Sunday Worship 18th February 2024 – Lent 1

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (StF) numbers will be given where available)

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper across our circuit and with the congregation at Bolton Methodist Church and led by Brian Gamble one of our Circuit Local Preachers.

Click on the blue links to follow them for bible readings and associated links

Today is the first Sunday of Lent.

People have very different feelings about Lent. To many it makes no difference at all. They may not be aware of this special season of the Christian Church and carry on as normal.

I suspect that there are also many Christians who do the same.

Traditionally we should fast during Lent, emulating the forty days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness. This means we limit the amount of food we eat, often to just one meal each day.

However, many people don’t have the physical constitution or life style to make fasting practical so an alternative is abstinence, giving up something of which we are particularly fond. This has long been the accepted Methodist way.

A newer approach to Lent, rather than give something up, is to add something to our lives. To use our resources to do something different and meaningful which may mean giving up time.

Whichever we choose the important objective is that, for forty days, it helps us to focus on God’s presence and Christ’s sacrifice for us.

Song – StF 238 – Lead us, Heavenly Father lead us

Let’s pray

Almighty God,
You are sovereign over all things.
You hold the universe in your hand
And control every part of your creation.
We are filled with gratitude that your Son came from all eternity and stepped into our world.
That he walked as we walk and has marked out a path for us to follow.
We bring our thanks and praise in His name, today.

Father, you offered us a covenant promise of unfailing love
But we have to confess that we live to please ourselves.
You gave us a fantastic world to live in
But we have acted selfishly and abused your generosity.
You established your rainbow of hope for all to see
But we have repeatedly failed to trust your word.

You seek to have a new relationship with us
But we turn our backs to you and pretend you don’t know.
Father, out of your grace you once again offer your promise of peace.
In place of the rainbow you show us the cross.
In Jesus you show us a way home.
In his name, Lord, cleanse, renew, forgive and heal us
So that we can start again our life with you.


Genesis 9: 8-17

The word from Genesis is a reminder that God is continually trying to establish a positive and fruitful connection with his people.

It didn’t take long for the wonderful world which God created to go astray. We know that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden but that punishment didn’t produce the desired result. The writer of Genesis tells us that, after some time “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth and his heart was filled with pain,” so the Lord said,” I will wipe mankind, who I have created, from the face of the earth.” (Genesis 6: 5-7)

However God saw that there was one man, Noah, who had remained faithful, who had followed God’s ways. So God decided that he would save him and his family to make a new beginning. He gave instructions which Noah followed, probably in the face of ridicule and hostility, and the story is well known that they all survived the flood and came to rest again on God’s good earth.

To mark this new beginning God made a covenant with Noah, a promise that he would never again destroy the earth with floods. And so humankind once more populated God’s creation.

However, as we read on through the bible, we soon see that people failed to live to God’s standards again and again and again. Over the centuries that followed God tried every way to get his people to respond to his love. He sent prophets to warn and persuade them. He punished them by exile. Always hoping, always giving them further opportunities to acknowledge his love.

In a final attempt he sent his son

Song – StF 272 – From heaven you came helpless babe

Mark 1: 9-15

As we read Mark’s gospel we get the sense of his excitement, his urgency to get the story down on paper.  Mark just tells us the essentials in his gospel. The other writers who came later filled in some detail.
So, because Mark tells us about this moment when Jesus was publicly affirmed, we know he thought it was important.
Jesus was baptised
Jesus insisted on receiving baptism. This showed his approval of John’s baptism and identified him with sinners, even though he was free from sin.
The Holy Spirit descended.
The visible sign of the invisible Holy Spirit, symbolised by a dove, shows that the he will be working with Jesus to bring people to God.

A voice came from heaven.
God’s testimony came directly from heaven stating his pleasure in Jesus, his son.
These few words describe a perfect scene for us. We have a picture of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit, standing together as Jesus began his ministry for the salvation of his people.

Again we feel the urgency as Mark writes, “At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert”. He tells us that he was there for forty days.
It’s from Matthew and Luke that we learn about his temptations.
The number forty is significant in the Old Testament.
In the great flood, which we have heard about, God sent 40 days and nights of rain (Genesis 7:4)

Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God while he received instructions for the building of the Tabernacle (Exodus 24:18)

The Hebrew people wandered 40 years in the desert while travelling to the promised land (Numbers 14:33)

After Elijah had defeated all the prophets of Baal he fled from Jezabel and spent 40 days and nights walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8)

Jonah’s prophecy of judgement gave 40 days to the city of Nineveh in which to repent or be destroyed (Jonah 3:4).

Jesus was brought up in a faithful, Jewish family and would have been well versed in the scriptures. If we know the background from the Old Testament it helps us to understand these events better. In the book of Deuteronomy 8: 1-5 Moses recalls how the Lord led the Israelites in the desert for 40 years “to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands”. 

At the beginning of his ministry Jesus was subjected to a similar test and showed himself to be a true Israelite who lived “On every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” 

Jesus left everything behind and went into the wilderness with nothing. It has been said that when you discover that all you have left is God, then you will realise that God is all you need. This time of separation and at the same time closeness to his Father was the opportunity for Jesus to understand and confirm his mission.

Mark also tells us that “while he was in the wilderness “Angels attended him”
When we find ourselves in what might be called a wilderness situation we too may be attended by angels.

The final two verses of our reading are a reminder that life doesn’t remain in the wilderness. Jesus moved into his mission proper and began preaching, “repent and believe.”

What can ‘wilderness’ mean in our lives?
Is the current financial situation a wilderness for you?
Perhaps we have conflict at home?
Is loneliness a wilderness that we face?
Are some of us in the wilderness of physical or mental afflictions?

God made us, each one unique, each one wonderful.  As he told Jeremiah, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5). As his children he loves us and in every circumstance will provide some help or encouragement. This can come quite unexpectedly through a friend, a neighbour or a stranger. God knows our strengths and weaknesses and never allows difficulties to become too much. He knows we can move on to a better life.

Let us put our trust in him. Let us remain steadfast while in our wilderness. But let us continually look for that time when we can take action to bring the reign of God to the people around us.

In this season of Lent, through our study and prayer, may each one of us feel and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Song – StF 249 – Jesus, Jesus, fill us with your love.


Let’s share our prayers for the world.
We pray for all people who are tempted.
We pray for people who use alcohol or drugs in excess.
Who are so focussed on the momentary pleasure that they don’t see the damage they are causing.
May they find alternatives to their addictions

We pray for people who are tempted to give in to the pressures of life.
Who feel overwhelmed and can see no viable future, whose dreams have come to nothing and are afraid of failure.
May they find a sympathetic ear to share their problems.

We pray for people who are tempted to reach for power.
Who are prepared to go to any lengths to gain their goal. Who are insensitive to the harm they may cause to other people and refuse to accept accountability for any wrong decisions they have made.
May they find the truth to set them free.

We pray for people who are tempted to fight for what they want.
Leaders of nations who want to enlarge their influence. Smaller groups who feel aggrieved and want to right wrongs.
May they find reconciliation and peace.

We pray for ourselves as we struggle with temptation.
When we have to make important choices. When we face ridicule or opposition.
May we find strength and honesty in the certainty of your presence.

Father you know our needs better than we do. Fill us with your spirit we ask in the name of Christ who was tempted as we are.


Let’s say the Lord’s Prayer together.

Song – StF 547 – Beyond these walls of worship

The Lord bless you and keep you

The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you

The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace

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