Friday, 22 February 2013

Lamb of God - Sacrifice & Hope, a Journey through Lent, Part II

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT, 17th February 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. Gospel: Luke 4:1-13 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ’ Forty days and forty nights thou wast fasting in the wild; forty days and forty nights tempted, and yet undefiled. Should not we thy sorrow share and from worldly joys abstain, fasting with unceasing prayer, strong with thee to suffer pain? Then if Satan on us press, Jesus, Savior, hear our call! Victor in the wilderness, grant we may not faint or fall! So shall we have peace divine: holier gladness ours shall be; round us, too, shall angels shine, such as ministered to thee. Keep, O keep us, Savior dear, ever constant by thy side; that with thee we may appear at the eternal Eastertide. Words: George Hunt Smyttan (1822-1870) Lord Jesus, give us grace to follow you into our own wildernesses; to withstand the temptation to be less than the people our Father made us to be; to live not by bread alone, but in and through the divine love and grace that transfigures all things. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace Monday, 18th February Gospel: Matthew 25:31-end Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Reflection: We are tribal people. We look after our families and friends first. This, as Austin Farrer taught, is not selfishness, but our “learner kit” – how will we ever get the idea of love if God doesn’t give us special people to love? But the challenge is to go further than this – to welcome the stranger, and love them too. Most of us have known occasions where there was a “guest of honour”, someone not perhaps part of the tribe, but welcomed in a special way. Jesus’s challenge to us is to care for everyone in that way, because in doing so, we are caring for him. Creator God, you made us all in your image and likeness, and your kingdom is empty until all your children share it; give us courage to make all humankind our family, so that in the fullness of time, we shall be drawn together into the life of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace Tuesday, 19th, February Gospel: Matthew 6:7-15 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Reflection: Most of the time, the God revealed in the pages of Scripture makes the running – he shows us the way, and hopes we will have the wit to follow. Forgiveness, though, seems to be in a different category. Jesus teaches us that if we want to be forgiven – as surely we do – then we must set ourselves an example, by forgiving first. Forgiveness is not always an easy thing, and the gravest offences may take long years really to forgive, and maybe that is why Jesus offers us this incentive – forgive so that God will forgive you. Sometimes when we say the words, we may not at first mean them, but over time, the will to mean them can turn into the reality of true forgiveness, and then we have opened a door into the Kingdom of Heaven. Holy God, nourish forgiveness in our hearts we pray, that being forgiving, we may be forgiven, and loosed of the bonds of sin and resentment, enter into the joy of your service, which is perfect freedom; we ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace Wednesday, 20th February Gospel: Luke 11:29-32 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. Reflection: Jonah was sent to Nineveh, a city he didn’t want to go to, and commanded to preach repentance to a people he despised. He was furious when they repented, and God was pleased with them and changed his mind about the calamity he planned to send them. God’s sign to Jonah was to plant a tree for him, which shaded him from the sun, which cheered him up no end, and then for the tree to be destroyed by a worm, which made Jonah angry again. God points out that the tree wasn’t even his, but he cared about it, so why shouldn’t God care about the people of Nineveh? Sometimes our brothers and sisters around the world can seem a long way off, but God cares for them just the same, and Lent is a good time to think about whether we can spare something to help those whose need God has shown us. Father, give us open and generous hearts, to those who are near, and those who are far away; your love is infinite, we alone can limit it; let us be channels of your love, vessels of your grace, and transfigure your world, for the good of all your people. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace Thursday, 21st February Gospel: Matthew 7:7-12 ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. Reflection: “God is in his heaven, and the Tsar is a long way off”. This old Russian saying was a pretty good excuse for doing nothing – “only the powerful can change things, and we are not powerful, so let’s just put up with it”. Jesus encourages us to sacrifice such fatalism and replace it instead with hope – to ask, to search, to knock, in the hope that good things lie only just beyond us, and will come within our reach if we can just trust in God’s goodness. Lord, protect us from the bad habit of pessimism; when we fall, help us up; when we get it wrong, show us the right way; fire up our hope, that we in turn may kindle hope in others, and discover together the goodness which is your will for us. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace Friday, 22nd February, Ember Day Gospel: Matthew 5:20-26 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Reflection: The Ember days are appointed as times when we think and pray especially about those called to ministry. This does not mean only ordained ministry, but the ministry – service – that all of us have to offer to God, and to those amongst whom we live and work, from time to time. These words of Jesus remind us that unless we are reconciled to one another, we cannot be reconciled with God; that we must first offer our service to our brothers and sisters, and then to God. God isn’t snooty about second-hand things; if anything, the gift grows by being shared. Almighty and merciful God, you gave us eyes to see, and ears to hear; help us to know what we have done amiss; give us courage to admit it; and spare us time to put things right; for your love’s sake. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace Saturday, 23rd February Gospel: Matthew 5:43-end You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Reflection: Do we think very often of having enemies? The word seems rather dramatic. And yet we probably all know someone who is very good at making enemies, someone who, when questioned about it says “well, it’s their problem, not mine”. Which, of course, is a lie. And Jesus makes it quite plain that having enemies – which is what they are before you seek to love them – is most decidedly your problem. We often say our own worst enemy is ourself. Imagine what it would be like to learn to love that enemy, too! God does. Jesus, let your words from the cross “forgive them, they know not what they do”, resound in our hearts towards those who have wronged us, or wish us ill; by the light of your presence, show us the way to put an end to the cycle of hatred, and vengeance, that we may be reconciled to one another in prayer and in love, and welcomed together to that Banquet prepared for all your children. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace

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