Lent: First Sunday: Today is the first Sunday of Lent, the traditional 40 days of prayer, fasting, reflection and repentance that precedes the great Easter celebrations. Just as Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness learning to overcome the Enemy, so we set this time aside for spiritual warfare and renewal. It is common during this time to imitate the simplicity of Jesus in the wilderness by abstaining from rich foods and strong drink during this season, and to devote extra time to the practice of the spiritual disciplines.
CALL TO WORSHIP
God, come to my assistance.
Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
For the choir director: A psalm of the descendants of Korah.
O God, we have heard it with our own ears—
our ancestors have told us
of all you did in their day,
in days long ago:
You drove out the pagan nations by your power
and gave all the land to our ancestors.
You crushed their enemies
and set our ancestors free.
They did not conquer the land with their swords;
it was not their own strong arm that gave them victory.
It was your right hand and strong arm
and the blinding light from your face that helped them,
for you loved them.
You are my King and my God.
You command victories for Israel.
Only by your power can we push back our enemies;
only in your name can we trample our foes.
I do not trust in my bow;
I do not count on my sword to save me.
You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies;
you disgrace those who hate us.
O God, we give glory to you all day long
and constantly praise your name. Interlude
But now you have tossed us aside in dishonor.
You no longer lead our armies to battle.
You make us retreat from our enemies
and allow those who hate us to plunder our land.
You have butchered us like sheep
and scattered us among the nations.
You sold your precious people for a pittance,
making nothing on the sale.
You let our neighbors mock us.
We are an object of scorn and derision to those around us.
You have made us the butt of their jokes;
they shake their heads at us in scorn.
We can’t escape the constant humiliation;
shame is written across our faces.
All we hear are the taunts of our mockers.
All we see are our vengeful enemies.
All this has happened though we have not forgotten you.
We have not violated your covenant.
Our hearts have not deserted you.
We have not strayed from your path.
Yet you have crushed us in the jackal’s desert home.
You have covered us with darkness and death.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread our hands in prayer to foreign gods,
God would surely have known it,
for he knows the secrets of every heart.
But for your sake we are killed every day;
we are being slaughtered like sheep.
Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Get up! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you look the other way?
Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?
We collapse in the dust,
lying face down in the dirt.
Rise up! Help us!
Ransom us because of your unfailing love.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
(A short time of worship and thanksgiving, led or spontaneous. Alternatively a devotional song may be played and listened to.)
OLD TESTAMENT READING
Jacob in Bethel
God said to Jacob, “Go to the city of Bethel and live there. Make an altar to the God who appeared to you there when you were running away from your brother Esau.”
So Jacob said to his family and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods you have, and make yourselves clean, and change your clothes. We will leave here and go to Bethel. There I will build an altar to God, who has helped me during my time of trouble. He has been with me everywhere I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had, and the earrings they were wearing, and he hid them under the great tree near the town of Shechem. Then Jacob and his sons left there. But God caused the people in the nearby cities to be afraid, so they did not follow them. And Jacob and all the people who were with him went to Luz, which is now called Bethel, in the land of Canaan. There Jacob built an altar and named the place Bethel, after God, because God had appeared to him there when he was running from his brother.
Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak tree at Bethel, so they named that place Oak of Crying.
Jacob’s New Name
When Jacob came back from Northwest Mesopotamia, God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. Your new name will be Israel.” So he called him Israel. God said to him, “I am God Almighty. Have many children and grow in number as a nation. You will be the ancestor of many nations and kings. The same land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you and your descendants.” Then God left him. Jacob set up a stone on edge in that place where God had talked to him, and he poured a drink offering and olive oil on it to make it special for God. And Jacob named the place Bethel.
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Pause for Reflection……
(Take a moment to bring to God any issues that have arisen during the morning. You may like to end with the following prayer…)
Lord Jesus, we thank you for another morning in Your House,
For the Word as pronounced to your people,
For the Worship as presented by your people,
For the Witness as proclaimed through your people,
And for the gathering of your Bride all over the world.
We ask your blessings upon the rest of this day,
May we enjoy Sabbath rest, renewed strength and a firmer hope,
As we run the race and stretch forth towards the prize. Amen
Lord God, we thank you for your gift to us of this food;
Produce of earth, sky, many living beings, and much hard work.
May we eat with prayerfulness, gratitude and moderation;
With renewed minds and spirit-controlled appetites.
May we eat with compassion for those who hunger today,
And in such a way that reduces the suffering of all creatures;
Healing and preserving our precious planet.
Use this food to strengthen our bodies, revive our spirits,
Nurture our family and nourish our resolve;
That we may continue to serve all that lives with all our life. Amen
Psalms in Bold – Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved
All other Psalms – Scripture quotations are taken from The Living Bible copyright © 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
All other Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.