A Shorter Communion Service for Lent 2

HYMN - New every morning is the love NEH228 - Melcombe

1 New every morning is the love

Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life, and power, and thought.

2 New mercies, each returning day,
Hover around us while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

3 If on our daily course our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,

New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

4 The trivial round, the common task,
Would furnish all we ought to ask,
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.

5 Only, O Lord, in thy dear love
Fit us for perfect rest above;
And help us this and every day
To live more nearly as we pray.

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, 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. Amen


FIRST READING - Genesis 17.1-7,15,16

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.”


HYMN - ‘Take up thy cross.’ the Saviour said  NEH 76 - Breslau omitting starred verse

1 Take up thy cross, the Saviour said,

If thou wouldst my disciple be;
Deny thyself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.

2 Take up thy cross; let not its weight
Fill thy weak spirit with alarm;
His strength shall bear thy spirit up,
And brace thy heart, and nerve thine arm.

4 Take up thy cross then in his strength,
And calmly every danger brave;
'Twill guide thee to a better home,
And lead to victory o'er the grave.

5 Take up thy cross, and follow Christ,
Nor think till death to lay it down;
For only he who bears the cross
May hope to wear the glorious crown.

6 To thee, great Lord, the One in Three,
All praise for evermore ascend;
O grant us in our home to see
The heavenly life that knows no end.

GOSPEL - Mark 8.31-38

Then he began to teach them 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.”

SERMON

This weekend I find my head full of images: pictures of children staving in the Yemen, soon to number 400,000 we are told. Images of mothers handing over hopelessly emaciated children to doctors in hospitals with little oxygen and few medicines; where food is used as a weapon of war, and war lords threaten to starve their own people if concessions, are not made, or money paid. And we know that next week the cameras will pack up, and we will see Orla Guerin in another hopeless, winner-less conflict with yet more hapless and helpless children caught in the middle. Nothing good has happened in Syria since it fell from our screens, a pause is no peace - before long we will see again hospitals bombed and trucks of food aid held up. The images don’t stop coming, and we have to fight the temptation to look away and 

It's easy to dismiss words, they fall onto the printed page so easily, they trip off our tongue and are lost into the air. But pictures stick, they are not forgotten so easily, they keep you awake at night, they come unbidden in a quiet moment, some pictures take years to fade – like the little 3year old with his hand plunging deep into a drain to fish something out – what it was we couldn’t see, the camera didn’t linger to find out.

Our Gospel reading tells of an incident that's pretty easy to picture. Jesus has just asked his disciples who they think he is and Peter has responded, "You are the Christ." Then for the first of three occasions, Jesus tells them that the Son of man must suffer and be killed and after three days rise again. And then, as in each of the three occasions, the disciples demonstrate their complete incomprehension of what Jesus is talking about. In this first occasion Mark simply tells us that Peter begins to rebuke him – rebuke the man he has just called "the Christ". Then Jesus famously calls him, "Satan", the tempter, and tells him to get behind him, to follow him rather than try to lead him. 

We are used to this passage being interpreted for us, we're told how Peter's understanding of Messiahship, a glorious kingship bringing forth a new kingdom, a glorious overthrow of Roman rule and the beginning of the reign of Yahweh, was at odds with Jesus’ understanding of the suffering servant, the saviour who must die in order to liberate. We are also used to hearing Jesus’ command to take up your cross and follow him and see it as being prepared to suffer martyrdom, to suffer anything for his sake, for the sake of his name. The choice he gives us is one of life or death, the life that follows the surrender of a life and the death that is inevitable if we seek to cling on to what we have and what we know. 

All that seems straightforward enough, a frightening challenge to be sure, something we would rather not think about perhaps, a call to something we are not certain we would be capable of - but something that we are unlikely to be faced with – the clear demand our Christian forebears faced to worship the old Roman Gods, and the martyrdom that followed refusal. But change one of the images just slightly; remember that the cross in Jesus’ time was not a religious symbol, was not an instrument of holy martyrdom, but the consequence of posing a threat to imperial power - the fate of those who dared to challenge Roman authority, or the authorities Rome supported. The cross was political, not religious. To carry your cross was to face death not as a hero of faith, but as an insurrectionist. Remember that Barabbas was an insurrectionist, one who had murdered, who had chosen the path of violence to achieve his aim. The paradox is that they freed him because he was less dangerous than Jesus who refused such a path – who preached peace and justice.

If we go back to Peter for a moment - his problem was that he couldn't get passed the traditional Messianic script that affirmed the "myth of redemptive violence," in which the hero prevails over the enemy through superior and "righteous" force – the way of Barabbas. With this lie nations and peoples invoke God while they destroy their enemies through "just wars" and crusades. Against this is pitted he who called himself the Son of man and his strategy of non-violence, which understands that the enemy is violence itself.

This is extreme stuff - it is radical pacifism and it doesn't stop there. Jesus’ resistance wasn't just to a violent regime, or rather a violent response to the ruling regime, it was resistance to everything that perpetuated injustice, whether it be caused through sickness or poverty, corruption or the wrong ethnicity. And it is uncomfortable, I for one would much rather a gospel that concentrated on personal spirituality, a gospel that focussed on getting people to say their prayers and come to church, but unfortunately that is not what we find in Mark's account of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is altogether uncomfortable, he demands that we look at the assumptions we make, the lives we chose to live, the priorities we accept as normal, the society we help to create and he says, “Is that the best you can do?” 

After watching mothers with children running from Houthi snipers, or were they government snipers - it is hard to know, the bullets are the same - maybe Jesus’ radical non-violent resistance to oppressive authority is the only way after all - and, let's face it, it's rarely been tried – although Mahatma Ghandi gave it a go. As for Barabbas and the zealots, 33 years after Jesus was crucified they had their violent revolution - and succeeded in bringing about the total destruction of Jerusalem, and the loss of everything they held dear.

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 - Jenny Walmsley

We pray that you will protect us all, good Lord, in this time of uncertainty and distress. We remember especially those already suffering from displacement and disease and who now also have to contend with coronavirus in their underfunded communities. We pray for refugees everywhere and especially for those affected by the desperate famine in Yemen and the political unrest in Myanmar. We thank you for the Covax initiative and pray that it is the forerunner of a more equitable division of our planet’s resources in the future.

Lord in Your mercy - Hear our prayer

Help all our leaders to govern selflessly with compassion and wisdom in these difficult times so that as we struggle to avoid another wave or mutation of the virus we can rely on their judgement and have confidence that they have the best interests of everyone in their hearts. As Jesus did in the Wilderness, help them to shun the temptation for self-aggrandisement, give them the insight to heal racist and homophobic divisions in our society, and to tackle the imbalance in the mental health, schooling and experiences of families and children. We pray especially that the lives of all young people will return soon to some sort of normality so that they can finally look forward to their futures with hope and purpose. 

Lord in Your mercy - Hear our prayer

Let people of all faiths throughout the world be allowed the comfort of worship without persecution. Here we pray for your church and all who work so hard to keep it a vibrant and steadying force. We thank everyone who is keeping the Christian flame alive in our hearts, especially William and his team. We pray that the Lent course now running will be an inspiration to enable us all to share further our fellowship and faith with each other. 

Lord in Your mercy - Hear our prayer

Merciful God, we entrust to your tender care all those who are ill or in pain, knowing that, whenever danger threatens, you are there to hold them safe. Comfort and heal them and restore them to health and strength. We especially remember Bob and Nancy and Chris and Julia in our prayers.

Help those that mourn loved ones to find a way forward through their grief, let them be comforted by your love and care and be close to those who are suffering, afraid or in isolation. When they feel alone, be their consolation; when they feel anxious, be their hope and always in their darkness, be their light. We pray for your continuous support of the Health Services with your loving strength and we thank you wholeheartedly for the inspiration you gave to the scientists and everyone who worked so hard to find and distribute a vaccine for Covid 19. 

Lord in Your mercy - Hear our prayer

In conclusion, as you did with Abraham, we ask you to instil into our shaken souls the belief that all things are possible with your creative love. We give you heartfelt thanks for our families, our friends and our communities.  Teach us to channel your perfect love, that knows no borders or boundaries, to cast out all the fear and selfishness that divides us one from another so that everyone can experience hope, security and peace.

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 - Let all mortal flesh keep silence  NEH 295 - Picardy

1 Let all mortal flesh keep silence
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

2 King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood:
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

3 Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

4 At his feet the six-winged seraph;
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the Presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry,
Alleluya, Alleluya,
Alleluya, Lord most high!.

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.

Post Communion PRAYER

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. 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 - The God of Abraham praise  NEH 148 - Leoni omitting starred verses

1 The God of Abraham praise
Who reigns enthroned above,
Ancient of everlasting days,
And God of love:
To him uplift your voice,
At whose supreme command
From earth we rise and seek the joys
At his right hand.

4 There dwells the Lord our King,
The Lord our Righteousness,
Triumphant o'er the world and sin,
The Prince of Peace:
On Sion's sacred height
His kingdom he maintains,
And glorious with his saints in light
For ever reigns.

6 Before the great Three-One
They all exulting stand,
And tell the wonders he has done
Throughout the land:
The listening spheres attend,
And swell the growing fame,
And sing in songs which never end
The wondrous name.

7 The God who reigns on high
The great archangels sing,
And 'Holy, holy, holy' cry
'Almighty King!'
Who was, and is the same,
And evermore shall be:
Eternal Father, great I AM,
We worship thee.'

8 The whole triumphant host
Give thanks to God on high:
'Hail, Father, Son and Holy Ghost'
They ever cry:
Hail, Abraham's God and mine!
(I join the heavenly lays)
All might and majesty are thine,
And endless praise.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen