Order, Words, & Voices 01.08.23

Order, Words, & Voices
01.08.23 Matthew 3:1-17
Through Water

Order

Pre Worship Music

Leave 

Opening Songs:                                 Lynn            
All Creatures of our God and King
Blessed Be Your Name 

Call to Worship Response and Lord’s Prayer                Rick

Reading        Matthew 3:1-17                    Petty

Songs      – Spirit Medley                             Lynn
Sweet Sweet Spirit
Spirit of the Living God
Breathe on Me Breathe of God

Message        Through Water                    Rick

Music         That’s why we praise Him            Lynn

Community/Closing Peace                         Rick

Benediction                                    Rick

Post Worship Music

Music (slides)

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing
Alleluia alleluia
Thou burning sun with golden beam
Thou silver moon with softer gleam
 ChorusO praise Him O praise Him
Alleluia alleluia alleluia
 Verse 2Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in heaven along
O praise Him alleluia
Thou rising morn in praise rejoice
Ye lights of evening find a voice
 Verse 3Thou flowing water pure and clear
Make music for thy Lord to hear
Alleluia alleluia
Thou fire so masterful and bright
Thou givest man both warmth and light
 Verse 5Let all things their Creator bless
And worship Him in humbleness
O praise Him alleluia
Praise praise the Father praise the Son
And praise the Spirit Three in One
 Verse 1Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
Verse 2Blessed be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name
 Pre-ChorusEv’ry blessing You pour out I’ll
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in Lord
Still I will say
 ChorusBlessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
 Verse 3Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s all as it should be
Blessed be Your name
 Verse 4Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
 BridgeYou give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord blessed be Your name
Call to Worship/Lord’s Prayer (Slides)

Leader: The prophet Isaiah proclaims – A voice cries out in the wilderness saying, prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Response: We lift up our voice and proclaim, ‘Here is our God.’

Leader: Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
Response: The Lord God comes with might, he will rule with his strength.

LeaderThen the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Response: We lift up our lives and proclaim, Here is our God.’

Leader: He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms.
Response: He will carry them in his embrace and gently lead the mother sheep.

Leader: The prophet John proclaims, – Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Response: Prepare the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!

(Join me in voicing the words of the prayer of Jesus.)
Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespasses, while we forgive those who trespass against us.
And, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Reading (Slides)

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For John is the one the prophet Isaiah referred to when he said, “The voice of one calling out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!’”

Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; his food consisted of locusts and wild honey. The citizens of Jerusalem, as well as all who were in Judea and all the region around the Jordan river were going out to John. They were being baptized by John in the river, as they repented of their sins.

When John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Produce fruit consistent with repentance; do not assume that you can just say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you that God is able, from these stones, to raise up children for Abraham.” 

John continued, “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit is being cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize with water for repentance, but one is coming after me is mightier than I, in fact, I am not fit to remove His sandals; 

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. With his winnowing fork He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; gathering His wheat into the barn, but burning up the chaff with an unquenchable fire.”
 Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent Jesus, saying, “I have the need to be baptized by You, and yet You are coming to me?” But Jesus, answering, said to John, “Allow it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then baptized Jesus. 

After the baptism, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and the heavens were opened, and Jesus saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and settling on Him, as a voice from the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Matthew 3:1-17
Music (Slides)

There’s a sweet sweet Spirit in this place
And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord
There are sweet expressions on each face
And I know they feel the presence of the Lord
 ChorusSweet Holy Spirit
Sweet heavenly Dove
Stay right here with us
Filling us with Your love

And for these blessings
We lift our hearts in praise
Without a doubt we’ll know
That we have been revived
When we shall leave this place

Spirit of the Living God
Fall fresh on me
Spirit of the Living God
Fall fresh on me
Melt me mold me
Fill me use me
Spirit of the Living God
Fall fresh on me

Breathe on me breath of God
Love and life that makes me free
Breathe on me breath of God
Fan the flame within me
 ChorusTeach my heart heal my soul
Speak the mind that in Christ we know
Take me to Your sanctuary
(Breathe on me)
 Verse 2Speak to me voice of God
Soft and still inside my heart
Speak to me Word of God
Comfort heal restore with love

Message – Matthew 3:1-17 Through Water

Theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, says that “Matthew is the story of ‘God with us.’ In it, Matthew gives us all that we need to know to be drawn into the Kingdom of God. The gospel of Matthew trains us to look for what is foundationally important for our salvation walk.”
(Matthew, Hauerwas, p 43)

This first book of the new testament uniquely begins with a genealogy tying Jesus to Abraham, and the fulfillment of the prophecies. After the genealogy we are given a sentence introducing Mary and her predicament, followed by a couple of sentences introducing Mary’s fiance Joseph, and then the birth of Jesus. Then, while Jesus is still a child, the non-Jewish Magi appear, leading to the escape to Egypt by Jesus and his parents, the first appearance of the antagonist, an evil King named Herod who orders the tragic slaughter of  an entire population of male children in Bethlehem. 

