Good morning, Cheviot Churches! This is Colin, and I hope everyone is well and safe. As we go into yet another week of lockdown, the novelty has worn off, we have run out of cupboards to tidy and it can be quite dispiriting. And yet we have been so fortunate with the weather and truly we live with the beauty of God’s creation all around us. We have our service for the 3rd Sunday of Easter and today focus on the story of the road to Emmaus.
Call to Worship
We walk the path
of two who travelled a dusty road
wrapped in confusion and despair;
two who shared the company of a stranger
voicing their pain,
airing their fears,
and in the listening
heard words of hope and promise
and in the eating
received the bread of life
Today we re-enter the story of Easter
with the expectation that Christ
will also reveal himself to us
in words and sound.
Let us worship God
Hymn 404 – I danced in the morning
Our prayers of Approach and Confession
Let us pray
God of Easter hope,You hold the nations in your hand, yet know and love us all. By your Spirit, you gather us and in Christ you make us one.
Show us who we are and what we can be.
Set us free from all that is mean and wrong;
Hold us in our pain and hurt;
And bring us from brokenness to wholeness. Walk with us on the road and listen to our hurts and regrets; help us to let go the past and to recognise you in unexpected ways.
Risen Christ, we confess that like the two disciples on the Emmaus road we too often preoccupied with self that we fail to see you in our midst.
We readily welcome friends, but not always the stranger or those who make us uncomfortable. Forgive us and help us to be generous people and that our churches and homes may ever be places of welcome. (Pause)
Friends, know that in Christ, you are a forgiven people, set free by God’s redeeming love. Be at peace with God, with yourself and with one another.
Readings: Acts 2: 36-41
Luke 24: 13-35
Hymn 417 – Now the green blade riseth
Here is our weekly prayer from Arthur and Kathleen
Father God we thank you for the gift of your Son, our Saviour, who walks with us on our life’s journey. We pray for all who travel with us in our family, among our friends and within this community of Cheviot Churches. We ask for a deepening awareness of our need of your presence with us. Keep us all safe and well as we continue our isolation and protect all those still working to care for us. Amen
The daughter of friends of mine was 21 last week. She had had great plans for her birthday including a big party with all her friends from College. What was not in her plans was that she would spend the whole day with her parents. But that was exactly what happened. She was on lockdown of course, and living with her parents and siblings at the family home and only able to communicate by Zoom with her friends. It wasn’t the same. Though her mother enjoyed it very much.
I think some of us may have had significant birthdays or anniversaries, weddings or holidays, which we have had to put on hold because of the Coronavirus crisis. Events that we have been looking forward to, but they just haven’t happened.
Today we read the story of the Road to Emmaus; a story which means a lot to me for different reasons. And we find the two disciples walking along the road. Cleopas and – well, the other is not named, but many commentators think it would have been his wife, and certainly they stayed in the same house. Walking along the road, no, more ‘trudged’ along the road. You can feel the heaviness in every step. These were two people who had been traumatised by the events in Jerusalem. They had seen their friend, their teacher, tried and executed on the cross. And they were grieving. One of the awful things about this crisis we are in is that people often die alone in hospital without their loved ones around them, and families have to cope with that. These two disciples were going through the same.
They were grieving, but also their dreams had been shattered. ‘We had hoped…’ they said. They had hoped that Jesus would usher in a new kingdom of peace and justice. But the cross seemed to put paid to that. Like my friends’ daughter and her party, things hadn’t gone to plan. Their dreams were in ruins, they had reached a dead end, and so they turned their backs on Jerusalem and were going home with heavy hearts.
And a stranger appeared beside them and walked with them. He saw their hurt, and there was something about him, they opened up to him and were able to tell him about their pain and disappointment. The stranger was the risen Christ, but they didn’t recognise him. He walked alongside them in their pain, he accompanied them in their grief, and he helped them to see beyond it.
I think it is a challenge for all of us. To be able walk alongside people(not literally, at this time of course) and to listen and share their frustrations. It is so important to make time for people and lend a listening ear, for each of us has their story to tell.
They reached Emmaus, and the stranger made to go on, but the couple invited him into their home. He had made their journey lighter and somehow helped them to put things into perspective, had opened up Scripture to them and set their hearts on fire. They wanted him to stay and eat with them. Hospitality is always so important, but is again something we are restricted in being able to do these days. The book of Hebrews reminds us that by sharing hospitality, we entertain angels unawares. And as they sat down at the table, Jesus breaks bread, and suddenly their eyes are opened. Breaking bread, sharing hospitality can still open our eyes to the presence of Christ among us. As one commentator put it, it takes us on a journey from head to heart, from thinking about God to relationship with God.
The presence of Christ walking alongside them and breaking bread with them had transformed Mr and Mrs Cleopas. So much so, that they ran back all the way to Jerusalem invigorated, ready to share the Good News with their friends. What a contrast to the picture we had of them initially, so full of cares and woes. In the aftermath of Easter, we see how the presence of the Risen Christ transforms the disciples. He still can transform us today into people ready to reach out and listen, ready to share the Good News that all are welcome in the embrace of God’s love. Amen
Here is a meditation by Roddy Hamilton from Bearsden New Kilpatrick Church
When Thomas touched the wounds
and set himself free
it was Easter day
When Peter’s three “yes’s” to Jesus
finished his three denials
it was Easter day
When the disciples looked from afar
at a breakfast of fish on the beach
it was Easter day
When Emmaus became synonymous with welcome
and the breaking of bread with strangers
it was Easter day
When the hungry are fed at the table
the same table as the rich
it is Easter day
When weapons are beaten to ploughshares
and peace is a word to be shouted
it is Easter day
When the stranger is welcomed in community
and the lonely are restored to relationship
it is Easter day...
Hymn 198 – Let us build a house … All are welcome
We now have our prayer of dedication of our offerings, of our gifts and talents, of our very selves. And this is followed by our prayers for others. Let us pray.
Like the disciples at Emmaus,
we offer what we have.
They offered their company,
their table, their bread.
We invite you to be with us, Jesus,
as we offer you our love,
our devotion, our gifts.
All-seeing and unseen God, you make your presence known to us when we least expect it. Come to us, we pray, when our need is greatest.
We place before you this virus present in our world. We ask your blessing on all doctors and nurses and NHS staff, as they work tirelessly to save lives. Be with all working in care homes and with the residents. Calm any tensions.
Give wisdom to scientists, researching into a vaccine.
Endow caregivers with compassion and generosity. Bring healing to those who are ill.
Protect those who are most at risk.
Give comfort to those who have lost loved ones.
Welcome those who have died into your eternal home.
Praise be to the farmers, planting seed and looking after animals, especially at this lambing season. Praise be to janitors and rubbish collectors, to those who drive delivery vans and truck drivers and postal workers. Praise be to those who keep an eye on water and electricity and oil. To all in resilience groups.
We ask your blessings on domestic abuse victims on lockdown with abusers. We think of the homeless and refugees and enfold them in your care.
And when all this is past may we say that love spread more quickly than any virus ever could.
Stabilize our communities.
Unite us in our compassion.
Remove all fear from our hearts.
Fill us with confidence in your care.
Lord, hear our prayers in Jesus name. Amen
I always like Hymn 416 – Christ is alive, especially verses 2 and 5
Go now as those who have met with Christ this day
Go now as those who hearts have burned within them,
as the Scriptures were explained.
Go now as those who have been touched by resurrection.
And may the blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be upon you and be upon all you love, wherever they may be, now and always. Amen
A podcast of this reflection can be heard via the Podcast page
Hello Cheviot Churches and welcome to our service for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Easter Day was the first!). It has traditionally been called ‘Low Sunday’, after the highs of Easter Day, and we focus on Thomas’ encounter with the risen Christ.
Call to Worship
In worship and in prayers
JESUS IS AMONG US
In the telling of stories and in signs
JESUS IS AMONG US
In this place and in this moment
JESUS IS AMONG US IN JOY
Hymn 413 (Tune Ellacombe - Hosanna, loud Hosanna)
The day of Resurrection!
Earth tell it out abroad;
The Passover of gladness,
The Passover of God!
From death to life eternal,
From sins dominions free,
Our Christ has brought us over
With hymns of victory. (St John of Damascus)
Let us pray
God our Maker, we come before you this day,
giving thanks for all the wonders of your creation:
for the detailed perfection revealed in a baby’s tiny fingers,
in pussy willows and daffodils greeting the spring,
in the hills worn over the centuries by wind and rain,
witnessing to your wisdom like wrinkles around an aging smile.
These details lift our hearts to praise you.
So, let the story the Risen Christ lift our hearts this day,
that we too may discover him in our midst,
making all things new with the springtime of your Spirit.
O God, in raising Jesus from the dead, you showed us your power to defeat all that brings fear and sorrow to our lives.
In his resurrection, Jesus promised to be with us always.
Yet we confess we are sometimes hesitant about how to find him. Like Thomas, we are unsure if we can trust the promise of resurrection for ourselves.
Forgive us when we have kept your resurrection as a past event rather than a present encounter: Lord, have mercy.
Forgive us for the times when we have been blind to your presence: Lord, have mercy. For those times when we have failed to live as those who have risen with Christ: Lord, have mercy
Breathe your Spirit upon us and bring us the peace Christ promised.
Friends, the risen Christ is in our midst, speaking words of peace and forgiveness to us this day. Receive his gift of forgiveness. Be at peace with yourself and with one another. Amen.
Lord’s Prayer – Our Father…
Readings: 1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20: 19-31
This joyful Eastertide, away with sin and sorrow.
My love, the Crucified, has sprung to life this morrow.
Had Christ, who once was slain,
Not burst his three day prison,
Our faith had been in vain:
But Christ has now arisen.
Here is our weekly prayer from Arthur and Kathleen:
"My Lord and My God", we thank you that we are blessed having not seen, yet we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing we have life in His name. Help us to continue to live a resurrection life and despite our present difficulties and restrictions, show the world that we are His disciples. Amen
We hear a lot about heroes these days. There are the doctors and nurses and all who work on the frontline or the likes of Captain Tom, the 99 year old veteran, who has raised enormous sums of money for the NHS through walking in his garden. People are responding to this crisis we are in in so many creative and positive ways, and many are truly heroes.
In the Bible we have many heroes, and the disciples should probably be included among them. HOWEVER, in the aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, they were not being very heroic. Far from it. They huddled away behind locked doors, fearful of the authorities; fearful of being accused of being friends of Jesus, fearful of being quietly ‘disposed of’. And so they shut themselves away, and not even the news from the women that the tomb was empty, that incredibly Jesus was risen, could make them unlock that door and venture outside.
And Jesus came and stood among them. In Revelation we have the famous line, ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock…’ which we associate with the picture of Jesus knocking at the handle-less door, waiting for the one inside to open it and let him in. Well in this case, the risen Christ didn’t even bother knocking - he gatecrashed the gloomy gathering and stood among them, he breathed the Spirit on them and offered them peace.
There is a Graham Kendrick chorus, ‘Jesus stand among us at the meeting of our lives, be the sweet agreement at the meeting of our eyes’. Well, I am sure the disciples would have been filled with incredible joy to see Jesus alive, but no doubt some would have been uneasy looking into his eyes, for they had denied knowing him and run away. They had let him down. But Jesus stood with them, offering peace and offering forgiveness and, by breathing the Spirit onto them, offering a new start.
As we isolate and protect ourselves, we need to know that Jesus still comes into our anxiety-filled spaces and still offers us his peace amid the chaos and offers us his hope amid our fears.
But of course, Thomas wasn’t there on that occasion. Why, we don’t know. Maybe he was out doing the shopping, fetching the groceries. Or perhaps he was checking the situation and whether it was safe. Or maybe he just needed his own space to grieve. But he wasn’t there when Jesus appeared. Imagine how that must have felt when he was what (or who) he had missed. But at the same time, he was unwilling to go along with the crowd and rely on 2nd hand experience. He had seen Jesus die on the cross. No wonder he questioned and dismissed his friends’ ravings as a kind of hysteria.
Thomas has of course been branded ‘Doubting Thomas’, which is so unfair. I like to think of him as ‘Questioning Thomas’ and the patron saint of all the researchers carrying out work on the coronavirus, asking the questions to find ultimately a vaccine. Thomas can be our patron saint too, for I think that our faith is always strengthened by asking questions about what we believe.
The story does not end there, but a week later we still find the disciples behind their locked door, but this time Thomas is with them. Jesus appears. I am thankful to Thomas, as because of his questioning we can focus on the wounds the Risen Christ still bore. He still has the marks of the nails on his hands, the mark of the spear in his side. He still has the scars that speak of sacrifice and was the same Jesus who had been nailed to the cross, who was willing to die to show us the height and breadth and depth of God’s love. That means Christ can still speak to our wounded, suffering world today. Christ can still speak to us in our pain.
Christ showed Thomas his wounds, and Thomas said ‘my Lord and my God’, one of the most heartfelt affirmations of faith we find in the Gospels. And from there the disciples became transformed into an Easter people, ready to turn the world upside down with their belief in the Risen Christ. We too are an Easter people ready with our questioning and with our faith to be as Christ to those around us at this challenging time. In the name of the father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
We would normally have our offering after the sermon. Like so many other organisations, the church, both local and national, is suffering financially because of the lockdown, and that has a knock-on effect on the various care homes run by the church and other missions at home and abroad. While some of us give our offerings by standing order, which is great, others give by freewill offering, and I would encourage you to keep filling your envelopes during this present crisis.
Hymn – SGP 7
Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord!
Alleluia , Alleluia, give praise to his name.
Jesus is Lord of all the earth
He is the King of creation.
Our prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
God of new Life, Christ came speaking words of peace and understanding. Thank you for strengthening our faith
and empowering us to live with hope and trust in you day by day.
We are grateful that you give us courage to face our fears and struggles, patience to endure moments when the way ahead is not clear,
and resilience in the face of new realities.
Loving God, we pray for the many places of brokenness in our world. We think especially of those suffering in the COVID-19 outbreak, those with the disease, those who have lost loved ones, those working hard to respond to the pandemic, and those who have lost work or lost hope.
We ask that the whole earth will experience your gift of new life and hope.
