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United Reformed Church Daily Devotions Worship for 21st February 2021
First Sunday of Lent – The Rev’d Samuel Cyuma
Good morning and welcome to worship. My name is Samuel Cyuma, minister at Christ Church Wickford, in South Essex. I am originally from Rwanda; I hope you will cope with my accent and enjoy today’s worship. Christ Church Wickford is a Local Ecumenical Partnership (a union of Methodist and United Reformed Churches). Wickford had been described as a farming area, situated between Southend and Basildon. It has seen recent transformations: including new estates, which make it a dormitory for London. This service is the first from the series of Sundays in Lent.
Call to Worship
People of God, on this wilderness journey, what will you eat? The word of the Lord is our daily bread. People of God, in this time of temptation, how will you live? Our faith is in the faithfulness of God. People of God, at this kingdom crossroad, whom will you serve? We worship the Lord our God alone.
Opening HymnCome, let us join our cheerful songs Isaac Watts
Come, let us join our cheerful songs with angels round the throne; ten thousand thousand are their tongues, but all their joys are one.
2 ‘Worthy the Lamb that died,’ they cry, ‘to be exalted thus’; ‘Worthy the Lamb,’ our lips reply, ‘for he was slain for us.’
3 Jesus is worthy to receive honour and power divine; and blessings, more than we can give, be, Lord, for ever thine.
4 Let all that dwell above the sky, and air, and earth, and seas, conspire to lift thy glories high, and speak thine endless praise.
5 The whole creation joins in one to bless the sacred name of him that sits upon the throne, and to adore the Lamb.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
God of the journey, your invitation is to all, to walk with you without fear of stumbling. Your arm is enough to secure the weakest soul. Your grace rescues us, should we fall. So Lord, grant us faith enough to take you at your word, to know that when our hearts are heavy, and the destination seems so distant, that you are there with us along the road.
Forgive us those times when we doubt your Word, when we awake and feel alone. Above all, draw us ever closer into your family, that we might know your presence, and sing your praises, all the days of our lives. God of justice, in baptism you anointed us to live boldly in the reality of your coming kingdom. We confess that we have not fulfilled our calling. We have not used your power to serve our neighbours. We have walked away from oppression and injustice. We have turned our backs on your beloved children who hunger and thirst in a world of plenty. Forgive us, Lord, and make us courageous servants of your justice, peace and fullness, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Friends, believe the Good News of the Gospel: In Jesus Christ you are forgiven!
(All) Thanks be to God.
As our saviour taught us, so we pray: Our Father….
A Prayer of Illumination
God of inspiration, break into the wilderness of our lives – the uncertainty, the confusion, and the distractions from your Word with a moment of clarity, grace and understanding that encourages us, and moulds us through your Word and by your Spirit in Christ’s image. Amen.
Genesis 9:8-17 (NIV)
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you – the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you – every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
St Mark 1:9-15 (NIV)
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water; he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Hymn Spirit of the living God Daniel Iversion (1890-1972)
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me! Mould me! Fill me! Use me! Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Most traditions test their young people before they are admitted to adulthood. There is a process or tests undertaken – rites of passage – to move from childhood to adulthood. This may lead also to get married. Jesus underwent some of rites, and many more than our time requires.
In Africa, the most common test for a young man to be admitted to adulthood includes: going to the forest, to hunt and kill a dangerous animal, such as a buffalo. After that, he is promoted to the upper status: the adulthood. At this time, he is deemed to be mature enough, and is allowed a seat among adults. Most Asian contexts require the young to fight with a bull for a number of times, to prove that he can hold it and neutralizing it. Observers decide whether or not he has made it, for his maturity to be recognized. The processes above prove one’s courage: bravery and ability defend themselves and theirs.
In my country, a young man who wants to get married is required to grow a considerable number of banana trees, show to elders a field of sweat potatoes and some bags of sorghum and beans. This test proves a hard working character. Otherwise, you don’t deserve one’s daughter for marriage. For you won’t be able to feed and protect your wife and children. I hope that you will share with me the process from your context that promotes young people to adulthood.
As a whole, responding effectively to these tests (conditions) satisfies the family’s elders, parents, uncles, aunts and neighbours that the young is mature enough (able) to care for his future family. Then, the whole family is proud of their boy. Girls undergo parallel, but different tests. Some countries that promote such practices often require additional tests of morality, such as passing through corridors of temptations: where numerous, and precious objects are displayed, including money, gold, jewellery etc. This is mainly a test for one’s self-control and honesty, which are very important virtues that enhance good relations with other peoples: relatives, friends and neighbours.
Today’s lesson from Genesis 9 (8-17) indicates that Noah survived tests of faith through the flood for 40 days. In so doing, he proved that he deserved the salvation. Led by God, Noah’s action benefited his family: his wife, his sons and his sons’ wives, their children and one sample from each creature (male and female). Noah went through the process in the flood; it was a symbol of baptism. This was an example of what can baptism fulfil and the resulting hope of life after misery. We should note, however, that Noah demonstrated remarkable obedience to God as a mark of great faith. The passage through tests was frequent in the Old Testament. Indeed, not all were of cultural nature. But, like the flood, most of those tests and rites fulfilled God’s will, which was required from all believers. Many people’s experience in the New Testament refers to tests too. The Gospel shows that even Jesus went through Jewish rites of passage. He was presented in the Temple as a child; he visited the Temple of Jerusalem yearly; he regularly attended the synagogue, observed the Sabbath, etc. These prove that he was a very good Jew. So much so his faithfulness to the religion of his parents was evident. Thus, he grew steadily in status, maturity and faith.
