This week’s Prayers and Readings :
The Collect for this Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
The Post-Communion Prayer for today
O Lord our God, make us watchful and keep us faithful as we await the coming of your Son our Lord; that, when he shall appear, he may not find us sleeping in sin but active in his service and joyful in his praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The Psalm for this Sunday is Psalm 80 verses 1-7 & 17-18
1Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth 2 before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us! 3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. 4 O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. 6 You make us the scorn of our neighbours; our enemies laugh among themselves. 7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved. They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance. 17 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself. 18 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and shall be forever. Amen
The First Testament Lesson for this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 64, verses 1 - 9
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence- -2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil - to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. 5 You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 7 There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. 8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity for ever.
This is the Word of the Lord Thanks be to God
The Gospel reading for this Sunday is taken from the Gospel according to Mark, Chapter 13, verses 24-37
Hear the Gospel of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, according to Matthew Glory to You, O Lord !
24 ‘But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28 ‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’
This is the Gospel of the Lord Praise to You, o Christ !
This week’s sermon is delivered by Pam Bateman
When I first started looking at these passages I expected to explore issues in the St Mark's passage about the 'end times' and Jesus not knowing when they were. However, I found myself drawn to Psalm 80 and Isaiah 64, because as I went round the shops last week I found myself confused about what we appeared to be celebrating. It's as though we have become complacent, forgetting that we are in a battle, a race, a continual movement against the evil, the brokeness of this world. We rest on the many wonderful acts of God in the past and forget the new battles that are before us today. I wonder, how many of you wandered around the shops looking for presents, cards or decorations found anything relating to the story of Christmas that we want to celebrate in 22 days time? What trace is there of the birth of Jesus to be found: any stables, stars, mangers or wise men, any message of love and relationship with each other or with our creator God? Instead we find plastic toys, Christmas trees, reindeer, expensive presents and parties. I'm not trying to be a humbug type person, it's just that we seem to have lost our way.
This week we think of as the first week of Advent. According to Wikapedia it is 'a season observed in most Christian denominations as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming'. Some Christian traditions considered it to be a penitential period in preparation for the coming of Christ, so it is a time of fasting and prayer. The meaning of the candles that we light every week symbolise Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
So why do our readings today reflect times of trouble for the people of God? Why do we have Psalm 80 with its prayer for God to restore His people after they have been ravaged by enemies? Why do we have Isaiah as our reading which is part of a prayer for Divine Deliverance? Why do we have the passage from Mark about the fall of Jerusalem, following passages about the corruption of the teachers of the law in contrast to the value of the widow's mite? Why are we told about suffering, the need for repentance, for the need for God's forgiveness, salvation and the need to be awake, to keep watch and pray in this season of hope, peace, love and joy?
Psalm 80 has so many requests of God by the psalmist, asking for God to be a shepherd to his people, to shine forth, to stir up His strength or His might, to come and save them, His people, to turn them again, to restore or convert them, to return to them, to put His hand upon the person at His right hand that He had had made strong, to quicken them, give them life and restore them. But there are also complaints against God, that He was angry with His people and had been for a long time, that he had allowed them sorrow and anguish and their neighbours and enemies to laugh at them; that God had caused His people, who were once succesful to be broken down and become useless. The Psalm concluded with a longing desire for God to restore His people to health and new life, so that they would never again leave His service or presence and become whole and complete and rest under the shine of Gods presence among them.
Isaiah 64 is a prayer for God to return to His people who had been defeated and for Him destroy their enemies. The writer identified how God was there for those who followed Him and served Him, but He also became angry when there were those of God's people who didn't follow Him and that the suffering which followed involved all of God's people whether innocent or guilty until they turned again to God and obeyed His ways. The writer encouraged those who still followed after God to pray and look to God. He stated that God could take them from being like muddy clay and create in His people new life and create good things from that which appeared to be worthless.
Are these messages for us today? In Mark, Jesus told the Christians that they had an important role in the mess the world was in. And so there is for us today. Yes, we have all failed, are all broken and bewildered by our experiences over recent years and days and fears about tomorrow, but there is something God wants us to do; to acknowledge our need for forgiveness, our need to change, our need to be awake and looking for God, to act as though we are expecting Him to be here with us today and everyday. Tom Wright writes 'Christians increasingly need to realise that unless we understand the first century we will not understand our own times, or what sort of people we ourselves are called to be. …. Just the ongoing command to God's people in Christ to be faithful to Him, not to compromise with the standards and fashions of the present age, but to keep awake, watching, as Paul again says, for the day to dawn, in whose light the dim flickering candles of the present age will be needed no more.'
Isaiah stated that God could take them, and us, from being like muddy clay and create in His people new life, creating good things from that which appeared to be worthless. Is this todays message from the readings today, that we need to be made anew, whole and complete. May we look forward to the hope that is set before us, watching and praying faithfully, seeking once again to know God's ways and be trustworthy servants of our Lord and Creator. We know Gods faithful love, let us be faithful too. Amen