Sermon by Rev. Dr. Todd Grant Yonkman at First Church of Christ in Saybrook 23 April 2023
Worship Resource for Baptism of Christ, Year A
Call to Worship (from Isaiah 42)
One: 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 . . .
All: 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 . . .
One: To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from their dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
All: See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth forth, I tell you of them.
* Gathering Prayer
God of water and spirit, God of justice and peace, God of generations past and those to come, we thank you for Jesus who shows us the way of righteousness, who humbled himself, who underwent baptism as a ritual of cleansing and community. Scripture tells us that at Jesus’ baptism the heavens opened and all that were gathered heard your voice. Open the heavens to us this morning that we may hear your words of love and encouragement today. Amen.
Prayer of Dedication
In baptism we receive the boundless blessings of your love. Teach us to follow the example of Jesus who loved without limits and gave without counting the cost. Amen.
What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1-7-22
What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1-7-22
On the church liturgical calendar this coming Sunday, January 9–the Sunday after Epiphany, we celebrate the Baptism of Christ. Why do we celebrate Jesus’ baptism?
Jesus’ baptism is an invitation to each of us to live out our sacred calling to this very life. Your life, your calling, is inextricably bound up in God’s great work of healing the world. And no onee else can do it for you. Your sacred calling is not separate from your ordinary, everyday, miraculous, and unique life.
Jesus was baptized as an adult by his relative, John, who had followed God’s call to live in the wilderness as the prophets of old had done. Scripture says he wore camel skin for clothing and ate locusts and wild honey for food. For a time he separated himself from society so that he could get closer to God. Then at the prompting of the Holy Spirit he called people to join him in the wilderness. He administered baptism to them to prepare them to have their own personal encounter with God.
The Gospel of Luke describes Jesus’ encounter with God at his baptism: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’” (Lk. 3:21-22). We celebrate Jesus’ baptism to remember this divine affirmation–“with you I am well pleased”–and to consider the possibility that this “yes” might extend to each of us as well.
I am a very competitive person. I have an unhealthy habit of comparing myself to others. Professionally, I compare my level of “success” to my colleagues’. Even on a personal level I find myself wondering “Should I be happier? Are my relationships healthy enough? How does my faith compare to others?” Social media takes these tendencies and makes them much worse. I know I’m not the only one. You may remember late last year Facebook was in the news because a whistleblower revealed that Facebook’s own internal research has shown that their Instagram platform is having negative mental health impacts on young people. Young people are comparing themselves to the images they see on Instagram and seeing themselves in a negative light. The recent “Great Resignation” may be a sign that more of us are questioning a system that brings profit logic to ever more intimate areas of our lives.
We celebrate Jesus’ baptism to remind ourselves that there is another voice in the universe that says, “Yes.” As powerful as our inner critics might be, as powerful as the voices of consumer capitalism might be, there is another voice, a voice that in the beginning said, “Let there be light,” a voice that saw all that God had made and said, “It is very good,” a voice that spoke from heaven at Jesus’ baptism and said, “You are my child, the beloved with you I am well pleased.” In this Epiphany season, I invite us to embrace God’s “yes.” I invite us to drop the comparing and competing and make space for the Holy Spirit to lead us each into a calling that is uniquely our own. As author Oscar Wilde famously said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
Pastoral Prayer 1-10-21
Pastoral Prayer 1-10-21
It has been a week. Together we bear witness to historic events in the life of our nation. On Wednesday the first African American from Georgia was elected to the Senate, a pastor who serves the same congregation Martin Luther King, Jr. once did. Dr. King gave his life for a Biblical vision of beloved community. This week we saw evidence that Dr. King’s vision continues to bear the fruit of love and justice in our nation.
That same day, Wednesday Jan. 6, we witnessed an armed attack on our nation’s Capitol. Four people lost their lives. Our nation’s leaders were forced to shelter in place. On Jan. 6 a mob incited by our President was able to do what all the armies of the Confederacy failed to do 150 years ago. They paraded the Confederate battle flag–a symbol of slavery, racism, and hate–through the halls of congress. It was a chiling reminder that the evil of racism and white supremacy continues to eat away at the soul of our country. Like Dr. King’s dream our nation is resilient but fragile. We pray that you will send your spirit to heal our land.
Also on Wednesday we gathered in the evening to record the professions of faith of three Confirmands. We celebrate with joy their honesty, their curiosity, their love, and their commitment to the way of Jesus. We ask that you bless and protect them. We ask that you make all of us instruments of your peace in this time of unrest. We ask that as a congregation you give us the courage to find a way toward your future. Give us a heart for future generations so that they, too, can learn of Dr. King’s dream and find new ways to embody it.
In this time of conflict and mass delusion, we may at times feel helpless to heal the divides of our nation. Give us a baptism of your Spirit that we may all be one. Renew our commitment to the way of Jesus, who received a baptism of the Spirit in order to bring justice and peace among all people.
Bless by your Holy Spirit, gracious God, this water that by it we may be reminded of our baptism into Jesus Christ and that by the power of your Holy Spirit we may fulfill what we have promised.
Worship Resource: Prayer for Confirmation Sunday/Baptism of Christ
Creative God, baptize us with your Holy Spirit. Create in us a new heart, one attuned to your love, one filled with your life, a heart that radiates warmth and generosity. The world is full of suffering. We, too, suffer. Heal us so that we can be your hands of healing for others. Amen.