Order of Service
Good Morning everybody. Welcome to our service of worship on this first Sunday of Lent. Thank you to Jenny Rogers and Christine Ockenden for taking part in this service. The theme of this service is ‘Jesus is tempted in the wilderness.’
HYMN Praise to the holiest in the height
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you
And also with you.
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
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.
PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart God will not despise.
Let us come to the Lord, who is full of compassion,
and acknowledge our transgressions in penitence and faith.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour
in thought and word and deed,
through negligence, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry
and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for us,
forgive us all that is past
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name.
May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
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.
The Liturgy of the Word
READING: 1 Peter 3:18- 22
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, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 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 people, were saved through water. 21 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, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
HYMN: Forty days and forty nights
Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark
Glory to you O Lord.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 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. 11 And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
This is the gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
Mark 1:9-15 Lent is more than lockdown wilderness.
We’ve already done Lent! And a long Lent at that. It’s now 47 days since the announcement of the third lockdown on January 4th. We have done self-deprivation. We have done self-denial. We have done fasting. We have done our time in wilderness. We have voluntarily deprived ourselves of human contact, we have spent a great deal of time alone, we have fasted from the things we love and enjoy, meals out, trips out, theatres, sports events, gigs, gyms and clubs, cinema, pubs, shopping trips, art galleries, holidays, travel, just hanging out and most depriving of all – spending time with those we love.
We have also, across this bleak time, done temptations: the temptation to please oneself and break the rules; the temptation to project all our frustrations and bad feelings on family, the government or anyone else who gets in the way; the temptation to give in and give up, not to bother, to lose our grip.
In our twenty- first century western culture I suspect we have understood the deprivation and longing of Lent like never before. The medieval longing for meat after forty days of fish and eggs and winter vegetables, the never-ending nature of Lent. Which brings us to the question – why Lent? What is Lent for? Why did Christians develop the pattern of keeping Lent? What was this time of deprivation meant to teach us?
Lent simply means length and reflects the length of time Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted, the forty days. The early church used these days as a time of preparation for baptism at Easter. A time of self-examination to prepare heart and soul for the commitment made to follow Christ culminating in that act of stepping down into the water and rising again echoing the death and resurrection of Jesus. Symbolising the new life in Christ.
And so, Lent became a time to shake down again with God. The fasting and self-denial are outward signs of an inward journey. They are not ends in themselves; they are reflections of a heart turning again to God, they prompt a person to give that renewed attention to their faith and their relationship with their Christian practice and belief. Giving up chocolate or alcohol for forty days is meaningless unless it is accompanied by a movement to deepen a relationship with God – through prayer or studying the scriptures or through confession and a desire for a change of life.
In the rhythm of the Christian calendar Lent gives us a time to deliberately seek God, a time for a reset of our Christian commitment. We deprive ourselves in order to affirm that we do not live for just whatever we want whenever we want it – in other words to affirm that we are not Lord over our lives but that Jesus is. We hold ourselves back in order to place our lives under the sovereignty of Christ. Lent is about recognising priorities.
I think our experience of the lockdown wilderness has prompted us to reconsider priorities. Certainly, as a society – we have recognised the priority of educating our children, of valuing the people who do some of the most self-sacrificing caring roles in our society, of caring for our planet and valuing God’s creation, the importance of the gift of work and the need to keep people working. Above all we have learnt to value the mutuality of our society, the way we are connected with one another and the way we have looked out for one another in a myriad of ways. Our culture and national identity have had something of a reset and I pray the impact of that continues.
Which brings us to the question of where we are personally in our faith and in our relationship with God. Have we got lost in the wilderness of the lockdown or have we found our reliance on God in a deeper way? What has this Lenten time still got to offer us?
The description in Mark’s gospel of Jesus’ forty days in the desert is incredibly brief compared to the other gospels. Merely two verses. There is no description of the temptations in the detail provided by Matthew and Luke and it’s important not to read in what isn’t there. Instead, we are told four things about Jesus’ experience.
First – that it was an action of the Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit drove, propelled – Jesus into this time of testing. In other words, it was intentional – it was a time that was needed – it was something Jesus had to go through.
Second that Jesus was tempted, the voice of Satan was in his ears or in his head, whispering, accusing, deceiving, undermining, negating, seeking to disable or trip up. We are all familiar with those voices. They have no good purpose.
Third that Jesus was with the wild beasts. Easy to see these beasts as a metaphor for danger or for the beastlier side of human nature – but there are plenty of references in the Bible to a transformed relationship with creation that will come about when God’s new way comes into being and Jesus is the embodiment of that new way, that new kingdom.
We read at Christmas from Isaiah 11
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
Is Jesus living in harmony with the wild animals of the wilderness? Walking and being among them. Is this the new way, God’s new creation, already come into being?
Fourthly we are told that Jesus was ministered to by the angels. Whatever his internal battles, tests and troubles, whatever the dangers – he is cared for. God is present there in ways we may find it hard to understand, although many of us in recent weeks might also have had a sense of being ministered to by angels through unexpected kindness and attention.
These four points can all speak to us this Lent. That whatever we are going through is led by God’s Spirit, that we will have to battle with the negative voices within, that nevertheless we can live in harmony with the wilderness in which we find ourselves and that we will be ministered to and cared for.
But what also struck me in particular about Mark’s brief description of Jesus’ time in the wilderness is way that Mark has linked it in a few short verses to Jesus’ baptism and the assurance he received of being the beloved Son of God; and then also to the proclamation of the Kingdom of God as Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee. The new way of being with God, the Kingdom that Jesus himself embodies. And these links will also help us to find our way through the lockdown experience so far and the Lenten time we are just beginning. This is where we can make the connection with the Lent that lies before us.
First, we have the assurance to hold onto that we are the beloved children of God and important to him. Second, whatever the wilderness, the fasting, the deprivation, the torments and the tests, we are not alone, God is with us, he is ministering to us. His many angels are present to us in their unknown, unrecognised forms. Thirdly and most importantly of all, that there is a way forward. There is a new Kingdom, a new future. Jesus proclaims ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ That is a proclamation for all time and for today. It is a proclamation of hope.
Lent is our reset button. A time to turn our hearts and lives to God, a time to discover the depths of God’s love for us and a time to envision and believe in God’s future for us all.
Lord our God, as we follow in Jesus’s footsteps this Lent and endure our own wilderness, may we discover the depths your love for us and be inspired by a vision of your Kingdom built among us.
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 Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and 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 and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who 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. Amen.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
HYMN: Seek ye first the kingdom of God
Since we are justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has given us access to his grace.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.
Although we’re apart let us hold one another in the peace of Christ in a moment of prayer.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Let us pray with confidence as our saviour has taught us
Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that 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.
Christ give you grace to grow in holiness,
to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow him;
and the blessing …
HYMN: O For a heart to praise my God
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
Thanks be to God.
Dietrich Buxtehude | Ciacona in E minor BuxWV 160 | Consort Brouillamini