The Lord is king, most high over all the earth
Alleluia Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
He has given us new life and hope
by raising Jesus from the dead.
COLLECT FOR PURITY
to whom all hearts be open
all desires known
and from whom no secrets are hidden;
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you
and worthily magnify your holy name
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
SUMMARY OF THE LAW
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.
Amen. Lord, have mercy.
God is love and we are God’s children.
There is no room for fear in love.
We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.
God our Father, we confess to you
and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins,
and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
GLORIA sung by Billy Dewar Riddick
O God, the King of Glory, hear our prayer
that as we believe your Son Jesus Christ
to be exalted with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven;
so also, we may know his presence with us now,
and to the end of time
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen
FIRST READING ACTS 16:16-34 read by Gill Swales
Paul and Silas in Prison
One day as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a female slave who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men, these Jews, are disturbing our city and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us, being Romans, to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night, he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
SECOND READING REVELATION 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 read by Amie Byers
See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
GOSPEL READING JOHN 17:20-26 read by Rev Janice Aiton
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John chapter 17 beginning at
Glory to Christ our Saviour.
“I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them.”
I listened whilst travelling in the car to Nazanin Zaghari Radcliffe speaking on the radio to Emma Barnett on Woman’s Hour. Nazanin addressed for the first time since returning to the UK in March the horrific details of her six-year imprisonment in Iran, and explained how she was locked up in solitary confinement and forced to live in a cell 1 by 2 metres with the light on all day and night. She said: Iran is a government that talks a lot about motherhood and family, I was a victim of something exactly opposite. I was put into solitary confinement. That was horrifying – solitary confinement is the most hostile, quiet form of torture. ‘You lose a sense of time; solitary confinement works in a way that it messes with your mind and seeks to break you. ‘At times I thought it was breaking me. The reason they keep you in solitary is to force you to confess to something that you haven’t done.’ Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe held back tears as she discussed the ’emotional legacy’ of her captivity after being held over accusations of spying – a charge both she and the UK deny. She also said that even though ‘things are calming down a bit’ after two months of freedom, she still questions reality after spending six years as a political hostage.
Nazanin was wrongly imprisoned and treated as a political hostage in the most dreadful conditions and today in our epistle we read of Paul and Silas being wrongly imprisoned as religious hostages. They like Nazanin, ended up in appalling conditions in prison. These men were cast into the prison. The word “cast” means “to throw something without regard to where or how it lands.“ They were just tossed into the prison without any care for their well-being. The jailer then “thrust” them into the inner prison. This refers to the dungeon, where it would have been dank, dark, dirty and discouraging. These men were obediently serving the Lord when they found themselves in this mess. So, trials can arise even when we are faithful to God.
Faithfully Paul and Silas had been preaching in Philippi. During their time there, they were stalked by a slave girl or fortune teller, who we are told had a spirit of divination. The Greek word for spirit of divination literally means the spirit of the python. It was thought that anyone possessed by the python spirit could predict the future. This slave girl was demon possessed. Her owners were making a fortune off the scam.
However, even though what the slave girl was crying out to people was true, Paul would not accept the witness of an evil spirit. What she said was true, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” However, there was a problem of integrity. The messenger was unclean. Sometimes we cannot hear what people say because their own actions speak louder than their words. The source was unclean. The message and the messenger were incongruent. Paul refused to compromise the gospel.
What is surprising is that this evil spirit got away with the scam for as long as it did. “She continued doing this for many days.” “Paul was greatly annoyed” is probably a polite way of saying it! She wore him out. He “could bear it no longer.” He was annoyed and “in a burst of irritation, turned around” on his heels one day and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” “And it came out at that very moment!” If you think Satan gives up that easy when God work is successful, think again. Paul got his hand in someone’s pocket book. “But when her master’s saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities.” The slave owners cared nothing for the spiritual freedom of their slave girl. They were only interested in their spreadsheet. They manipulated the gathering mob and stirred up their religious-social prejudices against these Jews. Then they threw them in prison, in the deepest cell, and placed their feet in the stocks. It is midnight, literally and figuratively, the darkest hour, and you might expect that Paul and Silas would be down in the dumps, but no, they are singing hymns about Jesus, so that the other prisoners can hear.
What was there that made them so glad? These two believers had such an intimate love relationship with Jesus Christ that they were gathered together in the name of Jesus and He was in their midst. The Lord was there though unseen by the eyes of the physical senses, and not perceived by the other prisoners in their cells. The Presence of the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus Christ was with these men in their prison cell. Christ was in that dungeon. We do not hear these men whining. They did not ask for anything. They were not begging Him to set them free. They gave God praise for the privilege of knowing Him!
What was their secret? They had an intimate personal relationship with Christ. He causes all things to work together for our good. These two men were in stocks and in a great deal of pain in the Philippi prison. But that is not the final word. They were in Christ and abiding in Him! They had a sense of God’s presence with them in the prison. They could sing praises in the prison. That is the heartbeat of Christianity.
“Any fool can sing in the day,” said Charles Haddon Spurgeon. “It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skilful singer is he who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by. Songs in the night come only from God; they are not in the power of men.”
