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Worship, prayers and Bible resources

Second Sunday before Lent - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Green


Introduction

If the Gospel reading for today seems a bit hard to understand then don't worry it's not just you who finds it difficult. Millions of pages of theology have been written trying to work out exactly what was going on in the mind of the writer. It is a little like when we were at school and you were asked to write a piece about a poem and explain what the poet meant. Everybody had lots to say but there was not completely right answer, perhaps even the poet had different ideas of what was going on. Well think of this opening passage as being like a poem about Jesus and where he came from. Perhaps the writer knew this poetry and incorporated it into the beginging of his Gospel. The poetry brings together ideas from ancient Israel and introduces us to the term about Jesus as the 'Word.' It would have made much more sense to the readers then who knew about the old Jewish Wisdom literature, or even the pagan philosophers who spoke of the 'Word' as the reason in the universe. The Good News is that the writer will go on to speak about how all this poetic stuff has come to be understood in Jesus who brings all of these ideas together and makes them flesh. Jesus makes sense of our philosophies and speculative religious ideas, thank God that in Jesus has has come to us in a way that we can finally understand.

There is a choice of lectionary readings this week, the Methodist Lectionary is different from the Common Lectionary. Common Worship will use Proverbs 8:1,22-31, Colossians 1:15-20, John 1:1-14 These are shown below.

Opening Verses of Scripture  Psalm 104:31,34

May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; may the Lord rejoice in His works. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

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. Common Worship

Almighty God, give us reverence for all creation and respect for every person, that we may mirror your likeness in Jesus Christ our Lord. Common Worship Shorter Collect

First Bible Reading Proverbs 8: 1, 22-31

Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

Second Reading Colossians 1:15-20

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Gospel Reading John 1:1-14 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

Post Communion Sentence

God our creator, by your gift the tree of life was set at the heart of the earthly paradise, and the bread of life at the heart of your Church: may we who have been nourished at your table on earth be transformed by the glory of the Saviour’s cross and enjoy the delights of eternity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Commentary

It is not easy for us to read the beginning of the Gospel of John because it is a strange and so utterly different from the beginnings of the other Gospels. Matthew and Luke describe the birth Jesus with the stories surrounding Bethlehem and shepherds and kings. Mark begins with a grown up Jesus who is baptised in a river by John the Baptist. In John's Gospel we read 'In the beginning was the Word' ! It is confusing to say the least, so don’t worry if you find it odd, it is not just you who wonders what on earth is going on. The reason for this is that the writer of John is using poetry, perhaps parts of an established hymn rooted in the writings of the Jewish Wisdom tradition. If you were studied in the poetic traditions of Proverbs, Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon then it would all make much more sense, unfortunately most people are not. The writer is saying about Jesus what had been written in the Jewish tradition about Wisdom (Sophia). Wisdom is a part of God and in Proverbs Wisdom is shown as a woman, inviting us to learn from her. When the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, the word used to translate 'wisdom' was a feminine noun 'Sophia.' So we have this earthly Wisdom seen in Books like Proverbs, seen as distinct from God and yet a part of God. In John's Gospel this 'Wisdom of God' is compared with the 'Word of God.' Just as Wisdom had been at work in the universe forever, so had Jesus.

When we read 'In the beginning' we can hardly help thinking of the resonance with Genesis and the theme of creation. In Genesis we read a poetic account of creation which uses language to convey the idea of God creating and making the world. Now in this Gospel the writer uses the term Word (logos) to indicate that Jesus, like Wisdom, is part of eternal history. In the verses of this introduction to the Gospel the writer weaves together themes and words which show that Jesus is the fulfillment of everything which has previously been thought about God in the history of Israel and God's working with these people. Jesus as Logos is the source of all life and light in the world. Using the term Logos was particularly effective because it would also have meant something to the pagan philosophers who spoke of the 'word' as the 'sense' the rationality which was embedded in all humanity and in creation itself.

The difference between God activity in the world up until this point is that until now God has been Wisdom (Sophia), in all things, but now God is made incarnate - in flesh. Jesus is God with skin, not just spirit. Now God can be seen and touched, God is not elusive or distant he has made his dwelling with us, he has 'tabernacled' with us - pitched his tent next to ours ! John is placing Jesus as high as you can get in terms of intimacy with God, but he is also bringing Jesus low, so much so that we can in Jesus touch the living presence of God. If we want to know what God is like then we need look no further than Jesus.
Jesus has been around since the beginning, bringing light out of darkness, now he has come to us. The sadness is that he has been rejected by God's people, the Jews, the very people to whom he has been sent. The good news is that the story does not end there, those who do accept Jesus (verse12) no matter what race, these people are children of God in a special way.

