God calls us to the Waters.
to find our place in the body of the Church
to do the work of God’s salvation of creation
to be given new birth, new heart, new vision.
All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.
Free but not Cheap.
A Gift to be Shared.
God calls us to the Waters.
Remember you baptism and be thankful.
Dramatic Reading for Matthew 28
Needs four readers, one off-stage, three on. One has luggage, one has a hammer, and one has a camera.
Voice off stage: As you Go-
Reader 1: “Yes! We’re going on a trip! I wonder where God is sending us. I can’t wait!”
Reader 2: “I hope it’s exotic! I’ve always wanted to travel overseas!”
Reader 3: “I’ll bring my camera and some dough, you know souvenirs will be so cheap there!”
Voice: <Clears throat until they listen> As you are going, Make-
R2: “YES! It’s a construction trip! I wonder what God will have us build!
R1: “I bet it’s a church or a school or maybe even a hospital!”
R3: “I’ll bring my old shirts from college! We can hand them out to the poor children! We can even get the kids in church to collect happy meal toys to hand out! Those kids will be so blessed by our presence!”
Voice: <Clears throat again> As you are going, make Disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow everything I’ve taught you.
R3: “What’s that mean?”
R2: “Disciples? How do you build those?”
R1: “All nations… including this one? Does that mean we’re not going anywhere?”
Voice: As you go about your life where ever you happen to be, share what you have been given. Invite people to see my love in you. Bring them to me to experience my love in the baptismal waters. Teach them to follow the my path of peace.
R1: “This isn’t going to be easy.”
R2: “Yeah, I mean, folks around here already know me.”
R3: “But they don’t all know Jesus.”
R1: “Do you think we can share Christ here, in our homes and at our jobs?
R2: “Do you think they will see Jesus in me?”
R3: “Do you think I can still get a souvenir?”
Voice: You don’t have to go anywhere to share the Gospel. God has already placed you where you are an expert on the culture, language, and people.
Make disciples, immerse them in Christ’s love, and teach them the way of peace. Amen.
from Isaiah 42:1-9
The little boy and girl were as close to heaven as they were to the earth. Jessica and Jerome: fraternal and inseparable twins they were. At age seven, they looked at the world through double lenses of reality and fantasy. It didn’t take much in their eyes to turn a play house into a castle or a tree with low hanging branches into an attacking dragon, and behind the castle, a puddle of mud into a swimming pool.
They each took turns cannonballing into the mud and the muck. She first noticed that you could turn it into a slip and slide if you ran first. He figured out that you could ball up the mud and throw it (even at her). They were in the ecstatic giggles and youthful joy when mother’s voice called them to dinner. “Lord have mercy, how did you two get so dirty? You both will have to have a bath before dinner.”
That’s when the buts showed up. “But mom, we don’t want to.” “But mom, do we have to?” “But mom, we look alright to each other.” And in a tone that warned her that teenage years were approaching far too quickly, “Mother!”
And we understand these feelings all too well in our spiritual journey. As Christians we see the word through double lenses. We see the world as it is. We see the racism that persists in our nation from generation to generation. We weep at the funerals of police officers that have been ambushed while striving to serve and protect. The greedy horde while the poor starve. Nations are shutting doors to immigrants and refugees in irrational fears based on the same nationalism and prejudice that fueled the Nazi party almost 100 years ago. The world seems to be playing its own version of Hunger games and we are all in the arena.
But as Christians, we also see the world as God believes it could and should be. Love that sees difference of culture and skin tone not as a bad thing but as an a reflection of God’s own diverse love and color. Righteous anger at those who abuse power, manipulate crowds with fear, and use tragedy as a means to fuel their own agendas. Compassion for moms and dads who just want a safe place from war, rape, and unrest for their children to grow up and have it better than they did.
And in all of this God asks us to take a bath. Our Lord invites us to awaken within our baptismal waters and be transformed by them. Jesus wants us to be changed by his Grace, to be transformed in his Compassion, to use these waters shared with us as a gift. God invites us to be more than a people who worship in wishes? God invites us to be love in action. God calls us to raise our voice for the voiceless, give our strength to the weak, and lift up those who have been pushed down.
