On this 5th Sunday of Lent, The Drive Choir expected to present a service words and music for
Passion Sunday. As this is not now possible, our act of worship has been adapted to be read at
home. Sadly it comes without the music.
SF 287 When I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast save in the cross of Christ my God;
the very things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.
See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down:
did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?
His dying crimson, like a robe, spreads o’er his body on the tree;
then am I dead to all the globe, and all the globe is dead to me.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
God of awe and wonder, as your Son turns his face towards Jerusalem, and prepares himself for trials and agony, crucifixion and death, help us in this season of Lent, on this first day of Passiontide, to turn our hearts towards you, that we may become part of his story of change and transformation, forever mindful of his sacrifice, forever grateful for his love. Amen.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
PSALM 130 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning, O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
ADDRESS I Are you the Messiah?
Jesus’ ministry had gathered pace and the Jewish authorities were getting very uneasy. ‘How long are you going to keep us in suspense?’ they ask. ‘Tell us – are you the Messiah?’ (John 10:24). Rather than a simple one-word answer, the reply they receive makes them decide to stone him, not for his good works but for blasphemy – but Jesus talks himself out of it and he slips away across the river Jordan, where he had been baptised by John.
Then Jesus hears that his friend Lazarus is ill. He doesn’t rush to his bedside but after a couple of days, he decides to go to him. His disciples try to dissuade him for fear of him being seized, but he is determined to go, and his disciples go with him, hoping to protect him from any hostility.
Lazarus had been dead for about four days when Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, hear that Jesus is on the way. Martha goes to meet him and says, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Mary had stayed at the house, being comforted by relatives and friends, but when Jesus arrived, she too said, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John11: 21.32) with weeping all around him, Jesus wept too – and Lazarus is brought to life – and ‘From that day on the authorities made plans to kill Jesus’ (verse 53). For a while, Jesus seems to have kept out of the limelight.
GOSPEL READING John 12: verses 1 – 8
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about half a litre of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put in it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
A PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Father God, when we have judged the actions of others without thought,
and when we have spoken words that hurt others; Forgive us, Lord.
We are sorry for our selfishness and greed, our thoughtlessness and extravagance,
when we waste time, money, energy and resources. Forgive us, Lord.
Help us to balance our devotion to you with your command to serve the poor,
Lord, anoint us with your love that we may be forgiven. Amen.
ADDRESS II Why this waste?
Mary’s action is prophetic in two ways. First, as Jesus says, it is a sign of his imminent burial. Like the women who followed Jesus to the cross and the tomb, Mary does not look away as Jesus’ suffering and death draws near. Second, this may have been an act that inspired Jesus to wash his disciples feet. Acts of love and kindness often prompt those who receive them to show the same love and kindness to others- and this infectious principle underlies the new commandment that Jesus gives his disciples: ‘Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.’ (John 13.34)
The ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Who are the poor?
Those without food, clothing, shelter, which includes not only those who sleep on the streets but also families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation – a shelter but not a home.
Recently there was a call from the Methodist Church to be more radical and pro-active than just caring for those who sleep rough. We are asked to consider how our premises are being used and whether some might be converted into housing.
‘Why this waste?’ is a question often asked when money is spent on expensive renovations or refurbishments. Would it have been better given to charity to feed the hungry, spent on medical work or thousands of other good causes? Are we justified in spending large sums of money on extravagant clothes, holidays, beauty treatment or other personal things?
We may not have precious ointment to pour over Jesus’ feet or vast riches to share. The most precious thing we have is this very moment, here and now, which we can lay at Jesus’ feet, in love and thankfulness, for he is our Saviour whose love is eternal.
PRAYERS Do take time to pray for each group of people.
Lord, we pray for all who hopes and expectations have turned into concern and frustration:
separation from loved ones, celebrations cancelled, exams postponed.
Guide all in authority in their decision making.
Protect and uphold all who are providing medical services.
May food producers and distributers manage to maintain supplies and shoppers be thoughtful.
Guide neighbourhood groups into ways of caring and support.
May families be patient, understanding and resourceful, and share an abundance of love.
We pray for our whole church family as we endeavour to keep in touch with everyone,
especially those who are ill or in pain, bereaved or lonely.
Lord, as we cast all our anxiety on you, for we know that you care for each one of us,
help us to face the days ahead with courage and trust. Amen.
SF 361 Man of sorrows! What a name for the Son of God, who came
ruined sinners to reclaim! Alleluia! What a Saviour!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood;
sealed my pardon with his blood: Alleluia! What a Saviour!
Guilty, vile, and helpless we; spotless Lamb of God was he;
full atonement, can it be? Alleluia! What a Saviour!
Lifted up was he to die; ‘It is finished!’ was his cry;
now in heaven exalted high: Alleluia! What a Saviour!!
When he comes, our glorious King, all his ransomed home to bring,
then anew this song we’ll sing: Alleluia! What a Saviour!
Philipp Paul Bliss (1838-1876)
BENEDICTION May the grace of the Father be with us, may the love of the Son enfold us,
and may the peace of the Holy Spirit comfort and guide us, today and always.