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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources

Lent 4 (colour purple)


Introduction

Some say that he could have been one of our best England football mangers, but Glen Hoddle was forced out of his job. His crime was not that he lost too many matches, in fact he was quite good. His offence concerned his spiritual views. Glen said that people who suffered from illnesses and disabilities were being punished for sins committed in a previous life. His opinion is shared by the Hindu tradition in which karma is a word used to signify the cause and effect of our actions.
In the Bible Reading from John's Gospel today, Jesus is asked whose sin had caused a man to be born blind. Was the man sinful in a previous life or was it his parents? What do you think? Does God inflict blindness, pestilence or disaster on people as a punishment for their sin?
Jesus is clear, nobody had sinned. The illness was not a punishment from God. But Jesus did take the opportunity to make the man well and show that God cares for us as we suffer. God wants to work with us to take the dreadful things of this world and make them new.

Opening Verse of Scripture  Matthew Chapter 23:37

How often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. Matthew Chapter 23:37

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Merciful Lord, absolve your people from their offences, that through your bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the chains of those sins which by our frailty we have committed; grant this, heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ' sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen. Common Worship

Merciful Lord, you know our struggle to serve you: when sin spoils our lives and overshadows our hearts, come to our aid and turn us back to you again, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. Common Worship  

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Saviour gave his back to those who struck him and did not hide his face from shame: give us grace to endure the sufferings of this present time with sure confidence in the glory that shall be revealed; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. Methodist Worship

O God, rich in mercy, you so loved the world that, when we were dead in our sins, you sent your only Son for our deliverance. Lifted up from the earth he is light and life; exalted upon the cross, he is truth and salvation. Raise us up with Christ that we may walk as children of light. We ask this through Christ who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, holy and mighty God, for ever and ever.  Amen. Methodist Worship

First Bible Reading    1 Samuel 16:1-13

 The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king." But Samuel said, "How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me." The LORD said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate." Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, "Do you come in peace?" Samuel replied, "Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD .Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me." Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD ." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, "The LORD has not chosen this one either." Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, "Nor has the LORD chosen this one." Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, "The LORD has not chosen these." So he asked Jesse, "Are these all the sons you have?"   "There is still the youngest," Jesse answered, "but he is tending the sheep." Samuel said, "Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives." So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.  Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one." So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.

Second Reading Ephesians 5: 8-14

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Gospel Reading John 9: 1-41

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." 

Having said this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. 

His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?" Some claimed that he was. Others said, "No, he only looks like him." But he himself insisted, "I am the man." 

"How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded. He replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see." 

"Where is this man?" they asked him. "I don't know," he said. They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. "He put mud on my eyes," the man replied, "and I washed, and now I see." 

Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided.

Finally they turned again to the blind man, "What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened." The man replied, "He is a prophet." The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man's parents. "Is this your son?" they asked. "Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?" "We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, "He is of age; ask him." 

A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God, " they said. "We know this man is a sinner." He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" Then they asked him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" 

He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?" Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from." 

The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out. 

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" "Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him." Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you." 

Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." 

Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?" Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

 

Post Communion Prayer

Merciful Lord, grant your people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
 


Commentary

There are many mysteries in life, one of these is why there is death and suffering and the presence of evil. People have often wondered whether God afflicts us deliberately with these things. Well we could never fully answer why God allows suffering, it would be foolish to pretend that we could, however from the life of Jesus we know where God stands on the issue. For example, we know that Jesus did not like it when people died, he cried when Lazarus died and he raised him to life, to make the point especially clear. We also know that Jesus did not like it when people were ill, he went about making them better. Clearly death and illness are not a part of God’s plan and as this incident shows God would not use them to punish people. The same goes of course for our spiritual health. God wants our eyes of faith to be open to him and never deliberately conceals the truth from us. John Newton wrote the hymn that we will finish our service with today which speaks of blindness and the healing of God which he received. He had gone to sea and at one time had been the captain of a ship in the African slave trade. After his conversion, he became an ordained minister of the Church of England, finally serving as rector of a church in London. He felt that he had been a spiritual wretch, but through the grace of God his eyes were opened and he saw God's will for his life. Whilst we live this trouble filled life we will surely suffer and die. However we can draw comfort from the fact that it is not of God’s doing and he does not approve. Neither does he want us to feel far from him spiritually. As we draw close to God we can trust that he also draws close to us and we can like the blind man know the assurance of his forgiveness and healing touch. Charles Royden

 

Meditation

Gather your little ones to you, O God,

as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;

you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride,

tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,

in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.

Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life; 

by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;

through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.

Your warmth gives life to the dead, 

your touch makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us; 

in your love and tenderness remake us.

In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness, 

for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.

From St Anselm of Canterbury

Hymns

  1. In Christ there is no East or West

  2. For I’m building a people of power

  3. Praise my soul

  4. Restore, O Lord

  5. Man of sorrows! What a name

     

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

May God inspire all parents and grandparents, teachers and carers who nurture our children. May we all by our Christian conduct provide good examples which may lead them to follow Christ.

For any for whom this has been a hard day;
For any who have suddenly known fear;
For any suddenly covered  with shame;
For any involved in an accident;
For any faced with a serious medical report;
For any in hospital for the first time;
For any so ill that recovery is in doubt;
For any with a disease that baffles the specialists;
For any who have sinned against society,  and are now before the court.
Hold all such needy ones in your love, O Lord.
In Jesus’ name.           Amen.

Thank you God for the love of our mothers:
thank you God for their care and concern;
thank you God for the joys they have shared with us;
thank you God for the pains they have borne for us;
thank you God for all that they give us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

Loving God, you have given us the right to be called children of God.

Help us to show your love in our homes that they may be places of love, security and truth.
Loving God, Jesus, your Son, was born into the family of Mary and Joseph;

bless all parents and all who care for children;

strengthen those families living under stress and may your love be known where no human love is found.
Loving God, we thank you for the family of the Church.

We pray that all may find in her their true home; that the lonely, the marginalized,

the rejected may be welcomed and loved in the name of Jesus.
Loving God, as we see the brokenness of our world we pray for healing among the nations;

for food where there is hunger; for freedom where there is oppression;

for joy where there is pain; that your love may bring peace to all your children.

 

Additional Material

Hymns

Now thank we all our God
Give thanks
I watch the sunrise
As the deer pants for the water
Amazing Grace


Lenten Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead.
 

We pray for the sick, grant them health and raise them up from their sickness and let them have perfect health of body and soul, for you are the Saviour and Benefactor, you are Lord and King of all. Amen. St Serapion d.360ad
 

Just as a bicycle chain may be too tight, so may one’s carefulness and conscientiousness be so tense as to hinder the running of one’s mind. Lord may I know the freedom that comes from your service. Amen.
 

O God you are my rock, my rescue, and my refuge. I leave it all quietly to you. George Appleton (1902-93)