Good morning everyone and I hope you are well. Today is our 3rd Sunday in Lent and our reading today stays in Jerusalem as last week, but comes with the parable of the fig tree. Our Lent groups have been going well and I hope those attending are getting something out of it.
PCC met on Tuesday and we have decided that we will start to relax some of our Covid precautions so that we can be fully functioning by Easter. We also looked at how we can get involved and help Ukrainian refugees, initially we would like to do a collection but are looking at supporting families in the parish as well.
Our intercessions today are by Sue Usher and the reflection by Rev Peter, many thanks to them both.
PRAYERS OF PREPARATION
God is spirit – Let us worship him in spirit and truth
The Lord is with us – Let us praise his name together
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
The first commandment is this: “Hear O Israel the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength”.
The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Amen Lord have mercy.
The Spirit of the Lord fills the world and knows our every word and deed. Let us then open ourselves to the Lord and confess our sins in penitence and faith.
Lord God, we have sinned against you; we have done evil in your sight. We are sorry and repent. Have mercy on us according to your love. Wash away our wrongdoing and cleanse us from our sin. Renew a right spirit within us and restore us to the joy of your salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy. Christ have mercy.
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
THE OLD TESTAMENT READING
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke. Glory to you O Lord.
LUKE 13. 1-9
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’
This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you O Christ.
As we travel through Lent, our Gospel reading, yet again, is strangely relevant to today.
It is in two parts – the first a brief discussion on when bad things happen, whether because of a brutal ruler like Pilate has had people killed and humiliated, or because an accident has caused deaths, though today we would want a Health and Safety review and sue somebody. Today too many are killed in war and in violence, whether Russian missiles or Central American gangs or……
Today some are killed in accidents, their lives cut short. And equally some flourish and win the lottery. Jesus reminds us that these events do not map onto either our sin or our being blessed, and all of us, at some point, but inevitably will face death and judgement. It is however only a partial answer, not an explanation.
In the second part of the reading we also have destruction and judgement, but this time directed by the owner of the vineyard at the fruitless fig-tree. The vineyard and the fig-tree are Old Testament images of Israel and the challenge is that God’s people are not bearing fruit, are not showing the signs of “life” that they should. In the first section we wonder why some are killed – have then done something wrong in their lives. In this section we are encouraged to follow the pleading of the gardener who wants to give the tree another year. Do we strive to help make God’s Church, our local churches places that bear fruit, that make a difference? Maybe even, would God look at our church and say it has not produced fruit?
In the example of the servant gardener I see two virtues, one is prayer, in his pleading with the owner and the other is action, he will get stuck in to help this tree finally bear fruit.
Alternatively we may be that unfruitful tree, in danger of being cut down, but spared by the intercession of the servant; we should work on bearing fruit
In the first part of the passage Jesus uses real events to help focus people’s thoughts, not just on the events but on what God calls for us – in the second he tells a parable that again pushes us to think more deeply; whether we are the tree which needs to bear fruit, or we are the servant who now needs to work to give the tree every chance, we are pushed to ask what God requires of us, not just what we think is happening.
In our world today, too many are dying from the violence of others and they are victims not bad people. Will we prove our fruitfulness by what we do to help, to care, and also to protest and challenge. Sometimes the Pilates of this world are not going to listen. That does not mean we should not speak.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, and is seated on the right hand of the Father; he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
During intercessions we pray for the church, our world, the poor, the sick , the oppressed and for the departed. Below are prayers on today’s theme however you may wish to use your own prayers.
Father, the knowledge of your presence fills us with joy and the more we know you, the more we want to be with you. We pray to you now in the sure and certain knowledge that you will hear and answer our prayers.
Father, we pray for those who are thirsty for hope and for those who are finding in Christ, light for their world. For those whose journey of life leads them through many dark days and for ourselves, that our words of faith will bring hope to our neighbour.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Father, we pray for those who are thirsty for peace and for those who are daily surrounded by bombs, fighting and death. For those whose lives are in turmoil and who simply want serenity within. Bring an end to that which is not your will and change the hearts and minds of those who only seek to do harm to others. In stillness and quiet let us remember the people of the Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Father, we pray for those who are thirsty for healing; for those facing serious health and life problems and for those seeking a sense of renewal and wholeness within. In stillness and quiet let us bring to mind those whom we know are in need of our prayers.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Father, we pray for those who thirst no more and have entered into the joy of everlasting life with you. We bring to mind those whose anniversaries fall this week: Gertrud Erna Parton, Andrew John Ketchen, Herbert E Shuttleworth and Gordon Thexton. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
The Fruit of Silence is Prayer. The Fruit of Prayer is Faith. The Fruit of Faith is Love. The Fruit of Love is Service. The Fruit of Service is Peace.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the Kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.
May the Lord of peace himself give us peace at all times and in every way. The blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with us now and forever more. Amen.