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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for Ordinary 01 - Year A
The Baptism of The Lord
Isaiah 42:1-9 and Matthew 3:13-17
"To Fulfil All Righteousness"


READING:  Isaiah 42:1-9 and Matthew 3:13-17
SERMON :  "To Fulfil All Righteousness"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or01sesn.y-a 463816
                    
     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
     SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
	 
     The Eucharistic Prayer is from Nathan Nettleton for this Sunday 
     in 1999.  Nathan's materials are found at www.laughingbird.net. 
     The children's story is based on one from the "The Whole People 
     of God" Sunday School Curriculum, 1992


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


* GREETING & CALL TO WORSHIP (Based on Acts 10:34-43)
L    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
     and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P    And also with you
L    God shows no partiality.  
     No race or group is shown special advantage.
P    In every nation anyone who respects him 
     and who does what is right is acceptable to him.
L    You know the message God sent to all 
     through the people of Israel.
P    It is a message of peace by Jesus Christ, 
     who has been made Lord of all.
L    God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with
     power.  He went about doing good and healing all who were
     oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
P    He was put to death on the cross 
     - but God raised him up on the third day. 
L    He then appeared to many witnesses and commanded them to
     preach to everyone and testify that he is the one ordained
     by God as judge of the living and the dead.
P    All the prophets testify about him that everyone who
     believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his
     name.
L    Today we gather in his name.
P    Today we bless God for the salvation that he freely offers
     us in Jesus Christ.


* INTROIT: This Is The Day That Lord Has Made (verse 1)  - VU 412


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Precious Lord, we give you thanks for this day - a day you have
made and blessed us with.  We praise for how you reach out to us
regardless of our race, nationality, colour, achievements or the
lack thereof.  We adore you for how you love us and all that you
have made.  Be present with us most gracious God as we gather to
worship you and to hear your word and call upon your name.  Grant
that this time may restore and refresh us and help us to return
to the world more able to serve you with our every thought, word,
and action.  We ask in the name of Jesus.  Amen


* HYMN: Come In, Come In And Sit Down                    - VU 395


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING TIME


MINUTE FOR MISSION


INTROIT For The Word of God    (VU 371 v.2 & refrain)
  Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear;
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!


A READING FROM ISAIAH 42:1-9
     (NRSV)  Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in
     whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he
     will bring forth justice to the nations. {2} He will not cry
     or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; {3} a
     bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he
     will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. {4}
     He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has
     established justice in the earth; and the coast lands wait
     for his teaching. {5} Thus says God, the LORD, who created
     the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth
     and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon
     it and spirit to those who walk in it: {6} I am the LORD, I
     have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the
     hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the
     people, a light to the nations, {7} to open the eyes that
     are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from
     the prison those who sit in darkness. {8} I am the LORD,
     that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise
     to idols. {9} See, the former things have come to pass, and
     new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell
     you of them.

L    This is the word of the Lord.
P    Thanks be to God.


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Together With God"
Object:   Robe Tie Up Belt
Source:   Whole People of God - Baptism of The Lord 1992
Theme:    Baptism - God's promise to be with us.

Good morning.  Today, in the Sunday School you will be looking at
the promises that God makes us to when we are baptized and the
promises that we make to God.  How many of you have been
baptized???  At our baptism God renews the promise with us that
has been with there ever since we were born.  God loves us and
promises to be with us forever.  God never breaks his covenant
promise, ever.  God never forgets.  

Now I have a totally different question.  How many of you have
ever been in a three legged race???  Why were you in a three
legged race???  Was it fun???  Well today I need two volunteers
to get tied together....  (Run two kids tied together up and down
the aisle)   Now - why don't you try to go that way - and you go
the other.... (doesn't work).  Try running without holding onto
each other...  Now one of you close your eyes - and go with the
other...

When you get tied together in a three-legged race you are saying
that the two of you will go together until the end of the race. 
And when you are in a three-legged race, you have to hang onto
each other.  You can't act separately or you won't be able to
move.  If you hold onto each other it is easier.

Baptism is like a three legged race.  God promises to be with us
always - for our whole lives.  God will be with us and help us to
walk where we should go - and when we are not sure what to do -
if we hold on tight to him - if we close our eyes - and we pray -
we can feel him trying to lead us and we can do what we promise
to do in baptism - which is to walk with him wherever he goes. 
At our baptism God promises to always be with us - he ties
himself to us follow him.

     Let us Pray:  Loving God -- we thank you for our
     baptism -- and for your promise -- to help us day by
     day -- as we walk and as we run -- the path you have
     set before us -- Amen."


* CHILDREN'S HYMN: "One More Step Along The World I Go"  - VU 639


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 29 (VU 756) with Sung Refrain


CHOIR ANTHEM


A READING FROM MATTHEW 3:13-17
     (NRSV)  Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan,
     to be baptized by him. {14} John would have prevented him,
     saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to
     me?" {15} 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. {16} 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. {17} And a voice from heaven
     said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well
     pleased."

          
SERMON: "To Fulfil All Righteousness"

  Let us Pray:  Bless O God, the words of my lips and the
  meditations of our hearts that they be of profit to us and
  acceptable to thee, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen

We started off the service with a call to worship in which we recalled
the essential message of God to us - the story of Jesus and how
forgiveness and salvation come through his name.

It is the message of the cross that we proclaim  
- of the cross and the resurrection;
yet for many of us proclaiming the message is difficult.

We know what the message is 
- but we find it difficult to express it to others,
- to get others to really feel and sense the importance of it,
sometimes, even to get others to listen to us.

It is about this last - about getting others to listen to us, that I want
to speak of today and I want to do so by looking at one of the great
riddles of Jesus' life - the riddle of his baptism.

Theologians, scholars, and just plain folk like you and I are puzzled as
to why Jesus was baptized.

Jesus himself tells us that he was baptized to "fulfil all
righteousness", but that term is never explained by him, and there is
nothing else in the passage to help us understand why Jesus, who was
sinless, received, at John's hands, a baptism for the repentance of sins.

What theologians and bible scholars are all agreed on however, is the
fact that the baptism of Jesus by John at the Jordan marked the beginning
of his ministry - it was his debut as it were - his coming out ceremony -
and that at the end of it he received the approval of God, who speaks
from heaven, and says: "this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well
pleased."

There is no question that the baptism of Jesus was a significant event, a
turning point in his life and through him - a turning point in our own
lives.

So what does the baptism of Jesus show us?  How does understanding it
lead us to being more able to communicate the gospel to others - to be
able to get others to listen to us?

The answer is contained in the reason that Jesus gave for his baptism
when John says to him - in verse 14 of today's reading:

  "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" 

and Jesus responds

  "let it be so, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all
  righteousness."

Righteousness is an interesting word.  

It is found 232 times in the bible - and in close to half of these
occurrences it refers to the righteousness of God - to his love and his
justice, to his saving activities and purposes.

In other words, contrary to the popular understanding, the word
"righteousness" does not primarily refer to someone who is living a good
life, rather it refers to a state in which the way of redemption is
actively offered or illustrated by someone.  

To be righteous is not just to be good - it is to be in the right kind of
relationship with God and with others - to be a relationship which brings
salvation, which brings wholeness, which brings the good news of God's
love, to others.  

Righteousness is something active - not simply a description of one's
moral state.

Proverbs 11:4 says
- "Righteousness delivers from death."

and again in Proverbs 15:9 we read,
- "God loves the one who pursues righteousness"

and in Proverbs 21:3 we see these words
- "To do righteousness and justice, is more acceptable to God than
sacrifice."

So when Jesus says to John:
      - "let it be so, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all
      righteousness" 
what he is saying is
      - "do it, it is a good thing to do - because in this  way we will
      go further towards saving others, we will deliver them from death,
      we will make God's loving purpose more evident, more accessible to
      others."

And indeed the baptism of Jesus does help bring the healing word of God
to others; and it shows us, as well, how the saving message of Jesus is
best delivered.

There are three points I would like make to today.   (yep - I do
occasionally give an old fashioned three point sermon)  

First - the baptism of Jesus shows us that Jesus truly did not count
equality with God a thing to be grasped - to be held on to.  His baptism,
there in the muddy old Jordan - shows that he identifies with us and with
our sins - and not only with God and God's perfection.

Jesus did not need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins - all agree
about this - but he chose this path - he chose to be seen with us - as
one of us - because in this way - so Jesus says - righteousness is
fulfilled.

Pause for a moment and think about this with me. 

Each one of us here has had pronounced upon us the forgiveness and
acceptance of God, we need not have anything more to do with thinking
about ourselves as sinners.
    
In fact, according to the bible, we can think of ourselves as chosen by
God, as being selected by him for glory.  Yet, think some more with me - 
in our communication with others - with those who have not yet really
listened to the word of God's love - would this be helpful?

