Worship Service for the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship! We are doing something different for this service (and perhaps for future services), in that we will be streaming from the Zoom platform, allowing participants (who are on Zoom) a more interactive experience! If you wish to join the Zoom meeting, please contact Pastor Nathan for the details. Otherwise, you can still participate in the service through this page, just as before with the exception of the giant “Zoom” watermark in the corner of the video.

The reason for meeting over Zoom like this is because we are celebrating a baptism in this service, and this will allow the community to participate more fully in worship and in the welcoming of our new member.

If you would like to follow the service with the bulletin, it can be found here. It has the order and words of the worship liturgy, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon. The sermon can also be found on this page below the video.

For an enhanced at-home worship experience, you may have a lit candle from the beginning of the service to the sending hymn, and something small to eat and drink prepared for communion. These are always optional and you may participate how much or little you feel comfortable.

May God’s unending and steadfast love bless you this day and always!

If the video doesn’t work, please click here.

Glorious God, open the heavens and let your grace shine down on us, as you anoint us with your Spirit to hear your Word, see your face, and feel your love as you’ve shown us through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Can you believe that it’s 2022 already?  I know, technically it was 2022 last week, but I was on holidays so I couldn’t really talk about it then.  But for some strange reason, it feels like 2021 didn’t even happen.  I mean, you know how usually at the start of any new year, it takes a few weeks or maybe a month to get used to writing that new year on cheques or whatever it is that you might have to put the year on?  For me, I never got used to it being 2021.  I remember thinking in like November that summer of 2019 wasn’t that long ago, when in actual fact, it really was.  It was weird.  But regardless of how my brain does or doesn’t work, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s 2022, a whole new year for us to look forward to, to live in, and perhaps regret in the future.

That got me to thinking about time and the way we classify it.  Yes, the year now is 2022, but only by the system that was set up by people.  Earth people, to be exact.  Years, months, days, are all just earth things and the new year is just another trip around the sun.  It’s not 2022 on Mars, for example.  It isn’t January on Jupiter.  A day isn’t 24 hours anywhere else in the universe.  And what even is an hour, by the way?

Still, we make a big deal of the New Year.  We celebrate the passing of time.  We are almost relieved when an old and perhaps bad year has ended, like suddenly just because January 1st passes things will change.  It all seems kind of silly.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for celebrating years and months and whatever else gives us reason to celebrate.  I do believe that every day is a gift and so it stands to reason that every new year is a 365 ¼ gifts.  But it just got me thinking about time and the passing seconds of our lives.  Not exactly for theological reasons, mind you, but also because lately our daughter has been totally into the Back to the Future movies and not to mention how the MCU has been dabbling in time travel recently.  And so I’ve been pondering how time even works and how it fits in the continuum of space and if travelling into the past would even be possible.  Of course there are a lot of theories around the concept and many many movies and media outside of the MCU and Back to the Future have tried to tackle it, but they all seem so conflicting and nonsensical that most of us would just stop thinking about it because really, who cares?

The fact of the matter is, we live linear lives.  A second comes and goes just as fast, and those seconds pile on to each other and we only move forward through it.  Not backward, not sideways, only forward.  That is how we understand the world.  That is how we understand life.  That is why we even count the years when they are just arbitrary moments in this planet’s organization and classification of time. 

Ok, but still, who cares, right?  Let the people care about what year it is and how many of those years they have lived.  What we’re wondering is what on earth does this have to do with today, the Baptism of our Lord Sunday?  Well, as I thought about baptism and what it means, I realised just how much we understand the whole thing through that linear lens.  Of course we would though, as mentioned we are linear beings, we see and understand everything through a “happened, happening, and will happen” filter and we can’t really help that. 

But I wonder, what if baptism, or at least the effect and meaning around baptism, happens in a non-linear way?  I know it’s weird to think of it like that, like wouldn’t that just mean that it’s one looooong baptism that just never ends?  I mean that’ll be a lot of water. 

But that’s not what I mean.  What I mean is that while we are baptized in a certain point in time, what if what baptism is for, as in the baptism of the Holy Spirit that John the baptizer describes, is something that is eternal?  That is something that is before us and is after us and is during us.  Something that isn’t bound by the hands of time but somehow transcends it, is beyond it, yet is all around it.  Something that gives us a clearer picture of the mysterious nature of God, the I AM.

See what struck me this time when I read this account of Jesus’ baptism, is how direct God speaks to Jesus.  As the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove, a voice from heaven says right to Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Not saying that anytime when the term “I am” is used means that it is God speaking, but this time around I was really struck by the tense of what is being said.  “You are” and “I am” are very present tense.  It’s not “you were” or “you will be” or “I was” or “I will in the future”, but “you are” and “I am”. 

So what I see here is that God’s love for Jesus, God’s love for us, God’s love for all people is not a linear thing.  Rather it is timeless, not bound by our concepts of past, present, and future, but is the main constant throughout history.  And baptism is a symbol of that.

Just as water has no beginning or end, so is God’s love for us.  Just as water is physical yet not really, so is God present with us even when that presence is at times inconceivable.  Just as water is somewhat linear but also transcends that, so is God’s grace for us, in that God doesn’t love us because we are baptized or after we are baptized, but God loves us past, present, and future.  It isn’t that God loved us or will love us, but God loves us then, God loves us now, and God loves us in the future.

See while you might have learned that baptism is a sort of initiation rite, or a cleansing of sorts, or even a kind of anointing, I see baptism as a sign of welcome for us having entered into this non-linear kingdom of God, a kingdom that isn’t “was, is, and is to come,” but a kingdom that is here, now.  A kingdom that is here, back then.  And a kingdom that is here even in the future and all time. 

And so now you might be thinking, huh?  I didn’t sign up for this science fiction theatre or philosophical babble, what on earth is going on here?  Too confusing for a Sunday morning or whatever time it is that you might be hearing this.  But the good news here for me in this is the reminder that God’s Word, God’s promises, God’s grace is not something that happens here and there and can be taken away from one second to the next.  God’s presence in our lives doesn’t depend on what happens before or after whatever is happening.  God’s love for us, identifying us as God’s own children, doesn’t expire from year to year.  Instead, God is the constant in our lives.  God is the foundation upon which we can rely on.  God is the strength that is with us, casting out fear and trepidation and even shame, calling us God’s beloved children, here, now, with whom God is well pleased.

We are still in this time of continued pandemic, this time of frustration and perhaps hopelessness in the world, this time of irritation and maybe even fear.  And in this time, we can remember that even when God seems scarce, or that godlessness is running rampant, or that God was sooo 2019, God is actually with us, God is actually loving us into being us and being God’s children, God is the I AM.

In a few moments we will be witnessing the baptism of our new sister in Christ Mii Keng.  It’s important to remember that while this will happen in this moment in time, it doesn’t mark the beginning of God’s presence in her life.  Rather, it is the sign that God has always been and will always be present, filling her and all of us with love, and showing us all the timelessness of grace, mercy, and peace.

In this season after the Epiphany, may we remember the gift of baptism and how it symbolizes and solidifies God’s unchanging, steadfast, and timeless love.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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