5th Sunday in Lent

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

5th Sunday in Lent

I will be their God,
and they will be
my people.

Our readings for today are:
Psalm 51:1–12 2 Samuel 7:1–16 Jeremiah 31:31–34

In Isaiah 55 we hear the LORD saying “Come, all you who are thirsty.” In Matthew 11 we hear Jesus saying “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened.” And in Matthew 19 Jesus says “Let the little children come to me.” These are words of welcome, and I pray that we will each ‘hear’ God’s invitation to “come.”
Call to worship
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord our King;
let us whisper His name,
His wonderful name,
Jesus our Lord and King.

Hymn Rejoice and Sing 382
1/5 Come, let us join our cheerful songs
with angels round the throne;
ten thousand, thousand are their tongues,
but all their joys are one.

2/5 Worthy the Lamb that died, they cry,
to be exalted thus:
worthy the Lamb, our lips reply,
for he was slain for us.

3/5 Jesus is worthy to receive
honour and power divine;
and blessings more than we can give
be, Lord, for ever thine.

4/5 Let all the hosts of heaven combine
with air and earth and sea,
to lift in glorious songs divine
their endless praise to thee.

5/5 Let all creation join in one,
to bless the sacred name
of him that sits upon the throne,
and to adore the Lamb.
Isaac Watts (1674–1748)

Prayer of approach Psalm 51:1–12
For our prayer of approach, I invite you to share with me in in the words of a Psalmist’s prayer. You may like to read them allowed. I must tell you that I’m not sure quite what to make of the notion of being sinful from birth, but couldn’t cut that verse out of the flow of the Psalm.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 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.

Theme Part One
We are continuing to think about the main Biblical covenants. The Jeremiah passage which is in the Lectionary for today will complete the five. Before we move on to that, let us look at the fourth.

Reading 2 Samuel 7: 11–17
‘ “The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: 12 when your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.” ’

This fourth main Covenant was established by the LORD as a unilateral covenant with David. Again, we discover God declaring His intention to be in relationship with people. Here we read of His promises about the Kingdom He established as the context for that relationship – asserting that He would not fail to establish a King in Israel from David’s descendants. This is known as the Davidic covenant, and Christians believe that this was ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

Matthew 1:1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham…

Luke 1:32–33 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’

This theme now takes us to what may seem an unseasonable hymn:

Hymn Rejoice and Sing 167
1/4 Once in royal David’s city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

2/4 He came down to earth from heaven,
who is God and Lord of all;
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall:
with the poor, and mean, and lowly
lived on earth our Saviour holy.

3/4 And he is our childhood’s pattern,
day by day like us he grew;
he was little, weak and helpless,
tears and smiles like us he knew;
and he feeleth for our sadness,
and he shareth in our gladness.

4/4 Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing by,
we shall see him, but in heaven,
set at God’s right hand on high;
for he leads his people on
to the place where he is gone.
Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-95)*

Reading Jeremiah 31:31–34
31 ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord,
‘when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,’
declares the Lord.
33 ‘This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,’ declares the Lord.
‘I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbour,
or say to one another, “Know the Lord,”
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,’
declares the Lord.
‘For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.’

Theme part two
We remembered last week, that the people of Israel did not keep the Sinai covenant. Despite this, the LORD promised a new covenant, the fifth covenant, in which He would enable His people to keep His laws and His commandments by writing them upon their hearts and in their minds – in other words, the way to live as God’s Covenant / Kingdom people would become part of them.
A few moments ago we considered that the Davidic Covenant was fully established in and by Jesus. Many Christians believe that the New Covenant, revealed through the prophet Jeremiah, was established by Jesus. This again is essentially a unilateral covenant with God binding Himself to His people, swearing by His own nature and integrity.
These words are the essence of the LORD’s covenant with people:
I will be their God,
and they will be
my people.
If you have ever bought a car, you may well have realised that you see the same make or model of car all over the place, when you may not have noticed them very much at all before you owned one yourself. What has that got to do with this, you may say! What I have discovered is that having become conscious of this covenant language “I will be their God, and they will be my people,” I notice it in many more places in the Bible that I had previously imagined.
These are some of them:

Leviticus 26:12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.

Jeremiah 24:7
7 I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

Jeremiah 31:1
‘At that time,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.’

Ezekiel 11:20
20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 37:27
27 My dwelling-place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Revelation 21:3
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

On Maundy Thursday we shall consider Jesus’ institution of the New Covenant as we share the opportunity for Holy Communion – the Last Supper.

Hymn Rejoice and Sing 553
You may remember that we shared this hymn a few weeks ago. Now we have considered the main covenants perhaps we may understand more in these words.

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 Judith A. Fetter (born 1937)
and I will be your God.’ © Judith A. Fetter
Prayers of Intercession

Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for the Church, for the great Church throughout the world, and for our own Church community gathered today for worship and prayer. May we remember Jesus every day, grow in understanding of him, and learn to love you and our neighbours. Fill us with your Spirit, and make us a people of peace, of faithful prayer and loving action.
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for the whole world; for the people, the animals, the earth, the sea and the air. May all that you have made be sustained in peace and harmony, and may all your creatures share in the goodness of creation. Bring healing to all who are suffering, and may all your people share in hope.
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for ourselves, for our families and our friends, for all those we love and for those we find it hard to love. May young and old respect one another, and the generations honour one another. May nothing divide us or come between us, let your love bind us in affection. Bless us with your peace, that together we may praise you [forever].
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us.

Lord accept all our prayers, spoken and unspoken through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I find the words of our last hymn quite poignant, while they speak of being a child of God.

1/5Take this moment, sign, and space.
John L. Bell (born 1949)
and Graham Maule (born 1958)

Let us seek to live as God’s people,
with his ‘law’ in our minds and written on our hearts:

Whatever is true, whatever is honourable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious;
if there is anything excellent,
or anything worthy of praise:
think on these things –
and the God of peace be with you always. Amen.