The Second Sunday in Lent

This Second Sunday in Lent we welcome Rev Robert Frede who leads us in worship. In this service you can read the three Readings for today, follow Robert’s sermon, join us in prayer and listen to the hymn and anthem for today. Today our accompanying photograph features small emerging flowers, purple crocuses, which add joyful splashes of colour in our world, offering days that hint at early spring.


Opening Prayer – The Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent

Almighty God,
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth,
that they may return to the way of righteousness:
grant to all those who are admitted
into the fellowship of Christ’s religion,
that they may reject those things
that are contrary to their profession,
and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The Readings

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 17: 1-7, 15-16
New Testament Reading: Romans 4: 13-end
The Gospel Reading: Mark 8: 31-end

The Sermon

If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me.35If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me and for the good news, you will save it.36What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself?37What could you give to get back your soul?

It is not easy to listen to what Saint Mark is telling us today.
It is not easy to believe that the real core of our faith is to deny ourselves and to make ourselves humble in the kingdom of God.

Is doing good work less valuable because we enjoyed it when we were doing it?
Is it not good to wish for your own safety in life?
Is Christianity something for religious masochists with hard boiled faces?

Those questions are raised in my mind, and perhaps not only in mine. And those questions are not unimportant, because with sentences from the gospel like these, people were made humble and church and even society. And that was often not a good thing. Only things people did as a sign of self-conquest seemed to be valuable. Church seemed to promote doing things you never really liked – only those actions you did without pleasure were accepted as good ones.

On the other hand:
In spite of all our wishes for liberation from old-fashioned habits: We cannot turn this word of the gospel the other way around. You will end up in a way of life organised around your own self. Maintaining your own existence is the only goal – there is hardly any connection with the world around you.

I think it helps if we look at the context, at where our gospel sequence is placed in the whole gospel according to Mark. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and the people and disciples are curious as to who he is after they listened to his sermons and saw some miracles. Some writers say that Jesus already knew what his fate in Jerusalem would be, others say that it was not clear for him. For us today, it is less important. We already know the story of Jesus and know that Jerusalem was the place of his martyrdom and death, that he was praised when he arrived and that everybody left him and that people wished for his death after some days.
Hosanna in the highest! Crucify him! – and everything between those two extremes.

But Jesus remained faithful to his central message: Liberation of the people from the slavery they suffered from daily. That sounds very political. And in a certain way it is.
But Jesus was not a daily life politician. The examples he used in his teaching and preaching came from everyday life – that made him popular and understandable in his days. But he never preached uprising or revolution. Jesus only questioned the daily life, he gave some examples and while listening people could think by themselves what it meant for their own life. How they should act towards the Romans, how to live according to the Law and the Scriptures, how to deal with people who were sinners or how to act when confronted with the poor and lonely.

Jesus had a strong opinion – he was not a very shy person. The weak and those who were suffering had the most important place in his heart – that was obvious to everybody.
And by doing it in this way he had a lot of problems with the authorities but that did not stop him. Two things were clear:
– Without any doubt he was on the side of the weak and the one who was truly justified.
– Jesus was not a revolutionary. He never acted against public law or justified crime and violence. Of course he had his thoughts about it – but he was talking not fighting.

But despite being peaceful – his life was full of problems. His mission was more important to him. But Jesus was not an advocate of self-denying. He was modest – in every way – but he was not someone who promoted unnecessary humility.

An example:
An old man lives a good life with his foreign neighbours. He helps the children with their homework from school, they do some shopping for him – a normal contact in the neighbourhood. In the eyes of the old man they are okay – in spite of the fact that their front garden doesn’t look too pretty and their food smells strong and different. He likes them, everybody to his or her own life – he thinks.
But then others tell him that is not good to live with the foreign neighbours as he is doing. They have another religion and have too many children – and most of them are clients of the national welfare. All of you know those stories or have such experiences.
And the old man starts to doubt. Because the person telling him this is an important figure in the local community. Not to be good friend with him could be a little bit stupid…. But his own experiences with his neighbours were good!
It is a dilemma we possibly recognise even if the example is not very well chosen.

Because: If we break up our contact with the friendly neighbours on behalf of an important figure in our local community, will we be more happy?
Or is it better to be in less good standing with that important figure?

I do not want to suggest such choices are easy, there are many possible answers. History shows us that people gave different answers on this question. Right answers, wrong answers and answers we totally cannot understand from our point of view today.

But there always remains one question, even if we survived a difficult situation:
What I have done: was it good and right?

Your own conscience is the hardest judge you can have.

And this is the most important subject Jesus is talking about in our gospel of today. It is of less importance how difficult a decision or an action is for us. The question is: Can we live with our decision, can we account for our action?

36What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself?37What could you give to get back your soul?
38Don’t be ashamed of me and my message among these unfaithful and sinful people! If you are, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Jesus wants to prevent us from being ashamed of our life and actions.
Jesus followed his path to his martyrdom and death because there was no alternative for him. If he had revoked everything facing trial, maybe his own life would have been saved – but he would have lost everything he had lived for before.
He would have destroyed everything he had worked for.
He would have been dead – alive.

Let us hope that we are never facing such dilemmas in our own life.

Jesus died for the liberation of his people, to liberate them from fear and the slavery of fear. He wished a life for us free from fear, a life in fullness and happiness.
For me that means that I take my decisions and make my choices in that light.

36What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself?37What could you give to get back your soul?
38Don’t be ashamed of me and my message among these unfaithful and sinful people! If you are, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.


The Intercessions

We pray to You heavenly Father in deep humility acknowledging our failures, in thought and actions. We pray You to have pity on Your whole suffering creation, suffering through its own failings, its own waywardness. As Christ wept for Jerusalem as He approached crucifixion, so must You continually weep for this our world You have entrusted to us.

We pray for Your one Church throughout the world, for all the baptised, that through the workings and inspiration of Your Holy Spirit it may indeed be one in thought, waiting for Your Son’s return, and until that time bearing witness to You and to Your infinite love.

Forgive us where we have fallen short, in love for You and in love for others. Take the good in us, and use us to work for good in the world, wherever You may place us.

We pray You for the ministers and leaders of Your Church, particularly at this time of severe trials and uncertainty. Grant them through Your Spirit true knowledge and understanding of Thy Word, that they may promote it with conviction and courage.
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the world at large, struggling with many problems, political, social, climate, disease, over-population;
a world vainly putting its faith in earthly efforts and powers, believing it can save itself with its own inventions, but with no idea where it is going, its foundations built on shifting human sands.

We pray for the many millions suffering physically and mentally in the world,
for the victims of genocide, the millions of refugees fleeing for their lives,
for the bereaved having lost family, friends and homes through the present Corona pandemic;
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

We bring before You our own congregation, for all on our Chaplaincy Prayer List,
and any others for whom we particularly wish to pray …;
Comfort and strengthen, O God, all in distress, heal them if it be Your will and lift them up in your everlasting arms;
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hear us as we remember those who have died in the peace of Christ; keep them in Your rest and peace until the glorious day of the resurrection.
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

God, the True Light, kindle our lives and the lives of those for whom we pray, with the fire of your Holy Spirit; in times of anxiety grant us serenity; in times of suffering, strength; and at all times a quiet trust in your wisdom and love.
Merciful Father, accept these our prayers for the sake of Your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen

The anthem and hymn

The anthem is: O pray for the peace of Jerusalem – Herbert Howells

The hymn is NEH 70 – Lord Jesus, think on me



Almighty God,
you see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves:
keep us both outwardly in our bodies,
and inwardly in our souls;
that we may be defended from all adversities
which may happen to the body,
and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The Blessing

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.