We thank you for scientists, working to understand this virus and to find an antidote. For journalists, keeping us informed; for teachers finding new ways to teach children from afar and parents holding it all together. We pray for careworkers and caregivers of any kind and for all who have illnesses like cancer and need treatment. We enfold them in your care.
We pray for those who struggle with their experience of the church. Open them to your love and grace so that any pain the church has caused will be healed. Guide us with your Spirit of wisdom to know how to live out our faith in ways that create pathways for others to find you, not barriers.
We pray for our congregation, for the Church of Scotland, and for the Church in every country and culture. In these days of unexpected challenge, when worship and fellowship have been disrupted, strengthen our trust in you and our concern for others. Make us good stewards of time apart to reflect on your presence with your people in circumstances of deep challenge. Help us maintain the joy we know in the Risen Christ.
In silence we bring the prayers of our hearts.
Hear these and all our prayers in Jesus’ name Amen
Hymn 432 (this can be sung to Aurelia – the church’s one foundation)
How often we like Thomas
Need proof before we trust.
Lord Jesus friend of doubters,
Come speak your truth to us.
We long to feel your presence
And gain new faith from you,
To find, without our seeing,
The blessing Thomas knew.
You always stand among us,
No doors can lock you out.
Your presence reassures us
Though we still live with doubt.
As present-day disciples,
Whose lives by sin are flawed,
We want to come believing
And cry: ‘My Lord and God’.
(Edith Sinclair Downing)
Risen Christ, no tomb could hold you and no door could shut you out. Bless us with your presence and fill us with your peace. Send us out into the world to live and love with you. And may the blessing of God Almighty, the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, be with you and with those whom you love, wherever they may be, now and always. Amen
A podcast of this reflection can be heard on the Podcast page.
The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
A happy and blessed Easter to everyone. It is of course far different from what we are used to, but we continue to adjust to our new situation. As I mentioned on Thursday (I like to repeat myself), the disciples were on lockdown after the crucifixion and isolated themselves from the people behind their locked doors, but the Risen Jesus entered, bringing joy and peace and hope. Thus may we experience something of the joy of Easter as we worship in our homes.
One or two notices:
412 – The strife is o’er
413 – The day of resurrection
415 – This joyful Eastertide
425 – The Saviour died , but rose again
SGP 51 – In a byre near Bethlehem
Call to Worship:
This is the Good News – the light shines in the darkness & the darkness will never overcome it.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen.
This is the Good News: once we were no people; now we are God’s people.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen.
This is the Good News – the grave is empty & Christ is risen.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen indeed!
Let us worship God with Easter joy!
The hymn 410: Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once, upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!
Let us pray
Jesus Christ, we greet you!
Your hands still have holes in them,
your feet are wet with dew;
And with the memory of our names undimmed by three days of death
You meet us, risen from the grave.
We fail to understand how;
We puzzle at the reason why.
But you have come, not to answer our questions,
but to show your face.
You are alive, and the world can rejoice again.
God of mystery, we confess that faith doesn’t come easy every Easter.
When we face difficulties and loss in our own lives, we sometimes lose track of the promise in Christ’s resurrection.
Sorrow can weigh us down.
Our challenges can feel like a stone too heavy to roll away.
Forgive us, O God, and let the joy of this day assure us
that the power of your love will never let us go.
Glorious God, so fill your people with joy
That the world may know that you son Jesus
Is not a dead hero whom we commemorate,
But the living Lord whom we worship,
To whom with you and the Holy Spirit,
Be our praise forever, Amen
Our Father, ….
Roddy Hamilton is a Church of Scotland minister, who has written a lot of worship material. In 1997 he wrote this Easter affirmation:
Today we have stood at the morning of the Kingdom and we have glimpsed the future:
And we have seen death’s greatest failure and love’s greatest triumph!
We are the people of the Kingdom!
Today we have seen the stone rolled away and witnessed the door to life opened up.
We have seen why there is hope in despair, for we are caught in love’s eternal brightness
Today we have stood with all the disciples of every time and place and looked into a tomb that is empty: we are taking part in the Good News of resurrection, for we have touched the joy that changes life into freedom, the hope that turns dreams into living, the love that gathers together and rebuilds all the brokenness, all the lifelessness, all the longing
Of yesterday’s living
In today’s amazing Yes to life.
We are the people of the Kingdom!
Alleluia Christ is risen!
Here is a hymn from the Presbyterian Church in the USA, written for this time of self-isolation:
This Easter celebration is not like ones we’ve known.
We pray in isolation, we sing the hymns alone.
We’re distant from our neighbours— from worship leaders, too.
No flowers grace the chancel to set a festive mood.
No gathered choirs are singing; no banners lead the way.
O God of love and promise, where’s joy this Easter Day?
With sanctuaries empty, may homes become the place
we ponder resurrection and celebrate your grace.
