Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Looked after

In the second of a series of sermons exploring discipleship and what it means to receive from Jesus, Karen, our Ministry Leader for Discipleship, invited us to consider how we are looked after by God

Before Easter we considered how we are loved by God - the first part of our discipleship series on what we receive from Jesus . In the Parable of the Two Sons (Luke 15 v11-32), the wayward younger son and morally superior elder son were both lost in different  ways and needed to know the Father's love. Now we move on to consider how God looks after our deepest need.

The NHS has been called "the closest thing the British have to a national religion".  Our hospitals were nationalised in 1948 in line with Beveridge’s  report which argued that universal health care access should provide us all with social security ‘from the cradle to the grave’. If we fell ill, the NHS would look after us. My Gran told tales from the days before the NHS. Her family agonised over whether to call a doctor when her father fell ill because of the cost. Last summer my husband  received amazing emergency eye surgery at Inverness hospital while we were on holiday.  I believe in the NHS. I'd hate to imagine life without it. But I also know it has limitations. We can't always see our favourite GPs, we wait for tests, test results and appointments and some drugs are too expensive to prescribe. The NHS doesn't look after all our needs.
It's interesting to consider the parallels between our old testament (Numbers 21 v4-9) and new testament (John 3 v1-21) readings and medical care. The Israelites grumbled on their journey from Egypt to the promised land and were bitten by poisonous snakes. God told Moses to lift a bronze snake on a pole and those who looked on it were healed. The medical profession still uses the snake as a symbol today, for example on Western Region ambulances. When Jesus meets the respected Pharisee Nicodemus, he uses this old testament story to challenge him about his condition. Nicodemus isn't bitten by a snake but there are key parallels. 

What do we know about Nicodemus? He's a free, Jewish male which immediatley gives him a certain status in his society. He's also a Pharisee but not just a Pharisee - Nicodemus is a top Pharisee. He's a Jewish leader.  A man at the top of his field. Respected in his society, much as we respect NHS consultants today. There was a hierarchy and Nicodemus was at the top. People were interested in his opinions. He advised others. He shared his wisdom.  When we go to an NHS Consultant  they ask us questions and then give their diagnosis. We don't start discussing their problems. There's a convention associated with the status differential. That's how it was with Nicodemus.
So when Jesus appears in Galilee and Judea causing a stir with his amazing healings and radical stories, it's not surprising that Nicodemus ways him up. He analyses this new phenomenon as he analyses everything else. When he reaches his conclusion, Nicodemus visits Jesus at night to share his insights.
"Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher sent by God. No one could perform the miracles you are doing unless God were with him." v2
Nicodemus "diagnoses" Jesus as a teacher and a miracle-worker. That's his conclusion. What do you think, with the benefit of two thousand years hindsight? We might want to commend Nicodemus on his wise analysis, especially as some Pharisees thought Jesus worked for Satan. Nicodemus has done well, hasn't he? Jesus doesn't think so. He immediately refutes Nicodemus' labels and starts "diagnosing" Nicodemus instead.

These verses from John 3 can be so familiar that we miss their radical nature. Remember, we don't diagnose NHS consultants. Jesus is breaking the norms of his day.

Jesus says to Nicodemus...
"I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again" v3
Nicodemus,  you may be an established, respected Jewish teacher, but you've got it all wrong. You've got to start again from scratch like a new born baby. You're used to weighing up ideas and situations independently without need to defer to any higher authority but you've got to re-learn what it means to be dependent again - dependent on God just as a new-born baby is dependent on its parents.
Jesus continues ...
"Do not be surprised because I tell you that you must all be born again. The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone born of the Spirit." v7-8
Nicodemus, you're an intelligent, respected man but you're relying on your own logic and its severely limited. There is a deeper, more mysterious wisdom that you've missed completely - Spirit-wisdom. God's Spirit is like the wind. You'll never completely understand it and you'll never  control it. Even with our 21st century weather stations and computer modelling, meteorologists can't predict the weather accurately. Nicodemus doesn't understand all the mysteries of God.
"How will you ever believe me when I tell you about the things of heaven? And no one has ever gone up to heaven except the Son of Man who came down from heaven." v12
Nicodemus may be a great teacher and Jewish leader but he know so little compared with Jesus - the Son of Man who has come down from heaven. Nicodemus is used to dispensing his own wisdom to others but now he's got to learn from Jesus instead.
How can we summarise Jesus "diagnosis" of Nicodemus? What could we write in Nicodemus' notes? Nicodemus has the same perilous condition as ever other human being on the planet. He is self-centred, self-inflating, self-elevating rather than God-elevating. He's like the Israelites in the desert who stopped trusting God and did things their own way. He's like Adam and Eve who took instructions from another  talking snake rather than God, in an attempt to gain God levels of knowledge. It's the human condition - we all suffer from it. Nicodemus needs saving from himself just like all of us.

God provided a cure for the Israelites in the desert. Moses lifted up the snake and everyone who turned to look at it was saved from death . Jesus says that he will be lifted up on the cross in a similar way to provide a "cure" for the human condition.

"As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God so loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its saviour." v14-17
Famous verses. The heart of the gospel. The good news. God provides the "cure" for self-centred, self-elevating human hearts  because he loves us - Nicodemus and everyone else in the world. Human beings misunderstand their place in the world. Jesus comes down from heaven and saves us from ourselves.
What does Jesus say about the "cure"?
"No one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again." v3
Those who start afresh pass from this world - the part of creation separated from God's ways - to the Kingdom - the part of creation where God's ways holds sway.
"Everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life." v16
God is the source of life - life in all its fullness, abundant love, eternal life. After rebelling against God,  Adam and Eve leave the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life and experience death for the first time. Separated from God, death is at work in us rather than life. Those who turn to the cross pass from death to life.
"The light has come into the world but people love the darkness more than the light ... " v20
Those who turn to the cross pass from darkness to light. We are reminded of this each Christmas when we read John 1.
Kingdom, life, light - quick words to say  but the cost of our "cure" far out ways any NHS drug.  There was an enormous cost. Our "cure" cost Jesus his life. He dies our death that we may live his life. We are forgiven. We start afresh. We pass from darkness to light. Jesus bears the cost
The Bible and Christians use different metaphors to try to explain how the cross works - the doctrine of atonement

                From the Temple - Jesus is a sacrifice
                The battlefield - Jesus is the victor conquering death
                The market place - he buys us like one would buy a slave
                Kidnapping - he pays the ransom to set us free
                Courtroom - he serves our sentence

They are each helpful in different ways but also have limitations. Key here is to remember Jesus words to Nicodemus about the wind. I don't believe we will ever fully understand how the cross provides our "cure".  It remains a Spirit mystery. However, the Hebrew word translated "atonement" in English bibles can also be translated more simply as "covered". It's the word used for snow covering the land and for covering the cost of a bill. The key fact for us as we focus on discipleship at Highbury isn't HOW the "cure" works but WHO provides it. God covers us. He "looks after us" our gravest need.
Different members of my family run the Great South Run each year. After the race the runners, spectators and other family members gather for a meal together to celebrate afterwards. One year our son brought two fellow university students and they joined us at Frankie & Benny's. As they looked down the menu and saw the prices their faces changed. They wanted to be part of the celebration but couldn't afford the food. What a relief when the older adults said they'd cover the cost.
That's how we have to accept God's providence.  The NHS is there for when we fall ill but God looks after us in a deeper way, saving us from our underlying problem - the self-centredness of the human heart - if we turn his way.
In one way we pass instantly from one side of the cross to the other when we turn to the cross but in another way it takes the rest of our lives for these to bed into us and melt and mould our hearts.


