Collect and Readings for The Second Sunday of Lent – Genesis 17.1-7, 15-16, Psalm 22.23-end, Romans 4.13-end, Mark 8.31-end

The Prayer for today

Almighty God, who showest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness: grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, that they may eschew those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The desert experience of Lent continues this week with Jesus determined that his disciples should be fully aware of the implications of his true identity. Mark tells us that, immediately following their recognition of him as God’s Messiah, he starts spelling out to them what this means, and how it differs from their dreams.

The God of truth insists on our knowing the truth, even if it might turn us against him or temporarily hurt us or upset our plans; never will he pander to our misguided longings – he has too much respect for us. Gently but firmly and openly, Jesus outlines the real Messiah’s role – a role in which suffering, rejection and death are inevitable.

Such apparent failure, though clearly explored in the scriptures, had been conveniently overwritten by the popular dream of a resistance fighter who would lead the victorious struggle against Roman oppression and occupation.

From Jesus’ response to Peter’s protests, it is clear that the horror of such a future can still tempt him to side-step what he is called to go through. The temptations Jesus has been facing in the desert are here flaring up again through the misguided well-wishing of his friend. Impressed by the personal experience of power of such temptations, Jesus gathers not only his disciples but all of his followers in the area together, to prepare them as thoroughly and honestly as he can for such temptations in their own lives to side-step the will of God.

It is quite true – we shall be tempted, time and again, to take the easier route and thus avoid the conflicts which are bound to accompany committed discipleship. But if we go along with such temptations, where do we end up? Without any ‘life’ (in the fullest sense of the word) left to live. And, as Jesus suggests, isn’t it better to have the wicked ashamed of us, rather than Jesus and the holy angels of God?

But how on earth do we manage to be strong enough to resist the pull of the world of comfort, personal safety and self-gratification? We are given the example of Abraham, whose faith kept him walking and thinking God’s way, even when it did not look exactly promising. He trusted God so firmly that he stuck with it through thick and thin, and that is what delighted God.

Anyone is a child of Abraham who is a child of faith; and in no circumstance whatsoever will God ever let them down.

Some things to think about:

1. In what sense are we descendants of Abraham?

2. Why is it that living God’s way of love inevitably leads us into conflict?

God bless

Rev’d Fiona Robinson 

Collect and Readings for The Second Sunday before Lent – Proverbs 8.1,22-31, Psalm 104.26-end, Colossians 1.15-20, John 1.1-14

The Prayer for today

Almighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image: teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever. Amen.

Last week we were reflecting on the forgiving nature of God and this week, with the reading from Proverbs to help us, it is as if we are savouring the extraordinary creative energy of God’s wisdom, holding it and marvelling at it, personalised for accessibility. What is God’s wisdom like? With a sensitive, delighting in all the unfolding wonders, appreciating, and valuing with a childlike innocence which is playful, yet candid and pure.

It is a lovely if unexpected image and helps us to understand more of God’s nature. There is a lightness and gentleness of touch here which act as a balance to our more usual serious-minded image of a God of power and responsibility. We sense a wonderful harmony of what we, from our separate-gendered perspective might see as the masculine and feminine attributes of God.

Coming to the introduction of John’s Gospel from such an approach road, tunes us in to appreciate the mystery of the eternal Word. In one sense, Jesus the Christ is that Word separately enfleshed, visible to us when God remains hidden from our sight. There is clearly a link between personified Wisdom, of the Hebrew tradition, and the personified eternal Word, which resonated with Greek thinking. The One who draws all this together is Christ, living out, in human person terms, the creative loving of God.

As Paul explains in his letter to the Christians at Colossae, God was dwelling in all his faithfulness in the person of Jesus, so that he alone was able to reconcile all to himself, healing the creative harmony which sin had ripped apart.

The wisdom Christ displays, then, is of complete integrity and vulnerable love. Some things to think about:

1. If we who believe have the right to become ‘children of God’ by adoption, how would you expect our redeemed lives to look?

2. God created people in his own image as both male and female; Wisdom and the Spirit are both referred to as ‘she’, and the Word of God became flesh as male. What do we miss if our understanding of God is predominantly ‘male’?

God bless

Rev’d Fiona Robinson 

Collect and Readings for The Sunday next before Lent – 2 Kings 2.1-12, Psalm 50.1-6, 2 Corinthians 4.3-6, Mark 9.2-9

The Prayer for today

Almighty Father, whose Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross: give us grace to perceive his glory, that we may be strengthened to suffer with him and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

It is easy to understand why, since ancient times, people have worshipped the sun. Quite apart from its dazzling beauty, and its faithfulness in appearing each morning, all living things seem to sense that they depend on the sun for survival. Plants grow their first sensitive shoots towards it and adjust their flowering according to the length of daylight. Many flowers turn their heads to follow the sun’s progress through the day, and all the complexities of animal and plant activity are locked into their relationship with our nearest star. Earth and the other planets in the solar system owe their very development to it.

So it is not surprising that sunlike images of fire and light are frequently used to describe the presence of the living God – images which speak of power, essence of life, sustaining support, faithfulness and beauty that hurts when we look at it directly. Or when we look at it from the other direction and see how God inevitably displays his nature in his creation, and it says a lot about him that the very first word of creation was ‘Let there be light!’ Creating the sunlight, and a teeming planet’s life depending on it, was providing us with clues about the energising Creator, and our dependence on him.

It certainly feels entirely appropriate that God’s glory, being seen in Jesus as he is transfigured, shows him being lit up, bright and seemingly pure. The people of Israel had in their communal history many stories of fiery encounters with God, such as Moses’ burning bush, the pillar of fire guiding and protecting them on their escape from Egypt, the extra person seen in the burning fiery furnace, and the heavenly chariots of fire as Elijah is taken from Elisha’s sight. This week’s Psalm is one of many expressing God as a consuming fire.

Mark’s account of the transfiguration comes immediately after Jesus has been telling his disciples about his necessary suffering and death before he comes into glory. To help them cope with what is ahead they are allowed a fleeting glimpse of the holistic truth, where the glory is evident, so that when it is hidden in the horror of the cross, they may begin to understand what real glory involves.

Some things to think about:

1. Are we wary of God showing his glory, preferring to ‘tone him down’?

2. How do you think the transfiguration helped the disciples who witnessed it?

God bless

Rev’d Fiona Robinson