Worship in March

Services
March 1 - Ash Wednesday
: Receiving the mark of the ashes - 7.00pm
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 (Please bring the palm cross you received at Palm Sunday, 2016, if you have one.)

March 5 - Lent 1 - Holy Communion
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

March 12 - Lent 2
Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17 or
Matthew 17:1-9

March 19 - Lent 3
Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42

March 26 - Lent 4 - Harvest Thanksgiving
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41 (The service will be followed by the Annual General Meeting of the congregation and then a shared lunch.)

Lent
Lent is the name traditionally given to the period before Easter. It is intended as a time of preparation for the celebration of the resurrection on Easter Day. During Lent, we remember the life and ministry of Jesus and renew our commitment to follow him. There is a tradition of fasting during Lent which, more recently, has been modified into a practice of giving up some luxury, such as a favourite food or drink, or cinema, or using a credit card. Lent traditionally comprises 40 days, echoing the time Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism (Matthew 4:2). Sundays are not counted as part of Lent since every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. The name comes from the traditional ritual of marking the foreheads with a cross made from ashes. Ashes symbolize repentance, that is, the acknowledgement of a need to change and the starting point for renewal (e.g., Jonah 3:6).

The timing of Lent is based on the date of Easter, which in turn is linked to cycles of the moon and so varies from year to year. The requirement that Easter fall on a Sunday breaks the link between Easter and the Jewish Passover. A further complication arises because the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic and Protestant) churches have different methods for calculating the date of Easter, which usually lead to different results. However, in 2017, the methods agree, so Easter will be celebrated on the same day throughout the world.

Lenten Studies – Learning to Walk in the Dark
Rev Dr Peter Trudinger will lead two Lenten studies based on the book “Learning to Walk in the Dark” by Barbara Brown Taylor. Much of the imagery of light and darkness in spirituality operates with an opposition of light = good with dark = evil. (See the message in the February edition of Talk.) The book is a personal memoire of Barbara’s spiritual journey to overcome her prejudice about dark and light. It is a mix of captivating anecdotes and intriguing theological reflections. Copies will be available. Each study will stand on its own. The studies will be held on Wednesday, 15th March and 5th April, from 10.15-11.45am.

Harvest Thanksgiving
In ancient Israel, the people regularly brought the first pickings of their harvests to places of worship and gave thanks to God for food that the earth provides (Exodus 23:16-17; Leviticus 23:15-21).

We do not live in a society based on farming these days, but we continue that tradition of an annual Harvest Thanksgiving service in which we remember all the good things that God has provided to us.  

At Scots, our practice is to bring non-perishable foodstuffs, unopened packages or tins to symbolise the fruits of the earth (or cash or cheque donations to be used to purchase foodstuffs). These are brought forward during the service and afterwards, passed on to Uniting Communities Eastern Services for use as emergency supplies for people in need.

Our Harvest Thanksgiving service will take place this year on March 26th. (Rev Dr Peter Trudinger)

Thanksgiving for the Harvest
Years ago I read in an old hymn book a list of Psalms suitable for use at Harvest Thanksgiving services and another list of Psalms for use 'When the harvest has failed'.

The old Scottish church fathers who compiled those lists must have been realists. They knew that they could not always give thanks for good harvests. But they knew that even in years of natural disaster, drought, flood, fire, damaged crops or low yield, in times of economic difficulty, low prices, labour shortages or uncertain markets, God was still with them. Our faithful God is there, present with us in our difficulties. God's love and mercy do not fail.

In the past we haven't always been honest with Harvest Thanksgiving services. We have thought only about our own part of the world. We haven't acknowledged the real situation of our primary producers or of those who labour in other places to meet our needs. As we give thanks for God's providence and rejoice in his grace, are we seeing the whole picture?

Harvest Thanksgiving services are a real challenge, aren't they?  (Rev Norah Norris. Image from Pixabay)

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