Our joy won’t come from worship that’s in a crowded room
but from the news of women who saw the empty tomb.
Our joy comes from disciples who ran with haste to see--
who heard that Christ is risen, and then, by grace, believed.
In all the grief and suffering, may we remember well:
Christ suffered crucifixion and faced the powers of hell.
Each Easter bears the promise: Christ rose that glorious day!
Now nothing in creation can keep your love away.
We thank you that on Easter, your church is blessed to be
a scattered, faithful body that’s doing ministry.
In homes and in the places of help and healing, too,
we live the Easter message by gladly serving you.
Tune: Aurelia (The Church’s one foundation)
Text: Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
Reading: Matthew 28: 1-10
During my daily exercise, I pass homes with rainbows attached to their windows. We remember from Genesis that the rainbow was a sign of hope to Noah and his family after the catastrophe of the Flood. Our children have obviously taken time to make these rainbows, which are signs of hope for us and affirm that we are going to get through this Covid-19 crisis.
The disciples were completely shattered after the crucifixion of Jesus. All hope had gone from their lives; they had the aching grief the death of a loved one brings, but also the devastation of all their hopes and dreams for the world. The women at least go through the ritual of making their way to the tomb to anoint his body, though in reality they probably just wanted to gain some comfort from being near him. We know something of their despondency as they trudge to the tomb.
I always love John’s telling of the Easter story in John 20, where Mary Magdalene discovers that the tomb is empty. Fearing grave robbers perhaps, she runs back to tell the disciples, and Peter and John race to the tomb to find indeed the tomb was empty. Mary lingers by the grave and encounters the risen Christ, mistaking him for the gardener at first. There is a wonderful intimacy in the scene, but Christ instructs her not to touch him, but to go to the disciples, and she does so with the words, ‘I have seen the Lord!’
However, we are in Year A of the lectionary, when we focus on Matthew’s Gospel, where in his telling of the events of Easter morning, the women actually witness the angel moving away the rock covering the tomb’s entrance. The angel, we are told, was like lightening. No wonder the women were absolutely terrified. The angel, and the risen Christ whom they encounter later, both begin by saying ‘Do not be afraid’, and the women depart to tell the disciples with this combination of fear and joy.
I think that is appropriate for our present circumstances. Our world is hurting, and every time we listen to the news we are filled with anxiety, especially as we see scenes from hospitals. Some of us have lost loved ones or know of people who have died of this coronavirus. We need to hear the words, ‘Do not be afraid’ and to know that are greatest fears are replaced by hope, that death and suffering donot have the last word and that evil will not prevail. The tomb is empty and Christ has risen; God has given a gigantic Yes to life.
We still live in lockdown, the virus is still spreading. It is as if we are in Holy Saturday despair. We have fears about what the world will be like once we get back to normal. Will there be an economic depression? Will those who are furloughed have a job to go back to? Will we be able to pick ourselves up? We need to hear the Easter message that the tomb was empty, that death could not hold Christ, that we can face the future in hope with a Saviour who knows what suffering and even death are like. That was the case in Matthew’s Gospel. The women at the tomb were able to go back to the disciples to share their good news, for in spite of their anxiety, they were also filled with joy, for they had met the Risen Christ. And the disciples when they too encountered the risen Christ were turned from a bedraggled group lurking behind locked doors into men and women to turn the world upside down. It wasn’t easy; they were persecuted, hated, mocked, but they had the inner joy the risen Christ brought.
In the resurrection we have God’s promise that life is stronger than death, that love is greater than hatred, that the sufferings of this world are transient. They don’t have the last word.
For the Good News is that Christ has been raised. The Good News is that death is defeated. This Good News is life-changing and world-transforming. I wish everyone a happy and blessed Easter, as we enjoy in our country setting, the new life all around us.
The hymn 417 is a great favourite of mine:
Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again that with the dead has been:
Love is come again,
like wheat that springeth green.
When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain, Thy touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again,
like wheat that springeth green
John Macleod Campbell Crum
Let us pray
Great and glorious God,
you have rolled away the stone and raised Christ to life, and now you invite us to share in the Good News.
Give us the courage to welcome the winds of change in our lives
as it sweeps our streets
and brings hope to hungry families, the sick and the sad.
In this season of Easter, run with us in the joy of new life that transforms the way we see the world and one another.
For Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
Lord Jesus Christ, on this Easter Day we join with all Your world to bring our thanks for hope restored and life renewed. We think of the tomb, and of all that speaks of death and destruction in our world. We pray for nations at conflict and for the hurt and destruction that comes with war. We pray for the environmental catastrophe of global warming and our part in it. Where we are entombed in pain, Roll back the stone
We think of the disciples’ confusion and pointless running about, and we pray for all who are over-busy, burnt out, exhausted trying to make ends meet. We pray for the under-employed and those forced into inactivity by disability. Where we are entombed in pain, Roll back the stone
We think of Mary not recognising Jesus, then hearing him call her name. We pray for the lonely and those left out, especially those with mental illness. We think of the vulnerable and the afraid and for all who go unnoticed. We think of Christians persecuted for their faith and feeling vulnerable Where we are entombed in pain, Roll back the stone
We think of the women being sent to the disciples with the good news of resurrection. We pray for all who long for good news, especially at this time -those infected with and affected by Covid-19, the NHS staff and all on the front line. We continue to pray for wisdom and guidance for our governments in Westminster and Holyrood Where we are entombed in pain, Roll back the stone
Lord, hear these and all our prayers in Jesus name. Amen
The hymn 419 reads:
Thine be the glory, Risen, conquering Son,
Endless is the victory thou o'er death hast won;
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave-clothes where thy body lay.
Thine be the glory,
Risen, conquering Son;
Endless is the victory
Thou o'er death hast won!
Lo, Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
Let the Church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
For her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.
No more we doubt thee, Glorious Prince of life;
Life is naught without thee: aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conquerors through thy deathless love;
Bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above:
Edmund Bundry (1854- 1932)
God of new possibilities, new beginning, new hope bless us now with your resurrection life
Jesus, calling us by name,
Knowing and loving us completely
bless us now with your resurrection life
Spirit, sending us out with Good News,
equipping and energizing us
bless us now with your resurrection life
The blessing of God, father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with you and with all whom you love now and always Amen
On Good Friday we would usually have our 3 hour meditation at Hoselaw Chapel to mark the hours on the cross. Usually we would have the seven readings, at the start, then at every half hour and after each people would sit in silence to meditate.
This year is obviously very different, but please feel free to sit from 12 till 3 or from 2 to 5 in the afternoon. Or just for a little time.
A podcast of this meditation can be found on the podcast page of the website.
If anybody wishes to reflect on hymns for Good Friday, the following are appropriate (CH4):
377 – Go to dark Gethsemane
380 – There is a green hill far away
382 – O Sacred head, sore wounded
385 – Here hangs a man discarded
392 – When I survey the wondrous cross
399 – My song is love unknown
403 – Were you there when they crucified my Lord? 405 – We sing the praise..
I am using material in our meditations from Apprentices and Eyewitnesses by Chris Thorpe, ‘All desires known’ by Janet Morley, ‘Seasons with the Spirit’ ed Ruth Harvey and Roots Magazine.
In the shadow of our suffering
is the suffering of Jesus
In the shadow of our weakness
Is the vulnerability of the Christ
In the shadow of our pain
Is the God who cried out.
We are never rejected
We are never abandoned.
First Reading – Mark 14: 32-50
We are in the olive groves of Gethsemane, and it is night and it is dark. Jesus is alone and lonely. The disciples have fallen asleep, and Jesus wrestles with what lies ahead. Humiliation, torture, even death. In Gethsemane Jesus dares to voice his heartfelt desire not to go through with it. ‘Take this cup away from me’.
How many people struggling with the coronavirus have said that. Or ill with cancer or beset with problems. We long for the reality to be different, for a miracle to happen. Especially as Christians, we are supposed to have the spiritual resources to cope.
Jesus was honest about his feelings, but equally he placed himself in God’s hands: But not my will but yours be done.
Then the soldiers are upon them, and he is led away.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus, we wait with you in the darkness.
We will watch with you now, in this moment when you need us.
Help us to learn from your honesty, as we reflect on our own feelings on the challenges we face in life. We don’t want this cup. Why me?
Give us grace to walk through the valley
And come to the dawn of a new day
with you. Amen.
Second reading – Luke 22: 54-71
Simon Bailey reflected on the Women in the Good Friday story and here he imagines the Serving woman:
‘I am the serving woman in the courtyard by the fire. I was serving the men who had arrested Jesus. They wanted a drink while the High Priest worked out what to do with him.
I recognised Jesus’ friend, though he wasn’t saying much, just keeping his distance. I felt sorry for him. I wondered what it was about this Jesus that earned such devotion. I spoke to his friend – to help really., but he swore at me - and at himself – that they were not friends.
I watched as he got more agitated – and I watched Jesus , standing there inside, so silent, so still, so sad. But it was the last moment I will never forget, printed always on my mind, on my heart.. Just after his friend again denied knowing him, just before he ran off into the night, sobbing his heart out, Jesus turned round and looked at him.
I know what that look meant. It meant need and pain, yes, but it also meant mercy, pity and forgiveness. I was shocked, shaken, for he wasn’t just looking at his friend, but at me and everyone else. He was looking at us all with mercy and forgiveness.
Let us pray
Jesus turned round and looked at him. Lord, we see ourselves in Peter. Like Peter, we deny you, like the disciples we run away from you. We fail you, we fail our world, but you speak your words of forgiveness and the look in your eye is that of love. Restore us ever to be your people in the community and in the world. Amen.
