Through the season of Lent this year, we hear covenant stories each week. Two weeks ago we heard the story of Noah; last week, we heard Abraham and Sarah. This Sunday we’ll hear about the giving of the law to the Israelites (Exodus 20), and the gospel passage is the story of Jesus driving the merchants out of the outer court of the temple (John 2.13 and following).
We often use images that have been shared under a Creative Commons License as the cover for our order of services when we’re able to gather in person. Here’s an image from the Jesus MAFA project, entitled Jesus drives out the merchants.
JESUS MAFA. Jesus drives out the merchants, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48271 [retrieved March 2, 2021]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact). Used under the Creative Commons NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 license.
Here’s what Sundays and Seasons offers as an introduction to this week’s readings:
The third covenant in this year’s Lenten readings is the central one of Israel’s history: the gift of the law to those God freed from slavery. The commandments begin with the statement that because God alone has freed us from the powers that oppressed us, we are to let nothing else claim first place in our lives. When Jesus throws the merchants out of the temple, he is defending the worship of God alone and rejecting the ways commerce and profit-making can become our gods. The Ten Commandments are essential to our baptismal call: centered first in God’s liberating love, we strive to live out justice and mercy in our communities and the world.
Here’s an introduction to this week’s readings from Sundays and Seasons:
The second covenant in this year’s Lenten readings is the one made with Abraham and Sarah: God’s promise to make them the ancestors of many, with whom God will remain in everlasting covenant. Paul says this promise comes to all who share Abraham’s faith in the God who brings life into being where there was no life. We receive this baptismal promise of resurrection life in faith. Sarah and Abraham receive new names as a sign of the covenant, and we too get new identities in baptism, as we put on Christ.
Sunday Prayers from the Church of the Nativity will be live-streamed to Facebook. The service will begin at 9:30 after music is played for quiet prayer and preparation.
The order of service can be found here. Our tradition on the First Sunday in Lent has been to begin the service by singing the Great Litany in procession, wrapping the community in prayer. This year we’re excited to welcome the Very Reverend Peter Wall, who will lead us in singing the Great Litany in place of the prayers of the people!
Here’s what Sundays and Seasons offers as a short reflection on the week’s readings.
On Ash Wednesday the church began its journey toward baptismal immersion in the death and resurrection of Christ. This year, the Sundays in Lent lead us to focus on five covenants God makes in the Hebrew Scriptures and to use them as lenses through which to view baptism. First Peter connects the way God saved Noah’s family in the flood with the way God saves us through the water of baptism. The baptismal covenant is made with us individually, but the new life we are given in baptism is for the sake of the whole world.
To make it possible for everyone to attend Vestry, we’re using a computer tool called Zoom–but you don’t have to use a computer! You can participate by calling in with a telephone, or by using a computer or smartphone or tablet with Zoom installed.
An email is being sent out this week with instructions on how to connect to the Zoom meeting. If you haven’t received it by Wednesday, 24 February, please contact the office so we can get it to you!
If you’re planning on using the online version and connecting with a computer, phone, or tablet, you’ll need to install Zoom well beforehand. We recommend practicing with Zoom before the meeting! Here’s a link to Zoom if you need to install it.
For anyone struggling with the idea of fasting, of discipline, and self-denial: let’s remember together that Lent is a means, not an end. We are preparing with joy to enter anew into the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. So for all for whom giving up yet more seems overwhelming, hear this year words of invitationfrom the Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth, who is the Provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow (Scottish Episcopal Church) :
Dear Friends in Christ, it is the custom of Christian people to prepare to mark the time of Christ’s passion and resurrection by a season of penitence and fasting.
The church calls each of us during these forty days to repent of all that causes harm to ourselves, harm to our earthly dwelling place and harm to our relationship with God.
By carefully keeping these days, Christians take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and devotion. In turning our hearts towards God, we discover anew the boundless grace of God.
For God will help us to create beauty even within the turmoil of this chaotic world and will help us to gather a harvest of joy and gladness from lives of sorrow and care. Today and every day, God calls the wandering exile home.
We are invited therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.
Lent will begin this week on Ash Wednesday (February 17th). Originally a time for preparation for baptism at Easter, it came to be forty days long largely because of two episodes from the scriptures. When the Israelites fled out of slavery in Egypt, they wandered in the desert for forty years before entering the promised land. After Jesus’s baptism, the Holy Spirit drove him out into the wilderness for forty days, where he fasted and underwent temptation.
The journey to the cross combined with these examples of fasting led followers of Jesus in the early Church to mark the season of Lent by fasting themselves: abstaining from meats and fats, and eating fewer and simpler meals. To get ready for Lent, people began trying to use up these foodstuffs so as not to waste them–which led to a tradition of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. (That’s also where we get another term for the day: Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday.)
Since we can’t gather for pancakes and sausages this year, here are a pair of videos to help you enjoy them at home. Blanche offers a video teaching how to make her incredible apple sauce for pancakes, and Matthew offers a how to video for pancakes–and the mysterious pankegg.
Here’s what Sundays and Seasons offers as context for this final Sunday after the Epiphany:
The Sundays after Epiphany began with Jesus’ baptism and end with three disciples’ vision of his transfiguration. In Mark’s story of Jesus’ baptism, apparently only Jesus sees the Spirit descending and hears the words from heaven. But now Jesus’ three closest friends hear the same words naming him God’s Beloved. As believers, Paul writes, we are enabled to see the God-light in Jesus’ face, because the same God who created light in the first place has shone in our hearts to give us that vision. The light of God’s glory in Jesus has enlightened us through baptism and shines in us also for others to see.
Sunday Prayers will begin at 9:30 on Sunday, February 7th, after about 10 minutes of music for quiet prayer and preparation. The Prayers will be streamed to our Facebook page, and will be available there to watch later in the day or week as well.
Here’s what Sundays and Seasons offers as an introduction to the day’s readings and theme:
In Isaiah the one God who sits above the earth and numbers the stars also strengthens the powerless. So in Jesus’ healing work we see the hand of the creator God, lifting up the sick woman to health and service (diakonia). Like Simon’s mother-in-law, we are lifted up and healed to serve. Following Jesus, we strengthen the powerless; like Jesus, we seek to renew our own strength in quiet times of prayer.
Sunday Prayers on January 31st, 2021, will be live-streamed on Facebook. Our music director will play music to support prayer and reflection for about ten minutes beforehand, and the service will begin at 9:30.
Here’s what Sundays and Seasons offers as an introduction to the readings:
In Deuteronomy God promises to raise up a prophet like Moses, who will speak for God; in Psalm 111 God shows the people the power of God’s works. For the church these are ways of pointing to the unique authority people sensed in Jesus’ actions and words. We encounter that authority in God’s word, around which we gather, the word that prevails over any lesser spirit that would claim power over us, freeing us to follow Jesus.
Here’s the introduction to the day’s readings from Sundays and Seasons:
As we continue through the time after Epiphany, stories of the call to discipleship show us the implications of our baptismal calling to show Christ to the world. Jesus begins proclaiming the good news and calling people to repentance right after John the Baptist is arrested for preaching in a similar way. Knowing that John was later executed, we see at the very outset the cost of discipleship. Still, the two sets of brothers leave everything they have known and worked for all their lives to follow Jesus and fish for people.