Theme Baptism marks us as Christ’s own and leads us to righteousness.
Call to Worship
One: Help us to know your ways, O Lord. Teach us your paths.
All: Lead us in your truth and teach us, for you are the God of our salvation; for you we wait all the day long.
One: You are good and upright, O Lord. You instruct sinners in the way.
All: All your paths are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep your covenant and your decrees.
– Based on Psalm 25:4, 5, 8, 10
*Hymn of Praise # 138 There is a Green Hill Far Away
*Invocation (the Lord’s Prayer) In these forty days you lead us into the desert of repentance that in this pilgrimage of prayer we might learn to be your people once more. In fasting and service you bring us back to your heart. You open our eyes to your presence in the world and you free our hands to lead others to the radiant splendor of your mercy. Be with us in these journey days, for without you we are lost and will perish. To you alone be dominion and glory, forever and ever
Just for Kids
Our Offering to God
*Prayer of Dedication Gather all our gifts together and bless them, O God, that we may be your faithful people in this day.
Scripture Reading 1 Peter 3:18–22
Christ, the righteous, suffered for the unrighteous. The writer refers to the days of Noah and the building of the ark when eight persons were saved through the waters, prefiguring the waters of our baptism.
*Hymn of Prayer insert Heal Me, Hands of Jesus
Pastoral Prayer O God, sometimes our lives are overwhelmed as we thrash around in fear, rather than looking for the safety of your saving love. // Silent reflection // Open our eyes to see you, O God.// Often we walk in deep waters without seeing where we are going, O God, more concerned about our own prosperity than the life-sustaining journey towards compassion and justice.//Silent reflection// Open our eyes to see you, O God
Then there are the times when we stay safe within your care and fail to hold out a hand to those who are sinking in life’s dangerous waters. //Silent reflection // Open our eyes to see you, O God. *Words of Assurance
Come, receive the grace of God. We are forgiven. Thanks be to God.
Psalm Based on Psalm 25:1-10 To you, O God, we lift up our souls. Do not let us be put to shame and do not let our enemies exult over us. Make known your ways to us, O God, and teach us your paths. Lead us in your truth, for you are the God of our salvation and we wait for you all day long. Remember your mercy, O God, and your steadfast love, which has been with us from of old. Do not remember the sins of our youth or our transgressions. Remember us according to your steadfast love. Good and upright is our God, instructing us in the way. God leads the humble and teaches us the way. All the paths of God are steadfast love and faithfulness for those who keep God’s covenant.// Our hearts lift in thankfulness, O God, for kindness is as wide as the skies and colored warm in gentleness. We thank you for signs of hope that appear unheralded before us in surprising gifts of light during the times when we seem to be sinking in the seas of fear. We thank you for Jesus Christ who confirms the ancient truth and lives out before us your commitment to care for us all. O God of our day, as we look at our world we can see people and places that are struggling for survival in the deep waters of injustice and the dark floods of rejection. We can see illness, helplessness, and pain. We bring some of these people and places before you now: Shine over our horizons with surprising hope, that we may never give up our efforts to travel in your way.
*Hymn of Praise # 137 What Wondrous Love is This
Scripture Reading Mark 1:9–15
Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. Just as he is coming up out of the water, the heavens open and the Spirit like a dove descends, accompanied by a voice from heaven. Then Jesus went into the wilderness where he was tempted for 40 days.
The waters of baptism are our call to righteousness and justice, and bring a sense of solidarity with those who must endure suffering for their faith.
Say the words “Big Wheel” or “Schwinn Stingray” to just about anyone over 40 and he’ll likely pull back some thinning hair to show you a scar and tell you a story — a story that usually involves participating in some variation of a copycat Evel Knievel stunt involving cinder blocks, plywood, a hill, pavement and a trip to the emergency room. For many getting a few stitches in the scalp used to be a childhood rite of passage.
Now that these used to be children, are parents, though, there’s no way they’d let their offspring be so scarred and scared by the ER doc and his needle (or worse). All the kids in the neighborhood are now fully helmeted, padded and protected by increasingly more high-tech and specialized safety equipment — whether they are riding their bikes or scooters or skateboards. Oh, and the formerly fearless are wearing them, too — now realizing that their own bones and skulls are more fragile and are just one bad pothole away from being irreparably cracked.
And it’s not just bicycle riders who sport these multicolored protections. Now there’s a helmet for just about every activity you can think of. The high-profile skiing accident deaths of celebrities like Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy, son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, have contributed to an ever-increasing number of people sporting helmets on the slopes — as much as 50 percent of the skiers and riders at some resorts. It makes sense to have on a helmet when you’re bombing down the mountain, though they’re probably more effective at staving off bumps and bruises than keeping you alive if, say, you have a run-in with a tree at high speed.
Helmets are hip — even with teenagers, including the Tantrum Audex, a helmet with integrated headphones for snowboarders to listen to their iPods while thrashing some powder. Some models even incorporate a cell phone, though one wonders whether talking on one when skiing is even more dangerous than driving with one.
Skiing is an obvious application and so is bull-riding, where some macho cowboys are trading in their 10-gallon hats for high-impact plastic. Whitewater rafting, sky diving and rock climbing are others. But how about something a little more tame — like soccer. More and more youth recreation fields are witnessing soccer moms snapping a chin strap on their future Freddie Adu or Mia Hamm as a way of protecting them from knocking noggins while going up for that big header.
And it doesn’t stop there. Once mom piles the kids into the minivan, the day is coming when the kiddos will switch to another kind of helmet. The government is reviewing a patent for a child-sized car helmet. Chances are that Junior will soon look more like Dale Earnhardt Jr. commanding the back seat on the speedway of suburban life.
Where does it end? Well, how about this: helmets for walkers? That’s right, someday your neighbors may stroll by with Rover in tow while sporting custom-designed headwear to protect them from …. ///While that may seem a little extreme, the truth is that people these days are more safety-conscious and see the helmet as the best chance of protecting one’s operational, physical and emotional center. “People are starting to become comfortable with the idea that a helmet in just about any activity is probably a good idea,” says says Stephen Johnson, general manager of the Snell Memorial Foundation, a California nonprofit organization dedicated to testing and certifying helmets. “You’re weird if you don’t wear a helmet.”
Chances are that if you’re into any kind of activity that involves leaving the relative safety of your house you’ve got one or more helmets in your garage — though, as studies have shown, more accidents happen in the home than anywhere else. So, how about a house helmet?
This proliferating pile of protections begs the question: Why can’t there be just one kind of safety helmet that could be used for everything? A Swiss Army helmet, perhaps?
Well, the problem with that is that different activities present different risks to different parts of the brain. Bicyclists, for example, tend to crash in forward motion while skateboarders fall backward. A whitewater helmet isn’t so much about preventing a skull fracture as it is about keeping the kayaker from being knocked silly while turning under water. Drowning because of passing out is a bigger cause of death than head injuries in that world (in case you wondered).
In order to be truly protected you need the right kind of helmet for each recreational application. Now, you’d think with all that plastic, foam and expensive design that head injury statistics would go down, right? Not exactly. Studies have shown that wearing a helmet can, in certain activities, lead a person to believe that he or she can take greater risks which, in turn, leads to greater injuries.
The lesson? Wearing a protection is no substitute for actually using the brain it protects. /////
Following the description of John’s ministry of baptism preparing people through repentance for the one who would baptize with the holy spirit rather than water (vv. 2-8), today’s passage opens with the simple and straightforward statement that Jesus came to be baptized by John (v. 9).
What is made explicit is that following this baptism with water Jesus himself was baptized with and received the Holy Spirit. But like so much else in Mark’s gospel that marks Jesus as the Christ, this experience is veiled in secrecy. Whereas the readers are allowed to share in the experience of the heavens being cleaved open, the narrator explicitly restricts the awareness to Jesus himself at the time of the Spirit’s descent. Only “he saw the heavens opened,” and the voice of God is directed only to him: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
We can only be left to wonder, however, how eager others will be to share this baptism with the Spirit, given its consequences for Jesus. Using a word most often associated with exorcism in Mark’s gospel, Jesus is “cast out” into the wilderness by the Spirit that has descended upon him, where for the next 40 days he is tested by Satan.
God is present with Jesus throughout this trial in the same way God was present with Adam in Eden and Israel in Sinai. Yet where both humanity generally (Adam) and God’s chosen people (Israel) have failed such temptations in the past, this time the ”human one” succeeds in plundering Satan’s house.
A Holy Helmet
Wearing proper protection to keep your head together makes good sense. But what kind of protection do you use to guard your spirit when tempted to take some ill-advised risks?