The world is watching you as you go through the prison experiences of life! As they watch you, they could care less about your joy when things are going well. But, just let tragedy come into your life, and they are all eyes and ears! They want to see if what you have is as real in the valley as it is on the mountain! There is no better testimony to the grace of God than a saint who can shout when the pressure is on! It says “My God is real!” It says, “My faith is real!” It says, “My relationship with God makes a difference in my life!”
It was faith that sustained Dr Victor Frankl through World War 11, when he was imprisoned by the Nazis because he was a Jew. His wife, children, and parents were all killed in the Holocaust. At one point, the prison guards cut his wedding band off his finger. Frankl said to himself, “You can take away my wife and children, you can strip me of my clothes and my freedom, but there is one thing no person can ever take away from me-and that is my freedom to choose how I will react to what happens to me.” He sang like Paul and Silas and survived to tell the tale of his horrific experiences. Singing with faith is the secret to successfully surviving the prison experiences of life, whatever these may be metaphorically and literally for each one of us.
When we sing with faith, even when our lives are full of pain and our hearts are bleeding, people listen. All of a sudden, we have a song, worth listening to. It has a message of depth and encouragement. The prisoners were attentively listening to the continuous activity of praying and singing going on in the dungeon, and what an impact it had. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” Then the jailer realized he was in a heap of trouble and was about to fall on his sword, when Paul yelled out, “It’s OK, we’re still here.” The jailer called for lights and saw that they were still there, and he took them outside and asked, “What must I do to be saved.” Now to us, this sounds like a religious question, but he may have merely been asking “how do I get out of this mess?” But Paul and Silas heard it as a religious question and answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Which is what happened and the jailer cleaned their wounds. “He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.” There’s that generous hospitality again that we saw in the story of Lydia’s conversion. For Luke, hospitality is always one of the signs of conversion and one of the marks of the church.
What are we to make of this strange story? Luke, the author of Acts, believed in the power of Jesus and his Gospel not only to transform lives, but to make extraordinary things happen. Luke is at pains to show the Gospel as shaking foundations, disrupting conventions, and overturning proscriptions. The best example of the topsy-turvy values of the Gospel in our story is the contrast between the Roman jailer and Paul and Silas. The jailer is a functionary of the most powerful empire in the known world. It’s his prison. He’s got the keys. He is powerful. He is free. Paul and Silas are bloodied from a beating, cast into a dark cell and fastened by the feet in stocks. They are not powerful. They are not free. But Luke’s story leaves us in no doubt whom he thinks is really free and who isn’t. Paul and Silas are singing in the stocks. After the earthquake breaks their shackles and opens their prison door they don’t even try to run away. The jailer, on the other hand, is not free. He would take his own life before suffering the shame of not doing his job for Rome.
This is what Luke’s story tells us, that the power of the Risen Christ can not only transform us, but can break our self-made chains and our locked prison doors and set us free. So, on this final Sunday of Easter, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and the power of God to bring new life to us all, let God break our self -made chains and locked prison doors and set us all free. Amen
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
God, humility is the essence of your being
help us to put others first,
encourage us to think of others more highly than ourselves,
and make us hospitable to all people,
irrespective of status or reputation.
Grow in us the virtue of humility,
and fills us with life afresh
that as you love, so may we love
and do what you would do
O breath of Love
come breathe within us.
God, love is your sign
Your love leaves no –one untouched, especially ourselves
strengthen all that restores us in your image
and make us worthy of our calling as your sons and daughters.
Fill us with a desire to serve your people
so that by our service we may be signs
of your love, humility and compassion
and so, like Paul and Silas draw others into your embrace.
O breath of Love
come breathe within us.
God, love is your way.
We pray for those who live in places of conflict and war
and experience such heartache, cruelty and hostility.
Will you help break down barriers of hatred,
take away fear and misunderstanding
and enable lives to be rebuild
through reconciliation, trust, and peace,
so that your way of love and peace might become a living reality.
Empower us so that love might be our way.
O breath of Love
come breathe within us.
God, love is your mark-your mark of healing and grace.
We pray for those who suffer today in body, mind or spirit
and we invite your spirit to touch them in power and in gentleness.
We pray for those awaiting hospital results
and we remember those who watch and pray with them.
We lift to you those known to us who are sick at home or in hospital
We hold in prayer before you those who have lost loved ones.
May you loving God be present in their darkness and pain,
and as deep calls to deep, may you bring inner quiet and hope,
and may your mark of healing and grace be evident to all in need.
O breath of Love
come breathe within us.
God, love is your word
we pray for those who doubt your promises
in difficult times of bereavement
and in the hard times of unemployment and unrest.
We ask that you will enfold them in your love,
fill them with your strength and peace,
and restore their trust in your living word.
O breath of Love
come breathe within us
God, your love is our hope.
We thank you for those
who have shown us clearly your way of love.
Help us so to inspire others by our day- to- day living.
Thank you for all those
who bring such love and hope into our lives.
We lift to you our families
and those whom we hold dear
and thank you for them and for all they mean to us.
May we cherish and appreciate their love
and may we never take
your gift of love, O God, for granted.
Merciful Father accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord
who taught us to say together,
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.
Do not bring us to the time of trial
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
strengthen you to walk with him in his risen life;
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be among you and remain with you always. Amen
Go or stay in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ,