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Worship, prayer and Bible resources for Lent 2

Second Sunday of Lent - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Purple


Easter CrossIntroduction

Lent is all about setting priorities and working out just how seriously our commitment to God really is. It is not a time for us to work out where we are going in life, or what decisions we need to take for our future. If we are serious about our faith then we have to allow our own priorities to be seen in the light of God's guidance.

This is very difficult, how do we know what God wants? If only it was so easy to understand the divine plan ! Yet from our reading today we do get a pointer in the right direction. Jesus tells the disciples the following

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself

and take up his cross and follow me.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,

but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel

will save it.

The message is clear. When we seek to make decisions and choices, Christians are not their own boss. If we seek to be faithful we will need to 'let go and let God.' This might seem to be a loss of freedom and personal sacrifice. It is. However it is only as we learn to put our personal ambitions under God's spotlight that we can ever really be free.


Opening Verses of Scripture  Psalm 104:31,34

May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; may the Lord rejoice in His works. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord. 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, that they may return to the way of righteousness: grant to all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, that they may reject those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. CW

Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings, and by following in his Way come to share in his glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

Christ, Son of the Living God, who for a season laid aside the divine glory and learned obedience through Suffering: teach us in all our afflictions to raise our eyes to the place of your mercy and to find in you our peace and deliverance. We make our prayer in your name.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

Merciful Lord, grant your people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.    Methodist Worship

First Bible Reading   Genesis 7:1-7, 15-16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’ NRSV

Second Reading  Romans 4:13-25

The promise that Abraham would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’). Abraham believed in the presence of the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations,’ according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in God who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. NRSV

Gospel Reading  Mark 8:31-38

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

 

Post Communion Sentence

Almighty God, you see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. All Amen.

Commentary

The Old Testament reading describes God’s covenant with Abraham.  There are many covenants in the Old Testament each of which builds on and develops earlier covenant relationships.  Last week we read of the covenant between God and Noah, sealed with the sign of the rainbow.  The covenant with Noah is a universal covenant that included not just all of humankind but all of creation, the living things that God had made.  In this covenant God promises that there will be no more wholesale destruction of the earth and offers all the inhabitants of the world a future once again.  The covenant with Abraham is more focused and applies to the nations that will be descended from Abraham and Sarah.  Later the covenant becomes more focused at Sinai to include only Israel and ultimately it will be focused even further in Christ the Messiah who, in fulfilling the covenant, opens up God’s Kingdom to all as He redeems the entire world through His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.

Paul picks up this theme in Romans as he underlines how Abraham’s God has indeed kept His promises.  Paul’s image of God is as the creator and the covenant keeper.  He alone can give life to the dead and calls everything into being, even if this seemed an impossible task to Abraham and Sarah!  He alone can revitalise the Jewish covenant membership which was failing because they could not keep the law.  Through Jesus He calls those who were part of this covenant and those who were outside it (the Gentiles) into a new relationship with Him.  The promise to Abraham is fulfilled not because of anything that Abraham did, but because it was God Himself that made it.  Abraham is on a journey with God and the promise that he will have a son is the next step of that covenant journey.  In Lent too, we are on a journey, sometimes one just with small steps, sometimes one where we seem to be moving along our spiritual path more quickly and deeply than normal.  As he went on his journey Abraham discovered that God is a trustworthy God.  He may not have always understood what God was asking or where He was leading, but Abraham learnt to trust God in everything he did.  We too may not always understand the way of God but He remains as trustworthy now as He was then.  Abraham was ‘persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised’ and that, in God, all things would be fulfilled.  As the Old Testament unfolded the Jews were to learn just how true that was.

