Reflection for 21st February 2021

Reflection for the first Sunday in Lent 
from Margaret Beasley, Lay Preacher at Didsbury URC.

GATHERING WORDS

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God, my Saviour and my hope is in you all day long. (based on Psalm 25: 4)

HYMN Lead us heavenly Father, lead us

Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
O’er the world’s tempestuous sea;
Guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
For we have no help but thee,
Yet possessing every blessing
If our God our Father be.

Saviour, breathe forgiveness o’er us;
All our weakness thou dost know
Thou didst tread this earth before us
Thou didst feel its keenest woe;
Tempted, taunted, yet undaunted
Through the desert thou didst go.

Spirit of our God, descending,
Fill our hearts with heavenly joy,
Love with every passion blending
Pleasure that can never cloy;
Thus provided, pardoned guided,
nothing can our peace destroy.
(James Edmeston)

PRAYERS

Lord, we are glad that you offer times to stop and think as Lent returns we have the opportunity to pause on our journey; thank you for your costly commitment to us, for the gospel stories that declare your love,  for opportunities for talking together about our faith and for times of personal prayer and reflection.
We thank you where your church has been prepared to take risks to suffer for the work of your kingdom
nd that we are part of its journeying life. and as we discover more about your love,  help us to show our thankfulness by putting that love in action in our lives.

Lord, you stepped from water to wilderness, from God’s voice to the taunting voice of Satan. In today’s wilderness we face many enemies, many temptations. When we hit difficult times, we find it hard to keep our focus on you. Help us to remember that no matter what we’re going through, you’ve been there before us. Help us not to lose sight of your hand guiding us on our way.
Amen

READING Mark Ch 1 : 9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 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. And a voice from heaven ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

REFLECTION

Today is the first Sunday in Lent. What does the Lenten journey of forty days mean to us? For some, this time is seen as a time of fasting, of giving something up, while for others it is an opportunity to take on something to help others. Above all, it is a time of reflection.
Mark is a man in a hurry and of few words. We go from Nazareth in Galilee to the banks of the River Jordan, then into the desert and back to Galilee all in a few short verses. Other Gospel writers tell the events of the forty days in much greater detail. In his urgent way, Mark sets out to state who Jesus is and the task he has come to fulfil. His temptations or tests take place in a forbidding, barren place and his teaching mainly in the familiar area around Galilee.

As Jesus rose out of the waters of the Jordan after being baptised by John, the holy Spirit came down ‘like a dove’ as he heard God’s voice affirming him as his son – the Beloved.
There’s a lot of unanswered questions here. Did others witness this dramatic event? Did they see the dove? Did they hear the voice of God? It would take courage to step into the harshness of the wilderness landscape as the Spirit drove him. But Jesus was not abandoned there for we learn that the angels waited on him, kept him safe from the wild beasts. Did he see the angels or was he even aware of them?

We too can take comfort that even in our wilderness times – and there have been some very dark days over the past year – God has been with us, even though we may not have acknowledged that. The angels who wait on us might be friends or neighbours who journey with us, providing support and love, this has certainly been the case in my little street with the setting up of a WhatsApp group. Young mums and their children have brightened many a day with a friendly wave as they pass my kitchen window. We’ve shared many little acts of kindness over the long months.

The Lenten journey is one that takes us through different landscapes. Barren wilderness gives way to dirt roads with towns and villages scattered on the way, through mountains and valleys, and finally to a city, a hill and a garden. It is a journey from darkness to light as the days gradually lengthen. Sometimes it can be two steps forward and one back, but gradually we edge toward the light. Right throughout, God promises to be with us – we just need to remember that.

PRAYERS

Wonderful God
As we enter the season of Lent, this time of preparation for the journey to Easter help us to ready ourselves so that we can journey with Jesus through the wilderness to meet with him in resurrection Joy.

Make us ready to fast from criticism and feast on the good we see in others.

Make us ready to fast from inactivity and feast on action for justice.

Make us ready to fast from greed and feast on giving.

Make us ready to fast from conflict and feast on peace-making.

Make us ready to fast from selfishness and feast on Christ-likeness so that we might be changed to become more like your Son.
Amen

LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who 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. Amen

HYMN Spirit of the living God

Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.
Melt me,
mold me,
fill me,
use me,
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.


Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.
Melt me,
mold me,
fill me,
use me,
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.
Melt me,
mold me,
fill me,
use me,

BLESSING

May you know God breathing his peace over the troubled depths of your soul.
May you know that Jesus is with you on your journey in the week to come.
May you know the Holy Spirit strengthening and sustaining you this day and for evermore. Amen