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.
Gracious Father, you gave up your Son out of love for the world: lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion, that we may know eternal peace through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood, Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.
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.
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 I have been wicked even from my birth,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
7 Behold, you desire truth deep within me
and shall make me understand wisdom in the depths of my heart.
8 Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean;
wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
9 Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the bones you have broken may rejoice.
10 Turn your face from my sins
and blot out all my misdeeds.
11 Make me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
12 Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy spirit from me.
13 Give me again the joy of your salvation
and sustain me with your gracious spirit;
9 How shall young people cleanse their way
to keep themselves according to your word?
10 With my whole heart have I sought you;
O let me not go astray from your commandments.
11 Your words have I hidden within my heart,
that I should not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
O teach me your statutes.
13 With my lips have I been telling
of all the judgements of your mouth.
14 I have taken greater delight in the way of your testimonies
than in all manner of riches.
15 I will meditate on your commandments
and contemplate your ways.
16 My delight shall be in your statutes
and I will not forget your word.
So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you’;
as he says also in another place,
‘You are a priest for ever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.’
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
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 judgement 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.
Sermon on Passion Sunday
In our collect for today, we confess and praise God who “by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ delivered and saved the world.” This is a strange exclamation for us to make in the twenty-first century, isn’t it? No one around us would seem to understand such a remark – after all, has Boris Johnson or any of the government ever looked at the salvation of the British people and made comment on how it will come about? All our leaders speak about little things in the immediate future – “When will lockdown end?” “What about the economy?” “When will the pubs open?” These are the questions they wish to address. But what about that goal for the salvation of all creation? Has anyone been thinking about the eternal verities amongst the very present inconveniences of wearing masks and keeping two metres apart, or not gathering en masse, or not enjoying the company of intimate groups, of staying at home and not travelling to places just because we want to?
Does a trip to Spain matter more over against salvation? What does going to a full Wembley Stadium matter when we lose our eternal lives? Why doesn’t our family fulfill our desire for love and belonging, a love which can encompass our neighbours without a second thought? All of this drives us to the religious intent of life.
A friend said that anthropologists have revealed the fact that of the 500 different societies in the world 90% will happily discuss God. I have to conclude that there are few places where “politics and religion” are eschewed as proper subjects for conversation between friends, or even with strangers. (You might remember that anecdote from the era of the early Church that you were more likely to discuss the Trinity rather than the price when you went to buy bread.) After all, isn’t our ownmost possibility a proper topic for discussion between consenting adults?
Don’t friends ask the hard questions of each other? Don’t you immediately want to ask your partner, “What is wrong?” when you hear merely a sigh? You may remember that I take Cicero’s definition of friendship to heart, that friends can speak of anything without let or hindrance, and nothing will be remembered or fester whatever you have said. A friend will listen and give you their thoughts there and then, and you will listen to that friend without any affectation. Good old Cicero, he was stoic in everything. Like our friend Rudyard Kipling whose words from “If” stands in the midst of the great struggles of Wimbledon’s centre court, Cicero wants every person to treat all things the same. Good or ill – it doesn’t matter – all must be treated with the indifference we reserve for our toothbrush, an item which merits our utmost care.
If we understand this attitude, I think we can move to what the collect is trying to say. When we focus on eternal salvation, doesn’t everything pale into insignificance? Doesn’t everything fit in next to one another in proper order, as one thing never takes precedence over any other thing because of our faith?
But what is the result of this faith? What benefits does it bestow? Do we become the “Ubermensch” of Nietzsche or the Superman of DC Comics? Do we gain magical power like Harry Potter? No – nothing like that. Rather, when we have faith, we are led “to ponder the mysteries of Christ’s passion, so that we may know eternal peace.” What a prize faith affords us! Imagine that! – “Eternal peace” – that is something we don’t really know, is it? Do riches calm us? Do our possessions pacify the stirrings of our hearts? No, they don’t. At least that is what religion teaches, that is what all my philosophy concludes, but what are your thoughts on the subject?
Perhaps that is a question which should be raised when we gather with friends and family by phone or ipad. That is a question which must be considered when we meet people face to face in the future. We begin thinking about those mysteries in the free discourse between friends. With friends, we can explore those incalculable advantages of eternal verity. After all, isn’t the dialogue of friends the only place where anything can be discussed without offence? Imagine asking Mr Sunak about the benefits of the passion of Christ. Would Kier Starmar rush to discuss the merits of “the shedding of our Saviour’s blood”? Would Boris Johnson wish to ponder with you just how salvation for the world can be achieved? Would they take the time to converse with any of us about how we perceive the benefits of turning to God in our day to day lives?
Don’t we begin to understand those Greeks who approached Philip with the words, “We want to see Jesus!”? Don’t we want to see Jesus, that friend of friends as our own friend. When we have this attitude of friendship, the openness toward dialogue with the other, can’t we speak about anything?
When there is a true freedom of speech, like the conversation between friends, there is something new in the substance of our communication. We might reveal what our hearts are really like. I want to be able to open my soul to the world, but when we don those masks we wear daily out in the world, I cannot. I have to hide behind a persona, that mask. But imagine if that were not the case, and our real hearts were clear to see, not hidden by any personal motives or concerns, without any mask of any sort. Could it be that these words from the prophet might be true?
“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.”
When that law of love is in our hearts, when God is our intent, when we are faithful in the little things, then life in all its fullness will be ours. Without those masks, then shall the lamb lie down with the lion and peace shall reign in all creation, that peace of salvation graced to the world through the crucifixion and ultimately the resurrection of Jesus Christ.