7 March 2021

This week, we welcome Rev Geoff Ellis who leads the service. Music for the service has been recorded at Headingley St Columba URC. Where the words and music are in copyright, they are used under the terms of Headingley St Columba’s CCLI Licences 214974, 110169 and PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0020656.

Order of Service

Organ prelude: Voluntary in D minor – William Boyce (1710 – 79)


Lent Liturgy – 3rd Sunday – the whip
As we follow our Lord through the events of his passion, we remember today his suffering under Pontius Pilate and lay a whip on the table.


Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Call to Worship – Psalm 19: 1 – 4 (CEV)
The heavens keep telling the wonders of God, and the skies declare what he has done. Each day informs the following day; each night announces to the next. They don’t speak a word, and there is never the sound of a voice. Yet their message reaches all the earth, and it travels around the world.

Tune: Gerontius – J. B. Dykes (1823 – 76); last verse arr. Noel Rawsthorne (1929 – 2019)

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise,
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.

O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail;

and that a higher gift than grace
should flesh and blood refine,
God’s presence and his very self,
and essence all-divine.

O generous love! that he, who smote
in man for man the foe,
the double agony in man
for man should undergo;

and in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
should teach his brethren, and inspire
to suffer and to die.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise:
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways.

J. H. Newman (1801 – 90) altd.

Opening Prayers and the Lord’s Prayer
Holy God, as we worship you in spirit and in truth, we ask that you renew our love for you. Open our eyes to see fresh things, open our ears to hear with more clarity, open our minds to recognise new ideas – that we may be willing to grow and change and to become more like your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord God, our ancestors turned the Temple into a marketplace; where are the marketplaces in our lives? We confess that we are driven by the need to possess. In our greed, we plunder the earth of resources and fail to share the good things you have provided for our needs. We are obsessed with the work of human hands, making idols of our houses – and yours.
Forgive us and help us to see that your Church is eternally under construction – in us.
It is hard, when the message hits home; when we see, in the sins of our forebears, our own. But you, dear Lord, always forgive, when in the Holy Spirit we choose to live. In your forgiveness we find the light to walk again in the path that is right.

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven:
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil;
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

Introduction to the first reading
We have already been reminded in our opening liturgy for this 3rd Sunday in Lent of the events in Jesus’ passion that brought him to face Pontius Pilate and led to his flogging and crucifixion at the insistence of his accusers.
In our next Bible reading St Paul writes about the power that the message of the Cross can have for us. A message of salvation that requires us to think differently and understand the Easter events from God’s point of view.

Reading – 1 Corinthians 1: 18 – 25
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Organ interlude: Lantana from ‘Plymouth Suite’ – Percy Whitlock (1903 – 46)

Introduction to the second reading
Our Gospel reading takes us to Jesus’ confrontation with the Temple and the Temple authorities. In John’s account, as in the other Gospels, Jesus’ actions in cleansing the Temple and challenging the way it operated puts him on a collision course with the religious authorities which will lead to his arrest, confrontation with Pilate and eventual death on the cross. From this account we can be led to a deeper understanding of the purpose behind Jesus’ actions which his disciples only began to understand later.

Reading – John 2: 13 – 22
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables.  Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.  He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’  His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’  The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’  Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’  The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Early in John’s Gospel we have this important account of how Jesus challenges the Temple and all it stood for. In this and all that follows, Jesus points us to the meaning of the message of the Cross and which Paul refers to in today’s Epistle. Jesus is the place where God is at work. Jesus is where God’s power is being revealed. In Jesus, the nature of God’s purposes and wisdom are rolled out to reach a climax in the Easter events.

It is a time for us to take stock and address some questions in our journey through Lent as we anticipate and mull over the events of Easter. What is the significance of Jesus cleansing the Temple for each of us and together as a church in this most unusual of years?

We revisit how and why Jesus confronted the Temple system of his day and all the abuse and exploitation this supported. The system did not honour God. It placed pressures on the poorest and most vulnerable people as the rules of the system controlled their access to God. It meant for them burdensome rates of exchange to pay for the animals required to be sacrificed to God.

We cannot escape noticing how in his divine anger Jesus uses a whip of cords to drive out the those who have created this extortionate marketplace. How Jesus overturns the tables in the Temple is shocking to those there and those whose authority, status and income depends on the Temple system.

Later, as we have been reminded in our opening liturgy, when Jesus was found guilty by Pilate he was flogged with a whip because he had confronted the Temple and its rulers and all they stood for.

For Jesus proclaimed in all he does and says that he is the place where God is at work. He offended those in power by claiming to be one with God.

The Temple was believed then to be where heaven touched earth. When Jesus speaks of destroying it and rebuilding it in three days, he is not speaking about the physical Temple, but his body. He signals that his death and resurrection make the whole world into the Temple of God.

The Temple was indeed later totally destroyed in 70 AD when the Roman army captured and sacked the city of Jerusalem.

So, Jesus rightly foretells how the Temple will not last as a place of worship. Instead he has come to replace it with a new way of having a living relationship with God.

