Hello, Where ever you are and whatever time you are watching you are most welcome to our time of joint worship on this the 5th Sunday of lent. The astronomical first day of spring was yesterday. We are moving into a time when there are more hours of daylight than darkness. For gardeners it is a time for planting seeds. The young seedlings bringing fresh hope for the year ahead. But this week sees the anniversary of going into lockdown. On Tuesday 23rd march there will be a National day of reflection. A time to reflect on all that has been lost over the last 12 months and remember the sacrifices that have been made. Yet for the United Kingdom this is also a time of hope for the future with the vaccination program beginning to reduce the hold that the pandemic has on us. And so We come from scattered lives to meet in the presence of the God who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain and heals our wounds
Your Son has opened for us
A new and living way into your presence.
Give us new hearts and constant wills
To worship you in Spirit and in truth;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
We say these words taken from psalm 51 as our confession
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
2 Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
3 For I recognize my rebellion;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
and your judgment against me is just.[a]
7 Purify me from my sins,[c] and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
9 Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit[d] from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
The Collect for today
Most merciful God
Who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
Has delivered and saved the world
Grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
We may triumph in the power of his victory
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Who lives and reigns with you
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever
We are now going to watch a short video about selflessness
You will need to click the “watch on Youtube” link as the owner has prevented us from linking directly from our site.
For many Christian’s Johns Gospel is their favourite gospel . Hardly surprising since it is generally thought to have been written to encourage the early church living in the Mediterranean world outside of Judea . The majority of scholars see four sections in John’s gospel: a prologue followed by book of signs ,an account of some situations in which Jesus reveals his identity to the crowds through signs and teaching. The third section known as the book of glory records Jesus’ private words to his disciples and tells of his death and resurrection and finally an epilogue.
Todays reading comes just before the start of the book of glory at the end of the book of signs
which recounts revelations of Jesus that took place with the backdrop of significant religious festivals or family events such as a funeral or a wedding. Indeed the first such occasion was at a wedding when Jesus told his mother “my time has not yet come.” A phrase he repeats on 3 such occasions, but in todays reading on hearing that some Greeks wanted to see him Jesus replied with the words “The time has come for the son of man to enter his glory. “This request from God fearing gentiles who had come to meet Jesus at the Passover was a significant moment. Jesus mission was not only to Israel, but to the whole world. His ministry to the Jews alone was finished and he now belonged to the whole world
Jesus stunned the crowd by referring to the manner of his death saying “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to my self.” The crowd could not take in what he meant. How could he say the Son of man was going to die?. The Son of man is a Hebrew idiom which literally means human being, but for Jewish believers the vision in chapter 7 of the book of Daniel implied much more. The Son of man is a majestic yet humble figure who looked like a man but also appears to be more than a man. He has a heavenly origin and is given a clear role by the most high to rule an eternal, universal kingdom that will be over all nations. The Holy people of the most high will also share in this son of mans kingdom .A kingdom which He will not grasp for but will receive with humility and holiness .
The Greek verb for lifted up used in John’s Gospel also refers to being honoured. John’s Gospel reminds us that for Jesus the cross was not the place of disgrace and shame and being brought low but the place where his true glory would be shown and his universal ,eternal kingdom would come into being. It is the place where the corruptor of the world is challenged and defeated. The cross is at the heart of Jesus ‘revelation of the Father , because God is love and love is laying down ones life. Selflessness and humble self sacrifice are divine attributes and are an essential component in the life he offers. The culmination of Jesus ministry, the time of his glorification had come with his sacrifice on the cross his resurrection and the return to his place of honour in heaven.
But as a human being like all of us Jesus was extremely apprehensive and troubled about facing the reality of his death. He contemplated asking God if there was something else that could be done to save him from what he had to face. This struggle gives us a glimpse of the agony involved in dying to self and also reassures us that temptation itself is not a sin. As the Son of God in union with the Father, Jesus responded” This is the very reason I came, Father glorify your name” . Then as at his baptism at the start of Jesus ministry a voice came from heaven which validated the Son before the world. However, just like the reactions to Jesus signs and parables the listening crowds were confused and divided, indeed his disciples didn’t fully grasp the significance of what was happening until later.
At the cross the heart of God is revealed more clearly than anywhere else, and those who understand what the cross reveals about God cannot fail to be overwhelmed with awe for Him.
Jesus illustrated what has to happen to him using the imagery of a seed. Unless the seed is put in the ground and dies it will not produce much fruit. . As a gardener I like this analogy because a single seed has the potential to produce a living plant that will in turn produce many more seeds. However, the seed must be placed in the earth and be transformed (germinate) for this to happen. If the seed is not placed in the ground it will in time lose the potential to create a living plant. By its death the seed produces a living organism that reflects its origin. By his death Jesus will produce in the lives of his followers the very quality of life, divine life , selflessness and humble self sacrifice that is revealed by his crucifixion.