God has become flesh so that he might be revealed to all flesh. The writer is making clear the point that Jesus is for everybody, he is understood against the history of God's dealing with Israel, yet those dealings of God with that people have now been opened up to all people. Charles Royden

 

Meditation

Saint Patrick

Patrick was born somewhere on the west coast of Britian, his father was a deacon and ahis grandfather was a priest - of course in those days priests were allowed to marry. When he was six years old he was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland as a slave. Six years later he escaped and went to Gaul and eventually returned to his family. He trained as a priest and when he was 40 he was consecrated as a bishop and returned to Ireland as a missionary. He died in about 460AD.

He left behind a number of his writings, his 'Confessions' and 'Letter to Coroticus.' he may have used a the three leaved Shamrock as an illustration of the Trinity. He did not as legend tells banish snakes from Ireland since like several other areas which were covered by the polar ise sheetsduring the Ice Age, Ireland has never had any!

One prayer attributed to Patrick is his evening prayer. It is a typcial Celtic piece using very simple down to earth vocabulary and imagery to express deep spiritual truths. It expresses the conviction that we need fear not since even our dreams are under God's protective angels.

May your angels holy Son,
guard our homes when day is done,
when at peace, our sleep is best
bid them watch us while we rest.

Prince of everything that is
High Priest of mysteries
let your angels, God supreme,
tell us truth dressed as a dream

May no terror and no fright
spoil our slumber in the night;
free from care our eyelids close;
Spirit, give us prompt repose.

We have laboured through the day:
lift our burdens when we pray,
then our souls in safety keep,
that our sleep be soft and deep.

Hymns

  • Christ, whose glory fills the skies Tune England Lane
  • In a world where people walk in darkness,
  • n the cross of Christ I glory:Tune All for Jesus
  • At the name of Jesus Tune Camberwell
  • Long ago the Father's voice Tune St George Windsor
  • Praise to the holiest
  • Let all mortal flesh keep silence
  • Thou whose almighty word
  • Christ triumphant ever reigning
  • Name of all majesty
  • Hail thou once despised Jesus

 

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

 

Grant us, O Lord, to pass this day in gladness and peace, without stumbling and without stain, that reaching the day's end victorious over all temptation, we may again praise you, the eternal God, blessed over all things now and for ever. Amen. Mozarabic Sacramentary (tenth century)


 

Additional Material

Proverbs 8:1,22-31
Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?

“The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth. I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

Colossians 1:15-20
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Mark 1:40-45

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Commentary

In Jesus' day, the word leprosy was used for a broad range of skin conditions, many of which today would find a remedy in a good bar of soap. Sadly in the Old Testament they often thought that God afflicted people with leprosy as punishment (Num. 12:9-10; 2 Kings 5:27; 15:5; 2 Chron. 26:19-21). Lepers were cast out from the group and regarded as cursed by God. But this is not just a sin of the Israelites, in all societies people who are different, disabled, or disfigured simply do not fit in. Moreover often we invest their ‘defects’ with a social stigma that we do not want to catch. We avoid looking at them, we avoid touching them because they are bad people.

It is glorious to see in the reading today just how Jesus is prepared to go out and literally touch these people. Whatever had caused people to become prostitutes or sinners, whatever society taught about the sinfulness of the lepers, he was prepared to cross the divide and show them that God cared. According to the Old Testament Jesus would have been made unclean through his contact with this leper, instead with Jesus the power goes the other way and the man is restored. Such is the power of God. So who are we afraid of touching?

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One of the worst things for children is being different. If you stand out from the crowd in any way you are picked on taunted, bullied and abused. It might be wearing the wrong kind of coat, or the wrong brand of shoes. A pretty child and an ugly child share the same problem, they are not middle of the road. This is the territory in which children live in schools. 

Fortunately as we grow older and more mature we learn not only to stick up for ourselves, but hopefully also to accept others, to recognise that we are all different and that it is OK to be an individual. You do not have to dress, think, speak the same as the rest of the group. This is about "social acceptability" but perhaps sometimes it is wishful thinking. International wars have been started and continue to be threatened because we are sometimes not so mature about our differences. 

The same thing is demonstrated in the two passages today from 2 Kings and Mark. In the lesson from Kings we read about Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in his society a brave soldier and highly regarded. Then Mark tells us about another man who approached Jesus who was forced to live as an outcast in his society, he would have had his hair unkempt, he would have covered the lower part of his face and was supposed to cry out, 'Unclean! Unclean!' (Lev 13:45). These two men lived very different lives but they had one important thing in common, they each had leprosy. Naaman suffered from a skin disease which bore no stigma among his own people, but it put him in the ‘unclean’ category among the chosen people of Israel.

