Sunday, April 15, 2018

The journey of faith - Words that Change Lives


Text for the Week: This Jesus God raised up and of that we are all witnesses. Acts 22:32

Welcome to our services today and a special welcome to any worshipping with us for the first time.


Morning Worship

Welcome and Call to Worship

193 God is love: his the care

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

Words to Change the World

Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you!

The wisdom of the ages has some truth in it – I can remember taking some comfort from the thought after people had been calling me names when I was little.

However, that only goes so far.

Proverbs 18:21

You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say.
What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.

James 3:1-12

Verse 5
Just think how large a forest can be set on fire by a tiny flame! And the tongue is like a fire

Words of thanksgiving and cursing pour out from the same mouth: brothers and sisters this should not happen! Verse 10.

Words count and make a difference.

Shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded room causes a stampede to the exit in which people are crushed … and it’s just a joke – no, words have consequences, words can kill.

I was there yesterday – I’ll cheer for my side for all I’m worth: but I don’t like calling the opposition names for real – tongue in cheek maybe! But there’s something ugly in an angry football crowd.

And as for social media. Take care what you say.

Don’t call names.

Diplomacy by tweet has its consequences.

But … words can have a life-transforming power.

That’s the power of the words the risen Jesus wanted us to share.

He wanted us to share words to change people’s lives.

Reading: Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

That’s what we are involved in together … passing on that word, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded.

A Hy-Spirit Song

A new way of working – Iain as our new Church Secretary

We would usually welcome people and commission them … I had thought we would do that around now – but I have thought again. Things are falling into place for the vacancy – and we are going to have a re-commissioning of our team of officers, Diaconate, Ministry Leaders, I hope, in June when we will be very much looking forward to new things in church.

But now Iain is going to have a word about how things will work as Church Secretary – and tell us of the appointment of an Adminstrator.

Prayer

Activities for all 0ver 3

There’s a lot of truth in the old children’s chorus I sang as a youngster in the annual CSSM beach mission on Criccieth beach, a beach mission that still meets each year!

The best book to read is the Bible,
the best book to read is the Bible:
if you read it every day it will help you on your way:
the best book to read is the Bible.

Lots of people at church are doing just that with the help of Fresh From the Word – there are still one or two copies of the notes available and a leaflet with all the readings and themes for the year.

There’s a catch, however.

How you read the Bible makes a world of difference.

Over the years the Bible has been used to justify all manner of hateful, vengeful things. That’s particularly apparent in the pages of the Old Testament. There are ways of reading those bits of the Bible that lead on to massive hurt and massive pain.

Think of the way whole swathes of the Bible were used to justify slavery. The defenders of slavery justified their position turning to passages in the early part of the Bible and through the Bible that accept having slaves and give instructions on how to deal with them. They pointed out those passages and justified retaining slavery. Others read other passages in the Bible, that we are all made in the image of God, that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free for we are all one in Christ. And they opposed slavery. a century and a half later there's no Christian who would justify modern slavery from the Bible. Ways of reading the Bible do change.Whole swathes of the Bible were used to justify the supremacy of one race over another in Apartheid South Africa. Whole swathes of the Bible can be used to justify all manner of hatred.

We've just marked the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. The last speech he gave was as inspirational as his speeches had always been ... and it's moving to listen to. It's a reminder of the power of words for good. They are rooted in a way of reading the Bible that sees at its heart the love of God in Christ for all people. As a sixth former we would listen to his speeches and they became part of us. Shortly after his assassination my father took me to a memorial service in a black-led church in Leicester. It was one of those moving occasions that has remained with me for a lifetime.



This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of another speech. Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech had an incendiary effect, arousing the fears of racism. Never broadcast in full on Radio or TV it's to be included in a Radio programme this weekend to mark the 50th Anniversary and that has aroused great controversy.  And yet he was rooted in a Christian tradition that took seriously the Bible.

How do we measure up which way of reading the Bible to follow?

