Let us pray:
In the divine silence of our souls, baptize us, O Spirit Wisdom, to discern the calling of your voice, that, with your guidance over us, we may become who God calls us to be and do what God calls us to do. Amen.
I would like to quote Rev. Jill Duffield’s weekly reflection on lectionary texts to open this Sunday’s participatory reflection. She writes:
“On this Baptism of the Lord Sunday, come up from under the water, take a breath, look up and see the Spirit descend on Jesus and on you. Listen. As you feel the water of life pouring over you, know it springs from your heart as you hear none other than the voice of God whisper, shout or sing, “This is my child, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Know that through Jesus Christ this is who you are and live accordingly.”
Many of you are probably following the news, minding very carefully all the issues, political stances, maneuvering, and hot topics following the declaration of half of the United States Congress impeaching the president, and the declaration of full support of the president from the speaker tasked with representing the other half. Additionally, the use of specifically targeted force – to the point of intentional manslaughter – has come into the forefront of newscasters this past week.
Some of you may be cheering impeachment processes, and some of you may be furious at the lack of loyalty given to the head of our government. Likewise, there may be divergent views on the authority of political power to choose targeted lethal force. There will be those of us here today on both sides. Two foundational emotions rooted in our personal psyche underlay either emotional response I just noted: happiness or anger.
I find myself in a third camp, one that can either feed or be fed by the other two. That third camp is a third foundational emotion, sadness. For me, my sadness evokes strong feelings; through the lens of faith, this impacts how I want to represent the human race – and my faith – to the world.
I find myself asking, “How can I witness to what is best for the good of all created beings with the best of my ability?” I find myself asking, “How can I best respond to anyone around me who feels deeply one way or another?” I find myself asking, “Where is God in all this?”
Potentially, from the well of sadness can come a river of tears; tears that can feed into happiness when we cry for joy. Yet also from that same well can come tears of frustration that easily feed into anger.
I wonder, if all the tears of all of us – those tears of joy and those tears of frustration – were to flow into one mighty river witnessing to the whole world, what would the message be?
I would like to hear from some of your voices today, no matter what age or stage of life or journey of faith you may be in. How do you respond to current events, and how might this worshiping community’s life of faith help you find your way through the water? There are three rules I would like to put in place for this conversation.
#1. Respectfully listen to one another in an attitude of learning in love – even if points of view are radically different than your own: this means listening carefully for insights and deeper issues below the surface of our reactions.
#2. Please only speak after you raise your hand and wait for the microphone to come to you; this will allow for respectful speaking and listening without interrupting what another person has to say. In between speakers, please respect a moment of silence for personal reflection.
#3. Be aware of your impact on the whole group; we are a community of people of many ages and experiences, viewpoints and opinions. Together, we are also a worshiping community of practice, interacting both here on Sundays and in the wider community the rest of the week. Part of this conversation is for all of us to bring to light (or surface) what we may not know yet.
With those three rules in place, I would like to begin the conversation. Feel free to jot notes or doodle your thoughts artistically on the clipboards available in the pews. How do you respond to current events, and how might this worshiping community’s life of faith help you find your way through the water?
Facilitate conversation for no more than 10 minutes – draw together similarities from shared responses, encourage and support as able, pray together to conclude, perhaps the following…
Two Responsive Reading Prayers
“God Beyond Borders” by Kathy Galloway
God beyond borders, we bless you for strange places and different dreams, for the demands and diversity of a wider world, for the distance that lets us look back and re-evaluate for new ground where broken stems can take root, grow and blossom. We bless you for the friendship of strangers and richness of other cultures and the painful gift of freedom.
Blessed are you, God beyond borders.
But if we have overlooked the exiles in our midst, heightened their exclusion by our indifference, given our permission for a climate of fear and tolerated a culture of violence,
Have mercy on us, God who takes side with justice. Confront our prejudice, stretch our narrowness, sift out our laws and our lives with the penetrating insight of your Spirit until generosity is our only measure; Amen.
“Prayer for Three Voices” by Yvonne Morland
Voice 1: God of justice, keep us silent when the only words we have to utter are ones of judgment, exclusion or prejudice. Teach us to face the wounds in our own hearts.
After Voice 1 Respond Together: God of justice, give us power of speech to resist injustice, oppression and hate, not only on our own behalf but for others who are not heard. Make us peacemakers and restorers of the .
Voice 2: God of power, keep us silent so that we may listen respectfully to another person’s pain without trying to fade or fix it, for you are present within each one of us.
After Voice 2 Respond Together: God of power, give us courage to share our gifts of speech to comfort, uphold and strengthen. Let us be a glimpse of your love to those in need.
Voice 3: God of love, in the silence of our hearts give us words of welcome, acceptance and renewal so that when we speak our words come from you.
After Voice 3 Respond Together: God of love, give us voices of praise to celebrate each other and the glories of creation, believing that we all live within your blessing. Amen.
May all glory be unto the one who lived, died, and rose again for us, even him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
Questions for Reflection
In Romans 8:29 Paul wrote that God meant for Jesus to be “the firstborn within a large family.” What does that mean to you? What does your baptism have to do with it?
Household Prayer: Morning
God, you make old things pass away and declare
new things to be. Isa. 42:9
As I am renewed in my baptism this morning,
help me to confirm my baptismal vows in
my life today. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
Holy One, you stretched out the heavens and
spread out the earth, Isa. 42:5
and in that context I give you this small day
that I have lived.
Now may I sleep, safe and secure in your
covenant promise to me
that I am your beloved child, in whom you
are well pleased. Amen.
 Neil Paynter, 50 Great Prayers From The Iona Community (Glasgow, Scotland: Wild Goose Publications, 2009).