5th Sunday of Lent

21st March 2021

5th Sunday of Lent

Year B

 

Collect

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.

 

Jeremiah 31.31-34

     “The time is coming,” declares the LORD,
         “when I will make a new covenant
     with the house of Israel
         and with the house of Judah.
     It will not be like the covenant
         I made with their forefathers
     when I took them by the hand
         to lead them out of Egypt,
     because they broke my covenant,
         though I was a husband to them,”
              declares the LORD.
     “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
         after that time,” declares the LORD.
     “I will put my law in their minds
         and write it on their hearts.
     I will be their God,
         and they will be my people.
     No longer will a man teach his neighbour,
         or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
     because they will all know me,
         from the least of them to the greatest,”
              declares the LORD.
     “For I will forgive their wickedness
         and will remember their sins no more.”

 

Hebrews 5.5-10

Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,

     “You are my Son;
         today I have become your Father.”

And he says in another place,

     “You are a priest for ever,
         in the order of Melchizedek.”

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

 

John 12.20-33

There were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.


Reflection by Arthur


We are not all able to worship in church at present as the Corona Virus continues to spread.  We can however reflect on what attracts us to our church?  Is it the building, built to the glory of God by generations past?  Is it because we feel the presence of God where people have gathered to worship him down the centuries?  It may be, for you, a holy place, to be revered, protected and enhanced.  Or it may be the people you meet when you come.  I suspect that it is a combination of these things.

Our attraction to worship God in a particular place is a very complex thing.  But the main thing is that we recognise the importance of corporate worship.  It is very important for us to worship as part of the body of Christ; to worship together with others.  We share the joys and sorrows of those around us and those in the community because we are in touch with the life of our community.  At the moment this is more difficult, but we can still remain in touch by telephone or social media.

John, in his gospel for today describes an occasion when some Greeks, or simply “God-fearing” Gentiles came to the disciples and asked to meet with Jesus.  They were attracted to Judaism by its monotheism, its recognition that there was only one true God.  They also agreed with its morality, but were repelled by its nationalism, and the fact that they had to accept circumcision and other such rituals in order to belong.  They didn’t want merely to see Jesus; they wanted an interview with him. 

We don’t know exactly what they wanted, because John didn’t think it important.  In fact he records no more about these Greeks.  He regarded their coming as important but not their actual conversation with Jesus.  Jesus speaks to them about glory coming through suffering and death.  Jesus’ hour had come.  He was speaking about his death on the cross and his subsequent resurrection and exaltation.

In the second book of Kings, we read about Zedekiah, who was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  There was only a remnant of the Jews left in Judah, but Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.  And it was at this time that Jeremiah prophesied that a time was coming when the Lord would enter into a new covenant with his people.  This new covenant would be for the people of Israel and the people of Judah.  This was designed to give hope to the people, because the northern kingdom of Israel had ceased to exist.  Yet here was Jeremiah prophesying that a new covenant would be for both kingdoms; hope indeed!

The written law as given to Moses by God proved not to have the power to transform people’s inner attitudes.  It was necessary to do something more.  God would have to change his people from the inside out; he would have to write his law on their hearts, put it into their minds through his Holy Spirit.  This was so that it would effectively govern their lives.  The “new” covenant does not abolish the “old” but supersedes it in the sense that through the new covenant the old is fulfilled and its purpose achieved.

Verse 31 contains the only Old Testament use of the phrase “New covenant,” which (together with its New Testament echoes) has come down to us (via Latin) as “New Testament,” the name that would later be applied to the distinctively Christian part of the Biblical canon.  As the old covenant was solemnized by the blood of sacrificial animals so the new would be solemnized by the blood of Christ.  True knowledge of the Lord will be shared by all – young and old, the peasant and the powerful.  The New Testament teaches us that Jeremiah’s prophesy is fulfilled in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit indwells us and it is the outworking of love rather than a never-ending struggle motivated by fear.  Christ will draw people to himself without regard for nationality, ethnic affiliation or status.  The presence of the Greek Gentiles at this point signifies the inclusiveness of Jesus Christ.

In the Western world, modern-day culture is very much one of preservation and enhancement of this life, and interest in spirituality is motivated more by a desire to feel better about ourselves and to become more fulfilled and rounded people.  Jesus challenges us to look beyond the boundaries of our current experience and to consider what is truly valuable.  Do we want to see our lives invested for a great harvest?  Do we seek eternal life?  Do we seek the presence of God and to be honoured by our Father?  If we do, then following Jesus has to be more than a subject for interesting discussion; it has to be a way of life that leads to the death of our ‘selves’.

I started by talking about what attracts us to worship in our church, and the fact that it is important for us to worship together.  In these changing times, we need to retain our own identity, and there is no finer way of being involved in our community than through our own local church.  The networks which exist in the various organisations of the community, the school, the shops and the pubs, all contribute to the life of the church, and enable the church to contribute to the life of the community.  Whilst we can offer, and receive, support in prayer and other ways with our sister churches and beyond, it is through these networks that we have a finger on the pulse of life in our community.  We get to share in the joys and sorrows of those around us.

In our Lent study this year we are working through a book entitled, ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ by Paula Gooder.  It is looking at a document produced by Pope Francis which looks at his reflections on sharing the love of God.  We considered the idea that the church should be ‘A house with the doors always open!’  We reflected on this in the light of the present pandemic restrictions and concluded that if we took the wider view of this, where it is the people who are ‘the Church’, and not the building, then we should always be open and welcoming to those seeking knowledge and the love of God.

Post Communion Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us
that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters
we do also for you:
give us the will to be the servant of others
as you were the servant of all,
and gave up your life and died for us,
but are alive and reign, now and for ever.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

Hebrews 5.5-10 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Jeremiah 31.31-34 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
John 12.20-33 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Collect (5th of Lent) ©  1980 CBFCE; Archbishops' Council 1999 / Church of the Province of Southern Africa
Post Communion (5th of Lent) ©  The Archbishops' Council 2000