The choice between the way of Martin Luther King and the way of Enoch Powell is not a historical choice. It's real today as well. We encountered directly the Government's policy of having a 'hostile environment' for immigration, when our Caretaker was summarily dismissed from her job of 37 years by her employer here in Cheltenham. The employer had no option as she was required to provide documentary evidence of her citizenship. She had been born in Pakistan of a British born father who had spent a lifetime in the British army and at independence had been asked to stay on by the newly independent Pakistan government because he was held in such high regard.

When tiny, our Caretaker came to this country on her mother's passport. She has worked a lifetime here, paid taxes, voted, been a County Councillor. But after travelling as a teenager on a temporary passport she had not been abroad and so didn't have a passport.

In the six months that led us to having a date for an Employment Tribunal hearing we found how hard it was to get advice. With 40% cuts in the Home Office there was no advice to be had - phone calls simply said call back in 6 months time. Emails bounced back with the same message. There is no solicitor in Gloucestershire offering brief pro bono advice on immigration matters - there is no legal aid either. It took more than 60 hours of my time, and a wonderful solicitor linked to a member of teh church who put us in touch with a Barrister specialising in citizenship law and eventually she simply got a passport.

It was a nightmare.

And that nightmare is now happening to the young children who would have been in that Congregation 50 years ago in Leicester. They had come from the Caribbean with their British parents, settled here, worked a life time here. And now they are being summarily dismissed from employment, are being asked to produce four official documents for each year since they arrived in teh country [I thought Government advice was to keep tax records etc for 7 years!!!].

And they are facing destitution.

50 years on from those two speeches I know which one I support. And I know why. It accords, it seems to me with the way Jesus opens up for us to read the Bible and especially those bits of the Old Testament that can be taken to justify all manner of hate and separate people out.

If you do find bits of the Old Testament hard to get your head round you are not alone! 

Initially, the first followers of Jesus didn’t get it at all. 

And that exasperated Jesus: “‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! (Luke 24:25).

Jesus opened their eyes, their minds and their hearts to read the Old Testament and see him at the centre of it all. It’s as we put Jesus at the centre of it all that it comes alive in ways to transform our lives too.

That’s what we are going to explore in our services today.

Staying with Luke, I get the feeling that the priority Jesus had on the day of Resurrection was to open the eyes of those two on the Road to Emmaus so that they could read the Bible and see Jesus at its centre, Jesus as the fulfilment of it all: Law, Prophets and Writings.

I get the feeling that the priority Jesus had on the day of Resurrection was to open the eyes of the other followers he had meeting in that upper room so that they could read the Bible and see Jesus at its centre, Jesus as the fulfilment of it all: Law, Prophets and Writings.

The two on the Road to Emmaus got it. So did the others in the Upper Room.

They met in the Upper Room. They prayed. They read those Hebrew Scriptures we think of as the Old Testament with new eyes.

They saw things differently.

And on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection they were gathered in that upper room once again when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Like tongues as of fire, like a mighty rushing wind – it was that strength, that power from beyond themselves they had been waiting for, that Comforter, that Strengthener, that unseen yet so real Helper they had been waiting for.

And they rushed down on to the streets … all understood something of what had happened but some were skeptical.

And so it was that Peter got up and addressed the crowds.

Speeches have the power to change things.  On the 50th Anniversary of his death, the PM programme played the last of Martin Luther King’s speeches in full. It was powerful to listen to as he spoke of being on the mountain top and having to return to the valley.

Those speeches of his we played on LP’s at school when I was a sixth former – they were powerful and they shaped a generation in their thinking – my generation.

What you notice in Acts as Luke tells the story of the journeys that take the good news of Jesus from Jerusalem to Rome and the heart of the Roman Empire is that there are a sequence of speeches. They are great speeches. And they have a similarity to them.

It is as if in those speeches you catch a glimpse of something that transformed people’s lives then, has done down through the centuries and still does today!

And so many of them start in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the Old Testament. And all of them see Jesus at its centre, see Jesus as the fulfilment of all those Scriptures stood for.

This is the way of reading the Scriptures, Luke would have us believe, that Jesus opened up on the Day of Resurrection for the two on the Road to Emmaus and for the others in the Upper Room.

Four things leap out at me, reading the first of the great speeches that somehow encapsulate the preaching of the early church and the very first followers of Jesus.

The Old Testament so often looks to the day of the Lord, a time when all is fulfilled and the glory of God is revealed.

There’s a forward momentum in so much of the Old Testament and in so many of the prophets.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Book of Joel.

Joel looks to the coming of the Day of the Lord – is it to be feared? Is it to be welcomed? Is it to come soon.

It’s here says Peter.

For the first thing to realise is that Jesus is the fulfilment of all the prophets spoke of – now is the Day of the Lord.

The crowds had mistaken the exuberance of the apostles and the language they spoke, a language somehow understood by people of all languages gathered in that city for drunkenness.



Great Speeches

Acts 2:14-24

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
   and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
   and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
     and they shall prophesy.

The last days are here – this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is it. Sons and daughters will prosy, young men and old men see visions and dream dreams. Even on slaves the Spirit poured out – on men and women equally – and all, slaves and free, men and wome will have words to share that will change people’s lives and transform them as they all of them prophesy.

Peter had in mind the darkness that came over the face of the earth as Jesus had been crucified – somehow the elements themselves spoke out that day …

And I will show portents in the heaven above
   and signs on the earth below,
     blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
   and the moon to blood,
     before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thatt’s the excitement of the message they have to share.

Everyone will be saved, made whole – restored, renewed – so many words to describe it.

And it all comes to a head in Jesus.

All that |Jesus had shared meant so much and Peter wanted to share it too.

‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

Something remarkable has happened – death itself does not have the last word.

The authorities thought they had had the last word – they hadn’t death could not contain him. Roman powers, the religious leaders of the time thought they had had the last word.

But they had not had the last word!

Through the suffering of the cross, the devastation of the death and the victory of the resurrection something had happened!



Hy-Spirit song

From the prophet Joel Peter turns to the greatest King of the Old Testament, David, and finds again straight away his gaze is turned back towards Jesus.

[For David says concerning him,
“I saw the Lord always before me,
   for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
   moreover, my flesh will live in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
   or let your Holy One experience corruption.
You have made known to me the ways of life;
   you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”

 ‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,
“He was not abandoned to Hades,
   nor did his flesh experience corruption.”]

But the Jesus who is God’s anointed is one who goes through suffering and opens up a way through the darkness of the world.


Acts 2:32-36

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
   until I make your enemies your footstool.’ ”
Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Wonderful to see the witness Peter and the others bore.

It is so that we may know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah – this Jesus, who was crucified.

This is the perverse, scandalous yet liberating insight.

And you have to do something about it! As with the greatest of speeches it leads on to action [maybe we should do something about the scandal of the hostile environment for immigration and do something - maybe write to our MP] – what must we do to be saved – have a whole new way of thinking, be baptized – everyone one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.

Wonderful excitement.

3000 people are added to the number of the followers of Jesus that day.

The movement is off – in a sense already that day it’s going to move in all sorts of directions.

For among that crowd were people from, all over the Mediterranean world – and after the festival was over they would be journeying back home, taking the message with them.

And it shaped the way they led their lives as they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Healing was brought into hurting people’s lives. They shared with a selfless generosity and they were filled with the praise of God.

And day by day people were added to their number.

This is an exciting message – a way of seeing Jesus at the centre not just of the Old Testament but at the centre of all of our lives.

436 Christ triumphant

Prayers of Concern

673 Let us talents and tongues employ

The Lord’s Supper

643 For me to live is Christ
Words of Blessing


There’s a lot of truth in the old children’s chorus I sang as a youngster in the annual CSSM beach mission on Criccieth beach, a beach mission that still meets each year! The best book to read is the Bible, the best book to read is the Bible: if you read it every day it will help you on your way: the best book to read is the Bible. Lots of people at church are doing just that with the help of Fresh From the Word – there are still one or two copies of the notes available and a leaflet with all the readings and themes for the year.

There’s a catch, however.

How you read the Bible makes a world of difference.

Over the years the Bible has been used to justify all manner of hateful, vengeful things. That’s particularly apparent in the pages of the Old Testament. If you do find bits of the Old Testament hard to get your head round you are not alone! 

Initially, the first followers of Jesus didn’t get it at all.  And that exasperated Jesus: “‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! (Luke 24:25). Jesus opened their eyes, their minds and their hearts to read the Old Testament and see him at the centre of it all. It’s as we put Jesus at the centre of it all that it comes alive in ways to transform our lives too. That’s what we are going to explore in our services today.






Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Journey Goes On - A Guide and a Guide Book


Text for the Week: Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. Luke 24:27

Welcome to our services today and a special welcome to any worshipping with us for the first time. The journey’s over … or maybe, it’s just begun! This coming Friday we are going to have a retreat, a quiet day, a prayer day at Brockworth Court. It’s not too late to sign up to join us – have a word with Judi Marsh or sign the list on the piano in church. Just before Easter we joined Jesus on the long journey as he ‘made up his mind and set out on his way to Jerusalem’. That was way back in Luke’s Gospel at chapter 9 verse 51. The journey, with all its wonderful story-parables, takes up no fewer than 10 chapters in Luke’s Gospel – almost half the Gospel! On Easter Sunday, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is on the road again. This time he joins two of his followers on the Road to Emmaus, a distance of approximately 7 miles. It was great re-living that journey dramatically in our Easter morning service and around the Lord’s table in our Easter evening service. But for Luke that journey doesn’t mark the end of the story he has to tell: it’s the beginning of something new. There’s a second part to his story of Jesus. In the Book of Acts, Luke takes us on a sequence of journeys from Jerusalem to the heart of the Roman Empire, to Rome itself. On all those journeys Jesus was the guide and the Bible was the guide book. There are all sorts of journeys ahead of us through the summer and into the future. We’re going to join Luke and reflect on the way Jesus is the guide and the Bible the guide book we need for the journeys we make.


Welcome and Call to Worship

410 Jesus Christ is risen today!
Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
The Seriously Surprising Story



Reading: Luke 24:36-49

A Hy-Spirit Song
Activities for all Over 3
The Journey Goes on
A Guide … and a Guide Book


Just before Easter we joined Jesus on the long journey as he ‘made up his mind and set out on his way to Jerusalem’. That was way back in Luke’s Gospel at chapter 9 verse 51.


The journey, with all its wonderful story-parables, takes up no fewer than 10 chapters in Luke’s Gospel – almost half the Gospel!

On Easter Sunday, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is on the road again. This time he joins two of his followers on the Road to Emmaus, a distance of approximately 7 miles. It was great re-living that journey dramatically in our Easter morning service and around the Lord’s table in our Easter evening service.

But for Luke that journey doesn’t mark the end of the story he has to tell: it’s the beginning of something new.

There’s a second part to his story of Jesus.

In the Book of Acts, there’s a drama to the way Luke tells the story of the way the Good of News of Jesus spreads. It starts in a tense Jerusalem awaiting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit – it is Jesus who maps out all that is going to happen.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8.

Then in Acts 2 the Holy Spirit is poured out and we remain in Jerusalem and Judea until chapter 7. And then in chapter 8 the Gospel spreads through Judea and Samaria and into Africa in Ethiopia. By chapter 9 the followers of the Way as Jesus’ followers are called have spread north to Damascus in Syria. It reaches the Roman capital of Judea and Samaria Caesarea Maritima in chapters 10 and 11 and then the coastal lands of Phoenicia, the island of Cyprus and Antioch a leading city in Syria in chapter 11. In chapter 13 it spreads to what we think of now as Western Turkey and as far as Pisidian Antioch, a really important Roman city that is the capital of the province of Galatia, still minland Turkey.

It reaches the Mediterranean coast at Ephesus and crosses over into what we think of now as Europe – Philippi, Corinth and Athens by chapter 20.

Paul makes his own journey to Jerusalem in chapter 21 where he is arrested, put on trial and held captive in Caesarea Maritima through to 26. In chapters 27 and 28 he makes his journey to Rome, being shipwrecked on the shores of Malta and eventually in chapter 28 arriving in Rome where Luke leaves him.

It is not just Paul who has arrived in Rome – it is the Good News of Jesus Christ, more than that it is the presence of the living Christ let loose by the Holy Spirit that has we now see at the very heart of the Roman Empire, Rome itself.

