Lent 2018 – Week 4 – the crown of thorns and the purple robe

Reading: Mark 15:16-20

The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spat on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

5th March – Monday

Singing the Faith 270
Psalm 84 (StF 814)

For me, this is the worst abuse that the soldiers perpetrated. The flogging and the crucifixion were sentences passed down from Pontius Pilate. They did what they were instructed to do.
But this – this was beyond their remit.

Maybe they frequently treated prisoners in this way – and I doubt that anyone in the Roman army or the Roman world much objected to the disrespect and emotional abuse of criminals. It was no doubt accepted.

But it was the soldiers themselves who came up with this indignity and torment. Shame on them.

I seriously object to sports men and women spitting! I know that the cameras are on them and capture what is intended as a private act. And I know that they can’t carry a hanky in their pockets – even if they had pockets. But even so, is it necessary?

It’s uncouth at best – unhygienic in anyone’s estimation – and demonstrates a lack of manners.

Recently I saw a player sent off the football field for spitting at another player – an altogether different matter. There was some controversy amongst the pundits as to the severity of the referee’s reaction, but I couldn’t agree more.

O.k., it didn’t hurt the other player and it didn’t affect the other player’s ability on the pitch, but I agreed with the pundit who said that there were children in the crowd and what did that sort of act say to them.

It’s not pleasant, it’s dis-respectful and it’s totally unnecessary.

But along with everything else, Jesus endured it. It was part of the suffering he willingly endured for our sake.

Lord Jesus, how can you love someone who spits in your face in addition to the other cruelties? Give me the love that you had. And help me to endure with love the actions of others.

Pray for students at university and college. We are so thankful for the students at our church, and the energy that they bring. Pray that we may encourage them in their studies and enable them to be a strong voice in the leadership of our church.
Pray for those young people who are the leaders of tomorrow. Pray that they may be guided by the wisdom of the past, but not constrained by tradition. Pray that we may be alert to listen to their voices, and willing to nurture them as future global leaders who will work for justice and peace

6th March – Tuesday

Singing the Faith 271
Psalm 85 (StF 815)

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me.’
That’s what my mother used to say. And in many ways she was right. Mocking and verbal abuse may have been the least of Jesus’ worries.
But the soldiers were behaving like school boys in the play-ground as they mocked the Saviour of the world. If they had known who he was, they may still have mocked. He didn’t look much like a king at that moment.
Kings in their world kept their position by imposing power and through fighting battles with their armies.
Where was this king’s army?
His ragged band of followers was nowhere to be seen. And he seemed to have little fight about him.
What sort of king was he? What sort of power could he possibly have? If he was a king, where was his kingdom? – not in the Roman empire, clearly.
They saw his as deluded – a poor fool with ideas way above his station. They thought him ‘soft in the head’ and having lost touch with reality.
He was, as far as they were concerned, fair game for some fun.
How could they know that they were the first – the only ones on this earth to give the King of Kings a crown.
A crown is a sign of power and honour. This was a further instrument of pain and punishment.
But it was a crown.
They never knew the irony of their gesture of ridicule.
They had crowned the King of Kings.

Pray for our young adults. We are lucky to have a growing group of young adults in our church, and we thank God for their creativity, enthusiasm and commitment. We pray for their vital role in linking different groups within our community and their developing leadership within the church and its worship.
Pray for vulnerable young adults in our world. Pray that they may be protected from extremist views and equipped with the courage and strength to defend their own beliefs whilst showing tolerance and respect for others.

7th March – Wednesday

Singing the Faith 280
Psalm 90 (StF 816)

Purple – the colour for kings – for the rich – for the few because it cost so much to produce the dye.
Jesus is draped in ‘royal’ robes for the amusement of the soldiers
Once again, the soldiers had got it right!
Jesus was paraded before the whole lot of them wearing the robes that only he deserved.
They bowed down in mock homage.
They laughed with cruel and callous humour.
They thought he was just a fool.
We bow before him – but not as a joke.
We call him King – but not to deride him.
We crown him with our praise – but not to mock him.
We know his worth – they only knew what they saw in front of them.
We know his power as agent of creation – they only saw his powerlessness.
We see our Lord and master – they only saw a figure of fun.

And this for the Son of God who dignified sinners by eating as their guests, and who dignified the outcasts and voiceless.

Lord forgive the blindness and cruelty of humanity.

Pray for people in our community who are retired. It is fair to say that none of what we do would be possible with the contribution of those who no longer work full time. Pray that we may honour the contribution they make in terms of their wisdom, skills, experience and generosity of resources.
Retirement means a lot of different things to different people – opportunity to pursue a hobby, travel the world, look after grandchildren, but also has challenges associated with getting older, be they health or energy related, or the difficulty of adjusting to a lifestyle without the purpose, status or job satisfaction that has been part of life for many, many years. Pray for those facing the joys and challenges of retirement.

