Lent 3 7th March 2021
Our God, we have gathered today to worship and celebrate you because you are our Maker.
In you we live and move and have our being.
We come confidently, because you are the God of infinite love.
We love you because you first loved us.
We come humbly, because we are aware of the imperfection of our love. We have not loved you with all our heart, or our neighbours as ourselves.
Lord, forgive us.
We come to celebrate the good news of Jesus: in him you lived among us and showed yourself to us. In him you suffered and died for us and won for us the victory over sin and death.
We praise you in his name.
We come to rejoice in our fellowship together in your Holy Spirit
Your church, where we are all welcome and called to love one another.
We come to be inspired again with your dream for the world.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Exodus 14:5-14, 21-31
- What strikes you about this story?
- Have you ever been in a situation of great danger, or a ‘dead end’ where you felt there was no hope? How did you survive it?
- What does this story tell us about God?
- As Christians we believe the Good News of Jesus is the heart of the Bible’s message. Where do you see it in this story?
Summing up ~ Rev Ray Vincent
‘Who is a pardoning God like thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?’
I’m told that in one of our theological colleges the students used to sing a parody of it:
‘Who is a pardoning God like thee
to drown Egyptians in the sea?’
This reflects a very serious problem with the story we have been thinking about this morning. It is why the question ‘what does this story tell us about God?’ is a difficult one. In fact, what does the whole story leading up to it, including the ten plagues culminating in the death of all the firstborn children, tell us about God?
Jewish people, unlike most of us Christians, have always questioned the Scriptures and told little stories to fill them out. There is an ancient Jewish story that on seeing the drowning Egyptians the angels were about to break into song when God silenced them declaring, ‘How dare you sing for joy when my creatures are dying?’ Commentators said that the Jews had a right to sing for joy because they had been rescued and set free, but the angels had no such right, because God shares the suffering of all his creatures, whoever they are.
Our hymn this morning links the crossing of the Red Sea with the Resurrection, reminding us that there is no dead-end God cannot deal with.
Introduction to today’s prayer by Mary Robins
It is almost a year since our church closed and we resorted to communicating with our church family via the telephone and through the internet etc. It was strange at first, but it has now become the new norm, and could well continue to be used, even after congregational services are restored, whenever that might be.
We acknowledge, with grateful thanks, all the work by the dedicated team that has enabled this to be done.
In looking at the prayers that have been included in our services over that period, some have been brief, while others have been wide ranging and extensive. Some have asked for the same things, week by week, because our continuing needs remained unchanged.
Prayers seem to be like rivers; in good times the flow is much reduced but in not so good times they can become an overwhelming flood. Ray’s theme today is the crossing of the Red Sea so, hopefully, the following prayer will provide a suitable link with that theme.
A Prayer for today
read by Alison Jones
Dear Lord, as we gather together, like the children of Israel who sought deliverance from slavery in Egypt, so we are seeking release from the restrictions imposed on us by the effects of the worldwide pandemic, and the devastating consequences for all nations
Lord, as you supported the Israelites in their journey to the promised land, so we ask you to be with us as we attempt to return to the way of life we once knew, and perhaps took for granted.
Father, on their journey you parted the Red Sea so that they were able to cross safely and saved them from the pursuit of their enemies.
Likewise, a way out of our own difficulties has been found and we are told that there is “light at the end of the tunnel”.
We give thanks for those who have developed the different vaccines and for those who have been involved in administering them to so many, in such a short time. We pray that this work will continue in the months to come so that it will benefit, not only our own communities, but others, far afield, whose needs may be even greater than our own. May we show a readiness to share with others the life-saving medicines that are helping us out of our imprisonment.
We pray for those who, for whatever reason, feel that they cannot accept the vaccine. May they be reassured and encouraged to overcome their doubts so that as many as possible will receive this life changing treatment.
We pray for the staff of the Health Service and the caring agencies so that they be relieved from the high levels of sickness that they have had to face over the last year. We give thanks for their fortitude and dedication over this long, difficult journey.
The children of Israel were not allowed to reach the promised land for many years. We pray that our journey to what might be “near normal” will be much shorter.
We do not know what that “new normal” will be like and so we pray for your church throughout the world, your churches here in Wales and for our own pastorate. The children of Israel put their trust in you, so we ask you to be with us, guide us on that journey, and sustain our faith as we travel together.
I am reminded of an old hymn, rarely sung now:
Courage Brother do not stumble
though the path be dark as night.
There’s a star to guide the humble
Trust in god and do the right.
May we follow those words, put our hands in your hands and try to do that which is right. Amen
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain