Passion Sunday


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.

Post Communion

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.


Old Testament

Thus says the Lord,

who makes a way in the sea,

a path in the mighty waters,

who brings out chariot and horse,

army and warrior;

they lie down, they cannot rise,

they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:

Do not remember the former things,

or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.

The wild animals will honour me,

the jackals and the ostriches;

for I give water in the wilderness,

rivers in the desert,

to give drink to my chosen people,

the people whom I formed for myself

so that they might declare my praise.

Isaiah 43.16–21


1    When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
then were we like those who dream.

2    Then was our mouth filled with laughter
and our tongue with songs of joy.

3    Then said they among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’

4    The Lord has indeed done great things for us,
and therefore we rejoiced.

5    Restore again our fortunes, O Lord,
as the river beds of the desert.

6    Those who sow in tears
shall reap with songs of joy.

7    Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed,
will come back with shouts of joy, bearing their sheaves with them.

Psalm 126


 even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3.4b–14


Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

John 12.1–8

Sermon on Passion Sunday

Through the prophet, the Lord speaks to us

Do not remember the former things,

or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I see this is just the opposite to what we normally think God is asking of us. We often dwell on accomplishments of the past, and our consideration of past events blinds us to what is all around us. Don’t we try to keep everything the same as it has always been – to get back to that ancient normal? I think such an attitude is problematic because we grasp on to the past so tightly that everything becomes distorted. After all, the past is only what we remember. We can warp the past with our fierce grip. Those former things are merely what we imagine, the things of old are the fantasies of those who have survived – I suppose I am repeating what they say about history, that it is always written by the winners, the victors who spin everything in their own imaginings and for their own purposes.

The past is foreign, a space beyond the set boundaries of the present. When we see the past as memories massaged by what we hold on to, the past becomes a strange place in the hands of some.The past we remember is just that – the past is only what we remember. We have to be aware that everyone remembers something different. Like with those eyewitnesses to any event, every recollection is different. Tomorrow, I may remember this talk very differently from each one of you. I can only hope that the message, the meaning,  behind my words is remembered.

However, I have to keep in mind that I am now in your past, and everything I have said and done is now amongst the “former things” which will be considered one way or another. But the prophet is telling us not to remember, not to consider “the things of old”, and I would say the prophet counsels us not to grasp the past so tightly. Rather, the prophet is telling us that we are to perceive “new things” not just look to the past. I think the prophet’s words are more harsh than how we normally hear them. I think the prophet is telling us to live in the present in a radical way. We are not to consider and remember the past in the way we normally do. We have to remember that we are dragging the past along. It is a bumpy ride and a lot of memory drops off and is forgotten.

Don’t we often say, “That isn’t how we used to do that!” or “I don’t remember that!” when someone proposes something we don’t expect? Don’t we just want to keep doing the same thing – the ritual repetition of what has always been done? But when we do the same old thing, we are expecting something, aren’t we? Aren’t we hoping for that golden age of our remembrance to come here and now?

This imaginative mirroring of the past and future is what should drive us into the present. Only the present is reality for each and every one of us. The memory of things past and the expectation of a new thing, these are the considerations that drive us into the here and now. But what is that “new thing” that appears in the present?

Theologians used to call this “realised eschatology”. They said that the last things are all around us, “if only we would not harden our hearts.” We should be able to see the wars and rumours of wars that come with the end of time, the escaton
of the Lord’s appearance.

Aren’t we there right now? Don’t the events in the Ukraine call out to us that the horsemen of the apocalypse are riding through our midst? Don’t we see it? Or are we hankering after a normality which is a fantasy given present circumstances? Haven’t we hardened our hearts to the new things all around us? Is that because those new things are not very pleasant? Wars far away are the reality of the present. The constraints of Covid are a new thing we have not made our own. That is the reality. The last things are here, right now, do we not perceive it? The prophet asked this question millenia ago. And that same question is being asked of us as we read his words today.

How can we live in the present and at the same time call to mind the past and yet still hope for the future? This is where my reading of philosophy and theology have helped me. The answer is right here – it is our lived experience in our worship together.

We are keeping the ancient forms alive, but we are letting go of them at the same time as we relive the liturgy today, as we make it our own in the present. We are offering up our repetition of the ancient worship services so that we can perceive the new things that are right here in front of us. The key is that we are keeping them alive and live things change moment to moment – they do not stay the same. Our worship is alive in that we engage with the forms of prayer, the readings and the hymns and psalms moment by moment. Our engagement should open us to new experiences given to us through the ancient forms. Our engagement enlivens the past to pull it into the present. The past may come kicking and screaming into the present, but, if it truly does enter our present, it won’t be a mere memory of things past, purely a consideration of the things of old. It should be a new thing in our experience – even if it is ancient. That is the point of the prophet’s words. We must engage with the past as a present activity, not just throw ourselves into it in an abandonment of what we don’t like in the present, like for example the restrictions of the past two years. Nor should we live in expectation of a future which conforms to our fantasies as we fear it. The prophet is telling us that the past is a country we have taken leave of, as we travel as refugees into the future. We are here now on our way – neither past nor future is our dwelling. We live in the present whither the past has led and whence the future will proceed. We are at the juncture of all time and we must make it our own. We must consider the past and future as guidance. Above all, we must act in the present with that prescience, which faith gives us, a knowledge that the past is a precious gift to be handed on to the future.

We are refugees, like that wandering Aramaean whom Jews remember in their declaration of themselves. Aren’t we like Jesus who has no place to lay his head? Aren’t we like the refugees fleeing war and rumours of war throughout the world? We will pass through many countries in our quest for the peace of salvation.The prophet promises, “I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Such is our hope on our journey through the present from the past into the future. This is the present reality in which we worship.


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