FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT SUNDAY 21ST MARCH 2021

Lenten Reflection 19: Against the Grain – Salem Evangelical Free Church

OPENING SENTENCE

– A clean heart create in me, O God.

HYMN

COLLECT FOR PURITY

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:

cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name;

through Christ our Lord. Amen.

SUMMARY OF THE LAW

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:

The first commandment is this:

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.

Amen. Lord, have mercy.

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CONFESSION

God is love and we are God’s children. There is no room for fear in love. We love because God loved us first. Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.

God our Father, we confess to you and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ that we have sinned in thought, word and deed, and in what we have failed to do. We are truly sorry. Forgive us our sins, and deliver us from the power of evil, for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

ABSOLUTION

God, who is both power and love, forgive you and free you from our sins, heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit, and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

LENTEN PROSE/KYRIE

sung by Sue Turner


COLLECT

Merciful God, look upon your family as we travel to the foot of the cross: and, by your great goodness, guide us in body; that by your protection, we may also be preserved in heart and mind; through Jesus Christ, our Lord who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen

PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD

FIRST READING

Jeremiah 31:31-34 read by Ron Beagrie


The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord.

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But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

SECOND READING

Hebrews 5: 5-10 read by Kate Lidwell


Obey God – Hebrews 5:8-9 | Mission Venture MinistriesSo also, Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

GRADUAL HYMN

GOSPEL

John 12: 20-33 read by Reverend Andrew MacKenzie

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John chapter 12 beginning

at verse 20

Glory to Christ our Saviour

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

John 12:23-26 – See you in Heaven

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel

Praise to Christ our Lord

SERMON

Have you noticed that certain things are taboo in some cultures? In Thailand and in Arab countries never point your shoe or foot to another person. The shoe or foot is the unclean part of your body. In many African countries when talking to a tribal chief, make sure that your head is not above his. If you are a male, don’t try to shake hands with an orthodox Muslim woman. Don’t walk into a Japanese home with your shoes on. Don’t forget to say “takk for maten” (“Thank you for the meal.”) in Scandinavia. It is a MUST! Never eat while standing while in Indonesia. Never wear red to a funeral in China or write a person’s name in red in Korea. In Japan, don’t point with your chopsticks. Don’t bring wine as a gift in France. Don’t give an even number of roses as a gift for a romantic occasion in Russia. Don’t stretch or yawn in public in Spain. It is considered extremely vulgar. In India and many other countries, don’t eat food with your left hand. Don’t cut your grass on Sunday in Switzerland and so the list goes on. Each culture has its own taboos but there is a topic that seems taboo in most cultures, generally speaking, and that is death.

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Yes, we do acknowledge death when it happens but for the most part we do not talk about death with any real depth or substance, and certainly no enthusiasm. We don’t deal with it. We deny it. We ignore it. We avoid it. No one wants to die. In reality, we don’t acknowledge, talk or deal with death. The death of our loved ones is too real, too painful. Our own death is too scary. The relationships and parts of our lives that have died are too difficult. So, for the most part, we just avoid the topic of death. It is seen as a morbid topic in a culture that mostly wants to be happy, feel good, and avoid difficult realities.

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Death is the main topic of our gospel reading today. I suspect the Greeks in today’s gospel did not go expecting to talk or hear about death. They just wanted to see Jesus. And who can blame them? Jesus has a pretty good track record up to this point. He has cleansed the temple, turned water into wine, healed a little boy, fed over five thousand people, given sight to the blind, and raised Lazarus from the dead. They wanted to see Jesus. However, to see Jesus, you need to look at death. Really looking at, acknowledging, and facing death is possibly the most difficult work we can ever do. It is, as Jesus describes, soul troubling. It shakes us to the core. In the gospel Jesus is facing his own death. He says: “His hour has come.”

The arrival of the Greeks acts as a sign to Jesus, that his hour has come. Throughout John’s Gospel there are several references to the hour has not come but here we have the reference the hour has come. At Cana, Jesus said to his mother, “My hour has not yet come”.  In Jerusalem, “They sought therefore to take him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” In the temple, “no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” Till now Jesus’ mission has been to the Jews but now with the arrival of the Gentiles he realises his mission is almost complete. The Greeks act as sign, heralding his death. Jesus did not ask to be saved from death. He is unwilling to settle for survival when the fullness of God’s life is before him. He knows that in God’s world strength is found in weakness, victory looks like defeat, and life is born of death. This is what allowed him to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem, a city that will condemn and kill him.

Although Jesus did not shrink from his death, nonetheless it was something that deeply troubled him and overwhelmed his soul. His humanity is evident here as he commits to do God’s will. The one who healed the sick, turned water into wine, opened blind eyes and raised Lazarus to life was deeply troubled; troubled right down in his heart. Jesus was after all the word made “flesh”. Weak flesh, human flesh, flesh that shrunk from suffering as we all might. His natural instincts as a flesh and blood person were to say- the hour has come, and is there some way I can avoid it? The other gospels don’t show us this side of Jesus, this internal troubled discussion with himself, until we get to the Garden of Gethsemane. John has brought it forward so that we see it now, in Jerusalem, before his arrest.

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Jesus’ troubled heart knows that there is danger ahead, but he also knows that it is through danger, that the glory of God will shine out to the world. What I find very moving is at the key points in Jesus’ life, God, the Father, speaks his words of affirmation and encouragement to Jesus. We see this as Jesus begins his ministry “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” At this significant point in his life and ministry as he is baptised, Jesus alone hears God’s voice. The next time when Jesus is at the Mount of Transfiguration, God affirms Jesus in his ministry in the hearing of Peter, James and John: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Now in today’s Gospel, Jesus is given the assurance, he so needs from his Father, when he asks his Father to glorify his name and God thunders not just to Jesus, not just to the disciples but to the crowd: “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.” How precious must these words have been to Jesus. They must have given him strength to face his death.

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Jesus explained the significance of His death in this way. It would be a dying to release His life in others, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” A friend, I know, is a wheat farmer. Every year he takes some of the seed that he harvested in the previous season and puts it back into the soil. Why on earth would you do that? What a waste! No, he reassures me that it has to be sown again into the soil in order to enable it to multiply. Otherwise, the grain just sits there. The wheat seed as it were, dies to allow more wheat to grow. That’s how Jesus explained the necessity of His death. Eternal life existed in Him alone among humans. But by dying He could release that life to others who put their trust in Him. His death would be significant as he needed to die to release eternal life to the world.

Jesus’ death would be significant for it would eventually bring about judgment and life. God’s judgment will fall on the evil one as the ruler of this world. The ruler of this world would no longer have the same hold over people. Instead, Jesus would draw people to Himself. Some would be drawn to trust in Him and to place their whole future in His hands. Others would be drawn to Him but would reject Him.

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Jesus’ death would be significant as it provides his disciples with a pattern to follow. The pattern of dying to self to gain life and dying to oneself to be honoured by God. Jesus sees us as his servants and friends who have a work to do. In that way we will be where He is, in the place He wants us to be, in this life and the next. If we are faithful in seeking to serve Jesus, God the Father will Himself honour us. “If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.”

Life is a pattern of loss and renewal. We fall in love and commit our life to another, and so part of our old single life has died so that you can be with that other person. If you are a parent, then part of you sacrifices yourself for your child. Day by day we give up parts of ourselves for others. We die to ourselves to give life to others. In a way this is what Jesus is driving at in the phrase “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”. Paradoxically in dying it gives life.

Bible Verses & Inspirational Quotes

There is a temptation to want to skip over death and get to resurrection. So, it is no coincidence that this week the Church points us towards Holy Week and reminds us that death is the gateway to new life. Death comes first. Death is not always, however, physical. Sometimes it is spiritual or emotional. We die a thousand deaths every day. There are the deaths of relationships, marriages, hopes, dreams, careers, health, beliefs. Regardless of what it looks like, this is not the end. Resurrection is always hidden within death. There can be, however, no resurrection without a death.

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As we draw to the end of Lent what do we need to let go of today, to leave behind, to die so that something new can arise? What in our churches do we need to let go of, to leave behind, to die so that something new can arise? As the Greeks were a sign to Jesus of his impending death; as Jesus’ death is a sign of resurrection and new life, what about our lives, what kind of sign are they to those around us? We pray that we might be a sign of a joyful and vibrant life, a life of love and peace and a life of light and hope. Amen

Christ The Savior Lutheran Church

NICENE CREED

We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father.

Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.

With the Father and the Son, he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen

Praying Moms – LRPC HOME

Lord Jesus you uttered the words “Thy will be done” in obedience to the will of your Father. Even when your soul was troubled, you gave yourself selflessly for us.

Like that grain of wheat you died in order to give us a life of intimacy with you, and freedom to live life in all its fullness.

We do not have the words to convey the depth of our gratitude, but we pray that our lives might show our thanks by the words we say and the deeds we do, and that all might bring glory to you.

Lord Jesus, the way, the truth and the life

fill us with your Spirit.

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Lord Jesus, you invite us to follow you, to die to ourselves to leave behind our ambitions and aspirations, and seek to do your will with all our heart, mind and soul.

Lord the desire is there but the flesh is weak.

Help us live out our call and commitment.

Lord Jesus, the way, the truth and the life

fill us with your Spirit.

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Lord Jesus, you challenge us to let go of our selfishness and embrace your priorities and simple living.

Help us to be open to change and to let your Spirit transform and remake us.

Lord Jesus, the way, the truth and the life

fill us with your Spirit.

Lord Jesus, you led a life of contentment and fulfilment, empower us to be good witnesses for you in word and in deed in our homes, schools and places of work, and through us draw others to yourself.

Lord Jesus, the way, the truth and the life

fill us with your Spirit.

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Lord Jesus, you are a man of promises, faithful in keeping your word.

In a world where words mean little and promises don’t count for much we ask for a faithfulness in word and deed from all who are charged with the authority of governing.

Lord Jesus, the way, the truth and the life

fill us with your Spirit.

Lord Jesus, you turn the values of the world upside down.

We ask that these values of love, humility, kindness may be the values that we pass on to our young people.

We pray for all who have responsibility with young people that they will model good values and inspire them in others.

Lord Jesus, the way, the truth and the life

fill us with your Spirit.

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Lord Jesus, you care for all people, their nationality, colour, race or intellect are all the same to you in importance.

Safe us from prejudice and racism and work by your spirit in those countries torn apart by apartheid and intolerance, and bring your wisdom and peace.

Lord Jesus, the way, the truth and the life

fill us with your Spirit.

Lord Jesus you reached out to the sick and lame, and brought healing and new life.

We carry to you today in our prayers those who are struggling with physical illness, those fighting depression, those reeling from broken relationships, those who feel life is too much.

In the quiet we lift to you people known to us…

For those we have named in the quiet of our hearts Bring your touch and meet them at their point of need, Giving them hope, light and peace.

Lord Jesus, the way, the truth and the life

fill us with your Spirit.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for that which is impossible to us is possible with you.

We commit ourselves, our church and our families into your care and love.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together

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.

Do not bring us to the time of trial but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

HYMN

BLESSING

May Christ give you grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow him; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

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Every service held in St Johns involves the use of artistic expression spanning thousands of years of Church history. Some of the events we run however specifically seek to experiment with new forms of artistic expression and to embody the tradition we have received to express it in fresh and creative ways.

Examples of this have been using the whole building (rather than just the sanctuary) for worship, changing the seating arrangement and sit in a circle with the communion table at the center, collaboratively working on banners seeking out you tube clips and popular music and, well many more examples can be found on this page.