READING: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17
SERMON : "To Establish Justice and Fulfill All Righteousness"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
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.
Sources: The Children's Story is adapted from one by Charles
Kirkpatrick (www.sermons4kids.com), 2002 and is used with
permission. From John Maynard, "Prayers and Litanies for The
Baptism of The Lord 2002" elements of the Prayers of the People and
Moira Laidlaw's 'Prayer of Dedication'. The Eucharistic Prayer is
drawn from Nathan Nettleton, "Eucharistic Preface for the Baptism of
Christ" Year A. 2005 as found at www.laughingbird.net. The post
communion prayer is from "Celebrate God's Presence" (14v006), United
Church of Canada. The sermon opens with a quote from Ralph
Milton's, Rumors, January 2002 and is otherwise based upon (and at
places virtually a verbatim copy) of Fr. Jude Siciliano's "First
Impressions: The Baptism of the Lord - A", January 13 2002. First
Impressions is one of our favourite resources and we commend it to
you. You can sign up to receive Jude's offerings at
www.op.org/exchange/default.htm (The Preachers Exchange). From
thence you may also find the current year's article.
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE (* = please stand)
CANDLE LIGHTING AND INTROIT: "This Is The Day" (verse 1) - VU 412
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 has sent a message to all nations
through his people Israel.
P He has proclaimed to everyone the Good News of peace
through Christ Jesus.
L He was anointed by the Holy Spirit
and filled with power.
P He went everywhere doing good
and healing those oppressed by the devil.
L God was with him.
P He was put to death on the cross,
but God raised him up on the third day.
L He is the one God appointed as judge
of the living and the dead.
P All the prophets testify that those who believe in him
receive forgiveness of sins through his name.
PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Gracious and loving God - you call to us across deep waters and dark
places. Yours is the light which guides us and the voice which we follow.
We pray that you would open up your heavens and send your Spirit upon us.
As we worship you let us hear your voice once again. May those without
hope be encouraged and those who are sad be given new joy. Indeed, O Lord,
may all who hunger and thirst receive the bread of life and the cup of
salvation, and may your name be glorified, both now and forevermore.
CHILDREN'S TIME: "With You I Am Well Pleased"
Object: Photo Album
Source: Adapted from Charles Kirkpatrick (www.sermons4kids.com), with
Theme: God was Pleased With His Son.
As some of you may know I have two sons. They are grown up now, like Jesus
was on the day he was baptised. This is a photo album that has just a few
of the pictures we took of our sons as they were growing up.
We have always been very proud of our sons and everything they did. We
took pictures of them in school, and at church, pictures of them playing,
and at Christmas time, and on their birthdays, and many other occasions. We
were proud of them as they grew up - and we are proud and happy with them
Do you think God was proud of His son, Jesus?
I know he was, because the Bible tells us that he was. When Jesus was
baptised, the Bible tells us that there was a voice from heaven that said,
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Why do you think God was pleased with His son???
I think that one reason God was proud of his Son is that the Bible tells us
that "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men."
It makes a father proud to watch his children grow in maturity and become
wiser. And, of course, a father is always proud when his child is
well-liked and respected by other people. But I think the main reason that
God was proud of Jesus is that Jesus always did what his Father sent him to
do. Do you always do what your father or mother tells you to do?
I doubt if any of us could answer "yes" to that question -- but Jesus
could. Jesus said "I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to
do the will of him who sent me." (John 6:38) That would make a Father
proud, wouldn't it?
When we trust in Jesus as our Saviour, we become the children of God. Our
baptism is like an official adoption ceremony. God is proud of us from the
very beginning when we become his children because that is what he wants us
to be. And like a good Father - or a good Mother - God is there to help us
do all the other things he asks us to do - things like loving our brothers
and sisters - and forgiving and helping one another - and sharing the good
things that he gives us with those who are in need.
Wouldn't you like to be the kind of child that would cause God to down from
heaven, as he did with Jesus, and say, "My child, I am proud of you!"???
