In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Water is one of the themes of our readings today. Water is essential for life but can also be destructive and catastrophic. The waters of the flood and the water of baptism are the opportunity for a new beginning.
At the start of this season of Lent, we remember Jesus’ words, “Repent, and believe the Good News.” Let us ask his forgiveness and mercy.
Lord Jesus, you went into the wilderness and did not give in to the temptation to abandon your mission. Lord, have mercy.
Lord, you show us that gaining power and privilege is not your way. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, you call us to repentance. Lord, have mercy.
May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
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 our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
First Reading Genesis 9:8-15: After the flood, the rainbow is described as God’s promise not to destroy the earth.
Psalm25: 4-10. Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love for those who keep your covenant
An individual prayer for guidance in the right path.
Second Reading 1 Peter 3:18-22.: St Peter reminds his readers that the Noah story now takes on a new meaning. The water of baptism is not the means of washing off dirt or destroying what is unclean, but a source of new life, a life with and in God.
Gospel Mark 1:12-1.
After his temptations in the wilderness, Jesus begins his ministry with the call to repentance.
You could say that since the fifth week of Lent last year, when we began the first lockdown, we have all been undergoing a wilderness experience, cut off from so many of the normal things of life that we have usually taken for granted. It was after his baptism in the Jordan that Jesus was driven by the Spirit for forty days (and nights) into the wilderness, - the place where no-one lived, - with the wild beasts, and ministered to by angels. Jesus’ forty days sojourn recapitulates the forty years that the Israelites spent in the desert after their liberation from slavery in Egypt, having undergone a type of baptism by crossing the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds). After their testing in the wilderness the Israelites were able to enter the ‘promised land’: Jesus after his testing begins his public ministry by restating John the Baptist’s call to repentance, “Repent and believe the good news.”
To repent means to undergo a change of mind and heart, in the first place to acknowledge that you are not as, or where, you should be, that metaphorically (and perhaps literally) you have been going in the wrong direction. So you need to turn around and perhaps make a new start.
Our first two readings use images relating to water to convey the idea of a new start. The covenant between God and Noah, made, in Genesis, after the great flood, is symbolised by the rainbow, which is itself caused by light refracting through water droplets. Through the water of baptism, referred to by Peter in his epistle letter, we are saved by a pledge of faith “made to God from a good conscience”, not from fear. This is the repentance, the change of direction, which Jesus preached – going forward with joy, knowing that the Lord is with us.
It is through the waters of baptism that we are all born-again Christians. But conversion, repentance, is not something that just happens once and that’s it. It is something that is ongoing, that needs to happen often. I think of the traditional monastic vows, (not poverty, chastity and obedience – those are traditionally known as the evangelical precepts, and are the vows that were first taken by members of the Franciscan Order). Rather: Saint Benedict (AD c480-547) was the first in the Western church to draw up a rule for monastic living: and in its wisdom that rule has been extraordinarily influential on Christian spirituality since it was first written, not least for Anglicans. And if you have not thought of any Lenten reading then let me commend the Rule of Saint Benedict* to you, for in its wisdom it is relevant to all Christians, not just monks and nuns.
One of the major values commended in the Rule is moderation, which is about achieving a proper balance in life. That is less about achieving perfect equilibrium than being like a pendulum which continuously swings back toward a central point. How are we being invited to swing back toward Christ-centeredness? What does it mean for us to learn contentment with living simply? That kind of movement toward moderation is especially important as we are faced with complex questions. It is this notion of movement that informs the Benedictine monastic vows, which are Stability, Obedience and Conversion of Life; and is enshrined in St. Benedict’s Rule.
Stability means being committed to one particular Christian community that is home, not flitting from one place or way of doing things to another as the mood takes you, but sticking with things, with people, with a community even when that becomes difficult. Obedience, not popular in our society, means recognising the spiritual authority of others, ultimately Christ; for us it means listening deeply to the voice of God in the scriptures and in prayer, but often also mediated through our human relationships and especially with those we recognise as spiritual leaders.
And so to Conversion of Life, which I linked earlier to the idea of repentance. It means being faithful and true to a single-hearted quest for God. This is not a once and for all moment, it is a life-long quest, and may involve many changes of heart. Which is why the Church has seasons, not least this season of Lent, whereby we are encouraged to take stock, and to be tested about where we place our reliance and trust, so that our heart may be re-oriented to God.
In the final chapter of his Rule, St Benedict asks: “Are you hastening towards your heavenly home?” He promises that if we persevere faithfully in our Christian vocation, eventually “we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” Surely this is the goal and purpose of all our Christian lives, a formation of the heart in the way of love.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is,
seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
See notice sheet + Her Majesty the Queen, Prayers around the Covid pandemic cases and deaths. Hopes for the vaccination programmes going forward. Brexit, Our fishing industries in Scotland & in Northern Ireland. - road haulage industries, farmers. All school communities The ‘alone’ or bereaved, or homeless at this season. Care homes. Food Banks. Combating covid in the community .’ The new U.S. Government, and people. Weather devastation in Texas. Farmers in India. - Myanmar/ Burma = freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi.
Holy, Holy, Holy, - Lord God almighty - Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us and grant us peace.
“Spiritual Communion” is recommended at any time we cannot physically receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood. It means that God gives us the grace of the sacrament in response to our real desire to receive it. This does not mean that we can get on just as well without receiving Holy Communion, but rather, if the opportunity of receiving it is denied to us for whatever reason, God will not withhold its grace and blessing from us. Here is a form of prayer we can use.
Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits you have given me, for all the pains and insults you have borne for me. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me:
Body of Christ, save me:
Blood of Christ, invigorate me:
Water from the side of Christ, wash me:
Passion of Christ, strengthen me:
Cross of Jesus, protect me:
Good Jesu, hear me:
Within your wounds, hide me:
Never let me be separated from you:
From the deadly enemy, defend me:
In the hour of my death call me
and bid me come to you
that with all your saints I may praise you
for ever and ever. Amen.
Father, you increase our faith and hope, you deepen our love in Spiritual Communion. Help us to live by your words and to seek Christ, our bread of life, who is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.
May the Lord, who was himself tested in the wilderness, show us the way to the Father and give us the courage to go forth with fresh commitment and courage, and may almighty God bless us, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
*There are many translations available online free of charge. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/ is one with a commentary. (Although some chapters (e.g. chapters 8-18,) would appear to be relevant only to religious communities there is much wisdom that we can all benefit from in them.)
Copyright notice: As well as my own words I have drawn on material from internet sources including websites of The Church of England and The Dominican Friars, electronic sources including those of Redemptorist Publications, and on printed sources including Days of the Lord The Liturgical Press, Minnesota and This is the word of the Lord Bible Reading Fellowship . Some Copyright material is included from Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000) and The Christian Year: Calendar, Lectionary and Collects(1997, 1998, 1999) copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.
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