Sunday, 10th January

Together in Prayer
1st Sunday of Epiphany: Baptism of Christ

O Lord, open our lips
And our mouth shall declare your praise!
Reveal among us the light of your presence
that we may behold your power and glory.
The night has passed, and the day lies open before us;
let us pray with one heart and mind.
As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
now and for ever.

Preparing our hearts
Blessed are you, Lord our God,
you have created the heavens and the earth.
Blessed are you, Jesus Christ,
you came among us and were baptised of John.
Blessed are you, Holy life-giving Spirit,
You descend as the dove and you fill us with life.
Blessed are you, Holy Three.
In you we live and move and have our being.

Reading; Mark 1:4-11
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And 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. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He 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. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Thought for the week: Nigel Hughes.
It is interesting that there is no mention about the birth of Jesus, or indeed his youth in Mark’s Gospel. Instead, he starts by hitting us firmly between the eyes with the “good news” of Jesus’ baptism as being the beginning of his ministry. There was no preamble, no background, or long introductions, just straight to the point.

It is of course very much the fulfilment of the ‘messenger’ that was promised to God’s people by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3). It was a promise that was also reiterated by John the Baptist’s own explanation of Jesus’ baptism, and that whilst his (John’s) baptism would be with water, “Jesus will baptise you with the Holy Spirit”. In that statement John continues to make it very clear that he was not the Messiah they had been waiting for.

John when he baptised spoke about repentance and forgiveness, two elements that are still true of baptism today. The baptism liturgy that is used marks the end of the old life and the beginning of a new life living in God’s grace and forgiveness, and in doing so we are embraced with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Later on, towards the close of his ministry on earth, Jesus makes it clear that baptism leads to a new way of life. When the brothers James and John asked to be seated next to Jesus in the life to come, he points out to them that “the baptism with which I am baptised, you will also be baptised” and by doing so he makes it very clear that to be baptised in Jesus is to follow him. After Jesus finished with his life on earth and his followers became the early Christian church, they developed what baptism means to us today.

As we continue to read the New Testament, our understanding of what it means to be baptised will continue to evolve and unfold. It always follows faith – the faith of the person being baptised (Acts 8:13, 36) or the faith of the parents (Acts 16:15, 30-33).

The promise that Jesus made of being raised to a new life in him has sustained Christians throughout the years. There are many wonderful stories of such faith, especially in adversity. Many of you may have heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a German theologian during the 2nd World War who was involved in an attempt on Hitler’s life. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to death. It was whilst being led to his execution that he said to one of his guards, “for some this is the end, but for me it is a beginning”. Sadly for Bonhoeffer the war was to end not long afterwards.

Baptism is however, much more than just an individual act. In baptism we become part of a people, as the Apostle Paul emphasised when he said, “we were all baptised into one body”. That is the main thrust of today’s reading and meaning of Jesus’ baptism for us that we are baptised into something which is wonderful. That a fundamental change takes place in us when baptised at whatever age it may be. An adult who is baptised after accepting faith is changed and an infant who is baptised into a family of faith will be
brought up in faith.

In his last conversation with his disciples, Jesus spoke again about baptism. He told them to,” go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”.

Baptism is often spoken as being a ‘means to grace’, that is, one of the ways that God’s grace comes to us. Physically it is only a small splash of water, but spiritually it marks the beginning of a whole new life, of forgiveness, of the presence of God’s Spirit, of our union with Jesus, and our becoming part of the world-wide Christian church. What more could we possibly ask for?

Collect – 1st Sunday of Epiphany
Eternal Father,
who at the baptism of Jesus
revealed him to be your Son,
anointing him with the Holy Spirit:
grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit,
that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Holy God, holy and Strong One, holy and Mighty One,
we give you thanks for all who are baptized.
We praise you for our own baptism and pray that we may know
that we are always immersed in your presence.
Give your church the power to show that we are members of
Christ, children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of
We pray for all who are awaiting baptism delayed because of
current times.
We pray for our own Godparents and for our own Godchildren,
for all who have been baptised in your name.
Lord of light,
enlighten all your people.

We pray for the health of our community and all nations.
We give thanks for all who have looked after our well-being.
We pray for parents and loved ones,
for those who have shared their lives and their faith with us,
for all with whom we work and for our friends.
Lord of light,
enlighten all your people.

We remember all who are feeling badly bruised,
by illness, by accident or by circumstance.
For all who have suffered spiritually or mentally,
for those with memories that disturb or frighten them.
We remember all who have lost confidence in themselves
or in others.
We pray for renewed strength and the resolve to carry on
knowing that you will show us the way.
Lord of light,
enlighten all your people.

We pray for all who having been baptised have kept the faith,
we pray especially for all loved ones departed from us.
May they rejoice in that greater awareness of father, Son and Holy Spirit.
May we rejoice with them as joint inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.
Lord of light,
enlighten all your people.

You may wish to add your own prayers at this time.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

The Peace
The Lord gives strength to his people:
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you

The Blessing
God, the Creator, uphold you.
Christ, the Redeemer, enfold you.
The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, guide you.
And may the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ
be with us today and forever.