A Service of Waiting...

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...and Hope

Holy Saturday is traditionally the day when Christians renew their baptismal promises. It is also the day when the new Pascal candle is lit and carried into the church; the light is then passed among the congregation as each person lights the taper of his or her neighbour. 

Yesterday we journeyed with Jesus on the cross and reflected on the pain he endured on our behalf and on his last words. Today Jesus is dead - all are in darkness and desolation. 

This service is built around the prophecies of Jeremiah, the suffering prophet, who was charged with the unpleasant task of telling the people of the southern kingdom that they were about to be taken into exile by the Babylonians.

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But Jeremiah also had a message of hope: that in the future the exiles would return, and that God would make a new covenant with the people of Israel: a covenant not written in a book or on tablets of stone, but on their hearts. Chapters 30—33 of Jeremiah are sometimes referred to as the Book of Consolation: Jeremiah could see hope even in a time of terrible darkness, but the darkness had to be faced first.

 

The disciples on that first Holy Saturday also waited without hope, without expectation. They had no idea what was going to happen next. The prophecies of Jeremiah would have been very familiar to them. In a time when all seemed lost Jeremiah had told the people that there were still grounds for hope.

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Could there be any grounds for hope now? Would God again act in history?

 

Opening responses:

 

    Jesus has died and Jesus is buried.

    Lord, where shall we go?

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    Jesus is dead and hope is smothered.

    Lord, how can we go on?

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    Jesus has died but dawn is breaking. 

    Lord, what shall we do?

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    Jesus has died and darkness triumphs. 

    Let us stay and watch and pray.

    In the darkest night

    we wait for the power of God to break through

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    In sorrow and loss

    we wait for comfort and consolation 

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    When all hope seems gone

    we wait for new pathways and understanding 

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    When we can see no stars

    we wait for the rising of the sun

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    Come, Lord, be with us this night.

    In this time of waiting, be close to us.

    Strengthen us in faith, sustain us in love 

    and grant us hope in despair.

    In our darkness, be a light on the road ahead.

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    For God is Love.

    Love hopes all things.

    With God all things can come to be

    New life can come through Jesus.

Jeremiah was charged with the task of telling the people of Israel that they would be taken into exile in Babylon: because they had continually disobeyed God. As you can imagine, saying these things didn’t make Jeremiah popular. On several occasions he faced violence and attempts on his life.

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But the prophet Jeremiah was right: in 586 BC King Nebuchadnezzar and his rough Chaldean soldiers sacked Jerusalem, burnt down Solomon's great temple, and left the land desolate. The people were led away in lines through the hot desert sun, with fishhooks through their noses: if one person stumbled, all felt the pain (Amos 4:2). For seventy years the people of Israel were slaves in Babylon.

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As the kingdom fell, Jeremiah bought a field. What a ludicrous thing to do! But Jeremiah was responding to God's instructions:

 

A reading from Jeremiah 32:6-7, 9a, 13-15

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'The word of the Lord came to me: Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, "Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours." ... And I bought the field at Anathoth from Hanamel my cousin ... I charged Baruch ... saying, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land."

 

Jeremiah's action was one of hope and belief in the future.

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In his prophecies Jeremiah shows us how God suffers over what happens to his people. He also tell us of the new relationship that God wants to establish: One not written in books or on tablets of stone, but on the human heart.

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God desires to be in relationship with us. God who identifies so closely with the suffering of his creation that he comes to be one of us: the Most High of the universe comes to dwell in human form, and to die by one of the most inhuman methods that we have been able to devise.

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We have travelled through the events of Holy Week together. Like those first disciples, we processed into Jerusalem in triumph. We shared a meal with Jesus, and looked on with amazement as our teacher knelt down to wash our feet. But very soon afterwards our friend was taken from us by the might of the domination system: a close friend betrayed him, the authorities twisted the evidence, rough soldiers beat and abused him. And finally, with the crossbeam strapped to his back, he was marched to Golgotha.

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We watched as Jesus died...

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And then we ran away in terror and confusion. Since then we have been in hiding.

