Sunday 11th April 2021
Although the news of the death yesterday of Prince Philip was not entirely unexpected given his recent state of health it still came as something of a shock. The death of a loved one always hits hard no matter how much we might feel we have prepared for it. The Queen must feel his loss in ways that we cannot fully understand. After over 70 years of married life the coming days will be difficult without what has been the constant support of her husband.
As a nation we too have a real sense of loss. The Duke of Edinburgh has dedicated his life to the support of the monarch and has been an influence for good in the country, the Commonwealth and the wider world. Long before it became fashionable he was championing the work of conservation through the World Wildlife Fund of which he was the founding president.
He was a supporting patron of many charities, but his greatest legacy will be his work with young people through the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Nearly all of us will have family or friends who have participated in the scheme.
Sport was something he enjoyed, especially when horses were involved. He was an expert carriage driver and it has been said that his skills served in good stead as he steered the monarchy through the 20th century ensuring that it was able to develop and remain relevant despite the changes in society.
It is only now when he has gone that the full impact the Duke had on the life of family and country will be fully appreciated.
As a nation we have been saddened by the death of Philip Duke of Edinburgh. We pray for the Queen in her time of deep personal loss. For over 70 years of marriage he has been her constant support and soulmate. We give thanks for his life and service recognising his support for the Queen through all the years of her reign. We remember, too, his work supporting many charities and, perhaps most memorably for young people for over sixty years through his patronage of The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.
We offer our heartfelt prayers for Her Majesty and her family. Comfort them in their loss, bind up their wounds and grant them the consolation of a store of treasured memories. Grant Her Majesty the peace that comes from knowing you and which passes all understanding.
Hymn 425 The Saviour died and rose again
O Lord our God, the light of the world, shine in our hearts to take from us the darkness of sin that we might be pure and clean in your sight. So make us worthy to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. In this holy season of Easter we rejoice that Christ was raised from the dead to live for evermore at your right hand. We praise you that by dying and rising again he has destroyed the power of death and holds out to us the promise of eternal life.
Holy Father we come before you with humble hearts, confessing our faults and failings. We constantly seek the vanities of this world that make us forgetful of the living God. Though Christ holds out to us the true way of life we turn from his paths, always believing that we know best. Too often we are selfish and self-centred. The needs of others we ignore. Called to bear witness of the faith that is in us we seek to remain silent. Yet we know that unless we speak, none will hear. Unless we let our good deeds shine, none will see the light. Do not deal with us as we deserve but pardon our foolish ways. Let your mercy and forgiveness cleanse us from all sin.
God grant us wisdom to accept your ordering of our ways, that we may know when to speak and when to keep silent; when to act and when to refrain. Make us strong to keep faith with Christ.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Suffer us not to stray from you, who is the way, nor to distrust you, who is the truth, nor to rest in anything other than you, who is the life. Teach us by your Holy Spirit, what to believe, what to do, and wherein to take our rest. We ask it for Your own Name’s Sake.
Now as our Lord has taught us hear us as we pray and say, 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 debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, Forever. Amen.
A time for reflection
1 John 1:1-10
St Luke 24:13-35
Hymn 413 The day of resurrection
A thought for today
It was towards the evening of that first Easter Day that two of the followers of Jesus set out to go home to Emmaus. Emmaus lay about 7 miles from Jerusalem. As they walked they were talking about the events. They were joined by a stranger who, to their surprise, seemed to know nothing about what had been happening. They began to talk, explaining how their hopes for the future had been dashed. What must have been more surprising was that after listening the stranger began to say that everything had had to happen to fulfil the Old Testament prophecies about the messiah. Somehow they did not recognise him.
When they came to Emmaus the traveller would have gone on but was persuaded to go in with them and eat. It was when he took bread, gave thanks, and broke it that their eyes were opened.
It was what happened next that gives point to Luke’s story, for immediately they start out for Jerusalem again despite the lateness of the hour. They know that they have to go and tell Peter and the others that they had seen Jesus. The rumours were not rumours. The one who had died was alive!!
The gospels make it clear that from the beginning this has been the task of the followers of Jesus. When the women discovered that the tomb was empty they rushed to tell Peter. Now the men who had gone to Emmaus do the same. Over the weeks that followed the disciples are eager to share this good news with any who will listen and as the new community grew and spread many of them had it set down in the letters they wrote. Then as these people who had been the eyewitnesses who could affirm the truth of the Good News grew old others set down the story of Jesus in the books we now know as the gospels.
Ever since, down through the centuries many have carried on the work of telling the Good News. This was the heart of the mission of a Church seeking to be obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus to go out into all the world and teach.
