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5th Sunday in Lent : 17th March 2024

What follows is a worship service which, I pray, you can participate in at a time(s) that are convenient to you. This 'service' will take about forty five (45) minutes.

I pray that you will feel called to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in this service.

The text that is in regular typeface (that is what you are reading at the moment) is to be read quietly, while the text that is in
bold face (like you are reading right now) is meant to be read aloud.

Opening Hymn:

Let us continue by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we commence our praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

A Call To Worship:

We meet in the name of God,

Creator of the universe,

source of true humanity,

mother and father of all. Amen.

An Assurance of Forgiveness:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

The Absolution
00:00 / 00:18

The Sentence For Today (let us say aloud):

Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

The Special Prayer For Today (let us pray aloud):

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Our first reading for today:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

Jeremiah 31:31-34
00:00 / 01:45

Our second reading for today:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

Hebrews 5:5-10
00:00 / 01:22

Gradual Hymn:

Let us continue by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we raise out voices in praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

A reading from the holy gospel according to Saint John.

John 12:20-33
00:00 / 01:47

Listen to David speak to this gospel

Loss & Renewal
00:00 / 14:56

or, if you prefer, you can read the sermon, below:

Sermon for Lent 5, 17th Mar 2024

Take my lips O God and speak through them, take our minds O God and think through them, take our hearts O God and love through them this day. <Amen>

My fourteen-hour flight back to New Zealand last week was truly memorable for one reason. I looked on in awe as a mother nurtured, protected and cared for her autistic son during the entire journey. What an example of love and life it was and how deeply inspirational to see this lady living out the loving life of The Risen Christ before my very eyes. More on this later <PAUSE>

Today I am going to tell you the secret to life and it’s something you know and have seen and experienced over and over. It’s one of those secrets hidden in plain sight. It’s also one of those secrets that can trouble the soul, so we often turn away from it or close our eyes to it.

“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” (John 12:24). So there you have it. Now you know. That’s the secret to life. <PAUSE>

Let me explain … it’s a pattern of loss and renewal that runs throughout our lives and our world. Even if you’ve never thought of this as the secret to life, you’ve lived and experienced it, sometimes by choice and other times by chance. Either way it’s there.

Look at the way this pattern is present in your life …

How you ever been a parent? Like that mother on my flight that I mentioned above - if you are a parent you know that there are sacrifices of yourself and your life to be made in order for the new life of your child to emerge and grow. We give up parts of ourselves for the other.

Have you ever fallen in love and committed your life to another? If so, you had to let parts of your old life go and something of your single life died so that you could be with that other person.

Have you ever been the care-giver of another? If so, you could name the parts of your life that died so that another might live with dignity, compassion, and love.

Throughout your life YOU chose certain losses and let go of some things so that other things could arise. For every choice we make, every yes we say, there is at least one no and probably many.

This same pattern is in nature. You can see it in the changing of the seasons, falling leaves and new blooms, and the setting and rising of the sun.

Think about the scriptural stories of loss and renewal. Innocence in Adam and Eve died so that consciousness might be born. Abram left his country and kin so that he might be made a great nation, renamed Abraham, and be a blessing to all the families of the earth. James and John left their father, boats, and nets to become fishers of people. Jesus taught his disciples, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again” (Mark 9:31). <PAUSE>
The secret is out. It’s everywhere. It is a pattern of loss and renewal, dying and rising, letting go and getting back, leaving and return. It’s at the core of our baptism and it’s what we, as Christians, declare:

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that today’s gospel (John 12:20-33) is set in the context of the passover feast. Remember what that’s about? The passover is the celebration of the Israelites’ liberation from bondage in Egypt. It’s about freedom and new life. It too is about letting go, leaving behind, and moving into a new life.

There is something about this pattern that is the lens through which we see Jesus. Some Greeks come to Philip and say, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” I don’t know why they want to see Jesus but I have a few guesses. Jesus turned water into wine. He cleansed the temple. He healed the son of the royal official. He healed the paralytic. He fed 5000 with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. He walked on water. He gave sight to the man born blind. He raised Lazarus from the dead.

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Me too. That’s the Jesus I want to see. Don’t you?

Philip tells Andrew about the Greeks and their request. Philip and Andrew tell Jesus. And Jesus says to them, “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.” That’s His response to those who want to see Him; to the Greeks, to you, to me.

And you’ve got to know that dying is about more than our physical death. Yes, it is that but it’s also MUCH MORE than that. We die a thousand deaths throughout our lifetime.

The loss of a loved one, a relationship, health, opportunities, a dream; all deaths we didn’t want or ask for. Other times we choose our losses and deaths. We give up parts of ourselves for another. We change our beliefs and values so that we can be more authentically the person that God wants us to be. Sometimes there are things we need to let go of, things we cling to that deny us the fullness of life we want and God offers: fear, anger or resentment, regret and disappointment, guilt, the need to be right, approval.

Seeing Jesus isn’t a spectator sport, it’s not something that you try and view from the sidelines of life. It is a way to be followed, a truth to be embodied, a life to be lived.

It’s being a grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies so that it might bear much fruit. That’s where we see Him. It’s the letting go, the emptying, the leaving behind, and the dying that makes space for new life to arise.

This is the soul-troubling secret to life. “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.” So what is the grain of wheat in our lives today that needs to fall into the earth and die?

What are the things that if we lost them we are sure we would just die? Maybe those are the very places waiting to bear much fruit in our lives. Maybe that’s where we’ll see Jesus.

This secret, this pattern of loss and renewal, will be unveiled everyday throughout Holy Week. I think that’s why we hear this text today, a week before Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week. It’s our preparation for Holy Week … and you know where Holy Week ends, right? At Easter, the empty tomb, the dawn of a new day, and the renewal of life.

The single grain has become the Bread of Life … thanks be to God and to God will be the glory.

I runga e te Ingoa o te Atua, te Matua, te Tama me te Wairua Tapu.
In the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit <AMINE>

Pause and Reflect

Just take a moment now to pause. Bow your head, close your eyes.
 

Allow these words of Holy Scripture and this interpretation of them today to speak to you.

An Affirmation of Our Faith

Let us affirm our faith by saying aloud, and together, "The Apostles Creed":

apostles_creed_pic02.jpg
Image by Allef Vinicius

... and now let us pray for the Church, the World, and Ourselves, giving thanks for God's goodness.

​Let us pray aloud, and together:

Everlasting God, Your Son chose twelve disciples to work together to spread the good news of the gospel, help us as we work together in our ministries for the common good. May we delight in sharing in each other’s spiritual gifts and enabling everyone to make their own contribution however small.  May we always be ready to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do Your will.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

(LONGER pause for silent, personal reflection)

In response to the call today “Lord, in Your Mercy” Our plea is, “Hear our prayer”

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Creator God, we pray for peace in our world; may all lands that suffer violence and injustice find peace and reconciliation. We pray for the peoples of the world and all who offer their services in the leadership of the affairs of the world that they may uphold what is right and good. We pray particularly at this time for peace in all places where there is violence, war and terrorism.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.


Father God, we thank you for all those who help our communities to run smoothly because of their jobs, voluntary work or neighbourliness. Help us to be supportive and encouraging and to step in to situations where we can serve. Bless our neighbours and strengthen those who are working in Your name in order to bring healing and comfort to those in need.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Merciful God Your Son Jesus Christ healed the lame with a touch and raised the dead with a word – hear our prayers today for those who are laid low by sorrow and illness, or by fear and weakness; breathe new life into them as we name them before you now.

We especially raise before you now all those who have asked for our prayers from around the world … those we know in New Zealand, in Singapore, in Argentina, in France, in Australia, in the US, in Canada, in Austria, in Ukraine, in China and any others we now name aloud, or in the silence of our hearts, and those who are known only by you.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Merciful God, we thank You that our movement towards death and decay is not the final sentence in our life story.   We thank You that by Your faithfulness we are born to a new and living hope in a future where love will never be terminated and life will never end.   May we always trust in You as we pray for those who have departed this earthly life.

May all the faithful departed now rest in eternal peace as they surely have risen in glory to gaze upon the face of The Risen Christ.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Loving God as we go forth from this time of prayer and worship, help us to remember that You do infinitely more for us than we can ask or imagine. Hear our prayers for all Your creation and gather us in the embrace of Your abundant and life-giving Spirit.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Forth in the peace of Christ we go; Christ to the world with joy we bring; Christ in our minds, Christ on our lips, Christ in our hearts, the world’s true King.

Merciful father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

lord's_prayer_pic01_edited.jpg

Remembering that we are confident to pray this day, and every day, because Jesus Christ continues to teach us:
 

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.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.   Amen.

Let us conclude our prayers by praying together and aloud:

 

God of mercy,
you have given us grace to pray with one heart and one voice,
and have promised to hear the prayers
of two or three who agree in your name,
fulfil now, we pray,
the prayers and longings of your people
as may be best for us and for your kingdom.
Grant us in this world to know your truth,
and in the world to come to see your glory. Amen.

The Blessing

May The Risen Lord Christ turn His face towards each and every one of you.

May He cause His light to shine upon you, and

may He grant you His peace, and

 

The blessing of Almighty God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

be with you and all of those whom you love,

on this day and forever more.

A Closing Hymn:

Let us conclude our worship today by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we unite in another hymn our praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

The Dismissal

Go now, go out into the world

to love and serve The Lord.

 

Go in peace.

AMEN, we go in the name of Christ.

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