This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. What a delight to meet you again here to share a short time of reflection together. May I welcome you in the name of our gracious and wonderful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
By now, many of us are appreciating the freedom of movement that we have taken for granted a year ago. We enjoy so many privileges that the majority of the world can only dream about. Millions have never experience anything except refugee camps; generations lived their whole life in war, violence and destructions; countless lack safe drinking water and do not know when and where their next meal will be, and millions have little protection from diseases and if they are sick will most probably have no medical relief. Let us give thanks to God for his goodness and grace upon us who are so undeservedly blessed.
With that attitude in mind, let us enter the Lent season remembering the suffering Jesus endured for us on the cross, repent of our sins and, be resolute in watchful prayer and fasting.
Just as we continue to be physically vigilant against the spread of the dreaded coronavirus, Lent is when we are reminded to be spiritually vigilant to the spread of an even deadlier and long lasting “disease” – SIN.
Let us pray:
Almighty and Everlasting God, who hates nothing what you have made, and does forgive the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us a new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain from You, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayer of the Week
First Sunday in Lent
O Lord, who for our sake fasted forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the spirit, we may ever obey your godly will in righteousness and true holiness; to your honour and glory, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
This morning our Bible Reading is taken from Matthew 11:25-30
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Who will God accept?
If you are like me, there are some watershed experiences that you will remember for the rest of your life. These experiences normally are eye openers and paradigm shifters.
One of mine happened when I was still a theological placement student. Our placements then were not only within Parish ministries but in also sector ministries. My sector ministry placement was to a psychiatric hospital.
A group of us went there conducted weekly worship Services. At the appointed time, the nurses and carers would bring out the patients to an outdoor area with a roof but without walls. We sang a lot of songs, shared a short reflection and then invite the congregants to come up to be prayed for.
While the nurses, carers and us can fully join in the worship, the patients were can only participate with various degree of engagement. Some were able to partly join in the singing, others show signs of understanding on what is going on around them. Still others look like they were in another world. All this while, the worship leaders faithfully minister regardless.
Sometime later, one of my relatives suffered a major stroke and was a in critical condition in hospital. I was asked to pray for him. By then, he was not in the state of mind for us to observe any response to my ministry.
These two experiences bothered me greatly. I began to think and asked the questions.
- How much must a person know in order to be saved?
- What is the bare minimum knowledge for God to accept us?
- Will those not in the normal state of mind ever be saved – people like the psychiatric patients and my relative in hospital?
We normally expect certain cognitive knowledge before we are assured of a personal salvation and relationship with Christ our Lord.
This is when this passage helped me greatly. I believe that our mental power does not determine how much we understand of the gospel, it is actually what God has revealed to us. Jesus said that God has hidden things from the wise and learned, but revealed them to little children.
Isn’t it wonderful! The vulnerable and innocent are granted God’s truth – not so the intellectual and powerful. What a contrast to our present day’s emphasis on cognitive knowledge about God and spiritual things.
It is not up to me to judge a person’s state before he is accepted by God. It is up to God to meet him with his revelation. It is not that we need to intellectually and emotionally meet God where He is. It is God meeting us where we are! This is the true meaning of Emmanuel – God is with us in all our deficiencies, limitations and failures.
It does not matter at what state you are in your life, what deficiencies that are hindering you, what limitations that are holding you back, how far you are from God, or even how ignorant you are about God. When you come to him, he will draw near to you and meet you where you are and as you are.
That is why Jesus can invite us by saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Yes, God will accept everyone who comes to him. Regardless. So come to him confidently for He loves you in spite of all that is missing in you.
The Morning Collect
Eternal God and Father, by whose power we are created and by whose love we are redeemed: guide and strengthen us by your Spirit, that we may give ourselves to your service, and live this day in love to one another and to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May God take us on our journey as we follow Jesus Christ our Lord
Lead us where we may not expect
Reveal to us surprising things about ourselves and others from His wisdom
Bring out of us gifts and talents that we could not imagine having
Help us to connect with people in ways beyond our thinking
Experiencing difference which jars and challenges our sense of normal
Exposing us to needs that awaken our compassion and cause us to act for good.
May God confront our beliefs and dogma,
Expose us to realities and experiences which stretch our belief and faith,
Shattering the illusion of certainty which we try to cloak ourselves in.
Taking us on the way of the cross,
Not along easy or comfortable roads, but towards the cross of love
To the promised end in eternity with You.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen. 
Once again, thank you for sharing this short time with me. As you seek Him and His will each day, may His presence comfort you where you are.
Till we meet again next week, rejoice often. Do good. Love outrageously. Enjoy life. Praise God. Amen. Goodbye.
 Ash Wednesday prayer.
 Adapted from Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite