Sunday Service Sheet – 28th February 2021
Call: Through the psalmist, God says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God!’ Let us come into God’s presence and still our hearts. Let us come together to listen to God. Let us be still, and know that God is indeed God. Openly come to revere the Lord, to praise and worship him. Let our hearts rejoice with everlasting joy. Amen.
Psalms 22:23 – 31
Prayer: Holy God, we come from our lockdown lives. We often forget that you walk with us. As we gather now virtually, help us to be more aware of who you are. Give us the courage to admit when we don’t understand, so that we might grow more like you in all we do. Amen.
Hymn: Be still for the presence of the Lord StF 20/not in R&S
The Roots material introduces today’s message with the following reflection. “Jesus is telling his disciples a difficult truth about what will happen to him in his death and resurrection, but Peter finds it hard to take, and argues with Jesus. Jesus sets out that God’s ways are different from human nature: we must forget about our earthly desires and follow Jesus.
Sometimes it can be hard to accept a difficult truth. We might wonder if there have been times when we have had to receive a difficult truth. How did we react? How might we have responded if we had been in Peter’s shoes?”
This material is prepared before the Government announces the roadmap to relaxing restrictions. It will be a sign of hope that people can begin to relate physically with each other again, but it will also begin the painful process, for some, to the growing realisation that lockdown is the life they live Covid or no Covid. Our challenge is to recognise how the Church can speak into loneliness and isolation when there are no restrictions that require it. May the Lord guide us to be more aware and thoughtful to those who are forgotten.
Prayer: Forgive us when we fail to act as you do, Lord. When we use words of retaliation, insincerity and malice: forgive us when we act towards others in this way, Lord. Overwhelmed by complex relationships and rocky paths: forgive us for not setting our minds on you and your ways. Fear of rejection and wary of being our true selves: forgive us and help us to give of ourselves as you give. Forgive us, Lord, for our failure to trust you; for not allowing you to be in the driving seat. Lord of covenant relationship, lead us and help us to live your way. Jesus was handed over to be crucified because of our sins. He died and rose again to make us right with God. Through him we are forgiven. Let us follow the Lord our God, giving our lives as he gave his for us. Amen.
God of past, present and future, keeper of promises:
Son of Man, the way, the truth and the life, loving despite rejection:
Holy Spirit, living Power within, helping, guiding, testing and transforming: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, your unique relationship open to us: How we love you. Amen.
God, we thank you for our relationships.
For spouses. For family. For children. For parents.
For friends. For brothers and sisters in Christ.
Lord God, we thank you for all our relationships. For the good times and the rocky times. We pray for all those we know and love especially those who don’t know what it is to know you. Thank you that when we follow your leading, you give us the strength and confidence to share without fear. Thank you that we can stand in faith as Abraham did,
setting our minds on you and trusting in your timing and promises always. And when something gets the better of us, and we forget about you, thank you for never giving up on us. Amen.
Hymn: At the name of Jesus StF 317/R&S 261
Readings: Genesis 11:1 – 7, 15 – 16
Mark 8:31 – 38
Sermon: The passage is located in the middle of a private conversation between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus has just acknowledged that he is the Messiah, the anointed king through whom God will deliver God’s people. But now Jesus lays it out plainly. He says clearly that he must undergo rejection, suffering, and death. It is precisely for this reason that his followers will take up crosses and lose their lives. Jesus will rise again, but the hard truth is that the road to messianic glory runs through Golgotha. The disciples are following Jesus to a cross. Jesus ‘must’ go to the cross in order to affect a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus dies because powerful humans oppose both his healing mission and, more specifically, the disruption that mission brings to established law and order. So the message of Mark 8:31 is not that Jesus’ mission is to die, but that his faithfulness to God’s mission will inevitably result in his death.
It is not hard to see why Peter so quickly “rebukes” Jesus’ prediction. Interestingly, Peter does seem to understand something vital, namely that his own vocational future is wrapped up in, and defined by, the mission of Jesus. Dick France writes, “When the disciples first responded to Jesus ‘follow me’ they can have had no idea of what this new commitment might involve, but now it is becoming painfully clear that they have joined not a triumphal precession but a funeral cortege. To follow a martyr Messiah is to accept the risk of martyrdom.” Roots has entitled this week’s material as Rocky Relationships, and Peter’s reaction is far more rocky than a rock, the difference between a solid and a faltering foundation.
Jesus and Peter are an example of how open disagreement can lead to a place of understanding one another. Jesus is trying to teach the disciples that the kind of Messiah that they have in mind isn’t quite right. They still seem to think that Jesus is going to be powerful and conquer the world. Jesus wants to show them that he’s going to appear to do the opposite: he will be rejected, suffer and die. Jesus seems to have created an atmosphere among his friends where they weren’t afraid.
Peter is quite confident in his contradiction of Jesus. And Jesus is comfortable to disagree with Peter very strongly. Peter is not kicked out of the group or rejected. In fact just a few verses further in chapter 9, we read that Jesus chooses Peter with James and John for a special experience.
If we are to grow as people of faith, we need to be able to create an environment where we feel safe enough to question and sometimes disagree but know we will not be rejected. Over the years The Church Universal has not been very good at debating the questions of its time. As a result there have been some very dark times in its history leading to persecutions and divisions within the body of Christ. Our task is to find ways to unite and offer to those seeking meaning in life the Good News that we have: Jesus died for us and as a result we are in restored relationship with the living God.
Prayer: As we walk into the long weeks of Lent, we travel from suffering to hope; we travel through death to new life: may your Spirit rest upon us. As we look to the example of Jesus, help us to know that you are with us though the way ahead may be hard and we so often falter and fail. strengthen us for the journey ahead, and teach us to trust in you.
pray for people who cannot afford to work from home and ask that we would
address the inequality this shows us. We
give thanks for the peace we experience, and ask that our church communities can
offer hope and safety for those in distress.
walk in separation, apart from friends and those we love: give us strength to
endure in hope. We pray especially for
all who are burdened by loneliness; for all who are in pain; for the bereaved
and the despairing; the sick and the dying: may we work to make our communities places of warmth and friendship where
all are included and each one finds a place.
As we look to the example of Jesus, who welcomed the least and the lost and
brought the overlooked into the light, may we extend our circle of belonging and
believe that you love is big enough for all to enter in.
We walk in hope for a future as the rollout of the vaccine continues across the UK, and there are signs of success in the data as death rates among over 80s fall. We give thanks for the work of the NHS as they administer vaccines to the public and manage long lists of people needing urgent surgery. May we be mindful of countries yet to begin vaccination, and countries who cannot afford the vaccines, and we ask that governments would enable fair distribution. When we begin to emerge from crisis, may we work to build a better world where the poorest are protected.
In love you made us; in love you call us; in love you lead us through this world, through sorrow and joy, until we see you face to face. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn: Lord Jesus Christ ypou have come to us StF594/R&S 373
Blessing: Everything I am Lord, and everything I do, teach me to be yours. Lord, show me when I’m wrong. You accepted all, Lord, help everyone to find the way. The blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Spirit be always with us. Amen.
The URC has also provided audio services that can be found 'here'