The Third Rocky Road Epistle Chapter 7

We have now entered the season of Lent - 40 days of leading up to Easter.  Lent is a time when the question often asked is “what are you giving-up for Lent?”  It may be chocolate or alcohol.  Or giving-up something to help the climate, like avoiding single use plastic or not buying anything new.  You may though, feel you have given up enough over the last year so what about this year taking on something for Lent?  What about reading through the book of Psalms?  Four a day would work, even if you missed the odd day.  Or committing to pray for 3 people each day who do not yet know Jesus.  Or simply setting aside a regular time to be still in God’s presence? 

“Be still and know that I am God” is an excellent prayer meditation. Richard Rohr uses the verse from Psalm 46 v.10 to create a meditative prayer that can help us centre ourselves on God. 

Find a quiet space and say this prayer slowly. Pausing between each line:

“Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.”

In our recent chapters we have been thinking about Wellbeing by considering Elijah, and particularly his time in the wilderness.  Now we are starting a series about “Worship in the Wilderness” by reflecting on Jesus and the 40 days he spent in the wilderness.  You may feel that you have had too much wilderness already with so much of “normal” life having been taken away.  But wildernesses are places of opportunity for God to work.  Author Jenny Phillips writes

“The wilderness of the Bible is a liminal space—an in-between place where ordinary life is suspended, identity shifts, and new possibilities emerge.  Through the experiences of the Israelites in exile, we learn that while the Biblical wilderness is a place of danger, temptation and chaos, it is also a place for solitude, nourishment, and revelation from God. These themes emerge again in Jesus’ journey into the wilderness, tying his identity to that of his Hebrew ancestors.”

Let us not use the next 40 days as an excuse to have a “holiday” from spiritual matters as in the cartoon, but rather to seek God in the wilderness, in the situations we face.  Take time to pray and listen to what God is saying to you, and what God is saying to RRBC and your part in it.

As I write, we are still waiting for the Prime Minister to reveal his “road map” out of lockdown, but the Deacons are ahead of him and we are aiming to hold the Sunday morning service in the building on Palm Sunday, 28th March.  Then on Easter Sunday morning we will hold a service outdoors on our carpark, provided singing outdoors is allowed and the weather is reasonable.  Before Palm Sunday we will have a socially distanced spring clean of the building in the morning of Saturday 27th March.

This week we are finishing our Wellbeing Journey, based on the story of Elijah as used in Dave Smith’s book, “God’s plan for your wellbeing”, and starting to think about “Worship in the Wilderness – Journey with Jesus through the desert for Lent”.  The material is by Sara and Sam Hargreaves (founders of the Music and Worship Foundation). 

Next week’s theme will be “A simple journey”.


Reflection

From Laura on “Vocational Wellbeing – a Spirit led Journey” based on 1 Kings 18 v.1-8, 19 v.9-18

The end of one journey and the start of another is a chance to look back and review, and then to step out into the new.  A bit like climbing a mountain to the top, looking out over the view while catching one’s breath.  Then starting the journey back down.  Vocational Wellbeing is about reviewing our spiritual journey so far and ensuring we take the right steps in going forward, in following God’s vocation or calling on our life.  Dave Smith points out that “knowing our God-given purpose, and living it out, is the birthright of every born-again child of God.”  A God given purpose of “Glorifying God by enjoying Him forever” (writer John Piper’s rephrasing from the Westminster confession).

Yet each of us has a God-given specific life pathway, as Paul writes

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. (Ephesians 2 v.10)

Elijah had a unique role as a national prophet.  Others were important in the story but with a very different role.  For example, Obadiah, who was the palace administrator, served God where he was.  One an upfront role and the other helping behind the scenes, both were equally important.  Together as a community our God given gifts complement and build up God’s people.  The challenge is to live out our common God-given purpose and to find out, and follow, our own specific life pathway.  For this we need to be led by the Holy Spirit and that sometimes involves perseverance through wilderness experiences.

Elijah had had a “mountaintop experience”, a tremendous victory over the prophets of Baal, but then entered the wilderness a broken man wanting to give up everything.  But God did not give up on him.  Elijah journeyed to Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai – the mountain where God had appeared to Moses.  There he experienced a powerful wind followed by an earthquake and then a fire.  But we are told that God was not in any of these.  Had Elijah expected to see God in these powerful symbols?  Was he putting God in a box, limiting God to always act in certain ways?  Afterall when Moses met with God, God’s appearance was accompanied by fire and the mountain shook (Exodus 19 v.16-19).  But not this time, God revealed himself in a gentle whisper.  He restored Elijah to wellbeing, strengthened him and spoke to him.  Elijah was recommissioned with a fresh vision.  He was sent back on a return journey to carry on his God-given calling, with new instructions and the provision of Elisha.  

After Moses and the people of Israel had met God at Mount Sinai, a high point in their journey, they were led into the wilderness for the journey to the promised land.  The time in the wilderness saw God guiding them with a pillar of cloud and of fire, providing for them water, manna and quails, and teaching them to worship and be His people.  Deuteronomy 8 v.2 says

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”

At his baptism Jesus had a mountaintop experience, the Spirit had descended on Him and God the Father had spoken.  Some would see it as a good moment to start his ministry, but no, the Spirit led him into the wilderness, into a dry and lonely place, a place of struggle and temptation.  After that Jesus was ready to start his earthly ministry and take the journey leading to the cross.

The wilderness was for the people of Israel, for Elijah and for Jesus, a place of worship and transformation.  As Sara and Sam Hargreaves write “God is with you, he never wants to see you suffer but he is passionate to see you trust in him and learn to worship in the wilderness”. 

Let us submit to God’s plan for our lives, even when the Spirit leads us into the wilderness, since we know that God will bring us through and improve our wellbeing.  Or as St Paul puts it

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart… since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving”.  (Colossians 3:23–24)


Zoom Bible Study

On Wednesday 24th February 7.15pm for 7.30pm start,

“Led by the Holy Spirit”

All are welcome to join - please ask Laura for details.  Or if you prefer to do this Bible Study at home, then read the passages several times and consider the following questions.

  1. Have there been times in your life when your clearly sensed God guiding you?  Or times when you look back you can see God’s leading, though you didn’t realise it at the time?

Read 2 Kings 2 v.5-15.

  1. What does the passage tell you about God?
  2. What do you learn about being led by the Spirit?
  3. Anything surprise you in the passage?
  4. What parallels are there with the passage Luke 24 v.45-52? 

Prayers

Our prayers this week come from the Baptist Prayer book – Gathering for Worship.  In them we ask Jesus, as the Lord of Lent, to come to his Church and ask us some hard questions.

Are we faithfully proclaiming his gospel?  Are we demonstrating in our life together the justice of God’s kingdom?  Have we welcomed the weak and given prominence to the poor?

Lord of Lent, come to your Church
to spring-clean our ways of life,
our structures and priorities.
Point out to us the cobwebs, the dirt,
the extravagance and the waste.
Create in us a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within us.

Lord of Lent, 
renew our lives.

Lord of Lent, come to the nations
and challenge our idolatries.
Spring-clean the sordid cupboard
of this world’s false gods.
Sweep out the false pride, the self-seeking, the deceit, corruption and lies.
May the kingdoms of this earth seek justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
May we look beyond immediate advantage to seek the common good, and be drawn
to it, as a lark to the dawn.

Lord of Lent, 
renew our lives.

Lord of Lent, look with compassion
on those whose minds are full of anxiety
and bewilderment.
We remember people who are lonely, imprisoned, despairing and humiliated.
Clear away from them all unnecessary feelings of fear, guilt and self-hatred.
Assure them that when you spring-clean
our hearts and minds you know what you are doing, for you have been there,
one of us, and you are to be trusted.

Lord of Lent, 
renew our lives.

For ourselves, Lord,
we pray that your spring-cleaning
would be thorough and true this Lent.
Show us clearly these effortless sins we no longer even notice, and help us to address the sins
which sit on our shoulders every day, our constant companions.
Give us both discipline in dealing with some faults and gentleness in dealing with others, and
help us to know the difference.
Create in us a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within us.

Lord of Lent, 
renew our lives,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

Please pray for our “Mission of the Month”
“Accommodation Concern”.


Songs for Sunday

1. Lord, I come to you,
let my heart be changed, renewed,
flowing from the grace
that I’ve found in You.
And, Lord, I’ve come to know
the weaknesses I see in me
will be stripped away
by the power of your love.

Hold me close,
let your love surround me;
bring me near,
draw me to Your side.
And as I wait,
I’ll rise up like the eagle,
and I will soar with You,
Your Spirit leads me on
in the power of Your love.

2. Lord, unveil my eyes,
let me see you face to face,
the knowledge of your love
as you live in me.
Lord, renew my mind,
as your will unfolds in my life
in living every day
in the power of your love.
Hold me close, …

Geoff Bullock
©1992 WordMusic
 CCLI#5638

1. Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty,
hold me with Thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and ever more,
feed me now and ever more.

2. Open Thou the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fiery, cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through:
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
be Thou still my strength and shield,
be Thou still my strength and shield.

3. When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell’s destruction,
land me safe on Canaan’s side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee,
I will ever give to Thee.

William Williams
© CCLI #5638


News

For those of you who remember John Pebody from Southleigh, I must let you know that he has sadly died.  His burial, with a brief graveside service, is on 23rd February at 10.30am at Rothwell Road Cemetry, Kettering.  Please uphold Southleigh in your prayers at this time, whether you knew John or not!


Listening to a recording of our audio service

If you have the internet, then go to our website (www.RRBC.org.uk) where you will find a recording under the audio files.

If you are not on the internet, we have now paid to have a “Dial-a-Service” facility.  Telephone 01536 909787 and you will be able to listen to a recording of the service on your telephone.  The cost, around 30p a call, is covered by the church.

Don’t forget our Facebook page always has some interesting things on as well.


Sunday Liturgy

FIRST SUNDAY - GATHERING PRAYER

God of feasting and fasting,
mountaintop and desert,
you gather us together by your Holy Spirit.

May we follow Jesus into the wilderness,
feeding on your living bread
and tasting your water of life.
We come hungry and thirsty
for more of you, God. Amen.

FIRST SUNDAY - SENDING PRAYER

Holy Spirit,
fill us with your water of life,
so that even as we walk through the desert
we might know your refreshing
and share it with those around us.
Lead us, as you led Jesus,
to the glory of God the Father.
Amen.

FIRST SUNDAY - RESPONSIVE PRAYER

[Leader:] Sometimes we feel like we’re walking through wilderness:
[All:] Jesus we choose to walk with you.

When our spirits feel dry, help us trust in your Spirit:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.

Fasting seems difficult, prayers seem unanswered:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.

The world howls like wild animals all around us:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.

We can choose to worry, or to trust you to provide:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.

Temptation is everywhere, doubts can overwhelm us:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.

You know what it’s like to walk through this desert:
Jesus we choose to walk with you.

You long to transform us with wilderness worship:
Jesus we choose to walk with you. Amen

IN THE PRINTABLE SCRIPT
Text © Sara and Sam Hargreaves, engageworship
For more resources like this visit engageworship.org/wilderness