Bethesda United Church of Christ Worship Service
“We welcome all without exception as we worship God together, journey in the spirit, and share our gifts with each other, our neighbors and the world.”
We invite you to gather for quiet and centering prayer and reflection every Sunday at 10:15 am. May this time and space be a blessing for your journey.
Special note on today’s ritual renewal and remembrance:
Today we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, and we are “remembering” our baptism when God claimed us as sons and daughters in a life-long covenant. Today’s annual renewal of baptismal promises serves as a reminder of baptism; it is not considered the act of baptism itself. You are invited to receive and to say whatever speaks to your spirit and whatever may help you on your journey with God. Those who have not been formally baptized into the Christian faith are invited to participate in this blessing, knowing that God touches our hearts in many different ways, or you may quietly pray during this time. During the service, please do and say that which is most comfortable for you and your spirit. If you would like to know more about the life of Christian discipleship and about being part of the baptismal covenant, please speak with Rev. Dee so that she may assist you in your faith journey.
Before our service of worship today, you are invited to place a small fingerbowl of water and hand-towel nearby. You may wish to include any remembrances of your baptism if appropriate (a photo, keepsake, flower, cross, or other object). If you have not been baptized into the Christian faith, you may include water for blessing as above and any mementos that remind you of your personal faith. Thank you for your preparation.
For Your Reflection: To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.–Alan Watts
Question: How hard is it for you to trust God in all things? How difficult is it for you to trust yourself? Are these related in any way for you? How is faith like floating in water?
Rev. Dee Ledger
God’s Light Grows
Call To Worship (responsive)
Through baptism, we trace a lineage unlike any other.
A holy line of kinship that redefines power and belonging.
It beckons us to come by choice.
To declare our intent.
To make known our loyalty.
Our loyalty to love.
To repair. To justice. To Christ.
The waters of baptism free us from alliances that destroy.
May they wash over us and renew the bonds of God.
#172 Jesus Calls Us, o’er the Tumult (verses 1 and 2)
Opening Prayer (unison)
Creator of Life, over and over again you remind us: we belong first – not to institutions, traditions, or hierarchies of power – but to you, the earth, and one another. While forces of evil normalize betrayal and block paths of justice, we know we are not meant for such destruction. By your grace, may we shed that which keeps us from living out the claims of our baptism. That we may be a community whose loyalty to love is clear and unwavering, make it so among us. Amen.
Al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia;
Al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia;
I will praise you, al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia;
I will praise you al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia
Passing The Peace
Leader: The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
People: And also with you.
The children may depart to the breakout room for their classes and activities.
The Contemporary Reading
Renewing our Baptism–written by Maren C. Tirabassi giftsinopenhands.wordpress.com
In Puerto Rico,
the old baptizer’s saints day
is the greatest of celebrations.
On Fiesta de San Juan Bautista,
people gather at the beaches
and at midnight
the walk backward into the ocean
and let themselves fall.
This is my image of faith
become real in the waters,
trusting in the hope of rebirth.
In the wake of earthquake
upon earthquake upon earthquake
let all the world pause
at the courage, the sacrament
of falling into loving arms,
and reach out our hands
to become part of the holy web.
A Reading From The Gospel
4 John the baptizer appeared[a] in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with[b] water; but he will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit.”
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;[d] with you I am well pleased.”
Letting Ourselves Fall
Reaffirmation Of Our Baptismal Covenant
Leader: Following a star.
ALL: Following God’s love.
Leader: Following a call, a nudge, a quest,
ALL: for our lives.
Leader: Help us, O God, in the decisions we make every day,
ALL: in the “pegs” or the values that we decide to hang our life on,
That we will reflect your love and fairness in our lives and in our world.
Leader: In the presence of the New Year,
ALL: and in remembrance of Jesus’ baptism and our own,
I pledge to follow the teaching of Jesus in my life;
Leader: to wrestle with the meanings of the stories in the Bible,
ALL: and try to live them out each day
in my conversations with my family, the people I meet at work,
the stranger ahead of me in the check-out line at the grocery store,
and in the quiet conversations I have with myself each day.
