Friday, 22 February 2013

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

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT, 24th February Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, that they may return to the way of righteousness: grant to all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's religion, that they may reject those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Gospel: Luke 13:31-end Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidd'st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt; fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind, yea, all I need, in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Just as I am, thou wilt receive; wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve, because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Just as I am, thy love unknown has broken every barrier down; now to be thine, yea, thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Just as I am, of that free love the breadth, length, depth, and height to prove, here for a season, then above: O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Charlotte Elliott, 1841 Jesus, you accept us as we are; may we in turn accept ourselves and one another, and be received together with all the citizens of your New Jerusalem, sheltered under the wings of your love, and your peace. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace Monday, 25th February Gospel: Luke 6:36-38 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven Reflection: Oh it all seems so simple! Don’t judge, don’t condemn, always forgive, and all shall be well. And yet how many of us have ever felt we came close to achieving this? Isn’t our first resort when something goes wrong, when others fail, or when we feel mistreated, to find someone to blame, to retaliate or punish, to bear a grudge? To let go of judging, condemning, blaming, requires grace on a heroic scale, the grace to sacrifice the selfish self. It looks impossible, but with God’s help, and Jesus showing us the way by his own example, grace takes our hand, and guides us along a better way. Almighty and everlasting God, our maker, and our judge, have mercy upon us, your children, teach us to count our own sins, and to let go of our neighbours’, so we shall be free from the bonds of sin, and know the serenity of your grace in our hearts, and in our life together. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace Tuesday, 26th February Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. Reflection: Jesus’s teaching turns earthly values on their head. We have heard much of the sense of entitlement of those who strive for power and money in our society. Humble yourself, their story says, and you will never be exalted by anyone; no, what you need is ambition, networking, your eye on that slender chance of the glittering prize your upbringing has prepared you for. But that is not Jesus’s way. He is not interested in being exalted at all – his teaching constantly points away from himself to his heavenly Father. Here is both a challenge to us, when we are smug and self-satisfied (and what a meagre thing it is to be satisfied merely with oneself!), and a consolation to us, when we feel humbled by chance, circumstance, or our own errors of judgement. God made us for glory, not to be humbled, though we will not find glory by grasping at it but by taking up our cross, and following Jesus. God, give us eyes to see and ears to hear in our brothers and sisters your image and likeness, which can never be humbled, and help us to accord to all your children the dignity and respect that is the birthright of us all. Amen. Wednesday, 27th February, George Herbert Gospel: Matthew 20:17-28 Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’ Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back, Guilty of dust and sin. But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack From my first entrance in, Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning If I lack'd anything. 'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:' Love said, 'You shall be he.' 'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear, I cannot look on Thee.' Love took my hand and smiling did reply, 'Who made the eyes but I?' 'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame Go where it doth deserve.' 'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?' 'My dear, then I will serve.' 'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.' So I did sit and eat. Loving and gracious Father, you take our hands, and smile, and serve us at the banquet. For these, and all your blessings as we travel on the Way, thank you. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace Thursday, 28th February Gospel:Luke 16:19-end Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” Reflection: Many of us fear isolation most of all. Whether through illness or age, through the loss of the senses, or fear itself, not being able to reach out to touch, to talk, to listen, and be heard, to participate, to belong, is a terrible thing. This is the power of the language here of “a great chasm”. When we walk away from God, we risk putting such distance between us and God, that no one can help us to bridge it. But the Easter story is that Jesus did bridge the chasm, he was the One who could cross the void, and carry us all on his shoulders to safety on the other side. Jesus, in the cross, you bridge life and death, heaven and earth, God and humankind; help us to use that cross as a bridge, your example to carry others over from lostness to blessedness. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace Friday, 1st March, St David Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43 & 45-46 (v.44 omitted by some ancient authorities) Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. Reflection: One could be forgiven for hoping not to hear about “productivity” in the Bible, but, alas, God gives us his blessings freely, and he intends that they be used for the good of all, not hogged for the luxury of the few. When we find ourselves in a good place, we are not to put up gates to keep others out, but to throw them wide, and beckon others in. Yes, it won’t be our own private possession any longer, but it will be something far more valuable – a treasure shared. Father, purge us of selfishness and possessiveness and guide us in the way of generosity and sharing; let us not only be scandalised by want, in this world of plenty, but galvanised to do for others what you have done for us. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, who gave his own life that we might have life more abundant. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace Saturday, 2nd March, Saint Chad & Ember Day Gospel: Luke 15:1-3 & 11-end Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them”. Reflection They say you can judge people by the company you keep, and clearly when the Pharisees and scribes saw the people Jesus was hanging out with, teaching, answering questions, and sharing their hospitality, they thought he must be a pretty dodgy character himself. What would God think of the company we keep? And the company we don’t? From self-righteousness, from fear of those who are different, from thinking ourselves better than others, from caring what others think, from preferring image to reality, good Lord, deliver us. Amen. Kyries, Lord’s Prayer, Grace

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