This is the Easter message and what Jesus’ death and resurrection can mean to those who follow the Way of Jesus; that those who become his disciples are his living body.

We, the church of Jesus Christ today, are his living body.

It is to be a church that is not confined to or defined by buildings but by the living and active presence of Jesus Christ in the daily lives of its members.

The message of the Cross does indeed release Christ’s power and God’s wisdom into our lives. We can worship God in spirit and in truth as we are reminded by Jesus later in John’s Gospel:

‘the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem . . . and when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.’

(John 4: 21 – 24)

This raises questions for us today such as: how important are buildings for our worship? This is topical in a year when so many buildings have had to close. Yet we have found new ways of worshipping together whilst needing to be apart because of the COVID-19 safety restrictions.

Does a church need a building to worship in order to be called a church? When church buildings are open how should they be best used? How should we live as the body of Christ? What will mark us out as the people where Jesus lives and works?

For God’s Spirit can move and encourage us into new ways of being followers of Jesus. Paul helps us see this in the imagery used later in his letter to the Corinthians:

‘ . . . do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.’

(1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20)

My recent studies have taken me to George Ling’s new book: “Seven Sacred Spaces: Portals to deeper community life in Christ.”

George reminds us of the many ways in which we can be part of the living body of Christ. He offers insights into how to model our lives on the Way of Jesus.

He uses headings familiar to monastic communities to lead us in to thinking about how all our activities can play a part in our daily walk with Jesus.

Starting with

The Cell – being alone with God – for quiet prayer and reflection
Chapel – the space for corporate public worship
Chapter – the space for making decisions
Cloister – the space for planned and surprising meetings
Garden – the place of work
Refectory – for food and hospitality
Scriptorium – for study and knowledge

Being the living body of Jesus Christ means letting the power of the cross and the wisdom of the Easter message inform all the regular activities that define us in our community life in Christ.

This last year of lockdowns may have been the prompt we have needed for a long time to try new ways of knowing and worshipping God and how best to use all our buildings to serve God.

The Easter message is that Jesus makes it possible for each of us to know, love, serve, and worship God in spirit and truth.

The resurrection of Jesus’ body after three days can spur us on and enable us to become his living body wherever we are.

So, may we draw on that power and wisdom from God revealed in Jesus – and let him teach us how to know and worship God in our daily lives..

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for thee.


Tune: Sandys – English traditional (1833)

Teach me, my God and King,
in all things thee to see,
and what I do in anything
to do it as for thee.

A man that looks on glass,
on it may stay his eye;
or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
and then the heaven espy.

All may of thee partake:
nothing can be so mean,
which, with this tincture, ‘For thy sake’,
will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
makes drudgery divine:
who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
makes that and the action fine.

This is the famous stone
that turneth all to gold:
for that which God doth touch and own
cannot for less be told.

George Herbert (1593 – 1633) altd.

Prayers of Intercession
In the name of the one who came to cleanse the Temple, we pray for the institutions by which we organise our society: for churches and chapels and house groups; for educational establishments; for places of healing, law and order, commerce and recreation.

May they serve the greater good,
and adapt to the changing needs of the time.

In the name of the one who came to redeem the world, we pray for those institutions by which we regulate global relations: for governments and rulers, democracies, monarchies and dictatorships; for bodies that regulate trade, diplomacy and the balance of peace; for environmental, development and welfare organisations.

May they serve the greater good,
and adapt to the changing needs of the time.

In the name of the one who came to save us from ourselves, we pray for those institutions we have in our lives: for our friends, families and colleagues; for our local communities; for the church communities to which we belong.

May they serve the greater good,
and adapt to the changing needs of the time.

Gracious God the times we live through can oppress and dismay us, as though we had no part in their making. Teach us to be honest in our judgements, loving in our actions. Encourage us in our faith’s journey to believe that we always have a part to play in your kingdom’s coming till that day when you welcome us home.

Tune: Michael – Herbert Howells (1892 – 1983)

All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
God unknown,
he alone
calls my heart to be his own.

Human pride and earthly glory,
sword and crown betray our trust;
what with care and toil is builded,
tower and temple, fall to dust.
But God’s power,
hour by hour,
is my temple and my tower.

God’s great goodness aye endureth,
deep his wisdom, passing thought;
splendour, light, and life attend him,
beauty springeth out of naught.
from his store
new-born worlds rise and adore.

Daily doth the almighty giver
bounteous gifts on us bestow;
his desire our soul delighteth,
pleasure leads us where we go.
Love doth stand
at his hand;
joy doth wait on his command.

Still from earth to God eternal
sacrifice of praise be done,
high above all praises praising
for the gift of Christ his Son.
Christ doth call
one and all:
ye who follow shall not fall.

Robert Bridges (1844 – 1930)
based on Joachim Neander (1650 – 80)

For us, our families, friends, neighbours and all those needs known to us:
May God’s love surround and protect us, may the Spirit fill and strengthen us, and may Jesus direct us and give us the peace we need in the days ahead.

Organ Voluntary: Fugue in G minor (BWV 131a) – J. S. Bach (1685 – 1750)