Tuesday, March 6, 2012

1st Sunday in Lent

As I said in my previous post I had been really busy doing things and one of the things were preparing and taking two sermons at church on the 1st Sunday in Lent. Our church is without a minister at the moment and while we go through the process and wait for a new minister we have to find someone to preach each week at the 8.00am and 10.00am services. I preached at both.

If you are interested one of the sermons (from the 8.00am service) is below. It is a long post but it was for a ten minute slot.

8.00am service 26 February

Today is the first Sunday in Lent.
Lent is a forty-day period before Easter beginning on Ash Wednesday.
Lent begins on 22 February and ends on 7 April, which is the day before Easter. We skip Sundays when we count the forty days, because Sundays commemorate the Resurrection and this is a time of praise and joy.
The purpose of the church calendar is to relive the major events in Jesus’ life in real time, which is why Lent is forty days long. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days after he was baptised by John and before he began His ministry.
Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a time of preparation for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when Christians were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism.
Today, Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock.
In some countries Lent is a much bigger deal than it is in New Zealand. In Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans, carnivals and Mardi Gras are famous precursors to the fasting and restraint typically imposed in the lead up to Easter. In Germany it is common for families to light a Funken bonfire on the first Sunday of Lent to “burn off the winter”. These are very public events and well-steeped in cultural traditions going back many centuries.

The season of Lent started with Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day).
The name Shrove comes from the old word "shrive" which means to confess.
On Shrove Tuesday, in the Middle Ages, people used to confess their sins so that they were forgiven before the season of Lent began.
In most traditions the day is known for the eating of pancakes because they were a way to use up rich foodstuffs such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. The earlier demands of fasting emphasized eating plainer food and refraining from food that would give pleasure.
It is also the removal of other things of pleasure like having flowers on the alter.

Ash Wednesday marks the official first day, or the start of the season of Lent, and is also a call for us to take stock of our spiritual lives.
As Lent begins, we should set out specific spiritual goals we would like to reach before Easter and decide how we will pursue them.
During some Ash Wednesday services, the priest, minister, or in some cases officiating layperson, lightly rub the sign of the cross with ashes onto the foreheads of each participant, which the worshiper traditionally retains until it wears off. The ashes are made by burning the blessed palm crosses that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday; many churches ask their parishioners to return any palm crosses that they took home so that they can be burned. In some countries, the ashes are marked in the shape of a cross; in others, for example Ireland, there is no particular shape to the ash mark.
The act echoes the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ashes over one's head to signify repentance before God (as related in the Bible).

We don’t seem to emphasis these seasons and dates of the calendar now but I wonder if we are losing out from not doing so.
Other cultures and religions are steeped in their festivals etc and I think we as Christians should be taking these things up again so as to be a witness to the world of who we are as Christians. We need to have them see we can have fun and so ask “what are you celebrating?’ Not only that but it can be made into a time of fellowship with one another rather than just coming to church on a Sunday.
We need to be supportive and strong for each other in these later times and so all be a witness to the lost.
How will they know if they do not see? How will they know if we do not tell?

The readings set out for the 1st Sunday in Lent talk about the covenant – the promise God made to His people.

Genesis 9:8-17 8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” 17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

If we look back in Genesis 6:5-13 we see Gods’ reasons for the flood.

Genesis 6:5-13 5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.

God was grieving and was in pain at what was happening to what he created. (6 v11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.) So he decided he would destroy all except Noah, his family and two of every kind of living animal - because Noah had found favour in the eyes of God.
Don’t we all long for that? I know I do
After the flood God made a covenant that “never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

The dictionary’s definition of a covenant is: a solemn agreement or written promise to engage in or refrain from a specified action.
It is commonly found in religious contexts, where it refers to sacred agreements between God and human beings.
The rainbow is a sign of that first covenant and God is always faithful to it as we sometimes see when it has rained.
Do you realise that?
All these thousands of years and his promise is still the same. It never changes.

God makes a new covenant with us through Jesus.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,

The water of the flood in the time of Noah…
1 Peter 3:21-22  21 …symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

He will take away all the wrong things we have done - He has the power and authority to do so - so we can become God’s friends and gain eternal life.
But remember the covenant is a promise between two or more. God and us. So we have to stand by our agreement.

I challenge you to spend time alone and allow God to gently reveal to you that sin that you continue to deny is going on.
Don’t be afraid because God knows all things – your coming and going and deep into your heart.
He wants you to be honest and be accountable to the covenant that the death and resurrection of Jesus is between you and God.
Be not afraid because God loves you and keeps His side of the covenant.
Remember this as we enter the season of Lent

Psalm 25 1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; 2 in you I trust, O my God. 
Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. 
 4 Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. 
 6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 
 7 Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.  
8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.  
9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.  
10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant

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