Who gets the better hearing?
- The perfect person, the one who has never made a mistake?  
- Or the one who can stand and say - I know where you have been, let me
help you.  I know how difficult it is.

In his baptism Jesus identifies with us.
He shows us the way of righteousness, 
the way of saving others, is a way of empathy and understanding -
of putting ourselves in someone else's shoes.

Jesus does not "lord" his superior knowledge or virtue over others.
    
Instead he sits with them in their homes, he eats their food, he answers
their questions, he laughs with them in their joy, and he cries with them
in their grief.  And with them, and with us,  he descends to the Jordan
and is washed for the forgiveness of sins.

Do you want to proclaim the message and be heard in it as was Jesus?

Then you need to identify with the people you are speaking to.  You need
to remember how you have "been there" before, and if you have not
actually been there - well, you still need to try to put yourself in the
other persons shoes, and try to really understand what it going on in
their hearts as well as in their heads.

True communication can't be done in an atmosphere of judgement,
it requires understanding, acceptance, and the willingness to link hearts
and minds together.

Second - Jesus shows us in his baptism that it is important to go beyond
ourselves when seeking to do the work of God - he shows us that we should
turn to God and seek God's help when we are trying
to point the way to God to others.

Jesus seeks John out at the Jordan river - it is no accident that he is
there.

Jesus deliberately goes to a place where God's power and love were being
proclaimed and he asks for that power and that love to be poured out upon
him in a special act - an act performed by a special man - a man who was
filled with God's spirit.

It is then, and only then, after this has been done,  that Jesus goes on
to help others.

We often forget this in our attempt to communicate to others the love of
God.

We want to tell the story of Jesus, 
we want to share the salvation of God, 
but we ignore, neglect, or just plain downgrade the resources of our
faith.

We speak to others - but we do not prepare ourselves to speak:
  - we do not pray for God's help,
      - we do not pause to ask ourselves what Jesus would have said or done
      in this circumstance,.
      - we do not call upon God's power to assist us in touching their
      hearts.
                    
Further, when we speak with others we all too often do not offer them
anything special;
  - we do not show them anything different than that which they already
  have.
  - we do not offer anything that they have not already been offered.  

Too often we offer common sense, pop psychology, and the wisdom we
receive from self-help books -- instead of the way of God that is found
in the bible and in our traditions.

My friends, the gospel we seek to communicate, 
the saving message we want to share,
the righteousness we are called to fulfil with Jesus, 
is not something that is based on a "self help" model.

Salvation is something that ultimately comes from beyond us.
Righteousness is something that is given to us by God,
given as gift through the very Jesus whose baptism we are looking at
today.

When Jesus wanted to make a beginning, he turned to a spiritual resource. 

When he wanted to fulfil all righteousness, he turned to a spiritual man
speaking spiritual words.  When he wanted to communicate a spiritual
message he was first baptized in a spiritual river 
- the river Jordan through which Israel had passed to enter the Holy
Land.

Jesus turned to these things, and he also pointed them out to others -
which leads me to the last point.

Third - Jesus in his baptism reminds us that we need to set the example.

Jesus was, above all things, authentic in his communications.

When he spoke of being able to help us carry our burdens
- he had already experienced the same trials and tribulations as we do,
When he spoke of how trusting in God could help one overcome anxiety,
- he had already trusted in God for his daily bread, his physical safety,
and his spiritual power.

People listened to Jesus 
- not just because he understood and identified with him,
- and not just because he pointed out the way to God
but also because he lived his own message.

He didn't just tell others to turn to God  
  - he himself sought out God blessings: at the Jordan 
  and in lonely places away from others 
  - and regularly in places of worship - the synagogues on the Sabbath
  each week and at the temple at Passover Time.

He didn't just tell others to pray for people, 
- he himself prayed for them.
- as he did for the disciples before going out to the Garden of
Gethesame.

He didn't just tell others to forgive each other,  
- he himself forgave them 
- even from the cross when he was in the midst of his agony.

He didn't just tell others how important it was to heal others 
- he himself did healings.  
    He spat on the clay and anointed a beggars eyes.  
    He reached out and touched the lepers.  
    He laid his hands upon the sick and anointed them with his prayers.

Jesus did everything he asked others to do.
And he was respected for this, 
And he was heard by many because of it.

My friends - not everyone will listen to us.

