Worship & news from Benwell & Scotswood
Alexamenos Graffito, c.200AD
Palatine Museum, Rome
Engage in other ways by clicking on the icons below:
Including a version of 'Immortal Invisible' by James Lewis, using technology to create a choir at home!
Farsi translation / خطبه
Worship to return to St James' after Easter
From Sunday 11th April our Team worship will return to St James'. As things get a bit warmer St James' will become more comfortable, and as vaccinations are rolled out we expect more people to come to church in person, so we think this will be a good time to return to our largest building.
As lockdown eases in the near future we hope to open up all of our buildings for worship, but we intend to take things cautiously and do so once it is safe and sustainable.
Final Church at Home Podcast on Easter Day
As more people return to worship in-person or access the live stream, we have noticed a downturn in those using our audio services. We think it's best to adapt to what people need and want, so we have come to the decision that Easter day will be our final podcast worship.
This weekly newsletter will continue to be emailed out, and we will continue to live-stream, print out paper copies of Church at Home for those without internet, and translate and record the sermon in Farsi. And of course we promise to keep thinking of new and creative ways to reach people!
We would especially like to thank James and Claire Lewis, who have worked tirelessly to produce the audio for our services throughout the pandemic. As well as everyone who has contributed with readings, singing, music, sermons and more. It has been an incredible effort and joy to produce these services, and it is a testament to how adaptable and creative our congregations are.
Lent, Holy Week & Easter info
We have created a page with all the information you need about Lent, Holy Week, and Easter this year. Go have a look to keep up to date.
We are very happy to say we will be worshipping together in-person this year! To help us keep things as safe as possible, we decided it would be best to stay in one location rather than going round each of our churches, so we will celebrate Holy Week at the Venerable Bede.
Free and cheap meals in the local area
Every Wednesday you can order cheap hot meals from Cornerstone. Get your orders in by Wednesday 10am for free delivery within 2 miles of Cornerstone. Call 0191 2260941 or drop them a message on Facebook. Find out more here >
From 19th April FoodCycle Benwell will dish up free, nutritious meals for the local community every Monday from 7pm - 8pm. Find out more here >
Romance by Felix Mendelssohn.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart God will not despise.
Let us come to the Lord, who is full of compassion,
and acknowledge our transgressions in penitence and faith.
Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Make me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me:
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy spirit from me:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
May the God of love and power
forgive us and free us from our sins,
heal and strengthen us by his Spirit,
and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
Gracious Father, you gave up your Son out of love for the world: lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion, that we may know eternal peace through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood, Jesus Christ our Lord.
A reading from St Paul’s letter to the Hebrews.
So also 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’; as he says also 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.
This is the word of the Lord.
(Thanks be to God).
Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.
The Lord is a great God,
O that today you would listen to his voice.
Harden not your hearts.
Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.
Glory to you O Lord
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ
by The Revd David Kirkwood
Today is Passion Sunday the start of Passiontide that is the last two weeks of Lent, this week and next week, which we call Holy Week. The focus in these weeks is, not surprisingly, on Christ’s Passion.
Of course, the ‘P-word’ has changed its meanings over time and has a quite different meaning in church to the meaning it has outside. Outside church it usually means strong feelings or powerful emotions and is often used in advertising, a search on the BBC website turned up the following, ‘passion for fashion’, ‘passion for skiing’, ‘passion for racing,’ ‘Dragons Den; Passion and pressure’ and ‘how to follow your passion and make money’. Passions are enthusiasms that include romantic love and passion is generally seen as something attractive, we like people to be passionate and would like to be passionate ourselves. In church it is quite different, it is a word with a specific meaning, something more likely to repel than to attract. It refers to the brutal reality of Jesus’ suffering and humiliation, culminating in his death on the cross. St Paul talks about the scandal or stumbling block of the cross, another preacher put it like this,
The doctrine of the Cross is not on the surface of the world. The surface of things is bright only, and the Cross is sorrowful; it is a hidden doctrine; it lies under a veil; it at first sight startles us, and we are tempted to revolt from it. Like St Peter, we cry out ‘Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee.” And yet it is a true doctrine; for truth is not on the surface of things, but in the depths. JH Newman
As we enter these weeks it is important to keep this in mind, we must not shy away but draw near. We should look behind the veil and search the depths although this may not be our first instinct. We must approach the suffering of Christ and allow ourselves to be drawn in. As we call to mind scenes distressing on the outside, we seek out what inner consolation they may bring. If we do, we may find the two ideas of passion, the one that attracts and the one that repels are not as far apart as first seems.
The word passion comes from a Latin word ‘passio’ meaning to suffer, it is the same root as in the word passive. If you are passive, something happens to you, you are not in control, you are impelled by a force beyond your will. That idea, of being driven by something stronger than ourselves, links the two meanings of passion, to be passionate is to be swept along by strong emotions, in the events of his Passion Jesus is swept along on the tide of unstoppable events.
But when we look under the veil, we come to see the Passion is not something that just happens to Jesus, yes cruelty and indifference, the forces of Roman state and Jewish law, do overwhelm him and work their will on him, but at another level this is his active choice. In the other gospels we read how, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays to the Father, ‘if it is possible take this cup from me, but not what I will but what you will be done’ and today’s reading from St John is an equivalent passage. Jesus prays ‘what shall I say, save me from this hour, no it is for this reason I have come to this hour -glorify your name’. Jesus gives full and complete assent to all that is to come. Elsewhere again in John’s gospel he is quite explicit, ‘I lay down my life. no man takes it from me I lay it down of myself’ Jesus wills his passion, he makes it his own and inhabits it completely, active throughout in silence as well as in words.