Jesus goes on to say “any one who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am . The Father will honour anyone who serves me.”
This is a condition of being a Christian that we should exhibit selflessness ,self sacrifice and service to others that brings glory to God the Father. Jesus uses exaggeration for effect when he says
“He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life”
He is not saying if your happy you will lose your life , if your miserable you will keep it. But If our life is centred solely on self, focused chiefly on our own success and angry when something or someone obstructs our path we cannot build up the kingdom of God and so the Father will not honour us . But if our life demonstrates concern and service which sacrifices personal agendas for the sake of restoring a broken world we glorify God and the Father will bless us with eternal life.
Holy week reminds us that death is the gateway to new life. Lets be clear we don’t all have to die for our faith in order to bring glory to the father, though many people have done so and some will continue to do so.
Death does not always have to be physical There can be deaths of relationships, status, expectations, desires, trust, aspirations,ambition,career, beliefs and so on.
However, whenever we have the opportunity to reveal Christ to others through words and deeds it is our unspoken fear and wanting to avoid losing something that leads us to ask “what ifs”. What if I fail, What will people think of me,, what if it doesn’t go as I want, what if it impacts on my work, what if I won’t have time to do something else that’s important to me , what if it means changing jobs, or moving house, what if it means letting my kids down , what if it costs me money, what if I leave it to someone else . Selflessness is not easy. Temptation is not a sin but every what if that we follow up on distances us from God and other people whilst preventing us from bearing fruit for God and so bringing glory to Him. We may survive but We will remain a single seed, we aren’t really alive and we don’t reflect the characteristics of Christ. There cannot be new life without loss. Resurrection only follows death.
Each person must choose for themselves how they are going to respond to the death and resurrection of Jesus and decide if and how they will follow him. John’s gospel encourages us to draw closer to Jesus because it reminds us that regardless of who or what has already died in our lives, or is yet to die Christ has cleared the way forward for us. We have a path to follow. Following that path requires us to entrust all that we are and all that we have to God.
At this time of the year when once again we look on the Cross where Jesus died are we truly humbled by his mercy are we really broken inside. Are we genuinely thankful and willing to pour out our life for Christ. If so How might laying down our own agendas bring resurrection life to difficult or broken relationships in our neighbour hood or wider family? What might loving like Jesus look like at the places where we live and work?
Be encouraged by knowing that Jesus has assured us that as we follow his path the Father will honour the service that we do for Him and we will be blessed with eternal life in Christ’s presence.
If you would like to do so say this prayer which draws from psalm 119 :35-39 and a prayer from knowing Jesus.com/john/12
Lord Teach me to live as you command,
because that will make me very happy.
Make me want to follow your ways
Instead of wanting to gain things only for myself,
Help me to be willing to die to the things of myself
And to come to the place where I am able to be put
my self-centred nature in the place of death
Turn my eyes away from things that are worthless.
So that I may become a fruitful branch
Which brings honour to my God and Saviour and joy to others
May I live for your greater praise and glory.
Thank you that Christ has overcome death in victory .
Grant me eternal life as you have promised.
This I ask in the name of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
Prayers of Intercession
God of Healing
You hold all our times in your hands, our past, our present, our future. Be close to us now as we remember all the difficulties and disappointments of the past year. Be especially close to all who are remembering some one who has died. May they know that the departed are at peace with you, and receive comfort by your presence.
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer
Help us to live as people of hope, knowing that beyond the pain of the cross lies the joy of resurrection. Inspire us so that our lives bring glory to you and joy to others. Be with all those who are struggling in mind, body or spirit, and give courage to those who are facing uncertainty and change ahead. Show us how to reach out with kindness and care to those around us, reflecting your light and sharing the good news of your love so that hope shines in every heart .
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer
God of Justice
We pray for your broken suffering world. We ask that the leaders and politicians of the nations will work together for the good of all people. May they reflect your humility, your integrity, your justice, and selflessly work for the benefit of those they serve. May they put the needs of people above their political ideals and personal aggrandisement. May they work to bring peace, to relieve poverty, to improve health, to improve education to care for all creation and reduce the exploitation of resources and the pollution of our planet
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer
We thank you for the gift of your word
We pray for your church
Jesus calls his followers to seek first your Kingdom.
Renew us as we make your love known;
Release us to share freely together in mission;
and Rejuvenate us to be fruitful in your service.
Give us courage, wisdom and compassion,
that strengthened with the grace of the Holy Spirit,
Your church here in Totley and the Diocese of Sheffield,
may both flourish and grow .
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of Your Son our saviour Jesus Christ. 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.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and forever.
Words taken from Hebrews 13:20-21
20 Now may the God of peace who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
21 may he equip you with all you need
for doing his will.
May he produce in you,[a]
through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”