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Advent / Christmas / Epiphany

Epiphany 1A - The Baptism of Jesus

Isaiah 42: 1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10: 34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

CALL TO WORSHIP:  based on verses from Isaiah 42:1-3,6b,7 

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen,
          in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
         he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice;
         he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will be a light to the nations,
         to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
        from the prison those who sit in darkness.


TIS 225/AHB 160: "My heart and voice I raise"
TIS 84/AHB 43: "Give to our God immortal praise"


Holy God, we worship and praise you.  Through you comes the energy by which the world was made - and the very breath which gives us life.  And yet, you chose to reveal your power and your glory through one who serves others.  One in whom you delight. One who is gentle and persistent in the pursuit of justice. Is it any wonder that we see in Isaiah's prophecy the person of Jesus, your beloved Son and our Saviour?...


… Perhaps  Matthew, who wrote today's gospel, believed that the most important event after Jesus'
birth was his baptism where God's Spirit came upon him and God's voice  said "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." And it is like that with us - no matter if we are 3 weeks old , or 30 or anywhere in between or older, the most important event after our birth is our baptism - where we receive the gift of God's Spirit and where the whole baptismal service is identifying us as God's beloved…. 

TIS 153/AHB 93: "God is love"
TIS 253: "O Lord Jesus Marrkapmirr"
TIS 686: "Lord Jesus, we belong to you"


Hear the good news: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power..." and ... "everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."  (Acts 10: 38a, 43b)
         Thanks be to God!

SCRIPTURE IN SONG 84: "The Spirit of the Lord is now upon me"

EPISTLE: Acts 10: 34-43
GOSPEL: Matthew 3: 13-17


In the early pages of his famous book on the Holy Spirit by John V. Taylor – The Go Between God – he writes       
“What is the force which causes me to see in a way in which I have not seen?  What makes a landscape or a person or an idea come to Iife for me and become a presence towards which I surrender myself? Christians find it quite natural to give a personal name to this current of communication, this invisible go-between.  They call him the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God.”(

It is this Spirit, this go-between God who links our three readings together today.  It is the Spirit who communicates promise in the Isaiah reading; presence in the gospel, and power in Acts – the power to change….

When divine love meets us wherever, whoever we are, our lives are changed forever.  When this happens the ‘go-between God’  - the Holy Spirit - is present and active, and we know ourselves named as God’s beloved…..

And the story from Acts is about the power of the Holy Spirit being experienced as love – love liberated to be the go between that breaks down the barriers that keep people apart.  In this particular story the barriers are broken down that had existed between Jew and Gentile and the story comes right down to two people – Cornelius the Roman Centurion and Peter – Jewish Christian.  The Spirit of God touched each of them so that when Cornelius sent for Peter, he went to Cornelius’ house and entered it saying “I am well aware that it is against the law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit one.  But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean – and from today’s verses – Peter says “I truly understand that God shows no partiality but accepts people from every nation.”  This would have been really mind-blowing stuff and is a story about new life in Christ – the old order has indeed passed away…. 

Henri Nouwen, when writing about the “increasingly complex world of single parenthood, blended families, corporate takeovers, economic uncertainty, and political unrest began to wonder if there was a single, simple word that might address the deep yearning of people for hope, trust and love.”  He felt that a special word had emerged from deep within him and that word was beloved.  Previously, he had believed that the word spoken to Jesus belonged to long ago, to another world, another person.  But now, he says, the words, “You are my beloved” are words spoken to us as well.  The voice of love, speaks to us and whispers softly or loudly: “You are my Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” 3     Let’s pray then that we do each hear and believe these words spoken to us through the gift of the ‘go-between God’ – the Holy Spirit  - a gift that will empower us to be bearers of the powerful, recreating and reconciling love made so visible by Jesus Christ.  Amen

TIS 409/AHB 322: " O breath of life come sweeping through us"


Give thanks for God's identification with us through Jesus, God's beloved Son; for his willingness to join those other pilgrims in the River Jordan to be baptised by his cousin, John the Baptist.  Give thanks for his Spirit-filled ministry which began in earnest that day.  Give thanks that in our baptism we are gifted with the Holy Spirit, made members of the body of Christ and called to his ministry and mission in the world. Pray that we may be continually challenged to follow in Jesus' footsteps and to live out his ministry in the world today and every day.  Pray for people and events locally....nationally...globally- particularly all those whose lives and futures are drastically affected by natural disasters or acts of violence etc….. Pray that the compassion and generosity of people around the world might bring hope and comfort to those whose lives know only hopelessness and injustice etc…..


O God, you have blessed our lives by revealing your love for us in Jesus - your beloved Son.  We offer these gifts as tangible expressions of our joy and gratitude, and pray that through them - and our witness and service - others may come to recognise and experience your  presence in the world.  In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen

TIS 609/AHB 537: " May the mind of Christ my Saviour"

Go into this week,
   knowing that you are    
       beloved by God,   
          cherished by Jesus Christ,
              anointed by the Holy Spirit.


(1)   John V Taylor, The Go-Between God, (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1976)p.16f.

(2)   John Shea, AN EXPERIENCE NAMED SPIRIT (Chicago: The Thomas More Press, 1983) p.144

(3)   Henri J.M. Nouwen, Forgiveness: The name of love in a wounded world, in WEAVINGS Vol.VII No. 2 (Nashville: The Upper Room, 1992) p.7