The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury

January 10, 2021
Baptism of the Lord Sunday
9:30 am


God of all wilderness wanderers, you sent John to prepare the way for Jesus Christ, your beloved son. Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us so that, like John, we may proclaim the time to turn from sinfulness and the good news of your grace; through Christ, the water of life.  Amen.


There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God;
The holy habitation of the Most High.
The Lord pours forth rivers from bare mountains, and fountains in valleys’ depths.
God opens rocks, and water gushes out.
On dry thirsty land God springs forth streams in the desert.


Even as we enter into the presence of God, we exclaim with Isaiah: “Woe is me, I am a person of unclean ways, dwelling among a tainted people.” If we claim we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sin, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Trusting in the steadfast love of God in Christ Jesus the Lord, let us pray,


Sovereign God, in baptism you called us to turn from sin and to turn to Jesus Christ; but we stray from his ways and do not heed your call.


Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
In baptism you joined us to Christ in his death that we might be raised with Christ in new life; but we cherish old ways
and fail to embrace the risen life
of righteousness, justice, and love.


Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
In baptism you united us with all the baptized who confess your name;
but we foster division in the church.
We refuse to live as one people,
and so fail to witness to your reconciling love before the world.


Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
In baptism you call us to ministry
in all realms of life,
but we refuse the struggle to know your will; we do not nurture the ways of peace;
we allow enmity to grow among us,
setting neighbor against neighbor
and nation against nation.
We abuse the earth you entrust to our care, and live in discord with all you have made.


Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
In baptism you sent us to serve with compassion all for whom Christ died;
but we ignore the suffering of the oppressed
and the plight of the poor.
We take bread from the hungry,
and stop our ears to cries for justice.


Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
In baptism you gave us the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us
but we rely on ourselves
and refuse to trust your direction.
We spurn your eternal wisdom,
Preferring, instead, the luring ways of the world.


Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Remember the promises you made to us in baptism,
forgive our sinful ways
and heal our brokenness.
Set us free from all that enslaves us,
and raise us to new life in Jesus Christ,
that we may be your faithful servants, showing forth your healing love to the world, to the glory of your holy name.

Silence is observed


Hear the good news: Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ lives in power for us, Christ prays for us. Anyone who is in Christ is of the New Creation. The old life is finished, gone. Behold, new life has begun.
Brothers and Sisters, believe the good news:
In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.



(all children will remain in the sanctuary)


Creator Spirit, who hovered over the waters at creation’s birth, who descended in the form of a dove at Jesus’ baptism, who was poured out under the signs of fire and wind at Pentecost: Come to us, open our hearts and minds, so that we may hear the Word of life and be renewed by your power, for you live and reign with God and Christ now and forevermore. Amen.

SCRIPTURE   Mark 1:4-11

4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”


I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.~~~ Oath of Office

I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”~~~ Military Oath

“I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”~~~ Supreme Court Justice Oath

Oath: a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says.

Another word for Oath or solemn promise is VOW, politicians, military personnel and justices are not the only people to take vows.  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you too have taken a vow or promised certain things, and we will again make those promises today during the renewal of baptismal vows.  A reminder of our relationship with Jesus Christ and how we are called to serve as part of the body of Christ.  How do we reflect upon or baptism or do we?

In 2018, Pastor Jill Duffield,  “wonder if we are not more like those new converts that Paul questions in Acts who respond to his query about their baptism with an honest, “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” We have not even thought about the impact of our baptism – not remembered the vows that we have committed to as followers of Jesus Christ. We have not claimed the promise or shuttered at the responsibility. We have not recognized the new day, the beginning, ushered in by the baptism of Jesus and our own baptism. It is the first day of the rest of our new lives in Christ and nothing will ever be the same again.

The study catechism, approved for use in 1998 at the 210th General Assembly, says this:

Question 71: What is baptism?
Answer: Baptism is the sign and seal through which we are joined to Christ.
Question 72: What does it mean to be baptized?
Answer: My baptism means that I am joined to Jesus Christ forever. I am baptized into his death and resurrection, along with all who have received him by faith. As I am baptized with water, he baptizes me with his Spirit, washing away all my sins and freeing me from their control. My baptism is a sign that one day I will rise with him in glory, and may walk with him even now in newness of life.

No ordinary day in the sanctuary, the day you were baptized or had your children baptized or baptized a new member of the body of Christ. No ordinary day in the Jordan for John or for Jesus or for us because Jesus’ baptism demonstrated the lengths to which God will go to be reconciled with us and to reconcile us to one another. God tore apart the heavens to get to us, to give us the Holy Spirit, to forgive us and join us to Christ. Do we recognize into what, into whom, we were baptized?

On this second Sunday of a new calendar year, reaffirming our baptism should remind us that the answer to that critical question is Jesus Christ. As we make resolutions or renew commitments to get in shape, get out of debt or check a few items off our bucket list, as Christians we should also turn away from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world. We should publicly turn to Jesus Christ, accept him as our Lord and Savior, trusting in his grace and love. We should affirm again that we will be Christ’s faithful disciples, obeying his Word and showing his love.

In other words, we should make sure that our baptism marked the first day of the rest of our lives as beloved children of God, anointed with the Holy Spirit, and empowered to do God’s will.

