Sunday 10 January 2021 - Worship at Home

Online Service prepared by Rev Susan Thorburn

The Psalmist writes – 
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.”
Psalm 29

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If you have been to Niagara Falls you will be familiar with the noise of the mighty waters.

                                                               Are we listening?
The wind and the voice of God both point to the breath, or source of life. The breath is the invisible power that enables us to breath. The majesty of nature, of the whole of creation which contains those things and bring both life and death, is ascribed to the Lord. In so far as all strength comes from the creator, so this strength is shared with us, who are also blessed with peace.  

Let us pray
Heavenly Father, As we wait upon you, we pause our lives, to still our minds and still our hearts. We stop to listen beyond the everyday.I wait upon you to allow our souls to have space and rest. We call you, Abba Father and we know you have searched each one of us, and you know us as your own. You are the beginning and the end, You are our Redeemer and You allow your grace to penetrate our whole beings. As we are in our homes draw us close, protect us and help us find that Your grace renews our strength, wipes away our tears, and promises new hope.As we wait upon you draw up close to you in worship. Touch our lives and grant us your peace. Amen

Listen or sing or read the words of this hymn – MP 1267 Come, people of the risen king

1. Come, people of the Risen King, 
Who delight to bring Him praise; 
Come all and tune your hearts to sing 
To the Morning Star of grace. 
From the shifting shadows of the earth 
We will lift our eyes to Him, 
Where steady arms of mercy reach 
To gather children in. 

REFRAIN  
Rejoice, Rejoice! 
Let every tongue rejoice!  
One heart, one voice; 
O Church of Christ, rejoice!

2. Come, those whose joy is morning sun, 
And those weeping through the night; 
Come, those who tell of battles won, 
And those struggling in the fight. 
For His perfect love will never change, 
And His mercies never cease, 
But follow us through all our days 
With the certain hope of peace.

3. Come, young and old from every land – 
Men and women of the faith; 
Come, those with full or empty hands – 
Find the riches of His grace. 
Over all the world, His people sing – 
Shore to shore we hear them call 
The Truth that cries through every age:

“Our God is all in all”

Let us pray
Loving God, we need only to look around your creation to catch a glimpse of your splendour,for within the beauty of the flowers, the rivers, the mountains and the ocean depths,your glory is reflected and for this we praise you.
Gracious God, we praise you that through your son Jesus, a new beginning with you is possible. We praise you that Jesus came, revealing your love and compassion for the whole of your creation. We praise you for his obedience to you, and that he lived in perfect union with you, setting an example for us to follow.
Life-giving God, we praise you for your gift of the Holy Spirit who comes into our lives, revealing your ways and your truth to each one of us. Lord God, gracious God, life-giving God, reveal your glory. Speak your word to us. Draw us to new understandings of yourselfas we worship you.
And as we pause here, may we draw breath as we seek the space
to confess and let go of that which we can no longer hold, that hurts too much, that corrupts our relationships, that tarnishes our communities and seek that place where fresh starts are possible and blessed. May that space be here and that time, now.
Amen.

Reading: Mark 1:4-11

4 So John appeared in the desert, baptizing and preaching.[b] “Turn away from your sins and be baptized,” he told the people, “and God will forgive your sins.” 5 Many people from the province of Judea and the city of Jerusalem went out to hear John. They confessed their sins, and he baptized them in the Jordan River.

6 John wore clothes made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 7 He announced to the people, “The man who will come after me is much greater than I am. I am not good enough even to bend down and untie his sandals. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus
9 Not long afterward Jesus came from Nazareth in the province of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As soon as Jesus came up out of the water, he saw heaven opening and the Spirit coming down on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you.”

Reflection: Our changed world

Our world has changed again. Who would have thought it a year ago. Can you remember what you were thinking and feeling last January? We were excited, we were planning mission, we were seeking ways to make the gospel known in our communities and we were interacting with one another in ways which we can only dream of today. Yet even last January the signs of change were there if we chose to see it… the first confirmed death from Covid 19 was reported in the Chinese media on 10th January 2020. From then on, although not headline news in the UK for another 2 weeks, the world was changing.
 
Likewise, in today’s reading Jesus comes to John to be baptised. John was already ‘frontline news’ because of his outbursts to the religious authorities, having called them ‘vipers’ and telling everyone he met that they needed to confess their sins and repent. Even today when you thrust this information into people’s face you do not get a good reception. This, like news of COVID, is not the news you want to hear.
 
