Service for Sunday 8 January, 2017
Ipswich Central Uniting Church
Year A Baptism of Jesus
Call to Worship - Psalm 29:1-12
Ascribe to the LORD, o heavenly beings,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength,
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendour.
Hymn Together in Song 675 Lord, the light of your love is shining
Lighting the Christ Candle
Passing the peace
Hymn Together in song 256 From Heaven you Came
Prayers of adoration and confession
with the heavenly beings
and with all of creation
we do ascribe glory to you
and seek to worship you.
Along with the largest mountain
along with the smallest atom
we exist to bring glory to your name.
We praise you and give you thanks for the wonder
of your creation
for the magnitude of your achievements
for the immeasurability
of your love for us.
We confess the times
when we don’t bring glory
to you or even to ourselves.
We confess our shame
and our guilt -
our open and honest mistakes
and our darkest hidden secrets.
We confess what you already know and pray your forgiveness -
In Jesus’ name,
Declaration of forgiveness
Hymn: Together in Song 270 On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
Scripture: Acts 10:34-43
Sermon: When we ask “why?”
It’s the question most people want an answer for - and the question there’s most often no answer to. We begin to ask “why” in childhood.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the conversation that goes like this:
“Eat your dinner.”
“Because it’s good for you.”
“Because it’s got nutrients that your body needs to be healthy”
“Because that’s the way God designed you.”
“because that’s the way God wanted to do it.”
“Just eat your dinner.”
The problem with the question why, is that whenever we get an answer, there’s always another “why” to ask. If we keep asking we reach a point where we have no answer or no answer that we can understand.
Of course when we grow up, we stop asking why we have to eat dinner. We have grown-up versions of the question “why?”
“Why is this happening to me?” “Why did this happen to someone I care about?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “Why do Christians suffer the same as everyone else?” “Why does crime so often pay?” “Why was that person elected?”
Sometimes, these questions have actual answers. Sometimes, they are the natural consequences of our own or others’ actions. However, that’s not always true. Sometimes things like that just are.
Sometimes, in the face of things we don’t understand, God helps us to find things of value, even in the pain of the experience. But whatever positive value God helps us find in the events of our lives aren’t necessarily the reason we endure that suffering. They are signs that under the influence of God’s creativity, blessings can grow in the midst of hardship.
So what is God’s answer to our “why?”
It’s not to give us reasons why. Perhaps reasons are really more than we are able to cope with or understand.
Instead, God responds to us in Jesus. In the story of Jesus’ baptism, we see that response.
Jesus was baptised by John, received the Holy Spirit, and heard God’s words of approval. He didn’t need to do that for himself.
Jesus was one with God, one with the Holy Spirit, for eternity. So he didn’t need to receive the Holy Spirit, and he didn’t need God’s word of approval.
He certainly didn’t need to be baptised by John, as John himself was quick to point out. John’s baptism was for the forgiveness of sins - and Jesus had no sins to forgive.
Jesus was baptised to stand with people who did need forgiveness - with us. He was declaring himself to be one with us, not because he had to, but because he chose to; not to benefit him, but to benefit us. Jesus, one with God for eternity, was baptised to identify as one with us.
As a result of this, Christian baptism is about far more than the forgiveness of sins - just as Jesus in baptism claimed to be one with us, then in our baptism, we are made one with him. We have become incorporated into his body, the church.
God’s answer to “why?” isn’t to say “because…” it’s not to give us reasons. God’s answer is to give us Jesus. God’s answer is “I care, I understand, and I won’t let you go through it alone, I’m going to share your life with you.”
God, in Jesus, became one with us: not to end suffering - not yet; not to give us all the explanations we want; but to share the burden with us.
Through our hardest times, when we are weakest, we can rely on God’s strength and become stronger.
Through the times when we are most alone, God provides us with companionship and understanding.
Through the times when we face illness and even death, God gives us new life.
Offering and Hymn Together in Song 674 Inspired by love and anger
Dedication of offering.
Notices/What’s God doing among us?
Prayers of the people
We look at the pain in our world and we ask “why?”
Why must the innocent suffer - and the guilty go unpunished?
Why must we have wars and famine, disease and drought?
Why must people be in danger, in the homes where they should feel most safe?
We have so many questions
and only you know the answers.
Give us the faith to trust your wisdom,
when our own wisdom is insufficient.
Give us hope to work for good
and to believe that good is possible -
even when it seems hard to achieve.
Give us the grace to reach out in love and
help to bear one another’s burdens.
Give us the discernment to know
you walking the journey with us,
guiding us through the hardest of times.
We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Hymn Together in Song 693 Come as you are
Service of holy communion
Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for brokenness,