Sunday 28th March 2021 – Palm Sunday and Passion of Christ
Hello and welcome to our weekly selection of music, scripture and prayer during the time when our church is closed because of the pandemic restrictions. Today is Palm Sunday when we recall Our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, and we also reflect on his trial and cruel death on a cross as we prepare for the coming of Eastertide. We are most grateful to Revd. Canon Adrian Alker for his inspiring reflection today, and our worship begins with verses from Psalm 118.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord:
HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST!
PALM GOSPEL – Mark 11: 1-11
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
HYMN – Christ is our corner stone (tune: Harewood)
God of the covenant,
in the glory of the cross
your Son embraced the power of death
and broke its hold over your people.
In this time of repentance,
draw all people to yourself,
that we who confess Jesus as Lord
may put aside the deeds of death
and accept the life of your kingdom. Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – Isaiah 50:4-9a
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
EPISTLE – Philippians 2:5-11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
GRADUAL HYMN – At the name of Jesus (tune: Evelyns)
1 At the name of Jesus
Every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him
King of glory now;
’Tis the Father’s pleasure
We should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning
Was the mighty Word.
2 At his voice creation
Sprang at once to sight,
All the angel faces,
All the hosts of light,
Thrones and bright dominations,
Stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders,
In their great array.
3 Humbled for a season,
To receive a name
From the lips of sinners
Unto whom he came,
Faithfully he bore it
Spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious
When from death he passed:
4 Bore it up triumphant
With its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures,
To the central height,
To the throne of Godhead,
To the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory
Of that perfect rest.
5 In your hearts enthrone him;
There let him subdue
All that is not holy,
All that is not true:
He is God the Saviour,
He is Christ the Lord,
Ever to be worshipped,
Trusted, and adored.
6 Brothers, this Lord Jesus
Shall return again,
In the Father’s glory,
With his angel train;
For all wreaths of empire
Meet upon his brow,
And our hearts confess him
King of glory now.
PASSION GOSPEL – Mark 15:1-47
As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him. When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.
HYMN – Ah, holy Jesu, how hast thou offended (tune: Herliebster Jesu)
REFLECTION – Revd. Canon Adrian Alker
ANTHEM: St Matthew Passion (closing sequence)
O Lord, increase our faith, that we may be ready to trust you in good times and bad, for you have promised to be with us always, our Helper and our Guide.
We give thanks for all who hear and obey your call; for men and women who willingly sacrifice and deprive themselves for the good of others, and who persevere with their work through these difficult times.
We ask you to give strength to all who are quietly seeking to commit their lives to you. We remember any who are suffering rejection, pain or distress for declaring their faith publicly. We ask that they will be given strength to persevere, and continue to walk in your ways.
We remember with gratitude all who have given their lives in research and exploration for the good of others. We ask you to bless the scientists, researchers and volunteers who have been instrumental in devising, trialling and distributing effective vaccines to combat Covid 19.
We pray for our own church community, and the Christian church throughout the world; we give thanks for all who look after the spiritual needs of God’s family and for those who seek comfort in the word and way of the Lord.
We pray for the leaders of all nations and their advisors; give them the courage to be honest, the will to be just, the greatness to be humble and the openness to listen and learn.
Heavenly Father, grant comfort and healing to those who are ill, whether at home or in hospital, in a care home or hospice; give peace to the anxious and courage to the fearful. May they know your love for them both in good times and when life is difficult.
Heavenly Father we pray for our loved ones, family, friends and neighbours. Give them grace and peace in the present and hope for the future. May the dying be prepared to meet you, and grant that they may live for ever in the joy of your presence. We remember those who have recently died; may they rest in peace.
Heavenly Father give us thankful hearts, discerning minds and joy in the knowledge that you are always there beside us.
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
HYMN – O sacred head (tune: Passion Chorale)
ORGAN VOLUNTARY : Chorale Prelude on ‘O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sünde Groß’ BWV 622 (J.S. Bach)
from Ely Cathedral, played by the Assistant Director of Music, Glen Dempsey.
