Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 16 January 2022

by Rev Raymond Lunt 16 January 2022

Today is the third in the series of services based on some key elements of Christian belief contained in the Apostles Creed.  After expressing belief in God as maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus , conceived of the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary, the Creed immediately moves to his death saying that he suffered under Pontius Pilate and (to quote) “was crucified, dead and buried”.  So, today we focus on the Crucifixion, the questions it raises and its significance for our faith today.

Our first hymn expresses some of the conclusions reached by the hymn writer Fanny J Crosby. 

HYMN : “To God be the Glory! Great things he has done.”

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Opening Prayer
Eternal God and Father, to you we give glory, honour and praise.                           

We are filled with wonder when we consider your creation, the vastness of the universe, the beauty of this earth, the rich variety life and our place in in Your loving purposes.                                                      

We celebrate Your amazing love expressed towards us in the abundance of your blessings, in Your kindness and care, but so profoundly revealed in Jesus, through whom we find salvation and eternal life.
We rejoice in the gift of your Holy Spirit who makes Christ real to us today and inspires within us His way of truth and love.                                                                                                                                                                             
Eternal God of life and love, for these and all your blessings; for all that  enriches life now and promises life eternal in the fellowship of your kingdom, to You be the glory and the praise. Amen

Prayer of Confession  
God of mercy and grace, we confess to You our faults and failings; 
the hurts we may have caused to You and to other people; 
the needs we have failed to meet.
Our words have often become your crown of thorns; 
our actions the nails that hold you to a cross;
our neglect of others, the silence of our denials.

God of mercy and grace, through the offering of undeserved love in Jesus Christ, our Saviour, may we know our sins forgiven. Renew us by Your Holy Spirit and give new direction and new character to our lives. Amen.    

The proof of God’s amazing love is this - while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
May Christ who bore our sins on the cross  set us free to serve Him in peace and love.  Amen.                                                   

As we continue in Prayer let us remember the needs of the wider world and  the issues of life today.

Intercession Prayers
Lord, we pray for this world with its many situations of brokenness and pain.
For peace and reconciliation in lands torn by inner conflict and tensions;
for countries where the basic needs of life are denied ; where people have been displaced from their homes; separated from their loved ones; lack food and shelter and medical care.
May the leaders of nations strive for justice and peace and work for the well- being of all.

We pray for our communities.  Bless the homes where there are tensions at the present time; where economic uncertainty is causing distress;
where illness is taking its toll and where grief remembers a loved one.
May your healing and comforting presence be with all who are on our minds and in our hearts.

Lord, we remember all who are working so hard for the good of our communities. We pray for all in public service, especially those who work in our hospitals, nursing and care homes and in providing care at home. Give them courage and encouragement in their work.

And, Lord, we ask your blessing on Your church that we may be a Gospel sign in our communities, living out our faith with conviction and integrity,
We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.  

READING : from the Gospel according to Mark ch. 15 v. 22 – 39

HYMN: “Come and see”

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Four words with a tragic and despairing ring to them when taken in isolation and yet they stand at the heart of a centuries old statement of Christian belief.

The four gospel accounts give us a broad picture of the Crucifixion of Jesus, prefaced by the plotting and scheming of religious leaders to get rid of him; they had had enough of his teaching and the claims that were being made that he might be the long expected Messiah; their theology and religious practices were under threat. He had to be silenced , better still eliminated. The opportunity came with a betrayal, an arrest, trials before religious authorities and the ultimate handing over to Pilate, the Roman Governor who had the power to order execution. He had Jesus whipped, soldiers mocked him and put a crown of thorns on his head and mockingly called him the King of the Jews.  But Pilate couldn’t find sufficient fault in him. However, Jerusalem was heaving with people at the Passover and he needed to keep the peace. So he used the occasion to offer them the release of a prisoner –  – a robber  Barabbas or Jesus who claims to be a King. The shouts grew louder “Crucfy him!” and he is ultimately led out of the city to Golgotha or Calvary to be crucified between two thieves. Later that day he was dead and buried in a borrowed tomb.

What an ignominious end to a life that spelled so much promise. And yet here it is in all four gospels - and gospel means “good news”. 

So why did Jesus die? Surely there must be much more to it than I have described, especially when you consider the impact it has had on the whole direction of human history.

There are two directions from which to view this – one looking forwards and the other looking backwards.

Looking forwards, let me take you back some months before the Crucifixion; to a place called Caeserea Philippi.  Jesus raised some questions with his disciples about who people thought he was and especially “Who do you say I am”. Peter’s answer rang out. “You are the Christ, The Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Wow! But it is what Jesus said afterwards that matters. “The Son of Man must go to Jerusalem, must suffer many things at the hands chief priests and scribes, and be put to death.” It wasn’t the only time he told that to his disciples. Must – that’s the word – there was a powerful reason behind all this – a divine action was involved. 

Looking backwards, we know what happened 3 days after the death on the cross. The resurrection which Jacky will speak about next week. But, you see, the gospels were written post resurrection, and the events leading up to and including the death of Jesus have to be viewed through the lens of the resurrection to fully understand the Good News, to see that death and sin do not have the final word. Peter when preaching at Pentecost said, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” You see, the penny has dropped, the must that Jesus spoke about is part of God’s plan of salvation for the world.

That is where we come into the story.

As a young Local Preacher, I wore a cross made of Cumberland slate. I received two very different reactions to it in close succession. After an evening service in a small country chapel an elderly member of the congregation said to me:
 “I wish you wouldn’t wear that cross; it reminds me of all the hate and pain and evil in the world.”       

One Saturday afternoon I happened to be wearing it while shopping with Gwen in Hanley. As I waited for Gwen to try things on in the Ladies Department a young man came over to me and said:
“I knew I could talk to you when I saw your cross. It reminds me of the wonderful love of God for us all.” 

Both were right. You see on the cross the worst side of humanity; the suffering and pain we can cause, but also the best of God’s amazing love despite all that people did. 

Many years ago Dag Hammeskjold was Secretary General of the UN. Shortly before his death he addressed the World Council of Churches, during which he said:
“For the Christian faith the cross is the place at the centre of the world’s history where all men and nations without exception stand revealed as enemies of God. Yet it is the place where all men stand revealed as loved by God, precious in His sight”.

All people revealed as enemies of God.  It’s one way of reminding us all of the gap we create between ourselves and God by the wrongs we do, the hurts we cause, the sins we commit, and lack of love we show. St. Paul wrote: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We all need forgiveness, to be put right with God. It involves RECONCILIATION and REDEMPTION.

When you read the Crucifixion story there are two points where that is supremely illustrated; when Jesus promises a penitent thief that he will be with him in Paradise, and when he looks on all who have contributed to his crucifixion and says: “Father forgive them they know not what they do.”

The cross spells love, forgiveness, hope, through sacrifice. On the cross Jesus reveals the heart of God  - a heart that aches when we disobey him, disgrace his name; but a heart of perfect love that is ready to accept us and forgive us.  The events of Calvary become God’s response to our tarnished character and human failure.  Jesus died both because of us and for us.  Into the gap that our sin creates between us and God, God has poured in the death of Jesus the abundance of His grace, free undeserved love, that make forgiveness and reconciliation possible. It is the Calvary gift to each one of us if we come to Christ and seek forgiveness and newness and life. 


Suppose there were an account being kept of all your sins and mine. I guess we would be well and truly in debt. My friends what God has done once for all on the cross of Christ is to stamp that page of debt “PAID”. Not by us, but through God’s amazing grace. Grace is the only way to salvation and you accept it by faith in Jesus Christ. 

“There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.”     (from Hymn by Cecil Francis Alexander)

The cross declares that love unlimited is the hope of the world; that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ and the activity of God’s prevenient grace. “God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5 : 8) 

This morning we have Holy Communion. Recalling the Last Supper Jesus had with His friends. He broke bread and said “This is my body broken for you. He took wine and said,  “This is my blood of the new covenant shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Make that a moment when the dying of Jesus on the cross wins your heart and changes your life. Amen

Reflection and Response
Lord, in obedience you died on the cross for our salvation.                                                                             Today I humbly offer myself to you.
Thank you that you never stop loving me. Amen  

HYMN: “When I survey the wondrous cross”

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Holy Communion (including the Lord’s Prayer)

HYMN: “There is a redeemer”

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May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us and with the whole family of  God the wide world over.