On Sunday March 22nd Rev. Keith Page led worship at Wesley Chapel. The service began with the Lenten liturgy where a candle was extinguished to symbolise the darkness and pain in the world. We sang the 5th verse of the Tree of Life hymn;
‘Christ you lead and we shall follow
Stumbling though our steps may be
One with you in joy and sorrow
We the river you the sea.’
We then sang ‘Jesus the conqueror reigns’ before Keith reminded us that we are on a journey of a remembrance and led the opening prayers. The first reading was Romans 11v1-2a, 11-24. Keith explained how Gentiles were grafted into the Jewish faith. He told us that Olive trees did not die if they were watered and fed, and that olives are very healthy. The Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane were still the ones among which Jesus had stood. Israel was seen as the Olive tree, the picture of God’s people. Keith said that the Church was not the new Israel. God had not broken his promise to the people of Israel as he has never broken his covenant with Israel.
We then sang ‘My song is love unknown’ before we heard the reading from Jeremiah 31v31 onwards; ‘A new covenant.’ We sang ‘Meekness and Majesty’ before the third reading John 12v20 onwards.
Keith acknowledged that we lock our front doors or the car to keep people out. When we get money out from the cash point we are careful to deny access to those who would like our money. A lot of our lives is defined as access or denial access. Both he and his wife Frances come from large extended families and he and his wife were the first to go into higher education. His and his wife’s parents only had limited education and wanted better for them. Denial of access applies often to those who are of different races or colour. When a local preacher becomes accredited he or she has access to every pulpit in the Methodist Church.
Greek thought saw God as up in heaven, not interested in people down on earth, in fact giving little value to human life. The world was seen as imperfect, life had no meaning and people were afraid of living and dying. In that imperfect world there was one exception, the little nation of Israel, who believed in one good just God, the creator. This God wanted to have a relationship with people as the God of the Hebrews in covenant living. All through the Old Testament covenants are made again and again with God. In John’s gospel some Greeks came to try and get access to Jesus. However Keith reminded us that Jesus came to the world so that the world could have access to God. Jews were called to be the light to shine for God in the world; it was not meant to be an exclusive faith.
Jesus was fully human and fully God, one of us but without sin so he could break the barriers of sin and darkness. Jesus could only achieve that through his own destruction as the price of sin is blood, a blood sacrifice at Passover. The Passover was a time for a huge sacrifice of sheep for the sins of Israel; such sacrifices were imperfect, but Jesus made the perfect sacrifice for our sins restoring the covenant with God. God has done everything for us. We are given wholehearted free access to God, a living relationship with God; such access leads to the covenant we renew each year in the annual covenant service in the Methodist Church. Jesus brought us access to eternal life starting now, life in all its fullness; all will come to know the Lord. We are grafted into the tree of life by faith. May we see ourselves as rooted into the tree of life.
After the sermon we sang ‘Give thanks with a grateful heart,’ before Keith led the prayers of intercessions. Our worship concluded as we sang, ‘Give us the faith that can remove.’