Chapter 8 of Mark’s gospel picks up the theme of fulfilment.  Up to the middle of chapter 8 of Mark’s gospel the emphasis seems to be on keeping the fact of Jesus’ Messiahship a secret.  In the early chapters of Mark people were often left wondering, ‘who is this that the winds and waves obey Him’ and, ‘what is this new teaching, what by what authority does He do these things’.  But in the verses just before our reading today Jesus asks the disciples who others think He is, and then asks the disciples themselves who they believe Him to be.  Peter blurts out that Jesus is the Messiah and the cat is out of the bag.  Jesus still warns them not to tell anyone but then to everyone’s surprise ‘began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things…’.         He acknowledges that He is the Messiah but then completely redefines the Messiah’s role not as one of kingship and glory but as one of abject suffering and death.   How can this be part of God’s plan the disciples must have thought?  How can the God who is trustworthy allow this to happen to the Messiah?  As with the covenant relationships of the Old Testament all would be revealed.  But before then the disciples would go through days of dark doubt and uncertainty, days when God and His promises seemed far from being trustworthy.  They were to learn that following Christ would mean more than just a few minor adjustments to their daily lives, it would completely change their outlook on life and their way of living.  It was a call to share in the glory of the Messiah but also a call to share in His suffering, to take up their own crosses in following Him.  Sometimes Christians are seen as being rather radical, holding polarised and extreme positions on matters of ethics and truth.  Perhaps we are, but surely the bigger question is, are we radical enough as Christians in the way we live our lives to the glory of God.  Does our faith make radical changes in the way we live our lives, as it did to the disciples, or just mean a few minor adjustments.  Lent offers us the time to reflect on our lives and our walk with God and perhaps, just how radical we are prepared to be as we step out with a God who is, and always will be trustworthy.  A God who keeps His promises to us, even if, like Abraham and the disciples, we find that takes some faith to believe at times.Sam Cappleman

Meditation

Many people either give something up for Lent, chocolate, biscuits, alcohol for example, and others sometimes take something on, reading a book, spending a few minutes more each day in prayer.  Important as these acts are it’s equally important that these Lenten practices and how well we’re doing with them do not become our focus in themselves.  Their real purpose is so that we can better discipline ourselves to listen to God and grow in obedience to whatever God is asking of us.  Sam Cappleman

 

The glory of God is a human person fully alive. A human person fully alive is the glory of God. St Irenaeus
 

 

Hymns

  1. The Kingdom of God

  2. Give thanks with a grateful heart, p; For I'm building a people of power

  3. Through all the changing scenes of life

  4. Father hear the prayer we offer

  5. Jesus the name high over all

  6. New every morning
  7. Jehovah Jireh
  8. I heard the voice of Jesus say
  9. The God of Abraham praise


 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die
 

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Give us light and strength, O God, to know your will. Guide us by your wisdom and support us by your power. Unite us to yourself in the bond of love and keep us faithful to all that is true;through Christ our Lord. Amen.  Isidore of Seville, c.560-636

Look upon your servant, O Lord, weak in faith and asking for your strength; cold in heart, but seeking the warmth of your love; assailed by doubt but longing to trust you; abounding in sin, yet begging to be filled with your righteousness; now and for ever. Amen Martin Luther, 1483-1546

Go before us, Lord, in all that we do, with your most gracious favour, and guide us with your continual help, that in all our works, begun, continued and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name, and finally by your mercy obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

May the Lord teach you to know yourselves, that you may be truly penitent; so to repent that you may be truly forgiven; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen

God of mercy, be swift to help us, as our lips pour forth your praise; and fill our lives with your peace, as we open our hearts to your word and wait for your salvation. Amen

Break into my life afresh O Lord, that I might experience your love, break into my heart afresh O Lord, that others may experience your love through me. Amen

Heavenly Father, so full of forgiveness and mercy, fill your Church with such holiness that our understanding of your ways deepens daily, and all our work and worship glorifies your name. Amen

Guide us, O Lord waking, and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace. Amen

As we remember how you suffered on the cross for our sake, give us compassion for all those who suffer today. May we have the will and the wisdom to relieve their need and heal their pain. Amen

Spirit of integrity, you drive us into the desert to search out our truth. Give us clarity to know what is right, and courage to reject what is merely strategic and pragmatic; that we may abandon the false innocence of failing to choose at all, but may follow the purposes of Jesus Christ. Amen

God of Sarah and Abraham, long ago you embraced your people in covenant and promised them your blessing. Strengthen us in faith, that, with your disciples of every age, we may proclaim your deliverance in Jesus Christ to generations yet unborn. Amen   Kate Huey

God be in my head, and in my understanding; God be in my eyes, and in my looking; God be in my mouth, and in my speaking; God be in my heart, and in my thinking; God be at mine end, and at my departing. Amen. Book of Hours (1514)

May God the Father, who does not despise the broken spirit, give you a contrite heart; may Christ, who bore our sins in His body on the tree, heal you by His wounds; may the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth, speak to you words of pardon and peace. Amen

 

Additional Material

Commentary

Somebody once said that if we want to make God laugh all we need to do is to tell him our plans. The point being that our carefully formulated family and career paths seldom turn out the way the we hope or expect. Human efforts to gain power and control over our lives are constantly the source of disappointment. People spend years of working drudgery preparing for happy retirement, then suddenly hear bad news from the doctor. In future it appears that the longed for retirement bliss will be blighted by the loss of pension funds, closed final salary schemes etc. Life is just so unfair, some couch potatoe smokes and drinks themselves into their 90’s, whilst the calorie conscious jogger has a brain haemorrhage. People invest thousands in the education of children who ‘drop-out,’ whilst other neglectful parents turn out fantastic young adults. Marriages of many years suddenly become only unhappy memories when the long trusted partner walks off with somebody else. So in Mark’s Gospel today Jesus cautions the disciples and us to be careful about what we plan for,

‘Those who want to save their life will loose it,
and those who loose their life for my sake will save it.’