Matthew gives us a mere two chapters, a total of 48 verses, before moving us on to the adult Jesus which, out of necessity, begins with John. In the character of John, we do not arrive at a new story, we are at the same story that we last saw in the old testament with the prophets, only this part of the story wraps up the story that took place prior to this point, bringing the story fulfillment and hope, as we see the face, and hear the voice, of the prophetic words. 

This is the same John who we first met when he was still in his mother’s womb. We now find that he has taken on the lifestyle of the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden. He wears the clothes of the downtrodden, lives the life of isolation of the oppressed, and adheres to a diet of the poor – nuts and fruits. 

We, as Christians, often see the Bible as two different stories. One is the Old Testament with its stories of creation and the years that follow, detailing sins of humanity and the mercy and compassion of God, the history of God’s chosen as they become a people, the continued devastation brought on my man’s rejection of God, the wisdom gifted to humans along with the preparatory warnings of the prophet. A story that abruptly ends with the no longer heard voice of God.

We then have the New Testament, where we learn of the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham and Sarah, the birth of the Savior. We watch Jesus’ actions and hear Jesus’ words, we see a new diverse people who step onto the path first inhabited by Jesus, and we hear of things to come. 

Still, in our minds we have two different stories joined together by centuries of God’s silence and absence. We also are probably guilty of placing one story over another. Thinking that one story, our story, eliminates the need for that story, ‘their story’.

This is why Matthew begins with John. John takes this old testament story, that in its final days concentrated on the repeated warnings of the prophets, and ties both stories together, John proves that neither story can stand alone, John merely continues on with the story of old, a story which Jesus himself will also continue.  John, the one uniquely gifted with the ability to recognize the long awaited Messiah.

When, as we say, God went silent, the prophets were no longer visible, God’s message was no longer proclaimed, the human curse of time consumed humanity. Humanity counted the hours, the days, weeks and years of God’s silence and finally decided God had left, God had tired of them. In response, mankind went into survival mode, going through actions, doing deeds, all things derived from the practices of the past. Actions, that by the birth of Jesus had become largely heartless and much like the situation that Isaiah spoke to, the people’s performance of these actions was senseless. In their minds, God was gone, they were on their own, it seemed their faith and their identity was just a series of meaningless actions.  

But, God was not gone, they were not on their own – remember God’s time is not our time, God’s time is the right time. And then, after Malachi and the other prophets, after the extended silence of God, God sent the next prophet, the prophet John.

John came with a look that was not that different from the prophets before him, and he also came with a message that was exactly the same as those before him. A message of ‘return to God’, a message of repentance.  Quickly, the people were leaving their homes and their cities to meet John at the Jordan River.

On 25 June 1950 the armed forces of the communist People’s Democratic Republic of Korea successfully invaded the non-communist Republic of South Korea. General Douglas MacArthur determined to carry out an amphibious landing behind the North Korean lines to disrupt the enemy’s logistic support. To achieve this, an army unit called the Seabees were called upon to play a pivotal role. The Seabees were a non-combat military unit that consisted largely of civil and mechanical engineers who were tasked with building whatever needed to be built to make it possible for the combatants to get to the battle zones. This was especially necessary in the inhospitable areas of Korea where amphibious landings were essential. The Seabees set out to make two beach areas, neither of which were really ‘beaches’ able to receive the toops.  For example, one beach was truly just a seawall that held back a tide that could be as much as 30 feet high. A beach landing would require a timing at high tide to enable troops and their ships to get over the hazardous seawall, and then, after conquering the wall, they would face huge mud flats left in the wake of the outgoing tides – a seemingly impossible feat for humans and machines. Impossible to any other squad of the military except for the Seabees who came ashore with the Marines and quickly assembled long pontoons causeways so that unloading of equipment, supplies, and reinforcements could proceed across the huge mud flats left in the wake of the outgoing tide. They emplaced a dock section for tide-level landings and General MacArthur himself came ashore across it the following day. The high tides, the seawalls, and enemy resistance made the landing a very hazardous operation, nevertheless, it was a brilliant success. U.S. forces cut the North Korean supply lines and the communist offensive collapsed.’ (Naval History and Heritage Command, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

The Seabees prepared the way for the soldiers to complete their mission, they prepared the way.

