Reflection for the second Sunday in Lent

Reading: Mark 8: 31-38

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

Reflection

Imagine what your reaction would have been if over a year ago somebody had predicted a world in the grip of a pandemic that would disrupt most of the things we take for granted – things like the freedom to carry on one’s business; the freedom to travel; the freedom to meet family and friends; and the freedom to meet and worship in our churches. I expect we would have recoiled from the very notion of a world like that where every action is dictated by the necessity of avoiding a deadly virus. Yet that is where we are, and predictions of the future are still uncertain at best.

Our two scripture readings today present predictions of the future – one which seemed highly unlikely and the other which seemed too dreadful to contemplate. Abram, a very elderly man, had an encounter with God in which he received a promise and was given a new name. The promise was the most unlikely event imaginable, that he would become the ancestor of a multitude of nations. It was unlikely because as a centenarian, Abram and his wife were childless. They were approaching the end of their days with unfulfilled dreams and the prospect of having a family was surely well over.

God had a destiny planned for Abram and that was reflected in the new name given to him: Abraham meaning ‘ancestor of a multitude’. Through one nation, God would fulfil his purposes and Abraham became the founding father of that nation.

When Jesus predicted his suffering, death and resurrection to his disciples, it was a prospect too dreadful to contemplate. One of them, Peter, objected strongly to this unthinkable outcome for their leader. Just prior to this, in a flash of insight, Peter had declared that Jesus was the Messiah. A Messiah was expected to bring deliverance to God’s people, so how could it be possible for him to suffer defeat and death? Yet Jesus could not have been clearer in his teaching. He knew that his destiny was the pathway of suffering and self-giving in order to fulfil God’s plan of salvation.

Like Abram, Peter had also received a new name. His given name was Simon, but Jesus had named him Peter, meaning the rock, reflecting his character and his potential. The rock meant somebody dependable and steady, but in today’s reading it reveals another character trait – unyielding and immovable. Peter received a stinging rebuke for his objection to Our Lord’s prediction. It was hard for him to take on board the willing, self-giving suffering of Christ.

Perhaps, we are like Peter – we are prepared to follow Christ on our own terms and we resist those parts of the gospel we find uncomfortable or too demanding.

In this season of Lent, we make our journey of faith towards Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter, when we will contemplate the meaning of Our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. Christ willingly chose the way of self-giving love and as the final section of our gospel spells out, he also called his would-be followers to be prepared to deny themselves, to take up their cross and follow him.

Our initial reaction to those words, may be to shrink from such an austere sounding life, but Christ has taught us that ‘those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it’. One commentator has paraphrased this statement in these words: ‘To seek to evade risk and save one’s life – to have things one’s own way – would to be to suffer the loss of one’s true self’. By contrast, to risk all for the sake of Christ and the good news is to live an authentic life.

Christ calls us to live authentically for Him and for others. Whatever the circumstances we live through and the challenges we face, we have a purpose in life. We cannot predict the future, but we can commit to him in whom our future lies.

Collect for 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. Amen.

Lenten Collect

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Let us offer our prayers to God in faith and love.

God our Father,
You have given us an example of faith in your servant Abraham.
We pray for your church, that we and all your people
may walk in faith, trusting in your promises.
Give us faith to remain true to our calling as disciples of Christ.
Bless Pat, our bishop, this diocese and its people.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the leaders of nations,
for our country and our Government.
Guide them with your wisdom in the decisions they make
in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic,
that they may be for the common good
and the safety and welfare of all people.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our homes and families and loved ones.
Bless all parents as they care for their children while working from home.
Grant them patience in times of stress,
and be with all who are worried or anxious.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our schools as they prepare to re-open.
Strengthen and support principals, teachers and all school staff
in their work. We pray that our schools by be a safe learning environment
for our young people.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill, that they may know your strength and healing.
We remember all who work in the frontline of our health service
especially those caring for people suffering with the COVID-19 virus.
Protect them in their work and help them to cope with demands placed on them.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who grieve and mourn the loss of loved ones,
that they may know your comfort and your peace.
We give thanks for all who have completed their earthly pilgrimage
and rest in your nearer presence.
Bring us with them to share in the joy of your eternal kingdom.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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