One of our neighbouring ministers, Rev Scott Burton, has made this encouraging video and allowed us to share it on our site. You can link to his church’s website here. Scott will be using YouTube for his Sunday worship. Here he explains how to let another without internet access join in.
Genesis Chapter 12 vs 1 – 4
John Chapter 3 vs 1 – 17
It is singularly obvious truth that the longest journey begins with a single step – any journey, whether long or short, to the kitchen or to Australia begins with a single step – the first step which you take in order to get towards where you want to go. To make a cup of tea, or to visit distant relatives, the first step indicates that you are changing your position, doing something new, making something happen, indicating that you plan to make your life different – either by creating a hot cup of tea, or by hugging your Australian cousins.
Our lives are a series or a tapestry of interwoven journeys taking us on to new experiences and new environments.
Our first reading was about Abram. He had been taken by his father from their home town of Ur, near the Persian Gulf, way north to Haran, in Syria near to the border with present day Turkey.
But Abram wasn’t settled, his journeying was not complete, he heard a leading, he sensed a call to do more, to go on, to develop his life further. He understood this as the call of God to move on to take another step, and he trusted that call, he responded to that call, and he understood that in this journey he would find a greater purpose and a blessing in his life.
Abram chose to step out – trusting in the call God had shown him. And God told him that from his descendents a great nation would be formed
Now, one of these descendents was Nicodemus – a true blooded Hebrew, a leader of the Jews, a Pharisee, an outstanding example as a descendent of Abraham. One of God’s chosen nation, one of Abraham’s blessings. A lot of history has passed by, possibly 20 centuries, and in this reading we hear of Nicodemus’ journey – not so far this time, Nicodemus sets out on a journey at night, from his home, through the dark streets, to a meeting with Jesus. It is not clear what prompted this journey, why he chose to go to talk with Jesus, but he was prompted by something – was it curiosity about this new preacher who worked miracles, and claimed to be God, – did he want to challenge Jesus about his blasphemous talk about being God, or did he want to trust Him and so be drawn closer to God?
Whatever drew him on his journey, Jesus knew the question really on Nicodemus heart. – “How can I enter the Kingdom of God?”
As a Jew, he would have assumed that his Hebrew lineage, his status as a Pharisee, his following of the Jewish traditions, the feasts and fasts of the Hebrew calendar, would have assured him of his place in God’s Kingdom. But he must have been unsettled, unsure, shaken by Jesus teaching and actions.
Jesus strikes right at the heart of the question – to enter the Kingdom you must be born again. Be born again, start again – All your life before, all your lineage, your following the rules, your sacred practices, your upright behaviour, your attendance each Sabbath, counts for nothing, forget it, all irrelevant – you need to start again in a new way.
Jesus says – Be born of water and spirit. – Water and spirit – now a good Pharisee like Nicodemus would immediately recognise that reference – EZ 36 vs 25 – 27, where God says:
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean, I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from your idols
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you, I will take the heart of stone out of you and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep my judgements and do them”
Jesus is saying – to be a part of my Kingdom – you must allow God to cleanse you – to get rid of sin, get rid of all the false gods in your life, you must choose to allow God to wash you, and you have to choose to reject the idols in your life which you put in place of God.
Then – you will be transformed – the heart of stone – frozen and immobile, will become a heart of flesh – of life, of compassion for others in need, of concern for justice, in essence – of love for God, others and yourself.
And, you will receive the Holy Spirit, to give you the will to follow God’s way of life.
That is some promise: your sins forgiven, your life transformed, and you will want to follow God’s way of living.
Now stand in Nicodemus shoes for a moment he must have been absolutely shocked
Jesus words must have been like having a bucket of cold water thrown over them – a cold and sudden shock.
He was being told that his religious life, his legal obedience, his rules and regulations, his weekly worship – none of that brought him into the Kingdom of God. None of it. He needed to make a new start, a new life, a new way of living – a new journey to begin. He needed to choose a new life –
Jesus sets it all out simply before him:
“For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but will have everlasting life.”
Listen – God, the living God who you are trying to serve, the God of Abraham and Moses, has given His Son to live here with you, to teach and to demonstrate and to proclaim His Kingdom, and if you believe in Him – if you accept Him as God’s Son, if you listen to His teaching and follow his ways, if you choose to believe in Him – then you enter the Kingdom – you are given this gift of eternal life, starting now.
This phrase “believe in Him” is a bit empty I think as a translation – it sounds a bit glib – “Yes, I believe in Jesus”.
But behind this word “believe” in verse 16 – is a more challenging meaning – believe and listen to, trust in, hold on tightly to, depend on, lean on.
What Jesus is saying in this verse is:
Your life following laws, of attending weekly worship, of reading scriptures and living respectfully is past – it counts for nothing – that’s your old journey, to enter the Kingdom, to have eternal life with God, you need to set out on a new journey and the first step is to choose to follow God’s Son – and Jesus is the Son.
Nicodemus was face with a choice,
Trust in his history, his religious practices, his rules and activities as the way to enter God’s kingdom –
OR – believe this man Jesus – believe in Him. Choose to discard the religiosity, the rule keeping, the status,
and trust Jesus, listen to him, depend on him, hold on to Him follow Him – believe in Him
We don’t know which way Nicodemus chose – but we each one of us are also faced with that choice – we have to decide, – to trust in our selves, in our past behaviour, in our Sunday worship, in our being good citizens in the hope of entering God’s kingdom
Or choose to trust what Jesus says – believe in me – listen to me, follow me.
That is what he is saying to us now: Choose to believe in me and you will have eternal life:
Don’t depend on religious practices, on your nationality, or your moral lifestyle – that is past – you need to choose to start a new life to enter God’s kingdom – a life trusting in what Jesus says – a life accepting God’s gift of forgiveness, a life where the Holy Spirit gives us the will and the desire to follow Him.
Choose to believe in Him, trust, depend, cling to, listen to Him.
We have to tell Jesus that we choose to follow Him. That is our first step into our new life with Him.
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”
When we pray these words we are asking God to protect us and keep us on his safe path when the devil comes and tempts us.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to be the first and only person on earth. It’s one thing for us to be lonely it was another for Adam who had never known another human being. How much he must have missed no childhood, no parents no friends.
He was the first person made in the image of God and the first human to have a personal relationship with God. Fortunately, God didn’t let him wait too long before he presented him with an ideal companion Eve
As Adams descendants we all reflect to some degree the image of God as our life and worth comes from Gods Spirit.
In reality our worth comes not from our achievements but from the God of the universe who chooses to give us the mysterious and miraculous gift of life. Value it as he does.
In the garden there were two tree the Tree of Life which represents immortality, eternal youthfulness and the Tree of knowledge which represents mortality and the knowledge of good and evil – a tree of conscience
God gave Adam the responsibility for the garden and told him not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Why would God place a tree in the garden and then forbid Adam to eat from it?
Rather than physically preventing him from eating from it he gave Adam the freedom to choose and thus the possibility of choosing wrongly.
God gives us choices and we too can choose wrongly. These wrong choices may cause pain, but they can help us learn and grow. Living with the consequences of our choices teaches us to think and chose more carefully
Obviously, Adam explained the rules of the garden to Eve when she joined him and how the Tree of Knowledge was off limits.
Disguised as a shrewd serpent Satan came to tempt Eve by making her think that sin is good, pleasant and desirable. However, she decided it looked so delicious and as the serpent persuaded her by saying that the minute, she ate it she too would be like God knowing good from evil. She looked, she took, and she ate. The battle is often lost with the first look as temptation often begins by seeing something you want. To make herself feel less guilty she involved Adam in her wrongdoing. Sadly, Adam didn’t think of the consequences and in one small act of rebellion he went ahead and ate it.
In that moment something large, beautiful and free was shattered and sin was brought into the world.
The Biblical meaning of Temptation is a ‘trial’ in which man has a free choice of being faithful or unfaithful to God.
Temptation is not a sin as we have not sinned until we give into temptation.
Temptation is Satan’s invitation to give into his kind of life and give up on gods kind of life.
In Mathew 4 verses 1-11 it tells us how he even tempted Jesus who did not sin.
The Biblical definition of sin becomes important because the scriptures define the boundaries and standards which God has set for us.
However, the definition of sin in the Bible is not a test of arbitrary do’s and don’ts. Instead they show us the way God lives. They show the spiritual principles by which he lives, the same standard of conduct he expects his human creations to live by.
SIN CAN BE WHAT WE DON’T DO
Christ’s teaching helps us to understand why it is sin not to do what we know we should do. It boils down to who’s will is more important in our lives. Is it our will to do what we want to do or is it Gods will doing what he thinks is most important which shapes our actions?
It is through action-through works, through doing good that we know we ought to be doing that God builds his nature and character within us. If we want to get rid of our sinful nature, we have to replace it with something else. We don’t magically get rid of it we have to replace it with God’s nature, his thoughts his ways.
True faith transforms our conduct as well as our thoughts as faith without godly works Is useless, worthless. Such faith is of no lasting value as it doesn’t change the person, nor does it help others to hear the words “Be warm and filled” when they’re cold and hungry.
God of mercy guide us through this season minister to us in the wilderness of our temptation that we who have been set free from sin by Christ May serve you well into life everlasting.
Today is the first Sunday in Lent.
Lent is the six week period leading up to Easter. It’s one of the most important times of year for many Christians around the world, particularly those within the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
Lent is seen as a time of solemn observance and preparation for the remembrance of the death and celebration of the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. From its start on Ash Wednesday until its conclusion on Easter Sunday, Lent has been a traditional time for fasting or giving something up or abstinence. Fasting reminds us of the 40 day fast Jesus had before he started his ministry. Catherine mentioned this in her talk. Jesus fasted in the desert in preparation for his life’s work and the devil came and tested him.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is always held 46 days (40 fasting days and 6 Sundays) before Easter Sunday.
Ash Wednesday is the day after Shrove Tuesday, which in the UK is more commonly known as Pancake Day, that was last week. Did you have pancakes?
These days, Christians around the world observe Lent in different ways. Many from more orthodox and traditional denominations will still observe the fast strictly, beginning with the wearing of ashes on Ash Wednesday and abstinence of meat, fish, eggs and fats until Easter Sunday.
Others will choose to give up just one item for Lent, more commonly a ‘luxury’ such as chocolate, meat, alcohol or cake. It is also becoming increasingly common for people to give up other things such as watching TV or using social media. The time gained from missing out on these activities is spent in meditation, Bible study, prayer or doing something practical to help others. There are many devotional resources available such as Lent Bible studies – there is a practical booklet in this months life and work produced by Christian aid which gives topics for prayer and practical things to do to help alleviate the climate crisis in Kenya.
One thing we could focus on in our lent practices is forgiveness, asking God to forgive us the things we do wrong, the things we don’t do that we should, and also forgiving those who have hurt us. We need to forgive others in order for God to forgive us. We could spend our lent time thinking of the ways others have hurt us and letting go of the hurts and forgiving them. Spending time in god’s presence, meditating on his word will help us to do this. Meditation will also help god speak into our hearts and heal the hurts, and also show us where we have done wrong. We must ask god for his forgiveness and sometimes we have to ask others too.
Psalm 32 is all about forgiveness and the blessings of being forgiven.
When we know we’re in the wrong and try to hide it or blame another, not even admitting it to ourselves that is when we feel our bones wasting away, God’s hand heavy on us, or just our conscience pricking us. We know we need to ask God for forgiveness but we sometimes don’t want to admit we are wrong. The thing is, once we admit it and ask for forgiveness, we can feel overjoyed at his response. He always forgives us when we come to him with a sorrowful heart, and a determination to be a true follower. Not only does he forgive us but he miraculously forgets.
At the beginning of Lent as a season of preparation and self-examination, what do we need to confess individually and corporately in order to receive the blessings that our sins are forgiven, our debt is covered, and no record of wrongs is kept?
Today, as we get ready to begin the period of Lent, our approach to the wonder and drama of Easter, we are directed towards looking into this mysterious event in the life of Jesus and His disciples – what we know as the “Transfiguration” of Jesus on the mountain side.
Like so many events in the gospel, this is loaded with meaning, with symbol, and with instruction – pointing us to the truth, the amazing significance, of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and gives us such a jolt towards the conclusion – “surely this man was the Son of God”.
Readings: Exodus 24v12 to 25v9:
The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.”
Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.”
When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one but Jesus.
We have heard two stories here, thousands of years apart, in Exodus, at the beginning of the formation of the Hebrew nation as the people of the living God. Refugees moving towards their promised land, and then later, in Galilee, in the midst of the life of the Messiah, Jesus, taking His disciples to a new understanding of His place as Son of God. Two very different events, in very different cultures.
Moses is called by God up the mountain to speak with God, Jehovah, and receive instructions for His people. There are some similarities with Jesus story – Moses waited six days before God called him to his presence, Moses met God in a cloud, but there the similarities dissolve.
Jesus waited six days in Galilee before going up the mountain, and yes he did seem to go into a cloud to meet God, no, to meet Elijah and Moses.
Moses was meeting God for 40 days – Jesus was in His meeting for a few hours possibly.
Moses is given lengthy instructions on what God wants his people to do: we often only think that this is when Moses was given the ten commandments – yes, but these were already given to him on a previous meeting with God. This time God first gives extremely detailed instructions as to how to build “The Tabernacle” – a tent like building in which God could visit and instruct His people – or at least the chief priest of his people.
There are 7 chapters following Moses meeting with God in which Moses recites the instructions of God as to how to build the tabernacle, how to furnish it, how to prepare the priests, how to dress the priests and then finally who to use to build it all. Then God writes the ten commandments on to stone tablets – and gives them to Moses.
God is saying, I have given you rules to live by, and made promises to you to be your God, but I need to keep communication open with you always – and to do that you need to make this very precious, and very holy and complex building, with special furniture, and specially prepared people in symbolic clothing into which I can come to meet you and you need to get the details absolutely right – its got to be perfect
God is saying to Moses, we are so far apart, so different, we need to have extraordinary preparations before we can come near each other.
Let’s go back to Peter, James, and John, up the mountain with Jesus.
Jesus does not go into a cloud, but he himself is changed – transfigured, transformed in some mysterious way – He shines like the sun, his clothes become dazzling white – and he is joined by two others – Moses and Elijah – the two outstanding prophets and leaders of the Hebrew nation, the chosen people. Two people who have been recorded in the scriptures as knowing God.
It is as if Jesus is entering another dimension, he has stepped out of the material present in Galilee and is with others from another life time – or to put it another way, he has drawn the others from their eternal life place, into His presence in Galilee. This is sounding like “science fiction”, isn’t it – I would rather call it “Spiritual reality” – it is beyond our normal human experience – but really – Jesus is showing the disciples that he is more than a man, He is giving them a glimpse of His divinity.
Peter, as you can imagine is deeply affected by this – he recalls this later in his letter –
“We didn’t follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses to His majesty. Eye witnesses – we saw His majesty – , God revealed in Jesus.”
Moses was given 7 chapters of detail as to how to prepare a place where God could talk to his people.
God gives us 16 words of instruction on the mountain with Jesus as to how God can talk to His people:
“This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased, listen to Him”
If you want to hear what I am saying to you – listen to Jesus.
If you want to know how I would like you to live – listen to Jesus.
If you want to know my will for you – listen to Jesus.
I do not need special buildings any more, I do not look for special clothes, I do not need you to appoint special people.
Here is Jesus – This is my Son, He represents everything of me, listen to Him.
This is not complicated, it is not easy, it asks for commitment, it asks for faith, it asks for trust – but it is not a complicated message.
This is my Son, Listen to Him.
You know, in talking to people, in reading stories of Christian lives, in hearing people speaking of their Faith in Jesus, I have heard many people say that they came to follow Jesus after reading one of the Gospels, reading of Jesus life and words, His teaching and His actions.
I have never come across anyone who came to faith in him after reading Genesis, or Exodus, or even the Psalms.
People come to know God through the life of Jesus.
It was not an empty phrase that God gave to Peter, James and John as they watched with awe as Jesus talked with Moses and Elijah. These words are the very essence of life for all.
Here is Jesus – transformed before you, here is Jesus moving beyond your material existence into the realm of eternity, into the place of continuing life – into timeless reality
Here is Jesus – my Son, Living God of creation and all that is
Listen to Him.
How simple, how uncomplicated, how welcoming,
As we read the Gospels again and again – as we refresh our memories of the words, actions, promises of Jesus.
So we hear again and again His words. We hear His words, are we listening.
And so as we live our lives: Are we listening?. What has he said to us in the past, how has he led us up to now? and –
What is He saying, to you, to me, to us, for our lives, for our actions, for our Faith in Him. – for our comfort, and our challenge –
What is He saying – Are we listening – today
OUR LIFE IS THE MOST PRECIOUS GIFT WHICH WE WILL EVER RECEIVE AND IS GIVEN TO US BY GOD. LET US LIVE WISELY.
AS A COMMUNITY OF BELEIVERS WHICH BEGINS BY FAITH IN THE RISEN CHRIST AND IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHICH ENABLES US TO WITNESS, TO LOVE AND TO SERVE.
WE ARE GODS PEOPLE CHOSEN TO BE PART OF HIS PLAN TO REACH THE WORLD IN LOVE AND BY FAITH WITH THE HELP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
IN MATHEW CHAPTER 28 V16-20 JESUS CAME AND TOLD HIS DISCIPLES GOD HAS GIVEN ME ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH THEREFORE GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES Of ALL THE NATIONS. – BABTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT. TEACH THE NEW DISCIPLES TO OBEY ALL THE COMMANDMENTS THAT I HAVE GIVEN YOU AND BE SURE OF THIS I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS EVEN TO THE END OF AGE.
WE BELONG TOGETHER, WE SHOULD REJOICE WITH THOSE WHO REJOICE AND WEEP WITH THOSE WHO WEEP.
WE SHOULD LOOK FOR WAYS TO ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER AND SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER UNITED WE CAN THEN FACE WHATEVER THE YEAR BRINGS.
LET US BECOME MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH WHO NOT ONLY SEES WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE BUT OFFERS TO HELP BEFORE BEING ASKED – MAKE TIME TO TALK.
HOW DO WE WE REACH OUT TO PEOPLE WHO ARE SUFFERING FROM HEARTBREAK, DISCOMFORT AND ISOLATION. HOWEVER, MUCH THEY ARE LOVED BY OTHERS THEY FIND IT DIFFICULT TO LOVE THEMSELVES.
LET US WITH GODS HELP, HELP THEM FIND THE PEACE TO ACCEPT THE THINGS THEY CANNOT CHANGE AND THE COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS THEY CAN.
THE YOUTH OF TODAY ARE AT THE FOREFRONT OF CREATIVE CAMPAIGNING FOR CLIMATE CHANGE. THEY ARE REALISING THAT THE WORLD ISNT THE WAY IT SHOULD BE AND THEY ARE DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
WE SHOULD APPROACH THEM AS GOD IS THE CREATOR OF BOTH HEAVEN AND EARTH. HE MADE THE THINGS WE CAN SEE AND THE THINGS WE CAN’T SEE AND HE HOLDS ALL CREATION TOGETHER.
COULD THIS NOT BE A COMMON GROUND AS THEY WON’T COME TO US WE MUST GO TO THEM.
LET US BE PART OF THE JUSTICE MOVEMENT THAT OUR PLANET AND SHARED HUMANITY DESERVES.
IF WE COULD ALL REACH ONE OTHER WITH ONE CONVERSATION THE WORLD WOULD BE A MUCH EASIER PLACE. UNFORTUNATLEY THAT’S NOT OFTEN HOW THINGS WORK.
REACHING OUT TO OTHER PEOPLE IS THE MOST HEALING THING THAT WE CAN DO FOR OURSELVES AND ANYONE ELSE. JUST SHOWING UP IN EACH OTHERS LIFE GOES FAR.
WE NEED TO PRAY TO GOD AS PRAYER IS THE CONNECTION OF OURSELVES WITH GOD AND THE WORLD AND BEING THE LIGHT OF LOVE IN WHATEVER PLACE WE FIND OURSELVES.
PRAYER IS ONE PLACE WHERE GOD CAN GET TO US, SPEAK TO US, MINISTER TO US AND GUIDE US.
DO WE NEED A QUIET TIME? WOULD PEOPLE COME INTO THE CHURCH OUTWITH A SUNDAY SERVICE – FOR A TIME OF REFLECTION, OR SILENT PRAYER. PERHAPS THIS COULD BE THE START OF THEIR JOURNEY.
LET US ALL THINK ON HOW WE CAN ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO COME TO CHURCH, WELCOME THEM, LET THEM EXPERIENCE THE WARMTH, WELCOME AND COMPASSION WHICH IS FELT
THROUGH EVERYONES LOVE OF GOD
LOUISE AND DAVID BOTH WORK REALLY HARD TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE THROUGH ALPHA TO FIND GOD AND BEGIN THEIR JOURNEY. THAT IS HOW MY JOURNEY BEGAN.
CATHERINE IS GOING TO LEAD SOME OF US IN PASTORAL CARE WHICH WILL ENCOURAGE US TO CONNECT AND INSPIRE AND WE WILL BE MADE AWARE OF THE RESOURCES WHICH ARE AVAILABLE.
I HAD WRITTEN THE WORDS BELOW BEFORE GOD PROMPTED ME TO INCLUDE PASTORAL CARE AS THIS IS A CONTINUATION OF OUR JOURNEY.
I DECIDED TO LEAVE THE LAST SENTENCE IN AS IT IS SO TRUE.
WHEN YOU ASK GOD, WHAT CAN I DO HE SAYS FOLLOW ME I AM ALREADY DOING IT. SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO OPEN YOUR EYES DIRECT THEM AWAY FROM YOUR LIFE AND WAIT AS SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO WAIT BEFORE OUR PRAYER IS ANSWERED.
AS WE BOW OUR HEAD IN PRAYER LET US FOR A MOMENT IN SILENCE FEEL THE STILLNESS THAT IS FILLED WITH GOD AND COMPLETED WITH THE LOVE AND MERCY OF JESUS CHRIST
NO ONE CAN HURT YOU; YOU ARE SIMPLY YOURSELF JUST AS GOD MADE YOU.
YOU ARE IN TOUCH WITH THE GENUINE INTACT IMAGE OF GOD IN YOU.
IN THE SILENCE TAKE A MOMENT OR TWO TO REACH OUT TO GOD WITH YOUR OWN PERSONAL PRAYER.
THANK YOU, LORD FOR THE BEAUTY WHICH YOU HAVE CREATED
AND THAT YOU HAVE GIVEN US THE GIFT OF HOPE AND JOY TO APPRECIATE THE AWSOME WONDER OF YOUR CREATION.
AS THE DARKNESS OF WINTER GIVES WAY TO THE HOPE AND RENEWAL OF SPRING.
TO ALL THESE CHANGES WE ASK THE GIFT OF YOUR PERSPECTIVE BECKONING US TO EXPECTATION, HOPE AND REBIRTH.
MAY THE SUNLIGHT AND THE RAIN BE REMINDERS THAT YOU ARE AT WORK RENEWING THE EARTH
AS A GOD OF RENEWAL YOU ARE EVER AT WORK IN OUR LIVES TOO.
FOR FLOWERS THAT BLOOM ABOUT OUR FEET
FOR TENDER GRASS SO FRESH AND SWEET
FOR SONG OF BIRD AND HUM OF BEE
FOR ALL THINGS FAIR WE HEAR OR SEE
FATHER IN HEAVEN WE THANK YOU
ralph waldo emerson
LORD GOD YOU HAVE DONE SO MUCH FOR US
MORE THAN WE DESERVE
FORGIVE US WHEN WE FAIL TO ACKNOWLEDGE HOW BLESSED WE ARE
LORD WE PRAY FOR STRENGTH AND FORGIVENESS TO AVOID THE TEMPTATIONS WHICH ARE PUT BEFORE US AS WE WANDER FROM THE PATH THAT LEADS TO PEACE IN PATHS OF OUR OWN PLEASING
WE ARE NEVER ALONE YOU ARE ALWAYS BY OUR SIDE GUIDING US, COMFORTING US IN TIMES OF SORROW AND SUFFERING AND WE KNOW THAT
WHEREVER WE ARE WE CAN PRAY AND YOU WILL LISTEN AND FILL US WITH PEACE.
LET US ACKNOWLEDGE THE FATHER OF ALL. HIS PRESENCE IN OUR LIVES, OUR WORLD OUR HEARTS BY JOINING TOGETHER IN THE LORDS PRAYER
Last chapter of Deuteronomy:
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.
Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
Joshua Installed as Leader
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them —to the Israelites.
The king is dead, long live the king. – that is the cry from the royal court when a monarch dies and the heir to the throne takes over his or her mantle. It is a cry which speaks of continuity, of stability, of “no change” here – life will go on as it is – no upset, no crisis. To give assurance to the people that they will not be disturbed by this change.
But…That is not what is being presented in this reading here. We are going to look at how the death of Moses heralds a tumultuous sea change for the people of Israel. It marks a profound alteration in their lifestyle, in their working, in their worship and in their relationship with God.
The church here and across Scotland is being urged, encouraged, coaxed and cajoled into assessing how to change, how to recapture our Mission – how to demonstrate the Kingdom of God, to make disciples of Jesus Christ, to seek out what is the Church of Christ in 2021, and how does it connect with our society and community.
As in the time of Moses death – this is not a time for continuity, for stability, for “no change” here.
So how does this transition from Moses to Joshua guide us at this time we are in now?
Moses is the hero of the Jews, he led them out of slavery and through the desert. They were rebellious, they wanted to go back to the “comfort” and security of slavery, they complained about food, about water, about travelling, about God’s guidance, about God’s laws. They sloped off to find other gods, they were frightened, confused, and they moaned a lot – and Moses held them together as they circled around the Desert
But Moses was the right man to keep them going – and God looked after them – he really spoilt them in the desert. He led them clearly where to go and when to stop. Cloud and fire went before them. Moses could go and talk to Him – They didn’t have any doubts about the direction they were going. He fed them with Manna- every day, he gave them a treat like the flock of Quaill when they moaned about the Manna. They were looked after, they knew what was expected of them, they were in a routine which did not challenge them to change – merely to keep going as they were. Moses’ task was to keep them moving along with God until he had a people who were ready and able to change – to actually go into their promised land.
Moses took them to the start of a new stage in the life of their community – to the edge of a new adventure, a new way of living. Moses looked after them in the continuity of the desert – but Joshua would take them into uncertainty, conflict, danger and yet ultimately into triumph. Joshua led them into battles, into strife and discomfort, but ultimately into the land promised by God.
The pillar of fire and cloud were gone – they had to look to find what God wanted, they had to plan and think, they had to trust that God was with them – that was no longer obvious. The manna was gone, they had to hunt and forage and barter and steal food from the countryside – they had to work at living as God’s people.
They had to learn to listen to God, to be alert to His guidance. And when they did – they had tremendous successes and blessings – think of the walls of Jericho, of the amazing victories against much bigger armies – but when they tried to do things without God, they had disasters and defeats, setbacks and confusions.
God was teaching them a new type of dependence on Him. God was still with them but He wanted them to listen out for His guidance, to be trusting that He was there, even when they couldn’t see Him, and he wanted them to live and move forward in His way – not in their in own strength, but in His power, not with their own agendas, but with His.
The Israelites were learning a new, stronger relationship with God, built on trust and understanding, on seeking and action, not on the cloud and fire presence of God in the desert, showing them exactly what to do, and where to go, but on living out plans and actions – seeking out and then trusting in His will.
I think that the church in Scotland, in Mid Argyll, is being moved by God into a new phase – a new way of trusting God. As the Israelites were taken out of the comfort and routine of the desert into the uncertainty and challenges of a campaign of invasion, so our churches are being moved by God out of the routine and tradition of Sunday worship for the few, out of the certainty of regular meetings, out of depending on a parish minister to look after all our spiritual needs, out of waiting for people to choose to come and join us – into a new way of being church – a way which has uncertainty at its core, a way that requires us to seek and to search out God’s guidance, – a way that drives us to trust Him as he asks us to take on novel or uncomfortable projects, or coaxes us to welcome new and unexpected neighbours.
The people under Joshua grew into a new relationship with God – a relationship based on Trust during uncertainty, based on assurance during adversity, and based on seeking His guidance when they were at a loss what to do. All this drew them closer to God as they sought out the promised land.
The church in Scotland has the same challenge and the same opportunity – to grow into a new relationship with God, as we seek to trust Him as we try to plan for the future of the Gospel in our communities, as we get to know the assurance of His presence when we struggle for ways of introducing Jesus to the next generations, as we pray and ask for guidance as to how to connect into our communities, to share the Gospel with people who have no idea what the church is about. The time in the desert is passed – we are being led into new territories, a new landscape and we need to be going into this unknown landscape seeking out God’s plans and seeking the ways forward for His Kingdom.
Having loved his own – John 13:1
His love was particular – loved his own – those the father had given him
First notice whom we loves: “Having loved his own… he loved them to
“He calls his own sheep by name and they follow him.” “The good
shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:3, 15, 27).
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for
his friends” (John 15:13).
“I do not pray for these only but for all who will believe on me
through their word” (John 17:1).
“His own.” “His sheep.” “His friends.” “Believers.”
Here is something very precious and powerful and life-changing.
The love of Jesus for his own, for his sheep, for his friends, for
believers is more than the love held out to the world—the compassion
that fed the hungry and healed the sick and preached good news to the
And in this verse, John wants those of us who are “His own,” his
sheep, his friends to hear something uniquely for us.
It is not by accident that Jesus’ love for the church is compared to
the love of a husband for his wife in Ephesians 5.
There is a kind of love I can have for all women and men, but when I
have vowed in solemn covenant to forsake all others and cleave to Jean
alone and to love her and cherish her for richer for poorer, for better
for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part, our love
becomes a slight reflection of what it means for Jesus to love his own,
his sheep, his friends, his bride.
Think of the love that takes captive and cleaves and unites and
cherishes and defends.
His love was protective – in the world
The world of the flesh, tempation, trial and testing.
Having willingly set aside the glory that was rightfully His, and in
spite of the disciples’ appalling selfishness, Jesus’ main concern
that night was to demonstrate His personal love to the twelve so that
they might be secure in it.
John 13:1 says, “having loved His own who were in the world, He
loved them to the end.” “To the end” in the Greek text is eis
telos, meaning, literally, that He loved them to perfection. He loved
them to the uttermost. He loved them with total fullness of love.
His love was permanent – to the end – no end.
He loved us in life and he loved us in death. Having loved us in the
easiest times he loved us in the hardest times. Having loved us with
words and bread and touch he loved us with blood and pain and death.
Having loved us extensively over years he loved us intensively to the
depths. Eternally – lead them, surely goodness and mercy follow us –
glory of perfection.
We are moved to believe that someone loves us when two things
appear—they stick with us over time, and they stick with us when it is
And the word tells us, “having loved his own who were in the world, he
loved them to the end.” It went long and it went deep.
O, may God give us the power to comprehend with all the saints what is
the height and depth and length and breadth and to know the love of
Christ which passes knowledge that we might be filled with all the
fullness of God.”Having loved his own.” Those four words are a brief but
complete summary of the Savior’s conduct towards his disciples.
Today’s service was brought to you by our new Local Worship Leaders!
Mark 5 v 22 – 43
GIFT OF TOUCH
Dr Fritz Talbot conducted a scientific study in the 1940’s regarding the effects of touch in babies and established a conclusive connection between touch and infants ability to thrive.
The importance of eye contact and a loving touch with babies has a special significance in early attachment and plays an important part in the process of a baby feeling secure and a sense of connection.
From when we are born we are wrapped up to make us feel secure move on to teddies, touch toys, the comforting feel of some types of material all of which make us feel loved and secure which lots of people take into adulthood and evokes memories of the love and security they felt as children.
This is the feeling when you have faith in God and feel the connection. It is sad that there are lots of people who don’t ever get to feel this connection and we should pray to God for guidance.
Importance of touch Jesus touched everyone to heal he didn’t just stand at the edge of the crowd and say you are all healed
Jesus gift of touch provides healing connection and can warm even the coldest heart
In what way can you be the hands of Jesus and show the gift of touch to someone who may need love and compassion.
Gods hands will constantly guide you if you seek him and welcome his involvement in your life
Gods hands of intervention and comfort is available to those who seek a close relationship with him.
Gods physical touch is one of the first things you may feel when he begins to draw you towards him and you feel the connection. It is one of the most comforting things you can ever experience. It is life changing.
My story is i had been to an Alpha meeting and after it had finished had gone for a walk to think about God and religion. I sat on a bench beside a loch and for no reason tears were running down my cheeks they were not sad tears as I felt at peace and I realised that was Gods way of connecting with me. We must be willing to reach out and touch him and if we do we will recognise that here stands the one who will reach out and touch our lives with that touch brings wholeness
The word of God always encounters us and challenges us and asks what about you?
WHAT IS YOUR STORY
Connection is something every human being longs for, was designed for and needs. There are so many lonely people who don’t have the opportunity perhaps through illness, shyness or no family near them to have the daily contact of touch.
There are also people who perhaps in their childhood through circumstances don’t feel touch or hugs in a kind way which we all have to be aware off.
In today’s world we now have to be aware of the power of touch and how it may offend people which is sad as all through the scripture we read about Jesus healing people by laying his hands on the sick who had faith in him and were healed. The security we reach for as infants, on in to adulthood to me is the same as the security we feel in Gods love and the ability to grow.
Jesus said that children and young people are not the church of the future but the church of today. The kingdom of God belongs to them.
Children tend to be receptive, open, humbling and forgiving.
You become childlike when you share your honest feelings. Acknowledge how vulnerable you are and how much you need God and other people.
Respond instinctively like a child to feel and express our love and joy, rush in explore, probe and discover things for yourself.
Sense the presence of God know his security and protection.
The lord goes before you and he will be with you. He will never leave you.
The church is an important part of the community as worship brings people together. Louise and I were standing talking with our coffee after church and all the congregation were sitting with their tea/coffee chatting to each other and laughing and it was lovely to see. What a difference it would make to more people if they could experience the warmth, welcome and compassion which is felt through everyone’s love of God who promises to give you grace, blessing and honour.
Proverbs 2 v 1 – 11. Ephesians 4 v 1 – 16
David has already mentioned the interesting meeting we had in Ardrishaig on Thursday. There were elders from the five Mid Argyll churches – Lochgilphead, Ardrishaig, South Knapdale, Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford and of course North Knapdale. David Mitchell, who has four churches in Cowal is the Convener of the Presbytery Planning Committee and outlined the case for improvement very well.
Not only are there not enough ministers to go round the current number of posts, but also there is not enough money in the coffers in Edinburgh to pay their wages if we had all the posts filled.
This leaves us with a little bit of a dilemma if we wish to continue our traditional church in the traditional manner on the traditional Sunday morning with a traditional minister.
Reading between the lines it would seem that there is only enough money available to pay for 2 salaried ministers for our area.
But, and it’s a big but! This brings a very exciting opportunity for every one of us to be involved in shaping the future of our denomination for the next 10 to 20 years. And I am quoting here from David Mitchell’s own words “it’s not about bums on seats on a Sunday morning!”.
Our reading from Proverbs is all about wisdom
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding —
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
God is not going to leave us to flounder in ignorance, we must search for wisdom from him in this situation that we find ourselves in. How are we going to do this? Thinking of what Catherine has shared with us, do we need to be open to feeling the touch of God? Of letting his spirit dwell in us and guide our footsteps?
Some of us will want to have some quiet reflection alone with our Heavenly Father, maybe reading some passages of scripture, searching for some continuity in the outward expression of our faith. Others will want to talk and discuss and argue their points. Others may dream dreams. I know some people who will walk and pray and listen to God. Whatever our preferred method we must share our thoughts with each other in love and gentleness, listening first to understand their point of view before giving our own. Our future is so important that we should be talking about it at coffee time as well as when we meet each other in the co-op or at the lunch club.
Deuteronomy 6 is talking about God’s laws here “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” I’m not saying this discussion is as important as God’s laws, but it’s a good principle to talk about what you find important and try to share it with others.
What sort of wisdom are we looking for?
David Mitchell impressed upon us that we must set aside all our buildings in our minds, then come up with a mission plan. And we must do this together with the other four parishes, not separately, you in your small corner, and I in mine, but all of us together creating a mission plan for the whole of Mid Argyll. How easy is that going to be?
Have you heard the term Blue Sky Thinking? It’s a lovely expression. Anything goes. Wonderful, amazing, outrageous, no budget constraints, considerate discussions, with God’s guidance, we will be able to do this. And once we have a mission plan, then we can see if our current buildings can play a part in that plan. And if not, then more blue sky thinking, what if we sell everything and build new purposebuilt whatevers? Some areas have achieved this. What if we already have a purposebuilt premisis? Great! we’re ahead of the game. What we shouldn’t do is build our mission plan around the only buildings we own.
Now I hear some of you thinking, mission plan, mission plan, mission is the minister’s job, surely.
Let us look again at the passage in Ephesians. If you’ve got a bible beside you, have a look. Chapter 4 v 1 on page .
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
No arguing with the other parishes, no us and them, take unity seriously. Be humble and gentle!
Reading from verse 7
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
Then at verse 11…
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
So Jesus has instigated the offices of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher and his Holy Spirit will have given the people the gifts necessary to carry out these offices. The next part of the sentence is crucial v 12 to equip his people for works of service. Are we his people? Do we feel equipped for works of service? Look at the end of verse 8. He gives gifts to his people. So he has given us gifts in order to carry out our calling, our works of service. The apostles prophets evangelist pastors and teachers are there to equip us to use our gifts, to carry out our works of service.
Just an aside …. and not being personal… many of us have seen ministers come and go in this parish. Some have inspired us, some have made us think outside the box. Our expectations may or may not have been met, but did you feel as if you were being trained and equipped for works of service? Did you even think that you should be?
Times are changing, minister numbers are declining, we can no longer afford to be the recipients only, of pastoral care and biblical teaching. It’s time for each one of us to stand up and be counted. To be prepared, to be discipled or apprenticed if you like, in order to take the Good News of Jesus into our communities. Many of us have already started on this exciting journey. Can we as the body of Christ in this place do our part for our neighbours?
There is hope for us all in this upheaval, quoting again from the passage in proverbs
He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.
Such comforting words for the days and discussions ahead. Remember, our God holds us in the palm of his hand.
The next step in the process is for all five congregations to meet together with David Mitchell so that he can explain the project we must undertake and answer any questions. There is a deadline. The Presbytery would like to be able to sign off on our plan in their September meeting. In order to achieve this we need everyone to be involved. We’ll let you know as soon as we receive it, the time and place of the meeting.
PRESENTATION OF THE HOLY BIBLE
IT IS MY PRIVILEGE TO PRESENT TO YOU A COPY OF THE ‘HOLY BIBLE’ WHICH IS THE GREATEST BOOK EVER
THIS BOOK WAS OVER 1500 YEARS IN THE MAKING AND THERE WAS A PERIOD OF SOME 400 YEARS BETWEEN THE HISTORY OF THE LAST BOOK OF THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE FIRST OF THE NEW.
SUBSEQUENTLY TEN CENTURIES PASSED BEFORE THE FIRST CRUDE AND PARTIAL TRANSLATION IN ENGLISH APPEARED, WHICH RESULTED IN OUR FIRST AUTHORISED VERSION IN THE REIGN OF KING JAMES IN (ANNO DOMINI 1611)
THE HOLY-BIBLE CONTAINS LAW, HISTORY, POETRY, PROPHECY, LETTER, MORALS, PHILOSOPHY, MEDICINE, DIVINE LIGHT AND TRUTH.
ITS AUTHORSHIP IS NO LESS VARIED. AMONGST ITS CONTRIBUTORS-WERE LAWYERS, HISTORIANS, POETS, PROPHETS, TEACHERS, MYSTICS, KINGS, SHEPHERDS AND FISHERMEN.
AS SILVER THREADS GLEAM IN DARKER FABRIC SO FLASHES OF LIGHT ARISE FROM ITS PAGES, REFLECTING THE CHARACTER OF ‘GOD’ AND HIS LOVE FOR MANKIND.
EVERYTHING THAT COULD BE DONE HAS BEEN DONE IN THE AGE OF INTOLERANCE TO DESTROY THIS BOOK. MEN HAVE BEEN IMPRISONED, TORTURED AND BURNED AT THE STAKE FOR DEFENDING ITS TEACHINGS.
ITS PAGES HAVE BEEN MOISTENED THESE HUNDRED OF YEARS BY TEARS OF JOY AND OF SORROW.
THEY HAVE BEEN THUMBED AND SOILED BY THE FINGERS OF KINGS AND PRISONERS IN THEIR CELLS
MONARCH AND PEASANT ALIKE HAVE FOUND IT A SOURCE OF CONSOLATION, STRENGTH, COURAGE AND HOPE.
ON PRESENTING YOU WITH THIS BOOK I WOULD LIKE YOU TO READ IT FREQUENTLY
NOT WITH YOUR EYES ALONE BUT ALSO WITH YOUR HEART.
AS YOU GROW FAMILIAR WITH ITS CONTENTS SO SO WILL IT BE AS A LAMP UNTO YOUR PATH AND AN EVER READY LANDMARK IN YOUR FUTURE LIFE
In Psalm 118 we have read:
“The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation”
Encouraging words from a Psalm rejoicing in the security and mercy given by God to his people.
Salvation – such a big word – and it has echoes for us in the evangelist’s call – “Come to Jesus and you will be saved”. But sometimes we find it difficult to comprehend – Saved from what?, Saved for what?
What is God saying when he offers salvation?
Think of a swimmer getting into difficulties – flailing and panicking – sinking, drowning – and the lifeguard swims out and pulls him ashore – on to the security of land, out of the enveloping water. The lifeguard has saved him – but what happens next. Does the swimmer say – thanks very much I am saved, so I will go back into the sea now – I am not any different than I was before? Possibly.
Or does he say – I am saved, I value my life more, I am going to live differently – stop swimming, or learn to swim safely, or teach others to swim well? Whatever he does – he is on his own, the lifeguard has walked away and getting on with saving others.
Is that our understanding of salvation? – help out of difficulties and then left to get on with it on our own again?
I want to look a bit more closely at the words and actions of Jesus which we read about in John chapter 20.
Those who at Kilmory Chapel on Easter Morning ,may remember we looked at this reading, and how the disciples in their despair and confusion over Jesus death, their anxiety over the missing body of Jesus, and their perplexity over Mary’s claim to have seen Jesus, suddenly had Jesus beside them saying – “Peace, I give you”. Peace, you can almost hear them shouting – Peace, how can you expect us to have peace after all we have been through! – but that is what they needed, and that is what Jesus gave them – Peace – slowing down their racing minds, giving sense out of their confusion, soothing their anxieties. Saving them from their fears.
The risen Jesus gives peace into our troubled lives – He stands with us and brings peace.
So we could say that Jesus has become my salvation because he has brought me peace.
But Jesus does not leave it at that – he doesn’t say – “Peace be with you” and then leave, – there is more he has to say, to offer in His visit.
Look at verse 21:
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you”
“As the Father has sent me, I send you” Jesus is saying – this is not the finished, it is only the start –
The Father sent me to “ bring good news to the poor, to release the captives, bring sight to the blind, set prisoners free.”
He sent me to show people how the Father would want us to live, to behave. He sent me to challenge injustice, and to shine light into dark places, He sent me to defeat evil and corruption and to show people the Kingdom of God, to bring life, reality, truth.
Jesus said –“ I am the way, the truth and the life – no-one comes to the Father but by me”
Jesus said – “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life”
“As the Father sent me, so I send you” I have given you peace – now I give you direction. – GO
You have a purpose –“ I have not suffered and died, and overcome death so you can go on living as you have been. No, I am giving you a new purpose – a new way of living, a new direction – as I have been sent – so I send you!” To live following my way – tyo live as i have shown you – to live as the Father has made you!
And this is all very well and good. We are sitting on the beach having been pulled out the water – our lungs are emptied and we can breath again. We are recovered, and the lifeguard can say to us – “Relax now, be at peace you are safe”
And “so…you are alive, you could have drowned, what are you going to do with your life now? Will you live differently?”
Good advice, but that is all it is, it doesn’t help you change anything. You can still be anxious and the peace alludes you, you can decide to change your life style – but can you do it on your own?
What Jesus says next is the clincher – what Jesus says next changes everything, this moves this whole episode from being a quiet motivational discussion into a cosmic earthquake – a shaking of tectonic plates, the shuddering of the universe.
Jesus breathes on them and says “Receive the Holy Spirit”. He says -Here is the Holy Spirit – I am giving you God.
Now the Triune nature of God is a mystery. The idea of the Trinity can make you brain hurt. But none the less we worship God who is three in one – three beings one. Separate yet combined. A mystery well beyond our comprehension, but that does not make it impossible.
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
And Jesus says to His followers “I am giving you one part of God – the Holy Spirit – here he is – receive Him”
Now, with the Pentecostal and the Charismatic movements of recent times we are quite familiar with this idea of the Holy Spirit being with us, and guiding and helping us pray – and we also have all the stories in Acts and the teaching in the New Testament letters about the Holy Spirit, but at that time the Holy Spirit was rarely referred to – To these disciples – He is God hovering over the waters at the very start of creation, he guides Moses to free Israel from Egypt, the boy David is anointed with the Holy Spirit to lead Israel to security and prosperity. Elijah, Elisha, Ezekial, Isaiah are all inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is God working alongside his special people, and Jesus says to His followers – here he is – a gift – Receive the holy spirit. They are being given the very presence of God.
We are saved through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. We are saved through submitting to Him as Son of God.
In that salvation he gives us peace, and direction, purpose – and in this third gift He gives the presence of God to empower us, to enable us to know the reality of His peace, and then to be able to take on the task of Going – of being sent – of following His way.
We, as disciples, as followers of Jesus, are being given God’s presence. Just ponder that for a moment. Jesus says – “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus doesn’t just give us kind words, or comforting sayings; He doesn’t give us a set of instructions, or rules to follow so we will be all right. He stands beside us and he gives us the presence of God – God’s Holy spirit to infuse our lives, to be part of our beings – so we are different from who we were before we knew Him, before we accepted His gift of salvation, before we accepted him as “the Way, the truth and the life.”
So never underestimate what God can do in our lives, with our lives. Never underestimate what God can do with us as individuals, and as a church.
As we remember the resurrected Christ visiting His disciples – remember too, that His promise is for all His followers:
Peace: calmness, contentment, security,
Direction: purpose, assurance, confidence
and above all – Presence -The Holy spirit, the presence of God – infusing and completing our life – and with whom all things are possible.
Then as Peter, and John, went in and did not find the body of Jesus, they were greatly perplexed – and two men standing there said to them – “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
“Jesus is not here – he is risen!”
Welcome this Easter Morning! Jesus Christ is risen – He is risen indeed!
Let us pray:
Risen Lord, on this day we praise You, on this day we worship You, on this day we draw close to You, and rejoice that You come to us still, out of darkness into light, out of grief into joy, out of fear into hope. Rejoicing in the presence of our living Saviour, we are bold to come close and be glad that in this life, we are not alone; in this life, there is someone we can trust; in this life the promise becomes reality because of You, Lord Jesus Christ, as we stand in Your resurrection light. – Amen
Hymn 410 – Jesus Christ is risen today.
Reading: John 20 vs 1 – 9 NIV Mystery and confusion:
“Early, on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdaline went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him’
So Peter and the other disciple started to the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and looked at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived, and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes.”
It is the morning after the Sabbath day’s rest. Two days since they had watched in horror as their leader, their guide and teacher, their friend was crucified as a criminal
They had had one day – one day to try understand – what had gone wrong – to try to re-orientate their lives now Jesus was no more than a dead rebel. This man who had offered so much was lying dead in a cave. But now they could go and bury him properly and get on with their lives. But the confusion continues, the roller coaster of emotion and the whole mystery around Jesus just gets worse – His body is gone! Where is it – who has taken it – why! why! It is all going wrong again.
Can we identify a little with their anguish? Can we get beside Peter, and say – hold on, it will all turn out OK. Can we sit with Mary in the garden weeping her heart out because none of this makes sense and Jesus is dead. Can we say – trust in Jesus, trust in God – but would that really have meant anything at all to these, his distraught grieving friends?
Darkness before dawn, light in a tunnel, new shoots from dry seeds.
Would these pictures have meant anything at all to them on that morning – at that time of sorrow and confusion?
Reading: John 20 vs 11 – 18, NIV Seeking, pleading……. Hope, transformation.
“…but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look in the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head, and the other at the foot.
They asked her ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’
‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said ‘and I don’t know where they have put Him’. At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.
‘Woman,’ He said ‘why are you weeping? Who is it that you are looking for?’
Thinking He was the gardener, she said ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.’
Jesus said to her ‘Mary’
She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni’, which means Teacher.
Jesus said ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that she had said these things to her.”
John and Peter have gone home, Mary stays on crying her eyes out – sorrow upon sorrow, and through her tears she sees two people sitting in the tomb – white, like angels.
Why are you weeping? Why are you weeping?
Because He is gone! All is gone – Jesus the Messiah is gone, Jesus the teacher is gone, Jesus our friend has gone – even His body has gone. Mary is bereft, empty –
And now Jesus too asks “Why are you weeping”
Indeed Mary – why are you weeping? – Jesus is there, Jesus is beside her. Jesus the Messiah is standing alive, Jesus the teacher is bringing her comfort, Jesus the man is standing – no longer a dead body – but a living being, – no longer gone – but here! and so Mary – “Why are you weeping?”
Dawn is breaking, the dark tunnel of anguish is being slowly lit up, the new shoots are growing from the seed. A new day, a new era, a new life is beginning
Go and tell the others. Go and tell them you have seen me – go and tell them their despair is over, go and tell them the darkness is past – I am not dead – but alive.
Sometimes we enter the darkness of despair, sometimes our expectations crumble to dust. Sometimes our hopes fall flat and circumstances change to snuff out our optimism, our joy. Sometimes our best intentions get distorted and cause more harm than good.
Then Jesus asks us – “Why are you weeping”. The light is coming – I am not dead but live. Then we can reach out, we can cry out, I am weeping because you are gone! But Jesus is not gone he is standing there beside you – look at him.
In these times when we need comfort, assurance, light – we can cry out – Lord hear my needs – understand my position, know my pain – Hear my prayer ! and he does, because He is alive – he waits beside us.
We are going to sing this together now – “O Lord hear my prayer, listen to me!” this is a simple song from the Taize community in France and I think it helps us all to bring our selves to our Lord.
“O Lord hear my prayer”
Reading John 20 vs 19 – 23 Confirmation, commission, enabling.
“On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you’. After He had said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said ‘Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, I am sending you’. And with that He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’” John Ch 20 vs 19 – 23 NIV
Jesus sends Mary home to the other disciples
Mary tells them that she has seen Jesus alive – Astounding news, desperate news – wild news – was there hope, was there doubt, minds racing and in turmoil.
And then Jesus stands among them – “Peace”. Peace is what they sorely needed. Peace from the anguish and confusion and loss. Peace from the failure and danger, from the crowds and from the horror of the cross. Jesus brings them peace – calm, assurance, certainty, clarity – “see my hands and side”
Jesus stands among us and brings us peace. Jesus stands among us to show us his wounds – it is he, he is alive, he is with us. In all the turmoil and doubt, the anguish and pain, the sorrow and the joy – he stands beside us – and gives us peace.
Jesus did not stay dead – He is risen! Jesus is not in a tomb – he is with us – and he asks us:
Why are you weeping – Receive the Holy Spirit – Why are you weeping” the turmoil is over, here is my peace. Why are you weeping! I am telling you so that you can tell others. I am here, beside you, to bring life, to bring joy, to bring meaning to life – life in all its fullness.
Jesus is not in the tomb – He is risen – He is risen indeed. Here I am beside you.
Loving Heavenly Father,
Today is the most special of days –
A day of victory, celebration and praise!
A day on which we remember your great triumph –
The defeat of evil, suffering and death.
A day on which we recall the transformation you have brought –
Joy after sorrow, hope after despair, faith after doubt.
A day on which we give thanks for all you have given us –
Love, laughter and life!
Speak to us through this joyful season,
And fill us with greater trust and deeper faith.
So may we live not just this day but every day
As your Easter people
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
Hymn 419 Thine be the Glory
Christ was raised from the dead
By the glorious power of the Father.
Set out then, on a new life with Christ,
And the blessing of God almighty,
Father Son and Holy Spirit
Be with us all,
Now and always.