We come to God, who wants us to flourish.
We come to God, who writes the law of life into every heartbeat.
We come to God, who knows our failings – but also our possibilities.
Hymn Amazing Grace
1 Amazing grace
— how sweet the sound —
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
2 God’s grace has taught my heart to fear,
his grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!
3 Through many dangers,
toils and snares
I have already come;
God’s grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
4 The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.
5 And, when this heart
and flesh shall fail
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil
a life of joy and peace.
6 When we’ve been there ten thousand years
bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
than when we first begun.
John Newton (1725–1807) (alt.)
Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 440.
Glory to God in the thunder and silence;
glory to God in darkness and earthquake.
Glory to God on the road towards suffering;
glory to God in the cross lifted high.
Glory to God when it all seems too difficult;
glory to God when the pain’s hard to bear.
Glory to God, at all times, in all places;
glory to God through Jesus our Lord.
God desires truth and justice, compassion and a pure life.
Knowing how often we fail to live as God desires,
let us bring to the Lord our sins and the sin of the world.
Hide your face from our sin and blot out our iniquity.
Wash away our wickedness and purge us from our sin.
Have mercy on us, O God, and wash us whiter than snow.
Gospel Reading John 12.20-33
(20) Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. (21) They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (22) Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. (23) Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. (24) 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. (25) Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (26) Whoever 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. (28) Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (29) The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” (30) Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. (31) Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. (32) And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (33) He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
Reflection “And I, when I am lifted up”
In John’s gospel there is often a variety layers and meanings that can be seen in just a few words. So, it isn’t any surprise that the words “And I, when I am lifted up” have a double meaning.
The first sense is the most obvious sense. In fact, the very next verse we are told “he said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die” gives the game away. Jesus is going to be lifted up in the sense that he will be raised up on the cross when he is crucified.
We often picture Jesus being crucified and can see him placed high above us in our minds eye but in actual fact if we had been there, we would have been able to look at him almost eye to eye. It is reckoned that by the time the stake was dropped into its socket in the ground the victims of crucifixion would have only been about 9 inches above the ground. Nailed to the cross, and unable to touch the ground, Jesus would slowly suffocate to death because of those 9 inches. Yet those 9 inches would also be just enough for the crucified one to be visible above the heads of the crowd in all his agony embarrassment and shame. The victims would be crucified naked. The Roman executioners would want everyone to be able to see what happened to those who got in their way. A bit in the same way that people say the Russian leader Vladimir Putin may have ordered that Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia should be blatantly executed by nerve gas peaceful Cathedral city of Salisbury so that everyone would know who did it and also know what would happen to people who crossed him.
Yet in John there is rarely just one meaning to anything and, when he writes his gospel, John knows that Jesus is not just going to be lifted up those 9 inches on th cross. Ironically enough he is going to be lifted up far higher. Despite all appearances to the contrary death is not going to be the end for Jesus. Jesus will be lifted up to the ultimate height as a result of his resurrection and ascension. Jesus is going to return to God on high and so Jesus is going to be shown to be vindicated – that he is right shown to be right all along. He is not going to defeated on the cross, instead he is going to have the authority of victor. People rarely listen to losers, but Jesus is not a loser he is a winner.
If crucifixion was in the Olympic games, Jesus would be the gold medal winner on the highest point of the podium. The greatest and most visible victor.
Jesus is not afraid to make a spectacle of himself for the right reason.
If you are like me, you may find that people telling you how good or brilliant they are, rather makes you cringe. Self-promotion is not a very British thing to do. Yet how are we to communicate if we do not let people see what we believe and what we are about. We can learn something of this from the best in the business.
The greatest boxer there has ever been, Mohammed Ali was very good at self-publicity. He used to tell people “I am the greatest” but if you read his writings or heard him speak you would discover that, he wasn’t simply being big headed. He had much bigger fish to fry than you might think, his purpose wasn’t mainly himself about promoting himself.
His purpose was to show the world that a black man could be greatest boxer ever. Why was that important? Well, if a black man could do this, black people could do anything. Black people didn’t need to be afraid; they could achieve anything they wanted to achieve.
This was an incredibly powerful message to the black community after years of being treated as second class citizens. The long years of biased education in the Southern United States and even in Britain had got it inside the heads of many black people so they were tempted to think that white was always best and that they had nothing to offer.