Sunday 21st March 2021 – 5th Sunday in Lent
A warm welcome to you on this the 5th Sunday of Lent, whether you be a frequent worshipper at St Andrew’s United Reformed Church here in Sheffield, or whether you have stumbled upon us by chance. Every week during the Covid closure we are enjoying a selection of prayer, music and readings based on this week’s lectionary. Most of it can be found freely by searching the internet, and we have added some of our own material. So stay with us awhile and share in our worship from your own home. If we had been meeting normally in our own building today, our preacher would have been Jenny Carpenter, to whom we are most grateful for sharing her thoughts on The Passion of our Lord in her reflection.
INTROIT HYMN – Jesus calls us here to meet him (tune: Lewis folk song)
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 thy Son our Lord, who lives and reigns on high with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – Jeremiah 31:31-34
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. 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.
HYMN: Breathe on me, breath of God (tune: Carlisle)
EPISTLE – Hebrews 5:5-10
So 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 PSALM – Psalm 51 (Miserere mei Deus – Allegri)
GOSPEL – John 12:20-33
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. “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.
HYMN – Will you come and follow me (tune: Kelvingrove)
REFLECTION – Jenny Carpenter
ANTHEM: When I survey the wondrous cross (Morte Christi), sung by the combined Dunvant, Treorchy and Pendyrus Male Voice Choirs
HYMN – Alleluia! Sing to Jesus (tune: Hyfrydol)
ORGAN VOLUNTARY : Toccata and Fugue in F major BWV 540 by JS Bach (1685-1750) played by Richard McVeigh on the organ of St Laurenskerk in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Sunday 14th March 2021 – 4th Sunday in Lent
Welcome to you on this the 4th Sunday of Lent as you share in our quality weekly diet of prayer, music and bible readings selected from the available internet and local resources on offer today. We are very grateful to the Revd. Dr. Walter Houston for his unique reflection on today’s lectionary readings. Douglas arranged Psalm 107 for a special occasion in 1983, when he took his school’s junior and parents’ choirs to sing Choral Evensong at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. It was decided that it would be unfair to expect a choir inexperienced in leading worship to tackle this long psalm to an Anglican Chant, so Douglas took advantage of this psalm’s unusual structure with its recurring verses, and set it to a plainsong tone with the two recurring verses set to their own harmonies in fauxbourdon style. Because this event was a significant and memorable one in Douglas’ life, and in the life of Easthampstead Park School, the whole psalm is offered here as a Lenten prayer. It has not been heard in full since the Windsor service.
INTROIT HYMN – When I survey the wondrous cross (tune: Rockingham)
Holy God, our lives are laid open before you: rescue us from the chaos of sin, and through the death of your Son, bring us healing and make us whole, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – Numbers 21:4-9
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.
HYMN: God of mercy, God of grace (tune: Heathlands)
EPISTLE – Ephesians 2:1-10
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 107
GOSPEL – John 3:14-21
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
HYMN – Thou whose almighty word (tune: Moscow)
REFLECTION – Revd. Dr. Walter Houston
ANTHEM: God so loved the world (Sir John Stainer)
Holy God, forgive us when we have sinned by speaking against you, or against your son Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; and also for the times when we should have spoken up for you, or proclaimed our Christian faith, but failed to do so for fear or other insecurity. Help us to carry our cross openly and to take every opportunity to live out and preach the Gospel.
Lord, in your mercy: Hear our Prayer
Gracious God, whenever we fail to appreciate your generosity and open-mindedness, give us the grace to repent, and return to you with an even greater sense of praise and rejoicing. Guard the Church against self-righteousness and the setting of any rules and limitations not authored by your will or which you would not own. May we always remember the two great commandments to love you and to love one another.
Lord, in your mercy: Hear our Prayer
Creator God, help us to reject the ways of this world and the passions of the flesh when they would tempt us away from the light and point us towards the darkness. We pray especially for those in positions of authority and leadership; that they will always show respect and care for all people and for the natural resources of the earth in all their actions and intentions.
Lord, in your mercy: Hear our Prayer
Father God, on this Mothering Sunday we remember that you entrusted the care of your Son to a young mother Mary, and that it was the same Jesus our Lord who even from the cross entrusted Mary his mother and John his disciple to each other’s care. We hold in our prayers today any women who are nurturing young lives in our world today. Some may be struggling or unwilling to provide the necessary love and sustenance to the children in their care, whilst others are filled with infinite and unconditional love and are able to provide all they need and more. We pray for mothers and child carers everywhere today and ask you to be with them and encourage them with your unending love. We also remember those who have lost their children through misfortune or illness, for whom this and every day is agonisingly difficult. And we ask you to comfort anyone who has recently lost a mother or father and comfort them in their grief. Help us to care for one another and fill our homes with the spirit of your love.
