CHURCH SERVICES

 

Dear Friends,

In response to a request from the Elders I am putting together some devotional resources for Sundays for the foreseeable future. I will also provide something extra for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I will be using resources from the URC as well as my own. The devotions will consist of readings, thoughts and prayers. In these challenging and different times it is essential that our spiritual lives and nourishment continue in some form and so it is the hope that these devotions will be of help, comfort and strength to you all.

Rev. Martin Ambler.

Dear Friends,

Today is Sunday 31st May – Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost, meaning fifty, comes literally fifty days after Passover. Both are Jewish celebratory feasts: Passover, when they celebrate their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and Pentecost when they celebrate harvest. And the capital Jerusalem was a focal point for thousands of people for these celebrations. Christians remember the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus at Passover time and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Scripture Sentences: God’s love has been poured into our hearts thought the Holy Spirit he has given us. (Romans 5: 5)

 Hymn

1 O Breath of life, come sweeping through us,
revive your church with life and power;
O Breath of Life, come, cleanse, renew us,
and fit your Church to meet this hour.

2 O Wind of God, come bend us, break us,
till humbly we confess our need;
then in your tenderness remake us,
revive, restore; for this we plead.

3 O Breath of love, come breathe within us,
renewing thought and will and heart;
come, Love of Christ, afresh to win us,
revive your church in every part.

Reading: Acts chapter 2: 1 – 21 The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.

6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.

7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?

8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?

9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome

11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.

15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!

16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.

20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

Hymn

Spirit of holiness, wisdom and faithfulness,
   wind of the Lord, blowing strongly and free:

strength of our serving and joy of our worshipping
   Spirit of God, bring your fulness to me!

1 You came to interpret and teach us effectively
all that the Saviour has spoken and done;
to glorify Jesus is all your activity –
promise and gift of the Father and Son:
   Spirit of holiness…

2 You came with your gifts to supply all our poverty,
pouring your love on the church in her need;
you came with your fruit for our growth to maturity,
richly refreshing the souls that you feed:
   Spirit of holiness…

3 You came to the world in its pride and futility,
warning of dangers, directing us home;
now with us and in us, we welcome your company;
Spirit of Christ, in his name you have come:
   Spirit of holiness…

Meditation – Wind and Fire

The fire of the Spirit was not a general flame, not bushfire, contagious, engulfing all. But a flame on each one. So we never claim to carry the flame from place to place, as though the Spirit is our private box of matches or little incense pot.

But the fire is there, already, now. It shines in the eyes of the eager, joyful, trusting children of God. It is there in the hands of the healers and servers and bearers of heavy loads. It is local. A flame on each one.

There is also the wind, and the wind travels; across oceans and mountains, always in movement. May God let us be the breezes of the Spirit, which fan the flames and fill the house and let the smoking flax burst into a glory of fire.

Wind and fire, life of the Spirit, universal and local, be our energy; wind and fire, elements of Pentecost, power for the Kingdom, be power for us today.          Bernard Thorogood, 1927 -2020 ( former URC General Secretary)

Hymn

Come down, O love divine, seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
and kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn, till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
and o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace, till they become the place
where-in the Holy Spirit finds a dwelling.

Reflection

It had been ten days since Jesus had ascended into heaven. Jesus had told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come. For those ten days they spent their time in prayer. And they stayed together in one place. This says something powerful about this group. It demonstrates that these people needed each other. They needed the love and support that the other believers could give. What was the basis of their harmony? They were all different in many ways. What enabled them to lay aside their differences and become one? I think there are at least five reasons:

  1. They loved Jesus; 2. They loved each other; 3. They had a desire to share the story of Jesus; 4. They were willing to give everything they had for the gospel, including their lives; 5. They longed to see Jesus again.

Outside that small upper room, life went on as usual, but inside, something beautiful took place. Unknown to the rest of the world an event was about to occur that would literally change the course of history.

When the Holy Spirit came to those gathered in that room in the form of wind and tongues of flame we are told, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”.

Their lives were changed forever – they had received a power that could come only from God.

Peter is a perfect example of what can happen to a person when the Holy Spirit is at work. Remember Peter? It was Peter who was always losing his temper; it was Peter who once cut off the ear of a man; it was Peter who swore up and down that he would never deny Jesus, yet in a moment of fear he denied Jesus three times.

But when the Holy Spirit came upon Peter, this person who was once afraid and followed Jesus at a distance, took the lead and went out of the upper room with courage and boldly preached Jesus, dead, buried, resurrected and coming again. His life was changed forever because of the power of the Holy Spirit. 

For the disciples, they discovered, through that Pentecost experience, that the Holy Spirit is God living among them and in them and it had a profound effect at once on their powers as witnesses to the risen Lord Jesus. They felt it; they knew it and it was obvious to all who encountered them.

We too are able to experience the living God now – his grace, his love, his power, his forgiveness because of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God at work; the transforming power of God in action. It is by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is not only the Jesus of history, the man who walked in Galilee and Judea two thousand years ago, but the Christ of experience now, making an impact on life in 2020.

Wherever the Spirit of God reigns there is freedom, joy and peace. May God grant us the grace to receive it that whatever we say and do may speak of his love and concern for a world which desperately needs to hear that message.

Hymn

  1. Spirit of the living God                          2. Spirit of the living God,

fall afresh on me.                                         move among us all;

Spirit of the living God,                               make us one in heart and mind,

fall afresh on me.                                         make us one in love;

Melt me! Mould me!                                    humble, caring,

Fill me! Use me!                                          selfless, sharing –

Spirit of the living God,                               Spirit of the living God,

fall afresh on me.                                         fill our lives with love!

Prayers

Holy Spirit, coming as wind and fire, free and irrepressible, we pray for all who long for change and for those who fear it. Our world has changed so much in recent months and there are people who desperately want things to change again.

We pray for our church in these times of separation; the fellowship we so enjoy being put on hold; the faces we are missing; the collective worship, which has been so meaningful to us, postponed. May the Holy Spirit help us to recognise the unity we have in our Lord Jesus Christ and may we continue to be encouraged to support and care for one another as we nurture the body of Christ from a distance.

We pray for those in positions of responsibility, in our country and around the world, in tackling the corona pandemic. For the government, politicians and scientific advisers, for the laboratory technicians seeking solutions to thwart the virus. May the Holy Spirit guide them in their work and especially in the decisions that are made which affect millions of people .

We think of all those who are suffering because of the coronavirus throughout the world, changing the way of life for millions of people. We pray for those who are being treated in hospital, hospice or nursing home and for their anxious relatives. For those working in these places; those on the ‘front line’ and those supporting them in any way. May your Spirit take away any fear and despair and give them strength to continue their essential tasks.

We pray for those who are anxious about their future jobs or financial security, and providing for their family. Gracious God, bring hope and encouragement through the help and support of others.

We remember our families and friends, wherever they may be, and pray that God will keep them safe and meet their needs until we are able to meet with them again in person.

Keep a moment of silence…then conclude with this prayer and the Lord’s Prayer…

Loving God, through your Spirit, live in us, so that through all we do and say and are  we may reflect the life of your kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer.

 Blessing

Loving God, take hold of our lives, fill us with your Spirit that we may be examples of your grace and witnesses to your love. May your love and peace remain with us and those whom we love now and always. Amen

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 24th May use two lectionary readings, one from John’s Gospel where he records a prayer of Jesus for himself and his disciples and another from Acts where Jesus, just before he leaves them to return to his heavenly Father, reassures his disciples of the gift of the Holy Spirit. We shall be thinking about Pentecost (50 days since Easter) next week. Time is moving on in these days of restrictions, but never lose sight of the fact that, even though we are separated by distance from each other we are united in our faith and service for our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus prayed that his followers should be one even as he and his Father are one. Grace and peace to you all.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Prayer

Lord, we come to you because you have the words of eternal life. We come to you because you have the word of hope. We come to you because you are the word of love that we need to hear. We come to you to give you thanks and praise. Fill us with your love and empower us by your Spirit as we meet with you now. Amen.

 

Hymn

  1. Crown him with many crowns,                      2. Crown him the Son of God,    
    the Lamb upon his throne.                             before the worlds began,
    Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns    and ye who tread where he hath trod,
    all music but its own.                                      crown him the Son of Man;
    Awake, my soul, and sing of him                  who every grief hath known
    who died for thee,                                           that wrings the human breast,
    and hail him as thy matchless King              and takes and bears them for His own,
    through all eternity.                                        that all in him may rest.

 

  1. Crown him the Lord of life,                           4. Crown him the Lord of love,
    who triumphed over the grave,                    behold his hands and side,
    and rose victorious in the strife                    those wounds, yet visible above,
    for those he came to save.                             in beauty glorified.

His glories now we sing,                                All hail, Redeemer, hail!
who died, and rose on high,                           for thou has died for me;

who died eternal life to bring,                       thy praise and glory shall not fail   

and lives that death may die.                         throughout eternity.

Reading: John chapter 17: 1 – 11 Jesus prays for himself and his disciples

1 Jesus looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.

2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.

5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.

7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.

8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.

9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.

11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

Two reflective Songs:
A.      You are the King of Glory,

You are the Prince of Peace,

You are the Lord of heaven and earth,

You’re the Son of Righteousness.

Angels bow down before You,

Worship and adore, for

You have the words of eternal life,

You are Jesus Christ the Lord.

Hosanna to the Son of David!

Hosanna to the King of kings!

Glory in the highest heaven,

For Jesus the Messiah reigns.

1. Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

look full in His wonderful face:                  

and the things of earth will grow strangely dim

in the light of His glory and grace.

  1. Keep your eyes upon Jesus,
    let nobody else take His place;

so that hour by hour you will know His power

till at last you have run the great race.

Reading: Acts chapter 1: 6 – 14  Jesus promises the power of the Holy Spirit to his disciples before he leaves for heaven.
6 The disciples gathered around Jesus and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.

11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.

13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.

14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Reflection

Last words are important words. We normally take very seriously the last words that our loved ones have spoken to us; we turn them over in our mind, we consider them carefully, we store them up in our hearts and ponder them. If I were to ask what the last words of Jesus were, I wonder what you would say?

Here, in the words Luke records for us in Acts, are the last words of Jesus before he left the earth:

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

You shall receive power, you shall be my witnesses. We use the word ‘witness’ in two ways: A witness both witnesses an event and then, when that witness tells someone about the event, he or she witnesses to others about the event.

“You shall be my witnesses”, says Jesus, “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jerusalem was right at the centre, Judea was out among the family and immediate community around, Samaria was where those who were distant cousins and less familiar lived, and to the ends of the earth – this was a world-wide mission they were called to take their witnessing to.

Witnessing – telling others of our faith in Jesus Christ, need not be loud and boisterous to the point where it threatens and offends others…in fact, this is not witnessing at all. Witnessing is most often done through loving care and personal story telling, through the kind of thing that you do all the time.

In these restricted times it may not be so easy to have a cup of coffee with a neighbour who is going through a difficult time, or visit a friend or relative in a nursing home or hospital. However, we have seen that we are resourceful people and have come up with imaginative ways to keep in touch and show support to each other. And in these ways you express your concern, you offer your prayers, you share the hope that you have found in your faith. We can still be witnesses to the truth we have found in Jesus Christ.

Let me finish with a story.

An artist seeking to depict on canvas the meaning of witnessing, painted a storm at sea. Black clouds filled the sky. Illuminated by a flash of lightning, a little boat could be seen disintegrating under the pounding of the ocean. People were struggling in the swirling waters, their anguished faces crying out for help. The only glimmer of hope appeared in the foreground of the painting, where a large rock protruded out of the water. There, clutching desperately with both hands, was one lone seaman.

It was a moving scene. Looking at the painting, one could see in the tempest a symbol of humankind’s hopeless condition. And, true to the gospel, the only hope of salvation was the ‘Rock of Ages’, a shelter in the time of storm.

But as the artist reflected on his work, he realised the painting did not accurately portray his subject. So he discarded the canvas and painted another. It was very similar to the first; the black clouds, the flashing lightning, the angry waters, the little boat crushed by the pounding wave, and the crew vainly struggling in the water. In the foreground the seaman was clutching the large rock for salvation.

But the artist made one change: the survivor was holding on with only one hand, and with the other he was reaching down to pull up a drowning friend.

That is the New Testament picture of witnessing – a hand extended to save. Until that hand is extended, there is no Gospel – and there is no hope for the world. Let us think seriously on those last words of Jesus and let us witness to the faith as we tell our story so that others might believe.

Hymn

  1. At the name of Jesus                            2. Humbled for a season

every knee shall bow                                   to receive a name

every tongue confess him                           from the lips of sinners

King of glory now.                                       unto whom he came,

‘Tis the Father’s pleasure                           he became a witness,

we should call him Lord,                            faithful to the last,

who from the beginning                              and returned victorious

was the mighty Word.                                  when from death he passed.

  1. In your hearts enthrone him;             4. When this same Lord Jesus

there let him make new                               shall appear again

all that is not holy,                                       in his Father’s glory,

all that is not true.                                        there with him to reign,

He is God the Saviour,                                then may we adore him,

he is Christ the Lord,                                   all before him bow,

ever to be worshipped,                                as our hearts confess him

trusted and adored.                                      King of glory now.

Prayers

Lord Jesus Christ, when you spoke you brought hope, joy, comfort and forgiveness; when you touched you brought love, peace, healing and wholeness. Come now, and speak again, bringing your word to life into our parched lives and our weary world.

Come now, and reach out again, bring your touch to our aching hearts and to all who cry out for help.

Where there is despair, sorrow, hurt or guilt may your voice renew;

Where there is loneliness, turmoil, pain and sickness may your hand restore.

Lord Jesus, you came once, you shall come again, but we ask you: come now, and bring your kingdom closer here on earth.

Come as we pray to you for those with whom we share this world.

When we look at our world, nowhere seems to be free of unrest and tension, fighting and unhappiness, uncertainty and confusion and on top of all of that everyone is dealing with the coronavirus epidemic. Sometimes it looks as if nature itself is reflecting that state of anarchy with devastating results though hurricane, flood, fire and tempest.

Everyone, everywhere is in need of prayer and support; of comfort and assistance in these troubling times.

It maybe that we feel we don’t know what to pray or where to begin with our prayers; but we bring these feelings and thoughts to our God who understands it all and knows it all anyway. Our prayers will ask God to help us to see our part in relieving those who are in need, for we ask in the name of Jesus our Lord.  Amen

 In a moment of silence bring your thoughts and prayers to God before concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.

Dear Friends,

These devotions for Ascension Day, Thursday 21st May, are centred around Luke’s account of that occasion when Jesus, having reassured and instructed his disciples for some forty days following his resurrection, now returns to his heavenly Father. The Ascension marks the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the start of the ministry of the Church waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Prayer:

Ascended Lord Jesus, we praise you! Once you lived a human life subject to the limitations of time: now you are the same yesterday, today and for ever. Once you were limited to one particular place: now you are present wherever people turn to you. Once only those who met you face to face knew you: now your divine love extends though all the world. Jesus, ascended Lord of time and space, love as wide as life, we praise you!

Hymn:

  1. Christ triumphant, ever reigning,                   2. Word incarnate, truth revealing,
    Saviour, Master, King,                                       Son of Man on earth!
    Lord of heaven, our lives sustaining,              power and majesty concealing
    hear us as we sing:                                             by Your humble birth:
    Yours the glory and the crown,                        Yours the glory….                     

3.Suffering servant, scorned, ill-treated,          4. Priestly King, enthroned for ever
victim crucified!                                                        high in heaven above!
death is through the cross defeated,                  sin and death and hell shall never
sinners justified:                                                      stifle hymns of love:
Yours the glory….                                                    Yours the glory….

  1. So, our hearts and voices raising
    through the ages long,
    ceaselessly upon You gazing,
    this shall be our song:
    Yours the glory….

Reading: Acts chapter 1: 1 – 11

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach

2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.

11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Hymn

1 God is gone up on high,                                       2 God in the flesh below,
with a triumphant noise;                                         for us he reigns above:
the clarions of the sky                                             let all the nations know
proclaim the angelic joys!                                      our Saviour’s conquering love:

Refrain:                                                                     3 All power to our great Lord
Join all on earth, rejoice and sing;                             is by the Father given;
glory ascribe to glory’s king.                                       by angel hosts adored,                                                                                                                     he reigns supreme in heaven:

4 High on his holy seat                                            5 till all the earth, renewed
he bears the righteous sway;                                  in righteousness divine,
his foes beneath his feet                                         with all the hosts of God
shall sink and die away:                                           in one great chorus join:

Meditation “We stood there speechless for a moment” – James

We stood there speechless for a moment, struck dumb by the enormity of it all, for he was gone, plucked away from before our very eyes and, quite simply, we were lost for words, stunned into silence.

It wasn’t the first time, you see; we’d lost him once already – watched in horror as he was nailed to a cross, sealed in a tomb, and we’d been devastated, convinced we could never bounce back from such a blow.

We couldn’t have either, not by ourselves, but suddenly he was back, there in the garden, there on the roadside, there in the upper room – our Lord, alive, risen, victorious, death unable to hold him!

I just can’t tell you how wonderful that was, how our hearts skipped and our spirits soared each time we saw him. We felt certain nothing could ever again destroy our happiness, for he had taken on the last enemy and emerged triumphant!

Life all at once, pulsated with promise, no problem too great for us, no challenge too daunting, for, with Christ by our side, what had we to fear?

Yet suddenly, as we stood there that day gazing into heaven, he was by our side no longer, and for an awful moment it seemed as though all our hopes had disappeared again, vanishing with him like a bubble on the wind.

Only, of course, this time was different, for we’d made time to listen, paid heed to his warnings, and we understood that, as he had departed, so finally he would return.

You should see us now, our faith, if anything, stronger today than it’s ever been! We’ve spoken more boldly and witnessed more powerfully that I thought possible – preaching the word, healing the sick, renewing the weak, uplifting the broken-hearted, carrying the good news of Jesus far and wide.

And I’ll tell you why: because his going that day has somehow brought him closer than he’s ever been before, filling our whole being – body, mind and soul – transforming our every though and word and deed.

He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere, no person beyond his love, no situation beyond his purpose, for he has not simply risen, he has ascended – Jesus the man who lived and died amongst us, who shared our flesh and blood, one with the Father, lord of lords and King of kings, nothing in heaven or earth able to separate us from the wonder of his love.

And sometimes when I think of all that means, once more I’m struck dumb, stunned into silence by the enormity of it all, for it’s wonderful, isn’t it? – almost too wonderful for words!

Nick Fawcett

 Reflection

Luke the writer of the Gospel and Acts is renowned as a careful historian. When he recorded the birth of Jesus he rooted the event in its historical setting within the Roman Empire. He continues that same preciseness at the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry by recalling the place of the Ascension – at Bethany. He dates the event – 40 days after the resurrection on Easter Day. He emphasises the presence of eye-witnesses – the Ascension took place, he writes “before their very eyes”. Yes, the Ascension was a real event of history.

The resurrection of Jesus signalled the ending of a chapter in his earthly life. Things could never be the same again and it was essential that there should be a clear-cut event to bring the chapter to a close. True, Jesus was making a series of appearances to his followers, but they couldn’t go on forever, there had to be a day dividing when Jesus of Earth would become the Christ of heaven. The Ascension was the only fitting conclusion to the life of Jesus on earth.

However the Ascension was not just an historical event it was also a spiritual one. Jesus had triumphed over Satan, the world, death and hell. His resurrection and ascension proved he was the victor. The apostle Peter confirms this: “Jesus Christ…has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (1Peter 3: 22) This proves that he had finished the work of redemption that the Father had given him to do. The Ascension was the Coronation Day for Jesus. Do we acknowledge him as our Lord and King? The ascension of Jesus makes it possible for him to be close to each and every one of us if we allow him into our lives.

There is also a practical side to this event. Luke was a practical person. He tells his readers of the disciples with their eyes straining to catch the last glimpse of the cloud bearing their Lord away. But then they were quickly brought back to reality. It would seem that with their eyes heavenward they didn’t notice the two heavenly beings that slipped quietly alongside them until they spoke: “Men of Galilee why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

  It would be an over-simplification to say that the Lord’s Second Coming will be like a film of the Ascension played backwards, to return to the same spot, wearing the same clothes. Although his coming will be in person, it won’t be in private: “every eye will see him” (Revelation 1:7) The Ascension testifies to the fact of our Lord’s return, “He will come.”

We have to ask ourselves the question, “Are we living as if Jesus is to return at any time? Are we living that we may be called to him at any time? What are we doing with our time until Jesus either calls or returns?

The angelic beings asked the disciples, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” It was the earth not the sky, which they should be occupied with – to be witnesses not stargazers! There was work to be done once the Holy Spirit had come to them. Our calling is outwards in compassion to a world in so much need of Jesus. That calling is for us to be salt and light for his kingdom.

Prayer

Lord, Jesus Christ, we thank you for the truth at the heart of this day – that you came to save not just a few, nor simply your own people, but all the world. You are the King of kings and Lord of Lords, your love reaching out to the ends of the earth, your glory filling the universe!

We thank you that, though you were born in Bethlehem and ministered in Galilee, though you spent your life in Palestine and died in Jerusalem, your love has transformed lives in every country and continent, crossing barriers of culture, colour and creed, unable to be contained by either space or time!

We thank you that no one is outside your love, whoever they may be, whatever they may have done. You value all, have time for all, respond to all.

We praise you now as the sovereign Lord – the one who reigns in splendour enthroned at the right hand of the Father, and the one who will, in time, reconcile all things to yourself in your eternal kingdom.

Lord Jesus, we look forward to that day when every knee shall bow to you, and every tongue confess you as Lord and Saviour. To you be praise and glory, honour and thanksgiving now and always. Amen

 Hymn

  1. Rejoice, the Lord is King;                    2. Jesus the Saviour reigns,

your Lord and King adore;                         the God of truth and love;

mortals, give thanks and sing,                    when he had purged our stains

and triumph evermore:                                he took his seat above:

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;

Rejoice, again I say rejoice.

  1. His kingdom cannot fail;                       4. He sits at God’s right hand

he rules o’er earth and heaven;                 till all his foes submit,

the keys of death and hell                           and bow to his command,

are to our Jesus given:                                 and fall beneath his feet:

  1. Rejoice in glorious hope;

Jesus the judge shall come,

and take his servants up

to their eternal home:

We soon shall hear the archangel’s voice,

The trump of God shall sound, rejoice!

Blessing

Have no fear, Christ has overcome the world. Have no doubt, he has promise to be with you. Have no anxiety, he is Lord, and we shall share his joy, his life, his love and his victory. May his peace be with you and those you love now and always. Amen

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 17th May are centred around words of Jesus continued from last week. He is preparing his disciples for his leaving, which we will focus on in an extra devotional for Ascension Day on Thursday (40 days after Easter). Normally we, in the Free Churches, do not make much of the occasion other than to mention it in the Sunday service following Ascension Day. This is partly because the Day always falls on a Thursday in an ordinary week. However, in these exceptional times it gives us the opportunity to reflect on this part of our faith when Jesus returns to his Father and our Father.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 A Promise – Jesus said …

“If ye love me keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter – that he may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.”

Hymn

  1. Sing praise to the Lord!                          2. Sing praise to the Lord,

Praise him in the height;                             all people on earth;

rejoice in his word,                                      in tuneful accord

blest angels of light;                                     sing praise for new birth;

high heavens adore him                              praise him who has brought you

by whom you were made,                           his grace from above,

and worship before him                              praise him who has taught you

in brightness arrayed.                                  to sing of his love.

  1. Sing praise to the Lord,                         4. Sing praise to the Lord!

all things that give sound;                           Thanksgiving and song

each jubilant chord                                      to him be outpoured

re-echo the around;                                     all ages along;

loud organs, his glory                                  for love in creation,

forth tell in deep tone,                                 for heaven restored,

and sweet harp, the story                            for grace of salvation:

of what he has done.                                    Sing praise to the Lord!

Prayer

Lord, we are overwhelmed by the wonder of your love. Now we know that this is the secret of your way for us.

Because of your love you chose Abraham and discovered Moses.

Because of your love you spoke in judgment through prophet, exile and writings.

Because of your love you were born in Bethlehem and played in the market place in Nazareth.

Because of your love you taught and listened, shared meals with all and sundry, healed the leper and noticed the lonely.

Because of your love you were patient with Peter and forgiving with Judas. Because of your love you called your followers, friends even at the point of their desertion.

Thank you Lord, for your expansive love, poured out to the last. And thank you for your clear commandment that we should love each other as you have loved us.

Give us courage, Lord, to pass your love around in the same extravagant way you have shown us. Keep us wide-eyed to human need and swift to act when help is required.

Refresh us, Lord, with the good news that we are bound to others in ties of Christian love, a community, though separated, still nevertheless surrounding us and supporting us, a people among whom we glimpse your eternal friendship.

We pray for your love’s sake. Amen.

Reading: John chapter 14: 15 – 21

15 “If you love me, keep my commands.

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—

17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Reflection

These words of Jesus to his disciples, we recall were spoken on the night of the Last Supper. Jesus knew that everything was going to change and that his disciples were worried. One major lesson in life is that everything changes, nothing remains the same and sometimes it is difficult to cope with that basic fact. Before the onset of coronavirus people would say how rapidly everything is changing; the pace of life was so fast; technical advances seemed to be upgrading practically every other day. Now with restrictions placed on us we have been forced to slow down and we may even wish things were speeded up so we can get back to ‘normal’. Change happens. How do we handle change or stress or worry?

The disciples knew that the situation surrounding Jesus was explosive. They are in Jerusalem at Passover and the temple authorities hate Jesus. They know something is in the wind, but they don’t know what. No wonder Jesus tells them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”. And he goes on to reassure them that he “will not leave you as orphans…”.

Alienation and abandonment from parents were major motifs in Greek and Roman mythology. For example, the city of Rome was founded on two orphaned children Romulus and Remus. The basic message of the Gospel is the wonderful promise from Jesus that we can never be orphans.

“…I will come to you,” says Jesus and his coming is in the form of the Holy Spirit, here called an advocate. Advocate reminds us of a courtroom drama. Jesus is our advocate, he stands in court by our side, pleading our case, speaking for us.

Those first disciples were called by Jesus to join him in his mission. They made their choice to follow Jesus and walked in his way facing all the obstacles and difficulties of walking that way. But they had a constant source of reassurance; Jesus is there with them to inspire them, to keep them going. Now Jesus isn’t going to be there physically any more. The unthinkable is happening. What do they do now, without Jesus? Jesus reassures them again. They are not going to be without Jesus. He tells them that even after his death he will be with them. He will still encourage them, help them, guide them along the way. But the nature of his presence will change. “Before long the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me,” he says. He will be present to them in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Living these days can be very stressful and we may even feel almost overwhelmed by our problems. It is then we recall that the Spirit of Jesus, our advocate is alongside us; we are not abandoned, we are not rejected, because Jesus loves us. No matter how bad it gets, Jesus is still with us; he is still a living presence in our lives. “Because I live, you also will live”, Jesus promises to his followers.

So no matter what tragedies come our way, we can hold tight to the promise that Jesus gives us the gift of life – life in this world, and life in the world to come.

What do we need to remember whenever we get stressed and worried and downhearted? Jesus is with me. That is it. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so, and so many have proved it in their own experience. May we all experience again that love that will never let us go.

Hymn

A new commandment I give unto you,

That you love one another as I have loved you;

That you love one another as I have loved you.

[By this shall all know you are my disciples:]

[If you have love one for another;]      Repeat last two lines

Meditation “When we love God and obey his commands we love his children too” (1John 5:2)

Can you imagine

Just one thing

That will fill you

With all the joy of living?

Can you imagine

Just one thing

You can give,

But be richer for the giving?

Love knows no limit to its patience and its caring,

Love, ever trusting, is adventurous and caring,

Love is of God and its power grows with sharing,

Nothing is greater than love.

Can you imagine

Just one thing,

Something vast,

And which flows through all creation?

Can you imagine

Just one thing

That is free

As a gift to every nation?

Love is a force that is steadily advancing,

Love is a joy you will always find entrancing,

Love is a liberty that sets your spirit dancing,

Nothing is greater than love.

Can you imagine

Just one thing

That looks weak,

Though there’s nothing quite so strong?

Can you imagine

Just one thing

That will last

When all other things have gone?

Love knows no limit to the service it is giving

Love will take knocks, but it never stops forgiving,

Love if of God, it’s the only way of living,

Nothing is greater than love.

From the musical play Ragman

 Prayers

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, you promised through your son Jesus Christ to hear us when we pray in faith. We pray for our world under threat in so many ways – some struggling to live justly and in peace; some desperate for food and clean water; some frantic to find a place to live; all trying to deal with the outbreak of coronavirus. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in the heavenly places.

We pray for all those who are laid low by suffering and pain of any kind. May they know your comfort and healing, both now and in the coming days. And we pray for all those involved in the medical and caring professions as well as all the auxiliary staff who support them; bless them in their work and keep them from harm.

We pray for those of our family, friends and others who have been a support and encouragement to us particularly in these recent weeks. We thank you for them and pray that they may know they are doing the work of your kingdom.

We pray for those who have died, especially any known to us and to our Church fellowship. Thank you, loving God, for every remembrance we have of them and we  commit them into your loving care. Give their loved ones a knowledge of your nearness and comfort and grant us all a share in your eternal kingdom.

In a moment of silence mention before God any special situation or people that may be on your mind at this time, asking that he would bring his love and care to them.

Then pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn

  1. God is love: let heaven adore him;                2. God is love, and is enfolding

God is love: let earth rejoice;                                 all the world in one embrace;

let creation sing before him,                                   his unfailing grasp is holding

and exalt him with one voice’                                every child of every race;

He who laid the earth’s foundation,                      and when human hearts are breaking

He who spread the heavens above,                       under sorrow’s iron rod,

He who breathes through all creation,                  that same sorrow, that same aching

He is love, eternal love.                                           wrings with pain the heart of God.

  1. God is love: and though with blindness

Sin afflicts and clouds the will,

God’s eternal loving kindness

holds us fast and guides us still.

Sin and death and hell shall never

o’er us final triumph gain,

God is love, do Love for ever

o’er the universe must reign.

Benediction

Have no fear, Christ has overcome the world. Have no doubt, he has promised to be with you. Have no anxiety, he is Lord, and we shall share his joy, his life, his love and his victory. Now may the Grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and for ever. Amen.

Dear Friends,

Our devotions this Sunday 10th May 2020 based on the lectionary Gospel reading, feature some very familiar words of Jesus to his disciples in the upper room the night before he died. When, after Easter, the disciples looked back on Jesus’ words, they helped the ‘penny to drop’ about Jesus and his mission. Today also begins Christian Aid Week. We remember their work in our prayers.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life, and truth shall set you free to seek and find the way to life and live that life in me.”   Robert Willis

 Prayer

Loving God we confess that each of us has known times when we have felt alone, empty and abandoned. We are experiencing now a sense of isolation from those usually around us. We confess that we easily become anxious about ourselves, our families, our health and our possessions. Too easily we are brought low by our concerns and our reliance on the security of earthly things, and we do not stand on the rock that you have provided.  Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the source of new life, and by your Spirit give us your truth which sets us free. This we pray for his love’s sake. Amen

 Hymn God is love, his the care

  1. God is love, his the care                        2. Jesus came, lived and died

Tending each, everywhere.                          For our sake, crucified,

God is love – all is there!                             Rose again, glorified:

Jesus came to show him,                              he was born to save us

That we all might know him:                        by the truth he gave us:

Sing aloud, loud, loud,

Sing aloud, loud, loud,

God is good,

God is truth,

God is beauty: praise him!

  1. None can see God above;                     4. To our Lord praise we sing –

Jesus shows how to love;                              light and life, friend and King

Thus may we Godward move,                       coming down love to bring,

Joined as sisters, brothers,                           pattern for our duty,

Finding him in others:                                   showing God in beauty:

 Reading: John chapter 14: 1 – 14

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Reflection

What I find interesting about this story in John, is that I think Jesus set this conversation up. I think he guided the discourse so that Thomas would ask Him: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Because THAT’S the question that Jesus wanted to answer: “How, can we know the way?” Until you know the answer to that question you’re always going to be lost.

James Thurber, a cartoonist and journalist, once said: “All human beings should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.” That short poem had a powerful point. Until you know WHY you’re here and WHERE you’re going… you’ll always be lost. And so Jesus frames the conversation so Thomas will ask “How can we know the way?”

Now the conversation actually began much earlier when Jesus said these words: “Let not your hearts be troubled…” (verse 1)

And that is how many people look at their lives. They feel lost, they feel uncertain, and they are TROUBLED.

It’s the uncertainty of life that makes us anxious, especially so in our present crisis over coronavirus.

As the present Pandemic continues to spread, more countries and areas order lockdowns, and the prospective financial recovery appears steeper by the day, many are facing tremendous uncertainty. Questions swirl in our heads: What if I, or someone I love, gets the virus? Am I still going to have a job tomorrow? Will I ever be able to retire now? What if I lose the house? Will life ever be the same? Everything in our lives can be stripped away in a moment… by disease, economic collapse, and most inevitably by death.

But I want to remind you that money and health never were a sure thing.

That’s what Jesus said. He said nothing on this earth is a sure thing. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Let me repeat: NOTHING on this earth is a sure thing… and that’s what makes us so anxious. If we just knew which WAY to go; if we just knew what TRUTH to trust; if we just could be assured that LIFE would turn out alright – then, maybe, we might be able to hold on.

And Jesus said: if you’re looking for the WAY to go – that’s me. If you’re looking for TRUTH you can trust – that’s me. If you’re looking for assurance LIFE will turn out all right – that’s me. You Trust in God? Trust also in me. I am the way, the truth and the life.

But, what is it about Jesus that makes Him the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE? Why should it make any difference to us? What is it about Jesus being the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE that would help me deal with my doubts, distress and discouragement? Well, let’s take it one step at a time:

Firstly, Jesus is the WAY. Have you ever been lost?

I read the true story of a couple who had got lost on a back road in Ireland. They spotted a farmer leading his cow to pasture and they stopped him. “Excuse me. Could you direct us to Mohall? We’re lost.” And the man smiled at them, and said “Ah, you’re not lost at all. For you see, you’ve found me. And I know the way.”

When you’ve found Jesus, you’re not lost anymore, for he is the WAY! It doesn’t matter if you’ve made wrong choices in your life; it doesn’t matter if you’ve gone down the wrong road. When Jesus is THE WAY for you, you’ll arrive at a good destination. Because Jesus is the way!

Then Jesus is the TRUTH. How do I know my metre rule is accurate? Because there is a definitive platinum bar which it can be measured against. That bar is seen as the true measurement – it is the TRUTH.

In the same way, Jesus is THE TRUTH. He is the reality against which everything else in our world is measured. For example – do you know how valuable you are? All you have to do is look at John 3:16 “For God so loved the world (YOU) that He gave His only begotten Son…” You were so valuable to God, that Jesus came to die on the cross just for you. That truth tells us all we need to know about how much God cares for us. And that truth is more important than anything else this world can offer you, because Jesus is the TRUTH.

Lastly, Jesus is the LIFE. The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus died for our sins; He was buried; and that He rose from the dead! It’s through that gospel that we have LIFE in Jesus Christ. It is in Jesus – our way, truth and life – that we lay hold of what is truly living both now and for eternity. I want to close with a powerful statement by Thomas à Kempis: “Without the Way there is no going; without the Truth there is no knowing; without the Life there is no living.”

Hymn: Thou art the Way

1.Thou art the way: to thee alone                     2. Thou art the Life: the rending tomb

from sin and death we flee;                               proclaims thy conquering arm;

and they who would the Father seek,                and those who put their trust in thee

must seek him, Lord, by thee.                           nor death nor hell shall harm.

  1. Thou art the Truth: thy word alone       4. Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life:

true wisdom cam impart;                                  grant us that Way to know,

thou only canst inform the mind,                     that Truth to keep, that Life to win,

and purify the heart.                                          whose joys eternal flow.

Prayers:

Gracious God we thank you for the truth that is in Jesus, and that in him is life in all its fullness; that because of his life, death and resurrection he is our strength, our guide, our teacher and our Lord. We praise you that no matter what our days or years may bring or the gifts or abilities we possess, you will walk with us to the end and lead us in the way that declares your truth and offers new life to all.

We pray especially at this time for those who are suffering:

Loving God, we pray for those faced with the stark realities of death: For those who fear because death is near. Grant them peace and the assurance of your love. For those who are tending the dying, uphold them through your Spirit in this demanding work. For those separated from loved ones close to death, grant them comfort and relief from anguish. For those grieving the loss of loved ones; surround them in your love and sustain them through your power. For those who lament that there was no chance for a goodbye, may they experience the reality of your Spirit, who unites us all with you and all we love.
 
May those surrounded by death know something of resurrection hope. That death is not the end, but the beginning of new life in Jesus Christ who said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

 We pray for all who this day live in fear: Those who fear for their own safety as they tend the needs of others. Grant them courage. For those who fear the unknown of what is to come: may they rest in the assurance you sustain everything through your love. For those who fear the spaces they are confined in, may they experience your supportive presence and live in the hope of freedom. We pray for the work of Christian Aid in bringing help and hope to those who are suffering throughout our world; bless all that they do in Christ’s name. Hear our prayer offered in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 Hymn: To God be the glory

To God be the glory, great things he has done!

So loved he the world that he gave us his Son,

Who yielded his life in atonement for sin,

And opened the life-gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear his voice!

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice!

O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son;

And give him the glory – great things he has done!

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,

To every believer the promise of God!

And every offender who truly believes,

That moment from Jesus a pardon receives:

Great things he has taught us, great things he has done,

And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;

But purer and higher and greater will be

The wonder, the beauty, when Jesus we see:

Blessing:

Remember all God has done. Rejoice in all he is doing. Receive all he shall yet do. Put your hand in his, the God of past, present and future, and walk with him wherever he may lead, knowing that he will walk with you, leading the way, this day and always. Amen.

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 3rd May 2020, being the first Sunday of the month, will include words for communion. You may like to prepare the elements – bread/wafer/cracker and wine/water/juice before you commence so you have them to hand. Today’s Gospel lectionary reading is from John chapter 10 about sheep and shepherds. You will see I have selected two versions of the 23rd Psalm as hymns – one traditional and one more recently written. We focus on Jesus the Good Shepherd because he cares for the sheep so much he would not abandon them when facing danger, but deliberately and voluntarily gave his own life so his sheep may escape death. We should also remember in our prayers to thank those who care for us and support those who are vulnerable – the volunteer shopper; the good neighbour; supermarket workers; all those who make deliveries, alongside all of those in the NHS and care home/medical support situations – everyone who makes life a little easier during these times.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 A promise: “…I am the good shepherd. As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me. And I am willing to die for them.” (John 10. 14-15)

 Hymn: The Lord’s my shepherd

  1. The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want:           2. My soul he doth restore again,

he makes me down to lie                                         and me to walk doth make

in pastures green; he leadeth me                          within the paths of righteousness,

the quiet waters by.                                                 Ev’n for his own name’s sake.

  1. Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,

yet will I fear no ill;

for thou art with me, and thy rod

and staff me comfort still.

  1. My table thou hast furnished                        5. Goodness and mercy all my life

in presence of my foes;                                           shall surely follow me;

my head thou dost with oil anoint,                       and in God’s house for evermore

and my cup overflows.                                            My dwelling-place shall be.

 Reading: John chapter 10: 1 – 16

1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.

2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.

8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.

9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.

13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—

15 Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Reflection

There probably isn’t a better loved picture of Jesus than of him as the Good Shepherd. That picture of the shepherd is found throughout the imagery of the Bible; understandably, as Palestine had a pastoral setting. In the Old Testament God is often pictured as the shepherd, and the people as his flock (Psalm 23 being just one of many). And in the New Testament we see the picture pass over to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He is the shepherd who will risk his life to seek and to save even the one straying sheep. Why should he do that? Why should he want to be our shepherd?

Well… He wants to do that because He cares for us. We matter to him.

Jesus said: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

This almost echoes the words of the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd – (He’s a GOOD shepherd) He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

He gives me rest! Now, this is particularly important for us right now because we live in a troubled time. We’re all under a kind of quarantine. Folks are shut-off physically from their family and friends. For many, the threat to their jobs makes them afraid; as well as being threatened by a virus we don’t understand. Thousands have been infected… and many have died.

These are very real issues for a lot of people. It’s like we’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death. That’s why the words of the 23rd Psalm are so powerful – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I WILL FEAR NO EVIL! For thou art with me.”

I don’t know who made this comment… but I like it. “The Oriental shepherd was always ahead of his sheep. He was down in front. Any attack upon the sheep had to take him into account.” Now Jesus is our shepherd… and He is down in front, if you will – He is in our tomorrows. Whatever struggles we face TOMORROW… Jesus is already there.

And that’s the way we need to view Jesus… as our Good Shepherd. He’s always in front. He’s always in our tomorrows. Struggles and difficulties may be nearby but so is the Shepherd; not to make life easy, but to surround us with love, and to give us strength for the next step forward. He’s always caring for and loving us and he showed that love by dying for us, that, through his death and resurrection, we might have eternal life in him.

Hymn: The Lord’s my shepherd

  1. The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want.         2. He guides my ways in righteousness

He makes me lie in pastures green.                  And he anoints my head with oil,

He leads me by the still, still waters,                and my cup, it overflows with joy,

His goodness restores my soul.                         I feast on his pure delights.

And I will trust in you alone,                             And I will trust…

And I will trust in you alone,

For your endless mercy follows me,

Your goodness will lead me home.

  1. And though I walk the darkest path,

I will not fear the evil one,

For you are with me, and your rod and staff

Are the comfort I need to know.

And I will trust…

 Prayers

Lord, we are grateful that you have made yourself known to us as the Good Shepherd; yet we realise that just because you are the Good Shepherd you will not allow us to hide behind the illusion that, as your sheep, we have nothing to do but to be cared for. You call us to discover powers hidden within ourselves that we may share your work of loving and serving, just as you love and serve us. We know it won’t be easy, but we ask you to prepare and encourage us that we may indeed be ready to go about your business wherever it may lead. Amen.

Edmund Banyard

Lord Jesus Christ, when you lived on earth you met all kinds of people; the sick, the sad, the self-righteous, the self-sufficient; those who were torn by sin, those who had little sense of sin; those who were selfish, those whose generosity knew no bounds; those who were powerful and respected, those with no self-respect – and you presented a challenge to them all.

Come and meet us and our world in our need, whatever that need may be:

To those who are sad – grant your comfort,

To those who are anxious – your peace,

To those who are tempted and weak – your strength,

To those who cannot forgive themselves – your forgiveness,

To those who struggle for goodness – your endurance.

Give those who are self-sufficient an awareness of their need,

Those who are selfish – a large generosity,

Those who are self-righteous – a knowledge of what real goodness is,

Those who are powerful – a wisdom in its exercise,

To those who are ill – your healing hand, especially those known to us,

To those who are dying – a sense of your presence and awaiting arms.

These things we pray for your love’s sake. Amen.

 Communion

Hungry, Lord we come to you for bread; thirsty, we look to you for drink; hungering for spiritual food, thirsting for life-giving water, we come to share in your Supper. Yearning to be at one with you and with each other, we receive this food and drink, realising that it is yourself you give us, your life, released for us by your death at Calvary, we bow in awe and thankfulness. May we receive again that life, so that, forgiven and renewed we may at length hear your words, “Arise, let us go from here”, and be able to go and share with others that life and that love which here you share with us.

Now let us hear again how this sacrament began. On the night on which Jesus was betrayed, he sat at supper with his disciples. While they were eating, he took a piece of bread, said a blessing, broke it and gave it to them with the words, “This is my body. It is broken for you. Do this to remember me.” Later on he took a drinking cup saying, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Drink from it all of you, to remember me.”

So now, following Jesus’ example and command, before we take food and drink to remember him, let us share a prayer together:

Loving God, for your loving power, leading your people throughout history, guiding us in daily life, reaching out to help, provide and bless – we praise you.

For your redeeming power, always looking to forgive, always eager to restore, always able to help us start again – we praise you.

For your transforming power, bring hope from despair, joy from sorrow, life from death – we praise you.

For your gentle power, made perfect in weakness, inviting rather than coercing, exemplified on the cross – we praise you.

For your victorious power, expressed through an empty tomb, understood in bread and wine, experienced through your living presence – we praise you.

Sovereign God, servant God, suffering God, saving God, for all you have done and continue to do in Jesus Christ, we give you our praise.

As we now take these elements, to be for us the sacrament of the giving of Jesus Christ for the life of the world, may we be so filled with his life that praise and thanksgiving may fill our hearts and express themselves in love and generous service, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Broken for me, broken for you, the body of Jesus broken for you.

This is my body given for you, eat it remembering I died for you. (take and eat)

 Broken for me, broken for you, the body of Jesus broken for you.

This is my blood I shed for you, for your forgiveness, making you new.  (drink)

Most gracious God, we praise you for what you have given and for what you have promised us here. You have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth. You have fed us with the bread of life, and renewed us for your service. Now we give ourselves to you; and we ask that our daily living may be part of the life of your kingdom, and that our love may be your love reaching out into the life of the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Hymn

  1. How sweet the name of Jesus sounds       2. It makes the wounded spirit whole

in a believer’s ear:                                                   and calms the trouble breast

It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds,         ‘tis manna to the hungry soul,

and drives away our fear.                                       and to the weary rest.

  1. Dear Name! the rock on which I build,         4. Jesus, my Shepherd and my Friend,

my shield and hiding-place,                                   my Prophet, Priest, and King,

my never-failing treasury, filled                            my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,

with boundless stores of grace.                             accept the praise I bring.

 May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and for evermore. Amen

Dear Friends,

In our devotions today 26th April 2020 we continue to reflect on the events which surround that first Easter. Today we shall hear again the experience of two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Next week, being the first Sunday of the month when we would normally celebrate Communion, I will include words  in our devotions which you may wish to use for this purpose. May God continue to bless us, separated from each other but united by his love and grace.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Prayer

For where one, two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.                  Matthew 18:20 (altd)

We need your presence on the long road, Lord. The road between fear and hope,
the road between the place where all is lost and the place of resurrection.
Like the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, we are in need of your company!
Jesus, stand among us, in your risen power,
let this time of worship, be a hallowed hour. Amen

Hymn: He is Lord

He is Lord, he is Lord;

He is risen from the dead and he is Lord;

Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess

That Jesus Christ is Lord.

He is love, he is love;

He has shown us by his cross that he is love;

All his people sing with one voice of joy

That Jesus Christ is love.

He is life, he is life;

He has died to set us free and he is life;

And he calls us all to live evermore,

For Jesus Christ is life.

Reading: Luke chapter 24: 13 – 35

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles 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.

Emmaus Road Poem

Two travellers trudging
the long road from Jerusalem.
Their sorry faces are bent,
reliving the sad event
that sent them scurrying.
“What next?” they wonder.

The stranger comes alongside,
and he is told the sad tale,
but far from sympathizing
he starts scolding them;
too slow of heart,
too slow on the uptake,
not enough faith.

They did not know him;
but their hearts burned.
What quality was in that man
that sparked interest
rather than resentment;
hope rather than anger?

Only at the dinner table
is the unseen traveller
on every road revealed;
Jesus stands among us.

Suddenly fortified,
the travellers take to the road
fuelled with good news,
for all generations:,
“We have seen the Lord!
We have seen the Lord!”

Carol Penner

 Reflection

What I find interesting about the story in Luke 24, is that these men (walking to Emmaus) didn’t realize who they were talking to. They didn’t realize it was Jesus. What I find odd is that Jesus didn’t just say, “Hey guys, it’s me! I’m alive. It’s not a hoax! Here, put your fingers in the nail prints, put your hand in my side”

Wait a minute. Didn’t Jesus say those exact words to someone else? Who did he say that too? That’s right – Thomas. So… Thomas gets a 5 minute “show and tell” and these men on the road to Emmaus get a 3 hour discourse! What’s going on here?

Well, this is my considered guess. I believe Jesus took the time to deal with THEIR hopelessness so that we’d know how to deal with OURS. All of us have faced times in life when we’ve become discouraged, downhearted and filled with hopelessness even before we have had to live through these dreadful days because of coronavirus.  Now all of us are living with uncertainty and we are facing times when we feel boxed in and trapped and helpless to do anything about it.