As I reflect on Wednesday, I struggle with what I saw – according to the Washington Post “pro-Trump insurrectionists breaking into the Capitol,” –people using violence and intimidation to terrorize duly elected officials.  A very different image than what John Winthrop preached about in 1630: “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us…”. If the United States is struggling with its identity, then followers of Jesus, I prayerfully offer, demonstrate our baptismal vows.  A gathering of people of every color, every race, every denomination much like the vision of John in Revelation of every tribe and nation worshipping God together — their differences still visible, but their unity of praise and purpose unstoppable. And yet, the vitriolic, calculated, organized hate I saw this week and in weeks before since won’t leave me alone. And it shouldn’t. It better not, frankly. I continue to be compelled to announce both ends of the humanity I witnessed: the light and the dark, the good and the evil, the hope and the horror. Healing won’t happen without an honest account of both.

Many days we should wonder what will happen next and what role we are to play in this story that started long before our baptism and will continue, I am sure, long after our baptisms are complete in our death. We must keep praying for wisdom, discernment and a means to make an impact for good that is live out our baptismal vows. Too often we may feel utterly useless, a noisy gong and a clanging symbol in a world already awash in a distracting din of rhetoric. And yet, we can’t turn and leave or throw up our hands in despair because we are baptized. By virtue of our baptism we are united to Christ and through Christ to each of us and, because of Christ, to the whole of creation. And we can’t undo that unity, no matter how hard we try. We are stuck together.

In baptism we are clothed in Christ, made one with Christ, the Body of Christ, the church, and our neighbors — the body of humanity made in God’s image and called good. And while this is transformative for us, it is not for our sake only; it is for the sake of God’s beloved creation.

So, on this second Sunday of 2021, let us remember that Jesus was baptized and that heaven was subsequently torn apart and the Holy Spirit escaped and the Son of God — the one who pleases God, the one God so loves and who so loves the world — frees us from our sins and their control so that we can right now walk in newness of life. Today, therefore, is a new day, the first day of the rest of our life, a day to renounce evil, turn to Jesus Christ, obey his word, show his love and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest.  Amen.

Commentary provided by Jill Duffield, Mark Rogness, David Lose, Jan Richardson, Bob Stuhlman, Paul S. Berge, Sara Miles, Mary N. Pugh and Sarah S. Henrick.


The Lord be with you
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts
We lift them to the Lord.
Lord and life-giving Spirit, who charged the waters with life when first the world began:
Make us dead to sin, but alive to you.
Saving Lord, who sheltered us with Noah in the ark upon the flood:
Drown our sin and raise us to new life.
Giver of freedom, who led your people out of slavery through the waters that did not overwhelm:
Drown our sin and raise us to new life.
O God, our provider, who gives thirsty people water from a rock:
Make us dead to sin, but alive to you.
Holy Lord, who gives water to purify what is unclean:
Drown our sin and raise us to new life.
Brooding Spirit, who anointed Jesus with your power of life no death could conquer:
Make us dead to sin, but alive to you.
Risen Lord Jesus Christ, who poured yourself out as a drink offering on our behalf, filling us with your Spirit:
Make us dead to sin, but alive to you.
Spirit of the Living God, who charges the waters of baptism with resurrection power so we might live as part of God’s New Creation:
Drown our sin and raise us to new life.
Drench us once more in your life-giving Spirit, Almighty God, that we might be cleansed, sustained, and anointed with your power as we proclaim with boldness and live with joy the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom be all honor and dominion and glory now and forevermore.

Through our baptism into Christ, we were redeemed from our slavery to the powers of sin and made citizens of God’s Commonwealth. Let us remember what God has done and is doing by renewing our baptismal vows, renouncing sin and professing faith in Christ Jesus.
Do you renounce the ways of sin that separate you from the love of God?
Accepting the Father’s love, I renounce all that makes me less than a child of God.
Do you renounce all powers in the world that defy God’s Way of Life for all?
In the name of Christ Jesus, I renounce them.
Will you resist the forces of sin that hold the world in captivity?
With the power of the Holy Spirit, I will resist them.
Trusting the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from evil to seek good?
By the grace of God, I do.
Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world?
I believe Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
Will you follow the Spirit of the living Lord and live in accord with God’s Way?
By God’s grace, I will walk in the Spirit Way.
Let us pray: Spirit of the Living God, hover once more over us as you did at creation, energizing us with your life, that as we remember our baptism in Christ, we may be an open conduit of your Holy Spirit flooding all of creation with blessings of your abundant, redeemed life. We ask this in the precious name of Jesus, the living water, to your glory we pray. Amen.

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” (Rev. 22:17)

PEBBLES on Communion Table

Now, remember your baptism as you go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that Christ has commanded you.

May God’s Spirit flow through us to bless the world.
And remember that God’s promise goes before you. For thus says the Lord, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Thanks be to God! Amen.



In thanksgiving for all God has done for us, let us present the offering of ourselves unto the Lord.


O Lord, we give you thanks with all we are for all you have done for us. In your divinity you have come to dwell with us in the muddy waters of humanity, and comingled your glory with our sin so that the ribbon of corrupting time is becoming a sparkling River of Life flowing through our days. Take all we are, Lord, and use it for your purpose.  Bless the gifts we give this day that the church might stand as shining witnesses to your glory, planted by your living water to bring healing to all peoples. Use us as you will to the praise of Christ Jesus, we pray. Amen.


Hear the voice of God that claimed you in baptism:
you are precious, beloved, in God’s sight.
God has claimed our lives in baptism
that we might die to sin be raised to new life,
And God’s Spirit empowers us now to follow Jesus into our world.
So as you go, lift up the brokenhearted and stand with the oppressed.
Love God with your whole life and love neighbors as yourself. Amen.