The first part of Luke’s story is built around Jesus’ journey to Jerusaloem and the heart of the Jewish world while the second part of Luke’s story is built around the journeys that take the Gospel to very heart of the Roman Empire, to Rome itself.

It is here in Acts that we learn that one of the very earliest titles for the Christian Church was taken from the imagery of the journey. The followers of Jesus are known as The Way.

I love that image.

I think it’s a metaphor for life. It’s a metaphor for faith as well. We are always on a journey … but to follow Jesus is to be part of the Way he has opened up for us. That makes the journey a purposeful one.

For Luke it is the presence of Jesus that is there for the whole of the journey.

That’s the first thing I want to take with us into the future that lies ahead of us. Life’s a journey, Faith’s a journey – but it has purpose and direction if we look to Jesus every step of the Way.

He is our guide for the journey. He gives us a sense of direction – as he maps out the way of life for us all to follow with love for God and love for neighbour too. It’s a challenge to follow his way – as we have been recalling in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King – to put that love into practice is the challenge he gives.

But there is also a comfort and a strengthening as we were recalling as we celebrated David’s life on Thursday – it’s always good to know you’re not alone, there’s someone with you on the way – the last image on a lovely collage of pictures had David standing on a beach – bringing to mind the footprints poem that meant such a great deal to Danny too. Jesus with us along the way … and at the most difficult times carrying us in his arms.
Not only do we have the presence of the living Lord Jdesus Christ as the Guide along the Way, the  Guide for the journey.

We also have a guide book to follow.

This is the Guide Book – the Bible.

There is a problem, however. How do we read the Bible? It can be a difficult book – especially in the Old Testament.

Indeed, it can be a dangerous book.

How we read the Bible is something I am passionate about. I believe we each of us as Chrsitians who are followers of the Way of Jesus Christ need to think through how we use our Bibles. And Especially how we use the Old Testament.

It can be problematic.

If you find it difficult, especially reading the Old Testament it is some comfort to know that you are in good company.

Those two on the Road to Emmaus simply hadn’t got it. They had missed the point. It is in the conversation with the Jesus they do not recognize that this becomes apparent.

They were “14 talking with each other about all that had happened, talking and discussing. There was no concealing the fact that they were sad.

They were speaking of Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how he had been crucified, and how their hopes had been dashed.

They had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.

There had been rumours that he was even now alive. But they and none of the other men believed the women who had passed that message on.

Jesus then shares something with them.

Luke 24:25-27

25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

I think that it’s really significant that this is Jesus’s priority that resurrection day.

They had not got it.

They had spent possibly three years with Jesus and still they had not got it.

They had not read their Hebrew Scriptures properly.

He is frustrated – how foolish they are … and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared.

Jesus spends the time on that walk – maybe an hour and a half left working through the Hebrew Scriptures – beginning with Moses, that’s the books of Genesis through to Deuteronomy, the Law, or the Torah, and then going on to all the prophets – that’s Joshua to II Kings and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and th eBook of the 12 and interprets to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures – which includes Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and the rest of that miscellany known as ‘The writings’.

It is as if he is offering them a way in, a way of reading the Hebrew Scriptures we think of as the Old Testament.

They recognize him in the breaking of the bread and then they recall how they felt as Jesus was working through the Scriptures through them. It was as if for the first time they had got it. They could see how they held together. They really had got it!

Luke 24:32

32They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’

So 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem only to find that the risen Jesus had appeared to the others in the Upper Room, where the eleven and their companions had gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’

35Then the two companions on the Emmaus Road told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

It is at this point in the story that Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

They are startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He addresses their fear and their doubts and shows them his hands and feet. “Touch me and see,” he says, “for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
He has a meal of broiled fish and  ate in their presence.

Then notice what happens next. IT may be late. But Jesus has much he wants to share with this larger gathering of the 11, their companions and the two travelers on the Road to Emmaus.

Luke 24:44-49

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

The key priority of the risen Jesus on this Resurrection Day is to “open their minds” so that they “understand the  Scriptures., that’s to say, the Hebrew Scriptures we call the Old Testament.

Notice again what he says, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

The whole of the Hebrew Scriptures, Law, Prophets and the writings find their fulfilment in Jesus.

This is the key.