I believe what Jesus did for these two men on the road to Emmaus was recorded for our encouragement and hope. I believe the things Jesus did for these men were the tools God gives to US for times when we get discouraged.

So what are these ‘tools’?

Well firstly, Jesus opened the Scriptures for them. Too many times, Christians forget that the Bible was the tool God gave us to give us encouragement. In fact, that’s what we’re told in Romans – “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have HOPE.” Romans15:4

The Bible is God’s tool to change our lives and give us hope.

Now I want you to notice, when Jesus walked with the men to Emmaus, He didn’t just do a Bible study with them. He didn’t say “Let’s turn to the book of Leviticus and see if there is some nugget of truth we can apply to our lives today.” No. As He walked with them, He taught them about what the Bible said about His resurrection. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

It was a very targeted study of the Bible. A study that focused ENTIRELY on Jesus and what He had come to do. Now there’s all kinds of important things to learn out of the Bible but THE most important thing we can learn about — is Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no hope. And without His death, burial and resurrection, this life is all we have.

Our hope is in a living Saviour. A Saviour who has conquered death, and through whom we will conquer death. There’s an old Gospel hymn that declares: “I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today. I know that He is living, whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer; and just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

(Chorus) He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.”

We have a living Hope in Jesus. We should share with others  that we have a Saviour who’s in the world today and that he loves us so much that he wants to give us hope in a hopeless world.

Prayers – begin with the Lord’s Prayer then…

As we remember those two disciples making a journey to Emmaus, we pray for those whose journey through life is filled with despair and hopelessness.

May Jesus join them on their journey and may they find new hope in him.

We pray for those who are ill, including those affected by the coronavirus, where illness dominates the whole of their thinking and every part of their lives.

May they know Jesus is walking with them through the shadows and darkness.

We pray for those nursing the sick, at home, nursing home, hospice or hospital.

May they know Jesus alongside them as they minister healing and compassion.

We pray for those who are facing a great time of pressure because of their jobs, business or livelihood.

May they know the presence of Jesus giving them encouragement and purpose.

We pray for ourselves and all we are facing on our journey of faith at this moment; the prayers we have for our families and friends; those concerns which are on our heart.

May the living Lord Jesus make his purposes known to us and his presence a reality.

The Lord hears our prayer – Thanks be to God. Amen.

Hymn

Alleluia, Alleluia,

give thanks to the risen Lord,
Alleluia, alleluia,

give praise to His name.

1.Jesus is Lord of all the earth.               2. Spread the Good News o’er all the earth.
He is the King of creation. Refrain.            Jesus has died and has risen. Refrain.

 

3.We have been crucified with Christ.        4. Come, let us praise the living God,
Joyfully sing to our Saviour. Refrain.              Now we shall live forever. Refrain.

Gracious God go with us on the journey of life and may the peace of Christ and the power of his Spirit go with us. Amen.

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, 19th April 2020, the Sunday after Easter Sunday, is sometimes called ‘Low Sunday’. Some say it’s called that because compared to the highlights of Easter this Sunday comes low in the list. Others say that it’s because the numbers attending church are very low compared to Easter Sunday. Well this year we may not have experienced the highlights in the way that we would usually celebrate Easter and certainly the numbers attending church are the same for both weeks this year! However, as Christians we do have something to celebrate even in the confines of our own homes. Easter is not an event that is now over, it should be a meaningful event which guides our thoughts and actions every day. To quote the chorus, ‘Because Jesus lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives all fear is gone; because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.’

Rev. Martin Ambler

 The Lord is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia

Thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor.15.57)

Hymn

  1. This joyful Eastertide                             2. Death’s flood has lost its chill,

Away with sin and sorrow!                          Since Jesus crossed the river;

My love, the Crucified,                                lover of souls, from ill

Has sprung to life this morrow.                 My passing soul deliver.

                                     

                             Had Christ, that once was slain,

                             Ne’er burst his three-days’ prison,

                             Our faith had been in vain;

                             But now is Christ arisen, arisen, arisen, arisen!

 Reading: John 20: 19 – 31

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.

25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Meditation – I wanted to know, that’s all – Thomas

I wanted to know, that’s all, to see for myself if it could possibly be true – was that so awful?

Remember, we’d all doubted at first, when the women came back that morning, dismissing their story of the empty tomb as so much nonsense, so why point the finger at me, as though I questioned and they didn’t?

All right, the situation had changed since then, I accept that, for they all claimed to have seen him in the meantime, and not just them, but others, each adamant the Lord had risen; yet as much as I wanted to believe it, I simply couldn’t, not unless the proof was spelled out for me in black and white.

That was me all over, I’m afraid, the way I’d been since a boy, struggling to accept anything I couldn’t touch for myself or see with my own eyes, and I’d said as much to Jesus before he died, that day he spoke about his Father’s house, and his going there to prepare a place for us.

‘Believe in God,’ he said, ‘believe also in me.’

A wonderful promise, yes, only to me he was talking in riddles, and I made no bones about it: ‘Lord, we do not now where you are going. How can we know the way?’

He wasn’t angry with me, though he could have been, for after all that time, all he’d said, I should have known, just as I should have understood he would rise from the tomb and return among us.

He’d spoken of it, often enough, done his best to prepare us not simply for his death but his resurrection to follow, but, as often happens, we dwelt on the bad and forgot the good, unable to see beyond the demands of the present moment.

So despite it all I refused to believe, convinced there were still too many questions and not enough answers.

And I’d be doing that still, still wondering if it ever could be, but for his grace.

For suddenly he was there again, standing among us, arms outstretched in welcome, those pierced hands reaching out to me, Thomas, and I knew I’d been wrong – he was alive, just as they’d said, risen and victorious – and I knelt down in worship, my heart overflowing with thanksgiving, for he’d come, despite me, despite my lack of faith – though I had doubted him, he still believed in me!

Nick Fawcett

Reflection

The disciples were in lockdown! They were self-isolating because of fear, in their case not of contracting a virus but for fear they may get caught by the authorities and be put to death like Jesus. Then Jesus shows up and gives them Peace. ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid.’ he had said to them before and now he repeats it.

We certainly need to hear those words of comfort and assurance today.

What had Jesus done that would give them peace?

Firstly, he was there with them and that must have given them reassurance. But he has never done that for us – how can we have his peace without his physical presence? Well Paul reminds us that “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable…practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4: 4-9)

You don’t have to see air to know it is there, you just know it gives you life; in the same way you don’t have to see Jesus to know he is there – just rejoice in the blessings he has given, be reminded of his power and love and you will know he’s there and you will have his peace.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The second thing Jesus did was to show his disciples his hands and feet – he did this with them the week before Thomas asked to see the crucifixion marks himself. Why did he do this? I think it was to remind them of what he had done for them – something amazing and life-changing for Jesus and them.

When we read the passion story for ourselves we realise what Jesus has done through his life, death and resurrection – he has literately changed the life of the world, including us!

And then he gives them a job to do. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” The peace he gives will equip them for service.  

So believe that Jesus is there with you. He will always be there for you.

Believe that Jesus has done great things in the past… and that He will do great things in your future.

And believe Jesus knows your name. He cares about what happens in your life and He believes so much in you that He has something He wants to give you. A mission that gives your life value.

Hymn

Jesus, Lord, Redeemer,                      In the upper chamber

Once for sinners slain,                        where the ten in fear

Crucified in weakness,                       gathered sad and troubled,

Raised in power to reign,                   there you did appear.

Dwelling with the Father,                    So, O Lord to us now,

Endless in your days,                           bid our sorrows cease;

Unto you be glory,                                breathing on us, Saviour,

Honour, blessing, praise.                    Say, “I give you peace.”

Prayers

This prayer has been written by the General Assembly Moderators of the URC:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ (Psalm 46:1, NRSV)

Let us pray with 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 Christ 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, through Jesus Christ, Amen.

…We pray for those for whom the good news of Easter is just too good to be true; for those who long to believe, but are looking for proof when none can be given, except to the eye of faith; for those who will only accept what can be seen, touched or scientifically confirmed; for those who dare not believe because of the challenge to their whole way of thinking and the changes it would require them to make to their whole way of living. May the risen Lord Jesus touch their hearts with his grace.

We pray for someone we know who needs to know that they are forgiven;

for someone who longs to know that they can be free;

for someone who is frightened, hurting or just on their own

May the risen Lord Jesus stay with them, and bring them his peace.

We pray for ourselves. Lord give us a new joy in your presence and a new awareness that you are alive. Fill us we pray with your joy and your power, with your love and your grace with a trust in your dying and an experience of your rising.

We ask our prayer in your name. Amen.

Hymn

  1. In Christ alone my hope is found                     2. In Christ alone, who took on flesh
    He is my light, my strength,                           my song Fullness of God in helpless babe.
    This Cornerstone, this solid ground                      This gift of love and righteousness
    Firm through the fiercest drought and storm       Scorned by the ones He came to                                                                                             save;
    What heights of love, what depths of peace        ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
    When fears are stilled, when strivings cease       My sinful life was justified;
    My Comforter, my All in All                                     For every sin on Him was laid
    Here in the love of Christ I stand                           Here in the death of Christ I live, I                                                                                           live
  2.  
  3. There in the ground His body lay                     4. No guilt in life, no fear in death
    Light of the world by darkness slain.                   This is the power of Christ in me.
    Then bursting forth in glorious Day                      From life’s first cry to final breath
    Up from the grave He rose again.                          Jesus commands my destiny.
    And as He stands in victory                                   No power of hell, no scheme of man
    Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;                         Can ever pluck me from His hand;
    For I am His and He is mine                                   Till He returns or calls me home
    Bought with the precious blood of Christ           Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Benediction:  Have no fear, be in no doubt; you are not alone. Open your eyes to the presence of God, open your ears to his word for you and know he is guiding your feet. Receive his peace, know his presence and be filled with his Spirit, and in all you say and do and are confess that Jesus is Lord. Amen.

Dear Friends,

HAPPY EASTER! Oh how we wish we could exchange that greeting face to face with each other with a handshake or even a hug, but circumstances prevent us. We will also have to imagine the church sanctuary which would normally be filled with bright spring flowers and other displays of new life from nature. This is a special day in so many ways and no matter where we are it is still the most important day of the Christian’s year.

You will see that I have included a new hymn in the devotions written for the church at this time of separation and isolation. I am grateful to Coral for making us aware of it.

However you spend this day take time to reflect on the fact that Jesus is alive, active and working in our world. His love for us has overcome death – and that is always worth celebrating!

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Sunday 12th April 2020

Easter Affirmation

This is the Good News – the grave is empty; the Lord is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia!

This is the Good News – the light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never put it out; the Lord is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia!

This is the Good News – once we were no people, now we are God’s people, because the Lord is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Hymn

  1. Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
    Let creation join to say: Alleluia!
    Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
    Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

Lo! Our sun’s eclipse is o’er, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more. Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once, he all doth save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy vict’ry, boasting grave? Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the Resurrection, Thou, Alleluia!

Prayer

All-loving and all-powerful God, we thank you for this day and all it means –

The assurance it brings that your love is stronger than anything else in heaven or earth – stronger than evil; than all human power; than sorrow and suffering, than death itself.

We thank you that in our world of so much pain and sorrow you have shown that hope and faith are not in vain. Your purpose is always at work, giving meaning to our seeking and striving after good.

Accept our praise for all you have done in Jesus – a mystery before which we stand in awe, a wonder before which we bow down in praise, a truth in which we live and move and have our being.

Living God, be among us now we pray, through the risen Lord Jesus. Help us to hear his voice, to offer him our service and to offer you our praise, for in his name we ask it. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Reading: John 20: 1 – 18

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.

2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.

4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.

6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there,

7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.

8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb

12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Reflection

What a day this is!

Jesus, whom his friends, his family, and indeed all of Jerusalem, thought dead, was raised to life on this day. Not only was he raised to life – but he appeared to people.

He presented himself to Peter who denied him; to Thomas who doubted him; to Mary who wept for him; he visited with friends, he ate with his disciples, he talked with his followers.

The first Easter was an incredible day, one that started with disbelief, with fear and trembling and bewilderment beside the empty tomb, and ended in astonishment, excitement and thanksgiving.

One thing that strikes me about this day is that despite all the disciples had seen Jesus do, from healing the sick to calming storms, and despite all they had heard Jesus say about how he would be killed and on the third day be raised, not one of them expected – after the cross was raised; not one of them hoped – after he was laid in the grave, to ever see Jesus again.

No one stood watch near the tomb, no one waited to see if he would rise. When Jesus died their hopes died, indeed their faith died and they huddled in the upper room where they had celebrated the Last Supper, hiding there in fear that the authorities would treat them just as they treated Jesus.

When Mary went to the tomb early that Sunday morning, she didn’t go to see if Jesus had risen, she went to finish the job of burying him. No one expected the resurrection. Despite what they had seen. Despite what they had heard. Despite what they had experienced.

But, praise God – it did happen! It happened because God made it happen.

And when the followers of Jesus realised that this was not a dream, it really was true that Jesus was alive again, then their faith in the resurrection and the God who brought it about, changed their lives: they were given power to heal and help others and they conquered their own fear and despair.

This is what the resurrection is about. God can bring to life that which has died; God can bring good out of evil; love out of hate and hope out of despair.

This is what we believe; and what we believe makes a difference.

Thanks be to God for his love to us beyond words.

Hymn

This Easter Celebration – a new hymn for Easter 2020 (not in the sanctuary)

(It can be sung to the tune AURELIA “The Church’s One Foundation”)

This Easter celebration is not like ones we’ve known.

We pray in isolation, we sing the hymns alone.

We’re distant from our neighbours— from worship leaders, too.

No flowers grace the chancel to set a festive mood.

No gathered choirs are singing; no banners lead the way.

O God of love and promise, where’s joy this Easter Day?

With sanctuaries empty, may homes become the place

we ponder resurrection and celebrate your grace.

Our joy won’t come from worship that’s in a crowded room

but from the news of women who saw the empty tomb.

Our joy comes from disciples who ran with haste to see—

who heard that Christ is risen, and then, by grace, believed.

In all the grief and suffering, may we remember well:

Christ suffered crucifixion and faced the powers of hell.

Each Easter bears the promise:  Christ rose that glorious day!

Now nothing in creation can keep your love away.

We thank you that on Easter, your church is blessed to be

a scattered, faithful body that’s doing ministry. 

In homes and in the places of help and healing, too,    

we live the Easter message by gladly serving you.

Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. 

Prayers

Gracious God, we thank you that our faith is rooted in what individuals have seen and heard; in the living testimony of ordinary people like us; in the testimony of countless generations of believers who have encountered the risen Lord Jesus for themselves through his Spirit. In him you came, you lived, you died, you rose again, making yourself known through the concrete events of history. For all those who saw for themselves and passed the message on, receive our thanks. And for all we experience today of your continuing love and your life-giving purpose, we give you our praise, through Jesus Christ our risen, victorious Saviour. Amen.

We pray for our world suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. We pray for all those who have fallen ill and for those who have died and those who mourn their loved ones, remembering that these people are not just statistics but part of the world for which Jesus came to save.

We pray too for all those striving to bring health and healing, safety and supplies to us all in these trying, challenging times.

Living God, we praise you for the promise that nothing can ever overcome your light or your love. We thank you that even now, when life seems dark and dreary because of enforced separation; when the threats to life and health throughout the world, because of the coronavirus, seem unassailable; when we call to you and yet cannot hear your voice, still you are with us.

May that knowledge sustain us through the bleakest moments, bringing the assurance that good will triumph over evil, hope replace despair, joy come after sorrow, and life triumph over death – even the darkest night turned to day. And all of this because your love in Jesus has overcome for us.

Hymn

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.
 Refrain: Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict’ry, 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.
Refrain:
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.
Refrain:

Benediction

Whatever today may hold, whatever tomorrow might bring, the future is secure, for the risen Lord Jesus is with us, the same yesterday, today and for ever.

Now may the celebration of his resurrected life bring new hope to your being.
May the empty tomb help you to leave your sorrows at the foot of the cross.
So that God’s hope, promises and forgiveness reign in your life forever.

Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Good Friday Devotions

 Opening Prayer

Gracious God, today in remembrance and awe we tread the holy ground of Calvary: this place of abandonment that has become the scene of our adoration; this place of suffering that has become the source of our peace; this place of violence that has become the battlefield on which love is victorious.

As we re-live the events of this day it is with awe that we count again the cost of our salvation. Words cannot be found to express our thanksgiving. Accept our silent adoration. Amen.

Hymn

1.There is a green hill far away,               2. We may not know, we cannot tell,

outside a city wall,                                        what pains he had to bear,

where our dear Lord was crucified            but we believe it was for us
who died to save us all.                                he hung and suffered there.

3. He died that we might be forgiven,               4. There was no other good enough
he died to make us good,                                        to pay the price of sin,
that we might go at last to heaven,                       he only could unlock the gate

saved by his precious blood.                                  of heaven and let us in.

5. O dearly, dearly has he loved!
And we must love him too,
and trust in his redeeming blood,
and try his works to do.

Reading:

After Jesus had been betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Roman soldiers he is taken and questioned by Caiaphas the high priest, but Jesus remains silent. Until, that is, he is asked if he is the Messiah, the Son of God. When Jesus replies, “Yes, I am.” he is charged with blasphemy. This charge was punishable by death, but only the Romans could carry out this punishment, so Jesus is taken to Pilate who oversees these matters for the Roman authorities.

John chapter 18 verses 28 – 40

28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.

29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.

32 This took place to fulfil what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.

39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you patiently endured the false evidence of those who were against you. You kept yourself from answering again or threatening them. You received as the judgment of your enemies the sentence of death; and you heard it in silence, committing yourself and your cause to him who alone is the true judge of our lives.

Grant us, gracious Lord, to share in the same spirit and grace and not be turned from the truth by any adverse judgement; and when we are unjustly condemned for your sake, may we endure with patience. For your mercy’s sake. Amen.

Hymn

  1. O sacred head, sore wounded,          2. What thou, my Lord, hast suffered,

With grief and shame weighed down;         was all for sinner’s gain;

O royal head, surrounded                               mine, mine was the transgression,

With thorns, thy only crown;                           but thine the deadly pain.

O Lord of life and glory:                                   By this, thy bitter passion,

What bliss till now was thine!                         Good shepherd, think on me;

I read the wondrous story,                              vouchsafe to me compassion,

I joy to call thee mine.                                      Unworthy though I be.

  1. For this thy dying sorrow,                        4. Be near when I am dying,

O Jesus, dearest friend,                                       and show thy cross to me

What language shall I borrow                           that I, for succour flying,

To thank thee without end?                              May rest my eyes on thee.

O make me thine for ever,                                My Lord, thy grace receiving,

And, should I fainting be,                                   let faith my fears dispel,

Lord, let me never, never                                  that I may die believing,

Outlive my love to thee.                                    And in thee, Lord, die well.

Reading: John 19: 1 – 30

1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.

2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe

3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.”

5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid,

9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.

10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha).

14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.

17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).

18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.

21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did.

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”

27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.

30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.

32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.

33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.

MEDITATION   –  THE CARPENTER

When the Carpenter saw the cross

Although he had much on his mind

Perhaps he thought:

‘That’s a nice piece of wood

Taken from a tree which grew tall

Stretching up to God for

Maybe a hundred years.’

And perhaps he thought: ‘I’d like to use

Wood like that to build a home

To shelter the hurt and lost,

Or I could make crutches for the lame

Or a bridge to cross a river.

Yes, I could have made something

Out of that piece of wood.’

And the Carpenter stretched out his arms

And they nailed him to the cross

And reared him and it against the sky.

And the carpenter died to make

A home for the hurt and lost,

A crutch for those who stumble and fall

And a bridge to cross the river to God

Major Barbara Bolton,  Salvation Army,  Australia

Prayer

Lord Jesus, today of all days we are reminded just how much we owe you, how great a price you were willing to pay to give us the gift of life. Forgive us for giving you so little in return, from shying away from our discipleship when there is any suggestion it may be costly.

We are reminded how you stayed true to your calling, despite every attempt to deflect you from it. Forgive us that we so often take the way of least resistance, compromising our convictions for the sake of an easy life.

We are reminded how you stayed true to those who were to fail you, more concerned for their own safety than your welfare. Forgive us that we so readily put self-interest before the interests of others, our loyalty depending on how much is asked of us.

We are reminded how you endured ridicule and violence without any attempt at retaliation, praying instead for those who persecuted you. Forgive us that we lash out at the slightest provocation, that we are more often concerned with exacting revenge than offering forgiveness.

We are reminded of how you loved us so much that you dies for us, willingly, taking the Way of the Cross.

Forgive us that we love you so little, that we find it so hard to offer anything of ourselves.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for this day and for all it calls to mind; that what you did, you did for me.  Help us to hear its message and respond to its challenge.

In your mercy hear our prayer for in your name we ask it.

Hymn

  1. When I survey the wondrous cross              2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    On which the Prince of glory died,               Save in the death of Christ my God!
    My richest gain I count but loss,                   All the vain things that charm me most,
    And pour contempt on all my pride.            I sacrifice them to His blood.

    3.See from His head, His hands, His feet,    4.Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    Sorrow and love flow mingled down!           That were a present far too small;
    Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,            Love so amazing, so divine,
    Or thorns compose so rich a crown?             Demands my soul, my life, my all.

“Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. He was wounded for our transgressions and he was bruised for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole.” Is. 53

On Calvary’s tree He died for me, that I his love might know;

To set me free He died for me, that’s why I love him so.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, whose body was broken on the cross, who surrendered your spirit to the Father, reach out now in love and compassion to all who are in need, bringing the assurance of your presence, the comfort of your peace, and the joy of your love. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer for we ask it in your name. Amen.

Dear Friends,

On Maundy Thursday we are reminded that, had we still been meeting at Church, we would be commemorating the events of that night with a fellowship meal which would conclude with Holy Communion – for it was on this night that Jesus instituted the ceremony.

So, if you wish, you may like to prepare for these devotions by having to hand a morsel of bread/wafer/cracker and something to drink (feel free to use whatever you wish, I have used water, wine [alcoholic and not] in celebrating communion with people). There will be, in the devotions, an opportunity for us to use these elements, albeit separately in our homes, yet at the same time in unity, as we share together and remember what Jesus did and said on this poignant night.

This Easter will be very different from what we are used to. Yet it is the same events and the same person which we will be remembering – the one who tells us to fear not, for he is with us wherever we are and whatever we are facing.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 We are now in Holy Week. Jesus has entered Jerusalem, looked around, got rid of the money-changers from the Temple, preached some more to the crowds and now wants to prepare for the Feast of Passover with his disciples.

Matthew chapter 26: 17 – 30

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Commentary

After the meal, according to John’s Gospel, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. (John 13:4-20) This was a sort of hands-on lesson for them about the importance of service and humility. Jesus explained that “If I, therefore, your master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.”

Another bit of wisdom that Jesus shared with his disciples that evening was the new commandment: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) This is where the word “maundy” came from. It is a derivation of the Latin word mandatum which means “commandment.”

The rest of the evening is a series of sad events. (Matthew 26:36-68) Jesus weeps and prays in the garden of Gethsemane. He is betrayed by Judas and arrested. He is put on trial before the Sanhedrin. They find him guilty of blasphemy. They beat him and curse him and tell him he should be put to death. Death will ultimately become his punishment, but that will be covered tomorrow in the Good Friday devotions.

Reflection

Just as we have seen Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was full of symbolism; the donkey, the palms, the chanting of the crowd, there is much symbolism in his actions when he instituted the Lord’s Supper.

The Passover meal itself is full of symbolism for Jews re-enacting the time of their delivery from slavery in Egypt. The preparations the disciples made for the meal would have included salt water – reminding them of the tears they shed when they were slaves; bitter herbs – symbol of the bitterness of slavery; unleavened bread – reminding them of how this meal was to be eaten with the prospect of having to leave at a moment’s notice; the bunch of hyssop – with which the doorposts were daubed with the blood of the sacrificial lamb. These along with cups of wine would be laid on the table.

 

Jesus uses the symbols of the Passover meal and gives them new meaning.

The whole purpose of the Passover Feast was to commemorate deliverance. Through the breaking of bread Jesus was claiming to be the great liberator. He liberates us from the fears that haunt us and the sins which will not let us go.

Through drinking the wine, symbol of the blood of the lamb which kept the people of Israel safe, Jesus was claiming to be the Saviour. He saves us from our sins and gives us safety both now and for eternity.

 

Jesus uses one word which enshrines the whole of Jesus’ work and his intention. The word Covenant. A covenant is a relationship between two people. But here Jesus is talking of a relationship between God and every person. Because of his life, and above all his death, a new relationship now becomes possible between us and God.

 

Meditation

  1. An upper room did our Lord prepare     2. A lasting gift Jesus gave his own

For those he loved until the end;                 to share his bread, his loving cup;    

And his disciples still gather there              whatever burdens may bow us down

To celebrate their Risen Friend                   he by his cross shall lift us up.

3.And after supper he washed their feet      4. No end there is! We depart in peace;

For service, too, is sacrament;                     he loves beyond the uttermost;

In him our joy shall be made complete –     in every room in our Father’s house

Sent out to serve, as he was sent.                he will be there, as Lord and Host.

 Communion

Let us hear again the Good News of God’s love.

In the beginning the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

He was born in a stable and laid in a manger, God’s Son, frail and defenceless as a child.

He came to bring light to the world, but most preferred to walk in darkness.

He came bringing good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed – to proclaim the dawn of God’s kingdom.

He was tempted as we are, yet did not fall, choosing the way of service and sacrifice to redeem the world.

He revealed the extent of God’s love, offering life to all who believe in him.

Betrayed, denied, abandoned, rejected, he walked the way of the cross to the end, enduring the agony of death on the cross, the weight of human sin on his shoulders, the awfulness of isolation from God his Father.

But he rose again, triumphant over death, his love victorious over evil and hatred.

Therefore God exalted him to the heights, giving him a name above all others, so that everyone in heaven and on earth might bend the knee in worship, each tongue acknowledging him as King of kings and Lord of lords, to God’s eternal glory.

Our Lord Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread, which, after thanking God for it, he broke, saying,’ This is my body, broken for you; do this in memory of me.’

Jesus took a cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.’

As we follow Jesus actions and command let us give thanks to God before we eat and drink.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ, we remember today that you broke bread with the one who was to betray you, and shared wine with the one who was to deny you, enduring anguish in Gethsemane and agony on the cross for those in their different ways would fail you in your hour of need. You gave your life, not because any deserved it but because nothing could destroy your love or stifle your purpose.

We rejoice today that you invite us in turn to break bread and share a cup, even though we fail you as much as any. You died for us, not because we deserve it but because your love is just as sure and your purpose just as certain.

We will eat and drink and marvel afresh at all you have done for us, and all you continue to do and all you will yet do in the days ahead.

Though we do not deserve your goodness and can never merit your mercy, we pray with confidence, knowing that however much we fail may you, you will not fail us.

For devotion and mercy beyond our imagining we give you heartfelt thanks.

Amen.

Before he stepped out into the darkness of Gethsemane for the sake of the future, Jesus, knowing very well what he was to do, took bread, gave thanks and broke it, then said to his disciples, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

The body of our Lord, Jesus Christ which was broken for you, eat and be thankful.

Take the bread and eat it, and make your own prayer of thanks to God.

Then Jesus took the cup, he gave thanks again to his heavenly Father and then gave it to his disciples, “Drink from this, all of you, this represents my blood shed for the forgiveness of sins. Do this to remember me.”

Take the cup and drink from it, thanking the Lord for what he has done for you and for his presence with you now.

 Let us pray

Loving God, we thank you once more that you have fed us with the bread of life; that you have given us to drink from the cup of fellowship. These have bound us together in Christian love, even though circumstances may separate us. Through this communion we have been made more aware of your great love for each one of us. Now we offer ourselves in service and witness to you and your kingdom. May we live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.

Hymn

A new commandment I give unto you,

That you love one another as I have loved you;

That you love one another as I have loved you.

By this shall all know you are my disciples:

If you have love one for another;

By this shall all know you are my disciples:

If you have love one for another.

Matthew tells us that after they had sung a hymn, Jesus and the disciples went out to the Mount of Olives to a place called Gethsemane where Jesus said this:

“Sit here while I pray. The sorrow in my heart is so great, it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me.

Father, I have shown your glory on earth; I have finished the work you gave me. I have given my disciples your message and the world…it hated them. Yet I don’t pray that they may be taken out of the world. I pray that they may be kept from evil.

Sleeping Peter? Can you not even keep awake for an hour? Peter, keep watch and pray. Don’t be drawn by temptation. The spirit is willing, but, oh, the flesh…the flesh is weak.

Father if it is possible…take this cup of suffering from me, but let it not be what I want, let is be what you want.

Are you still sleeping? Still taking your ease? The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to sinful people. Get up, let us go! Look here comes the one who is to betray me… “   

Let us share The Grace as we go to follow Jesus to the cross and beyond.

05 April 2020

Dear Friends,

Today being Palm Sunday our devotions are around the events of that poignant day in the life of our Lord. The lectionary reading takes us to Matthew’s account of the day.

If we had been meeting at Iford church as usual today, our augmented choir would have been singing a new Cantata ‘Festival of Faith’ by J.M. Martin. It is a celebration of life based on the ministry, passion and resurrection of Jesus.

I have included the words of the item ‘Festival of Palms’ in our devotions for today.

I would suggest that during this week it is desirable that you read the complete Passion narrative, as part of your preparation for Easter.

If you read Matthew chapter 26 from verse 14 right through to the end of chapter 27 you will cover Matthew’s account of the most significant week in history. I will be producing devotional material for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday separately. This for all churches will be the most strange and in many ways difficult Easter any of us have experienced. Nonetheless God is with us and he will bless us as we remain faithful to him and one another.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Sunday 05 April

Palm Sunday – We follow Jesus on the road into Jerusalem at the start of this holy week.

Reading: Matthew 21 verses 1 – 11 Jesus enters Jerusalem

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road. While others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!” ; “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” ; “Hosanna in the highest!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

‘Festival of Palms’ by J.M. Martin

Lift up your heads ye ancient doors!

Throw wide the gates and greet the Lord!

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Prepare the way with palms of praise!

Lay down your garments; clear the way!

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Sing hosanna to the King of kings!

Come children wave your palms on high!

Lift up your voices to the sky!

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Rejoice, let the gates of Zion ring!

Each voice raised in a grateful offering.

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Sing hosanna to the King of kings!

Ride on, ride on, great David’s Son!

Great is the work that God has done!

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Come, long-awaited Prince of Peace!

Make every war and conflict cease!

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Sing hosanna to the King of kings!

If you know the tune to the hymn ‘All creatures of our God and King’

You could even sing the above!!

Meditation

Lord, when I see you on that little donkey,

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I can’t laugh, because it seems so out of place,

and I can’t cry because is seems such useless sentiment.

I ought, I suppose, to shout “Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!”

And I will, for I see this donkey ride from the other side of Easter.

You rode that little creature to show what kind of king you are,

Never forcing, never overpowering, never threatening.

But you approach us even now in the humblest of ways

So that we may receive you as you truly are

Our living Lord and Saviour.

D. Cleverley Ford

A Reflection

I wonder if you remember the story of the Little Red Hen. It’s a children’s story but makes a valid point. “Who will help me sow my seed?” Asks the chicken. “Not I”, comes the answer. “Who will help me reap the harvest?” “Not I”, comes the answer again. “Who will help me grind the flour…knead the dough…bake the loaf?” “Not I…not I…not I.” Then, finally the chicken asks the most important question, “Who will help me eat the bread?” and, immediately, a change of tune, “Me! Me! Me!”

It is a story about the fickleness of human nature. So often our help, friendship or loyalty depending on what is in it for us.

It was seen on that first Palm Sunday too as Jesus entered into Jerusalem to the acclaim of the crowds; only this time the story is in reverse.

It was as if by what Jesus was doing, he was saying, “Who will welcome me as king?” And the answer was “Me!” “Who wants to be part of the kingdom of God?” and again the answer is “Me!”

Yet just a few days later there comes perhaps the most important question, “Who will follow the way of the cross?” And the response of many is so different, “Not I!” Or to put it into their own words, “We have no king but Caesar. Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!”

Palm Sunday is a day that brings us the challenge of where our loyalty lies by asking the question, “How ready are we to follow Jesus when faith is demanding and the going gets tough?”

Thank God that Palm Sunday is also about the one who, despite how often we may change our tune, stays faithful to us to the point of death.

My song is love unknown

1. My song is love unknown,             2. Sometimes they strew his way,

My Saviour’s love to me,                        And his sweet praises sing;

Love to the loveless shown,                  Resounding all the day

That they might lovely be.                     Hosannas to their King.

O who am I                                               Then ‘Crucify’

That for my sake                                      Is all their breath,     

My Lord should take                               And for his death

Frail flesh, and die?                                  They thirst and cry.

3. They rise, and needs will have          4. Here might I stay and sing

My dear Lord made away;                          No story so divine;

A murderer they save,                                 Never was love, dear King,

The Prince of Life they slay.                        Never was grief like thine.

Yet cheerful he                                              This is my friend,

To suffering goes,                                         In whose sweet praise

That he his foes                                            I all my days

From thence might free.                             Could gladly spend.

A further reflection

They shouted “Hosanna!” We should be careful to see what this word means. Hosanna means Save now! It was the cry of people who were in distress to their king or their god. We see the phrase in Psalm 118 ‘O Lord, save us!’ So the phrase “Hosanna in the highest!” must mean, “Let even the angels on high cry to God, Save now!”

It may be that ‘Hosanna’ has lost some of its original meaning and has become a cry of welcome like ‘Hail!’; but essentially it is a people’s cry for deliverance and for help in time of trouble.

Perhaps “Hosanna” is an appropriate word to be used throughout the world in our prayers as we experience these uncertain and troubled times.

Prayers

Lord Jesus Christ, you came not as a king mighty in battle, but as the Prince of Peace; the promised deliverer, sent to heal and restore our broken world. So now we pray for peace and unity in this world for which you came.

Hosanna! Save now!

The news is dominated by the effect of the coronavirus in all parts of the globe; a reminder of our oneness as people of this planet and our vulnerability as human beings wherever we may live on it.

Everyone has been affected by the virus in one way or another; the curtailing of our social lives, the postponement of work and commercial activity, the symptoms experienced by growing numbers, the death of loved ones who have succumbed.

Lord, we need your healing for our broken world and we pray for everyone caught up in this pandemic.

Give particular protection we pray to those whose task it is to treat, nurse and care for the sick and the dying.

We pray for those who have volunteered to help their neighbours and community at this time of disruption and uncertainty. Thank you for their selfless actions and the inspiration they are to so many.

May we always be sure that you are with us in all the trials and tribulations of life, comforting us, guiding us and granting us your peace.

As we stop and think of your goodness to us, help us to appreciate you even more. Help us to remember that you are there for us, and for those around us as we seek to do your will and spread your good news.

Hosanna! Save now!

Hear our prayer offered in your name. Amen.

Lord, Jesus Christ, we claim to be your followers, and we declare that you are the Lord and King of our lives, but all too often our actions deny our words.

Forgive all the ways we fail you, through thought, word and deed. Forgive that sometimes we do not grasp the values of your kingdom. We want to bring honour to you, but sometimes we do the opposite. Lord Jesus, we come before your throne and throw ourselves upon your grace. We ask you to accept the service of our lives, despite our many faults. Rule in our hearts and use us for your glory. King of love, have mercy upon us. In your name we ask it. Amen.

May the grace our Lord, Jesus Christ; the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for ever. Amen

Dear Friends,
No doubt some of you, like me, found it very strange not to be in church last
Sunday for worship and fellowship. Instead, Doreen and I went for a walk over
Stanpit Marshes. That was strange too. People, with or without dogs, were
keeping their distance from one another, even the horses and swans were social
distancing from each other! Then we became aware of the burgeoning plant and
flower life and the birds twittering gaily in the tree tops and we were reminded
that underlying all the man-made and enforced directives the steady heart-beat
of nature continued undaunted. Such is the wonder of our creator God that
despite everything his purposes and will for us all will continue unabated.
Today we continue our Lenten journey with Jesus on his way to Jerusalem.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Sunday 29th March is the fifth Sunday of Lent. We continue our thoughts in
preparation for the events of Holy Week and Easter by following the lectionary
readings set for today.
Readings:
Romans Chapter 8: 6 – 11
In this passage Paul is drawing a contrast between two kinds of life. There is
the life which is dominated by sinful human nature; the life whose focus and
centre is self and the life that is dominated by the Spirit of God; the life that is
directed by following Jesus Christ and Spirit focused.
The mindset of the flesh is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life
and peace; the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit to
God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please
God.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the
Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he
does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of
sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him
who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in
you.
John Chapter 11:
Jesus hears of the illness of his friend Lazarus and only after waiting a couple
more days did he travel to the home of Mary and Martha (Lazarus’ sisters) only
to find that Lazarus had died and had been placed in a tomb. When he arrived
Jesus found that many people had come to comfort the sisters. He is met by
Martha who tells him in no uncertain terms…
Verse 21 “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will
live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?
“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
who was to come into the world.”
Martha calls her sister Mary who comes and tells Jesus the same thing…
Verse 32 “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
“Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept.
Verse 38 Jesus came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the
entrance. “Take away the stone,” Jesus said.
“But Lord,” said Martha, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been
there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory
of God?”
So they took away the stone. The Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you
that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the
benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a
cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Meditation: It was so weird – ‘Lazarus’ by Nick Fawcett
It was so weird, so unreal. At least that’s how it felt. And yet it happened!
I’d breathed my last, no question about that. After those long days of sickness, the pain growing, the strength failing; after those final terrible hours, sweat
pouring down my face, lungs gasping for air; at last came peace, darkness
closing about me, suddenly welcome though it had long been feared. An end to
the struggle, the battle nearly over.
For a moment I was a child again, comforted by my mother’s embrace, a youth running as wild as the wind, a man setting out afresh on life’s great adventure, a
father taking my child into my arms. And then rest.
The light went out, the flame extinguished, the game completed.
Only it wasn’t, for suddenly a voice summoned me back to the fray, sunshine
burst into the tomb, and consciousness returned.
No wonder they gasped, no wonder they swooned, no wonder they wept for joy,
for I who had been taken from them, I who had been dead, was alive!
And yes I thanked him, of course I did, once the confusion had cleared away,
but it took a while I can tell you. And even now just once in a while I wonder if
he really did me any favours for I know that one day I must face it all over again.
Yet it will be different then, very different, not just because I’ve been there
before and know there is nothing to fear, but because Jesus has shown me that
death is not so much the end as the beginning.
That’s why he raised me from the tomb. Not just to restore life, not simply to
defer death, but to point to a new birth, a resurrection which only he can bring.
He came back too, you know, back from the grave.
Three days in his tomb, long enough for decay to take hold, but he appeared to
Mary, to Peter, to the Apostles, to us all. And we know that even though we die
one day we shall live even as he lives now!
Some thoughts
One of the huge questions about this story is why didn’t Jesus immediately go
to his friend when he heard that he was ill. He could have healed him but now
he had died.
When you have gone to God for help which you feel you desperately need and
nothing happens; when your heart is breaking over something and you need
God to intervene but the heavens are silent, it is tough to understand, tough to
accept, tough to get a grip on.
But what this passage is telling us is that a delay in answer like that is not a sign of God’s indifference or his failure to hear. It is a sign of his love. The delay
will help us. It is for our sake. And it is so that Jesus Christ may be glorified
through it.
Jesus deliberately delayed going to Mary and Martha because he loved them
and knew this would strengthen their faith as they learned the ultimate outcome which God would work through him.
That is a hard lesson to accept. I have struggled over this many times myself.
But it works – something we expect and long for does not occur, and then –
surprise, surprise – sometime after we think that everything is lost and there is
no hope, God does something remarkable that totally reverses our view.
And isn’t that what we are reminded of as we approach Holy Week and Easter?
When the followers of Jesus experienced the events of Good Friday they too
thought everything was lost only to find a wonderful surprise three days later.

Now, one last thought: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead not only as a
testimony to those who lived in that day, but also as a witness to us. It’s a kind
of a reminder of God’s promise to us. You see, just days after raising Lazarus
from the dead, Jesus was going to go to Jerusalem, be put on trial, be beaten and
whipped, and then die on the cross. He was to be buried… and then He was
going to rise from the dead. But… if that’s true why bother with Lazarus? Why
raise Lazarus from the dead?
In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus was allowing us a preview of what he’ll
do for us. Lazarus’ resurrection is a proof of the promise found in I Corinthians
15. “Behold! I tell you a mystery. For this perishable body must put on the
imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the
perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then
shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in
victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting?”
That promise is reflected in the resurrection of Lazarus, and that is his
testimony. That was his testimony till the day he died.
When Jesus raised Lazarus it was a taster of what God would do, through Jesus, on that first Easter morning and that was a foretaste of our own resurrection.
Prayers
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we praise you that you are with us not
simply when life is easy and carefree, but in the darkness, the emptiness and
those times when we feel lost and uncertain.
Though you have never promised that life would be easy, without pain or
problems, you have assured us that you will be with us.
We praise you that no matter who we are or what we are facing, your almighty
presence never leaves us.
We praise you for your gentle understanding of our doubts and fears.
We praise you most for Jesus Christ and for the way that, in him, you shared our
suffering; that you are not a God who is content to sit on the side-lines of life.
In Jesus you entered into our world of pain and loss. We praise you that he is
the only one who can say that he does know how we feel and that he fully
understands what life costs us.
We remember how he began life in the poverty of a stable. Through his life he
was dependent on others for friendship and food; for anointing and a donkey; for a cross and a tomb.  Lord, help us to praise him even when we are alone or afraid, rejected or
overwhelmed, lost or frustrated, confused or just hurting.
Help us to praise him, for he enters even our pain.
This we pray in his name. Amen.

We pray at this time for those directly concerned for our health, healing and
well being; for all doctors and nurses and all those involved in the National
Health Service. Give all who care for others, we pray, a true sense of their own
value and the importance of the work they do. This we ask in Jesus’ name.
Amen.
Loving God, we praise you for the bundle of experiences that we call life. We
thank you that you never intended us to journey through life in isolation. You
created us to be open to you and to each other. From the first it was your
intention that we should live in trust and fellowship with each other. But we
find that life is not like that now. We are separated from each other and find
fellowship difficult and we are missing each other terribly. Assure us of your
presence with each one of us, even in our isolation and the bonds of love that
are still there because of our united faith in Jesus Christ. May the ties of faith
help us to see that we are still bound to each other as well as to you. Reassure us of
that love from which we can never be parted. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

Let us pray that God will sustain us, our family and friends and all in our church
through these days.  Amen 

Sunday March 22nd is the fourth Sunday in Lent, known as Mothering Sunday and so the devotions are around this theme.

Readings:

Isaiah 49 verses 13 – 16

Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

John 19 verses 25 – 27

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother. “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, the disciple took her into his home.

When you thought I wasn’t looking (by a child)

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator

And I wanted to paint another one

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I saw you feed a stray cat

And I thought it was good to be kind to animals

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I saw you make my favourite cake for me

And I knew that little things are special things

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I heard you say a prayer

And I believed there is a God I could always talk to

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I felt you kiss me good night

And I felt loved

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I saw tears come from your eyes

And I learnt that sometimes things hurt

But it’s all right to cry

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I saw that you cared

And I wanted to be everything that I could be

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I looked…and wanted to say

Thanks for all the things I saw

When you thought I wasn’t looking

Some thoughts:

Today we honour mothers, past and present. Some tough, some sweet, some compassionate, some passionate, etc.

A London editor submitted to Winston Churchill for his approval a list of all those who had been Churchill’s teachers. Churchill returned the list with this comment: “You have omitted to mention the greatest of my teachers—my Mother.”

Thomas Edison said, “I did not have my mother long, but she cast over me an influence which has lasted all my life. The good effects of her early training I can never lose. If it had not been for her appreciation and her faith in me at a critical time in my experience, I should never likely have become an inventor. I was always a careless boy, and with a mother of different mental calibre, I should have turned out badly. But her firmness, her sweetness, her goodness, were potent powers to keep me in the right path. My mother was the making of me. The memory of her will always be a blessing to me.”

Mum’s eh? Where would be without them? And their thoughts for their children never change.

Michelangelo’s mother could well have said, “Mike, can’t you paint on walls like other children? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get that stuff off the ceiling?”

Columbus’ mother could well have said. “I don’t care what you’ve discovered, Christopher, you still could have written!”

We all have so much to thank our mothers for, but most of all we should thank God for our mothers and the contribution they have made to our lives.

You will know that way back in the 1600’s young men and women who were apprentices or servants returned home on Mothering Sunday, bringing small gifts like trinkets or a ‘mothering cake’. One kind of mothering cake was the simnel cake, but because of the Lenten fast it had to keep to Easter. Gifts made in appreciation of mothers.

On Mothering Sunday there is also the thought of the church being like our ‘mother’.

Some say the ceremonies of the fourth Sunday in Lent were to venerate the Mother of Jesus, Mary. Some felt that it was Mother Church which was more important and custom began to dictate that a person visit the church of his/her baptism on this day.

With the suspension of services in our ‘Mother Church’ at present, we are of course unable to visit. But it is important to recognise the part that our church plays in our life. The church is always the people who enjoy fellowship there.

And the fellowship we enjoy is because of Jesus and what he has done for us.

We continue this fellowship with each other as we find ways to keep in touch, to support each other and encourage one another in these days.

Prayers

Gracious God, you know what it is to love your children – to watch over them tenderly, anxiously, proudly and constantly. You know what this means, for you have called us your children, and you care for each of us as deeply as a mother cares for her child. So on this Mothering Sunday we bring you our prayers for all entrusted with the responsibility of motherhood.

We pray for mothers the world over, recognising both the joys and demands they experience – the privileges and pressures, hopes and fears, pleasure and pain that motherhood entails. Equip them with the love, wisdom and strength they need.

We remember too those who are denied the joy of motherhood and for those for whom Mothering Sunday brings pain rather than pleasure, hurt rather than happiness.

Loving God we thank you for this day of saying thank you. For mothers and motherhood, for children and families, accept our grateful praise.

And a prayer for these exceptional times

God our refuge, we seek your protection. Protect the vulnerable from illness: those who are old and frail, weakened by years and struggle; those who care for others, expending energy and love; those for whom inability to work means hardship and poverty. Protect us from the greed and suspicion which snatches at our own security stock-piling and panic-buying that deprives others of the necessities of life. Protect us from the short-sightedness which sees the germ in our own eyes and ignores the plagues of hunger, war and violence that take so many lives each day. Protect us from the isolation that leads to loneliness and despair denying the interconnectedness that links us with one another. God our refuge in our panic and fear may we not lose sight of our common humanity that makes us one people in you.

Amen.

 

In usual and normal circumstances the following Worship would take place – but sadly services are suspended until further notice due to the CoronaVirus.

Every Sunday morning at 10:30am FAMILY WORSHIP

The Junior Church assembles at 10:15am to share in Family Worship before joining their group activities

HOLY COMMUNION is celebrated on the first Sunday of each month at the Morning Service

CAFÉ STYLE WORSHIP (Coffee, Cake & Chat) from 6-7pm on the first Sunday of each month

EARLY BIRDS (0-10yr olds) at 09:30am on every third Sunday of each month

PRAYER & BIBLE STUDY MEETINGS 7:30pm fourth Tuesday of the month – currently postponed.

ELDERS’ MEETING – Alternate Months     

CHURCH MEETING – As arranged

BAPTISM, MARRIAGES AND FUNERALS

BAPTISM, MARRIAGES AND FUNERALS BY ARRANGEMENT WITH THE CHURCH SECRETARY

Secretary:  Mrs Brenda McCarron, Tel: 01202 423786   Email:  brendamc958@gmail.com

CHURCH MAGAZINE

Our Church magazine the ‘Messenger’ is published six times a year.  The Messenger is very popular and includes messages from the Elders and Church Secretary, a pastoral report, details of weddings and funerals, a diary of the next month’s events, contributions from the congregation and much, much more!

The Editor can be contacted on: olwenadams@hotmail.com