Sunday, April 29, 2012

In this morning's service we shared in the sacrament of baptism as Kelly and Shane brought Shauna Marie and Landon Lee to be baptised.

Seen and Unseen

It’s easy to see and touch
And hear and feel
And even smell
Things that are real in the world around us
Those friends of Jesus saw and touched
Heard and felt and even smelled
The risen Christ and knew he was real.
When we cannot see and cannot touch
When we cannot hear and cannot feel
Help us to know deep within
That your unseen presence is with us
To strengthen and uphold us
And help us know that your love
Will never let us go.   Amen

The heart of the Christian faith is not a theory.  It is an event that happened nearly 2000 years ago.  The life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  At his death his followers were shattered.  Then something happened to change that.  John in his gospel goes out of his way to tell of the way Mary Magdalene and then all of Jesus’ friends saw the risen Jesus and heard his voice.  Thomas saw, heard and touched Jesus.  Peter and the others on the shore smelled woodsmoke from the fire where Jesus was cooking breakfast – and then they tasted the meal. 

Sight, Hearing, Touch, Smell, Taste.

John was in no doubt about it … and that’s the way he opens the letter that acts almost as a covering letter to John’s Gospel.

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life

There’s the beginnings of a transformation that comes over the disciples.  Their lives had been shattered, all their hopes dashed.  But now the resurrection turned all of that upside down.

But still they met behind closed doors.

Something else mattered to them.  Something else came deep within them.  And then they were energized.  Energised to such an extent that the shattered remnant of followers of a little known teacher from Galilee became a movement that swept through the Roman Empire.

The something else that happened could not be seen in the same way.  It could not be felt or touched.  And yet although it was unseen, it was very real.

Shortly before he died Jesus shared one last meal with his close friends.  It was at that meal that he spoke of that deep, inner power, that strength that would make such a difference in their lives.

John 14:15 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 

In baptism we use something you can see and hear and touch and smell and taste.  Water.  It’s real.  It’s a reminder to us that at the heart of our Christian faith is something real people saw and heard and touched and smelled and tasted.

But in baptism we celebrate that just as the water is real, so the love of God is real deep within our hearts.  That reminds us of something else that’s so important.

There’s a strength, a power, a resource, an energy that we can draw on that is deep within us that can help us through.  It is something to help us through those difficult times when we know that in our own strength we cannot get through.

How can we release that power?

At the beginning of the year we asked people to come up with ideas about what makes Highbury special.  One set of words people came up with had to do with our worship and prayer.  It’s one of those wonderful things that happens sometimes – Kelly will remember Mary B as our Hy-Tec leader – as the person who co-ordinates our prayer rotas at church and is the deacon who focuses on prayer I had asked Mary to share some thoughts about prayer a couple of Sundays ago.  But Mary was away.  She could do it today instead.  And that’s really appropriate …

So over to Mary for thoughts on prayer.

After speaking of the different opportunities there are at Highbury to share in prayer Mary went on to reflect on prayer, using two analogies and one promise.

She suggested that prayer was a little like completing a circuit with God.  Just as a light won’t come on unless the electric circuit is completed, so too with our concern for others and God’s presence prayer is the way we have of ‘completing the circuit’ and ensuring that we are in that circle of power and energy that comes from God and surrounds his people.

What’s the value of praying?  There’s a mystery to it, Mary suggested, that we can only begin to find some understanding of.  Standing to one side of the front of our church behind the lecturn, Mary observed that she saw everyone in front of her and knew some, but not all, could see some but not all, and those she was concerned for she only could see some of those needs.   She asked us to imagine that God was, as it were, on the other side of the platform – God sees above and below, around and within us, he sees us in a way we cannot begin to imagine, he knows all our needs.  What happens when we pray is that (and at this point Mary began to move to the other side of the platform) we seek to see things from God’s point of view, and we, as it were, hand over those concerns to God knowing that God sees and knows all in the deepest of ways.

And finally, Mary, offered one promise.  You don’t have to be anyone special to pray.  Jesus mixed with all sorts and conditions of people and shared love with everyone.  So, whoever we are, wherever we are from, whatever our weaknesses prayer is something that releases that unseen presence of God into our lives and into our world.

After we all sang, Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me, Mary led us in our prayers.   In those prayers we prayed for one member of the congregation who was setting off for Ramallah in Palestine to share in medical education work. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Four Horns Four Carpenters and The Carpenter

During this morning's service we shared in the sacrament of baptism as John and Denise brought their son Zach to be baptised.

Baptism is a celebration of the free gift of God's love.  With it comes the prayer that the little one as he grows older will make that love his own until in adulthood he comes to faith in God and in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour for himself.  As promises are made each of us are prompted to think what we have done about that gift of God's love and ask whether we have made it our own.

The greatest gift

A gift to treasure,
The greatest gift of all.
And greater even than love,
The love of God.
A love that has no strings attached,
A love that forgives and renews
A love that is around and within,
Above and below.
A love that never fails.
That’s the love that reaches out
To each of us
Since before ever we can remember
Is it a love that makes a difference to us?

There was a series on TV a month or so ago called Reverse Missionaries.  The first told the story of a missionary in the early 1800’s who went from Kings Stanley here in Gloucestershire to Jamaica and became one of the leading campaigners for the abolition of slavery.  In Jamaica his memory is honoured to this day and in Kings Stanley it is completely forgotten.  So the TV show brought over the pastor of a church in Jamaica to spend a couple of weeks in Kings Stanley as a missionary.

It was very moving to see the way he sought to come alongside the disaffected youngsters from the village – playing football with them, sharing the Christian faith in the most practical of ways, living out the love of God with them.  How he came alongside someone who was very far from well and had given up all hope for life.

The second episode took us to Blantyre in Scotland and told the story of David Livingstone who had set out from Blantyre to Central Africa as a missionary.  This time they brought someone from Blantyre in Malawi to one of our churches in Blantyre in Scotland.  It was quite striking to see how he was moved to tears coming from a place where most people go to church to find the way most people had abandoned anything to do with church and faith.  It was moving to see how he took a leaf out of David Livingstone’s book who had endeavoured to work with local people getting them to do the work of sharing the Christian faith.  He enlisted the help of young people to reach out to young people.  Again it was moving.

The third story shifted to Belfast and to India.  In 1895, Amy Carmichael, a young woman had gone from a Belfast church to India as a missionary.  The programme brought a young woman back from India.  Again it was clever how they made connections.  Amy Carmichael had worked with young people, especially girls and young women who were treated in an abusive way, virtually as sex slaves.  The young woman from India was seen working with young women across the divide in Belfast Catholic and Protestant and in particular working with them about self-respect.

Again it was moving.

Amy Carmichael’s story had caught my imagination when I first came across it.  It was a powerful and moving story.   Amy Carmichael was like an earlier version of Mother Theresa – doing the same kind of work among the most disadvantaged of people.  She set up a home called the Dohnavur home and that gave rise to a Dohnavur Fellowship.  Too busy with caring and sharing her faith in such practical ways, she was towards the end of her life taken ill.

It was at that point that she turned to writing.  Unable to be so active she shared her thoughts.  In particular she shared notes for prayer and support and encouragement with regular letters to staff and to people who continued the work.

After she died those were collected and edited together into a book of prayers to take you through the year.  Edges of His Ways.

It’s an intriguing title taken from a particular translation of Job 26:24 “These are the edges of his ways;”

A profound sense of the presence of God, Amy Carmichael also was going through very difficult times of ill health – she sensed there was something very real about the presence of God and his strength and power.   We can sense a strength from beyond ourselves – but it is only ever the edges of his ways that we touch.  As if you only hear whispers of the incredible greatness of God’s strength.

One image has always stuck in my mind.

And it’s one that seems appropriate to share today as we are sharing in baptism and baptising Zach.

Having told the story of Zechariah from the New Testament, there is also a Zechariah in the Old Testament.  He was a prophet – who spoke out God’s word to the powers that be.  One of the things about Zechariah is that he had all sorts of quite weird and wonderful visions.

It is one of those visions that Amy Carmichael reflects on.

Most of us have said what Amy Carmichael found herself saying in one of those letters she sent from her sick bed to colleagues still working flat out among those very deprived children and young people.

Most of us have said it at one time or another.

“I see such difficulties, I hardly know how to go on.”

It’s a scary time to be bringing a child into the world.  Lots of uncertainties about the kind of world he will grow up in.  I guess in so many ways it always has been so.

Sometimes it can feel as if the world is against us.  And there are all sorts of destructive forces around in the world.

