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Online Sunday Service – Sunday 24th May 2020 – Ascension Sunday

Good morning folks,

I hope that you are keeping well and coping as well as you can in this time of shutdown and isolation.

Many are appreciating the slower pace of life as well as catching up with many jobs which have been waiting a while to be done.

 

However, I know that there are many who are struggling with the isolation, more specially those who are on their own. A slower pace gives more time to think, and more time to think can bring its own issues.  Staying calm, deep breathing and relaxation techniques work for me.

 

May I ask you to remember in your prayers, those who have lost loved ones during this time and have had to suffer the added sadness of not being able to give their dear ones a ‘proper’ farewell.

 

Saying ‘goodbye’ is the theme of our Service for this morning.

 

Today we are looking at the Day of the Ascension, when Jesus  returned to His Father in Heaven and ‘handed over the baton’ to His followers to carry on with the work He had begun.

 

The disciples were saying goodbye to their close friend Jesus. They had spent many happy times with Him, as well as some scary times too.  But now He was going to leave them – “don’t give up” He says to them, “you may not seem me but I will see you – so I want you to carry on with the good work – I’m relying on you!”

Words for us, today – whoever said that the Bible is out of touch with reality and of no relevance to today’s world??

 

 

But before all that – let us pray ~

 

Almighty God,

 

we come today reminded of your greatness, your glory, your sovereign power and eternal purpose expressed so wonderfully in Jesus Christ, risen and ascended.

We thank you for the wonder of Ascension, that marvellous yet mysterious moment in the life of the Apostles which left them gazing heavenwards in confusion yet departing in joy.

 

We thank you for the way it brought the ministry of Jesus to a fitting conclusion, testifying decisively to His oneness with you, demonstrating your final seal of approval on all He had done.

 

We thank you that through his Ascension Jesus was set free to be Lord of all —no longer bound to a particular place or time, but with us always

and able to reach to the ends of the earth.

 

We thank you that through His departing Jesus prepared the way for His coming again, through His Spirit, His Church, and His coming again in glory.

 

Almighty God,

forgive us for so often failing

to grasp the wonder of Ascension,

for living each day as though it had never been.

 

Forgive the smallness of our vision,

the narrowness of our outlook,

the feebleness of our love,

the nervousness of our witness,

our repeated failure to recognise the fullness of your revelation in Christ.

 

Give us a deeper sense of wonder,

a stronger faith,

and a greater understanding of all you have done.

 

Almighty God, like the apostles,

we too will never fully understand all Ascension means.

We accept, but we do not fully understand.

We believe, yet we have many questions.

 

Help us, despite our uncertainty,

to hold firm to the one great truth that the wonder of Christ goes far beyond anything we can ever imagine, and in that faith may we live each day.

Listening Lord, as we prepare ourselves for worship – we sit for a few moments to clear our minds of the events of the past week  – we bring to you our sadness’s –  and our joys – our disappointments – our frustrations and our regrets – and so we pray that you will draw close to us as we bring you our own private prayer of confession for all that we have said, done and thought – things that we are not proud of – things we pray you will forgive us for – in Jesus’ name……… so be with us Lord – in the peace of our silence……

 

…..take time to reflect  on these things….. ………

 

Listening Lord – as undeserving as we are – we pray that you will forgive us and bless us with your Mercy and your Grace.

 

Lord we know that you hear us when we pray in faith – so hear us now as we say together – the prayer which brings us together as one family – the family prayer – the Lord’s prayer ~

 

OUR FATHER..WHO ART IN HEAVEN.. HALLOWED BE THY NAME.. THY KINGDOM COME.. THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN….. GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD.. AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS.. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.. BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL .. FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM.. THE POWER AND THE GLORY FOREVER…. AMEN.

 

Today we have 2 readings – one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

 

 

2nd  Kings 2 : 7 – 12   &  Acts 1 : 1 – 11

 

 

We have all been given life for a purpose –

In our Old Testament reading this morning ~ we hear of the prophet Elijah who was at the end of his earthly ministry. He had done all God had sent him to do – and he knew that it was his time to leave this life and to go to be with God –

 

His successor – Elisha – was waiting in the wings to follow where Elijah had led.

But before Elisha could take over the reigns – Elijah first had to leave.

 

In our New Testament. Reading we hear a similar story to that of Elijah and Elisha.

 

The earthly ministry of Jesus was complete – He was returning to the Father – and His disciples were waiting in the wings to carry on His work –

They weren’t too happy to see Him go – but Jesus knew it was necessary if the disciples were to move forward and be effective witnesses in the world………..

So let us read our first Reading for this morning –

 

 

2nd  Kings 2 : 7 – 12 New International Version (NIV)

 

“7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.”

And ~

 

Acts 1 : 1 – 11 The Passion Translation (TPT)

 

 “To Theophilus, the lover of God.

I write to you again, my dear friend, to give you further details about the life of our Lord Jesus and all the things that he did and taught.

Just before he ascended into heaven, he left instructions for the apostles he had chosen by the Holy Spirit After the sufferings of his cross, Jesus appeared alive many times to these same apostles over a forty-day period. Jesus proved to them with many convincing signs that he had been resurrected.

During these encounters, he taught them the truths of God’s kingdom realm and shared meals with them

Jesus instructed them, “Don’t leave Jerusalem, but wait here until you receive the gift I told you about, the gift the Father has promised. For John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit!

Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

Right after he spoke those words, the disciples saw Jesus lifted into the sky and disappear into a cloud! 10 As they stared into the sky, watching Jesus ascend, two men in white robes suddenly appeared beside them. 11 They told the startled disciples, “Galileans, why are you staring up into the sky? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but he will come back the same way that you saw him ascend.”

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever. 17 That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you all alone. I will come back to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. You will live because I live.”

 

This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God.

Amen.

 

Sermon

Have you ever read a good book – and got to the end, only to find the last page is missing ?? – it’s really annoying isn’t it !?

 

You’ve read the story – you’ve followed the plot – but without the last page – you’re left hanging at the end – wondering how it all ended.

 

We probably wouldn’t start to read a book – if we knew it was going to be cut short……… but that’s what this wonderful story of Jesus is like – without the Ascension.

 

We celebrate His birth at Christmas – and His death and Resurrection at Easter – but the very last page – the Ascension – is often overlooked.

 

The Ascension is the culmination of His  physical presence on earth – and now, here He was, returning back to His Father in Heaven.

 

He’d gone full circle – if you like – He came down from heaven – He’d done what  God had asked of Him.   “Mission Earth” was complete – and now He was going home.

 

In our reading from the book of Acts (written by Luke) – Luke describes this strange ‘Ascension’ business for us.

 

Jesus chatting with His friends  – telling them many things – and then He was “taken up before their very eyes  – and a cloud, hid him from their sight!!”

 

What a strange business !

 

And that left the disciples – not only alone and frightened – but with a major challenge – they were to carry on Jesus’ work ! – but how would they do that without Him !?

 

Don’t worry  Jesus had said to them – I’ll send a helper who will give you all the power you’ll need to carry on the good work……… and as promised – a few days later – the Holy Spirit of God came down – and we hear about that at Pentecost – which the church  remembers next Sunday…. The day of Pentecost….

 

But meantime – Jesus had left his followers – and as sad as it must have been for his close friends – to lose someone they cared so much about –  it was something that Jesus knew was essential – if they were ever to stand on their own two feet.

 

He had done what He had come to do – which was to tell us of God’s love – show us how to live – and explain what we must do if we are to hope to gain an eternal life that makes sense of our lives.

 

“What is the purpose of  life?”

Were we simply ‘born to die’ ?? – are our lives a pointless exercise ? – do we live – then die – end of story ?

 

Absolutely not ! – Jesus came to tell us  that there is much more to it than that!

Paul the Apostle wrote these words to the emerging Church in Corinth – “If this whole business of Christ were not true, then surely we are to be pitied among all people. But of course, Christ WAS raised from the dead!” (1st Corinthians 15 : 19 – 20).  And we know that because there many witnesses.

 

And to help us understand all this – He gave us a book of instructions to help us along the way….. His word – the Bible..

 

It has stories- quotes – poems – helpful hints – useful tips – songs – tales of olden times – amazing characters – advice on what and what not to do – and so much more. It’s all there for us – if we would only take the time to read it……..

*

Jesus had completed His work here –

That’s what He meant when He said on the cross – just before He died – “it is accomplished”… God’s great plan had been accomplished.

 

He had accomplished all that the Father had sent Him to do – and now – it’s down to us – you and me to carry on the good work – which is to help in the work of bringing His kingdom to earth – just as it is in Heaven, and we pray those very words, every time  we say the Lord’s Prayer – ‘May His Kingdom come – His will be done – on earth – as it is in Heaven” – and it is important that when we pray – we appreciate that we have a responsibility to do what we can to make that prayer come true.

 

Prayer is much more than simply handing things over to God and standing back and letting God get on with it. It is incumbent upon us to work in partnership with God to make things happen.

 

For example – if we ask God to help the poor and the hungry – but then walk by a poor, hungry person on the street without offering even the small amount of help – than our prayers are just hollow words.

True faith is a combination of Words and Actions (see the book of James, Chapter 2)

 

Jesus  has told us of God’s Kingdom…… He has shown us His amazing power…. And now it’s up to us  to take the next step.

 

He was saying – “I’ve explained what you must do – I have shown you how to do it – now I’ll leave you to go and do it

But then He added the all important – “ but don’t forget……  I’ll be watching – and I’ll be back later to see how you’re getting on !!”..

 

And that’s another thing the disciples were concerned about – when was  Jesus going to return ??……..

 

None of us know – that’s what Jesus said – “it’s not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set..”

 

He’s keeping us on our toes!

And maybe it’s just as well – human nature being what it is, we would probably become complacent  – leave it to the last minute – and think to ourselves “there’s plenty of time yet” – “what’s the rush !??”

 

Perhaps some are saying that now ! – “what’s the rush?”

 

But none of us know the time or the date when He will return for us – and is it not time that we put our life in order ?

 

How prepared are you – if God were to call for you this very day ?? – Is your life in order – or have things still left undone ??

 

Tell that person with whom you are at variance  that you love them – mend that rift – be the first one to hold out the hand of friendship – phone that person who you have been thinking about phoning – do it today ! – we never know the day or the hour –  nor ought we to know – when He is coming to take us home.

 

“I’ve left you in charge” Jesus says – but the world turned their back on Him.

*

And so when we look around – we must ask ourselves “how have we done since God left us in charge !?”  – well – I suppose the honest answer is – not too good !

We hear of wars and death everyday……..

There’s starvation in some parts of the world while others gorge themselves.

There’s a great need in many parts of the world – and massive stockpiles elsewhere.

 

Children are stabbing other children in the streets – in broad daylight. No respect for each other – or for any kind of authority, is pretty much non-existent.

 

People are reduced, in many cases, to mere numbers on a balance sheet…..

 

The vast majority no longer believe in God – far less come to church. Many are willing to receive his daily blessings – but fail to acknowledge Him or give any kind of thanks for His goodness….

 

Preferring instead to go to Tesco’s or Morrison’s on  a Sunday morning – going down a very different kind of “aisle” ! – or find some other reason (‘excuse’?) why worshipping God can’t quite be fitted in to there busy schedule. How pleased we are that God is never too busy for us!

 

“Don’t complain – comply !! – Jesus is saying to us, “go out there and change things – go and carry on where I left off and make this world a better place!”

 

You may not think it, but we can make a difference in the world about us – you can – I can – each one of us can.

 

Maybe we can’t change the whole world – but  we can change the family unit, society and community in which  we live.

 

We can tell those who are suffering that life doesn’t have to be like it is…

 

We can tell others that there IS a loving God.

We can show others that we don’t want to live as the world lives – cut throat – dog eat dog – gossiping about  those around us…….. trying to get one up on others….

 

We can and should live as examples to others, living ‘just and upright lives’ just as our Saviour did.

 

We can show the world that whether rich or poor – we can live by higher standards – standards set by a loving Father who

Loves us so much that he allowed his only Son to die for us.

 

A caring Father who provides for us  – who watches over us and who – through his Holy Spirit – guides us to that ‘heavenly place’ where we are promised that we will receive the eternal blessings of peace and calm and endless love.

 

All this is promised to us – to you and to me – to everyone who stands up to be counted in God’s glorious Kingdom…….

 

The world has largely turned its back on Jesus.

Now it’s time for the world to turn back to Jesus…

 

And we can help with that – you and I CAN – if we get up and get going –

As Jesus said in verse 8 – “and be his witnesses.

 

So the question is – will we stand up for Him who came to save us. ? Or will we ‘stand and stare in to space’ just as the disciples did – on that day of the Ascension ??

 

That – He leaves in your hands

 

It’s a wonderful, awesome challenge to each one of us.

 

You might like to think about it !!

 

But don’t think about it for too long – remember – we know that He’ll be back to see how we’re getting on……

What we don’t know  –  is when !!……

 

Will He find you working for His kingdom –  or will He find you idling away your time –  “looking up to the skies” ?

 

It makes you think – doesn’t it !?

– or at least – I hope it does !!

And in Jesus precious name.

Amen.

 

And may God bless this preaching of His Holy Word – and may all the glory and the praise, be His.

 

 

LET US PRAY ~

 

Caring Lord, we give you thanks for not only being our Creator, Sustainer and Saviour,

but also that through Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension, He is beside us in everything we do, everywhere we go – in all we say and think – in our joys as well as our sorrows – offering love, support and care.

 

We thank you that because of Christ’s Ascension His ministry to us is no longer restricted by the limits of an earthly life.

Now He has been lifted up we can be assured of His presence with each of us at any time, in any place and whoever we are.

 

Lord, we thank you for those moments when we are aware of you all over again.

 

May our prayers of thanksgiving be transformed into lives filled with gratitude that will bring faith, hope and courage to others and to glory to God.

 

But Lord, we know that there are many who do not feel your presence – many who feel alone and cut off from any kind of love or concern ~ who fail to feel the warmth of the love that you have for them……… and today we pray for them ~

 

Father, we pray for all those who are suffering and confined. We pray especially for those who see no hope, no new beginning, no relief or freedom; for those who today are suffering political oppression, persecution or imprisonment because of their faith in Christ.

May the hope of Christ set them free.

 

We pray for all victims of violence; for all who are despised or rejected; for all who are diminished or frustrated by illness, pain, illiteracy or poverty. We pray for all who are slaves to addiction:

May the power of Christ set them free.

 

We pray for all oppressors; for all leaders and governments who dare not give their people freedom to think, act or choose for themselves; for all who are making other people’s lives miserable; for those who exploit other people’s weaknesses and fears.

May the truth of Christ set them free.

 

We pray for all relationships where there is a desire to dominate; for families that are ruled by authoritarian parents or where children receive no proper discipline; for relationships where emotional blackmail is used to gain power or control over each other; for those who are never allowed to blossom, to be free, to be the people they were meant to be.

May the joy of Christ set them free.

 

We pray for all who have been crushed by insensitive words or damaged by unthinking actions;

for those broken by lies, abuse or the failure to be loved unconditionally;

for all without hope, peace or the ability to love and be loved.

May the love of Christ set them free.

 

We pray for those who sigh and cry for freedom; for those who long to know that the past is dealt with, the future is in God’s hands

and today is His gift to us all. We pray for those who hold the broken, share the pain of the hurting and walk with those who are lost.

May the mercy of Christ set them free.

 

We pray for ourselves. Let us ask Christ to touch our thoughts, our words and our dreams. Let us pray that every corner of our lives might be open to His will;

that His love and truth will give us hope, and his presence will fill us with joy. Let us ask for the power of the Spirit to light up our lives with peace and understanding.

May the light of Christ set us free.

 

 

Lord hear us now as we sit in silence – bringing to you our own thoughts and prayers for those we know and love – for those who we know need a prayer at this time ~ Lord, hear our silent prayers……

……think of someone you know who needs a prayer and whisper his/her name (s) …………

 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers, both silent and spoken, for we bring them to you in the name of the one who Blesses us beyond all our expectations and deserving – our dear sweet Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

 

‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’

 

In the time before combine harvesters and large tractors – there was a farmer who was teaching his son how to plough a field, with a horse-drawn plough.

 

He set the horse up – faced it in the right direction, told his son how to hold the reigns – and gave him this piece of advice – “to be sure that you plough a straight furrow – fix your eye on something at the other end of the field, and don’t take your eyes off of it..” Okay dad” the boy said to his father – and set off down the field.

 

The farmer then left his son and went off to busy himself elsewhere on the farm – thinking “what could possibly go wrong!??”

 

A few hours later he came back to see how his son was getting on with the horse and the plough – only to see the lines of the plough were all over the place – hardly a straight furrow in the field.

“What on earth are you playing at!?” The farmer shouted “I thought I told you how to plough a straight line !” – “but I did what you said – I kept my eyes fixed on a cow which was lying at the top of the field – but it got up and started walking about!” J J

Jesus is the one permanent thing in a world of change.

 

Keep your eyes firmly fixed on Him – and your path through this life will be a straight and  undeviating journey up to the very Gates of Heaven.

 

And that’s a promise !

 

So here’s a thought for us all –

 

Are there things which distract us from living as Jesus wants us to live?

Do you follow the ‘straight and narrow’ way  ?

– if not – what is stopping you?

 

Food for thought for us all…

 

 

BLESSING

 

 

As we have felt the presence of God’s love in this place this morning – be assured that as you go – the love of God goes with you –  wherever you go and in whatever you do –

 

 

And may the blessing of Almighty God – Father – Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you – be with your families, your friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day – and everyday.

 

Amen

 

*

 

 

Today we have heard how Jesus returned to Heaven to be with His Father. His purpose had been served, His mission had been accomplished.

But before He left He promised that He would never leave us alone or without a helper.

 

Next Sunday is the Day of Pentecost. The day that God sent down His Holy Spirit, our ‘Holy Helper’ to watch over us and be our guide through the ups and downs of life.

This is the ‘Sprit of Jesus’ – and He guides us to live our lives ‘in the Spirit of God’.

 

Be sure to join us next Sunday –  a big day in the life of the Christian  Church – to see what it’s all about – it was quite a day!

 

 

May God Bless you and your loved ones.

 

Keep well and stay safe.

Online Sunday Service – Sunday 17th May 2020 – 6th Sunday of Easter

17 . 5 . 20

6th Sunday of Easter

 

 

Good morning folks,

Yet another weeks slips by, another week closer to being able to meet up with family and friends on a more personal level. Emails, messaging, texts, phone calls, facebook and tweets are all great ways to keep in touch but there’s nothing quite like a hug or an elbow bump (no substitution for a warm handshake!) and seeing others  ‘eye to eye’ to bring warmth to your heart or a tear to your eye.

Of course we want to get ‘back to normal’ as soon as possible – but common sense tells us that it’s better to err on the side of caution for just a little bit longer.

We hope and pray that it will soon be safe to go out and enjoy life as we return to some semblance of ‘normality.’

May I remind you that no matter how difficult things are for is at this time, no matter how life has changed from all that we have known before – the great love that God has for each of you remains a strong and as sincere as ever it was.

 

*

 

Today I am going to ask you to think about your own life, the decisions and the choices you make.

 

But before that  – let us Pray ~

 

Holy, Heavenly Father of all creation,  we come to you in awe and wonder – for you are the God of the universe – so amazing, so awe-inspiring  – so divine – so beyond anything our minds can comprehend. Yet you are the God who walks with us each moment of each day and you know us better than we know our very selves.

We bring you our praise and our thanks.

 

How blessed we are.

 

Our lives should be filled with gladness,

Our hearts brimming over with adoration,

Our lips overflowing with thanksgiving.

 

Forgive us that all too often we take your many gifts for granted, losing our sense of awe and wonder.

 

Forgive us for praising you with our lips

Without meaning it in our hearts,

For offering worship out of a sense of duty rather than privilege.

Help us rejoice in your love each moment, to bring our praise each day, and to offer our service always, being faithful to you, as you are faithful to us.

 

Help us to see that although we try and manage our lives on our own – we fail to reach our full potential without your help and support.

 

Forgive us that you are only too willing to offer that encouragement and assistance – but that we fail to turn to you unless we are in some kind of crisis – help us to turn to you every day and so become aware of our great need for you.

 

Loving, caring, compassionate, merciful Lord – we come asking for your forgiveness for all our foolish and disagreeable ways –

Ways which offend and hurt you – which hurt and offend others –

 

Forgive us, we pray – bless us with your mercy and your grace – for we ask it in Jesus name – our dear Lord and Saviour…….

 

Listening Lord – hear our prayer this morning – and hear us now as we pray the family prayer together – the Lord’s prayer ~

 

Our Father.. Who art in heaven.. Hallowed be thy name.. Thy kingdom come.. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven….. Give us this day our daily bread.. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.. Lead us not into temptation.. But deliver us from evil .. For thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever…. Amen.

 

We have one Reading this morning from Matthew’s Gospel.

We hear of Jesus being ‘ambushed’ by two leading religious groups ie the Pharisees (the heavy duty Religious leaders of the day) and the Herodians (who wanted to  restore King Herod back to the throne).  They were unlikely partners as they strongly disagreed with each other’s beliefs – yet they formed an alliance, for the moment at least, to try to catch Jesus out.

 

Let’s read it for ourselves ~

 

 

Matthew 22 : 15 – 22

 

Is It Right to Pay the Royal Tax to Caesar?

“ 15 The Pharisees went out. They made plans to trap Jesus with his own words. 16 They sent their followers to him. They sent the Herodians with them. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of honour. You teach the way of God truthfully. You don’t let others tell you what to do or say. You don’t care how important they are. 17 Tell us then, what do you think? Is it right to pay the royal tax to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus knew their evil plans. He said, “You pretenders! Why are you trying to trap me? 

19 Show me the coin people use for paying the tax.” They brought him a silver coin. 20 He asked them, “Whose image is this on the coin? And whose words?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. And give back to God what belongs to God.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.”

This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God

 

Amen.

 

Sermon

 

How are you at decision making ?

Is your motto –  “never do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”

 

Are you a bit of a dither – going this way and that before coming to a decision ?  Or are you decisive and resolute?

 

In the New Testament text that we have just read – we hear Jesus being asked to make up his mind – to choose – to take sides.

 

But of course – it was all a trick to get Him to incriminate Himself.

 

So, what was it all about ?

 

Let’s rewind the story so that we can better see what’s going on here ~

 

Well – we see the Pharisees and the Herodites – who were usually at each others throats – joining forces to trap Jesus by putting to Him what seemed like a perfectly innocent question.

 

“Teacher” they said “we know you’re so wonderful and clever and holy and everything – and of course wouldn’t be swayed by the likes of us – but can you help us by advising us what to do !?” And then they put their question – “is it right for us to pay our taxes to Caesar – or not !?”

But of course it was a ‘loaded’ question – and they were hoping that it would explode in Jesus’ face.

 

If Jesus said that they shouldn’t  pay their taxes – then they would have reported Him to the Roman authorities and He would have been arrested for treason.

 

And if He said that the tax should be paid – then He would have been discredited in the eyes of the people who objected to paying taxes to their Roman oppressors.

 

Either way – the Religious leaders thought – Jesus is going to drop himself in it.      It was a “lose – lose” situation for Jesus – or so they thought !

 

And so they ‘lit the blue touch paper’ – stood back and watched what Jesus would do.

 

But Jesus wasn’t so easily fooled. He knew their scheme and wasn’t about to fall into their trap.

 

And so He asked for a coin – a Denarius – the equivalent of a days wages,  and had the emperor Caesar’s head stamped on it – and so technically – it was the property of the emperor, whose image it bore.

 

That’s why it’s illegal to deface a ‘coin of the realm’ – even yet – as they have the Queen’s head stamped on them.   And so  – in theory at least – they are the property of the Queen.

 

And so when Jesus asked who’s image was on the coin – “the emperor Caesar’s” – then he could say in all honesty, without taking sides. “Then this coin belongs to Caesar – so give it back to him – give to Caesar what belongs to him  – and give to God – what belongs to Him !”

 

A neat side-step, we might think – but you see – the Pharisees were bound by rules and regulations – but Jesus didn’t lay down rules which would date with passing trends and the passage of time – He laid down ‘eternal principles.’ That’s why His teachings are timeless.

 

And here – in this passage – He lays down a very important principle for us – for you and for me – for our lives, in this modern day world –

And it’s this ~

 

Everyone of us who calls ourselves ‘Christian’ – have a dual citizenship. We are citizens of the country in which we live – and we owe much to our country – to our governmental system – for the stability –the safety of the law – public services, health care and the like.

 

But as followers of Christ – as Christians – we are also citizens of Heaven – listen to what Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi  ~

(Philippians 3: 17 – 22)

 

“Join with others in following my example, brothers and sisters, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.

Their mind is on earthly things.

 

But our citizenship is in Heaven.

 

 And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”

 

Powerful words – and still relevant today – where so many – “live as enemies of the cross of Christ”. Whether through outright hostility – or  mere indifference.

 

But we are urged to live a different, better way – the way of God.

 

Yes, we have to respect the world – the country – the communities in which we live – and we must pay our taxes and contribute to the general well being of society – these are all ‘worldly’ things that we must contribute  – give to the world.

 

But we must also give to God – those things which are His – the spiritual things such as our hearts and minds and our souls.

 

Our citizenship is in Heaven” – Paul says – “and we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

This ‘dual citizenship’ calls us to be good citizens of the world – as well as being good citizens of God’s world – the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

But there may be times when something happens or we are confronted with something that we feel is not right – or is against God’s will – and at such times, our loyalty to God ought to over-ride our loyalty to the world.

There will be times when we have to stand up and speak out for what we believe in.

 

And there will be times when people around us – like those Pharisees and Herodians – who will try to catch us out – put us off – try and lead us into doing or saying things we are uncomfortable with – draw us away from our faith – from God – there will be situations – people – who call us to choose.

 

At such times – stand firm

God has the final authority over all things – remain faithful to Him – whatever happens – and you can be sure that He will remain faithful to you.

 

*

 

When you’re asked to choose –

Jesus calls us to – choose life – choose God – it’s the only real option.

 

The things of this life will eventually fade away – but the things of  God will remain forever.

Life here will, one day cease – but life hereafter is everlasting, eternal and timeless.

*

 

But I believe that we are not put on this earth to merely to exist in the world – but to use our faith – to make a difference in the world.

 

We are called not to keep our faith a secret – but to share it and so make a difference in a world which many, aye sadly, too many – don’t know the joy of knowing Jesus –

And that should make us sad – didn’t Paul say-

“As I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ”.

 

How sad it is that so many in the world – don’t believe in Jesus – don’t acknowledge what He did for them – for us – on the Cross.

 

How sad it is that too many ‘don’t have time’ for Jesus – too busy to come to know Him – and so miss out on the most fantastic, loving, genuine and deep relationship they will ever experience.

 

But the Church – Christians the world over – are called to go out into the community – the world – to take our faith and share it with others.

Making a difference by sharing our love of Jesus with them – by encouraging them to take out “dual citizenship” – as they follow our example – and we follow the example of Jesus Christ – God’s only Son – our only hope….. and the only hope for the world.

 

How wonderful it would be if those you love – your family and friends – the whole world – were gathered in and sheltered – kept safe – in the arms of our dear Jesus.

 

And they can be – so can each one of us – because that’s the promise He makes to everyone who chooses the way of Christ over the way of the world.

 

It’s a promise – made to the world – to each one of us

 

It’s a promise that’s made and being fulfilled every minute of every day in someone’s life – it could be your life next – if you choose wisely –

You can be held – comforted – loved and promised life here (in this world) and life hereafter (in God’s kingdom)

How astounding – how amazing – how awesome is that !?

 

What a difference that would make if people all over the world gave their lives over to their God, living a life of love, respect, caring for those less fortunate than ourselves and taking time to give Him all the praise for His faithful and continued blessings.

 

What a difference that would make to your life, to the lives of those you love and to the world!

 

And all this is possible for you – if  you make that choice,

and in the precious name of our dear, sweet Saviour – Jesus Christ.

 

Amen.

 

Let us Pray ~

 

Precious Lord – as we worship you this day – we take a few moments to recall all the many good and wonderful things that you have blessed us with – our family – our friends – our home – a wonderful creation which surrounds us – good food – warm clothing – a church family, here in this place – but more than that – a family which extends from other local churches – to right around this world – all praising you – all worshipping you in the name of our dear Jesus.

Lord – hear our thoughts as we take a short time to remember these – and so many other things, with which we have been blessed ~

….Short time of silence as we think of our Blessings –

and give thanks for them……..….

 

Thank you Lord.

 

But we are all too aware that many in this world are struggling to make ends meet – have no home – few friends – and no means by which they can see and hope of things improving for them.

 

We think of those enduring wars and strife – those suffering the after effects of natural disasters – or the pain of bereavement as they remember a loved one lost.     We bring them to mind – and we pray for them – asking for your special blessings upon them.

 

We pray for all who need a prayer – perhaps someone reading this service today – and we bring them to you and pray you will touch their lives and bring a warmth, a  comfort and a peace of mind to them in their difficult time.

 

We continue to keep in mind those who put their lives at risk to keep us safe and well. Watch over them, keep them safe, so that they too can go home at the end of the day to see their families, safe and free from harm.

Bless them Father.

 

Lord – hear us once more as we bring our own prayers to you – for those we know are in need of prayer at this time – perhaps a friend – or family member – an acquaintance or maybe yourself – the Lord hears your prayer – so let us take a few moments to talk to Him – in the peace of your silence……..

……..take a few moments of silence as you say a short prayer of your own…………

 

 

Listening Lord – hear all our prayers – both spoken and silent – for we bring them to you in the name of our dear sweet Saviour – your only Son – our only Hope – Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

 

Thought for the Week

 

A small boy walked into a sweet shop  store with his dad and was bedazzled by the array of treats on offer.

“What should I choose?  What should I choose?  What should I choose?”  He asked himself.

“Come on son, we don’t have all day,” his dad said.

“These are my favourites.  No wait, these are my favourites.”

He walked along the aisles, picking up bags and putting them back.

He just couldn’t make up his mind.

“Quick son, make up your mind, we have to go,”  His impatient dad said.

Frantically, the boy ran around the store, his eyes moving from one shelf to another, but all of the options looked so good and he couldn’t make a decision.

Eventually, the dad had enough, grabbed his son by the hand and they walked out of the store empty-handed.  The young boy had tears in his eyes.  He wanted them all, but ended up with nothing because he couldn’t choose just one.

 

Much of life is about making choices – from getting up – what will I wear? To what to eat – the ‘healthy option’ or the cream-doughnut .. and many more.

Most decisions aren’t that important – but when it comes to the really important things in life – it can be a minefield of worry and anxiety. How do I know I am doing the right thing? What if I make the wrong choice? And so on…

God asks us to choose.

In matters of Faith, deciding to become a Christian is the best decision you will ever make.

To those who choose to follow Christ, He offers blessings, promises, unconditional love, hope for the future, peace of mind and contentment that you are in safe Hands in this life and in the next, where an eternity of  peace and tranquillity is promised, free from all physical pain and stress free – and so much more.

Sounds good to me!

Maybe it does to you too?

Do you know the story of the life and times of Jesus Christ – and what He did for you?

Why not explore  this whole Faith business for yourself?

Let me promise you – from personal experience – you won’t regret it.

Make that choice and your life will never be the same – in a good way – and that’s a promise.

Amen.

 

Blessing

 

And now – go in Love – Joy and Peace –

And may the love of Jesus go before you –

the Lord Almighty watch over you –

and the Holy Spirit go with you – guiding and protecting you in all you say and do.

And may the Blessing of Almighty God – Father- Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – may He be with your families and friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.

AMEN

Take care and May God bless you and those you love.

Stay safe.

*

 Next Sunday we look at the Ascension of Jesus – when He returned to Heaven.

He had come full circle from His Birth, Life, Death and  Resurrection. His  ‘Mission Earth’ was complete and now He was going back home to be with His Father.

 And the following week is the day of Pentecost, where God sends His Holy Spirit down to Earth – it was quite a day!!

 

Why not join us on this web page and

“read all about it”!

 

*

Online Sunday Service – Sunday 10th May 2020 – 5th Sunday of Easter

10.5.2020

5th Sunday of Easter

 

Good morning folks,

Another week of glorious sunshine – I hope you were able to get out and enjoy some of it.

By all accounts things are beginning to show signs of easing up, but we shouldn’t be complacent just yet – I have a feeling that it’s going to be a long while yet before we are anything like back to ‘normal.’  I really do hope that you are coping with the ‘isolation’ – for some it is a difficult time. If you are struggling please seek help, even a phone call to family or friends can make a difference. We hope and pray that it won’t be for too much longer.  I am happy if you’d like to email or ‘message’ me at any time.

*

I have spent much of this week putting together a Seven Day Devotion for Christian Aid Week, which starts today.

This year Christian Aid is highlighting those who are suffering from the effects of the current climate crisis.  No water, no crops ; no water for the animals. It focuses on the ladies, and their families, of the ‘dry lands’ of Kenya, where the women regularly walk for 5 miles or more to find water to take home for their families, in blistering heat. It puts our own “stay in doors and keep safe’ into perspective I guess.

This weekly devotional will be posted on the Kilmacolmoldkirk.org.uk website, click on the ‘Christian Aid Week -10 -16 May 2020’ Tab on the top bar,  if you would like to follow it each day throughout the week.

If you would like a personal copy for yourself or your Church, please let me know and I will send a copy to you.

But let’s get on with today’s Service ~

Let us pray ~

PRAYER

Holy, holy, holy God – Lord of heaven and earth, we are in our different homes – with different lives – but joining together to worship you and to wonder at your greatness……..

We come, once more, to be reminded of all you are and all you have done – of the Love with which you surround us, the Grace you have shown us through Jesus Christ, and the purpose you have for our lives.

We come to offer you our praise, to marvel at your greatness, and to commit ourselves to your service.

We come to give thanks,

To rejoice in all you have given us, to respond to your goodness, and to offer our love in return.

We come to make our confession, to admit our faults and failings, to recognise our weakness, and to ask your forgiveness.

We come to hear your word to us, to understand what you are saying to us – and put that in to practice in our everyday lives.

We come to pray for ourselves, to seek your guidance, to discover your will, and to find the strength we need to live as your people.

We come to pray for others,

Our loved ones with all their joys and sorrows, our world with all its suffering, and your church as it seeks to express your compassion in action.

We come to make our Offering, to bring our time, our money, our talents, our service, and ourselves.

Loving God,

We come to worship you in the conviction that you are here with us now, that you are by our side always, that you hold all things and all people in the Palm of your hand…………….

As we reach out to you, reach out to us, we pray, and fill every moment of every day with the light of your love, and the peace of your presence, through Jesus Christ our Lord,

To whom and through whom – we pray the family prayer together –

Our Father who art in heaven.. Hallowed be thy name.. Thy kingdom come.. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven….. Give us this day our daily bread.. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.. Lead us not into temptation.. But deliver us from evil .. For thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever….

Amen

We have 2 Readings this morning.

Our Old Testament reading is sometimes called “Daniel’s Prayer” – and he calls upon God to forgive the sins of the nation – and it’s interesting to note that for as righteous as he was – he used the pronoun “we” to include himself among those who live a less than righteous life.  True humility.

And he knew that neither he or any of us can earn or deserve God’s forgiveness – but forgiveness comes out of God’s goodness…….

Our New Testament reading narrates Jesus healing the daughter of a persistent mother.

It’s a strange and  seemingly bizarre text which talks of a frantic mother, tables, dogs and crumbs.

What can it all mean ?? – let’s read it for ourselves-

This is God’s word to us ~

DANIEL 9 : 4 – 6 & 17 – 18   –  ‘Daniel’s Prayer’

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

‘Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

17 ‘Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favour on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.

 

And ~

 

Matthew 15:21-28  –  The Canaanite Woman

21 Jesus left that place and went off to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from those parts came out and shouted, ‘Have pity on me, Lord, son of David! My daughter is demon-possessed! She’s in a bad way!’ 23 Jesus, however, said nothing at all to her.

His disciples came up.  ‘Please send her away!’ they asked. ‘She’s shouting after us.’

24 ‘I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’  replied Jesus,

25 The woman, however, came and threw herself down at his feet.

‘Master,’ she said, ‘please help me!’

26 ‘It isn’t right’, replied Jesus, ‘to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’

27 ‘I know, Master. But even the dogs are hungry and eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’

28 ‘You’ve got great faith, haven’t you, my friend!’ replied Jesus. ‘All right; let it be as you wish.’

And her daughter was healed from that very moment.

Amen.

 

This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God.

 

SERMON

I once saw a picture of Jesus – not unusual – you might say – but in this picture, he was laughing – not just smiling – not just with a serene smile on his face – not even just grinning, but head back – mouth open – eyes sparkling – roaring with laughter.

Well, before that, I never really thought of Jesus actually laughing out loud before.  And, to be honest –  at first –  the picture unsettled me a bit.

I’d always seen Jesus, in a more serious way. Weeping, yes,  praying, of course – but chuckling ?

It seemed too…well, unlike the kind of thing He would do… which only goes to show how much I know.. (or rather, don’t know) – about Jesus – about God.

This encounter with the ‘laughing Jesus’ picture changed my view, my image of Jesus – I now see Him differently from the way my Highland ‘Presbyterian’ upbringing taught me to see Him.

Why shouldn’t he laugh” – I now think – after all we laugh, and if we’re made in God’s image – then He must laugh too !!

I don’t see him through ‘stained glass windows’ any more.

The picture showed me a side to Jesus I had never even considered before. Instead of seeing Him as solemn and aloof  – I now see him as smiling, caring, warm, someone you wouldn’t be afraid to go and talk to – which is what He wants us to do.

We don’t hear much about a ‘laughing Jesus’ do we ? – but let’s think about it –

Do we think He was upset when the Samaritan woman at the well finally got the message who he was and went and told everyone ?? I’m sure he was smiling from ear to ear.

Do we imagine that He was irritated when the little boy offered his packed lunch to feed the 5,000 ? – no – I’m quite sure that he gave the lad a friendly smile and patted him on the head.

And can we really  imagine Jesus looking serious and sombre as He blessed the little children and bounced them on His knee ?? – I don’t think so !

And I also think that it’s more than just possible – that  Jesus had as smile on His face as He spoke to the woman in our New Testament reading .

Let’s imagine that we are bystanders at that conversation.

Here was a woman approaching Jesus – Matthew describes her as a ‘Canaanite woman’ – and in those two words – he makes her an outcast of the Jewish community.

A Canaanite– an outsider – not one of us  – bad news.

A woman –  even worse news – for in that place and at that time – Jewish men were not to be seeing speaking to women in public.

So here was a stranger – a female stranger – asking Jesus for a favour – in public!!

Well, we have to give her 10 out of 10 for determination!

Perhaps He was taken aback a little – or perhaps He was just testing her sincerity.

“Help me!” She had pleaded –

But He doesn’t answer her at first – and then He says  – “But I was sent here to save my own people…..” and may have turned away – because the woman cried even louder saying  – “Lord, please help me !!”

Then He talks about tables, breadcrumbs and dogs ..

And we might wonder – what that was all about !! –

Well, it’s not an easy passage to understand – unless you’re willing to concede that Jesus had a sense of humour – because then it all becomes much clearer –

So let’s look at this passage in a slightly  ‘different’ way – to see just what is going on here –

The woman is desperate. Her daughter is very ill.

The Canaanite woman has no right to ask anything of Jesus.

She is not a Jew. She is not a disciple. She offers no money for his ministry. She makes no promises to devote herself to missionary service.

You get the impression that she knows as well as anybody that Jesus doesn’t owe her anything

And yet she is asking Him for everything.

But that doesn’t slow her down. She persists in her plea.

“have mercy on me!!!!!”  She cries….

Matthew notes that Jesus says nothing at first. Noth­ing. He doesn’t open his mouth. Why?

To test her? Most commentators suggest this. Maybe, they say, He is waiting to see how serious she is about her plea.

I was brought up by my grandmother  – and she used to make me wait a week from the day I asked her for something – to the day she gave me her answer.

Most of the time, I had forgotten that I ever made the request. Time has a way of separating wants from needs. Is Jesus doing that? I can’t see it. I am sure He could see the anxiety, the fear in her voice and in her demeanour.

I have another opinion.

I think that He was admiring her courage.

I think that it did His heart good to see some good old fashioned faith for a change. I think that it refreshed Him to see someone asking Him to do the very things He came to do – to heal the sick and give new life.

The Canaanite woman came with no hidden agenda – no heritage – no religiously stored up brownie points. She knew only two things: 1. Her daughter was weak, and 2. Jesus was strong.

And what follows is one of the most intriguing dialogues in the New Testament.

And, in essence, this is what they were saying –

“You know, of course, that I am the bread of life – and this bread (himself) is really only for feeding my own family?” Jesus said.

“Yes” the woman replied “but there are others who hunger for you too – surely you don’t mind us getting some of the crumbs, do you !?’

And it’s here that I feel sure that Jesus would have smiled at her !

Such understanding – such faith in Him – how could He fail to be pleased ?

And so in a feeling of exuberance and happiness – He answers – “never have I seen such faith – your daughter is healed !”

And with that, her daughter WAS healed.

That doesn’t sound like a stern and condescending God to me – but rather a kind and smiling Jesus.

Her faith and belief in the power of Jesus – was justified and her prayer was answered……..

*

This difficult text becomes so much clearer – for me – when I see Jesus smiling at the distressed woman – admiring her faith – seeing her situation and opening His heart to her  – not because of any worth of hers – but because of His great love and mercy for her………….

Daniel’s words from our Old Testament reading could have been hers: “we do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” (Daniel 9 : 9-11)

 She came, banking on the hope that Jesus would answer her prayer based on His goodness and not her worthiness.

And he did. With a smile.

He answers our prayers too – yours and mine – He smiles upon us and heals us of our pain – when we put our trust and our faith in Him – not because of anything we have done to deserve it – but because of His great love and compassion for us……..

When I think about the prayers God has answered for me in spite of the life I’ve lived, I think he must be smiling still.

 

*

Just 4 short weeks ago – we remembered the bad news of our Saviour’s suffering and death –-

Then there was wonderful good news of the Resurrection – and the love, peace – hope and joy that it brought to the world.

And in 3 weeks time we celebrate the day of ‘Pentecost’ – when God sent down his Holy Spirit to stay with us and guide us. That’s another day of strange and mysterious happenings  – and we will go through that, as we always do, to find out what it is all about,

It’s ‘Good News’ all the way – so let us enjoy our faith – let’s smile with contentment as we know that we have a loving God who cares and provides for us – what could be more wonderful and joyful than that ??

*

So what is this all about?

It’s about how God answers our prayers and cares for us – not because of anything  we have done but because He loves us  – and for no other reason  – and that should be enough to make anyone smile !!

So I’m going to keep on thinking of that picture of Jesus laughing.  To me, it’s more like the Jesus  I  have grown to know and love,  the Jesus who loves and forgives  me – and each and every one of us – just because……

And not for who we are or what we’ve done – but because of who He is –and what His Son did for us on the Cross.

And all this He does – in the precious name of Jesus.

How awesome is that!?

Amen.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

I was reminded of a story about a wee girl who saved up her pocket money to buy a string of cheap imitation pearls.

They only cost a few pounds from a market stall – but she just loved them. She wore them wherever she went – she even wore them to bed every night !

Each night her father would tuck her in and say “I love you Jenny” and Jenny would say “ love you too daddy”,  “do you love me enough to give me your pearls?”-  her father would say – “oh not my precious pearls !” she would answer “but I’ll give you any of my other things”.

This went on for a few nights –  then one night – Jenny took the pearls off of her neck – and with tears in her eyes and gave her father her precious pearls. “here daddy” she said “these are for you” and handed the pearls to him.

With tears gathering in his own eyes – he took the pearls – and with the other hand – gave Jenny a blue velvet case. When she opened it – it was a beautiful string of real pearls.

“Oh daddy – I love you so much” she said and gave her father a great big hug.

“I love you very much too” said the father – and they both smiled.

It’s a lovely story – and it reminds us that when we come to Jesus and give him our worries, our fears and bring those things which we cling on to – He gives back so much more.

Like the woman in our New Testament reading this morning –

she had offered Him nothing but her faith in Him – and He rewarded her by giving her hope, healing, love, peace and joy.

We give Him so little and yet He gives us so much in return.

So here’s a thought ~

What do you need to let go of and hand over to Jesus ?

Is it a worry – a fear – an addiction of some sort – perhaps you are finding it difficult to forgive someone –  or maybe you are struggling with an issue of some other kind.

Hand it over to Jesus in prayer today – and He’ll take it from you – if you’ll let go – and He’ll bless you in ways which will comfort and amaze you – He’ll work a miracle in your life.

He has changed my life – and the lives of millions of people – He can change yours too.

But will you let go ??

Mmmmmmmmm – It’s a thought isn’t it !

AMEN.

 Benediction

And now –

 Go out in love, peace, hope and joy –

Go with God’s love in your heart – and his hand on your shoulder, watching and guiding you in all you say and do..

And may the blessing of almighty God – Father- Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – may he be with your families – your friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.

Amen

Take care, God Bless you, and your loved ones.

Stay safe.

Online Sunday Service – Sunday 3rd May 2020 – The 4th Sunday of Easter

3.5.2020

The 4th Sunday of Easter

Good morning folks,

Well, that’s another week behind us, another week nearer to being able to go out, free to hug loved ones and friends, visit our favourite places and so on (why do I get the urge to shout Freeedom!?) J. But not quite yet, just a wee while longer.

But this enforced ‘down time’ had given us the time to take stock of many things, such as lifestyle, priorities and much more. For many, this period has allowed us to take time out of a busy life to slow down. Maybe this time has allowed us to see what is really important to us, like family and loved ones we don’t normally give enough time to.

Giving time to those we love, actually telling them that we love them doesn’t always come easy when we are chasing our tails.

But love is something we all need – to feel loved and cared for.

I hope and pray that as you read through today’s service, you will see just how much you really are loved, even if no-one else tells you, I’m telling you here and now. Christ knows you, He knows your name, your strengths and your weaknesses, and He loves you still. That is true for each of us.

So why don’t you make a cup of tea or coffee, find a comfortable seat, take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and slowly exhale – and then read through today’ service.

But before all that, let us pray ~

Lord, as we sit in our different homes this morning, we unite as your family and we join our hearts to worship you.

You are the God of the universe, so awesome and immense – yet you are the God of our everyday lives – the God who created our world and all that is in it – yet you care enough for us to watch over each of us every moment of our lives.

Lord, when we DO take time to think about these things, we wonder why you should love us so. So often we deny you – so often we put you at the bottom of our daily agenda’s. We rarely praise you and we live lives which must upset and disappoint you…….. yet you remain faithful to us – even when we fail to be faithful to you.

What an amazing God you are !

We pray that you will help us and guide us to live according to your ways – loving you, loving others, loving ourselves – as you instruct us to do – in Jesus’ name.

But we know that you love us, each one, but in our busy lives we so rarely take the time to tell you that we love you too. Forgive us father.

We are often remiss in telling our loved just how much they mean to us, forgive us for that too.

Guide us to make time for those who are important to us, for those we love and for those we ought to love. May this time of compulsory containment help us to change our mindset so that we may put our priorities into order.

Lord, hear our prayers – and hear us now as we sit for a few silent moments – bringing before you all the many things that worry and concern us………. hear us too as we make our personal prayer confession – bringing to you, the things which we have said, done or thought which we know are not nice, not in keeping with one who is a follower of Christ. Help us to be open – help us to be honest – help us to see our failings and ask you for help to change so that all we say and do be to YOUR glory – not our own – so be with us now, listening Lord, in the peace of our silence………………silence……………………..

Lord you bless us beyond all our expectations, beyond anything we can ever deserve – bless us now with your forgiveness and your mercy – we pray – fill us with your love.

Lord hear our prayers – and hear us now as we pray the Lord’s prayer –

Our Father..who art in heaven.. Hallowed be thy name.. Thy kingdom come.. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven….. Give us this day our daily bread.. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.. Lead us not into temptation.. But deliver us from evil .. For thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever…. Amen.

We have 2 Readings this morning, both of which have the same theme – Shepherds and sheep. If you think that is hardly relevant to modern day life in modern day world– then please think again.

Read on as I explain…

Let’s read these texts for ourselves ~

Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David New International Version

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul
He leads me in right path
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they support and comfort me.

You provide me with all I could ever need, and so much more.

And you fill my life with Blessing until I am overflowing with your kindness.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and when you call me to your side

I know I shall live in the house of the Lord
for evermore.”

And

John 10 : 11 – 18 – New International Version (NIV)

 Jesus said ~

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God

Amen.

*

Both of our readings this morning are well known to us.

The 23rd Psalm – which talks of God the Great Shepherd who provides for us, watches over us and at the last, leads us safely home.

And our reading from John’s Gospel – which tells about Jesus – the ‘Good shepherd’ who laid down his life for his sheep, that’s you and me.

There are many ‘models’ of Jesus…

There is Jesus the Saviour – Jesus the Messiah – Jesus the King of all Kings – the Lord of all Lords.

Isaiah said of Jesus – “for unto us a child is born – and he will be called – “wonderful counsellor, mighty God – everlasting Father – Prince of peace”

 

And then there is Jesus the liberator – Jesus the comforter

and so many more……….

Jesus the Shepherd’ is another model, one which many of us have been brought up with.

A kind, caring man – like a shepherd who watches over his flock – who watches out for his flock – who prepares the way for them – and provides for their every need.

It’s a comforting image – a ‘fluffy sheep’ kind of image – where everything is safe and cumfy-cosy.

For many – it’s a wonderfully reassuring image which gives us the assurance that whatever we go through – our great God goes through it with us.

But for others, that image is a ‘dumbing down’ of an awesome Saviour who broke all the laws of nature as He came down from Heaven – entering the world, to save us and to offer us eternal life.

All this talk of shepherds and sheep gives us a very ‘pastoral’ image of Jesus which nearly all churches emulate today in one way or another – with the Minister – Priest – or Pastor – having a care over his – or her – ‘flock’.

Aye – even the black sheep !!

Indeed – whenever I take a few days away – I arrange ‘pastoral’ cover in my absence. Someone to look after the ‘pastoral’ side of things for me, such as visiting and funerals.

*

That lovely 23rd Psalm is far from being and old and irrelevant verse.

It has a wonderful message for us in today’s demanding world.

It’s a beautiful and familiar Psalm to us all – and perhaps its enduring quality is that it touches at the very heart of each one of us. And that’s because it touches us all in a deep place – a place where, even in this ‘high-tech’, modern world – we all have that basic human need to feel loved and cared for.

The Psalm tells us that in a busy world – in a world where things don’t always go as we’d planned – where we have our ups and downs, our joys and our sadness – in a world where things can sometimes get dark and scary – this Psalm reminds us that our God is with us through it all. He doesn’t walk away when things get difficult – indeed, that’s the very time he draws even closer !

It’s in those ‘valley of the shadows’ kind of times that He takes us by the hand and leads us through our darkest times.

Doesn’t it say ~ even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.   I will fear no evil, for you are with me”.. ?

Its a wonderful message for us – especially at these difficult times of ‘lockdown’ – times when we can feel isolated and down-hearted – anxious and alone.

“You’re not alone !” – it says – your God is with you – carrying you through the “valley of the shadows” times – and out into that sunshine which awaits all who put their trust in Him.

And this is no empty rhetoric – no false claim – but a firm and absolute promise to you – to me – and it’s made to each one of us – in Jesus’ name.

 What a wonderful and amazing God we have –

How blessed we are!

*

In the Old Testament – the Psalms – we hear that God is the Great shepherd – and in the New Testament, we see Jesus as the Shepherd – the Good shepherd – who cares for each one of us – his flock.

Here we see ~

The continuity of the Testaments.

The enduring promise of God’s Love throughout the ages.

*

Just the other day I was thinking about this time of Lockdown, lives being lost, jobs being eroded. So much difficulty and sadness around us – and I thought – “what has God got to say to us about all this ?”

What words of comfort and re-assurance does His Word – the Bible – have for us in such uncertain times ?

And then – as I was preparing for today’s service – I read the 23rd Psalm.

I read about God being my Shepherd – watching over me, caring for me, guiding me.

I read about God providing a safe and peaceful place for me.

I read about God restoring my soul when I feel drained and empty.

I read about God guiding me in right ways when I wonder which way to go.

I read about God walking with me through my darkest times – and He did.

I read about God Blessing me with his goodness and mercy.

I read about how God will take me home when my journey here is over.

And I read that just when I think it is all over – it’s actually just beginning…

And I read that all this is only possible – through a loving Saviour who laid down his life for me.

My precious Jesus.

If that isn’t good news in dark times – I don’t know what is !!

If that isn’t what people need to hear in these times of uncertainty – then there is nothing that can help them !!

When your future is uncertain – turn to God’s word and hear Him say – “I shall be with you always” – assuring you that he will be with you in whatever lies ahead.

When you are feeling weak and vulnerable – turn to God’s word and hear him say that “I’ll give you my strength – that will be sufficient for you

When you have financial problems – turn to God’s word and hear Him say “keep your lives free from the love of money – be content with what you have – for God has said – I will never leave you or forsake you”

 When life is getting you down – turn to God’s word and read about His wonderful plan for you.

And when you feel lost and afraid – turn to God’s word and read that He came to save the lost – and if you are genuinely seeking,

you will not be turned away.

*

The Good Shepherd is watching over you – He has a word just for you – for each one of us – as our various needs require.

It’s all in His Holy Word – the Bible – if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

I’d like to finish with the 23rd Psalm – but a different version – perhaps it’ll help us see this lovely Psalm in a different way.

And as you read it, imagine that someone who knows you really well wrote these words just for – and then I hope you will realize, that actually, He did.

23rd PSALM – The Lord is MY Shepherd

Why not read it aloud..

This is God’s word, to you ~

“The Lord is my Shepherd

And I am one of his flock..

He watches over and cares for me like a good shepherd.

He feeds me and gives me cool water when I am thirsty.

And when things get too much –

He gives me the extra strength I need to help me through my troubled times and out in to that place of peace and tranquillity which He has set aside, just for me.

He keeps me on the straight and narrow path of what is right and proper – just as He promised me He would.

And even when things are at their very worst

I know I need not be afraid

Because God is always with me,

Comforting me and keeping me safe.

He makes me feel special

And gives me all I need to live a good and wholesome life,

Providing me with everything I could ever want –

Aye, and much more beside.

With God looking after me this way –

I just know that He loves me.

And so – when the end of my days shall come –

As come they surely will –

I have the joy and comfort of knowing that He will not forsake me even then – but take me to his home,

To a room that He has prepared just for me

And there I shall live with Him, my Saviour,

In peace, at his side,

For ever more.”

*

It really doesn’t get more comforting than that!

Written centuries ago – for times such as these and a people such as us.

Written for you to take comfort in.

And all this God does for each one of us – and in the name of our precious Saviour – Jesus Christ.

We really are – so blessed.

Amen.

Let us pray ~

Heavenly Father, we bring you our thanks for all your goodness to us. For family, friends and so much more, how blessed we are.

You provide us with all we could ever need and so much beside. You bless us with family and friends, homes and food on our table – even these difficult times. We really are, so blessed.

But we know that there are many, aye too many, who do not have the many things that we take for granted, bless them Lord, bless their families too.

Bless the hungry and the homeless, the sad and the grieving, put your loving arms around them and keep them safe. Remind us too Lord, of our responsibility to care for the hungry and the needy in our communities.

 

We pray for all those affected by the CV19 virus, those who have succumbed and passed on. Bless their families, caring Father.

We pray and give you thanks, for the ‘frontline’ workforce who are working so hard and sacrificing so much to keep the rest of us safe from harm – bless them with good health and keep them safe until this dark time is over.

We pray for our families and for those we love, watch over them and bring them safely through this most difficult time, we pray.

Here us now as we bring to you our own personal prayers of confession, as we bring to you the many things of which we may have said, done and thought which are not in accordance with our claim to be a faith follower of Christ.

Here now our silent prayers…………………………..

Forgive us Listening Lord, bless us with your mercy and your Grace – and all this we pray in the name of your only Son, our only Hope – Jesus Christ.

Amen.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’

There was a party in full swing – one of the guest was a well know actor with a lovely deep, rich voice.

As the evening wore on the other guests prevailed upon him to recite something for them – and after very little persuasion – he cleared his throat and in his best ‘actorial’ voice he began to recite the 23rd Psalm.

His pronunciation was perfect and his presentation of the subject was superb. The group sat enthralled – and when he finished- he took a long, flourishing bow – and was warmly applauded by all present.

The guests then asked if anyone else would like to do their ‘party piece’.

And a young, rather nervous young woman stood up and asked if anyone minded if she sung the 23rd Psalm as it had been one of her favourites in church.

Some of the guests looked at each other – not sure if they really wanted another ‘holy bit’ in the proceeding – but eventually agreed thinking – oh well – it’s soon be over and it’ll keep her happy.

So the young girl – who was a student and far from home – began to sing….. “the Lord’s my Shepherd – I’ll not want – he makes me – down to lie…” and so on – and as she sang – tears came down her face – and you could hear a pin drop……….. Lumps started appearing in throats and soon tears flowed around the room..

When she finished there was complete silence……

Eventually one lady broke the silence and said – “that was absolutely beautiful – how did you mange to put so much feeling into your voice ?” – “that was far more moving than the actors’ recital?” – said another.“Well” – the young girl said – “you see – he knew the words –

but – I know the Shepherd…”

How well do YOU know the Shepherd?…………….

Food for thought for each of us !!

Blessing

Go now – and may the Good Shepherd

Enfold you with his love – fill you with his peace – and lead you in hope,

And may the blessing of Almighty God – Father- Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – may He be with your families and friends and all who you love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.

Amen.

Take care, God Bless you and your loved ones.

Keep safe.

Online Sunday Service – Sunday 26th April 2020 -The Emmaus Rd

26.4.20

The Emmaus Road

Joshua 1:9

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Good morning folks,

I hope and pray that all is well with you and your loved ones this week. It’s a worrying time for us all isn’t it? Some people are either paranoid with what they touch and giving an extra wide berth when out in public, whereas others are too complacent and quite happy to mingle in the park or stand too close to strangers. I suppose a ‘common sense’ approach is the best way handle these unprecedented times.

It seems to be bring out the best and the worst in our society. So many good stories coming out, of nice people doing nice things for others. And of course that lovely old gentleman Captain Tom Moore who is an inspiration to us all.

But sadly there are those who will take every opportunity to deceive vulnerable people into parting with their money.

It’s like nothing we have experienced before – and it’s easy for us to wonder what on earth is going on – and that is just what the 2 Disciples in our text for today were wondering too!

They were experiencing something they had ever experienced before too – their best friend had been nailed to a Cross and died in agony – the whole world seemed to have been turned upside down and they were trying to make sense of those distressing, dangerous and extraordinary times.

But before all that – let us pray ~

Dear Lord and Heavenly Father, we come to praise and to worship you…. we come as a family, to be in your presence and to listen for your word to us……. We come from our different homes and lives, but with one purpose – to unite as one body, the body of Christ and show witness to our faith in you, through your son, Jesus Christ..

Lord, we lift up our hearts in joy that you are our Lord, our King, that Jesus is our Saviour and that you are our glorious hope – for this life and the life hereafter.

Father, you make the light shine out of darkness, you make the sun rise, you give us Christ, the world’s true light:

You live in light beyond all thought, yet through Christ our Lord we know you are present here, today, in our lives, in love and power:

And we praise you.

But who are we that you should remember us? Who are we that you should care for us? Yet, for all our faults, for all our failings – you love us still. What a wonderful and awesome God you are !

We remember how we have not loved or cared, as we ought,

how we have been too much wrapped up in ourselves,

to see Christ before us –

We have been too hard on others, too quick to blame;

We have grumbled, when we should have been thankful,

Have criticised, when we should have tried to help;

How we forget the rest of the world, and are happy, so long as

our own lives are relatively problem free.

Lord Jesus, we admit such things to you now, in your presence and in our silence – and we bring not only our confessions but all that troubles us – all that clogs up our minds and stops us from truly seeing you in all your glory – so be with us now as we sit – in the peace of our silence………

……..a short time of silence…………

Lord, forgive us – heal us, cleanse, refresh, renew us – strengthen our faith in times of doubt – grant us your mercy and your grace – for we ask it in Jesus’ name.

Help us to see that we need your guidance – and as we travel along life’s road – may Christ walk beside us.. leading us onward – teaching, challenging and enlightening us as to your will………..

Hear us we pray for your mercy – hear us too as we pray together – the family Prayer – the Lord’s prayer –

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread – and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.. Lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil .. For thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory, forever…. Amen.

 In our reading from the New Testament this morning, we hear of the two disciples who were heading home after all that had happened at Easter – leaving Jerusalem and walking along the road to Emmaus – downhearted and despondent – they were talking about all that had happened – when they were joined by a stranger – a stranger who turned out to be someone they knew very well ~

Let’s read that together ~

Luke 24 : 13 – 35 : The Walk to Emmaus

13 That day, two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking alongside them.16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces.18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to save us.

22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures! 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?”

27 Then Jesus talked them through the writings from Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 

And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them,34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He who appeared to Peter.”

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized Him as He was breaking the bread.”

This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God.

Amen.

*

As Robbie Burns once said – “the best laid plans of mice and men – gang oft agley!”

And how true that is…

How often have we made plans – got up our hopes – only for them to be dashed as things don’t go as we’d planned ? Perhaps more so in this time of ‘lockdown’. Weddings, Baptisms, birthday parties, all sorts of ‘happy’ times, shelved, postponed and even cancelled.

It’s disappointing to say the least – sometimes it can be devastating – and we feel downcast, disappointed and discouraged. It’s a horrible feeling isn’t it?…

that must have been how those two disciples would have felt as they made their weary way home to Emmaus – as we heard in our N.T. Reading.

.Plans had been made – hopes had been raised – and here was Jesus, that long awaited Saviour – “He was going to ruffle some feathers – shake up the holy men and the establishment – and things were going to change around here!!…”

*

Jesus – the one they had given everything up for – the one they had pinned all their hopes on – but now he was dead – arrested and killed – just like many prophets who had gone before.

Perhaps it had all been some kind of crazy dream – perhaps it was just some kind of band-wagon that they had jumped on – how could they be sure ? –

How could they be sure of anything, anymore ??

But one thing was for sure – it was all over – Jesus was dead – dead and buried – just like their hopes – or so they thought.

But even death could not halt God’s master plan – not even death could not hold Jesus in the grave – as they were about to find out !

So, there they were – 2 sad and dejected disciples – a follower called Cleopas and his wife we, think…. making their way home to Emmaus – a village about 7 miles west of Jerusalem.

They were – quite literally – walking into the sunset – like at the end of some epic movie – but this wasn’t the end – far from being over – the next phase of God’s plan was about to begin!!……..

As they travel that dark and lonely road – a stranger appears alongside them.

What are you two talking about?” He asks them – (as if he didn’t know!) J …

All that has just happened in Jerusalem !” They replied.

what’s all that then ?” Jesus said – perhaps with a mischievous smile – and they must have looked at him as if he had just landed from another planet – ‘where had he been for the last few days ?how could he not know all that has gone on?’

And so they explained all that had happened to this man they called Jesus – little knowing that it was to Jesus that they were actually talking !

And then we heard those words – perhaps the saddest words in scripture – in verse 21 – “we had hoped that He was the one who was going to save us!”

And we can almost hear the disillusionment, the disappointment in their voices.

They had, for a while, dared to hope that it might all be true – but their hopes were cruelly shattered……or so they thought.

I can imagine – perhaps you can too – Jesus looking at them with a warm, enigmatic smile – perhaps shaking his head a little – and saying – “O dear, how slow you are to understand and believe !” – “do you not remember what the prophets have said ? – do you not know that it is written that the Christ had to suffer these things !?” (verses 25-26).

And then from as far back as Moses – Luke tells us – as they walked along – Jesus talked them through everything that the scriptures had said, concerning the coming of the Messiah – the Saviour – the Christ, the Christos, the Anointed one – himself.

But even then – after all the explanations and enlightenment – they still didn’t realise who this ‘stranger’ really was !

Of course, He was no stranger ! – this was the one who had been promised since ancient times – and they had been excited by His coming – “this was the one who would change their lives – change the world” – this was their own dear friend – Jesus – who would turn their faces from the sun-set – to the sun-rise – to the dawn of a new day – just as their ancestors had done on their wanderings – when they had “journeyed towards the sunrise” – and we can read about that in the book of Numbers at Chapter 21.

And so – a bright new day was dawning – a day full of hope and expectation – a day in which Gods’ promises were to be fulfilled – and all through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ – Jesus the long awaited Saviour…..

But we hear that it wasn’t until they shared a meal – and when Jesus ‘broke the bread’ – that the penny dropped as to who this charismatic fellow traveller really was !

Perhaps it was then that they saw the marks on his hands – maybe it was then – like Thomas – who we heard about last week – they saw for themselves – and believed…

It’s a powerful and potent text – and it has much to say to us – here – today.

It shows us that Jesus doesn’t force his way into our lives – He gently walks beside us – sincerely wanting us to see Him and invite him in…

It tells us too that so often, we are so preoccupied with our own agendas – too tied up with our own issues and problems – to see that Jesus is right there with us.

Hebrews 13 v 5 tells us – “Never will I leave you ; never will I forsake you…”

 We fuss and worry about what we are going to do next – how are we going to cope ? – but fail the see that the answer – the help – the hope – is, quite literally – staring us in the face.

Aye – but do we recognise Him ?

The theme of recognition – or the lack of it – is repeated through many of the resurrection narratives.

To many of those who knew him best, the risen Lord appeared as a stranger.

Close friend, Mary Magdalene didn’t recognise Jesus when He appeared to her in the garden; she thought He was the gardener.

What how about you? Would you recognise the face of the risen Lord if he drew alongside you this morning? What if He came and sat next to you in your home? Maybe He has – maybe He is !

What if He was sitting in a shop doorway as you walked past?

What if He knocked on your door this evening asking for some change for a cup of tea? Would you recognise Him – or would you turn him away?

He makes himself known to us at various points in our lives – and we either recognize Him and embrace him, and our lives will never be the same – or do we fail to recognize him and our lives goes on unchanged; a life changing opportunity missed.

It’s easy for us to become “travellers on the Emmaus road” – despondent – struggling to understand – confused and discouraged – yet Jesus knows when we need his help.

It’s when we are downcast and dejected – that he draws closer to us.

It is on our weakness – that he gives us His strength.

And this text – this story – tells us one more thing – it tells us of God’s great and glorious power –

For it tells us that Jesus really did rise again ! – that it’s only the plans of ‘mice and men’ that gang oft agley – the plans of God roll on through time – like an ever rolling stream – unhindered by mankind’s feeble efforts to control our own destiny.

And so we see that this passage – this well know narrative – is a powerful passage from our powerful God – which has so much to tell us – and then, much, much more beside.

But if we have the eyes to see it – it challenges us too.

It challenges us to look for Jesus as we travel this journey of life – of faith.

It challenges us to recognise His presence in all that is good in the world.

And it challenges us to share that belief – that certainty – of God’s ever present-ness (if that’s a word) – with others.

These are some of the challenges that this text – that ‘walking with Jesus’ bring for us – as His followers in today’s world.

 

You’ve heard of ‘kilt walkers’ – well we are ‘Jesus walkers’………. Walking with him on our journey from here – as the old film title said – to eternity….

Are you up for the challenge ?? – are we up for the challenge ??

Those early disciples were ~ as have millions of followers of Christ ever since ~

 How about you ??

I pray that you are – and I pray for you in the precious name of Jesus.

Amen.

And may God bless this preaching of his holy word – and may all the glory and the praise be His.

*

As we bring our concerns and fears for the world to God in our prayers of intercession – we think of all the awful events we hear of on the radio or television or read in the newspapers – and we think of those people affected by such tragedies.

And we think too of the situations and people that we know in our own lives – who need a prayer at this time .

At the end of each wee paragraph, you might wish to say with me

Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

So let us pray together ~

Heavenly Father,

You bless us with so much, and we offer our gratitude, appreciation and recognition of all that you do for us and our loved ones.

Lord, we give you our thanks for our families and friends – for those who love us and care for us, for those who make life good.

Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

But Father, we know that there are many in this world, aye, too many, for whom life is not good – and it is these, our brothers and sisters who share this earth with us, that we bring to you in our prayers today.

Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

We pray for those who struggle to exist, while we have plenty.

 Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

We pray for those who have the most basic medical help, while we are blessed with the latest ‘high-tech’ advances that modern technology can offer.

Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

We pray for those who are hungry and homeless while we have nice homes and our stomachs are full.

Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

We pray for those who mourn the loss of a loved one, whose lives seem to be empty of all hope and feel that life no longer has meaning.

Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

 We pray for those whose lives are being turned upside down by the thoughtless actions of others – those caught up in violence or war.

Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

We pray for those places in the world where greed and the need for personal gain is causing conflict – and we pray for those ordinary, everyday people who become embroiled in such conflict, whether domestic or on a more national scale. Lord, bless them, each one.

Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

And today we particularly pray for the families of all those who have lost loved ones, whether through the CV19 virus or some other cause.

May they know the peace and consolation which comes from placing their trust in you, knowing that their dear one is now at peace, safe in your loving arms.

Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

 

At this time we particularly pray for those ‘front line workers’ who put their own lives in danger in order to keep the rest of us safe. Watch over them, keep them safe in the face of such danger.

Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

Be with us listening Lord – as we sit together – in silence – for a few moments – each with our own thoughts – each with our own prayers – for those we know and love – and those we know who need a prayer at this time…….

Hear now, our silent prayers ~

……short time of silence as we silently name them ……

Loving Lord ~ Walk with them – we pray

for we ask it in the name of the one who walks beside us on our journey – our dear Saviour – the Risen Christ Jesus .       Amen.

Thought for the Week

We’ve been speaking about recognizing Jesus in our lives ~ here’s a wee story ~ It’s about a little boy who sat down at the kitchen table with his crayons and a big sheet of blank paper, and he started to draw.

His father, noticing the youngster hard at work at the table, stopped to look. “What are you doing, son?”

“I’m drawing a picture of God,” said the little boy.

“But son,” said the father, “You can’t draw a picture of God. Nobody knows what God looks like!”

The little boy thought for a moment and said, “Well—they will once I get this picture finished !! ”

*

Most people would agree with the father in the story. No one knows what God looks like.

But maybe that’s one of the reasons God created us in his own image, and called us to serve Him and show the world what God is like.

The Apostle Paul wrote : “As we are being draw closer to God, we are being ‘conformed into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ”

“See me” Jesus said “ and you see God” –

As we become more Godly – as we become more Christ-like – people can see in us a reflection of our Heavenly Father.

 

And so – as Christians, followers of Jesus – as we walk through this life – we must ‘conform to the image if Jesus’ and walk alongside others in love, tolerance and understanding –

That’s what God is like – that is how we should be.

So that they will see Jesus – in you!

Now that IS food for thought!

Don’t you think???

Blessing

 Go in love, joy, peace and hope ~

Go and walk with God – walk with others, showing them the love of Jesus……..

And may the blessing of Almighty God – Father- Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – may he be with your families and friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.

Amen.

May God Bless you and your loved ones, take care and keep safe.

Online Sunday Service – Sunday 19th April 2020 – Sunday after Easter

19.4.20 – Online Service

Sunday after Easter

Good morning folks,

How are things going with the ‘isolating’ ? Are you managing to get though all those jobs you had planned to do while in isolation? If you are anything like me, you will have made plans with good intention but time seems so slip away and another week has flown by before we know it. Oh well, there is always tomorrow! Perhaps you are feeling anxious and that is quite understandable. Worrying about families, concerned for loved ones who may live far away, or the anxiety of being enclosed for so long – and the term ‘lockdown’ isn’t helpful either.

Perhaps remembering the words of Matthew when he said “..who of you by worrying can add a single hour to their life..?” (Matt 6:27) might give us some comfort.

Calming exercises can go along way to bringing a serenity and a peace – and then follow that with Prayer, is a proven combination for reducing stress. It takes time and practice to master but I can assure it that works, it certainly does for me. Why not give it a try?

I suppose it is easy to be skeptical – there’s a lot of uncertainty and doubt about – indeed our Readings for today both talk of doubt and disbelief.

But before all that – let us join together in a Prayer

PRAYER

Lord – you are the God who so loved the world that you created the world and all that is good..

You are the God who so loved the world that you sent your only son – for us……

Lord, your love for us brings wonder into our hearts as we see the beauty of your creation all around us.

We see the bonnie hills – the new lambs, the daffodils, new growth, new life.

Lord, your love for us brings a smile to our faces as we share the joy of being alive.

Lord, your love for us brings us joy as we remember the new life and hope that is ours through the Resurrection of our Saviour Jesus.

We worship you, O God of love – and we praise you above everything –

We join with our friends and family this day, to hear your word to us…….. and we ask that it enters our hearts and our minds – and so helps us to LIVE our faith – rather than mere words or religious rhetoric……..

We need your guidance, O Lord, and we pray that you will support us as we try to improve our lives – try to live as a good example of your children .. so that we might draw others to believe in the risen Christ – and so be HIS light, shining in a dark world.

Forgive us when our faith falters, forgive us our cynicism – our need for hard evidence before we believe…… draw close to us as we come cautiously to you – for fear that your amazing power might be too much for us to comprehend.

But Lord, we know that we must sadden and disappoint you at times – and we know that our lives are not as you would wish them to be – so be with us now as we sit for a few moments in silence – looking back over the past week or so – remembering the things we ought not to have thought, said or done – the people we may have thoughtlessly hurt – and bring them before you with a humble heart.. – Lord hear us, in the peace of our silence….

….. a short time of silence………

Lord, forgive us………. heal us, cleanse, refresh, renew us – strengthen our faith in times of doubt – grant us your mercy and your grace – for we ask it in Jesus’ name.

Lord we know that you hear us when we pray in faith – so hear us now as we pray together – the prayer which brings us together as one family – the family prayer – the Lord’s prayer ~

Our Father.. Who art in heaven.. Hallowed be thy name.. Thy kingdom come.. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven….. Give us this day our daily bread.. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation.. but deliver us from evil .. For thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever…. Amen.

This morning we have 2 readings –

In our first Reading – we hear about the Queen of Sheba who was fabulously wealthy – and had heard all about the amazing wealth of King Solomon – and had come to see it for herself –

And in our New Testament reading – we hear how Jesus had appeared to the disciples – giving them hope and encouragement – but Thomas, who had separated himself from them, hadn’t seen Jesus – and wasn’t too keen to believe it could be true – until he saw Him for himself

Let us read God’s word together –

Reading 1 – 1st Kings 10 : 1 – 7

Visit of the Queen of Sheba

Now when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the King which he could not explain to her. And when the Queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings which he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.

And she said to the King, “The report was true which I heard in my own land of your affairs and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it; and behold, the half was not told me; your wisdom and prosperity are far greater than the stories I have heard.”

Reading 2 – John 20 : 19 – 31

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the the disciples had locked themselves away in fear of their lives. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive the sins of any, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came to them in the room. 25 So the other disciples went to see him and told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” 28 Thomas saw His wounds and touched him there and cried out “O My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him, “Do you believe now you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life and life eternal, in His name.”

Amen.

This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God.

SERMON

How are you with practical jokes or ‘wind up’s’ as they’re called nowadays ?

You know – where people think it’s highly amusing to spin you a line about something – apparently in all honesty – and you take it in – assuming that they’re telling you the truth – only to find that it’s all nonsense and not true at all – and your apparent gullibility causes great hilarity – and all at your expense.

Not everyone’s idea of good fun…

Perhaps that’s because we like to take people at face value – giving them benefit of the doubt – assuming that they are telling the truth – why would they not be ?   Or maybe we’re just a bit gullible !!

But then – there are those who are not so easy to have the wool pulled over their eyes – they are guarded, cautious, careful – and maybe that’s not a bad thing either – and I suppose that’s just the way some people are.

That’s the way the Queen of Sheba was – as we heard in our Old Testament reading.

She wouldn’t believe the great wisdom and wealth of King Solomon – until she saw it for herself………

That’s how Thomas was too – “aye – I’ll believe it when I see it for myself !” was his motto……… and when we think about it – can we really blame him ? – after all –how do you think you or I would react in a similar circumstance ??

Perhaps Thomas is not so very different from many of us.

Imagine the scene – here we have 10 of his friends – the other disciples – excluding Thomas and of course, Judas, who had all seen the risen Jesus for themselves

He had come to them while they were in a locked room – as we saw in our reading from John’s Gospel.

And there they were – trying to convince Thomas that – as unbelievable as it might seem – it really WAS true – Jesus HAD risen from the grave!

But Thomas wouldn’t take their word for it!

He needed to see it for himself before he would believe it.

So not only was he a doubter – he was stubborn too !

Do you get the feeling that from this passage – that we’re not getting a particularly flattering picture of ‘doubting Thomas’ ?

But you know – I believe that poor old Thomas has had a bad press over these many years – and, I believe, unfairly too.

He is mentioned in all four gospels – as well as the book of Acts. But what do we remember him for ? His doubt.

But there was a lot more to Thomas than that – aye, but what?

Well – he was one of the very first 12 disciples which Jesus ‘sent out’ to drive out evil spirits and “heal every disease and sickness”.

But do we remember him for that?

When Jesus had said earlier that He must to go to Jerusalem and there to meet his death – who was it that said to the rest of the disciples – “let us also go, that we may die with him?” – yes, it was Thomas.

But do we remember him for that ?

When Jesus was explaining that He was to go to the Father to prepare a place for each one of us – who was it that said “but Lord, we don’t know where you are going – so how can we know the way ?” – yes it was Thomas again – but how many of us remember him for that ?

 

And after Jesus had ascended to the Father- and the disciples drew lots to see who was to replace Judas in their number – who was there, a part of that major decision – yes – Thomas – but do we remember him for that ?   No.

If I were to ask you to think of one word which springs to mind when I say the name Thomas – for most of you it would probably something like – “doubt” or “doubter”.

And that’s a shame – for all his faithfull discipleship – we remember Thomas for his very human trait – we remember him for doing and saying things which many of us are guilty of too.

We remember Thomas for his uncertainty – his disbelief – his doubt – yet who among us – can say that we have never had a moment of doubt ?

Who among us can honestly say that – like Thomas – our faith has never received a knock – a shake – when things seem at their very worst ?

Who – like the father who witnessed Jesus heal his demon possessed son – hasn’t at some time or another said – “Lord I believe – help me in my unbelief!” ?

Thomas was only being honest – perhaps others had their own doubts too, but kept it to themselves.

Perhaps for Thomas the thought of his beloved Jesus returning was – quite literally – just ‘too good to be true !

Just as we too might feel when thinking of a loved one lost…….

‘No it can’t be true – oh how I wish that it were – but no – it’s just not possible !’ – and we shut ourselves off – we shut ourselves out – from others who care about us – and we grieve in private – behind closed doors……

King George the 5th once said “if I have to suffer – let me be like a well bred animal, and let me go and suffer alone” – and that’s what many of us do – grieve in private – that’s just what Thomas did.

“My dear one is gone” – he must have thought – “my dear sweet, precious Jesus – dead !” And we can imagine the waves of grief overcoming him as he sat alone in his sorrow.

An understandable – yet, sorry sight – just like many of us – when we lose a loved one.

But Jesus doesn’t leave us in our despair – he comes to us – as he came to Thomas – and blessed him – so He blesses us with his comfort and his care.

Thomas couldn’t believe it – who among us would ? – how could we ? – yet there he was – standing right beside Thomas in his desolation – just as He stands beside us – if we have the eyes to see him and the open-ness to feel his presence.

But of course – Thomas wasn’t the only disciple who doubted the Resurrection of Jesus.

Last Sunday – at our Easter service we heard that when the Mary’s had found the empty tomb – they ran and told the disciples and we are told – “they did not believe the women – for their words seemed to them, like nonsense!”.. And they ran to see for themselves…… And then they believed !

I remember seeing a poster many years ago which simply said – “Jesus – just because you can’t see him – doesn’t mean He’s not there !”

Perhaps our cynical and world-weary outlook on life has made us more like the Queen of Sheba – or Thomas than we’d care to admit.

Seeing is believing” or so the saying goes – and when they saw with their own eyes – they believed.

Now you see you believe” Jesus had said to Thomas – “and blessed are those who have not seen me – and yet, believe”.

And it was then – that Thomas knew – it was then that the believed that the Resurrection was true -Jesus had risen – just as he said he would !!

It was then that he saw the light and the truth and the way ahead – it was then that he said “my Lord and my God!!”.

*

So what was it that turned Thomas around ? What had turned his unbelief – into a firm belief ??

It was the presence of Jesus – it was when he saw the extent to which his body had been injured.

It was when he saw, experienced Jesus for himself.

And that’s true for us too – we may not see Jesus in the physical sense – but it’s when we experience Jesus – when we feel His presence – see His presence in the world – in our lives – that we can truly believe.

And it’s when we feel it for ourselves – experience it for ourselves that we will want to tell others that wonderful Good News – that Jesus came, died and rose again – so that we, you and I and all who trust Him, might have eternal life.

“Be still and feel the presence of the Lord…”

It’s then that we will be able to say for ourselves that Jesus really isto echo the words of Thomas – “my Lord and my God”!

*

You know – if you have the eyes to see him, the open-ness to feel him – He is here with us right now as we share this time together He’s with you every day – right where you are.

Please don’t ever doubt it – this is no practical joke – no ‘wind up’ – it’s the greatest truth you will ever hear – and you can know it for yourself, if you have the faith to believe – truly believe.

Knowing Jesus for yourself – there really is no greater thing.

And that’s something that you can believe !!

And in Jesus’ precious name.

Amen.

And may God bless this preaching of His Holy Word – and may all the Glory and the Praise – be his.

Let us pray ~

 Living God,

We give you our thanks for the many blessing that you freely give to us each day – so many that we take them for granted.

Family, friends, a roof over our head and food on our plate – and so, so much more.

We really are so grateful but rarely take the time to say a simple ‘thank you Lord’ –

Lord forgive us –

Lord, in your mercy – hear our prayer.

But Lord we know that there are many in this world who are not so blessed as we are –

And we bring them to you in our prayers –

We pray for all those who find faith difficult or impossible —those beset by doubt, troubled by questions to which they can find no answer, unable to take the leap of faith, yet seeking, searching and thirsting for truth.

Lord, in your mercy,……………….hear our prayer.

We think of those for whom events in the world at large seem to deny your love —those confronted by natural disaster, sickened by war and violence, perplexed by sickness, suffering and disease, bewildered by the apparent victory in so many places of evil over good.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray also for those confirmed in their unbelief, unwilling to consider further the claims of the Gospel, unmoved and unchallenged by the love of Christ.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Living God,

break through the barriers of doubt and unbelief. Open the hearts and minds of all who are troubled and confused, and all who are closed to your presence.

Meet with those who find it hard to meet with you, and lead them to a living, life-giving faith.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Today we pray for our world and all who suffer from man’s inhumanity to their fellow man – those caught up in wars and violence – pain and suffering – death and destruction – through the evil and violent actions of others…… and pray for an end to their suffering…….

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are suffering ill health – physical and emotional pain – and ask that your healing presence be upon them………….. We pray too for those of our own families – and those we know need a prayer at this time.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

So draw close to us now as we sit together – in silence – for a few moments – each with our own thoughts – each with our own prayers – for those we know and love – be with us listening Lord – and hear our silent prayers……………..

……a short time of silence……

 Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer –

for we pray in and through the name of our dear sweet Jesus.

Amen.

‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’

Our theme for today has, of course, been the uncertainty and doubt – something we all experience at some time or another. But here is a story which, I hope, will give us food for thought.

This is a story about a man called Callum, who had the misfortune to get caught in a serious flood. The water was rising all around him and was soon up to his knees. He climbed the staircase to the first floor but still the water rose. It wasn’t long before the water was up to his waist and he looked out of the window to see what was happening to his neighbours.

A boat was passing and the occupant shouted, “Hey, Callum! Quick, climb aboard my boat and I will take you to safety.”

Callum smiled and replied, “Thank you very much, but I have had a word with God and he will take care of me.” Soon the boat was out of sight.

The flood would not stop and the water continued to climb. Callum was forced onto the roof of his home and he surveyed the rising water below him.

Just then, a helicopter flew over and a man used his microphone to tell Callum that worse was yet to come. He threw a rope down to Callum and cried, “Quick Callum, climb up while you still have a chance!” Nevertheless, Callum had been a good man all his life and placed his faith in the Lord, so he declined the offer. “You don’t have to worry about me,” he shouted.

And the waters rose and rose until finally it was all over. Callum was taken from this earth.

As already mentioned, Callum was a good man, so naturally he was taken to the pearly gates to meet St. Peter.

On entering heaven he was taken and introduced to God who welcomed him with open arms. But, Callum was not content and asked God, “I am confused my Lord. I have been a devout follower my entire life, and never once have I strayed from your chosen path. I believe I was too young to die now. I prayed to you and asked you to save me, but my faith let me down. How could you have been so cruel?”

And the Lord replied, “What do you mean I let you down? I sent you a boat to save you, and a helicopter as well – but you sent them away! Where is your faith in me?

Callum dropped his head, smiled and said “O Lord my God, why did I ever doubt you?”

A tear fell from Callums’ eye as the Lord said – “You are forgiven my son, enter now into the Kingdom of God.”

God is all around us, with us every minute of everyday – but do we see Hm?

Mmmmmm – food for thought for us all.

May the Love, Grace and Peace of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you, your family, friends, all you know and love, and ought to love.

This day and every day.

Amen.

Take care, God Bless and keep safe.

An Easter Reflection

Why Did Jesus Fold the Napkin ?

The Gospel of John (20:7) tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the other grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed separate from the grave clothes.

John 20 : 1 – 7 tells us ~

“Early on Easter Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, ‘They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!’ Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see.. The other disciple outran Peter and got there first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in.

Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the napkin that had covered Jesus’ head was neatly folded up and lying to the side.”

Was that really important? Absolutely!

Is it really significant? Yes!

Why? Well, in order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day.

The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition.

When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it…

The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished.

Now, if the master were finished eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would scrunch up the napkin and toss it onto the table.

The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the scrunched up napkin meant, ‘I’m finished.’

But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it neatly beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because……….. The folded napkin meant, ‘I’m coming back!’

Is that why Jesus folded up the head cloth or napkin before leaving the Tomb?

A simple, subtle yet powerful reminder to His followers that He would be back – just as He promised He would.

And that is exactly what He did – on that First Easter morning…

He came back !

He is Risen – He is Risen indeed !!

God keeps His promises…

Amen!

Online Sunday Service – Sunday 12th April 2020 – Easter Day

12 . 4 . 20 Week 4 – Easter Day

Please look out for an Easter Reflection called – Why did Jesus fold the napkin?

It will be posted tomorrow morning – Easter Monday.

*

Good morning folks,

I sincerely hope and pray that you and your loved ones are managing to keep safe and well at this most difficult time.

It’s a challenging time isn’t it? As we worry about family and friends, try to keep ourselves out of harms way and use this ‘down time’ as usefully as we can.

It’s so easy for us to nap throughout the day or watch TV to pass the time but keeping ourselves healthy is important for our overall wellbeing mentally as well as physically. I have a wee thought about all this in my ‘Thought for the Week’ at the end of the Service.

