St. Mary's Church

Second Sunday before Lent

Second Sunday before Lent

6 Feb 2021 • General news

Proverbs 8. 1, 22-31

8Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.23 Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—26 when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.27 When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,28 when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,30 then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.

Colossians 1. 15-20

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

John 1. 1-14

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

A reflection for the second Sunday before Lent, 7 February 2021:

John 1: 1-14

The opening chapter of John’s gospel is one of my favourite passages of the Bible. Partly that’s because it gives me a feeling of nostalgia, casting my mind back thirty years, to when I was a student, learning New Testament Greek. The lecturer, Dr Elwyn Davies, would chalk a passage of Greek onto the blackboard, then stand back, look at what he’d written, and sigh. “Look at that, boys,” he’d say. “Oh, it’s beautiful, boys, it’s beautiful. ”The opening of John’s gospel was one of the passages that elicited this reaction from him – and do you know what? He was right. John begins his book with some of the most beautiful poetry in the entire biblical text. Each of the gospels presents us with a unique take on the story of Jesus – Mark brims over with breathless enthusiasm in an account that fairly rattles along (and can be read in less than an hour), while Luke and Matthew adopt a slower pace that concentrates much more on the details; but John positively revels in the richness of the language. I will confess now that this passage is what I like to call my ‘litmus test’ – whenever I encounter a new translation of the Bible, it is to the opening of John’s gospel that I turn: and I make my judgement about the quality of the entire translation based on how this passage is rendered.

Each of the four evangelists sets his intentions out in the early parts of his gospel. Mark is keen to impress upon us that he is bringing the ‘good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God’, while Matthew and Luke both set Jesus very firmly into his historical and geographical context. John, however, has no truck with context, for he has set his sights on the cosmic; opening his gospel with a sweeping vision of the overarching power of the Christ. For John, the important thing about Jesus is his transcendence – and where Matthew and Luke open their accounts at the beginning of Jesus’ life, and Mark opens his at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John opens at a very different beginning, the beginning of the universe itself, where Jesus, incarnated as the Word, is already present and acting.

This passage has parallels with the creation story, as set out in the opening chapters of Genesis. In the Genesis story, God speaks the universe into being. “Let there be light,” he says, and in the same instant there is indeed light. For that to be the case, for the word spoken to become the thing spoken of, then the Voice of God must contain enormous power – and if the Voice has power, then the Word must also have power – enough power to actually be a person in its own right, a distinct individual with decision-making powers even as it remains an indivisible part of the Godhead. As far as John is concerned, the man that he knew – the Jesus who displayed such power on Earth, whom even death could not destroy – could only be explained in those terms. In John’s view, Jesus doesn’t wield the Power Cosmic, he is the Power Cosmic. Jesus doesn’t just repeat the words of God because he is himself actually that Word. Jesus doesn’t just tell people the truth, he is the Truth – and the Truth of him is the very source of all life and all light. When the Father says, at the beginning of all things, “Let there be light,” the Son is both the speaker and the Word spoken, calling everything into being out of nothing. I have mentioned before today that my favourite hymn is “The Lord of the Dance”, which has similar imagery in its first verse of a Cosmic Jesus, dancing rather than speaking the creation into existence. John wants us to know that everything in creation was made through the power of the Son, and nothing exists without his involvement – believe in Jesus, says John, because you owe the entirety of your existence to him. This is the glory and the wonder of the Incarnate Word – and John does a great job in this passage of conveying that wonder. It is here, in this first chapter of John’s Gospel, that we perhaps come closest to appreciating the mystery of God as interpreted to us by the person of Jesus.

As I said at the beginning, this remains my favourite passage from the Bible – a reminder of the fact that Jesus’ power is more than just what we read about in the gospels; and a reminder, too, that the Christian message is not just good, or true – it is also wonderful, and, as Dr Davies was keen to impress upon my 20-year-old self, beautiful.

AMEN

Intercessions for Sunday 7 February 2021

2nd Sunday before Lent

Lord who created all things, who spoke and it was, hear us as we come before you with all that is on our hearts. You love us and know us better than we know ourselves – you understand our cries for help and attention, hear us today as we pray in faith.

Lord we give thanks for the beauty of the wonderful world you created and especially for the diversity in all living things. For those taking part in the RSPB birdwatch over the last month, we thank you for the range of birds we see in our gardens, from our windows and in our streets. We remember how as you care for the tiniest of creatures, so you care for us. As the days begin to lengthen a little each week, we thank you for the light which brings hope that the darkest days are over. We pray for all those affected by the snow or rain over the past few days and in places where the forces of nature make daily life more difficult. Help us to care for our world and to enjoy and share all that it has to offer so that others may marvel at your creation.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Lord we pray for churches across the world including here in our own diocese of Coventry and in our parish of Walsgrave. We ask you to be especially close to those having to worship alone and missing the opportunity for fellowship with others either due to the pandemic or other difficult and dangerous circumstances. Speak to them as they take time to reflect and seek you out. We give thanks for the chance to meet online and for the technology that enables us to worship together. Continue to give confidence to those whose faith is shaken at the current time. May they feel your abiding presence encouraging them and leading them on. Help us all to be more mindful of those around us so that we can share your love with them.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Lord we continue to pray for an end to this pandemic which has so altered the world in which we live. We give thanks for scientists and researchers working to find solutions and vaccines to keep people safe. Give us all a heart for the vulnerable so that there are enough vaccines to go around. We pray for those working in hospitals, care homes or offering community support. Give them the mental and physical strength to get through each day. We ask for wisdom for those in leadership positions across the world as they try to work out ways to ease lockdown. Help them work together as they contemplate the long task of recovery that will follow.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Lord we pray for families struggling at this time. We think of those trying to juggle working at home, home schooling and caring responsibilities for elderly family members. We pray for those embarrassed as they do not know how to support their children with their schoolwork. We remember, too, those who are worried about their finances, about paying the rent or mortgage and providing enough food. We pray for those feeling trapped at home in stressful relationships or those struggling with substance abuse. We ask for your guiding, steadying hand in all relationships and pray that we act as good neighbours alert to the needs in our community.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Lord we give thanks for the life of Captain Sir Tom Moore. We give thanks for the way in which he inspired so many to believe that the sun will shine again and tomorrow will be a good day. We pray for all those who have lost a loved one this week and feel the emptiness and immense sadness. Hold them tenderly as they grieve and comfort them. May those who have gone before us now rest peacefully and know the joy of living with you forever. Help us all to hold tight to the promise of eternal life so that we have hope for tomorrow.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

Lord help us this week to respond to the Archbishops’ invite to call on you in prayer each evening at 6pm.Help us to show our commitment, care and love for one another by doing all we can to stop the virus spreading. Through our prayers and through our actions each day help us to show kindness and love to all those we meet.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen