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.

 

Prayer

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,

Amen.

 

Readings 1 Peter 3: 13 – 22

                  John 14: 15 – 21

 

Reflection

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

hereafter.

 

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.

 

Prayer 

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

Amen