I would like to be like that - and every day I try to be, knowing that God
loves me in the same way he loved Jesus and is there to help me be all I
PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Let us Pray - Dear Father in Heaven - we thank you for loving us -
and making us part of your family. - Help us to be more like Jesus -
and to do those things that please you - each and every day. Amen
Today - let us Sing the Prayer That Jesus taught us:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this
day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
glory, for ever and ever. Amen
CHILDREN'S HYMN: "One More Step" - VU 639
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Welcome and Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Special Matters
- Sharing Joys and Concerns
TIME OF SILENCE & AND INTROIT FOR THE WORD (v2 of 371)
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
(NIV) "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I
delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to
the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in
the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering
wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth
justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes
justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope."
This is what God the LORD says-- he who created the heavens and
stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out
of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on
it: "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold
of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant
for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are
blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon
those who sit in darkness.
"I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another
or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and
new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them
L This is the Word of the Lord
P Thanks be to God.
RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 29 (VU 756) and the Gloria Patri (sung)
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
World without end. Amen
A READING FROM MATTHEW 3:13-17
(NIV) Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by
John. But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized
by you, and do you come to me?"
Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to
fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that
moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending
like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said,
"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord
P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
* HYMN: "When Jesus Comes To Be Baptised" - VU 100
SERMON: "To Establish Justice and Fulfill All Righteousness"
Most gracious God, bless the thoughts of our hearts and the words of
my lips. Help us to grow in faith and in love that we may be
pleasing to you and a blessing to others - we ask it in the name of
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
There were hundreds of varieties of super heroes in the toy stores, on
movie screens, videos and books during this last Christmas season. All of
them had one thing in common. They overcame "Evil" through violent
destruction of the evil ones.
Walter Wink calls it the belief in "redemptive violence."
Evil must be overcome with violence.
Our reading from the Prophet Isaiah this morning looks forward to the
coming of the Messiah, and it proclaims a different kind of approach,
especially in verses two and three.
There it says of the promised one
He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A
bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not
snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.
What I find most interesting in today's reading is the role the promised
one will have in bringing about justice. Three times, in this short
reading, his task is described as, "bringing forth justice.
Justice is a big word in this reading,
indeed it is a big word in the bible.
The prophets were the mouthpieces for God's justice, agents for God,
They were preoccupied with calling God's people to doing justice
- to equitable behaviour. They preached God's will is a society in which
all people are treated fairly.
God, according to the Hebrew prophets, is especially concerned for those
overlooked in the normal routines of the world:
the poor and the weak,
those not important enough to be heard or seen in the council rooms
of the powerful;
those who can not afford "a million dollar defence team" to
represent them in the courts.
Justice is so central a characteristic to the kind of society God wants,
that anything less would mean the people were not God's people. The
prophets tell us that despite all their prayers and religious ritual,
without justice, God would turn a deaf ear to his people's prayer.
All in society, particularly the poor, were to be given their most basic
rights for food, clothing and due process. The prophets not only
confronted the unjust in society, they also stirred up among the forgotten
the longing for a day when all would be made new, when justice would light
their dark world.
Isaiah says that the promised one will establish justice, especially for
those in most need, "...to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives
from prison, and to release from the dungeon, those who live in
He also says that the promised one will be made a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles, for those who before were not God's people..
The gospel reading today tells us that on the day Jesus appeared at the
Jordan he found John baptizing those who confessed their sin and
expressed a need for God's deliverance from their various forms of
Sin is a form of blindness, a kind of slavery and an absence of light.
The gospel reading today tells us the one promised by Isaiah appears to be
part of this repenting and enslaved community. Of course he had no need
for the washing, he could have kept his distance. Instead he chooses
to be intimately united with them and so enters John's cleansing
Jesus may be without sin, but he too is part of a people enslaved by the
Roman occupation, a people living in the dungeon and darkness of a foreign
In Matthew's account of the baptism, the voice from heaven speaks words
over Jesus very similar to the ones we heard in the Isaiah passage.
While John recognizes that Jesus has no need for repentance, Jesus says it
must be done, "to fulfill all righteousness."
What does that mean?
First of all, Jesus' presence to John's baptism puts the stamp of approval
on what John is doing. John truly is the precursor, truly the one
calling people to readiness for the promised one of God.