Today is of course, Easter Day – the day of Resurrection, when Christians celebrate the day that Christ rose from the dead, the most important day in our Christian calendar. Yes, even more important than Christmas! For our faith is not that Jesus was born (as important as that is) or died (as important as that is too) but that he He rose again!

We will hear about that in a moment – but first, let us pray ~

Almighty God, it is with joy and praise, with awe and wonder, with gladness and celebration, that we bring you our worship on this Easter Day. This day of Resurrection.

We lift up our hearts, we lift up our thoughts, we lift up our voices, we lift up our souls, recognizing once more, all you have done for us, in and through Christ.

We rejoice in the message of this day, the Good News at the heart of our faith —light after darkness, joy after sorrow, good after evil, life after death!

Almighty God, speak to us again today through all we read and pray.

May the truth of the Resurrection inspire us with new hope.

May the victory of Christ fill us with new joy.

May the reality of His presence fill us with new faith.

And so may we serve you with new enthusiasm, to the glory of your name.

Loving God, we freely admit our faults and failings.

We acknowledge that we are far from perfect..

And we ask for a healing and a renewal in our lives……

We ask for a cleansing, a refreshing of all that has become jaded and routine in our worship – in our lives – in our love for you….

Forgive for our wrongdoings, restore us through the love of Jesus – revive us in the Holy Spirit – strengthen us through your Holy grace – so that we might better serve you and so live to your honour and your glory – through Him who died and yet rose again for us – our dear Lord Jesus – in whose name we pray.

Lord, we know that you hear us when we pray to you in faith – and so hear us now as we pray together, the family prayer – the Lord’s prayer ~

Our Father, who art in heaven.. Hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever. Amen.

The Bible reading this morning tells us what happened on that very first Easter day.

It’s a well enough known passage but there’s much more to it than first meets the eye!

Let’s read it together ~

Luke 24 : 1 – 12

 News That Jesus Has Risen From Death

Very early Sunday morning, the women came to the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. They brought the sweet-smelling spices they had prepared. They saw that the heavy stone that covered the entrance had been rolled away. They went in, but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. They did not understand this. While they were wondering about it, two men in shining clothes stood beside them. The women were very afraid. They bowed down with their faces to the ground. The men said to them, “Why are you looking for a living person here? This is a place for dead people. Jesus is not here. He has risen from death. Do you remember what he said in Galilee? He said the Son of Man must be handed over to the control of sinful men, be killed on a cross, and rise from death on the third day.” Then the women remembered what Jesus had said.

The women left the tomb and went to the eleven apostles and the other followers. They told them everything that happened at the tomb. 10 These women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, and some others. They told the apostles everything that happened. 11 But the apostles did not believe what they said. It sounded like nonsense. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb to see. He looked in, but he saw only the cloth that Jesus’ body had been wrapped in. It was just lying there. Peter went away to be alone, wondering what had happened.”

Amen.

Well, here we are, Easter Day. It seems no time since we were putting away the Christmas decorations!

A wee boy in my Sunday school said to me “Mr Ramsden, Jesus couldn’t have been very old – if he was born at Christmas and died at Easter!” Bless….

Time certainly does fly. And for Jesus those few short days between the ‘Triumphal Entry’ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with shouts of “Hosannah!’ from the cheering crowd – to the dark jeers of ‘Crucify Him!’ on Good Friday must have seemed like an instant. How quickly the mood had changed.

But as always, Good News in never far away when Jesus is around. And so the bad news turned once more into Good News when – “…on the third day, He rose again!…” Where were the cheers of “Halleluiah then!? How fickle our human ways can be.

The Resurrection is something that many people struggle with, including devout Christians.   I mean, once you have passed away then that’s it, isn’t it!?  Our common sense might be saying ‘yes’ but our faith tells us ‘no’.

It was no different for those who knew Jesus well. Our Reading for this morning from Luke’s Gospel tells us what happened when the women went to pay their respect to their friend Jesus with spices and oils to anoint His body, ready for burial.

They were taken aback – as they looked inside and saw Jesus was gone – and then – as if all that wasn’t enough – verse 4 tells us that 2 men in shiny suits – 2 angels – suddenly appeared beside them !!

“And they were afraid.”

No wonder they were afraid!   Wouldn’t you be!?

Where is He…?” they asked…

And the angels spoke – verse 5 – “why are you looking for Jesus in here !” One said – “don’t you remember that he told you he would rise on the third day – have you forgotten so soon!?”

He said that all this was going to happen – so why are you so surprised?’ said the other angel.

“Oh ye of little faith” as Jesus had once said.

“And then they remembered His words”. They remembered bad news followed by the good news! see verses 7 & 8.

The Good News which is littered throughout the bible for us to see – if – we have the eyes to see them.

The clues to God’s great plan for His people – are all in the bible, like stepping stones to the other side….

And perhaps it was this that the women remembered too – where the men failed to see.

God’s amazing plan – God’s wonderful promise – unfolding – there at the empty tomb.

And with a new understanding and joy and excitement – they rushed off to tell the others.

But – in verse 11 – we hear that no-one would believe them – because, as it says – “their words – seemed like nonsense”

That’s still true today isn’t it!? – when we tell others the good news of Jesus Christ – about how He came to save us – how He died so that we might have the promise of eternal life – and not only that, how He died a horrible death – but that 3 days later – He rose to a glorious Resurrection – so that we too will have the hope of a new life when we pass from this life into the next.

Many listen and believe, but to others – our words “seem like nonsense” see verse 11.

But then, there are those – like Peter in verse 12 – who are curious – who want to see for themselves.

Peter, it tells us, went to the tomb, looked in and saw the proof for himself – Jesus was gone ! Perhaps he really had risen – just as he had said he would!?

Perhaps – like Peter – you are curious – unsure of the truth.   If that’s so – then this story is for you.

Perhaps someone once told you the ‘Good News’ of Jesus – and like the disciples in our text for today – you didn’t believe them – perhaps you still don’t. If that’s so – then this story is for you.

Perhaps you have a strong faith – like the women at the tomb – and believe that Jesus died and rose again – for you. Then this too – is your story too – as you accept with thanksgiving, the promises of life and life eternal – and all because of the resurrection.

It speaks to every one if us.

*

And so – in these few verses from Luke’s gospel, we see the whole of Christian life displayed.

We see the ups and the downs – the faith and the doubt – the unconvinced and the certainty – the curious, the witness – the sadness of death – and the joy of the promised resurrection.

It’s all there for us – if we read it carefully – and let our eyes slip between the lines – and pick out the clues.

But this is no story of death and destruction – or fear and failure – this is a story new life and resurrection –

Love and hope, excitement and expectation.

This is a cosmic narrative – a Holy truth – a practical demonstration for all to see the great Power of our Holy and Almighty God. Jesus can overcome even death!      And through Him – so too can we..

That’s what the Resurrection is all about – that’s why it’s important – that’s why we celebrate God’s power over death – that’s why Easter is so significant to us – to all Christians – to the world – not that Jesus died – but that Jesus rose again!

Proving that nothing – is impossible for our God (see Luke 1 : 37)

It’s all part of God’s great plan –

And you are part of his divine plan –

You have an important part to play.

Your very life – your precious soul – are entwined – interlinked – interwoven – with the life, death and Resurrection of our Saviour –

Who was raised to new life – life everlasting – on this Easter day – this day of Resurrection !!

Now that really IS – something to celebrate!

Don’t you think??

I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Easter!!

And in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Let us Pray ~

Lord Jesus, as you made yourself known first at Easter to the people who most loved you and missed you, make yourself known on this Resurrection day to any who have felt cut off from you-any who are burdened by guilt, and do not understand how much you love them. Any who feel that joy has gone out of their life for ever. And as you dealt patiently with those who couldn’t understand, deal patiently too with all people who are handicapped by closed minds, all who fear that the resurrection news is too good to be true – all who are held back from faith by intellectual barriers of doubt. Make yourself known to them too; and set them free.

We pray for all who suffer the distress of losing a loved one – be with them Lord and bless them with your love and your care – help them to come to terms with their loss and comfort them – comfort us – with the knowledge of that new life which awaits us all – and that their loved ones are now experiencing – free from all the worries of this life – they are now resting in peace – perfect peace we pray.

We ask for your blessings upon our own families – and our church family – bless them, dear Lord, keep them safe, in Jesus’ name.

This Easter, we pray for those who have lost their lives to the CV 19 virus and we pray for their loved ones who mourn their passing. We pray too for those who are on the frontline in the battle against this horrible disease – watch over them, keep them safe, bless them and bless their families too.

We pray for all those who have everyday jobs, yet so necessary to the life and well being of each of us. Bless them too Lord, keep them safe.

Be with us now, Lord, as we sit for a few silent moments, each with our own thoughts, each with our own prayer – for those who we know, in our own lives who need a prayer today………short time of silence….

Be with them all listening Lord, for we bring them before you in the name of the risen Christ – the one who overcame the darkness and rose into your light – refreshed, renewed – our Lord, our Saviour, our hope for the future – our dear Lord Jesus. Amen.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

This is an Easter Day like we have never experienced in our lifetimes. We are unable to join with our families and friends in Church, to sing those great Easter Hymns such as “Jesus Christ is risen today, halleluiah!’, “Christ is alive, let Christians sing”, ‘Thine be the glory, Risen conquering Son!’ – and many more. Not able to join with our church family in Prayer for all God’s goodness and Greatness…

Easter is a time of great joy, but this year it will be overshadowed, for many, by anxiety and fear. Fear of the unknown, fear for our families, our friends and for ourselves that the CV 19 virus might visit too close to our home or the homes of the ones we love.

Did you know that the words “Fear not,” appear 365 times in the Bible? One for everyday (not a lot of people know that). God doesn’t want us to go a single day without hearing his words of comfort.

Philippians 4 : 6 – 7 Paul tells us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

And Psalm 46 v10 tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Great advice for us in these testing times.

Easier said than done I know, but if we can put our trust in a God who can overcome death, as He did on Easter Day, then surely He is a God who is worthy of our trust and our confidence that he CAN do great and wonderful things.

“In God we Trust” is, of course, the official motto of the USA and is a good motto for our lives.

If we put all our trust in God we can rest assured that our Great God will be with us in our times of trial.

God is not just for Sunday’s, He is for every day , in every situation, whether working on the NHS frontline or safe at home, He promises to be with us, watching over us as we go about our lives.

So take comfort in God’s almighty, all caring, all loving presence. God will see us through.

Is ‘All your Trust in the Lord’? I hope and pray that it is – there is no better foundation on which to build your life.

Amen.

I’d like to leave you with a final thought – in the form of a Poem called – RESURRECTION.

Round the dark and troubled world – the bells of Easter ring,

Bringing to our weary hearts – the message of the Spring.

Season of awakening – renewal and rebirth,

Mystic resurrection – of the glory of the earth.

 

Hope revives and joy returns – and faith is now reborn,

In the light that comes with – the resurrection morn.

As we hail the risen Christ – His image we can see,

Shining through the loveliness – of field, and flower, and tree.

 

Pledges of immortality – in every living thing,

Promise of eternal life – in seed, and leaf, and wing.

Love has triumphed over death – The stone is rolled away!

God has granted unto us – another Easter day !

That hindrance to life – that stone is taken away for us too – Giving us new life – through Jesus…. when we give our lives over to Him –

So if you’re thinking of fully committing yourself to Jesus – what better day to do it than today – on Easter day – that glorious day of ‘new life – new beginnings’ !!??

Let us pray

Lord receive our praise this Easter day – receive us – revive us – renew us – receive our very lives and so we may have that new beginning which Jesus promises to each one of us……. And all this – through the glory of God – through his risen Son – our dear sweet Jesus……to whom we give all the honour and the glory – this Easter day – and every day. Amen”.

And now ~

Go in joy, hope peace and love-

Go out and celebrate the new life that the risen Jesus has given you……..

And may the blessing of Almighty God – Father – Son – and Holy Spirit – be with us all – be with our families and all who we know and love – and ought to love – this day – and every day.

Amen.

Take care, God Bless and keep safe.

HAPPY EASTER !!

Don’t forget to look on this site tomorrow morning to hear the intriguing Reflection ~

Why did Jesus fold the Napkin ?

Food Angels FOODBANK scheme at Port Glasgow is closed until further notice

Food Angels FOODBANK scheme at Port Glasgow is closed until further notice

Assistance to those whom they helped is now being provided by the Salvation Army at 19 King Street Port Glasgow PA14 5JA where the Officer in Charge is Lt. Ian Arthur.

 In these difficult times it is probably not desirable to pass on gifts in kind but monetary donations would be appreciated.

 As the foodbank project has been well supported by our congregation I would ask you to make this news widely known among your Elders’ districts.