We journey through the season of LENT. Travel with us!
This year Lent began on February 17th. It is always a time for self-searching, for reflection, for recognising anything which is ‘off’ in the way that we live our lives and finding ways to put things right, knowing that we are assured of God’s forgiveness and love. It is a time for meditation, for reading and reflecting on God’s word and what it means.
Many people give up some luxury / pleasure during Lent – but does this actually achieve anything (except a bit of weight loss for those who give up chocolate / crisps / alcohol)? We have already had to give up so much over the past 12 months…
This year, consider giving up on giving up, and instead give OUT…give your time to others, give your attention to matters of social justice, give your voice to those in society who have no voice.
Click here for Lent challenge 2021
Bible passages for you to read and think about during Lent:
Joel 2: 12-13 “Even now”, declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.
Matthew 6: 16-18 ‘When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Mark 1: 13 And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to him.
Ecclesiastes 3: 20 All go unto one place; all are of dust, and all turn to dust again.
Genesis 3: 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Matthew 4: 1-11 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’ Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘“He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
1 Peter 5: 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Psalm 130: 5-6 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Joel 2: 1-2 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand – a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come.
Why not follow the link to listen to: Lead me to the Cross – Hillsongs – Bing video
IS Lent all about giving things up? Have a look at the passage below:
A reading from the start of Lent, 17/02/21
‘Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
“Why have we fasted,” they say,
“and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?”
‘Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I.
‘If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
What is this passage telling us?
The RIGHT Way to Fast for God
We all know the story of the three wise men who came to see the baby Jesus after he was born, but did you know that there is a story about a fourth wise man? The story says that he left with the other three to follow the star in search of the baby Jesus. Along the way he was constantly distracted by people who needed his help. He would send the other three ahead and catch up with them within a day or two, but when the other three reached Bethlehem , the fourth wise man was nowhere to be found.
Many years later the fourth wise man arrived in Jerusalem – three days after Jesus’ crucifixion. He mourned and wept, grieving the fact that the King he had come to worship had already grown up and had been put to death. He had spent 30 years helping others in need and had missed the one person he most wanted to see.
Then something extraordinary happened. Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to the fourth wise man. The wise man started to apologise for not having arrived in time to worship him at his birth. Jesus replied, “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in. I needed clothes, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you looked after me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me.”
The ‘fast’ referred to in the bible passage from Isaiah was supposed to bring God’s people close to him in humility and repentance, through examining their own deeds and motivations (rather like the tradition of giving things up for Lent), but over time it became merely a ritual that the people used to show their so-called observance of God’s law. In reality, the people continued to act in ways that showed no love for God or those around them.
Worship loses its flavour when it becomes merely a ritual. When worship becomes just a ritual, or when HOW we do it becomes our main focus, we end up majoring in minor things. It is FINE to observe lesser requirements but VITAL that this is done without neglecting the most important requirement – caring for others. We must turn our focus from self-centred to other-centred. The flavour is restored when we serve God by serving others. Serving others is the ‘fast’ that God wants us to observe, as Isaiah tells us and Jesus showed us. True fasting equals true blessing, not just for us but for those we serve as well. Faith without action is not really faith at all.
Justice, sharing our wealth with the poor, feeding the hungry and freeing the oppressed are God’s requirements for a true fast. Fasting means something much more important than just giving up food, or denying ourselves a favourite indulgence. It means giving up some of our time and resources to do God’s work in our world.
God placed righteousness in our hearts through Jesus Christ, and he wants that righteousness to show in our lives through obedience to him. In calling us to obey him, God calls on us to fast in a way that will bring us back to God in humility, repentance and true faith, especially during Lent. If we do, we will grow closer to God.
In addition, we need to work toward providing justice for the oppressed and mercy to the poor. We could start by donating time, food or money to a local food bank, or supporting the work of charities for the homeless, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged in our society. You could become involved with issues related to social justice, find out more about things like modern slavery, and provide advice and help in any ways that you can to those in your community who may need it – just popping to the shops for a struggling neighbour, or helping somebody to fill in a form with which they are struggling, could make their lives that bit better.
By being focused on others, we avoid being focused on ourselves. When we focus on others, God will nourish us and give us strength. He wants to use us as his arms and legs, to use our ears and voices to ease others’ misery. God wants us to do the work – not with what we DON’T have, but with what we DO have. He wants us to use what he has given us, our skills, talents and strengths, to do his work in our world.
The fourth wise man fulfilled God’s purpose for his life by reaching out and helping those people God put in his path, and in doing so he truly worshipped God. When we, like him, respond faithfully to those people God puts before us, we will also fulfil part of God’s purpose for our lives…and we will be worshiping God in a faith-filled manner.
Due to national Covid lockdown restriction, we regret that church continues to be closed for worship. Please check the website and our Facebook page for updates.
In the light of the current COVID-19 (Corona Virus) outbreak, we regret that non-worship activities at the church also continue to be temporarily suspended.
Please check with activity organisers / check the church website for updates via the NEWS page [for Covid-19 community support updates], the diary and the COVID-19 AND CHURCH page [for church-related information].
The COMMUNITY page contains suggestions for activities and educational links to support families during periods of social isolation (‘Lockdown’) or if quarantine is required.
An archive of Revd Bill Young’s podcasts can be accessed HERE: https://revdbill.uk/worship-material
You can join on any web-enabled device by using the Zoom link included in a weekly email (please contact us if you do not yet receive this but would like to) or by telephone:
1. Dial 0203 481 5237 or 0203 481 5240
2. When prompted, enter the Meeting ID: 890 1146 1733, followed by #
3. When asked if you have a User ID, just enter #
4. Enter the Passcode: 618243, followed by #
5. If you can, please turn your phone to MUTE once the service begins – this avoids interference.
If you have a copy of ‘Rejoice and Sing’ we will try to provide the hymn numbers so that those on the phone can access the words.
A link to the URC’s daily reflection webpage can be found near the bottom of this page.
A reading from those set for Sunday, 28/02/21
Jesus predicts his death and the way of the cross
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’
What is this passage telling us?
Jesus had just declared that he would soon endure great suffering, be rejected by the most important people of the time, be killed, and in three days rise again. I am quite certain that the hopeful sounding “rise again” part of Jesus’ speech was completely lost on Peter due to the distraction of the ideas of “suffering,” “rejection,” and “death.”
If you tell anyone that death is waiting around the next corner, I am certain that all else that is said will fade away into the distance. Someone who has heard the word “cancer” come out of the doctor’s can attest to how all the words of possible treatment fades into a distanced jumble of word salad.
Fearing for Jesus, Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him for such talk. “Why are you talking about death, like it is something that is coming tomorrow? It doesn’t have to. These things are not set in stone. There are ways around it. Just work with us and we will figure it out together. We are here for you. You don’t have to die right now. You are too important to all of us. You are too important to me!” I imagine a panicked Peter telling his beloved teacher.
It is probably what I would have said in any case. No one wants to believe the worst will come to pass. No one wants to face death head on. No one seeks suffering.
Peter is just doing what any of us would do, trying to prevent the worst…trying to defy death. As I said, do not be so hard on Peter. No one wants to die.
Jesus accuses Peter of setting his mind on human things rather than divine things. And, Jesus is right, Peter IS setting his mind on human concerns…human concerns about his friend. Peter does not have a special, divine perspective that allows him to even consider the possibility of his friend rising again after death.
He is setting his mind on the human concerns of safety and life. He is setting his mind on the human concern of protecting his friend. He is awash in human concern, that is true, but his concern is most likely genuine “concern.”
He is concerned. He cares. He wants to preserve life, even if it is a little selfish in a way. What parent does not want to protect their child? Who does not want the best for his or her friend? Yes, it could all be seen as a little selfish, but it is still concern. It is the same concern that “decent” people would have for another person.
You know what is so hard about the divine perspective? We cannot see it very well.
Oh, we WANT to see it, we WANT to do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord, but we cannot always see what the divine perspective looks like.
Unfortunately, we are kind of blind to it because we are stuck in this fleshy material, seeing with fleshy eyes, feeling with fleshy hands, loving with a fleshy heart, and thinking with a fleshy brain. We are kind of stuck.
