FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT SUNDAY 19TH MARCH 2023
The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want
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.
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.
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.
KYRIE sung by Billy Dewar Riddick
grant that we, who are weighed down by our sins,
may be relieved and encouraged by your grace;
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 1 Samuel 16:1-13 read by Robyn Brotherston
David Anointed as King
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do, and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably. I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely his anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him, for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him, for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him, for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
SECOND READING Ephesians 5:8-14 read by Annabelle Guthrie
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness; rather, expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly, but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
GOSPEL John 9: 1-41 read by Reverend Ann Wren
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John chapter 9 beginning
at verse 1
Glory to Christ our Saviour
A Man Born Blind Receives Sight
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am he.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So, they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind, but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
So, for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see may see and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel
Praise to Christ our Lord
In reading today’s gospel, I was struck by the theme of invisibility. It’s no fun being an invisible person. No one sees you. No one is interested in what you want; no- one is interested in what you think or how you feel. You sense that your story doesn’t matter and that you are of no value or significance.
The blind man in our gospel is an invisible man. No one seeks him out, his opinions are not welcomed, his feelings are ignored. He is side-lined, overlooked, and devalued as he begs in the streets. He would sit day after day, month after month, year after year in the same place begging as people walked by-people who were too busy to even turn in his direction. So, you see, in a very real sense he was “invisible” to everyone who passed him by. He was used to this invisibility. He expected people to overlook him for he had spent his entire life being ignored. He was blind and people found that depressing. He was a beggar and people would find that demanding. He was in their minds, a product of sin, which meant they would find him disgusting.
So, mothers would walk by with their children and say things like: “Don’t look at him; don’t listen to him; don’t pay any attention to him. He is sinful. He wants something, and he doesn’t deserve it.” During the time of Jesus, the blind men and those people with physical infirmities are considered a burden to the society. Most of them are left by their family and end up begging in the streets. Without wealth or power, they are looked upon as among the lowest class in society. They are invisible people.
Maybe you can relate to this feeling of invisibility. Perhaps someone has said to you that you are no good. Perhaps your employer thinks you don’t have potential. Perhaps your parents or a school teacher told you that you’d never amount to much. Perhaps ageing is taking its toll and you feel you are invisible and your voice is no longer heard. Well, that is simply not true. We are all seen by God and he cares.
Jesus noticed the blind man. He sees him. In the film Avatar there is a striking thread of a phrase woven through this blockbuster movie, through which the aliens acknowledge the importance and value of one another, and the simple phrase is “ I …see… you! “I see you” is Jesus’ message to the blind man. You are not invisible to me. Jesus saw this invisible blind man, so fixed were the eyes of Jesus on this man that his disciples were stirred to look a little closer.
What a reassuring truth that this gospel contains – Jesus sees us, we are not invisible to him. As Christians, we have the assurance that no matter who we are, God would still take notice of us. The Bible tells us that not even a sparrow falls down to the ground without God knowing it. He even knows how many strands of hair we have! With this in mind, we can have the comfort that God sees us and cares for us.
As we follow the conversation between Jesus and the blind man, we are given an insight into the heart of Jesus. We see there an inner beauty that is given an outward expression in his care, love, attentiveness, and mindfulness to the blind man in our Gospel story.
This mindfulness of Jesus comes across in how he first notices the blind man and then how he stops and engages with him. If this encounter is not incredible, at least it is out of the ordinary. Jesus comes to this poor man, whom everyone else ignored, and stops and looks. You know when He did look, Jesus saw more than a blind beggar. He also saw the hurt and disappointment of a lonely man who lived in dependence and anonymity. Jesus saw the hopelessness of a life lived in endless night that would never know dawn. No one else saw this, but Jesus did, and Jesus saw such hurting and needy people throughout His ministry, He always noticed things and people that others missed. He frequently stopped and gave them his undivided attention.
Attention is one of the most powerful forces in the world. We all crave it and will do almost anything to get it. It is an essential vitamin in our daily relational diets. Along with food and water, every baby is born needing the attentive gaze of another human face. All of us are born this way, we need the attention of others. We all have this need to know that others turn their faces our way and see what we are going through. It is valuable to us to know that someone notices, really sees, what we are going through in life. It hurts too much to be “invisible” like this blind man. Our sense of worth is related to how others see us. Jesus sees the potential within us and seeks to help us discover that potential and to fulfil it.
This attention and encounter with Jesus changed this blind man forever. Physically he could see for the first time. It is hard for us who are sighted to grasp how great that must have been. William Montague Dyke knew what that truly meant. When was ten years old, he was blinded in an accident. Despite his disability, William graduated from a university in England with high honours. While he was in school, he fell in love with the daughter of a high-ranking British naval officer, and they became engaged. Not long before the wedding, William had eye surgery in the hope that the operation would restore his sight. If it failed, he would remain blind for the rest of his life. William insisted on keeping the bandages on his face until his wedding day. If the surgery was successful, he wanted the first person he saw to be his new bride.
