In the beginning when
God created the heavens and the earth……..
As I write this, it is the fourth day of Christmas. Except for mammoth sales and some people still off work, everything seems pretty much back to normal.
But Christ has been born again for us! God in Jesus Christ has chosen to dwell with us, to heal us, to teach us … and ultimately to give his own life for ours.
How will we respond? How will life be different in 2024?
What if we aren’t sure how to welcome Jesus, if we wonder how to make his birth and presence among us more personal and more meaningful? What if we don’t know where to start? What if we can’t imagine how to begin to draw closer to him and strengthen our relationship and our faith? What if we have a tough time doing this because the world is always clamoring at us: to do, to engage, to move, to work, etc. etc. ?
Bishop Daniel Beaudoin has suggested that 2024 be a year shaped by the theme “Rest.” “Rest,” in the sense of Sabbath, can mean a time set aside for holy practices, such as worship or prayer. It can also simply mean taking time to dwell in the presence of God and to refresh and refill our spirits. It occurs to me that this is a beautiful way to start to connect with God in Christ, to nurture our faith, and to increase our hope.
To begin our journey, I encourage you to take some time in January to jot down some thoughts about holy rest. What does this mean to you? How and when do you find time for rest in the presence and power of God? Is worship a part of every week for you? Do you pray? Do you spend time in nature? Do you take a break from the busyness of daily tasks and commitments? Do you nurture your body and spirit? No one needs to see what you have written. This is just a chance to begin to consider a life that includes holy rest.
Then, mark your calendar to join me at church on Saturday, 17 February 2024, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. for an opportunity to learn about the idea of rest and for some conversation about how to practice it.
Please sign up on the sheet in the back of the “big church” by 4 February. If we do not have at least six people, we will re-schedule for another time. Please bring something to share for a light breakfast—fruit, muffins, etc. Juice and coffee will be provided. Bring a friend, and start the New Year off by learning about how resting on God’s presence can be a part of every single day in more ways than you can imagine!
Please join us – Sunday Fellowship Time
In Fellowship Hall
January 7th- Cindy Wood and Brenda Holderman
The Congregational Meeting will be held on Sunday, 28 January. There will be one worship service that day, at 10:30 a.m. The meeting will follow immediately after in the “big church.” The meeting will be followed by a potluck. Please mark your calendars now to join us for this important meeting where we will elect Council members and vote on the 2024 spending plan.
Meditation on Mark 1:4-11
By Vicar Dave
On Sunday, we will be celebrating the Epiphany during our service in church. It is also the week which commemorates the baptism of our Lord. This meditation is based on the assigned reading for the baptism of our Lord.
John comes into our Gospel reading again for today. This time, however, the reading seems to be less about him and more about Jesus. Jesus comes to John to be baptized. But it wasn’t just Jesus and John. There was quite the guest list as well. Both of the other members of the Holy Trinity were there as well. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove, and the Father spoke from the heaven saying; “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” In Mark’s telling of the story, the Father is speaking directly to the Son, but in Matthew’s version, it sounds like the Father is speaking to those who are gathered around. “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5). I’m not sure why the difference, but I thought it was interesting.
In both versions, the Holy Spirit is fulfilling Her role as an bridge between the earthly realm and the heavenly one. The Holy Spirit changes things. She works through Jesus to bridge the gap between us and God. Reconciliation with God was possible because of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection. Not only was this gap first bridged at Jesus’ baptism when the Holy Spirit descended from heaven like a dove, she was also bridged at his death when the veil in the temple was torn in two, similar to how the heavens were torn apart in today’s reading. The Holy Spirit continues to bridge the gap between us and God. She did this for the apostles as their counselor and She does it even today by imparting the many gifts of the Spirit.
Baptism was looked at as a purification ritual, much as it is today. I thought it was interesting that last week we also read about a purification ceremony, but then it was Mary and Joseph. Being purified so as to be presentable to the Lord seems like a big deal. Perhaps that’s why we think of baptism as being so important even today. But what did Jesus need of purification? After all, He was sinless. Jesus said it was “to fulfill all righteousness” that He needed to be baptized. Jesus’ baptism was necessary in order to fulfill the requirements of the Old Testament law, which required repentance from sins and hence John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance. Jesus had to be baptized because he was born and died under the law to deliver us from the law (which was so strict that it could not be obeyed perfectly). The Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus at his baptism commissioned Jesus for a unique service. Jesus carried the Holy Spirit wherever He went and gave Her to those who were receptive to his message. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us, we are empowered to do God’s work in our world.
Most, if not all, of you reading this were baptized as an infant. This was done for us and in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That baptism carries forward to today. We are still marked as being God’s by that baptism. Thanks be to God!
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, who unto man his
son hath given; while angels sing with tender mirth,
a glad new year to all the earth.”
The Readings for Sunday January 7, 2024
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Many thanks to all of you who remembered my family and me this Christmas! Your kind words, cards, and gifts were lovely and deeply appreciated.
Council members, remember that we will gather on Saturday, 3 February 2024 from 9:00 to noon at the 577 Foundation in Perrysburg for our Council retreat. Please remember to read the book Unafraid by Adam Hamilton in preparation for the meeting.
Volunteers are needed to take down the Chrismon tree at the front of the Nave and the tree in the Chapel this Saturday, January 6, at 9:30 a.m. The more people we have, the less time it will take to accomplish this. If you have any questions please contact Mary Schneider at 419.262.0730. Thank you!
This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!