Home Worship April 5 2020
Preparation for Worship
As we continue our journey through Lent, let our prayer be that you make us ready to worship you this morning and make room for God to act in our lives so that we may know the gentle whisper of your presence as we think on the events that will lead to the Cross and the miracle of the Resurrection and so we pause as we prepare ourselves to welcome you into our lives in new ways. Amen.
Hymn 13 Praise my soul
Lord of life,
your love enfolds us, and spirit fills us,
your sunrise wakes us, and sunset amazes us,
Your promise sustains us, and power upholds us,
Lord of peace,
who breaks down the barriers that divide us,
who has always loved us, and by grace has
Your presence brings new energy to tired and empty people and places.
We are broken people, with broken lives and relationships
We have done nothing which makes us deserving of God's love but
It is Your compassion and goodness that invites us to this moment of healing.
rejoice when we hear the words of forgiveness
I will be your God and you shall be my people.
I will forgive your sins and put them out of my mind
For Christ's sake. Amen.
Gospel Mat 21 :1-17
Hymn 138 Seek ye first
They say that everyone loves a parade. We’ve probably all enjoyed watching some kind of parade make its way through the streets, celebrating a special occasion. When it comes to parades, nothing succeeds like excess: large floats, headline banners, loud music, dressed-up people and outlandish characters, all competing for our attention. The streets become the scene for a movable feast and with all the drama it becomes difficult for the passers-by to pass up a parade.
Jesus organises his own parade into the city that is destined to kill him. It seems puzzling – not only to go voluntarily to the place where your innocence will not protect you, but to enter the arena of your own execution in the midst of song and acclamation. Matthew tells us that all this commotion throws the city into turmoil as the people seek to discover: “Who is this?” The city people are told that this is the prophet Jesus of Nazareth, from up north in Galilee. The northerner has come to question the south; the countryman has come to take over the city; the prophet has come to confront established authority.
As the parade gets under way the disciples get into the spirit of things by praising God at the top of their voices for what he has accomplished in Jesus. The disciples organize uproar of prayer, and a charismatic jamboree becomes an essential part of this parade.
As the procession moves off, the people throw their cloaks on the ground – an early version of putting out the red carpet to welcome important people.
But not everyone loves a parade, and there are onlookers who remain unmoved by what is happening. The Pharisees suggest volume control, probably because this demonstration has messianic overtones. Is Jesus the liberator they’ve been waiting for?
Jesus does not think too much of the Pharisees’ suggestion: he is in no mood for controlled enthusiasm. This is not the time for silence. The time for silence will come later. For the moment, the parade is on with all its loud rejoicing.
And in today’s Gospel we have a parade that makes some people very nervous.
But how quickly can the mood of a mob change! Less than 3 days later this same mob is baying for his blood. By the time the passion gets under way there is nothing to shout about. Processions that follow messiahs are triumphant affairs; processions that follow condemned criminals are timid shabby affairs made up of those who have to be there and the curious who can never be mistaken for disciples. Matthew tells us later that all Jesus’ disciples deserted him: one betrayed him with a kiss; another denied him with curses. Confronted with fight or flight, their fear made the decision.
When the passion comes it brings with it a pressing question: can you still believe in this man when all the authorities are ranged against him? Can you still believe in Jesus when you see him die?
Jesus never wavers in his determination to do his father’s will. When we speak of the passion of Jesus we usually mean the suffering and death inflicted on him by others. But the real passion is a power within Jesus that enables him to face the violence and the pain; one that consumes his whole person and drives him through this time of horror. He could have avoided coming south to Jerusalem; he could have compromised and settled for survival. But the passion that is in him is greater than his need for security and survival. His ardent love insists that he face the ultimate test of love. The Cross.
Throughout his ministry Jesus has revealed those things that mean more to him than life itself. His urge to do his Father’s will. His preference for those who have been abandoned or who live in poverty. His fury at a religious authority that only invents new burdens for people. His open disappointment with those who are economical with love and forgiveness. His way of having basketfuls and jars of plenty. His outlandish attachment to those who count themselves worthless. His loyalty to those who have deserted him. None of this emerges from a man who is timid and frugal in his ways: it reveals a man of great passion.
In the end the cross comes as no surprise: it is the penalty for freely giving such extravagant love.
The sign of the cross
The cross of Jesus stands at the centre of the Christian story as the sign of the lengths love will go to in its passion for others. If we ever wonder if we are really loved, we should look at the figure on the cross. It is difficult to say that we are unloved when we know that someone thought we were worth dying for. The cross is lifted up as a sign of our worth: somebody thought we were worth all that pain and suffering. And that somebody is Jesus, Son of God.