Not one of us has control over our lives, if we try to be Lord’s of our own lives we will be faced with disappointment. The only way to realise fullness of life is to turn over our ambitions, our hopes and dreams to God. In a typical Gospel ambiguity, it is as we loose ourselves that we realise true fulfilment. Our human vision is too small, our plans not nearly as expansive as the ones which God has in store for us. Not one of us knows what life holds for us in the future, what fantastic amazing events and what terrible tragedies. Yet one thing is certain - the more we ‘let go and let God,’ the more freedom we will find and the more joy we will experience in this life of surprises. Charles Royden

Commentary

The covenant between God and His people is a common theme through much of the Old Testament, beginning with God's covenant with Noah in Genesis 9, sealed with the Rainbow, moving on through to the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 and 17, and to its renewal with Moses in Exodus 19, and on to the covenant with King David, described in Ps 89. Each of the descriptions, and the covenants themselves, build on the previous ones, expanding them and making them more complete. And in each of them we see common characteristics. The one with Abraham in the Old Testament reading is no exception.

The covenant is conditional; 'walk before me and be blameless. I will (then) confirm my covenant between me and you'. The covenant is inclusive; 'for I have made you a father of many nations', so much so that Abram's name is changed from Abram (high father) to Abraham (father of many). 

The covenant is eternal; 'an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come'. God's covenant relationship, a conditional, inclusive and eternal relationship; initiated by God for the benefit of His people. 

Later in the Old Testament Jeremiah introduces the concept of a New Covenant to come, needed because the Old Covenant is becoming broken beyond repair. And in Christ this New Covenant, which we remember at our celebration of Holy Communion, was inaugurated. It too is conditional (on our response to it), inclusive (it is open to all who respond) and eternal (it has no time boundaries attached to it). But to inaugurate this New Covenant, Christ had to fulfil His mission on earth as Messiah, to die upon the cross and to be raised to eternal life. 

For Peter this causes real confusion. In Mark 8 v 29, just before today's reading, Peter has just declared that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. Now in Mark 8 v 32 we have the remarkable exchange where Peter rebukes Jesus! Peter knows what Messiahs should do. Messiahs rule! They don't die! What is Christ thinking about? 

For Christ, God incarnate on Earth, it would have been simple to take the easy way out, to literally play God, to snap His fingers and have the world at His beck and call - to take the way of pomp, luxury, riches and ultimate power. But that would not have established the New Covenant relationship with God the father. And so Jesus, in obedience to the Easter Cross and His father's will, chose the way of humility, sacrifice and painful death. Chose the way that brought light from darkness and life from death. Peter ultimately came to understand this. 

As disciples we are not called to atone for the sins of the world through death on a cross. But we are called to participate in Jesus self-sacrificial calling. For each one of us, Lent is a time to reflect on what that means for us personally. What it means not to take the easy way out. To take up the Easter cross of Christ, day by day. 

Peter later denied Christ but subsequently became a fearless witness to Jesus' new way of life. There can be times when we deny Christ, by our thoughts, words and actions. Times which we often regret. But forgiven by the risen Christ, and renewed by His Holy Spirit we too can become powerful witnesses to the love of Christ in the world. Like Peter, we may not always understand what Christ is doing fully. Like Peter we may say the wrong things at the wrong times. But like Peter, we too can live out the New Covenant of Christ and begin and continue to transform the world.  Sam Cappleman

 

Meditation

The readings for the second Sunday of Lent focus on salvation. Mark is clear, we are saved by Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection. The story of that salvation starts with God's calling of Abram to be the father of many nations, sealed through the covenant He made with him. It ends with us and our response to God's call, a call sealed through the new covenant made possible by the Easter Christ.  Sam Cappleman

 

Used at the Consecration of the new extension to the Garden of Remembrance Praying Figure

Let us pray to God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. We pray that God's presence may always be found in this place by all who turn to Him: when people gather here to seek your face and offer praise and prayer. When we commend your servants into your hands to pass through death to you. When we seek forgiveness and grace here, peace and reassurance, strength and consolidation. Amen