Faithful Friend – Worship @ Home Sunday, 09 May 2021

Unknown artist

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Elizabeth Turner

Song: Guide me, O thou great Jehovah

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven,
Feed me now and evermore.

Open thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream shall flow;
Let the fiery. cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer,
Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death and Hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.

William Williams (1717-91)

Song: As the deer pants for the water

As the deer pants for the water,
So my soul longs after You.
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You.

You alone are my strength, my shield,
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You.

I want You more than gold or silver,
Only You can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy-giver
And the apple of my eye.

You’re my Friend and You are my Brother,
Even though You are a King.
I love You more than any other,
So much more than anything.

Martin J. Nystrom.
© 1983 Restoration Music Ltd./Adm. by Sovereign Music UK.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

Amen.

Bible Reading: Psalm 143

A psalm of David.

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
    listen to my plea!
    Answer me because you are faithful and righteous.
Don’t put your servant on trial,
    for no one is innocent before you.
My enemy has chased me.
    He has knocked me to the ground
    and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave.
I am losing all hope;
    I am paralyzed with fear.
I remember the days of old.
    I ponder all your great works
    and think about what you have done.

I lift my hands to you in prayer.
    I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Interlude

Come quickly, Lord, and answer me,
    for my depression deepens.
Don’t turn away from me,
    or I will die.

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,
    for I am trusting you.
Show me where to walk,
    for I give myself to you.

Rescue me from my enemies, Lord;
    I run to you to hide me.

10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
    on a firm footing.

11 For the glory of your name, O Lord, preserve my life.
    Because of your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress.

12 In your unfailing love, silence all my enemies
    and destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

A Faithful Friend

Dog lovers praise the faithful nature of this animal species. Extolled as ‘Man’s (or woman’s!) best friend’, a dog’s faithful watchfulness of his or her owner’s movements lead them to become attuned to whatever is needed in the moment.

Their owner is under threat? Just let that intruder or assailant mess with him or her and the dog will fly to their owner’s defence. If their bark is not deterrent enough, their teeth in a tender place will be!

Their owner needs a ball or stick to be retrieved? They will reclaim it at the double! What – their owner has pretended to throw an object? Ha! Nice try, they’re not that easily fooled! Patiently the dog remains watching, waiting and ready to go at the appropriate time.

Their owner voices their troubles, woes, anger, frustration, whatever and the dog simply listens, neither sitting in judgement or reproach, and nuzzles solidarity and presence with their owner.

Their owner is unwell? A dog senses something is wrong and stays close by their beloved owner, offering them companionship in their hour of need.

Their owner is upset? The soulful look in the eyes of a dog shows sympathy, understanding, and unwavering support.

Their owner is happy? Then nothing makes them happier!

All that is prized about a dog in a good relationship with their owner should also be evident in our relationships with people. That same careful attentiveness to others, willingness to serve, patience, listening concern, support, and festal spirit should show up in our attitudes and actions toward others whether they are family, friends, fellow human beings, even foes!

As children of God, he wants that level of connection and engagement to be in our relationship with him.  God is faithful to us; he is attentive to our heart’s cry, knowing our every movement. He goes with us, willing that we would notice him in our midst and choose to align ourselves to his good ways. In being guided by him, we would experience personal as well as social fulfilment, as only God knows us and the community in which we dwell so fully, that he can tailor his blessings for the fit of all concerned.

But getting to live in such a positive, happy state of being can only come as we orient ourselves to wanting to know and do the will of God. Doing God’s will is also the best way to improve our connection with people. As it is, relating well to our families can be challenge enough; as for foes – that likely tops the list of improbabilities, that’s if we even had a mind to try!

In Psalm 143, its author David is in a desperate state. Hounded by his enemy, he admits to feeling depleted in every sense. He feels physically and spiritually faint; out of reserves (v.4). However, David does one thing right: he interrupts his litany of woe with the statement:

“And yet I can’t forget the days of old,
the days I’ve heard so much about”

Psalm 143:5

David is remembering lessons from the Bible as a boy, when he was exposed to the stories of God in the history of his people. Remembering the interventional power of God to awesome effect is the reviver that he needs to help him move forward (v.5 &6). It is at this point that David puts what he has just said into action and meditates on God.

How long he dwells in that state we do not know, but long enough to enable him to see that without God there is no hope. It is God’s voice that ignites hope, ‘I trust in You’, his face that restores life ‘otherwise, I’ll die and be like all those who have gone to the grave’, and his spirit which imparts energy and purpose:

‘Teach me how I should walk,
for I offer my soul up to You.’ (v.7 & 8).

It would be the same for us, if we took the time to remember and to reflect on all that we have heard, learned and experienced of God in times past from Sunday school, Bible Studies and Sermons we clearly recall.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 we read:

‘Celebrate always, pray constantly, and give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in. (This is God’s will for all of you in Jesus the Anointed)’.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-1

Circumstances of all varieties, and challenging ones especially, are best navigated with reference to God; drawing closer to him keeps our spirits from capsizing. Notice that this verse tells us it is God’s will that we ‘celebrate’ (remember what God has done in times past), ‘pray constantly and give thanks to God.’

I don’t know if, in watching a film on DVD, you’ve ever looked at the additional features that are often available. It’s possible to watch the film with a narrator explaining all the visual things that happen throughout the film. This is especially helpful to someone who is blind. Some important clues to the story of the film are only enacted and not voiced, and without the narration, a blind person would miss out on those details.

It is also possible to watch the film with the director explaining why he chose to portray a particular scene in a certain way, and what he hoped to communicate by doing so. Or he might discuss the nuances in his various actors’ characters, how they played off one another to highlight the pathos or tension of the story. It’s all very interesting; not that I have ever watched a whole film in this way as it’s a lot of extra listening for me which I find quite exhausting.

The point I want to make here is that, if you think about the act of praying constantly as you go about your daily life, God the Holy Spirit would help you to see the circumstances through the director’s eyes. But more than that, he would give you the wisdom, the courage, the strength to go on. He would help you to discern God’s will for your life as it unfolds.

There are times in our lives when the way ahead is dark and frightening, and though we’re sure that is the way of God’s leading, we don’t like what is in front of us and we’d really rather not go on. Why is God doing this to us? we ask ourselves. That is why we need to keep on praying, keep on remembering and meditating on God’s word, so that we pave the route ahead with one brick of trust after another.

Psalm 23 reminds us that when we go through dark times, not only is God with us, but he has weapons to fend off the marauding attacks of wild animals along the way. Psalm 139 reminds us that darkness is not too dark for God, for to him it is as light. And together, hand in hand, step by step with him we will get through, and have cause to rejoice in the goodness of God throughout those times and in all times.

God’s Holy Spirit is a faithful friend who loyally guides us for the ‘sake of [God’s] name and the good of [God’s] reputation’ (Psalm143 v.11) . He won’t leave us in the dark but will walk with us and provide the narrative that we need that will keep us putting one foot in front of the other, because of his great love for us. Having such a friend as he is the very best companion we could ever have, especially as in relationship with him we have a friend not just for life but for eternity. Is that a friendship you have claimed for yourself? If not, why not take that step of faith today, you won’t regret it.

Chorus: If on my soul…

If on my soul a trace of sin remaineth,
If on my hands a stain may yet be seen;
If one dark thought a wearied mind retaineth,
O wash me, Lord, till every part be clean.
For I would live that men may see thyself in me,
I would in faith ascend thy holy hill,
And with my thoughts in tune with thy divinity,
Would learn how best to do thy holy will.

Prayer

Father God, we thank you for loving, faithful friends, who have walked alongside us in joyful times and trying situations – offering us comfort, strength, companionship and love.

We recognise that Jesus lived this way during his time on earth, demonstrating faithful love to his disciples, and teaching them to love the same way.

Thank you for giving us your Spirit, to be your presence with us in our daily lives. May we learn to sense his presence and lean on him whatever comes our way.

And as we experience his comforting presence, may we offer that same sense of comfort and strength to our own friends and family.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Song: I want to serve the purpose of God

I want to serve the purpose of God
In my generation.
I want to serve the purpose of God
While I am alive.
I want to give my life
For something that will last forever.
Oh, l delight, I delight to do Your will.

I want to build with silver and gold
In my generation.
I want to build with silver and gold
While I am alive.
I want to give my life
For something that will last forever.
Oh, l delight, I delight to do Your will.

What is on Your heart?
Tell me what to do;
Let me know Your will
And I will follow You.
(Repeat)

I want to see the kingdom of God
In my generation.
I want to see the kingdom of God
While I am alive.
I want to live my life
For something that will last forever.
Oh, I delight, I delight to do Your will.

I want to see the Lord come again
In my generation.
I want to see the Lord come again
While I am alive.
I want to give my life
For something that will last forever.
Oh l delight, I delight to do Your will.

Mark Altrogge.
© 1982 People of Destiny International/Word Music
Adm. by CopyCare.

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Posted in Worship | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A transforming Spirit – Worship @ Home Sunday, 02 May 2021

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Steven Turner

Song: God who touchest Earth …

God who touchest earth with beauty,
Make my heart anew;
With they Spirit recreate me
Pure and strong and true.
Like thy springs and running waters,
Make me crystal pure;
Like thy rocks of towering grandeur,
Make me strong and sure.

Like thy dancing waves in sunlight,
Make me glad and free;
Like the straightness of the pine trees
Let me upright be.
Like the arching of the heavens,
Lift my thoughts above;
Turn my dreams to noble action,
Ministries of love.

Like the birds that soar while singing,
Give my heart a song;
May the music of thanksgiving
Echo clear and strong.
God who touchest earth with beauty,
Make my heart anew;
Keep me ever by thy Spirit
Pure and strong and true.

Mary Susan Edgar (1889-1973)

Song: Lord, I come to you

Lord, I come to you,
Let my heart be changed, renewed,
Flowing from the grace
That I found in You.
And Lord, I’ve come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the power of Your love.

Hold me close,
Let Your love surround me.
Bring me near, draw me to Your side.
And as I wait
I’ll rise up like the eagle,
And I will soar with You,
Your Spirit leads me on
In the power of Your love.

Lord, unveil my eyes,
Let me see You face to face,
The knowledge of Your love
As You live in me.
Lord, renew my mind
As Your will unfolds in my life,
In living every day
By the power of Your love.

Geoff Bullock.
© 1992 Word Music/Adm. by CopyCare.

Song: All over the world…

All over the world the Spirit is moving,
All over the world as the prophet said it would be;
All over the world there’s a mighty revelation
Of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

All over His church God’s Spirit is moving,
All over His church as the prophet said it would be;
All over His church there’s a mighty revelation
Of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Right here in this place the Spirit is moving,
Right here in this place as the prophet said it would be;
Right here in this place there’s a mighty revelation
Of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Roy Turner.
© 1984 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music.

Bible Reading

22 ‘Therefore say to the Israelites, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: it is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.

24 ‘“For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

Ezekiel 36:22-28 NLT

Prayer

Holy God, as we come before you this morning, we pray that you would speak to our hearts and minds about what you wish to do in us and through us.

May we be ready and willing to respond to what you have to say, so that we may bring honour to your name and show people the way to Jesus. Amen

A Transforming Spirit

Introduction

On 3 December 1967 Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant on Louis Washkansky  at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, using techniques developed by Norman Shumway and Richard Lower. Adrian Kantrowitz performed the first paediatric heart transplant on 6 December 1967 at Maimonides Hospital (now Maimonides Medical Center) in Brooklyn, New York, barely three days later. Shumway (widely regarded as the father of heart transplantation) performed the first adult heart transplant in the United States on 6 January 1968 at Stanford University Hospital.[1]

D Dinneen~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). – CC BY‑SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1393699

None of the patients (who would all have died without the operation) survived very long. However, over the succeeding decades, advances in anti-rejection drugs, donor matching and supporting technologies have led to higher success rates and survival times longer than 15 years.

Surgery on the heart and its arteries was not new. Throughout the 19th century surgeons performed operations on the pericardium, which surrounds and protects the heart. In 1895 Axel Cappelen operated on a bleeding coronary artery in a 24-year-old stab victim. Over the next 60 years, increasingly complex procedures were developed, extending the lives of countless patients.[2] My own father received a pacemaker in 2018, to ensure his heart kept a regular beat.

Skilled surgeons can replace heart valves, bypass diseased arteries, insert stents in blocked blood vessels. But despite all these clever techniques, there are still patients whose hearts are so weak that the only means to save their lives is a new heart.

Israel’s heart disease

When Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt, they soon got tired of life in the desert and started to rebel. First, they would not go into the Promised Land, then they persuaded Aaron to make an idol. Over and over, Moses had to challenge them about their behaviour (though he did not get to the Promised Land because of his own rebellion!).

For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the Lord while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die!

Deuteronomy 31:27

Despite promising to remain faithful once they reached the Promised Land, we read in the book of Judges:

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:25 NASB

Later, the Israelites demanded ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ (1 Samuel 8:6), even though Samuel warned them how a king would lord it over them. Eventually, the  rebellion got so bad that God sent them into exile in Babylon.

On their return, the wealthy were quick to rebuild their houses and curry favour with the Babylonians who still controlled it over them but did not build the temple or treat the poor fairly. In all of this period, God challenges the Israelites for the discrepancy between their public actions – worship, sacrifice, protestations of faithfulness – and their moral behaviour. God even goes so far as to demand the temple doors be shut (Malachi 1:10)!

Physical restoration

A recurring theme in the Old Testament, and especially in the prophets, is the faithfulness of God in the face of Israel’s rebellion. Despite condemning the nation, and especially its leaders, the prophets who lived before and during the exile all told of a future when God would restore Israel to her land and her birthright.

Ezekiel was born into a priestly family about the time that King Josiah was seeking to restore Israel’s loyalty to God (2 Kings 22-23). Ezekiel was taken captive in 597BC, aged 25, and carted off to Babylon. His prophecies date from 593-571 BC, the later ones dealing with the restoration of Israel.

In our reading today, we see first that the motivation of God in bringing Israel back from captivity was not the restoration of the glory of Israel, or even the rebuilding of the temple; God was acting “for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone” (v22). In Old Testament time, one’s “name” represents the person. In rebelling, the Israelites had defamed God’s person; he intended to restore his honour before the nations.

In The Sound of Music, Maria and Max sing of their love under the arbour:

Here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should.
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good.

Oscar Hammerstein II

We like to think that good people are rewarded and bad people punished. But the world does not work that way, and nor does God – at least not in the short term. The Bible is clear that God allows bad things to happen to good people – think of Job, Paul, Peter and John – and bad people do seem to get away with murder. The return of the Israelites to their homeland was not a sign of their loyalty to God, but a sign of his faithfulness to the covenant and a demonstration of his power (v23).

But the return to Jerusalem was only the beginning of God’s plans for his people.

Spiritual transformation

God has a five-point plan for drawing the Israelites back to himself.

1.   Relocation

I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land (v24)

First, the Israelites would be allowed to return from exile.

2.   Cleansing

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. (v25)

Sprinkling with water was a ceremony used to represent cleansing and forgiveness. It was symbolic of the blood that was sprinkled on the altar as part of the ritual of sacrifice, and also of the ritual of washing that made the priests fit to offer sacrifice. God promised that, as the people acknowledged their sin, he would make them clean and worthy to worship him.

3.   Heart transplant

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (v26)

But an outward transformation is no transformation at all. The real issue had always been their hearts – the seat of the will and emotions. As part of that restoration, the truly repentant would experience inner transformation; their stubborn heart of stone would be replaced by a heart of flesh – capable of experiencing the joys and pains of a covenant relationship with the living God.

4.   Holy Spirit

How would this be different from the other occasions when Israel had recommitted to God? The Bible warns that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). What would stop them from “backsliding” on their promise?

And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (v 27)

With God’s Spirit inside them, their natural wayward inclination would be replaced by a deep desire to live in accordance with God’s decrees and laws.

5.   A New Covenant

 you will be my people, and I will be your God. (v28b)

What a promise this is: that the relationships God had intended from his call to Abram would finally become a reality – God and people living in perfect harmony.

What a fantastic prophecy – who wouldn’t want it to come true? But God’s Spirit can only work in the hearts of those who are willing to change. Sadly, most of the Israelites were still set on going their own way.

You may recognise many of these images from the teachings of Jesus and the apostles and the book of Revelation. Only with the coming of the Messiah, and ultimately with the restoration of heaven and earth, will these prophecies finally come true.

Conclusion

What has this to say to us, who claim to be God’s people in the 21st Century?

We, like the Israelites, sometimes try to take shelter behind the rules and practices which we create, claiming that this makes us godly. Useful though these rules may be, they are not a sign of godliness. We can fall victim to the same misconception: turning up to church, giving in the offering, praying and reading the Bible, making sure we and everyone around us wears the right clothes, sings the right songs and stands up or sits down in the right places.

But these things do not make us holy. Remember, Jesus never condemned the Pharisees for obeying their finicky rules, just for elevating them above the commandments to love God and to love people. We must not make the same mistake as the Israelites. Rather than tinkering around the edges of our hearts, we need a full transplant, allowing God’s Spirit free reign in our hearts, to make us holy and worthy of carrying God’s name.

Since Pentecost, it’s an offer open to all who believe in Jesus’ name. Have you responded to that offer? If not, will you allow God’s Spirit to cleanse and renew you in the likeness of Christ?


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_transplantation

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardiac_surgery#19th_century

Song: He wills that I should holy be

Tune: Duke Street

He wills that I should holy be;
That holiness I long to feel,
That full divine conformity
To all my Saviour’s righteous will.

On thee, O God, my soul is stayed.
And waits to prove thine utmost will;
The promise, by thy mercy made,
Thou canst, thou wilt in me fulfill.

Thy loving Spirit, Christ, alone
Can lead me forth and make me free,
Burst every bond through which I groan
And set my heart at liberty.

Now let thy Spirit bring me in,
And give thy servant to possess
The land of rest from inbred sin,
The land of perfect holiness.

Lord, I believe thy power the same,
The same thy grace and truth endure;
And in thy blessed hands I am,
And trust thee for a perfect cure.

Come, Saviour, come and make me whole,
Entirely all my sins remove;
To perfect health restore my soul,
To perfect holiness and love.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Prayer

Lord God, we recognise that you were always faithful to the Israelites. Even when they wandered from your ways, you called them back, forgave them and set them on the right road. And because you do not change, we know you will be as faithful to us.

We ask that you perform the same heart surgery on us that you offered to the Israelites: where are hearts have become hard like stone, renew them by your Spirit into hearts of flesh. May we be so overcome with your love that we never wish to stray again.

And as we become more like your holy Son Jesus, may others “see our good works, and glorify our Father in Heaven.” In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Song: And can it be…

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me who caused his pain,
For me who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left his Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite his grace,
Emptied himself of all but love
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine.
Alive in him, my living head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne
And claim the crown, through Christ, my own.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Cliff Barrows

Posted in Worship | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Co-operative Spirit – Worship @ Home Sunday, 25 April 2021

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Elizabeth Turner

Song: Jesus shall reign

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run;
His Kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till suns shall rise and set no more.

Blessings abound where’er he reigns,
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains,
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blest.

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on his love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their young hosannas to his name.

Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again
And earth prolong the joyful strain.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

(Taken from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, 1662).

Bible Reading

(Please read Genesis 1:1-2:7)

Below are selected verses from Genesis 1:1-31 (The Voice)

In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below. Here’s what happened: At first the earth lacked shape and was totally empty, and a dark fog draped over the deep while God’s spirit-wind hovered over the surface of the empty waters. Then there was the voice of God. “Let there be light”. And light flashed into being. God saw that the light was beautiful and good…

”Let there be a vast expanse [parting] the waters above from the waters below…Let the waters below…congregate into one vast sea, so that dry land may appear…[Let the] earth sprout green vegetation! Lights come out! Shine in the vast expanse of heavens’ dividing day from night…” and the Divine needled night with the stars…

[Let the] “waters swarm with fish and sea creatures. Let birds soar high above the earth in the broad expanse of sky… [Let the] earth, generate life! Produce a vast variety of living creatures…

Now let Us conceive a new creation—humanity—made in Our image, fashioned according to Our likeness. And let Us grant them authority over all the earth…” So God did just that. He created humanity in His image, created them male and female [and He] blessed them. Then God surveyed everything He had made, savouring its beauty and appreciating its goodness.

Song: Breathe on me, breath of God

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what thou dost love,
And do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with thee I will one will
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly thine.
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with thee the perfect life
Of thine eternity.

Edwin Hatch (1835-89)

A Co-operative Spirit

Having journeyed with Jesus and his disciples through the events of Jesus’ final days on earth—his entry into Jerusalem to wide public acclaim, his dark night of the soul in Gethsemane, the ‘sham’ trial and vocal condemnation leading to his death, then his joyous resurrection with many appearances and reappearances—we wait for the promised manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit. Yet this Holy Spirit has been present and active in the world from the beginning.

Our Salvation Army doctrine underlines the triune nature of God, in whom ‘Father Son and Holy Spirit’ are one in essence and ‘co-equal in power and glory.’  In the weeks leading to Pentecost, when God’s Holy Spirit was poured out liberally without distinction on all receptive souls, we’re going to have a little glimpse of the various Bible references to the person of the Holy Spirit, recognising even in his distinctiveness as Spirit, it is all God himself who is described.

It is often said, ‘Many hands make light work’. Whilst that can be true in some  instances, particularly in the context where a lot of equipment has to be assembled and set up for an event then disassembled at the end, sometimes too many can be counterproductive. When everybody has a different opinion in how a thing should be organised and executed, attaining consensus cohesion and co-operation can be arduous!

When people share a vision and work together to bring it to reality, it is a beautiful experience all round: for those who generated and birthed that vision and for those who are being served and blessed by its outcome. Our Centenary celebrations at Prestonpans Corps in 2019, for example, were the work of a lot of people who shared the vision and worked to make it the special, memorable event that it was.

From the opening words of our Bible we learn of the existence of God before anything else existed. God’s presence isn’t explained to us or argued, God is simply there, and we can believe it or not. Whatever we choose, it doesn’t alter the statement that God ‘is’.

If we believe in God’s existence, we will be the happier, for an intrinsic sense of ‘knowingness’ and understanding about the world around us simply falls into place. Even so, there is still much that will remain a mystery to us concerning God and likely to be so to the dawn of eternity. But our belief in a Sovereign God enables us to live with that tension, accepting the element of his mystery.

In reading the Bible’s account of the world’s creation and our own specially considered placement in that natural order, we discover that it was the vision and work of a co-operative God. God who simply ‘is’ (God the Father), God’s spirit-wind (God the Holy Spirit) and ‘then there was the voice of God’ or ‘word of God’ (John 1:1-3) (Jesus the Son of God). How the process of creation was played out is debated, whether it took six days as we understand them, with God pausing to rest and enjoy his creation on the seventh day, or that the creation duration spanned decades as Peter reminds us:

‘Don’t imagine, dear friends, that God’s timetable is the same as ours; as the psalm says, for with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.’

2 Peter 3:8

Whatever our personally held views are about the timetable of the creation of the world, we should assent to the fact that each created thing was the result of careful, considered design and not a random collision of atoms and molecules; any more than the computers we have today being the result of someone finding a box of plastic, glass, cables and copper wires, giving the box a shake and exclaiming ‘oh look –  a computer!’ No, it took a lot of time, a lot of thought, design, trial, error and work to bring about the technology that we have come to rely on in many spheres of life today.

Creation was the deliberate, detailed design of a triune God who delighted in his work, pausing at every stage to consider what had been created, declaring each aspect to be beautiful and good. The Bible book of Romans points out:

‘From the beginning, creation in its magnificence enlightens us to His [God’s] nature. Creation itself makes His undying power and divine identity clear, even though they are invisible; and it voids the excuses and ignorant claims of these people.’

Romans 1:20

God’s spirit-wind was a co-operative in creation, sharing the vision for what could be, working to see that it was so and enjoying the outcome.

