Sunday Service Sheet 18th April 2021
Call: Jesus says, ‘Come to me, all you who are
weary and burdened
and I will give you rest.’ In worship, let us come to the one who offers peace and rest. Lord God, whose arms are always open to us, we come before you today with hearts and minds open to receive your teaching. Lead us to understand who you are and what you have done, and what you require of us as witnesses.
Prayer: Against the noise of the world we cover our ears; at distressing sights we close our eyes; to confusing thoughts we close our minds; amid the clamour of distress we close our hearts. Loving God, your ears and eyes are ever open to our needs; help us to worship with open hearts and minds, that we may have open ears and eyes to see the work that you call us to do, and open hands to do it. Amen.
Hymn: When I survey the wondrous cross StF 287/ R&S 217
Luke picks up our post-resurrection stories in today’s gospel reading. Cleopas plus one had encountered Jesus on the way to Emmaus and they have hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples what happened. A hungry Jesus then appears to a group of people and ‘opens their minds to understand the scriptures’.
Those involved in any kind of preaching or teaching the Christian faith would love to have the ability to help people open their minds. What stops us from understanding?
Peter speaks to the people meeting in Solomon’s Portico (Acts 3:11 – 26) of their ignorance of God’s presence in Jesus. He cites how God fulfils what the foretold in scripture. It was all there for all to see and yet people ignored the message and Peter’s warning is that continuing to do so will result in being ‘utterly rooted out of the people.’
The warning about false teaching is referred to in John first letter (1 John 3:1 – 7) Perhaps written in 100 AD to a faithful discipleship under pressure, he encourages the followers not to forget that Jesus was God’s commissioned agent or Son, the Messiah and that he was a human being. God became flesh and lived among us.
Prayers: Lord, who understands our every need, we
adore you for stilling our turmoil, for being the calm in the storm, our anchor
in the deep, and the safe port awaiting us always.
we confess that when distress comes knocking at our door, all that we have
learned and should know goes flying out of the window. Our minds in disarray, we fail to turn to
trusted sources of help. Forgive us for
forgetting how to seek you. We forget
your sustaining Word in Scripture, your presence when we turn to you in prayer,
the calm that is to be found when we seek you in community. We are sorry for turning in on ourselves, our
minds going round in circles. Come,
risen Lord, break the cycle of our despair.
understanding is dark, clouded by dismay, fearful and lacking in faith, yet we
know that you will understand, Lord. Shine
your light on us
and banish the dark thoughts that overwhelm us; forgive us the deeds committed while fearful and bewildered, and lead us forward in the light of your love. Amen.
Hymn: There is a green hill far away StF 284 / R&S 223
Reading Luke 24:36 – 48
Sermon: After Jesus’ death and resurrection, early Christians struggled to understand when, or whether, Jesus would return and how to live in the in-between time during his absence. Jesus appears as a stranger to the follower named Cleopas. When he speaks to the stranger about what has happened regarding Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus explains what all the scriptures say concerning himself.
The two return to Jerusalem and learn that Jesus has also appeared to Peter. Again, when they talk about their experiences, Jesus is in their midst and passes the peace. Jesus eats before them and reminds them of his teaching in his earthly life. Everything written about him in the scriptures has been fulfilled in his death and resurrection.
What is left is his followers’ work as witnesses, and Jesus will send them what God promised. This time Jesus does not just interpret the scriptures, he opens their minds to understand them. We cannot understand the Scriptures apart from Jesus’ life, ministry, and resurrection. It is the risen Lord who teaches the Church to read the Bible properly.” It is impossible for Christians to understand the Old Testament apart from Jesus’ life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection. Indeed, Jesus commissions us to bear witness to his life, ministry, and resurrection, because The Good News of Jesus Christ is good news for everybody.
Luke’s Jesus is clear on the fact that “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” This is the hinge that connects the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. The Church today must remember that the blessings of God in Jesus Christ transcend racial, ethnic, and gendered prejudices. It is good news for everyone without exception.
As we journey towards Pentecost the lectionary passages point us toward the task that is ahead of the believers. The resurrection appearances are to cement the teachings of Jesus ahead of the commission that awaits us. We will learn that we will not be left alone in this work, nor we will have to do them in our own strength. Luke’s account is second or even third hand but he writes with the confidence and knowledge of the power of the Holy Spirit. His first book to Theophilus will be followed by a second that we call Acts of the Apostles.
While the first finishes with Jesus ascending from the disciples in Bethany, the second begins with the chosen apostles being given the Holy Spirit. It affirms that Jesus stayed for 40 days speaking about the kingdom of God. They are told to wait for the promise of the Father and be baptised not with water, but with the Holy Spirit.
Our role is to act as witnesses to the resurrection, and to live as people who have open minds to the reason for God’s presence with us. What does it mean for us to live in the kingdom of God? Is it a political position; a moral imperative; a societal requirement; a spiritual realm? For Jesus it was all of these and he learned the challenges of living in this world and God’s kingdom at the same time. By studying and understanding the scriptures, firstly the Hebrew text that Jesus worked with and the Christian text that were written as a result of his life, death and resurrection, we can see and understand God’s will for His creation and our lives.
Prayers: Lord, you have always been our host. When you first came from heaven to the world we call ours, shepherds and kings were your guests. When you accepted hospitality in the homes of others, you turned the tables and became the host, feeding hearts and souls through your teaching. When you came to the disciples, newly risen, you took charge and saw to their needs of mind and body. We praise you, Jesus, ground of our being, ground of our believing, for standing among us in your risen power, host to the world that is yours – not ours.
We pray for those struggling to accept the Easter message of resurrection; for those who long to have faith but miss the final step; who long to see Jesus but doubt what they see, seeing only as if in a mirror dimly; who long to hear your word, but grasp only a muffle and murmur; who yearn to feel your presence but shy away from contact; for those who need convincing of the truth in an age of fake news and skewed views.
We pray for those without meaning and purpose in their lives, who wake to the morning light and dread the empty day that lies ahead; for those who dread the dark nights of wakefulness, tossing and turning; for those who feel there is no hope for tomorrow, no vision for the future, no plan for their lives; for those without a stable home life, without meaningful work and prospects.
We pray for ourselves, that we might banish shadows that hold us back and keep us fixed to what we are familiar with, even the new familiar, when we can be afraid to step out, step on, step forward, step up – w pray that we might know the wisdom of the psalmist, the grace of God, the blessing of the Spirit, the love and companionship of each other and the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn: On a hill far away (the old rugged cross) not in either StF or R&S
Blessing: Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Peace be with
you’ they responded with turmoil. Jesus
said, ‘Have you anything to eat?’ they served him fish. Jesus opened their minds they became his
So, Lord, may we too find peace in your service, with opened minds and hearts on fire. May the blessing of God almighty, the Father, Son and Spirit be with us always. Amen.
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