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Worship, prayer and Bible resources for Ordinary 10

Second Sunday of Lent - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Green


Our earthly tent Introduction

Today we are in Sundays after Trinity, the long period of Ordinary Time in the church year, it goes all the way through to the Advent preparation for Christmas! The liturgical colour from now on is green which suits our souls because it is the ordinary colour of nature. There are no special red, or purple festivals for a long time now, just Sundays when we get on with the ordinary business of living the Christian way. We have lots of help, the bible readings will be full of the teachings of Jesus about what it means to be one of his followers. There is nothing complicated, just trying to put into practice the commands of Jesus to love one another and most of all to love those people who we least like and who least like us.

We will be reminded that when we are nice to people we would rather avoid, then it is as though we were being nice to Jesus himself. Real religion isn't about anything mystical, or even spiritual- in the otherworldly sense. It is about the basic stuff of humanity, caring for those who are bottom of the pile, never thinking that we are better than anybody else, and trying to make sure that if we ever mange to do something which shows real compassion and self sacrifice, then we keep it to ourselves and don't expect everybody to make a fuss of us. These are ordinary Sundays for ordinary Christians but to live out the teachings of Jesus is quite extra ordinary, out of this world!

Opening Verses of Scripture  2 Corinthians Chapter 4

Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.

 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth: send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you. Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. CW

Faithful Creator, whose mercy never fails: deepen our faithfulness to you and to your living Word, Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

First Bible Reading   Genesis 3:8-15

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’ The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’ NRSV

Second Reading  2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture – ‘I believed, and so I spoke’ – we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. NRSV

Gospel Reading Mark 3:20-35

The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his companions could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ – for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’ NRSV

Post Communion Sentence

Loving Father, we thank you for feeding us at the supper of your Son: sustain us with your Spirit, that we may serve you here on earth until our joy is complete in heaven, and we share in the eternal banquet with Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

Commentary

Paul was an amazing man, probably the most influential person who has ever lived, apart from Jesus. He took the teachings of Jesus and he applied them to all people, not just Jews and he opened up the world to change. Without him the teachings of Jesus would have been confined to a sect within Judaism. Paul’s writings, or works associated with him, comprise half of our New Testament and they were written very soon after Jesus died, considerably earlier than the Gospels themselves. His Letter to the Romans has been the source of inspiration for the greatest theologians ever since, people like Augustine, Luther and Wesley.

Perhaps the most significant thing about him was how he changed. He began life as a proud top Jewish Rabbi with a zeal for pursuing the followers of Jesus. He believed that they had perverted Judaism and so he wanted them rounded up and brought to justice, which in his twisted mind meant that they were to be killed. The Book of Acts records that Paul was brutal and violent and believed he was doing God’s work when he dragged Christians off to prison to have them killed. (Acts 8:1). We can only guess what happened when on one of his trips to Damascus to hunt for more Christians he had an spiritual experience which suddenly and dramatically caused him to swap sides and turn from Christian killer to the leader of the mission to make Jesus know across the world.

He became accepted by the other Apostles like Peter and James the brother of Jesus and he was eventually given the mission to go to the Gentiles with the message that they could become Christians without any other trappings of Judaism. They did not need to be circumcised, eat kosher foods or follow the laws of Moses, in fact if they did so it was really bad because if they tried to keep the Jewish law and customs they were in effect saying that faith in Jesus was not sufficient on its own. The Holy Communion was the new Passover and Jesus was calling all and sundry into a new family, such as we read in our passage today from Mark’s Gospel.

Paul went about across the Mediterranean and he travelled over 13,000 miles on his missionary journeys. We know that he endured many years in prison, went through beatings and shipwrecks, and eventually he is believed to have been beheaded in Rome under the mad Caesar Nero who burned Christians as human torches. As he went around he frequently caused chao and public unrest as met people and told them about Jesus. He was not a great orator and we know that he did not have an impressive appearance. in 2 Corinthians it is written
’his letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily appearance is weak and his speech contemptible.’
His Roman name was Paul, which means small ! Nevertheless God blessed his work and the Holy Spirit worked miracles through him as people accepted the message of Jesus from across the entire social spectrum.

He subsequently wrote letters to the Christian communities which he established as they struggled to make sense of their new found faith in the midst of their pagan cultures. we know he wrote at least seven of the letters attributed to him; 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon and Romans. There is considerable debate about the others but they are part of a body of material which we think of as Pauline, coming from his teachings. We know that he used a scribe to do his writings, he probably had poor sight because at the end of Galatians he writes ‘see what large letters I make when I am writing with my own hand!’

However this outward appearance should not lead us to think of him as in any way weak. we know how effective he was as ruthless killer of Christians, when he changes sides his brilliant mind and strategy made him a strong advocate for the Jesus and the followers of ‘The Way.’ When he went to Athens, the places where Socrates had been forced to kill himself by drinking Hemlock when he had advocated foreign gods, Paul bravely argued with the philosophers and told them about God who they already had a statue for, described by themselves as the ‘Unknown God.’

He manged to literally work his way around the Roman world, using his craft as a tentmaker to earn money and engage with the people he met. As people saw in him the difference which the teachings of Jesus could make in a person’s life they too believed in Jesus and conversions took place and Christian communities were established in the cities he visited. When he visited places like Corinth in our epistle reading today he came up against pagan cultures in which ethical values were completely the opposite of what Paul understood for the Christian life. Corinth is sometimes described as the Las Vegas of the time, but actually it made Vegas look tame. Corinth was a vice capital where worship meant visiting the huge Temple of Aphrodite which towered over the city with up to 1,000 male and female temple prostitutes. It was a busy port with all things associated with a cosmopolitan wealthy trading city full of people passing through. Paul had to bring the Gospel into this community and help the early believers to understand how differently the Christian was expected to live. In his first letter to them we read how he had to tell them whilst sex was to be encouraged it was not Ok for a man to live with his father’s wife. The new way of thinking and living was expressed by Paul beautifully in the passage from 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 where he writes about love in a way which has arguably never been surpassed. It is amazing to think that he was not intending to write scripture, brilliant poetry, or systematic theology, he was just writing to particular churches which were having difficulties coming to terms with what it meant to be Christians in the first century. These churches were struggling because the only Bible they had was the Jewish scriptures which they had been told they could now take with a pinch of salt, ie no food laws, no circumcision, the old covenant was no more. Paul had to start setting some rules and apply the teachings of Jesus for people who were no longer Jewish, no longer under the law which was now ‘a curse.’

Paul has not been popular with everybody since he wrote his letters. He acknowledge himself the fact that much of our thinking is a stab in the dark, he put it brilliantly when he used the expression ‘now we see through a glass darkly.’ Nevertheless small parts have been taken from his letters and used to justify for all time kinds of prejudice, from slavery to the suppression of women. We often don’t know what problem in the church lay behind instructions such as his direction for women in the church in Corinth to keep quiet. Clearly statements like these were meant for specific situations in particular places and not for all time! We know this because in other places Paul encouraged women like Prisca and Phoebe to be leaders in churches. Moreover we know that Paul was a man of his time and whilst behaviour like slavery was the norm in his day with no way of changing it, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that today Paul would have written very differently to churches. This was a man who wrote to the Galatians that in Christ there should be no discrimination at all not on grounds of religion or gender, or anything else because we are ‘All One in Christ Jesus’ Galatians 3:28 Charles Royden

Meditation

We know that Paul was a tent maker and in the passage from 2 Corinthians today he uses the very familiar metaphor of a tent to describe his body. He tells ‘my outward body is wasting away.’ We can only imagine how he felt after his punishing life of perilous journeys across rough seas when he was shipwrecked and when he was beaten and left in prison. His felt as though his bodily tent was worn out, the canvass was worn, the colour had faded, the strong tent pegs were missing and one or two ropes had frayed and broken.
His final years were lived awaiting his execution in prison. Here was a man who had every excuse to feel broken and defeated. But his words to us this morning are anything but a message of defeat. His is an upbeat message of hope and defiance. In the face of bodily disintegration he places his confidence not in the worn out tent of his earthly flesh but in God’s promise that after this life he will live not in a tent but God’s house. Bad things happen to us in our lives and among them is the gradual and inevitable disintegration of our physical bodies.

In Hebrews Paul’s reflects upon how faith keeps us going and having confidence in what we cannot see for now. He looks back on great men and women of God, who had set out for us an example of how to live. There were great spiritual giants like Moses and Abraham, but there were other less important people too like the prostitute Rahab. Paul reminds us that they endured physical struggles, some leading torture, imprisonment even being sawn in two. Then he speaks of the fact that God has something better planned for them. No old tents for them, they would be made perfect and even now they are alive with God and surround us like a great cloud of witnesses. This road we travel might be rough and steep but Paul knew better than most that the way get to the end was to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12). Charles Royden

Hymns

  1. Earth rejoice, our Lord is King
  2. He who would valiant be
  3. Who would true valour see
  4. When Jesus walked upon this earth
  5. O God, by whose almighty plan
  6. Jesus, my Lord,
  7. In Christ there is no east or west
  8. God is love - his the care
  9. Father, we thank you
  10. And can it be
  11. All hail the power of Jesu's name
  12. Immortal invisible Tune St Denio
  13. Father God I wonder
  14. It is a thing most wonderful Tune Herongate
  15. In Christ there is no east or west Tune Kilmarnock
  16. Church of God elect and glorious Tune Lux Eloi

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die
 

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

 

Additional Material