Sunday 9th May 2021
Honour and majesty are before the Lord, strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, fear before him all the earth.
Almighty God whose will is our peace and whose service is freedom, be merciful to us. Receive us as we enter into your nearer presence to offer worship and praise. May our words and thoughts ever be acceptable to you.
Hear us now as before you we confess the sins we have both wittingly and unwittingly committed. We are so often ungrateful for the blessing you pour on us. We are guilty of always seeking more for ourselves and fail to think of others and their needs. Be gracious and make us heartily sorry for our faults and ever ready to forgive those who trespass against us. So may we know the blessing of forgiveness and kept safe from further transgression.
O God who gives power to the faint, courage to the fearful and strength to the weary, make us strong to serve you day by day. By our deeds as much as by our words may we proclaim your goodness to the world. To this end protect us from all that would frustrate our endeavours, hinder our progress or disturb our peace. Let our faith in Christ inherited from all who have gone before motivate us in your service and teach us the ways in which we can ensure that it is passed on to the generations to come.
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 debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, Forever. Amen.
St John 12:35-50
A thought for today
The artist William Holman Hunt is best remembered for his painting, “The light of the World”, which hangs in the chapel of Keble College, Oxford. There is a larger and better-known version of the painting in St Paul’s Cathedral.
The original took the artist many years to complete. Part of the reason for this was his desire to perfect the dawn, and he did not feel able to do this until his travels in the Middle East took him to Bethlehem where he saw the perfect sunrise.
The picture shows Christ standing at a door, one hand holding a lantern and the other reaching out to knock. The door has no handle and is overgrown with ivy, suggesting that it has never been opened. Below the figure, though hard to read, are words from Revelation, “Behold I stand at the door and knock”. It is a picture full of symbolism and is said to represent Christ offering the light of salvation, though until the door is opened it cannot pass through.
It is not just artists who can appreciate light. Human beings are literally children of light. Without it we are handicapped indeed. Perhaps this is a consequence of the way that God created the world. Genesis tells us that in the beginning the earth was without form with darkness on the face of the deep. It was then that God began his creation by bringing light into being and when God saw the light he saw that it was good.
Throughout the Old Testament light and God go together. The Psalmist is able to sing, “the Lord is my light and my salvation” and Isaiah tells us that “the Lord will be your everlasting light”.
The claim Jesus made to be the light of the world has its roots in the Old Testament and in the Jewish belief that the function of God’s people is to be a light to the gentiles. For John this claim appears to have been of particular significance. His Gospel is different from the others. It is not so much concerned with the story of Jesus as with what he had to say. He records several occasions when Jesus speaks of himself as light. Presenting Jesus as the light of the world was something that would be more readily understood in the world beyond Judaism than the emphasis on Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah which is central to the others.
At the time light had a universal religious significance. It can be said that light was the first thing people worshipped for most primitive religions had a sun god. A basic human belief is that light is good and darkness evil and therefore to be feared. John recognised the place of light in Judaism and pagan religion and sought to use it to build a bridge between the two.
Looking back we can recognise that this was a wise choice. Light is the great revealer enabling us to see things as they are. Jesus is the revealer too, the revealer of the love of God. Light enables us to find our way. Try to do that in the dark and we soon realise how true that is. While without light we can make some progress it is always at the risk of stumbling and falling. Jesus has shown us in the light of his love how human life is meant to be lived. It is in that light that we see, as often we pray, the hurtfulness and hatefulness of so much of human behaviour.
This relationship can only be taken so far. Light has limitations. The day has its hours of light, but except beyond the polar circles at certain times of the year, darkness always comes banishing light for a time. Thanks to the resurrection and ascension there are no limits to the presence of Jesus with us. As the Holman Hunt painting tries to show even when we keep the door shut he is there knocking, ever ready to come in, provided the door is opened.
There is, however, one other similarity. There is a certain unquenchable quality of light. It is one we forget because today there is so much light pollution that we cannot see and properly appreciate the light of the stars that has travelled vast distances to reach us. Many of us will remember the dark days of the miner’s strikes in the 70s. those days were not dark because of the strike but because of the need to ration power. I remember driving over the hill from Kirkoswald to Dailly one evening. The Girvan valley was dark, except for one little glimmer on the far side. Later I discovered that it had come from a candle in a farmhouse window. At the moment I saw it I was at least 3 if not 4 miles away. The blackness of that night was powerless to extinguish even the light of that little candle.
Jesus is the light of the world. In Him is life and the life is our light and there is nothing in this world that can extinguish it, for which we should be grateful for it is only in His light that we can find the way to true goodness and to God.
A closing prayer
Almighty God whose mercies are ever sure, we give thanks and praise for all your gracious benefits bestowed on us in the days that are gone, for those we enjoy today and are promised for ever to those who love you. We give thanks for your Son sent not only to live for us but to die that we might have life in all its fullness not just here on earth but for all eternity in your nearer presence. And we praise you that he has sent the Holy Spirit to direct our path that we may walk faithfully with him all the days of our life that goodness and mercy may be with us and we may dwell in the house of God for ever.
Eternal Father, hear our intercessions. Stir up men and women everywhere to seek out the things that are best that they may ever seek to improve life for all. We know that in your bounty you have provided more than enough for us all. May we always seek to ensure that those in need have their wants supplied rather than hoarding what we have. So may hunger and poverty cease to be a scourge on the earth.
At this time we pray for our country as we seek to make sense of what the result of the election might mean. May nothing be done or said without due deliberation that any hurts that have been caused during the campaign might be healed. Guide those whose responsibility it will be to lead the nation forward.
Almighty God who hast set our rulers over us, bless our Queen and all her house. Uphold her ministers and counsellors and bless the people of our land.
We pray for the sick and the suffering, for those who mourn the loss of loved ones and all who are drawing near to the end of this life’s journey. In everything be their strength and stay.
God bless and support his Church as she seeks to adapt to a changing world. As she seeks to grow and develop may she always hold fast to her faith in Christ and never betray the truth of the gospel delivered to her through the teachings of Jesus Christ. May we always seek to fulfil our vows to play our part in the work and witness of the congregation.
And unto you the one God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, be glory as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
The blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all, now and evermore.