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The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury

January 8, 2023
Second Sunday of Christmas



Gracious God, in Jesus Christ, baptized by John in the Jordan, you came to share our life and deliver us from sin and death. As we are baptized with water pour out your Holy Spirit upon us to make us your beloved children, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



We know that the voice of the Lord is powerful. People: We know that the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. Leader: We believe that the servant of the Lord will not break a bruised reed.
We believe that the servant of the Lord will not quench a dim flame.
Both these things are true:
Our God’s righteousness is a mighty stream,
And our Savior is like a lamb.
Through the Holy Spirit, we hold space for all aspects of God. Today we worship an unknowable God, who loves us and calls us by name, who came to meet us in the person of Jesus Christ.

*HYMN No. 150 “As with Gladness Men of Old”
1 As with gladness men of old
did the guiding star behold;
as with joy they hailed its light,
leading onward, beaming bright;
so, most gracious Lord, may we
evermore be led to thee.

2 As with joyful steps they sped,
Savior, to thy lowly bed,
there to bend the knee before
thee, whom heaven and earth adore;
so may we with willing feet
ever seek thy mercy seat.

3 As they offered gifts most rare
at thy manger, rude and bare,
so may we with holy joy,
pure and free from sin’s alloy,
all our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to thee, our heavenly king.

4 Holy Jesus, every day
keep us in the narrow way;
and when earthly things are past,
bring our ransomed souls at last
where they need no star to guide,
where no clouds thy glory hide.


Those who know God and love God are called to righteousness. We are called, through God, to open the eyes of the blind and establish justice on earth. Yet, we turn time and time again away from this calling. Let us confess our sins to God, our loving and merciful redeemer.


Creator God, in our baptisms, you marked us with your love, inviting us into covenant with you. As we grow older, you reveal more and more of yourself to us. We see and experience the brokenness of the world; we know that we are called to embody your love. But the task sometimes feels too big. It’s easier to ignore the pain of others. It’s easier to choose blindness. Forgive us for forgetting our baptism, for forgetting that our lives are meant for something bigger.

Silence is observed


Even when we fail, even when we are not perfect, God still claims us. God still calls us by name. God still places God’s Spirit upon us.
We are known and loved and forgiven. Amen.

*RESPONSE No. 581 “Glory Be To The Father”

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, amen.


Our peace comes from knowing how much God loves us in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we try to love and forgive one another as Christ loves and forgives us.
“The peace of Christ be with you,”
“And also with you.”




Almighty God, in this season of Epiphany you invite us to seek Christ’s revelation. In the reading of this Scripture today, give us the eyes to see and ears to hear who Christ is — in the Bible and in the world around us. May this knowledge change us. Amen.

SCRIPTURE Matthew 3:13-17

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And 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. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

SERMON “Do you have a tattoo? Yes, actually”

Pastor Rose Schrott Taylor told the story of a man from the Lutheran church that she was serving in Minneapolis. The father said that he and his twin boys were watching a football game together. The boys noticed and commented on the tattoos of many of the players. It opened up a wonderful conversation for them. Bill, their father, talked about the stories; all those tattoos have stories with them. Ask someone the story of their tattoos; most love to tell those stories.
As you probably know, I have several tattoos and each one has a story. Typically, about a moment in my life or the life of my family. The stories of folks with tattoos can give us a glimpse into someone’s life, and an interesting conversation starter. But, back to the football game!
Bill, the wise father that he is, used this conversation with his boys about stories and tattoos as an opportunity to remind them of their baptisms and of God’s story in their lives through their baptisms. He said to them, “We have our own tattoos, you know. You are marked with the cross of Christ in your lives–forever.”
And, oh my goodness, what a story that is to tell!
And why is there a story to tell about baptism, an event that happened to many of us before we were even capable of remembering that event?
When Jesus had been baptized and the Spirit of God descended upon him like a dove, a voice from heaven said, “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
“Beloved.” What a beautiful word. To be beloved is to be adored. To be beloved is to be cherished, is to be treasured.
This is the promise in our baptism. It is first an act of God–God claiming us as God’s very own–a beloved child–and then God declaring to us–simply because we belong to God–that God is well pleased with us.
Now that is a story to tell: that I am beloved by God and that God is pleased with me!
Because that is not always the story, we tell ourselves. Most of us have another story that runs in our head. Sometimes we call this storyteller the inner critic, that one who reminds us just what a failure we are or how people may only be pretending to like us; but if they really knew us, they would run away, or how we are not attractive enough or talented enough or clever enough or intelligent enough to be beloved–much less have someone be pleased with us.
Life can hold with it joy and laughter and wonderful conversations and friendships, some close enough even to be our chosen families. And right alongside it, life can bring with it loss and disappointment and sleepless nights and an inner certainty that no matter what we do or no matter how hard we try, we’re just not measuring up.
Which is why we need to tell this baptism story over and over again–to counter the story of the inner critic–to counter the story the world often tells that to be truly beloved you have to possess something: money, house, good looks, power. We tell this baptism story over and over to counter the story that you don’t measure up or that you don’t belong.
The story of baptism is not only a story that we belong to God and are beloved by God; it is a story that we belong to each other, that we are a part of a larger story of God’s presence in the world.
I have a friend and about five years ago, the decision was made to focus upon the theological idea of Baptism for Lent. The minister wanted her people to remember their baptisms and the difference being baptized makes in their day-to-day lives. Months earlier, in conversation with a couple of her talented artists in the congregation, the idea came up about creating a baptismal font for Lent that would somehow would also be interactive. She loved the idea, and the artists ran with it…but it ended up a little bigger than the original plan. The minister was thinking of a nice little fountain with some water that would be running and maybe would splash around and draw some attention to it. But when the congregation entered the church that first Wednesday evening in Lent, they discovered a huge 10 by 10-foot box with 2 1/2 feet high cement walls, with three pipes sticking up about 5 feet from the bottom. Around the foyer were chunks or pieces of limestone on flats, left over from landscaping jobs because they weren’t the right size or they weren’t the right color or the right shape for their original purpose, each one with a round hole drilled through the middle of it.
Following the worship service and the sermon by my colleague, the community was instructed to line up and take pieces of the limestone, pass each one down the line and put them on the pipes until each pipe was filled to the top with limestone pieces. What people hadn’t realized was that those pipes were water pipes. When they turned the water on, water started trickling out of those pipes and over the stones, and these leftover stones that had been rejected from various jobs of the landscapers–all different shapes and sizes and colors, now stacked together and with water sprinkling over them–had become a beautiful fountain.
Those stones are us, we who sometimes feel rejected because we just don’t measure up and yet are chosen to be part of something big and beautiful, just as God had chosen us in our baptism to be a part of God’s kingdom, a member of God’s family. And as that community watched the water run over the stones, they could imagine God’s love, shown to them in the waters of baptism, washing over their lives, bathing them in love. We too might remember our baptism and the story that we are beloved children of God. We have been tattooed with a holy symbol of God’s love!!
We come together in worship because we need to hear over and over again that God loves us and has claimed us as beloved children, cherished and treasured. And we come together in worship because our wells sometimes have run dry, and we need to feel those refreshing waters of baptism trickling over us again. Because sometimes life is just so hard, we have no words to pray or no songs to sing; we are just that empty. Sometimes it’s the community of the baptized that sings those hymns we can’t always sing, and sometimes it’s the community that prays the prayers we can’t always pray, and sometimes it’s the community that speaks the words of faith that we can have trouble speaking ourselves or even believing ourselves. And we just let those words and songs and prayers wash over us, reminding us of God’s love, reminding us that in the waters of baptism, God has called us and claimed us as God’s own–beloved and delightful–cherished.

