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                    St Clement Church Community Third Sunday in Lent Service

                          

Good morning, Everyone

As we gather together this morning, whether in church or at home, we continue to remember and pray for Ukraine and its people. We also give thanks for the release and safe arrival in this country of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori so long held captive in Iran … a ray of light in dark times.With love                                                                                                                                                          Liz                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Let us pray

Eternal God, you are our Rock, you are the firm foundation for everything we   train your people to carry out the good works you have prepared for us in advance. As we meet today, we ask that you would provide wisdom, guidance and direction. Remind us that you are our loving ally, you are our fortress, you are our tower of strength and you are our rescuer. Everything we need is found in you. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen

Hymn:  484 The Church’s one foundation – omitting v.3

 A prayer of Penitence

Dear Father, I lay before you the darkest areas of my life.                                                             I give you the things that I have done wrong, and the areas where I have failed to act as I should. I never want to live like this again.

Right now, I choose to turn away from everything I know to be wrong about my life.                                                                                                                                                           As I bow before you in adoration I ask your forgiveness, and I give you all my shame, guilt and wrongdoing.

Thank you that you accept me and embrace me.                                                                                    Please fill me with the Holy Spirit now.                                                                                                      Focus my heart on you, and empower me in everything that I do.

I ask all this in the precious name of Jesus, your Son, my Saviour and Protector.

Amen

Let us pray the Collect for Third Sunday of Lent

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; 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 forever.

Amen

Readings

Isaiah 55. 1 – 9                                                                                                                                                    1 Corinthians 10. 1 - 13

                                                                                                                                          Hymn: 285 For the beauty of the earth – omitting v. 6

Gospel of Luke 13. 1 - 9

(Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.                                                                                                         

Response: ‘Glory to you O Lord)

There were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.                                                                                                    He asked them ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?                                                                               No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will perish as they did.                                                          Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them -do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?                                                                                                                                                      No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’

Then he told this parable:                                                                                                                           ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none.                                                                                                                                           So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none.                                                                                                Cut it down!                                                                                                                                                 Why should it be wasting the soil?”                                                                                                         He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it.                                                                                                                                                 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” 

(This is the Gospel of our Lord      Response:    Praise to you, O Christ)

Reflection

Strangely, while the story of the fig tree is very familiar, the first five verses of today’s Gospel reading I have no memory of reading or hearing before. I must have, as it appears every third year in the lectionary but I don’t!                             I don’t know about you, but I think that today’s Gospel reading somehow seems very appropriate at this time with all that is happening in Ukraine.

It begins with the grisly mention of Pilate’s mingling the blood of Galileans with their sacrifices and appears to refer to a massacre of a group of Galilean pilgrims in Jerusalem. We don’t why Pilate slaughters these people but the deed backs up other historical writings about Pilate’s penchant for brutality.

The tower of Siloam refers to a tower in the wall around Jerusalem. Apparently, its structure collapses without warning and crushes eighteen passers-by.

Often at times like this, people see such events as God’s punishment on wicked people.

Now, these two calamities, that may well have been the subject of conversation around the local watering hole – one an instance of state-sanctioned terror, one a random accident – both see people snuffed out with little warning and for no clearly apparent reason. Both kinds of events make us realise just how precarious our existence is. Jesus implies that the victims did nothing wrong, nothing that causes their demise.

While Jesus might take the opportunity to defend God against charges of mismanaging the universe, he doesn’t do this, rather, he implies that we mustn’t equate tragedy with divine punishment. Sin doesn’t make atrocities come, they just come.

Life’s fragility gives it urgency. Jesus turns away from disasters, victims, and ‘why?’ questions to address those of us who thus far have survived the hazards of the universe and human society. We should not mistake our good fortune as evidence of God’s special blessing.

Jesus wants to talk about repentance. The need for repentance is a universal condition, shared by random victims and finger-crossing survivors. When Jesus  says, “unless you repent you will all perish”, he doesn’t promise that the godless will be struck down by an asteroid. He refers to death as the destruction of one’s soul. Just as Pilate’s and the tower’s victims did not enjoy the luxury of choosing the time of their demise, likewise the unrepentant will suddenly find they have delayed too long and lost themselves.

