Forth Sunday in Lent – 14th March 2021
ORDER OF SERVICE
You can click to expand or minimise the order of service below.
All are requested to join in wherever text is GREEN
HYMN: The King of love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never;
The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine for ever.
Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul he leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow
With food celestial feedeth.
Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
They unction, grace bestoweth:
And O what transport of delight
From thy pure chalice floweth!
And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
Within thy house for ever.
BLESSED BE GOD: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever. Amen
From Easter to Pentecost:
Allelulia. Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia
In Lent and other penitential occasions:
Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins;
His mercy endures for ever.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, to whom all hearts be open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
This prayer is omitted during Lent and Advent:
Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy on us.
THE COLLECT OF THE DAY
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
THE FIRST READING
From Mount Hor the Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.
Thanks be to God.
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, *
and his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let all those whom the Lord has redeemed proclaim *
that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.
3 He gathered them out of the lands; *
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
17 Some were fools and took to rebellious ways; *
they were afflicted because of their sins.
18 They abhorred all manner of food *
and drew near to death’s door.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, *
and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent forth his word and healed them *
and saved them from the grave.
21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy *
and the wonders he does for his children.
22 Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving *
and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.
THE SECOND READING
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Thanks be to God
All stand for the Acclamation and Gospel reading.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ!
God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son;
Everyone who believes in him has eternal life.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ!
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to:
Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
After the Gospel reading
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ
If, like me, you are rather uncomfortable with the whole idea of snakes, then this might well not be our Sunday! But, if we can set that discomfort aside for a moment, we will gain an invaluable insight about how the ancient Hebrew Bible reading from Numbers connects with the Gospel reading from John!
If you were running from something – brutal slave labour, for example, you could hardly write a tougher scenario of a flight to freedom than the Exodus. The Hebrew people were fleeing through the desert, and their wilderness wanderings were plagued by lack of food and water. And now snakes! Why? Because they complained against the God who was delivering them!
So then, when was the last time you found yourself in traffic, complaining about its slow pace, while your air conditioner hummed, and you listened to satellite radio in stereo? Here you are then, in your own little bubble, but you are upsetbecause you can’t get to work or home any faster. And while you might not be tripping over snakes, you at least know you’re going to get there eventually. The Hebrews didn’t even know where “there” was!
Being miserable is something we try to avoid, but how we handle it really hasn’t changed much at all. The power goes off, as ours did on Friday evening, and we call the electric utility and complain. The water is turned off for a few hours because of a mains leak, and we moan at the water company. The waiter tells us they have just run out of that dish we had so looked forward to, so we fuss and grumble as we order another choice from a varied and plentiful menu!
All right then – so maybe this is a little over the top with regard to complaining, but really – what do we have to complain about? Besides, it’s Lent! Aren’t we supposed to feel at least a little bit miserable?
Like Moses with the Hebrews, somebody prays for us. Somebody offers up our fear of snakes that bite us and frighten us. Somebody breaks the bread and blesses the cup, and offers us real, spiritual food. The bread is broken, the cup is offered, and we see the sign like the people saw the bronze serpent in the wilderness, and lived. We receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and our impatience and complaining retreat, even if only for a little while.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,” proclaims the Psalmist. And if God is good, what he offers us is never a snake that bites us, but the bread of life. “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.”
Lent is all about who truly delivers us from the hardships we suffer, the complaints we offer, and the peril of the snakes in this world!
Paul writes to the Ephesians, carefully setting out the situation: we are all dead through our sinning, because we think the things of this world will save us, keep us comfortable, and drive the snakes away. He describes God as rich in mercy and able, in our dead state, to make us alive in Christ Jesus, saved and raised up with him. And most of all, we can’t cause it by our good works. Rather, God’s free gift of Christ on the cross—recalling the serpent lifted up by Moses—brings us salvation. The snakes can’t win. Thanks be to God!
So, we come to today’s Gospel reading from John, and the one verse that every Christian knows by heart: “For God so loved the world that he gave his onlySon, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” This passage is so well known that it is often coded on billboards and in ads as John 3:16 with no text provided!
And that may be the problem! This text, taken by itself, is almost a romanticrendering of the Gospel, as if somehow God came into the world and erased evil in all its forms from our lives. That leaves us with a lot of questions. Recently, the parents of a young child, who died of Covid, were agonizing over why their Christian belief didn’t save their child. Good, well-intentioned, and bravepeople are killed every day: some by accident, some by violence and mayhem. Alas, simply quoting John 3:16 to their families and friends will not provide a lot of comfort!
The story of the Gospel is about our encounter with it, and how even after hearing it, we may choose evil rather than good. Jesus’ life and ministry are a judgment because, despite his being in the world, people still love darkness rather than light, and our deeds are often evil, as John continues to proclaim.
So then, Lent is not just a time for us to get closer to Jesus, and hope for the best. Lent is a time to embrace the challenge of the Gospel, to swim upstreamagainst all of the world’s downstream current, of things that pleasure us and delight us, but never satisfy!
Deep Lent, as some call this time, is when we struggle with the darkness, and may not always find answers to why it is so pervasive. We cannot answer whyevil seems so prevalent, because we can’t readily see it in our own choices. So, asking to be part of the light will reveal what is hidden in our darkness, and most of us would prefer not to see. That is why self-examination and confession are rare, and unfortunately avoided by most of us. But ‘we have strayed like lost sheep, we have followed too much the desires of our own hearts’, to the point where, left on our own, we are truly lost!