And grasping it makes a world of difference to the first followers of Jesus.

I have often thought it would be wonderful to have been a fly on the wall in the Upper room and a fly hovering over the travelers on that road to Emmarus. It would have been wonderful to have heard what strategy Jesus shared with them.

Actually, it’s my belief, that we can do the next best thing.

Reading Luke’s gospel account of the resurrection it seems to me that this is what Luke wanted us to take away from the Easter story. As he tells the story of the risen Jesus let loose into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts he shows how the followers of Jesus took to heart Jesus’ way of reading the Hebrew Scriptures.

Follow that story through and you can see how the risen Lord Jesus is the guide for us all on the journey that lies ahead of us … and you begin to see how to read the Bible through Jesus’ eyes. Get to the end and you reach the point at which Luke turns his hand to researching the story of Jesus further. Come back then to Luke’s Gospel and as he tells the story you find that from the very start Jesus’ way of reading the Hebrew Scriptures is there for all to see if only you have eyes to see it.

Since we gave notice of our retirement more seven months ago, we’ve shared in Harvest, Remembrance, Christmas and now Easter. It’s a bit scary! I don’t think the next three months will go any more slowly!!!

In the lead up to Easter I shared what to me is at the heart of the Christian Faith.  In the next three months we’re all going to be on something of a journey. We’re going to read through the story Luke tells in Acts and come back to the story he tells in Luke and we’re going to be on the look out to see how Jesus is the guide we each of us need on the journey ahead and we’ll also reflect on how vitally important it is to read the Bible through the eyes of Jesus.

Reading: Luke 24:25-27, 32, 44-49
Hymn: Light of the minds that know him
Prayers of Concern
416 Christ is alive!
Words of Blessing


He Is risen ... our Easter celebration


A Sunrise Service to Celebrate Easter
Cleeve Hill, starting at the Quarry Car Park
About 30 of us gathered together, not quite at dawn! But with the sun low over the horizon we did an imaginary walk over the limestone hill of the Cotswold Escarpment to a quarry suggestive of the empty tomb and on to the top of the hill. On the way we shared again the Easter story ...


He is Risen!
An Easter Celebration
R)  It was just outside the city of Jerusalem, on a barren hill top of limestone rocks and quarries not unlike the rocks around here, that they crucified Jesus. They called it Golgotha or The Place of the Skull. It was a Friday.

1)  All who knew Jesus personally, including the group of women who had been with Him from the beginning in Galilee, stood at a distance, watching all of these things unfold.

2)  Meanwhile a man named Joseph had been at work. He was a member of the council, a good and fair man, from a Judean town called Arimathea. He had objected to the plans and actions of the council; he was seeking the kingdom of God. He had gone to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He removed the body from the cross and wrapped it in a shroud made of fine linen. He then laid the body in a cave-like tomb cut from solid rock, a tomb that never had been used before.

1)  It was Preparation Day—the day before the holy Sabbath—and it was about to begin at sundown. The women who had accompanied Jesus from the beginning in Galilee now came, took note of where the tomb was and how His body had been prepared, then left to prepare spices and ointments for His proper burial. They ceased their work on the Sabbath so they could rest as the Hebrew Scriptures required.
2)  Early on Sunday morning, even before the sun had fully risen, these women made their way back to the tomb with the spices and ointments they had prepared.  They included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, along with a number of others.

R) I wonder how they felt. At this moment that morning there was no elation, no excitement, nothing that gave them hope. There was sadness in their hearts and maybe fear too. Jerusalem was a city set on mountains twice the height of this hill and more. Those women knew they could look to God and find in God help in their sadness. Maybe they looked up to the mountains and asked where their help could come from.

I lift my eyes up
Up to the mountains
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from You
Maker of Heaven
Creator of the earth

Oh, how I need You Lord
You are my only hope
You're my only prayer
So I will wait for You
To come and rescue me
Come and give me life          
(Brian Doerksen CCL 3540)

R) With a heavy heart filled with sadness and apprehension they made their way towards the place where he had been buried.

To the Place of the Skull …

R) It was not far from the spot where he had been crucified. They brought to mind the words he shared from the cross

3) My God, My God, why have You turned your back on me?

