O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
our lives are laid open before you:
rescue us from the chaos of sin
and through the death of your Son
bring us healing and make us whole
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 51.1-5, 17-18
Have mercy on me, O God, in your great goodness;
according to the abundance of your compassion
blot out my offences.
Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
So that you are justified in your sentence
and righteous in your judgement.
For you desire no sacrifice, else I would give it;
you take no delight in burnt offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
The disciples of John came to Jesus, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.’
Just two days ago we began our Lenten pilgrimage. On Ash Wednesday we reflected upon Jesus’ call to give alms, pray and fast in a new way, in a way that focuses on the personal relationship we seek with God. Just two days ago many of us will have begun our journey through Lent by committing ourselves to giving something up. So … how is it going? Are you still firm in your resolve, or have you already given way to temptation?
If you have been tempted to indulge in whatever it was that you promised to set aside for Lent you will have noticed something. Nothing significant seems to have happened. The world has not stopped spinning. Your friends and neighbours are still talking to you. Life goes on, but … of course, you know! And … God knows!
As with our new year resolutions, so with our Lenten disciplines. We simply forget what our promise is about. Too often, the promises to deny ourselves revolve around some ulterior motive. Very often that motive is associated with weight loss or the need for reassurance that we are not addicted to something. But … and God really does understand this … human beings are weak. We are easily distracted. No matter how strong and worthy our intentions may be, we are easily distracted. In today’s reading Jesus excuses his disciples apparent lack of self-control by explaining that they are celebrating being in his presence. Our intention to give something up for Lent should be based upon our desire to share in that same celebration.
Jesus does not walk the earth in physical form as he did two thousand years ago, but he is still present among us. In order that we might experience that presence we are called to set aside the distractions of this world and allow ourselves to enter into the true and absolute joy of walking with him down whatever paths he may have prepared for us to walk. Sometimes we will slip off that path. But, when we do slip, or when we forget those resolutions made with the intention of helping us to come closer to God, Jesus is there to help us back on the straight and narrow.
Jesus’ disciples were criticized by the disciples of John, who was renowned for his abstemious way of life. The ongoing fasting of John’s disciples demonstrated their distraction with earthly concerns. If they had seen that which was obvious to Jesus’ disciples, they would have realized that the time of fasting had passed … for the time being, anyway.
For us there will be celebration. The joy of the resurrection marks an end of the time of fasting and self-deprivation. In the meantime, as we await our Easter celebrations, let us pause and journey through this time of reflection and prayer with renewed determination. If we have already slipped in our resolve, let us pick ourselves up and join Jesus again as he walks with us. Remember, he will not blame us, rather he will rejoice that we have turned back and picked up the journey once again.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray that Christ may be seen in the life of the Church.
You have called us into the family of those who are the children of God. May our love for our brothers and sisters be strengthened by your grace.
You have called us to be a temple where the Holy Spirit can dwell. Give us clean hands and pure hearts, so that our lives will reflect your holiness.
You have called us to be a light to the world, so that those in darkness come to you. May our lives shine as a witness to the saving grace you have given for all.
You have called us to be members of your body, so that when one suffers, all suffer together. We ask for your comfort and healing power to bring hope to those in distress.
You have called us to be the Bride, where you, Lord, are the Bridegroom. Prepare us for the wedding feast, where we will be united with you for ever.
Jesus, Lord of the Church, hear our prayer, and make us one in heart and mind to serve you with joy for ever. Amen.
Prayer for the week
shine upon all who are in the darkness of suffering or grief;
that in your light they may receive hope and courage,
and in your presence may find their rest and peace;
for your love’s sake.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Be thou my guardian and my guide,
and hear me when I call;
let not my slippery footsteps slide,
and hold me lest I fall.
The world, the flesh, and Satan dwell
around the path I tread;
O save me from the snares of hell,
thou quickener of the dead.
Isaac Williams (1802–1865)