Sunday 7th March 2021
Come, let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Let us search and try our ways and turn again to the Lord.
Almighty God, immortal and invisible, you are the only wise God. Though we cannot see you with the eye of the flesh, give us grace to see and know you through the eye of faith that when we pray, we may come to you in confidence knowing that you will hear and answer our prayers.
In this season of Lent, as we reflect on all that our Lord did for the children of God, we are made only too well aware of our shortcomings and failings. To be able to fulfil his ministry he resisted all temptation, yet though we know that we are given the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to withstand temptation we fail to stand firm. In this, as in many other ways we fall short of what is expected of us. Father forgive us for our weakness and for the selfishness which leads us to think only of ourselves and the things we seek, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Heavenly Father in whose sight we live, in whose hearing we pray and worship, show us through your Holy Spirit how we are to take Jesus as our teacher, guide and saviour. Make us worthy servants who will in time meet you face to face and hear your, “well done, good and faithful servant”.
Hear our prayer through Jesus Christ our lord, who has taught us to pray, Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, Forever. Amen
St John 3:11-17
A thought for today
On the third Sunday of Lent we turn to the third of the temptations Jesus faced at the start his ministry. As Luke makes very clear in the story of the boy Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:43-52), Jesus was well aware from the very beginning that he had been sent for a particular purpose when he has him say, “did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business”. In John’s Gospel that business is set out clearly. Jesus came to save the world.
It was perhaps thought of the world and its needs that lie behind this third temptation. Satan comes and effectively offers Jesus the world, as we would say, on a plate. All he has to do is bow down and worship him and he will be given all that he could possibly desire. It seems to be an offer too good to refuse, yet it is rejected out of hand, and for good reasons.
Firstly. it would be a denial of the free will with which God had endowed the human race, for under this proposal the world would have no choice in the matter.
But secondly and more importantly it would involve accepting Satan’s power as equal or greater than God’s. That would be a denial of the Commandment, “you shall have no other God but me”.
Yielding to Satan also implies compromise. In effect Satan is saying that God in Jesus is asking too much. What he demands of people is too difficult. He is expecting too much from them. Much better to water down his demands to make them more acceptable. But it is compromise that is unacceptable for the Law is clear – “you shall worship the Lord your God and shall only serve him” (Deuteronomy 6:13). Here Satan admits defeat and leaves Jesus and the angels come to minister to him.
We might think that that is the end of the story, but although Jesus has made up his mind to accept God’s way it is clear that he found it a difficult road to travel, for it was the road that led to the Cross. On a number of occasions he found it difficult to go on, for he did not always have a clear understanding of why things had to be as they were. The temptation to turn aside was always present, not least that night in Gethsemane when he could easily have faded away into the darkness and avoided betrayal and death. But that was not God’s way.
The temptation to compromise, to lower our standards to win favour and support is still a real one for the Church. We face a situation where the world has its standards and the Church others, and at times they are not the same. Nowadays there are those highly critical of a lot of what we in the Church hold dear and there are some, and some of them are in positions of influence in the Church, who feel that it might be expedient to paper over the differences to win support. But as Jesus shows the Christian faith, if it is to mean anything, must be an uncompromising faith, for its standards are the standards of God. He is eternal and unchanging, and so must our faith be. The old hymn still rings true – “Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin”.
A closing prayer
Almighty God the fount of all goodness, we give thanks and praise for all your mercies to your children. In love you provide for us out of the riches of your providence. In love you are ever ready to forgive us. In love you draw us back when we go astray. In love you gave your only begotten Son that those who believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, for you did not send your Son to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. All glory thanks and praise be to you the Father Eternal, now and evermore.
Eternal Father hear us now as we offer our prayers for others in the name of Jesus Christ.
We pray for the church throughout the world that she may have the will and the strength to proclaim the good News of the gospel without fear or favour. Be especially with the church of our own country as she faces hard times as a result of the pandemic. Make her strong to face the days that lie ahead, always trusting in you to reveal her true path. Strengthen her to reach out to those in need at this time, to help and care in the name of Jesus Christ.
Help the lonely and the anxious who are fearful of what might lie ahead as the nation seeks to move out of the pandemic and towards a more normal way of life. We remember all on furlough and those whose livelihood is endangered as jobs are lost.
Sustain and heal the sick. Reassure those who have fears about being vaccinated, that they might be able to understand that the risks are small and the benefits great. Guide us all that we might continue to play our part to protect ourselves and others as the signs of hope for the months ahead might tempt us to relax our vigilance too soon.
Before God we remember all who mourn the loss of loved ones. While we remember the victims of the virus let us not forget those who have come to the end of their lives from other causes and whose loved ones mourn as much. May they all know in their hearts the peace of God that passes all human understanding.
Now to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be glory as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for evermore.
Let us be sure in God’s lover and steadfast in his service that his blessing will be with us, now and always.