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Leytonstone United Free Church Sunday 21st February 2021

Welcome

Good morning everyone to today’s service. The theme for today is Covenant. During this Lenten season, I want us to reflect on our relationship with God, the promises he set out for us, and the fulfilment of those promises. Also, thinking about our identity, both our own individuality and our identity as a child of God – knowing God, and that we are loved by God – may help us cope with our difficult ‘wilderness’ experiences, whatever their nature might be.

Call To Worship

Psalm 25 v 1-14

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.

I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.

Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.

They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land.

The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

Let Us Sing

Blessed be thy name - Matt Redmond

Blessed Be Your name When I'm found in the desert place Though I walk through the wilderness Blessed Be Your name

Prayer

For I am about to do something new.

See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

I will make a pathway through the wilderness.

I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Covenant God,

may we see in every rainbow

the promise of a new world.

May we live as your people of promise

Loving God,

may we see in every star map

the names of all your children.

May we live as your people of promise.

Ancient God,

may we live fairly with each other

and in friendship with you and our world.

May we live as your people of promise.

Healing God,

may we know what hurts us all

and learn to forgive and heal each other.

May we live as your people of promise.

Living God,

may we put you at the centre of life

and hear your heart beat with ours.

May we live as your people of promise.

Journeying God,

may we travel with you to Jerusalem and beyond

and find your cross there ahead of us.

May we live as your people of promise.

Resurrection God,

may we celebrate a Saviour alive

and a world reborn and renewed.

May we live as your people of resurrection.

Amen.

Let's Sing

Goodness, Love & Mercy - Chris Tomlin

Though I walk through the valley, I will fear no evil thing. For You are with me and You comfort me.

Bible Readings

Today's Bible readings are taken from Genesis 9: 8- 17 & Mark 1: 9- 15

Genesis 9:8-17

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

Mark 1:9-15

The Baptism and Testing of Jesus

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[a] by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Jesus Announces the Good News

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Reflection

Covenant by Ashley Matthews

The word covenant means: an agreement, an accord, a pact or a treaty or in today’s language “let’s make a deal”. In Bible terms it brings about a relationship of commitment between God and His people. Covenant also means testament – we talk about the Old and the New Testament. The Old Testament or covenant was an agreement with God and Israel. The New Testament is an agreement between God and the followers of Christ.

In Genesis 6 we are introduced to Noah and his family. At this stage God was not happy with mankind, their wickedness in fact. God sought to destroy every living thing – all the people, the animals (big and small), and even the birds of the sky. The only one who found favour with God was Noah – he walked in close fellowship with God.

All of us know the story of Noah – God was sending a flood to cover the earth and instructed Noah to build an Ark. This is where God first mentions His Covenant with Noah.

After the flood and the water receded, Noah and his family came out of the Ark, God speaks to Noah about His Covenant. In Chapter 9, as we read, there are 7 references to God’s Covenant with Noah and his descendants.

God says to Noah that He confirms His covenant with Noah. The word Confirm means to establish the truth or to authenticate the validity of something.

In verses 12 & 13 God says to Noah that He is giving him a sign of His covenant, which means an identification of something or evidence. The rainbow is the sign or evidence.

Verses 15 & 16, God says that He will remember His covenant with Noah, in other words: to bring to one’s mind an awareness of something or someone, also to emphasise the importance of what is asserted.

Why is this important you may ask? In the New Testament reading of Mark 1 v 9-15 we heard that our new covenant is Jesus. This new covenant binds us to exercise faith in Christ Jesus and we are promised eternal grace and salvation by God.

In the same scripture after Jesus was baptised by John, The Holy Spirit descended like a dove – a sign, the evidence that Jesus is who He is, sent by God. A voice from heaven then confirms: “You are My beloved Son”, establishing the truth validity and authenticity of Jesus. When Jesus returns from the temptation in the wilderness, He emphasises the importance of His coming, remembers God’s promise that the Kingdom of God is near – that we should repent of our sins and believe the Good News.

Friends, Jesus is the new covenant. This was confirmed when God’s voice was heard from heaven, saying “You are My beloved Son”, The Holy Spirit descending on Jesus as the sign of the covenant, and Jesus remembering and emphasising the importance of why He came is part of the new covenant.

But the story does not end there …

In Biblical times, the old and new testament, a covenant was sealed in blood. God’s covenant with Noah involved death, the spilling of blood, the blood of people and animals during the flood. The new covenant was established with Jesus being battered and bruised, crucified and dying an awful death. He was sacrificed for my sins, for your sins.

I remember watching “The Passion of The Christ” – that was not “a gentleman’s agreement” or “a handshake to seal the deal” or “signing a contract” – that was brutal; blood, sweat and tears. Jesus gave His life, sacrificed himself for me – a sinner so that I can live an abundant life.

For me, the Lenten season signifies the Goodness, Love and Mercy God shows me every single day of my life. It’s the Grace He pours out over me so that I can be me.

Prayer

Father, you know our hearts, our desires, You know our shortcomings,

Our Praise to You, as you pour Your Grace and Favour over us all day, every day

Your Goodness is not merely a feel good emotion; it is soaking in the very essence of your being

Knowing that you are always with us and that we can expect your goodness in our lives

Your Love is tangible, Your Love is a Person – Your Holy Spirit living in us, guiding and comforting us always. Your Love sustains us, strengthens us, provides us with a solid foundation to Love others the same

Your Mercies are new every day

Every challenge, every situation we find ourselves in, you provide us with compassion and forgiveness when we don’t deserve it

Your Grace provides us free and unmerited favour, anoint us with Your Grace as we continue to serve You

Amen

Song

Great is Thy faithfulness

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not. As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be

Communion

Taking the body and blood of Jesus in Holy Communion is our covenant of deliverance. It is through this meal at the Lord’s Table that we find healing; it is through this meal that we experience miracles; it is at the Lord’s table that we enter into His presence and most importantly, take His presence into our being so that we may then project it to the world.

In Luke 22, when Jesus shared the Last Supper with His disciples, He conveyed the power of the Passover to Holy Communion. It was the end of one tradition, and the beginning of a new one. No longer would we have to sacrifice a lamb for atonement—He became the lamb.

On the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover”. “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” – Luke 22:14-20

Christ became the sacrifice for our atonement. In the Old Testament Passover, the blood of the lamb was applied to the doorpost so the death angel would pass over those homes. Therefore, the Passover became a feast of remembrance and celebration of the deliverance of Israel from bondage. At the Last Supper, Jesus and the disciples celebrated the last Passover, and the first Communion. Jesus set the stage for generations ahead to look back and remember our deliverance at the Cross.

At the cross we were freed from the bondage of sin and death. We were healed of sickness and disease. We were delivered from addiction and captivity. Communion should never become common, because as we partake of His body and His blood, we are remembering that all things in our life which have been dismembered are now put back together for a fresh start.

The Passover signified the beginning of a new year in the Old Testament. Atonement was made and they no longer had to look back in grief or sorrow. Now, Communion signifies a new beginning for you and me. We no longer have to live in guilt and shame, or bondage. The miraculous power of the Lord’s Table is that it cleanses you, and makes you whole.

No other blood on earth can make something clean … but the Blood of Jesus washes over you and leaves no stain! “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Let us share in bread together.

Let us share in wine together.

The Lord's Prayer

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 lead us not into temptation;

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

the power and the glory,

for ever and ever.

Amen.

A Final Song

Meekness and Majesty - Graham Kendrick

O what a mystery, meekness and majesty. Bow down and worship for this is your God. This is your God.

Final Blessings

Blessing

May the love of the covenant maker,

be known to us this day.

May the promise of the new covenant,

be claimed by us today.

May the assurance of a covenant relationship,

bring hope and peace to our days.

May the Lord of the new covenant,

bless us richly this day.

The Grace

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all

Amen

Credits:

Created with images by parvel - "desert sand dunes" • pixel2013 - "sunrise grasses nature" • islandworks - "desert mountains landscape" • sharonjoy17 - "rainbow river nature" • cocoparisienne - "dove bird animal" • geralt - "hands shaking hands company" • GregReese - "ark flood noah" • flosca - "dove pigeon innocence" • geralt - "cross sunset sunrise" • hudsoncrafted - "bread communion eucharist" • truthseeker08 - "lotus blessing pray"