In bygone days the Church was content to entrust all this to ministers and priests, but recently a greater role has been developed for the wider church community. It is often assumed that this is due to the current shortage of ministers, yet in many respects, for Scotland at least, the change began in the early 1950s. It really all began when Tom Allan, the minister of St George’s Tron Kirk in Glasgow launched the Tell Scotland Movement.
It built on what had begun in Jerusalem on that first Easter day when so many had been eager to tell of their experiences in three ways. These principles are timeless and should still underpin the work of every congregation today. The local congregation is the agent of mission.
Mission must not be allowed to be an occasional spasmodic effort, but a continuous engagement with the community. In this the place of the ordinary members is crucial. From these principles it inevitably follows that mission is not the preserve of the minister.
Another great figure from the Kirk’s past developed this thinking when he gave the Baird Lectures in 1975. Ronald Falconer was the head of religious broadcasting for the BBC in Scotland. It was not surprising that he had his lectures televised to reach a larger audience. The only strange thing was that it was Grampian TV in Aberdeen who broadcast them, not the BBC. The theme of the lectures was “Getting the message across”.
What makes these lectures relevant now is that they argued for a dramatic change in the role of the minister. Back in those days the minster was very much the man in charge (women in the ministry were few and far between). His primary concern was with the congregation – his flock. It can even be argued that mission in those days was not much more than preaching to the faithful on Sunday and through the week spending time in regular home visiting.
Ronald Falconer advocated something very different. The minister should be more subtle. He argued that what was happening was little more than a waste of resources. Most church members were content to come to church on a Sunday, forgetting that the Sunday Service should be the opportunity to recharge the batteries for the real work of the church – getting the message across.
What was put forward as an ideal has now become the essential if unintended consequence of the repeated failure of the Church to recruit and retain ministers. For too long as Ronald Falconer said in his lectures we have been “content to plod along faithfully in our normal uninspired way without showing any real understanding of the situation”.
Unfortunately for too many of us in the Church today things have continued in the same way. Perhaps if like the men who walked to Emmaus with Jesus, or like the women who rushed back from the tomb to tell Peter and the others we were more ready to get the message across, as a church we should find ourselves in a better place.
Clearly we face a challenge today. If we fail to get our message across the future is bleak. There is hope for during the last year churches throughout the land have, as we have here through the partnership with the Carrick Centre, done so much in practical help to a community struggling with the effects of Covid. What we have tried to do has been aimed at getting the message across. Our care for the community must be our driver in the future even though the urgency of the pandemic will be gone.
A closing prayer
Almighty God, we bless and thank you for all your mercies and all the gifts of your providence. We rejoice in the fellowship of family and friends and fellow worshippers. We praise you for revealing your will to us and ask that we might be strong to fulfil it to the best of our ability. But above all we praise you for the greatest gift of all in Jesus Christ your Son went to live amongst your people to be their Lord and Saviour. For us and all who have faith he was raised up from the dead at that first Easter to live and reign with you for all eternity. We thank you for the faith that we have and the hope that he gives for the future, for we know that since Christ is raised there is nothing, not even death that can separate us from the love of our God.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind, you have chosen to work through your children to bring in your kingdom on this earth, bless the Church here and everywhere, in every land, in every denomination, keeping her faithful to the proclamation of the living Lord. Make all your children strong to resist temptation, to be ever ready to give a good account of the faith that is in them.
In this time of election grant wisdom and understanding to all who offer themselves as candidates. May they seek to set the issues before the people fairly and honestly and inspire all who are entitled to play their part by voting that the eventual result may be a reflection of the will of all the people.
In these times of continuing economic difficulties for many we pray for those who find it difficult to make ends meet, to put food on their table and to keep a roof over their heads. We remember the farming community on whom we depend for daily bread, for though we cannot live by bread alone, nor can we live without it.
Bring peace to this troubled world. Guide all who take counsel for the nations of the earth that they may seek to turn aside from the ways of war and lead their peoples in the paths of peace. Be with the forces of the crown, protecting them in every danger. Uphold the loved ones they leave at home.
Hear our prayer for all who are passing through tribulation. Grant healing and recovery to the sick, comfort to the anxious, hope to those in despair, consolation and peace to those who draw near to death and to all who mourn.
Hymn 424 Blest be the everlasting God
The National Anthem
God grant to the living grace, to the departed rest, to the Church, the Queen, the Commonwealth and all people, peace and concord and to us and all his servants, life everlasting.
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and holy Spirit be with you now and evermore.