Sunday April 11th 2021
A warm welcome to worship on the first Sunday after Easter. The intimations are at the end of the service.
Hymn 412 The strife is o’er, the battle done
Prayer of Approach
Almighty God, our Heavenly Father,
We rejoice with you in the resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ. We rejoice in the light he brought to our world of darkness. Death could not contain nor hold down Jesus Christ. So this Sunday, and indeed every moment of every day, we offer You thanks for Christ’s risen presence.
What was true that first Easter Sunday, had started, for some, to sink in seven days later. The possibilities for ongoing life beginning to form, even if almost imperceptibly. What might it mean for their futures?
They did not expect an empty tomb or a voice in the graveyard calling their name.
They did not expect a visit and words of peace and reassurance.
They did not expect a gift as You breathed on them and offered the Holy Spirit.
Yet all these things happened and shaped their future lives.
We can only marvel at the rollercoaster ride of emotions experienced by those first disciples and offer our thanks for their dedication and faithfulness.
Those first disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, took Your Good News and spread it, and eventually it reached these shores, and it reached our ears, and it changed us as it changed them.
We offer thanks for the faithfulness of all those who passed on that gospel message.
for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for the struggles and commitment of the apostles, for those who passed on the faith
generation after generation, we offer You our thanks, our deep thanks.
In the name of Christ, who taught us to pray together saying… Our Father…
Hymn 427 Alleluia! Alleluia! Hearts to heaven and voices raise
Reading: John 20:19-31
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Anthem: Christ the Lord is risen again. Anthony Foster
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen
On Easter Monday, enticed out by the lovely sunny day and braving the freezing cold wind, David and I decided to go for a walk. We recalled, from a number of years back, a nice forest walk not far from Gatehouse. We remembered a pleasant path that meandered through the quiet and stillness of the forest along leafy tracks dappled with sunlight, bringing you eventually to a little footbridge across a burn and, just beyond it, a picturesque little waterfall plunging into a hidden pool. Just the sort of place to restore your spirits after months of lockdown!
We were soon there and after parking we set off along the marked path. Everything was as we remembered it for the first 200 yards or so, and we were not too much concerned by little notices posted here and there to advise of logging operations in November 2020---that, after all, was months ago and everything seemed normal now. And so we pressed on as the path took us over the burn and then alongside the running water on a slight incline up a hill deeper into the forest. We crested the hill, followed the path around to the right, and then suddenly we were in a different world.
In an instant the pleasant forest walk turned into a mess. The loggers had obviously been there in force, and where before there had been a nice track under the pine trees, there was now a scene of devastation. The previously neat path was all churned up into mud by massive logging vehicles, and to our right, where forest glades should have been, there were instead nothing but broad sweeps of rough tree stumps, fallen branches, discarded logs, wood shavings and bits of bark all exposed to the sun and wind. It reminded me a little of one of those pictures you see of the shell-blasted no-man’s-land between the trenches of World War One.
We considered turning back but then thought “this cannot last forever!”, and so we pressed on, sliding and stumbling over the gouged-out track, the cold wind blowing in our faces because there were no trees left to temper its force.
Eventually a normal footpath veered away from the churned up road back towards the burn, and we decided to go that way, although by now we had completely lost our bearings, since the trees that used to shade the burn were all gone and in their place acres of stumps stretched out towards the public road in the distance, and nothing looked as we expected it to.
After a few minutes we came to a waterfall and a pool, and it took us quite a while to realise that this was actually the same picturesque waterfall and pool that we remembered so pleasantly from our walks years ago. Every landmark that human beings could create, and remove, had in fact been stripped away.
But what remained now was beyond the reach of human devastation, and in a strange way that was a comforting thought as we watched the waters of the burn cascading over the rocks and tumbling down the hillside. It struck me that what God had made in that landscape was persisting in spite of everything that man had tried to do to it, and I recalled that great verse from the Bible: “kingdoms may rise and fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” That thought went a great way to restoring my downcast spirits, and we paused for some time at that spot, enjoying the peace that nature still offered.
At this season of the Christian year we are reminded yet again that the kingdoms of man do indeed rise and fall: since that first Easter 2,000 years ago many great empires have flourished and faded, but through it all the message of Jesus has remained a beacon to humanity. Christians continue to celebrate what is at the heart of our faith---the Easter triumph of Jesus over all that the world could do to him. Those who thought they were erasing Jesus from history are themselves now barely remembered, while for centuries Easter has been celebrated by Christians all over the world in recognition of His victory. Kingdoms continue to rise and fall, but the joy of Easter continues forever.
I don’t think it is too much to say that that pattern is itself a fact of history, and this has important implications for us as Christians. We live in a world where human things come and go, but for us, that is not the be-all and end-all of life. The message of Easter is that life has a more enduring and greater meaning.
But that poses a challenge for us: how do we reconcile our calling as Christians with life in a world where kingdoms rise and fall?
Sometimes that challenge can be quite clear and specific. I was reminded of that the other day as I was re-reading a book called From Berlin to Bucharest which is about the travels of a journalist named Anton Gill around Eastern Europe in the 1980s just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Much of what Gill observed reminded me of my own time working in Romania in the mid 1990s. It made me think back to going to worship on Easter Sunday in 1995 and finding that the Hungarian Reformed Church I attended was so full that it was standing room only. Communism had risen and fallen but the church had lived on through it all. She had suffered greatly during communism but her spirit was undaunted and now she was seeing the fruits of her labour as more and more people came pouring through the doors.
In the town where I lived in Transylvania, 2 Reformed churches had been built in the 5 years since the fall of Ceaucescu to add to the three already there and still there was only standing room on that Easter Sunday as people found their spirits reawakening to the belief that there might be a more hopeful and joyful way to live than the atheism imposed by communism.
But all this raises the question which is as relevant for us today as it was for the Transylvanians 25 years ago. What do we do with the new life that is offered to us at Easter? And for us this year, as Easter coincides with a gradual releasing of lockdown, we might slightly rephrase the question to say: “What do we do with the new life which is being offered to us with the lifting of lockdown?” Do we return to our old way of life, or do we allow the way we live from now on to be changed and shaped by the truths that have been revealed to us by the experiences of the last year?
This is an immediate practical question but it is also in a larger sense a spiritual question, and I would suggest that we cannot really answer the practical question properly without also answering the spiritual question. It is not just a matter of the practical details of how we should live our lives from now on. It is also a matter of what the great guiding principles of that life should be.
And there we cannot ignore that great fact of history, that kingdoms rise and fall, that in the end human effort without a higher calling and meaning always fails.
The challenge to live up to that higher calling, and to find that greater meaning, faces each one of us now as much as it has always faced Christians down through the centuries. For each of us in our own particular situations living up to that will involve personal responses.
But it is my hope and my prayer that whatever our answers may be, that we will never lose sight of some of the important things we have learned during lockdown – the importance of people, the prioritising of time for friends and family, the realisation that we are not so much in control of our world as we might have liked to think, and that in the end we are called upon to look beyond ourselves and beyond human endeavour to live a life inspired by the meaning and message of Easter.
Hymn 417 Now the green blade riseth
Prayer of Intercession (Gwen)
Behind closed doors… afraid. That was how Your disciples found themselves that first Easter evening.
You appeared and said, “Peace be with you.”
In the world today so many places lack peace –
Those places where lockdowns are in place, people indoors struggling with relationships, a lack of space and freedom applying added pressures.
Those wrestling with emotions because they have not been able to be beside some of their loved ones as they would have liked at significant moments – from birthdays to serious illnesses.
Those patients, residents and staff, in hospitals and care homes in so many places around the world where staff are stretched, where resources are scarce, where illness either threatens or dominates.
Those suffering the pain of bereavement. Those living in places of turmoil where wars still rage. Those people and situations uppermost in our minds
which we lift up to You now in the silence….
So many places lack peace –
Breathe on these situations.
May Your peace offer some respite in the midst of today’s concerns
and may it point to better days to come.
As well as peace You gave the Holy Spirit; God present with us in all we do.
May we be guided by that Spirit, to offer help and convey peace
wherever that is possible.
Hear our prayers, through Jesus Christ, our risen Saviour.
A Prayer from the Moderator of the Church of Scotland on the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh
Almighty and everlasting God,
‘the life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.’
But You are forever, from everlasting to everlasting, and we put our trust in You for You have promised never to leave us nor forsake us.
Loving Lord, in this last year, through the worst of a global pandemic, we’ve been face to face with our fragility and vulnerability, perhaps for some of us as never before.
Against that backdrop of hurt and loss, we give you thanks for the life and service of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Some are called to the front of the stage, others to supporting roles and we rejoice in the way he supported Her Majesty the Queen through all of the years of her reign.
We remember, too, his work supporting charities and, perhaps most memorably for young people for over sixty years, his patronage of The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.
In this hour of loss, we offer our heartfelt prayers for Her Majesty and her family. Comfort them in their loss, bind up their wounds and grant them the consolation of a store of treasured memories. Grant Her Majesty the peace that comes from knowing you and which passes all understanding.
These and all our prayers we ask in the name of Jesus, who through his life, death and resurrection offers us hope instead of despair, life instead of death.
Hymn 192 All my hope on God is founded
On that first Easter evening Christ spoke –
“Peace be with you.”
On the next Sunday evening,
with Thomas present also,
Christ spoke –
“Peace be with you.”
Words for those Sundays
and words for today –
“Peace be with you.”
And the blessing of God,
who sent His Son,
who spoke those words,
who inspires us still,
be with you all
now and evermore.
Closing Voluntary: Easter medley: Loben string quartet
From the Food Bank.
The next collection for the Stewartry Food Bank will be Tuesday 13th April, 9 - 9.30am at Kirkcudbright Parish Church.
Thanks to some very generous donations, most of our shelves are very well stocked at the moment. However, the following are items which may run low during April:
Savoury and sweet spreads (jam, honey, chocolate; meat and fish pastes)
Deodorant (male and female)
Toothbrushes and toothpaste (for adults and children)
Thank you, as always, for your continuing support - a particular thank you to the ladies of the Inner Wheel who kindly thought of providing Easter eggs to be included in our parcels prior to Easter.
All best wishes
on behalf of Marian Dixon
and the SFB Team.
At Tarff and Twynholm the door at the end of the concrete path, opposite the main gate, will be left unlocked for donations after the service until 5.00pm on Sunday 11th April. In Gatehouse, donations can be left at the Gatehouse stores or in Jim Logan’s Pend, the blue door to the left of 16 Fleet Street, up to lunchtime on Monday 12th.
From Anne Carstairs: “Very many thanks to all those who bought marmalade in aid of the Vine Trust this year. I'm sorry I have not been able to finalise the totals until I was able to make 'non-essential' journeys but I have now been able to send a total of £350 to the Vine Trust, thanks to your support. It will help to enable charities in Tanzania to continue projects to provide hope, health and opportunity to vulnerable communities, especially children.”