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Morning Worship in Lent

Morning Worship in Lent            
 

The Greeting

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Opening prayer

God of our days and years, we set this time apart for you
As we journey with you towards the cross and the empty tomb, form us into your likeness,
So that our lives may glorify you.
Amen.

Prayers of Penitence

God shows his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Let us show our love for him by confessing our sins with a sincere and true heart.

God our Father, we come to you in sorrow for our sins
For turning away from you,
And ignoring your will in our lives;
Father forgive us
Save us and help us

For behaving as we wish,
Without thinking of you;
Father forgive us
Save us and help us

For failing you by what we do
And think and say
Father forgive us
Save us and help us

For letting ourselves be drawn away from you
By temptations in the world about us
Father, forgive us
Save us and help us

For living as if we were ashamed
To belong to your Son
Father, forgive us
Save us and help us

Absolution

The almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon and forgiveness from all our sins,
time for amendment of life, and the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit.
Amen..

Our Response

Sometimes we feel like we’re walking through wilderness:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.
When our spirits feel dry, help us trust in your Spirit:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.
Fasting seems difficult, prayers seem unanswered:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.
The world howls like wild animals all around us:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.
We can choose to worry, or to trust you to provide:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.
Temptation is everywhere, doubts can overwhelm us:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.
You know what it’s like to walk through this desert:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.
You long to transform us with wilderness worship:
Jesus we choose to walk with you. Amen.

Readings

Old Testament: Genesis 9:8-17
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

The Gospel:  Mark 1:9-15
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

Other Readings for the First Sunday of Lent: Psalm 25:1-9 & 1 Peter 3:18-end

The Collect

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  
Amen.

Homily

To quote Brutus in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, “there is a tide in the affairs of man, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyages of their lives is bound in shallows and in miseries”. Life changing, life defining moment, that set us off on one path or another. And to quote also John Oxenham in “The Ways “
To every man there openeth,
a way, and ways, and A Way,
the high soul climbs the high way,
the low soul gropes the low,
and in heaven on the misty flats, the rest drift to and fro
”.
I feel I can picture myself on the misty flats, drifting to and fro.
Those life changing moments, marked by signs. My personal experience is that, we don’t always recognise signs as signs at the time, but sometimes the benefit of hindsight can show a particular event, a chance conversation a seed sown, stands out as an obvious turning point, perhaps a “God moment” which felt nothing like it at the time, in the ups and downs of ordinary life.

The signs in the Old Testament reading about Noah, and the gospel reading of Jesus’ baptism are clearer to see, but we do have the benefit of hindsight, and years of reading and becoming familiar with the stories. It is nice, and comforting, to think of the rainbow as a sign from God that the world would never be flooded to that catastrophic degree again, although the Wikipedia explanation of a rainbow as “an arch of colours visible in the sky, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun's light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere” does take much of the mystery out of it. The world is still afflicted by floods, which can have devastating effects. We would do well not to take the story of Noah too literally, and I don’t personally think even the Old Testament writers intended us to. Looking back in the preceding chapters of Genesis, we are told in Ch 7 that Noah was to take “seven pairs of clean animals and a single pair of unclean” animals, then later in the same chapter “two and two” of both clean and unclean animals. The same chapter also says the rains lasted 40 days, yet goes on to say that the waters “swelled on earth for 150 days”. The story is perhaps there as a moral and practical framework, for a way of life based more on action, a way of living and being, in tune with God and nature, and if the rainbow can be used as a sign, a reminder of God’s presence, and love for us, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The call to erect the Ark can be seen as much as a mental exercise, to build up one’s faith, drawing all the good things of God’s creation into that framework, feeding on the good things, and also – in the way Noah fed and cared for the animals in his Ark, protecting, supporting and nurturing and His world around us. With all we hear and see about the effects man has been having on the climate, it surely is time indeed that we followed Noah’s example.

The sign of the dove, descending from heaven, and God’s voice, saying “you are my beloved Son, I am well pleased with you” appears to mark a turning point in Jesus life. He had been preparing for this moment for 30 years at home in Nazareth, yet it seems even He needed a sign. This is a decisive moment. A moment to pause, to ponder, to prepare to fulfil his destiny. Jesus did not need to be baptised by John, and as John said to him in other parts of the Gospel, it should have been the other way round, yet even for Jesus, there needed to be that defining moment, the sign, and yes this was the time, He was the Chosen One. There was that moment of affirmation, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, the strength he would need to start on that journey that would lead eventually to death on the cross. This would be no easy journey, Jesus needs time to prepare himself in the wilderness, and here there are more signs, temptations, pulling, pushing, goading, but also the positive signs, the animals his companions, and the angels supporting him. He took the time to read the signs, and spend time with God, adjusting to follow where the signs were taking him.

The signs in our own lives will I am sure be more subtle that the ones given to Noah, and we will not – literally – experience  40 days in a 450’ boat waiting for floods to subside, or 40 days under a hot desert sun with only animals and angels for company – or at least I hope not, but Lent is a time to pause, to reflect, to pray, to look for those signs that are all around us, and pray that we be guided to take the way God wants us to go, and thinking again of the words of the poem of John Oxenham, that we find the high way, don’t grope the low, or find ourselves in the misty flats, drifting to and fro.
                                                                                  Susan Heads (LLM)

Affirmation of Faith

Let us affirm our faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God
Though he was divine,
he did not cling to equality with God,
but made himself nothing,
taking the form of a servant
he was born in human likeness
.
He humbled himself
and was obedient to death
even death upon the Cross.
Therefore God has raised him on high,
and given him the name above every name:
That at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
and every voice proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,
To the glory of God the Father.
Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

We pray to the Lord for courage to give up other things
and to give ourselves to him this Lent.
Give your Church the courage
to give up her preoccupation with herself
and to give more time to your mission in the world.
[We pray for …]
May the blood and water flowing from the side of Jesus
bring forgiveness to your people
and help us to face the cost of proclaiming salvation.
Lord, meet us in the silence,
give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give your world the courage
to give up war, bitterness and hatred,
and to seek peace.
[We pray for …]
May the shoulders of the risen Jesus,
once scourged by soldiers,
bear the burden of political and military conflict in our world.
Lord, meet us in the silence,
give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up quarrels, strife and jealousy
in our families, neighbourhoods and communities.
[We pray for …]
May the presence of the risen Jesus,
his body once broken and now made whole,
bring peace and direction as we live with one another.
Lord, meet us in the silence,
give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give us the courage
to give up our selfishness as we live for others,
and to give time, care and comfort to the sick.
[We pray for …]
May the wounded hands of Jesus bring his healing touch,
and the light of his presence fill their rooms.
Lord, meet us in the silence,
give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up our fear of death
and to rejoice with those who have died in faith.
[Especially we hold … in our minds.]
May the feet of the risen Lord Jesus, once nailed to the cross,
walk alongside the dying and bereaved in their agony,
and walk with us and all your Church
through death to the gate of glory.
Lord, meet us in the silence,
give us strength and hear our prayer,
here and in eternity.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Blessing

May Christ give us grace to grow in holiness,
to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always.
Amen.


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