The Lord be with you! Welcome, Cheviot churches and also those joining us from elsewhere. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well and keeping safe. Come, people of God, let us worship together on this Second Sunday of Lent.
As we are all aware, we are in lockdown, and all churches are closed, though we have had a glimmer of hope this week. The podcast and video are available online. If anyone needs a printed copy of the service, please get in touch with Susan or Colin.
Call to Worship
We gather to worship the Lord our God, the maker of the stars, the one who calls us to follow.
We gather united in our love for God and offer this time of worship.
Hymn 482 – Come, let us to the Lord our God
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Loving and holy God,
Our Creator, Christ, and Guide,
you speak the words of life to us.
In you we find our hearts’ desire;
by your grace we are saved.
When the way forward is unclear, you shed light.
When we are troubled, you give peace.
When times are difficult, you stir courage and hope.
Our deepest longing is to know you,
and to be known by you.
In these difficult days, we praise you for your faithfulness to us.
Draw near to us in our time of worship, O God,
and open the way before us,
so that we may follow Jesus without wavering,
trusting him to lead us.
Although following you brings joy, O God,
we confess the way is sometimes hard for us.
There are times we get tired and would eagerly settle for an easier road.
Some days we find the task of loving others hard.
Sometimes we choose anger over forgiveness,
or ignore the needs of our neighbours.
Forgive us when our commitment to you wavers.
Forgive us when we take that easier path.
Stir the embers of our devotion and kindle a brighter flame.
Strengthen our determination to follow where you lead and renew our energy to serve in Jesus’ name.
Friends, believe the good news of the gospel. By grace, we are forgiven and set free to find new life in Christ. Thanks be to God!
Readings – Genesis 17: 1-7.15-16
Mark 8: 31-8
Hymn 402 – Take up thy cross
Loving God as you revealed yourself to Abraham in ancient days, reveal yourself to us in this present age. Make us into a faithful people ready to believe your promises. May we never be ashamed to take up our cross and follow you wherever you will lead us. Amen
As you might expect, I have a number of crosses in my house. There is a Palm cross from the cathedral in Alexandria, which I bought just hours before it was bombed. I also have a wooden cross made by a refugee from Eritrea and a more decorative cross from a monastery in Egypt. I did have an Iona Cross, but must have given it away at some point. Some people have crosses they can hold in their hand; others have crosses they can wear round their necks. In fact, it rather became a fashion statement to wear a cross or even have a cross tattooed on your arm, and not necessarily for any religious significance.
Of course, the cross has immense significance for us as Christians – Jesus died on the cross. But for people like the disciples living in 1st century Palestine, the cross was something to be feared. It was a gruesome symbol of execution; a thing of pain and shame and torture, a thing of death. And so when Jesus told the disciples to take up their cross and follow him, he was saying something profoundly shocking.
Peter had been having his day in the sun. Jesus had asked them who people said he was, and Peter had replied, ‘the Messiah’ – the right answer. He was pleased with himself, top of the class! But it didn’t last, for when Jesus told them that, as the Messiah, he must suffer and die, Peter remonstrated with him. ‘Everything is fine, the people love you. What is all this talk of death?’ But Jesus put him firmly in his place and said that whoever wanted to follow him, must deny themselves and take up their cross. In other words, to be a follower of Christ would not always be easy, for it means a life of total service, as the Queen talked about earlier this week. There are no half-hearted measures. There would be many challenges but the disciples needed to learn to trust in God.
‘We all have our crosses to bear’ is a common phrase. Sometimes it refers to a long-term illness or to a neighbour or even a family member. It should be said quite strongly, however, that God doesn’t want any of us to suffer or be in abusive situations. But as human beings we can find ourselves in such situations, but can be given the inner resources to cope and even be strengthened.
Earlier in the week I read an article about one of the Chibok girls. 270 mainly Christian students were kidnapped from Chibok boarding school in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Many are still held captive, but over the years, others escaped or were freed. Many were forced to convert to Islam, but the one I read about had refused and with her friends continued to pray and resist where she could, until ultimately she was released. In a difficult situation, she was given strength to cope – and to prevail.
In our Genesis reading, Abram and Sarai had wealth and status, but what they didn’t have was a child. God had called them to leave their home town, promising that they would be parents of a great nation. God kept repeating this promise, but nothing seemed to happen. They were getting older, and took matters into their own hands, and Abraham had a son, Ishmael, by Sarai’s maid. In Chapter 17 God repeats the promise, and as a sign the promise would be kept, their names were changed to Sarah and Abraham. They had to learn to trust in God – and with the birth of Isaac, God fulfilled the promise.
We are called into God’s service. It is a high privilege, but it is never an easy ride— and that is something to remember as the church finds itself in a new phase of its collective life, as restrictions are hopefully eased. But in all things, we put our trust in God and in God’s promises.
Hymn 180 – Give thanks
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Lord Jesus, you challenge all your followers to give like you did, without counting the cost. Receive our gifts and bless them so that they may continue your ministry of healing in this hurting world. Bless us with your courage, so our lives speak to others of our love for you and for them.
Loving God, we thank you for the vision you have for our lives, the promises you have made to us,
and the journey you open before us.
Today we remember with gratitude:
The ways our lives are held secure in uncertain times by our trust in you;
Moments in these months of pandemic that made us laugh or smile;
Moments when we felt your gifts of courage and patience;
The people who love us and give us encouragement;
Gracious God, we are grateful for all these signs of your love in our lives. Thank you for the hope they bring us. Show us how to share this hope and love with others who are struggling in these difficult days.
Faithful God, we pray for healing and restoration in the world
We pray for people, places and situations deeply in need of your grace, especially as they face the fears and frustrations of coping with COVID-19;
We pray for those who struggle to feed, clothe or house themselves and their families, and all those who worry about their economic future.
We pray for the earth and its well-being, that areas and species under threat will be cared for;
We pray for peace with justice in regions of the world facing turmoil:
And we pray for all those offering leadership and service in these times of hope and anxiety;
for those planning how to offer vaccines in our community, and for those uncertain about vaccination.
May we be mindful of countries yet to begin vaccination, and countries who cannot afford the vaccines, and we ask that governments would enable fair distribution.
When we begin to emerge from crisis,
may we work to build a better world where the poorest are protected.
O Christ, the Master Carpenter, who at the last through wood and nails purchased our whole salvation; wield well your tools in the workshop of your world, so that we who come rough-hewn to your work bench may be fashioned to a truer beauty by your hand. Amen.
Hymn 167 – Guide me, O thou great Jehovah
Go in peace to walk the Way of Christ, sharing the Messiah’s good news, prepared to take up your cross, and to be God’s people, and may the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, be with you and those whom you love and those we are called to love, for evermore. Amen