Dear Church Family
Carol and I hope you are all well. I am posting this a little early this week to share some welcome good news. After discussion with the church wardens and the PCC, we have decided that we can begin the process of returning to a service in church. With the COVID rates falling and the most vulnerable of the congregation having had at least one dose of vaccine, we feel it is appropriate to take this step.
Our first Sunday service will be in just ten days on Palm Sunday, March 28th at 10 a.m. We will again follow the pattern of social distancing by only using the marked seating, wearing masks and listening to recorded music rather than singing.
It will be lovely to see many of you again after two months of online contact.
There will be no gathering on Good Friday, but the church will be open for private prayer and some printed resources will be available. I will also repost the document from last year for private reflection (several of you said you found it helpful).
We also heard at the PCC, that considerable progress has been made on the tower renovations and the gap between funds raised and funds needed is narrowing encouragingly.
This Sunday is Passion Sunday, and we are in the lead up to Easter. Today’s passage has always been a favourite of mine. It tells of the quest of some Greeks who want to see Jesus.
(John 12:20) Some Greeks were among those who had gone to Jerusalem to worship during the festival.
(21) They went to Philip (he was from Bethsaida in Galilee) and said, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”
(22) Philip went and told Andrew, and the two of them went and told Jesus.
(23) Jesus answered them, “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to receive great glory.
(24) I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains.
(25) Those who love their own life will lose it; those who hate their own life in this world will keep it for life eternal.
(26) Whoever wants to serve me must follow me, so that my servant will be with me where I am. And my Father will honour anyone who serves me.
(27) “Now my heart is troubled—and what shall I say? Shall I say, ‘Father, do not let this hour come upon me’? But that is why I came—so that I might go through this hour of suffering.
(28) Father, bring glory to your name!” Then a voice spoke from heaven, “I have brought glory to it, and I will do so again.”
(29) The crowd standing there heard the voice, and some of them said it was thunder, while others said, “An angel spoke to him!”
(30) But Jesus said to them, “It was not for my sake that this voice spoke, but for yours.
(31) Now is the time for this world to be judged; now the ruler of this world will be overthrown.
(32) When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.”
(33) (In saying this he indicated the kind of death he was going to suffer.)
In the mixed economy of the Roman world different people found themselves in different places for political or commercial reasons. Just like today, some spectate on the lands they visit and some made an effort to engage with the culture. We know from Paul in Athens that Greeks have great curiosity in the area of religion and worship, and it is totally in character for Greeks to try out the local religious festivals.
If we wanted to give a 21st century name to these folks I guess that a good one would be ‘seekers’. Perhaps they were aware that for all their multiplicity of gods their culture had not provided for them anything that satisfied. They were there to taste and see what Judaism had to offer.
Many Greek gentiles were drawn to Judaism because of the clarity of monotheism (as opposed to the confusion of a plethora of gods) and the strong sense of moral right and wrong that was almost completely absent from the worship of Greek gods.
What had brought them that day we can only speculate on but it might have gone something like this.
Some traders had set up home in the Greek quarter of Jerusalem and from time to time they would gather and talk about home. Because of the policy of dispersing conquered peoples all over the empire they had known some Jews back in Athens and the stories those Jews would tell of the great festivals. Passover was a religious holiday and there was a window of opportunity for them to take in elements of the feast. However, there was another sound on the wind and they had been hearing it ever since they arrived. A man called Jesus had been drawing crowds and it was said that when he spoke and taught the words could turn you inside out. People would travel for days just to hear him and right here and right now he was in town.
We are not told how many Greeks there were. I guess for some reason I had always pictured just two but there may have been a dozen. It may also have been that they were influential figures in the community because when they did tie the disciples down what on the face of it seemed to be their simple request threw the disciples into a spin.
Just listen to this tizzy: –
21 They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: 22 Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus.
They clearly were not sure what to do with a group of influential gentile seekers. But they did deduce that Jesus would know what to do and what to say and sure enough he did. He used it as a teaching opportunity to outline his mission. And when the sermon came it was a sermon with signs following.
So, Jesus says, all my life I have known this moment would come. I will not back out now. You Greeks have actually turned up at the pivotal moment because you have come on the day when I declare I need to make the hard choice that will bring greatest glory to my father in heaven.
Something exciting is about to happen!
It was a cliff hanger moment.
What followed was the voice of God into the situation.
In 2021, we are like the Greeks. We want to know what God is saying to a world, a nation, a village, a church seeking to emerge from a Pandemic.
Our village/parish may be on the verge of the biggest change it has ever faced.
This Easter we seek the voice of God and we want to know how God will be glorified as we seek to build the kingdom where we are. May we have ears to hear what The Spirit is saying to the church.
May God bless us and keep us.
In the place of next week’s reflection, I will be posting the text of the sermon after the Sunday service. I hope to see many of you there.