The wedding day arrived. The many guests including royalty, cabinet members, and distinguished men and women of society assembled to witness the exchange of vows. William’s father, Sir William Hart Dyke, and the doctor who performed the surgery stood next to the groom, whose eyes were still covered with bandages. The organ trumpeted the wedding march, and the bride slowly walked down the aisle to the front of the church. As soon as she arrived at the altar, the surgeon took a pair of scissors out of his pocket and cut the bandages from William’s eyes. Tension filled the room. The congregation of witnesses held their breath as they waited to find out if William could see the woman standing before him. As he stood face-to-face with his bride-to-be, William’s words echoed throughout the cathedral, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined!” “One day, our eyes too will be opened and we will see fully the glory of Jesus for the very first time. His glory will be far more splendid and beautiful than anything we have ever imagined in this life.”
This glory of God gradually was revealed to this former blind man. How strange it must have been to be so invisible and then, to be the centre of attention and questioning. The blind man is questioned: “Are you the same man that was begging by the road side?” He answers “it is me.” In this conversation John highlights the progression of the man’s spiritual sight. He identifies our Lord as the Man, Jesus.
When they turn to the blind man and ask him who Jesus is and he answers, He is a prophet. Do you see the progression from He is a man to He is a Prophet? When the blind man answers, prophet he probably means that He must be some sort of prophet sent by God. Then his eyes are open and the beggar knows that this is a work of God alone. So, the blind man moves in his understanding from prophet to God.
One mark of a disciple is that they have a first-hand experience with Jesus Christ. This former blind man, this former beggar, this man who doesn’t know much at all about Jesus, knows this. Only God can heal the blind so Jesus must be God. In his amazing reply he shuts the mouths of these Jews. He doesn’t engage in a theological argument because he can’t. He doesn’t know any theology. He can’t out argue these educated religious experts. Notice he really doesn’t have to. He has something they don’t have and something they can’t argue against, a personal testimony. Notice his response…I don’t know about all that but I know this much, I was blind and now I can see.
This is the second time Jesus found this man. We also realize, it was the first time the man saw Jesus. Remember, our Lord mixed mud and placed in his eyes and then told him to go and wash in the Pool of Solame and he came back seeing but didn’t see Jesus until now.
Jesus asks this man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Literally, do you in contrast to the unbelieving Jews believe or rely completely on the Son of Man. The reply of the beggar…”who is He, please tell me so I can believe.” Jesus then says, basically, the One you’re looking at, I’m Him. The man’s response to Jesus was “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him.
Incredibly, Jesus tells this man who he is. Jesus’ identity is a well- kept secret but to this man Jesus reveals his true identity. This man has seen the glory of God, and he has been touched and blessed by God. This man will never feel invisible again, thanks to the touch and healing of God. This former blind man who lived with invisibility and isolation is healed, cared for and loved. He is transformed for ever by his encounter with Jesus. This can be our experience too. We are never invisible to Jesus who cares and loves us. Today Jesus invites us to help others who are invisible and whose voice is not heard. So, on this Mothering Sunday, the Mother Church has at its heart the concern of the invisible and voiceless. We ask God to help us play our part in his mission. Amen
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
on this Mothering Sunday
we thank you for our Mother Church.
We thank you for St John’s
for the faith and worship shared over the generations,
for teaching that has inspired
and for the wonderful fellowship shared.
For the blessings that this church and others
has brought to our lives, we are most grateful.
Hear us, good Lord
we think today of those gifted
with the responsibility of motherhood.
We pray for mothers the world over
recognising both the joys and demands they experience,
the privileges and pressures, hopes and fears
pleasure and pain that motherhood entails.
Hear us, good Lord
We pray for single mothers,
bearing the responsibility of parenthood alone,
struggling sometimes to make ends meet.
Grant them the emotional, physical and financial resources they need.
Hear us, good Lord
We pray for mothers who have experienced heartbreak
whose children were stillborn, injured,
or killed through accident or assault,
or struck down by debilitating disease or terminal illness.
Hear us, good Lord
We pray for those who are denied the joy of motherhood
for one reason for another.
We think of all who endure the trauma of infertility,
prevented on health grounds from risking a pregnancy,
or unable to establish a relationship
into which children can be born.
Hear us, good Lord
We pray for those who foster or adopt children,
those who long to do so but are denied the opportunity
and those who for various reasons have given up their children
and who are haunted by the image of what might have been.
Grant them your strength and support.
Hear us, good Lord
We pray for those who long to discover their natural mothers,
those who have become estranged from them,
those whose mothers have died
all for whom Mothering Sunday
brings pain rather than pleasure
hurt rather than happiness.
May your love enfold them always
and remind them that you are their loving parent.
Hear us, good Lord
We pray for everyone this Mothering Sunday
for their role in nurture and in caring
and for their willingness to exercise
their maternal side as well as their paternal side
in their relationships with children and others.
Hear us, good Lord
Gracious God, you possess
the maternal and paternal natures within you,
May we who are made in your image,
celebrate these natures within ourselves
and reflect your maternal and paternal love to others.
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.
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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