Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 20 March 2022, 3rd Sunday in Lent

by Rev Jacky Quarmby 20 March 2022

Welcome to our worship today. We begin with the song “I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart”

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Opening Prayer
Loving God,
      We thank you for the world you have made
       For sunshine and showers, for golden daffodils
       For the changing seasons
      And for all the creatures that share this world with us.
       We thank you for the life that you have given to us
       With its opportunities and responsibilities
      Its duties and joys.
And we thank you that today Emily has chosen
To be baptised into your family the church.
Help each of us to open our hearts to love and praise you and as we hear the promises of baptism once more,  may we each commit ourselves anew to follow you.
 For we ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen

The Baptism of Emily Elizabeth Cox

Song:  Father God, I wonder

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Gospel Reading:  Luke 13: 1 – 9 

Why do bad things happen?  Do bad things only happen to bad people?   Does God punish us when we do things wrong by sending disaster upon us?  

These are big questions!   At the time of Jesus, many people believed that if you were obedient to God, then you would grow rich and wealthy, have a large family and live a long life.  But if you were sinful and did things wrong then you would be punished by poverty or illness or an early death.

So why do bad things happen to people?  Is it a punishment for something they have done wrong?  Well that is the question that Jesus is asked at the beginning of this passage,    because two dreadful incidents had happened in recent days.  

Firstly, a group of people from Galilee had gone to the temple to make sacrifices to God   - and they had been brutally slaughtered by the Roman authorities.  And secondly a tower in Siloam had fallen down and killed 18 people.   And so the people said to Jesus, was it because these people were sinners that they were struck down?

And Jesus says to them, “These people who were killed - they were no worse than anyone else living in Jerusalem.  Everyone does things wrong.  The only difference between you and those who have died is that you still have a chance to repent, to turn your lives round and to put yourself right with God.”

So Jesus says to the crowd, “Repent now, because tomorrow it may be too late.” And that’s a message to us too.  Today is the time to turn away from the wrong things in our lives and to rebuild our relationship with God - because this moment now is the only moment in our lives that is guaranteed.  

We need to turn back to God now - not because if we don’t then God will make the church roof collapse on us as we leave this morning, but simply because we do not know what tomorrow may bring.  Accidents happen – we might choke on a fish bone - we might get mowed down by a careless car driver.  We just don’t know.   Bad things don’t just happen to bad people.  They happen to us all.   And it’s as well to be prepared!

Then Jesus goes on to tell the people a parable.  The parable of the fig tree.  

`A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none.  So he said to the gardener, "See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?"  He replied, "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it.  If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down." '

The fig tree in this parable is a symbol of the nation of Israel at the time of Jesus.  God had spent centuries guiding and nurturing Israel, in the hope that it would become a light to all other nations – a light that would lead all people into a relationship with God.  God’s plan was, and still is, that all people should come to know him and love him as their Father in heaven.

Jesus is the owner of the vineyard who comes “seeking fruit” from the fig tree.  But in three years of ministry he finds nothing - it is barren.  There may be lots and lots of showy green leaves but there is no fruit.  When Jesus observes the nation of Israel, he sees dishonesty, injustice and hard heartedness and nowhere is it more obvious than among the religious leaders, who are meant to be setting the people an example.  The fig tree is not fruitful – it is simply taking up space.  But what is the owner to do?  In the parable, the owner is persuaded to be merciful – to give the fig tree just one more chance to bear fruit.

There is a challenge here to the people of Israel – but there is a challenge to us too.  We are also like trees that God has planted and fed and nurtured and like the gardener, God expects us to bear fruit.  The sort of fruit that we read about in Galatians 5: 22 – the fruit of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.  But how much do we demonstrate these lovely fruits in our lives?

When people think of sin, we often think about things like lying, stealing, and adultery for example.  We often forget those sins, which the church calls “sins of omission” – that is, those things we should do, but we fail to do – those chances we missed to bear fruit.  

The time that we failed to be generous and share what we had with someone in need.

The time that we failed to visit someone we knew was lonely.

The time that we failed to thank someone who had helped us.

The time that we failed to be patient with someone who annoys us.

The time that we failed to speak out for someone who was being treated unfairly.

The time that we failed to help out because we couldn’t be bothered.

Opportunities that we missed to bear fruit.  And Jesus reminds us in this parable, that if we make no effort to do good, in spite of all the opportunities that we have been given, then we will be judged and found wanting.

Somebody once said, “I read in a book that a man called Christ went about doing good.  It is very disconcerting to me that I am so easily satisfied with just going about.”

So what do we learn from our Gospel reading today?

When bad things happen – these are not a punishment from God for things that we have done wrong.  Bad things do happen to good people.   But these bad things remind us that life is precious and life is fragile. And they remind us that the only moment in our life that is guaranteed is this one right now.  So if there are things in our lives that we are sorry about, now is the time to say sorry and now is the time to put ourselves right with God.

And what is it that God requires of us? The parable of the fig tree makes it clear. It is not simply just to keep out of mischief.  It is also about bearing fruit – giving generously, caring for others selflessly, praying thankfully, enduring disappointments patiently and pursuing justice unwaveringly.  God longs for us to be a person who bears fruit – not just one who takes up space.  

So let us come to God now in prayer and take this opportunity to say sorry and ask for God’s help to begin again.  In the silence let us bring our own prayers of confession

Loving God, you call us to listen carefully and to delight in you,
Forgive us when we choose to go our own way

Welcoming God, you call us to open our doors and our tables to stranger as well as friend,
Forgive us when we choose to close our doors and hearts to those in need

God of the poor, you call us to find you, to call on you, to seek your kingdom
Forgive us when we ignore your cries for justice and your pleas for generosity.

Loving God, you call us to find ourselves in serving one another
Forgive us when we can’t be bothered and we spend our time on things that do not matter.

Merciful God,  We spend so much of our lives on things that do not count.
Help us to discover all You have to give, and to seek You while we have the gift of days.
Fill us today with your Holy Spirit that we may delight in bearing fruit in your name.
And may we go out in joy and come back in peace. Amen.

Song:  Lord, the light of your love is shining

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Prayers of Intercession/The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray for all people everywhere according to their need.

Let us pray for all nations and peoples of this world.  

Let us pray particularly for the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia, for their countries and their leaders.  We pray that together they will seek a peaceful solution to the conflict – so that further bloodshed can be avoided.

We thank you for the generosity of Poland and Romania who have received so many refugees and we pray that they will receive the medical supplies, food and clothing that they need to look after those fleeing from war. Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer

 We pray for the leaders of all nations that they may always seek what is best for the people they serve.  We pray for policies that produce a more just system of trade and a more equal distribution of wealth, so that all God’s people may be freed from poverty and exploitation. And we pray for good laws that cannot be used by governments to restrict the freedoms and liberties of their people. Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer

Finally, we pray for our families, our friends and all those we know who are sick or lonely or anxious at this time.


May they know your love and the comfort of your presence in the days to come.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer

We say together the Lord’s Prayer

Communion Hymn:  Here is bread, here is wine 

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Holy Communion

Final prayer 
Father of all, we give you thanks and praise that when we were still far off You met us in your son and brought us home.
Dying and living, he declared your love gave us grace and opened the gate of glory.
May we who share Christ’s body, live his risen life
We who drink his cup bring life to others
We whom the Spirit lights, give light to the world. Amen

Hymn:  To God be the glory

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The Blessing  
The blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, 
be upon you and remain with you for ever.  Amen.

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