Service for 18th April 2021

Reflection for 18th April 2021, Third Sunday of Easter, based on Service by Students from the Scottish United Reformed & Congregational College

Call to Worship

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne!

Jesus, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!

Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness of our King! Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!

Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory! The risen Saviour shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy, as we sing, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!

 

Hymn Now the Green Blade Rises

John Macleod Campbell Crum (1872-1958)

Now the green blade riseth,

from the buried grain,

Wheat that in dark earth

many days has lain;

Love lives again,

that with the dead has been:

Love has come again like

wheat that springeth green.

 

In the grave they laid Him,

Love who hate had slain,

Thinking that He never

would awake again,

Laid in the earth

like grain that sleeps unseen:

Love has come again like

wheat that springeth green.

 

Forth He came in quiet,

like the risen grain,

He that for three days

in the grave had lain;

Quick from the dead

the risen Christ is seen:

Love has come again like

wheat that springeth green.

 

When our hearts are wintry,

grieving, or in pain,

Christ’s touch can call us

back to life again,

Fields of our hearts

that dead and bare have been:

Love has come again like wheat

that springeth green.

 

Prayers of Approach, Confession and declaration of forgiveness

Loving God, we come before you from many different places this Eastertide, we come to you exactly as we are:  some of us feeling cut off from one another, from the warmth of being together, from the familiar rhythms the comings and goings and greetings of life as we knew it. Some of us welcomed solitude and forgot to pray for others with compassion. Yet others rush headlong into the future, forgetting what months of challenge have taught us, forgetting the beauty and opportunities of today. Our natures are fickle.

Instead of being Easter people we are sometimes despondent, distracted, doubting your grace.

We read the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples saying “Peace be with you,” and in our heads we know that death and hate can never again have the last word, yet all too often we remain stuck in the old patterns of scepticism, of anxiety, forgive us.

May we know in our hearts the truth behind familiar words: He is risen indeed. May we live them and shine bright with your love. May our lives be turned around, awake to possibility, alive to every opportunity. May we be content starting with small things, noticing where you already are at work. A smile, a word of encouragement, tokens of care, sharing our own stories, your story – small beginnings set miracles in motion.

Please show us the way and give us resolve in following your leadings. As we go forward in worship we ask that your Spirit would meet us, exactly where we are, renewing us in body, mind and soul, making us more like Jesus, working in the world to your glory, Amen.

Reading Luke 24:36b-48 (NIV)

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Sermon

Today’s Gospel describes that first Easter evening. What a momentous day it had been. The disciples were meeting together and supporting each other as they tried to make sense of the events of the day.

What a day it had been. It had started full of grief. In the early hours the women had got up to attend to Jesus’ body, taking with them spices, following the customs of the day, and then something unimaginable happened. The women returned with stories of angels and an empty tomb.

On hearing this Peter, himself went to investigate and found it to be just as the women had said.

Then later Cleopas and his friend had returned from Emmaus, where they had travelled earlier that day after they had encountered a stranger on the road who had opened their eyes to scripture. At the end of the journey, they had offered the stranger hospitality, and then at table, in the breaking of the bread, they recognised the stranger to be Jesus, and then immediately he disappeared.

No wonder the disciples were talking. Just imagine the chatter, just think about the confusion that they must have experienced as they tried to make sense of it all. Then suddenly, Jesus appears among them. We are told they were frightened and startled. Of course, they are, they had seen Jesus die on a cross, and then here he was. How could this happen? What did this mean? Straight away Jesus said, “peace be with you”. Those words must have been a real relief for the disciples to hear. His appearance had immediately turned upside down their understanding of the world. It had pushed all the bounds of reason and rationality, and their lives would never be the same again.

If this was not reason enough to be fearful, no doubt many of them had been feeling guilt and remorse. They had fallen asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane; they could not keep awake as Jesus had asked. Then his arrest, and one by one, they gradually left him. Perhaps this is no surprise. They had seen first-hand the brutality of Roman justice. They had witnessed the malice of the crowd crying “crucify”. Just think what would have happened to them if they had tried to intervene. I am sure if I had been there, I would have fallen away just like them, and yet Jesus had no hesitation in reassuring them. Straight away he said, “Peace be with you”. They had fallen short, but this didn’t matter. Jesus had no questions, no anger, no irritation, no, just those simple words of “Peace be with you”.

These events were so long ago and yet they mean so much for us today. I wonder if you are like me have ever fallen short on the Christian journey? Perhaps there have been times when you have not told others about your faith, or you have not lent a hand to someone struggling, or maybe you like me have not spoken out against the things in society which you know to be unfair and unjust. We all have the reassurance that if we open our hearts to Jesus, just like the first disciples, he will greet us, with the same words, “Peace be with you”.

He doesn’t give us a list of questions about how we have fallen short. He doesn’t interrogate us about what we have done or what we have failed to do, but rather he just greets us with those loving and freeing words of peace. This liberates us to try again. To start afresh, and to turn over a new leaf. A new leaf each day if need be. Of course, as we receive these words for ourselves, we are called to share them with others through our day-to-day actions, as well as the sentiments in our hearts. Some gifts are too good to keep to ourselves. Just like chocolate cake. Cake always tastes better when it is shared with someone else. Peace always becomes stronger and more power-filled when shared with others.

Of course, sharing peace is not always easy. There are many things in the human condition, within ourselves and within others which sometimes can make being peaceful challenging. And yet, if we are followers of Jesus, then peace is something we are called to share. Here also, if we can open our hearts to a Jesus encounter this becomes easier to do. Somehow just thinking what Jesus would do. Reflecting on how he had patience and an overwhelming love for the disciples, and all the diverse people he met. Reflecting on this along with the wisdom of his teaching makes being peaceful with our neighbours less challenging. Jesus said “Peace be with you” as he appeared to the disciples. He shares the same peace with us as modern-day disciples. The peace of Jesus; a peace to enjoy and a peace to pass on. So, as we reflect on these things may the peace of Jesus be with us all.

Amen.

 

Hymn: Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

Sebastian Temple. 1967

 

Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there is hatred

let me bring your love.

Where there is injury,

your pardon, Lord

And where there’s doubt,

true faith in you.

 

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek

So much to be consoled as to console

To be understood as to understand

To be loved as to love with all my soul.

 

Make me a channel of your peace

Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope.

Where there is darkness, only light

And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

 

Make me a channel of your peace

It is in pardoning

that we are pardoned

In giving to all folk that we receive

And in dying

that we’re born to eternal life

 

Make me a channel of your peace

It is in pardoning that we are

pardoned

In giving to all folk that we receive

And in dying that we’re born to

eternal life.

 

Intercessions

Let us join together in our prayer for others, let us pray: Lord, we come to you today with peace in our hearts as we slowly emerge, taking tentative steps back out into the world we pray that Your peace will surround us all. Allow those who are struggling and lost at this time to feel Your peace upon them, provide them with the strength and courage to step out of the darkness into your light.

Comfort those who are grieving, enclose them in Your tender mercy surround them with Your warmth and love so that they may find some peace through You.

For all who are feeling the weight of exhaustion, allow them to rest within Your arms. Bestow on them the strength required to continue on, and let them feel Your peace flow through them. For all those who have helped us along the way, showing care and love for all those in need. Allow them to feel our gratitude and thanks, replenish their lives with Your peace, for those who have guided us through this time of struggle and hardship, let their hearts and heads be aligned so that they may continue to lead and provide care for our world, showing the guidance of Your grace and justice for all. As we move out of the darkness that has surrounded us, let us not return our old ways, rather embrace a new path of love and care for our planet and all creatures we share it with. Remind us that we are but the custodians of Your world.

Lord, in this short time of silence we remember all those who have lost their lives throughout the pandemic. For those close to us and those far away, we know that they are at peace, safe within Your loving arms.

We pray for Your peace to be upon our lips so that we may greet each other with kindness and compassion, with acceptance and forgiveness Help us to keep in mind the words taught to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, as we say 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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen

 

Blessing

So loving God, we thank you for the peace we receive through Jesus Christ.

Help us to be the people you would have us be through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

People of faith, action and peace, this day and forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen