Welcome to our Holy Week services. These services intend to give you a space to reflect upon the events leading from Palm Sunday, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, through the confusion of Good Friday, onto the wonder and excitement of Easter Sunday. We will journey together through the emotional rollercoaster, the joyful times, and the difficult times. We will, throughout the week, be thinking of the people who were there and, in their own ways, were hanging on to every word Jesus spoke. Today’s sermon is from one of my college tutors, Revd Dr Charlotte Methuen, Professor of Church History at the University of Glasgow and assistant priest at St Margaret’s Newlands, shared with kind permission. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you do too.
Before you start- find a comfy seat and light a candle
Let us pray
Help us to use this time together to learn more about you. May you be with you as we recall the events leading up to Christ’s resurrection. Hard though these stories are to hear, help us to listen intently to what you are saying to us at this time. When so many are hurting, so many are dying, so many need your love and your peace, may we, through your words, help to bring companionship, healing and peace to those around us.
In Jesus name we pray
First reading: Isaiah 49.1-7
1Listen to me, O coastlands,
pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The LORD called me before I was born,
while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
2He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me away.
3And he said to me, ‘You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’
4But I said, ‘I have laboured in vain,
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with the LORD,
and my reward with my God.’
5And now the LORD says,
who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honoured in the sight of the LORD,
and my God has become my strength –
‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’
7Thus says the LORD,
the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,
the slave of rulers,
‘Kings shall see and stand up,
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,
because of the LORD, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’
Second reading: 1 Corinthians 1.18-31
18The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’
20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 26Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’
Gospel Reading: John 12.20-36
20Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, 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. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
27‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ 35Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.
There is a wonderful richness to the readings set for this Tuesday of Holy Week in this third week of lock-down. Paul writes to the church at Corinth about the cross: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This resonates for me with the voices of those who say that lockdown is all a waste of time, and the voices of those who say that it is serving the purpose of lowering the numbers of those taken ill and particularly those who need intensive care. Some around us are saying this is foolishness. I prefer to believe – to hope – that what we are doing is important and meaningful. Paul wants to look beyond human wisdom and human quarrels to see the deep truth that we mark each Holy Week: “Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” The arrest, trial and execution of Jesus, which by human standards look like abject failure, point beyond to the wisdom and power of God. For Paul this is a turning of things on their heads: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” We are in the midst of a situation that does just that: turns our normal expectations, our normal measures of reality on their heads. What will come of all this? At present we cannot know. But we can hope.
It may not feel much like that. Isaiah writes of a sense of futility: “I said, ‘I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.’” Do we feel that as the relationships and proprieties which generally shape our lives slip away? And yet, Isaiah can still say, “surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.” Psalm 71 reminds us that God offers hope and refuge in difficult times:
In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge,
a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
In this time of disorientation, a time in which many of our normal routines and normal places of safety may no longer be available to us, perhaps we can experience God in a new way as the place where our cause is rooted, as the rock upon which our lives are built, and a fortress within which we can take shelter. As other certainties slide away, it may be easier to feel ourselves rooted in God.
John’s gospel reminds us that times of trial and times of suffering can be transformative. And John’s gospel shows us Jesus reflecting on this theme. Transformation, he says, will come about through death, through being broken: “Very truly, I tell you, 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.” Is this our time of falling into the earth and dying? If so, perhaps we can see this Holy Week, this time of lockdown, the necessary precursor for a time of growth and flourishing. We hear God’s promise through Jesus: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” And his call to us to “become children of light.”
A prayer by John Rayner (https://gracecathedral.org/prayers-difficult-times/):
When evil darkens our world, give us light. When despair numbs our souls, give us hope. When we stumble and fall, lift us up. When doubts assail us, give us faith. When nothing seems sure, give us trust. When ideals fade, give us vision. When we lose our way, be our guide! That we may find serenity in Your presence, and purpose in doing Your will.
Almighty and everlasting God,
who in your tender love towards the human race
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
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.
The Lord’s Prayer
Go now, from this time of worship, knowing that Jesus has called your name.
Go now, from this time of worship, knowing that Christ has set you free.
Go now, from this time of worship, to be God’s light in this world, bringing peace, encouraging faith and giving love.
Go now, with God’s blessing.
Go in peace.
Please follow this link for the recording of Compline (Night Prayer)
The order of Service can be read here
But the readings may be different