Sharing Our Faith Together

Morning Worship for Sunday 21 February - 1st in Lent

by Andy Cokayne 21 February 2021

Welcome - A call to worship from Psalm 25 v 4-10

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Our first hymn is : 'Christ alone, Cornerstone'

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We turn to Our Lord in prayer
Almighty God Our Heavenly Father, you the one that created all things, that sustains all things, who was from the beginning and knows no end, we praise you, we worship you, we bring you all that we have, all that we are, and yet our words seem so insignificant. How can we offer you anything that is worthy of you. Yet we learn from your word that you delight in your peoples praise, and so we come with boldness before you. We never cease to be amazed, that you the great creator are interested in us, and yet we know that your interest in us, your love for us, knows no bounds, and for that we can only offer you our praise and worship

We come into your presence this morning acknowledging that we do not deserve you hearing our prayers, yet we come in faith asking that you not only listen but that you will answer. We come humbly knowing what we are like, that one minute we praise you, and yet the next we let you down by how we speak, think or act. So this morning Father at the beginning of our time together, that as we acknowledge our sins to you, we pray that in your mercy, and through Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, you will forgive us, and we claim that promise in your word that we know is true  "That if we confess our sins you are faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." and on that promise we rely.  Thank you Father that through Jesus, and him alone, we can know our sins forgiven and our relationship with you put right. We ask these prayers in the name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 

Let us share together in the prayer that Jesus taught us,
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Our second hymn is : 'All to Jesus I surrender

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Once more we turn to Our Lord in prayer  
Almighty God Our Heavenly Father, we come to you now with the concerns that are on our hearts and minds. Father we bring to you our world, that so often we misuse or abuse, we pray for those involved in trying to bring about a change to the way we use our planets resources, particularly those who are involved with our climate. Father the task often seems so immense, and we seem so reluctant to address the changes needed. Father we pray for governments around the world that they may heed the warnings and be prepared to take the steps needed.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.  

Father we pray for our own government, particularly as they continue to address the pandemic, that you would give them clear vision in how best to move forward with a gradual releasing of the restrictions and yet keep the virus under control. We give thanks for the immense strides forward that have been made through the Vaccinations, we pray for all those who continue to suffer due to the pandemic: those who grieve following the loss of loved ones; those who are in hospital and those who seek to aid their recovery; those who worry through financial loss and those that have lost their work due to the pandemic; and those who suffer mental stress or exhaustion due to the pandemic, Father we pray that you will meet each at their point of need.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.  

Father we bring to you ourselves, we often feel insignificant in these times, yet we give thanks that you are with us, and we dare to pray that you will use us in whatever we you can, to help and encourage others, and bring something of your love into this hurting world. Father make us bold in sharing and showing your love, and we pray that you will continue to mould us through the Holy Spirit into the disciples that you would have us be.  

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer. We ask all these prayers in the name and for the sake of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen  

On this Sunday, the first in Lent, one of the passages of scripture set from the lectionary is from Mark's gospel chapter 1 verses 9-15, entitled The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus. 
Listen to the message here with some written notes below.

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Testing Times!

We all go through testing times, whether it be through illness, family or financial issues, or something else. An entire life is very rarely a walk in the park. Sometimes the problems come out of the blue, but at other times, we see the problems looming in the distance. The times we are going through at the moment are a case in point, in many respects they have come out of the blue. But whatever the problem is, no matter how quickly, or slowly, they present themselves, if we have a choice, we will always do all we can to avoid them, it is only natural, part of our in-built self defence mechanism. So it is surprising when we read of someone, who on purpose, went into the desert and fasted, to a point that he was physically weak, and then experienced Satan presenting him with very tempting alternatives to get out of his present desperate situation.

The testing time that Jesus went through here was special, and significant. It marked the beginning of his earthly ministry. Prior to this, he had served his apprenticeship, and gone into the family business of carpentry. He was now a fully qualified carpenter, able to earn sufficient to feed into the family budget. The money he earnt would have been vital for putting food on the table, but he knew, as Gods Son, that his Heavenly Father had a more vital job for him to do.  