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And tonight?

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Tonight we wait. We don't know what will happen next. What is the finale to this story? Does it all end here, or is there another chapter to be written?

 

Do we, like Jeremiah, have hope in the future? Or have we hoped in vain?

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Could it be that the final, most amazing culmination of this new relationship is just around the corner? For now, we wait ...

As we meet, separated in dispersed groups we remember the fear and loss that those first followers of Jesus must have felt on the dreadful night after Jesus was crucified. Some might say that at the moment we are living through our own Holy Saturday, but like Jeremiah, who in a time of terror and desolation bought a field, we are offered a sign of hope.

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Jeremiah trusted that God would restore the land to the people. 

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And so we look outside on this beautiful spring evening and remember God's renewing power to bring forth new life and hope after the cold dark winter. 

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This is a symbol of our trust in God: our trust in new life, in rebirth, in resurrection; a symbol of our solidarity with the oppressed, enslaved, abused and marginalised of the world. A sign that we believe in the future.

    I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord

    in the land of the living. 

    Wait for the Lord;

    be strong, and let your heart take courage;

    wait for the Lord!

Psalm 27

Holy Saturday is traditionally when Christians renew their baptismal promises. We remember how Christ descended to the world of the dead: and how, by passing through the waters of baptism, we die to our old selves — and are made new and alive in Christ.

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As we look to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, we remember that through the paschal mystery we have died and been buried with him in baptism, so that we may rise with him to a new life within the family of his Church. 

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Mindful of our baptismal commitment

to turn to Christ, 

to repent of our sins, 

to renounce evil, 

we recommit ourselves to do justly, 

love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

 

I light a candle in the darkness of Holy Saturday and we say together...

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    We turn to Christ 

        in the love between us,

        the passion within us,

        the unexpected inspiring us

        and the earth’s embrace.

    We repent of our solidarity in the sin of the world,

        acknowledging that within us which wounds others.

    We commit ourselves to working for change

        and healing in ourselves and the world.

    We commit ourselves to wisdom 

        in naming evil,

        courage to expose it,

    and strength for putting liberation into action.

 

And now I ask you to make the profession of Christian faith into 

which you were baptised, and in which you live and grow.

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    Do you believe in God the Father, 

    source of all being and life,

    the one for whom we exist?

    I believe and trust in him. 

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    Do you believe and trust in God the Son, 

    who took our human nature,

    died for us and rose again?

    I believe and trust in him. 

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    Do you believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit,

    who gives life to the people of God

    and makes Christ known in the world?

    I believe and trust in him. 

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    This is the faith of the Church.

    This is our faith. 

    We believe and trust in one God, 

    Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

A symbolic action:

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In front of me is a bowl of water and 2 stones. 

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I take the stones in the palm of my hand and remember the desolation of Good Friday and then I remember the hope that lightens the darkness of Holy Saturday. The hope our Lord Jesus offers us each and every day.

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One stone represents something that you have decided you want to leave behind: something you carry that you now want to let go. 

Place this stone into the water.

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The second stone represents something that you would like to do: 

something that you would like to change about your life,

your actions, your faith; 

a new commitment that you would like to make.

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It represents hope for the future.

    The hope our Lord Jesus offers us each and every day.

Closing responses:

 

    For light in the darkness

    we give you thanks, O God.

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    For comfort in our sorrow

    we give you thanks, O God.

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    For faith and trust

    we give you thanks, O God.

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    In expectation of the dawn

    we wait in Hope, O God.

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Blessing:

 

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Jeremiah 29:11-14

 

And may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 13

 

The blessing of God almighty,

Father Son and Holy Spirit

be with us all, this night and evermore.

Amen

The Dassett Magna Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit:

fill the hearts of your faithful people

and kindle in us the fire of your love.

Strengthen your church here in Dassett Magna:

deepen our faith

and pour out your love, through us,

on our communities.

We ask these things in Jesus' name.

Amen.

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The Reverend Nicki Chatterton

Tel. 07769871237

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