Readings, prayers and reflections are available below.
LENT I SUNDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2021
Today's sermon is available as an audio recording here. Press play to start. [AUDIO FILE TO FOLLOW SOON]
Aude benigne Conditor
"O Kind Creator, bow thine ear
To mark the cry, to know the tear
Before thy throne on mercy spent
In this thy holy fast of Lent
Our hearts are open, Lord to thee
Thou knowest our infirmity;
Pour out on all who seek thy face
Abundance of thy pardoning grace.
Our sins are many, this we know;
Spare us good Lord, thy mercy show;
And for the honour of thy name
Our fainting souls to life reclaim.
Give us the self-control that springs
From discipline of outward things,
That fasting inward secretly
The soul may purely dwell with thee.
We pray thee Holy Trinity,
One God, unchanging Unity,
That we from this our abstinence
May reap the fruits of penitence. Amen"
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
I Peter 3:18-end, Mark1:9-15.
As we keep this season of Lent together let us resist temptation and seek to do what pleases God.
Lord keep your Church safe in purity of doctrine and holiness of life.
Bless those who exercise power and authority, may they do so with wisdom and temperance.
We pray for the many who are sick at this time and for all who care for them. We pray especially for Mary Maxwell and Paul Evans.
Give rest to those who have passed through the temptations of this life, freed from its dangers, may they rest in peace.
“Sin, Father,” someone once reproved me, “is no laughing matter.” Chastened, although not entirely convinced, I conceded that it is certainly true that the period of Lent on which the Church is once again embarked and in which we are invited to consider our sinfulness can seem remarkably dour and austere. We have changed into bleached linen vestments, the triptych has been closed, the Gloria in excelsis Deo is omitted. The austerity of the liturgy is reflected in our own lives. Our impulse is to give up something for Lent, to forgo something we enjoy, to indulge in a forty day period of gentle self-mortification and measured self-denial and thereby to achieve a spiritual and often physical purification the more closely to identify ourselves with Christ in his suffering during Holy Week and in the agony of the Passion.
Our conformity to and identification with Christ in his Passion is prefigured in this morning’s Gospel which speaks of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert. Lent is our desert experience. We should not underestimate the desert experience. The desert to which the Holy Spirit led Our Lord is a vast and an unwelcoming place of illimitable loneliness, unyielding in its physical and psychological emptiness. We are summoned to critical introspection, self-examination and honest self-revelation in these forty days of Lent as we prepare for Holy Week. Our aim in this Lenten observance is to achieve a greater conformity to Christ aware that in his perfect humanity Our Lord was himself tempted. Even the Son of God knew what it is to have the choice, to choose that which is right and not that which is wrong. Only someone who had himself experienced the depths of our human condition could dare to be its Saviour. It is the greatest reassurance to know that in his temptation in the wilderness Our Lord has been where in our darkness and folly we go daily; and he shows that to resist temptation is positively to choose life. Tempted at the heart of his humanity, he was divinely glorified in his Transfiguration. We who keep faith with God and with his Christ are promised that despite the persistent flaws of our human nature, we will assuredly inherit the glory, the only true glory that comes from God: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are tested yet without sinning.”
Painfully aware of our sinfulness, laxity and moral frailty, that is to say, aware of our humanity, it should be our resolve this Lent to obey Our Lord’s first command clearly and unambiguously enunciated in S. Mark’s Gospel this morning: “This is the time of fulfilment. The reign of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel.” That way lies salvation, true happiness, complete fulfilment and holiness of life. Christ’s command is to be fulfilled within the sacramental scheme of the Church which is Christ’s Body. It is within that sacramental context that our acute and painful awareness of our propensity to sin can be rectified and our reconciliation with God effected because awareness of our sinfulness is essential if our salvation is to be accomplished. Sin is a deliberate offence against God, committed by our wilful disobedience and our guilt for those occasions can only be purged and assuaged by Christ in his Church through the sacrament of God’s love and forgiveness in our merciful encounter with the living God. The free gift of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness is not something that we can lightly refuse. That, indeed, is no laughing matter. It is, however, a cause for our gratitude and for our rejoicing.
Christ Church, Hampstead 2021