Sunday, 21st March

Together in Prayer
5th Sunday of Lent
(Passiontide begins)

O Lord, open our lips,
And our mouth shall declare your praise!
Hear our voice, O Lord, according to your faithful love.
According to your judgment, give us life.

The night has passed, and the day lies open before us;
let us pray with one heart and mind.
As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
now and for ever.

Lord Jesus Christ, you were lifted up on the cross
for us and for our salvation;
help us to triumph over evil and to do good,
to give ourselves to you as you give yourself for us,
and to live and work to your praise and glory.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.

Preparing our hearts
Psalm 51: 1- 12
1 Have mercy on me, O God, in your great goodness;
according to the abundance of your compassion
blot out my offences.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my faults
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
5 So that you are justified in your sentence
and righteous in your judgement.
6 Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy spirit from me.
7 Give me again the joy of your salvation
and sustain me with your gracious spirit;
8 Then shall I teach your ways to the wicked
and sinners shall return to you.
9 Deliver me from my guilt, O God,
the God of my salvation,
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Prayers of Penitence
Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour
in thought and word and deed,
through negligence, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry
and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for us,
forgive us all that is past
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name.

Almighty God,
who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon us,
pardon and deliver us from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen us in all goodness,
and keep us in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

First reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34
A New Covenant
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt – a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

Who is it that you seek?
We seek the Lord our God.
Do you seek Him with all your heart?
Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Do you seek Him with all your soul?
Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Do you seek Him with all your mind?
Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Do you seek Him with all your strength?
Amen. Christ, have mercy.

Second reading: John 12: 20-33
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
“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. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Thought for the week: Rev Brian Brobyn
They say there are three things that cannot be talked about. You know them, right? Religion, sex, and politics. I think they are wrong. We do talk about those things. We just do it really badly. There is, however, something we do not talk about. Death. Yes, we acknowledge death when it happens but for the most part, we do not talk about it with any real depth or substance, and certainly no enthusiasm. We don’t really acknowledge, talk about, and deal with death. We deny it. We ignore it. We avoid it. No one wants to die.
The death of our loved ones is too real, too painful. Our own death is too scary. The relationships and parts of our lives that have died are too difficult. So, for the most part, we just avoid the topic of death. Besides it’s a “downer” in a culture that mostly wants to be happy, feel good, and avoid difficult realities.
I suspect the Greeks in today’s gospel did not go expecting to talk or hear about death. They just wanted to see Jesus. And who can blame them? Jesus has a pretty good track record up to this point. He has cleansed the temple, turned water into wine, healed a little boy, fed 5000, given sight to the blind, and raised Lazarus from the dead. I don’t know why they wanted to see Jesus, but I know the desire. I want to see Jesus. I’ll bet you do too. Seeing Jesus makes it all real. We all have our reasons for wanting to see Jesus.
If you want to know your reasons for wanting to see Jesus look at what you pray for. It is often a to-do list for God. I remember, as a little boy, praying that I would get good grades in school. Then it was to pass the exams, and get a good job – though, at that time I had no idea what. When my life and marriage were in a shambles, I prayed that God would fix it all. When my daughter was born prematurely, I just wanted God to make her live.
You probably know those kind of prayers. We want to see Jesus on our terms. We don’t want to face the pain of loss and death in whatever form it comes. Sometimes we want something from Jesus more than we want Jesus himself. There is a real danger that we will become consumers of God’s life rather than participants in God’s life. We pick and choose what we like and want, but we skip over and leave behind what we do not like, want, or understand. Christianity, however, is neither a buffet nor a spectator sport.
Christianity means participating in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And that is what Jesus sets before the Greeks who want to see him when he says..
“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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also”.
If we want to see Jesus, then we must look death in the face. If we refuse to acknowledge the reality of death, and we avoid and deny death, we refuse to see Jesus. Really looking at, acknowledging, and facing death is some of the most difficult work we ever do. It is, as Jesus describes it, soul troubling. It shakes us to the core.
There is a temptation to want to skip over death and get to resurrection. So, it is no coincidence that this week, as the Church points us towards Holy Week and reminds us that death is the gateway to new life. Death comes first. Death is not always, however, physical. Sometimes it is spiritual or emotional. We die a thousand deaths every day. There are the deaths of relationships, marriages, hopes, dreams, careers, health, beliefs.
Regardless of what it looks like, this is not the end. Resurrection is always hidden within death. There can be, however, no resurrection without a death. If we avoid death, we avoid life. The degree to which we are afraid to die is the degree to which we are afraid to fully live. Every time we avoid and turn away from death, we proclaim death stronger than God, more real than life, and the ultimate victor.
The unspoken fear and avoidance of death underlies all our “what if” questions.” What if I fail, lose, fall down? What if I get hurt? What if I don’t get what I want? What if I lose that one I most need and love? Every “what if” question separates and isolates us from life, God, one another, and ourselves. It keeps us from bearing fruit. We are just a single grain of wheat. We might survive but we aren’t really alive.
Jesus did not ask to be saved from death. He is unwilling to settle for survival when the fullness of God’s life is before him. He knows that in God’s world strength is found in weakness, victory looks like defeat, and life is born of death. This is what allowed him to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem, a city that will condemn and kill him. That is what allows us to ride triumphantly through life. Triumph doesn’t mean that we get our way or that we avoid death. It means death is a gateway not a prison and the beginning not the end.
Regardless of who or what in our life has died, God in Christ has already cleared the way forward. We have a path to follow. That path is the death of Jesus. Jesus’ death, however, is of no benefit to us if we are not willing to submit to death, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Ultimately, death, in whatever way it comes to us, means that we entrust all that we are and all that we have to God. We let ourselves be lifted up; lifted up in Christ’s crucifixion, lifted up in his resurrection, lifted up in his ascension into heaven. He is drawing all people to himself, that where he is, we too may be.
Grains of wheat. That is what we are. Through death, however, we, too, can become the bread of life. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies….”

