Sunday, 10th January, 1st after Epiphany

Welcome: the theme of our worship today is the Baptism of Christ. Our worship takes about half an hour.

The Prayer for Today: The Collect

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.

Hymn: Hail to the Lord’s Anointed

Hail to the Lord's Anointed,
great David's greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed,
his reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression,
to set the captive free;
to take away transgression,
and rule in equity.

He comes with succour speedy
to those who suffer wrong;
to help the poor and needy,
and bid the weak be strong;
to give them songs for sighing,
their darkness turn to light,
whose souls, condemned and dying,
are precious in his sight.

He shall come down like showers
upon the fruitful earth;
love, joy, and hope, like flowers,
spring in his path to birth.
Before him on the mountains,
shall peace, the herald, go,
and righteousness, in fountains,
from hill to valley flow.

To him shall prayer unceasing
and daily vows ascend;
his kingdom still increasing,
a kingdom without end.
The tide of time shall never
his covenant remove;
his name shall stand forever;
that name to us is love.

The First Reading: Acts 19:1-7   Paul in Ephesus

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples.  He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?”  They    replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?”  They answered, “Into John’s baptism.”  Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance,   telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.”  On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied—altogether there were about twelve of them.

The Gospel Reading: Mark 1:4-11  The Baptism of Jesus

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.”

Hymn: When Jesus comes to be baptized

Today’s Reflection: from Rev Suzanne Johnson, our Curate.

You can either click the link below and listen to Suzanne or simply read the text below.

Mark’s gospel is the shortest and most direct of all four canonical gospels.  His emphasis is on Jesus’ actions, Jesus as teacher or rabbi.  His Greek is uncultured, and his style, although vivid, is unrefined.  Mark is a compelling storyteller; and was most probably, the earliest of the Gospels to be written.

Unlike Matthew and Luke, who tell us the Christmas stories, Mark’s gospel starts with John the Baptist, as a grown man, baptising “people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem.”  Mark describes John as wearing clothes made from camel hair and eating locusts and wild honey.  John lives in the wilderness and preaches a message of “repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.

John knows that he is not the expected Messiah, and states that he is “not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals”, the action of one of the lowest slaves when a visitor entered a house.  In addition, John is baptising with water, but the one who is to come will “baptise you with the Holy Spirit”.

Why was Jesus baptized? - Quora

Suddenly Jesus appears.  There is no introduction or warning, Jesus just walks up with everyone else and is baptised by John.  Mark then describes a vision, most probably only seen by Jesus Himself: a dove descending from heaven, and a voice saying: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Here Mark is showing us that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the “Son of God”; he also emphasises Jesus’ insistence on keeping this secret – often called the Messianic secret, something that was important to Mark, who most probably heard most of his gospel from Peter following the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Mark wants his readers, that’s us, to know from the very start that Jesus is the expected Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour.

John was an important person in his own right and is mentioned in not only the Gospels but other historical documents too.  For Mark, however, his importance is only as the messenger sent ahead of the expected messiah.

Judaism had not had any major prophecies or messages, certainly through its priestly, temple, or synagogue channels for hundreds of years; people were waiting for something to happen, and prophecies predicted a coming messiah proceeded by a “messenger”.  Hence Mark’s emphasis on John at the beginning of his gospel.

And then, almost randomly, Jesus appears, and John disappears.

The baptism of Jesus is one of the few stories (other than the crucifixion and resurrection stories) to appear in all four gospels.  Unlike in Matthew and Luke who tell of the birth of Jesus, in Mark’s gospel we first meet Jesus as a 30 year old man, from this we can deduce that his baptism must have been a turning point in his life.  Here Jesus’ baptism seems a bit like a private affair, with only Jesus hearing the Father’s voice and seeing the dove descend.

Baptism wasn’t common practice for orthodox Jews, it was a ritual cleansing used when people converted to Judaism. Why, then, did Jesus need to be baptised?

I believe that Jesus was absolutely and completely human.  He had to discover who he was and what his mission was to be.  Something had been calling him, some deep spiritual need existed within him, so much so that at an age when most people would have been married, had children, and looking to consolidate their business – Jesus had to find out what God had in mind for him.  Jesus, just like us, had to have His calling confirmed in some human way.  John’s baptism provided the opportunity.  And Jesus, his faith confirmed, felt able to step out into role he was born into.

So what does this mean for us today?

Most of us were baptised when we were too young to have a say; many of us were confirmed at an age when we were not sure of where our lives would be going.  Baptism and confirmation have changed, from the church’s point of view, over the last two millennium.  Now we talk about joining the church, washing away original sin, proclaiming our beliefs – it is a joining act, or, if we are adults, an act of commitment.

As humans we need rites of passage. We need symbols, institutions, acts of initiation and beginnings.  The earliest cave paintings appear to have some form of religious symbolism; it seems to be a profoundly human need to have our calling, our identities, our true beings, confirmed by ceremony.

There are so many ways we celebrate beginnings, and Jesus is with us in all of them: baptisms, birthdays, weddings, ordinations, and, of course, deaths.  But more than this, we begin anew each and every day.  We have the chance to change, to listen, to hear God say to us “this is my child, by beloved”.

Jesus is God, but Jesus was and is human too – a profound mystery.  Let us take His love with us each day, celebrating our chance to be “baptised” into a new and ever deeper relationship with God – who is love, and models this in Her very being, a relationship between Father, Son and Spirit.

So step into that river, wash away your doubts and sins, and start again each day ready to hear God’s love call you to service.

Amen.

Hymn: I heard the voice of Jesus say

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
  “Come unto Me, and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
  Thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
  Weary, and worn, and sad;
I found in Him a resting-place,
  And He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
  “Behold, I freely give
The living water: thirsty one,
  Stoop down, and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
  Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
  And now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
  “I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
  And all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
  In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that Light of life I’ll walk
  Till trav’lling days are done.

Our Prayers for Today

Either click the link to listen to the prayers or simply read the text below.

Let the Spirit of God in our hearts plead for the Church and for the world.
Great God of time and space,
Fill your Church with joy in believing
That all Christians may overflow with love,
Compassion, generosity and humility.
Let us walk your way and live your life.
 
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
 
Great God of power and justice,
Fill the arenas of leadership and conflict
With sharpened consciences and with courage,
So that wise decisions are made,
Needs met and wrongs righted.
Especially at this time we pray for those in government
And our chief medical officers
And all those making decisions in the fight against Covid 19.
 
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
 
Great God of gentleness and truth,
At this time when we are spending more time in our homes,
Fill every home with new insight
And greater understanding. 
Break down the divisive barriers
And build up our capacity to love.
 
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
 
Great God of attentive caring
Fill us with your practical compassion;
May all who suffer be heard,
Comforted and cared for.
Especially at this time we pray for all those in hospital
And those working in intensive care and on emergency wards.
 
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
 
Great God of unending being,
Fill death with your life
And the dying with hope in you.
Prepare us all for the life which lasts for ever.
 
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
 
Great God of all creation, fill our mouths with praises
And our hearts with gratitude, for all the glory that surrounds us.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son
Our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Anthem: O Lord give thy Holy Spirit

O Lordgive thy Holy Spirit that we may dwell in the fear of thy Name, all the days of our life, that we may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.

This Week’s Notices

Outcomes from the PCC Meeting (held on Zoom: 5th January)

  • Budget for 2021: Our treasurer proposed a budget for this year including a reduced pledge for parish share of £3K. The budget was accepted. Concerns were expressed that even this pledge would be difficult to meet if the current circumstances continue. Our income is not meeting our bottom line expenditure. The PCC will receive monthly updates on our financial position which will be reviewed at regular intervals.
  • Deanery Synod Report: our representative referred to current activity related to mission including the growing use of digital communications, deanery finances which show many parishes struggling to meet their parish share and discussion related to the appointment of an Area Dean.
  • Stewardship Proposals: The meeting heard that although there is some individual generosity in giving, our parish doesn’t give what might be expected. It was felt that we needed to be clearer about our mission objectives in order to procure increased giving. The PCC plans to revise our Mission Action Plan (February Zoom meeting) and submit an appeal during lent for us all to re-consider our levels of Stewardship giving. In addition, it is planned to increase the default amount on the church dropbox from £5 to £8.

Thinking of next Sunday (17th January)….

  • A full service online: We hope to be able to record a full service for you from St Nicolas Church. It will be a service based on the Christmas to Candlemas Service booklet (without communion) with readings, a reflection, prayers and music available on this website from Sunday, 17th January. Whilst we can’t all be in church, do join us in our Sunday worship online and if you need a copy of the service booklet, please email Jane and she will get you a copy.

Thinking of how to get through this thing….

  • Buckinghamshire Council has issued advice about support offered for those in need. See the information below and use the phone numbers if you need to.

Thinking of happier days….

  • Fancy a pilgrimage to the Holy Land? Last year, plans were made (and then abandoned for obvious reasons) to organise a local pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It is hoped to re-organise this pilgrimage using McCabe Pilgrimages (www.mccabe-travel.co.uk) perhaps even for September this year. If you would like to know more about this possibility (absolutely no obligation), the local organiser of this potential pilgrimage is holding a Zoom meeting at 7:30pm on Thursday, 11th February to tell us more. Email the Vicar if you would like the meeting ID and password.

Thinking of those in need….

  • The Slough Food Bank: The APCM agreed we would continue to make donations to Slough Foodbank (following our Harvest donations). The Foodbank works with 155 government and community-based agencies like Shelter, Social Services, GPs and Schools. The Foodbank is a last resort for people. Last year, they helped 4,781 clients and it is expected that with Covid-19, this year significantly more people are in a food crisis situation. £20.00 provides two-day emergency supplies for a family – click this link Our nearest donation point for food is Taplow Sainsburys. Go to the Slough Foodbank website for the December wish list.

Final Hymn: Songs of Thankfulness and praise

Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise,
manifested by the star
to the sages from afar;
branch of royal David's stem
in thy birth at Bethlehem;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest at Jordan's stream,
Prophet, Priest and King supreme;
and at Cana, wedding guest,
in thy Godhead manifest;
manifest in power divine,
changing water into wine;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest in making whole
palsied limbs and fainting soul;
manifest in valiant fight,
quelling all the devil's might;
manifest in gracious will,
ever bringing good from ill;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Grant us grace to see thee, Lord,
mirrored in thy holy Word;
may we imitate thee now,
and be pure, as pure art thou;
that we like to thee may be
at thy great Epiphany;
and may praise thee, ever blest,
God in man made manifest.

Blessing

May God the Holy Spirit,
who came upon the beloved Son
at his baptism in the river Jordan,
pour out his gifts on you
who have come to the waters of new birth.
And the blessing of God the Father
God the Son and God the Holy Spirit
Be with us all this day and evermore.   Amen.

Voluntary: In Dulci Jubilo