Sunday 28 February Lent 2

This Sunday there will be a service of Morning Praise at 10am on Zoom.
The service will be led by Rev’d Rebecca Harris with Rev’d Melanie Otto preaching. After the service there will be a period of fellowship – bring your own tea and biscuits!

Please contact us for information on how to join our service or sign up to our weekly e-newsletter on this page.

Collect

Almighty God,
by the prayer and discipline of Lent
may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings,
and by following in his Way
come to share in his glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Readings

Genesis 17: 1 – 7, 15 – 16

17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

15 God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’

Photo by Taha Loukil on Unsplash

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
    and by night, but find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
    in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, and not human;
    scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
    they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
‘Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
    let him rescue the one in whom he delights!’

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
    you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
    and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls encircle me,
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs are all around me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shrivelled;
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
    O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
    stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
    the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
    but heard when I cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
    May your hearts live for ever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that he has done it.

Romans 4: 13 – end

13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17 as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’, according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’ 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ 23 Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him’, were written not for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Mark 8: 31 – end

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Reflection

Have you ever done anything and thought afterwards ‘wow I actually achieved that?’ Or maybe you planned to do something and those around you were amazed that you were even contemplating it! Captain Tom’s daughters have recounted that their dad had decided in his 99th year to walk up and down in his garden to raise £1,000 for the NHS because he felt he wanted to do something to help. I wonder when he decided on that figure whether he thought he was being a bit ambitious or whether he really thought he could achieve it? And I wonder if someone had said to him that he would go on to raise a staggering £38+ million or that he would get to meet the Queen and receive a knighthood, whether he would have believed them! Captain Tom’s age wasn’t a barrier to him – it didn’t stop him from giving himself a challenge and the outcomes were beyond his imagination.

But not everyone thinks like that. Too often people write themselves off because they feel too old; their bones are weary, or creaky, and they feel they’re past it and no-one would be interested in them anyway. Does this resonate with anyone?

In our reading, Paul commends Abraham – a very old man of faith who had been given a promise by God. Paul, not known for holding back, says that Abraham who was also almost one hundred years old, was ‘as good as dead’. Sounds quite harsh but Paul was making the point that Abraham was old and yet God had said to him that he would become the father of many nations, and that his wife Sarah who was also very old would produce his heir. Abraham didn’t doubt God’s promise and he trusted that it would come about. What faith!

But was it always like that?

No. There were times when Abraham didn’t trust God but acted out of fear. When severe famine hit Cannan and they had to travel to Egypt to look for food, he asked Sarah to pretend to be his sister because he was worried that the Egyptians would kill him if they knew she was his wife. His fear put his wife in a vulnerable position – and he acted without integrity.
There were times when doubt got in the way. When God had initially told him that he would father a son in his old age, he laughed and doubted whether such a thing could happen. But Paul commends him and says his faith didn’t weaken so how do we reconcile these two conflicting ideas? Well maybe his initial response was one of doubt – but maybe he made a decision to trust God despite his doubts? Abraham had a living relationship with God, he was in constant communication with him and therefore knew enough about God to know that he did not make empty promises. Abraham chose to believe that what God said would come to pass.

Abraham fulfilled that calling despite his age, his emotions and his circumstances. Is God calling YOU today to do something despite YOUR age and circumstances. Are your fears, anxieties doubts holding you back from stepping into the promise that God has made over your life?
Do you trust and believe that God’s promises are true and are you willing to say yes to God and allow him to bless you in ways that you can’t even imagine yet?

Captain Tom raised millions of pounds at 100 years of age and Abraham fathered a nation and became the ancestor of the King of Kings at 99. You may not be that old, but I wonder what God is going to do with YOU today?!

Rev’d Melanie Otto