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Sunday, 21 February 2021

Duccio, ‘The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain’, Frick Collection, New York City

Dear Friends

St Clement, in one of his Lenten letters, quotes our Lord’s words in one of his ‘lessons’ on mildness and forgiveness: ‘Be merciful that you may obtain mercy; forgive that you may be forgiven; what you yourself do will be done to you; as you judge so will you be judged; as you show kindness, kindness will be shown to you . . . Your portion will be weighed out for you in your scales . . . If we obey these commandments . . . we will get back to the state of tranquillity and peace.’  He concludes: ‘Let our eyes be fixed on the Father and Creator of the universe and consider how precious and peerless are his gifts of peace.  Let us embrace them eagerly for ourselves.’

One of the tasks, as we begin our Lenten journey, is to ask for grace to turn from our sins and ‘turn to Christ’ (the words used during the ashing on Ash Wednesday – which, sadly, of course, we have had to forego this year).  St Leo, continuing Clement’s theme, talks of Lent as a time to reflect upon the mysteries of redemption as we prepare for the greatest festival of the Christian year – Easter – and to meditate on the grace received in our own baptism.

The Gospel reading for this Sunday (Mark 1:9-15) provides a brief account of the baptism of Christ, but it emphasizes that the anointing of the Spirit which was integral to this act of humility, provided the impetus for Jesus’ subsequent time spent in the desert (‘And at once the Spirit drove him into the desert’) during which he was ‘put to the test by Satan’.

Commentators, drawing on parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke, often suggest that the temptations with which the Lord was assailed were messianic – that he was being tested precisely in the area in which his ministry was to be exercised (that is, that his messianic role was to be undertaken in a humble way, which eschewed ‘showiness’ or the misdirection of his gifts).

We may feel that we are not tempted in such dramatic ways but Lent provides the opportunity to reflect upon any areas in which we may be falling short, whilst resting in the assurance that we, too, have been empowered by the Spirit in our own baptism to overcome temptation and, as St Clement put it, to embrace God’s ‘peerless gifts of peace’.

Fr Stephen

Collect for First Sunday of Lent

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.  Amen.

 1 Peter 3.18-end

A reading from the first letter of Peter.

Christ also suffered for sins once for all, 
the righteous for the unrighteous, 
in order to bring you to God. 
He was put to death in the flesh, 
but made alive in the spirit, 

in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 

who in former times did not obey, 
when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, 
during the building of the ark, 
in which a few, that is, eight persons, 
were saved through water. 2

And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—
not as a removal of dirt from the body, 
but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, 
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 

who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, 
with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Mark 1.9-15

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee 
and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 

And just as he was coming up out of the water, 
he saw the heavens torn apart 
and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 

And a voice came from heaven, 
"You are my Son, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased." 

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 

He was in the wilderness forty days,
tempted by Satan; 
and he was with the wild beasts; 
and the angels waited on him. 

Now after John was arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 

and saying, "The time is fulfilled, 
and the kingdom of God has come near; 
and believe in the good news." 

Service Times

Services are suspended.

The church is open during daylight hours for personal prayer and reflection.

Useful links

Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:

  1. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  2. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  3. Prayer for today.
  4. The C of E youtube channel.
  5. We will be updating Fr Stephens Message page on a regular basis.
  6. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  7. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.