Fifth Sunday in Lent
Sermon: Revd Andrew Warmback
Prayers: Siyanda Nzuza
We have resumed services on a Sunday at 7.30am and 9.15am.
INTROIT: For the healing of the nations CP 427
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS
COLLECT: God of suffering and glory,
in Jesus Christ you reveal the way of life:
inscribe your law on our hearts,
that we may not stray from you,
but remain your faithful people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
FIRST READING: Jeremiah 31: 31-34
PSALM: 51: 1-12
Dear Christ, Uplifted from the earth
Your arms stretched out above
Through every culture, every birth,
To draw an answering love.
Still east and west your love extends
And always, near and far,
You call and claim us as your friends
And love us as we are.
Where age and gender, class and race,
Divides us to our shame,
You see a person and a face,
A neighbor with a name.
May we, accepted as we are,
Yet called in grace to grow,
Reach out to others, near and far,
Your healing love to show.
GOSPEL: John 12: 20-33
The Baptismal Creed (07:30)/ SERVICE OF BAPTISM (09:15)
OFFERTORY: Brother, sister, let me serve you CP 393
4st EUCHARISTIC PRAYER (APB pg 124)
RECESSIONAL: To God be the glory – CP 609
Sermon by Revd Andrew Warmback
We may be feel comforted by Jesus’s words today. We hear Jesus saying, in today’s gospel reading – John 12:27: “Now my soul is troubled.” We meet a very human Jesus; someone who admits that not all is well, who expresses openly the struggles, the pain, he is going through. This Jesus is certainly someone we can identify with.
Jesus has come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. We know it is the last time he will do this, so does he. In these words he expresses a measure of uncertainty and perhaps a sense of fear too. He knows what lies ahead.
Yet it is in this great difficulty, through his death, that the resurrection can take place, and new life for the world emerge. Jesus is sustained in his struggles. What seemed like shame and humiliation and apparent defeat in fact opens the path to something new, victory over death.
And so in this same gospel passage for today Jesus teaches us a principle, in verse 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.”
Anticipating his own death, Jesus explains this process of death and life by using the image of a seed needing to die to give life to the pant. The seed needs to lose its identity to become fruitful.
Jesus calls us to let go, give up, to die to parts of ourselves for new life and freedom to emerge.
We may usually die small deaths. As parents we give up that children may flourish; we set aside some of what we want to do so that our spouses and partners may achieve what they are aiming for. We give up that others may experience a fuller life.
Lent and Baptism
At the beginning of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, we heard the words prayed: “Free us from dependence on material goods and the worship of power.”
And in our baptismal liturgy today we “renounce the devil and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God, the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy what God has created, and we renounce all sinful desires that draw you away from the love of God.”
What do these things mean for us?
Sharpeville Human Rights
Today is Human Rights Day. It has its origins in the commemoration of the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre in which when 69 people we shot dead, mostly in the back, and, officially, 180 injured. They were protesting against the discriminatory pass laws.
Sharpeville was a dark day for South Africa. Yet it become a turning point, and was to set in process the beginnings of a change in our policies of exclusion and oppression.
The world woke up to what was happening here. The struggle of the following decades led to the enshrining of human rights in the country’s constitution. The giving up of discrimination like racism, xenophobia or homophobia and embracing respect, inclusion, and forgiveness, sets us on the path from darkness to the dawning of the light.
In our own lives too, the darkest times, the times when we feel we have really failed, or have felt humiliated or shamed or experienced devastating lost can unexpectedly set us on a new path to restoration, wholeness and healing. In following Jesus we are strengthened and encouraged to take the path that leads from darkness to light.
World Water Day
Tomorrow is World Water Day. Water is a sacred and precious resource to sustain life. In an era of rapid climate change it is to be especially valued and protected. We are conscious of the many people in our world we do not have adequate access to water.
When we bless the water for baptism we say pray that “your servants who are washed in it may be made one with Christ in his death and in his resurrection, to be cleansed and delivered from all sin”. As we give thanks for water may we cherish it as a sign of the regeneration of life, a gift from God that restores and renews us.
On this last Sunday of Lent, as we approach Holy Week, let us look towards Jesus who gave up his own life that the world may experience redemption. Let us again look at what we may need to give up. It is the great paradox of Christian faith and in our lives that in giving up we gain, in dying to self that we too gain fullness of life. Let us maintain our faith and hope in whatever we face.
Prayers by Siyanda Nzama (9.15 service for Baptism)
Lord God our Father, maker of heaven and earth we thank you that by your Holy Spirit these your children have been born again into new life adopted for your own and received into the fellowship of your Church: grant that they may grow in the faith into which they have been baptized that they may profess it for themselves when they come to be confirmed and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Merciful Father, we thank you for your gift in holy baptism: grant that these children may worthily receive your gracious favour and grow into the full maturity of Christ your Son; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, now and for ever.
Heavenly Father we pray for the parents of these children. Give them the spirit of wisdom and love that their homes may reflect the joy of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Almighty God, we thank you for our fellowship in the household of faith with all those who have been baptized in your name. Keep us faithful to our baptism and so make us ready for that day when the whole creation shall be made perfect in your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426