Worship for Sunday 9th January 2022, by Rev. Caroline Wickens

The baptism of Jesus

Invitation to Worship

The heavens open. The Spirit descends.

Jesus emerges from the water.


And a voice echoes through the blue expanse.

“This is my child, the Beloved, with whom I am well-pleased.”

Jesus is named. Claimed.

We come to the water. We remember we are named. Claimed.

Can it be so? What a thing to be named. Claimed.

Let us worship the one who names and claims us still.

written by Caela Wood, Pastor at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, Manhattan, Kansas.


Hymn: Be still, for the presence of the Lord (StF 20)

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Be still for the presence of the Lord
The Holy one is here
Come bow before him now
In reverence and fear
In Him no sin is found
We stand on Holy ground
Be still for the presence of the Lord
The Holy one is here.

Be still for the glory of the Lord
Is shining all around
He burns with holy fire
With splendour He is crowned
How awesome is the sight
Our radiant King of light
Be still for the glory of the Lord
Is shining all around.

Be still for the power of the Lord
Is moving in this place
He comes to cleanse and heal
To minister His grace
No work too hard for Him
In faith receive from Him
Be still for the power of the Lord
Is moving in this place.

David J.Evans (b.1957)

Prayers of Praise, Confession and Forgiveness

Jesus, your baptism fills us with wonder.
We marvel that you bowed to John’s ministry,
and humbly accepted baptism at his hands.
We worship and adore you
for immersing yourself in the same waters as sinners –
you, who had no need of repentance.
Father, we offer you our adoration
for your love of your Son, and of us, your children.
We are filled with awe at the Holy Spirit
descending gently as a dove.
We bow before you,
seeking the brushing of her wings on our heads also.
You have opened heaven to us,
and our hearts are full.
Through your Word and the Holy Spirit,
may heaven open to us today.
Let us hear your voice,
as we submit to your will
with the obedience and humility of Christ.

Lord, we confess
that our ears are often closed to your voice.
We do not hear you in the challenge or plea
of those who call to us in the wildernesses of our lives.
We confess that our eyes are likewise closed –
we do not see the signs of you all around.
Complacent, contrary, and often cynical,
we neither expect nor seek revelations or surprises.
Startle us with your grace, Lord.
Open the heavens this day;
speak your truth to our hearts,
and descend upon us in the power and gentleness
of your Spirit.

From Roots on the Web, 2019

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 43:1 – 7

But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
    Ethiopia  and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
    and honoured, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
    I will bring your offspring from the east,
    and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
    and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
    and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.’

Hymn: Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you (CMP 115)


Do not be afraid, 

For I have redeemed you. 

I have called you by your name; 

You are mine. 

1: When you walk through the waters I’ll be with you, 

You will never sink beneath the waves. 


2: When the fire is burning all around you, 

You will never be consumed by the flames. 


 3: When the fear of loneliness is looming, 

Then remember I am at your side. 


4: When you dwell in the exile of a stranger, 

Remember you are precious in my eyes. 


5: You are mine, O my child; I am your father, 

And I love you with a perfect love. 


Do not be afraid, 

For I have redeemed you. 

I have called you by your name; 

You are mine. 

Words and music © Gerald Markland (b.1953)

Gospel Reading

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,  16 John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved;  with you I am well pleased.’


It was a hot October Sunday in Kitwe in northern Zambia. I was heading for Riverside Church, where I was leading worship and baptising. When it came to that part of the service, the  candidates came, one by one, and found themselves pushed right under the water of the baptism pool – and I could see that each of them was afraid, as the water went over their face. Then as they came up out of the water, the fear was replaced by relief and joy. They had, symbolically, died with Christ and risen to new life; and it had been a scary experience. Yet it was also very important to them. They had left behind the guilt and anxiety of their earlier life, when they faced trouble alone. They were beginning a new life where they would always recognise Jesus at their side. Their baptism, scary though it was, mattered because it marked this change and made it real for them.

Passing through the water is an image that illustrates new beginnings at many stages of life. The past is washed away and a new future comes into view. And that is a scary process. The past may not have been comfortable but it was at least familiar; the future is unknown, and crossing the river involves entering the cold, deep, swirling water and hoping that you will find a foothold and get to the other side.

