Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Snow Day Devotional

Today is Baptism of the Lord Sunday, a day when we celebrate both the person and the purpose of Jesus Christ at the beginning of his ministry. But today we are not in the Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church sanctuary—hopefully, we are safe and warm for a Sabbath day at home as we wait for snow to melt outside our windows!

This a prayer service for us to read from home today. Separated from one another in body, we remember the one Lord, the one Holy Spirit, and the one baptism that unites us in spirit today. Though this doesn’t replace the experience of worshiping together, it invites us to reflect individually on the scriptures for the day and the meaning of baptism, for Jesus’ ministry and for us today.

Opening Sentences 
This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Prayer of the Day
God of new life, your voice thunders above the sound of loud waters. You sit enthroned above the floods of life. As Jesus heard you speak to him in his baptism, may we also hear you calling us your beloved, through Jesus Christ, your son, our brother, Amen.

Psalm 29  
A Psalm of David.
Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor.
 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,                            
the LORD, over mighty waters.  
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.  
God makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Gospel Reading Matthew 3:13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

The story of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River marks the beginning of his ministry. In Jesus’ baptism, God names him as God’s Son, the Beloved. This is a name that gives him an identity and a purpose.  He belongs to God. He is beloved by God. He is also commissioned to be God’s Son in his life and ministry. He is ordained for service, and his life’s work is begun in water and the Spirit.

Today baptism can easily become nothing more than a rite of passage, an event that happens and is over. But baptism is a powerful recognition that our whole lives will be shaped by water and the Spirit. Each morning we are named again as God’s very own beloved ones. Each day we are called again to live into our baptismal ordination as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Baptism is just the beginning. May we remember this beginning again and again as it continues to shape our lives of faith here and now!

Questions for Contemplation
1. Do you remember your baptism? If so, what was most memorable about it? If not, what does it mean for you to remember your baptism?

2.  Reflect on your journey of faith.
If baptism was the beginning, where are you now on the journey?
Has it been a straight, winding, or circular path?
Where are the places you’ve been lost and found along the way?
Where has your journey led you, and where do you think it will lead next?
What is your prayer to God as you continue this journey of faith?

3. The Apostles’ Creed is the baptismal creed of the Church. It unites us in faith across many Christian traditions and backgrounds. When we recite this creed, we not only profess our individual faith, but we also join with all the saints in recognizing our unity as one body in Christ.
Do you remember how you learned the Apostles Creed?
Who in the great cloud of witnesses has helped you to grow in faith?

The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic* church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving for Baptism
God our Mercy and Might,
We fear death and doubt your promises.
  Though we are made of earth, we plunder it.
Though we are made in your image, we abuse it in one another.
Yet in our baptism you have borne us in love,
bound us to mercy,
and turned us from the power of sin
to your reign of life.
Buried with Christ,
Risen with Christ,
We give you thanks.

In Jesus Christ you pursue us, forgive us, and unite us.
You are abiding mystery,
abundant paradox,
unending freedom,
infinite grace.
You are the rainbow in the rain,
the hope of the ages, most faithful God.
We are children of your covenant.
We trust your promises.
Buried with Christ,
Risen with Christ,
We give you thanks.

By your Spirit you ordain us to breathe in as we remember
and to breathe out as we live your dream:
a well for the thirsty,
a banquet for the hungry,
a name for the forgotten,
a home for the exiled,
a voice for the silenced,
a vision for the hopeless,
a new heaven and new earth.
Buried with Christ,
Risen with Christ,
We give you thanks.

Hear the good news!
In baptism we were buried with Christ.
In baptism also we were raised to life with him,
through faith in the power of God
who raised Christ from the dead.
Anyone who is in Christ
is a new creation.
The old life has gone;
a new life has begun.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding,
keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

— Rev. Sally Ann Sisk

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