Sunday at St Andrew's

Sunday 21 March 2021

Morning Worship 10 am on Zoom  

(Passion Sunday)

Speaker: James Cook

‘The Hour has Come’ 

 

If you find this type difficult to read, 

please look at this page.

 

Welcome to this service at St Andrew’s Eaton

Today is Passion Sunday, so as our minds turn from the disciplines of Lent to the familiar readings that take us through Holy Week and on to Easter, we spend today looking at what it all means.

Our readings bring us to think about Christ as sacrifice – a sacrifice for our sins – and then (looking at John 12), we come to the theme often repeated in John’s gospel, of Christ’s glory – and we see that the epitome of that glory is in his suffering on the cross.  

It’s deeply troubling – but love that deep should trouble us, especially when we can do nothing to earn it, yet somehow we feel that must make a response…

‘By the Saviour’s cross and passion,

Lord, save us and help us.’

 

As we begin, let’s pray that God will still our hearts and minds and speak to us in this time today.

 

INTRODUCTION                

Leader:   Grace, mercy and peace

             from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

             be with you

All:        and also with you.

 

Leader:   Loving God, we have come to worship you.

All:        Help us to pray to you in faith,

to sing your praise with gratitude,

and to listen to your word with eagerness;

through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

HYMN: Praise to the Holiest in the height 

 

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS

Leader:   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.

On these two commandments 

hang all the law and the prophets.

 

PSALM 51 verses 1-13

 

All:        Lamb of God,

             you take away the sin of the world,

             have mercy on us.

 

             Lamb of God,

             you take away the sin of the world,

             have mercy on us.

 

             Lamb of God,

             you take away the sin of the world,

             grant us peace.

 

Leader:   Christ himself carried up our sins in his body to the tree,

so that, free from sins,

we might live for righteousness;

by his wounds we have been healed.       1 Peter 2.24

 

Let us confess our sins.             

             O God, you know my foolishness

             and my sins are not hidden from you:  

 

Leader:   Lord, have mercy.

All:        Lord, have mercy.

 

Leader:   Let not the flood overwhelm me

nor the depths swallow me up;

let not the pit shut its mouth upon me:        

 

Leader:   Christ, have mercy.

All:        Christ, have mercy.

 

Leader:   Hear me, O Lord, as your loving kindness is good;

             turn to me as your compassion is great:

 

Leader:   Lord, have mercy.

All:        Lord, have mercy.

 

Leader:   May almighty God,

who sent his Son into the world to save sinners,

bring us his pardon and peace, now and for ever.

All:        Amen.

 

FIRST READING

Hebrews chapter 5 verses 1-10

Jesus the Great High Priest

 

This is the word of the Lord.

All:        Thanks be to God.

 

HYMN: With a prayer you fed the hungry 

 

SECOND READING

John chapter 12 verses 20-33  

Jesus speaks about his death

 

        This is the word of the Lord.

All:        Thanks be to God.

 

SERMON (James Cook)       

‘The Hour has Come’

John 12.20-33

What would you say was your moment of glory? The moment you look back on and think, ‘that was my hour’. Maybe it was going up to receive Doctor of the Year award. Maybe it was winning gold in the 100 metres at your school sports day. Maybe your wedding day, or a milestone anniversary. Captain Tom’s moment of glory, many would say, was in his final year of life, as he steadily walked a hundred laps around his garden to raise millions for the NHS. What would you say your hour of glory was?

In our reading from John today Jesus tells us about his hour of glory. If you know John’s Gospel well, you’ll know that repeatedly through the Gospel there’s reference to his hour, his time. At the wedding in Cana, Jesus initially refuses to help with the wine situation, because, he says, his time has not yet come. Well, now, here in chapter 12, as he enters the final week of his life, he says his hour has come. When Jesus spoke about his hour of glory, he was referring, though, not to a great sermon he preached, nor to a great miracle he wrought, not even to his resurrection, but rather, astonishingly, to his death on a cross. 

So, we’re going to be looking at this moment under two headings. First of all the Glory of the Cross, and then secondly what it means for us, with the heading the Way of the Cross.

The Glory of the Cross

So, first of all, the glory of the Cross. Some Greeks, we are told, had come up to Philip, one of the disciples, and asked that simple request, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’. There’s a story of an old church that had these words inscribed in the pulpit. Each preacher was asked, ‘Sir, (or Madam!) we wish to see Jesus.’ May that always be our desire, wherever we are in our Christian journey: we wish to see Jesus. 

It must have been a very exciting moment for Philip, being able to introduce some seekers to Jesus. He and Andrew go together to Jesus, and tell him about these Greeks who want to see him. How would you expect Jesus to respond? ‘Yes, of course, bring them over. I’d love to chat with them.’ Or at the very least, ‘well, I’m a tad busy right now, maybe make an appointment for them to come back tomorrow?’ But, no. Jesus answers them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’. What a strange response! It almost seems as if he’s completely ignoring their request. Or is he? After all, John does say Jesus answered them with these words. He wasn’t ignoring them; this was his answer. What I think Jesus is saying is, ‘They want to see me? Then they soon will, for my moment is about to come.’ 

We should pause to consider what an absolutely crazy thing Jesus is saying. Who would ever say that their moment of glory was a shameful punishment, even for something they didn’t do? Would any political prisoner (and there are plenty around at the moment), ever say that their moment of glory was their years spent behind bars? But Jesus says that his moment of glory is his moment of greatest shame. He says that the high point of his life is his death. The moment he sees as the essence of his life, the essence of who he is, is his moment of greatest self-denial. If we want to see Jesus, he says, if we want to understand what sort of a person he is, we need look no further than the cross.

How could this be so? How could something so shameful be someone’s hour of glory? It was after all something that deeply troubled him, we read in verse 27 – so much so that a part of him even wanted to be saved from the hour. It was not something he wanted to endure. And yet he knew that this was the very reason he came. This was his moment. It was his moment because his death would bring life. He tells the parable of the grain of wheat. If you just hold on to the grain of wheat in your hands, it’s just going to stay a grain of wheat. If, however, you let go of the grain, and bury it in the ground, the grain, in a sense, dies, but in dying it gives life to a whole crop of wheat. Jesus could have held on to his life; but such was the depth of his love for us, such was his total disregard for his own self-interest, such was his desire for us to have the life which we could never attain on our own, that he gave up his life, so that his death might give new life to all people.

In verses 31 and 32, Jesus says more about what his death will achieve. First his death will bring judgement on the old order, on this world in all its wickedness and greed and sin that we see daily on our TV screens, not to mention so often in our own hearts. Judgement because at the cross we see the horrific reality that when humanity is presented with perfect goodness, humanity chooses to destroy it. We are rather the ones to be ashamed. But Jesus continues that, secondly, his death will not just bring judgement but will bring an end to the reign of evil and sin, as the ruler of this world is driven out. Evil and sin may still remain, but it is now the Lord Jesus on the throne. And then thirdly, his death will bring in a new era as people from all over the world come to the cross to receive forgiveness, cleansing, a new life. This was why Jesus’ death was his hour of glory. This was what he came to do. Not to preach some amazing sermons. Not to perform spell-binding miracles. But to lay down his life to bring life to the rest of the world.

The Way of the Cross

This principle of life through death, Jesus says, applies, though, not just to him, but also to those who would follow him. And here we move to our second heading, the way of the Cross. ‘Whoever serves me’, Jesus says, ‘must follow me’. If we want to serve Jesus, we need to follow the same path that he trod. Verse 25: ‘those who love their life lose it, but those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ Sounds quite stark, doesn’t it? But when Jesus says that we should hate our lives, he’s not meaning we need to live some grey, dull life devoid of fun and pleasures. After all, he himself attended a wedding party at Cana in Galilee, where he turned water into wine to keep the party going. God made this world for us to enjoy. Jesus is using here a common Hebrew way of speaking to express preference: if you prefer one thing to another, say you prefer cats to dogs, you would say you love cats and hate dogs. But it was understood that you didn’t mean literally that you hated dogs, just that you hated them in comparison to your love for cats. And so Jesus isn’t saying we should hate our lives in this world, but that they shouldn’t be our number 1 love. We should hate our lives in comparison to something, someone far better: ‘Whoever serves me must follow me.’ 

Jesus is saying, I think, that we need to be prepared to let go of those things we so tightly hold on to. We hold on to them, often instinctively, because they give us a sense of security, of comfort, of peace, and that’s why we love them, but we end up being controlled by them. And so when we love our life, when we hold on to those things that give our lives security, well we end up losing out on a richer, more fruitful life that could be ours if we have the courage to step out in faith. For if we let go of these things, if we allow them to fall to the ground and die, and if we instead love Jesus, by holding on to him we will then experience the full riches of life with him.

So, how does this apply to us? What is it that we need to let go of? Do have a chat about it after the service. Are there things as a church, as we look to resuming our activities and services, are there things as a church we might want to let go of? Things we do because we’ve always done them and there’s a security in that; but if we let go of them, could we find ourselves entering more fruitful avenues of mission in Eaton? What about as individuals? As we look ahead to ‘normal’ life hopefully resuming in the not-too-distant future, are there lockdown routines we’ve got used to we’ll need to give up? Certainly for me, there are routines that I’ve got used to that if I’m honest I feel a little reluctant to give up. Being stuck at home so much over the past year means I’ve got used to not needing, most of the time, to think much about anyone apart from ourselves and our immediate family. How easy will we find it to start thinking about others once more? To forego the Sunday morning lie-in and church half in pyjamas, and actually head down to St Andrew’s. To give up our afternoon siesta in order to go and pick up a friend from the station. To let go of our reservedness and start offering hospitality again. It’ll be different for each of us. But are there things that as we look to the future we think, ‘Actually, I’ve quite enjoyed not having to do that, or see that person, this past year, and I’m not that looking forwards to starting doing it again’?

Whatever it is for us, how will we let go? How will we let go of our worries, anxieties and fears? Only by faith, only by looking to the one who has trod that path before us. We can only let go if we have something else, someone better to hold on to. We can only let go, if instead we hold on to Jesus, knowing that he has gone before us. He let go of his very life that we might have life. He gave up everything that we might have all we could ever need. He endured the greatest moment of shame that we might be honoured. Let’s keep looking to him: for if we hold on to him, we will be able to follow him with joy, with fruitfulness and without fear.

 

A version of this talk in video format will be available on the St Andrew’s channel on YouTube, from later on Sunday 21 March.  

 

HYMN: Unless a grain of wheat 

 

PRAYERS (Chris Smith)

Let us pray to the Father through his Son who suffered on the cross for the world’s redemption.

Fill the Church with your Holy Spirit. Give to Christian people everywhere a deeper longing to take up the cross and to understand its mysterious glory.

 

By the Saviour’s cross and passion,

All:        Lord, save us and help us.

 

Bless those who lead the Church’s worship at this time as the country emerges from lockdown. In the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments draw your people close to you.

 

By the Saviour’s cross and passion,

All:        Lord, save us and help us.

 

Strengthen our children and young people returning to school. Give patience to teachers and families too, as they cope with all the changes to their situation. We pray that you will especially bless our young people week by week at the Youth Alpha course and the Sunday Club.

 

By the Saviour’s cross and passion,

All:        Lord, save us and help us.

 

Look in your mercy upon the world you loved so much that you sent your Son to suffer and to die for. We pray for the healing of divisions especially in Syria, in Yemen and in Myanmar. Strengthen those who work to share the reconciliation won at such a cost upon the cross.

 

By the Saviour’s cross and passion,

All:        Lord, save us and help us.

 

Heavenly Father, bring healing by the wounds of Christ to all who are weighed down by pain and injustice.  

(Think of someone you know in need of your prayers.)

Help the lonely, the persecuted, the suffering and the needy to find strength in the love and companionship of Jesus, and in his passion to know their salvation.

 

By the Saviour’s cross and passion,

All:        Lord, save us and help us.

 

As Easter approaches and we are able to open the church for services again, may many in our community respond to the invitation of the Easter Card to join us in worship and praise to our loving Lord.

 

By the Saviour’s cross and passion,

All:        Lord, save us and help us.

 

The Collect for today

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.

All:        Amen.

 

Standing at the foot of the cross, 

as our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

 

All:        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.

Lead us not into temptation 

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, 

and the glory are yours 

now and for ever. 

Amen.

 

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH

Leader:   We say together in faith:

All:        Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.

 

Leader:   We believe in God the Father,

who created all things:

All:        for by his will they were created

and have their being.

 

Leader:   We believe in God the Son,

who was slain:

All:        for with his blood,

he purchased us for God,

from every tribe and language,

from every people and nation.

 

Leader:   We believe in God the Holy Spirit:

All:        the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’

Even so come, Lord Jesus!

Amen.

  cf Revelation 4.8,11; 5.9; 22.17,20

 

HYMN: Meekness and majesty

 

THE BLESSING

Leader:   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,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among you and remain with you always.

All:     Amen.

 

Leader:   Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,

             it remains just a single grain;

All:        but if it dies, it bears much fruit.           John 12.24

 

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION

 

1. What have been your moments of glory? 
How does this compare to what Jesus said was his hour of glory?

 

2. What anxieties and fears (if any) do you feel about returning to ‘normal’ life?

 

3. Are there things as a church we could let go of?

 

 

Church of England logo


Printer Printable Version