Today is the celebration of the baptism of Jesus in the liturgical calendar. As part of the worship at St. Mark’s UMC, Helen and I will be one of the stations, along with other retired clergy in the congregation, who offer a water blessing to those who come forward. Sort of like communion, but with water instead of loaf and cup. It’s a reminder that we are baptized people, not belonging to ourselves, but blessed by belonging to God.
Mary Beth Morgan, the better half of our pastoral clergy couple, is preaching. The other half, Jimmy Moore, is teaching youth Sunday School this morning. They are both so good at preaching and worship leadership that it is a joy to participate with them, and I am pleased that Mary Beth asked me to do the pastoral prayer this morning. Here is what I shall be praying, more or less…
O God, hear our prayers of thanks, we ask with joyful heart.
We give you thanks for your prophet John, who led people down to the river of life, to be baptized there, to be cleansed of their sins, that the Kingdom of God might become real in their lives, on earth as it is in heaven.
We praise you for the witness of the Christ, who, although without sin, sought out the baptism from John, for the remission of sin, that he might be at one with us sinners, in salvation and in hope.
We give you thanks for the witness of those who absorb the waters of baptism and become bubbling fountains of crystal joy, and also for those in whom the waters are still but run deep.
We thank you that when our spiritual throats are parched with thirst, you provide streams in the desert
We know that few in the world care whether we are baptized, or what amount of water it took to get us clean, but we rejoice in the reality of baptism, O God.
Baptize us, we pray, with the Holy Spirit, May it be that each time we feel the water of the world on our lips, to quench our thirst, or on our bodies, to cleanse our dirt, we may feel the spirit of God in our souls.
O God, hear our prayers of confession, we ask with wounded heart.
We confess that we have ignored our baptism. We have turned our backs on your Holy Spirit. Even in goodness, we have trusted in our own strength and not in your leading. Forgive us, we pray.
We confess that when the water is turned into wine, we trust in the wine and forget who changed it and where it came from. Turn the wine of worldliness, we ask, back into the water of baptism.
O God, hear our prayers of intercession, we ask with loving heart.
As you bless us with the water of baptism, O God, bless us also with the waters of the world, water for drinking, water for cleansing.
Bless those on whom the water comes as rain, those who sing in the rain, and those who walk in the rain.
Bless those who work to keep our water clean, standing firm against low temperatures and high powers.
We know, O God, that the water of life can become the water of danger, so we pray for those caught in the rapids, those in whirlpools, those who are swamped, whose boats are leaking, who are tired to bail and too weak to swim.
We pray for those who are up to their chins in deep waters of sorrow and pain and addiction and despair, and are about to go under. Throw them a life preserver. If we must be those life preservers, then teach us to swim, and throw us in, O God.
O God, hear our prayers of petition, we ask with hopeful heart.
Move us to be among those who go down to the river to pray, and while there lay down our swords and shields, to study war no more.
We ask, O God, that we may come to live in your city, where a river runs through it, a river full of the blessings of baptism, the blessings of life.
Nourish the roots of our souls from the river of life, we pray, so that we, like trees rooted by the water, shall not be moved from the way of Christ.
Then maybe I’ll lead the congregation in singing “I Shall Not Be Moved” before the silent prayers and The Lord’s Prayer. “I shall not be, I shall not be moved. I shall not be, I shall not be moved. Like a tree that’s planted by the waters, I shall not be moved.”
Or maybe not. We’ll see how the Spirit leads.