Lord, in your mercy: Hear our Prayer
Loving God, the psalmist tells us how you sent forth your word and healed the Children of Israel and saved them from destruction. We give thanks to you for the goodness and the wonders you continue to do for us, your children, and we continue to bring before you those we know who still need a healing word.
Lord, in your mercy: Hear our Prayer
Merciful God, we pray for those who have departed this life and recognise that they have been saved through their faith and the gift of your son Jesus Christ, rather than by the good works that they did and the things that they achieved in their lifetime.
Lord, in your mercy: Hear our Prayer
Faithful God, rich in mercy, and strong in love, even when we sin and fail you. Thank you for the gift of your Son, that by grace we have been saved and given the promise of being raised up with him at the last, and seated with him in the heavenly places.
Lord, in your mercy: Hear our Prayer
Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
May God keep us in all our days.
May Christ shield us in all our ways.
May the Spirit bring us healing and peace.
May God the Holy Trinity drive all darkness from us,
and pour his blessing and light upon us today and always. Amen.
HYMN – My song is love unknown (tune: Love unknown)
ORGAN VOLUNTARY : Johann Vexo plays Saint-Saëns Fantasia in E-flat major on the Cavaillé-Coll (1861) organ of Nancy Cathedral, France.
Sunday 7th March 2021 – 3rd Sunday in Lent
Welcome to our selection of prayer, music and readings for worship on this the 3rd Sunday of Lent. Had we been meeting in our own church today, our service would have been led by the Reverend Helena Roulston, who serves on the Chaplaincy team at the University of Sheffield, and we are very grateful to her for sharing her thoughts on todays readings from scripture in today’s reflection.
INTROIT HYMN – This is the day the Lord has made (tune: Billing)
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – Exodus 20:1-17
Then God spoke all these words:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
HYMN: There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
EPISTLE – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 19
1 THE heavens declare the glory of God : and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
2 One day telleth another : and one night certifieth another.
3 There is neither speech nor language : but their voices are heard among them.
4 Their sound is gone out into all lands : and their words into the ends of the world.
5 In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun : which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a giant to run his course.
6 It goeth forth from the uttermost part of the heaven, and runneth about unto the end of it again : and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
7 The law of the Lord is an undefiled law, converting the soul : the testimony of the Lord is sure, and giveth wisdom unto the simple.
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, and rejoice the heart : the commandment of the Lord is pure, and giveth light unto the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, and endureth for ever : the judgements of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold : sweeter also than honey, and the honey-comb.
11 Moreover, by them is thy servant taught : and in keeping of them there is great reward.
12 Who can tell how oft he offendeth : O cleanse thou me from my secret faults.
13 Keep thy servant also from presumptuous sins, lest they get the dominion over me : so shall I be undefiled, and innocent from the great offence.
14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be alway acceptable in thy sight : O Lord my strength, and my redeemer.
GOSPEL – John 2:13-22
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
HYMN – God is in his temple
REFLECTION – Revd. Helena Roulston
Before moving to Sheffield, I was based in a church in Winsford, a town roughly in the middle of Cheshire. We had several schools in the Parish, including our own church school, and so one Easter decided to invite the children into church, one class at a time, for a re-enactment of the Passion; the journey Jesus makes in the last week of his life, from his arrival in Jerusalem on a donkey, to his death on the cross and his resurrection. For each group of children, the ‘Cleaning of the Temple’ section was a highlight. There was something about being encouraged to make as much mess and noise in church as possible that was apparently quite enticing!
Interestingly, John, in his gospel account, puts this story at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. This may have been to introduce Jesus’ confrontation with the Jewish authorities from the start of the Gospel. In a way, John’s passion narrative starts from the beginning of the Gospel, and chapter by chapter he develops the Pharisee witness statement against Jesus. Each story, each conversation, is pointing to the probability of the crucifixion. In a way I suppose, you could say that John’s gospel is the one that most aligns with this season of Lent, as each day is a day of preparation, reflection and journeying towards Good Friday, and that glorious Easter Sunday.
