Sunday 18th April 2021
The Lord is our strength. He is our God and we shall praise him and exalt him
Hymn 438 The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now.
Almighty God, the Father everlasting, who hast given us rest in sleep and hast awakened us to this new day, enable us to rejoice in your goodness. Receive us as we approach the throne of grace to offer our worship and praise. Hear our prayers and grant us answers.
O Lord our God who hast willed that the gates of mercy should ever stand open to the contrite, hear our confession, for we have been sinful and wayward. We allow the days to pass without trying to amend our ways. We continue to allow ourselves to be beset by temptation and vexed by trivial desires. Seldom do we think of the mystery of our being and are forgetful of the honour and dignity with which you have crowned us. So all too often we fail to seek your kingdom and its righteousness, striving instead after the things of this passing world. Most merciful father, hold not our faults against us and be forgetful of both the sins of our youth and the transgressions of our later years. Instead in your mercy grant us pardon through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given us, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us. Grant us the strength of the Spirit that we may seek out and fulfil your will. So may we labour for the advancement of your kingdom until at last your will is done on earth as it is in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord who has taught us to pray, 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.
I Peter 1:3-9
St john 21:1-16
A Time for Reflection
The Christian message of Easter is one of new life promised by God through the resurrection of His Son. All around us in these last weeks we have seen the signs of new life as we have moved into spring, even though the weather has not always been particularly spring like. Let us take a few moments to reflect on the hope that new life dives.
Hymn 439 look ye saints the sight is glorious.
A thought for today
It is difficult to know exactly what happened on that first Easter in Jerusalem. The accounts given in the four Gospels do not always agree, which is not surprising given that the earliest Gospel was written about 30 years later and the latest could have been set down 80 or 90 years after the events it describes. There were good reasons for this. In those days not many people were literate. Producing books was an expensive business. The third reason was probably the one that carried most weight. Then early Christians saw little need to write things down because they expected the world to end when Jesus returned in glory and that they believed would be during their lifetime.
It does seem, when we put the various accounts together, that the disciples did go back to Galilee. According to what we read in John it was when they were out fishing that Jesus came to them. From the boat they saw a man on the beach who shouted to ask if they had caught anything. When they said “no”, he told them to cast the net again, but this time on the other side of the boat. When they did they had such a catch they could not haul the net in and had to drag it to the shore.
The miracle opened their eyes so that they recognised Jesus. Peter, always the impetuous one, jumped out into the water, eager to get to Jesus.
Here was the proof that the Cross was not the end. The way to new life had been opened by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
At Easter 2019 the thoughts of many turned to Paris and the great cathedral of Notre Dame which had been ravaged by fire 6 days before during Holy week on 15th April. As the flames leapt into the sky that night it was feared for a time that the destruction would be complete. Even the walls seemed on the point of collapse. After the flames were extinguished parts of the walls had to be shored up, but enough remained to give hope that restoration was possible.
The real wonder was revealed later once the ruins had cooled sufficiently to allow the experts in to assess the damage. There amidst the charred remains was the great cross, apparently undamaged by the fire. Then later in the week there was a more miraculous discovery. In the roof of the cathedral had been a number of beehives. It seems incredulous that the bees of Notre Dam had survived the holocaust.
That fire was not the end of Notre Dame. Restoration is continuing reaching the point where some services are being held again, albeit with protective clothing.
The fact that this happened during Holy Week reminds us that seeming ends can open up the way for new beginnings.
Sometimes new life can only arise out of the ashes of disaster. Every year we hear of the bush fires in Australia. This year is unlikely to be an exception. While they do much damage causing loss of property and life it ought to be remembered that such fires are essential for the ecology. There are a number of plants and trees native to the bushlands of Australia which only regenerate after a fire. Their seeds lie dormant in the ground, sometimes for many years, until they have been through a fire, it is only then that they germinate.
Out of the ashes rises new life, just as out of the ashes of Notre Dame a new cathedral is rising and from the seeming disaster of the Cross God brought forth new life that enabled the church to come into being and grow.
I have to say that I was very disappointed to read what the Moderator had to say in his Easter interview with the press when he spoke of the disappearance of the Church in the near future. Things are not easy and have been exacerbated by the lockdown but to look forward from now to the end of the Church seems unduly pessimistic and lacking in faith. Looking back over the history of the Church we see periods of expansion and times of decline. We see a similar pattern throughout the Old Testament. What we have to realise is that decline has never been the end. Always from such situations God brings out new life. What he has done we can be sure he will do again for he is eternal and unchanging. But always to do it he needed the faith of the few.
In the early 1950s St Margaret’s Church in Dalry was destroyed by fire. All that was left were the four walls, some melted pieces of the organ pipes and amazingly a wooden carving representing the Burning Bush, the badge of the Church of Scotland. That charred plaque now has pride of place in the restored church. It is a reminder of the truth of the motto of the Church of Scotland “nec tamen comsumebatur”, It shall not be consumed. Like the burning bush that drew Moses into the presence of God the Church will not be consumed. In God’s purposes she has a future.
That night on the beach the disciples were the few. Today we have the courage to be to be the few and hold fast to the Easter promise of new life we can rebuild the Church. Perhaps, paradoxically, the disaster of the pandemic can be the catalyst for new growth, for lockdown has shown what we have missed when there were no church.
A closing prayer
Almighty and Eternal God, who is ever merciful to your children, we give thanks and praise unto you for every good and perfect gift bestowed upon us. Your full hand supplies our every need. Your strength upholds us in every difficulty and your peace and comfort are ever around us in times of trouble. We praise you for the Word of life in the scriptures that you gave to be our guide and above all for Jesus Christ who is the pattern and example of all human life. We bless you for the ministry of the Church in prayer and song and in the fellowship of the faithful. We give thanks that we can take comfort from the worship of your House and find peace within its walls, a peace that we can carry with us wherever we might go. So may the peace of God abide in our heart now while we praise your name and remain with us always.
O Lord who is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the one who was dead and is alive for evermore as the Living Lord and head of the Church, remember those who are called to your service in the Church. May they be a light in the darkness of the world revealing the love of God to all mankind. Bless the Church as she seeks to proclaim the Gospel to a world that is no longer inclined to listen. Keep her ever faithful to your calling. Uphold your faithful children, guarding and protecting them. Make us all to remember that the Lord God, when he calls his servants to endeavour any great matter, grants them also to know that it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same, until it be thoroughly finished, which yields the true glory.
We pray for a world that is greatly troubled in so many ways. Lord, make us instruments of your peace; where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon: where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. So may we help to build up the Kingdom of God here on earth.
O God whose kingdom rules over all, Bless our land and people. God save and uphold our Queen in her time of mourning. Be with her and her family to bring comfort and peace as they seek to come to terms with their loss. Direct all who bear authority in our land that following your guidance they may order all things for the good and welfare of all the people and lead us safely out of the grip of the virus.
Hear our prayer for all who are passing through tribulation. Grant healing and recovery to the sick, reassurance to the anxious, hope to those in despair, peace to those who draw near to death and comfort to all who mourn, and for all who are tempted that they may find victory in the hour of trial. We pray too for the hungry and the homeless.
May God ever bless our families, friends and loved ones wherever they may be, keeping them and us under the protection of your everlasting arms, through Jesus Christ who dared to die for us, who was raised again on the third day, and now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for evermore.
Hymn 598 Come Holy Ghost our hearts inspire.
Grace, mercy and peace, from God, Father Son and holy Spirit be with us now and always.