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

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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