Narrative Lectionary: Baptism of Jesus

Call to Worship (based on Psalm 51:15, 10)
O Lord, Open my lips
and my mouth will declare your praise
For you have not delight in sacrifice, it does not please you
Create in my a clean heart, O God, that I might worship you today and everyday.

Prayer of Confession: (unison): God, I confess my transgressions. Against you, you alone I have sinned. I confess that I have done what is evil in your sight. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. Blot out my transgressions according to your abundant mercy. Wash me, and cleanse me from my sin. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.

Assurance of Pardon: God restores us, creating clean hearts and new spirits within us, and God’s salvation is restored to us through Jesus Christ. Friends hear the good news; In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.

HEARING THE WORD
Children’s Time : Telling God’s Story
(All children are invited to the front)

Prayer for Illumination
1st Scripture Reading Psalm 51:6-17
2nd Scripture Reading Luke 3:1-22

“Pre-Disciples” Pastor Katy Stenta

Reflection Roger Held

Joys & Concerns & The Lord’s Prayer (p. 16 in the blue hymnal)

RESPONDING TO THE WORD
Offering
*Doxology (#592 in Blue Hymnal) Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise God all creatures here below. Praise God above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost! Amen.

SENDING THE WORD
Prayer of Dedication: God, remind us to share everything: food, blessings, baptisms. Send us forth into the world being the hands and feet of Christ. Help us to be your disciples we pray. Amen.

Hymn #443 “O Christ, the Great Foundation”


*Charge & Benediction

The peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you. (Invitation to share Peace)

Renunciation of Evil

Do you renounce evil?

Pastor Sally asked my parents, as they held my 2 year old hand, at the church where I balance beamed on the walls and callout “my bells, my bells” before I was baptized.

Do you renounce evil?

My church in Arkansas asked, just after lightening burned it to the ground and the other kids and I made cross drawings out of ash on the front lawn. This church—which now had 30 kids and was bursting at the seams and found a way to expand with the rebuild—graciously confirmed me as an adult member before we had to move.

Do you renounce evil?

My home church asked—where I found relief from Jr High bullying, where I was supported and included despite my penchant for far too fancy dress up for Sunday, and my extroverted ways–as they confirmed me as a teenage member of the governing board, and eventually joyfully sponsored my call to ministry.

Do you renounce evil?

My first pastorate asked, ordaining me on bended knees, as a young and very, very enthusiastic pastor, trying to raise the excitement I felt for the church of tomorrow with anyone and everyone I could. They asked me that 10 years ago 10/2/2010.

I renounce evil. It is my call to hold fast onto what is good, but also to declaim all things that pollute faith.

Empires, Liars, and Caesars, Violent Authorities, Racism, Bigotry, Ableism, Homophobia, Transphobia and Sexism, White Supremacy, Hypocrisy and Virtue Signaling are all idolatry. Claiming that I am better than you is a sin against God.

Please, teach me to recognize evil when it happens. Help me to name it in all of its forms. And help be brave enough to renounce it whenever I see it–and to listen closely when others find it and point it out to me.

Craft my words: So my declamations are loud, craft my honor: so my apologies are brief and sincere. Open my eyes and guide my tongue: so I can help others do the work they need to do, and to find a way to education one another when mistakes are made.

Help me to denounce evil, I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to read/use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

#Rain #reLENTless #slatespeak

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Love is not exclusive. Everyone can love. Even this who do not believe in God, even those who are evil, the “bad guys” that my 5 year old likes to name. Even they can love the people who love them.

Look at the dictators of the world, many of them love. But then they also hate. They hate their enemies, they burn with the need to destroy.

God says to love our enemies. Love the neighbor, love the stranger, love the enemy.

The good news is there is NO gaps in the love of God.

The bad news is, there is NO gaps in the love of God.

When we go out in the storm that is God, we all get soaked in God’s love. The righteous and the righteousness all dripping with Goddroplets.

storm_goddess_by_thoughtsthunk-d5nra7o

Image: Storm Goddess

Its a funny thing, that God is the storm, and the love is the water.

And yet, maybe that’s why we get baptized in water.

To remind us, when you go out in the storm, everyone gets soaked.

 

 

#love of a #black #genderfluid prob. considered #disabled man, pondering Acts 8

When I did a search for the bulletin cover for this week I noticed something. I could find many artworks entitled “Baptism of the Eunuch” for the bulletin (that’s where I got today’s bulletin cover), but no children’s worksheets. As you may or may not know, we are trying, very hard, to be more inclusive of the children during worship. It is a difficult line to walk, many children are very loud and squirmy, and many adults appreciate a time of quiet worship without said children. But anyway, as a part of being more welcome, I’ve been creating worksheets. I have in my head that the mantra should be something like “Busy Hands for Listening Ears” For those of us who can listen and doodle, knit, etc. during church (Note that sleeping is not one of those options). And by the by if you are an adult who picks up a worksheet to do I won’t tell although I would personally consider it an accomplishment, since church has this mistaken idea that if a project is creative it must be a children’s only activity, which is ridiculous.

Finally I found, a very few pictures and activities when I happened upon the search term of “Philip and the Ethiopian.” Now I don’t know how many of you would categorize or even know what story is being referred to by this title, but I can say, as a pastor, I never would have put two and two together. So there we have it, the baptizing of the Eunuch and Philip and the Ethiopian. Baptizing the Eunuch/Philip and the Ehtiopian. And lets get this straight: the baptism was not a white man’s burden kind of baptism because Philip does not set out to go and convert the black man. He instead goes out to meet a person where they were and walk with them to his/her next step in faith.

If I were to guess, we Christians like the picture of Philip and the Ethiopian better than the picture that is really put forth in the story today.
Its like 1 John 4, which is great, Beloved, love one another. Can’t you just….picture it? What comes to mind when we say love one another? Maybe a perfect spring day…perhaps some unknown children laughing together, or the whole world holding hands. Perhaps its the rendition of “Its a Small world after all”

In the abstract, love is a beautiful, beautiful concept. But in reality, the story that is put here is way more disconcerting. An Angel of the Lord says you need to get down the road. And if this is me, I’m immediately thinking, shoot I’ve missed something, I’ve not been doing enough, ok, God is calling me to go somewhere and do something…so I’m going to make up for whatever I’ve done wrong and go and get it done with now. I am a get it done sort of person and I hate it when I miss things.

Then the Holy Spirit says to Philip, that one, there and there must be some reason that the Holy Spirit had to say this was the person. This Ethiopian, which means he is racially different and black. From Ethiopia, what do Ethiopians know about Jews, they are the Abyssians one of those invading races that the Old Testament Jews had to deal with. So how does one even talk to such a different person?…to add to this person who is genderfluid: a eunuch sometimes eunuchs were referred to as female, the word for eunuch in Greek is non-man, yep, this person is blurred in the lines, no one knows what to refer to them as. Are they even human? Is it even worth talking to this person? He/She can’t have children, He/she is obviously hasn’t been nor ever will be circumcised. (I’m reverting to he in this text just to keep things clear) Is this person even human? Is this a natural thing?  Which brings us to our final point which is that this person was probably also considered to be disabled in the Greek culture.
 

 So here you have it some black, nonJewish, Ethiopian, genderfluid, disabled person. Go and love them.
The specifics very quickly get complicated, and even Philip needed the Holy Spirit to remind him that God is for Everyone that Jesus died for this person too. I think it is here that the church has some work to do, because it is the most difficult to love someone who is different from yourself. You usually end up saying something like “I just don’t know what to do…because I just can’t understand them………” a particular type of love that takes hard work. No doubt this is why most of the Presbyterian Churches consist of 98% of one race and the toekn 2% of another (which is luckily not the make up of this particular congregation). Not only are individual churches made up this way, but also, the numbers for the entire Presbyterian USA entity run that way to. And the reason is, it is difficult to love someone who is not like you. It is difficult to understand them and it is difficult to know their needs. That is why we need to meet people where they are, and ask them what it is they need. To walk with them wherever it is they are. Not because this person is perfect but because “every” single “one” of “us who loves is born of God.”

And the eunuch asks…who is this person who is dying for the world? Tell me about this person.

And I imagine that Philip did a little Bible study with this person that went something like. God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1st John 4:9-10) if God is for us, who is against us? For God Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us! (Romans 8:33-34).

So naturally, the eunuch says, well, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?
This is the line….the one that drives the Presbyterian piece (or any other mainstream church piece) of us nuts. You can’t just baptize someone because they asked. Thats not decently and in order, there needs to be rules and a statement of faith and meetings. How can you get baptized without a meeting?

And someone else felt that way too, because some later manuscripts say “Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

But really, there is no answer, what is to prevent the Eunuch from being baptized, his learning of God has already begun. The Eunuch was already studying the scripture and sought out instruction. It is for this reason that we baptize babies, because babies already know love, and they are already children of God, and in reality no one of us will ever know enough or everything about God. However we are in pursuit of that knowledge.