How much are we still trying to maintain our independence and rely on our own logic and wisdom? Please use the diagram on the service sheet to reflect over the coming week. Which side of the cross are you on? God offers us the "cure" at enormous cost but we each need to respond. Some people are reluctant to go to the doctor when we're ill. Are you like that with the cross? Are you accepting Jesus as your Lord and Saviour today?  Love so amazing so divine demands my life, my soul, my all.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Experience - meditations for Easter Sunday

Our worship began differently as members of the congregation were invited to come to the foot of the cross, adorn it with flowers and then make their way to the rooms around the church and in their mind's eye to visit the empty tomb, journey to Emmaus and on to Galilee.  For those sitting in the church our organist played music from the last movement of Mahler's Ressurrection Symphony as people were invited to reflect on these meditations as they looked at the flowers and at the cross.

During the service we once again sat around the table as we had done on Maundy Thursday evening and we shared in the Lord's Supper.

 Happy Easter
   and welcome to Highbury

There’s so much more to Easter!
It’s a holiday and much more!
It’s Easter Eggs and much more!
It’s Spring and much more!
It’s glorious flowers and much more!
It’s a mystery and much more!
It’s history and much more!
It’s faith and much more!
It’s something to experience

We invite you to take time to experience
Easter as you walk around the church and
reflect on the message of the first Easter
and the difference it makes this Easter.

Come to the foot of the cross and move on
to the empty tomb. Make the journey to
Emmaus and on to Galilee and discover the
promise of 153 Hsh and the charcoal fire.

And in church use those flowers and the
wonderful music that fills this place to think
of the resurrection victory we all may share

in the risen Christ.

At the foot of the Cross

It once stood stark,
Bare and barren
On a hilltop
It once bore the pain
And the agony
Of one who felt abandoned,
Abandoned by God.
It once had the last word

But no longer

Into a thing of beauty
It stands empty
For the one who bore that pain
The one who endured that agony
Has risen!

He is risen indeed!

Look and see
The lamb of God
Who has taken away the sin of the world
And lay at the foot of the cross
The burden that weighs you down.

Hear from the cross
Those words of forgiveness

Father, forgive

And know that forgiving love
Deep in your heart

Forgiven, freed of the burden
Sense the presence
Of the risen Christ

                           The Empty Tomb

See the folded grave clothes
Sense the mystery
All had been lost
But no longer

The Dawn breaks
The Sun rises
The Son is risen

He is risen indeed!

And yet the burial had to happen
The end had to come
The dumb, sense of nothingness

There was no escaping it
Only through its seeming defeat
Could victory come

Thanks be to God
Who gives us the victory
Through our Lord Jesus Christ

It’s not the emptiness of the tomb
That makes the difference

It’s the presence of the risen one,

The presence of the one
Who spoke the name of Mary
Who speaks the name of each of us

The presence of the one
Who goes ahead of us to the
Galilee of our fears
And meets us there!

                           The Road to Emmaus

The road can seem long and lonely
The conversation heavy with sadness
All hope is gone
Nothing is left to live for

It’s when we are at rock bottom
When all seems to have failed
That’s the moment He arrives,
The moment He draws alongside us..

Not that we recognise that presence

He reaches out to meet us
Just where we are
In the midst of all our questioning

He is there with us.

It’s a long road to follow
It feels as if we are alone

But One is there with us
All along the way

It would he so easy
To leave the stranger outside
Better by far to invite him in

And then comes a moment,
Not planned, not anticipated
A moment when His presence is real

It’s really there.

The moment passes 
But the journey goes on 
There is so much to share
And such little time

               On to the Galilee of our fears

There's something about a cooked breakfast
The smell lingers
It does now
It did then.

Was there expectation in their hearts?
Did they think they would see him again?

Or were they simply going back,
Back to what they knew best

Or thought they knew best.

They did everything they should have done
But they caught nothing.

Familiar, yet fearful too
Galilee was different now
They had given up so much to follow him
And without him their fears grew.

And then his presence was there
Making a difference to them
As ever he had done before.

Such a massive catch of fish
153 in alll

And a charcoal ire to cook them on!

But it was his presence and the promise
That made the difference.

It was a presence that would never depart
A promise that brought peace
A presence that meant the work had to go on
A task to do, a message to share
And a new way of living
In the Presence of the Risen One

In prayer and in praise

So, what difference does it all make?

Take time to be still,
Take time to be quiet
And sense again the presence
Sense again the promise

It may be a promise of peace
It may be the presence deep in your heart

In prayer open your heart
to the God who is love
and bring before God the needs
of those you love,
of those you hear of on the news
the needs of troubled people
the needs of a troubled world

And here in Church
Look again
at the beauty of those spring flowers
relive the story of that first Easter

Hear again
The beauty of resurrection
In the music that surrounds us

And be prepared
To hear God’s word
To sense God’s promise
To take God’s love
Into whatever lies ahead

Experience Easter not just here
In this place in the breaking of bread
But as you take the presence
of the Risen Christ
out into a world of need.


Easter Experience - a morning service on the top of Cleeve Hill

We gathered at the Quarry Car Park on Cleeve Hill and then made our way to a vantage point overlooking Bishops Cleeve to find that the whole was shrouded in mist and the town concealed from view.   We used a new translation of the Bible called The Voice for our readings.

It happened on a Friday.   A great darkness came over the land.  Hatred was in the air.  Violence too.  They spat on Him and whipped Him as they led him off to be crucified.  Passers-by shouted cruses and blasphemies at Jesus.  Hatred was in the air.  Violence too.  And in the world at our feet, behind locked doors, in closed rooms,  there’s hatred in the air.  Violence too.   And people listening in to a dark world in Syria, in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in Ukraine, in Nigeria, in North Africa, so many place where there is hatred in the air.  Violence too.  In just such a world Jesus felt abandoned by God
Jesus: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani—My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Into that dark world of hatred and violence came something new, something to make a difference, a world of difference.
Jesus: Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing!
Jesus cried out once more, loudly, and then He breathed His last breath.  At that instant the temple curtain was torn in half, from top to bottom.  The earth shook, rocks split in two; tombs burst open, and bodies of many sleeping holy women and men were raised up.  When the Centurion and soldiers who had been charged with guarding Jesus felt 

the earthquake and saw the rocks splitting and the tombs opening, they were, of course, terrified.  And they were touched.  Deep down in their hearts
Soldiers: He really was God’s Son.
There is something terrifying about hatred and violence.  It makes you feel abandoned by God.  Look to the cross and see sorrow and love flow mingled down.  Look to the whole realm of nature and see in the cross of Christ love so amazing, so divine.  And be touched.  Deep down in our hearts.

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 death of Christ my God;
all the vain 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?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

A number of women, who had been devoted to Jesus and followed Him from Galilee, were present, too, watching from a distance. Mary Magdalene was there, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

At evening time, a rich man from Arimathea arrived. His name was Joseph, and he had become a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked to be given Jesus’ body; Pilate assented and ordered his servants to turn Jesus’ body over to Joseph. So Joseph took the body...
All:  The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always.
He provides me rest in rich, green fields
    beside streams of refreshing water.
    He soothes my fears;
He makes me whole again,
    steering me off worn, hard paths
    to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name.

Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
    I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
    near with Your protection and guidance,
    I am comforted.
You spread out a table before me,
    provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies;
You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil,
    filling my cup again and again with Your grace.
Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me
    where I go, always, everywhere.
I will always be with the Eternal,
    in Your house forever.

We made our way into a limestone quarry, limestone very much like the limestone Jerusalem is built on ... at the far end is what looks like the entrance to a cave

So Joseph took the body... wrapped Jesus in a clean sheath of white linen, and laid Jesus in his own new tomb, which he had carved from a rock. Then he rolled a great stone in front of the tomb’s opening, and he went away. Mary Magdalene was there, and so was the other Mary. They sat across from the tomb, watching, remembering.
It was still a world of hatred. It was still a world of violence.  A world of fear
The next day, which is the day after the Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went together to Pilate. They reminded him that when Jesus was alive He had claimed that He would be raised from the dead after three days.
Chief Priests and Pharisees: So please order someone to secure the tomb for at least three days. Otherwise His disciples might sneak in and steal His body away, and then claim that He has been raised from the dead. If that happens, then we would have been better off just leaving Him alive.
Pilate: You have a guard. Go and secure the grave.
So they went to the tomb, sealed the stone in its mouth, and left the guard to keep watch.
After the Sabbath, as the light of the next day, the first day of the week, crept over Palestine, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb to keep vigil. Earlier there had been an earthquake. A messenger of the Lord had come down from heaven and had gone to the grave. He rolled away the stone and sat down on top of it. He veritably glowed. He was vibrating with light. His clothes were light, white like transfiguration, like fresh snow. The soldiers

 guarding the tomb were terrified. They froze like stone.
The messenger spoke to the women, to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.
Messenger of the Lord: Don’t be afraid.
Those words speak into our world of violence and hatred.  They speak into our hearts.  They speak to us.
Messenger of the Lord:  Don’t be afraid.  I know you are here keeping watch for Jesus who was crucified. But Jesus is not here. He was raised, just as He said He would be. Come over to the grave, and see for yourself. And then go straight to His disciples, and tell them He’s been raised from the dead and has gone on to Galilee. You’ll find Him there. Listen carefully to what I am telling you.
The women were both terrified and thrilled, and they quickly left the tomb and went to find the disciples and give them this outstandingly good news. But while they were on their way, they saw Jesus Himself.
Jesus (greeting the women): Rejoice.
The women fell down before Him, kissing His feet and worshiping Him.
Led like a lamb to the slaughter
In silence and shame,
There on Your back You carried a world
Of violence and pain.
Bleeding, dying, bleeding, dying.
You're alive, You're alive,
            You have risen, Alleluia!
            And the power and the glory is given,
                        Alleluia, Jesus, to You.
At break of dawn, poor Mary,
Still weeping she came,
When through her grief she heard Your voice

Now speaking her name.
Mary, Master, Mary, Master!

At the right hand of the Father
Now seated on high
You have begun Your eternal reign
Of justice and joy.
Glory, glory, glory, glory. 
Graham Kendrick (born 1950) ccl 3540
Jesus: Don’t be afraid. Go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee. Tell them I will meet them there.
As the women were making their way to the disciples, some of the soldiers who had been standing guard by Jesus’ tomb recovered themselves, went to the city, and told the chief priests everything that had happened—the earthquake just after dawn, the heavenly messenger, and his commission to the Marys. The chief priests gathered together all the elders, an emergency conference of sorts. They needed a plan. They decided the simplest course was bribery: they would pay off the guards and order them to say that the disciples had come in the middle of the night and had stolen Jesus’ corpse while they slept. The chief priests promised the soldiers they would run interference with the governor so that the soldiers wouldn’t be punished for falling asleep when they were supposed to be keeping watch. 15 The guards took the bribe and spread the story around town—and indeed, you can still find people today who will tell you that Jesus did not really rise from the dead, that it was a trick, some sort of sleight of hand.

Still, a time of violence.  Still a time of hatred.  Still a time of fear.  Still a time to hear those words of the Messenger of the Lord.  Still a time to hear those words of Jesus.  Don’t be afraid.
The eleven disciples, having spoken to the Marys, headed to Galilee, to the mountain where they were to meet Jesus.
 We made our way to the top of the hill
When the disciples saw Jesus there, many of them fell down and worshiped, as Mary and the other Mary had done. But a few hung back. They were not sure (and who can blame them?). Jesus came forward and addressed His beloved disciples.
Jesus: I am here speaking with all the authority of God, who has commanded Me to give you this commission: Go out and make disciples in all the nations. Ceremonially wash them through baptism in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and postures that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.
In a world of violence … In a world of hatred … we have a task to undertake, good news to share, a message to change people’s hearts and change people’s lives.  we are called to make disciples of all nations to teach the way of love for God, love for neighbour, love for enemy too.  In such a world as this who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death?
No matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loved us.
For I have every confidence that nothing—not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers,  height, depth, nor any created thing—can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord
Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son;
endless is the victory thou o'er death hast won.
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.

Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son:
Endless is the victory,
thou o'er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom.
Let his church with gladness,
hymns of triumph sing;
for her Lord now liveth,
death hath lost its sting.

No more we doubt thee, glorious prince of life!
Life is nought without thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors,
 through thy deathless love:
Bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.

In a world of hatred and a world of violence
Jesus says
I am with you always
to the end of the world
In a world of fear and anxiety
Jesus says
I am with you always
to the end of the world
In our world, whatever may befall
Jesus is with us always
Now and forever more    Amen

And then we made our way back down to Highbury for breakfast and an Easter Experience

At the foot of the Cross - a meditation for Good Friday

Reading 1 – Woman behold your son

So they took Jesus; 17and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ 20Many 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. 21Then 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.” ’ 22Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ 23When 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. 24So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,
‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
   and for my clothing they cast lots.’
25And 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. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Reading 2 –  Father, forgive

Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]

Reading 3 – Today you will be with me in Paradise

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ 40But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ 42Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ 43He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Reading 4 – I am thirsty

28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ 29A 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. 

Reading 5 – Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani

45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ 47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’ 48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’

Reading 6:  Father, into your hands I commend my spirit

46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ 

Reading 7 – It is finished

he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

We think of the women at the foot of the cross - and know that Christ's salvation is for them and for all

We think of the men at the foot of the cross - and know that Christ's salvation is for them and for all

We think of the nations at the foot of the cross - and know that Christ's salvation is for them and for all

In the Upper Room - a Maundy Thursday Communion

To The Upper Room

It didn’t just happen.

Something had brought them to that Upper Room, to that Table, to that Moment.

Something had brought them?

Someone had brought them

Someone had led them

As a shepherd leads his sheep

10‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

It doesn’t just happen.

Something has brought us to this table, to this moment
Something has brought us?

Someone has brought us

Someone has led us

As a shepherd leads  his sheep.

Hymn 591 The Lord’s my shepherd

The way that led to the table had already been one of suffering and sadness
14Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.

21Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’

23Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’

24Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’

25Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

 27She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping,  he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said,

Jesus wept.

36So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ 37But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ 40Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

The way that leads us here to this table has been for us at times a way of suffering and sadness

We hold in prayer those who know suffering at this time,
The suffering of illness, of anxiety, of uncertainty
The suffering of those we know close to home, among family and friends
The suffering of those we know of only at a distance on the news
The sadness of bereavements we have known
The sadness of bereavements we are aware of around us in family among friends, further afield in the news

Lord Jesus Christ, touch with your peace and your resurrection glory those who know suffering and sadness and grant them your blessing

Hymn 318 We give God thanks for those who knew the touch of Jesus’ healing love

The way that led to that Upper Room, to that table
Was a way weighed down with hostility and betrayal
The hostility of the powers that be,
The betrayal of a close friend
The denial of another
It was a way of darkness, a darkness that weighed heavy in the hearts of many

47So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, ‘What are we to do?

One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’

57Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Judas Iscariot kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.  Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.

Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

The hostility of the powers that be
The betrayal of a close friend
The denial of a friend who was even closer

And yet it is through that hostility, through that betrayal, through that denial
Through the darkness of all that suffering and pain that a new life comes
It is in the darkness that light shines

23Jesus said,  ‘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.

‘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.’

In the midst of the darkness … the light of the presence of Christ
While you have the light, believe in the light,
Believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.

477 Light of the minds that know him

On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ 18He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.” ’ 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

The table is prepared

And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’

27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’

404 Here, Lord, we take the broken bread

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’

‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

373 What a friend we have in Jesus

I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’

33I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

20 ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Hymn 147:  When I survey the wondrous cross

So much to pass on at Highbury

If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own

A blessing shared at Highbury

Now and the Future at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions

Darkness into Light