As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
An Easter Hymn CH4 410
As you read this hymn you might like to sing/shout/speak the Alleluias aloud after every line….
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss Alleluia!
Hymns of praise then let us sing
Unto Christ, our heavenly King
Who endured the cross and grave
Ruined sinners to redeem and save.
But the anguish he endured
Our salvation has procured;
Now in heaven Christ is King,
Where the angels ever sing.
Sing we to our God above
Praise eternal as his love;
Praise him all you heavenly host,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
THE EASTER GOSPEL
St John 20:1-18
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14 When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
You might like to read that Bible passage again – more slowly. If you are familiar with it try and imagine that you are reading it for the first time. What do you notice? Does anything surprise you? Take a moment to ponder the resurrection mystery at the heart of our faith
Christ has died, Christ has risen
In Christ shall all be made alive
Blessing and honour and glory and power
Be to our God
Forever and ever, Amen
This year, Easter Sunday falls during the Corona virus pandemic. A time when we are squirreled away in our homes and when wandering out for shopping or exercise you'll get a wide-eyed look of alarm on the face of a passer-by if you get to close.
A few years ago, I was hospitalised by a serious viral infection called Hepatitis E. It turned my skin a deep yellow as it attacked my liver. Fortunately, I was fit and healthy and within a couple of months I was almost back to normal. But Corona Virus is a much nastier proposition.
Writing from an American perspective, this is how one Christian writer puts it:
This year, Easter Sunday falls during the COVID-19 pandemic. "The Beast" is what people are naming the virus. It attacks ferociously in the night with spiked fevers, aches, lung binding, and hallucinations. COVID-19 is a "breath-taking" virus. It steals the breath from people's bodies in a particularly terrifying way. It strikes suddenly leaving us frightened and breathless. With no cure in sight, the only thing we can do is hide away, covering our noses and faces with cloth, hoping to keep the aggressive beast away from our lungs.
COVID-19 is a death threat that has already made good on many lives.
This brutal virus makes us feel that we are locked up in a dark tomb for an impossibly long duration, as though the darkness of "Good Friday" might go on forever with little hope in sight. And yet all around us, we see signs of spring, signs of awakening, signs of hope, signs of resurrection. We know life as we know it may be dampened down for now, covered in what feels like "funeral clothing." And yet, spring blooms eternal. All around us: Birds sing, the sun bursts out from the winter clouds, trees bud, flowers unfurl, the ground thaws, and God unwraps an entirely new landscape of colour and life. But for now, we wait.
I wonder what it must have felt like for Jesus those "three days" in the tomb, knowing resurrection was imminent, yet waiting for dawn to come on that magnificent morning when the stone was rolled away, and the sun streamed through, when an "angel of the Lord" removed the funerary cloth from Jesus' face, and the Holy Spirit breathed again the holy breath of life into His stricken body and made it rise like Ezekiel's bones from the valley of the shadow of death. Three days of darkness. Then, new and restored life. Not the same life. But a restored, resurrected life.
Today, as we celebrate Easter morning, resurrection means so much more to us than it did before. For we have been living in darkness, confined to a kind of tomblike existence. Life as we have known it has stopped. We don't go out to work. We don't go out to play. We hide our faces; we guard our lungs. We walk zombie-like through our homes and streets, frightened, and covered in our own kind of "funerary" cloths, so that the cold breath of death might pass us by, that invisible breath-stealing beast that threatens us and keeps us locked away, for a time.
But only for a time.
Life in waiting is merely that, a time of waiting. And yet a time of expectation. For we know that no matter what, that beast has no power over us. God's resurrection breath will raise us up. A new day will dawn, soon. Very soon.... (Anon)
The hymn writer John Macleod Campbell Crum’s puts it this way (CH4 417)
“When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
Thy touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green “
Christ has died! Christ has risen! Christ will come again! Hallelujah!
PRAYERS FOR OTHERS
Lift to God now in prayer
All those whose lives have been impacted or changed by the pandemic
The Lord’s prayer
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
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever,
Thine be the Glory Risen Conquering Son CH4 419
Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son
Endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won;
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave-clothes where thy body lay.
