The Fifth Sunday in Lent

You are most welcome to join us in worship this Fifth Sunday in Lent. Today our service is led by Rev Robert Frede, our prayers our written by our intercessions team and an anthem and hymn have been specially selected.

Opening Prayer

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The Readings

The Old Testament: Jeremiah 31: 31-34
The New Testament: Hebrews 5: 5-10
The Gospel Reading:  John 12: 20-33

The Sermon

In this Sunday’s gospel reading we gain a glimpse of Jesus reacting with two of his disciples. Philip and Andrew came to tell him that some Greeks had arrived asking to see him. As he so often did, Jesus answered indirectly. He didn’t say, “Send them away” or “Sure let them come in.” Instead, he took the moment to teach – to lay out a reality that his followers needed to understand. It was as if Jesus were saying, “Oh, they want to see me, do they? Okay, I will let them see what I am all about. I will let them know what God is doing.”

His reply to Phillip and Andrew indicated his readiness for what would be his final days and the climatic encounter between the ways of the world and the way of God. He said that it was time for him to reveal what all humankind would see about him and his role in the divine drama. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

This must have elated and excited his disciples and the Greeks, if they heard him, because they surely thought that by being “glorified” Jesus meant he would make all things well. Having recently experienced Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, perhaps they thought he would work even greater wonders and bring an end to their difficulties in life. Or, maybe, they were thinking about one of the traditional expectations of how the Messiah would restore Israel – by a glorious military victory. Maybe they thought he meant it was time for him to prevail over all the world’s kingdoms, whose leaders would cower before his conquering feet.

Any such euphoria, however, would have been short-lived. It was a different kind of wonder that would be revealed, a different kind of conquest that Jesus had in mind – the conquest of the cross. Jesus immediately began to lay out the hard truth of what lay ahead. In a similar way, as we worship one week away from Palm Sunday, our gospel reading lets us see what lies ahead for us in making the Holy Week journey.
Jesus used a parable to explain how not only Greeks but everyone would see him. “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.” A seed, by itself, is only a small piece of matter. If eaten, it provides a little bit of nourishment. If left in the blazing sun, it can dry up and lose its value. If sealed in a jar, it can remain viable for centuries. But even then, it is only potentially powerful. But if it is buried and dies beyond its present condition, it can release all that is contained within – the very nature and substance of a whole stalk of ripened wheat.

His own death and resurrection would be the vehicle through which not only his disciples and curious Greeks, but all humankind, could see Jesus – truly see what he was all about. It was by dying that the power of God contained in Jesus would be fully released. By “glorified,” Jesus meant crucified. Jesus was saying that only by his death could true life come. Just as a grain of wheat, remaining unfruitful in the protective security of a barn, can only release its power by being buried and dying to what it has been.

Making sure there would be no mistaking the stark reality of what he meant, Jesus added this amplification to the parable: “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” So, what was true for Jesus, he said, was also true for his followers. Those who would truly see him would know that only by their deaths to the values of the world could they gain true life. The Christian reality is that only in dying to self can the power of God be embraced and released. Jesus laid out this model not just for the disciples to see but also to emulate. He said, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.”

Often in the course of human experiences – those of past centuries as well as current times – this truth has proved itself out. When concerned and committed people are prepared to die for their cause, much can be achieved. It was by the deaths of the courageous faithful that Christianity first grew. This is summed up in a well-known phrase by Tertullian, a Christian writer in the first century: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Often, people become of real use to God by burying their own goals and desires. Think about the saints. Think about your personal heroes. Aren’t they the ones who put aside personal safety and security for the sake of others? Haven’t they abandoned selfish gain and the advancement of personal need to meet the needs of others? Whenever the world gains spiritual health, it often owes such a condition to those who spend their strength and give themselves away to God and to others.

In today’s gospel, Jesus lets us see an initial view of him as the prototype – the perfect example – of the kind of risk-filled living that love of God requires. The world teaches that we will live longer and prosper more if we watch out for ourselves, if we are careful and avoid risk, if we remain in our homes safe and secure. Jesus teaches that by so doing, we may life longer or in greater comfort, but we will not live as well. He helps us see that real living – genuine, meaningful living – involves much more.

