewardship? As individuals, are we making sure not to waste water and doing all we can to advocate for the availability of safe drinking water in our world? In 2019, a Community of Christ International Peace Award was given to Gary White of Water.org. This group is working to help solve the global water and sanitation crisis. You are invited to “be in the forefront of those who would mediate this needless destruction while there is yet day.” (Doctrine and Covenants 150:7)
Focus Moment: “Lion and Lamb” See script at end of service.
Disciples’ Generous Response
Leader: During the Disciples’ Generous Response we focus on aligning our purposes with God’s purposes, aligning our heart with God’s heart.
People: We are thankful for the gift of daily water to satisfy our thirst and refresh our lives.
Leader: As you share your mission tithes, or if you give regularly through eTithing, use this time to express gratitude for God’s many gifts in your life and to reflect on how we respond faithfully to those blessings.
People: When we understand God’s love and grace are freely given to us, we respond out of gratitude and are liberated to share freely in return.
Leader: Breath of life is freely given. Water of life is freely given. Meaning of life is freely given. You are invited to respond in joy. Discover gratitude in every moment of life. Discover gratitude for the blessings of this congregation. Discover gratitude for the mission of the worldwide church.
People: May we respond in joy! May we imitate our Creator and give gifts of blessing.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
“Wind upon the Waters” CCS 49
Theme Scripture Reading
In the beginning when God began to create heaven and earth:
the earth: a formless void
darkness covered the face of the deep
a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
God said, ‘Let there be light’; there was light.
God saw that light was good;
God separated light from darkness.
God called light Day, darkness Night.
There was evening, there was morning:
the first day.
—Genesis 1:1-5, adapted
Based on Genesis 1:1-5
OR Morning Activity: Surviving on Bread and Water
Have gluten-free crackers or bread and small cups of water ready to be distributed to the congregation.
Prayer of Blessing
Wind of Creation, Bread of Life, Water of Blessing, we pause in this time of worship to consider those in the world who struggle to find water that is safe to drink. Help our hearts to be opened and our minds inspired to respond to your presence here today by recognizing our place in the creation story. We thank you for the precious gift of water even as we thirst for living water. Amen.
Sharing the Bread
Have youth distribute the crackers or bread to each congregant. Ask everyone to wait to eat until the words below have been read.
As you eat the bread, notice your thirst within. Each of us has a deep need each day for the water that sustains all life. Even with bread in our mouths, providing needed nourishment, we are aware of our need for water. Everyone eats together.
Sound a chime and provide time for meditation.
Sharing the Water
Have youth distribute the cups of water to each congregant. Ask everyone to wait to drink until the words below have been read.
As you drink the water, consider its purity. Every cell of our body has water. With each breath, some water escapes from our body into the air. Water is essential to life. We acknowledge God as creator of water, as source of life. We acknowledge Jesus as our giver of living water, our river of meaning. We acknowledge the Holy Spirit as vessel of pure water, cup of presence. Everyone drinks together.
Sound a chime and provide time for meditation.
Voices of Proclamation
Invite three people to share these readings, each taking one of the adapted scriptures.
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness proclaiming baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins: The one who is more powerful than I is coming … I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
—Mark 1:4, 7, 8, adapted
Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became a believer? Into what then were you baptized?
—Acts 19:2-3, adapted
[Be assured that] God’s grace, revealed in Jesus Christ, freely moves throughout creation, often beyond human perception, to achieve divine purposes in people’s lives. All are urged to examine the depth of your baptismal commitment. Having been baptized and confirmed, become fully immersed in the servant life of Christ.
Live the meaning of your baptism daily as you grow in the skills and qualities of discipleship. Actively and generously support the ministries of the church, which was divinely established to restore Christ’s covenant of peace, even the Zion of your hopes.
The Eternal Christ invites those who have yet to experience the blessings of baptism to “Follow me in the way of righteousness and peace.” Be baptized of water and the Spirit and discover your spiritual home as a fully functioning member of the body.
—Doctrine and Covenants 164:3, adapted
Prayer for Peace
Light the Peace Candle.
Song of Peace: “The Peace of the Earth” Sing twice. CCS 647
Encourage participants to sing in a language other than their own.
God of the Wind and the Water,
Voice resounding over the waters, wind rippling over the seas: teach us how to create peace in our world and live in peace with creation. We respond to Holy Spirit as a fellowship, a Community of Christ, that seeks to uphold and honor the sacredness of creation. Help us to know this Earth as your blessed creation and honor our calling to live peacefully with the Earth. Forgive us when we falter in ways of pollution and misuse of resources. Guide us in learning new ways of living that preserve, protect and defend sacred creation. Inspire us to become a voice for peace with God’s creation as advocates for environmental protection. Show us the way forward in wisdom, even as we pray in the way of Jesus. Amen.
