This week marked the beginning of the season 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
A Plea for Relief from Oppressors
A Contemplation of Asaph.
O God, why have You cast us off forever?
Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?
Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old,
The tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed—
This Mount Zion where You have dwelt.
Lift up Your feet to the perpetual desolations.
The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary.
Your enemies roar in the midst of Your meeting place;
They set up their banners for signs.
They seem like men who lift up
Axes among the thick trees.
And now they break down its carved work, all at once,
With axes and hammers.
They have set fire to Your sanctuary;
They have defiled the dwelling place of Your name to the ground.
They said in their hearts,
“Let us destroy them altogether.”
They have burned up all the meeting places of God in the land.
We do not see our signs;
There is no longer any prophet;
Nor is there any among us who knows how long.
O God, how long will the adversary reproach?
Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever?
Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?
Take it out of Your bosom and destroy them.
For God is my King from of old,
Working salvation in the midst of the earth.
You divided the sea by Your strength;
You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters.
You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces,
And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness.
You broke open the fountain and the flood;
You dried up mighty rivers.
The day is Yours, the night also is Yours;
You have prepared the light and the sun.
You have set all the borders of the earth;
You have made summer and winter.
Remember this, that the enemy has reproached, O Lord,
And that a foolish people has blasphemed Your name.
Oh, do not deliver the life of Your turtledove to the wild beast!
Do not forget the life of Your poor forever.
Have respect to the covenant;
For the dark places of the earth are full of the haunts of cruelty.
Oh, do not let the oppressed return ashamed!
Let the poor and needy praise Your name.
Arise, O God, plead Your own cause;
Remember how the foolish man reproaches You daily.
Do not forget the voice of Your enemies;
The tumult of those who rise up against You increases continually.
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
The Lord Promises Peace
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defence against the siege mounds and against the sword: They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.
“Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast’, in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord:
“‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
for the Lord is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever!’
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks. In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the Lord.
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, you worked with your hands as a carpenter.
May we who labour upon the earth never cease to give you praise,
And know your loving presence with us.
We ask this for your glory. Amen
(If these prayers are taking place before food, you may like to say the Grace here instead.)
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 taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Other Scripture taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.