Third Sunday after Easter. 10 April 2016

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1 Page 1 Third Sunday after Easter 10 April 2016 The Mission and Discipleship Council would like to thank Rev Marjory McPherson, Education and Support Secretary, Ministries Council, for her thoughts on the third Sunday after Easter. Contents Acts 9: 1-6, (7-20)... 2 Psalm (Isaiah 61: 1-3)... 3 (Psalm 90: 13-17)... 3 Revelation 5: John 21: Sermon Ideas... 5 Time with Children... 6 Prayers... 8 Musical Suggestions Additional Resources... 14

2 Page 2 Helping people prepare for reading the Bible in worship can make a real difference. Overcoming nerves, reading in ways suitable to the text, speaking clearly etc. You may wish to these three links to the people reading Scripture on Sunday to support them in their involvement in worship: Managing your nerves; Creative readings; Worship at the Lectern Acts 9: 1-6, (7-20) Here we have probably the most well-known conversion story, one against which other conversion stories are compared. Well it wasn t quite a Damascus Road experience but here I am looking to follow Christ or looking to respond to a call to ministry or mission work. Oh for the bright dazzling lights of the Damascus Road! Yet it s not that we need to compare our own story with this one but rather that we notice the risks God takes in the people God chooses. Saul is a troubled soul, angered into severe action by this new movement within Judaism to the point where he has been present as Stephen was stoned to death and then, realising that some of the converts have moved out of Jerusalem to Damascus, he seeks permission to follow them with notices of extradition to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. What troubled him so deeply about this new way that compelled him to such violent action? Saul, why do you persecute me? In this man God chooses the extremist, the man of violence, the one who will stop at nothing, the one profoundly blinded by his own rage, and gives him eyes to see. Contrast Saul with the other central character of the chapter, Ananias. Here we have the man of faith, the man of virtue who nevertheless values his own life and the small sense of security he has. Ananias has heard of Saul, of his letters from the Sanhedrin and his violent motives and would err on the side of caution. God takes the risk with this man s life, with the fact that once exposed he could lead Saul to other disciples resulting in their death and a significant loss to the fledgling church in Damascus. Ananias is persuaded to be obedient and to greet Saul as a brother,for brother he will become in faith and in trust to serve God in preaching the Gospel first in the synagogues and soon to the Gentile world. Filled with the Holy Spirit the scales fall from the eyes of Saul and Ananias to recognise one another as brothers on the Way.

3 Page 3 Psalm 30 This Psalm strikes a deeply personal chord of praise and thanksgiving for deliverance that is nevertheless set in the context of a communal thanksgiving. Rabbinic tradition would link the Psalm to the Feast of Dedication but though there seems to be some communal aspect of thanksgiving with an accompanying offering there is nothing in the Psalm itself to tie it to a particular feast or historical event. It is not unusual to use a personal voice to express a communal experience and hope and the language expresses the highs and lows of every life, the common experiences of fear, isolation, the dread of death and on the other hand the always looked for joy after weeping and the assurance of a rock on which to stand for God is our rescuer. The constancy of God, the assurance that God is always present no matter the circumstances provides comfort and is a cause for praise and thanksgiving to be offered by each and every one of us and most richly in the context of shared praise and worship. (Isaiah 61: 1-3) What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit, to be anointed, to be chosen if not that through this the old ways will cease and goodness, freedom and justice will be on the rise? Jesus reads these verses in the Nazareth synagogue and so challenges his hearers to notice a new day and an anointed one in their midst. It is an important text in Liberation theology and a call to see the freedom and deliverance God brings. (Psalm 90: 13-17) The Psalmist cries for a reversal of fortune, a balancing of good and reward equal to all the hardship and suffering that has gone before. It is a cry for blessing not curse and expresses a longing for the hesed, the constant steadfast love of God.

4 Page 4 Revelation 5: In chapters 4 and 5 the focus shifts from earth to heaven and whilst drawing on Jewish tradition celebrating ways in which God appears or is revealed to the world there is a strong emphasis on Christ as the Lamb of God and worship of the heavenly Christ. Christ sits alongside God as worthy of the worship and praise of angels and peoples and all of this because of his life and the giving of himself as the Lamb. John 21: 1-19 The Gospel of john appears to conclude neatly and strikingly at the end of Chapter 20 encouraging belief in Jesus as the Messiah through whom we may have life. Then comes Chapter 21 to provide a second ending to the Gospel with this story of a post resurrection appearance by the lake after a number of the disciples appear to have returned to their former labours as fishermen. Two characters besides Jesus stand out in the text; Peter and the beloved disciple. Peter apparently quick to act and to speak is cast alongside the beloved follower who seems more ready to believe and understand what is going on. The activist and the contemplative appear together but the main focus is upon Peter who has matters to resolve with Jesus and a challenge to receive. This seems an odd positioning of a story about fishing after the conclusion of Chapter 20 and yet there is something here about going out to do the work of fishing be it for fish or people and the need to do so with Jesus present rather than working on their own and finding failure. On recognising Jesus, Peter oddly puts clothes on to jump into the water and then comes to shore with some fish though Jesus is already preparing fish and bread. The number of fish caught grants a sense of the fullness of the church and the growth of their mission. The conversation that follows between Peter and Jesus allows for a three-fold affirmation of love to cancel out the three-fold denial that had gone before. The threefold charge to look after the sheep also strengthens the trust in which Peter is placed. Peter is called to follow Jesus in complete obedience wherever that may lead.