Perhaps this past year has shown us the impact our own ‘life breaths’ can have on others in a way we’ve never quite heeded before. The silent, deadly ease of transmission of the Covid-19 virus has led to the various restrictive measures that we have had to live with to curtail its spread, mask wearing being a most significant one. But God’s spirit-wind breaths are different! Far from being a deadly destructive force, God’s spirit-wind breaths are life energising and imbuing. We may not see his form, but we certainly feel the effects of his being and see the outcome of his presence.

Nicodemus, a questing Pharisee who sought Jesus’ counsel one night, was nudged toward an understanding of God’s spirit-wind by an analogy with the wind force that we know of and experience in our weather systems. Jesus told him:

‘the wind blows all around us as if it has a will of its own; we feel and hear it, but we do not understand where it has come from or where it will end up. Life in the Spirit is as if it were the wind of God’.

John 3:8

A solitary tree in an otherwise tree-less landscape gives testament to the presence of the wind. Its stance and shape are evidence of the direction of the consistently prevailing wind. God’s spirit-wind, together with God the Father and Jesus the Son, similarly shaped the created world to beautiful and positive effect.

Genesis 2:7 tells us how it was when God created human beings in his image in the first instance. Glancing back to Genesis 1, we see an account of the moment God decided he would make human beings. Here we see the plural being of God in an awesome glimpse into his planning meeting of the cosmos:

 ‘let Us conceive a new creation—humanity—made in Our image, fashioned according to Our likeness. And let Us grant them authority.’

Genesis 1:26

Human beings – with their variously formed male or female bodies, a mind that can think, reason, learn and create, a heart that feels compassion and love, a soul with the capacity to live on into eternity and a God-ordained authority to govern – are quite different from anything else in the created order so far. These are all qualities of the Godly nature. 

When we perfectly embody these aspects of being and live in unity with God, co-operating with a co-operative Spirit , we become that good and beautiful being, just as he envisioned we should be. Fallen humanity is offered the grace of being restored to that good and beautiful state through the co-operative work of a triune God: the Father heart which so loved, sending his only Son who willingly obeyed, securing the salvation that we needed thus releasing the Spirit-wind of God to help the newly restored individual live and work dynamically for and with God.

In handing over our lives to God, we won’t find ourselves in any better hands than his. In his hands we won’t so much see  ‘light’ work as see the ‘love’ work God brings about in and through our lives.

Song: Jesus is beautiful

Beautiful, Beautiful
Jesus Is Beautiful
And Jesus Makes Beautiful
Things Of My Life.


Carefully Touching Me
Causing My Eyes To See
And Jesus Makes Beautiful
Things Of My Life.

Debby Kerner & Ernie Rettino
© Maranatha! Music

Prayer

Creator God, we are in awe of the world you have made, and the vast array of living creatures that populate your world. And you chose human beings to be stewards of your creation.

Saviour Jesus, we are sorry for the mess that people have made of this world. Thank you for giving your life, so that our relationship with the Father might be renewed.

Life-giving Spirit, fill us anew, so that each day we may bring the light of life and love to all we meet, and help restore this world to its created beauty.

In your threefold name we pray; Amen.

Song: Love Divine, all loves excelling

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of Heaven, to earth come down,
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
All thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter every longing heart.

Come, almighty to deliver,
Let us all thy grace receive;
Suddenly return, and never,
Never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve thee as thy hosts above;
Pray and praise thee without ceasing,
Glory in thy perfect love.

Finish then thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in Heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Cliff Barrows

Posted in Worship | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

From behind locked doors – Worship @ Home Sunday, 18 April 2021

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Steven Turner

Song: Thine is the glory…

Thine is 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.

Thine is the glory,
Risen, conquering Son;
Endless is the victory
Thou o’er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets thee,
Risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets thee,
Scatters fear and gloom;
Let his Church with gladness
Hymns of triumph sing,
For her Lord now liveth;
Death has lost its sting.

No more we doubt thee,
Glorious Prince of Life!
Life is naught without thee;
Aid us in thy strife;
Make us more than conquerors
Through thy deathless love;
Bring us safe through Jordan
To thy home above.

Edmond Louis Budry (1854-1932),
trs Richard Birch Hoyle (1875-1939)

The Lord’s Prayer

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

From United Reformed Church

Bible Reading – John 20:19-23

19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

John 20:19-23 NLT

Song: How deep the Father’s love for us

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Stuart Townend.
© 1995 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music.

From behind locked doors

Introduction

This past year has been a strange one. I have not been able to visit my family since last March. And Elizabeth has not seen her sisters since September 2019. We still don’t know when we’ll be free to travel south and meet face-to-face.

Despite this physical separation, we’ve been able to speak with our families every week, either by Zoom or telephone. So, I can’t imagine the grief of real separation and the inexpressible joy of re-union. I’ve seen programmes like “Surprise, Surprise”, and “This is your life” where families and friends are re-united after 20, 30 or even 50 years. They throw their arms around each other and hug and talk all at once.. “You haven’t changed a bit!”, “Do you remember…”, “I met so-and-so last week after 20 years.”

It had only been days since the disciples had watched Jesus die. They were totally dejected, and in fear for their lives. So, they locked themselves in the upper room (the same place they celebrated the Passover?) and no doubt went over all the things they should have done, and asked all the questions to which they could get no answers, because Jesus was dead.

Suddenly—whoosh—there was Jesus, right beside them! They  thought he was a ghost, so Luke tells us he ate some fish to prove he was real. Then, having passed through the locked wooden doors, he set about unlocking some of the locked doors in their hearts. In a few short minutes he unlocks doors to Peace, Purpose and Power.

Unlocking Peace

Some of you reading this have lost a loved one in tragic circumstances, so perhaps you can begin to understand the pain and confusion in the hearts of these eleven men and the others that joined them in the upper room. For most of us, such pain is unimaginable. They had lived, worked, played, learned, laughed and wept with Jesus for three years, yet were totally unprepared for the fact of his death, let alone the manner of it. If only they had listened to him more; if only they had tried harder to keep him away from Jerusalem; if only the Jewish leaders could have accepted his teaching!

If only… perhaps the most pointless phrase in the English language. If only I hadn’t let him go out on his own. If only she’d walked down a different street. If only we had now the Salvationists we had twenty years ago. We plague ourselves with all the might-have-beens that can’t be reclaimed, and fail to look at the present and to the future. Just like the disciples, we lock ourselves behind closed doors for fear (or hatred) of them.

When Jesus entered the room, he spoke the traditional Jewish greeting still used today: Shalom! which means “Peace to you.” But this isn’t just a “put your feet up” peace; it’s a deep contentment, a lack of stress and anxiety that is able to trust in God no matter what’s happening.

It’s also worth noting that Jesus offered physical proof of his resurrection: he showed the scars and ate the fish. When Jesus comes to unlock the door to Peace, he often arranges events so we know it’s him. It’s important to keep our eyes and ears open for the signs.

Life is not fair – and for some people it turns out downright nasty. But locking yourself inside a door of fear or bitterness or hatred or isolation or blame is not the answer. Instead, you need to look out for the signs of Jesus’ presence, and allow him to restore your peace and joy, just as he did for the disciples.

Unlocking Purpose

There was another door the disciples had locked: that of Purpose. Not only were they hiding because they were afraid, but they didn’t know what to do. In the next chapter of John’s gospel, we see Peter, the active one, reaching the end of his tether and declaring, “I’m going fishing.” Six other aimless drifters join him – and catch nothing until Jesus arrives!

When Jesus entered that locked room, he came to give them a job.

As the Father has sent me, so I send you (v21)

Perhaps after the last time he sent them out, Jesus felt they needed a tonic, for he offered the peace again! Jesus had come from the Father to proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom of God, and to demonstrate its power by preaching, healing, and loving those around him. Now it was time for the disciples to take on that responsibility.

We too have a job to do. Collectively as The Salvation Army it is to Save Souls, Grow Saints and Serve Suffering Humanity. Individually, that will take many forms. Paul describes the church as the Body of Christ, with many parts and many functions. If we let him, Jesus will unlock the door of Purpose for us. Of course, we have to walk through it and take on our personal responsibility for the kingdom; you can’t complain about a job not being done if you don’t to your part. And nobody is excluded, neither from Jesus’ Peace, nor his Purpose.

Nicky Cruz was a good-for-nothin’ low-life, according to many around him. He led a tough gang in New York that nearly killed the preacher who came to tell them about Jesus. But God got hold of him, replaced his anger and hatred with peace, and gave him a new purpose as an evangelist. If he can do it for Nicky Cruz, he can do it for you.

Unlocking Power

“Ah but you don’t know me. I’m too shy. I’m not strong enough. I can’t resist temptation. I can’t face people.” Well, I’ve got news for you: neither could The Eleven. It sounds like a stirring name, doesn’t it – a bit like “The Magnificent Seven” – fearless fighters. But the reality is, they were scared half to death, cowering behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. They had no power of their own to bring peace and purpose.

But what a difference when the Spirit came. Only after Jesus breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit did they have the courage, the intelligence, the words and the actions to carry out their mission. Their whole natures were changed. Kind, generous, brave – the sort of people you can’t help noticing. And when the Holy Spirit poured over them at Pentecost, they burst out into the streets to greet a crowd who thought they were drunk.

Jesus went further, conferring on his disciples the right to forgive or not to forgive sins. Now we must be careful here, because ultimately no-one can forgive sins but God. However, when going out with God’s peace, on God’s purpose, we have his power to call people to repentance and forgiveness or warn them of the consequences.

If you’ve often felt powerless in your Christian walk, maybe it’s because the Holy Spirit doesn’t have free reign in your life. Perhaps you want to hold on to old habits – SIN by another name. Maybe you won’t forgive someone. Have you obeyed the last thing Jesus asked you to do? Bob Gass says that many people block God’s blessing, because he can’t bless you beyond your last act of disobedience. Only when the disciples recognised who Jesus was, and allowed him to open the doors to Peace and Purpose, did they receive his Power. The same is true for us today.

Conclusion

Many people list all kinds of reasons why they can’t accept Jesus, or why they fail to live holy lives. Most of these reasons are just excuses, which lock the doors to eternal life and happiness. Jesus wants to unlock those doors for us, but he needs our invitation.

Chuck Colson became President Nixon’s scapegoat after the Watergate scandal. Later he became head of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Colson tells how he visited one prison where they had set up an InnerChange Freedom Initiative.

It was on a grey December day two years ago that I first visited Newton for the dedication of our second InnerChange Freedom Initiative prison. I must confess I wasn’t expecting much. The participants had only been together for a couple of months-not enough time, I thought, for them to bond into a group.

But was I ever wrong! When the gates to the compound swung open, excited men swarmed around me. During lunch I must have signed a hundred Bibles and listened to dozens of testimonies.

Before the dedication service, I met with all of the men in the cell block and challenged them to a life of faithfulness while listening to murmurs of “Amen.” When I finished, instead of applauding, they jumped to their feet, thrust their Bibles in the air and chanted together, “This is my Bible.” They lifted their Bibles a second time: “It is a lamp unto my feet.” They continued in a great festal chant, verse after verse from the Psalms. I looked out over two hundred men on fire for God and thought to myself, I could march these guys right out of here today and storm the gates of hell.

Colson, Charles: “Storming the Gates of Hell: A Lesson from the Prisons”. Article featured in “Sermon Fodder”mailing, 24th March 2004.

If Jesus can unlock the doors of Peace, Purpose and Power for Eleven men afraid for their lives, and if he can do it for two hundred hardened criminals in Newton Penitentiary in Iowa, surely he can do it for a dozen or so ordinary people in Prestonpans, if only we are willing to receive his presence and power today.

What stops you accepting the Peace of Jesus? What excuses have you made to avoid the Purpose of Jesus? Are you ready to accept the Power of Jesus? Open your hearts today to the risen Saviour and let him renew your life right now.


Song: I know that my redeemer lives

I know that my redeemer lives,
What joy the blest assurance gives!
He lives triumphant o’er the grave,
He lives omnipotent to save.

And above the rest this note shall swell,
My Jesus hath done all things well.

He lives to bless me with his love,
He lives to plead my cause above,
He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears.

He lives, my wise and constant friend,
He lives and loves me to the end,
He lives my mansion to prepare,
He lives to guide me safely there.

He lives, all glory to his name,
He lives, eternally the same;
What joy the sweet assurance gives
That Jesus, my redeemer, lives!

Samuel Medley (1738-99) (verses)

The Back Pew by Jeff Larsson

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank you for loving us enough to die for us.

But we are also grateful that you took time after your resurrection to show yourself to your disciples, so that they could report that you were indeed alive!

We confess that we share the doubts and fears of your early followers.

We do not always live as though you were alive today and at work in us by your Spirit.

Give us, Lord Jesus, the same confidence that the early Christians found when they trusted in you.

And may we learn to live a life of faith and boldness, so that others will encounter you and surrender to you.

In your precious name we pray

 Amen.

Song: I’ll go in the strength of the Lord

I’ll go in the strength of the Lord,
In paths he has marked for my feet;
I’ll follow the light of his word,
Nor shrink from the dangers I meet,
His presence my steps shall attend,
His fulness my wants shall supply;
On him, till my journey shall end,
My unwavering faith shall rely.

I’ll go, I’ll go in the strength,
I’ll go in the strength of the Lord
I’ll go, I’ll go in the strength,
I’ll go in the strength of the Lord.

I’ll go in the strength of the Lord
To work he appoints me to do;
In joy which his smile doth afford
My soul shall her vigour renew.
His wisdom shall guard me from harm.
His power my sufficiency prove;
I’ll trust his omnipotent arm,
And prove his unchangeable love.

I’ll go in the strength of the Lord
To conflicts which faith will require,
His grace as my shield and reward,
My courage and zeal shall inspire.
Since he gives the word of command.
To meet and encounter the foe,
With his sword of truth in my hand.
To suffer and triumph I’ll go.

Edward Turney (1816-72)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Cliff Barrows
Posted in Worship | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Breakthrough! – Worship @ Home Sunday, 11 April 2021

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Elizabeth Turner

Song: Christ is alive, let Christians sing

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

Christ is alive! No longer bound
To distant years in Palestine,
He comes to claim the here and now
And conquer ev’ry place and time.

Not throned above, remotely high,
Untouched, unmoved by human pains,
But daily, in the midst of life,
Our Saviour with the Father reigns.

In ev’ry insult, rift and war,
Where colour, scorn or wealth divide,
He suffers still, yet loves the more,
And lives, though ever crucified.

Christ is alive! His Spirit burns
Through this and ev’ry future age,
Till all creation lives and learns
His joy, his justice, love and praise.

Song: Lord I lift your name on high

Lord, I lift your name on high;
Lord, I love to sing Your praises.
I’m so glad You’re in my life;
I’m so glad You came to save us.

You came from heaven to earth to show the way,
From the earth to the cross,
My debt to pay.
From the cross to the grave,
From the grave to the sky,
Lord, I lift Your name on high.

Rick Founds.
© 1989 Maranatha! Music/Adm. by CopyCare.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever. Amen.

Bible Reading Luke 24:13-35

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along, they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”

35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.

Breakthrough

Experiencing a moment of ‘breakthrough’ in almost any context can be so exhilarating that we forget what we need to do to reach that joyous state! The disciples on the road home to Emmaus on that first Easter day ought to have ‘stayed’ with the report of the women returning from the tomb earlier that day. If ‘amazing’ things were being reported to them by the women of ‘empty tombs, angelic visitations and conversations conveying the news that Jesus was alive’ and further confirmation by some men of their number that the tomb was indeed empty, why weren’t they taking the time to consider all these reports and weigh up what that meant? Especially as Jesus himself had prepared his disciples whilst he was still alive for all that was to happen to him later. 

Being good Jewish men, their lessons in the synagogue as boys would have highlighted key texts concerning a coming Messiah, his life, death and coming kingdom and all that would mean not just for Jews but for the whole world. Had they put their heads together, laying all the pieces of this conundrum as they saw it before them—what they had learned, what they had seen, what they had heard—they might have had the breakthrough that would have dazzled, thrilled and lifted their spirits sky-high!

