Worship for Sunday 18th February 2024, by Rev. Ken Stokes

Opening Prayer

Step by step we walk with Christ:
through the waters of baptism, we are affirmed; through the wilderness, we are tested; through the death of Christ we are made alive in the Spirit.
This is our journey, today and every day.
We walk with Christ, today and every day.

Hymn: StF 20 “Be still for the presence”

  1. Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
    the Holy One, is here;
    come bow before him now
    with reverence and fear:
    in him no sin is found —
    we stand on holy ground.
    Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
    the Holy One, is here.
  2. Be still, for the glory of the Lord
    is shining all around;
    he burns with holy fire,
    with splendour he is crowned:
    how awesome is the sight —
    our radiant King of light!
    Be still, for the glory of the Lord
    is shining all around.

  3. Be still, for the power of the Lord
    is moving in this place;
    he comes to cleanse and heal,
    to minister his grace:
    no work too hard for him —
    in faith receive from him.
    Be still, for the power of the Lord
    is moving in this place.

David J. Evans (b. 1957)
Reproduced from Singing the Faith


God of the Covenant,
we thank you for the promises made to our forebears,
to those who put their trust in you.
Bring us out from the wilderness, and
give us courage to trust your promises,
faithfulness to pray for our broken world, 
and hope as we wait for your new creation,
brought into being through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A prayer of confession

Remembering God’s steadfast love, yet aware of our sin, we ask for God’s mercy upon us, and upon the world that God has created and saved.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust. Lord, have mercy.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord.
Teach me your paths. Christ, have mercy.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, O Lord.
Consider my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Lord, have mercy. Amen.

A prayer for everyone

Every colour of the rainbow, 
every shade of human skin, 
all are loved and very welcome,
in the presence of the King.
You are precious in God’s kingdom,
you, and only you, can bring
all your gifts as God has made you,
to the throne room of the King.
Jesus beckons you to follow.
Jesus waits to welcome you.
Will you follow in his footsteps?
Will you welcome others too?

Gospel Reading Mark 1.9-15

(9)  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  (10)  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.  (11)  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  (12)  And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  (13)  He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.  (14)  Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,  (15)  and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”


According to Mark it was when Jesus heard that John the Baptist was preaching in the desert that Jesus decided the time had come for him to begin his ministry.

Jesus needed to know that he was doing the right thing – that the sense he had of being chosen by God for a special purpose was true. Confirmation for this comes at his baptism. This is when Jesus, even though we believe he was without sin, chooses to identify himself with all the sinful people who are going to John the Baptist to be baptised in the water of the river Jordan as a sign that they want their lives to be turned around and they were seeking to do God’s will.

It is when Jesus is being baptised that he hears a voice speaking just to him – the fact that we know about this suggests that Jesus must have spoken about this important experience to his disciples.

Yet there was another important confirmation that Jesus was doing the right thing for he was given another sign of God’s presence the sign is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We are told that he saw the spirit coming down upon him like a dove, yet I am not sure that he actually needed to see anything because I suspect that he immediately felt a strength that he had not known before. When the Spirit is with us, we feel empowered – our strength and energy feel limitless even though we know it is not our strength or energy at all.

I do not know if any of you know anything about the game of golf. I used to play when I was a child, but I was never very good because I could never hit the ball very far. But one thing used to make a big difference. The place where I used to play golf was near the sea and the wind used to blow very hard. If the wind was behind me, I could hit a shot that would normally only go 80 or 90 metres and it would sometimes fly 200 or 300 metres. I would look as if I was a great golfer like Tiger Woods in his pomp, but it wasn’t really me it was the wind the worked with me. In the same way when the Spirit is with us, we find we can do things that once seemed impossible – make us feel as if we can do anything. The Holy Spirit is sometimes pictured as being like a mighty wind who makes the impossible possible. The one who helps us realise that God is with us. I am often most conscious of this when I prepare to preach – Sat in my study before a church service I may struggled to find the right words to express a thought or idea about God and sometimes even when I get to church, somehow, the right words haven’t come. Then suddenly as I am speaking the words flow and I know that I am only partly in charge and that the words are no longer just mine.

Yet the Spirit does not simply give us strength. Sometimes the spirit is the one who pushes us to do the things that we don’t want to do.

Jesus driven by the Spirit into the wilderness it is a dangerous thing to do but as we will see in a moment it is necessary.

I remember when I was a child, I had to learn swim. I lived my early life on an island off the coast of Cumbria. There was water everywhere and swimming was essential, but I was not a natural water baby. Anyway I gradually learned to swim a bit and I came to the point when I was expected to swim the length of the swimming pool. The only problem for me was that I was expected to dive into the water, and it was deeper than I could stand up in. I had never been in water that was deeper than I was tall before. So I stood on the edge of the swimming pool thinking about it, not sure what to do- it was then that the swimming instructor made my decision for me, the instructor gave me a push and suddenly I was in the pool and suddenly I had to swim – I wasn’t sure but he was confident that I could do it, that I could cope even if at that moment I wasn’t and he was right.