As Christians we have to learn to lift up what we believe and what matters to us. We have to lift up Jesus. We have to tell people that Jesus is the greatest. We have to lift up what we do and who we are – not to because we are on some major sort of ego trip but because we believe we have something to really important to offer to people, something that is worth having. That something is the love and blessing of God that is made known through Jesus. The love that is triumphant on the cross. The love and blessing that can utterly change people’s lives.
That is far too good an offer to keep hidden, we have to make the offer of God’s amazing love in Jesus visible in our world.
Some questions to think about
Jesus is humble in all things, but he is willing to be lifted up high and reveal God’s glory. This is true both when the spotlight is focussed on his suffering on the cross and also in the bright glow of victorious resurrection light on Easter morning.
If your life was a like a video recording, what would be your highlights?
Are your highlights always times of success or are they sometimes also times of struggle?
Do your highlights help you to see God’s love acting in your life?
What might you need to change to make sure that you highlight to others what God is doing in your life so that may see it too?
We want to see Jesus!
And news spreads fast – but Jesus is troubled.
We want to see Jesus!
But unless the grain of wheat falls and dies –it is just a single grain.
We want to see Jesus!
Save me from this hour – but it is for this reason I came.
We want to see Jesus!
And there is a voice from heaven – thunder? An angel?
We want to see Jesus!
And Jesus is lifted up from the earth and draws all people together.
Here is Jesus! Amen.
Hymn “Jesus Christ – Perfect Love”
1 Jesus Christ — Perfect Love,
Holy One that knows no fault,
screen my thoughts, make me clean,
know the motives of my heart.
When I see my selfish choice,
when I glimpse your holiness,
then I realise again
Perfect Love has come to cleanse.
2 Jesus Christ — Lord for all,
plant in me the kingdom seed.
Search me, Lord, when I’m found
looking only to my needs.
When I see the way you lived,
how you dignified the poor,
then I realise again
how I need to know you more
3 Jesus Christ — Lamb of God,
Love resolved to take our place.
Who can write or describe
all of your self-giving grace?
When I look at the brutal cross,
innocence and beauty slain,
that’s when I realise once more
you fully understand our pain.
4 Jesus Christ — King of heaven,
qualified to wear the crown.
In your face, radiant grace
draws us closer to your throne.
When we see your generous heart,
when we touch the world you love,
that’s when we realise again;
Perfect Love is Perfect Hope.
Geraldine Latty (b. 1963) and busbee
Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 325
Prayers for others
Jesus said that unless a seed falls to the earth and dies, it cannot bear fruit.
We pray for our church,
thanking God for those things that are flourishing.
We ask God to show us what needs to die
in order for new things to grow.
We pray for our community,
thanking God for those places where despite the Covid restrictions people are thriving.
We pray for those in need, the unemployed, those who fear they will lose their jobs.
the housebound, the lonely, those who are ill…
We ask God to bring them hope.
We pray for our nation,
thanking God for the abundance of
food, water and wealth we enjoy.
We remember those who do not have and equal share in that abundance and whose lives are restricted because of this.
We are give thanks for the millions in our land who
have been vaccinated against infection.
We remember those who fear vaccination, those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, and those who grieve because the vaccine has come too late to save their loved ones.
We pray for those parts of the world that are at war,
and especially for refugees and for prisoners…
We ask God to bring them peace.
We pray for ourselves,
thanking God for those who love us, and those we love.
We ask that this week God help us to act truthfully and with kindness.
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.
Hymn “From heaven you came”
1 From heaven you came, helpless babe,
entered our world, your glory veiled,
not to be served but to serve,
and give your life that we might live.
This is our God, the Servant King,
he calls us now to follow him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.
2 There in the garden of tears
my heavy load he chose to bear;
his heart with sorrow was torn,
‘Yet not my will but yours,’ he said.
3 Come see his hands and his feet,
the scars that speak of sacrifice,
hands that flung stars into space
to cruel nails surrendered.
4 So let us learn how to serve
and in our lives enthrone him,
each other’s needs to prefer,
for it is Christ we’re serving.
Graham Kendrick (b. 1950)
Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 272
We go into the coming week
in the name of Christ.
In times of joy and sorrow,
when all is well with us,
and when nothing goes right,
we will follow the cross
and proclaim the resurrection.
We go in the name of Christ. Amen.