We remember the death of Jesus not as a senseless act of avoidable violence; rather, we honour his death as the supreme act of love. The love of one who “did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself” to become as we all are; and, by being as we are, to show that, in spite of our sins and stupidities, God loves us. That is the heart of the passion story. All else is commentary.
Can we join the parade that Jesus began? We know where it is leading. Are we onlookers watching unmoved? Does it matter to us enough to join the parade? Today the Church asks us to be the parade, to proclaim that it matters what happens to him. We will not leave it to the stones to cry out. We must demonstrate our love of Jesus because we mattered so much to him that he organised and led his own funeral parade into Jerusalem even though he knew the ultimate outcome.
So let our parade begin!
By Mark Smyth
PRAYERS FOR OUR WORLD DURING THE COVID 19 CRISIS
Heavenly Father, we come to you right now amongst a cloud of uncertainty,
COVID-19 has spread amongst your people,
It has scaled mountains, crossed borders, entered countries, and traversed oceans,
Male and female, young and old,
It has entered homes, schools, governments, hospitals, sporting clubs and more,
As a people united, we cry out, do not be far from us God, Come quickly to help us, (Psalm 38:21)
For those who are currently afflicted by this virus, we ask for the miraculous,
May lungs be restored to full health, headaches dissolved, body aches disbanded,
For anyone battling symptoms, God bring restoration and health,
For those who are battling far worse: cancers, tumours, strokes, may you lay your healing hand upon hem Jesus, when we cry out to you for help, may your response be “I am Willing” (Matthew 8:3)
We lift up to you the medical professionals across our nation and around the world,
May you bless their gifted hands, For GP’s, doctors, surgeons, nurses and specialists, may you give them insight to treat those afflicted effectively, sustain their efforts with an enduring energy,
May the spread of this virus not overwhelm our medical facilities,
For the margins of our societies, we ask for protection,
Shelter the elderly and vulnerable from this sickness under your wings, may it not cross the threshold of their homes, (Psalm 91:4)
For those who have nowhere to lay their head, may you not only protect them but whisper to the hearts of those right now who have the resources to give them shelter,
For the single mums, and single dads who can’t spare time off work for their kids, surround them with friends and relatives who are able to care for their children during this time,
For those worried about finances during this time, business owners concerned about their livelihood, may you financially provide for them,
For the recently widowed, for those who have lost a loved one through coronavirus or otherwise, may you sit next to them Jesus and weep with them (John 11:35)
Prompt friends and family to surround them, to grieve with them, to cook for them, and to love them,
And when the time is right God, bestow upon them a crown of beauty. Anoint them with your oil of joy, and clothe them in a garment of praise (Isaiah 61)
For our world leaders during this time, we ask for you to generously pour out your wisdom upon them God,
Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau, Jacinda Ardern, and hundreds more. You know who they are,
May you help them to govern your people safely during this unsure time,
May they seek to care for the orphaned, the widowed, the refugee, the poor, and the oppressed, (Exodus 22:21)
For those who have felt a rise in stress, depression and anxiety during this time,
Or who have been battling this for some time, We ask for respite and reprieve,
May their hearts be troubled no longer (John 14:1)
May they be free in their minds like the birds of the sky who have no worries (Matthew 6:26)
Fill their minds with everything true, noble, lovely, pure and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8)
We are nothing without You, God, You are the masterful author and creator of everything we have, everything seen and unseen,
The vast mountains, the wild forests, the gentle autumn rains, and the air we breathe is yours,
The ones we love, and the ones we find hard to love all came from your creative hands,
We are all brothers and sisters, so may we share with our brothers and sisters now, No hoarding, no gathering more than we need,
Jesus, may we be inspired by your generous sacrifice you made on the cross for all of us,
May the spirit of selfishness no longer find a home in the hearts of people around the world, In this time, may generosity flourish among neighbours and strangers, ensuring we all have enough, starting right now and spreading far quicker and wider than this virus ever will,
We ask all of this in your beautiful name God, Amen
(provided by John Kingsley Hospital Chaplain (URC) Countess of Chester)
Hymn 437 Guide me o thou great jehovah
We go in His name as emissaries of God's love and power
To reconcile the divided, To restore the broken, to sing the eternal song of God’s love.
Knowing that The unending love of God
the unearned but freely given grace of Christ and the eternal friendship and power of the Holy Spirit is with us always in all that we do in His name. Amen.
Adapted from prayers by John van de Laar
This home worship has been prepared by Mark Smyth