Weekly worship: Sunday 18 March
The right time
Jeremiah 31:31-34 Psalm 51:1-12 Hebrews 5:5-10 John 12:20-33
We encourage children to break their day down into chunks. It’s time for breakfast or tea; time for bath or bed. We help them develop a sense of the right time for different things to happen, day by day or throughout the year – time to put the Christmas tree up or to get the paddling pool out. And that sense of the right time continues into adulthood, shaping our days and our years.
We have a sense of the right time for things to happen: too soon, or too late, and there will be no results; just right, and everything will move forward smoothly. ‘It’s the right time for that’, we say of a major life event, and we recognise that sense of a proper fit, difficult to define but immediately recognisable when it happens. ‘To everything there is a season’, says the preacher, ‘and a time for every matter under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
The work of Christian Aid also reflects this sense of the right time. The Lent and Easter Appeal, focusing on those who have had to leave their homes, invites us to recognise the impact of disruption and the breakdown of ordinary life with its rhythms of eating and sleeping, ploughing and reaping. It also asks us to respond in a timely fashion. There is an urgency about our involvement – left too long, help can arrive too late to be of any use. Coming at the right time, it can make the difference between life and death.
To everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.’
The hour has come
Our reading from John centres on Jesus’ recognition of the right time – the appointed hour (v.27). It is Passover time (12:1), when the Jews celebrate God’s deliverance as they remember their escape from Egypt across the Red Sea. John locates Jesus’ death very precisely within this setting. Jesus dies on the day of preparation for the Passover, at the same time as the Passover lambs are being slaughtered in the Temple (19:14). Jesus is the Lamb of God (1:36) whose blood brings safety (Exodus 12:13).
The Old Testament reading from Jeremiah suggests further associations. 600 years before Christ, Jeremiah foretells a new covenant, written on people’s hearts, in which they will all know the Lord. Now is the time for this covenant to be made real in Christ, and the other Gospels make it clear that the Lord’s Supper inaugurates it – ‘this is my blood of the covenant’ (Mark 14:24).
Though this is the right time for him to give his life for us, Jesus is ‘troubled’ by the approach of this hour (v.27). John does not tell the story of his agony in Gethsemane, but in this verse we can see the same shrinking from death, in which we can so easily identify with Jesus. Yet at the same time, this is what it’s all about – his death is the completion of his mission. Through his patient endurance, and then through his resurrection, God’s name will be glorified. This is the right time for all this to happen.
God of every moment,
help us to recognise and value the rhythms of life.
Show us how to stand alongside those
who face disruption and broken rhythms.
Teach us to align our time with yours,
so that when the right time comes for us,
it does not pass us by.
Through Christ our Lord,
With thanks to the Rev. Dr.Caroline Wickens, Superintendent Minister, Manchester Circuit of the Methodist Church, for providing the March weekly pointers.
Pointers for prayer
Give thanks for World Water Day on Thursday 22 March. Pray for the day when everyone has access to safe water.
Give thanks for the Alchi Algone water supply which, with the creative use of solar-powered pumps, provides water for four villages in Ethiopia.
Praise God for all those who gave to the East Africa Crisis Appeal which helped to fund this and similar projects, providing clean and safe water for many communities.