This is another reason why fun things should not be just for children. This is another reason why people are moving away from calling Christian Education Sunday School, because that implies the only learning we have to do about God is as a child.

The truth is, though that we need to continually learn about God, and the ways to learn about God are to be creative, to be open and to find specific people to love, not to leave it at the generality of “love one another” but to find that totally weird person in our lives, to purse the strangers, the aliens, those who we don’t understand, to listen to the Holy Spirit and to love them. To walk with them, wherever they are, whatever their level of understanding is and to try to support their journey of faith. Meeting people where they are and walking with them, and to be as open to their learnings about God, as our own understandings of God might be.

You know what I think? I think Phililp went out to teach the Eunuch, and instead the Eunuch taught him. It was the Eunuch who asked Philip to teach him (not vice versa) The Eunuch blurred the lines of understanding of how to love this person who was black, from a completely different culture and spoke in a fashion that was probably hard to understand, this person who wasn’t quite male nor female, this person who was probably returning back home at the end of the day, and not staying to be a beloved member of Philip’s own congregation.

But the Eunuch taught Philip by asking an enormously relevant question that should burn in our hearts as Christians today. What is to prevent me from being baptized? to which Philip’s answer was…

To say absolutely nothing

Acts 8:26-40

26Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

1 John 4:7-21

7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

Baptized Ash: The Stars, the moon & me

We are brief, like flowers, like a breath of air.

We are mortal, here one moment and gone the next.

It is amazing to think that the same God who is eternal, the one who created rocks and trees that last hundreds or thousands of years, the ones who crafted the heavens that seem to be billions of years old created us as temporal beings.

stars

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them? ” Ps 8:3

Death is real for us–it is a real part of our existence, but we our lives matter. God created us and then God sent Christ to us. Even though we are not perfect and live only a short while.

Christ baptized us, marking us, tagging us as His. Like writing a name on the bottom of a favorite toy, we are marked. Marked by the cross, reminded that God takes care of us and is particularly present to us. When we are baptized, we die with Christ, we rise with him, and we live into the fact that we are the be-loved children of God–adopted into God’s family, covenanted through Christ.

And this is important because our lives are short.

And we are not perfect–my 6 year old son has just realized he is not perfect, and he never will be. He shuts himself up in his room and cries about it. When he makes a mistake, he mourns it.

And because bad things happen in our lives, we have to deal with real things and real evil and God knows that we have to deal with all this.

Do you know what I do when my son cries forlornly all alone?

I go to him, I sit with him, I hug him and comfort him. I tell him I will love him no matter what. I know he’s not perfect, and that’s ok, because I love him.

Isn’t that what God did when we were sad, broken and alone ever-realizing our imperfection. God gathers us in Her arms, hugs & comforts us and tells us–we are not perfect, but God loves us no matter what–God loved us when we were Ash and will love us when we become Ash again.

Us humans wish we were perfect, but God made us something better than perfect–God made us loved.

I #believe in #miracles, and other weird #Christian things…

http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Matthew+3:1-12&vnum=yes&version=nrsv

Ps. 2:7-8

7I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you.

8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”

baptism of the Lord

Brownson says that Baptism is not Salvation, but the promise of salvation. It is the faith in that promise, it is the acknowledgment that our God is a Promisekeeping God

Baptism particularizes the promise that God makes to the world.

Why?

God promises to love the world, to take care of it, to save it.  Baptism, adopts us into that promise, particularizing it into us…embracing us into the reality of Jesus Christ, making us part of it all…We are all children of God in general, baptism, makes us each children of God as individuals; Matt 28:19-20 baptize them in the name of the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit and teach them my commandments, and I will be with you always..making us effectively related to God (effectively changing all our last names to be Jesus Christ). Hence my name becomes Katy Jesus Christ–thus I become part of the body of God!

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Every single baby that is born is a miracle. Babies being born are so,

so miraculous…child-of-god

but your baby being born is a PARTICULAR miracle…Right? I mean all babies are amazing, but your baby (whether its yours, your friends, your child’s baby, if you have ownership) is SUPER-EXTRA AMAZING..because its your particular baby. Baptism is special for that same reason.

Baptism…and Communion are sacraments…for Presbyterians there are two such sacraments; which are another weird thing that Christians do.