Whilst there are those who whip up fear mongering after every natural and unnatural disaster – do you remember the earthquake in Haiti, 911 and the Japanese tsunami … claimed by some to be God’s judgement on the respective countries. Jesus follows a different path. He doesn’t promise freedom from calamity, but urges his hearers against false self-assurances. If life’s fragility demands urgency, that urgency shows that life itself has carved out opportunity for us to seize God’s graciousness.

If we look at what is happening in Ukraine, it is NOT God’s punishment on a wicked people, rather man’s inhumanity to man. I wonder if any of you saw  the picture of a cloud formation over Kiev – it was amazing, it looked just like an angel. But, against the atrocities happening in Ukraine we have also seen a united bringing together of peoples to offer help in so many different ways … Ukraine is not being abandoned.

Jesus’s short parable of the fig tree speaks of imminent judgement. The parable reinforces ideas from the first part of this passage. A cultivated yet unproductive tree may continue to live even without bearing fruit only because it has been granted additional time to do what it is supposed to do. Unless it begins to bear fruit (an image of repentance) the result will be an instant and swift destruction.

Like Jesus’ earlier words in response to the recent tragedies, the parable warns against false reassurance. Just because you have not been cut down, do not presume that you are bearing fruit.

 The tone of the parable emphasises that patience and mercy temporarily keep judgement at bay. The role of the gardener offers a crucial characterisation of this patience and mercy. The tree has been left to its own devices. Now, everything possible is being done to get it to act as it should. So, God doesn’t leave his people to their own resources but encourages their repentance.

The power of this parable comes through the suspense it generates. Will fruit emerge in time to thwart the axe? How will this season of second chances play itself out? How do the gardener’s efforts make the tree’s existence a state of grace and opportunity?

 Repentance isn’t about moral uprightness, expressions of regret, or a ‘180-dgree turnaround.’ Rather, it refers to a changed mind, to a new way of seeing things, to being persuaded to adopt a different perspective.

In this passage the need for repentance is assumed so it takes a backseat in emphasis to the urgency of Jesus’ call. Tragedy and hardship have their ways of nudging people towards God, but these verses suggest that tragedy and hardship come so suddenly that they often mark the end, not the beginning of our opportunities to live lives inclined towards God.

Jesus’ words about judgement and repentance are scary, yet they depict human life as a gift, albeit a fragile one. Vulnerable as we are, we can presume and do little to preserve ourselves. Too many Lenten observances assume that taking our humanity seriously requires morose expressions of piety. But, the Christian outlook on repentance should reach towards joy, finding grace experienced within the awful precariousness and strange beauty of our fleeting existence.

When I look back to last year and Martin’s and my plans for this year, and as I look at and share the agony (although how can I or anyone else watching, really share it?) of the people of Ukraine, it brings home to me just how fragile life is and how unexpected its end can be.

All the more reason this Lent that we need to accept the urgency of truly following our Lord and not leaving it too late.

Amen                                                                                             

Affirmation of our Faith

I believe in God the Father almighty,                                                                                  creator of heaven and earth.                                                                                                              I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,                                                                                         who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,                                                                                                         born of the Virgin Mary,                                                                                                                                 suffered under Pontius Pilate,                                                                                                                     was crucified, died and was buried.                                                                                                           He descended to the dead;                                                                                                                                     On the third day he rose again;                                                                                                  he ascended into heaven,                                                                                                                                 he is seated on the right hand of the Father,                                                                 and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit;                                                                                                                             the holy catholic Church;                                                                                                                              the communion of saints;                                                                                                                                the forgiveness of sins;                                                                                                                                  the resurrection of the body,                                                                                                                      and the life everlasting.

Amen

Hymn:  374 How sweet the name of Jesus is

 

 

 

Intercessions

 Almighty God, we bow our heads before you in true repentance and recognition that your loving kindness is better than life itself.

Faithful God, we pray for the Church, that through its prayers, actions and public statements it may continue to work towards a world where all are free from the pain of hunger and terror of war. Help us to be true disciples of Jesus, living the Gospel and bringing social change in an unjust world. Give us courage to challenge unfair trade systems and pray for those who have the power to make far-reaching decisions affecting the world’s poor.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Creator God, we pray for world leaders, that they may be inspired to work together to tackle the causes of poverty, injustice and ignorance that lead to such horrendous violence as seen in Ukraine, and to use their power, not for their own glory but for the good of all and peace for all, whatever the creed, colour or gender.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Father God, we pray for ourselves, that we may have the courage to be witnesses to the power of sharing and to the values of global community. As we eat and drink, help us to pray for all those who have laboured to bring food to our table. Fill our hearts with compassion for our brothers and sisters around the world, so that we acknowledge our common humanity and dignity.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Loving God, we continue to pray for all people in Ukraine, for the refugees who have fled from their homeland, for those still trapped there, for all families parted from their loved ones and particularly for the children.                                                             Help us to continue supporting them in any and every way we can.                                       May we love more generously and speak up more loudly for those who are treated unjustly.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

We pray for Her Majesty the Queen who has served this country and the Commonwealth for over 70 years and who is, like so many, trying to recover from Covid.

We pray for people in our community – those who live on very little, children who are vulnerable and older people who are lonely.                                                          We pray for all those who are unwell and for those who are of special concern to us at this time.

We remember before you: Ken and Diane, Margaret, Ollie, Brian, Helen and Roger, Daphne and Dave, Sally, Gavin – a voluntary interpreter on the Polish border and Paul and Jan.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Merciful Lord, your Son Jesus Christ wept at the grave of Lazarus his friend. Be with us in our mourning as we pray for all who are coming to the end of their journey here on earth and for all those who have died and now rejoice in the fullness of eternal life.

Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer

As we go out into the world help us to live in the warmth of God’s love, to listen to the cries of hurt, to speak words of compassion and to know that we are surrounded by the eternal God.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Gathering our prayers and praises into one, let us pray with confidence as Jesus taught us.

Our Father who art in heaven,                                                                                                      hallowed be thy name:                                                                                                                         thy kingdom come;                                                                                                                            thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.                                                                                        Give us this day our daily bread.                                                                                                  And forgive us our trespasses                                                                                                     as we forgive those who trespass against us.                                                                                   And lead us not into temptation                                                                                                   but deliver us from evil.                                                                                                                For thine is the kingdom                                                                                                               the power and the glory                                                                                                              for ever and ever.                                                                                                                                Amen.

Repentance by Mandi Leblanc

Consider this repentance                                                                                                                    as I come before the throne                                                                                                                  cleanse me of whatever                                                                                                                    that would keep me from my home

My home that is heaven                                                                                                                       without shackles and chains                                                                                                                   just the presence of the Lord                                                                                                               dancing in my veins

The joyous songs of angels                                                                                                                  rejoicing all is well                                                                                                                               the most intimate of feelings                                                                                                            I had before I fell

So I’m releasing all this to you                                                                                                        the things that I have gripped                                                                                                              that only grew and multiplied                                                                                                             on the day that I slipped

Fill me fresh oh Holy Spirit                                                                                                                   make me godly through and through                                                                                                  so that when people go to talk to me                                                                                                  they’ll ONLY be seeing YOU.                                                                                                                 

The Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers:                                                                                                              they shall be called children of God.                                                                                                   We meet in the name of Christ and share His peace.

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

Amen

Hymn:  372 He who would valiant be

Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.                                                                                                  May the wind be always at your back.                                                                                        May the sun shine warm upon your face;                                                                                       the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,                                                          may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Amen

                                                                                                                                                                 

                                  

 

 

 

                    

                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                 

 


Page last updated: 18th March 2022 7:54 AM