5 Page 5 Sermon Ideas Acts and John present us with two pairings of followers; Saul/Paul and Ananias and then Peter and the beloved disciple. Paul and Peter will stand as the significant leaders of the church that is to come; Paul taking the Gospel to the Gentile world and Peter being the rock on which to build, the first appointed leader of the Church. Meanwhile Ananias and the beloved disciple have a quieter but no less vital role. They are able and willing to see things in a new light and go where the vision takes them. Ananias is obedient to go and establish Saul in the faith and meet him as a brother, while the beloved disciple is the one who recognises Jesus and the hand of God at work when others are still trying to catch up. Ananias and the beloved disciple are people of deep faith with eyes to see the world in a new light while Paul and Peter are men who are ready to follow Jesus even into dark and difficult roads. There is no doubt that all are needed and both responses to Christ are needed to make the church live. Living in a post-christendom society we look again for the pioneers, the missionaries who go where the Gospel seems not to be known and hope that they light a spark and continue to share the gospel with new generations. Yet wherever we are and whether building the new or refreshing the old if there are none with eyes to see what God is doing and none to pray and encourage quietly then there is little to keep the flame of new life alive. All are called to follow and live out the particular insights and abilities they have. Meanwhile the Psalmist encourages us to find our own voice but to do that and to offer our service and praise in a communal setting. We are clearly not islands. Without Jesus to direct the fishermen at Galilee they would have caught nothing. Without the efforts of other believers Saul would have failed before he started. And for us all our experience of life and faith makes best sense when we read our lives together in the company of the faithful. We might ask who we are in these stories, which life fits our own pattern and what it means to take up the call to follow. The alternative readings may open up preaching on being anointed, chosen as were each of the characters in the text, but with an agenda that leads to dynamic social change and responsibility.

6 Page 6 How is the world to know and to see the hesed; the constant love of God if not through the lives and actions of those chosen and called to follow the ways of God? Tying in with the Gospel passage we read that Jesus asked Peter three times Do you love me? And loving him meant caring for the flock, caring for the lambs. What does it mean to love Jesus where you are now? There are illustrations of people showing that love in practical ways as they respond at home and across Europe to the suffering in Syria and the thousands who have been displaced by violence and war. There are particularly interesting stories of people providing a room in their home for a refugee and their accounts of offering and receiving such hospitality. Chosen and called to love and serve! Where does that lead us? Time with Children What have you brought with you to Church today? Anything in your pockets, handbags sweets for the sermon, mobile phones to keep in touch, money maybe some of it for the offering tissues for those with a cold hymn books or Bibles that some may carry with them What else do we carry? Stuff we re thinking about, planning for later Things we might be worried about People and places that need prayer Did you bring someone with you family, friends, did you give someone a lift? What else do we bring? Memories of a holiday we just had Memories of the last time we met here Some of this is for us, some things like our money and prayers we bring for sharing

7 Page 7 We all bring ourselves And are all quite different Could talk about the characters in Acts or John and the roles they played Each bring our own personality and all have our way to serve God, to love other people and to share the gifts we have Or focus on Jesus providing the bread and fish and the fact that whatever we bring Jesus comes here with gifts for us Or Focus on the John narrative where Jesus asks Peter do you love me? Who are you fan of on TV or film or who is a favourite musician? Because you feel enthusiastic about them what do you do? watch them, listen to them, go to someone s concert, spend money on films, DVDs, concerts, buying music. Or if keen on a sport do you follow a team how far do you travel to see them? Do you have a best friend what does that mean? spending time, sticking up for them, helping out, being there if they are sad. Maybe the adults have a special charity or children may also support a charity or sponsor an animal and they could talk about what that involves. Jesus said to Peter three times do you love me? and three times look after my sheep. It s not enough just to say we love. It means action too or prayer or caring. What does it mean for us to love Jesus and each other whatever stage we re at in life?

8 Page 8 Prayers Call to Worship For those who walk in darkness, Light will shine. For those struggling on the way, Comfort will be given. For those who watch and wait, God will appear. This Eastertide we open our eyes - To God with us, God for us, God going ahead of us; Calling, Follow Me. Prayer of approach Christ is alive The Easter anthem calls. Alive to the world That first responded to his voice, In the beginning of things Before time was. Christ is alive, Let Christians all rejoice. Alive to the Church, That took root in his love Among Jew and Gentile And across the world.

