Archive for May, 2010

Easter Sunday – April 4th

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

This was a joyful occasion, with a full church and many different people taking part in the service. (Actually we all took part in the service, what I mean to say is that there were lots of different readers and leaders of prayer).

The communion table was moved in front of the steps at the front, close to the congregation, and the cross took centre stage in its place. It was surrounded at its base by beautiful flowers that Jean had provided and arranged.

It was also a joyful occasion because Chris, who first came to the church many years ago as a child, and now attends regularly with her grandaughter Bethany, was received into full membership.

On a personal note it was a bittersweet occasion for me because my beautiful Border Collie Jasper had to be put to sleep at the same time that the service was taking place. He didn’t suffer and had a wonderful last ten days without any pain and with lots of treats and attention once we knew how unwell he was.  He was eleven. But the resurrection message is true and hopeful always, even when we experience great sadness, and in spite of my feelings of sadness I felt really alive with hope and joy at the same time as we all came to celebrate Easter Day.

The Call to worship was : I Corinthians: 15: 19-23

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;  for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.  But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ

Hymn :  – Christ the Lord is risen today

The Long prayers are normally done as one consecutive prayer, made up of different sections which run into each other, but today they were spoken by different people in different sections (with an Amen after each one rather than at the end)

Mary led the Prayer of Adoration;  Jean led the Prayer of Confession; I led the Declaration of Forgiveness; Patricia made the Petition for the Worship; and the whole church said the 1928 version of the Lord’s Prayer together at the end. (We’d said the 1988 version on Palm Sunday). It was really good to have different voices and different styles leading us, we are a church where so many people are so active and contribute so well – and it was great to see this represented in the worship in this way.

Keith, in his role as Church Secretary welcomed Chris into membership, and she was warmly received by the whole church. We then sang the hymn  All to Jesus I surrender  as it sums up so well the promises that Chris had just made.

I then spoke about the different meanings that a cross has nowadays.  
1. It means Wrong when a piece of work is marked. That’s what  humanity said to God on the cross – we reject you in Christ.
2. But that’s also what God said to humanity in the resurrection – our rejection of God, our whole lives are given the divine thumbs down – we’ve got life wrong says God!
3. A cross is a symbol for a kiss. On letters we might write ‘Sealed with  loving Kiss’ . And that’s what God does on the cross – he seals the deal between him and us with love.
4. A cross can be a mark of identity – if you don’t know how to write you sign your name with a cross. On the cross we see our new identity, like Jesus we can undergo a transfiguration and become a new person – spiritually in this life, and totally in the resurrection to come.
5. A cross can mean ‘X marks the spot’ – its the sign to tell us where the treasure is. If it says X marks the spot on your treasure map, and you trust the person who made the map then it makes no sense to look for treasure anywhere else than this point on the map. Similarly we should not look for spiritual treasure anywhere else than at the point that God marked with a cross in Jesus. This is where we see God, this is where God’s true nature and his plans for us are revealed. All other so called ‘revelation’ must come second to this – and this means referring all other ideas about God, us and life in general to this point. This includes the Bible – everything in the Old and New Testaments ought to be seen from the point of view of this decisive event Jesus dying on the cross and being resurrected three days later.
6. A cross is the point at which two lines meet and so is the cross of Jesus. God and humanity overlap here and nowhere else, so do heaven and earth, and time and eternity. God’s story and our own individual story meet at this point. The cross is the point where our familiar world comes into contact with a strange new world.
7. The cross can also mean the ‘X factor’. Someone or something that has the ‘X factor’ is said to have something that just can’t be described, that extra something that defies description. So it is with the cross – there is much to be said and thought about the cross and even more to be obeyed. But at the end of the day it is a symbol that comes from God and there is a layer of mystery surrounding it that we cannot unravel.

The Old Testament Reading was- Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24

We then sang 148 Alleluia! Alleluia! Give thanks to the risen Lord. 

The New Testament Reading was : Luke 24: 1-12

We sang  ‘Because He Lives’ which sums up all the consequences of the resurrection.  

In talking of the cross here we include the whole sequence of crucifixion and resurrection, the decision before the beginning of the world that this was how God would redeem his creation. It’s more than two pieces of wood nailed together and it has profound consequences:

1. It makes worship a living, breathing event because we worship a risen Lord who is present with us.
2. It gives authority to what he said – we cannot dismiss the Sermon on the Mount (including the incredibly difficult command to pray for our enemies) as the wishful thinker of a dreamer. These words were said by the man who was God, the man who was raised from the dead.
3. Because of the resurrection we believe that Jesus has the power to cancel out our sins – it’s not just talk, it really happens.
4. We also believe that he has the power to see and judge our sins and this should help us to remember that we need his forgiveness, we haven’t earned it – however good we think we are!
5. And this awesome display of divine power and mercy puts limits  on all the things of this world. It’s as though a combination of George Best, Pele and Maradona came to join in with a sunday league game – it reveals to us how far we are from the peak. In the resurrection we see that there is so much more to reality, so much more to life, and so much more to God than we can possibly fathom. When we believe in the resurrection of Christ we have to become more humble about the sum of human knowledge and achievement. And all human power and authority is shown to be provisional, temporary, and totally lacking when compared to the real power behind the universe.

6. The resurrection announces to us a complete gap between us and God, between creator and creature. Luckily it also provides the way of bridging that gap – but we must realise that we are not equal partners in this enterprise. God bridges the gap in Christ, if you recognise just how totally you are separated from God then you qualify for the union that he freely bestows on you in Jesus.

7. The cross and its resurrection passes judgment on us, it shows us the line we cannot cross, but it also shows us the door to another possibility It transforms our hopelessness, drives out fear and leads us into the future not the past.

I led the Prayers of Intercession

Father, transform our hopelessness, our sense of failure and defeat, Take our hearts, our bodies, our souls. Take our church, and fill it with faith, pour your spirit on it, and drive out all fear. Lord, give us the faith to truly believe in the resurrection of Jesus Give us hope that what has happened to him will happen to us And make us live in a way that reflects the power of resurrection Help us to hear more clearly those clear but difficult and challenging words that Jesus speaks to us. May we come to realise that these commandments come from he who has all authority and power And help us to hear the sentence that you pronounce on us in the risen Christ.. May we know the joy of knowing that we are forgiven May we know the truth that we have reasons to be forgiven And may we never confuse the limitations of humanity with the possibilities of you, and of a strange new world that is beyond our understanding. We see signs of this new world in our risen saviour – take us into this world, Lord. Place in our minds, firmly, a total grasp of the distance between the divine and the human, between the sacred and the profane. May we never cease to marvel that this gap, this distance has been broken down in your son. May the resurrection of Jesus live in our hearts, may it inspire our minds, and may it drive our actions until we too experience the complete victory you have won over sin, over death, over us. In Jesus’ name Amen

The Communion Hymn was  Christ is risen! Hallelujah (Communion Hymn) 

The Blessing was – I Corinthians 15: 24-26 .

Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Also Isaiah 65: 17-18

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating

We concluded the service by saying the words of the Grace together and singing our Vespers May God’s blessing surround you each day, as you trust him and walk in his way. May his presence within guard and keep you from sin, go in peace, go in joy, go in love.