Collect for the Fifth Sunday in Lent
Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
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.


Lord of our salvation may we bring others to know you,
and in knowing you to love you,
and loving you to serve you,
and whom to serve is perfect freedom.
We pray for all involved in preaching your word
and ask that you guide and strengthen the mission
and outreach of your people.
Let your light shine forth amongst us.
Lord, as you give yourself for us,
Let us give ourselves to you.

Lord, we pray for our leaders and all in positions of power,
that they may work with sensitivity and in humility.
We pray for leaders of all nations that they may work
towards the common cause of serving their people,
allowing the freedom and liberty of choice,
to life their lives without fear of persecution.
Lord, as you give yourself for us,
Let us give ourselves to you.

Lord, we pray for all who have been generous to us,
for all who have shared their resources and their lives.
We pray for parents who sacrificed for us,
for all their love and guidance.
We pray for those who have been denied love,
for all who have been deprived of well-being.
We remember all those children who are living in fear,
and for those who are in care.
Lord, as you give yourself for us,
Let us give ourselves to you.

We give thanks for the passion and cross of our Lord, for
the gift of redemption.
We pray for all troubled souls, those anxious about their health,
or their future.
We give thanks for all who provide care to those who are ill,
in our hospitals and care homes.
We remember all who are homeless or struggling to make ends meet
Lord, as you give yourself for us,
Let us give ourselves to you.
Finally Lord, we ask that you give comfort to the bereaved, and courage
to the dying.
We pray for all who have entered where sorrow and pain are no more.
We remember loved ones who have entered into eternal life,
And we join with them to sing your praises.
Lord, as you give yourself for us,
Let us give ourselves to you.

Merciful Father we ask that you accept these prayers for the sake
of your son our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Let us join all our prayers into one, by saying the Lord’s Prayer
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.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

The Blessing
The Father who created light in our darkness,
the Son who is the light of the world,
the Spirit who enlightens everyone,
the Holy Three be with you,
and scatter the darkness from you;
and may the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ
be with you today and always.

The Grace
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
And the love of God
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us all, evermore. Amen