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O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:
open the doors of our hearts,
that we may seek the good of others
and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace,
to the praise of God the Father.
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
My soul shall glory in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look upon him and be radiant
and your faces shall not be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me
and saved me from all my troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him
and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is gracious;
blessed is the one who trusts in him.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘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.’
… so that everyone who believes in him may not perish …
The words that Jesus speaks to Nicodemus in today’s reading are so well known. For some they are familiar as the text of a short choral composition by John Stainer and set at the heart of his musical meditation on the events of Holy Week: The Crucifixion. For some, these words are an essential text which succinctly summarizes Christ’s earthly mission of love and service. For some, these are words of consolation and hope recited at the beginning of the funeral service. Whatever context you may give these words, and whether or not you remember that Jesus first spoke them to Nicodemus, they are a compact and powerful reminder of all that Jesus did for humanity.
Throughout scripture there is an ongoing theme of sacrifice. In earlier times there were many references to the sacrificing of animals. There is also talk of tithing, the sacrificial giving of one-tenth of our worldly wealth for the furtherance of God’s mission in this world. There are also accounts of those who have given all as acts of love and service to God. Early in scripture we read of the readiness of faithful Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, because it was commanded by God. Of course, we go on to read that Abraham’s unswerving faith was rewarded and that Isaac was spared. But … that is not the case in today’s famous reading from John’s gospel. Today we are reminded of the playing out of the sacrifice of God’s own Son … right to the bitter end.
Less than two weeks ago we shared in the desolation of Golgotha. We gathered at the foot of the cross and we wept as Jesus died the cruel sacrificial death of crucifixion. But … three days later our despair turned to indescribable joy. Yes, the human Jesus died, but the divine Jesus then conquered death in a way that had never been seen before, and will never be seen again. And, furthermore, that sacrificial death and the subsequent resurrection was not just a display of personal power, but a sacrificial gift for the whole of humanity, for ever.
The sacrifices we are called to make in our daily lives give rise to much anger and resentment but, in reality, they are inconsequential when measured against the level of sacrifice offered by Jesus, God’s own Son. He gave his life … for us. He overcame the power of death … for us. He took the sins of the world upon himself … for us. He offers, through his sacrifice, forgiveness to each and every one of us, that we may not perish.
Let us give thanks that God does, indeed, love this world so much.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray in the power of the Holy Spirit who guides and enables the people of God.
As your word has been revealed from the days of Abraham until his time, make us faithful in our generation to believe your promises and follow the guidance of your Holy Spirit.
God who loved the world even to sending the Son to be its Saviour, come among us for the healing of conflict between nations and races. Draw those who hold power and influence into the presence of Christ, to know his love and to make it their own in all their dealings.
Lift up our eyes to see the grace of God in all around us. Lift up our hearts to be his messengers to our families and friends and in our community. Help us to find in what is familiar the new birth of his love.
Have mercy on those who have lost their way and no longer seek to know God and to do his will. May the life-governing Spirit bring healing to the sick , and strength to those who minister to them.
May the souls of those who have died be gloriously born again to the eternal life where love is complete and the night of seeking turns to the perfect day. May we too in our time be born again in glory.
We pray in the name of Christ, lifted up in pain and in triumph for our sake.
Prayer for the week
We give thanks, O God our Father,
for the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord from the dead:
for his victory over sin and the grave;
for his risen presence in our daily lives;
for his promise of life immortal with him.
Accept our praise,
and teach us day by day to live rejoicingly
in the faith of him who died for us,
and rose again,
and is alive for evermore,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who 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.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.