In Jesus' day, the word leprosy was used for a broad range of skin conditions, many of which today would find a remedy in a good bar of soap. Sadly in the Old Testament they often thought that God afflicted people with leprosy as punishment (Num. 12:9-10; 2 Kings 5:27; 15:5; 2 Chron. 26:19-21). Lepers were cast out from the group and regarded as cursed by God. But this is not just a sin of the Israelites, in all societies people who are different, disabled, or disfigured simply do not fit in. Moreover often we invest their ‘defects’ with a social stigma that we do not want to catch. We avoid looking at them, we avoid touching them because they are bad people.

It is glorious to see in the reading today just how Jesus is prepared to go out and literally touch these people. Whatever had caused people to become prostitutes or sinners, whatever society taught about the sinfulness of the lepers, he was prepared to cross the divide and show them that God cared. According to the Old Testament Jesus would have been made unclean through his contact with this leper, instead with Jesus the power goes the other way and the man is restored. Such is the power of God. So who are we afraid of touching? Charles Royden

 

Hymns

First Hymn
Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only light,
Sun of righteousness, arise,
Triumph o'er the shades of night;
Day-spring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.
Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee:
Joyless is the day's return,
Till thy mercy's beams I see,
Till they inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
Visit then this soul of mine;
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, radiancy divine;
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.
Tune England Lane

  

Second Hymn

In a world where people walk in darkness,
let us turn our faces to the light,
to the light of God revealed in Jesus,
to the daystar scattering our night.

For the light is stronger than the darkness
and the day will overcome the night,
though the shadows linger all around us,
let us turn our faces to the light.

In a world where suffering of the helpless
casts a shadow all along the way,
let us bear the cross of Christ with gladness
and proclaim the dawning of the day.
Refrain

Let us light a candle in the darkness,
in the face of death a sign of life;
as a sign of hope where all seemed hopeless,
as a sign of peace in place of strife.
Refrain

Third Hymn

In the cross of Christ I glory:
towering o'er the wrecks of time,
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime.

When the woes of life o'ertake me,
hopes deceive and fears annoy,
never shall the cross forsake me;
lo! it glows with peace and joy.

When the sun of bliss is beaming
light and love upon my way,
from the cross the radiance streaming
adds more lustre to the day.

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
by the cross are sanctified;
peace is there that knows no measure,
joys that through all time abide.

Tune All for Jesus

Fourth Hymn

            At the name of Jesus
every knee shall bow,
every tongue confess him
King of Glory now.
'Tis the Father's pleasure
we should call him Lord,
who from the beginning
was the mighty Word:

Humbled for a season,
to receive a name
from the lips of sinners
unto whom he came,
faithfully he bore it
spotless to the last,
brought it back victorious
when from death he passed.

Bore it up triumphant
with its human light,
through all ranks of creatures
to the central height,
to the throne of Godhead,
to the Father's breast;
filled it with the glory 
of that perfect rest.

In your hearts enthrone him
with love as strong as death,
but with awe and wonder,
and with bated breath;
he is God the Saviour,
he is Christ the Lord,
ever to be worshipped,
trusted and adored.

Brothers, this Lord Jesus
shall return again,  
with his Father's glory,
with his angel train;
for all wreaths of empire
meet upon his brow,
and our hearts confess him
King of Glory now.
Tune Camberwell

Fifth Hymn

            Long ago the Father's voice
brought the universe to birth—
by his mighty Living Word
he created heaven and earth;
then he gave the gift of life
by the holy Breath he blew!
God eternal, One, yet Three,
all creation's source is you.

From before the dawn of time
chosen as the Father's own,
we receive his gift of grace
by the death of Christ alone;
now we feel the Spirit's touch—
power to set our lives ablaze!
God eternal, One, yet Three,
how we love your gracious ways!

God our Father makes his home
in each heart which loves the Son;
when we live as Jesus taught,
then the Father's will is done.
We shall know our Lord's commands
as we heed his Spirit's voice—
God eternal, One, yet Three,
glad obedience is our choice.

In the temple of the Lord,
Jesus is the cornerstone;
in our lives, both fruit and gifts
make his Spirit's presence known;
so the Church of God is built
to become a holy place:
God eternal, One, yet Three,
let your people grow in grace.

Father, we revere your name—
great Creator, sovereign King;
Jesus, Saviour, Son of God,
praise to you we gladly bring;
Holy Spirit, Breath of life,
you we honour and adore;
God eternal, One, yet Three,
be exalted evermore!

Tune St George Windsor

 

 

 

  1. Praise to the holiest
  2. Let all mortal flesh keep silence
  3. Thou whose almighty word
  4. Christ triumphant ever reigning
  5. Name of all majesty
  6. Hail thou once despised Jesus