A Morning Service for the Second Sunday of Lent 2023


Our first reading today marks a turning point in the story of how God relates to his world.  Within the book of Genesis it links the traditions of God’s providential care for the world and God’s electing call of Israel.  With these verses the writer leaves behind the history of humanity and begins the history of the people of God, God’s witness to the world.  

A Morning Service for the Second Sunday of Lent 2023

HYMN Breathe on me breath of God NEH 342/AMR 236 – Carlisle

1 Breathe on me, Breath of God,

Fill me with life anew,

That I may love what thou dost love,

And do what thou wouldst do.

2 Breathe on me, Breath of God,

Until my heart is pure,

Until with thee I will one will,

To do and to endure.

3 Breathe on me, Breath of God,

Till I am wholly thine,

Until this earthly part of me

Glows with the fire divine.

4 Breathe on me, Breath of God,

So shall I never die,

But live with thee the perfect life

Of thine eternity.

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

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


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,

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen

FIRST READING – Genesis 12.1-4a

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

SECOND READING – Romans 4.1-5,13-17

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

For the promise that he 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”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

HYMN Father of heaven, whose love profound NEH 358- Rievaulx

1 Father of heaven, whose love profound

A ransom for our souls hath found,

Before thy throne we sinners bend:

To us thy pardoning love extend.

3 Eternal Spirit, by whose breath

The soul is raised from sin and death,

Before thy throne we sinners bend:

To us thy quickening power extend.

4 Thrice Holy! Father, Spirit, Son,

Mysterious Godhead, Three in One,

Before thy throne we sinners bend:

Grace, pardon, life to us extend.


GOSPEL – John 3.1-17

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”


The Lord had said to Abram, “leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you…”

Our first reading today marks a turning point in the story of how God relates to his world.  Within the book of Genesis it links the traditions of God’s providential care for the world and God’s electing call of Israel.  With these verses the writer leaves behind the history of humanity and begins the history of the people of God, God’s witness to the world.  

The first history ended in barrenness.  Towards the end of the previous chapter the writer tells us that Abram’s wife Sarah was, in the brutal language of the day, barren, she could bare no children.  The family had played out its future and had nowhere else to go.  

Barrenness is the way of human history.  It is an effective metaphor for hopelessness.  There is no foreseeable future.  There is no human power to invent a future; not one that has any meaning.

We must not underestimate the power of this metaphor.  Not to have children in times past was to be condemned to a life of fear and poverty.  Family was all, it was your defence, your workforce, your old age pension.  Without family there was simply no future.

Barrenness is such a powerful metaphor that it crops up again and again in the life of this family of Abraham.  After Sarah, daughter-in-law Rebecca and grand-daughter-in-law Rachel were both unable to have children.  But it is to this family that God chooses to speak his promise.  If we were to write a story of a new chapter in the world’s history then we probably would not choose a family with such a tenuous grasp on the future.  But in this story God speaks his powerful word directly into a place of barrenness.  By his gift and grace he brings fertility and new life.  To those who have trusted to his promise he is able to give a new future.  [This is not a simplistic new fertility treatment, we are still in the world of metaphor.  The future offered is a fruitfulness beyond reproduction, the gift greater than mere parenthood.]

God does not rely on any potential in the one he commands.  Abraham and Sarah just did not have, in the judgement of the day, any potential.  The promise of God presumed nothing from Abraham but carried in itself all that was necessary to begin a new people. 

Abraham was called, he responds and a new future opens out to him, new possibilities are released.  Something like a resurrection occurs.  God calls the hopeless ones into a community with a future.  

He calls them into pilgrimage, away from security and the known, away from safety and “the devil you know”, into renunciation and abandonment.  ‘Leave you country and your father’s household…’  And all for what ?  Merely a promise.  

But the narrative knows that only a departure from security is the way out of barrenness, hopelessness.  The whole of the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is based on this contradiction: to stay in safety is to remain without a future; to leave in risk is to have hope.

For the promise to have power, for it to come true, Abraham must believe in the promise giver.  He must have faith to respond.  To set in train all that can flow from the promise he must first rely upon it: stake his life upon it.

Didn’t Jesus say something of the sort? “for whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it”.  But abandonment and renunciation is a high price to pay for a future.  Not to mention a future based only upon a promise.

Nicodemus was called upon to renounce all his certainties, all that he had built his life upon.  And for what ?  Something so insubstantial that it could be likened to a puff of wind.  For what Jesus was offering was founded on the renunciation of repentance in the water of baptism, and the promise of the Spirit as midwife, guide and companion.  

This is no known way.  This is pilgrimage into the unknown.  There is no law to guide, no map to follow, no commands to obey.  Only the Spirit to prompt and call, only the sight of the son of God lifted up on a Cross to show the way.  And for what?  A future, an alternative future to the cold, barren one of those who have ceased to listen and have therefore ceased to live and ceased to hope.  

God still calls the hopeless ones into a community with a future, into a pilgrimage of faith.  There are no certainties, only possibilities and the God ‘who,’ said Paul, ‘gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.’

We are the community who holds out a future of hope.  We are the inheritors of the promise of Abraham, the impossible promise that draws us out of barrenness and futility, meaningless hopelessness, into a new life of problem and potential, wonder and mystery, a life with no solutions and only the breath of God to fan a feeble flame of faith in the darkness of a mocking world.

Yet it is the promise of life, true life, full grace and beauty.


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

HYMN Come down, O love divine NEH 137 – Down Ampney

1 Come down, O Love divine,

Seek thou this soul of mine,

And visit it with thine own ardour glowing;

O Comforter, draw near,

Within my heart appear,

And kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

2 O let it freely burn,

Till earthly passions turn

To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;

And let thy glorious light

Shine ever on my sight,

And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

3 Let holy charity

Mine outward vesture be,

And lowliness become mine inner clothing;

True lowliness of heart,

Which takes the humbler part,

And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

4 And so the yearning strong,

With which the soul will long,

Shall far outpass the power of human telling;

For none can guess its grace,

Till it become the place

Wherein the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling.

INTERCESSIONS – Christine Hill

Heavenly Father, be with us in this time of prayer as we continue our Lenten journey.  We rely upon you for all things – help us this day to trust in you, being thankful for all that you give us. 

We pray for people in all nations who are affected by war and natural disasters. We pray especially for the people of Ukraine as the conflict with Russia enters its second year, and the people of Turkey and Syria whose lives have been devastated by earthquakes. We give thanks for the aid workers and medical teams who risk their lives in these areas and ask that you strengthen them in their work. 

Lord in your mercy… hear our prayer.

Help and guide all those in authority that they may never be tempted to abuse or misuse their power, but instead show wisdom and resolve to seek peace and prosperity for all the world. We pray especially for politicians and our church leaders who face criticism and negativity when they express their Christian beliefs. May they hear your encouragement and respond with love and forgiveness.

Lord in your mercy… hear our prayer.

Father God, we pray for our relationships with our families, friends and neighbours. May we look outward from our own concerns and always be aware of and available for those who need our love and support. Thank you for all in our churches who reach out to our communities and demonstrate your love in their actions. Help us also to be generous, free from envy and happy for those who lives appear trouble free and successful.  

Lord in your mercy… hear our prayer.

Dear God, we pray for all who are in pain or are suffering at this time. We remember especially those who are facing long or incurable illnesses, and those who are finding it hard to get the treatment and care which they need. In a moment of quietness we pray for them, and any we know who are in any kind of need at this time. Bring comfort and healing to all those who we now name before you. [Especially today we pray for ………….]

Lord in your mercy… hear our prayer.

Merciful God, you know when our hearts are broken by bereavement. You know the pain of loss because you suffered through the death of your only son. In the midst of ongoing sorrow, help us to rejoice in the comfort of the hope, encouragement, and comfort that your promise of eternal life brings to all who believe in Jesus.

Lord in your mercy… hear our prayer.

Everlasting God, may we show and share our love and trust for you wholeheartedly, today, as we go back out into the world and through every day of our Lenten journey.

Merciful Father, 

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

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.


The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord make his face to shine upon and be gracious unto you.

The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The Lord God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

the holy and undivided Trinity, guard you, save you,

and bring you to that heavenly city, where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

HYMN God is love, let heaven adore him NEH 364 – Abbot’s Leigh

1 God is Love: let heav’n adore him;

God is Love: let earth rejoice;

Let creation sing before him,

And exalt him with one voice.

He who laid the earth’s foundation,

He who spread the heav’ns above,

He who breathes through all creation,

He is Love, eternal Love.

2 God is Love: and he enfoldeth

All the world in one embrace;

With unfailing grasp he holdeth

Every child of every race.

And when human hearts are breaking

Under sorrow’s iron rod,

Then they find that selfsame aching

Deep within the heart of God.

3 God is Love: and though With blindness

Sin afflicts the souls of men,

God’s eternal loving-kindness

Holds and guides them even then.

Sin and death and hell shall never

o’er us final triumph gain;

God is Love, so Love for ever

O’er the universe must reign.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen

Log in/out