This coming Sunday is one of my favorites: Baptism of Christ Sunday. It’s an occasion to reflect on who we are, whose we are, and how we are called to live. It’s a reason to remember that we are washed and claimed by a God and a community who love us, and we are marked with an irreversible sign of God’s grace.
The lectionary text for this week is Matthew 3:13-17, but I’ve chosen to include verses 11-12, as well. Those two verses give us John the Baptist’s words about Jesus, and they remind us that Jesus was not what the world expected. He wasn’t even what John expected. John predicted a Messiah who would bring fiery judgment. Instead, Jesus was a Messiah who would bring living water.
Matthew 3:11-17 ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ 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 to 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 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.’
Below is some liturgy I’ve written for this text. May it remind you of the flowing abundance of God’s grace in our lives.
Call to Worship
Hear these words from Scripture. “And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” (Gen 1:6)
“Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.” (John 4:14)
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev 22:1)
“And early in the morning Jesus came walking towards them on the water.” (Matt 24:25)
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Isa 43:2)
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the waters were divided.” (Ex 14:21)
Let us worship the God of living water.
Let us worship the living God!
Prayer of Confession
God of grace and mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have heard your words of justice rolling down like waters, and yet we often ignore our neighbors’ cries. We have felt the presence of your spirit among us, and yet we are afraid to listen to your voice. Have mercy on us, O God. By your grace, cleanse us. By your providence, help us to learn from our mistakes. By your Holy Spirit, equip us to love and honor you. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
Children of God, hear the good news: The grace of the Lord quenches our thirst, and God’s mercy satisfies our hunger. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.
Baptismal Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
We truly praise you, almighty God, for your faithfulness to creation through the gift of water.
In water, you provide, nourish, and sustain all life. In water, we are born, and in water we are claimed.
Through water we are connected to one another and to all creation. Through water we are reminded of your covenant promise.
The scriptures tell us the stories of your faithfulness—your faithfulness expressed through the gift of water.
In the time of Noah, you sent a cleansing flood which offered renewal;
through the sign of the rainbow, you gave us a covenant.
In the days of Moses, you led your people Israel out of Egypt through the waters of the sea;
through the parting of waters you gave them freedom.
In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus was baptized and proclaimed as your son;
through the waters of the river, you gave us new life.
Through the baptism of his death and resurrection, you set us free.
Pour out your Holy Spirit upon this water, that it may be a sign and seal of your abundant grace.
May the ones who passes through this water find new birth.
May we know that we are cleansed and redeemed, washed and claimed.
May these waters move us all from sin to righteousness as we seek to live as your faithful people.
All praise, honor, and glory to you, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God who lives and reigns forever. Amen.