Third Reading – Matthew 27: 11-31
Here is a reflection from Roots magazine, imagining how Pilate felt:
It’s all my fault. I’m a weak man. They think I’m strong, but I’m not. They think I have power, but I don’t. The more power you get, the more you are desperate to hold on to it. The higher up the pole you climb, the more people are desperate to push you off. All the decisions I make are about me, about keeping my grasp on power, inching my way further upwards in the eyes of those above me.
It was the same with him. I made that power calculation, but it wasn’t the same. I could sense it – he was like nobody else I’ve ever met – he wasn’t afraid of me. In him was the chance to break that dog-eat-dog cycle. He held it out to me, the chance to act selflessly for once in my life. And for a millisecond I was tempted, but I bottled out. I couldn’t do it. I failed him. I failed myself. I let us both down. I washed my hands.
What if I had pardoned him? Who knows what would have happened. Probably there’d have been a riot. I would have sent out the soldiers and there would have been blood in the streets. Perhaps I would have lost my job, my position, maybe even my life, but could it have felt any worse than this? I have failed him – it’s all my fault.
Oh, my Lord (I can’t believe I’m calling him that) – what have I done? It’s all my fault, I’m so sorry...
Let us pray
Almighty God, look in mercy upon this your family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content to be betrayed and given into the hands of the wicked and to suffer death upon the cross: who is alive and glorified with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Fourth reading – Luke 23: 26, 32-43
Just after dawn we gathered in Jerusalem, to walk the Via Dolorosa, the way of the cross, and we took it in turns to carry the cross. It wasn’t anything like the size or weight of the cross Jesus would have carried, but it was awkward to carry, and when it was my turn, I was glad when someone helped. Simon of Cyrene was press ganged into carrying the cross for Jesus. It obviously made a big impact on him, and he and his sons were well known to the early church.
Let us pray
Jesus our brother. You followed the necessary path and were broken on our behalf. May we neither cling to our pain where it is futile, nor refuse to embrace the cost when it is required of us: that in losing ourselves for your sake, we may be brought to new life. Amen (Janet Morley)
Fifth Reading – John 19: 16-27
I am Mary, his mother. I did not always understand my son – he never married to give me grandchildren, he left home and job to wander with his friends, he put other loyalties above his family and talked of sharing one father with all the world. I didn’t always understand him.
But this I understand – this suffering and death. As much as it hurts, I know it isn’t unexpected: he knew that living as he did, loving as only he could do, healing, teaching, blessing, giving, would stir a bitter hatred that only he could cure. And only this way could he cure it.
But I am his mother and remember the longing and aching for his birth. And now I long to take him in my arms again and hold him in his anguish. I am learning as he gives his friend into my care, and me to his, that all the future is this nurturing and nursing of each other to a new birth.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus, you draw us into new patterns of relationship and care. You help us to rebuild our broken communities through your generous, inclusive love. Help us now to open our homes and our hearts to find new ways to belong together within the promise of your kingdom. Amen.
Sixth Reading – Mark 15: 29-39 –
Is it nothing to you, all ye who pass by? In my living room wall there is a picture, bought in Namibia, of an African figure, arms outstretched, and it is called ‘Embracing the world’. Jesus on the cross had his arms outstretched to enfold the world in his love as he died on the cross.
Read Isaiah 53: 1-9 and Psalm 22: 1-8
Let us pray
Dying Stranger, your Arms stretch wide and draw my wretched life within the compass of your innocence.
‘Were the whole realm of nature mine that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all’.
Seventh Reading – John 19: 31-42 Burial
Let us pray
your hands now bear the wounds,
your heart now holds the agony
of that appalling cross.
Hold us in your everlasting arms
As we face the little deaths of our daily lives
And the great mystery of our own mortality.
May we find you there beside us,
Light in our darkest night. Amen
You took our worst
You gave your best
You took our hate
You gave your love
You took that cross
You changed everything
We adore you, O Christ
And we bless you
Hello Cheviot Churches! I hope everyone is well and bearing up in these strange times. It is easy to lose track of time, but this is Palm Sunday and the start to Holy Week. Some notices:
We tell your story, we follow in your footsteps
Lead us into Holy Week
We walk towards the city, we wait in the garden
Lead us onto Holy Ground
We journey towards death,
we hope for resurrection
Lead us into holy joy
For those who wish to reflect on Palm Sunday hymns, the following are appropriate:
364 – All glory, laud and honour
365 – Ride on, ride on in majesty
366 – Come into the streets with me
367 – Hosanna, loud Hosanna
370 – Ride on, ride on the time is right
399 (v. 3) – My song is love unknown
Let us pray
Holy and gracious God, the same yesterday, today and forever, We draw into your presence at this strange time, when each day has a sense of sameness and when we continually try to motivate ourselves to get through each day. Help us to be still and know that you are God. (Pause)
We see you in the new life all around us – in the lambs and calves in our fields, the shoots in our gardens and the blossom on our trees. We thank you for the gift of life, especially when our lives are being so challenged.