That’s what Zechariah sees in this vision.  (1:18-21)

I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.”

I saw … four horns.   These are the powers that in Amy Carmichael’s words ‘scatter and shatter and spoil, the cruel powers that blast good work, and discourage souls “so that no one did lift up his head.”.

I saw them.  Is what the prophet said.

We know them all too well from watching the news.  From conversations about what’s going on in the world at the moment.  From things that strike much more closely to home in health and sickness.

They can seem to come from every side, from North and south, east and west, from the front, from behind, from right and from left.

I saw four horns.

But then something happens.

“And the Lord showed me four carpenters”.

For each horn a carpenter.  The horns are the destructive forces.  The carpenters are the ones who put things back together again, the ones who repair and mend and set right. 

Things go wrong in the building – we call on Darryl Mills, whose family is well known to some of Denise and John’s friends and family too.  Someone skilled at setting things right, mending things.  And we are greatly blessed by that kind of work that Darryl, and also John and others do behind the scenes for us – setting things right.

What happens in this is that for all those destructive forces there is a carpenter, in Amy Carmicahel’s words ‘thoes powers that put right what is wrong, that frighten away, terrify the evil powers, and yet they are as truly present as the horns.

That’s a very powerful thought to hold on to.  And it is one that is very precious.

For each and for every force that is destructive there is a power that seeks to put things back together again.

But notice that it’s easy enough to see the horns.  I see them.

But the constructive powers that renew and repair, they are not so easy to see.  In fact Zechariah only sees them when God shows them to him.

As Amy Carmichael says.  “We see the horns ourselves, but until the Lord opens our eyes we do not see they carpenters, and yet they are as truly present as the horns.”  We see the destructive forces ourselves all too readily, but we do not see the restorative powers that put things back together again until God opens our eyes and we see them for ourselves.

How does God open our eyes.

Destructive forces suck you into negative, self-centredness that fuels jealousies, hatreds, nastinesses of all kinds.

It is in Christ that we see the love that counters that.

It’s wonderful to think, suggests Amy Carmichael, that Jesus is the carpenter – who mends and restores and puts things right.

That’s one of the things about our service of baptism today.   Why bring Zach or anyone for that matter to be baptised.  It is because we want them to take into their lives some of those values around love and service of others that are at the heart of the teaching of Jesus.

To take those Christian values that really can make a difference in our lives, in our homes and in our world at large.

But even more than that.  There is in this service a wonderful celebration of the reality of God’s love.  It is as real as the water we pour over Zach.  We cannot see that love.  But it is real.  There is a strength there in God’s presence that is all-powerful.  Our hope is that as Zach grows older – as he comes to see the nasty things there are in the world, he will also be able to see that love of God in front of him, behind him, to one side of him, to the other side of him.   For it is a love that will encircle and uphold him.

Amy Carmichael finishes quoting Jesus and his final parting words to his closest friends, “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth, … and lo, I am with you always – All the day and all the day long.

Is not this the Carpenter?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Prayer works!

What’s special about Highbury for many people has to do with Prayer and Worship.

Praying Church – Relevant – Peaceful – prepared to problem share – Christ centred

Over Easter weekend a survey was published about people who go to church … I guess it’s about us.  As I was listening on the radio reference was made to the survey and how it highlighted the weakness of the church.  That’s our weakness.

In particular the presenters who gave a throwaway comment immediately after more serious reference had been made to the survey were scornful.  I cannot remember exactly the figures but only 30% of church goers felt prayer worked.  Well, was the implication of the scornful tone of voice, not much hope there if only 30% of those who claim to believe prayer to be special think it works.

As you can imagine my hackles were raised.

I wondered what the questioners were getting at when they asked the question.  Does prayer work?  I wondered what the people on the receiving end of the survey took that question to mean.

I have a feeling that prayer is one of those things that has about it a far greater sense of mystery than can be contained in any survey aimed at reducing things to a statistical analysis.

Two moments from the very first Holy Week and the very first anniversary of  Easter struck me forcibly this last couple of weeks.

It is the garden of Gethsemane that Jesus is seen in prayer.  It is agonising prayer.  Pray that you may not come into the time of trial, he said to his disciples.  How would they have replied to the questioner?  Jesus prayed ‘Father, if you are willing remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.”  How would he have replied to the questionnaire?

Prayer isn’t like that.  It cannot be reduced to that level.

Something happens as all that prayer is going on.  And Luke describes it in a way that for me immediately brings with it a sense of mystery and wonderment.

Just as Jesus is at prayer we read in Luke 22:43.  ‘Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.’

Something happens in that time of prayer that does not mean all the problems are solved and all the issues being prayed about dissolve into thin air.  Something happens in that whole praying that brings strength.  Strength from beyond.

Whether or not it is the first anniversary of those momentous events in Holy Week and Easter or second or third is difficult to  be precise about.  But that it is at the anniversary time there can be no doubt.

Herod rightly perceived first John the Baptist, then Jesus, then the followers of Jesus as a threat to the System, the powers that be.

So King Herod did away with John the Baptist.  But Jesus took up the mantle of John the Baptist and continued to threaten the  System, the powers that be.

Herod waited three years before he could do away with Jesus.  But Jesus lived on to threaten the system, the powers that be, not least in his followers.

Herod waited another year and determined to do away with Peter.  Acts 12:1-4 describes the way Herod planned to do at that Passover with Peter exactly as he had done with Jesus.

But the followers of Jesus did something else in the face of all that threatened their very existence.

While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

What I notice in that story is that once again what happens as Luke describes it has that sense of mystery about it.

‘Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and alight shone in the cell.’

For me, what that says, is that there was a strength from beyond, a sense of God’s strengthening.

Angel can be a heavenly strength, something of  God breaking into the everyday world,   It can simply mean a messenger – maybe another person.   I think of it as a strength from beyond ourselves.  I link it with that strength Jesus promises from the Holy Spirit – unseen, yet very real, a strength from God.

What do we look for in prayer?

Mystery, something we cannot explain.  Something that cannot be reduced to statistics.  It has to do with that imponderable mystery that is God’s presence, God’s strength from beyond ourselves.

I unpick from Peter’s story here in Acts 12 some thoughts I feel precious.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, ‘Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.’ He did so. Then he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’

In prayer, light breaks in on our darkness.

Prayer is not an alternative to action – but involves action.   Peter is tapped on the side, Get up quickly, fasten your belt put on your sandals.   Focus on prayers for other people prompts continual action in helping others

Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.

Prayer brings with it, arouses within us a sense of God’s protection.  The cloak wrapped around us to guard and protect us.

Prayer leads us on a journey.

There is in prayer a very real sense of the power of God’s presence to go with us and to work with us.

What is fascinating about this prayer is that this is shared by the whole church family.  How important for us to grow as a church family in the prayers we share together.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Joy and Pain at Easter

The central part of our service was led by Carolyn Tennant, our children's worker.

The Wounded, Risen Christ
Before, they weren’t there.
Afterwards, they were.
The wounds in Christ’s side.
Doubting Thomas wouldn’t believe
without seeing and touching.
How much greater the blessing
to those who have not seen
and yet believe.
The risen Christ who is with us
is the Christ who bears those wounds
and stands alongside us,
when we too are wounded
and feel the pain of a hurting world.

Easter Sunday 2012

Happy Easter!
Whenever I think of Easter eggs I remember this image in my head (photo). Notice how my big sister and I are standing nicely with our eggs and my little sister has already managed to finish 2 of hers!
Maybe you have had an egg hunt or are looking forward to one later.
We are going to play a game this morning and you need a partner, preferably someone out of your age group…
It’s a game of OPPOSITES and acting.
Work out who is older and that person will act the word at the top of the screen while your younger partner mimes the word at the bottom.
·        Up-down
·        Wide-narrow
·        Fast-slow
·        Happy-sad
·        Big-small
·        Excited-bored
·        Love-hate
·        Over-under
·        Joy-pain
What great images of contrasting feelings!

Happy Easter!
Happy Easter?
I always look quizzically when I see that emblazoned across the supermarket wondering what it means to people.
There’s a general sense that ‘Happy Christmas’ has something inoffensively to do with ‘goodwill to all’ but Easter seems somewhat more disturbing and challenging.
Of course they are inevitably linked and we can’t have one without the other.

Easter is about opposites, about life and death.
Let’s hear the Easter story and watch the animation.


Let’s think back to the opposites…
There are many times in life when opposites go together;
·        My grandma used to say, ‘She’s my best friend, but I hate her!’
·        My mum always cried at happy endings to films (and she passed that on!) There is something special that happens when we empathise that means we are capable of feeling 2 or more emotions at once.
·        Think of the saying ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ How often do we find that to be true?
·        We are frequently told, ‘No pain, no gain’ and all of us can experience the satisfaction of effort and reward.
·        As parents we often feel 2 emotions at once; ‘Lovely, Darling! But wait ‘til I get you home!’
·        I recall hearing a speaker at Spring Harvest one year who described the quality of love he saw between parents and their disabled children with whom he worked. There was something extra special about the love that grew which depended on having such patience and overcoming.
·        When I sat watching the school play at the end of term I was equally fascinated by studying the parents’ faces as they admired their children. You could almost cut chunks of the love that filled the room (sometimes disproportionate to talent and flair!) Powerful stuff!
·        And think of the flavours we enjoy. (Choose someone to taste the sweet and sour sauce, then chili sauce and soured cream separately, then together.) These flavours are good on their own but put them together and something wonderful happens. The chili sometimes too hot and painful on its own, the cream too rich and sickly but together…perfect!

Think back to Christmas when we considered the way God planned the events and all the surprises involved.
How would you have planned the ending?
God could have taken Jesus away still in perfect condition but he chose not to.
Like in the Christmas story, this turns out to be the far better way to go about things, the far more perfect plan.
Think of the upholstery group who meets in church regularly. They could easily go to John Lewis (or IKEA!) and buy a new chair and yet they choose to spend weeks carefully restoring an old one, knowing that there will be far more satisfaction, lasting pleasure and connection with that way of doing things.

The power of the Easter story is in opposites.
But not just the one superseding the other.
They happen simultaneously and are ongoing.
Maybe you looked at the cross in church last Saturday and maybe you selected a red and a gold ribbon to tie together to keep as a reminder of Jesus connecting for us pain and joy, sadness and victory, life and death?
Some of us will be very familiar with the hymn ‘When I survey the wondrous cross.’ It was written in 1707 by Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, who wrote a lot of hymns himself, reportedly said he would give up all other hymns to have written this one!
It is at the same time very simple and very complex and deserves a close look.
It contains some of the contrasts and opposites which Jesus holds together that we have been thinking about.
We are going to explore it verse by verse and help one another to understand its meanings.
(Encourage people to pair up across the ages and talk about the words after each verse is sung)
·        Verse 1 Sung by Hy-Spirit
·        Discuss
·        Show transcript (possibly you reached this kind of understanding together)
·        Continue verses 2-4

All sing whole song together.

On the cross you can see
·        a crown of pain, sorrow and suffering made of thorns,
·        a golden crown of life, light and victory
·        and a golden crown of thorns

It is this third crown that makes Easter so special and wonderful. The wounded resurrected Jesus bears the marks of suffering into the victorious life everlasting and that is what we celebrate today.

Happy Easter.
He is risen indeed.

First Light - A Dawn Service for Easter

Our Dawn Service talk us on a walk from the Golf Club house up to the top of Cleeve hill via a wonderful quarry, evocative of the tomb at the first Easter

First Light
A Dawn Service for Easter

Late in the afternoon a wealthy man from Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, arrived. His name was Joseph. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate granted his request. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in clean linens, put it in his own tomb, a new tomb only recently cut into the rock, and rolled a large stone across the entrance. Then he went off. But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary stayed, sitting in plain view of the tomb.
After sundown, the high priests and Pharisees arranged a meeting with Pilate. They said, "Sir, we just remembered that that liar announced while he was still alive, 'After three days I will be raised.' We've got to get that tomb sealed until the third day. There's a good chance his disciples will come and steal the corpse and then go around saying, 'He's risen from the dead.' Then we'll be worse off than before, the final deceit surpassing the first."
 Pilate told them, "You will have a guard. Go ahead and secure it the best you can." So they went out and secured the tomb, sealing the stone and posting guards.
We take a stone
Stones they threw at Jesus
Stones surrounded Jesus at his death
A Stone sealed his tomb.

