A Shorter Communion Service for Lent 1

HYMN - Forty days and forty nights NEH67 - Aus der tie 

1 Forty days and forty nights
Thou wast fasting in the wild,
Forty days and forty nights
Tempted and yet undefiled.

2 Sunbeams scorching all the day,
Chilly dewdrops nightly shed,
Prowling beasts about thy way,
Stones thy pillow, earth thy bed.

3 Let us thine endurance share,
And awhile from joys abstain,
With thee watching unto prayer,
Strong with thee to suffer pain.

4 And if Satan, vexing sore,
Flesh or spirit should assail,
Thou, his vanquisher before,
Grant we may not faint nor fail.

5 So shall we have peace divine,
Holier gladness ours shall be,
Round us too shall angels shine,
Such as ministered to thee.

6 Keep, O keep us, Saviour dear,
Ever constant by thy side,
That with thee we may appear
At the eternal Eastertide.

PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Amen. Lord, have mercy.


Father eternal, giver of light and grace,
we have sinned against you and against our neighbour,
in what we have thought, in what we have said and done,
through ignorance, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We have wounded your love and marred your image in us.
We are sorry and ashamed and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us,
forgive us all that is past and lead us out from darkness
to walk as children of light. Amen

May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen

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. Amen


FIRST READING - 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.”

HYMN - Lord Jesus think on me  NEH 70 - Southwell

1 Lord Jesus, think on me,
And purge away my sin;
From earthborn passions set me free,
And make me pure within.

2 Lord Jesus, think on me,
With care and woe opprest;
Let me thy loving servant be,
And taste thy promised rest.

3 Lord Jesus, think on me,
Amid the battle's strife;
In all my pain and misery
Be thou my health and life.

4 Lord Jesus, think on me,
Nor let me go astray;
Through darkness and perplexity
Point thou the heavenly way.

5 Lord Jesus, think on me,
When flows the tempest high:
When on doth rush the enemy
O Saviour, be thou nigh.

6 Lord Jesus, think on me,
That, when the flood is past,
I may the eternal brightness see,
And share thy joy at last.

GOSPEL - 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 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.”

SERMON

‘And the spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  He was in the wilderness for 40 days, tempted by Satan.’

The name Satan comes from the Greek, Satanas, which is in turn a transliteration of the Aramaic, satana.

The character first appears in Jewish literature in the book of Job, where he is simply hassatan, the accuser, one of the servants of God.  In later literature he developed into an evil power, the opponent of God, seeking to destroy the relationship between God and man.  It is difficult not to ascribe this development to the influence of the dualistic religions of Israel's near neighbours, such as the Zoroastrians in Persia.

We can see in the idea of evil personified the sum of all that divides us from God, all that stops us experiencing God to the full.  Whether you see that as a force from outside yourself, or as a reference to forces from within and of yourself, is up to you.  In either case we have a picture of struggle and contest.

And what of Noah? It is a story of God's journey into accepting us for who we truly are - a journey of God learning to live with our sinfulness.  Read the full story for yourself from genesis 6.5 to 9.17.  Hear the pain God feels because man's sin, and notice God's unconditional covenant that ends the story.  It is an ancient meditation on the problem of sin from God’s point of view.  No talk of Satan here – the sin is all mankind’s.

Back to Jesus in the wilderness… Notice the order of things in Mark’s account.  First Jesus is baptised, he shares in the rite of initiation of the kingdom of God, he experiences the spirit of God descending upon him, he hears the voice of God calling him, encouraging him, affirming him, then the same spirit, drove or cast  him into the wilderness.  And there he faces Satan.  I think that to describe what occurred there as temptation is a little on the weak side.  The Greek could just as well mean testing – a trial of strength.

There is no mention of fasting, though that might be inferred - the desert is hardly a place for a good feed.  There is no detail in Mark as to what the temptations were.  We are merely presented with this odd scene of Jesus with Satan and wild beasts and angels.  Not in fact very far from the experience of the old hermits that went out into the desert, some 200 years after Jesus.  The writings of these desert fathers are littered with references to all three - the wild beasts, angels and even Satan. Of course, in that utter nothingness of sight and sound men do go a little mad.

In the very next verse we see that Jesus goes to Galilee and proclaims that the kingdom of God is near.

So in a few short verses, we are still in chapter one, Mark tells us how Jesus's ministry starts. First with baptism, then with testing, then finally comes the proclamation, and the mission of Jesus has begun.

This passage from Mark is traditionally read at the beginning of Lent.  Indeed the 40 day period was chosen to underline the connection.  Spending time in the wilderness was seen as an essential part of taking God seriously.  We need times when we take our attention from the world about us and instead focus on where we are going with God.  Are we growing closer, or are we drifting further apart?

It is paradoxical but true to experience that when we begin to look within, to withdraw from distractions all sorts of things come to us, thoughts and feelings not always welcome to us – the beasts within. This may well have been the experience of many during the period of national isolation.  We sometimes discover in the honesty of silence attitudes and opinions that make us ashamed.  But if we chose to, we can also discover that God can feel extraordinary close to us also – and extraordinarily patient with us. 

None of this was in the mind of Mark, for him the desert is the place where Jesus first meets the foe and begins his contest with him.  It marked the essential beginning to his work, instigated by the very spirit of God.

