Home Service 13th March 2022

Lent 2

Prayers of Approach

Lord, you are our light and our salvation; our hope in times of fear. You protect us at times of danger, and you hear our prayers. So, Lord, we seek your face, and we trust in your goodness.

Faithful God, we come to worship you, conscious of our vulnerability but rejoicing in your protective love. Speak your values into our hearts, your energy into our actions, and your integrity into our lives, that we may use our time well and wisely, and be a church of compassion, conviction and courage.

Eternal God, we trust you for today. Inspire us to stay focused and to follow your plan for our lives. We trust you for tomorrow. Empower your people to protect the vulnerable and to proclaim the truth. We trust you for every day. Be with us as we journey through life towards your great heart of love in which there is no fear, no failure and no limits. Amen.

Hymn Praise to the Lord, the almighty, the king of creation (R&S 74)

Readings: Psalm 27

Luke 13:31-35

Introduction

The title of this week’s material in ‘ROOTs’ is ‘Today, tomorrow and the next day’ as Jesus begins his journey to Jerusalem. It’s a theme that has increased relevance for us as we slowly emerge from a pandemic only to be faced with the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and the possibility of more widespread war. In such uncertain times we need to decide what our priorities and responsibilities are and where we are heading.

Jesus recognises that the Pharisees are trying to distract him from his mission and ministry but, despite the apparent danger, he is not dissuaded. He knows that his journey to Jerusalem will be a journey to his death, but he does not speak about it in terms of being courageous, nor as a scornfully fierce martyrdom to expose the corruption of Jerusalem. He simply states his purpose.

Hymn O Lord all the world belongs to you (R&S 90) https://youtu.be/jJMaNZ84xsw

Sermon/Reflection

A headline in the Guardian on Monday read,

‘We need bread’: fears in Middle East as Ukraine war hits wheat imports

Concerns are growing across the Middle East and north Africa that the war in Ukraine will send prices of staple foods soaring as wheat supplies are hit. Russia and Ukraine supply a quarter of the world’s wheat exports, while Egypt is the world’s biggest importer of wheat. Nearly half of Tunisia’s wheat imports come from Ukraine, and Yemen, which has itself has been ravaged by war since 2014, imports almost all its wheat, with more than a third coming from Russia and Ukraine. It is highly dependent on bread, which is thought to make up over half of the calorie intake for the average household. Lebanon too, a country in the grips of economic crisis with inflation at a record high, usually imports more than half of its wheat from Ukraine. All these countries and many others are facing severe hardship as wheat becomes scarce and the price of bread soars.

In last week’s lectionary readings we heard about Jesus’ preparation for his ministry and the temptations he faced in the desert. The temptation to turn stones into bread would be no less strong today than it was then as there seem to be more and more hungry people in the world. But still there is no ‘quick fix’. In today’s Gospel reading Luke gives us a picture of a Jesus who cares deeply for people as he likens himself to the hen that longs to gather her chicks under her wings. The mothering instinct of hens can be so strong that they sometimes shelter other creatures under their wings, such as kittens or ducklings. This is a powerful image, but not an image of power. Jesus longs to protect people, but not everyone is willing.

Bachelard Kaze Yemtsa a URC minister in the East Midlands wrote, ‘Jesus bemoaned that many in Jerusalem would not let Him fully embrace them so that they could fully embrace God. Many could have been let down by other rabbis. Others may have been unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to follow Jesus. Many may have enjoyed the social side of discipleship while overlooking the depth of its relational and spiritual dimensions. Following Jesus was not that easy for early followers. It often involved being unpopular with religious and political authorities: this was a price many were not ready to pay. Hence, they preferred following Jesus superficially even if this amounted to nothing in the end. Some things in life can never be fully understood and appreciated until we fully commit to them… The deeper love relationship Jesus calls all of us to often requires humility, vulnerability and a degree of venturing.’

In folktales, animals are often assigned human characteristics. Foxes are seen as cunning and predatory, whereas a chicken is usually stupid and cowardly. Jesus publicly calls Herod a fox but he likens himself to a mother hen. Jesus is certainly no chicken in the conventional sense – in real life the mother hen is protective, brave and caring. Herod is known for his cunning and cruelty, but Jesus won’t react to his threats. Advised to run, Jesus resolutely continues on his course. He is aware of a bigger plan that Herod cannot thwart. He will not be swayed by fear. His priority, his core value, is to carry out his Father’s purpose. He has an appointment with his destiny in Jerusalem, and he will go there, no matter what. Can we do the same, today, tomorrow and the next day?

Hymn From heaven you came, helpless babe (R&S 522)

Prayers of Intercession

We pray for all who work in stressful situations, that they may have peace to enable them to make wise decisions. We hold before you especially those who work in the health service, whose decisions can mean life or death. We remember those faced with the stress caused by poverty – for whom there is a constant fear that there will not be enough, and every spending decision is a challenge. We bring to you those around the world who do not have immediate access to health care and clean water, who take risky actions because it is easier than doing what is safe – or it is the only option. We ask that you will give wisdom to those who make the decisions that affect our lives, and the lives of others – including politicians and all in authority. May they have vision and compassion to act in ways that are beneficial to all. In the name of Christ, we pray. Amen.

A Prayer for the Ukraine

God of all, with alarm and concern we bring before you the military intervention in Ukraine.
In a world you made for peace and flourishing, we lament the use of armed force.
We mourn every casualty of this conflict, every precious life extinguished by war. We pray comfort for those who grieve and those who are fearful.
Hear our longing that leaders and nations will honour the worth of all people by having the courage to resolve conflict through dialogue.
May all our human failings be transformed by your wonderful grace and goodness.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, the author of peace and sustainer of Creation.

Amen.

Hymn For the healing of the nations (R&S 620)

Blessing

Teach me, Lord God, to live out my faith; to show courage when things are tough, to show love to those in need, and to be forgiving even when I am hurt. Help me to follow Jesus. Amen.

Prayers and other material (adapted) © ROOTS for Churches. Used by permission.

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