And that’s when the buts show up. “But God, we don’t want to.” “But God, do we have to?” “But God, we look alright to each other.” And in a tone that warns of our tendency to rebellion, “Father!”
Isaiah preaching to the people about the Messiah speaks of who God is. “He will bring justice to the nations.” Our Savior brings peace and wholeness to the world. “He won’t cry out or shout.” Our Lord doesn’t call attention to himself. God doesn’t have an ego or need all eyes on him. “He won’t break a bruised reed; he won’t extinguish a faint wick, but he will surely bring justice.” He won’t brush aside those who are bruised and hurt. The smallest and most insignificant light is still precious in his eyes. The weak will be made strong, the poor will be rich: this is God’s Kingdom, a revolution through spiritual practice.
Isaiah, preaching, gives a word from God about who we are. God is an all-powerful God who has chosen to share that power with us. “I, the Lord, have called you for a good reason… I’m giving you as a promise to the people, as a light to the nations.” The Lord who created the heavens, the one who stretched the sky from east to west and north to south, the one who breathed life into your lips wants you to be the change. God calls us to be the life in this world of death. God calls us to be the hope in this despair. God calls us to be the new beginning in the end of endings.
We are the folks who have taken a bath. Jessica and Jerome didn’t want to take a bath. So their mother gave them a different option. A little liquid soap up into water balloons, a two water guns, and mom with the hose and bath time was no longer a chore but had become a transformed moment of joy, love, and memory.
We are the folks who have taken a bath. We’ve been given a gift in our baptismal waters. We are God’s promise to the nations. We are God’s lights of joy, love, and testimony. As we remember our Baptism today, let’s not just be wishful worshippers. Let’s be the changed, the transformed, the renewed, those who have been washed in God’s love. Amen.
We are marked by sin from birth.
Just as greedy and dirty as a clump of sod.
We are marked by sin in life.
Just as selfish and muddy as a worm.
But something has changed, someone changed…
God loved us. God changed us.
God’s love is a free gift to us, always and forever.
Wash us, Free us, Change us!
We are marked as God’s beloved.
We have done nothing to earn this!
We are marked as God’s people.
We will live as God’s disciples!
“Remember from dust you came and to dust you will return.”
– Traditional phrase used on Ash Wednesday
In our faith, we often use earthy elements as a means of God’s grace upon our lives. In Baptism, the water reminds us that a free flowing grace has marked us as loved by God, called to be a part of the church, and a force of salvation in the world. Ash Wednesday places a different mark – a reminder of our mortality and a call to change our ways as disciples. What is a disciple? Here are four possible answers this Lent.
A disciple is faithful. This means our “yes” means “yes,” and our “no” means “no.” We show up. We promised God we would serve, and as followers of Jesus, we intend to live out this promise in the power of the Spirit. We don’t let petty arguments, worldly priorities, or even theological disagreements cause us to abandon God and one another. In our consumer society, we are told the lie that life should be filled with effortless happiness and products and services of pleasure. People stop coming to this church or that church because they know they can find a church that scratches their itchy ears. The Bible teaches us that to truly be disciples; we have to faithful to one another and to God in showing up. “The one who claims to be in the light while hating a brother or sister is in the darkness even now.” 1 John 2:9.
A disciple is loving. At both worship services recently we’ve sung, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” This is a quote from Jesus from the Gospel of John. The love of a disciple is a love that is selfless and self-giving. We don’t mind giving up something that we enjoy so that we can provide for the needs of others. When we see poverty, we look for opportunity and ways to change the system. When we see hunger, we share our food. When we hear that someone is sick or dying, we give hugs and prayers of hope. What is most amazing about this love? It is given freely – without price or membership.
A disciple is holy. 1 Peter 1:15 says, “you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy.” Holy is one of those words that has been smeared and overused to the point that it has no meaning. Holy is Other. We are called to be other, just as God is other than this world. We are not citizens of this world. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God that is here and is coming. Are there things that we need to avoid in our pursuit of being other? Yes. We probably should avoid hate, apathy, and abuse of anyone or anything. Are there things we need attend that will help us on our journey? Yes. We should often pray, read the Bible, study, take communion, sing the songs of our faith, and give of ourselves in charity.
A disciple is disciplined. In the Gospels, Jesus would say “be stricter than the Pharisees in your faith” at the same time he put his arm around a prostitute welcoming her to forgiveness. Following Jesus isn’t easy. We have to fail, fall down, and get back up each and every time. We are called to be comforted. God loves us. We are called to be challenged. God wants us to change our behavior and the world. Discipline means training like a weight-lifter, going to the gym and aching the next day. Pray for ten minutes each day. Try to give more time and money to the God through the church. Give up that bad habit and take on a good one. Discipline means no more milk and cereal because it’s time for meat and potatoes. Read the Bible and let it change your opinion about politics, economics, and how you behave. Bring Christ into the relationships you have with people so that they know you are a follower of the Savior. Discipline means no more giving up.
This Lent, God doesn’t want you to give up. God wants you to take up this cross, the cross of being a Disciple of Jesus. More than anything the life of a disciple is the life of discipline. During this season of Lent and for the rest of your lives: be a disciple.
“Repent and Believe in the Gospel.”
– Mark 1:15
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in me as I abide in you. You cannot bear fruit all by yourself. You need me. You need each other. I ask you; abide in me at this table.”
Lord, we confess
that we have not lived up to the calling you first whispered in our ears.
We have gone astray.
We have been weeds of isolation
and thorny vines that carry no seed,
choking our brothers and sisters of fruitfulness,
stealing their sunshine,
allowing no rain to fall upon new seed.
We are guilty of serving our own needs
rather than contributing to the whole.
We are not connected to you.
We are not connected to one another.
Forgive us, connect us,
graft us once again in grace.
There is good news,
Christ came in the flesh to abide with us.
God’s love still grows in this world!
In the name of Christ, you are forgiven.
In the name of Christ, you are forgiven.
Lord, You are the Vine, we are your branches!
The Lord is with you.
And also with you.
Like Trees, let us aspire to raise our hearts!
We lift them up to the Lord!
Let us give thanks to the God of relationships!
We give our thanks and praise!
Holy God, to you the creator who gave us
vines to climb, trees to lay down in the shade, and fields to run and play.
You are the source of our life.
All life flows from you and connects to the river of your purpose –
the Kingdom that is here and is coming fuller and fuller each day.
Your love flows, eternally chasing us to the sea.
Our love has failed. We have splashed up on dry banks you did not intend for us.
Yet, you still part the waters. You still pour out your baptismal love.
You still speak through your prophets and preachers.
And so, we join together in that rushing water that flows from the heavens to the earth:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, God of power and might!
Heaven and Earth are filled with your glory!
Hosanna in the Highest!
Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the Highest!
You, Jesus, flow as the Source, the Love.
You are the Vine. We are the branches.
You taught us that when we connect with you, we grow.
When we are not connected, we wither and die.
You know what it is to die. You are the seed that was planted.
Christ has died.
You give us the faith in your Church – a growing, living, plant of your creation.
Christ is risen.
You give us the hope in the Kingdom.
Christ will come again.
On the night in which Christ died for us, he took the bread.
Wheat that had grown in the fields gathered and prepared.
He gave thanks, broke it, gave it to his disciples, connecting each of them to the single loaf.
“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
After the supper, he took the cup.
Grapes from the vine, crushed, poured out freely for all to share.
He gave thanks, gave it to his disciples, inviting them to be in the vine.
“Drink from this all of you, this is my blood of the new relationship, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of brokenness. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
A time of silence.
Pour out your Holy Spirit here on your branches.
Pour out your Holy Spirit upon these gifts of the field and of the vine.
Make this cup and this bread be for us the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.
Connect your branches to your vine so that all may grow in your love and grace!
All this we pray in the name of the Vine-grower, the Vine, and the Spirit of life within, Amen.
– (C)2015 Worship’s Wake, Nathan Decker