The Holy Spirit is like this at times the Spirit pushes us to do things that seem to go against our better judgement. Yet it is only when we let the Spirit push us around that we will discover what we are capable of, and that is often far more than we first realise or imagine.


  1. Have you ever sensed that God was helping you? Perhaps giving you the strength to do something you couldn’t otherwise have done? What happened why did you think that the challenge you faced was impossible? What was it that made the difference?
  2. Have you ever been afraid to take the first step? Have you ever felt that God might be pushing you to do something that you would not otherwise have done?

Music to reflect on
“The Struggle”
– Tenth Avenue North

There’s a wreckage, there’s a fire
There’s a weakness in my love
There’s a hunger I can’t control
Lord I falter, and I fall down
Then I hold on to the chains you broke
When You came down and saved my soul
Save my soul


We are free to struggle
We’re not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
So children drop your chains and sing

So I look, do I still fail
Do I withhold, do I still give into temptation
On my own I am bankrupt
I will trust You, I’ll take you at your word
You promise

We are free to struggle
We’re not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
So children drop your chains and sing

Hallelujah, death is overcome
And we are breathing

Hallelujah our stone hearts become flesh
A flesh that’s beating
Hallelujah chains have been undone
And we are singing
Hallelujah the fire has begun
Can you feel it?

Hallelujah, death is overcome
And we are breathing
Hallelujah our stone hearts become flesh
A flesh that’s beating
Hallelujah chains have been undone
And we are singing
Hallelujah the fire has begun
Can you feel it?

We are free to struggle
We’re not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
So children drop your chains and sing

Songwriters: Mike Donehey, Jeff Owen, Jason Jamison, Ruben Juarez, Brendon Shirley. For non-commercial use only.

Hymn: “You call us to the wilderness”

Tune Kingsfold only 

  1. You call us to the wilderness,
    an empty, barren land.
    The challenge is to break away
    and then to trust your hand.
    You call us to the wilderness
    to concentrate the mind
    on letting go of many things
    that stifle humankind.

  2. You call us to the wilderness
    but all we see is loss:
    for it’s a challenge to believe
    the “power” of the cross.
    You call us to the wilderness
    to show a stronger way:
    that power only has effect
    when weakness wins the day.

  3. You call us from the wilderness
    and emptiness gives way,
    enlivened by your Spirit’s breath,
    returning to the day.
    You call us from the wilderness
    to diff’rent barren lands
    to breathe the message of the cross
    for other empty hands.

    Words: © 2015, Paul Wood and Ian Worsfold Singing the Faith website

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving

We thank you, Lord, for bringing us out of the darkness,
through the waters of baptism,
into the light and life of your kingdom.
We thank you, Lord, 
for the promise of your presence,
for washing us from sin,
and for sending your Spirit.
We thank you, Lord, and pledge ourselves to follow you. Amen.


Loving God we pray for your Church those exploring faith, 
for those preparing for baptism,
and for those around the world 
who are persecuted for their religion: particularly we pray for the Church in Syria, Iran, and Israel/Palestine.
may they know the good news of the kingdom.

We pray for the world that God loves so much,
and for those who have the power 
to bring peace to the nations:
may they work with truth and integrity. 
We pray that for the leaders of countries who think that war is some sort of answer that they will repent and truly strive to maintain peace.

We pray for our community and those who are in need,
for the fragile and the vulnerable,
We remember especially people with dementia and children with mental illnesses 
and for all those, who support and care for them:
may they feel the presence of Jesus walking with them.

We pray for those who are homeless; especially those who are drawn to night shelters because they have drink and drugs problems they can’t manage or because they simply can’t keep a flat or look after themselves.
We pray for those who will go hungry today even in this rich nation; those who will rely on the cast off food others don’t want.
We pray for those who are unemployed and cannot get jobs because they are too old, disabled or because their face does not fit.
May we, in Christ, not walk on by or ignore those in need but draw near to bring comfort and support.

We pray for ourselves, 
We ask for strength to commit ourselves to follow in your way, Lord,
and the grace to withstand temptation:
may we grow closer to you as we journey through Lent 
and prepare to meet Jesus at the cross. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever. Amen.

Hymn: StF233 “When Jesus came to Jordan”

  1. When Jesus came to Jordan
    to be baptised by John,
    he did not come for pardon,
    but as his Father’s son.
    He came to share repentance
    with all who mourn their sins,
    to speak the vital sentence
    with which Good News begins.

  2. He came to share temptation,
    our utmost woe and loss,
    to us and our salvation
    to die upon the cross.
    So when the Dove descended
    on him, the Son of Man,
    the hidden years had ended,
    the age of grace begun.
  3. Come Holy Spirit aid us
    to keep the vows we make;
    this very day invade us,
    and every bondage break.
    Come, give our lives direction,
    the gift we covet most:
    to share the resurrection
    that leads to Pentecost.

Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000)

Blessing & Dismissal

Lord, send us out into the world,
released from our sin, filled by your Spirit,
inspired by your Gospel,
as children of your kingdom,
ready to proclaim the good news
that Jesus is Lord. 
Release us, fill us,
and inspire us to love your world
in the name of Jesus. Amen.