But what if we could see with divine eyes? What if we could feel around with a divine hand? What if we could love with a divine heart and know the truth with a divine brain? It is possible.
Jesus says that it is possible, but it probably will not be in the way that you are thinking. Our flesh will not be transformed into a glowing, divine exterior of greatness anytime soon. We will still be us, faulty as we are, but the divine will not be far away. The divine is not hidden. The divine is not closed off from our world. The divine walks nearby the disciples. All they are asked to do is follow.
Jesus literally says to Peter, “Get behind me Satan.”
Let’s pretty much forget the “Satan” part for now. I will only say that Peter’s concern is a distraction to God’s plan, and that is generally what is believed to be what Satan (also translated as “the adversary”) does – takes our goodness and our concern and bends them in the wrong direction. That is what is happening to Peter here.
The part that I do want to focus on is the “get behind me” part.
Consider the fact that Jesus could have yelled at Peter and told him to just go away. He does not do that. He could have just ignored Peter and let him fade into history…a disciple who was but is no more. He does not do that either.
Jesus could have opened up the earth and let it swallow the poor disciple whole. The one who controls the storm and earth could have easily done that. But he does not.
Instead, Jesus tells Peter to get behind him.
Have you ever played follow the leader? Of course you have. The whole object of the game is to do what the leader does and arrive at the destination that the leader desires. Of course, every game will have the Peter-like kid that wanders off instead, but that does not change the game. The game is still to follow the leader and do what the leader does.
When Jesus tells Peter to get behind him, maybe he is literally telling him to simply follow.
Peter may not understand what God is up to, or why the suffering must happen. Peter likely does not comprehend the resurrection and salvation of the entire world lying ahead. Which one of us could stand up and claim to understand the divine mind?
However, there is one thing that Peter can do, and it is the same thing that you can also do. Get behind Jesus, do what he does, and follow where he goes.
Distractions will always come. Worldly concerns will always try to get in the way of discipleship. Jesus understands and forgives each time this happens. You will not be thrown away. But after the forgiveness, Jesus also asks that we get behind him. He is the leader and we follow. Therefore, we do things like studying the scriptures. Studying his love. Doing as he has done. Love as he loved.
Jesus takes up a cross and puts his life on the line for the sake of others; you do the same. Be love in the way that Jesus is love.
Do you know where all of this following is going to end? No.
Do you know if your cross bearing and suffering for others will even make a difference in the end? No.
But we do not need to know. We do not need the divine eyes that can see how it will all turn out in 1 year or even 50 years. We are not asked to know how it will all end. All we are asked to do is follow to the end, and Jesus promises that it will lead to resurrection and new life.
“Do not be distracted by human things. Get behind me,” Jesus says to Peter. And to you.
Follow where Jesus walks. He always leads to new life.
If you are self-isolating, or in any way affected by the closure of the church building, please let one of the elders (or our minister, Debbie) know, so that the church can keep in touch with you.
Looking for some quiet reflection? Try the link below!
It will take you to a page which presents bible readings with gentle music accompanying.
Welcome to our church website
Through these pages we hope to give you an insight into our church community. If you would like to come along in person, we’d love to meet you!
We have a Sunday morning service every week, at 10.30am. Everyone is welcome, and if it’s your first visit – do please introduce yourself.
There is an evening Communion service at 6.30pm on the third Sunday in the month, which is organised by a small group of our members and often based around music and words from the Iona Community. More details of these services and other activities are available in the Services and Diary sections of our website.
Please click on the links to find out more about us, and to see what’s going on, visit our Diary section! Building access information is available here. You can also contact us via email, details are on the Contact Us section of our website.
Our Facebook page can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/Holyhead-Road-United-Reformed-Church-151789941574498/
Where are we?
Use this link to Google maps for location and directions:
Looking for ready-made daily devotions each day? https://devotions.urc.org.uk/
A prayer for those visiting our website
Almighty and eternal God,
who created us in your own image and gave us the will to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful, especially in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
we give you thanks for the freedom of communication.
Grant, we pray you, that through our journeys in this website we may be led to charity, prayer, patience and greater understanding of each other and that we may discern more closely your will for your pilgrims here on earth.
To the glory of the Word made flesh,