God of our days and years
We set this time apart for you.
Form us in the likeness of Christ
So that our lives may glorify you
Whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
And was tempted as we are, yet without sin
Give us grace to discipline ourselves0 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.
In these difficult times when we can feel we are on our own read some comfortable
Words from Isaiah 40
27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not faint.
In todays reading from Mark’s gospel we read how Jesus was baptised in the wilderness and then driven by the Holy Spirit to spend time in the wilderness. As you listened to the gospel I wonder what images the word wilderness brought to mind.
Jesus is by no means the only person mentioned in the bible who was taken by God into the wilderness , Hagar and Ishmael , Moses, the Israelite slaves fleeing Egypt , Elijah, David ,Jeremiah to name a few. In the Bible the wilderness is a place of intense experiences, it can be a safe hiding place, a place of danger , a place of stark need for food and water. a place of being forced to wait on the Lord to find God’s peace and joy in the midst of trouble. Primarily it is a place of transformation for the glory of God ,of growing in ones relationship with God and trusting that the stressful situation is always under the hand of God . and so the wilderness becomes a place of divine deliverance.
“wilderness” occur nearly 300 times in the Bible. However, there is no single Hebrew word that equates to the English word wilderness. Instead the Hebrew words describe the landscape. Hence the wilderness could be a seemingly endless expanse of scrubby grassland like a huge wild field where domestic animals might be grazed but wild animals also lived .It might be land that has become neglected uncultivated seemingly uninhabited , it could have water or it could described as without water, it might be a barren desert land. The key thing about wilderness is that it is a lonely place where the usual necessities, comforts and distractions of life are not available.. Indeed the Greek word in Mark’s Gospel that is translated as wilderness is in fact an isolated place. The Holy Spirit drove Jesus into isolation.
Being driven into isolation is something that the world has come to experience in the last 12 months. We now have a real understanding of what it means to have many of the normal distractions and comforts of life removed from us . Many people who have lost their livelihoods are experiencing a stark need for food. To protect themselves from the virus Millions have undergone the strain of solitary confinement and isolation from family and friends. Thousands have experienced the pain and anguish of not being able to comfort sick loved ones or grieve their passing in the bosom of their wider family. Things that we once thought of as essential in our lives have had to be laid to one side. For the first time in a generation those of us living in industrial nations have collectively had to acknowledge the uncertainty of tomorrow and confront the reality of our own mortality . All of us in different ways and in different places are undergoing our own wilderness experience. Although sadly modern technology may still be drowning out the voice of God.
So as a follower of Christ how have you found waiting on God. What has enabled you to find God’s peace and joy in the midst of this pandemic.? Have you been able to accept that this stressful situation is always under the hand of God?. Can you find comfort in the words of Isaiah 40 which tell us that when we face a difficult task and an impossible tomorrow we need to remind ourselves of the greatness of God, and that will help us to see things in their proper perspective. The way may not be easy but if we are truly trusting God it will be easier.
Speaking personally and honestly my answer to those questions is not at first. For several months I was angry with God for the things I was experiencing, I genuinely struggled with my faith. It was recognising answers to prayer and seeing what God was doing in peoples lives along with accepting that no one person can affect the situation least of all me that allowed me to leave things in God’s hands and gradually brought me peace.
It is also helpful to remember that God has always been present with his people when he has sent them into the wilderness and he has always led them out empowered to work for his glory. Mark tells us that Jesus was not alone in the wilderness he was led by the Spirit and sustained by angels as he confronted Satan and lived among wild animals. After enduring isolation and over coming the temptations he faced, temptations which reflected the controversy and antagonism that his ministry would be met with Jesus emerged from isolation and proclaimed that” the time promised by God has come at last. the kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the good news.” Today people tend to understand the word kingdom to mean a place or a time when God will rule, the kingdom of God is often seen as synonymous to heaven. However, in Jesus time kingdom of God meant God ruling so Jesus was declaring that the rule of God is here, it’s near it’s available now to those who want to accept it. This is the good news that we have to share. God’s gift when facing difficult times and an impossible tomorrow is hope, the conquest of evil and death . During Lent we prepare ourselves for celebrating Resurrection Sunday by studying the bible but we rarely share with others the amazing hope that we have in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At Christmas we go out of our way to tell the story of Christ’s birth, angel bombing ,Carol’s in the pubs, Christmas tree festivals, special carol services all put on during advent. But it is Christ’s passion and resurrection that give us hope yet we seem reluctant to share that story with others in the run up to Resurrection Sunday. Lent is seen as a time of personal reflection. Surprisingly in this post modern age people are somewhat mystified by the fact that Christian’s are so reluctant to talk about our faith. If it is so important to us why are we so scared of sharing it with others. Especially when large numbers of adults don’t know the story of Christ’s Passion. Haannah Steele tells of her aunt when buying a small crucifix being asked by the assistant do you want a plain one or one with the little man on.