God wants this baptism for Jesus, for it will be the occasion for God to
announce that the promised one has come who will set things right. Justice
will be established through him, and people will be invited by him to live
in right relationships with each other and with God.
Jesus receives his commission to do exactly that this day.
The baptism of Christ Jesus is a lesser point for Matthew,
the epiphany that follows is the key point,
that epiphany or revelation that comes when the voice from heaven says,
in word's much like the word's in today's reading from the prophet
Isaiah: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased"
The voice is speaking not to Jesus/
Rather it is speaking to us.
Do we hear it?
Are we ready to live the just life this One makes possible for us through
our own baptism?
- that baptism in which we receive the same Spirit that Jesus did,
- that baptism that makes us, like Jesus, a people beloved and pleasing
On the 4th. Sunday of Advent we heard about the dream Joseph had.
In it he was told the true identity of the child Mary was carrying.
The child would be called, "Emmanuel, God with us."
Well how far would God be willing to go to be with us?
Would God address sinners from a safe distance?
calling us to repentance from the clouds as it were,
not soiling his hands with our sinful and tired world?
Would God send still more prophets to call us to himself?
No - God had already done that many times over to no avail.
The human response to our obstinacy would have been to throw up hands in
disgust and proclaim, "Enough already!" and strike us all dead. To
send in the super heroes to blow up the homes of the wicked and kill
all those who have worked evil.
But our God is not some kind of humanly invented hero.
Our God is completely different from us
and our God surprises us
- not by zapping those who have sinned
- but by entering our flesh, taking on our human condition,
- by identifying with us so completely that he even goes down into the
water to mix with those people who are admitting they are sinners in need
There must have been better people praying in the Temple that day who would
have been more "worthy" of a divine visitation than those at the River
Jordan. But instead of going to them, Jesus is emmersed inthe same water
that has washed over sinners.
Who can resist a God like this?
How did Jesus set things right?
How does he fulfil all righteousness?
His baptism shows us he would not use brute force to get us to be a just
people -forgiven and right before God and just with one another.
Rather it shows us that He chose to move among us, winning us over to him
by his reaching out to the fringe to the outcasts, the sick, those who
are sinners, those the poor and imprisoned.
He would do this gently, since these are already languishing people who
have had too much to suffer. In the words of Isaiah once again - Jesus
would not break "a bruised reed...and a smoldering wick he shall not
By joining people in the waters of their own predicaments, God had taken
the first steps in acknowledging their importance in the plan He has to set
things right; to bring justice and right relations to all people.
Jesus has come for people who are broken
or like a "smoldering wick," feel depleted, about to go out.
He enters the waters,
not where the movers and sharers of society meet to make deals that
affect so many others,
but where those who know their needs and have turned to God have gone.
They have gone out to John because they can not make it on their own.
They need to hear and experience that God has heard their distress
and has come to breath a new Spirit into them.
This Spirit descends upon Jesus,
but soon it will descend on all who follow him into his baptismal waters.
At the end of Matthew's gospel, as he takes his leave of his disciples,
Jesus promised to be with us till the end of time.
He is still Emmanuel God with us.
He gives us his Spirit through our baptism so that we are not left alone
throughout our lives to stumble along and get tripped up by sin and the
unjust ways of our world.
Jesus' baptism shows us how close God wants to be with us,
and our baptism establishes this closeness for all of our lives.
We gather today to remember this and to draw closer to God and to one
another in his name.
We gather today to be strengthened by the one who is different from our
We gather to worship and follow the one who does not use violence to
end violence - but who instead enters into our lives in every way
and transforms us - giving to us that which we need to be faithful
servants of God.
Today's readings does not call us to do anything in particular.
Rather they call us to understand and to know what it is God has done
and will do, and how it is that God will do it.
They are a testimony from God to us about Christ Jesus,
and a reminder that God has come to be with us in him,
and that he has come to help us be with God -
and to live in the way that God wants all people to live.
Praise be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - now and
CONFESSION OF FAITH (The New Creed, VU 918)
P We are not alone, we live in God's world.
We believe in God: who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church,
to celebrate God's presence,
to live with respect in creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our Judge and our Hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.
