Seeking Higher Ground - First Sunday after Epiphany - Baptism of Christ

January 8, 2012

Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11

One:        Ascribe to our GOD, O heavenly beings,
         ascribe to our GOD glory and strength.

Group1:    Ascribe to our GOD a glorious name;
        worship our GOD in holy splendor.

Group 2:    The voice of our GOD is over the waters;
        the God of glory thunders,
         the LORD, over mighty waters.

Group 1:    The voice of our GOD is powerful;
        the voice of our GOD is full of majesty.

Group 2:    The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
        the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

Group 1:     God makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
        and Sirion like a young wild ox.

Group 2:     The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.

Group 1:    The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
        the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

Group 2     The voice of our GOD causes the oaks to whirl,
        and strips the forest bare;
        and in God's  temple all say, "Glory!"

Group 1:    The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
        Our GOD sits enthroned as ruler forever.

One:        May our GOD give strength to the people!
        May the LORD bless the people with peace!

    Creating, Calling, and Faithful God,
    we come to this time and place to be with you,
    to worship you, and to learn from you.
    May our time together
    be like your creation of light in the darkness
    that you called good. 
    May it be that you would call us good
    while we respond to your call and as we listen to you. Amen.

    People of God,  we desire to be refreshed, renewed and changed.
    Let us listen again to God’s calling our names
    to encourage us and strengthen our resolve
    to be God’s people in faithfulness and peace-loving justice. 

    O God, we hear your voice and we see the way of Jesus set before us. 
    But its hard, dear God, to try again and again
    to live up to our baptismal vows
    and maintain our resolve to be your people in the world. 
    In repentance we ask you to forgive us.
    Set us once again on a holy path that leads to you.  Amen.

    Sisters and Brothers,
    God hears our prayers and sets before us the way of Jesus.
    God calls us and gives us enough grace and mercy to follow the way. 
    Thanks be to God.

MUSICAL RESPONSE:          Higher Ground                The New Century Hymnal 442
                    Sing Refrain Only   


This is an ideal day for Baptism and for the remembrance and renewal of Baptism promises.
  Enlist an intergenerational team or teams appropriate to the size of the gathered community to help with pouring the water from pitcher into the font and after the baptism to pour water into bowls to pass among members who want to renew their baptismal vows.  At the appropriate time the teams  will pass among the people with bowls of water and  towels.  Invite participants to put their hands in the water and touch it to their face or forehead as a symbol of remembering. 

    God created new life forms and brought them up from the waters of chaos,
     embraced them, and called them good. 
    Jesus, baptized in the river Jordan by John the Baptist,
    became living water for us and embraces all of us.
     Jesus embraces also you who are the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized
    and all others who come seeking. 
    We follow Jesus with our baptism,
    marking a starting place for new life and new ways of being.
    We join Jesus in love and service. 
    Let us prepare our hearts and minds to see, feel, and hear once again the vows of baptism.

Baptism of the candidate/s may follow the protocol utilized by the church or from the UCC Book of Worship or The New Century Hymnal.

Vows of Renewal.
          Do you renew and affirm the promises made at your baptism?
        I do.
        Do you recognize the call of God to be God's people always?
         I do.
        Do you embrace the way of Jesus in faith and ministry?
        I do
        Do you accept the nurture of the Holy Spirit who renews your spirit each day?
         I do.
        Do you accept and embrace others who seek a liberating faith in God?
        I do.
                In renewing your baptismal vows,
         remember your baptism as a mark of acceptance
        and welcome into the care of Christ's church
        where you may begin again your Christian faith and life.

    O God,
    we rejoice in your grace, given and received.
    We thank you that you claim us,
    that you wash us, strengthen us, and guide us,
    that you empower us to live a life worthy of our calling. 
    In the way of Jesus, make us as water in a dry and thirsty world.
    Establish us to be places of refreshment.
    Root us and nurture us in love,
    that with all your people, that we may rightly and justly serve you. 
    Fill us with your fullness
    that our lives may overflow in service and love. Amen.

    Faithful God,
    Bless us in our baptismal calling
    to be in ministry of showing hospitality to others. 
    We offer the gifts that we have been given to be used
    not for conquest and dominance,
    but for use in liberating the poor and hurting people
    who pray for our liberation as well as their own. 
    Receive and multiply our gifts for life-giving ministry. Amen.

    Thank you, God, for blessing us with memories of Jesus' baptism and ours.
    Thank you for removing our reluctance, doubt, and fears,
    for replacing them with courage and commission. 
    We go forth with your calling, direction, and blessing.  Amen.

Seeking Higher Ground, Service Prayers for Baptism of Christ Sunday was written by the Rev. Rosemary McCombs Maxey, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and is retired clergy and a member of Fellowship Congregational United Church of Christ, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Copyright 2012 Local Church Ministries, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH  44115-1100.  Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education.  All publishing rights reserved. 

 Seeking Higher Ground--Baptism of Christ--January 8.rtf


Rev. Susan A. Blain
Minister for Worship, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44115