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Worship, Prayer and Bible Resources

Fourth Sunday of Lent - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Purple


Introduction

Sometimes when we have dreadful pain we say that is excruciating. We usually have little understanding of what the pain is like which brought this word to us. It is taken from crucifixion, a punishment used extensively by the Roman army. Those of you who have seen the film Spartacus will know about the brutality of the Roman army. The film shows the crucifixion of 6,000 slaves who followed Spartacus in the slave uprising. They died a literally excruciating death, a slow death followed by the dreadful visible display to warn others, as vultures picked over the body.

So the expression ' they will crucify her' comes from the life of Jesus. He was propelled to stardom for a few brief years of his life, during which he said and did remarkable things. He spoke of the importance of the individual, he said that sometimes people have terrible things go wrong in their lives and its not their fault. Jesus was tolerant of others and refused to ignore the outcasts. When they brought a woman to him who had committed adultery he refused to condemn her and sent her accusers away.

Jesus showed  us that God is a lot more understanding, loving and forgiving than human beings and for his efforts he was crucified, nailed to a wooden cross to die. But his words of God's love continue today and speak powerfully to us this Easter time.

The Bible Notes below relate to Year B.  For general Mothering Sunday Resources see also Mothering Sunday


Opening Verses of Scripture 

Psalm 107

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 

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’s 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. CW

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. CW

Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent  (Not Mothering Sunday Readings)

First Bible Reading  Numbers 21:4-9

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. NRSV

Second Reading  Ephesians 2:1-10

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. NRSV

Gospel Reading  John 3:14-21 

Jesus said to Nicodemus: ‘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 judgement, 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.’ NRSV

Post Communion Sentence


Fourth Sunday of Lent  Lord God, whose blessed Son our Saviour gave his back to the smiters 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 Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

Commentary

The two passages from the Gospels this morning are taken from the extreme ends of Jesus’ relationship with his mother, Mary. In the excerpt from Luke we meet Joseph and Mary in the temple celebrating the birth of the first born son, bringing him to be circumscribed according to the rites of their people. It should have been a joyful occasion and they have been greeted by Simeon prophesying Jesus’ greatness and heroic future life. Any parent would have been reeling from shock, even after the extraordinary events that had gone before. But it is Simeon’s prophesy about Mary’s suffering as a result of Jesus’ great calling on which we focus now. The first phrase stresses Jesus’ disruptive, transforming quality “this child is set for the rise and fall of many in Israel” and then says , almost incidentally that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart too. Note that the word chosen to describe the sword isn’t a genteel little dagger but rhomphaia meaning a huge battle weapon. This is a deadly weapon bringing death rather than injury and the selection of this word suggests Jesus’ death. The final phrase prophesying that Jesus will bring out the truth about people continues the theme that Jesus will be a catalyst for change, an force for change, a challenge for authority and bigotry down the ages.

The second part of the Gospel reading is taken from when Jesus, as a grown man in his thirties is about to die. We see Mary choosing to watch her son’s suffering, rather than leave him. We see that she waits with her women friends all the long hours when Jesus suffers on the Cross. Jesus displays equal loyalty to her, thinking of her plight as a widow and consigned her into the care of his disciple John. In the sermon today I shall be thinking about what that gesture implies for Jesus’ understanding of what family means, but here we shall notice Jesus’ love and compassion for his mother, and note their mutual loyalty and sense of responsibility for the happiness and well-being of the other. We take these feeling for granted and that is why we are so deeply shocked when the bond between parent and child is wrecked by cruelty, violence or deceit.

The reading from Paul’s letter to the church family at Colosse is an appeal for them to put aside differences over heresies and factions and to concentrate on the meaning of Christianity. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another”. Paul saw that the little church was being pulled apart by disputes and begged them to be governed by compassion, patience, kindness, gentleness and humilty. All these peacemaking, reconciling qualities are essential for family life in every form. Joan Crossley
 

Meditation

My nomination for Best Film this year wouldn’t be “Brokeback Mountain” although it was very moving, nor “The Constant Gardener” although we loved it.,. I would nominate a very unusual; movie, filmed in black and white, (with no violence, special effects nor graphic sex scenes) called “Goodnight and Good luck”. The film was written and directed by George Clooney and he takes a major role. But there is an even better reason to see this film, (if you can) because it is about moral choices and standing up publicly for what is right. The movie is set during the onslaught on freedom of thought and political affiliation made by Senator Joe McCarthy in early 1950s America. The movie charts the attempts of a television presenter Ed Morrow to protest against McCarthy as he pursued a witch hunt against anyone who had been a Communist or even were related in someway to Communists. Morrow and his team of chain-smoking, quietly dedicated reporters felt that it was their duty to show to America how the Constitution was being subverted by these trials. By standing up to the Senator, the newsmen were risking their jobs and livelihoods. When Morrow exposed McCarthy as a vindictive bully he too came under vicious attack. But the courage of Morrow and his team helped to turn the tide in a very dark era of American history. In a sense the historical setting doesn’t matter: it could be any period where freedom of thought, or action comes under threat, where the right to worship or believe is threatened. It poses a challenge for us Christians: are we mindful of Jesus’ example in challenging authority when necessary? Or have we become lazy, complacent or fearful of campaigning against injustice? Bullies are frightening and because they do not care how much they hurt, they enjoy too much power and influence. We must not take the easy path by agreeing with what we know to be wrong. Joan Crossley
  

Hymns

Morning has broken
Give thanks with a grateful heart
Lord of all hopefulness
Be thou my vision
All praise to our redeeming Lord

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.

Lord Jesus, you know well the blessing an earthly home can bring: receive our thanks for all the love we have received in our homes, especially from those who have nurtured us from our earliest years. Hear our prayers for mothers everywhere, that they may never lose heart nor ever be taken for granted, but receive from their children the honour and love you showed to your mother, Mary, even as you were suffering on the Cross. Bless and keep them all, for your love's sake. Amen (Anglican Church in Ireland)

Remember, O Lord, all those in need: people with no good food or proper clothes, no home of their own, or no work to do; those who have neither family nor friends and no knowledge of the your love. Supply their needs. Bless those who try to help them and bring us all to trust in you.  We ask this is Jesus' name. Amen.

God our Father, we ask you to bless all who live alone, those who have lost their partner in marriage, those who have never married, those whose families are grown up and away from home and those who have outlived other members of their families and many of their friends: Be with them to assure them of your love and of their value to you every moment of their lives,
and enable them to rejoice in the fellowship of your Church on earth and in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Creator God, from whom every person and creature on earth gets life and breath, we pray for those who also create beauty, bring forth life and transform our understanding. Amen
 

Additional Material

 

Snakes are deaf to airborne sounds, so deaf that they cannot hear the snake charmersSnake charmer flute! Snakes are slow, the fastest recorded speed is about 13km/hr, they go a lot slower than we can run. Many burrowing snakes are also blind. However snakes do have a strong sense of smell, which they use to a large extent for hunting food. They also have an extra chemical sense used for hunting. This means that they can be very dangerous, because out of about 2500 different species of snake, approximately 20 % are poisonous. It was obviously one of these venomous snakes that the Israelites bumped into in the desert and which poisoned them and caused many to die.

In the reading from John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speaking of Moses lifting up a serpent in the desert during the Exodus when people were being bitten by deadly poisonous snakes. Many died - but those who looked at the bronze snake on a staff that Moses lifted up survived, they were cured of the effects of the snake bite. Now there are many ways to deal with a snake bite, but looking at a bronze snake on a pole would not be found in any medical text books. Instead you need to find an antidote or antivenin, something that will reverse the effect of the poison. So the cure which Moses provided was a miraculous spiritual event, it was God’s way of saving the people, all they had to do was trust in the cure provided.

That action of Moses became a visual demonstration of what was later to take place on the cross. We all know the bad news, that humanity is poisoned by sin, just like the Israelites were struck down by those poisonous snakes. Fortunately there is also good news, that Jesus is an antidote or antivenin for sin. 

He becomes for us just like the bronze snake on a staff, when we look at Jesus and put our trust in him we find God’s cure for all that is wrong in our world. There is no medicine which we can manufacture to cure the evil poison which infects humanity, but Jesus is the cure God has provided for the sin and evil. God looks at his poisoned world, but instead of condemning it, he provides the means whereby it can be healed and saved This is not something we do - it is entirely the work of God, his gift to us. So Jesus calls for us to look at his cross and see that he has taken all the world’s darkness upon himself and in so doing we are miraculously healed. Thank God. Charles Royden

Meditation

The supreme happiness of life
is the conviction that we are loved;
loved for ourselves, 
or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. 
- Victor Hugo -

Prayers

Jewish Prayer
The following is a Prayer for Peace that is traditionally included in the Shabbat (Saturday) service. It is chanted together and alike most prayers in Judaism it is drawn from Biblical sources.

May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease when a great peace will embrace the whole world Then nation shall not threaten nation and humankind will not again know war. For all who live on earth shall realize we have not come into being to hate or destroy We have come into being to praise, to labour and to love. Compassionate God, bless all the leaders of all nations with the power of compassion. Fulfill the promise conveyed in Scripture: "I will bring peace to the land, and you shall lie down and no one shall terrify you. I will rid the land of vicious beasts and it shall not be ravaged by war." Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream. Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea. And let us say: Amen

Christian Prayer
The following verse is taken from the from the Holy Bible and expresses our conviction that God is in control and will restore this world to himself. (Isaiah I 2:4).
He shall judge between nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

 

Hymns

  1. Now thank we all our God
  2. Give thanks with a grateful heart 
  3. At the name of Jesus
  4. Father we love you 
  5. Amazing Grace