A Shorter Communion Service for the Sunday next before Lent

HYMN - My God how wonderful thou art  NEH410 - Westminster 

1 My God, how wonderful thou art,
Thy majesty how bright,
How beautiful thy mercy-seat,
In depths of burning light!

2 How dread are thine eternal years,
O everlasting Lord,
By prostrate spirits day and night
Incessantly adored!

3 How wonderful, how beautiful,
The sight of thee must be,
Thine endless wisdom, boundless power,
And awful purity!

4 O, how I fear thee, living God,
With deepest, tenderest fears,
And worship thee with trembling hope,
And penitential tears!

5 Yet I may love thee too, O Lord,
Almighty as thou art,
For thou hast stooped to ask of me
The love of my poor heart.

6 No earthly father loves like thee,
No mother, e'er so mild,
Bears and forbears as thou hast done
With me thy sinful child.

7 Father of Jesus, love's reward,
What rapture will it be
Prostrate before thy throne to lie,
And gaze and gaze on thee.

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
God the Father forgives us in Christ and heals us by the Holy Spirit.
Let us therefore put away all anger and bitterness, all slander and malice,
and confess our sins to God our redeemer.   cf. Ephesians 4.30,32

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour,
through our own fault,
in thought, and word, and deed,
and in what we have left undone.
We are truly sorry and repent of all our sins.
For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name. 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 Father,
whose Son was revealed in majesty
before he suffered death upon the cross:
give us grace to perceive his glory,
that we may be strengthened to suffer with him
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

FIRST READING - 2 Corinthians 4.3-6
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

HYMN - Tis good Lord to be here,  NEH178 - Carlisle

1 'Tis good, Lord, to be here!
Thy glory fills the night;
Thy face and garments, like the sun,
Shine with unborrowed light.

2 'Tis good, Lord, to be here,
Thy beauty to behold,
Where Moses and Elijah stand,
Thy messengers of old.

3 Fulfiller of the past,
Promise of things to be,
We hail thy Body glorified,
And our redemption see.

4 Before we taste of death,
We see thy kingdom come;
We fain would hold the vision bright,
And make this hill our home.

5 'Tis good, Lord, to be here!
Yet we may not remain;
But since you bidst us leave the mount
Come with us to the plain.

GOSPEL - Mark 9.2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

SERMON

Today as we draw close to the season of Lent and our journey in imagination to Jesus’ cross and resurrection, so the lectionary bids us to remember the moment when Jesus’ actual journey to the cross begins in earnest, that moment when at the northern borders of ancient Israel he turns to begin his return south to Jerusalem in time for Passover and the celebration of the liberation of his people from slavery.

Judging from the actions of Peter it is the week of Sukkot, or Booths, which marks the end of the autumn harvest. Wikipedia tells us that Sukkot is plural for sukkah and a sukkah is ‘the name of the temporary dwelling in which farmers would live during harvesting, a fact connecting to the agricultural significance of the holiday stressed by the Book of Exodus. As stated in Leviticus, it is also intended as a reminiscence of the type of fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the sukkah and many people sleep there as well.’ To this day, in fact.

If I am right about this, and why else would Peter suggest constructing booths, then Jesus has just 6 months to live. This is a moment of great significance. 

Mark begins his account by telling us that this is ‘Six days later’. Later than what, you may ask. And you should - Mark deliberately connects this event with the previous incident. 

At Caesarea Phillipi Jesus asked his disciples ‘who do you say that I am?’, and Peter answered ‘You are the Messiah.’ When Jesus began to tell them of the fate that awaited him Peter ‘rebuked him’,  to which Jesus replied ‘Get behind me Satan.’ And then called the crowd and his disciples to him saying, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.’ This is the first of three warnings that Jesus gives to his disciples of his crucifixion. 

On the mountain Peter calls Jesus ‘Rabbi’. Mark uses the term rabbi, ‘teacher’, three times, and three is for him always a sign of significance.  He has Peter calling Jesus 'Rabbi’ again in Peter’s lament over Jesus’ repudiation of the Temple, when Jesus curses the fig tree for its fruitlessness. And Rabbi is what Judas calls Jesus when he greets him in the garden at the moment of betrayal. Each time ‘Rabbi’ prefigures a moment of profound failure to understand. It is no different here, Jesus stands in this august company and Peter calls him ‘Rabbi’!

The transfiguration is the point of axis, it all gets very serious from now on. Of course, the details are all highly symbolic. Moses represents freedom from Egyptian oppression, the creation of a state bound by a Law of God common to all its people, a time before Kings; and Elijah represents the prophetic voice at a time when the corruption of its own kings and foreign domination afflicted Israel. Jesus has come not to overthrow their work, but to signal a new age, a new chapter in the expression of God to mankind. By them standing together we see that this is no revolution, but an evolution. 

In becoming clothed in dazzling white we are to understand that Jesus wears the robes of martyrdom, which are always white, and dazzling as only heaven can make them. Both Moses and Elijah found the presence of God on mountain tops at moments of crises, at moments when something new was to be begun, and they received their instructions. And the disciples, for the voice of God is aimed at them (and by implication us), hopelessly inadequate though they be, are given the same burden and privilege. Their command is much simpler, at least it is much shorter, but perhaps the more overwhelming - simply ‘Listen to him’.

The heavenly voice was first heard, by Jesus at least, at his baptism, legitimating the first phase of his mission, and now it is heard again at this second phase as he faces the greatest challenge of his life.  

The disciples greatest problem, according to St Mark at least, was that they just didn’t get it. They were told so much, and there was so much they couldn’t understand. It was all too strange. They thought they were signing up for a better Israel, an Israel free of Roman oppression and the unjust and corrupt ways of their client leaders. Instead, they were to be the conduit for a better world, a challenge to mankind for evermore. But we still don’t get it. We still don’t understand what would lead to our best happiness, even though the way was taught 2,000 years ago. We still don’t quite understand that the way to joy and peace, is through simple but repeated acts of kindness, sacrifice, forgiveness, generosity and compassion - that is living under the rule of God, in the kingdom of God. It isn’t rocket science, yet the message cost Jesus a cross, and goes on costing men and women today - all over the world.

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 - Lindsay Dolphin

Let us pray in the power of the Holy Spirit who guides and enables the

people of God.

Lent begins on Wednesday. This year it will be particularly hard for us to make more sacrifices as most people have spent nearly a year giving up such things as seeing family, going on holiday, meeting friends in church and elsewhere. But also this year perhaps we will have a greater understanding of your unique sacrifice on our behalf, your time spent in the wilderness, alone without friends and family.  May you live in us so that in all our small acts of sacrifice your light and understanding will shine through.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

Lord, hope is round the corner. The vast majority of over 70’s have received at least one dose of vaccine. Positive cases, hospital admissions and deaths are all lower. There is a long way to go but,  perhaps now, we are on the home stretch and by Easter we may be able to celebrate not only your resurrection but the start of the next stage in our lives. Guide and support us through the next few months.  Give grace to us, our family and friends and to all our neighbours, that we may serve Christ in one another and love as he loves us.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

Lord, you walked the earth and told the people to look around them to find God and the people saw the beauty and wonders of earth and sky, of flower and field. Spring will soon be here. Help us to recognise God’s presence in our modern world; in the wonders of science; in the discoveries man has made but let us not forget that these resources are limited. We pray that more than ever we become careful stewards of your earth.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

Lord, we pray for those who are old and lonely, those who are isolated because of ill health or coronavirus restrictions, and those who find it difficult to be accepted. Show us all what we can do to help those around us, and teach us to be good neighbours and true friends.

We pray for those who are known to us who are in special need. Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind and spirit: give them courage and hope in their troubles; and bring them joy in your salvation.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

And we remember all those who died in faith, commending them to you safe keeping. Lord, as we end our prayers today we remember that your son was tempted by the forces of evil, during his 40 days in the wilderness, but chose faithfulness rather than popularity, service instead of fame, sacrifice instead of power. These temptations still come to us Lord and we are far weaker. You have taught us, by example, to overcome our sins with prayer, fasting and generosity. 

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 - Be thou my vision  NEH 339 - Slane

1 Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art,
Be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
Both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

2 Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word
Be thou ever with me, and I with thee, Lord,
Be thou my great Father, and I thy true son,
Be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

3 Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight,
Be thou my whole armor, be thou my true might,
Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower,
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

4 Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Be thou my inheritance now and always,
Be thou and thou only the first in my heart,
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.

5 High King of heaven, thou heaven's bright Sun,
O grant me its joys after vict'ry is won,
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

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

Holy God,
we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ:
may we who are partakers at his table
reflect his life in word and deed,
that all the world may know his power to change and save.
This we ask 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 - Praise to the Lord, the Almighty  NEH 440 - Hast du Denn Jesu

1 PRAISE to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation;
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation:
Come ye who hear,
Brothers and sisters draw near,
Praise him in glad adoration.

2 Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth:
Hast thou not seen
All that is needful hath been
Granted in what he ordaineth?

3 Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work, and defend thee;
Surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
Ponder anew
All the Almighty can do,
He who with love doth befriend thee.

6 Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath come now with praises before him!
Let the Amen
Sound from his people again:
Gladly for ay we adore him.

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