What kind of holy helmet is best?
The temptation narratives in the gospels give us a clue as Jesus, venturing out on his own to begin his ministry, heads into the wilderness to engage in some extreme spiritual sports competition with Satan. Today’s reading from Mark’s gospel, which is kind of a Reader’s Digest version of the story, gives us the sense that Jesus was prepared to take on the challenge, knowing that his thoughts and his spirit were protected.
As the passage opens, we find Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River by his cousin, John. A voice from heaven breaks through the sound of the rushing water and the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove. “You are my son, the Beloved,” says the voice; “with you I am well pleased” (v. 11).
God, the Father, is the one who gives Jesus his identity, marking him as someone special, someone who has God’s favor. In a very real sense, Jesus begins his ministry equipped and protected with nothing less than the full love of a divine parent. // A child who is loved is more likely to take care of himself because parents express their love freely. They’ll put on the helmet at the parents’ request before jumping on the bike because they know that the folks have their best interests and safety at heart. // Jesus goes forth into the wilderness with a similar feeling — knowing in a powerful way that he is loved.
As we go out into a world fraught with temptations and potential pitfalls, our first line of defense is to know that God loves us, too. That we are “beloved” because of God’s grace. The knowledge and experience, forged through the day to day relationship we walk in with God, are better predictors of heart, mind and soul protection than any high tech headwear. When we know that God cares for us, we can move out smartly to take on the bumps and jumps the day throws at us.
The Protective Power of the Word
Mark doesn’t expound much on the temptations that Jesus faced out in the wilderness, but Matthew and Luke do. Foundationally fitted with God’s love, Jesus is able to switch helmets effectively to protect himself against the tempter. Like a bullying kid standing at the base of a plywood ramp, Satan double-dog dares Jesus to do something risky. Using Scripture as a biblical protection, Jesus doesn’t take the leap:
Satan says, “Satisfy your hunger and turn these stones to bread.” Jesus puts on the shell of self-denial, recognizing that everything comes from God and that God provides. ///
They go to the pinnacle of the temple. “Jump off,” says the bully, “and land unharmed. If you’re so great, God’ll protect you.” Jesus tightens the strap on the “skid lid” of common sense and knows that people who have real power don’t need to show it off or use it to suit their own ends. ///
Then there’s the big one — “All the kingdoms of the world can be yours,” says Satan, “if you’ll only worship me.” Jesus buckles on the helmet of humility and says that God is the only one worth serving.
Knowing who he was, what he was about, and what he had to do to accomplish his mission kept Jesus’ mind guarded and heart protected, not only in this wilderness temptation, but throughout his ministry and, ultimately, on the cross where he would again be dared to “come down” and do what a messiah was supposed to do.
With this period of testing ended, the time of preparing God’s way in the wilderness (cf. 1:3) has itself been completed. John’s voice that had cried out in the wilderness is silenced by his arrest (v. 14a). Jesus is no longer driven by the Holy Spirit to remain in the wilderness, and has returned to Galilee. There he begins preaching not preparation but the announcement that now ”the time is fulfilled” (v. 15a). The ”beginning of the good news” (v. 1) has been realized, for now the “reign of God is at hand” for those who “believe the gospel,” the message of God’s good news for humanity (v. 15b). But God’s imminent arrival does not mean that the time for repentance has passed. Jesus continues to call people to repent. Repentance is not motivated, then, by fear of God’s approach; rather it is grounded in the good news of God’s grace and forgiveness. The time of testing is not over, but the good news is that the Holy Spirit is available to all engaged in the spiritual struggle against evil.
Experiencing God’s love, knowing our Scriptures, and following Jesus’ example are probably the best ways to be spiritually protected as we roll through our days.
Think of it as the ultimate protection — a holy helmet for all occasions — even if you’re just walking around!
Source:Brown, Douglas. “A head of the game: Helmet use widening.” The Denver Post, August 28, 2005, A-01.
*Hymn of Response # 63 All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!
Communion Hymn Eat This Bread and Never Hunger
*Sending forth Put your trust in God and step out into the waters of life, for there lies more certainty than we will ever know and more possibilities than we have ever seen.
Thought for the Day
Work for justice in the world, and relief from suffering. It is part of your calling as followers of Jesus Christ. Know that he goes with you as one who is powerful and strong.