‘Do not be afraid’, says Isaiah. ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you’. Today, we think about the baptism of Jesus, and we remember how he was pushed into the current of the river Jordan, water in his eyes and nose and mouth – was he also afraid? He is with us when we pass through the waters because he has been there himself, sharing our experience, both the fear and the joy of emerging to a new way of life. Perhaps this is why he chose to be baptised, so that we can be sure he is there with us when we have to cope with change, when life shifts round us and we are no longer sure of the things we thought we knew.

And when Jesus comes up from the water and is praying, God is made known in three ways. The heaven, which separates God from humanity, cracks apart – the barrier is broken. The Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice is heard proclaiming the delight God takes in Jesus, the Son. In Luke’s Gospel, this is Jesus’ first action as an adult. He joins all the other people who have come to be baptised, and shares with them in their hope and fears. He makes the choice to stand with others, entering fully into their humanity. And so God’s voice announces ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’. Why is God so pleased with the Son? Because Jesus is doing what God wants of him: walking alongside other men and women. Jesus does not claim special privileges. He chooses to be ordinary and to share all that life brings – all the way to the Cross. Therefore God is delighted in him. ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you’: the one who shares our deep anxieties is also the one who delights God and who channels God’s love and grace to us. In his baptism, Jesus brings God’s power into the middle of our troubled lives, and transforms them by his presence. ‘Do not be afraid’, he says to us, ‘I have called you by name; you are mine’.

To think about:

What changes do you foresee in the coming year, for yourself or more widely? What difference would it make to find Jesus at your side?

Prayers for others and for ourselves

Lord God, as we move forward into a new year, 

we ask you to bless all who are not looking forward to this year. 

We think of people who are ill and fearful of what the year will bring. 

We think of all who have family difficulties 

and are concerned as to how to solve them. 

We think of all for whom the new year is bringing money problems, 

and all who are fearful for their jobs. 


Lord, for us all the future is unknown— 

help us to have the faith to trust in you, 

the wisdom to do the right thing, 

and to be guided by you constantly. 


Remind us, Lord, that you always keep your promises;

remind us too that they are kept in your time and not ours. 


We ask your blessing on all who have turned their back on You; 

or who have not known You. 

May they hear your word and respond to your love 

Be with those who are lost, 

who have never known you. 

Help them to seek and find the peace and love found in you and you alone. 


Heavenly Father, we bring before you our loved ones, 

and in the silence we pray for them. 

For our family, 

our friends,  

for all whom we know. 

May this year be good for all whom we love, 


Lord God, guide us in our lives.

May others see your love shine through us. 

May our words and actions constantly point to you; 

may we put You first in everything 

and serve You always. 


Father God—Loving God—we, your children, pray to you

And give you thanks and praise 

through the name of your beloved Son, Christ Jesus our Lord. 


We ask you to be with us 

and give us a year where we know and feel and are guided by your presence. 


Whatever the year holds may we never lose sight of you. 

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

written by Rev. Ian Elston


The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven

Hallowed be thy name

Thy kingdom come

Thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our trespasses

As we forgive those who trespass against us

And lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom

The power, and the glory

For ever and ever



Hymn:  Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart (StF 545)

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1 Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

2 Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word;
be thou ever with me, and I with thee, Lord.
Born of thy love, thy child let me be,  
be thou in me dwelling and I one with thee.

3 Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight.
Be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might,
be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower.
O raise thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

4 Riches I heed not, nor earth’s empty praise;
thou mine inheritance, now and always.
Be thou and thou only, the first in my heart,
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.

5 High King of heaven, thou bright heaven’s Sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won;
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Irish, eighth century, translated by Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1880 – 1931)

Closing Prayer

Holy Spirit, go with us into the world.
Re-source us with your power and your presence.
Father God, help us to know your love,
and that we are your beloved sons and daughters.
Lord Jesus Christ, help us to learn from you,
and to follow your example,
that we may share belovedness
with everyone we meet. 
from Roots, 2022