O Lord open our lips, and our mouth shall declare your praise!
Reveal among us the light of your presence that we may behold your power and glory. The night has passed, and the day lies open before us;let us pray with one heart and mind. As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you; now and for ever. Amen.
Preparing our hearts
Most holy Lord, you were tempted, as we are; be our strength in times of weakness. When we fall lift us up, when we are in error direct us. In all our wanderings, be our guide; that we may be your faithful people to our life’s end. Amen.
Reading: Genesis 9: 8-17
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 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.[a] 11 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.” 12 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: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 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. 16 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.” 17 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.”
Reading: Mark 1: 9-15
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 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. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Thought for the week: Revd Brian Brobyn
Welcome to the first Sunday in Lent. Those forty days that lead us to the crucifixion and to Easter. Every year, the first Sunday in Lent includes a reading of the temptation story. Today we have Mark’s version. And it is quite fitting for those of us who have given something up for Lent. We know that feeling of temptation to give in. But notice that in Mark, we don’t just get the temptation story. We also get Jesus’ baptism right before that and his first sermon afterwards.
What I love about the Gospel of Mark is it is brief in its story telling. It gives us few details, but the details it does give are quite important. For example, did you notice what happens to the heavens when Jesus is baptized? “Just as Jesus was coming up and out of the waters, he saw the heavens torn apart.” The heavens are torn open. When something is torn open, it means you cannot easily put it back together. Now, if you read the story of Jesus’ baptism in Matthew or Luke, it simply says the heaven’s open. They just open. Like a door. But not in Mark’s story. In Mark, the heavens are torn apart. You can hear within the word the sharp, jagged, rough edges that tearing creates. What does that mean? Could it mean the veil between us and God has been torn open, never to be closed again?
But then, once the heavens are torn open, Jesus sees the spirit descend. Our text says that it descended on him. Like resting on his shoulder. But the Greek word there can also be translated as into. So the Spirit of God does not simply rest on Jesus, it goes into him. It possess him. What we learn here is that throughout Jesus’ life and death, he is carrying within him the Spirit of God.
Then Jesus hears the words of God, “You are my son. My beloved.” These are claiming words. These are words of affirmation. Words that tell Jesus who he is and to whom he belongs. It’s like a parent wrapping their arms around their child and whispering in their ear, “I love you. You will always be my child. No matter what.” They are words that wrap themselves around your heart. They claim you. You belong. You are loved. You matter.
So Jesus has been claimed by God and possessed by the spirit of God and then what happens? Jesus gets driven into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for 40 days. That number, forty – it is an important number in scripture. Rain fell for forty days and forty nights in the story of Noah and the ark. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai when receiving the Ten Commandments from God. The Israelites, how many years were they wandering in the wilderness? Forty. And now Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness for forty days. The ancient Jews were a deeply symbolic people. And numbers carried deep spiritual value for them. So it means something here that Jesus was tempted for forty days. Why that number? Why 40 days? It must have been important. And when you think about it, forty is an important number for us as well. Forty is the number of weeks that a woman is pregnant.
Forty is the number of weeks that it takes for you to be born into the world. So could it be that the number forty, used in scripture, has something to do with being born, or reborn. Maybe it has to do with finding new life in the midst of your current life. The earth was reborn after the forty days of rain in Noah’s story. For the Israelites, it was rebirth for their people. They were set free, born into a new life.
So then, if that is true, could it be that Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness is a time of growth, a time of preparation for rebirth into new life. Preparation for his life of ministry that is ahead of him. And if that is true, then could it be that Jesus’ baptism just before was a moment when a seed is planted that then begins to grow? Those words that Jesus hears, “You are my Son, my beloved.” Could those be life-creating words?
So what are we to do with all of this? Forty days in the wilderness for Jesus. Forty days of Lent for us. As we enter the Lenten season of forty days, perhaps you and I are invited to be reborn. To commit to a new way of being, or a new way of relating to the world. And maybe the only way for that to begin to grow within us, to discover a new way of living, is to remember those words. You have been claimed by God. You belong and you are beloved. Let that sink into you. Let that be a seed that conceives and sprouts new life within you this Lenten season Lent is a much deeper season than simply giving up sweets and chocolate. It is a season of new life, rebirth, through hearing the claiming words that you belong to God and you are God’s beloved. Where is God wanting to bring life into the world through you? You’ll have to answer that question yourself. But you go well equipped because the heavens have been torn open, never to be closed again. And that descending Spirit of God, it has entered into you too. Amen
Collect – 1st Sunday of Lent
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
Lord our God, as we are baptised in your Name, protect us from all evil and deliver us from temptation. May we use this Lent as a time of dedication and renewal. We pray that your church may stand against evil and seek good. We remember before you all who have lost faith, those who no longer pray themselves, those who find it difficult to trust in you or in anyone. Lord, we trust in you. Deliver us from evil.
We pray for people who are possessed by greed or selfishness, for all who have become insensitive to the needs of others. Lord, we remember the exploited peoples; we pray for those driven from their lands and homes; for all caught up in violence and war, for all who feel inadequate, or unable to cope, for all who are feeling worthless and alone. Lord, we trust in you. Deliver us from evil.
We give thanks for all who have set us an example of godly living, for all whose dedication and commitment shines out like a light. We pray for all in our communities who continue to work to support and help us. We pray and give thanks for all teachers who are spending so much time ensuring our children are being educated. We pray for those with whom we work, for our families and friends. Lord, we trust in you. Deliver us from evil.
We give you thanks for healers and reconcilers of people. We pray for all whose relationships have broken down, For those full of animosity and hatred; that we may learn to forgive as we were forgiven. We pray for all who are caught up in crime and wickedness. Lord, we trust in you. Deliver us from evil.
Finally Lord, we give you thanks and praise for all who have triumphed over evil and temptation and who now serve you in the peace of your kingdom. We pray for all those who are departed especially…….. and that at the last we may share with them in glory. Lord, we trust in you. Deliver us from evil. 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.
Pray for peace, seek for peace. Speak of peace, act in peace. The peace of the Lord be always with you.
The Holy and the Strong One, the only true God, Scatter the darkness from before you, deliver you from the powers of evil, strengthen you in all goodness, keep you in eternal life; and the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today and for ever more. Amen.
Click below and listen to the hymn for today - 'Forty days and forty nights'