On Sunday November 20th I led worship at Pannal Chapel. We began worship reading Psalm 46 responsively as the call to worship. Our opening hymn was ‘All hail the power of Jesu’s name!’ I led the opening prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession and the Lord’s Prayer. We heard the Old Testament reading from Jeremiah 23.1-6 before I told a story about how Lord Shaftesbury sent a destitute boy, who was a thief to school, after he returned his precious gold watch given to him by his nurse. The boy was given a second chance and rescued from his hand to mouth existence. Jeremiah looked forward to a time, when a new king would come, who would be just and support the oppressed. Jesus was just such a king who loved and accepted the outcasts and sinners; a love which led him to death on the cross, where he forgave those who crucified him. We then sang, ‘I am a new creation’ before I blessed the children as they left for their classes. The second reading was from Colossians 1.11-20. We had a dramatised reading based on Luke 23.33-43. We sang, ‘Meekness and majesty’ before I preached.
Jeremiah told the people they would be receiving their reward for their evil deeds, as they had been like wolves devouring the flock. Jeremiah was more comforting when he gave the assurance that the new king coming would bring an even greater deliverance than the redemption from Egypt. Jeremiah looked forward to the king, who would be just and would care for the oppressed.
When Jesus was hung on the cross he was completely humiliated hanging between two criminals, but he asked God to forgive those who had put him there, as they did not know what they were doing. Would we have been as forgiving as Jesus was? I am sure I would find it too difficult to be forgiving. The crowd and the criminal taunted him but Jesus had not come to save himself, but to take care of his kingdom and all its members. Jesus’ throne was a cross and the sour wine offered to him was the poor man’s drink, not a majestic throne.
One of the criminals mocked Jesus for not saving himself or them, but the other criminal recognised that they deserved their punishment, but Jesus had done no wrong to deserve death. He asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom and Jesus told him that he would be with him in Paradise that very day. Jesus had accepted the criminal’s remorse and wiped his guilt away. It is never too late to turn to Jesus and be forgiven and accepted into his kingdom. I know this because he is so patient with me and my mistakes and has never given up on me.
In Colossians we find one of the earliest attempts of the Christian Church to express in liturgical form, who they believed Jesus was. Jesus was described as above everything, including all heavenly powers and beings, a complete revelation of God. Jesus came to bring reconciliation between people and God. When we recognise our failings we realise we could never be good enough in our own strength. Jesus came as caring shepherd king to love and serve us and show us how to love and serve others, so that we can draw others to know him.
We sang one of my favourite hymns, ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy’, before I led the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded when we sang ‘Thou didst leave thy throne.’