Material for Worship on the First Sunday in Lent

Today Rev. Jeanette Allan leads our worship for the first Sunday in Lent.

Today Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent. However, did it arrive so soon? I know Lent is early this year, but! Just to convince ourselves that we really are in Lent let’s read the words whilst David plays ‘Forty days and forty nights.’

Forty days and forty nights
Thou wast fasting in the wild;
forty days and forty nights,
tempted still, yet undefiled.

Sunbeams scorching all the day,
chilly dew-drops nightly shed,
prowling beasts about thy way,
stones your pillow, earth thy bed.

Shall not we thy sorrows share,
and from earthly joys abstain,
fasting with unceasing prayer,
glad with thee to suffer pain.

And if Satan, vexing sore,
flesh or spirit should assail,
thou, his vanquisher before,
grant we may not faint nor fail.

So shall we have peace divine;
holier gladness, ours shall be:
round us too shall angels shine,
such as ministered to thee.

Keep, O keep us, Saviour dear,
ever constant by thy side,
that with thee we may appear
at the eternal Eastertide.

So that’s conclusive, we are in Lent, but what does that mean to us in the lockdown in which we are living, even if there is hope on the horizon? Well, I heard of a community in Eire whose Lenten discipline this year was for everyone to take a dip however short, in the sea every day. I struggled with that one a bit, it’s certainly a discipline, but to what purpose? Just to prove you can do it? If the sea dippers were sponsored, raising money for a good cause, then at least someone benefits. So, what is Lent really about, well, historically it was a time when new Christians prepared for their Baptism at the Easter Vigil; for medieval monks and nuns it was the great fast when their diet was even more limited than usual, in preparation for the great Festival of the Resurrection at Easter; but what is it for us now in 2021 in the middle of a pandemic? We are already restricted in what we can do in our world. Which could be a good thing as that actually makes more room for what we can do in Lent, which could be a variety of things like reassessing our relationship with God and asking to be shown how we can draw closer to our Creator and the Source of our being; asking God’s help to discern how we are failing in our discipleship, and what we can do about it. Psalm 25 puts it very well and could well become a daily prayer during Lent. It makes it clear just how much we owe all we have and are to God’s love and mercy, and how we can live our lives more closely tuned with our Creator.

Let’s listen as Anthony reads us Psalm 25 v. 1-10

Being in Scotland we can’t ignore the Scottish Psalter with its metrical Psalms so, as David plays let’s read the words of the metrical version.

Lord, teach me all your ways,
reveal your paths to me;
and lead me in your saving
truth show me what I should be.

Remember, Lord your love,
your care from ages past;
and in that love remember me,
in kindness hold me fast.

Forget my youthful faults,
forgive my sinful ways;
within the kindness of your love
remember me always.

God who is just and good,
shows all who sin his way;
he leads the humble in right paths,
their teacher day by day.

All pathways of the Lord
are kindly, true and sure
to those who keep his covenant
and in his ways endure.

Both those put things quite clearly, you are free to choose your favourite. Nerys has already given us examples of Lenten literature we might find helpful. Let’s face it, none of us are perfect, nor will we ever be we could all do with a bit of a wash and brush up now and again and Lent can be the ideal time, a time when we can not only have our rough edges smoothed by God’s forgiveness, but also bathe in the wonder of God’s love and mercy and learn how to live more truly as the body of Christ here in our world. What special task does God have for you?

Let’s listen now as Morag reads the Gospel for us. Mark 1: 9-15

Whenever I read this passage I am always struck forcibly by the juxtaposition, of God’s commendation of Jesus “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased” with what happens next. ‘And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the

If any of us had just the vestige of a notion that because we are disciples of Jesus life should go well for us, and we should go through life comfortable and happy, get such a notion knocked completely into a cocked hat by what happens to Jesus, both in the wilderness and on the cross. We follow the one who said, “Take up your Cross and follow me”. No way are we to expect no difficulties in our lives. What we are to expect is that whatever does happen to us in our lives we will never have to face it alone. God’s love, comfort, forgiveness, and strength will be there for us every step of the way, for as long as it takes.

So let us pray:

Come Jesus, do not smile and say
you are already with us.
Millions do not know you, and to those of us who do,
what is the difference?
What is the point of your presence if our lives do not alter?
Change our lives, shatter our complacency,
Make your word our life’s purpose,
Take away the quietness of a clear conscience.
Press us uncomfortably.
For only thus that other peace is made,
your peace. [Dom Helder, Brazil]

For our incapacity to feel the sufferings of others,
and our tendency to live comfortably with injustice.
God forgive us.

For the self-righteousness which denies guilt,
and the self-interest which strangles compassion.
God forgive us.

For those who live their lives in careless unconcern,
who cry “Peace, peace” when there is no peace,
We ask your mercy.

For our failings in community,
our lack of understanding.
We ask your mercy.

For our lack of forgiveness, openness sensitivity
God forgive us.

For the times we were too eager to be better than others,
when we were too rushed to care,
when we were too tired to bother,
when we don’t really listen,
when we are too quick to act from motives other than love.
God forgive us.
[Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness South Africa]

As we conclude our time of worship together let’s Listen to David play the tune as we read the words of Timothy Dudley Smith’s hymn.

Above the voices of the world around me,
my hopes and dreams, my cares and loves and fears,
the long-awaited call of Christ has found me,
the voice of Jesus echoes in my ears:

I gave my life to break the cords that bind you,
I rose from death to set your spirit free;
turn from your sins and put the past behind you,
take up your cross and come and follow me.’

What can I offer him who calls me to him?
Only the wastes of sin and self and shame;
a mind confused, a heart that never knew him,
a tongue unskilled at naming Jesus’ Name.

Yet at your call, and hungry for your blessing,
drawn by that cross which moves a heart of stone,
now Lord I come, my tale of sin confessing,
and in repentance turn to you alone.

Lord, I believe; help now my unbelieving;
I come in faith because your promise stands.
Your word of pardon and of peace receiving,
all that I am I place within your hands.
Let me become what you shall choose to make me,
freed from the guilt and burden of my sins.
Jesus is mine, who never shall forsake me,
and in his love my new-born life begins.