In this stone we see the hurt Jesus endured,
The pain he shared, the burden he carried.
In this stone we see the hurt we have inflicted on others, the pain we have caused others, the burden we have imposed on others.
In this stone we see the hurt we have inflicted on Jesus, the pain we have caused Jesus, the burden we have imposed on Jesus.
Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, have mercy on us

1     From heaven you came, helpless babe,
       entered our world, your glory veiled;
       not to be served but to serve,
       and give Your life that we might live.
       This is our God, the Servant King,
he calls us now  to follow Him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.
2     There in the garden of tears,
       my heavy load he chose to bear;
       his heart with sorrow was torn,
       'Yet not My will but Yours,' He said.
3     Come see His hands and His feet,
       the scars that speak of sacrifice;
       hands that flung stars into space
       to cruel nails surrendered.
4     So let us learn how to serve,
       and in our lives enthrone Him;
       each other's needs   to prefer,
       for it is Christ we're serving.
Graham Kendrick (born 1950)  CCL 3540

After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb.
We take our stones with us as
our walk begins

We let go of our stones

We lay this stone to rest and we know for certain that Christ has carried all that hurt, all that pain, all those burdens, and he has set us free.  We are forgiven.  We are set free.  We may begin all over again.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God's angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn't move.
The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.
 "Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.' That's the message."
The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. "Good morning!" he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, "You're holding on to me for dear life! Don't be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I'll meet them there."

Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son;
endless is the victory thou o'er death hast won.
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.
Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son:
Endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom.
Let his church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.

No more we doubt thee, glorious prince of life!
Life is nought without thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors,
       through thy deathless love:
Bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.
Edmund L Budry (1854-1932), translated by Richard B Hoyle (1875-1939)  CCL3540

Meanwhile, the guards had scattered, but a few of them went into the city and told the high priests everything that had happened. They called a meeting of the religious leaders and came up with a plan: They took a large sum of money and gave it to the soldiers, bribing them to say, "His disciples came in the night and stole the body while we were sleeping." They assured them, "If the governor hears about your sleeping on duty, we will make sure you don't get blamed." The soldiers took the bribe and did as they were told. That story, cooked up in the High Council, is still going around.

Our walk goes on
Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."

1     I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
How he left his home in glory
For the cross on Calvary:
       Yes, I'll sing the wondrous story
       Of the Christ who died for me,
       Sing it with his saints in glory,
       Gathered by the crystal sea.

2     I was lost but Jesus found me,
Found the sheep that went astray,
Threw his loving arms around me,
Drew me back into his way.

3     I was bruised but Jesus healed me,
Faint was I from many a fall;
Sight was gone, and fears possessed me;
But he freed me from them all:

4     Days of darkness still come o'er me;
Sorrow's paths I often tread;
But the Saviour still is with me,
By his hand I'm safely led:

5     He will keep me till the river
Rolls its waters at my feet;
Then he'll bear me safely over,
All my joys in him complete.
Francis H Rowley (1854-1952)

Today and Tomorrow

Today and tomorrow
Today and tomorrow

Lo, I am with you always,
When we try
To do your will

I am with you always
When we go
Where we do not know

I am with you always
When we meet
One we do not recognize

I am with you always,
Where faith ends
And doubt begins

I am with you always
And should we forget you …

I am with you always
Today and tomorrow
Today and tomorrow
You are with us always
To the end of the world

Bible passages are from Matthew 27 and 28 in the Message.  The idea for the first prayers and the last responses taken from Stages on the Way (Wiild Goose Worship Group, Iona).  Hymns reproduced under Churches Copyright License 3540

Good Friday: At the Foot of the Cross

At the foot of the Cross
Good Friday at St Mary’s 12-30
As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross.
It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ 
Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 
Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.”  
Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ 
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,
‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
   and for my clothing they cast lots.’ 
And that is what the soldiers did.
Hymn:  There is a green hill far away

Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ 

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself.  He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.”  

The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

2 minutes silence

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

2 minutes silence

Hymn:  O sacred head sore wounded

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.


From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.


When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ 


A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.


Hymn:  My song is love unknown

 the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.


Having said this, he breathed his last


When I survey the wondrous cross

Crucified, dead and buried.
on the third day he rose again from the dead

And so, on Easter Sunday, every church in Cheltenham will meet to celebrate Resurrection!

And at 8-00 on Easter Sunday morning you are invited to the Imperial Gardens and after for breakfast at St Andrew’s.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not perish
but may have eternal life.

‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ 
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
   Where, O death, is your sting?’ 
thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

So much to pass on at Highbury

If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own

A blessing shared at Highbury

Now and the Future at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions

Darkness into Light