THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER 18TH APRIL 2021
Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
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.
sung by Sue Turner
who, in the death and resurrection of your Son,
have raised up this fallen world:
may we and all your people,
whom you have saved from the gates of everlasting death,
rejoice in your eternal presence;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen
ACTS 3: 12-19
read by Margaret Morton
When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.
“And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.
1 JOHN 3:1-7
read by Peter Boreham
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
read by Rev James Clark Maxwell
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Luke chapter 24 beginning at verse 13
Glory to Christ our Saviour.
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.
Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel.
Praise to Christ our Lord
Young Helen Keller was imprisoned by her circumstances. She could neither see nor hear. She could feel with her hands, but without sight or hearing, how could she know what it was she was feeling? One day her teacher Ann Sullivan took Helen down a familiar path to the well-house. Someone was drawing water there. Ann let the water run over one of Helen’s hands and in sign language spelled into the other, WATER. Suddenly something happened within Helen. Something dramatic! Something life-changing! It was only a five lettered word, but for Helen Keller it was a gigantic breakthrough. She now had a name for a familiar experience – water. If this experience had a name, other familiar objects and sensations must have names as well. It was as if she had suddenly burst forth from a closely guarded prison. Now she could be a whole person, experiencing the world as a real human being in spite of her disabilities. This breakthrough meant that Helen in 1904 graduated cum laude from Radcliffe and became the first person with deaf-blindness to earn a bachelor of arts degree. Later, Helen was the first woman to be awarded an honorary degree from Harvard University.
Such a breakthrough is always exciting. Such a breakthrough came to two of the disciples of Jesus. They were making their way to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were in mourning. Their bodies were bent over, their faces were downcast, their movements were slow. They did not look at each other. Once in a while they uttered a word but their words were not directed to each other. They are lost in themselves. Their world has stopped but life for others goes on, oblivious to their plight. I am sure all the bereaved can identify with this sense of lostness at some level or another. At this time, we think of our Majesty the Queen in her sense of lostness and emptiness after spending 73 years of marriage with Prince Philip. It seems life-shattering. The lives of Cleopas and his companion seem shattered.
Although they follow the path on which they walk, they seem to have no goal. They are returning home, but it doesn’t feel like home. Home reminds them of emptiness, disillusionment, despair. They can hardly imagine that it was only a few years ago when they had met someone who had changed their lives, someone who had radically interrupted their daily routines and had brought a new vitality to every part of their existence. They had left their village and had followed that stranger and his friends and discovered a whole new hidden reality behind the veil of ordinary activities – a reality in forgiveness – healing and love were no longer mere words but powers touching the very core of humanity. The stranger from Nazareth had made everything new – now He is dead. They had lost him – not just him but with him also themselves. They too were lost.
Lost – in many ways we are like the two disciples. In our life time we have lost so much. Sometimes it even seems that life is just one series of losses. When we are born, we lose the safety of the womb; when we go to school, we lose the security of family life; when we get our first job, we lose the freedom of youth; when we get married or ordained, we lose the joy of many options; and when we grow old, we lose our good looks, our old friends, or our fame; when we become ill or weak, we lose our physical independence. These losses are part and parcel of everyday or ordinary life. Within these losses, there is often a silver lining but sometimes that silver lining is hard, certainly at first, to see. The losses that settle themselves deeply in our hearts and minds are the loss of intimacy through separations, the loss of safety through violence, the loss of innocence through abuse, the loss of friends through betrayal, the loss of love through abandonment and the loss of well-being through sickness and ill health.
Perhaps many of these losses are away from us and just belong to the world of newspapers and television screens but nobody can escape the agonizing losses that are part of everyday existence – the loss of our dreams. We had thought so long of ourselves as successful liked and deeply loved. We had hoped for a life of generosity, service and self-sacrifice. We had planned to be forgiving, caring, and always gentle people. We had a vision of ourselves as reconcilers and peacemakers. We aren’t sure what happened – we lost our dream, our way and instead we became worrying, anxious people, clinging to the few things that we have collected and exchanging news with one another of the political, social and ecclesiastical scandals of the day. This loss of spirit is hard to deal with, but harder still to deal with is the loss of faith – the loss of conviction that our life has meaning. Cleopas and his friend, possibly his wife, have both this loss of spirit and this loss of faith. Their lives have lost meaning and faith.
What do we do, when we are faced with loss? Are we going to hide our loss? Are we going to live as if they weren’t real? Are we in denial? Are we going to blame others? Are we going to convince ourselves that our gains, our silver linings are better than our losses? We do all of these things most of the time but there is another option – the possibility of mourning, of lamenting. Yes, we must mourn our losses. The psalmist teaches us to mourn our losses as he pours out his lament to God in song and poetry in the psalms. We can imitate the psalmist. We cannot talk or act away our losses but we can shed tears over them and allow ourselves to grieve deeply. To grieve is to allow our losses to tear apart feelings of security and safety and lead us to the painful truth of our brokenness. Our grief makes us experience the abyss of our own life in which nothing is settled, clear, or obvious but everything is constantly shifting and changing.
Mourning our losses is the first step towards new life. The tears of grief can soften our hardened hearts and open us to the possibility to new life and thankfulness. These tears of mourning can save us from falling into bitterness and resentment. I remember an evening meditation on television during which the speaker poured water on hard dried out soil, saying look the soil, cannot receive water and no seed can grow. Then after crumbling the soil with his hands and pouring water on it again he said; it is only broken soil that can receive water and make the seed grown and bear fruit. The broken soil of the heart, watered by tears of mourning, leads to acceptance of the new strange way things are and open us up to new life.
As we mourn our losses, we do not do so alone. Jesus is with us, just as he was with Cleopas and his companion. As Cleopas and his companion, walk home mourning their loss, Jesus comes up and walks by their side, but their eyes are prevented from recognising him. Suddenly there is no longer two but three people walking and everything becomes different. They tell this stranger all that has been happening and something happens. Something shifts.
What is it that shifts – it is their attitude and perception – what brings this about? It is the words of Jesus as he explains through scripture what has happened and why. It is God’s words that can pull us out of sadness and lift us to a place where we can discover new life and hope. God’s words in scripture are healing and renewing words. Without these words from Scripture, we cannot meet the risen Lord. It is these words of scripture that prepare Cleopas and his companion to meet the risen Jesus.
It was these words of scripture that burned in the hearts of the disciples. It was thanks to these words of scripture that they invite Jesus into their home in Emmaus. In their home over a meal, they come face to face with the risen Lord. They recognise him through his hands – through a familiar gesture.
Tolstoy once told a story of a Czar and Czarina who wished to honour the members of their court with a banquet. They sent out invitations and requested that the guests come with the invitations in their hands. When they arrived at the banquet the guests were surprised to discover that the guards did not look at their invitations at all. Instead they examined their hands. The guests wondered about this, but they were also curious to see who the Czar and Czarina would choose as the guest of honour to sit between them at the banquet. They were flabbergasted to see that it was the old scrub woman who had worked to keep the palace clean for years. The guards, having examined her hands, declared, “You have the proper credentials to be the guest of honour. We can see your love and loyalty in your hands.”
In the hands of Jesus as he took the bread, blessed it and broke and gave it to them – they saw the marks of love and loyalty – their eyes were opened through this hand gesture and they recognised Jesus. When they recognised him, he vanished from their sight. When they eat the bread that he gives them, they recognise him. That recognition is a deep spiritual awareness that now he dwells in their innermost being, that now he breathes in them, that he now speaks in them, yes lives in them. When they eat the bread that he hands them, their lives are transformed into his life. It is no longer they that live but Jesus Christ who lives in them. They had communion with Christ, and such communion leads them to a new realm of being.
It ushers them into a new kingdom – where there is peace, deep joy, love, courage and gratitude. Cleopas and his companion set out, indeed they run 7 miles back to Jerusalem, buoyed up with joy and vitality and with this good news ‘They have seen the Lord.’ They are no longer downcast, no longer bent over, no longer lost and purposeless, rather they have a new energy, vitality and life. They were lost but have found themselves in the risen Christ.
Today, tomorrow, next week, next month we might find ourselves lost and rudderless. Whenever we find our lives empty and hopeless, as we suffer loss at one level or another – stop and remember Cleopas and his companion. Remind yourself at some point of how their hearts burned when they heard the scriptures and how gradually, they moved from darkness to light, from despair to hope, from sadness to joy. Their experience can in some measure be our experience.
We too through scripture can find life and hope in Jesus’ words and through the Eucharist we can rejoice that when we eat the bread and drink the wine, we mystically become one with Christ and he with us. Jesus lives and dwells in us. Our lives as St Paul said are ‘hidden in Christ.’ Hidden lives in Christ have meaning, vitality and hope. What a mystery! What a delight! 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.
abide with us
Walk with us Lord on our journey of faith,
both as individuals and as the Church of God;
open our eyes to the truths
you long for us to understand
and equip us all to pass on
the Easter message of new life and hope.
abide with us
Walk with us, Lord, down the streets
of our cities, towns and villages,
and keep us conscious of your abiding presence.
Meet all those who are curious, searching
or moving in the wrong direction.
Let your presence be sought and
recognised in the world.
abide with us
Walk with us Lord in our life journeys,
Guiding, teaching and correcting us
as we learn the lessons of loving
in our homes, our work and our communities.
abide with us
Walk with our leaders in power and authority
give them wisdom and understanding,
as they ease us out of lockdown
and seek to direct us through this pandemic.
abide with us
Walk with other countries in difficulty
and hardship at this time,
we think especially of Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan,
and ask for generosity in providing resources
and a willingness to work together to shape a secure future.
abide with us
Walk with us Lord
through the times of loss,
those times of suffering and pain,
alerting us to one another’s needs
and in providing for us
in whatever ways are best for us.
In the quiet we lift to you people in need known to us.
For those we have named we ask that
your strength and abiding presence be felt.
Help us all to trust you through the dark times:
breathe new life and hope
into those who are close to despair.
abide with us
Walk with us Lord through the valley of death;
may our love and prayers support those
who walk that journey today.
We think of our Majesty the Queen
and the Royal Family as they mourn the loss
of his Royal Highness, Prince Philip.
Draw close to them
grant them space to grieve
fill them with your comfort and peace.
Walk with all those for whom today or this month
is an anniversary of the death of a loved one.
abide with us
Lord, we thank you for walking with us,
wherever we travel.
We thank you that you are indeed real and alive
and that you accompany us every step of our journey.
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,