- All age time
- Reading Matthew 21: 23-27 (Good News Bible)
- Prayer for others
Welcome and let us worship God
‘Let the gospel of Christ dwell among you in all in all its richness: teach and instruct one another with all the wisdom it gives you.” Colossians 3: 16
All age time (for 0-100 years)
- Over the week: let’s make a kind of model or frieze of the Holy Week story, with something added each day to reflect that part of the story. There will be a short service each day telling the story of Holy Week, with suggestions for what to do.
If you have a tray that is spare, use it, adding something to it each day
If you have a large sheet of paper cut things out/ colour them, stick them on
- Today’s Bible story is part of a long discussion that Jesus had with people who disagreed with him, and challenged him on many different points. He also told many stories designed to help people remember what he said. One of them was of a shepherd sorting sheep and goats, and using that as a way of saying that God knows and notices all the little things we do to help other people – whatever we do to help someone else, God counts as doing for him
- Something to make: if you are using a tray, put a model or picture of a sheep on it. If you are making a frieze stick on some pictures of sheep and goats (together or apart)
What love is this, to come among us as one of us
the Creator become one of his creatures
the Almighty, the Infinite, the Eternal
become limited by time, space and human frailty?
Yet freely you did it to share our experience
to free us, to redeem us
to make us your own for ever
All too often, like the crowds, we keep our distance
We don’t want to be involved
to wrestle with knowing and understanding you better
facing the hard questions about life and death
and being your people
We don’t express thanks and appreciation for all that you have done for us
Fill us with a longing to serve you
to live lives that give you glory and honour
and help in the building of your kingdom.
Through Christ our Saviour we pray. Amen
Matthew 21; 23-27
Jesus came back to the Temple; and as he taught, the chief priests and the elders came to him and asked, “What right have you to do these things? Who gave you this right?”
Jesus answered them, “I will ask you just one question, and if you give me an answer, I will tell you what right I have to do these things. Where did John’s right to baptise come from: was it from God or from man?”
They started to argue among themselves, “What shall we say? If we answer, ‘From God’, he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe John?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of what the people might do, because they are all convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”
He said to them, “Neither will I tell you, then, by what right I do these things.”
On the Tuesday of Holy Week, people from the different factions in Jewish religious life asked Jesus challenging questions, trying to catch him out. Here is what one man, Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, but someone who eventually became a follower of Jesus, might have said after he had had a meeting sometime earlier, asking Jesus questions:
I’m intrigued by this man Jesus. He says some interesting things. He says some controversial things. It’s hard to pigeon-hole him:
- I’ve met firebrands who rant and rage, who announce that the end of the world is nigh, and call down fire and brimstone on everyone – but he’s not like that. He speaks of forgiveness and a new start
- I’ve met men that are supposed to have miraculous powers. Actually most of them are charlatans out to make money from gullible folk – but he’s not like that. He helps people for free. He goes out of his way to help them. He’s low-key on PR and advertising – he even tells them to keep quiet about what he’s done
- I’ve met radicalised, rabid nationalists who are plotting revolution, who want to overthrow the whole system, who frequently resort to acts of terrorism – but he’s not like that. He talks about the need for radical change, but he also talks about peace, about loving your enemies, and he mixes with all kinds of people – social outcasts, foreigners, collaborators
So what is he about? He doesn’t seem to fit into any of the mainstream Jewish ‘denominations’ (for want of a better word). I’m a Pharisee, and proud of it. Some of what he says echoes the way we Pharisees look at life – but then at other times he seems completely opposed to our way of doing things, particularly our rituals for cleanliness.
Being a leading figure in the Jerusalem ‘establishment’, it wouldn’t look good if someone saw me speaking to him: the High Priests and their cronies would love to accuse me of fraternising with dangerous fruitcakes, and as for my fellow-Pharisees, some of them are envious of my position and would use their sharp-edged tongues to bring me down. “Did we see you speaking to that strange chap Jesus? Of course you know he’s from Galilee? You know that his family isn’t all that well off – and there are rumours about them? You now that he hangs around with a very strange crowd? You know that he doesn’t follow all our rules on what is and isn’t kosher? So why were you, one of our leaders, seen speaking to him? Makes you think – is it wise for us to have a leader who mixes with people like that?”
So anyway, I went under cover of darkness. I was genuinely interested and he was happy to talk. But it was a strange encounter. I felt that at times we were talking past each other. Was he not on my wavelength, or was he playing games with me. I would say something, but his reply seemed to address a completely different question. Sometimes I hadn’t a clue what he was on about: like saying that you have to be born again. I can just see my mother’s face at the prospect of that!
And yet I came away with a lot to think about:
- am I too tied up with keeping rules, following practices and rituals, without focussing on God, maybe as a way of avoiding focussing on God?
- I need to re-assess my picture of God. I need to re-assess my view of other people. Maybe God is not a fierce tyrant who lives above the clouds, ready to pour out fire and brimstone. Maybe he doesn’t hate those at the margins, those who have gone astray. Maybe he actually loves them and wants to win them back. Does that affect how I view them?
I’m still puzzling over who Jesus is. Is he some kind of prophet, some unofficial religious leader, or is his relationship with God special and unique? I don’t have the answers. I’m ready to keep thinking about it. But I’m still staying under the cover of darkness.
Prayers for others
During that special week in Jerusalem –
from the time he rode into the city on a donkey
to his last breath on the cross –
Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated
your abiding concern for justice and peace
your concern for the poor and the vulnerable
In his name we bring you now our prayers for others
for the poor and the vulnerable
for all who are in need
whether we know them or not…
We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us
And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us
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 debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen
Secure in God’s love
be steadfast in his service
and the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
rest and remain with you,
today, and every day, and for ever. Amen