That’s the story of our baptisms. That’s a story worth telling, over and over again. That’s a story worth living in. Remember your holy tattoo and remember baptism.

Please pray with me. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, you know how hard this life can be. We thank you for the community, the body of Christ, where we are reminded of your boundless love for us in your word, in the Sacraments, in one another. Use us as your living word in this world, to reach out, to cherish others as we are cherished, to work for justice and peace in this your kingdom on earth. In the name of Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.

Liturgy and Commentaries provided by Rose Schrott Taylor, Deborah Samuelson, David Lose, and Adam Hamilton


I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

*HYMN No. 151 “We Three Kings of Orient Are”

1 We three kings of Orient are;
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of night,
star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light!

2 Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never
over us all to reign. (Refrain)

3 Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a deity nigh;
prayer and praising gladly raising,
worshiping God Most High. (Refrain)

4 Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb. (Refrain)

5 Glorious now behold him arise,
King and God and Sacrifice:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
sounds through the earth and skies. (Refrain)


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.

Come forward and receive a reminder of your baptism at the font

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.



One way that we can live into our baptism is to share our resources with others and invest in the church, God’s chosen vehicle for action in this world. Let us give freely in faith that whatever we give will be blessed by God to be a blessing to others.



Praise God, from whom all blessing flow, Praise God, all creatures here below. Alleluia, Alleluia Praise God in Jesus fully known; Creator, Word, and Spirit one. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.


Heavenly Parent, we offer you these gifts. Please bless them, just as you bless those who gave them and those who will receive them. May the sharing of this money remind us of the connection that holds us all together and the beloved community you call us to form. This we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

*HYMN No. 159 “O sing a Song of Bethlehem”

1 O sing a song of Bethlehem,
of shepherds watching there,
and of the news that came to them
from angels in the air.
The light that shone on Bethlehem
fills all the world today.
Of Jesus’ birth and peace on earth
the angels sing alway.

2 O sing a song of Nazareth,
of sunny days of joy;
O sing of fragrant flowers’ breath,
and of the sinless boy.
For now the flowers of Nazareth
in every heart may grow.
Now spreads the fame of his dear name
on all the winds that blow.

3 O sing a song of Galilee,
of lake and woods and hill,
of him who walked upon the sea
and bade its waves be still.
For though, like waves on Galilee,
dark seas of trouble roll,
when faith has heard the Master’s word,
falls peace upon the soul.

4 O sing a song of Calvary,
its glory and dismay,
of him who hung upon the tree,
and took our sins away.
For he who died on Calvary
is risen from the grave,
and Christ, our Lord, by heaven adored,
is mighty now to save.


Beloveds, remember your baptism. Go from here with the confidence that God sees you, that God calls you, that God delights in you. In you, God is well pleased. In this confidence, let us open hearts to the Spirit that we may work together, with the Holy Spirit, to bring compassionate justice in every aspect of our lives. Amen.