Thine be the glory risen conquering Son,
Endless is the victory, thou o’er death hast won
Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
Let the Church with gladness hymns of triumph sing
For her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.
No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of Life
Life is naught without thee: aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love
Bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.
Until the current lockdown comes to an end and we are able to return to gathered worship, each day a reflection and prayer will be published on the church Facebook page and website.
Pastoral Care -The minister is still available to help with any pastoral issues, tel.07791 755976
Practical Help – There are a number of groups and individuals offering help and support at the present time. If you are need of practical help or know someone who does, please contact Sean who will be able to make contact with the appropriate agency.
Saturday 11th April
What are we waiting for?
The news is grim. It was announced yesterday that another 980 people had died in UK hospitals - bringing the total number of UK deaths to 8,958. It is a record number that has exceeded Italy and Spain's worst daily figures during the pandemic. Another news headline suggested that the virus is now present in about half the residential and nursing homes in Scotland. Added to this is the growing clamour over the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which it is claimed is putting the lives of medical staff at risk.
There are no exact figures, but there are numerous reports in the press of doctors and nurses and carers who have died from Corona Virus, including ten ‘immigrant’ doctors and retired staff who returned to work. Fortunately, in the North East we appeared, so far, to be escaping the worst effects of the virus. But however you look at it, the news is grim indeed.
Today is Holy or Low Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is a time a mysterious time of waiting. The cross is now behind us. Jesus has suffered and died. His victory over the powers of sin and evil that have decimated creation is now complete. Now we wait.
Like Jesus disciples were are pondering – trying to grapple with all that has happened over the past days - for the stone to be rolled away by earthquake and angels, for the grave clothes to be cast aside and the tomb to be discovered empty. But now heaven and earth are resting. One saint old once described this curious in-between time as the ‘second Sabbath after creation.’
Matthew 27: 62-66
The next day, that is, after the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how hthat impostor said, while he was still alive, i‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, jlest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have ka guard10 of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by lsealing the stone and setting a guard.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
1 Peter 3: 19-20
After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[e] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
‘He descended into hell’ (The Apostles’ Creed)
‘We need to recapture the atmosphere of prayerful waiting because we on the verge of celebrating the greatest event of history..’
TIME FOR REFLECTION:
What does the Apostles’ Creed mean when it describes Jesus as ‘descended into hell’ or the modern translation as ‘descended to the dead?’
How does the presence of God in the darkest of human experiences shape our picture of Jesus?
As we ponder this mysterious time of waiting, of the second Sabbath, let us bring before God the things we waiting for….
Waiting for the pandemic to pass
Families facing the agonising wait to hear about loved ones in hospital
Medical staff and carers waiting for the end of busy shift, emotionally and physically exhausted
Waiting for the lockdown to end at the right and appropriate time
Frustrated children waiting to go our play and meet with friends
On this day, the world was waiting, like a long winter hoping for spring, like a dry land awaiting rain. Still, quiet, in between a world hesitating, silent hope in a dark place. Lord, we give to you the times we have in own lives, where all we can do is wait, when all we hold is hope. We give you those times when all we have is faith in new life, new beginnings and heavens call.
Be with all those who today wait in that cold, uncertain place. Hold them, keep them safe in your arms, resting in your promise of new life.
Let this be a sacred time, O God,
in which I let what has begun,
finding within me the patience and trust
that allows me
to tend my concerns with wisdom.
As so much is re-shaped by Coronavirus Covid-19, let us pray together for:
• people left unwell, beckoned by death or bereaved;
• people providing professional health care and advice, looking after loved ones at home or
working to create treatments and cures;
• people shaping the response of nations and neighbourhoods, of commerce and industry, of
service and voluntary organisations and of communities of faith;
• people who are anxious or afraid, alone or isolated.
Living, loving God, we praise you,
and through times of peril we lean into you, for in Jesus you have trodden paths as difficult as ours,
revealing there a love that nothing defeats, a love that bears us through.
Even as we strive to behave responsibly,
and to care reliably, so we feel after you
that in these uncertain times we might trust you are with us, our refuge and strength, and our faith, hope and love might be renewed.
May the Resurrection Come
The resurrection was first discovered by the friends of Jesus
who stood in grief outside his tomb.
Resurrection turned despair into life.
It was discovered again by a group of Jesus’ disciples
who had known the loss of all they had known.
Resurrection turned fear into hope.
It was discovered again by black South Africans
when apartheid was dismantled.
Resurrection turned injustice into liberation.
It was discovered again by the people of East Timor
who fought for independence.
Resurrection turned oppression into freedom.
It’s been discovered again whenever someone has found the space
to love after being hurt,
has found the courage to begin again
when it seems life has ended.
And that gives us faith to believe resurrection will happen
in Palestine and Israel.
We have faith to believe resurrection will happen
in Iraq, Syria and Guantanamo Bay.
We have faith to believe resurrection will happen
in refugee camps in Europe, in Laos
and detention centres in Maribyrnong.
We have faith to believe resurrection will happen
in the systems that crumple and oppress.
We have faith to believe resurrection will happen
in the lives we know are shattered
and the hearts we know are broken.
may the resurrection come.
may the resurrection come.
written by Cheryl Lauri
Friday 10th April - Good Friday
Why is Good Friday called ‘good.’
Today is Good Friday, when we recall the final day of Jesus’ life – his trial, humiliation and his death of the cross. But why is it called ‘good?’ What good is there in seeing an innocent man put through arguably the most depraved form of execution ever devised? In the same way our current point in history could hardly be called good. There were two images that caught my attention on the news. A picture of a mass burial of Corvid19 victims in Hark Island, New York. The city, to date, has experienced 10,000 deaths from the virus.
The picture revealed long trenches dug by machine and row after row of pine caskets being covered with soil. The second picture was of a health care support worker and district nurse, fifty-eight-year-old Janice Graham who was the first NHS worker in Scotland to die from Coronavirus. Colleagues described how she bought kindness and compassion to patients and possessed a bright and engaging personality. In what way could any of these things be called good? Perhaps this day should be known as ‘Terrible Friday.’
The origins of ‘Good Friday’ are somewhat unclear. One dictionary argues the earliest known use of ‘guode Friday’ was found in a lectionary text dated around 1290. Another suggestion is that it derives from the term "God's Friday" or Gottes Freitag, while others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag. Another tradition suggests to was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons. Within Greek Orthodox Liturgy the day was known as "the Holy and Great Friday" and in yet another church tradition Karfreitag or ‘Sorrowful Friday.’ But the question persists – why is this particular Friday ‘good.’
Like much of the Christian Faith the term ‘Good Friday’ is counterintuitive. For the church the day is a sombre festival in which we reflect on Jesus suffering and death. But yet it is good! It is good because we celebrate Jesus’ suffering and dying for our sins to secure our salvation. Our peace with God, His presence in our lives and our hope for eternity are made possible by Jesus’ death. There is no need for our lives to be dominated by fear or guilt.
The terrible Friday which saw Jesus die breathing forgiveness leads us onto Easter morning. Jesus’ victory over sin and death and love triumphant. So the word ‘good’ does not describe the events of Good Friday, but the healing stream of love and healing and forgiveness that flows from the cross. Without Good Friday there can be no Easter Sunday. Without the cross and death of Jesus there can be no resurrection.
So despite all that we see around us, today is ‘good.’ For those of us who have the privilege of faith it reminds us of the true power and depth of God’s love. For those who are suffering from Coronavirus and their families who helplessly watch and wait, they are surrounded by God’s love and served by medical and support staff who are putting their own lives and health at risk. Perhaps it will only be well into the future when we have mourned the people we lost and the usual routines of life are restored, that we will understand the ‘good’ that has emerged from the current time.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Matthew 27: 27-56
27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.
28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,
29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.
30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.
31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.
33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”).
34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.
35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.
37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads
40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.
42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”
44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.
46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink.
49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split
52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.
56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
Jesus, You told us this would happen;
that we would know that death
was not an ending,
but rather a beginning.
You promised that no tomb would hold You
and that we would see You again
alive and glorified
But, we didn’t believe it – we still don’t
We still face the little deaths which fill our lives
with fear and dread and despair.
We still look away from Your resurrected glory
believing ourselves to be beyond the reach of Your grace & life
But, now in this place, we gather to be reminded
Resurrection has happened – it happens still
grace and life can find us anywhere, and bring us home
And so we worship, with joy and relief
and with awe and trembling
Stand among us again now, Jesus
and let Your life flood our weary and doubting souls.
For we pray this in Your Name.
At a time like this, when the triumph of death seems inevitable
and the suffering around us makes us want to turn away,
we commit to resurrection:
In the secret chambers where power-brokers meet,
we commit to making the voice of life and justice heard;
In the crisis moments when quick decisions must be made
that hold human lives in the balance
we commit to making peace and co-existence the challenge we raise;
In the forgotten corners where the powerless and poor
daily walk the valley of the shadow of death,
we commit to equity, compassion and giving;
In the dying places on our planet where human carelessness and consumption
have threatened the survival of all
we commit to simplicity and sustainability
As you stand among us now, Jesus,
in your resurrected glory,
May we know the power of your life;
May we turn away from death;
And may we become agents of resurrection,
where ever we find ourselves.
Love never fails
Even in the darkest moments, love gives hope.
Love compels us to fight against coronavirus alongside our sisters and brothers living in poverty.
Love compels us to stand together in prayer with our neighbours near and far.
Love compels us to give and act as one.
Now, it is clear that our futures are bound together more tightly than ever before.
As we pray in our individual homes – around the nation and around the world – we are united as one family.
So, let us pause and find a moment of peace, as we lift up our hearts together in prayer.
Say these prayers aloud or silently, alone or with others online.
Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession
For the health workers tending the seriously ill
for the scientists working on a vaccination
for the researchers analysing data and identifying trends
for the media outlets working to communicate reality
for the supermarket workers, hygiene and sanitation providers
for the good news stories of recoveries and effective planning
for the singing from balconies by locked-down communities
for the recognition that isolation doesn’t need to mean loneliness
for the notes through letterboxes offering help and support
for the internet and telephones and technology that connects
for the awakened appreciation of what is truly important
Thanks be to God.
For those who are unwell and concerned for loved ones
for those who were already very anxious
for those immune suppressed or compromised
for those vulnerable because of underlying conditions
for those in the ‘most at risk to coronavirus’ categories
for those watching their entire income stream dry up
for those who have no choice but to go out to work
for those who are afraid to be at home
for those who are more lonely than they've ever been
for those who are bereaved and grieving.
God be their healer, comfort and protection,
be their strength, shield and provision
be their security, safety and close companion
And raise up your Church
to be your well-washed hands and faithful feet
to be present to the pain
to respond with love in action
if even from a safe distance.
God, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord) A Capella by Pegasis
Thursday 9th April – Maundy Thursday
As we journey through Holy Week we arrive at Maundy Thursday, most frequently celebrated in church by sharing Holy Communion just as Jesus did in an upper room with his disciples. Of course this Maundy Thursday is unlike any other. The act of gathering which is so fundamental to our faith is no longer possible in these troubled times. And the act of sharing bread and wine which commemorates all that Jesus has done and is so central to nourishing our faith is also no longer possible. Or is it? We may be separated from one another, but we are not separated from God.
Perhaps this is good time to be reminded that whilst we will be separated and distanced from our usual Easter worship, that God is Spirit. That there are no boundaries or barriers to God’s presence. Even more curious though we are separated and distant from one another we can still be one in the Spirit. Don’t ask me to explain this spiritual mystery. But this is reality of our faith. Alone, separated and distant from one another, but united with God and through the presence of the Holy Spirit united in faith with one another. To this could be added another layer – united with the saints of heaven!
Reflection by Norah Summers, Falkirk Trinity Church
All this talk of wine – is this where it is leading?
To the Passover meal, in the upper room, Jesus at the table with his friends.
Then he took a cup. Such ordinary words, such an ordinary action. But the cup is loaded, not just full of wine, but heavy with meaning, and poured out, like his life,
In the garden of Gethsemane he confronts the cup of suffering, and accepts it.
