Worship for Sunday 7th January 2024

The baptism of Jesus   

Hymn: StF 231 The silent stars shine down on us

   1     The silent stars shine down on us
          with bright but sightless eye,
          unmindful of our little earth,
          of us who live and die.
          Are we but grains of stranded sand
          beside a cosmic sea
          that lie unvalued and unseen
          in such immensity?

   2     Creator of all stars, you came
          to grace our transient race.
          In Christ you spoke a Word that broke
          the silences of space.
          Still through that Word you call our hearts
          to know that we are known,
          to trust we do not walk through time
          unvalued and alone.

   3     We see the star the wise men saw
          and hope again is stirred.
          We track the footprints left in time
          by your incarnate Word.
          We see them climb a lonely hill
          where Love is left to die —
          the Love that formed the farthest star
          and hears the faintest cry.

   4     O Christ, the bright and morning Star
          whose radiance does not fade,
          whose glory filled the universe
          before the planets played:
          come, heal our hearts of blinding doubt
          till faith shall end in sight.
          Shine down upon our darkened earth
          and conquer sin’s long night.

Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr   (1923–2007)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 231
Words: © 1997, GIA Publications Inc., 7404 S. Mason Avenue, Chicago, IL 60638, USA.  www.giamusic.com  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

A prayer of adoration

Almighty God, how awesome you are. Your voice is powerful and majestic.

Once, the earth was without shape.

Dark and empty.

Then you spoke, awesome God.
And light shone.

You separated the light from the darkness.

The whole world changed.

Later you sent your Son, Jesus.

To live and walk among us on the earth.

His ministry heralded by John the Baptist.

Who baptized Jesus in the Jordan.

The whole world changed.

The sky split open.

And your Holy Spirit came down like a dove.

So we pray, awesome God that you will continue to speak to us today through your Holy Spirit.

Majestic, awesome, all-powerful God, we adore your holy name. Amen.

A prayer of confession

Lord, when you came into the world, things changed. When we come into a relationship with you, things change. Life becomes filled with a new sense of purpose and peace. But, Lord, sometimes we let you down by doing wrong things or failing to do right things.

We are sorry, Lord.

Sometimes, Lord, through pride, stubbornness or fear we build barriers and keep others at arm’s length – even you, Lord.

We are sorry, Lord.

At times we give in to our weaknesses and temptations, failing to draw on your strength. At times we are troubled by difficult situations and find it hard to trust you.

We are sorry, Lord.

Help us to turn such things around and turn to you. Help us to learn from the past and, drawing on your strength and peace, make a better future. Amen.

Assurance of forgiveness

O God, when Jesus was baptized, you spoke of your love for him. You showed your love for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. By the power of the cross, the darkness of our wrongdoing is banished by the light of your loving forgiveness. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Old Testament Reading:
Book of Genesis Chapter 1, verses 1-5

(1)  In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, (2) the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  (5)  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Gospel Reading:
Gospel of Mark Chapter 1, verses 4-11

(4)  John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  (5)  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.  (6)  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  (7)  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.  (8)  I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  (9)  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  (10)  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.  (11)  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Hymn: StF 541 “To the river I am going”

   1   To the river I am going,
bringing sins I cannot bear;
come and cleanse me, come, forgive me;
Lord, I need to meet you there.

   2   In these waters healing mercy
flows with freedom from despair.
I am going to that river;
Lord, I need to meet you there.

              Precious Jesus, I am ready
              to surrender every care.
              Take my hand now, lead me closer;
              Lord, I need to meet you there.

To the river …
(repeat verses 1 and 2)

   3   Come and join us in the river,
come, find life beyond compare.
He is calling, he is waiting;
Jesus longs to meet you there.


Brian Doerksen (b. 1965),  Michael Hansen and Brian Thiessen

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 541. Words and Music: © 2004 Integrity’s Hosanna Music, Administered by worshiptogether.com Songs, excluding UK & Europe administered by Kingswaysongs, a division of David C Cook <tym@kingsway.co.uk>  Used by permission.


John the baptizer called people to repentance

Jewish people practiced “repentance” when they did something wrong, asking God’s forgiveness and determining to change. The Old Testament prophets often used this Hebrew idea of “turning” from sin; it involves more than just a “change of mind,” But the ultimate example of repenting or turning from a wrong way of living to a right way of living, was when a non-Jew – a gentile decided to obey the teachings of Israel’s God.

John is saying to the people of Judea– it is not enough that you are Jews – it is not enough that you can trace your heritage back to Abraham because your sins cut you off from God. You need to start again as if you were gentiles.

To tell Jewish people that they had to be baptized or repent the same way non-Jews did would have been offensive to many, because it challenged the widespread Jewish belief about salvation. Many Jewish people thought that if they were born into a Jewish family and did not reject God’s law, they would be saved; John told them instead that they had to come to God the same way that non-Jews did. The point of John’s baptism is that everyone has to come to God on the same terms.

John’s message was powerful the ways he dressed and what he ate reminded people of the great prophet Elijah who was commonly believed would reappear before the coming of the Messiah that people hoped would save Israel. Mark says that people from all over the countryside and from Jerusalem were going out to listen to him and to be baptised.

Yet Mark also tells us that John the Baptist may have been a massive figure with rave reviews, but he is not as powerful as the one who John says is to come.