Besides cultural rites, the lesson from Mark 1 (12-13) shows clearly that led by God’s Spirit, Jesus underwent steadily other rites – now Christian practices, – and tests, leaving us moral legacy of teaching and baptism, repentance and prayer. While Jesus’ Baptism was a sign of entry into the community on earth, our baptism is an entry into the community of God’s people. The baptism of Christ was initiated and filled by God’s Spirit, showing that he was God’s beloved Son. Still, he was put under the test of maturity for 40 days and 40 nights, tempted by the Devil: through hunger, and questions, and distorted teaching. Overcoming those tests proved his readiness to perform his ministry on earth, and to face the worse cruelties on the Cross.
Through Lent, we imitate the journey above that Christ made, we follow in his footsteps, so that we, too led by the Holy Spirit we overcome sins and temptations, and display signs of growth or maturity of faith in God. So, we learn more and more from Christ path. Each year, our journey starts from Ash Wednesday, which launches penance, provides more chance for maturing, and cleansing of defections. We entered God’s kingdom through Baptism and followed Christ in other processes.
Through Lent, we embark afresh on a journey after Christ’, with clarity, truth and hope for perfection. Thus, Lent is our turn, a window to verify our faith and check signs of our closeness to God.
Dear friends, while we still bear the impacts of Covid, journeying effectively through this Lent will show the degree of our readiness and wisdom to face even further hardship with courage, hope and faith in God, as Christ did. Therefore, do not miss the point; do not miss this window to grow your faith and to clear away stubborn or recurring facts of sin. I encourage you to use more effectively this period of Lent: to express your steady eagerness to repent, to increase the faith, through reading God’s Word, worship and prayers; in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hymn On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry Charles Coffin; Translator: John Chandler.
On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry announces that the Lord is nigh; awake and hearken for he brings glad tidings of the King of kings.
2: Then cleansed be ev’ry soul from sin; make straight the way of God within, prepare we in our hearts a home, where such a mighty guest may come.
For thou art our salvation, Lord, our refuge and our sure reward. Shine forth, then, let thy light bestow our souls to heav’nly grace once more.
All praise, eternal Son, to thee whose advent set thy people free, whom, with the Father, we adore and Holy Spirit evermore.
Affirmation of Faith
As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world— which some seek to control, but which others view with despair— we declare with joy and trust: our world belongs to God!
From the beginning, through all the crises of our times, until His Kingdom fully comes, God keeps covenant forever. our world belongs to God!
We rejoice in the goodness of God, renounce the works of darkness, and dedicate ourselves to holy living, for our world belongs to God!
As committed disciples, called to faithful obedience, and set free for joyful praise, we offer our hearts and lives to do God’s work in his world, for our world belongs to God!
With tempered impatience, eager to see injustice ended, we expect the Day of the Lord. And we are confident that the light which shines in the present darkness will fill the earth when Christ appears for our World belongs to God!
Dear Father, in this season of learning and repentance, growth and healing, we accept your Son’s invitation to be ever-mindful of the needs of others, offering our prayers on behalf of the community he loved in the church and the world.
So Lord, fill us with your strength to resist the seductions of our foolish desires and the tempter’s vain delights, that we may walk in obedience and righteousness, rejoicing in you with upright hearts.
We pray for all those whose lives are affected by illness, including the current pandemic that your healing power surrounds them, so that they recover and praise your holy name.
We pray for the whole world, tented by all forms of sin and conflict, greed for power and wealth that they discover your call to go on loving and serving, as we pray in your holy name. Amen.
As we give our offering, we remember the words from the Scripture that: “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9)
Lord, we give you thanks, with all our hearts and minds, for you have provided everything we need in your steadfast love. We give these offerings as an appreciation for your great faithfulness, and praise for your holy name. Amen.
Hymn Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us James Edmeston (1821)
Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us o’er the world’s tempestuous sea; guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us, for we have no help but thee; yet possessing every blessing, if our God our Father be.
2 Saviour, breathe forgiveness o’er us: all our weakness thou dost know; thou didst tread this earth before us, thou didst feel its keenest woe; lone and dreary, faint and weary, through the desert thou didst go.
3 Spirit of our God, descending, fill our hearts with heavenly joy, love with every passion blending, pleasure that can never cloy: thus provided, pardoned, guided, nothing can our peace destroy.
Lord Jesus Christ, send us into the world with confidence in your word, to tell all those we meet of your saving acts, and bring glory to your holy name. Amen.
Call to worship from Feasting on the Word Affirmation of Faith taken from Stanzas 1 and 2 of Our World Belongs to God – a contemporary testimony of faith available in the worship edition of the Psalter Hymnal of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC Publications, 1987; 1-800-333-8300; www.FaithAliveResources.org).
Opening/Closing Organ Pieces
Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland (“Now the Gentile saviour comes”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020) Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016)
Thanks to Pam Carpenter, Mairi Macdonald, John Wilcox, Anne Hewling, Marion Thomas and Ray Fraser for reading various spoken parts of the service.
Thanks to Barrhead URC choir for the Call to Worship and Affirmations.
Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776, Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved. PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762