Archive for the ‘John’ Category

Maundy Thursday: 1st April 2010 (Holy Week)

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

In previous years the church has held a meal on the thursday of holy week, this year for the first time we had a full communion service, (although it was slightly shorter than our usual sunday worship). During the message I talked about bereavement, grieving and ‘saying goodbye’. The full service was as follows: 

The call to worship was  John 13:31b-35

‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him,  God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.  Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
Hymn – 1- A new commandment
Prayer of Adoration
Almighty, eternal God, You have given us this day, this moment, you have given us a beautiful life. Out of love you give us the breath with which we praise you and out of pure grace you give us bodies and minds with which we experience pleasure. And out of unfathomable mercy you give us souls in which we may know you and be brought into your presence. You wash our feet, you serve us with bread and wine, you put your spirit within us and you bring your kingdom to earth.

Prayer of Confession
And yet we are ungrateful. Our striving is for ourselves, our vision is for the things of this world. We store up treasure that rusts and decays, we think so little of that treasure in heaven you have called us to work for. Forgive us, Lord, for we are not worthy to be washed, cleansed and fed by you –

Declaration of forgiveness
 And yet it is so, it is a glorious fact that you have reached deep into our emptiness and filled us, you have erased our sin, you have washed us with your loving hands, and you have fed us from your bountiful table. You have abolished the separation and pain of human existence, even our grief at the loss of those we love you have chosen to share. And by sharing our grief you have ended its power over us,

Petition for the Worship

We ask you to be with us now, as you are always. In our fellowship, in our singing, in our speaking and our listening, may we perceive you spirit moving among us. In our service of communion may we feel your presence in Christ, and may we know that it is your saving grace, may we feel its power and its beauty in this time together, as we say the words that Jesus taught us
 Our Father…

 Old Testament Reading:  Psalm 116: 12-19

What shall I return to the LORD
   for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
   and call on the name of the LORD,
I will pay my vows to the LORD
   in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD
   is the death of his faithful ones.
O LORD, I am your servant;
   I am your servant, the child of your serving-maid.
   You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
   and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD
   in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD,
   in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!

Hymn – 465 – – Meekness and Majesty
New Testament Reading: John 13: 1-17

I reflected on how on Maundy Thursday Jesus did not only institute the Lord’s Supper, he also experienced all the human feelings of knowing that you will die and saying goodbye to friends.

This is important because it’s included in the list of human suffering and joy that Jesus experienced – and because it has been experienced by God in Christ it is transformed. Returning to the idea that ‘what has not been assumed has not been redeemed’ (an old but great theological idea) we say that our humanity has been transformed by the fact that God shared our humanity and went through the whole range of human experience, transforming it in death and resurrection.

The devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness to avoid some of the messier or more unpleasant parts of being human but Jesus knows that his destiny is to experience it all – so that there can be no limits on salvation: he ‘assumes’ (takes on) it all so that there can be no limit on our redemption, no part of our existence that can’t be transformed.

We”ve always understood this to to include physical pain but it includes mental pain too.  So the grief and distress that we experience about death – knowing it’s coming, knowing we can’t avoid it, saying farewell to life – we must remind ourselves that this is part of the cross that Jesus took up. When we grieve or fear death we should know that in Christ God has experienced this too – and because it has been experienced by the divine, its power is taken away. No wonder the devil is so keen that Jesus should opt out of some or all of the suffering way of the cross.

As a nation we’re not good at dealing with the reality of death.  After two world wars we became the land of the stiff upper lip, perhaps this was a good thing, a necessary thing for our survival at the time. But the legacy is that we are now repressed about death, unable to speak of it, and unable to withstand the pain of saying goodbye.

But saying goodbye can be a privilege. Knowing that life is coming to an end can be a great mercy, giving us a chance to say everything that we’ve always wanted to, and to treasure each other while we can. Hospices are often joyful places, because people who know they are dying very often seem to discover a most beautiful way of living – with honesty, tenderness, forgiveness and laughter.

A great many atheists discover a complete joy in life once they know that death is round the corner. If this is availalbe to people who believe that death marks the complete extinction of their existence then how much more joy is there for us who believe in a life beyond death?

One theme that has developed from our Lent and Easter worship and bible studies is that of journeys. We must remember that in Jesus God is with us every step of the way – and that includes in our anticipation of death.

 Communion Hymn – 723 – We come as guests invited

Blessing/Dismissal – Psalm 116:1-2
I love the LORD, because he has heard
   my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
   therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

The service ended with the shared Grace

Monday March 22nd – Bible Study (Fifth Week of Lent)

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

In this Bible study we looked particularly at John 12: 1-8, where Mary anoints Jesus with expensive balm and is criticized by Judas for wasting money that could have been given to the poor. Jesus replies that the poor will ‘always be with us’ and praises Mary for what she has done – presumably because of its significance to his coming crucifixion.

Our first impression was that Judas had a fair point, and that we would have some pretty heated discussions if we had the equivalent of a labourer’s annual pay to dispose of.  However our perception shifted when we looked at where this passage comes in the gospel.

As a general rule it’s good to look at what has just happened and what is just about to happen whenever we look at a gospel passage. The resurrection of Lazarus has just happened, and Jesus is about to embark on the mission that will inevitably lead to his torture, humiliation and death on the cross.

Given that context Mary’s extravagant gesture towards Jesus didn’t look so out of place any more. Either as a celebration of the bringing back from the dead of Lazarus, or as an anticipation of Jesus’ death the washing of Jesus’ feet in expensive perfumed oil seems much more appropriate.

We talked about how Mary responded to being in Jesus’ presence with a pure love and adoration. She didn’t want to question him but just wanted to love him.  We talked about this being a noble and proper instinct, and how perhaps sometimes we respond in a less appropriate way to the presence of Jesus that we feel. Why can’t we, like Mary, sometimes simply love Jesus, simply adore him as we would if we were in the same physical room with him?