Holy Communion for 21st March – 5 th Sunday of Lent This is a spoken, self-standing service. You can read it alone, aloud or silently, as you wish. If there is someone with you where you are, you might like for one of you to be the leader, with others reading the responses in bold type. It is a good idea to sit quietly for few moments to settle your mind before you start, and you might like to light a candle to help you focus.

Prayer of preparation.


Almighty God, to whom all hearts are 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. Penitence. The grace of God has dawned upon the world through our Saviour Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself to purify a people as his own. Let us confess out sins. Pause for reflection Lord our God, in our sin we have avoided your call. Our love for you is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early. Have mercy on us, deliver us from judgment, bind up our wounds and revive us, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. May the almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon and forgiveness of all our sins, tine for amendment of life and the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Collect: 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. Amen.

Old Testament reading: Jeremiah 31.31-34. The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Gospel reading: John 12.20-33. Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say - “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. Reflection. As we enter the season of Passiontide, our readings raise fundamental questions about what it means to follow Jesus. Jeremiah prophesied from 627 to the late 580s B.C., when control of Jewish territory passed between Assyria, Egypt and Babylon. Eventually Jerusalem was destroyed, and its population exiled in Babylon, fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah and others that continued failure of Hebrew leaders to follow God’s way would lead to national devastation. In today’s reading, Jeremiah says God will set up a new relationship, with each individual Israelite rather than the nation as a whole. Disobedience by national leaders no longer condemns the whole nation. Instead, each person is responsible for choosing – or not - to follow God’s law. Incidentally, the phrase “God’s Law” does not mean a harsh and unforgiving code which miserable Israelites must comply with - or else. Faithful Jews delighted in, and still delight in, the law, as the Psalms and other writings make clear, for its power to guide and direct their lives, and the access it gives to relationship with God. John explains how Jesus moves towards the climax of crucifixion and resurrection. The “Greeks” who wanted to see Jesus were almost certainly not people from Greece. Greek culture and language were then still widespread, as a cultural hang-over from the much earlier conquests of Alexander the Great. (Remember, our

New Testament was written in Greek.) The word “Greek” here simply means “gentile”, that is, nonJew. (Remember also that Paul later wrote that under God there would be “neither Jew nor Greek” – meaning neither Jew nor Gentile.) These gentiles came up to worship at the Passover feast. Jews welcomed gentiles who wanted to participate in their faith without formal conversion – they called them God-fearers. But these God-fearers wanted to take the further step of meeting Jesus, perhaps foreshadowing Jesus saying later in the reading that he will draw all people to himself. Jesus explains the necessity of his coming death, using the metaphor of a grain of wheat dying to produce many grains; and that, horrible as the prospect was, defaulting on his Father’s will would be worse. A few verses later, he speaks of the consequences of his being “lifted up” – a double meaning which could refer both to being raised up on the cross and to his subsequent exaltation at God’s right hand. The “ruler of this world” is usually understood as Satan, but it might have been heard by the people there at the time as suggesting Rome. Let’s not quibble. We can understand this as meaning that neither the might of great earthly powers, nor Satan himself, can stand in the way of God in Christ. Now we must come back to Jeremiah’s prophecy. God’s law is in our hearts. We know what we are supposed to do. Jesus makes clear that if we claim to serve him, we must follow him. We need not endure the cross – he has done that for us. But our service should cost us something, as we try to shape our lives around his commands, letting go of habits and thoughts which hold us back. As we approach Easter, we must ask again the three questions which matter most to human beings trying to live well: who am I? whose am I? and what am I for? The Creed. Let us declare our faith in God. We believe in God the Father, from whom every family in earth and heaven is named. We believe in God the Son, who lives in our hearts through faith, and fills us with his love. We believe in God the Holy Spirit, who strengthens us with power from on high. We believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Intercessions Say your own prayers for people who need God’s comfort, for all who suffer in any way, and for yourself. You can use these prayers if you like. God of love, whose compassion never fails; we bring before you the griefs and perils of peoples and nations; the necessities of the homeless; the helplessness of the aged and weak; the sighings of prisoners; the pains of the sick and injured; the sorrow of the bereaved. Comfort and relieve them, O merciful Father, according to their needs, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. Almighty God, by your mercy do not let our minds be cast down by any troubles of this life, let no hurtful temptation have dominion over them, let no darkness of unbelief hold them captive. But, illuminated by the light of your face shining on us, may we always walk securely on the sure ground of the true faith. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer. Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that 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.


Act of Contrition. I love you, Jesus, my love above all things, and I repent with my whole heart of having offended you. Never permit me to separate myself from you again, grant that I may love you always, and then do with me what you will. Act of Spiritual Reception. O loving God, in union with Christian people throughout the world and across the centuries gathered to make Eucharist, hearing your holy Word and receiving the Precious Body and Blood of your dear Son, I offer you praise and thanksgiving. Even though I am exiled from tasting the Bread of Heaven and drinking the Cup of Life I pray that you will unite me with all the baptised and with your Son who gave his life for us. Come Lord Jesus, dwell in me and send your Holy Spirit that I may be filled with your presence. Jesus, as the hem of your garment, touched in faith, healed the woman who could not touch your body, so may the soul of your servant be healed, for though I cannot receive you in the sacrament I can, through this offering of my prayer, receive you in my heart; grant this for Christ’s sake. Amen. O Lord and heavenly Father, we your humble servants entirely desire your fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching you to grant, that by the merits and death of your Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all your whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. Amen.

Conclusion May Christ give us grace to grow in holiness, deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him. And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among us and remain with us, now and forever. Amen.