Weekly worship: Sunday 18 February

First Sunday of Lent

Ibrahim and his family in Nigeria

Putting the past behind us

Genesis 9:8-17  Psalm 25  1 Peter 3:18-22  Mark 1:9-15

Sometimes the biggest thing that prevents us from moving forward is the anchor that we tie around our own feet.

The whole concept of baptism seems to be a removal of that, a clean sheet in God’s eyes and a way forward. Acceptance as we are is at its heart. There can be no qualification – we are God’s.

Today is a time for affirmation, time to uphold all the talents that folk have, and the hope that God has for them.

They can move forward. They can change things. They are worthy. A difference can be made when God’s people make that difference.

This all can sound a little sugary, but as well as affirmation, there is a hard reality. The world where we must be new and can make a difference is a hard world to live in at times. 

What does it mean to be truly free?

When working in a prison many years ago, I was challenged by a prisoner for saying after the opening prayer: ‘You’re free to go forward to love and to serve.’

‘That’s not easy for us,’ I was told.

I reflected on what he had said, and now at the end of the same prayer I say:

‘You’re free to walk the hard road of love and forgiveness.’

But we are still free to make a difference and be the people God calls us to be. Forgiveness is God’s gift to us, as is baptism – newness every day we breathe.

Maybe in the sermon we could explore what that freedom means in the world and our local context, affirming and empowering anyone who might listen.

How do we enable that freedom for everyone so that all are truly free?

What does that freedom look like for Nana and Ibrahim in Nigeria? They have faced threats of violence and had to flee their home and live in a displaced people’s camp with their three children.

We can walk the long journey to freedom with Nana and Ibrahim this week during Lent. We enter the Count Your Blessings Lent Journey, as we look forward to the freedom of fullness of life for all.

 

Lord of hope and newness, 
the journey is ours, 
but you are our companion. 
Renew us in your love 
to be the people we might be.

Lord of hope and newness, 
give us eyes to see 
the possibilities 
that are ours to grasp.

Lord of hope and newness, 
let us take your words of affirmation 
and make them real in who we can be.
Amen.

We are grateful to Rev Stuart Fulton, a minister in the Church of Scotland for providing the weekly pointers for February.

Pointers for prayer

  • Pray for the Count Your Blessings Lent resource to transform hearts and minds as we journey towards Easter.

    Give thanks for Christian Aid partners across the world who are working to support internally displaced people, of whom there are more than 40 million, representing two-thirds of all the world’s displaced people. Pray that these people, so often overlooked, get the attention and support they need.

    Pray for healing, a home and a flourishing future for Nana and Ibrahim and others like them in Nigeria who have witnessed too much tragedy at the hands of Boko Haram.

    Give thanks and pray for the World Day of Social Justice on the 20 February, that it would raise awareness and galvanise action for peaceful justice.