9 Page 9 Christ is alive, We say it aloud. Alive in the quiet moments of our prayer, In the meeting of our need, In the praise that touches our lips, And the service we long to give. Alive for now and in eternity to reshape all things in heaven and earth. Breathing hope into the darkest hour, Spreading peace across warring lands, Sharing faith despite death and doubt, Birthing love in hardened hearts. Alive you come to give life to all; Life in its fullness, Life in the face of death. Life, new life to enliven That we may be whole. Forgive us then If hearts are cold Or we rest too long in the shadows Afraid, unsure of the sun rising to warm the day Unwilling to face the thaw That comes when you breathe over us Forgive us then If we hug the news to ourselves Or hide the light from our neighbour Making of faith a private thing That warms our hearts But fails to reach the stranger

10 Page 10 Forgive us then If the story seems too old Or the Church a thing of duty Hearts untouched now By news that once demanded everything And burned brightly within us Child of mine do you love me? Feed my sheep Care for my flock Love my people For you, forgiven Renewed, restored Have all you need to follow me Christ is alive And calls us all to live To choose the way ahead Together in love So thanks be to him Who lived, died and rose for us Our Lord Jesus Christ Amen Prayer of response As the sun was rising Jesus stood at the water s edge Soon to speak with his friends Soon to take these sad and disappointed souls And casting their nets to the right side Bring home a catch and such a catch That there was enough and plenty for all Worthy of a celebration, a feast

11 Page 11 As the sun rises Jesus comes to meet us And we give thanks for the encounters with him That have shaped and moulded who we are Times that have cast light over troubled waters Moments when a word, a thought Allowed us to dream new dreams and discover a vision So for the wonders of faith we give thanks As the sun rises we gather to praise God Creator, Son and Spirit Three in one to make, renew and refresh us In the worship we offer In our work in the world, at home, at play In the quiet moments of our rest And so we praise God Each new day we return to what we know Like fishermen gone back to their nets Seeking to make sense of the world and our place within it And if we look carefully we glimpse the sun rising And see you stand at the water s edge Waiting to wade in with us into our daily life And so to make all the difference As the sun rises May we see you in our worship Recognise you in other souls Sense you in the music Breathe you through the prayers Hear your voice in the scripture And respond to your words of wisdom

12 Page 12 As the sun rises On a world with too many conflicts May the wounded and afraid With the violent and hate-filled Catch sight of you at the edge of the battlefield Listen to your voice, recognise your scars And discover a passion for peace As the sun rises On famine, drought, cities and plains empty and barren Or where the rain never stops and flood waters rise May the needy, the hungry, those fleeing for dry land See you as the tide turns And know that you have come to share their plight And call humanity to respond As the sun rises You stand at the water s edge Outside the gates of the city By the wall that divides neighbour from neighbour In the corner of the market place In the garden or gleaning at the edge of the field And still in some quiet corner of our hearts God grant to us a catch The fullness of life The enriching of faith For each and all By whatever edge we gather For the sake of Him who loves us Christ our Lord Amen

13 Page 13 In addition to the above prayers, prepared by our contributor, other prayers may be found in Living Stones which is the theme for this year s Pray Now. It was also the theme for Heart and Soul Living Stones is available from St Andrew Press Musical Suggestions There are a number of Easter hymns in CH4 that are suitable and listed below. Hymns 433 and 435 refer directly to the Gospel text for today. CH4 416 CH4 425 CH4 428 CH4 430 CH4 433 CH4 435 Christ is alive! Let Christians sing The Saviour died, but rose again Alleluia, alleluia Christ has risen while earth slumbers Haven t you heard that Jesus is risen? You hear the lambs a-cryin Other suggested hymns are: CH4 533 CH4 494 CH4 501 CH4 503 Will you come and follow me Spirit of God, in all that s true I know you Take this moment, sign and space I will offer up my life in spirit and truth CH4 54 Lord you have always been our home (Psalm 90) CH4 115 Love is the touch of intangible joy

14 Page 14 Additional Resources Resourcing Mission Resourcing Mission is host to Starters for Sunday and other key mission resources for download and purchase. Online booking is available for Mission & Discipleship events. Please check back regularly, as new items are being added all the time. If there is something you d like to see on this new site, please contact us via the website. Prayer Resources These materials are designed to be a starting point for what you might look for in prayers. Living Stones is available from St Andrew Press. Music Resources The hymns mentioned in this material are ideas of specific hymns you might choose for this week s themes. However, for some excellent articles on church music and ideas for new music resources, please check out our online music pages Different Voices. Preaching Resources These materials are designed to be a starting point for what you might preach this Sunday. Preachers Perspectives is a resource where we have asked twelve preachers to share the insights they have gathered through their experiences of writing and delivering sermons regularly. Scots Worship Resources The Kirk's Ear - Scots i the Kirk series for Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and other times of the year Wurship Ouk bi Ouk - Metrical psalms, hymns, prayers and words for worship Scots Sacraments may give you helpful material if you are celebrating Communion or have a Baptism. The Mission and Discipleship Council would like to express its thanks to the Rev Marjory McPherson for providing us with this Sunday s material. Please note that the views expressed in these materials are those of the individual writer and not necessarily the official view of the Church of Scotland, which can be laid down only by the General Assembly.

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