It is essential for us also.  In one form or another we must regularly find a desert, a deserted, place - a place without electronic devices that ceaselessly chatter, a place that doesn’t feel like a prison cell, a place of tranquility and peace. We must face our demons or risk becoming unaware of their presence.  We also must understand that God can be experienced, he is not merely a concept, a structure of the mind.  He is there to be met and communicated with, even understood, if but a little.  He is there to help.

So where do we find this desert? Some find an hour spent in solitary walking or weeding takes them far enough from their distractions, for me an empty church is perfect. Of course, for people who are living on their own in these Covid days, they have had enough of their demons, enough of their deserted place - for them Lent has been going on since Christmas - they need no more. But for the rest of us it is important that each day we make for ourselves a small patch of desert. Each day we need to both confront our true selves and find that we are still in the presence of God, accepting us for who we truly are.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 

Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried; he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles: this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.
1 Corinthians 15.3-7

INTERCESSIONS - Gill Macdonald

As we enter this period of Lent,  a time for repentance, reflection and remembrance, we come to you  Lord again, with our thankfulness and  with our cares, knowing that you will  always hear our prayers.

We pray for your church, worldwide,  especially where   witnessing to the good news  can be very dangerous,  particularly at this time we lift to you the work of the church in Myanmar, and in Pakistan.   We pray for the church in this country, this diocese and this benefice, remembering all bishops and ministers, and particularly we thank you for William and his ministry among us.

Lord, in your mercy : Hear our prayer

We pray for your world Lord and for our place within it.    We thank you for all who are working so hard for the  benefit of others,  and we pray for all who are struggling because of war, injustice and  poverty.   We hold before you places of civil unrest and continual conflict,  the Yemen – Russia – Myanmar – India… and for our own country, we thank you for our leaders, our scientists , and key workers from all walks of life,  working under tremendous  pressure.   We especially pray for carefully considered wise decisions to plan our way out of lockdown  next week.

Lord, in your mercy  : Hear our prayer

We pray for our communities here within this benefice – for families and friends, for familiar faces not seen for months, for relationships under great strain, for home learning,  for our schools, for all our children and young people, and for any known to us to be in need………..

Lord, in your mercy : Hear our prayer

We lift to your tender care all those who are sick, at home or in hospital and for all who care and worry about them,  for those suffering the disease of Covid , or suffering delays in treatment because of Covid.  For those who are anxious, afraid, or grieving.

Lord, in your mercy:  Hear our prayer

We bring to mind those who have recently died, or whose anniversaries fall at this time.  We thank you for their lives and our happy remembrance of them, and we entrust them to your safe keeping and eternal rest.

Merciful Father, 

accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

THE PEACE

In the tender mercy of our God the dayspring from on high has broken upon us, to give light to those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

The peace of the Lord be always with you

and also with you

HYMN - Forgive our sins as we forgive  NEH 66

1. 'Forgive our sins as we forgive,'
you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but you alone can grant us grace
to live the words we say.

2. How can your pardon reach and bless
the unforgiving heart,
that broods on wrongs and will not let
old bitterness depart?

3. In blazing light your cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew:
what trivial debts are owed to us,
how great our debt to you!

4. Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls,
and bid resentment cease;
then, bound to all in bonds of love,
our lives will spread your peace.

The Preparation of the Table

Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,
the glory, the splendour, and the majesty;
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you, 
and of your own do we give you.

Eucharistic Prayer H 

The Lord is here.
His Spirit is with us.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.

It is right to praise you, Father, Lord of all creation;
in your love you made us for yourself.
When we turned away

you did not reject us,
but came to meet us in your Son.

You embraced us as your children
and welcomed us to sit and eat with you.

In Christ you shared our life
that we might live in him and he in us.

He opened his arms of love upon the cross
and made for all the perfect sacrifice for sin.

On the night he was betrayed,
at supper with his friends

he took bread, and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to them, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of me.

Father, we do this in remembrance of him:
his body is the bread of life.

At the end of supper, taking the cup of wine,
he gave you thanks, and said:
Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins;
do this in remembrance of me.

Father, we do this in remembrance of him:
his blood is shed for all.

As we proclaim his death and celebrate his rising in glory,
send your Holy Spirit that this bread and this wine
may be to us the body and blood of your dear Son.

As we eat and drink these holy gifts
make us one in Christ, our risen Lord.

With your whole Church throughout the world
we offer you this sacrifice of praise
and lift our voice to join the eternal song of heaven:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.

Though we are many, we are one body, 
because we all share in one bread.
Jesus, lamb of God: have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins: have mercy on us
Jesus, redeemer of the world: grant us your peace.

As Mary’s body was given for Jesus,
so Jesus’ body is given for us.
Here the Word made flesh
comes to us,
cradled in bread and wine.

[Please come to the table to receive the bread, respecting the necessary distance.]

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 your mouth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

BLESSING

Christ the Son of God perfect in you the image of his glory and gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always. Amen

HYMN - Be thou my guardian and my guide  NEH 64 - Abridge

1 Be thou my guardian and my guide,
And hear me when I call;
Let not my slippery footsteps slide,
And hold me lest I fall.

2 The world, the flesh, and Satan dwell
Around the path I tread;
O, save me from the snares of hell,
Thou quickener of the dead.

3 And if I tempted am to sin,
And outward things are strong,
Do thou, O Lord, keep watch within,
And save my soul from wrong.

4 Still let me ever watch and pray,
And feel that I am frail;
That if the tempter cross my way,
Yet he may not prevail.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen