Reflection and Prayers 6th March 2022
This week Rev Malcolm Shapland, from Caerphilly is leading worship at St David’s while Castle Square are meeting with Phil for their ‘appreciative inquiry’ discussion.
Malcolm is what would be termed as a traditional minister. He doesn’t rely on a script!
We have therefore, turned to the URC website for this week’s reflection.
It was given 21st February 2021.
Service for First Sunday in Lent 2021
Good morning and welcome to worship. My name is Samuel Cyuma, minister at Christ Church Wickford, in South Essex. I am originally from Rwanda; I hope you will cope with my accent and enjoy today’s worship. Christ Church Wickford is a Local Ecumenical Partnership (a union of Methodist and United Reformed Churches). Wickford had been described as a farming area, situated between Southend and Basildon. It has seen recent transformations: including new estates, which make it a dormitory for London. This service is the first from the series of Sundays in Lent.
Call to Worship
People of God, on this wilderness journey, what will you eat?
The word of the Lord is our daily bread.
People of God, in this time of temptation, how will you live?
Our faith is in the faithfulness of God.
People of God, at this kingdom crossroad, whom will you serve?
We worship the Lord our God alone.
Opening Hymn Come, let us join our cheerful songs Isaac Watts
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
God of the journey, your invitation is to all, to walk with you without fear of stumbling. Your arm is enough to secure the weakest soul. Your grace rescues us, should we fall. So Lord, grant us faith enough to take you at your word, to know that when our hearts are heavy, and the destination seems so distant, that you are there with us along the road.
Forgive us those times when we doubt your Word, when we awake and feel alone. Above all, draw us ever closer into your family, that we might know your presence, and sing your praises, all the days of our lives. God of justice, in baptism you anointed us to live boldly in the reality of your coming kingdom. We confess that we have not fulfilled our calling. We have not used your power to serve our neighbours. We have walked away from oppression and injustice. We have turned our backs on your beloved children who hunger and thirst in a world of plenty. Forgive us, Lord, and make us courageous servants of your justice, peace and fullness, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Genesis 9:8-17 (NIV) St Mark 1:9-15 (NIV)
Hymn Spirit of the living God Daniel Iverson (1890-1972)
Most traditions test their young people before they are admitted to adulthood. There is a process or tests undertaken – rites of passage – to move from childhood to adulthood. This may lead also to get married. Jesus underwent some of rites, and many more than our time requires.
In Africa, the most common test for a young man to be admitted to adulthood includes: going to the forest, to hunt and kill a dangerous animal, such as a buffalo. After that, he is promoted to the upper status: the adulthood. At this time, he is deemed to be mature enough, and is allowed a seat among adults. Most Asian contexts require the young to fight with a bull for a number of times, to prove that he can hold it and neutralizing it. Observers decide whether or not he has made it, for his maturity to be recognized. The processes above prove one’s courage: bravery and ability defend themselves and theirs.
In my country, a young man who wants to get married is required to grow a considerable number of banana trees, show to elders a field of sweet potatoes and some bags of sorghum and beans. This test proves a hard-working character. Otherwise, you don’t deserve one’s daughter for marriage. For you won’t be able to feed and protect your wife and children. I hope that you will share with me the process from your context that promotes young people to adulthood.
As a whole, responding effectively to these tests (conditions) satisfies the family’s elders, parents, uncles, aunts and neighbours that the young is mature enough (able) to care for his future family. Then, the whole family is proud of their boy. Girls undergo parallel, but different tests. Some countries that promote such practices often require additional tests of morality, such as passing through corridors of temptations: where numerous, and precious objects are displayed, including money, gold, jewellery etc. This is mainly a test for one’s self-control and honesty, which are very important virtues that enhance good relations with other peoples: relatives, friends and neighbours.
Today’s lesson from Genesis 9 (8-17) indicates that Noah survived tests of faith through the flood for 40 days. In so doing, he proved that he deserved the salvation. Led by God, Noah’s action benefited his family: his wife, his sons and his sons’ wives, their children and one sample from each creature (male and female). Noah went through the process in the flood; it was a symbol of baptism. This was an example of what can baptism fulfil and the resulting hope of life after misery. We should note, however, that Noah demonstrated remarkable obedience to God as a mark of great faith. The passage through tests was frequent in the Old Testament. Indeed, not all were of cultural nature. But, like the flood, most of those tests and rites fulfilled God’s will, which was required from all believers. Many people’s experience in the New Testament refers to tests too. The Gospel shows that even Jesus went through Jewish rites of passage. He was presented in the Temple as a child; he visited the Temple of Jerusalem yearly; he regularly attended the synagogue, observed the Sabbath, etc. These prove that he was a very good Jew. So much so his faithfulness to the religion of his parents was evident. Thus, he grew steadily in status, maturity and faith.
Besides cultural rites, the lesson from Mark 1 (12-13) shows clearly that led by God’s Spirit, Jesus underwent steadily other rites – now Christian practices, – and tests, leaving us moral legacy of teaching and baptism, repentance and prayer. While Jesus’ Baptism was a sign of entry into the community on earth, our baptism is an entry into the community of God’s people. The baptism of Christ was initiated and filled by God’s Spirit, showing that he was God’s beloved Son. Still, he was put under the test of maturity for 40 days and 40 nights, tempted by the Devil: through hunger, and questions, and distorted teaching. Overcoming those tests proved his readiness to perform his ministry on earth, and to face the worse cruelties on the Cross.
Through Lent, we imitate the journey above that Christ made, we follow in his footsteps, so that we, too led by the Holy Spirit we overcome sins and temptations, and display signs of growth or maturity of faith in God. So, we learn more and more from Christ path. Each year, our journey starts from Ash Wednesday, which launches penance, provides more chance for maturing, and cleansing of defections. We entered God’s kingdom through Baptism and followed Christ in other processes.
Through Lent, we embark afresh on a journey after Christ’, with clarity, truth and hope for perfection. Thus, Lent is our turn, a window to verify our faith and check signs of our closeness to God.
Dear friends, while we still bear the impacts of Covid, journeying effectively through this Lent will show the degree of our readiness and wisdom to face even further hardship with courage, hope and faith in God, as Christ did. Therefore, do not miss the point; do not miss this window to grow your faith and to clear away stubborn or recurring facts of sin. I encourage you to use more effectively this period of Lent: to express your steady eagerness to repent, to increase the faith, through reading God’s Word, worship and prayers; in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hymn On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry Charles Coffin; Translator: John Chandler.
Dear Father, in this season of learning and repentance, growth and healing, we accept your Son’s invitation to be ever-mindful of the needs of others, offering our prayers on behalf of the community he loved in the church and the world.
So Lord, fill us with your strength to resist the seductions of our foolish desires and the tempter’s vain delights, that we may walk in obedience and righteousness, rejoicing in you with upright hearts.
We pray for all those whose lives are affected by illness, including the current pandemic that your healing power surrounds them, so that they recover and praise your holy name.
We pray for the whole world, tented by all forms of sin and conflict, greed for power and wealth that they discover your call to go on loving and serving, as we pray in your holy name. Amen.
Hymn Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us James Edmeston (1821)
Lord Jesus Christ, send us into the world with confidence in your word, to tell all those we meet of your saving acts, and bring glory to your holy name. Amen.
A Prayer for Ukraine on Ash Wednesday – Christian Aid
In our powerlessness we switch off the lights
and sit in solidarity with our siblings in Ukraine and Russia
We pray protection for our friends, love for our enemies, and peace –
That peace which passes all understanding, – to abide in hearts and minds.
That a passionate prophetic peace would permeate political stalemates,
halt this invasion, and disarm the threat of nuclear war.
In this day of dust and ashes we bring all our fears and hopes
into the thickening darkness, knowing that there, always there,
You are found*.
Amen *Exodus 20.21