Fifth Sunday in Lent or Passion Sunday

5th Sunday of Lent - Passion Sunday

(In a moment of silence, we ask for God’s grace and blessing)

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit.   Amen

Collect

Most merciful God, who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ has delivered and saved the world; grant that by faith in Him who suffered on the cross we may triumph in the power of his victory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Reading – Hebrews Chapter 5 verses 5 – 10

Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’, and he also says in another place, ‘You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek.’   In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.                                                 

What’s in a Name?  – a reflection

A couple of weeks ago Colin Willis and I attended a 3 and a half hour zoom morning which was the Bishops training day for Readers or Lay Ministers. It was excellent having two talks – one from Mervyn Snow – the Bishop of Leicester and the second one from Bishop Graham of Norwich. The subject of the name of Lay Ministers, which is a term now being used quite widely for Readers, was brought up. Bishop Graham said that as a parish priest he had three Readers, but found that when he introduced them to new members to the church, they all thought that their job was to read the lessons. It didn’t mean anything else to them. Well of course Readers do read lessons but there is rather more to the job than that!  The name ‘Reader’ comes from the word ‘lector’ and lectors did indeed read, but read the liturgy of the services not just the lessons. They were then given the duties of the sub deacons and became part of the minor orders between acolytes and deacons and they preached and carried out other pastoral duties. In 1972 the name of minor orders was changed to ‘ministries’, and the bishop felt that Lay Minister was a more appropriate name for who we are, because he thought it should be made plain that being a Reader has responsibilities. Readers need to have had 2 or 3 years quite intense training initially and must be appointed by a bishop. You can’t just decide to be one! The name should mean something specific. It entails a qualification and an appointment and is reviewed regularly. He was concerned the name ‘reader’ was being used in some places inappropriately.

So, if that is confusing what do we find when we talk about the names for Jesus which in itself means Saviour?  They can be found in abundance!  We don’t have time to read the gospel for today – it is John chapter 12 verses 20 to 33, but he is called the Son of Man there, and that name itself could be the subject of a very long discussion. But let’s think of some others. We can have Christ, Lord, Master, Messiah, Immanuel, Bridegroom, Lamb of God, Good Shepherd, Light of the world, Prophet, Rabboni, Redeemer, The Word or logos, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Son of God, Son of David, Prophet, King, High Priest. I could keep going but High Priest it is the name I want to focus here, because in the letter to the Hebrews, (and no one really knows who wrote it) Jesus is talked of being the High priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek’.  Melchizedek, what a wonderful name! So, who is he and why does the writer of Hebrews think so highly of him?

Melchizedek first appears in Genesis ch 14 when the kings in the area were at war with each other (no change there then!) but the victors captured Lot who was Abraham’s (or Abram as he was known then) nephew, and so Abram (who was exceedingly rich at the time) sent his men to rescue Lot and retrieve all his belongings, and rout his enemies, which he did successfully.  At this point this high priest Melchizedek appears – blesses Abram and poignantly presents him with bread and wine. You can see the significance!  And from then on Abram pays Melchizedek 10% tithes.  Melchizedek doesn’t appear again until Psalm 110, but if you want a complete history of him, read Chapter 7 in Hebrews.  Hebrews 7:3 affirms of Melchizedek: "He is without father or mother or genealogy; he has neither beginning of days nor end of life . . . he continues a priest forever." You can perhaps see why his name is connected with Jesus.

Melchizedek means King of Righteousness and he was also called the King of Salem which means King of Peace, which of course are names we can apply to Jesus as well. Jesus was not descended from Aaron – the Levitical line of priesthood which required ongoing sacrifices for sins, but rather was of the ‘new order of Melchizedek’ where he would be the one and only sacrifice. All interesting stuff I hope you will agree.

So, there are some names for Jesus but now let us consider the names we have in the church. Bishop Graham said there had been a list composed of 1,800 different titles given to people of the church. Everything from bishops, archdeacons, rural dean, priests, rectors, vicars, readers – or lay ministers! - to churchwardens, stewards, sidesmen, welcomers, vergers, sacristans, sextons, servers, pastoral assistant, evangelist, children’s/youth ministry leader, lunch club leader, events’ organisers, organists, choir members, treasurers, secretaries, cleaners, flower arrangers, coffee makers, prayer group organisers, listeners, councillors, visitors, etc. etc. etc. And the bishop made plain that not one of these names is more important than another, because they are all a calling to participate as a member of a team that requires the involvement of everyone. It is a partnership. And he quoted a saying some attribute to St Francis of Assisi which said “preach the gospel in all ways, and use words if you have to”. In other words, it is who we are and what we do, not what we say, that often matters most. Our faith is surely more often caught than taught. That welcome, that cup of coffee, that listening ear, those lovely flowers, that music, a clean church, that all matters.

But let us return to our reading from Hebrews. You will note that it says that Jesus did “not glorify himself,” but rather “was appointed, or designated, to the order of Melchizedek”. He had the call to do what he did, and as Hebrews describes, in the garden of Gethsemane he prayed with loud cries and tears at the thought of what was being asked of him. As a human being He did not choose it. God chose it, and he obeyed, and that is true of all of us. We don’t decide on our calling. The Bishop had an aversion to the phrase ‘my ministry’ which he has heard some Lay Ministers and Priests use. It should be ‘the ministry we are called to’.  We are entrusted with that ministry and everyone will have had a call from God in some way or another.  What we have to do is listen to that call. By all means test it, it comes through us and can be altered very easily to what we think it should be – but listen to it, pray about it, talk to others about it, and then act on it. But make no mistake there will or has been a call, and it has your name on it. Amen

Helen

Prayer

Lord, we have but one life to live, the life you have given us, the life you have redeemed. Help us to make the best use of it. Show us your plan and purpose for our life, and let it be our joy to do your will and serve you all our days, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen

The Lord’s prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed me thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done as 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.

 

 


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