Swedish environmental campaigner, Greta Thunberg, turn 18 last week. 
Although she has been in our headline news for 3 years, her prophetic words 
still echo in our brains, as she boldly told world leaders that they were 
stealing her future. Just as John the Baptist raised the awareness of his 
societies need for change so too does Greta. Like John the Baptist Greta 
plays down her role in achieving change: John the Baptist kept insisting that 
one who was greater than him was coming. Greta said that she did was she 
could, by organising a school strike and a march but there are many who 
have more influence who could do much she never expected her small actions to become so effective in persuading young people to do something.  In 2019 an estimated four million young people participated in climate strikes inspired by this young woman. Earning herself personal attacks from world leaders such as Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump. But says Greta, “It’s like the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes; the child who doesn’t care about his reputation or becoming unpopular or being ridiculed is the only one who dares to question this lie that everyone else just silently accepts.” In her birthday interview, the interviewer asked what she would like for her birthday and in response she said “she’d like her birthday to be a “promise from everyone that they will do everything they can” for the planet.” 

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There is now, at least, a realisation that we have to change the world: We have stopped using lead in petrol, banned some dangerous chemicals, realise that we are poisoning insects, recognise the dangers from oxides of nitrogen and carbon particles. We had a clean air act years’ ago, and now need another. Through the work of Greta Thunberg we have been prompted to act. But there is much more we need to do.
 
We see from the Gospels that the change isn’t visible everywhere at Jesus’ 
baptism, and the significance of the incarnation will not be fully revealed 
until the resurrection, the real illumination comes with the gift of the 
Spirit.  In some sense people are still floundering in the dark, and we 
continue to make mistakes.
 
In our reading this is the first time that we meet Jesus as an adult and it’s a moment when God spotlights him in front of the crowds and makes it known that he’s really delighted with all that Jesus is and all that he will become in the next stage of his life journey. Both Father and Son are aware of how difficult that journey may be in parts. 
 
‘Jesus was changed and empowered at his baptism. It marked the beginning

of a new ministry, a new direction to his life.’ Either invite people to come and

dip their hands in the water, or fling some of it far and wide! Say, ‘Remember

your baptism. You too are changed and empowered by the Holy Spirit and

given new direction in your life. Think about what must be left behind.’ The

gift of the Spirit kick-started Jesus’ ministry, leading him to preach and teach

and challenge injustice wherever he found it. The Spirit led those living in

Ephesus to prophesy, to speak out to their community. What changes do we

think the Spirit invites us to bring about in the community we serve?
In the last year, through our own personal changes we have become more

aware than ever of the need to take action. Last spring, in the first lockdown,

people around us reported on hearing bird song and being more aware of

the changing season – what will this new lockdown teach us? What is God

telling us to do in this time of enforced lockdown?
 
Many begin the new year with resolutions that may or may not last beyond the end of January! Some of these resolutions are, of course, more realistic than others. If lockdown 1 taught us that we need have a more personal relationship to God maybe using this phrase “God ‘I am no longer my own, but yours’” will speak to us and bring us to consider what God-given strategies and resources can we identify to help us choose our commitments wisely, and keep the promises we have made?
John’s mission was to prepare the way for the Lord – to create the circumstances in which change could happen. He built a group of people whose lives were oriented towards the promise of a new future, ready and waiting for Jesus. His call was to the steady, patient work of preparation, laying the foundations for all that Jesus would do. 
The Greek word metanoia which is used in this passage invites people to look towards a new future where old mistakes are left behind and new possibilities open up. The traditional translation ‘repentance’ is less attractive because it is often understood as encouraging people to focus on what has gone wrong in the past, rather than what could go better in the future. 
 
As we journey with God this week be patient with world events, while we all make preparations and wait to see what God is doing in our lives and in our world – Hang in there… God has a plan.

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Let us pray
Lord, who created order from the chaos, bring light to darkness.In the dark days of a COVID winter, bring healing and peace.
In places of war and conflict, where there is famine and suffering, where we struggle to see how we can make a difference, bring light to darkness.

In our own communities, for those who are poor, for the homeless and hungry, for the lonely and the prisoner, bring light to darkness.
In those whose lives are made harder by illness , and those who search for peace and cannot find it, bring light to darkness.In the lives of those who are grieving, bring light to darkness.In the lives of those we live with, those we work with and those we play with, and those we wait with for better times in the future and for ourselves, bring light to darkness.Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.

 

Listen or sing or read the words of this hymn

– Should nothing of our efforts stand. (tune Auld Land Syne)

Let us pray
May we go from this time of worship with the living Lord as our companion, our friend and servant, our motivator and encourager,
that we might, in love and grace, bring the presence of God
and the eternal Word into our communities
through our own words and deeds.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all evermore. Amen

Thank you to those who have taken the time to contact me. Take care out there this week. 
May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you this day and each day.  
Rev. Susan Thorburn, sthorburn@churchofscotland.org.uk  
If you choose to email me, please can you tell me who you are and where you live. Thank you.