We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Loving God - we thank you that you are always with your children - that you
watch over us and love us as we watch over and love our own children. We
thank you for how through Christ Jesus, our brother and our Lord, you
shower us with your mercy and forgiveness - and for how in him you provide
all that we need to be pleasing to you in every way. Today we pray that
all who are baptised in his name may keep the covenant they have made and
boldly confess Him as Lord and Saviour. May we, your sons and daughters,
be pleasing to you in all that we say and do... Lord, hear our prayer....
Father in Heaven, you sent your Son to be baptised among sinners, and to
seek and save the lost. May we, who have been baptised in His name, never
turn away from the world, but reach out in the power of your love to rescue
the wayward and to draw them to you and to the healing that you provide...
Lord, hear our prayer....
Lord of the Nations - Eternal King - we pray for the world today - and
especially for those who suffer this day....
We pray for the lost and those who are living in darkness - that they may
be touched by your Spirit and led into the light that casts out all
darkness and heals the wounds that are caused by their sin or the sins of
others... Lord, hear our prayer...
We pray for those who are hungry and those who have no home to call their
own. We remember too those who are victims of war and the power of human
greed, apathy, and hatred..... Lord, hear our prayer...
We pray for those who are sick, that there may be healing; and for those
who are dying that they may know your comfort.... Lord, hear our
We pray for our government and the rulers of all nations - that they may
rule with justice and equity and seek to bless all peoples alike with
peace and prosperity.... Lord, hear our prayer...
Father, we thank you for how you listen to your children and grant to them
every good thing they ask in the name of Christ Jesus. We thank you - and
we hold before now those special concerns - and special joys that are upon
our hearts today. Hear now Lord our prayers....
- for those who grieve today
- for those who suffer from cancer
- for those who have family problems and need wisdom and strength...
We thank you too Lord - for prayers that have been answered....
- for procedures and events that have gone well...
- for our brothers and sisters in faith who have cared for us and
prayed for us...
......... Lord, hear our prayer...
Father God - Loving God - we your children pray to you and give you thanks
and praise through the name of your beloved Son, Christ Jesus our Lord.
* 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
O God, You have blessed our lives by revealing Your love for us in
Jesus - Your beloved Son. We offer these gifts as tangible
expressions of our joy and gratitude, and pray that through them
and our witness and service - others may come to recognise and
experience Your presence in the world. In Jesus' name, 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
COMMUNION EXPLAIN - Our table, the table of our Lord, Jesus Christ,
is an open table. All who desire to receive from it may receive
from it. Today following the tradition of our Presbyterian
ancestors in the faith we will receive the body and blood of Christ
in the pews. Please take the plate or cups from the person who
hands them to you, then serve that person - saying words like "The
body of Christ broken for you" or "the blood of Christ poured out
for you" and then hand the plate to the person on the other side of
you - who will then serve you. A traditional response to these
words of service is "Amen" or "And also for you".
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
It is indeed right to give you our thanks and praise, 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. You breathed the Spirit of life into us and called a
people to be a light to the nations.
When the time came to declare new things among us you gave us 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 open blinded eyes and
release those imprisoned in darkness.
When he was put to death, you raised him on the third day, making the earth
shudder with the birth pains of new life, and raising with him all who have
died with him in the waters of baptism.
Therefore with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we
praise you, saying
P Holy, holy, holy, Lord,
God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
Hosanna in the highest.
- WORDS OF 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
THE MYSTERY OF FAITH
L Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith:
P Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
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
THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE ELEMENTS (Please take the plate or cups from the
person who hands them to you, then serve that person, saying words like
"The body of Christ broken for you" or "the blood of Christ poured out
for you" and then hand the plate to the person on the other side of you
- who will then serve you)
L Let us give thanks to God through Christ our Lord.
P Life giving God, may we who share Christ's body, live his risen life;
we, who drink his cup, bring new life to others;
we, whom the Spirit lights, give light to the world.
Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us,
so that we and all your children shall be free,
and all creation live to praise your name.
* DEPARTING HYMN: "She Flies On" - VU 380
* 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
* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace, love and care for one another in Christ's name,,
and may God bless you with every spiritual blessing:
- 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 now and forevermore. Amen
* CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.