5th Sunday of Lent, March 29, 2020
Greeting: (Welcoming elder)
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you
P: And also with you
Welcoming elder: From you, Lord, and through You, and to You, are all things
Minister: To Christ be the glory forever
Welcoming elder: Lift up your hearts!
Minister: We lift them up to the Lord!
We now listen to a unique YouTube recording of “Softly and tenderly”
Let us say the words of the Call to Worship
Welcoming elder: God set the prophet down in a valley of dry bones
Minister: asking, “Can these bones live?” commanding, “Hear the word of the Lord,” promising, “I will put my spirit in you, you shall live.”
Welcoming elder: Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend
Minister: hearing the grief, “Lord, if you had been here…“ knowing the doubt, “Could not he…?” commanding life out of death, “Lazarus, come out!”
Welcoming elder: We are tempted by hopelessness and despair
Minister: in our own pain, at the world’s brokenness, saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost.”
Welcoming elder: Lord, have mercy
Minister: Christ, have mercy
Welcoming elder: Lord, have mercy
Let us pray (Welcoming elder):
Creator God, we wait for you and in your word we hope. For with you is steadfast love and great power to redeem. Help us to trust you and to share your resurrection life with all people and the whole creation. So may all be raised from despair to hope, from darkness to light, from death to life; through Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life. Amen.
In this time of COVID-19, we pray: When we aren’t sure, Lord, help us be calm; when information comes from all sides, correct and not, help us to discern; when fear makes it hard to breathe, and anxiety seems to be the order of the day, slow us down, Lord; help us to reach out with our hearts when we can’t touch with our hands; help us to be socially connected when we have to be socially distant; help us to love as perfectly as we can, knowing that “perfect love casts out all fear.” For the doctors, we pray, for the nurses, we pray, for the technicians and the janitors and the aides and the caregivers, we pray, for the researchers and theorists, the epidemiologists and investigators, for those who are sick, and those who are grieving, we pray, for all who are affected, all around the world…we pray for safety, for health, for wholeness. May we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked and house those without homes; may we walk with those who feel they are alone, and may we do all that we can to heal the sick— in spite of the pandemic, in spite of the fear. Help us, dear Lord, that we might help each other.
In the love of the Creator, in the name of the Healer, in the life of the Holy Spirit that is in all and with all, we pray. May it be so.
Would you now speak to us through your Word.
Scripture reading, by Welcoming Elder
Matthew 23:29-39 (The Message)
29-32 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. You protest too much! You’re cut from the same cloth as those murderers, and daily add to the death count.
33-34 “Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? It’s on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation—and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse.
35-36 “You can’t squirm out of this: Every drop of righteous blood ever spilled on this earth, beginning with the blood of that good man Abel right down to the blood of Zechariah, Barachiah’s son, whom you murdered at his prayers, is on your head. All this, I’m telling you, is coming down on you, on your generation.
37-39 “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God’s news! How often I’ve ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn’t let me. And now you’re so desolate, nothing but a ghost town. What is there left to say? Only this: I’m out of here soon. The next time you see me you’ll say, ‘Oh, God has blessed him! He’s come, bringing God’s rule!’”
“As a hen with her chickens — Jesus’ tremendous love for us”
When one goes to the mountains and you walk to a waterfall such as we did last summer at Johnston Canyon, and you hear the rushing thunderous water coming down, it’s awe-striking. You get filled with amazement at God’s creation. Then walking further up towards the so-called inkpots where all of this starts, you criss-cross all kinds of thinner streams that trickle down the slope. They appear to be rather meaningless. Where do they go? Do they serve any purpose? These trickles of water seem to be just an additional feature flowing around, not really knowing where they are heading.
Beautiful wildflowers and moss grow along them, and people take pictures with their cellphones, and even pose for selfies wherever they go. But what’s so uncanny about it, is that there is this massive waterfall in which these tiny brooks and small streams culminate.
On this fifth Sunday of Lent, our passage speaks about something similar. It is Jesus denouncing the Pharisees, the religion scholars. It is as if their predecessors are like the thin streams coming together, slowly but surely. It has been happening over the many centuries, from Abel who was killed by his brother Cain, to Moses, God speaking through all of them, but the people weren’t willing to listen. It was like breath against strong gusts of wind.
As N.T. Wright puts it in his Daily devotional for Year A, “Lent for everyone, according to Matthew” [i], generation after generation they have been murdering the messengers of God. Jesus seems to be pulling it all together, describing how each and every one of those bringing God’s good news were being silenced and not taken seriously and finally, here is Jesus. Jesus is standing at the verge of the cliff. Jesus, the Son of God, is the final one who can see it all throughout the ages. He knows the big picture.
There is this great waterfall ahead of Him. Every ounce of water that has cumulated into a tremendous weight, won’t stop at the edge of the cliff. It was flowing across the edge, down into the depths, crashing down with a mighty thunder, causing an enormous spray of water and mist that could be seen from far away!
This is the mighty disaster that is on its way. There were many who had warned against this happening. Just page through the Bible. Look at prophet after prophet, faithfully conveying what God wanted the people to know.
Jesus has no trouble seeing what was happening. When this happens, it won’t be happenstance. Here it will be in plain sight for everyone to see.
It will be the direct result of all the small streams of rebellion coming together into the largest rebellion of them all.
However, this isn’t where it all ends. In the middle, while Jesus is warning his audience, Jesus speaks about his own longing to do something about it. Yes, God has abandoned the Temple to its fate. But, in the same way that a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, to protect them against a fire or a fox, Jesus has longed to gather Jerusalem and its inhabitants. He wanted to take upon Himself the full weight of the impending mess of a disaster that was approaching them. In the next four chapters of Matthew’s gospel, we are reminded about what we are watching in two different scenes.
God judges the people who are rebelling. This on the one hand, and on the other hand Jesus is standing in the way, ready to take all that judgment upon Himself.
What a Saviour, the Saviour of humankind! How does this have an effect on us? It has all the effect possible.
The Son of God took all the judgment upon Himself, not only the judgment up until his time. He also did it on behalf of all humankind throughout the centuries. He did it for each of us, whoever we are.
We know so acutely how the world we live in is in a mess. Regardless of the extent of the mess, God still hasn’t given up on us. I firmly believe, as do you, I trust, that the pandemic of the coronavirus will also pass and that the kingdom of God will continue to flourish.
We are learning valuable skills. God’s tremendous love for us is teaching us to mind for each other, to live not for ourselves, but for one another, as Jesus did.
Jesus’ tremendous love at that waterfall was a watershed. This is where his body was broken for us and his blood was shed for each of us. The effect is just as powerful today as ever. Let us be filled with hope even when everything seems hopeless. Amen
[i] Much of this message has found its inspiration from: N.T. Wright, 2011, Lent for everyone, Matthew, Year A (A daily devotional)
Our time for giving
Today we are reminded that Christ offered his life on the Cross for our sakes. Now it’s our turn to offer God our gifts in gratitude. You may be aware that our congregation with no renters at the moment is likely to, as many of us, be running low on funds. For this purpose, we encourage you to either mail in a cheque to the church address, or sign up on Pre-Authorized Remittance, or donate on our Dayspring website at the Canadahelps link or, make an E-transfer to our Treasurer’s email address, that’s on our website. Let us present to God our tithes and offerings.
Prayer of Dedication
Gracious God, when we look at what you have done for us in Jesus Christ, our offering seems so small. What difference can our gifts make in the grand scheme of things? Yet the story of Jesus tells us otherwise: five loaves and two fish can feed a multitude; a man who dies on a cross becomes Living Bread for a hungry world. Accept our small gifts and bless them with your goodness so that the miracle of Jesus’ love continues to amaze the world. Amen.
May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake. May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable. May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent. May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options. May we who have to cancel our trips remember those that have no safe place to go. May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all. May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home. As fear grips our country, our continent, the world, let us choose love. During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbours. Amen.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Amen
Copyright 2020 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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