Leader: I realize that I cannot do this on my own,
ALL: that I am dependent on God’s love and grace in my life,
and it is only by ingesting God’s love for me
that I am able to love the “other” whom I meet in my day-to-day life.
Leader: Help me also to learn
ALL: what it means to be a prophet,
Leader: God’s voice for right relations,
ALL: among all those that I share this world with:
Leader: the birds of the air, the fish of the seas,
ALL: the green grass, the animals, and the soil from which all life came,
Leader: and all the peoples of the earth,
ALL: those close to me at home,
Leader: and those faraway.
Prayer Of Preparation
Leader: Gracious and Holy God, we pray that as we touch this water today, may we be reminded of our relationship and covenant with you. May we be reminded of our identity in Jesus Christ and may we be kept faithful until you receive us at last in your eternal home.
People: Holy God, Your Spirit swept over the waters of creation; You are sweeping over us now, creating something new. Call us away from the distractions of the world to experience what You are doing now, in us, and through us, and in our world. Open us to a new awakening, a new beginning, where we look through the lens of the goodness of Your creation, experiencing all possibilities in You. Turn us away from the negative lens, and lead us to the light. In the name of Jesus, who leads us into life, we pray. Amen.
#472 Precious Lord, Take My Hand
If you wish to give to support the work of Bethesda UCC, you can donate via Venmo @Bethesda-UCC or send a check via mail to Bethesda UCC c/o Treasurer; 10010 Fernwood Road; Bethesda, MD 20817
Invitation to offering
The family of God is not defined by the state. It is not a top-down affair. There is no male-rule. There are no queer kids turned away. There are no borders of white supremacy.
The family of God is a kinship of solidarity claimed through baptism. In thanks for this eternal home, let us share our resources with one another as siblings.
We thank you for your generous support of this faith community and of our ministry together. Let us bless the offerings from this week together.
Prayer Of Dedication For The Offerings, Pledges, And Gifts Of Today And This Week (unison)
Parent of All Life, we bring our offerings in remembrance of our indebtedness to the prophets. The ones who teach us how to concretely love our neighbors. Who help us recognize all creatures and creations as siblings. And who challenge us to repair harm and right systemic wrongs. In gratitude for their offerings, we bring ours in return. Amen.
Joys/Concerns, Pastoral Prayer & The Lord’s Prayer
Our Mother/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, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
#351 I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry
Can you feel it?
The divine lineage running through your veins?
Your flesh? Your spirit?
Do not go timidly, but with confidence in the Spirit.
The same Spirit that fills the prophets with courage,
shores up the despairing,
and moves mountains with the faith of mustard seeds,
calls us all to take our place.
To claim the work of love that is ours.
To create family anew through the justice of God.
May it be so.
Notes on Resources and Acknowledgements: Unless otherwise noted, our liturgy today comes from enfleshed.com. The Liturgy for the Reaffirmation of Baptismal Covenant was written by Allan Warren, then at St. George U.C., St. George, Ont. First published in Gathering Advent/Christmas/Epiphany 2005–2006. https://www.united-church.ca/worship-liturgical-season/baptism-jesus.
More about us
Bethesda UCC was founded in 1957 as Bethesda Congregational Church. United Church of Christ is the union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
We are located at the corner of Fernwood and Democracy. Our postal address is:
Bethesda United Church of Christ
10010 Fernwood Road
Bethesda, Maryland 20817
Minister: Rev. Dee Ledger
Music Director: Kay Krekow
Today’s music is shared under Church Copyright License: One License A-726712
A ONE LICENSE Reprint License grants churches, schools, religious communities, retreat centers, and other worshiping bodies permission to reprint or project music for their congregations from any of our Member Publishers.
Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE, License #A-726712. All rights reserved.