John talks about being unfit to untie his sandals.

Jesus the Messiah however does not come to simply baptise people with water like John. He will baptise with the Spirit.

Yet Jesus does something that even John does not expect. Mark tells us that he comes to John and asks to be baptised himself. One of the ideas that Christians have about Jesus is that he was without sin so we might wonder why Jesus would want to be washed in Baptism by John. The answer is that it seems that Jesus wanted to identify himself with those who wanted to come close to God through repentance. Jesus wants to show people that the path to God is one of humility. Jesus does not see himself as separate from ordinary people but by this action he shows that he is one with them. It is in this act of humility and unity with the ordinary people that Jesus hear a voice saying, “You are my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased” and the Spirit of God came to rest upon him.

Some questions to think about

  • As Mark pictures it Jesus receives the power he needs to conduct his ministry at the point when he was being most humble. In what ways might we need to be humble in order to let the Spirit work in our lives and in our world?
  • Jesus identified himself with ordinary people who were coming to John to repent and make a fresh start. What might we need to repent in order to be able to make a fresh start and know or rediscover Jesus in our lives?

A song to think about

“Second chance” – Rend Collective


Oh, Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh, Your cross, it’s where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven’s heart

My future hangs on this
You make preciousness from dust
Please don’t stop creating me
Your blood offers the chance
To rewind to innocence
Reborn, perfect as a child

Oh, Your cross, it changes everything (ooh)
There my world begins again with You (ooh)
Oh, Your cross, it’s where my hope restarts (ooh)
A second chance is Heaven’s heart

When sin and ugliness
Collide with redemption’s kiss
Beauty awakens by romance
Always inside this mess
I have found forgiveness
Mercy, infinite as You

Oh, Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh, Your cross, it’s where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven’s heart

Countless second chances
We’ve been given at the cross
Countless second chances
We’ve been given at the cross

Fragments of brokenness
Salvaged by the art of grace
You craft life from our mistakes
Black skies of my regrets
Outshone by this kindness
New life dawns over my soul

Oh, Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh, Your cross, it’s where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven’s heart

Countless second chances
We’ve been given at the cross
Sing countless!
Countless second chances
We’ve been given at the cross

Countless second chances
We’ve been given at the cross

Songwriters: Brent Smith, Dave Richard Bassett. For non-commercial use only.

Hymn: StF 338 “There is a redeemer”

   1      There is a Redeemer,
          Jesus, God’s own Son,
          precious Lamb of God, Messiah,
          Holy One.
              Thank you, O my Father,
              for giving us your Son,
              and leaving your Spirit
              till the work on earth is done.

   2      Jesus my Redeemer,
          name above all names,
          precious Lamb of God, Messiah,
          O for sinners slain.

   3      When I stand in glory
          I will see his face,
          and there I’ll serve my King for ever
          in that holy place.

  1. 1-2 Melody Green (b. 1946) v.3 Keith Green (1953–1982)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 338
Words and Music: © 1982 Birdwing Music / BMG Songs Inc / Ears to Hear Music / EMICMP / Small Stone Media BV, Netherlands. Administered by Song Solutions Daybreak, 14 Horsted Square,
Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 1QG.  <www.songsolutions.org>  Used by permission.

Prayers of intercession

Eternal God, it feels as if the whole world has changed
and yet in you there is stability and the opportunity of a new beginning.
So, we pray now for those whose lives are in turmoil,
those whose lives have been turned upside down, those who feel lost.
May they feel supported, find fresh hope.

We pray too for countries around the world
struggling with war and conflict.
We pray for people in Israel-Palestine and in Ukraine
for those who have been bereaved

For those with life changing injuries
for those whose homes have been destroyed and lives turned upside down.
May they feel supported and find fresh hope:

We pray for those who work in the emergency services,
those whose work is dangerous and traumatic.
We pray for those in refugee camps
and those take frightening journeys in flimsy boats.
those who sleep rough,
those who can’t afford to heat their homes.
May they feel supported, find fresh hope:

We pray for one another, our families,
our communities, our church fellowships at the beginning of a new year,
May we support those who are unwell or grieving.
May we bring fresh hope to those who feel forgotten and are vulnerable,
and may we – both practically and prayerfully – share our faith
in your Son Jesus in whose name we entrust these prayers to you. Amen.

Hymn: StF 564 “O thou who camest from above”

   1         O thou who camest from above
              the pure celestial fire to impart,
              kindle a flame of sacred love
              on the mean altar of my heart!

   2         There let it for thy glory burn
              with inextinguishable blaze,
              and trembling to its source return,
              in humble prayer and fervent praise.

   3         Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire
              to work, and speak, and think for thee;
              still let me guard the holy fire,
              and still stir up thy gift in me —

   4         Ready for all thy perfect will,
              my acts of faith and love repeat,
              till death thy endless mercies seal,
              and make the sacrifice complete.

Charles Wesley (1707–1788)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 564 .


Lord, as we embark on this new year, we lift up to you, our loved ones, our communities, and the world. May your peace reign in our hearts and in the hearts of all people. Bring healing where there is brokenness and reconciliation where there is division and may the blessing of God our Creator, Jesus our Brother and the Holy Spirit be with us, now, and for ever more. Amen


Prepared by KS including some material from Roots Worship Resources.