On Sunday January 11th Peter Lacey led worship at Wesley Chapel. The opening hymn was, ‘Sing to him in whom creation’ before he led the opening prayers. The theme of his service was the Baptism of Christ. We then sang, ‘Come thou font of every blessing,’ before Psalm 29 was read which spoke of the power of God’s voice over nature. We sang, ‘All heav’n declares the glory of the risen Lord’ before Mark 1v4-11 was read and Peter preached.
He explained that we were going to focus on the baptism of Jesus, its significance for us and its message. A new beginning is to be entered into where new realities now exist. There can be a moment when everything changes such as when the aeroplanes went into the twin towers; terror struck in the reality of our world. There can be changes in our lives, such as the birth of a child, getting our first job, or retiring from paid work. Sometimes things are planned, or not planned; hoped for or dreaded. John came preaching repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sin. It was a new reality rooted in God’s word over the centuries. It was also a new beginning with its fullness still to come. He explained his thinking by comparing it with a journey; buying the ticket, packing, being ready to leave at the appointed time are the preliminaries, but the journey itself is the reality.
John explained that his baptism was only with water but the baptism to come would be of power of the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism attracted large crowds including John’s disciples. Then out of the north from Nazareth in Galilee came the carpenter Jesus. He would not have been noticed amongst the crowds, but John knew him as his cousin and God’s Messiah. However Peter is not sure John had imagined how it would happen; he wondered why Jesus was there to be baptised by him. John felt unworthy. Jesus was fully God and fully man but he chose to understand the act of repentance by aligning with each one of us in baptism. He had no need of repentance but gave himself selflessly as he associated with those he came to save. After he rose again from the water of baptism and the heavens opened and he heard God’s voice. As Tom Wright explained that heaven being opened did not mean a door in the sky, but that the dimension of God was seen; Jesus was standing in a different reality. The picture of heaven being opened is like a veil being drawn back and Jesus’ mission was affirmed.
The depressed, lonely, vulnerable, the homeless, those who are unattractive and difficult to get on with are a challenge for us. We are called to reflect God’s love to others as we follow in God’s way. This is the world we live in, a new reality, when we reach out and serve and love others, as God’s love fills us. God’s voice was heard as he gave words of love and approval of his son, Jesus in his obedience. He had confidence that Jesus would complete his mission. As we too stand in Christ we too receive the message of approval, although we fail. We stand before God clothed in the righteousness and light of Jesus. God says to us that we are his sons and daughters and he is well pleased with us. We seek to love and act in the new reality Jesus’ love and worship and serve him each day.
Following the sermon we sang ‘Spirit of the living God’ and ‘Lord the light of your love is shining’, before Peter led the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded as we sang, ‘Holy Spirit ever dwelling.’ It was a challenging and thoughtful service.