APC 21st March 2021 “Why Jesus?”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Sunday morning worship. Today we’ll be looking at an interesting conversation between Jesus and his disciples full of strange metaphors and intrigue. As we dig into its meaning we will find the answer to one of the most important questions we can ever ask, “Why Jesus?”
But first, sit back as we turn our eyes upon Jesus and worship Him together…
(End Part 1)
Opening Song “Turn your eyes upon Jesus”
It’s amazing that when we turn our eyes and hearts towards Jesus He always sees and listens to us. Let’s do that now, let’s pray…
Great and wonderful God, we come before you in humility, in awe, in faith, in hope, in love, in worship. In your mercy, hear our prayer.
We come to praise you, to bless you, to adore you, to acknowledge you, to thank you. In your mercy, hear our prayer.
We come recognizing your power, your authority, your wisdom, your faithfulness, your goodness, your love. In your mercy, hear our prayer.
We come confessing our weakness, our unworthiness, our faults, our failings, our faithlessness, our lack of love. In your mercy, hear our prayer.
We come seeking your mercy, your guidance, your strength, your renewal, your inspiration, your word. In your mercy, hear our prayer.
We come to commit ourselves to your service, your purpose, your Kingdom, your will, your people, your world. In your mercy, hear our prayer.
Great and wonderful God, we come to you now in the name of Christ. Receive the worship we offer this day. In your mercy, hear our prayer.
Join with me now as we say the Lord’s Prayer thoughtfully and sincerely together…
Our Father, which 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.
Introduction to Kids Video
We come now to the part of our service that’s especially for the younger members of our church family. So if your kids aren’t beside you right now, why not pause the recording, and call them in to watch a short video explaining why Jesus is such good News for all of us. And at the end of this video I’ve a few words to say to the children so don’t let them rush away.
(END Part 2)
Kid’s Video Crossroads Kids Club - “God’s Story the Good News”
Kid’s Talk Summary
Hey boys and girls, I hope you enjoyed the video today. You know, we all make bad choices and do or say things that are wrong. The good news is God still loves us and Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment we deserve for all the wrong things we do. I hope you really believe that, and that you say thank you to Jesus every day. I hope you have a really good week in school and I hope to see you again next Sunday. But the big surprise is that I’ll see you on Television! So don’t forget to tune in to the RTE service next Sunday and see if you can spot anyone that you know from our church. Don’t forget to ask your mum or dad to download the colouring sheet from our Facebook page to help you remember today’s lesson. But Bye for now!
Introduction to Bible Reading
In today’s reading a group of Greek pilgrims seek out Jesus to hoping to find answers to their questions about the deep purpose of life. His answer is full of fascinating metaphors and cryptic language. Let’s listen to that now as Paddy Purser reads for us from John Chapter 12 v 20 -33.
(End Part 3)
Bible Reading Video John 12 v 20-33 Paddy Purser
Paddy, thank you so much for reading for us this morning. Pass on our best wishes to Lesley Anne, Ollie and Luke.
Reflection Why did Jesus have to die?...
One of my favourite songs of all time is the Neil Diamond song, “I am, I said.” It’s hard to know for sure what exactly the song means. Neil Diamond says he wrote the song during a difficult time in his life when He was questioning everything, including himself, after failing to secure the part for a film for which he had auditioned.
The song itself describes the turmoil of an artist on the road. He likes LA but his home is New York. Yet it’s been so long since he’s been there, it doesn’t feel like home anymore. It’s a lonely life, at times his only company is an empty chair. Like the frog who fulfils his dreams by becoming a prince, he had made his fortune and fame, but he still feels an emptiness deep inside that causes him to cry out, “I am.”
I love this song for many reasons, but particularly because the cry, “I am” is the name for God that we find in the Old Testament. It means the one who has always existed. Who just is and will always be and can be relied upon. Whether Neil Diamond, who was raised as a Jew, used this as a spiritual reference to describe His cries to God at a time of crisis I can’t be sure. What I do know is that if we’re honest, all of us at times, and especially over this last year, ask deep questions like – what’s it all about? Why am I here? What’s the purpose of life?
We’re just like the Greek tourists who had travelled to Jerusalem to experience the Jewish Passover. Sensing a connection with Philip because of his Greek name, they asked him, “Would you bring us to see Jesus?” Fascinated by philosophy and religion, they had seen and heard of Jesus on their travels. Could He be the one who would provide them with the meaning and purpose that they were looking for?
Jesus reply to their question was indirect but clear in its implications.
