Sunday, 22 February 2015

Can't make it to church? 22 February 2015

Here we are at the First Sunday of Lent - and oddly, for those who don't know it, Sundays are not actually part of Lent because Sunday is a 'mini Easter' and so it is always a celebration. So the ashes and the taking up of things (and the subsequent laying down also) are put to one side for 24 hrs - but of course the cross we carry isn't!

And what of our readings? 

All too often we forget that part of our daily worship is to be found in the Psalms and so why not have us start there as we are reminded of Him in whom we put our trust and the cry to be taught the paths of righteousness, that way of the cross, is clear for us, and for those with whom we deal; for surely we deal in the same way with others as God deals with us (don't we?). For, 'All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth.'

Psalm 25.1-9
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies triumph over me. Let none who look to you be put to shame, but let the treacherous be shamed and frustrated. Make me to know your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you have I hoped all the day long. Remember, Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions, but think on me in your goodness, O Lord, according to your steadfast love. Gracious and upright is the Lord; therefore shall he teach sinners in the way. He will guide the humble in doing right and teach his way to the lowly. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

So here we are, stepping out on this first Sunday in Lent looking to walk in mercy and truth and what do we find from the readings? Will they offer us more of the same or will they, as sometimes is the case, cause us to wonder where the link is?

Well we have Noah as the focus of our Old Testament reading - the looking back at God having taken things into His own hands and the promise that He will never take direct, hands on, action against the wicked. That's what the rainbow says, "It's hands off from me, I'll send you signposts, and prophecies and people who will stand with you, but you have control of it all!'

And herein lies the answer to the question, 'Why does a God of love let bad things happen?' and the reason for for asking the question, 'Why do you people keep doing bad things?'

Genesis 9.8-17
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.

And the two passages below. The Gospel talking of the start of Jesus' ministry and God's affirmation of Him as He sets out on the road to the Cross - that most active and engaged path of truth, love and mercy  - and the succinct summing up of it from words of 1 Peter 3:

'For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, 
the righteous for the unrighteous, 
in order to bring you to God.'

Add to this the words:
'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'

And 'Bingo!' it all becomes clear and the jigsaw coming together gives us a picture of a God who seeks us to be a people who will not need Him to intervene (because He can't - He's made that promise in Genesis 9 that He won't and He ALWAYS keeps His promises. 

That picture of a people who will not ask why God isn't acting because they are!

A picture that see us making a stand and ensuring that the wrong are stopped in their tracks.

So are we going to be people who complain that God never acts or are we going to be His hands and feet; His arm of love that embrace; His voice that speaks healing and forgiveness into the world and more specifically those around us? Are we willing to take up our own cross and start down the paths of truth, love, reconciliation and denial of self? (Let's pray):

The Collect
Almighty God,
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.

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, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 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. 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, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Mark 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 came 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.’ 

Post Communion Prayer
Lord God, you have renewed us with the living bread from heaven;
by it you nourish our faith, increase our hope, and strengthen our love:
teach us always to hunger for him who is the true and living bread,
and enable us to live by every word that proceeds from out of your mouth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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