Daily Devotional reflections

As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.


Sunday 19th April

The human spirit

CALL TO WORSHIP

In the meeting of our lives,
be the focus of all that we are.
In the singing of the hymns,
the prayers that we shall make,
the reading of your Word
and the preaching of the same.
Speak to us, encourage and forgive us.
In the meeting of our lives, Lord,
be the focus of all that we are.
Amen

Let us pray

Risen Lord,
bringer of peace,
you lead us into the calm of worship.
Risen Lord,
conqueror of sin and death,
you draw us to you
by your awareness of our needs.
Risen Lord,
giver of the Holy Spirit,
you meet us where we are
And raise us up to you.

On the evening
of the first day of Easter,
Defeater of Death,
you walked through
the closed doors
of our human doubts and fears;
you held us tight
until the warmth of your grace
softened our hardened hearts;
you handed us the gift of peace
to calm our fear.

Today from behind our own closed doors
We recognise how those very same closed doors
Are symbolic of our hearts and lives.
We confess that too often
We have tried to close our hearts
To your love and grace
Isolating ourselves from your compassion.
Forgive us we pray…
We confess that too often
We have sought to shut out the pain
And suffering of others
Sharing our compassion only with
Those whom we deem worthy.
Forgive us we pray…..
Grant us your peace

And if this season has anything to teach us
May it be learning to value
The way you create openings for us
To love You and love one another
This we pray in Jesus name.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil
For the kingdom the power and the glory re yours, now and forever.
Amen

Amen

BIBLE READINGS

Matthew 28: 1-10

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Hebrews 11: 24-40

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.[d]
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

SERMON

We are living in extraordinary times and I wonder what will future generations make of this period. Will they look back with incredulity at all the selfish panic buying? Will they reflect on how unprepared we were? And what changes will this pandemic bring? Will we now value the work of carers in nursing and residential homes? Will we now recognise the need for social and support serves to be properly funded? In a phone call yesterday, one of our members made an insightful comment. They hoped it would mark the end of selfishness and materialism. And will these extraordinary circumstances hasten the decline of the church or mark the rebirth of the church? Who knows!

For me personally, I think this period will be remembered for something positive – the quality of the human spirit. Of how despite fear and danger and death, the pain, grief and sadness of losing friends and loved ones, people carried on. In so doing they are inspiring hope in others. Whether it is caring, medical or retail staff putting their own health at risk for the sake of others or a 99-year-old veteran with a Zimmer rising in excess of fourteen million pounds, ordinary people are doing extraordinary things.

There is a phrase that comes to mind here from the Letter to the Hebrews: ‘the world was not worthy of them.’ Here the author of the passage - who is unknown - recalls the ancient heroes of the Jewish Faith – also known as the patriarchs, and concludes the world was not worthy of them. Of course these words put into a modern context would apply to people of faith and people with no faith.

Let me leave you with a final thought. If ordinary people are capable of doing such extraordinary things, just imagine what can happen when the human spirit is infused by the Holy Spirit - when ordinary men, women and children encounter the presence of God and feel his hand on their lives? Imagine what can be accomplished and achieved when the Spirit of God brings forth inward renewal accompanied by selfless love and undying hope?

One American Christian writer offers this conclusion.

' Far from getting us down, COVID-19 seems to be bringing out our best creativity, our innovative edge. This is the human spirit at its best and greatest. In fact, if anything, the challenges of loss and grief can unite us, can energize us to fight back with the best within us, can encourage us to reach out to others in unprecedented ways, can bring out in us that deeply embedded sense of what it means to be human and one global people.
This is what it means to be an "apostle." And I imagine this same feeling of new energy, creativity, empowerment, and challenge must have also flowed through the veins of Jesus' disciples in their encounters with the risen Lord and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.’

Rev Sean Swindells,
Cruden Parish Church

PRAYERS FOR OTHERS

Lord Jesus Christ, in this world
where hopes are so often dashed
and dreams so often broken,
And we are constantly being reminded
of the fragility of life
we remember today the faith in the future
you brought to so many,
both through your coming
and through your resurrection from the dead.
Lord Jesus, where faith has died and dreams have faded,
may hope flower again.