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
In other words, if they were looking for the meaning of life, they’d come to the right place at exactly the right time, because Jesus, who He was and why He’d come, was about to be revealed in all His glory.
The hour had come, the reason for His entire life and mission – yet bizarrely it was the hour of His death.
How could this be the answer to all their questions? How could this give these pilgrims true meaning and purpose to their lives? And how can Jesus’ death still do the same for us all these years later?
Jesus moves on to explain using an illustration from the farming world. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds.”
If a seed remains in the warm, dry security of the granary, it will never reproduce itself. It has to be buried alive in the cold, dark, grave of the soil. There it has to die. But when Easter comes, it springs to life and produces a multitude of new grain.
Here, looking back, we know that Jesus was speaking about His death. If He had clung to His life, the world would have died. But because He gave His life on the cross, there is hope of life for the world.
But why is this so? Why do we need Jesus and particularly how can his death fill the emptiness that at times we all feel inside and give us that spark of life that we all desire?
Well, again, this is something that this Pandemic points us towards. It has taught us that above all things we need relationships. Our relationships with our parents, our school friends, our grandchildren, our church family, our work colleagues and so on. Relationships are the most important aspect of our lives. Take that away and what are we left with? We are left with a life without any real meaning or purpose.
But even when we have the freedom to enjoy these things, it is still common for people to feel like something is missing in their life. We try to fill this gap with money, hard work, music, family or sport. These things do give us much pleasure but ultimately they do not satisfy the deep hunger that exists inside our human soul. Even the closest human relationships, wonderful as they are, do not in themselves satisfy this “emptiness deep inside”. That’s because you and I were created to live in a relationship with God. Until we find that relationship there will always be something missing in our lives.
As we read the New Testament, we discover that the reason for this emptiness is that all of us have turned our backs on God. In other words, we all have two books.
What I mean by that is this. If I was to write a story about the life of any one of us, including myself, I would have to write two books. One of the books would be entitled – “All the good things I have said, thought and done”. For most of us this book would be really thick with many examples of how we had worked hard or been kind to others.
But the other book would be entitled – “All the wrong things I have said, done or thought.” For most of us this book would be quite thin because over a lifetime we have hopefully done and said more good things than bad.
But the point is this - it doesn’t matter who we are, we all have two books- one recording the good things we have done, and the other recording the wrong things.
You may say to me, “Well sure, everyone’s the same, so it doesn’t really matter if I have a bad book.”
Or you may say, “Well I know I have a bad book, but it’s pretty thin. I certainly haven’t done as many bad things as such and such a person.”
My response would be to say to you, “It does matter, that you have a book of wrongs.” It matters because you might still feel guilty about some of those things. It matters because you may have hurt someone else’s feelings through some of those wrong things you have done. But above all, it matters because your book of wrongs is stopping you from being God’s friend and enjoying a relationship with Him.
That’s because God is perfect and He hates everything that is wrong. Your book of wrong things, however thin it may be, proves that you have disobeyed God. It proves that you are a sinner. That means that you are guilty of breaking God’s commands and that you deserve to be judged by Him. It doesn’t matter how thick your good book is. No amount of good actions can take away the reality of your book of wrongs.
Your book of wrongs, matters. That’s because it is the one thing that is stopping you from being best friends with the God who loves you because He made you.
Let me ask you – Have you ever stopped to think about the reality that you have a book of wrongs?
Have you ever stopped to think about how serious that is?
Do you realize that no amount of good deeds can remove that book?
Do you realize that your book of wrongs is stopping you from being friends with God?
Until you have thought through these things you will never understand why you need Jesus. And if you don’t understand this you are very unlikely to ever reach out to Him for help. Until you do that you will never experience a deep peace and contentment and sense of purpose in your life.
These were the sorts of questions that the Greek tourists in today’s gospel reading were asking. Despite all their travels, all their knowledge and all their discoveries, they still felt empty and were searching for true meaning and purpose.
Here Jesus says to them that He is the answer to their quest. They will only find satisfaction if they give their life to a greater cause than living for themselves. If they follow Him, however difficult that may prove, they will ultimately find deep contentment in this life and in the life to come. “Whoever loves their life will lose it but whoever hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me and where I am my servant will also be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.”
He becomes visibly distressed as he reasons with Himself- “Should I ask father to rescue me from this hour, no, this is the very reason I came. Father bring glory to yourself!”
The conversation is suddenly interrupted by what sounded like thunder. Yet within the rumblings many people heard the words, “I have and will glorify my name.” Some thought it was an angel. Jesus knew it was God.
“Now is the time for judgement on this world now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men unto myself.”
The gospel writer adds a note of explanation – Jesus was talking about His death.
Putting all the pieces together, in today’s reading, Jesus seems to be saying that just like a seed He must die and that will somehow just as miraculously make a way for many new seeds to be produced, for people to be drawn to Himself, for judgement to fall and the prince of the world to be defeated. What on earth does He mean and what’s the significance for you and me?
Well, it’s the answer to our book problem that I mentioned earlier. If you remember, I explained how we all have two books. One is a record of all that’s good about us. But the other is the book of all the thoughts, attitudes, words and actions that we don’t want anyone else to know about. The problem is God sees. He knows that we are guilty.
He is also right and just which means he can’t just turn a blind eye. To be true to Himself and to His own laws, God must judge all wrongdoing, including yours and mine. That means we are in danger of God’s judgement. In fact, we only deserve His punishment rather than His friendship. But He wants us to be His friends. So how can this circle be squared? Some people think if they just try really hard to be good that will fix their problem. But you see, no matter how thick your good book gets, you still have a bad book. So how can God be true to Himself, judge our bad book, and at the same time restore our broken relationship?
Well, that’s why God in Christ came from heaven to earth 2000 years ago. You see Jesus Christ is completely God and completely human. That means he was able to live a completely perfect human life. In fact Jesus Christ is the only human who ever lived who only has one book – a good book.
His greatest act of goodness was that when He was 33 years old He willingly died on a cross for you and me. When He died, He took the punishment for all the wrong things that we have ever done. What that means is that when He died, Jesus took your book of wrongs and my book of wrongs, upon Himself. (ACTION – MOVE BOOK FROM ONE HAND TO THE OTHER). In doing that, Jesus has removed the barrier that is stopping us from being God’s friend. The prince of this world has tried his best to entice us away from God and to destroy our relationship with Him. But through His death and later resurrection Jesus Christ has defeated this plan of the enemy.
So let me ask you?- Have you been questioning what life is really all about? Despite all that you have tried, do you find an emptiness deep inside and it won’t let you go? Only a living relationship with God can fill that gap. Only God in Christ can take away your book of wrongs and open up the way for you and God to be friends?
Have you come to Jesus and handed your book of wrongs over to Him? Have you asked Him to forgive you? Have you thanked Him for dying on the cross for your sins? Have you asked Him to give you the gift of His Holy Spirit to live within you? Are you willing to follow and serve Him?
If not, then don’t leave it any longer. Call out to Him, today, even during a quiet moment in this service knowing that He promised, “Whoever comes to me I will never turn away.”
Introduction to Song
Let’s respond to what we’ve been thinking about as we worship God through the song “Jesus is able to save.”
(End Part 4)
Song of Response “Jesus is able to save.”
What a beautiful song. What a wonderful Saviour. Let’s pray…
Prayers for others
Living God, we pray for all those who witness for you, all who preach and proclaim the message of Christ, who challenge people with the message of the gospel. Give them inspiration, courage and sincerity, so that their witness may lead others to know Jesus for themselves.
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.
We pray for all those who hear, all who in different ways are confronted with the challenge to respond to Christ. May those who earnestly seek find faith, those who are undecided be convinced, those who glimpse a little see more clearly, those whose faith is shallow be led to deeper understanding, and those who refuse to listen be challenged to think again.
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.
Take a moment now to pray for one or two people who you would love to find faith in Jesus…
All this we ask in the name of the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share in worship with you this morning. Thanks for tuning in. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and found it to be encouraging.
I’ve still no further confirmation of when our church can reopen for services but as vaccines continue to roll out we hope it won’t be too long until we can meet together.
One piece of exciting news is that we will be leading worship on the RTE One Sunday morning service next Sunday at 11am. This will be a special Palm Sunday service. Please do pray for all those taking part as we have our final zoom practice on Monday night and them as we head down to RTE studios next Sunday at 8am. Pray that God will give us all courage as we record live and that our message will be a great blessing to all who hear. And please tune in on TV at 11am or livestream on your phone on RTE player.
Thank you for all your prayers for Bev who is now hone from hospital. Please continue to pray for Father Padraig.
I’m conscious that many of us are weary and really struggling the longer the lockdown restrictions continue, so please do continue to keep in touch with one another and encourage one another.
But for now, let me lead you in a Benediction after which I invite you as always, to say the grace together…
Go now and proclaim the gospel, not just through words but deeds through what you say, what you do and who you are. May others as they meet with you, meet with Christ, and know His living presence for themselves. And
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
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