1st Sunday in Lent

Aire Valley – Separately yet together
Bingley URC – Idle Upper Chapel URC –
Trinity, Keighley Baptist & URC
21st February 2021

 

 

 

 

 

The Lectionary readings for today are:
Genesis 9:8–17 Psalm 25:1–10
Mark 1:9–15 1 Peter 3:18–22
You may like to get them ready in your own Bible.

Welcome to our shared worship on this first Sunday in Lent. Whoever you are; where ever you are; however you feel – you are welcome. We may not be gathered in a building, but we are united with those who will share this service, either right now in time, or at another time that works for them.

Preparation for worship
Lord, You are in this place.
You are with me now.
Help me to relax in Your presence,
to rest in Your heart,
to reflect on Your love,
and to listen to Your voice. Amen.

Hymn             Complete Mission Praise 38
                       Rejoice and Sing 469
As we are gathered Jesus is here;
one with each other, Jesus is here;
joined by the Spirit, washed in the blood,
part of the body, the church of God.
As we are gathered Jesus is here;
one with each other, Jesus is here.

As we are gathered Jesus is here;
one with each other, Jesus is here;
joined by the Spirit, built up in love,
part of the body, the church of God.
As we are gathered Jesus is here;
one with each other, Jesus is here.
John Daniels
© 1979 Springtide/Word Music (UK) R&S altd.

Prayer of approach
Gracious God, we give You thanks for this day. We give You thanks for this time, that we can spend freely in Your presence. We give You thanks for Your mercy, and that Your ways are loving and faithful. Help us to put our trust in You; lead us in Your ways, one step at a time. Amen.
Lord’s Prayer
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. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Reading Mark 1:9–15
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’

Theme Introduction
We begin our journey into Lent with Jesus’ baptism and wilderness experience.
It still amazes me that I have been to the Holy Land and seen for myself the Jordan river and some of the Judean wilderness. These are aspects of the landscape which remain very much the same as in Jesus’ days there. Obviously, there are places which are built up now, and places which draw on trade from pilgrims – there being several places used by Christians for baptism. Clearly, we cannot know the actual location where John challenged the people to draw close to God through repentance, as we discover from others of the gospels. I suggest that the call to repentance was a call to change their lives around and focus more fully on God, instead of general life; a call to trust in God when circumstances around them were not good, being a land under occupation.
Having seen some of the landscape, it strikes me how much physical effort the people who went to John the Baptist the people made to get to see and hear him, and to be baptised. This makes me wonder what effort we make to get to Jesus. I am well aware that some of you spend lives immersed in prayerfulness (pardon the pun!), but others of us benefit from the reminder to draw close. Lent gives us that opportunity.

Prayer
Gracious God, we come to You today. We haven’t had to make any kind of physical journey to get where we are, but we may need to focus more clearly on You. Where we have forgotten to put our whole trust in You, forgive us, and help us to turn to You more fully. Holy Spirit, please help us to live more and more like our Saviour Jesus. Amen.

Hymn             Complete Mission Praise 538
1/5 On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
announces that the Lord is nigh;
come then and harken for he brings
glad tidings from the King of kings.

2/5 Then cleansed be every heart from sin;
make straight the way for God within;
prepare we in our hearts a home,
where such a mighty guest may come.

3/5 For You are our salvation, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward;
without Your grace we waste away,
like flowers that wither and decay.

4/5 To heal the sick stretch out Your hand,
make wholeness flow at Your command;
sin’s devastation now restore
earth’s own true loveliness once more.

5/5 To Him who left the throne of heaven
to save mankind, all praise be given;
to God the Father, voices raise,
and Holy Spirit, let us praise.

                        Jordanis oras praevia Charles Coffin (1676-1749) translated John Chandler (1806-1876) altd.

 

Reading Genesis 9:8–17
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ 12 And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’
17 So God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.’

Sermon
I recently attended a Synod organised session with two tutors from one of our URC training colleges – Westminster Cambridge. The topic was about Covenant in the Lent lectionary readings. God’s covenant with us is something that both interests and humbles me, so I was glad to ‘attend’.
On the front cover of our service sheet there are two symbols of covenants: the rainbow, and a chalice.
Finding covenant in our reading from Genesis is fairly self-explanatory. God states that He gave the rainbow to symbolize His promise never again to destroy all living beings by a flood, and so the rainbow has become a symbol of Covenant.
You may have seen, or even have, book marks or car stickers that say “God keeps His promises.” And I absolutely believe that to be true. But… the flood, while a popular story to share with children, with the ark, and animals two by two – and yet it describes an horrific event which is difficult to grasp!
And yet, in our next reading Peter linked the two:

1 Peter 3:18–22
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

The second symbol I have offered is that of a chalice. We often hear in our Holy Communion liturgy of the cup of the covenant. While Jesus’ baptism gets linked with a covenant of God, also baptism not only symbolizes that we are cleansed of our sins, but also symbolizes that we are people of the New Covenant.
Let us look at what it means to be people of the New Covenant:

John15: 9-10 9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
“Love” – The love of the Father, the Love of Jesus, and our response of love towards God. I believe the love we have for each other should also be expressed in loving our neighbours as we love ourselves.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
“Faith” – when we live for God, as His covenant people, we live by faith. This is one of the amazing passages where the Greek tense can be understood to be “live by the faith that is in the Son of God” or more simply “the faith of the Son of God”. I find this truly amazing, that we don’t have to live in our faith alone, faith that can waver, but that God in Jesus puts His faith in us!

1 Peter 1:13-16 13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’
“Holiness” – none of us are truly holy in the sense of being “perfect.” In other passages we are encouraged to aim for perfection or holiness. But in the other sense we are “holy” when we are God’s people, because it means being “set apart”, our lives become set apart for God.

Ephesians 6:18 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
“Prayer” is the next aspect that I consider to be part of God’s Covenant people. We considered prayer a couple of weeks ago in relation to Jesus going to a place without distraction to spend intimate time with the Father in prayer.

John 4:23 & 24 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’
“Worship” – our ideas of how and where and when to worship are being challenged at the moment. But Jesus stresses that worship should be “in Spirit and in truth”, so it doesn’t matter where or when that is.

Romans 1:16 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
“Power” is the last aspect to look at this morning. Being God’s Covenant people means being “Gospel” or “Good news” people. Paul tells us that it is the power of God. So we should grow in God’s power.

I will pick up quite a few of these themes during worship in the future. For now, they are like a precis of what it is to be God’s Covenant people.

Lent is a time for a spiritual stock-take! The 40 days, (excluding Sundays) representing Jesus’ time of temptation and preparation for the cross. Jesus knew who He was, and what was being called of Him over the coming weeks. I think it is important to remember God’s call on our lives as people of the New Covenant; to show our desire to live God’s way.
As we prepare again to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, may we be reminded of God’s ways, and may we seek His help us to live in them.

Reading Psalm 25:1–10
1 In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
2 I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
4 Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Saviour,
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

Hymn                    Rejoice and Sing 433
1/4 O thou who camest from above
the pure, celestial fire to impart,
kindle a flame of sacred love
on the mean altar of my heart!

2/4 There let it for thy glory burn
with inextinguishable blaze;
and, trembling, to its source return
in humble prayer and fervent praise.

3/4 Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire
to work, and speak, and think for Thee;
still let me guard the holy fire,
and still stir up Thy gift in me

4/4 Ready for all Thy perfect will,
my acts of faith and love repeat,
till death Thine endless mercies seal,
and make the sacrifice complete.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Prayers of Intercession
As we consider all those people and situations that have been in our hearts or the news in this past week, let us pray:

For those who work in the NHS, in medical research and manufacture, and all in emergency and caring professions:
Gracious God, bring physical and emotional strength, protection and hope.

For politicians, locally, nationally and internationally:
Gracious God, grant wisdom, compassion, and integrity that they may bring hope.

For those who work to provide our food, from fishing and farming, through production and transport to retail and delivery: Gracious God, give protection and hope.

For those who do not have all they need, practically and emotionally: Gracious God, cause others to provide for their needs, and bring them hope.

For those who are ill, in body, mind or spirit, and their loved ones, and for all who feel the pain of bereavement: Gracious God, bring healing, comfort and hope.

For our loved ones, neighbours, colleagues, and church families: Gracious God, pour out Your Spirit afresh, and bring hope. Amen.

Hymn Rejoice and Sing 345
1/3 Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
hold me with Thy powerful hand:
bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore.

2/3 Open now the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream
doth flow;
let the fiery, cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through:
strong deliverer,
be Thou still my strength and shield.

3/3 When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside:
death of death, and hell’s destruction,
land me safe on Canaan’s side:
songs of praises
I will ever give to Thee.
v.1 tr. Peter Williams (1722–99) altd.
v.2,3 tr. William Williams (1717–91) altd.

The words of this blessing are often sung to the Tune of Edelweiss
Blessing

May the Lord, mighty God
Bless and keep you for ever
Grant you peace, perfect peace
Courage in every endeavour,

Lift your eyes and see His face
And His grace forever.
May the Lord, mighty God,
Bless and keep you forever.
Amen.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDP_xRrEGq8