A record number of members showed up at church on Saturday to help take down the Christmas decorations and re-fit the sanctuary for the Season After Epiphany – namely, wintry and spare. The regulars kept exclaiming “It only took us ONE HOUR” to get everything taken down and packed away and stored in the usual places. Some days, community feels good and doesn’t even demand more than one hour on Saturday.

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The big event of today was reception of new members (Yay!!) and ordination and installation of new officers (Thank You!!). The Church Ladies who had signed up for fellowship time had outdone themselves, in honor of the occasion, so everything looked beautiful and tasted delicious; some days, church is like going to a party – in a good way.

All this on Baptism of the Lord Sunday, so our pastor had us thinking about baptism and what it means, and how it has something to do with being equipped for service to the world, specifically service to the marginalized world. Don’t forget, Jesus was not baptized in a comfortable sanctuary close to home, he was baptized out in the wilderness, far from the centers of power; small wonder that the ministry it equipped him for was outreach to people “the world” didn’t give much thought to.

And our pastor reminded us of our baptismal questions, so once again we trusted in the gracious mercy of God and turned from the ways of sin and renounced evil and its power in the world and accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and promised to be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his Word and showing his love. With God’s help.

[I have always loved that we renounce evil and its power in the world. It’s so realistic. Because evil does have plenty of power in this world; we know that, all too well. But we have agreed not to pursue that kind of power. Because our task is to pursue another kind.]

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Unfortunately, I myself was distracted at first from the substance of the day by the fact that the offering check I’d written out in the choir room hadn’t made it to the choir loft with me.

I tried sneaking out during the prelude and retracing my steps, looking for a slip of paper on the floor, but all that accomplished was that I missed the choral introit. Instead of passing the peace I passed my burden on to one of the other sopranos, who confided that she had managed to leave her offering at home on the kitchen counter. So we got to share our mutual burdens and pray for peace of mind, though still no check. After the service, and since I believe miracles are possible, checked in with our financial secretary who counts the offering, hoping someone else might have found it and put it in the offering plate for me … no miracle this time.

Finally, responding to the interrogation of a couple of fellow choir members, I explained that I’d had to take out an old, spent pad of checks and put in a new one to sit in the choir room and write out my check, and then I’d taken the old one and folded it up and thrown it away … and sure enough, demonstrating this action revealed, there in the choir room trash can along with the flimsy cardboard backing and the superfluous deposit slips, the missing check.

True, we cannot serve God and mammon. But I wish my left hand had paid more attention to what my right hand was doing this morning, anyway.

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scene at Jordan River, Israel river, trees, dusty river bank