2nd Sunday in Lent

Aire ValleySeparately yet together

Bingley URC – Idle Upper Chapel URC –Trinity, Keighley Baptist & URC

28th February 2021

2nd Sunday in Lent

Covenant

Our readings for today are:

Genesis 17:1–8, 15–16   and   Mark 8:31–38     

You may like to get these ready in your own Bible.

The lectionary also includes Psalm 22:23–31 & Romans 4:13–25

Welcome Whether you join us strong in your faith, struggling, doubting, or somewhere in between – you are most welcome to our act of worship.

Call to worship

Open your eyes to the Lord,

that you may behold His glory.

Open your ears to the Lord,

that you may hear His call.

Open your hearts to the Lord,

that you may know His love.

Open your lives to the Lord,

so that you shall reveal His glory.

Hymn       

Jubilate, everybody,                           Fred Dunn (1908 – 1979)

© 1977 ThankYou Music / Adm. worshiptogether.com

Prayer of approach

In sharing this prayer, think of the other members of our church family and friends with whom we share this act of worship. Let us share together this prayer by David Adam from a Celtic tradition:

We open our lives to You, Lord,

we make space in this day for Your coming.

We move from business to stillness.

We move from sounds to Your silence.

We move from insensitivity to awareness.

We thrust out from the land and look to heaven.

We open our lives to You.

We open our hearts to Your love

We open our thoughts to Your forgiveness.

We open our ears to Your call.

We open our eyes to Your presence.

We open our lives to You.    Amen.

Reading    Mark 8:31–38

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’

Theme Part One

This week I have included an image of a “Scargill Cross.” If you have ever visited Scargill House (retreat and conference centre) in Kettlewell you may well have seen one of these in your bedroom. I bought the one you see in their gift shop. You will almost certainly see this again, and again, in the coming month and years. I find a great deal of symbolism in the design and have chosen to share it with you today because of the journey to the cross that we make during Lent. Our gospel reading is quite shocking in the rebuke Peter gets, and Jesus’ challenge that:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

         In difficult life circumstances people sometimes say that they “have a cross to bear.” I often struggle with the sentiment that people mean when they say this, as their use of the words are rarely connected with their discipleship. What I understand from our passage is Jesus saying that following Him is not easy, that there will be times when we don’t do things for ourselves, but spend the time instead doing what God calls us to. In my experience that often turns into a joy – for example helping with homeless or asylum seeker support.

         The other aspect of joy for me, is that even if we have todeny ourselves, and take up our cross and follow Him, we do not do it alone, we do it within our covenant relationship with God, and with God’s people. We pick up the theme of covenant again in our next reading.

Reading    Genesis 17:1–7, 15–16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’

Abram fell face down, and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.’  

15 God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’

In Rejoice and Sing, (553) our next hymn has three verses, I have added an optional third verse, making a total of four.

Hymn       

1/4 To Abraham and Sarah
the call of God was clear:
‘Go forth and I will show you
a country rich and fair.
You need not fear the journey,
for I have pledged my word
that you shall be my people
and I will be your God’.

2/4 From Abraham and Sarah
arose a pilgrim race,
dependent for their journey
on God’s abundant grace;
and in their heart was written
by God this saving word:
that ‘You shall be my people
and I will be your God’.

3/4 From Abraham and Sarah
down to the present day,
through martyrdom and mission
the Church’s journey lay.
To every generation
God’s promise was renewed:
that ‘You shall be my people
and I will be your God’.

4/4 We of this generation
on whom God’s hand is laid,
can journey to the future
secure and unafraid,
rejoicing in God’s goodness
and trusting in this word:
that ‘You shall be my people
and I will be your God.’

Judith A. Fetter (born 1937)
              © Judith A. Fetter

Our prayers for others today, is also written by David Adam. As often, I invite you to pause between the phrases and bring to God those you know, or know of, who come to mind.

Prayers of Intercession 

Living Lord, we pray that You will uphold all who are down.

Lord, have mercy.

Upon the world’s poor and the unemployed,

Lord, have mercy.

Upon the homeless and the refugee,

Lord, have mercy.

Upon the war torn and the oppressed,

Christ, have mercy.

Upon the depressed and the despairing,

Christ, have mercy.

Upon the sinful and the sorrowful,

Christ, have mercy.

Upon the sick and the suffering,

Lord, have mercy.

Upon the diseased and the disgraced,

Lord, have mercy.

Upon the lonely and the dying,

Lord, have mercy.

Let us bring together our prayers, spoken and unspoken by sharing the 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.

