A Service for the First Sunday of Lent

The Judean Wilderness

The Judean Wilderness


A Service for the First Sunday in Lent 

Sunday 21st February, 2021

 

Preparation:

Before beginning to read this short service, you may wish to find a space for prayer in front of a cross or a candle.  

 

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.

 

The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart God will not despise.

Let us come to the Lord, who is full of compassion,

and acknowledge our transgressions in penitence and faith.

 

a moment of silence

 

Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin:

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

 

Make me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me:

Christ, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

 

Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy spirit from me:

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

 

Almighty God,

who forgives all who truly repent,

have mercy upon us,

pardon and deliver us from all our sins,

confirm and strengthen us in all goodness,

and keep us in life eternal;

through Jesus 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,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

 

The 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.’

This is the Word of the Lord

Thanks be to God

 

Psalm 25

 

1    To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;

    O my God, in you I trust;  

let me not be put to shame;

    let not my enemies triumph over me.

2    Let none who look to you be put to shame,  

but let the treacherous be shamed and frustrated.

3    Make me to know your ways, O Lord,  

and teach me your paths.

4    Lead me in your truth and teach me,  

for you are the God of my salvation;

    for you have I hoped all the day long.

5    Remember, Lord, your compassion and love,  

for they are from everlasting.

6    Remember not the sins of my youth

    or my transgressions,  

but think on me in your goodness, O Lord,

    according to your steadfast love.

7    Gracious and upright is the Lord;  

therefore shall he teach sinners in the way.

8    He will guide the humble in doing right  

and teach his way to the lowly.

9    All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth  

to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

 

 

The Second Reading

1 Peter 3: 18-end

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

This is the Word of the Lord

Thanks be to God

 

First Hymn

Lead us, Heavenly Father: https://youtu.be/UmkvXHrkCzg

 

1 Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
o'er the world's tempestuous sea;
guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
for we have no help but thee;
yet possessing every blessing,
if our God our Father be.

2 Saviour, breathe forgiveness o'er us:
all our weakness thou dost know;
thou didst tread this earth before us,
thou didst feel its keenest woe;
lone and dreary, faint and weary,
through the desert thou didst go.

3 Spirit of our God, descending,
fill our hearts with heavenly joy,
love with every passion blending,
pleasure that can never cloy:
thus provided, pardoned, guided,
nothing can our peace destroy.

 

The Gospel:

Mark 1: 9-15

 

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark

Glory to you, O Lord.

 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized 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 for 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.’ 

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

Praise to you, O Christ.

 

Homily

“…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.”

These two verses from our Gospel this morning give us the full story of the temptation of Jesus in the desert as recorded by St Mark.  There is no record of the precise temptations of Jesus which we can read of elsewhere in the Gospels- as Jesus saw the dry and  dusty hillsides and the bare stones which he was tempted to turn into bread, as he dwelt for 40 days of severe testing.  Nor is there a word in St Mark’s Gospel of Jesus being asked by Satan to bow down and worship him in return for the world; no mention either of the sight of the pinnacle of the Temple, and the temptation to carry out the leap from its highest point to be caught by angels.  No, we just have this:

“…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.”

The long accounts of Matthew and Luke which contain the record of the temptations which I have mentioned, cannot compare with the stark simplicity of Mark, probably the earliest written record of the event.  Although we have the advantage of knowing the details from the other Gospel accounts, the less talkative style of Mark has its attractions; his terseness from the moment the Spirit falls upon Jesus at his baptism rings true; nothing has been elaborated or read back into the story – one simply feels the immediate certainty that is within Jesus – he knows that he is called to be and do great things.  So what does this story tell us?

Notice first that it is by the Spirit that Jesus is driven, the Greek word in the original text means literally “thrown out” into the wilderness, the same Spirit that descended upon him, and gave him the conviction that he was called upon to fulfil the plan of his heavenly Father.  There has been a public proclamation and action, the baptism and the descent of the Spirit and the words of the Father, but now there is something new happening, something unique in the life of Jesus, something private, which he must have related later to his disciples in order for them to have the information to be ultimately recorded by Matthew and Luke in its detail.  

This private struggle was clearly of importance and the fact that Jesus was directed, and knew himself to be directed, into the wilderness demonstrates that it was in accordance with the will of the Father.  The trial, the temptation, was vital for what was to follow.  It suggests something else too, namely that this incident was far from superficial for the life and ministry of our Lord; he was being tried to the depths here; and he felt it and knew it.  The desert experience though painful and severely testing was instrumental in refining the conviction, that he already possessed, that his life was to be one of humility and conflict.  

Now that is all very well, but how about when we are thrown into an inner wilderness not of our making, how do we react?  Rarely, I would suggest, with the thought, this is for my good, this will lead me to a more godly life and way of service.  No, rather, the inner wilderness can entirely disorientate our lives, we feel that God is not there, and hence not listening, that our prayers are empty and are addressing no one.  In the wilderness we can be tempted to give up, tempted to despair, tempted to cynicism, tempted to feel, what is the point of it all, nothing can change, nothing will change, what is the use?

These are the temptations of the spirit in the wilderness, to fall into every negative feeling and lose the will to enter the conflict of life.  

Christ too was tempted to take the easy ways, to use his miraculous power inappropriately, to lower his standards and to compromise with the Devil.  The tussle with these temptations must have been formidable for him to have mentioned them later, the testing was real.  Would we - I wonder - have relished the prospect of 40 days confronting so serious a matter?  Our Lord certainly trod the path of severe testing, of isolation and deprivation, of loneliness and danger.  He took the risks because he felt driven to take them, and he emerged the stronger for it.

But when we draw analogies with our situation we need to be so careful that we do not just copy his way, expecting the same result, with his resounding victory over Satan apparently the only outcome.  We are neither as strong nor as greatly tested as he, but that does not mean that we cannot learn from him.  He answered his temptations by looking to the root of his own faith.  We know from the other Synoptic writers that he answered Satan from the Scriptures and spoke to him with an authority that could not be borne by the evil that confronted him.  The application of Scripture to our temptations and trials is the positive example that emerges from these 40 days and nights of our Lord’s sojourn in the desert.  From Scripture we draw from beyond ourselves, from the eternal wisdom and authority of God, and we neglect the Bible at our cost.  

For any Church, and indeed, individual, the awareness that we are strengthened by both Word and Sacrament is one of reawakening in Lent - for both are channels of our receiving grace and strength and direction.  Our Lord received the blessings of baptism, the descent of the Holy Spirit and the affirmation of the Father’s anointing, but his knowledge and application of the Scriptures in time of temptation caused the Devil to flee from him.  Sunday by Sunday, in normal times, we receive together of the life-giving Sacrament of the Eucharist, but not before hearing and receiving the Word of Scripture.  In the last chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, St Paul speaks of the Word of God being the, “Sword of the Spirit”, that is the Word spoken prophetically and authoritatively by his servants.  We witness in the temptation of Jesus that sword being wielded to great effect.  But lest we find that example too heroic for us, and are overcome with our weakness in the face of trial, let us also remember that the angels ministered even to our Lord after his trials.  We are looking at real trials to a real man when we read of Christ facing his temptations in the wilderness, but his reliance was on the indwelling Spirit and the authority of Scripture; his Father’s will and purpose sustaining both.

Today is the first Sunday in Lent.  It is worth remembering, what we know well, that we are not alone in our trials and temptations, not only has Christ been there before, but he is with us as we experience them today.  So let us search and use the Scriptures for the strength and authority to meet our own trials, and be thankful for the blessing of the Sacraments, which we hope will be restored to all our churches soon, through which we are endued with spiritual strength for the days ahead.

John Mann

 

Second hymn

Lord Jesus, think on me: https://youtu.be/HmVqL71jEuc

 

1 Lord Jesus, think on me,
and purge away my sin;
from earth-born passions set me free,
and make me pure within.

2 Lord Jesus, think on me,
with many a  care oppressed,
let me Thy loving servant be,
and taste Thy promised rest.

3 Lord Jesus, think on me,
nor let me go astray;
through darkness and perplexity
point Thou the heav'nly way.

4 Lord Jesus, think on me,
that, when the flood is past,
I may the eternal brightness see,
and share Thy joy at last.

 

Prayers of Intercession

 

With confidence and trust let us pray to the Father.

For the one holy catholic and apostolic Church; 

for the Churches of Swanage and Studland;

let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,

in your mercy hear us.

 

For the mission of the Church,

that in faithful witness it may preach the gospel

to the ends of the earth,

let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,

in your mercy hear us.

 

For those preparing for baptism 

and for their teachers and sponsors,

let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,

in your mercy hear us.

 

For peace in the world

that a spirit of respect and reconciliation may grow

among nations and peoples,

let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,

in your mercy hear us.

 

For the poor, the persecuted, the sick, and all who suffer;

for refugees, prisoners, and all in danger;

that they may be relieved and protected,

let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,

in your mercy hear us.

 

For those whom we have injured or offended,

let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,

in your mercy hear us.

 

For grace to amend our lives and to further the reign of God,

let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,

in your mercy hear us.

 

In communion with all those who have walked in the way of holiness

let us pray to the Father.

Lord of compassion,

in your mercy hear us.

 

God our Father,

in your love and goodness

you have taught us to come close to you in penitence

with prayer, fasting and generosity;

accept our Lenten discipline,

and when we fall by our weakness,

raise us up by your unfailing mercy;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

The Peace

 

Since we are justified by faith,

we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

who has given us access to his grace.

 

The peace of the Lord be always with you

and also with you.

 

The Lord’s Prayer

 

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.

 

 

Lord God,

you renew 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 out of your mouth;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

 

The Blessing

 

Christ give us grace to grow in holiness,

to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him;

and the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among us and remain with us always.

Amen.

 

Voluntary: Grand Plein Jeu - Clerambault: https://youtu.be/hxFWCOD99-k

 

Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is included here,

is copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2006 and published by Church House Publishing.

 

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