Order of Service
Good morning everyone. Today is Passion Sunday the beginning of Passiontide, the two weeks leading up to Easter when we recollect the suffering of Jesus during the last days of his earthly life. This is timely as we continue to stand alongside others in prayer who are suffering in many ways because of the impact of the coronavirus.
HYMN: The royal banners forward go.
The grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And also with you.
The prophet Isaiah wrote of God’s servant:
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity.
He was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
Upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
(Isa 53:3, 5)
Saviour of the world,
by your agony and trial;
by your cross and passion,
and by your precious death and burial,
Good Lord, deliver us. Amen.
Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pet. 2:24)
Calling to mind the heavy cost of human sin, and the price Jesus paid to forgive it, we confess our sins in confidence that we will be forgiven …
Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have wandered and strayed from
your ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against your holy laws.
We have left undone those things that we ought to have done;
and we have done those things
that we ought not to have done
and there is no health in us.
But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us in our need.
Spare those who confess their faults.
Restore those who are penitent,
according to your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
that we may live a disciplined, righteous and godly life,
to the glory of your holy name. Amen.
May Almighty God have mercy on you,
forgive you your sins,
and bring you to everlasting life,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
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 your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
NEW TESTAMENT READING
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’;
6 as he says also in another place,
‘You are a priest for ever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.’
7 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. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
HYMN: From heaven you came
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John
Glory to you, O Lord.
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 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. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
27 ‘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. 28 Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30 Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
What a simple request, ‘Sir we wish to see Jesus.’ We want to see someone. Not a big ask you might think – except look at us now! Who would have thought that the simple desire to see someone would have become so value laden? I wonder who you wish to see. Your son who lives in America, your grandchildren who live in Scotland or London or wherever; my daughter who lives in Bath, my mother who lives in Devon, an old friend who lives as close as Solihull – but it’s still too far away. We want to see them. People we love, people we know deeply and well, people who we are attracted to and like to be with, people who’s presence affirms our own being.
We want to see them, that is, not just with our eyes on a screen, somehow that doesn’t quite hack it. The longing goes deeper than that. The seeing is more than that, it is about being physically present with them, spending time, sharing, touching, knowing, hanging out with. We have heard the desperation of people who have wanted to ‘see’ their relatives in care homes over the last year and the difference it makes to those residents to ‘see’ their families. Seeing is more than a visual activity.
Which is especially the case in John’s gospel. These Greeks who have come to Jerusalem for the Passover want to see Jesus. On one level they want to meet with him and talk to him. But this is John’s gospel and the expression ‘to see Jesus goes much deeper.’ It speaks of belief, of glimpsing who Jesus truly is, of seeing him with the eyes of faith. Remember the incident earlier in the gospel when Jesus gives sight to the man who had been blind from birth. He is given sight in two ways; his vision is restored and he comes to believe in Jesus. The pharisees who are angry that Jesus healed him on the Sabbath have their sight – but they will not see that Jesus is sent by God. They are the ones that Jesus calls blind. Jesus said ‘for judgement I have come into this world so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ John 9: 39
So, this simple phrase ‘Sir we want to see Jesus’ has significance. These Greeks are open to faith ready to believe but the point is that these Greeks are gentiles. They are God-fearers, Greek speaking people who live somewhere in the Decapolis, the area surrounding Judea, they are not Jewish. Yet they are drawn to Jesus, attracted by what they hear of him. And their request is a trigger! It leads Jesus to say ‘the hour has come! Their arrival is a moment of destiny. The Greeks turning up on the doorstep, seeking him, are the sign of a new chapter for Jesus. His ministry in Judaism is concluding, he now belongs to a wider world. And he realises that the hour has come – the hour for the son of man to be glorified.
And what he is talking about is his death, his resurrection and his exaltation, being raised to be with his Father in heaven. This is his glorification. In John’s gospel the cross is a cross of glory – because of what it leads to. Jesus’ death on the cross is like a seed planted in the ground. The harvest it yields is new life for the whole world. Not just for the Hebrew people but for all people. The arrival of the Greeks means that the hour has come. Jesus’ walk to the cross now lies before him.
Today is Passion Sunday. The beginning of Passiontide, the two weeks leading up to Easter when we recollect the suffering of Jesus during the last days of his earthly life. It turns out that the life we are living at the moment is running in tandem with the church calendar. Passion Sunday is so named because it comes from the Latin verb for suffering or endurance. Over the last year there has been suffering and there has been much to endure. Even if we have been spared the worst, we can all relate to that. We have lived our own passion as we listen to the stories and pray for places and people affected by the impact of COVID.
Once Jesus realises his hour has come, he is troubled, but he submits his will to the will of the father as he cries out, ‘Father glorify your name.’ in other words, your will be done. But then when he proclaims ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peopleto myself.’ It is a prophetic moment, a moment of vision. There will be suffering, there will be death, but there will be resurrection. He faces the darkness of what lies ahead because he knows there is a greater purpose. The greater purpose is that death is overcome by life and life for all.
We are standing in the darkness but holding onto that vision too, looking to the future, believing and hoping in a better life ahead. We are enduring the now because we can see light at the end of the tunnel. This endurance and longing are not just about everyone being able to go out and enjoy themselves again, though of course we all need to do that. This longing is about a way of life which gives all of us; children, families, older people, everyone; health, variety, well-being, stability, self-worth and hope for the future. We are wanting that to be restored.
The normality that people talk about and want to regain is actually huge, much bigger than we realise – it is that which gives life purpose and direction, pattern and meaning. It is the gift of life itself.
We want to see life again, but ultimately the one who gives us life and life in all its fulness, is Jesus. We can look to the better weather and the work of the vaccine reducing infection, and we can thank God for all of it. Yet – we can also echo the request of the Greeks in our prayer to God – ‘sir we wish to see Jesus.’ That is to get to know him more deeply still. To see him in the sense of hanging out with him, spending time with him, talking with him, seeing him as a friend, seeing him as a loved one. Wanting to see him with the longing with which we want to see our family. Seeing Jesus in the sense of believing, realising again and afresh that it is in Jesus that our salvation lies, that the salvation of the world lies. It is that understanding of Jesus and our relationship with Jesus that will steer us through this hard time and into a future freedom.
Loving God, lead us through our passion into the new life of the resurrection, with our faith and our hope and our very being centred in Christ Jesus. 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 Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and 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 and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who 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.
HYMN There is a green hill far away
LITANY and PRAYERS
Remembering the trials endured by Jesus Christ, we pray for all who suffer today:
Christ, born in a shelter for animals,
give hope to the homeless today.
Christ, who fled from Herod’s brutal power,
guide our Queen and all rulers
in the paths of peace.
Christ, who fasted in the wilderness,
give bread to the hungry.
Christ, who resisted temptation,
grant us strength to stand against evil.
Christ, who gave up comfort and security to do God’s will,
lead us to seek God’s Kingdom first.
Christ, who, in the Garden, wrestled with doubt and fear,
bring the lost out of darkness and confusion into your light.
Christ, who was condemned and tortured for crimes he never committed,
bring justice to all who are unfairly treated.
Christ, who felt pain, loneliness and humiliation as he hung on the cross,
grant healing and hope to sick and suffering people.
Christ, buried in a borrowed tomb, we remember those who have died …
grant us, with them, a share in life eternal.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done;
on 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.
HYMN Lift High the cross
Lord Jesus Christ,
we thank you for all the benefits you have won for us,
for all the pains and insults you have borne for us.
Most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.
Christ crucified draw you to himself,
to find in him a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope,
and the assurance of sins forgiven;
and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be with you and remain with you now and always.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ
Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund (BWV 621) by Johann Sebastian Bach performed by Ben Bloor on the 16 stop 1975 (restored 2005) Flentrop organ of the Little Oratory on Sunday 17th January 2021.