Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this Fifth Sunday of Lent.
On the fifth Sunday in Lent we gather. We come to remember and celebrate the good news of Jesus, who enjoyed time with friends, even with one who would betray him. We come to share in his company at communion. We come as we are, full of faults and failings, yet loved by God. Let us come close to God, as God comes close to us.
Hymn 198 – Let us build a house (1,3,5)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of time and space,
we come before you today, in awe and wonder of your creation. As we look to the heavens, we see formed in plant and star, the glory of your majesty, made manifest in all we see.
God of land and sea,
we come before you today with thanksgiving,
for a planet that provides all we need to sustain us
in its provision for our needs, and its beauty for our wonder.
God of storm and calm,
we come before you as followers of your Son, Jesus Christ; who quelled the waves, who spoke with tenderness, who, in word and deed, showed us how to live in step with you.
God of love and forgiveness,
we come before you today, aware of who and what we are:-
of the promise we show as your beloved children,
and of our propensity to fail you in what we think, say and do.
In a time of quiet, we offer to you our prayers of confession,
and ask that you will forgive us and make us new.
In repentance and faith, receive the promise of grace and the assurance of pardon. Here are words you may trust, words that merit full acceptance: 'Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.' To all who turn to him he says; 'Your sins are forgiven.' He also says follow me. Let us turn, then, from our past failings, assured that we are made new, and look forward in faith and in hope
Readings – Isaiah 43: 16-21
John 12: 1-8
Hymn 659 – Put peace into each other’s hands
Eternal God, may your House once again be filled with fragrance as we celebrate the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ through the partaking of bread and wine. Help us to proclaim your praise as we go out into our community to share the good news of his kingdom. Amen
I had 4 hours to kill at Heathrow airport and glanced at the aftershave. An assistant came over, recommending a new woody fragrance. Usually, they spray a little onto a piece of card for you to sniff but maybe he was new to the job, maybe he was being mischievous, but he proceeded to spray it very generously all over me. I was glad I did have 4 hours for it to fade a little. But I thought of the passage we read today, of the women anointing Jesus with a pint of perfume. That’s a lot!
All four Gospels record this story, though they differ in the setting and Luke even has it earlier in Jesus’ ministry. John has it in the house of Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus. It is therefore a very intimate setting. Jesus is with friends and can relax. He would have been accompanied by the disciples too. Martha was busying away in the kitchen. It seemed a moment of calm, for Jesus was about to make his entry to Jerusalem and the storm clouds were gathering. Now, this story is told in the aftermath of Lazarus being raised from the dead; he had died, and Mary and Martha were distraught, and Jesus had brought him to life again, so it would be a celebration. But then something unexpected happened. Mary is often portrayed as being mild and devout, hanging on Jesus’ every word, but here she takes action and lavishly anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and then unties her hair and proceeds to dry Jesus’ feet. A woman’s hair was only for her husband to see, so this was quite outrageous. But in doing this, in anointing Jesus, it was as if she was preparing his body for death. There is here a foreshadowing of the crucifixion which would happen less than a week later. Judas makes the very valid point that the money could have been spent more wisely, but Jesus defends Mary and says she has done a beautiful thing.
God is always doing the unexpected. People expected the Messiah to look like King David – instead they got a carpenter and itinerant preacher. They expected Jesus to throw out the Romans; instead, he was crucified by them. Even his followers expected the crucifixion to be the end; instead, it was a beginning.
God was like that. In Isaiah we read how God was going to do a new thing. He was addressing the exiles in Babylon, who were living in the past, remembering past glories, dreaming of Zion. ‘How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land’? God was going to do a new thing, and they reshaped their theology and some did return to Zion and rebuilt the walls. We are all like the exiles – a lot of us remember how Sunday schools were busy and churches were fuller. We live on past glories. But God is ever doing new things now, as we face new challenges like climate change and refugees and a changing world. As we seek to be relevant in our communities. God is ever at work, and working through the unexpected.
And what more unexpected than through such ordinary things as bread and wine. Jesus and his friends were enjoying an intimate evening in Bethany when Mary anointed Jesus. So, on the Thursday of Holy Week Jesus was again sharing a meal with his friends, and he took bread and broke it; took wine and shared it and asked his followers to do this to remember him.
We meet in this intimate setting with our brothers and sisters in Christ around us, and we too share in a meal, as has happened down the centuries. We remember Christ’s body broken on the cross and his blood shed, that we might have life and life in all its fullness. May we be strengthened by it and may God continue to work through the unexpected to do many new things and indeed many beautiful things in and through us.
Prayers of Dedication & Intercession
We come before you in dedication, offering what we have as a token of our commitment to your mission and message, take them and use them in Jesus’ name we pray.
God of all peoples and nations,
Who created all things alive and breathing,
United and whole, show us the way of peace that is your overwhelming presence.
We hold before you the peoples of Ukraine and Russia,
Every child and every adult.
We long for the time
When weapons of war are beaten into ploughshares
When nations no longer lift up sword against nation.
We cry out to you for peace;
Protect those who only desire and deserve to live in security and safety
Comfort those who fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones
Be with those who are bereaved.
Change the hearts of those set on violence and aggression
And fill leaders with the wisdom that leads to peace.
Kindle again in us a love of our neighbour,
And a passion for justice to prevail
and a renewed recognition that we all play a part in peace.
Creator of all hear our prayer
And bring us peace. make us whole.
Amen. (Christian Aid)
Invitation to the Table
The table is set for all;
around it there are no divisions.
Just as one loaf is made from many grains, -
and as one cup is filled from the fruit of many grapes,
so, we, though many, are made one in Christ,
nourished by him to nourish the world.
Jesus calls us to this table, and all are welcome here.
Hymn 19 – Ye gates
Hymn 518 – Lift up your hearts