We remember how Mary and Joseph looked forward
to the day of your birth,
how shepherds and magi caught their breath in wonder
as they knelt before you,
how the hearts of Anna and Simeon
leapt in anticipation,
and how your disciples and the crowds
that flocked to hear you gave thanks,
convinced that you were the Messiah,
the one God had promised,
the long-awaited deliverer
come to set them free.
We pray today for all who long
To be delivered from disease
Or released from lockdown
Lord Jesus, where faith has died and dreams have faded,
may hope flower again.

We remember how that vision of the future
was shattered by events to follow
– your pain, humiliation, suffering and death –
hope ebbing away as your body was broken on a cross
– an end to their dreams,
an end to everything.
We pray for all who are ill or suffering today
For whatever reason
And all caregivers who risk their lives
For the sake of others.
Lord Jesus, where faith has died and dreams have faded,
may hope flower again.

We remember how the news spread
that the tomb was empty,
the stone rolled away, your body gone,
and how despite it all,
your followers could scarcely bring themselves to hope –
afraid to take the risk of faith
in case they should face the heartache
of losing you once more.
We pray for all who are afraid today
And who have forgotten that perfect love
Drives out fear
Lord Jesus, where faith has died and dreams have faded,
may hope flower again.

But we remember finally how you appeared,
in all your risen glory –
in the garden,
in the upstairs room,
on the Emmaus road,
by the Sea of Galilee –
and the dream was born again,
the smouldering embers of faith rekindled.
Help us to place our faith once more in you
Knowing that you hold us fast
In your love.
Lord Jesus, where faith has died and dreams have faded,
may hope flower again.

Lord Jesus Christ,
a world is waiting, hurting, longing,
searching for hope,
crying out for meaning,
grieving under the weight of loss, or death, or anxiety
desperate for some reason to believe in the future.
Come again in your living power, and bring new life to all.
Lord Jesus, where faith has died and dreams have faded,
may hope flower again.
In your name we pray.
Amen.

BLESSING

May the grace of God uphold you,
the peace of God surround you,
the love of God flow from you
and the strength of God protect
and bring you safely through this day.
Amen

"In Christ Alone" sung by Kristyn Getty & Alison Krauss

CHURCH NOTICES

Sunday @ 7.00 in the Manse!
This Sunday evening we are having an online open evening at the Manse from 7.00 pm to 8.00 pm - come & join us for chat, friendship and fellowship!
No special software or apps required! If you would like to join us, please email Sean at seanswin1@aol.com and I’ll send you the link. Everyone welcome.

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Saturday 18th April

Fear & Anxiety

A couple of days ago I ventured out to do the weekly shop. It was all rather civilised and orderly. No repeat of people arguing over the last bag of pasta or entering a scrum to grab the last toilet roll. (I bet all the panic buyers must be feeling very silly now!) Rather people displayed patience as they queued to enter the store and kept a respectful distance in the aisles. That was except one customer. She was an older lady who had a scarf wrapped around a face. From her demeanour and the look in her eyes, you could tell she was afraid. It was a curious contrast. Staff and shoppers getting on with the task in hand, not squeezing past and keeping an appropriate distance. And this lady cowering by the shelves as somebody headed in her direction. It was all rather sad. Seeing someone so anxious and very afraid.

Fear is a rather complicated feeling. It is part of our inbuilt self defence mechanism. There are some things we do need to be wary of. Taking care on the cliffs whilst watching sea birds on the Bullers of Buchan. Being cautious and attentive when driving or crossing the road. There are some fears that are illusionary. Fear of not being liked or accepted. Some fears can constrict our living. Fear of making mistakes can prevent personal growth. And I could write at great length about people who want to make us afraid. Bullies at school, work or home for whom fear is their principle method of control. Religious fundamentalists who want to make us afraid of God or the end of the world.

At the present time, we are living in a season of fear. We cower in our homes in fear of a viral invader we called COVID-19. We cannot see it. We cannot feel it. We cannot smell it. We cannot hear it. We cannot touch it. We avoid each other in public. It is possible to carry and spread the infection without knowing it. It is so small it cannot be seen with a regular microscope. One scientist suggested that over a hundred million particles of the coronavirus, can fit on a pinhead. Yet this viral invader is changing the world and the way we live our lives. For many people the outworking of this is fear and anxiety. But not for everyone.

