Sunday 21st February 2021

Welcome to our joint service from Craigmillar Park and Reid Memorial parishes on this, the first Sunday of Lent. From now until Easter we turn our thoughts to the journey of Jesus to the Cross on Good Friday, and to Easter and the Resurrection.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 25: 1, 4-5):

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.

HYMN 172 Sing for God’s glory that colours the dawn of creation

(from Victoria Methodist Church, Bristol)

Prayer

God, our maker and creator,
shaper of all that is,
You set the universe in motion
yet made us each on Your image.
From greatest to smallest
all creation gives thanks
and so blesses Your holy name.

God, our sustainer and encourager,
giver of hope to all,
You give us signs of possibility,
and words to encourage us on.
From weakest to strongest
all life has a future
and so blesses Your holy name.

God, bringer of light out of dark,
forgiver of all,
You offer us a future
and set us free form our past.
To both sinner and saint,
You offer us redemption
and restore us to Your side.

Almighty God,
your Son Jesus Christ
fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are but did not 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.

With the words that Jesus taught us, let us now pray together:

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.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

Scriptures

Genesis 9:8-17
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

Mark 1: 9-15
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

HYMN 334 On Jordan’s bank the Baptist cry

(From Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, Michigan)

Reflection

On this, the first Sunday of Lent, it seems appropriate that our Bible stories speak of both separation and reunion. This time of preparation for the celebration of Easter is focussed on the story of our separation from God, and our reunion with him through Jesus. Along the way we hear of creation unmade and restored.

Today’s story of Noah begins after the Flood has receded, leaving only his family and the surviving animals to repopulate the earth. God promises that never again will the people be destroyed by flood. As a seal to this promise, God places the rainbow in the sky as a sign that he will keep his word. In this act, God is restoring creation. In the beginning God separated the waters into those above and those below; he then separated the land from the sea. Separating these created space for life to come into being. In the flood these separations were overcome, the land disappeared, and the waters re-joined. Creation is undone.

Noah sets out like a new Adam. Earlier in the story the people were commanded to go and multiply, just as were the first creation. This is recreation, and we see a pattern emerging of the way in which God acts. There is a promise made from which the people of God turn leading to punishment and destruction. Then there is a new beginning, a new promise, and a sign to accompany it. This is true not just of individuals but of peoples too. In the language of faith this is described redemption. The signs matter as they are something that may be related to and understood.

We are, perhaps, overly familiar with the story of the baptism of Jesus, to the point where it loses much of its power and impact. Traditionally this passing through water is seen as a parallel to Noah surviving the flood, and a later people crossing through the sea during the Exodus. But Jesus is also making the final preparations for his approaching ministry. The next event in his life are the wilderness and temptation experiences. The temptation is a call to turn from the path that Jesus has chosen; it is an offer of something in place of the promises of God. That is the nature of temptation. If Jesus was to give in to it, then the journey would be over and there would be no story of redemption. However, Jesus resists, his public ministry begins, and the rest of the story we know.

There is another parallel to the Genesis story. The story of Noah was about the unmaking of creation followed by its remaking. This takes place in the Gospel too. When humanity fell from God’s presence in the garden so, too, did part of creation. Man was meant to be with God however the yielding to temptation separated them. As Jesus passes through the water of Baptism on the journey to the Cross and Resurrection he is undoing the breaking of creation. Jesus is recreating the work of God in reuniting that one aspect of creation that is precisely about union.

This is the first Sunday of Lent, the period where the church prepares for the commemoration of the Cross, and the celebration of Easter. It is often perceived as a time of giving up. But it should also be a time of reparation and reunion. It should be a time where we, individually or collectively, could be seeking reunion with God. We could be engaged in the remaking of creation.
Amen.

Prayer

God,
by Your gospel You call us,
one and all,
to follow You.
You call us to love You
and so we lift ourselves in praise.
You call us to love our neighbour
and so we lift our world in prayer.

We live in a world
where people walk in darkness;
blinded by self-interest,
nationalistic pride, and ignorance.
May the peoples know the truth You share;
may we see the need of others,
may we know humility,
may we see Your light.
And so, may the world be fed,
may the world be healed,
and may the world know peace.

We live in a world
plagued by fear,
troubled by doubt,
and weighed down by despair.
May the peoples know the hope You bring;
may we see the potential of others,
may we see the possibilities they offer,
may they know lives of wonder.
And so may the world look up,
may it see the dawn of a future,
may it live in a life of love.

We call ourselves Your people,
yet struggle to know You,
struggle to love You,
struggle to live the life You give.
May we open ourselves to You;
may we feel Your Spirit giving us life,
may we feel Your love giving us meaning,
may we feel Your strength carrying us on.
And so may Your people know joy,
may Your people know hope,
may Your people live in praise of You.
Amen.

HYMN 43 O God You are my God alone (Psalm 63)

(from Ballykeel Presbyterian Church)

Benediction

Go from this time
into life’s wildernesses,
through life’s troubled waters,
and on into you redemption
in the love of God.
Amen.

Acknowledgements:
Collect for the first Sunday in Lent taken from Common Order, Third edition (amended) 2005. Copyright © Panel on Worship of the Church of Scotland 1994

English translations of Lord’s Prayer © 1988 English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC). www.englishtexts.org. Used by permission.

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.