A reflection for the 21st February 2021
'First Sunday in Lent'

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Offered for Sunday 21st February 2021


Stephen

Reflections Script

'First Sunday in Lent'

February 21st 2021


It's been suggested,
the best way to read Marks Gospel
is to read it while jogging because
the pace at which Mark writes leaves
you breathless and with few clues
as to the time line you may think
the whole Jesus event from the Baptism
to the Cross lasts about six weeks
and there is no better example
than this first chapter!

Mark starts with the statement
this is the beginning of the
'Good News' followed by
John the Baptist appearing in the desert,
followed by Jesus also suddenly appearing,
followed by the baptism,
followed by the time in the wilderness,
followed by a little note
about Johns arrest,
followed by the calling of
the first disciples,
followed by teaching in the
synagogue at Capernaum,
followed by the cleaning of the
man with an unclean spirit,
followed by the healing of
Simon's Mother-in-Law,
followed by more healing
and deliverance,
followed by the next day
seeking solitude,
followed by the healing
of a leper and all in 48 verses!

Just going through the
'follow by' has left me breathless!

However, we also have a prime example
of Marks brevity and straight talking.
After the baptism in both Matthew
and Luke's narrative Jesus is 'led'
by the 'Holy Spirit' into the wilderness but where Mark
in his narrative after
the baptism in verse 12,
'And the Spirit immediately
drove him out into the wilderness'
not quite as gentle
as Matthew and Luke!

I don't know if I have heard
the following reflections
or it's an original thought
but I have on occasions reflected
on the differences in the accounts
and think Matthew and Luke are
reflecting on the divinity
of Christ with the leading
of the Holy Spirit being a
mutual agreement with Mark
dealing with the humanity
of Jesus who even at this point
knows where the journey
will eventually end!

Before we Pray
a brief introduction to what
you may feel is an unusual
choice of an opening prayer
To quote :-
The Roman Catholic publication
'The Tablet' reported
'Worshippers will no longer chant
"lead us not into temptation"
but instead "do not let us fall
into temptation".

Pope Francis said he has brought
about the change for one simple reason:
he believes humanity falls
to temptation;
it is not induced by God.


Let us Pray


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 do not let us fall
into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Amen.


Address


"J J DID TIE BUCKLE"
you heard right
"J J DID TIE BUCKLE"
is an odd sentence unless you
know it's an acronym,
where each letter stands for
a word needing to be remembered.

This acronym was devised for the
United States Marine Corps,
helping marines to keep in mind
the fourteen traits of their leadership:
justice, judgement,
dependability, initiative,
decisiveness, tact,
integrity, enthusiasm, bearing,
unselfishness, courage, knowledge,
loyalty and endurance.

It's quite a list;
no wonder someone devised the
acronym as a way of recalling
their fourteen traits of leadership!

Most of us would affirm the
value of all those qualities.
Business leadership models tend to
place greater emphasis on the
need for team working,
highlighting skills such as
delegation, empathy and
capacity to inspire,
alongside vision,
creativity and flexibility.

How would Jesus' leadership
match these qualities?
They are all virtuous traits,
and perhaps what makes Jesus'
leadership distinctive
is we see these qualities in
his life as well as his words.

But there is a deeper
distinguishing factor in Jesus'
leadership;
his mission springs out of
and remains dependent upon
his heavenly Father,
to whom he gives all the glory.

Within the opening chapter
of Mark's Gospel,
the adult Jesus emerges from
the unremarkable village of
Nazareth to be baptised by
John at the River Jordan.

Mark's narrative sets an
urgent pace, with no lingering
over details.
It goes to the heart
of the drama:
the clash of the kingdoms
of light and darkness,
with Jesus at the centre.

Jesus has opened up the
pathway and removed all
the obstacles lying between us
and God's kingdom,
enabling us to follow him
as Lord into life with God
for ever.

Mark's intense,
action-packed scenes offer
insights into how God's
kingdom advances as he
presents Jesus'
distinctive servant-leadership.

As Jesus is baptised
heaven opens up to resound
with God's voice,
expressing deep delight
in the beloved Son.

Yet this is before Jesus'
public ministry has begun.
Human beings tend to approve
of others because of what
they have achieved.

Here, Jesus is cherished
not for what he has done,
but for who he is in
relationship to the Father.
Jesus is no self-sufficient
military leader, nor an ambitious
business executive:
he is fundamentally a beloved Son.

We might assume God's
endorsement and the Spirit's
anointing would lead Jesus
straight into proclaiming
God's kingdom.

Instead,
the Spirit as we read in Mark,
drives Jesus into the wilderness
who is brought face to face
with danger in wild and dark places.

Far from being an escape,
the Spirit's anointing
has equipped Jesus to encounter
vulnerability.

Jesus' obedience is honed under
opposition and temptation,
away from the limelight.

When Jesus returns to Galilee,
this undergirds the clarity,
authority and integrity
of his kingdom call to
repentance and baptism.

As we seek to serve
God the Father
revealed in Christ by the
power of the Holy Spirit
we may be tempted to set
our bench mark by what we do
and have achieved;
whether it's spending hours
in prayer, what we know,
or our qualifications
and status.

Yet the power and energy
to minister come from
God's Spirit,
and the capacity to go beyond
ourselves comes from knowing
we are loved as God's children.

Jesus moves forward,
knowing he is fully accepted,
beloved of the Father.

God's gaze upon us is as
full of love for us
as it is at the sight of Jesus.
There is nothing we can to do
make God love us more;
nothing we can do to make
God love us less.

Receiving this truth
ironically only strengthens
our desire to serve our Saviour.

Perhaps you've had an intense
experience of God coming close
that has been followed
by challenging and
difficult times.

If so, you need not be alarmed.
Being in the wilderness
is not a punishment.
Like Jesus, we may be exposed
to temptation's pull,
but we are not alone.
God never leaves us.

As we walk in faith through
temptation and danger,
we can emerge more grounded
and mature in Christ,
our trust in him deepened
through the darkness.

As we return to lighter times,
we will discover a new
resonance and authenticity
in our testimony
of God's faithfulness.

To Summarise

Secular leadership
highlights traits:
Jesus' leadership is rooted
in his relationship
with the Father.
Jesus receives God's endorsement
and the Spirit's anointing
before starting
his public ministry;

Jesus is immediately thrust
into the wilderness and
experiences temptation.
We need not be discouraged
if our Christian experience
follows Jesus' pattern.


Our Blessing


May the Lord Jesus
who resisted temptation
in the wilderness,
and preached the good news
of God's kingdom,
touch your life
with his strength
and enable you to be
his messenger of
good news both
in word and deed.
And the blessing of God....


group