Yesterday, I was delivering flowers to one of our members who resides in a Nursing Home that has been badly hit by the Corona Virus. Several residents have died, more are thought to be infected and two members of staff have tested positive. I walked towards the front door and rang the bell, to drop the flowers off – as no visitors are allowed at this time. I was greeted by a member of staff who was just going off shift. The reception I received was polite and friendly, and the flowers were passed on. Despite the risk to their own health and the possibility of passing it on to family and friends, they were cheerfully getting on with their job – looking after residents and answering the door to strange looking people bearing flowers.

As we continue to reflect on the season of Easter, we need to be reminded that perfect love drives out all fear. The death, suffering and resurrection of Jesus demonstrates in the clearest possible way that He is with us in every human experience. His love surrounds us every moment of every day. Even in death Jesus leads the child of God to our everlasting heavenly home. The virus is not done with us yet. There are still many people to be infected. There are still many more lives to be lost. But if God is with us, who can stand against us? Not even death or COVID-19.

BIBLE READINGS

Matthew 28: 1-10

Jesus Has Risen
28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tel
l my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

1 John 4:18

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Romans 8: 37-39

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

REFLECT

Note todays Gospel reading and how Jesus repeats the phrase ‘do not be afraid’ twice. Is he trying to make a point?
Think about the place of fear in your life? Which fears are illusionary?

PRAYER

Remember those who work in local residential and care homes.
We are faced with real uncertainty at the present time. The coronavirus is a real threat to our normal way of life. Many are understandably anxious and afraid and at times like this, prayer will become even more important.
For the Christian, prayer is talking to God. We are encouraged in the bible to bring everything before the Lord (Phil 4:6-7). One theologian said: ‘the way to be anxious for nothing is to pray about everything’. We are also taught that prayer is powerful and effective (James 5:17).

A Prayer for NHS and health care workers
All mighty God, at this time we lift to you those who are working on the front line in our medical services. Our wonderful NHS staff, who are working so hard to ensure people who are unwell are well looked after. We ask that you would give them your peace and wisdom at this challenging time. May they know your presence and have a new zeal for caring well for their patients. We also ask that you would help the government whilst they are thinking of new ways to support our NHS workers. Amen.

A Prayer giving thanks for the new NHS Nightingale Hospitals
Heavenly Father, thank You for the incredible effort and expertise of those involved in creating new Nightingale hospitals in the fight against Covid-19. Please help everyone working on these in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow very soon to reach the point where patients can be admitted.
Amen.

A Prayer for vital supplies for the NHS
Lord, we ask that Personal Protective Equipment and other vital equipment and supplies will arrive to where they are needed efficiently and speedily. We also pray for everyone who is working to produce, distribute and administer effective tests to achieve this as quickly as possible.
Amen.

A Prayer about the coronavirus situation
Sovereign God, in Your mercy please comfort and heal vulnerable patients who are ill with Covid-19. Protect all those looking after them, especially doctors, nurses and carers, and prevent this virus from seriously disrupting the everyday lives of our communities, cities and countries. Grant great wisdom to those in authority to make effective plans and help us all to be vigilant but not give in to panic. Amen.
A Prayer especially for the most vulnerable
Compassionate God, we pray for vulnerable people to be reassured, and supported safely and effectively to protect them from coronavirus. Please strengthen anyone who is seriously ill with it because of underlying conditions. Bring healing and comfort to them and their families.
Amen.

A Prayer for peace in uncertain times
Lord, You are the Prince of Peace and the King of Love who casts out fear. Please help us not to be anxious about Covid-19 but to seek Your wisdom and stay vigilant about taking precautions, planning ahead and showing compassion to those who may be vulnerable.
Amen.

A Prayer for Church Leaders
Heavenly Father, please grant Your faith, hope and love to church leaders as they consider the best ways to protect people from being exposed to Coronavirus. Show them any practical measures needed and inspire them by Your Spirit as they minister to their congregations.
Amen.

A Prayer for those in authority
Gracious God, please grant strategic wisdom and insight to those in government, local health authorities, and providers across the NHS as they decide how to use the funding that is available and distribute staff and other resources to meet the needs brought about by the present situation
Amen

A Prayer for those facing economic pressures and job losses
Merciful Lord, in this time of economic instability, please send your great comfort to those who are worried about their finances and carry many burdens and responsibilities. Please help us to come alongside them, and give great wisdom to the Government to know how best to provide for everyone.
Amen

A Prayer for parents and pupils dealing with school closures
Father God, as schools close across the country today, we pray for mums and dads and their children. We pray your peace would reign in homes, particularly where families are self-isolating. Please give parents great patience, and help them find creative ways of keeping everyone occupied. We pray, in your merciful and mighty name, that You would strengthen families and see them through this difficult time.
Amen.

A Prayer for those self-isolating
Sovereign Lord, we pray for those who are self-isolating because they are more at risk. Please give them comfort and hope. May they use their time creatively and productively and grant them good rest and patience. Please may neighbours and families step up to help support them and provide for their every need. In Jesus name.
Amen

.A Prayer for the NHS
Father, thank You for the courage and dedication of NHS staff, including those just completing their training and previously employed people returning to help. We intercede for them to stay safe and strong, and especially that vital personal protective equipment will be available for everyone.
Amen.

A Prayer for prisons under pressure
Lord, please grant wisdom to those responsible for our already overcrowded prisons, where a tenth of staff are currently off work. Pray that prisoners on remand and others are released early will be helped to find somewhere safe to stay and not be tempted to reoffend.
Amen.

A Prayer for self employed people
Lord our Provider, please give wisdom to Chancellor Rishi Sunak as he considers how best to support self-employed people who are unable to work. We pray for sufficient, fair and timely provision to be delivered to help meet urgent everyday expenses and longer-term costs.
Amen.

Prayers by Celia Bowring, Prayer Coordinator for CARE

Il Divo - Amazing Grace

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Friday 17th April

Recovering from ‘bad’ religion

This morning I was scrolling through Facebook to see what my friends were getting up to during the lockdown. One friend from South Queensferry was challenging his running pals to post a picture of themselves running, another friend encouraging a virtual fitness challenge, and friends over in Collieston posting about tonight’s on-line fitness group via Zoom. Facebook of course has its drawbacks. There is no guarantee that anything you are reading is true and accurate – as President Trump regularly asserts there is a lot of fake news out there. And sometimes people can be right but wrong at the same time. Let me explain.

My attention was drawn to a Facebook advert about ‘recovering from religion.’ [CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE WEBSITE] The organisation based in America was offering help, counselling and guidance for people who are no longer religious or have been damaged by religion. They also offer a so called The Secular Therapy Project, run by therapists who will offer ‘only evidence-based and non-religious treatment.’

Regretfully, in my 24 years of experience in ministry, I have become increasingly aware of how churches can become damaging places. Because of the deep trusting relationships formed through fellowship and hurting people looking for a place to belong, the church has the potential to become a place of deep healing or a place of great harm. I have seen both. Of course the church is made up of fallible, imperfect and broken people. And wherever you have people you have problems. Even clergy make mistakes. To this could be added one my other ‘obsession’ – religious fundamentalism. Fundamentalism could be described as faith with the ‘fun’ removed, it is ‘mental,’ and it is an ‘ism’

At the time of writing, we are still very much in the season of Easter. It is a season of start contrasts – a time of death and resurrection and a time of suffering and salvation, a time of deep sadness and overwhelming joy. But if we stand behind the complex series of events and personalities that make up the Easter narrative, two truths emerge. There is the great and mighty love of God who will not let us go. God’s love reaching out to humanity in all our sinfulness and pain. And there is grace. God’s grace. Grace breathing forgiveness from the cross and throwing open the gates of heaven.

So let me end here. People can be right and wrong at the same time. Some people do need help recovering from religion. They have been damage and hurt by the so called people of God. But throwing out the baby with the bath water is seldom the answer.

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church

BIBLE READINGS

Matthew 28:5-7

And the angel answered and said to the women, Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see him: see, I have told you.

1 Corinthians 13

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

REFLECT

If you have been hurt by church (whether intentionally or by the thoughtless actions of others), reflect on how this makes you feel about God?
Does your current church proclaim a balanced gospel who resonates with grace and love? If not, is it time to move on?
‘When you know God loves you, you feel valuable, accepted and that you have a purpose. You know your sins are forgiven and you are free from guilt and condemnation. And no matter what you've done, you can have a new beginning in Christ.’

Joyce Meyer

PRAYER

God intended our local church to be

a House of Prayer
and a
House of Love
and a
House of Righteousness.-

No church has arrived at their mission.
Oh, how we need our Saviour each and every day. -
May our church be a place where we give and receive grace.
Amen

Remember those broken in spirit:

Hurt because of their experience of church
Hurt because of bad religion
Hurt by neglect
Hurt by the actions of others
Hurt by human thoughtlessness
Hurt by human selfishness

Continue to remember all who are affect by Corona Virus and lockdown

Young children desperate to play with pals
People feeling isolated, forgotten and unloved
People fearful for their health and well being
People who mourn

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying
that we are born to eternal life.

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Thursday 16th April

Steam Trains & Eternity!

Three of the most common objections to faith and religion are the lack of ‘testable’ evidence or that belief is irrational or that science and faith are incompatible. Of course as a Christian Minister, I would hold different views. A mature and balance belief in God sees no contradiction between spirituality and rationality or faith and scienc.

If you want evidence for the existence of God, look out your window, look down through a microscope or look upwards through a telescope. Not just at the complexity of creation, but the sheer beauty.

As we continue to reflect on the season of Easter, I am reminded of a rather curious event that happened a few years ago. Back then I was the minister of a parish in Midlothian. The reopened Borders Railway went straight through the parish and it was fascinating watching the process of bringing the railway back to life. Mending bridges, building stations and laying track and signalling etc.

The official opening of the railway involved a visit by the Queen and a steam train. This was followed by excursions, pulled by a steam train, from Edinburgh to Tweedbank and back. In my view there is no finer sight than a steam train in full flight going through open countryside.

A couple of weeks later I was conducting a funeral of elderly gentlemen. He was a lovely man and well regarded in the local community. He possessed a deep faith. After worshipping God and celebrating his life in the funeral service, we left the church and proceeded to the cemetery. During the words of committal something rather curious happened.
Between the phrases ‘ashes to ashes & ‘dust to dust’ came the sound of the whistle from a steam train. It was only after the event that I learned he was a stream enthusiast. Was it a coincidence? Possibly. But timing was incredible.

Several things I would draw from this. Go has great iming. And occasionally we are given flashes of insight and personal spiritual experiences. These remind us that our faith is not in vain. And we are surrounded by a great spiritual reality that cannot be seen by the human eye.

The Lord is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

BIBLE READINGS

Luke 24:36-49

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am g
oing to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Job 19:23-27

“Oh, that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll,
24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on[b] lead,
or engraved in rock forever!
25 I know that my redeemer[c] lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[d]
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet[e] in[f] my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

PRAYERS

The Corona Virus is now getting very close to home with news of deaths at a Nursing Home in Peterhead.
Continue to remember – those who strive to care at personal risk, families in fear and grief and pain, that the pandemic would recede, the lockdown end, the church reopen, and families and communities reunited.

Let us also remember the message of Easter – Christ triumphant over sin and death

Halleluiah!
Jesus is risen!
He is risen indeed!

May this declaration
resound not only in these walls
but touch the lives
of all we meet
and forever be
the truth of which we speak.
Your love,
once sown within a garden,
tended for your own people,
neglected and rejected,
now spreads its sweet perfume
in this place
and wherever it is shown.
Halleluiah!
Jesus is risen!
He is risen indeed!
Amen

When our faith
stands at the grave,
grieving
for a stone that's rolled away,
forgive us.
When our faith
is short of
understanding
though the truth is there to see,
forgive us.
When our faith,
beset by doubt, sees
no further
than an empty tomb today,
forgive us.
Bring to mind
the cry of Mary,
‘I have seen the Lord!'
and grant us faith to believe!
Amen

 

Boxcar Willie "Life Is Like A Mountain Railway"

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Wednesday15 April

Waterbugs & Dragonflies

One of Jesus’ most effective forms of communication were stories – better known as parables. Linking common everyday events and images enabled him to communicate deep truth and wisdom about the Kingdom of God. Of course Jesus parables were deceptively simple and often counter intuitive. My favourite parable is the Lost or Prodigal Son, especially the party at the end.

When the repentant son returns home to the father he has hurt and insulted, rather than deserving rebuke and rejection, a party is thrown in his honour. One of the ways this part of the parable can be interpreted, is to too see the party as a metaphor for the welcome we receive when we arrive in glory. Here is a modern day parable that seeks to describe the process of death and resurrection. It is attributed to Doris Stickney.


Waterbugs and Dragonflies

Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a little colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in a while one of their colony seemed to lose interest in going about. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.

'Look! ' said one of the water bugs to another. 'One of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think she is going? ' Up, up, up it slowly went....Even as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Its friends waited and waited but it didn't return...

'That's funny! ' said one water bug to another. 'Wasn't she happy here? ' asked a second... 'Where do you suppose she went? ' wondered a third.

No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled. Finally, one of the water bugs, a leader in the colony, gathered its friends together. 'I have an idea'. The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why.' 'We promise', they said solemnly. One spring day, not long after, the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up, he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broken through the surface of the water and fallen onto the broad, green lily pad above.

When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn't believe what he saw. A startling change had come to his old body. His movement revealed four silver wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his ings...The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from the new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself up above the water. He had become a dragonfly! Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. By and by the new dragonfly lighted happily on a lily pad to rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! There they were scurrying around, just as he had been doing some time before.

The dragonfly remembered the promise: 'The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk will come back and tell where he or she went and why.' Without thinking, the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water...

'I can't return! ' he said in dismay. 'At least, I tried. But I can't keep my promise. Even if I could go back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new body. I guess I'll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they'll understand what has happened to me, and where I went.'

And the dragonfly winged off happily into its wonderful new world of sun and air.......

BIBLE READINGS

Luke 15:11-32

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Song of Solomon 2.10-13

My beloved spoke, and said to me:
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth her green figs,
And the vines with the tender grapes
Give a good smell.
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away

PRAYER

Continue to Remember all those affected by the Corona Virus.
Those who mourn, especially the families and friends for those who have died from Corona Virus
Those who nursed and cared for them, often at great personal risk.
Those who work in the funeral industry – for their dedication, professionalism and respect.

Let us pray…
For all those who woke this morning
to the loneliness of bereavement -
the empty bed or chair,
an unaccustomed quietness,
a life now incomplete -
may they know your presence
in the stillness of the day,
and through the love of friends
who offer their condolence.
And in the darker moments
may they reach out to hold your hand
and feel the warmth of the One
who has already passed from death to life
to welcome others into God’s Kingdom.
Amen.

For all whose nights are broken
by pain, discomfort, anxiety,
caring duties, noisy neighbours
and so many other reasons,
leaving them irritable, tired
and unable to concentrate,
refresh their minds, grant
patience in times of stress,
keep them safe when driving,
and in the nights to come
may they find peace and rest.
Amen

“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace. ”
(Numbers 6:24-26)

BLESSING

May God the Father
prepare your journey,
Jesus the Son
guide your footsteps,
The Spirit of Life
strengthen your body,
The Three in One
watch over you,
on every road
that you may follow.
Amen

We Have Risen Written by Kyle Worsham and Don Chapman

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Tuesday 14th April

The jigsaw of Easter

Due to the current lockdown many people are finding they have an unexpected amount of time on their hands. And one of the most relaxing ways of passing time (so I am told) is doing a jigsaw. I don’t do them myself – I prefer being physically active or watching a good film. In contrast, Alison is a great fan of jigsaws. Not so much for passing the time, but for relaxing, especially after a busy period of helping and supporting people. Most clergy find their work incredibly rewarding and a great privilege. But it can be emotionally draining.

So I walk the dogs, go to the gym, go for a run or head off rowing, whilst Alison puts her nose in a book or gets out a jigsaw. Now comes the problem. All the thousand piece jigsaws we had squirreled away for our summer holiday have now been completed. It is getting so desperate that Alison is repeating a jigsaw from Christians – a picture of a Robin perched on a piece of Christmas Cake! I also recently spoke with a member of the congregation who told me how they have finally finished a jigsaw that had been lying under the bed for the past twenty years awaiting completion!

In some ways the Easter story can be compared to a jigsaw. There are lots of different pieces that only when put together make the picture complete. There are OldTestament prophecies. There is Jesus teaching about himself and the ordeal he has to suffer. There is the experience of Jesus’ friends. They go from not understanding what Jesus is talking about, to shock, fear, anxiety, denial, horror and unquenchable joy.

There is the understanding of how Jesus death on the cross brings about forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life. There is Jesus' trial before Herod and Pilate. There are the events that surround his excruciating execution to his encounter with the thief on their cross whilst being reviled by the crowd. Not of course forgetting his resurrection and the many encounters the disciples share with the risen Lord., that even include breakfast on the beach.

Each of these pieces by themselves have much to teach us. The stories and events, the facts and the disciple’s failures, the personalities and the encounters with the rise Lord, all come together to give the big picture. A whole and balanced understanding of what happened, why it had to happen and the consequences for the people of God.

So let me ask a few questions:

  • Do you ‘get’ the whole picture?
  • Do you understand why Jesus had to die?
  • Do you appreciate what his death means to you personally?
  • Does the hope of eternity with peace, joy and love resonate within your heart?
  • Or have you got only part of the picture?

BIBLE READING

Luke 24:13-35 - On the Road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

PRAYER

Jigsaw Piece Intercessions

This is a really easy, tactile idea to use for a guided group of children and it would also work in an all age service. All you need is for everyone to be holding a jigsaw piece (it's a great way to use jigsaws that have pieces missing so can't be used anymore!)

Hold the jigsaw piece in your hand and pray for yourself

Ask God to help you. Thank Him for the good things in your life. Ask him to help you see the big picture of the plan He has for your life.
Look at the parts of your piece that reach outwards.
Pray for people who reach out and help and show love to others. Thank God for the people who help and show love to you.
Look at the parts of your piece that have spaces waiting to be filled.
Pray for people who have lost something or someone or who feel that they have something missing in their lives. Ask God to help them to know that they are loved by Him.
Try to fit your piece into another piece – it probably wont fit
Pray for people who find it hard to fit in, people who have moved to a new place, people who feel they have no friends, people who are being bullied. Pray that they will find peace, friends and happiness.
Hold your piece and think of someone from your community, your friends or family that you would like to pray for.
Thank God for that person and ask God to bless and help them.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession

Creator God,
we confess that at times we are sceptics.
At times we doubt that You exist
because of the evil we have seen in the world.
Oppression, marginalization, and plain hate still plague our world, and it is hard to see Your love and light.
Sometimes, even those who bear Your name
do not walk in Your ways.
Help us to see Your goodness in this world.
Help us to know Your love.
Fill us with Your love and goodness,
so that we might love one another,
and lift up one another in faith. Amen.
The psalmist says,
“I am sure I shall see the goodness of our God
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong,
and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!”
Know that you do not wait alone.
God has given us one another for this journey of faith,
to help one another.
Know that you do not wait alone;
Christ is with us.
Be encouraged, and encourage one another.
Go and share the Good News. Amen.
Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us
from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

You break in, O God,
on the road
you break in, O God,
exactly the way we don’t believe
you break in, O God,
and change everything
You break in, O God
with a call
you break in, O God
with an invitation
you break in, O God
with the truth
You break in, O God
with a new realm
You break in, O God
with a new world
You break in, O God
with your intent for the future
God, break in again
and call us to be your workers
God, break in again
and use the gifts we are to build your realm
God, break in again
and change our world once more.
~ written by Roddy Hamilton,

BLESSING

May you trust in God’s promises to his people:
peace
security
blessing
even when they are difficult to believe.
May you know that God’s news is good news,
nourishing
true
even when people tell you it is not.
And when you encounter doubt,
may you strengthen your belief
guiding you in his perfect wisdom and counsel.
Amen

 

He Lives! (I Serve A Risen Saviour)

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Monday 13th April

Celebration & Indigestion!

Yesterday was Easter Sunday – a day of celebration and a day of indigestion. Celebration over Jesus’ resurrection – out of evil, death and decay God brings forth love victorious, new life and a glimpse of His new creation. And indigestion – we have all eaten far too much chocolate!

The Easter season is full of powerful contrasts. Jesus in agony on the cross, bearing the full weight of human sin, yet breathing forgiveness. One of my favourite parts of the Easter narrative is the Roman Centurion, for whom the penny drops. Upon Jesus breathing his final breath, his spiritual eyes are opened and he recognises that Jesus is the Son of God.
Within the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Centurion who witnessed Jesus death is known as Saint Longinus. One version of the story tells how it was Longinus who pierced Jesus side with a spear to ensure the process of execution was complete. Longinus, it is claimed, was also in charge of the guard at Jesus tomb and was bribed by some Jewish officials to claim the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body.

Eventually, Longinus and two of his colleagues are converted, leave military service and travel back to their homeland of Cappadocia, where they become evangelists and convert many Jews. When the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem hear of this, they petition Pilate to send a group of soldiers to kill Longinus and his friends. The soldiers track down Longinus to his home and after being served dinner by their host, he and his comrades are beheaded, with the head of Saint Longinus being returned to Pilate.