Lead us through the trials and suffering, the fears and struggles, the tired times and hard dark places.
Forgive our sins and transform us by your love. Transform us to grow and understand and see, that we can be made whole and in wholeness be your hands and heart in our communities and in our world, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us when we pray to say:
Readings - Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
Our weekly prayer from Arthur and Kathleen:
Father God, as we move into Holy Week we commend ourselves and all those whom we live amongst, for whom Christ suffered, to His mercy and protection especially at this time when the coronavirus I so virulent. We join with those long ago who proclaimed " Blessed is he comes in the name of The Lord" as we worship JESUS "the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee", our Saviour and Lord. Amen.
Last Thursday evening people stood at their windows or outside their homes and clapped. We wanted to show our deep, heart-felt appreciation for the work of all the NHS workers, of all involved at the frontline of dealing with this coronavirus.
When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, no doubt some applauded. Others were maybe less inhibited and waved branches and called out, ‘Hosanna, Hosanna. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’. As a child I always loved Palm Sunday. There was always a party atmosphere in church. Palm Sunday is that kind of day.
I was looking forward to my first Palm Sunday in Cheviot Churches. There had been a proposal that we walk around the churches in the parish -from Hownam to Morebattle to Linton to Hoselaw to Yetholm. It sounded quite daunting really, but I am sure there would have been much chat and good fellowship and even song. Certainly when I was in both Zambia and Israel/Palestine Palm Sunday meant joining with other denominations and processing through communities waving our palm branches – plenty of them in the church gardens there – and being a witness. Palm Sunday was tremendously strengthening. It was coming together, it was carnival time.
And he continues to challenge us, just as he did on that first entry into the city. People were cheering, for Jesus was making a point – he was enacting a prophecy from Zechariah, performing it in a bit of street theatre, riding a donkey, just as Zechariah said the Messiah would do. Here was the Messiah, the people thought, come to rid the city of the hated Romans, come to bring freedom.
But it was a different kind of freedom Jesus would bring, for he came, not to wield the sword, but as the prince of Peace. ‘Hosanna’, the people cried, It means Save us. And indeed Jesus came to save, but the people only wanted quick solutions, and so their cheers of Hosanna would turn into jeers of Crucify.
Matthew ends his passage by asking the question Who is this man? As we enter Holy Week, who do we say Jesus is? It will be a hard week ahead, a week of denial, betrayal and death, but one that leads to the unstoppable new life God offers to us all. Amen
Let us pray
O Christ, you entered the city as a poor man
not in style but simply,
yet still you caused uproar, and questions everywhere;
you drew the expectations of a hungry crowd,
and brought buried conflicts to the light.
May we, who are sometimes swayed by the crowd's approval, and who often avoid conflict
for fear of its cost to us,
hold fast to the gospel of peace and justice
and follow faithfully in your way of compassion and solidarity with those who are poor and excluded,
wherever it may lead us. (Kathy Galloway)
Holy God, as we enter this most solemn week in the Christian year,
in these extraordinary times,
help us to lament with the psalmist.
As we are restricted in what we can do
and must worship in households rather than in church buildings,
help us to remember that the church is not closed –
for church is people not buildings.
We pray for all with whom we normally worship Sunday by Sunday…
God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Holy God, we pray for those in authority as they grapple with the unexpected.
Guide those who are giving the world’s leaders knowledge and expertise in these times.
Give wisdom and courage to all in leadership,
and when this is all over may humankind emerge strengthened.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Holy God, as we hear and see the news
and exchange thoughts on social media,
help us to remember all those less fortunate than ourselves, among them:
those who are lonely,
those who are angry,
those who are distressed,
those who are at their wits end,
those who are struggling to get home,
those who cannot get the help they need…
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Holy God, we remember all those who are working to keep things going:
those working in the NHS and those around it helping to keep things working,
those keeping our streets clean and collecting our rubbish,
those harvesting, delivering and selling the food in our shops,
those keeping us secure and our utilities functioning,
those looking after the children of key workers,
those helping to care for the elderly and vulnerable,
clergy of all religions seeking to minister in difficult times…
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Holy God, we remember those who have died,
whether from Covid-19 or from other causes.
We pray for their families and friends
especially as they arrange funerals so different from what they expected.
We pray that they and we may come at the last to find peace in your presence.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer. Amen
(Dudley Coates – Methodist local Preacher)
The God of Jesus Christ – who calls us to walk with him to face the principalities and powers, to live the values of the upside-down Kingdom, to work, to challenge, to suffer – be with you this Holy Week. Now and for evermore. Amen