Only by spending our lives, he says, can we keep our true lives. Jesus calls us into a “give-it-away” faith. He calls us into a realm not of our ordinary world, but into one that stands in sharp contrast – the world of God. Jesus calls us beyond the common, selfish goals of false security. He calls us to see him – to see his vision – a new view of life, a life of meaning and of glory.

Unlike his fellow Jews, Jesus viewed glory not as the acquisition of power or the ability to control their own destiny after centuries of foreign rule, but he looked at glory as the ability to serve others for a greater purpose. In the encounter in today’s gospel, he taught that only dying to self can bring forth the kind of redeemed life God has in store for us; only by spending life can we retain it. Only in this context can we do what the Greeks hoped to do – see Jesus for what he is for the world. Only in the context of dying to self and living in God can we see the essential Jesus. Only in this way can we see him for what he really is – the living image of God.

As we move rapidly toward Holy Week, we would do well to come as the Greeks before the Lord – asking to see Jesus – to discover what he is all about. As we witness the ultimate example that he provides, we can follow him into a life of true meaning and become transformed by what we see.


Rev. Robert Frede


The Intercessions

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ, as our great High Priest and mediator. Through him we bring our petitions and intercessions before you. Grant to us, we humbly pray, open minds and contrite hearts, that we may listen to the directions of your Holy Spirit and have the conviction and courage to obey.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Gracious Lord, the seeds of armed conflict are easily sown without thought for the destruction caused by their germination and growth. Once again, we pray to you for peace in our world. Where there are ideological differences and hatreds we pray for respect, tolerance, and understanding. Grant that through dialogue and patience new visions of compromise and coexistence may arise for the benefit of all humankind.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Lord, in the wake of the recent elections in The Netherlands we pray for wisdom and skill in the formation of a new government. Grant that the resulting coalition may provide the impetus towards a sustained recovery from the current pandemic. We also pray that our Heads of State, Willem Alexander and Elizabeth, may be guided to help maintain social cohesion and stability as our countries strive to find a new normality.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

We give thanks for the work of our Bishops, Robert, and David, our Archdeacons and Deans, and their supporting staffs. Guide them as they lead us on our earthly journey so that spiritual and pastoral guidance may be continually available throughout our diverse and widespread diocese.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

In our diocesan prayer cycle, today we pray for the witness of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia.
Many churches throughout the world continue to be persecuted for their faith. Grant that suspicion and fear may be replaced by respect and understanding, so that the grace of the gospel message may continue to be offered in every corner of the earth.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

We give you thanks for the support of our host Bishop, our host chaplain, and visiting clergy during our interregnum and for the unwavering engagement and fellowship of our members. As the appointment of a new chaplain draws closer, we pray for your continuing guidance in the selection process.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

We pray for relief from the pandemic. We give thanks for the successful development of vaccines and beseech you to grant success to the efforts to reduce the rate of new infections.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

We praise you for the skill and devotion of healthcare professionals and for the organisations providing the structures within which they work. Particularly, in this period of extra stress, we thank you for their inspiring stamina and devotion to duty.
Lord Jesus, your earthly life was marked by many instances of healing, where health and strength were restored, and faith re-awakened. Look upon all the sick and distressed in our communities, their families, friends, and networks. We pray for their relief from pain, the lifting of depression and doubt, and the renewal of physical and spiritual health.
Grant everlasting rest to all who have died in the faith and give comfort to their bereaved families and friends.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Lord, as we set our eyes towards the season of Passiontide and the bright joy of Easter, help us to reflect upon our meditations during Lent. Grant that we may use the opportunity to reset our lives and attitudes so that we may grow in the stewardship of our beautiful natural world and in your divine service.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers which we offer in the name of your Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.


Anthem and Hymn

The anthem for Sunday is: Drop, drop, slow tears – Kenneth Leighton

The hymn is: NEH 700 – There’s a wideness in God’s mercy


Closing Prayers

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us
that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters
we do also for you:
give us the will to be the servant of others
as you were the servant of all,
and gave up your life and died for us,
but are alive and reign, now and for ever. Amen.


The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.