+ In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
The Greeting: Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and also with you.
Prayer of Preparation: Almighty God,to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our lord. Amen.
Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God, the Father. Amen
The Collect – Baptism of Christ
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 Holy Spirit, that we may be faithful to our calling’s 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. Amen
Isaiah 43: 1-7But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.4 Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back. ‘Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Acts 8: 14-1714 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Luke 3: 15-17, 21-2215 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire”. 21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
On Thursday I received a parcel. When I have the time, I like to both buy and sell on Ebay. It’s a bit like a jumble sale sometimes. My rubbish becomes someone else’s treasure and my new “must-have” has been thrown aside by someone else. Anyway, I digress. Posting out parcels can be quite a complicated process because you have to decide first of all whether it’s going to go first or second class. And then whether you want it “signed for” or “not signed for”. We won’t get into registered and recorded deliveries and deliveries by a certain time! So, my parcel was second class signed for. But since Covid began of course, the system has changed. Whereas I used to sign my name on the postie’s handheld machine, now he asks my permission and he signs or more likely enters his number in the machine.
Increasingly, what has been happening over the last few years is that we do less and less in person and rely on numbers and cards to represent us. I remember my parents both receiving their wages in cash and my Mum putting amounts into different tins to pay the electricity and gas bills. Nowadays most people have wages or pensions paid directly into a bank account and they pay for gas and electric by standing order or direct debit. No cash ever changes hands. It’s very hard to navigate some systems when you don’t have an email address because it’s just assumed when you fill in a form (on-line of course) that you have one. I know Covid has brought this about too: but doctors’ appointments now are often by phone or on zoom or via the nurse. When I booked an apartment for my holiday which begins tomorrow (hurray!) I was asked to confirm my identity using either my passport or driving licence on my smartphone which took my photograph. I’m not sure my Mum would have coped and I only just about did!
So, who am I? Who are you? We are obviously more than a set of bank details, or a National Insurance number or a click on a machine. In our gospel passage today from St Luke’s gospel, we have one of the accounts of Jesus’ Baptism. Now it’s fair to say to start with that Jesus did not need to be baptized. Baptism is a sign of turning away from an old, sinful life to a new life lived with God. Jesus is God and as a human being he never sinned. So, he did not need to be baptized. In fact, baptism was not part of Jewish religious observance. If you were Jewish, you had usually been born a Jew. It was your nationality and therefore your religion too. But if you were not born a Jew and you decided to convert to Judaism, you were baptized. Here in the baptism story we have John the Baptist who is a bit like one of the Old Testament prophets. In not so nice language, he is telling people that there is something seriously wrong with their lives and he is offering baptism as a way of ritual cleansing after they have repented and decided to do better. It’s this unusual character, doing this unusual thing of getting everyone lined up at the river and baptizing by full immersion which is drawing the crowds to find out what’s going on. Jesus decides to use this occasion to be united with his people and do what they are doing. So, he too presents himself to John.
Jesus; the human offers himself in God’s service and God responds. What does God say? Well, there are some things he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say: “You will be a great preacher” or “You will heal the sick” or even “you will raise the dead”. All those things are true of course. But in that moment where Jesus offers himself, God does not affirm his ministry, he affirms who he is. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” He affirms Jesus’ identity and tells him he is loved beyond measure. As good parents you will know that the most important thing you can tell your children is that they are loved. It’s not about how fantastic they are at their job or raising their own families or achieving whatever they have achieved. It is about who they are and the fact that you love them, whatever they do. Telling someone you love them makes them grow in self-esteem and can cure the blues caused by whatever is going wrong.
Jesus left that baptism scene to spend 40 days alone in the desert working out what his ministry was going to look like. He went knowing that God loved him. He was going to need to remember those words in the times when things began to be difficult for him. And that’s how it is for us. I love the words of Isaiah which we read as our Old Testament lesson today. God is talking through the prophet to the whole nation of Israel but it sounds like he is talking to just one person. There’s that lovely verse where he says: “Because you are precious in my sight, And honoured, and I love you.”
Those are the words of Almighty God, the One who created the whole of the world. And he speaks to each one of us as if there was only one of us. We are precious to him, we are honoured (that’s amazing that the One who deserves the highest honour gives it to us). We are loved: not for what we do or have done, not for the success we have made of our life but for who we are. We are not a number or just part of the system, we are sons and daughters of God “in whom he is well pleased”.
Jesus calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. Washed clean by the waters of baptism, let us pray that we may live the life to which he has called us.
Lord Jesus, eternal Word, proclaimed as the Christ by John the forerunner, hear us as we pray for all who proclaim your word. We pray for our Bishops: Graham, Alan and Jane and for all the clergy in this Diocese and Deanery. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus, baptizing with the Spirit and with fire, strengthen us to withstand all the trials of our faith. We pray for all those who are persecuted for their faith and have to meet in secret. We pray for the work of the organization: Open Doors which raises awareness of those who are being persecuted and tortured for their faith. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus, bringing forgiveness to all who repent, teach your church dependence on your grace. We pray for this church of the Holy Trinity, giving thanks for those who work to provide a place where this community can find peace and provision for its spiritual needs. We pray for our Benefice and all who live within its boundaries. We pray for the staff and children at our schools in Caston, Great Hockham and Thompson and all who live and work at Thorp House. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus, fulfilment of the promises of old, give hope to all who suffer or are ignored: we pray particularly today for …….We pray for all who are suffering as a result of the continuing restrictions caused by this virus. For those who have lost their livelihoods or are physically or mentally ill. We continue to pray for all doctors and nurses and those who work within the health service. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus, beloved Son of the Father, anoint us with the gifts of your Holy Spirit to serve our friends and families and bring peace to our neighbourhoods. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus, bringer of hope, share with all the faithful the riches of eternal life. We remember with thanksgiving those from our own families who have departed this life. Lord, in your mercy; Hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus Christ, in you the Father makes us and all things new. Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
Our Saviour Christ is the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end. The peace of the Lord be always with you And also with you.
The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Final Prayer: Lord of all time and eternity, you opened the heavens and revealed yourself as Father in the baptism of Jesus your beloved Son: by the power of your Spirit complete the heavenly work of our rebirth through the waters of the new creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The Blessing: Christ the Son of God perfect in you the image of his glory and gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen