This gathering in the parish church is part of an eternal offering of worship stretching back to the foundation of the world and stretching forward to the consummation of all things.
Behold the Lamb of God we read in the Gospel. Our Lord is truly the lamb slain from the foundation of the world whose sacrifice on Calvary, as Revelation 13 verse 8 envisions, draws forth in heaven blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever.
This morning we are touching reality - we are drawn to the event represented here that reveal a love touching every human concern upon the earth. At the beginning of a challenging year for so many places the world over there is no more powerful action we can take on behalf of humankind than to plead Christ’s Sacrifice, offering God what is his own…on behalf of all.
To the outward eye we are a small gathering of religious people doing their own thing upon their weekly holy day.
To the eye of faith we are Christians, caught up once more, on behalf of the whole creation, into the eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ, through whom, and with whom and in whom in the unity of the Holy Spirit, we give glory to our Father in heaven.
Here, as on
Calvary, we see his
body and blood separated in death and then transformed by power from heaven. In
every Eucharist we witness the separate consecration of Christ’s body and
blood. We pause twice in the Eucharistic prayer to recall the sacrificial
sundering of the Son of God - this is my
body...this is my blood...of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for
many for the forgiveness of sins
Some of us may remember the ‘Seeing Salvation’ Millennium exhibition at the National Gallery. One of the many images of Christ was this (show) - ‘The Bound Lamb’ by Francisco de Zurbarin who lived in the 17th century. It is an image that often appears on Nativity scenes, the Shepherds’ offering which anticipates Christ’s sacrifice.
As Jeremy Paxman wrote then in the Church Times of this painting: ‘no image I know so perfectly captures the astonishing force of the Christian story’.
It was given greater force at the time as a symbol through the images of sheep and lambs slaughtered so uselessly in the foot and mouth epidemic. The image of the bound lamb is one of innocent suffering but, for Christians, never one of useless suffering.
There is a Church in
, I’m told, which has the
image of a sheep sculpted half way up its tower. Norway
Only when people enter that Church and hear something of its history do they discover the full Christian significance of the sculpted sheep.
Years before the sculpture was erected some renovation work was occurring on the Church steeple in this rural community. One day a workman slipped from the steeple to almost certain death. At the same time by a remarkable twist of providence a flock of sheep was being driven past the Church.
The steeplejack fell on a sheep and his fall was cushioned. The sheep died to save him - an awesome happening! The workers expressed their gratitude to God by adorning that Church tower with a sculpted sheep. It was welcomed as a powerful symbol of Christian Faith.
Jesus is the Lamb of God whose voluntary sacrifice takes away our sin. Our Lord on
Calvary takes the full impact of sin and death for us at the cost of his
Jesus died in my place so that he might live in my place.
Jesus died in my place to carry off the impact of evil upon me, particularly through the gift of the Eucharist.
Jesus lives in my place, cooperating with my will by his Spirit, as I welcome him again and again into my heart in this Sacrament!
This morning we make the memorial of the Offering of Jesus and enter into that Self-Offering!
It is through the sacrificial Lamb of God that we can make a perfect offering to the Father, our sinful bodies made clean by his body..our souls washed through his most precious blood.
How much God needs the offering of our lives for his work here in Horsted Keynes and its surrounds!