This was the role of the prophets, this was the role of John – to prepare the way just as the Seabees did in war. Repentance, a return to God, was essential before the life and verbal message of Jesus could be heard, seen, and accepted. John brought the people to repentance, John brought the people back to the God they thought had been absent for generations in order that they would be able to then recognize the Messiah, Jesus, whose role was to do that which they could not do, to bring them life in the midst of death. This was not a baptism of forgiveness, John did not have that power, but he was perfect for bringing them to the point of recognizing their own obstacles.

This repentance is not an emotional moment in a late night revival, or for a teen at an exciting youth camp experience, or even at a moment of rescue from imminent danger  – those are actions that are more of a momentary reaction to an external stimulus and not a heart and mind choice to turn to God. Nor is this a repentance which results in perfection as one is raised from the waters. The throngs of people going out to John were on a purposeful and sought after path, they had time to think this through on their way out to John at the river.  

True and effective repentance is an intentional answer to God’s call to return to God, all the while knowing that such a turn will gradually change your heart and mind, and ultimately will give you insight and clarity. God’s primary calling is not to make us be better people so God can work –  God’s calling is to make us better people so we can recognize the work of God that is already going on. Repentance, then, permits us to see that work which, to us, has been unseeable up to this point. Repentance is not a call to change the world – the world is already being changed, and will ultimately be changed, by the one that John knew was coming after him – Jesus.

Repentance is a decision, most of the time it is a continual decision to turn to God, to turn to what we cannot see, to step onto the path that God has made that we cannot make ourselves. This was the message John was proclaiming, this is the repentance for which John was baptizing, not forgiveness, but a step into the life that God intends each of us to have, a life not burdened by those things that destroy life,  but a life that gives life. A straight path that is ready for you to move forward. 

“The voice of one calling out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!’” (Matthew 3:3)

As originally said by the prophet Isaiah, “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the uneven ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together (Isaiah 40:3-5)

So, Jesus goes through the water, sinless perfect, God in the flesh, leans into this act of repentance – immersing himself in the waters of confession.  For Jesus, this was not an act of necessity, he did not need to return to God’s path for he had never left God’s path. He did not need to confess, for he had nothing to confess. However, this was God in the flesh, living as human in the midst of humans – not walking in isolation but rather in the midst, walking with. In the midst of pain, grief, temptation, rejection, disappointment, joy, happiness, exaltation, all things that are part of the human experience. Going through the waters was Jesus’ first steps with and for us. It was the first step for the human who would again be God, a turn of repentance which would soon be the avenue of forgiveness. 

There was one group, however, to whom John disavowed the opportunity to walk through the baptismal waters. One group of  people to whom the invitation to be baptized was withdrawn, the religious leadership elite and powerful Sadducees and Pharisee. It wasn’t that John did not think they were capable of repentance or for the act of turning back to God. Their individual attempts to move toward the waters may have been genuine – but as a group, as an institution, they were incapable of true repentance. John knew he had already burned the bridge with this group, for John knew that true repentance leads us to change, that a genuine act of turning back to God comes with a path that runs parallel to God’s path of compassion, mercy, and grace. John knew that this was an impossible path for this group, as a group, to step onto. John knew that a baptism for those who had their limitations already set would make the baptismal waters just another swimming spot. Baptism would be a waste of time for baptism is an act of turning to a new path, new ways of thinking and seeing, new ways of perceiving, new ways of accepting and affirming, new ways of trusting and of searching, new ways of living. 

[ill of tragedies that lead to emotional promises of change which seldom happen]

Let us pray.
Music 

He came to live live a perfect life
He came to be the living word our light
He came to die so we’d be reconciled
He came to rise to show His pow’r and might
 ChorusThat’s why we praise Him that’s why we sing
That’s why we offer Him our ev’rything
That’s why we bow down and worship this King
‘Cause He gave His ev’rything

Verse 2He came to live live again in us
He came to be our conquering King and friend
He came to heal and show the lost ones His love
He came to go prepare a place for us
 InterludeYeah yeah He gave His ev’rything
 BridgeHalle hallelujah
Halle hallelujah
(REPEAT)
 Ending’Cause He gave His ev’rything

Community

  • Next Sunday, Matthew 4:1-17, Through the Wilderness
  • Wednesdays Noon Bible Study, February 22-April 5, Lenten Season
  • Bonnie Scoggins – meals

Closing Peace
Leader: May the Peace of the Lord go with you. 
Response: And also with you.

Benediction
Go in the peace of the Lord, and in doing so may you keep your face to God. Turn from your agendas, your guardedness, your selfishness, your arrogance, and from your control. Settle instead into the embrace of Jesus, our great shepherd. Receive the freedom, the hope, the joy, the love, and of course the peace that can only come from Christ. For our burden is heavy but his is light. Go in the peace of the Lord.

Published by rickanthony1993

Husband of Andrea, Father of five, pastor of Grace Fellowship Norman OK.

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