Worship at Home for Sunday 7th March - Lent 3


Opening Prayer

God, whose temple is the whole creation,
we praise you for the signs of spring:
crocuses breaking through the cold earth,
early morning sunshine through the clouds,
days lengthening.
We praise you that earth tells us of your presence.
God, whose temple is found in community,
we praise you for the people around us:
our families and friends,
the neighbours we’d like to know more,
the strangers who surprise us with kindness.
We praise you that we look at others and glimpse you.
God, whose temple is written into our bodies,
we praise you for our human bodies, and we praise you that our bodies are a temple of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Hymn: Love divine, all loves excelling

     


Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven to earth come down,
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesu, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter every trembling heart.

Come, almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return, and never,
never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee, without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish then thy new creation,
pure and spotless let us be;
let us see thy great salvation,
perfectly restored in thee:
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise!

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)



Let us pray together


Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are wisdom in our world; you flow through creation and consciousness.
Our attempts to house you in bricks and mortar are foolish. Come to us as we gather here within this church made to honour you, and lift the stones from our hearts, so that we may be your Church in word and in deed. Amen

Today’s Gospel Reading: John 2: 13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Time to Reflect

When I am writing we are in the middle of a lockdown. Many of our church buildings are closed for public worship, though a few are open. We have had to get used to worshipping in our homes, using You Tube videos or Zoom video meetings, or through worship sheets like this one, or a mixture of all three and perhaps other possibilities. Many will miss the architecture and the atmosphere of their building, or the fellowship and bustle and chatter before and after services. Some people have been deprived of that for nearly a year. This causes us to ask what makes a church?

In the story we just read, Jesus was forcing people to face the same question. Traditionally there was only one “house of God” for the Jews - the Temple. That was where God dwelt. There is very little archaeological evidence of synagogue buildings in and before Jesus’ time - some scholars would say there was none. There is evidence in Jewish writings that synagogue meetings happened in this period, but not perhaps in dedicated buildings. The house of God was the Temple. And, as you may imagine if there is only one house of God it becomes even more special. And here Jesus is, wading into this holy place, clearing it out and laying down rules as to who can do what there! What right had he? Jesus would appear to be claiming to be the “messenger of the covenant” whom God promised to send to his Temple in Malachi 3: 1-4, who would purify not only the Temple, but God’s people - starting with the religious officials! But then he gets even more radical. When he says “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days”, he is essentially saying God is not living in the Temple Herod built, but in his own body. He is the real temple, the real house of God.

Do we tend to get too attached to our local building? Sometimes churches are called Bethel, which is Hebrew for “house of God”, and sometimes we think God dwells there and we feel we cannot worship him anywhere else. Jesus challenges that way of thinking. He is the one above all in whom God dwells. In him God became flesh and dwelt among us. And it is in drawing closer to Jesus in a personal relationship that we enter God’s house and offer him the worship he truly seeks. And we can do that anywhere - in our kitchen as much as in St. Paul’s Cathedral, or in our local chapel. Draw close to Jesus, and he will draw us close to the Father and the Spirit, so we can worship him in Spirit and in truth.

Take a time to sit quietly

A time of prayer

In the name of the one who came to cleanse the Temple, we pray for the institutions by which we organise our society: for churches and chapels and house groups; for educational establishments; for places of healing, law and order, commerce and recreation.

May they serve the greater good, and adapt to the changing needs of the time. In the name of the one who came to redeem the world, we pray for those institutions by which we regulate global relations: for governments and rulers, democracies, monarchies and dictatorships; for bodies that regulate trade, diplomacy and the balance of peace; for environmental, development and welfare organisations.

May they serve the greater good, and adapt to the changing needs of the time. I n the name of the one who came to save us from ourselves, we pray for those institutions we have in our lives: for our friends, families and colleagues; for our local communities; for the church communities to which we belong.

May they serve the greater good, and adapt to the changing needs of the time. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father . . .

The All Saints Prayer

Eternal Father
Look with love on your people of All Saints’
And pour upon us the gifts of your spirit.
Draw us to you and to one another
That our growing unity may bring healing
and life to all;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

Hymn: King of kings, majesty

     

King of kings, majesty,
God of heaven living in me.
Gentle Saviour, closest Friend,
Strong Deliverer, Beginning and End,
all within me falls at your throne.
Your majesty, I can but bow;
I lay my all before you now.
In royal robes I don’t deserve,
I live to serve your majesty.

Earth and heaven worship you,
Love eternal, faithful and true,
who bought the nations, ransomed souls,
brought this sinner near to your throne;
all within me cries out in praise.
Your majesty, I can but bow;
I lay my all before you now.
In royal robes I don’t deserve,
I live to serve your majesty,
I live to serve your majesty.

Jarrod Cooper
Words and Music: © 1996 Sovereign Lifestyle Music Ltd


A prayer of blessing


The almighty and merciful Lord,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
bless us and keep us, now and always. Amen.

Original Materials by John E Staton

Original Materials by John E Staton
CCLI Licence 109656
Bible passages NRSV