Sunday 26 April 2020 : Third Sunday of Easter

Welcome and Call to Worship
Good morning friends – and I bid you all a very warm welcome to this service from Glenburn Parish Church

Although we are currently unable to see each other – to sit with one another — to hear one another’s voices – we do come together
as a Christian community – on a journey of faith
aware that this community is set within a geographical community, which in turn is set within the nations across the world
all of which are communities of people who are travelling through times of deep concern and great uncertainty

But as Christian people – we hold firm to the truth that “God is with us”.
We focus our thinking now through our Call to Worship, which today is in the form of a song.
The words are printed below and you can hear them sung by clicking on the link below the words

Let us worship God
Jesus, name above all names,
beautiful Saviour, glorious Lord
Emmanuel, God is with us
blessed Redeemer, living Word

Praise
Our first hymn is the version of the 23rd Psalm arranged by Stuart Townend

The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me lie in pastures green.
He leads me by the still, still waters,
His goodness restores my soul.
and I will trust in You alone,
and I will trust in You alone,
for Your endless mercy follows me,
your goodness will lead me home.
He guides my ways in righteousness,
and He anoints my head with oil,
and my cup, it overflows with joy,
I feast on His pure delights.
and I will trust ……..

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 of Approach, Confession, Thanksgiving & Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray

Lord God
we are certainly living through difficult days
times like we have never experienced before
science and technical issues beyond our understanding
instructions which constrain our activities
we wonder how much longer this situation will continue
when it will come to an end
when life might return to what we would recognise as normality
and though we are hesitant and so ashamed to admit it
we sometimes even wonder where you are Lord, in all of this – and why it is happening as such thoughts swirl around in our minds
forgive us when in darker moments – our doubts so dominate our thinking
that we do not realise and accept in faith

that we should not be ashamed of our questions and our doubts
but that you can use them – to lead us into a fuller understanding of the mysteries of faith
that by working through them – we can experience a deeper sense of your love help us to remember that after the glory of the Resurrection and the joy of Easter
doubt and uncertainty were still around – as seen in
Thomas – who wanted physical and personal proof on which to reaffirm his belief
also in the believers – who did not recognise the Risen Jesus as he walked with them
but for all of them at that time – and still for us today
it was by travelling through the darkness of their doubts
that they came into the radiant light of faith

Gracious Lord
as we look back over the years and on our own journey
as through our doubts – shared with you – we have grown in faith
we realise we have much for which to thank you – as we recognise
the blessings of each day
the gifts of love – shared in giving and receiving
the peace found in your presence
the assurance that your unfailing love and mercy still continue – fresh as the morning and as sure as the sunrise

Lord – we put our hope in you and with the Psalmist we can truly say
“I love the Lord, for he hears me
he listens to my prayers – he listens to me every time I call to him
the Lord is merciful and good – our God is compassionate
the Lord protects the helpless – when I was in danger he saved me
be confident my heart – because the Lord has been good to me”

(Psalm 116 : verses 1,2 5-7) Good News Bible

These prayers we bring in Jesus’ name and we continue to pray in his words – as we say

Our Father, who art in Heaven: hallowed be Thy name, thy kingdom come : thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread and forgive us our debts : as we forgive our debtors
and lead us not into temptation : but deliver us from evil
For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory : for ever.
AMEN

Scripture Reading : 1 Peter 1 : verses 3 to 9 (The Message)
3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.
6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.
AMEN

Praise
Our next hymn is “My life flows on in endless song”
I haven’t been able to find a sung version in exactly the same format as our hymnbooks use – so the version below has an additional verse and the chorus is only sung twice. The singer is Audrey Assad

My life flows on in endless song; above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation;

Through all the tumult and the strife: I hear the music ringing;
it finds an echo in my soul — how can I keep from singing?

What tho’ my joys and comforts die? : the Lord my Saviour liveth;
what tho’ the darkness gather round? : songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that refuge clinging;
since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin; I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths : since first I learned to love it,

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing;
all things are mine since I am his — how can I keep from singing?
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that refuge clinging;
since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

Scripture Reading : Luke 24 : verses 13 to 35 (NIV)
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 recognising 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 further.
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 recognised 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 recognised by them when he broke the bread.
AMEN
Thanks be to God for his Word – shared among us today

REFLECTION
The resurrection of Jesus – the empty tomb – was a truly momentous event
it caused puzzlement amongst some people – and the disbelief of others
it prompted the need for some folk to check it out for themselves
it caused much chat and conversation
it excited some people and fired them up to go and tell others

We don’t know who they were – but we read that two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus and they were deep in conversation about what had happened. No doubt it was the animated and excited conversation of two folk anxious to share their story with others in that village.
They were so engaged in their conversation that when Jesus joined them to walk with them – they didn’t recognise him.
Jesus’ enquiry about the subject of their intense conversation elicited a response – initially of surprise that this companion on the road had not heard of what had happened recently in Jerusalem – which was followed by a detailed account of the events.
Within their explanation of the events, the two travellers indicated that people anticipated that proof of the resurrection would be in seeing Jesus in person.
However, Jesus revealed who he was in a quite different way – as he “explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets”.
And later, as the group of three neared Emmaus and Jesus was about to travel onwards – he accepted the invitation of the others to rest overnight with them
As they all sat to have a meal – it became clear to them who Jesus was – as he took bread – blessed it – broke it – and shared it with them.

A lovely and familiar story – yes it is ! But it does leave us with some questions to ponder.

• do we recognise Jesus when we encounter him in the places or situations which we least expect ?
• do we anticipate Jesus being present in the ordinary things of life and not just in the sacred ? As William Barclay put it
“It is not only at the communion table we can be with Christ
we can be with him at the dinner table too”
• when we are in a place where our hopes have been shattered and we can’t see through the fog of disappointment and despair — do we believe that God accepts us as we are – that he is still there and is walking with us ?

In these days of challenge and continuing uncertainty – may we draw inspiration from the words of Peter (1 Peter 1 : 3-5)

3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!

and as we reflect on what happened as the two followers of Jesus walked to Emmaus – may these words of an African-American spiritual be our prayer;

I want Jesus to walk with me;
I want Jesus to walk with me;
all along my pilgrim way
oh, I want Jesus to walk with me

In my trials, Lord, walk with me
in my trials, Lord, walk with me
when my heart is almost breaking
oh, I want Jesus to walk with me

When I’m troubled, Lord, walk with me
when I’m troubled, Lord, walk with me
when my head is bowed in sorrow
oh, I want Jesus to walk with me
AMEN

Prayers for Others and for Ourselves
God has gifted every one of us with the ability to feel and express emotions – which come into play as we see and react to situations around us – situations which affect the lives of others and our own lives.
It must be true that there are few, if any, people who are not affected in some way by the current situation due to the Covid-19 virus – and so these prayers today are based on emotions and feelings.
I cannot claim to have included every emotion or feeling in people’s thoughts – but those I have included are presented in a loosely structured way – which I hope encourages and supports you to develop your personal prayers – as you share your deepest thoughts, feelings and emotions with God

Let us pray

Heavenly Father
long ago the Psalmist observed that
“you know everything I do and from far away you understand all my thoughts” (Psalm 139 : 2) GNB
so dear Lord
as we sit now in the quiet of our homes – for this time of reflection
as we carry these reflections into the days to follow
we bring to you some of the feelings and emotions which come to us and surge through our minds in these days
and we do so – in the assurance that you know and understand our thoughts and concerns
knowing that Jesus demonstrated this – as he met, healed and blessed people during his earthly ministry

Feelings and Emotions in the present and for the future
THANKFULNESS
for all that is being done to care for and treat people suffering from the virus
for all that is being done to protect people from catching the virus
for all who have recovered from the virus
for all that is being done to understand the virus and develop effective treatments
for everyone who fulfils the wide variety of roles designated as “key workers”
for every initiative and everyone working in the charitable and voluntary sectors
for every act of compassion, love, respect and generosity

ISOLATION & LONELINESS
due to the restrictions on movement and meeting with others
due to the cancellation of valued and enjoyed regular weekly events
due to being unable to have visitors in our homes
due to days merging one into the next – with little difference and much monotony

WORRY
about employment, income and finance
about physical and mental health and wellbeing of self and of loved ones
about help and support in situations of emergency

FEAR
about the future and what it may hold for us
about the future and what it may hold for young people in our families and society
about dying – without the comforting presence of people much loved

SADNESS & GRIEF
for those people we have lost by death and whom we have not been able to mourn as we would wish

SYMPATHY & COMPASSION
for people who are not able to be with their loved ones in the closing moments of their lives
for medical and caring staff who fulfil this important and supportive role – in the enforced absence of the person’s family
for people who face death alone
for families who have lost loved ones
for people who have not been able to attend funerals to grieve and express sympathy

FRUSTRATION
in addition to the positive emotions we have thought about – we must confess that we do give into other emotions – of which we are not proud – and for which we ask your forgiveness
as we grumble about waiting in queues – there only for the protection of people – ourselves included
as we complain about lack of stock in the goods we wish to purchase
as we moan about the attitudes and actions of other people

Merciful God
we ask that you would accept these prayers for others and for ourselves
and that as we bring them to you
the people for whom we have prayed – might have a real sense of your never-failing presence, peace and love

This and all our prayers we offer in Jesus’ name

AMEN

Praise
Our closing hymn is “Christ is alive, Let Christians sing”
This is an organ instrumental accompaniment – recorded in Childwall Valley Methodist Church, Liverpool – please raise your voices in praise

Christ is alive! Let Christians sing : His cross stands empty to the sky.
let streets and homes with praises ring – love drowned in death shall never die.

Christ is alive! No longer bound to distant years in Palestine,
but saving, healing, here and now and touching every place and time.

In every insult, rift and war – where colour, scorn, or wealth divide,
Christ suffers still, yet loves the more and lives, where even hope has died.

Women and men in age and youth can feel the Spirit – hear the call
and find the way, the life, the truth revealed in Jesus, freed for all

Christ is alive and comes to bring – good news to this and every age,
till earth and sky and ocean ring – with joy, with justice, love and praise.

Blessing
Into God’s loving care and protection
we commit ourselves and all those for whom we have prayed
and may the blessing of Almighty God
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be with us all – now and always
AMEN