Sunday 17th May
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Today would have been General Assembly Sunday and Heart and Soul would have been taking place in Princes Street Gardens – there is a virtual Heart and Soul happening this afternoon (Sunday 17th) you can log on from the Church of Scotland website. Let’s keep in our hearts and prayers today, all those who are involved with running the business of the Church of Scotland, all who are helping to guide the changes that are being made, and the new Moderator, the Right Reverend Martin Fair, that they may know God’s love and feel his presence with them as they seek the way forward.
Eternal and ever-blessed God,
we give You thanks
for the joy that comes to us
when we come to worship you,
and become truly united as the people of God.
We thank You for the family of faith,
united in our desire to follow Jesus.
Thank You for those with whom we have laughed.
who have made this world a more cheery place.
Thank You for those with whom we have wept
and we have shared our sorrows in our times of need.
We bless You for those we have served alongside
sharing together in a common task,
whose support has made the work more manageable.
We bless You for those who have shared our dreams
and pursued our visions,
as partners in a common purpose,
working to an agreed goal.
Thank You for those with whom we worship together,
for those with whom we pray together,
for those in whose company we have listened to Your voice
and sought to see You face to face.
Forgive us for everything that has interrupted
the companionship we should enjoy:
for selfishness that made us want nothing but our own way,
for intolerance which made us see nothing
but our own point of view,
for self-assertiveness that made us seek to impose
our own will upon others.
Have mercy, good Lord.
Forgive us for arguments in which we lost our temper,
for discussions in which bitter words
and sarcastic comments were thrown about,
for things we said in the heat of the moment
and now bitterly regret.
Have mercy, good Lord.
So, cleanse and purify us, that in the days to come
we will work to live in unity with one another
because we are one in Christ.
Hear this our prayer
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And we continue our prayer by praying the words Jesus taught us…
Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done, on 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, the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever,
Readings 1 Peter 3: 13 – 22
John 14: 15 – 21
Looking at the passage from 1 Peter -
It sometimes is hard to make sense of God when life is tough. The Early Church was no
stranger to suffering. Normally when we do the right thing then all is well, but sometimes
even when we do the right thing, nothing we do can satisfy those who just want to make life
hard for us. Never forget he who holds us in his hands. Trust in God is a powerful antidote to fear of others. Our response in the face of such injustice – hard though it can be - should not be to respond tit for tat, but in a fully Christian way - to testify to our trust that Jesus is Lord.
The way you speak, as well as what you say, matters. Your tone can support or undermine
the truth you wish to share. Gentleness and respect are often missing from today’s
‘outraged generation,’ but they are more powerful influencers than they appear. Even
those who deliberately seek to undermine will find, despite themselves, that such a
response challenges them as to their own attitude. So, keep your conscience clear and let
your words be pleasant.
As Christians we follow a Saviour who suffered unjustly, so it should not be a surprise if we
also suffer. However, Christ’s mission was clear; He came to bear our sins, to die in our place to reconcile us to God.
The last part of this passage has been the subject of great speculation and a range of
interpretations. Let us simply say that the writer wants to show that Jesus, who is Lord
over all, is Lord over the living and the dead, that there are no ‘no go’ areas. Nothing is
deemed out of bounds to Him. As Paul says: “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus
Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11). As baptised Christian we
face not judgement but salvation as we make our stand with Christ. We trust that as He
conquered death so we, with Him, will be raised to newness of life now and life everlasting
So, we come now to the passage from John’s gospel.
This week’s passage follows on from the one we read last week, and so the setting for this is still the Upper Room on the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. Though Jesus was aware of the gathering storm and as we will see in Gethsemane, shrank from it, still, in obedience, He faced it. Yet here, when he most needed support, Jesus is found once more giving out to comfort His friends, the disciples.
Though Jesus would shortly be leaving them, He would not be abandoning them. In His
place would come “another,” (word used means “another of the same kind”). He is “Jesus’
other self.” In fact, whereas Jesus could be only in one place at a time in the flesh, by His
Spirit, Jesus could be with all His followers all the time; and not simply alongside them but
within them. As an advocate, the Holy Spirit will defend them and give them the words
to say in their own defence. The Spirit will be a helper to strengthen them, a presence to
support them and a guide to lead them in the way of truth. The Holy Spirit will overcome
their ignorance and their forgetfulness, by leading them into the truth and by reminding
them of what they have learned.
The paradox of Jesus’ presence is that:
• Jesus will be absent, but present
• Jesus will be hidden, yet visible
• Jesus will be dead, yet alive
The paradox of their future is that:
• They would not be orphans, but adopted
• They would belong, for God is their Father
• They would be secure, for Jesus will never leave them
• They would be loved, and loving leads to knowing
Far from being orphans without any family, they would become part of a world-wide family.
Many testify to the sense of connection they find meeting Christians whom they have never
met before, even across cultural and language barriers. Without spelling it out, Jesus hints
that though for the world the cross would be the last time He was seen in public, for the
disciples the seven weeks of rich resurrection appearances would be the hope they would
hang on to in the years that followed.
However, the mark of discipleship would be shown in the obedience of faith, a continuing
commitment to follow Jesus wherever He led them. This will show whether their professed
love for Him is authentic or not, but in such living, they will know God’ s love and understand better God’s love for them, both that of the Father and Son – in the same way that we can know that love as his disciples today.
Let us take our weariness and tiredness to God
who picks up those who have fallen,
and raises up those who are brought low.
Loving Lord, we ask your blessing
For those who are bowed down
under the burdens they must carry.
We pray for those who are crushed by their responsibilities at work
and those who feel the pain of our world,
especially in this time of the pandemic
and this time of climate change.
Help them to keep on going.
Bring supportive friends alongside them.
Give them tokens of Your grace,
fresh vision and courage and signs of encouragement in their struggle.
Let us take our loneliness to God,
who delights to love us always.
God our Father,
bless those who are lonely
those who are forced to be alone at this time
because of lockdown restrictions.
Bless those who are shy,
who find it hard to initiate conversation
and have never known real friendships.
We pray for strangers in a foreign land,
for asylum seekers and refugees,
separated by language and culture
from familiar ways and much-loved customs.
We remember all those
who even in the midst of crowds feel alone.
Help the Church, we pray,
to be a place of acceptance and belonging,
a place of welcome and inclusion,
where all can find a home,
a listening ear, a friendly smile and a helping hand.
Let us take our sorrows to God,
who binds up the broken-hearted,
who brings respite to the sick,
and comforts those who mourn.
Bless those whose hearts are sore today.
Be close to those whose family circle has been invaded
and whose joy has been darkened by death.
We remember those who have lost loved ones,
especially as they may not have had the opportunity
to be with them in their final moments.
Let us turn to God in trust
and recommit ourselves to God.
Send us forth this day with the joy that no-one can take from us,
the life which is Your life and the hope that gives strength to our actions.
Help us to sing of our faith and in that singing find our strength to go on,
trusting in Jesus who lived among us,
died for us and rose again,
and who prays for us today,
even as we pray to Him.
In His name we pray