We're so glad you decided to join us on this first Sunday of Lent.
When we meet in person, we share together our joys and concerns. If you have anything you would like to share, feel free to include a comment on this post. Last week, we spent some time talking about events in Ukraine, and how it has affected so many people. This week, please continue to pray. When you are ready, use Pope Francis' prayer for peace below to get started.
Lord God of peace, hear our prayer!
We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms. How many moments of hostility and darkness have we experienced; how much blood has been shed; how many lives have been shattered; how many hopes have been buried… But our efforts have been in vain.
Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: "Never again war!"; "With war everything is lost". Instill in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.
Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters. Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Make us sensitive to the plea of our citizens who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace, our trepidation into confident trust, and our quarreling into forgiveness.
Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation. In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words "division", "hatred" and "war" be banished from the heart of every man and woman. Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be "brother", and our way of life will always be that of: Shalom, Peace, Salaam!
Today's lesson is on Ezra 1:1-8, 11; 2:64-70.
In 586 BC, as prophesied by by Isaiah (2 Kings 20:16-17) Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, the temple and took all it’s treasures and carried the people into captivity. 47 years later King Cyrus of the Persia destroyed Nebuchadnezzar’s empire. King Cyrus fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy that exiles would be returned to Jerusalem. Not all the exiles returned. Ezra was both a priest and a scribe; commissioned to return to Jerusalem with a company of Israelites, to teach Israelites God’s law and to bring order to their worship.
Henry Blackaby says, ”World events come as no surprise to God. He has foreseen them. At times He foretells them. He is always sovereign over them." God moves in the hearts of His people, awakening a desire to participate in His activity. Our wish to serve God is a direct result of His stirring in our lives.
God, we have seen our dreams shattered and our relationships lost. Restore us and give us courage to rebuild in your name so that we can celebrate your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
This week's benediction is from the New International Version.
Next week's lesson will be on Ezra 6:1-12.
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We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.