Matthew 26: 26-30
26 While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. “Take and eat it,” he said; “this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and gave it to them. “Drink it, all of you,” he said; 28 “this is my blood, which seals God's covenant, my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink this wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in my Father's Kingdom.”
30 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
who so loved the world that you sent your own son to save it,
we pray for grace to share in a true communion of your Spirit,
wine of the Spirit, poured out for all.
God of love unquenchable, Silken thread, golden, woven through the fabric of creation, Central fire of the universe, invisibly burning, in You alone we find our fulfilment and completion.
Mystery manifested in mathematics, meditation and music, we search inwardly, seeking the intuition of the soul, for the assurance, shalom and wholeness only Your silence can give.
Surrounded by the saints of today and earlier generations, these very walls echo and resound with praise; and songs offered in worship by children, women and men.
We celebrate the continuing miracle of the resurrection, of Christ rising within us. Forgiving Father, Loving Mother, You hear the cries of the soul.
Assure us that there is no length to which You will not go, no emptiness, darkness or depth which You will not enter, to find, comfort, embrace and raise us up.
We lay before You our brokenness: burdens of the heart and fragile memories. May we take to heart the words of Jesus: ‘ Your sins are forgiven’.
May almighty God have mercy upon you, grant you pardon and remission of all your sins, time for the amendment of life, and the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Increase our awareness of Your Presence, O God; with the eyes of faith, may we see the cosmos Christ-soaked, the world of matter saturated with Spirit, and our lives a daily sacrifice, moulded and shaped by the contours of compassion: respect for others, justice for the earth, and love of self.
Like Mary, may we rise early and journey to the tomb; like the Beloved Disciple, may we pause, prepare ourselves, enter and, in the darkness, stillness and emptiness, see and believe.
May Transcendence touch and transfigure the tombs of our lives.
Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) was only twenty years old when she composed the beautiful words of the hymn There is a green hill, a work of exquisite purity and tenderness of youth. Her inspiration is said to have come from a large grass-covered mound just outside her home town of Londonderry which put her in mind of the hill in the Holy Land, beyond Jerusalem's gates, 'where our dear Lord was crucified'. During her lifetime, Mrs Alexander wrote over four hundred hymns including Once in Royal David's City and All things bright and beautiful, two hymns which have remained extremely popular with adults and children alike.
The tune 'Horsley' was named after its composer, William Horsley (1774-1858), a London-born organist and composer who was one of the founders of the Philharmonic Society in London (1813). The flowing melody and simple harmonies of his hymn tune complement perfectly the fresh simplicity of Mrs Alexander's poetry.
Wednesday 8th April
As we continue our journey through Holy Week, today we arrive at what used to be known as ‘Spy Wednesday’ for it is believed that on this day Judas agreed to betray the Lord for thirty pieces of silver.
The story of Jesus' last week makes for uncomfortable reading. We see the worst aspects of human nature revealed - cowardice, fear, anger, jealousy and violence. To this can be added a further word – betrayal. This poses the question why would someone who had been one of Jesus' closest and most intimate followers choose to betray him? Luke and John put the blame firmly on Satan – that he entered Judas’ heart and motivated his treachery. It is also likely that Judas acted out of frustration because Jesus refused to become a political leader who would galvanised and insight the people to rebel against the Roman occupiers. (The rebellion finally came in 70AD and the consequences were terrible – Jerusalem destroyed, those who survived sold into slavery. It also marked the end of Israel as a nation state until after WW2.)
It is hard to find little if anything positive to say here. Treachery and betrayal are nauseating words. Historically, the figure of Judas has sometimes been portrayed as a personification of the Jewish people and his betrayal has been used to justify Christian antisemitism. And we all know something of the experience of betrayal. It is incredibly hurtful when people breach out trust and betray our confidence. An unfaithful marriage partner, close friends who take advantage of your vulnerability, and worse of all a trusted person who commits physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
As a Christian I have witness betrayal in many forms. One of the most painful (for me) happened a few years ago when I set up a new group to connect with the community. To begin with it was a great success. A genuine grass roots initiative that enabled people to connect with mainstream faith and spirituality in a way that engaging and affirming. Then things went wrong. I went away on holiday for one week and on my return discovered that people from an independent church had taken it over. They had made contact with all the people involved and were trying to set up meetings. It all seemed very underhand and manipulative. To group soon fell apart – yet another example of genuine faith snuffed out religious fundamentalism!
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
If you have been a victim of treachery and betrayal (and who hasn’t), it can be an incredibly hurtful experience. It can take a long time before you learn to trust again. But the healing process begins with forgiveness. Yet trying to forgive people who have hurt you deeply can only be done with God’s help and grace. This is perhaps the hardest thing God will ever ask you to do.
One final though for a Christian writer:
We don't remember these painful moments to beat ourselves up. This week when we look at Judas, we also look at Jesus, whose cross shows us the length that forgiveness goes. Forgiveness that extends to us, even when we don't think we deserve it at all. Forgiveness that our loving God gives simply because we need it to be whole again. We need it to love others again. Today, do what you can to restore a relationship that needs mending. And also stop and enjoy the life-giving forgiveness that comes despite our mistakes.
Zechariah 11: 12-14
I told them, "If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, "Throw it to the potter"-the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord. Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the family bond between Judah and Israel.
Psalm 41 (note verse 9)
Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble. 2 The Lord protects and preserves them- they are counted among the blessed in the land- he does not give them over to the desire of their foes. 3 The Lord sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness. 4 I said, "Have mercy on me, Lord; heal me, for I have sinned against you."
5 My enemies say of me in malice, "When will he die and his name perish?" 6 When one of them comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it around. 7 All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying, 8 "A vile disease has afflicted him; he will never get up from the place where he lies." 9 Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. 10 But may you have mercy on me, Lord; raise me up, that I may repay them. 11 I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me. 12 Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever. 13 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.
John 13: 21-30
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me." 22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means." 25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" 26 Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, "What you are about to do, do quickly." 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
• Remember members of our communities, church and parish who are affected by the current health crisis
• Anxious relatives who cannot visit loved ones in Nursing Homes or Hospital
• For those who are drawing close to death and families and friends who mourn at this time.
• Carers, health workers, retail workers, members of the emergency services and so many others, who risk their personal health and wellbeing for the sake of others.
• Boris Johnston and Governments in Westminster and Holyrood – for wisdom and compassion and the courage to make hard choices and difficult decisions.
• For the army of volunteers serving their communities and helping neighbours.
• That when we emerge from crisis we will be a righteous nation.
I give you thanks, for you are good, and your mercy is endless.
Here I stand, at this holy week,
This week in which your church remembers Jesus’ passion and death,
And I am distracted by many things.
Turn my eyes now to the One who comes in your name
The one who opens the gates of righteousness
The one who answers when we call.
I bless you, Lord, for shining your light upon me,
And for sending your son to us, in human frailty.
To walk the road we walk.
Open my eyes that I may see him coming,
And may praise him with a pure heart.
And may walk in the way of his suffering,
And share also in his resurrection.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen
We tremble to think
That it was one of Jesus’ own friends who betrayed him.
One who sat by him, who broke bread with him.
Give us strength, we pray,
To walk faithfully with Jesus,
Even when the road we walk is rocky
Even when the message of the cross seems like foolishness
And even when we feel betrayed.
You, Lord, are always faithful.
We stumble, we become lost,
But you are steady and sure.
Give us the grace to endure our troubles,
And reveal to us the glory of your kingdom,
Through your son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit.
Oh, The Deep Love of Jesus
Violinist: Katie Gayduchik
Composer: Samuel Trevor Francis (1875)
Tuesday 7th April
Capt. Brett Crozier
Col. Theodore Roosevelt’
One of the items recently in the news concerns Capt. Brett Crozier, Commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Capt. Crozier got into hot water for imploring the top brass to help him deal with an outbreak of the coronavirus on his ship. The carrier has a crew of 4,800 and had 137 confirmed cases of COVID 19. He requested permission to return to port so infected members of the crew could be isolated ashore. The ‘mistake’ he made was in copying 20-30 people into his original message including a journalist, this violating the change of command by seeking to exert public pressure. Subsequently, he was removed from his post and faces almost certain disciplinary action. As the ship was docked at Guam Naval Base, when Capt. Crozier walked off the ship for the last time, his crew cheered him in a rousing ovation for sacrificing his career for the good of the men and women under his command.