Perhaps they felt they had ‘wrestled’ with it long enough and weren’t getting anywhere, and so felt it was time to ‘call it a day’, head home and move on with the rest of their lives. Walking with Jesus had been good whilst it lasted; they’d had some wonderful experiences with him that they wouldn’t forget in a hurry. Such a shame that it had all ended so horribly for them. But now that it was it, that part of their life was over. As for the mystery of the empty tomb, well it would have to remain just that: a mystery.

Neil Armstrong, the first man who walked on the moon, wrote,  “Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”[1] Having a ‘breakthrough’ in our understanding or encountering challenging experiences requires both mental and physical effort if we would walk in awesome places.

As the two disciples make their way homeward, it seems that the events of Jesus’ trial, dreadful death and the day’s mystery is very much the heart of their conversation, for the pathos of it all is carried in their faces, posture and pace. So, when Jesus falls into step with them as they walk the Emmaus road, he asks them “What are you talking about, so sad and gloomy?” (Luke 24:17).

Unaware of their fellow traveller’s identity as they hardly look at him, the disciples dolefully relate the events that surely ‘everyone in Jerusalem’ ought to have known. The playful enquiry of Jesus should have been enough of an ‘interrupter’ to jolt them from their cyclical mood of misery and attend to the presence and person of their companion. Had the disciples looked him fully in the face, they might have had a growing awareness of who it was they were addressing as they related the tale of these events. The disciples might sooner have comprehended that this was no day for gloom or despair, but for unbridled joy and exultation as they stood in the presence of the risen Lord Jesus Christ!

It took a guided ‘hop, skip and a jump’ by Jesus through the pages of Scripture, to help them understand that what they had seen, was indeed what had been foretold; so fulfilling those prophesies and bringing regeneration and joy to all people who believe. As they listened, maybe even questioned and debated these familiar texts, it was perhaps rather like the scenario of car headlights catching the reflective studs of ‘cat’s eyes’ along the road, illuminating the shape of the way ahead so as to give the driver confidence to continue his or her journey.

But it was not until the disciples reached home that their real ‘breakthrough’ moment occurred, in the familiar way Jesus prayed and broke the bread. They’d seen it only days before at that last Passover supper they had shared with Jesus in the upper room. They had seen it when he had miraculously fed the 5,000 plus and the 4,000 plus with the little he had been offered. And presumably they had seen that same action in the many other unrecorded meals they shared together as friends, during the course of his ministry in proclaiming the good news of God’s saving grace. Like that final piece of a jigsaw popped into place to reveal the complete picture, they suddenly realised they had been in the company of Jesus once more and could not contain their joy!

On hurtling back to Jerusalem in order to find and tell the other disciples that they had seen the risen Lord Jesus, they found the group ‘buzzing’ with the news of another ‘breakthrough’ encounter. Jesus’ special appearance to Peter a little earlier on that first Easter day happens away from our gaze. It would have been a poignant moment of reconnection following Peter’s denials of ever knowing Jesus. The compassion and love that Jesus had for Peter and for the disciples on the Emmaus road, each locked into their own ‘dungeons of despair’, highlights a truth author Anne Lamott shares: “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

Jesus would aid more ‘breakthrough’ moments in the lives of his followers today, if only we would take the Scriptures to heart, and take time to wonder what God wants us to understand from those words and stories; to consider what their impact on our lives and living for him would yield as we allow ourselves to be shaped by them.

The ‘Godly Play Stories’, or ‘Stories for the Soul’ as they are sometimes called, very helpfully immerse us in the stories of Scripture in a way that perhaps we are not always led to, by simply reading plain text.

When we ‘see’ something of the struggle of Abram & Sarai, for example – ordinary people no different from us, following the call of God on their lives and all that it meant for them – we begin to see how our own simple steps of obedience to God in our day might translate to a bigger, more extra-ordinary story of faith. The words and stories of Scripture are not meant only to be read and tucked away again on a bookshelf; we are meant to read the narratives and ‘wonder’ about them.

In a way we need to become ‘curious’ about the Bible stories and bring the elements of those stories to live in the contexts of our own present-day issues. Speaking about research, Geoffrey Hinton stated, “In the long run, curiosity-driven research just works better… Real breakthroughs come from people focusing on what they’re excited about.”

The same could be said about our faith walk. The breakthroughs come when we become excited about God and focus our attention on him and on his incomparable power. When God’s people came ‘so close to God’ and allowed ‘God to come so close’ to them, they saw God move very powerfully in their lives. When that happened, their joy knew no bounds, as we saw in the story of the disciples on the road home to Emmaus.

If we have chosen to make God King of our lives, have we retained our excitement in being in relationship with him? If not, let us focus our attention fully on him and rekindle our love for him and the delight that he is in our lives.

Let us keep looking toward God through the pages of our Bibles, as he reveals himself to us in our everyday lives. Let us wonder and wrestle with him around the things that amaze us, that confuse us or that concern us. And as we fall into step with him, we will surely experience the most joyous and astonishing breakthrough moments that only he can bring! 

Song: O disclose thy lovely face

Sing to any tune that goes with “Rock of Ages”

Jesus face by Greg Joens

O disclose thy lovely face!
Quicken all my drooping powers;
Gasps my fainting soul for grace
As a thirsty land for showers.
Haste, my Lord, no more delay;
Come, my Saviour, come away.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee;
Joyless is the day’s return
Till thy mercy’s beams I see,
Till thou inward light impart,
Glad my eyes and warm my heart.

Visit, then, this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiance divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Pastoral Prayer: Emmaus Road

Risen One, like those disciples on the road to Emmaus, we struggle to recognize you in the everyday journey of our lives. We seek your wisdom in the midst of the questions we have about the circumstances we find ourselves in—circumstances sometimes beyond our control, but often of our own making.

Open our eyes, Light of the World, to your work of transformation in and around us. As we walk with you day by day, may your new life be made manifest in what we say to others. Help us to understand the power of our words to hurt or to heal; give us the graciousness to make all our conversations holy.

Just as we desire that our speaking be holy, may our seeing be holy as well. We are bombarded with images everyday O Christ, that shape our attitudes and behaviours. As you opened the scriptures to the disciples and taught them everything, open our eyes to behold you in your Word, in the beauty of nature, the beauty of another human being and the beauty of sacred art.

And in our seeing, help us to recognize and welcome the stranger in our midst. May our welcome be a celebration of the gifts and graces of persons who are different from us and not merely some token tolerance of an outsider.

You were known to the disciples in the breaking of the bread. May your resurrection presence guide us in the decisions we make about what we take into our bodies—especially what we eat and what we drink. Help us to understand our eating and drinking as sacred events, not to be abused or approached mindlessly.

So often we forget, Holy One, that you invite us to abide with you; to have our lives hidden in you. We thank you that you travel with us in our joys and our concerns.

Amen.

~ posted on the Church of Ireland website.
http://www.churchnewsireland.org/wp-content/uploads/Easter-3-.pdf

Song: When we walk with the Lord

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of his word.
What a glory he sheds on our way;
While we do his good will,
He abides with us still.
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise,
Not a cloud in the skies,
But his smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt nor a fear,
Not a sigh nor a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear.
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil he doth richly repay;
Not a grief nor a loss,
Not a frown nor a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove
The delights of his love,
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor he shows,
And the joy he bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at this feet,
Or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
What he says we will do,
Where he sends we will go,
Never fear, only trust and obey.

John Henry Sammis (1846-1919)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.


[1] (Neil Armstrong, Anne Lamott & Geoffrey Hinton Quotes Source: https://www.brainyquote.com)

Posted in Worship | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Breakthrough! – Worship @ Home Sunday, 11 April 2021

Easter Smiles – Worship @ Home Sunday, 04 April 2021

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Steven Turner from various sources

Bible Reading

16 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

Mark 16:1-7 NLT

Song: Up from the grave he arose

Low in the grave he lay,
Jesus, my Saviour;
Waiting the coming day,
Jesus, my Lord.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

Up from the grave he arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er his foes.
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And he lives for ever with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Vainly they watch his bed,
Jesus, my Saviour;
Vainly they seal the dead,
Jesus, my Lord.

Death cannot keep his prey,
Jesus, my Saviour;
He tore the bars away,
Jesus, my Lord.

Robert Lowry (1826-99)

Responsive reading

Written by Jayson D Bradley – https://ministryadvice.com/responsive-readings-for-easter/

Leader: The world is full of turmoil and unrest.
Congregation: He is risen!
Leader: We want to help, but we don’t know where to start.
Congregation: Take heart, he has overcome the world!

Leader: You prayed for the unity of your church, but we are not unified.
CongregationHe is risen!
Leader: We long to be a vibrant, healing community of faith.
CongregationHe who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it.

Leader: My heart is full of turmoil and unrest.
Congregation: He is risen!
Leader: I need your power inside of me.
Congregation: In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Leader: He is risen!
Congregation: He is risen indeed!

Chorus: 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.

Song: O Joyful Sound

O joyful sound! O glorious hour
When Christ by his almighty power
Arose and left the grave!
Now let our songs his triumph tell
Who broke the chains of death and Hell,
And ever lives to save.

He lives, he lives,
I know that my redeemer lives.

The first-begotten of the dead,
For us he rose, our glorious head,
Immortal life to bring.
What though the saints like him shall die,
They share their leader’s victory,
And triumph with their King.

No more we tremble at the grave;
For he who died our souls to save
Will raise our bodies too.
What though this earthly house shall fail,
The Saviour’s power will yet prevail
And build it up anew.

Thomas Kelly (1769-1855) (verses)

The Easter Smile

We often spend a lot of time considering how Jesus felt about the events of his trial and crucifixion: the pain, anguish, loneliness and sadness. But when it comes to the resurrection, we focus on the reactions of the women, the twelve and the others who encountered the risen Jesus.

What about Jesus? Surely he would be quite excited about the prospect of coming back to life and seeing his friends again. He must have been thrilled at the thought of overcoming death and showing God’s power to all the doubters.

Sister Emmanuel of the Franciscan Order imagines Jesus in the moment of his resurrection:

“Now in the place He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. So…as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Him there.”

John 19:41-42

Over the holy days of the Easter Triduum and into the Easter season, my heart was drawn to consider the mystery of the tomb. A place enclosed in the reality of death and yet transformed into a place of the most Glorious Life. There the Lord lay…lifeless in the depths of the tomb. Where all seemed hopeless, futile, defeated – a place that in every way signified death – the end.

And yet, there came a single moment…

The Moment.

When empty lungs were filled with breath.

When a body, cold and stiff,
began to radiate with warmth.

When a heart, silent and still,
began to beat once again.

When a body, surely dead,
overspilled with new, Glorious Life.

All in one single moment…
A moment that changed everything.

Very beautifully, this magnificent moment occurred in the quiet recesses of a dark tomb…in the secret depth of intimate solitude…with no Apostle, no disciple, friend or follower there to witness it. When Peter arrived at the tomb, “He saw the linen cloths lying and the napkin which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but…rolled up in a separate place.” (John 20:6-7). The cloth that had covered the Lord’s face was “rolled up in a separate place.” Surely this was done with great care, as this was the moment when, uncovering His glorious face,

Jesus smiled.

He smiled! The smile of all smiles. The kind of smile that can reach into the gloomiest of hearts and draw forth a smile in return. The kind of smile that communicates even more than words could describe. A smile that knows, indeed, the victory is won and soon all shall know this. A smile that says, “See what my Father has done? Sin and death are not to reign in you. Love has won! The Father’s heart has spoken and triumphed eternally and definitively.” The kind of smile that pierces through my every darkness, my every sorrow, my every suffering, worry, grief, sickness, weakness…my every sin. A smile that lifts me up, fills me with peace, hope, love and life. In His smile, I know all will be well.

This Resurrection smile, this Easter smile is exactly what my heart needs! This, I believe, is what our world needs at such a time as this. In a time when smiles may be few and far between, whether that is because of the great distance between us or the masks that may cover our faces, let us fix our eyes on the one smile that can never be taken away from us. The smile of the Risen Lord. And may we smile back in the fullness of our hearts to Him who is forever victorious, forever gloriously triumphant.

Alleluia! The Lord is risen as he said, Alleluia!

Sr. Emmanuel (Novice)
https://www.franciscansisterscfr.com/post/the-easter-smile

Song: Celebration morning

A bright new hope is dawning like the rising of the sun:
A celebration morning; God’s work on earth is done.
A perfect love is growing deep within God’s earthly plan;
A new excitement glowing to share with ev’ry man!

Rise and look around you, sec God’s glory shine.
Feel that hallelujah, celebrate the Christ divine!

The sunrise has new meaning for the one who kneels to pray;
The moment of believing Christ comes to show the way.
A firmer faith is building on the word of perfect truth;
A solid rock foundation that man can never move!

Rise and look around you, see God’s glory shine.
Feel that hallelujah, celebrate the Christ arisen;

Celebrate the Christ, he is risen now!
Celebrate the Christ, arisen;
Celebrate the Christ, he is risen now!

Words: lan Adnams
Music: Len Ballantine

Bible Reading

36 And just as they were telling about [the encounter on the Emmaus road], Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he ate it as they watched.

44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Luke 24:36-44 NLT

Resurrection Life

An Easter Message from General Brian Peddle
Watch the General deliver the message: https://vimeo.com/522763998

The Easter story resonates with life and hope, and how we desperately need these in our world today. Through the years of the Old Testament, we clung to the hope in the prophesies of a Messiah. Through the silence of the years between the Old and New testaments, we clung to the hope that God had not forgotten his people or his promises. Then that hope took on flesh and blood in the person of Jesus and we witnessed for ourselves that God had remembered the cries of his people, confirming that our hope was not in vain.

We witness a Jesus who taught and modelled forgiveness and love, who partied with tax collectors, dined with sinners, spoke with women of dubious morals, condemning no one. We see for ourselves a glorious mixture of grace and truth. We are caught in awe and wonder as Jesus turned water into wine, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, cast out demons, healed the leper, controlled the wind and waves, and we see for ourselves the inexhaustible power of God.

On Good Friday it appeared as though hope had gone as the life flowed out of Jesus’ body. This irresistible man of captivating parables, insightful teaching and miracles, with the ability to impact the very fabric of society and people to the utmost depths of their being, was killed on a cross and placed in a tomb. It looked and felt like someone had turned out the light and put a lid on our hope. Then something truly remarkable, life-transforming and world-changing happened: the stone was rolled away, the graveclothes left in a pile – because Jesus was alive! The light was more glorious than ever, and our hope found new heights.

Easter is not simply a remembrance of something that happened in the past – but as we celebrate it we remind ourselves that the resurrection life is to be an everyday experience. The pandemic we are experiencing makes it feel, at times, similar to Good Friday – as though the light has been turned off and a lid put on our hope. There are many circumstances in life that may cause us to feel like that – natural disasters, illness, unemployment, divorce, drug addiction, bankruptcy, domestic violence, racism. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ remind us that God is with us in every circumstance, that he is bigger and more powerful than any circumstance, and that God specialises in the miraculous and the impossible.

When we have given up on ourselves, God still believes in us. When we feel like we are unloved, God shows us Jesus. When we feel like we have made the biggest mistake of our lives, Jesus provides forgiveness. When we are suffocating in the darkness, God shines the light of his presence. When we are despairing, Jesus provides hope.

You see this resurrection life is a full, abundant, complete and whole life. This resurrection life is a new life, because it is life in Christ and, as such, is free from condemnation. This resurrection life starts the minute we accept Christ as Saviour and continues for all eternity. This resurrection life is dynamic, because the power of God is unleashed in us. The change starts on the inside and transforms how we view everything.

On that first Easter morning the disciples were still experiencing Roman occupation and all that came with it, but the realisation that Jesus was alive and that every promise had been fulfilled changed everything. They now had an eternal view, they understood that sin and death had been conquered, that the Kingdom was indeed a spiritual Kingdom and that God reigned supreme over everything. Such understanding would change how they viewed and responded to life in this world because the glorious light of Christ shone in their lives and the hope of eternity was secured. They would never be the same again – just as we will never be the same again if we claim that same resurrection power.

May God bless you as you celebrate the risen Christ. Amen.

General Brian Peddle

Song: I stand amazed

Video by Bromley and Bexleyheath Singing Companies

Song: Thank you for saving me

Thank you for saving me;
What can I say?
You are my everything,
I will sing Your praise.
You shed Your blood for me;
What can I say?
You took my sin and shame,
A sinner called by name.

Mercy and grace are mine,
Forgiven is my sin;
Jesus, my only hope,
The Saviour of the world.
‘Great is the Lord,’ we cry;
God, let Your kingdom come.
Your word has let me see,
Thank You for saving me.

Great is the Lord.
Great is the Lord.
For we know Your truth has set us free;
You’ve set Your hope in me.

Martin Smith.
© 1993 Curious? Music UK
Adm. by Kingsway’s Thankyou Music.

Resurrection Prayer

Christ our life,
You are alive – in the beauty of the earth
in the rhythm of the seasons
in the mystery of time and space
Alleluia


Christ our life,
You are alive – in the tenderness of touch
in the heartbeat of intimacy
in the insights of solitude
Alleluia


Christ our life,
You are alive – in the creative possibility
of the dullest conversation
of the dreariest task
the most threatening event
Alleluia


Christ our life,
You are alive – to offer re-creation
to every unhealed hurt
to every deadened place
to every damaged heart
Alleluia.

You set before us a great choice.
Therefore we choose life.
The dance of resurrection soars and
surges through the whole creation,
This is grace, dying we live.
So let us live.

Kathy Galloway

Song: Christ the Lord is risen today

Christ the Lord is risen today,
Hallelujah!
Sons of men and angels say:
Hallelujah!
Raise your joys and triumphs high;
Hallelujah!
Sing, ye heavens; thou earth, reply:
Hallelujah!

Love’s redeeming work is done;
Fought the fight, the battle won;
Lo! the sun’s eclipse is o’er,
Lo! he sets in blood no more.

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal,
Christ hath burst the gates of Hell;
Death in vain forbids his rise;
Christ hath opened Paradise.

Lives again our glorious King;
Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Once he died our souls to save;
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave?

Soar we now where Christ has led,
Following our exalted head;
Made like him, like him we rise,
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Posted in Worship | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Easter Smiles – Worship @ Home Sunday, 04 April 2021

Holy Week Reflections – Saturday – Joseph looks after Jesus

Read Luke 23:50-56

Key Verses

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.

Think

It was a dangerous thing for a council member to admit to following Jesus. Joseph had already risked his reputation by opposing the decision to have Jesus put to death. By taking care of Jesus’ body, he put himself in real danger. Why would he do this?

The New Testament tells of many people who were transformed by their encounter with Jesus. Often, they want to do something in return: Zacchaeus offered to repay anything he had stolen; the former demon-possessed man wanted to travel with Jesus; the leper came back to personally thank Jesus. When someone does something good for you, it’s natural to thank them and possibly offer something in return. This is what Joseph of Arimathea does.

Sing: I cannot tell…

To the tune “O Danny Boy”

I cannot tell why He, whom angels worship,
Should set His love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary,
When Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and laboured,
And so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come.

I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace He graced this place of tears,
Or how His heart upon the cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three-and-thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the broken-hearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
And lifts the burden from the heavy-laden,
For yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is here.

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage,
How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of east and west, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendour,
When He the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.


I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
When, at his bidding, every storm is stilled,
Or who can say how great the jubilation
When all the hearts of men with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
And myriad, myriad human voices sing,
And earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer:
‘At last the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is King!’

Pray

We are not normally persecuted for our faith in the United Kingdom. However, it can still be hard to speak up when those around are indifferent or think we are foolish.

Pray for Christians in other countries who suffer for their faith: social exclusion, expulsion from the family, loss of jobs, or even danger to life.

Ask God to help you find ways to share your faith with the people you meet each day.

Posted in Devotionals | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Holy Week Reflections – Saturday – Joseph looks after Jesus

Holy Week Reflections – Friday – The Centurion looks to Jesus

Read Mark 15:33-41

Key Verses

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’

Think

How many people were watching the crucifixion of Jesus as they had so many others, out of morbid fascination? The scribes and Pharisees were gloating over their supposed victory – “He saved others, let him save himself!” Most of the soldiers were drunk in an attempt to drown the horror of what they were called to do. Even those followers of Jesus who attended were stood at a distance. Yet one man recognised in that moment who Jesus was, and spoke out the words, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Jesus died so that we could look differently at ourselves, at those around us, our neighbourhoods and our world. We are called to recognise not only the reality of a world without God, but also the possibilities when people throw themselves on God’s mercy, accept the forgiveness of Jesus and live in the power of the Spirit.

Sing: When I survey the wondrous cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Pray

Pray “the Grace”:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with me evermore.

If we mean this prayer, it should make a difference to us.

Pray that people may see God at work in you and want to know him for themselves.

Posted in Devotionals | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Holy Week Reflections – Friday – The Centurion looks to Jesus

Holy Week Reflections – Thursday – Jesus looks at Mary and John

Read John 19:19-27

Key verses

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.

Think

This is a strange thing for Jesus to say. We know that Mary had a family, including sons who would take care of her when her eldest was dead. And John’s mother must still be alive, for only a few days earlier she had asked a favour of Jesus for James and John. So why would Jesus feel the need to put Mary into John’s care?

Earlier in the gospels, we read that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him. The first time they are counted among the believers is in the upper room at Pentecost. And if John’s mother really understood Jesus, she would not have asked that particular favour. Since Mary and John both understood Jesus to be the Son of God, there would be a spiritual connection between them that would support them through the difficult times to come.

Do we offer that same spiritual support to our family and friends in difficult times? Or are we like Jesus’ brothers and John’s mother, looking out only for our practical needs to be satisfied?

Sing: Blest are the pure in heart

Blest are the pure in heart,
For they shall see our God;
The secret of the Lord is theirs;
Their soul is Christ’s abode.

The Lord, who left the heavens,
Our life and peace to bring,
To dwell in lowliness with men,
Their pattern and their King;

Still to the lowly soul
He doth himself impart,
And for his cradle and his throne
Chooseth the pure in heart.

Lord, we thy presence seek;
May ours this blessing be;
Give us a pure and lowly heart,
A temple meet for thee.

John Keble (1792-1866) (verses 1 and 3),
attr William John Hall (1793-1861) (verses 2 and 4)

Pray

God gives us his word to enlighten our hearts. But he also wants us to support each other.

Pray for friends, family and corps members just now. Could you join with someone as a prayer partner, so you can support and encourage each other in your spiritual journey?

Posted in Devotionals | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Holy Week Reflections – Thursday – Jesus looks at Mary and John

Holy Week Reflections – Wednesday – Jesus looks at the weeping women

Read Luke 23:26-38

Key verses

27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, “Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!” 30 Then

‘“they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’
    and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’”

31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’

Think

The women who followed Jesus were weeping because he was being taken to his death. Perhaps they had followed him, listening to his teaching, and were sad that a good man was going to die. Maybe they had children of their own a similar age and so felt some empathy. Some will have known Mary and be weeping for her loss. Whatever their reasons, they would be focussing on the immediate events.

But Jesus saw his death as a sign of greater significance: once leaders get away with murder (literally in this case), they will turn away from God and expand their evil deeds – then ordinary people will suffer the consequences. The women should prepare for the harder times that would come, and the suffering those times would bring.

Sing: Softly and tenderly

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me!
Patiently Jesus is waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me!

Come home, come home!
Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

O for the wonderful love he has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me!

William Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909)

Pray

Do you find that your own worries seem so large that you’ve no time to see the bad things happening around you?

Or perhaps when you see the bad things, you despair.

Pray for eyes to see people and situations as Jesus does.

Then ask him if there is some practical way you can make things better for another person.

Posted in Devotionals | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Holy Week Reflections – Wednesday – Jesus looks at the weeping women