Home Service Sunday 21st February 2021

Prayers of Approach

Loving God, thank you
for drawing us together to be your people.
Help us, as we meet together,
to see ourselves as you see us.
Give us faith to hear your words of love
beyond some of the hard realities of our lives.
May your Holy Spirit guide and inspire us
to recognise your presence in all we do.

To you, O Lord, we lift up our hearts,
offering worship and praise.
Show us your path.
Teach us to follow.
Guide us in your truth.
For our hope is in you all day long.
Amen.

A Prayer of Confession

Beloved Lord Jesus, you stepped from water to wilderness,
from God’s voice to the taunting voice of the enemy.
In the wilderness of today’s world, we face many enemies, many temptations.
Forgive us for succumbing to selfishness, greed,
lust, anger, power.
Help us not to wallow in selfish self-centredness,
but to remember your promises and recognise you in those you bring alongside.
And give us your assurance that in Jesus Christ
our sins are forgiven.

Amen.

 

Music: Praise my soul, the king of heaven (R&S 104)

 

Readings: Genesis 9:8-17

                 Mark 1:9-15

 Introduction: In today’s readings we hear of two signs from heaven – Noah sees a rainbow and Jesus sees the Spirit descending on him like a dove from heaven. Both are signs of God’s relationship but they are brief moments of revelation. Jesus is immediately driven into the wilderness and Noah is plunged into a family crisis but nevertheless such moments have deep significance, and still do even for us today.

 Music: Forty days and forty nights

 Sermon/Reflection

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism is brief and to the point. Jesus comes from Nazareth and is baptized by John with no account of any dialogue between them, and the only detail Mark gives is of the Holy Spirit descending as Jesus comes up out of the water and the voice affirms him as, ‘my son, whom I love’. Mark’s gospel moves along quickly as he tells us that the Spirit ‘immediately’ drove Jesus into the wilderness.

Characteristically, Mark also doesn’t give any details of Jesus’ temptations saying simply that he was in the desert for forty days being tempted, that he was with the wild animals, and that angels attended him. Jesus then returns to Galilee and begins his ministry, which like John’s is a call to repentance.

Although Mark’s account is sparse it holds a wealth of meaning and gives us all the information we need to recognize and accept Jesus as God’s chosen Messiah. In Jesus’ baptism in the waters of the Jordan we see his identification with humanity, and in the descent of the holy spirit as a dove his connection with creation from the beginning as the spirit hovered over the waters of creation. Together with the voice from heaven which acknowledges him we have affirmation of who Jesus is, human and divine.

When Jesus is driven into the wilderness for forty days (and nights) he is linked irrevocably to Israel’s history. Forty is a symbolic number. When Noah went into the ark it rained for forty days and forty nights, after the exodus from Egypt the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, when Moses received the tablets of the Law from God he was on Mount Sinai for forty days, and Elijah journeyed forty days to reach Mount Horeb, where he met God in the ‘still, small voice’ of quietness. All these periods of time were a preparation for what was to follow, as  Jesus’ time in the wilderness was preparation for his ministry.

 

And finally, Jesus’ return to Galilee, an area of a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles, it signalled that it was time for the  proclamation of the good news of God’s salvation to all who were ready to hear it.

Our wilderness today may be very different from Jesus’ and far less dramatic, but lockdown can be a daily, ongoing wearing down, for some maybe a time of despair, for others simply of monotony or even boredom. We don’t usually get the chance to prepare for our wilderness experiences, or know how long we must live in them, but we know that Jesus shares them with us. We don’t know for sure whether the angels were with Jesus all the time in the wilderness, or if he was conscious of them. We do know that Christ is with us, even when we are not conscious of him. And as Jesus was changed by his wilderness experience, prepared for his ministry, may we be changed by ours, and be ready to proclaim the good news.

 Music: When Jesus came to Jordan (Fred Pratt Green 1903-2000)

When Jesus came to Jordan
to be baptized by John,
he did not come for pardon.
but as his Father’s Son.
He came to share repentance
with all who mourn their sins,
to speak the vital sentence
with which good news begins.

He came to share temptation,
our utmost woe and loss,
for us and our salvation
to die upon the cross.
So when the Dove descended
on him, the Son of Man,
the hidden years had ended,
the age of grace began.

Come, Holy Spirit, aid us
to keep the vows we make,
this very day invade us,
and every bondage break.
Come, give our lives direction,
the gift we covet most:
to share the resurrection
that leads to Pentecost.

 

Prayers of Intercession

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
I put my trust in you.
In situations where I have no answers,
and your presence seems distant:
to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
I put my trust in you.
When the ways of the world
seem to overcome the light of Christ:
to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
I put my trust in you.
When the world seems chaotic,
wars continue and disasters proliferate:
to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
I put my trust in you.
When it seems that those I pray for
remain unhealed:
to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
I put my trust in you.
When I despair and turn from you,
when I fall or fail:
to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
I put my trust in you.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me.
Hear my prayer, O God of my salvation. 

Amen.

 

Music: Seek ye first the kingdom of God (R&S 512)

 

Blessing.

Creator God, you made us in your image
to be your people, wherever we go.
This coming week, whatever we experience,
wherever we find ourselves,
help us to know that you are with us –
guiding, revealing and sustaining – always.

As we go may your blessing, the blessing of our father, the Creator, our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit our inspirer and encourager,

Go with us.

Amen.  

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