For Sunday January 11, 2012
Year B, First Sunday after Epiphany
Call to Worship (Responsive)
Adapted from Psalm 29 (See also Psalter 737 – Chalice Hymnal)
L: Ascribe to the LORD the glory of God’s name;
P: Worship the LORD in holy splendor.
L: The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
P: and all in God’s temple say, “Glory!”
L: May the LORD give strength to the people!
P: and bless the people with peace!
Invocation: (From Genesis)
O God of all creation, you have made the heavens and the earth, and formed them from the void. You have spoken the light into existence, and called it good. As we come to worship your power and majesty, as we come to proclaim your mighty acts, receive our worship, O God, and call it “good”.
I want to tell you about Mr. K as he told his story. Mr. K is about 40 years old and has a smile that makes you want to hear what he has to say. He was born in Northern Jiangsu province into a family of farmers.
“I was 19 years old when I first learned about Christianity from a classmate’s mother-in-law. She had us pray before and after meals, which introduced us to these ideas for the first time. I had little interest in religion, but was willing to pray if it meant I could eat. One day I was walking past a small church and heard the sound of hymns being sung. When I glanced inside the feeling of comfort and peace I felt in that moment led me to believe. I realized God cared for me and it was a moment of great joy. After that I looked forward all week to my Sunday meetings with God. In the congregation no one else had even a middle school education, and 90% of them were illiterate. So they started asking me to preach or help them with reading the Bible. Looking back, it was my happiest year.
Outside of church, my friends had encouraged me to start raising chickens. I had invested in the supplies: feed, eggs, fences. One night I was outside, and sisters from the church came looking for me, but I didn’t hear them knocking on my door. When I heard that I had missed them, I became focused on why it was they were searching for me. I stared at the sky unable to sleep, I knew they were going to ask me to study at the seminary, but I wanted to say “no.”
Then I remembered the verse that says, “Whom can I send? Who can go for us?” And I realized that for my church I was the only one to do this on their behalf. It was my calling. The next day a sister from the church came and asked me to study at the seminary, and I happily agreed.
I had been focused on raising chickens, but God told me to raise my sights.”
When we give to Disciples Mission Fund, we support ministries like the one in Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital in China, from which we received Mr. K’s story. We will now receive the tithes and offerings which make ministries like these possible.
Almighty God, who sends the spirit in such mysterious ways as the insistence of mealtime prayers, and the sound of hymns being sung, we bring these gifts as signs of hope. Bless them and use them, we pray that the Gospel may become known from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.
Mark’s Gospel begins with the story of John the Baptist and a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul expands John’s theology of baptism in Ephesus to include the gift of the Holy Spirit, something the Ephesians had not yet heard about. The table of the LORD not ONLY reminds us of the gift of forgiveness, but the promise of life in the Spirit. As we come, eat, drink, and remember, let us also rejoin and reclaim the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
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