The story then gets even more bizarre. Herod orders the severed head to be thrown into the city rubbish dump, whilst a blind woman is instructed via a dream to recovered the head and when she touches the sacred relic she instantly is healed and her sight is restored. She returns home with the sacred head and gives it a good wash where it is buried alongside her recently deceased son.

Coming from the Reformed tradition, I personally don’t give much credence to the fanciful stories of saints and sacred relics. For me the Gospel narratives give us all the information we need about Jesus life and teaching. And like eating far too many Easter Eggs, if we fill our faith with too much trivial and unsound teaching we can end up with spiritual indigestion!
What makes the Easter story so transformative is the simple reality of an empty tomb and the presence of the risen Lord.

here is a story of a young children who was asked to describe the meaning of Easter:
Jesus died on the cross and he rose again three days later… and he didn’t even do anything wrong… we did!
What more do we need to say or add?

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church

REFLECT

One person writes:
The Gospel is NOT complicated… it is overwhelming… it is abundant… it is straight-forward… it is sufficient… it is complete… it is defined by love… it is infinite grace… and it is elegantly simple.

This week as we continue to remember who all strive, serve, sacrifice and suffer due to the Coronus Outbreak, ask God to help you reflect on your personal faith. Are you rooted in the Bible which is bought alive by the presence of the Holy Spirit, or is your faith cluttered with other things? Are you suffering from spiritual indigestion?

BIBLE READINGS

Mark 15: 33-39

33 From the sixth hour until the ninth hourf darkness came over all the land. 34 At the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
35 When some of those standing nearby heard this, they said, “Behold, He is calling Elijah.”
36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine.h He put it on a reed and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let us see if Elijah comes to take Him down.”
37 But Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed His last. 38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
39 When the centurion standing there in front of Jesus saw how He had breathed His last,i he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Isaiah 53

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[a] 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.[b]
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.
10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

PRAYERS

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord. *
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord. *
You heavens, bless the Lord.
All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord. *
All you hosts of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Sun and moon, bless the Lord. *
Stars of heaven, bless the Lord.
Every shower and dew, bless the Lord. *

All you winds, bless the Lord.
Fire and heat, bless the Lord. *
Cold and chill, bless the Lord.
Dew and rain, bless the Lord. *
Frost and chill, bless the Lord.
Ice and snow, bless the Lord. *
Nights and days, bless the Lord.
Light and darkness, bless the Lord. *
Lightning and clouds, bless the Lord.
Let the earth bless the Lord. *

Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Mountains and hills, bless the Lord. *
Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord.
You springs, bless the Lord. *
Seas and rivers, bless the Lord.
You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord. *
All you birds of the air, bless the Lord.
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord. *
You sons of men, bless the Lord.
O Israel, bless the Lord. *

Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord. *
Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord. *
Holy men and women of humble heart, bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Let us bless the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. *
Let us praise and exalt him above all forever.
Blessed are you, Lord, in the firmament of heaven. *
Praiseworthy and glorious and exalted above all forever.
Amen

(Canticle based on Daniel 3:57-88)

The Father glorified Jesus and appointed him heir to all nations.
Let us praise him, saying:
Save us, Lord, through your victory.
Lord Christ, by your victory you broke the power of evil and destroyed sin and death,
- make us victorious over sin today.
You laid death low, and brought us new life,
- grant that we may walk today in this new life,
You gave life to the dead, and led mankind from death to life,
- give eternal life to all those we shall meet today.
You brought confusion on the guards at your tomb, but joy to your disciples,
- grant the fullness of joy to all who serve you.
Amen

Love Overcame
Love overcame Emerging from a cold tomb All the truth, majesty and creativity of a living God Transforming a broken heart Making a quiet return, in a still and sorrowful garden The grave stone rolled away, to release redemptive love Jesus resurrected and restored Comforts a weeping woman Speaks with travellers on a journey Meets with his faithful friends And they bow down before Christ alive And acknowledged that the saviour has arrived That the word of God has come alive And that the extraordinary transformation of heaven and earth Is complete

When our faith
stands at the grave,
grieving
for a stone that's rolled away,
forgive us.
When our faith
is short of
understanding
though the truth is there to see,
forgive us.
When our faith,
beset by doubt, sees
no further
than an empty tomb today,
forgive us.
Bring to mind
the cry of Mary,
‘I have seen the Lord!'
and grant us faith to believe!
Amen

 

A live studio recording of Come People of the Risen King by Stuart Townend.

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