ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH APRIL 10, 2020

Rev. Sabrina Ingram GOOD FRIDAY

WORSHIPPING TOGETHER AT HOME

Call to Worship: 1 Peter 4:1 & 2

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.

Prayer of Adoration and Confession:

Lord Jesus, you came in the flesh to share our human nature. You breathed and ran. You touched and felt. You saw and heard. You laughed and cried. You tasted and smelled. You had family and friends. You travelled the countryside eating with the rich and the poor. You healed and brought hope to people. You taught and changed lives. You knew that this life is a beautiful gift and yet your love for humanity was so fierce, that you didn’t cling to the here and now, but in humility you followed your Father’s will and submitted to death. And not only death but the brutal, suffering of undo punishment on a cross. You felt shame. You knew injustice. You feared. You were tortured. You knew agonizing pain. You thirsted. You forgave. You felt abandoned and alone. You let go, surrendering to whatever lay ahead.

We confess that although you suffered for us, we take your death much too lightly. We take our salvation for granted. We forget your pain. We question your love for us. We demand justice in a world that showed you no mercy. Much of the time we give very little thought to what you endured on the cross for our sake. We are focused on avoiding our own suffering, grief, and loneliness. We complain when our lives are disrupted. We live for ourselves. Forgive us. Forgive us. Forgive us.

As we turn our thoughts to you now, let us remember your anguish on our behalf. Help us to be truly grateful. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon Romans 5: 7 & 8

Christ presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

Prayer for Illumination

Lord God, as we remember the passion of Jesus, give us his determination to do your will even when it leads to suffering. Amen.

Scriptures

Isaiah 53

Hebrews 12: 1 – 4 & 11 – 13

Mark 14: 53 – 72

Message: NEVER AGAIN PUT GOD LAST

In our gospel reading this morning we see two people behaving in contrasting ways. First, we have Jesus shortly after his arrest, dragged before the Jewish Council. In today’s world, that might be The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura which is the highest judicial authority in the Roman Catholic Church, or in the PCC, a Commission of General Assembly (but that doesn’t sound nearly as scary and the Jewish Council was scary). For some time, the Chief Priests had been looking something with which to charge and destroy Jesus but had come up empty. Now, they brought in witnesses to testify against him, although their testimony was contradictory and weak. As this courtroom drama unfolded, they finally put the accused on the stand. The Chief Priest asked Jesus, “What do you have to say to the accusation?” (Mark 14: 60). Jesus said nothing. The Chief Priest pushed, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed?” (vs. 61). Jesus responded, “Yes, I am, and you’ll see it yourself: The Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Mighty One, arriving

on the clouds of heaven.” (vs. 62). With those “blasphemous” words, Jesus condemned himself to death. At the same time, Peter is in the courtyard sitting in the shadows, denying he even knows Jesus. After being questioned 3 times by a servant girl, Peter finally blurts out, “I never laid eyes on this man you’re talking about.” (vs. 71). And with those words, Peter saved his own skin. One man offended people, the other offended God. One man spoke the truth, the other lied. One man said what would please God, the other said what would please people. One man stayed true to God, the other betrayed the Son.

People pleasing is a trap we easily fall into. Before my Dad died, he gave myself and my siblings our childhood report cards. Mine read: Kindergarten – “Sabrina is a people pleaser”; Gr. 1 – “S is a pp”; Gr. 2 – “S is a pp”; Gr 3 – I stopped reading. My parents thought this was great because they were the main object of my people pleasing propensity. They were wrong; people pleasers find it hard to define their values, live by their convictions or be true to their mission. They are whipped by the wind of other’s approval, rather than guided from within by the Holy Spirit. Ironically, this trait made me good minister material. About 85% of ministers self-identify as “people pleasers”. Which may explain the condition of the Church – people pleasers make weak leaders. Some sensitivity to people is good; people pleasing is not. A strong leader knows that “every decision divides” and is willing to take that risk for the greater goal and the long-term good. That’s true whether you’re the minister in a Church, an employee in a company, a CEO, a parent, a neighbour or a friend. You may have less conflict, but you will end up betraying both God and your self.

Ironically, avoiding conflict is a huge trait among Canadian Christians – partly because it’s a huge trait among polite, co-operative Canadians and partly because we take Jesus’ teaching to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5: 43) to mean we should avoid having enemies. Except we wouldn’t have to love them, if we didn’t have any, so that isn’t what Jesus meant. Having no enemies is a sure sign that your life stands for nothing. Another reason we avoid conflict is because we’re not good at resolving it; we either cave to what those around us want or we become passive aggressive. Either way we betray ourselves, because conceding out of weakness or getting our way by being sneaky and uncooperative are both forms of sin. Both compromise our integrity, and both keep us from growing into the image of Christ. Either way we betray God. A third reason is that we want to avoid discomfort and suffering. Peter denied Jesus because he wanted to avoid the distress of arrest and the pain of conviction. He didn’t want to end up on a cross. If you recall, Jesus didn’t want to end up on a cross either; he had prayed in the Garden that God would spare him that agony. And he did have a choice. Anytime in his ministry, he could have toned down his message and made it more acceptable to those in power. As he told Peter, he could have called “…to my Father, and twelve companies—more, if I want them—of fighting angels would be here, battle-ready?” (Matthew 26:34) He could have told the Council that he wasn’t the Messiah and gone free. In the end, he was more concerned about doing his Father’s will. The writer of Hebrews tells us, Jesus “never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.” (Hebrews 12: 2). Because Jesus cared more about putting God first than pleasing people, Jesus submitted to suffering an immediate agony for an eternal purpose.

There are many things in life that cause pain. Some are physical, many are emotional and spiritual. Most people prefer to avoid all forms of pain regardless of the circumstances. In this disruptive time, we all want this pandemic to end so we can get back to “normal”. Many people are finding the forced solitude extremely lonely. Boredom from a lack of outer stimulation challenges us to discover what’s within us. Whether its the chaos of war or of re-modelling your home, chaos is something we prefer to avoid. When I worked as a chaplain at UWO, I’d witness the tremendous pressure the students were under and give thanks it wasn’t me. And who wouldn’t choose something fun over something that takes effort? Who wouldn’t rather spend your money now than save for a rainy day? Who wouldn’t choose to live a good, quiet life over putting yourself on the line for what your believe? In life, and especially in God’s kingdom, the saying “no pain, no gain” holds true. We’re inclined to chose short term comfort over long term benefit. Jesus didn’t.

Jesus’ suffering on the cross came about because he chose to put God first. He wasn’t a people pleaser. He was willing not only to suffer but to die, because that was the way to redeem humanity. Through faith, we are united with Jesus – not only his life, but also his death. In Christ we put God first, we speak the truth, we accept rejection, we suffer, and we die. As we participate in his suffering, so we participate in his work of redeeming the world. The writer of Hebrews urges us on, “When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:3). Good Friday calls us not only to self-reflection, sorrow and

repentance but to take up our cross and follow Jesus. When we do, we will stop denying him, stop betraying him, and stop seeking our own security. We will never again put God last.

Offering: Lord Jesus, you laid down your life for us and now we give our lives to you. Help us to never deny you, to live only to please you and to face whatever life sends us with courage and dignity. Amen.

Prayer of Intercession and Thanksgiving:

Jesus, we thank you for you death on the cross. We are grateful that you endured such agony in order to free us from sin. We are washed clean by your blood. By your wounds we are healed. You have paid the price for the debt we incurred. Not only are we beholden to you, but we are bound to you for all time. Ask anything of us and we will do it.

We pray for our brothers and sisters who share our faith and who will inherit your kingdom with us. Give strength to your church. Free us from corruption and false teachings. Free us from sin that wounds the souls of those who are innocent. Free us from our pettiness that blinds us to our true mission. Free us from timidity that makes good deeds easier than sharing good news. Free us from judgement to live with joy and love.

In this time of pandemic, we pray for those throughout the world who are sick and fearful. They long for your healing. We pray for those who are suffering from grief over the deaths of those they love. They need your comfort. Be with those who are laden with guilt for being the carrier of this virus. They seek forgiveness. Be with those who are strained by the confines in which we live. They need your light. Be with those who are lonely. They desire your love. Be with those who are fearful. They search for your peace. Be with those who are careless. They need your truth.

Holy God, as we follow you to the grave and roll the stone shut, help us to look to ourselves and turn from the sins that have caused you to suffer and die. Amen.

Go and sit at the foot of the cross. See the cost of your sin. See what your life is worth to God.

It is usually prohibited for monks to eat meat, but the abbot one day realised that most monks had rarely eaten meat in their lifetime in the first place.

He decided that it would better for them to indulge in the taste and then learn to stave of the temptation of later consumption, so that the monks will-fully strive to be like Adam rather than doing so out of simply not knowing what it is like.

So on a sunny Thursday eve, the monks finish their prayers for the day and gather in the garden. In the garden, the head abbot gives the jobs of frying the meat to two monks; Brother Lucas and Friar Gabriel.

As the barbecue starts, the monks all take food from each server at a fairly similar rate. As the evening progresses however, Brother Lucas starts to get less and less monks asking him for food.

It gets to the point where he is alone on one side of the garden whilst everyone else is crowded around Friar Gabriel on the other.

Feeling annoyed, he goes to the Abbot.

“Father, I do not understand. Why is it that they flock to him and not I?” Brother Lucas asks.

“Well my child it’s rather simple,” the Abbot says.

“You may be a monk, but you aren’t a friar”