There is a curious coincidence here. In the summer of 1898, the Spanish-American War was all but over. The U.S. Army Fifth Corps, including Col. Theodore Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” cavalry unit, was stationed in Cuba. A malaria epidemic struck, infecting nearly 4,000 of the 4,270 men of the Fifth Corps. But though some died, a person could survive malaria. Then the far deadlier Yellow Fever started to break out. The generals and other officers knew that a Yellow Fever epidemic could kill thousands. No combat operations were underway, just garrison duty. There was no need for the troops to be there. They resolved to write the top brass asking that the garrison be redeployed to an area that would be safe from Yellow Fever. The generals worried that they might jeopardize their careers if they made this request, so they asked Col. Roosevelt if he would draft a letter.
He did, and sent a copy to a reporter. His letter made front page headlines in almost every newspaper. Major-General Shafter, to whom the letter was addressed, was furious. President McKinley was indignant. The public, of course, was on the soldiers’ side. The Fifth Corps was removed to New York state, where the vast majority of the troops made a full recovery. But for Teddy Roosevelt his military career was over. Leaving the military, he moved into politics and the same year was elected Governor to New York. Two years later, he was elected Vice-President under President McKinley. After McKinley was assassinated, Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States, serving two terms and getting his face carved onto Mount Rushmore. And eventually getting an aircraft carrier named after him.*
So what is the point here? Faith demands tenacity, integrity and obedience. When Capt. Brett Crozier and Col. Theodore Roosevelt sacrificed their careers for the well-being of the people who served under them, they had no idea of the consequences of their actions. Whilst we know what happened to Theodore Roosevelt, we have no idea what is going to happen to Capt. Brett Crozier. Is his career over? Probably. Or will he discover another path to walk? In the same way, when we follow Jesus and seek His will, what will be the consequences of our actions? Will people laugh at us? Will we lose friends? Or will we and the people around us be blessed in ways we cannot imagine? Who knows?
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
As we move further into Holy Week and witness Jesus agonizing journey to the Cross, there is no doubt that he faithful unto death. That Jesus was steadfast in his mission. He walked the path that God had set before Him. He was God’s scapegoat for the sin of humanity. All that happened at Easter from the celebration of Palm Sunday to the gruesome and humiliating spectacle of Good Friday, to the overwhelming joy of Easter Sunday had one end in mind – the salvation of humanity. It is a sobering thought that all the benefits of faith we wrought by one man who paid such a terrible price.
What do you think God may be saying to you in these strange and uncertain times?
Is it possible that God is calling you to do something new and different?
What do you think might be the consequences of obeying God’s call?
Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
Jesus Speaks about His Death
27 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30 Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ 35 Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (New Revised Standard Version)
Christ the Power and Wisdom of God
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters:[a] not many of you were wise by human standards,[b] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one[c] might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’
Pray for those in authority and who carry a heavy burden of responsibility in these vivacious and difficult times. That they may act wisely and make the right decisions at the right time.
Pray for our Prime Minister Boris Johnston as he fights for his life in intensive care.
Pray for those who risk their personal well-being for the sake of others, especially those caring within the NHS.
Things Are Different Now
I wish I knew then,
what I know now –
how precious time was
as he walked among us.
There were crowds and questions,
the excitement of hearing and seeing,
and some so blessed to know his touch.
How quickly things can change,
all in the blink of an eye!
From cheers to jeers,
from faith to fear,
from celebrations to mourning.
I wish I knew then,
what I know now –
how precious all time is
as, still, he dwells among us.
No crowds now, but questions remain.
No chance to gather and hear and see
in ways we have always known.
Things are different now.
The days are long,
the nights are dark -
now testing times are here.
Fears still need their release,
hands still long to be held,
and in private mourning,
death is keenly felt.
Things are different now.
With those who once waited,
we must wait,
in the life which will rise again.
For we will declare
now, as before,
that he is risen -
he is risen indeed!
Rev Dr Lezley Stewart
* (Material gleaned from article by the American author, Gene Veith)
Monday 6th April
Change & Transition 6
Looking back at the Iraq War, with hindsight we know it was arguably the biggest post war act of folly made by a UK Government. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussain did not pose a threat to world peace. And Iraq was not actively sponsoring terrorists. All that we were told proved to be untrue. From a military perspective, the biggest frustration was the lack of kit. Not enough body armour to go round. Also based at Fallingbostel were a group of soldiers who drove tank transporters. Each driver carried a personal weapon of self-defence – but were issued with only six bullets!
On return from active duty, members of my unit reported how the most common compliant amongst soldiers were eye injuries. There was not enough eye protection to keep out wind-blown sand. A spendthrift attitude towards the military cost people their lives. This is why a few months after my return, I resigned my commission. I could no longer with confidence continue to serve with the military. But that’s another story…
Whilst Hindsight may be a good way of learning from past mistakes, we need be careful here. It easy to assume that the facts at the time were all crystal clear. It is easy to assume that the decision making and outcomes were all predetermined. When we make such assumptions, then we fail to learn. As far as the Army was concerned, they were taking no chances. Training in using NBC suites and decontamination was ramped up. This can also happen in faith. If we know the end before the beginning, we too can fail to learn. If we fail to learn we fail to grow. If we fail to grow then out discipleships becomes stale and lifeless. Change and transition are essential in the life of faith. They are hallmarks of authentic discipleship.
Today we continue our journey into Holy Week – the final days of Jesus’ earthly life. It began well, with the joy and celebration of Palm Sunday, but soon things get darker and menacing. Of course we all know how it is going to end. We know what is going to happen on Good Friday and we know what is going to happen on Easter Sunday. We know tears of sadness are being to become tears of joy. We know the redemption will be secured and the tomb will be empty. Two thousand years after event we have the benefit of hindsight. We know how it is all going to end.
During this extended period of lockdown, when you have to choose between day time TV or those DIY tasks that have waiting a couple of centuries to get sorted, why not do something different?
Why not try and read the Gospel narratives about Jesus’ final days with your heart rather than your head?
Try and imagine you are hearing the story for the very first time? Imagine that you know the beginning but not the ending?
Use your imagination. Picture in your minds eye the scene and place yourself among the onlookers – trying to make sense of what is going on & wondering what will happen next?
Jesus at the Temple
45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’[a]; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.
47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.
The Authority of Jesus Questioned
20 One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”
3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”
8 Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
What must we give, O God,
in this week of giving all?
What must we give of ourselves
to meet you on the road:
for a man who gets himself killed
in the name of love,
who feels death on the way,
who knows when love is not wanted,
what must we give, O God,
in this week of giving all?
And how much more we play with such questions, O God,
in a world insecure
a sense of limits everywhere
on our freedom isolated
and generosity checked.
And in the long shadow
stretching from that first Holy Monday,
finding ourselves caught between
Mary’s extravagant perfume,
and Judas’ cynical questioning,
may we give
rather than hoard,
offer our honesty
rather than present doctrine,
rather than self-benefit,
and trust that unselfish act
that moves us beyond ourselves,
and meets you
at the feet of your generosity.
Rev Roddy Hamilton
i am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. - John 10:11, NKJV
Real meaning to your life is found in the glorious dawn of God’s story, which breaks into full revelation in the Person of Jesus Christ. What an astounding truth! What a life-changing message!
Because He emptied Himself of all but love, you can be filled
Because His body was broken, your life can be whole.
Because His blood was shed, your sin can be forgiven.
Because He submitted to injustice, you can forgive.
Because He finished His Father’s work, your life has worth.
Because He was forsaken, you will never be alone.
Because He was buried, you can be raised.
Because He lives, you don’t have to be afraid.
Because He was raised, you can be strong.
Because He reached down to you, you don’t have to work your way up to Him.
Because His promises are always true, you can have Hope!
Praise God for just giving us Jesus!