So, make today a turning point, an embracing of John 3:16 for your future. If you say this passage every day this week and ask God how to embrace it, you will find a way. You will find it as you receive the Body and Blood of Christ. You will find it as you reach out to another human being. who is also lost and lonely. You will find a way to move more into the light. You will have differentquestions to ask, ones for which there are answers!
The only reason Jesus could go to the cross, was because he dared to walk into the darkness. We have to do the same, if we are going to follow him the rest of this Lenten journey. That means leaving a lot of things behind, including the world’s perceived wisdom, for how to live in the darkness by making everything pleasant for ourselves!
Somehow, we have to connect with these readings, with the Hebrews who wandered in the desert. Somehow, we have to embrace St. Paul, who writes in Ephesians about our being dead because we follow the course of the world. And somehow, we have to take what is offered this Sunday, in word and sacrament, and let it begin to work in us, so that, as John so wonderfully writes: “it may be clearly seen that our deeds have been done in God.”
As the collect for this 4th Sunday of Lent says, “Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread, which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him.”
Pray those words, and then make room for God to live them in your life. Amen.
THE NICENE CREED
Please stand for the Nicene Creed.
Let us together affirm the faith of the Church.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Let us pray for the world and for the Church:
Prayers of intercession are now said and at the end of each prayer the priest says:
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Lord hear us,
Lord graciously hear us
At the conclusion of the prayers the priest says:
Almighty God, who has promised to hear our prayers.
Grant that what we have asked in faith we may by your grace receive, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jesus said: Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
God is steadfast in love and infinite in mercy, welcoming sinners and inviting them to the Lord’s table.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith, confident in God’s forgiveness.
Merciful God, our maker and our judge, we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, and in what we have failed to do: we have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves; we repent and are sorry for all our sins, Father forgive us, strengthen us to love and obey you in newness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Almighty God, who has promised forgiveness to all who turn to him in faith, pardon you and set you free from all your sins, strengthen you in all goodness and keep you in eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The congregation stands.
We are the Body of Christ.
His Spirit is with us.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.
Please greet each other with a sign of peace.
HYMN: We sing the praise of him who died, Of him who died upon the Cross;
We sing the praise of him who died,
Of him who died upon the Cross;
The sinner’s hope let men deride,
For this we count the world but loss.
Inscribed upon the Cross we see
In shining letters, ‘God is Love’,
He bears our sins upon the Tree;
He brings us mercy from above.
The Cross! It takes our guilt away;
It holds the fainting spirit up;
It cheers with hope the gloomy day,
And sweetens every bitter cup.
It makes the coward spirit brave,
And nerves the feeble arm for fight;
It takes its terror from the grave,
And gilds the bed of death with light.
The balm of life, the cure of woe,
The measure and the pledge of love,
The sinner’s refuge here below,
The angels’ theme in heaven above.
Blessed are you, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have these gifts to share. Accept and use our offerings for your glory and the service of your kingdom.
Blessed be God forever.
Let us pray
We do not presume to come to your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table, but you are the same Lord whose nature is always to have mercy. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us. Amen.
EUCHARISTIC PRAYER C
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The Lord be with you.
and also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.
Father, we give you thanks and praise through your beloved Son Jesus Christ, your living Word, through whom you have created all things; who was sent by you in your great goodness to be our Saviour.
By the power of the Holy Spirit he took flesh; as your Son, born of the blessed Virgin, he lived on earth and went about among us; he opened wide his arms for us on the cross; he put an end to death by dying for us; and revealed the resurrection by rising to new life; so he fulfilled your will and won for you a holy people.
Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you and saying:
Holy, holy, holy Lord God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Lord, you are holy indeed, the source of all holiness; grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit, and according to your holy will, these gifts of bread and wine may be to us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; who, in the same night that he was betrayed, took bread and gave you thanks; he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.
In the same way, after supper he took the cup and gave you thanks; he gave it to them, saying: Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it,
in remembrance of me.
Great is the mystery of faith:
Christ has died:
Christ is risen:
Christ will come again.
And so, Father, calling to mind his death on the cross, his perfect sacrifice, made once for the sins of the whole world; rejoicing in his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension, and looking for his coming in glory, we celebrate this memorial of our redemption.
As we offer you this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, we bring before you this bread and this cup and we thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you. Send the Holy Spirit on your people and gather into one in your kingdom all who share this one bread and one cup, so that we, in the company of [N and] all the saints, may praise and glorify you for ever, through Jesus Christ our Lord; by whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory be yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.
Let us pray with confidence to the Father, as our Saviour has taught us:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.
We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.
Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread.
This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world;
Happy are those who are called to his supper.
Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.
After Communion the celebrant and the congregation say
Let us pray.
Father of all we give you thanks and praise that when we were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us home. Dying and living, he declared your love, gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory. May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.
Keep us in this hope that we have grasped; so we and all your children shall be free, and the whole earth live to praise your name.
Father, we offer ourselves to you as a living sacrifice through Jesus Christ our Lord. Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord: and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord:
In the name of Christ. Amen.
HYMN: There’s a wideness in God’s mercy Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measures of man’s mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
But we make his love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify his strictness
With a zeal he will not own.
There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the head.
If our love were but more simple,
We should take him at his word;
And our lives would be all gladness
In the joy of Christ our Lord.
NOTE: The introductory music is Trio Sonata No.3 (2nd Movement) BWV 327 – JS BACH
Here is the music for this week’s hymns, if you would like to practice beforehand.
Performed by Fr. David Price