Bible Readings: Isaiah 43:1-7, Psalm 29, Acts 8:14-17, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22.
About the images:
Upper Left: A Microsoft free clip art with my Biblical text.
Upper Right: Aussie beaches make great locations for baptisms. This is the Sawtell beach near Coffs Harbour in New South Wales. For more information on this area visit www.sawtell.net
Lower Left: This image is of the upper reaches of the Jordan River near tell Dan in the Holy Land. This is my image so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Lower Right: This image comes from the awesome Church Galleries website which was decimated by hackers last year. At present it is possible to buy these images for a mere US10 cents an image however this particular one is free on the site this week. Subscribe while this special price is being offered. Visit the website at www.churchgalleries.com.
Have each word of Isaiah 43:4 in a different brightly wrapped gift box. Hide the boxes around your worship space before the service starts. Ask the kids to find all the boxes during the kid's talk, unwrap them and sort the words into the verse. Talk about How our baptism is summed up in these words and is a gift from God to us.
There is a great version of this Psalm by Bruce Prewer in his book, Australian Psalms, Open Book Publishers, 2000, ISBN 0859109127 (pictured at left).
Film Clip: Dead Man Walking
(pictured at right) Show the scene where Sister Helen Prejean sings to Matthew just before his execution. She sings the St Louis Jesuit hymn Be Not Afraid based on the Isaiah reading. It is worth singing it together at the end of this film clip.
Discussion: In groups of three
1. Share a time (don't go into details unless you want to) when God felt close to you and a time when God did not feel close. What made the difference?
2. How can the Isaiah verses be a help to us?
3. How can our baptism be a help to us?
4. What is the challenge here for us?
Story: God Does Not Abandon Us
Found in Bible Illustrator for Windows 1.0d, Parsons Technology Inc., 1994, Index No 3518
Drama: Six Gift Receivers
Ordinary bloke (Joseph):
G’day! I’m just an ordinary bloke living an average life in an average country town. I’m a tradesman and I work hard. I’ve earned every penny I’ve ever made and I have a nice sort of family life. God has always been a part of my life – not in a big way, I suppose, but I have always believed God is there for me. I think I am ready to stick up for God if the occasion ever arose but I can’t really see anything like that happening to me.
Hi! You’ve caught me on the way home from Youth Group. It’s great fun even if Mum and Dad think we get a little over enthusiastic sometimes. Of course, I don’t always agree with my parents but I’m glad they have passed on their faith to me. I’m a full-on God follower. Standing here now in front of you all I know I’m quite prepared and ready to do anything God asks me to. Having said that though, I suppose I am a little nervous. What if God asks me to do something really huge with no guarantees … or something that may wreck my reputation.…. No, even then, I’m determined to do whatever God asks me to – no matter how scared or insecure I feel.
Man of Substance (Herod)
Hullo. No need to introduce myself. I know you all know who I am already. You know, being part of the establishment is no easy job, but someone has to do it. I may have to make difficult decisions from time to time but, of course, there are compensations. People from all over the world pass through my doors, I mix with the highest society, I know what’s going on in any place at any given time. I have people willing and able – at my beck and call day and night. Most of the time I really enjoy it all. Do I follow God? … Well, all I can say is you have to keep your eye on the goal and go for it. You’re better to keep stuff like that in its own personal space. Otherwise it just complicates issues and, in the long run, makes you weak and threatens your stability. Bottom line: don’t let anything stand in your way.
Busy man (Innkeeper)
Well, the tourist season is in full swing. Talk about busy - I’ve been run of my feet. I’m working morning noon and night and if I’m not working, I driving the kids to tennis or swimming and if I’m not doing that I’m writing up the minutes to some meeting I got dobbed in for. They say if you want something done, then ask a busy man! Now and again I just put my foot down and say that’s enough, I’ve had it – tonight is time out and I take the wife out for a meal or take the kids down to the beach for an hour or so. I’d love to do that on a regular basis but I dunno where the time goes. Do I go to church!!!??? Well, of course, I’d love to go to church. God and church are very high on my list of priorities but, at the moment, there just isn’t enough room in my life.
Umm ….. I shouldn’t really be here. I’m a bit of an outsider. This place is a bit flash for me. Ann asked me to speak but feel quite uncomfortable up here because I know that most of you disapprove of me. It’s probably the circles I mix in. When you’re at the bottom of the barrel, you tend to hang out with others who are in similar situations. And most of them are good mates too. Loyal and stick with you through thick and thin. I know, my kids run wild – but what can I do. I’m never at home. If I‘d stayed at school a bit longer and got my VCE or something maybe things would be different. If I had a proper job we could live in a better neighbourhood and go to church on Sundays. I’d like to do that – go to church on Sunday’s like other people do, a chance to praise God and everything - but life doesn’t always work out the way you thought it would, does it?
I never make a hasty decision. It’s not part of the way I live or work. I like to think things through, read up on issues, ….. discuss things. You should see my library – it is absolutely terrific. And now that I’m on-line I find the internet particularly useful. It gives me new angles on things and encourages me to keep on searching. I haven’t found all the answers yet – it’s a long journey I’m on, but I have a few goals and I am enjoying the travelling. You see, I can’t just take people’s experiences at face value, I want to discover them for myself. What’s my goal? It’s a bit hard to put into just one sentence but, basically, I think I am searching for God.
By Rosemary Broadstock and Ann Scull (copyrighted but feel free to use it with acknowledgement)
Discussion: About the above drama
1. Of the six people, who are you most like?
2. Work out who each person is in the Christmas story.
3. Which of them accepted gifts and tasks from God?
4. Who did not?
Listening Song: Grace
By U2 on their album, All That You Can't Leave Behind (pictured at left).
Response Activity: Based on above Listening Song
Consider where you stand with God and where you are on your faith journey.
Maybe you have never been baptised and would like to/
Maybe you feel God's call to a particular ministry and would like it to be confirmed by the church?
Maybe you would like the chance to reaffirm your baptismal vows?
If any of these issues are important to you then speak to the worship leader or an elder after the service.
Have your church font in a very prominent place for this service - if possible have the seating arranged around it. Near the end of the service, even after the benediction, invite people to file past the font, dip their finger in and mark the person following with the sign of the cross. Ask them to use the time, as they are being marked with the sign of the cross, to think about their own baptism and what it means to them or to remind themselves that they truly do belong to God and are one of his special children.
Meditation: The Empowering God
Found in Meditations from the Iona Community by Ian Reid, Wild Goose Publications, Trowbridge, 1998, ISBN 1901557022, page 60. This goes well with the Isaiah reading.
Creative Ideas: John the Baptist: The Prophet from the wilderness
Found in Multi-Sensory Prophets by Mike Law, Scripture Union, 2007, ISBN 9781844272587, page 50. This is based on the Luke reading.