Dear friends in Christ, as the scattered people of God, let us worship God this morning, each in our own place, knowing that through the presence of God’s Spirit we are one in Christ & united in faith.
WE INTENTIONALLY COME INTO GOD’S PRESENCE
We acknowledge the Dharawal people of the Eora Nation, on whose land we live and who have been good stewards of God’s Creation since time immemorial. Today, the candle remains unlit, it reminds us of the darkness which sought to destroy Jesus.
Today is a day of quiet reflection as we seek, by God’s Grace, to acknowledge the dark places within our lives and those in the world where Christ’s presence, his healing touch and transforming love are not yet welcome. Let us Pray,
When no words are adequate, when grief and loss overwhelm, when hopes and dreams are shattered we come Lord before you with all that is and all that is yet to be. Centre us in your love that we may encounter compassion and grace. Open our ears to hear your word and our lips to proclaim your praise, even in the midst of suffering. Giver of life, keeper of tears, vessel of brokenness, hear the stirrings of our minds and the murmurings of hearts. Be with us, we pray. Amen
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand has made
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder
thy power throughout the universe displayed:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to thee
How great thou art, how great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to thee
How great thou art, how great thou art!
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
But when I think that God, his Son not sparing
Sent him to die – I scares can take it in
That on the cross, our burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away our sin.
Words and Music © Stuart K Hine 1953 Kingsway Thank you Music
PRAYER OF CONFESSION – the words from one of the thieves on the Cross (Luke 23: 42)
Play the Taize Song – Jesus remember me, when you come into your kingdom (repeat)
If you have a cross however large or small, place it on a table. If you don’t have one make one out of two pieces of twig or whatever else you may have in the house to form that shape;
If you can find a small stone write something on it that this day you wish to hand over to Christ and place it at the foot of the cross;
If you can find a nail place it next to the cross as you acknowledge the ways you have wounded Christ in your life, others and yourself, or a time when you have been deeply wounded by others, seeking either Christ’s forgiveness or His release from injury, burden and loss;
If you can find a flower place it on the cross allowing it to be all the love you have ever given and
all the love you have ever received in life…
In your own time, you are invited to pray:
I hand to you Lord this cross, this stone, this nail and this flower they represent who I am today and all that I have been. I lay them down, safe in your warm embrace, for what I give you never discard and what I give you can transform. Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. Amen.
My song is love unknown, my Saviour’s love to me
Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take frail flesh, and die?
Sometimes they strew his way, and his sweet praises sing
Resounding all the day, hosannas to their King.
Then ‘Crucify!’ is all their breath
And for his death they thirst and cry.
Why, what has my Lord done? What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run, he gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ‘gainst him rise.
Here might I stay and song, no story so divine;
Never was love, dear King, never was grief like thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.
Samuel Crossman 1624 – 1684 Public Domain
BIBLE READINGS (NRSV)
Isaiah 53: 1 – 6, 11 – 12
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But 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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
John 19: 13 – 30 (NRSV)
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. In this is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Dear friends, let us pray…
On a day when words seem inadequate and we find it hard to comprehend all that happened, speak afresh to each of us through your Word, through song and prayer and through the daily lives we live.
You have to go way back to John Ch 13 (today’s Readings are from John 19) to find the washing of the disciples feet on the night before Jesus died. This is the place to start today. John records, over a momentous 21 hours, all that Jesus was seeking to say, to be and to do as he faced his own future and the disciples’ and the Church’s future without the physical presence of their Lord. It is to continue!
In these 7 chapters we find, in Biblical order:
CH 13: Jesus shows the disciples what sort of ministry they are to exercise once he has returned to the Father. The role of a slave, taking the lowest place, where humility is the key. God’s people will always be the ones who take the initiative to be with and then to ‘wash away’ in Jesus’ name the grief and hurt and the accumulated stuff of life which clings to people’s lives and enslaves them.
In John 14:1-6 we find the words: ‘do not be afraid’, ‘trust in God’, ‘trust also in me’, in my Father’s house are ‘many rooms’ and not only is there ‘room for you’ but Jesus goes ahead of us to ‘prepare a place’ for us. Jesus’ heart always has room for one more, and for one more and for…!
From John 14 vs 27 Jesus begins to talk at length about the gift of a Helper, the Holy Spirit who will keep us in touch with Jesus once he has physically left the disciples and with that gift is a deep and abiding access to and relationship with the Father, just as Jesus has, as recorded in Chapter 17 vs 21.
Chapter 15 expands on this now ongoing new relationship that we can have with Jesus with his story of Jesus as the True Vine. He will graft us to Himself and he will prune us (ouch!) to bear much fruit. It is the reason we are grafted to Him! This fruit we see echoed in Galatians 5:22-23 love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control. All these fruit are ‘relational’.
Then in Chapters 16 & 17 Jesus continues to prepare the disciples & prays for them explaining why he has to return & something of the world into which their ministry must now be lived; not just as disciples who followed, watched and enjoyed the company of Jesus, but who now live out His work in their lives!
And now we come to Chapters 18 & 19 we hear again the familiar pattern of this Friday called Good:
Betrayal (Judas), Arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane; Jesus before Annas the High Priest;
Peter and his persistent denials that he ever knew Jesus;
Jesus before Pilate and Pilate’s question ‘what is truth’ so poignant and urgent in our day where everything seems to be subjective.
Of the crowd calling ‘Crucify’; for their preference for the rule of Rome and the friendship of Barabbas.
Of Jesus being handed to the soldiers where he is brutalised, humiliated & then crucified with 2 others.
Of Jesus’ last gift to his Mother ‘woman here is your son’ (John) and to John ‘here is your mother’.
Not just a touching scene but the blueprint for a new model of ministry, of who is now included in ‘family’. We are now sisters and brothers in Christ! One family under God.
And lastly, Jesus’ words ‘It is finished!’
A cry not of defeat and exhaustion but of victory and achievement. He has survived the dark day of Calvary, his anguish in the Garden, he is thirsty, he has been beaten and he is in pain. But he has trusted and remained faithful to his Father and himself. His act a statement for all time, with arms stretched wide ‘this is how much you (us, the world) are loved’. There is no place I will not venture and no person I will not seek out to be with and to show how deep is my love for them. This is the model and gift of ministry which Jesus’ bequeaths to you and to me.
You may notice that I have not mentioned at all the Atonement, the long held belief that Jesus’ life was sacrificed by God on the Cross so that our sins could once and for all, be forgiven and our lives set free. This belief resonated deeply with Jewish Christians for whom the never ending daily and weekly sacrifices offered in the Temple were replaced by Jesus’ supreme once for all sacrifice, for you & for me
As powerful as that imagery is, I have not found in ministry such a focus helpful or healthy with its persistent focus on ‘our sins’ as being the reason Jesus died. We have enough people even within the life of the Church itself whose sense of self-worth has been eaten away by this focus on SIN, or as John Newton says in Amazing Grace ‘that saved a wretch like me’.
Yes, we all fall short and can never enter God’s Kingdom in our own strength or goodness.
However I find it more liberating to focus on that line from a popular song ‘how deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure’ of God’s amazing love! It has been my experience that in response to that great love of God, shown supremely on the Cross, not the fear of his anger at our wretchedness, that can and does launch countless lives, lived in wonder, love and praise! May it be so! Amen.
PRAYERS FOR OTHERS & OURSELVES
O Lord, your Gospel is full of signs. The seamless robe – the work of human hands – which the soldiers couldn’t tear (so they gambled for it instead). Seamless, in one piece, it reminds us of the way we belong together, with each other and with believers down the centuries. Each connection we make brings us nearer to you. We also know that you were a carpenter who died on a wooden cross – the work of human hands – and so we pray: Christ the Master Carpenter, who at the last, through wood and nails, shaped our whole salvation, wield well your tools in the workshop of your world, so that we who come rough-hewn to your workbench may today be fashioned to a truer beauty to your praise and glory.
And with these our prayers we pray for all whom are gathered in one humanity, in that seamless robe, all whom we know and hear about from others. We bring all of them and ourselves to your workbench.
Hear our prayers and receive our lives Lord Jesus. Your death is not in-vain and nor are our lives. Amen.
OFFERING - remember to put aside for Engadine UC, that which you’d normally put in the plate…
HYMN – TIS 262 Tune KINGSFOLD ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say, come unto me and rest’
When pain and terror strike by chance
With causes unexplained
When God seems absent or asleep
And evil unrestrained
We crave an all-controlling force
Ready to rule and warn
But find, far-shadowed by a cross
A child in weakness born.
We marvel at God’s nakedness
And sense the play of chance
In Herod’s anger, Peter’s growth
And Pilate’s troubled glance.
Our Saviour’s tempted, tested way
Never was cut and dried
But costly, risking life and love
Betrayed and crucified.
How deep the Wisdom of our God
How weak, but truly wise
To risk, to sacrifice, to die
And from the grave arise
To shed the shroud of death and fate
Freeing our hearts for good.
We breathe the ample ait of hope
And take our chance with God.
Since Wisdom took its chance on earth
To show God’s living way
We’ll trust that fear and force will fail
And Wisdom win the day.
Then come, dear Christ, and hold us fast
When faith and hope are torn
And bring us, in your loving arms
To resurrection morn. Brian Arthur Wren 1936 Copyright 1996 Hope Publishing Co USA
GO IN QUIETNESS & PEACE & MAY GOD’S BLESSING REST UPON YOU…
Make a cuppa and if you have a favourite place inside or in your garden take it with you, as you reflect on all that this day is and can still be for you and for God’s world.