8th March – Thursday

Singing the Faith 287
Psalm 92 (StF 817)

Another hot and dusty day in Jerusalem. Another day of disciplined service to Rome. Another day trying to make soldiers of these boys. They were making progress. They had learned a set of skills and were becoming less unruly – behaving like fighting men instead of children! And today is one of those days when they want to have their fun.
It’s permitted – for them to enjoy themselves at the expense of a condemned man. He’s hardly going to complain. He’s not a Roman citizen – just one of the occupied nation – and a Jew at that.
Poor fool! He walked into this punishment. He didn’t have the sense to lie and pawn – to suck up to the Priests or Pilate. Not even an attempt. He could have begged for mercy – not that it would have got him far, but most of them do. Not this one.
He claimed to be a king – their king. It was a joke! I’ve never seen anyone less likely to raise an army. His cowardly band of followers were nowhere to be seen. And you couldn’t describe them as an army.
He’d have no chance of fighting back – but he doesn’t even look as if he wants to. He may not have had the sense to try to get himself off the hook, but I can’t doubt his courage, his strength. He must really believe in this God of the Jews and that he’s sent from him. He’s so convinced of that particular delusion that he’s able to find the strength to stand all this.
Where is that messenger from up on the hill to say they are ready for today’s victims? He should be here by now. I can’t stand much more of this. He’s making me feel uncomfortable now.
That’s it, men! That’s enough! Put his clothes back on let’s get him fitted with the cross-beam…

Pray for all of those over the age of 80. Help us to remember the experience and wisdom of those in our community who have lived for so many decades, and to listen to and learn from them. Pray that our community may be a place where everyone, regardless of age, is valued and valuable for the ministry they offer.
As we continue to live longer, we pray for the care of older people in our wider community. We pray especially for those families facing hard decisions when relatives or loved ones need extra care or support. Pray for those living in accommodation with carers, that staff work with dignity and compassion

9th March – Friday

Singing the Faith 291
Psalm 95 (StF 818)

What sort of King was he?
With only thorns to make a crown?
What sort of King would let
The soldiers treat him like a clown

What sort of Lord was he
Dressed in a soldier’s borrowed cloak?
What sort of Lord, this man?
He never shouted, never spoke.

What sort of Saviour there
Who could he save in his wrecked state?
What Saviour takes all this
With love and not a sign of hate?

What sort of God is he
Who gives his Son to go through pain
And torment and through death?
What God gives love time and again?

What kind of king was he?
What kind of Saviour, God or Lord?
The kind that I could love and serve
Who is by all of heaven adored.

Pray…FOR OUR COMMUNITY Pray for those in our church community who are widows or widowers, some of whom have been alone for many years, and some whose bereavement is more recent. We pray that as a community we may offer support, comfort and understanding.
FOR THE WORLD We pray for all of those who have lost significant partners. We thank God for the blessing of relationships, and for the joy that many experience in their partnerships. Although now alone, we pray that those widowed may continue to feel the comfort of the presence of a loved one in their hearts, and that they may cherish the memories of their lives together.

10th March – Saturday

Singing the Faith 591
Psalm 96 (StF 819)

He was a King – but not an earthly one. He had a Kingdom – but not a geographical one.

If it had been an earthly kingship, the disciples would have been a well-trained army – not a group of mis-fits who ran away at the crucial moment.

If it had been an earthly kingship, he would have slung Judas in prison, not told him to do what he had to do.

If it had been an earthly kingship, Peter would have had the training, the experience of battle to give him courage to stand firm in the face of an advancing army – not just a servant girl.

If it had been an earthly kingship, he would have had a war-horse or a chariot to storm into Jerusalem, not plodded in on a ridiculous donkey.

If it had been an earthly kingship, he would have had a robe of his own – not needing a borrowed one.

If it had been an earthly kingship, his head would have been adorned with a crown or a wreath, not one of thorns to be driven into his head.

If it had been an earthly kingship he would have argued his case, threatened revenge, defended himself or called on his forces to free him.

If it had been an earthly kingship he would not have died for me. He would not have given himself as a sacrifice for my sin. He would not have taken my place.

His is a Kingdom that is beyond earth, beyond time. And I am saved by the King who give himself for his people.

FOR OUR COMMUNITY Pray for people in our community who are single. Often churches or communities inadvertently focus on or cater for families or couples. Pray that we may be a community where this does not happen and where all feel valued and equal regardless of marital or other status.
FOR THE WORLD At a time where society’s understanding of relationships and family become increasingly complex, pray for the strengthening of wholesome and loving relationships worldwide. Pray especially for those who are forced to keep their relationships hidden for fear of persecution or prejudice.