Christian’s are not called to look inwards , we are called to look outwards and share the good news and hope that Christ brings.
During his ministry Jesus was particularly concerned for those in need , not just spiritual need. Though meeting their physical need often led to a spiritual rebirth. Right now after a year of experiencing time in their own wilderness , there are countless numbers of people in real need not just spiritual need. As Christian’s if we have experienced and know God is with us and Christ is present in suffering then wherever and when ever possible we should try to be present with people and meet their need .Right now We have the common experience of isolation a connection point with people who do not belong to the church. Out of real concern for our neighbours we should be making efforts to genuinely engage with them, offering practical assistance if it is needed ,prayer if it is accepted including hope in the face of fatal illness and also saying something of our personal experience over the last 12 months including how our relationship with God has sustained us. Simple honest examples of an experience , not preaching, not the whole gospel or our life story. We should do these things out of love for our neighbour not simply to win concerts, and because the Holy Spirit operates through us in spite of us it will be easier than we think.
My experience is people are only too keen to tell others that they have had the vaccine or how to book a vaccine. Indeed a young neighbour of ours contacted us by text last Sunday evening to tell us we could book a vaccine on line. We duly made an appointment and had our vaccine on Wednesday. Christians have news which brings hope to a world facing an uncertain future f. News which is more powerful than a vaccine , news that the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has brought about for us the ultimate conquest of evil and death. Because of the price paid by Jesus God loves us despite the way we are.. This is the Good news which we will celebrate in 6 weeks time. Are we as eager to tell others this good news t as we are to spread news of the vaccine.
When God led his people out of the wilderness they were empowered to bring him glory. How has Gods presence with you over the last year in the wilderness comforted you and brought you closer to Him .Do you trust that the Holy Spirit will empower you to tell others of what the promise of new and eternal life through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection means to you. After all the time promised by God has come . the kingdom of God is near! Repent and Believe the good news
Could you tell someone how and why you came to believe in Jesus Christ in no more than 1 minute.
Prayers of Intercession
We give thanks for all goodness you bestow in our lives.
We pray for peace, justice and reconciliation throughout the world. We pray for the relief of the oppressed and the honouring of human rights.
We pray for the leaders of the nations that they will work together and donate vaccines to the poorer nations and bring relief to the hungry
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer
We pray for this local community
We give thanks for human skill and creativity,
for human love and friendship and for all that
enriches our daily lives.
We lift to you all people in their daily life and work.
We pray for the young and the elderly,
for families, and all who are alone.
We pray for those who are in need;
for the sick, sorrowful and bereaved.
We give thanks for all who bring comfort, care and healing
and pray Lord that you will uphold and strengthen them in their work
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer
Living God ,We thank you for the gift of your word
We pray for your church
Jesus calls his followers to seek first your Kingdom.
Renew us as we make your love known;
Release us to share freely together in mission;
and Rejuvenate us to be fruitful in your service.
Give us courage, wisdom and compassion,
that strengthened with the grace of the Holy Spirit,
we may, as the Diocese of Sheffield,
both flourish and grow .
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer
Thank you Lord that by your wounds we are healed. Thank you that because of your huge sacrifice we can live free. Thank you that sin and death have been conquered, and that your Power is everlasting. Draw us closer to your heart, that we might know you better and understand you more completely. May we bring you glory in lent. By your Spirit help us to bring hope and support to those in need. May our actions reflect our hearts, and may we worship you through all that we say and do throughout the weeks to come.
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of Your Son our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
The love of God
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us all, now and for evermore
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”