Firstly, we read 'And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love: with you I am well pleased."'(v11) In John 3v35 we read "The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands." You may say, yes of course God loves his Son, but how could God be pleased with him, he hadn't started his ministry yet? I wonder was the Father pleased with his Son because he was willing to be identified with all people and be baptised? Or perhaps he had seen how his Son had conducted himself in his life up to that point, his ordinary daily activities, before he started his ministry, and was pleased with him through that. We may consider that we are not doing anything special for God in our lives, but how are we conducting our lives in our ordinary daily activities? No matter how tedious, or how testing they may be. Would God say to us "With you I am well pleased?"  Brother Lawrence was a Carmelite Monk in France during the 1600's, he was assigned the tedious chores in the kitchen. He once said "Men invent means and methods of coming into God's love. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of Him?" For Brother Lawrence, "common business," no matter how mundane or routine, was the medium of God's love.

Secondly we read 'At once the spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert for forty days, being tempted by Satan.' (v12-13) The desert where Jesus went, like many others, was an arid, inhospitable place. A place that was physically, emotionally, and mentally testing. A place where loneliness plays a big part. We may never go anywhere near a desert ourselves, yet nevertheless we may encounter times that are physically, emotionally, and mentally testing, where loneliness can play a big part. In deed what we have gone, and are going, through now with the pandemic, we may find physically, emotionally, and mentally testing, and where loneliness can play a big part. So Jesus can empathise with how we feel. 

When you consider that Jesus spent nearly 6 weeks in the desert, and his ministry on earth only lasted 3 years, you may think what a waste of valuable time to be in the desert that long. Yet we read in verse 12 that 'the Spirit sent him'. It was not a waste of time His Father had a purpose for it. Without distraction, He had plenty of time to pray and draw closer to His Father, before he started out on his earthly ministry, which often took place at 'breakneck' speed. He also had time to prayerfully consider who he should call to be his disciples, as immediately after this passage we read of him calling Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John. In our desert, which may be this pandemic, we have the same opportunity, with less distractions on our time, to draw closer to our Father and prayerfully consider what He is calling us to do next. But note that when Jesus was seeking His Fathers will, seeking to draw closer to his Father without physical distraction, the Devil was never far away, trying to test and distract him, and the same will be true for us, when we seek to draw closer to Our Father, or seek his will for us, we may be distracted, we may be tempted away. But through Jesus, and his help we can resist and stick to the task.        

Third and finally we read "The time has come" he said "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (v15)

Repent and believe - Christ's preaching was nothing new, it was the same as faithful witnesses had preached down through the ages. All the prophets had called on God's people to repent and turn from their wicked ways, and draw closer to their God.

The apostle Paul when he left the Ephesian church for the last time, told the elders that the substance of his preaching among them had been "I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus" (Acts 20 v21). Repentance and faith had been the foundation stones of Christ's ministry. Repentance and faith must always be the main subjects of our message. But of course this is not always popular, Repentance always includes an acknowledgement on our side that we are in the wrong, that we do things and say things that are wrong, and that takes courage. Repentance also includes the willingness to be sorry for doing and saying the wrong thing, not being sorry that we have been found out, but sorrow for not being in line with God's will for us. Repentance finally includes the willingness to turn; to change, our words; our behaviour; our lives. This is not something we can achieve by our own willpower, we need God at work within us through his Holy Spirit to bring about this sort of lasting change. If we think we can do it on our own, or that we are good enough, we have missed the message. I can remember some years ago, whenever I used to ask a particular Christian friend how they were, their answer always came back "Repenting and Praising brother", I thought that about summed a Christian life up.

Repent and believe the good news, the gospel. It is good news we are called to believe, that Jesus being Gods one and only Son came to give his life so that we can have real life. John 3v16 puts it like this "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." 

Jesus had 30 years of doing every day things, and His Father was pleased with how he had conducted himself. Let us like Brother Lawrence, and Jesus himself, offer to God our everyday mundane tasks, and pray that we may do them to God's praise and glory.

In our desert, that for us may be this pandemic, let us not consider that it is a waste of time, and so get frustrated by it, but give God the chance to speak to us afresh, while we have less distractions.

Finally let us remember that the message that we receive, and seek to share, and base our lives on, is not complicated. Jesus said " Repent and believe the good news." We are to Repent, change from going our own way, to going God's way, and believe the good news of Jesus. Like my friend from years ago we should aim to be Repenting and Praising daily. Amen      

Our final hymn is : 'When we walk with the Lord'

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We are united with churches throughout the country as we share together in the 'The UK Blessing'.

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