No matter how good we are, how righteous we are, there will be some who
will take offense at us - as they did at Jesus.  But the message of Jesus
to us is that we ought to be trying as he did.

And when we do
  when we humble ourselves - like Jesus - and identify with others,
      when we tell others about the source of saving power and go to it
      and accept it for ourselves
then God will be well pleased with us.  
And his Spirit will indeed be seen to rest upon us as it did upon Jesus 

Thanks be to God - for his living word - Jesus Christ our Saviour
And for his Spirit - which gives up power day by day.  Amen


* HYMN: O Love, How Deep                                 - VU 348


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand
for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU
541) and Prayer of Dedication

     Gracious and all powerful God, your love for us is as
     obvious as the things we have and the life we have been
     given.  Receive these our offerings as a sign of our
     love for you. May our giving teach us more about who
     you are and encourage our faith and trust in you and
     bring to you the praise that you deserve. In your name,
     and by the power of your Spirit, we pray.  Amen.

	 
* SHARING THE PEACE: We greet those around us with a sign of peace
(handshakes or hugs) and words like "The peace of the Lord be with you". 
This ancient tradition is an appropriate response to the peace that God
gives to those who hear and do his word.
                   

* COMMUNION HYMN:  "As We Gather At Your Table"                   - VU 457
         

THE COMMUNION LITANY:
L   The peace of the Lord be with you.
P   And also with you.
L   Lift up your hearts.
P   We lift them up to the Lord.
L   Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P   It is right to give God thanks and praise.


- THE EUCHARISTIC PRAYER 
We give thanks and praise and glory and honour to you, O God, for in you
and through you all righteousness is fulfilled.  When your voice first
thundered over the seas you created the heavens and spread out the earth
and breathed the Spirit of life into all who walk on it.  When the time
came to declare new things among us you gave us as a covenant, your
servant Jesus Christ, your chosen in whom you are well pleased.  You
anointed him with Holy Spirit and with power and sent him to enlighten
the blinded eyes of the nations and to release all those imprisoned in
darkness.  When he was put to death, you raised him on the third day,
shattering even the doors of death and hell and making the earth shudder
with the birth pains of new life.  And so now, having passed from death
to life through the waters of baptism, we too eat and drink with him who
rose from the dead, and join our praise with all those you chose as
witnesses.


- THE NARRATIVE OF THE INSTITUTION
Wherefor we set before you this table - remembering the words and actions
of Jesus on the night that  he was betrayed.  We recall how, as he
celebrated the Passover love of God with his disciples, how  he took the
bread and gave you thank to you O God, as even now we thank you for the
bread of life that you give to us, and broke it, and passed it to his
disciples saying, "take and eat, this is my body which is given for
you"...   We recall too, how he took the cup, and again after he returned
thanks to you, he gave the cup to his disciples saying "drink from this,
all of you; this is the cup the new covenant in my blood, pour out for
you and many for the forgiveness of sins.  Whenever you drink it, to so
in remembrance of me."


- THE PRAYER FOR THE SPIRIT OF GOD
Lord, we pray that in your goodness and mercy your Holy Spirit may
descend upon us and upon these gifts, sanctifying them and making them
for us the bread of life and the cup of salvation, the body and blood of
your Son Jesus Christ.  Grant that all who share this bread and cup may
become one body and one spirit, through the one who declared that we are
one family when he taught us to pray.  We pray his prayer now to you,
singing... OUR FATHER


THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE ELEMENTS  (in the pews - as you pass the elements
to your neighbour say "the body /blood of Christ broken/shed for you". 
The receiver may want to say "Amen" or "and also for you")

               
DEPARTING PRAYER:
L Let us give thanks to God through Christ our Lord.
P For the bread we have eaten, for the wine we have tasted,
  for the life we have received, we thank you, God.
  Grant that what we have done and have been given here
  may so put its mark upon us that it may remain always in our hearts.
  Grant that we may obtain the maturity of faith and,
  being made new in Christ,
  that we may prove to be the salt of the earth and a light to the world.

                
* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness"                 - VU 375

            
* COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
  into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body
  of Christ.

                      
* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace,
and may God bless you and keep you safe in the knowledge and love of
Christ Jesus our Lord, 
and may his accepting and embracing love, 
his warm and holy peace, 
his caring and grateful joy, 
and his eternal hope and truth,
abide in you both this day and forevermore.  Amen
                

* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                             - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2002 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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