worship format and original content: Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber (c) 2021
As the Living God guides us through these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise, we offer free worship content. We’re exploring format shifts. Bear with us! Take Care!
Time for Children of All Ages
Out of the Bag: “Epiphany 2021: God is Still Speaking” God spoke to the magi through a dream to save Jesus
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
Call to Worship
Beloved, God calls us into the Wilderness of Awakening.
Beloved, God calls us into the River of Forgiveness.
Beloved, God calls us to rise Blessed and Empowered… too!
Light the Christ Candle
Gathering Song “Shall We Gather by the River” Words and Music: Robert Lowry. Performed by Buddy Greene. (Chalice #701)
We Rest in God’s Grace
Releasing and Receiving
How is it with your soul? Check in with God however your spirit and body wish. It’s okay to enter into God’s presence uncertain to what is happening, opening to what might happen. However you arrive, God will be delighted.
We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:
Be still and know that I am God. (pause)
Be still and know that I am. (pause)
Be still and know. (pause)
Be still. (pause)
Rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you wish. When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”
Grace is freely given; we cannot make it happen. If we could, it would not be grace. However, we can improve our receptivity to God’s gifts.
This week we remember Jesus humbling himself to John’s ministrations in the River Jordan. Jesus models a pure spirit releasing and being open. While we may not witness the heavens open and God’s voice speak words of direct blessing, there may be times when a “knowing” comes over us and we swell with an inner sense of our beloved-ness. Such a moment of grace is quite holy. Let us cherish God’s grace whenever it comes upon us.
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:4-11 (NRSV)
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. John 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.”
Quote from Mechthild of Magdeburg, 13c Germany mystic:
“And God said to the soul: I desired you before the world began. I desire you now, as you desire me. And where the desires of two come together, there love is perfected.”
May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.
Reflection “Blessed in a Wild Place”
John the Baptist was called out of the Temple into the Wilderness to prepare the people for God’s Beloved Son. So, too, we have been called out of our Sanctuaries into our Households to open our hearts to God’s Beloved Ones.
Jesus of Nazareth humbled himself to the waters of the River Jordan and the reinterpreted rituals of his cousin John. So, too, we are to humble ourselves to God’s ambassadors to be spiritually prepared for our future ministries.
The River took what was not needed away. The Heavens offered a Spirit like a Dove bestowing blessing. The heavenly Voice spoke affirming identity, status, and belovedness. So, too, God is working through all Creation to bring the Living Christ into redemptive, relational presence with us.
Now that our religious patterns have been disrupted where are we, as individuals, being called to experience spiritual care? Where are you finding spiritual nourishment? When and where are you safe to be vulnerable and open to new blessings?
I believe one of the strange gifts of this “Stay at Home” time is seeing, more clearly, what truly blesses our souls, especially in times of challenge. This is a time to note the comforting habits we miss AND to acknowledge where and how we are currently being restored and blessed.
This week consider where you have found genuine spiritual uplift these past 9-10 months. Where has God blessed you? Maybe, like Jesus, it has been a “wild” place – a place unlike the holy buildings where you expected to find God’s presence in the past?
Amen. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)
(Note: A somewhat related sermon video will be available on YouTube channel “Kathryn Schreiber” before 1/10/2021)
Special Music “Wade in the Water” Traditional African-American spiritual. Performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock. (Chalice #371)
Prayers of the People, The Lord’s Prayer
We Give Thanks
This second Sunday of the year, many Christians recall the baptism of Jesus Christ. Let us also pause to remember our baptism through Jesus Christ. All who proclaim Jesus as Christ are connected, eternally. We are part of “The Body of Christ” one of an uncountable number of souls who reside in fellowship throughout all time. What a blessing!
Let us praise God for this everlasting gift. We are “us” because Jesus brought us, in word and action, God’s redeeming love. Hallelujah! Praise God! (also see donation footnote)
We Continue in Hope
Song of Hope “Down to the River to Pray” Written by Philip Lawson. Performed by Alison Krauss and Union Station. 2002. https://youtu.be/swOLCLrqBn8
God is here in our wilderness time.
God is still speaking –
in breaking clouds and diving doves
proclaiming “Beloved” to all who serve.
Let us journey on in this wild place
filled with a truly Holy Spirit
opening to unpredictable new wonders.
(the service is concluded)
Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995
Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995
HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.
YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results
All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source.
(Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, suspended copyright restrictions early during the coronavirus pandemic. Permission may shift as conditions change. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements.
Online Publishing Date: January 5, 2020.
Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author. Please observe ethical use of resources and follow your platforms publishing requirements for all created content.
Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude by offering your support – in action or financial gift – to your church or a church you respect. We really need your support right now – volunteers and funds. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!
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