Our next hymn, written by Brian Wren, was re-written by him to a ‘definite version’ after Rejoice and Sing had been in use for some time. I have taken the liberty of selecting verses from both versions.

Hymn        Rejoice and Sing 483)

1/4 We are Your people:

Spirit of grace,

You dare to make us

to all our neighbours,  

Christ’s living voice, hands and face.

2/4 Joined in community,

treasured and fed,

may we discover

gifts in each other,

willing to lead and be led.

3/4 Glad of tradition,

help us to see

in all life’s changing

where You are leading,

where our best efforts should be.

4/4 Lord, as we minister

in different ways,

may all we’re doing

show that you’re living,

meeting your love with our praise.      Brian Wren (Born 1936)

(C) 1975, 1995 Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Theme part two

         Last time we began considering the theme of “Covenant” and looked at the rainbow as a symbol of God’s covenant with people and the world, and also a chalice as a symbol of the New Covenant. I realised at the time that I was coming at it a bit backwards ways on in considering New Covenant, but wanted us to consider the characteristic of being God’s Covenant people.

Today’s Genesis reading gives an account of another covenant, this time between God and Abram / Abraham. In a few moments we are going to consider together some different covenants in the Bible. First, I offer some explanations:

A solemn agreement or promise, sometimes confirmed by sacrifice or by sharing in a meal, by which two or more parties commit themselves to the rights and responsibilities demanded by their relationship and their agreed course of action, and accept the serious consequences of breaking faith.                      “Dictionary of Bible Themes” M.H. Manser (2009)

A covenant is only as secure as the integrity of the parties involved in the covenant process. The Bible talks about covenants in which God becomes one of the parties. Berit means “covenant,” “treaty,” or “agreement.”

“Holman treasury of key Bible words” E.E. Carpenter (2000)

         There are some different kinds of covenants in the Bible, albeit all established by the LORD God. It seems this is the way the LORD chose / chooses to relate to His creation and His people.

         Carpenter’s commentary suggests there are five main covenants in our Old Testament. Last week we considered the first covenant, which was with Noah and his descendants, and I believe with creation. God also saying that He would maintain the seasons and cycles of nature as long as the earth would stand.

Genesis 6:18            But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark…

Genesis 8:21            21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.  22 ‘As long as the earth endures,

seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’

Genesis 9:12            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. 

This was a unilateral covenant; that is, only one party, God, had to keep its terms.

In today’s Genesis passage we read about God initiating a second unilateral covenant. 

Genesis 17:1 – 5 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’

Abram fell face down, and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram (meaning “exalted father”); your name will be Abraham (meaning “father of multitude), for I have made you a father of many nations.  6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.’

In this covenant the LORD God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. This covenant was concluded in a complex ritual, with male circumcision as an outward sign of accepting the covenant. This is referred to in verses 9–14 which the lectionary doesn’t include. This is referred to as the Abrahamic covenant, and although this covenant was established by God, unlike the covenant with Noah, the people were to show their acceptance of it in their behaviour.

In verse 8 we see the beginning of what I see as covenant language: “I will be their God.” We will look at other covenants in the coming weeks, and hopefully see how significant they are for us.

Prayer of response

Lord Jesus Christ,

You called Your disciples to go forward with you on the way to the cross.

Since You first walked that road

countless millions have followed You.

In all that we do as Your disciples,

save us from false familiarity with Your journey.

May we never presume to step into Your shoes,

but make us small enough to fit into our own,

and to walk in love and wonder behind You.    Amen.

Hymn        Rejoice and Sing 567

1/3 Thy hand, O God, has guided

thy flock, from age to age;

the wondrous tale is written,

full clear, on every page;

thy people owned thy goodness,

and we their deeds record;

and both of this bear witness;

one Church, one faith, one Lord.

2/3 Thy heralds brought glad tidings

to greatest, as to least;

they summoned all to hasten

and share the great King’s feast;

their gospel of redemption,

sin pardoned, earth restored,

was all in this enfolded:

one Church, one faith, one Lord.

3/3 Thy mercy will not fail us,

nor leave thy work undone;

with thy right hand to help us,

the victory shall be won;

And then, by all creation

thy name shall be adored,

and this shall be our anthem:

one Church, one faith, one Lord.

Edward Hayes Plumptre (1821-1891) altd.

Blessing                                      

Trust in the Lord and do right,

find in Him your happiness

and your hearts desire,

give yourself to Him,

wait patiently for Him;

and the LORD God, your God,

bring you wholeness and peace.    Amen.