Prayers of Approach
Holy God, we come from our busy lives into your presence,
Help us to still our hearts and listen to you.
We often forget that you walk with us.
As we gather now, help us to be more aware of who you are.
Give us the courage to admit when we don’t understand,
so that we might grow more like you in all we do.
All-powerful God of past, present and future,
keeper of promises:
we love you.
Son of Man, the way, the truth and the life,
loving despite rejection:
we love you.
Holy Spirit, living Power within,
helping, guiding, testing and transforming:
we love you.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
your unique relationship – open to us:
we love you.
Music: Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us (R&S 373)
Readings: Psalm 22:23-31
We have jumped forward in time from last week’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and the beginning of his ministry. Now he is entering the final stages and the temptation returns, from an unexpected source, Peter, and immediately after he has proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus however is determined that his disciples should be fully aware of the implications of his true identity and begins to spell out to them what it means and how it differs from their dreams.
Music: Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim (R&S 422)
Psalm 22 is a reminder of God’s love for his people experienced by the psalmist and reaching out down the ages from the very beginning and into the distant future, ‘to a people yet unborn.’ (v. 31). It’s most familiar verse however is verse one, cried out by Jesus on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Those who heard that terrible cry would have known very well what followed as it was one of the psalms used at the Passover to illustrate God’s relationship with his people. It tells of suffering and apparent abandonment but then moves on to the psalmist’s recognition that God has not ‘disdained the suffering of the afflicted one…but has listened to his cry for help.’ (v. 24). It becomes an expression of faith and trust in God.
As Jesus approaches the end of his ministry he needs to remind his followers, and especially his closest disciples, that it is not going to be easy. Suffering, and even death, lies ahead and Jesus himself cannot escape it. For Peter this is too much. He has just recognized Jesus as the Messiah and surely God’s anointed one cannot die? The Roman army commonly used crosses for the execution of criminals and insurrectionists and everyone would have understood the implications of what Jesus said. As well as the Messiah’s death being unconscionable was Peter afraid that such talk would put people off from following him?
It says a lot for Peter’s relationship with Jesus that he feels able to ‘rebuke’ him but Jesus cannot afford to let such misunderstandings and misconceptions stand in his way and responds sharply and emphatically. ‘Get behind me, Satan’ sounds particularly harsh but Jesus has to emphasise the necessity of what is to happen to him to himself as well as to Peter, the rest of the disciples and the crowd of followers.
Peter was in danger of missing the point, of letting preconceptions and popular images of the Messiah get it the way of what was really important. We are still prone to such ways of thinking and doing today. Sometimes it is ideas that get in the way, sometimes it is possessions. Jesus said, ‘If anyone would come after me they must deny themself take up their cross and follow me.’ In other words give up everything that might come between them, ideas or possessions.
It is much easier to deal with possessions than it is to recognise mistaken ideas or assumptions but even that is hard enough – just think of the story of the rich young man. Try making a list of the possessions which are most important to you (between 5 – 10 items are enough). Put them in order of importance. One way of describing a Christian is someone who puts Jesus first.
- Which items on your list would be most helpful in choosing to put Jesus first?
- Which items might get in the way of putting Jesus first?
- What do the items mean to you? How do they represent what is important?
Why not try to use one of those things to put Jesus first this week? For example you might listen to the news on the TV or radio and pray for the situations you have heard about, or contribute to a relief programme or charity. During this Fairtrade fortnight make a renewed effort to support and encourage fair trade. You could use your car to deliver a food parcel or give someone in your ‘bubble’ a lift. Be creative. And if you have chosen to do something for Lent could any of your items help you to do it?
Music: From heaven you came, helpless babe (R&S 522)
Prayers of Intercession
We pray for followers of Jesus Christ;
for those who are imprisoned for their faith,
for those who serve as missionaries,
for teachers of the faith…
We pray for those who deny themselves to serve others;
for those who work in hospitals and prisons,
for those who are carers,
for those who serve their communities as volunteers…
We pray for those who carry the weight of a cross;
for the homeless and unemployed,
for those who are ill or bereaved,
for those who struggle with mental health…
We pray for ourselves, as we follow Christ;
for strength to overcome our struggles and failures,
for our fears and worries,
for those we love, and those who love us…
Music: A glorious company we sing (R&S 570)
As we leave this place, Lord,
bless us with the courage to let go
of things that bind us,
the strength to hold onto things
that are important,
and the wisdom to know the difference.