Why? What possible motive can he have? We see in Gethsemane his natural human aversion to death and suffering and throughout his ministry his teachings reveal him to be a lover of life with a deep appreciation of the world and its goodness, he is not caught up by some gloomy masochism or desperate death cult. Looking behind the veil, contemplating this event, Christians came more and more to understand the Passion as motivated entirely by selfless love. As the Passiontide Hymn says simply, ‘we believe it was for us he hung and suffered there’. Compassion, is to be moved by the suffering of others and to want to share the burden, and we have other similar words empathy, sympathy to suffer with, alongside, to enter into the pain of another. In His passion Jesus is not dispassionate, detached, he is entering into the pain of the world, of every suffering being.
For some this is indeed ‘the folly of the cross’ a futile gesture of solidarity, a suffering with the losers of the world that changes nothing. What is thought to be the earliest known depiction of the crucifixion is a graffiti, scratched in plaster on a roman wall, showing a man praying before a cross on which a man with a donkey’s head is crucified. The mocking caption reads ‘Alexamenos worships his god.’ It must have raised a laugh when it was drawn, but nearly two thousand years on, the Roman Empire, with its rulers and its gods, has long departed, while the image of the crucified has filled the world. It is Alexamenos who has looked into the depths. Jesus’ passion born out of compassion is a transforming act, it makes a difference, it changes things. Alexamenos looks on the crucified and knows the reality of his love, his sympathy, he knows he is not alone, knows he is accepted, forgiven, healed, redeemed and changed.
Jesus ‘Yes’ to his Passion is born of compassion, his love for us, but that Love is never separate from another love, his love for the Father. ‘Not my will but yours’, ‘Father, glorify your name.‘ It is in his unfailing obedience to the Father’s will that the reality of Jesus’ love shines out. And that love is vindicated. ‘I have glorified it and I will glorify it again’ -comes the voice from heaven. Passiontide is not the end of our Lent journey; any more than the cross is the end of the story. Our collect at the start of the service spoke not only of a ‘saving death’ but ‘death and resurrection ‘not only of ‘suffering on the cross’ but also of the ‘triumph and the power of Christ’s victory’. In Gethsemane and on the cross, we see Jesus’ ‘Yes’ to the Father, on Easter Day we see The Father’s ‘Yes’ to Him.
That ‘Yes’ is a ‘Yes’ to us too. Jesus embraces the cross because it is the way to life to resurrection to be made perfect as we heard in Hebrews, but this is not for his sake, but for ours, sharing our death, the death we owed, because that is the way for us to share his life. Christ Passion changes things. It unlocks the promises of Easter.
We began with two meanings of Passion the attractive one and the revolting one. Let’s not end up thinking we have to choose between them. Our problem is not too much passion of any kind but too little. The opposite of passion is apathy, un feeling, not bothered, disconnected, perhaps it is because that is so prevalent, that we seek any kind of passion to bring some kind of life. But it won’t be skiing or racing or money that light the spark. Christ’s Passion can transform us, here and now, it can speak to us not on the surface but in the depths. The depths of who we are and who we are made to be; we can be overwhelmed and transformed, we can let his ‘Yes’ work in us and become our ‘Yes’ too. Through the Love held out to us in this Passion we too can become passionate. Passionate lovers. Lovers of Christ and lovers of those he loves our hearts opened to the needs of our brothers and sisters and of our troubled world.
Prayers of intercession
Lord hear us. Lord graciously hear us.
As Jesus set out to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Let us pray to the Father for the strength to go forth in the hope of new life.
Father we ask you to take our hearts and grow them. Where we struggle, where we feel guilt, hurt, or nothingness, turn it into fertile ground for your spirit that we may share your love.
For those whom we are concerned. Lord, we offer them to you. When we do not know what to do for our neighbour teach us how to help. And where we are weak may you help them Lord. We pray especially for:
· Ali Zareie and his family
· Jill Sorley,
· Joyce Phillips,
· George Snowden,
· the Riches family,
· Dee Humphrey,
· Claire Mozaffari,
· Eric Harling,
· Herbert Agbeko,
· Anastasia Miklewright,
· Margaret Wall,
· all affected by Covid 19
and for those who are grieving, especially the family of
· Lillian Monaghan
We pray for our church leaders for our political leaders for the fabric of society. We ask you to repair broken relationships to bring peace to all places torn apart by war. To give safe shelter and food to all who need it. We ask you to correct the prejudiced and the bigoted. We ask you to give us a greater sense of the worth of one another and let us no longer be blind to your image in the face of others.
Lord, we ask you to look kindly on your creation. We have damaged it and not cared for it as we should have. But you have the power to restore it come quickly Lord and transform us from death to life. Undo the pollution of our land and seas and give us a greater sense of the holiness of your creation.
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught 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 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.
There is a green hill far away,
Outside a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified
Who died to save us all.
We may not know, we cannot tell
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
He died that we might be forgiv'n
He died to make us good;
That we might go at last to heav'n,
Saved by his precious blood.
There was no other good enough
To pay the prince of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heav'n, and let us in.
O dearly, dearly has he loved,
And we must love him too.
And trust in his redeeming blood,
And try his works to do.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
And the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us all evermore.
Happy and Sad by Ludwig van Beethoven.