SUNDAY 21ST FEBRUARY 2021
– Your paths, O Lord, are love and faithfulness.
COLLECT FOR PURITY
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
SUMMARY OF THE LAW
Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
The first commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
There is no other commandment greater than these.
Amen. Lord, have mercy.
God is love and we are God’s children.
There is no room for fear in love.
We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.
God our Father, we confess to you and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ that we have sinned in thought, word and deed, and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins, and deliver us from the power of evil, for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
God, who is both power and love, forgive you and free you from our sins, heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit, and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
sung by Sue St Joseph
Almighty God, whose Son fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet did not sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in submission to your Spirit, that, as you know our weakness, so we may know your power to save; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen
PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD
GENESIS 9:8-17 read by Margaret Morton
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.”
I PETER 3: 18-22 read by Peter Boreham
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a
few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
MARK 1:9-15 read by Reverend Steven Ballard
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Mark chapter 1 beginning at verse 9
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 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.”
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel.
Praise to Christ our Lord
As I look back over thirty years of ministry, 10 years as an outreach worker and 20 years in ordained ministry, I can safely say that I have experienced great spiritual highs, times when I experienced God’s incredible love, seen people grow and develop in their faith, witnessed the power of God at work in a community and been blessed by many answered prayers. The flip side of the coin is that I have also experienced great trials and challenges, the death of family members and friends, disappointments, opposition, health issues, spiritually low desert moments of pain and hurt, exhaustion and moments when mistakes were made. I do not suspect that I am any different from other people- where we have high points and low points in our lives.
What is increasingly turning out to be true in my experience and in that of others is that our spiritual highs are often followed by spiritual lows. This is not peculiar just to a few of us but was true of Jesus too. A spiritual high point in his life was his baptism by John and that high point was immediately followed by his spiritual low point in the wilderness. God was preparing Jesus through the spiritual highs and lows in his life for the blessings and battles he would experience in his ministry.
At his baptism Jesus experienced a great spiritual high when he saw a vision -“He saw heaven being torn open”. The symbolism here is powerful. Jesus is the one who opens the heavens apart for us. This high point in Jesus’ life had several elements to it. His baptism was
not a spur of the moment decision. Jesus had been waiting for a sign to begin his ministry. This baptism was for Jesus the moment of decision. For thirty years Jesus stayed in Nazareth. Faithfully he had done his day’s work and discharged his duties to his home. For some time he had been conscious that the time for him to go out in ministry had come. He waited patiently for a sign. The sign came in the emergence of John the Baptist. This was the moment when he had to launch out upon his task.
Yet to our ears the Baptism of Jesus presents a problem. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, meant for those who were sorry for their sins and wished to express their determination to have done with them. What had such a baptism to do with Jesus, for he was the sinless one and not in need of baptism? It seemed irrelevant. Yet his baptism, this high point in Jesus’ life was not only a moment of decision but also a moment of identification.
It is true that Jesus did not need to repent from sin, but there was the beginning in John of a new movement back to God and Jesus wanted so much to identify with that movement. This identification with this movement towards God was not for Jesus sake but for the sake of others. Great things were afoot and Jesus aligned himself with God’s purposes. This moment of identification led to the great highlight of this experience- it was the moment of approval.
No one in that first century Palestine would leave their culture and family home and their place of work and connections to go to an unknown part. It was something that was not done. Jesus had to be very sure that he is right. God speaks to him directly confirming that this is the correct chosen path. It was a deeply personal experience and not in any sense a demonstration to the crowd. The voice did not say “This is my beloved Son but rather “Thou art my beloved Son.” What an affirmation of his identity! Jesus received divine approval of the chosen path ahead. The path now confirmed, Jesus’ baptism was also a moment of equipping.
We read that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. Again this is powerful symbolism! Here the Spirit descended as a dove might descend, indicating a symbol of gentleness and love. Whilst John the Baptist’s ministry and preaching was a message of terrible sifting and impending gloom, Jesus ministry from the very beginning with the Spirit likened to a dove is one of gentleness and love. So this high point of Baptism in Jesus’ earthly life journey marked four key moments for Jesus. It was a moment of decision, a moment of identification, a moment of approval and a moment of equipping, or anointing for his ministry of love.
From this high point, the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness, to face the battle of temptations. In this life it is impossible to avoid the assault of temptation. Temptations are never sent to make us fall or fail, rather they are sent to strengthen the nerve and sinew of our minds, hearts and souls. Temptations are not intended for our ruin but instead for our good. They are meant to be tests from which we emerge stronger and better.
In what ways did Jesus emerge stronger and better from his period of testing? He emerged with an extraordinary authority. This authority was to evangelise– “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” He preached the gospel and called people to follow him. Our number one priority is to cultivate a relationship with Jesus. Linked to this extraordinary authority to evangelise is the authority to lead. When Jesus wanted someone to leave their job and work directly for the kingdom, he personally went up to them and asked them. Through Jesus motivational skills and training the disciples moved from catching fish to catching people.
This authority to lead and to evangelise also extended to his authority to teach and to heal. People were continually amazed at Jesus’ teaching because he taught them as one who had authority and the people were so astonished that they said “What is this? A new teaching with new authority.” This authority is seen in Jesus’ healing ministry. We saw last week how Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and previously of how Jesus healed the man with an evil spirit. Jesus had the authority to heal disease and the authority to command power over evil spirits. People were amazed at his healing powers and also at the way he gave orders to evil spirits and they obeyed.
Just as God spoke to Jesus in a unique way at his baptism, so God speaks to us “you are my child, whom I love and with you I am well pleased.” He invites us to trust him in our low times and as we are filled with his Spirit, we will grow in authority in our words and actions.
So out of this low point in Jesus’ life came extraordinary authority to evangelise, to teach, to heal and to exorcise evil spirits out of people’s lives. In addition he had a real sense of God’s calling and purpose. So if you are experiencing a low point in your life just now do not be down hearted, lose hope or despair for God will be strengthening you for whatever plans and purposes he has specially lined up for you.
We are to cherish the high points in our lives, those moments of rich blessing, for they are the foundation pillars that sustain us in the low points. Even in the low points in our lives we can incredulously know blessing, for God is working in these situations to bring good and to equip us better for what work he has planned for us. So in this season of Lent when challenges and temptations come our way, especially if we remain in Lockdown, may we see it as an opportunity and time to come closer to God, to feel his presence and to prepare for that moment when the heavens are torn apart and we encounter God in a new and real way.
An encouraging aspect of Jesus’ time in the wilderness is that he was not alone. We read that angels were ministering to him. So in our difficult times we too have angels who minster to us. They strengthen, support protect and guide us. I believe that one day I will be surprised by the many times and ways in which God’s angels have been around me, protecting, strengthening and guiding.
Lent is in itself sometimes a season of great highs and lows in which we are examined and tested. It is also a season of growth and newness of life, if we allow the Spirit God to work in us. May we experience a good and faithful Lent. Amen
We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.
with the Father and the Son, he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Let us still ourselves in God’s presence and tell him what is on our hearts for his people and the world
Loving God, we pray for St John’s and for the wider church at home and overseas that together we might choose the right values and priorities.
May our thoughts be touched by your wisdom, that they might reflect your thoughts.
May your light shine on us that our ways may be your ways.
May we be wise builders of your kingdom, and may we produce good fruit, that touches and blesses the lives of others.
In the silence we pray for all who minister in this place and in the Diocese.
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Loving God look at our places of government throughout the world with a desire for integrity and for a determination to stamp out corruption, deceit and injustice.
Guide all who lead and advise.
In the silence we pray for our politicians at home and abroad.
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Loving God, look at our family life speak your peace and reconciliation, into any family disputes and hurtful misunderstandings, nurture a spirit of loving community in our churches, local communities and places of work, and heighten our awareness of one another’s needs.
In the silence we pray for our own families, church family and places of work.
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Loving God look at our hurting world where devastation has come through floods and hurricanes, through earthquakes and natural disasters, and guide the work of aid agencies and relief workers that lives might be helped and cared for.
In the silence we pray for places that are struggling we remember Fairtrade Fortnight and all the work Fairtrade do.
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Loving God, look at the heartache and longing of your people, we lift to you all, those who are close to despair through stress and strain, those who are battling against illness, those who fighting the darkness of depression, those who struggling to make ends meet, those whose relationships have fallen apart, those who feel alone and isolated surround them with your love and meet them at their point of need with your strength, peace and healing.
In the silence we pray for those in need at this time.
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Loving God, look at those who live their lives in constant fear and in the face of hostility and violence, and be near them, protect and comfort them.
We think especially of the Middle East he refugees who have fled from there looking for peace and a fresh start.
Help us as your people to welcome, embrace them and make accommodation available for them in our country and also in our hearts.
Be with all who are charged with the task of finding solutions to this ever -increasing problem.
We pray for these broken and damaged countries and lift them to you for healing.
In the silence we pray for refugees and the homeless.
Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer.
Loving Lord look at us your children with your steadfast love and help us to put our lives right with you and with one another, so that we might be free from all that would hinder us from running well the race of faith.
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together
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.
Do not bring us to the time of trial
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
May Christ give you grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow him; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.