This week I attended a lecture on the Eucharist and interchurch Eucharistic sharing. One of the participants commented at the end, how refreshing it was to listen to someone step away from the rules that we can bind ourselves with in church, and come back to the love of Jesus Christ. For me, this passage resonates with that sentiment. Jesus is walking into the Temple, as he may well have done numerous times before, but this time he has had enough, he seemingly loses it. What is happening in God’s house? What is being reflected to the Gentiles that God’s house is for? Where is the love of God to be found in this marketplace, or ‘den of thieves’, as the other Gospel writers put it.
A short trip to the Old Testament will help us to understand some of Jesus’ outrage.
In Isaiah chapter 1 verse 11, God says to the people:
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
And in Hosea chapter 6 verse 6:
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice; the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Going back to Isaiah, a new vision of the desire of God is given in chapter 58 verse 6:
Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
God told his people numerous times that he does not want empty sacrifices, for they are worthless to him, but no-one was listening. Even after the Temple was destroyed, a new one was built to be used in just the same way, there was no space or desire for a fresh revelation from God. The Temple priests and the Pharisees knew how they wanted to keep things ticking over in a way they were comfortable with, and no amount of prophecy was going to change this for them.
I wonder how many churches will go back to doing things exactly how they were done previously, once restrictions have been eased and it is safe to worship together again. Will we have the courage to provide the space to learn afresh from this enforced exile from our churches?
Back to our Gospel reading. The action of Jesus took place in the outer area of the Temple, the place where non-Jews were allowed. It is an interesting reflection to think what non-Jews might have thought of the God of Israel, when the first thing they saw of the Temple were people making money selling sacrifices made to God.
And the money-changers didn’t have a great reputation for honesty and charity. They were exchanging Roman money for the coinage acceptable for use in the Temple. You will know that when money is traded or exchanged, there is always commission to be made, and there wasn’t much governance around the rates of commission. The sellers of animals for sacrifice weren’t much better. The whole system implied that worship connecting with God in any way costs money. In summary, God wants our money.
What utter blasphemy is that!
Jesus cannot allow this blasphemy to take place any more, and in his furious rage, he is not just making noise and mess. Jesus is clearing a path to God. He is throwing aside anything which prevents the people from accessing God freely.
God does not want animal sacrifice, and he is certainly not interested in money. God wants us; our love and attention.
We do not make people pay to come to church any longer, but I wonder if, whilst taking our metaphorical steps towards God, there may be other barriers we tend to put up, even unintentionally, which prevent ourselves and others from fully developing our relationships with him?
Perhaps this could be our reflection and prayer during this next week of Lent, in which I will be joining with you; to allow God to open our eyes that we may recognise any barriers we may have constructed, so that with his help we may tear them down, and by so doing, create a clear access to God’s love, not only for ourselves, but for all his children. We make this our prayer, so that we may grow closer to God, even as he, through his love, draws us ever nearer to himself. Amen.
ANTHEM: If ye love me keep my commandments (Thomas Tallis)
Let us pray for ourselves and for all people according to their needs.
Almighty God our heavenly Father, whose commandments were handed down to your people through our forefather Moses, and clarified through the teachings of your Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour; have mercy on us for our transgressions, and forgive us for those things we have said and done against your divine will, and for the things we have failed to do or say when we should have acted or spoken out. Grant us the benefit of your greater power and wisdom, the like of which we could never hope to match, and defend us with all the strength which is necessary to resist the temptations of Satan, and prevent us from being led through our own weakness into sinful ways.
From all the crafts and assaults of the devil, good Lord deliver us.
Lord, grant wisdom to all in authority over us, and help us live in truth, unity and concord with our neighbours, friends and families. Protect us from those who would cause us harm, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by the consequences of their actions. Endue all people with a desire to love and respect the world and all that is in it. Help us to remain temperate in all we do; remove from us all anger and aggression, and bestow upon us the love and peace of Christ.
From all unreasonableness and uncharitableness, good Lord, deliver us.
O Christ, hear us. Lord, have mercy upon us, and write your laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
May the souls of the faithful departed, through your loving mercy, rest in peace and rise in glory; and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us all this day and for evermore. Amen.
HYMN – O thou who dost accord us (tune: Innsbruck)
ORGAN VOLUNTARY : KARG ELERT Marche triomphale: Nun danket alle Gott – played by Peter Dyke at Hereford Cathedral.