That’s what makes a sacrament, a sacrament in the Presbyterian church a sacrament is that which Jesus enacted, commanded and then promised particular presence during…

This is my body broken for you…this is my blood of the new covenant

SONY DSC

That’s after all, what a miracle is…its seeing God’s particular presence in a particular circumstance, its when you don’t know how or when things happen, but they do, through God’s presence. Its different than magic, which is when you explain the unexplainable….Miracles are about grace-filled instances which happen through God making connections that we might not expect

Ever time we practice communion or baptism, God promises to be particularly present. God is present and loves us all the time, but the fact that God promises to be particularly present with these moments …make them miracles

Like a roof that needs to be fixed, and suddenly a bequest appears that covers it….like a lesbian couple who end up not getting married at the church but force the governing board to extend welcome to such a wedding…like having way, wayyyy too much work to do and suddenly a snow day gives you the extra time you need.

These moments are miracles, places where our humanity is insufficient, and yet God’s presences helps things to work out….

These moments are the difference between Spirituality & Religion

Spirituality is talking about who God is…and what God does in general…a generalized understanding of God and how it effects spiritual life. Spirituality is good…its practiced by most people, even those who don’t go to church.

Religion is (nothing more & nothing less) than the practice of God’s presence, the practice of miracles. The practice of seeings where God is present, participating it and then telling others about it. It is through this practice that we are joined together. We recognize and practice God’s presence, together.

body-of-christ

Its just like practicing family–practicing family can be as easy as having dinner together…you plan the dinner together, experience the dinner together and then discuss how dinner went (maybe with people who aren’t even your family)…Each of those steps are within the practice of the miracle that is family…

So too is communion…we prepare for communion declaring what it will be (how it binds us to God and eachother), then we practice it together, then we discuss how it went and what it means for our future…in this we practice the miracle of God’s presence. We do this every time we talk look for/experience/witness to God’s presence in our lives….

Let’s go practice some miracles….

(thanks to Barb Hedges-Goettl for the theology of Christ’s transformative presence in communion)

Why do we have these buildings for God?

Solomon built a temple, because he knew he couldn’t contain God.

Ironic as it is….

The Temple is empty, except for the 10 commandments, so that all the priest, and elders and leaders and everyone important can come into the temple for its dedication.

And the moment they call on God (we would call this the Prayer of Illumination) God’s Cloud fills the entire temple

And when the priests came out of the Holy Place,a cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. 1 Kings 8:10-11

God is all that is in the temple! The temple wasn’t big enough to hold God, yet God filled it! That’s why it wasn’t about limiting God, but noticing how infinite God is.

This is (one) story of how God came to dwell on Earth.

Another is Jesus

Another is Communion

Another is baptism

Another is us–the people, the body of Christ, Christ’s promise that whenever we gather in his name, he’ll be present.

With Christ, God was invited to be present in church, but not just in the building but in our very relationships.

Narnia Kings and Queens

Once you are baptized or ordained as elder, deacon or pastor, there are no takebacks: “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.”

― C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown”

Read more:http://www.gotquestions.org/heavenly-crowns.html#ixzz2d89N1oQs

Artist’s Website

Baptismal advice for parents

Baptismal advice for parents

Baptismal advice
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, read to your children and provide them with quality children’s literature.  There is no substitute for stories and the life of the imagination for a child’s developing mind.  Children need to be able to encounter on their own terms (not in a preprogrammed “entertainment” format) stories that are subtle and challenging enough to become part of their ongoing imaginative life. Start with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and anything by Tomie DePaola, and from age 4 or 5 onward, give them C. S. Lewis, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Winnie the Pooh, E. Nesbit, Lloyd Alexander, The Wind in the Willows, Brian Jacques, Madeleine L’Engle, Susan Cooper, Joan Aiken, Arthur Ransome, The Phantom Tollbooth, Watership Down, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ursula LeGuin, and whatever else seems good at the public library.  (Harry Potter and The Hunger Games won’t hurt them, but won’t do much all by themselves, either.)  The three Christian virtues are faith, hope and charity:  to believe in the invisible, to go forward when all seems lost, and to love the unlovable.  A child nurtured on good kids’ books will know these three virtues intuitively, in his or her bones.  Nothing on TV comes close.”

DISAGREE About Hunger Games and Harry Potter (hello Hallows not Horcruxes anyone?) but the reading advice is right on (note what percent is fantasy?)

Would add Andrew Lang and my Fairy Tale list https://katyandtheword.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/fairy-tale-addendum/

Batman and Baptism

Baptism Message: You are beautiful and loved and perfect as a newborn naked baby, the more “Naked” you can be with God, the more you can share in the glory of Christ’s love (both reviewed in Skinny Dipping and Embodied Spirituality and Nakedness)…
Reality…Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman, then always be batman. This morning a batman costume helped to relieve any nerves during baptism….yep today I baptized batman..