A Daily Prayer for Peace service is held at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA 365 days a year. Additional ideas for Prayer for Peace can be found at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Hymn of Commitment
“Mighty God Who Called Creation” CCS 641
OR “God of Creation” CCS 147
Doctrine and Covenants 164:4c
Focus Moment: Lion and Lamb
Have lion and lamb puppets or stuffed animals and an empty cup ready. Rehearse the parts.
Lamb: Hi Lion, it’s a beautiful day!
Lion: It sure is Lamby, and I am so glad to be together with our church friends. Lamb: Me too, but I am thirsty. Can you get me a drink of water?
Lion: Sure, Lamby. Hold on. Fetches the empty cup and gives it to Lamb.
Lamb: Gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp. Hey! Wait a minute. There’s no water in this cup, Lion! What happened?
Lion: Did you know over 2 billion people live in areas experiencing high water stress? Lamb: Really? What will happen to them?
Lion: Well, as many as 700 million people on planet Earth could be displaced by water scarcity by 2030.
Lamb: Why? What’s happening?
Lion: With climate change, water scarcity could force people in desert places and semi-arid places to move. Among the world’s large groundwater systems, 1 in 3 already are in distress.
Lamb: Well, we need to do something about it. Quick, call the fire department tell them not to use water. Call um, um the city swimming pool and um …
Lion: Hold on, we don’t need to panic. We can all be sure not to waste water, though,
with shorter showers, installing low-flow devices, being vigilant looking for leaks, landscaping with drought-tolerant plants, and planting crops that make sense for our farms and gardens.
Lamb: Lion!!! I just thought of something. Lion: What?
Lamb: I could run for the Water Board! Lion: Well … yeah…
Lamb: excitedly Quick, I’ll need posters. And campaign buttons. And bumper stickers. Do you have any friends in politics? I think I have a good voice for radio, do you think I have a good voice for radio? Ahem….Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m here to talk to you today about water scarcity…
Voice trails off and characters leave.
First Sunday after the Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord (Ordinary Time)
Exploring the Scripture
“In the beginning…”
These three words that open the first chapter of Genesis are perhaps some of the best-known in the Bible. They offer insight, comfort, and challenge as we seek to shape ourselves as God’s covenant people. In Community of Christ, we believe scripture is a collection of human interactions with the Divine. Old Testament writers have tried to capture those encounters within the limits of language. Scripture is a witness of the love and power of God in the world. Stories are told using metaphors and symbols.
In these five verses of Genesis, we read an account of the first day of God’s creative work in forming the world. The Israelites were among many tribes and cultures whose home was in the Ancient Near East. As with any group, the telling and retelling of one’s origin story is a way to form tradition and culture. It was especially important for the Israelites, who were in exile in Babylon. They may have been struggling to remember their history. These stories were a way to nurture their identity by sharing where their ancestors came from and whom they worshiped.
The Israelites’ origin story is one of power and presence. Before the first creative act, God was present as a wind sweeping over the deep amid the formless void that was the Earth. Throughout these verses, God is an active force—creating, covering, sweeping, saying, seeing, separating, and calling. Amid the darkness, God speaks, and creation begins to be ordered.
On this first day, God calls for light, and there was light. God saw that it was good and separated it from the darkness. In ancient times, light was seen as life. We marvel today at the expansiveness of creation and how these systems of life are intricately connected.
This passage is a witness to the creative power and majesty of God:
• One who is worthy of being praised and in whom we hold reverence and awe.
• One who sees beyond void and darkness to the potential of light and so much more.
- God is an active, creative force in the world.
- We can be assured of God’s continued presence because God was present before the first act of creation.
- Most cultures have an origin story, passed down through generations. The creation story in Genesis is an Israelite version of their culturally based origin story.
Questions to Consider
- Do you think this creation story is meant to be read as a literal, physical event? Why or why not?
- How does knowing God was at work in the darkness, before there was light, give us hope and courage to face the challenges before us?
- Consider origin stories from other cultures. What likenesses and differences do you see in the Genesis story?
- What do our own origin stories—individually and as Community of Christ—tell others about our identity and whom we worship?
Small-group Worship Suggestions
Baptism of the Lord (Epiphany 1)
Genesis 1:1–5 NRSV
The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.
The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.
Prayer for Peace
Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.
Hear our prayer for peace.
Peace you’ve promised to give us.
We stand in fear behind locked doors.
Teach us how to accept your peace.
Standing in “broken idols of our pride”
we long to hear your mercy words:
Peace be with you.
Open our hearts to hear
that healing word: peace, peace, peace.
Peace you promised to give us.
Teach us how to accept it.
Teach us how to accept it.
We believe you want us to live in peace.
Help us now,
in this moment, in this place,
to listen as you say to us:
Peace. Peace. Peace.
Even so; Amen.
Blessing of Loving Kindness
Today we will experience a blessing of loving kindness. I will say a phrase aloud. I invite you to silently repeat the words after each spoken phrase.
As we begin, take a few moments of quiet to center yourself. If you are comfortable doing so, close your eyes.
Allow the words of blessing to resonate in your heart and mind. I will pause at the end of each phrase, allowing time for you to silently repeat the words.
May I be blessed with loving kindness. Pause.
May I be blessed with health. Pause.
May I be blessed with true happiness. Pause.
May I be blessed with peace. Pause.
Think of someone who is beloved to you. Visualize the person as you pray. You may insert the person’s name into the prayer in your mind during this next round.
May my beloved be blessed with loving kindness. Pause.
May my beloved be blessed with health. Pause.
May my beloved be blessed with true happiness. Pause.
May my beloved be blessed with peace. Pause.
Now think of a close friend. Visualize the person as you pray silently.
May my friend be blessed with loving kindness. Pause.
May my friend be blessed with health. Pause.
May my friend be blessed with true happiness. Pause.
May my friend be blessed with peace. Pause.
Think of someone with whom you are in conflict or who has harmed you. Visualize this person. Breathe deeply and lovingly pray this blessing.
May the one who harmed me be blessed with loving kindness. Pause.
May the one who harmed me be blessed with health. Pause.
May the one who harmed me be blessed with true happiness. Pause.
May the one who harmed me be blessed with peace. Pause.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Sharing Around the Table
Genesis 1:1–5 NRSV
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Across millennia, people have gazed in awe at the vastness of the stars filling the night sky, wondering where it all came from. Cultures across time have creation stories to explain the beginnings of the heavens, the natural world, and humankind’s purpose. Borrowing themes from Mesopotamian mythology, the Hebrew story of creation centers on the dependence of all that exists upon God. Rather than providing a historical account or scientific explanation, the point of the Genesis story is that creation is neither accidental nor random.
Genesis contains two merged creation stories written at different times by different groups. In the first account, God is distant and speaks creation into existence from nothing. In the second, God is humanlike, walking among creation and working like a master potter molding clay. Whether depicted as spoken into existence or fashioned as by an artist, the result of creation is something intentional and purposeful emerging from the chaotic “formless void.”
Illumination is the first of God’s creative acts, separating darkness and light. God sees the light and calls it “good.” After light, the second element is water. Water not only sustains life, but also is the beginning of life.
It is fitting that in the oldest of the gospel writings, Jesus’ story begins not with birth, but with water. Jesus, the Light of lights, is plunged deep into the primal element of water. Just as God saw that the light on the face of the waters was good, God expressed joy at Jesus’s baptism, declaring, “You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).
The Feast of Epiphany, celebrating the light that points to Christ, is a time to think about beginnings. The creation story is a way of holding onto hope that God is intentional when all around us appears to be in disorder. Along with Jesus’ beginnings at baptism, we remember our own beginnings at the sacrament of baptism—the genesis of the Christian life. Buried in the earth, we emerge from the waters with new eyes, coming forth from darkness to see that creation has purpose and creation is good. Amid the chaos and destruction of war, injustice, poverty, and needless suffering, we strive for intentionality in our walk of discipleship. May we practice the great lightness of being that separates night and day.
- How does your faith journey help you see the world with new eyes?
- In a world full of chaos, what does it mean to practice intentionality of compassion, generosity, and hospitality?
- The Genesis account depicts God as both a distant creator who creates from nothing (ex-nihilo) and a personal, hands-on creator who walks among creation. How do both of these ideas communicate truths about God?
Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint.
—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9
The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing small-group ministries as part of your generous response.
The offering prayer for Epiphany is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:
May we always be generous. You have gifted each of us with boundless grace and unending love. May our response to that love and grace be humble service to others, and may generosity be part of our nature.
Invitation to Next Meeting
Community of Christ Sings 137, “Touch the Earth Lightly”