4) (to the believing criminal who, turning to Jesus, said, Jesus, when you come into your kingdom please remember me) Jesus said, I promise you that this very day, you will be with me in Paradise.

5) (to Mary, His mother motioning to the beloved disciple) Dear woman, this is your son.

6) (to John, his beloved disciple), This is now your mother.

7) Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.

8) Father, I entrust My Spirit into Your hands!

9) It is finished!

R) Seeing that cross on the hill side gave them some sense of peace, some sense of hope.

When I survey the wondrous cross
where the young Prince of Glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God:
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down;
did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
                        (Isaac Watts)
To the Tomb …
10) When they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone was rolled away from the tomb entrance, and when they looked inside, the body of the Lord Jesus was nowhere to be seen.

11) They didn’t know what to think. As they stood there in confusion, two men suddenly appeared standing beside them. These men seemed to glow with light. The women were so terrified that they fell to the ground facedown.

Man 1) Why are you seeking the living One in the place of the dead?

Man 2) He is not here. He has risen from the dead.

Man 1)  Don’t you remember what He told you way back in Galilee?

Man 2) He told you that the Son of Man must be handed over to wicked men, He must be crucified, and then on the third day He must rise.

11) The women did remember Jesus’ words about this, so they returned from the tomb.

10) One of them, Mary Magdalene, turned around to see Jesus standing before her, but she did not recognize Him.

Jesus: Dear woman, why are you sobbing? Who is it you are looking for?

10) She still had no idea who it was before her. Thinking He was the gardener, she muttered:

Mary Magdalene: Sir, if you are the one who carried Him away, then tell me where He is and I will retrieve Him.

Jesus: Mary!

Mary Magdalene Rabboni, my Teacher!


Jesus: Mary, you cannot hold Me. I must rise above this world to be with My Father, who is also your Father; My God, who is also your God. Go tell this to all My brothers.

10) Mary Magdalene obeyed and together with the other women returned from the tomb and found the eleven and recounted for them—and others with them—everything they had experienced.

Song: Lord, I lift your name on high

11) The Lord’s disciples heard their stories as fiction, a lie; they didn’t believe a word of it.

10) Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he reached the opening, he bent down, looked inside, and saw the linen burial cloths lying there. But the body was gone. He walked away, full of wonder about what had happened.

11) That same day, two other disciples (not of the eleven) are traveling the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. As they walk along, they talk back and forth about all that has transpired during recent days. While they’re talking, discussing, and conversing, Jesus catches up with them and begins walking with them, but for some reason they don’t recognize Him.

R) What happened next is one of the most remarkable of all the Easter stories … and we are going to tell that story back at church … it was quite some time later that the disciples and those women made their way back to Galilee , to the mountain where they were to meet Jesus.

To the top of the hill …

R) When the disciples saw Jesus there, many of them fell down and worshiped, as Mary and the other Mary had done. But a few hung back. They were not sure (and who can blame them?).
R)  Jesus came forward and addressed His beloved disciples.
Jesus: I am here speaking with all the authority of God, who has commanded Me to give you this commission: Go out and make disciples in all the nations. Ceremonially wash them through baptism in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and teachings that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.

 Jesus we celebrate Your victory
 Jesus we revel in Your love
 Jesus we rejoice You've set us free
 Jesus Your death has brought us life

 It was for freedom that Christ has set us free
 No longer to be subject to a yoke of slavery
 So we're rejoicing in God's victory
 Our hearts responding to His love

 His Spirit in us releases us from fear
 The way to Him is open
 With boldness we draw near
 And in His presence our problems disappear
 Our hearts responding to His love.
John Gibson CCL 3540

No matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loved us. For we have every confidence that nothing—not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing—can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Jesus our Lord and Saviour.

Bible passages from the Voice translation

We returned to Highbury for breakfast and for our Easter celebrations where we walked once again on the Emmaus Road and met with the risen Jesus.





Text for the Week: Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him! Luke 24:31

Happy Easter!

Welcome to our celebration of Easter and a special welcome to any worshipping with us for the first time. Before or after today’s services do take a moment or two to walk through the Easter story. Pause at each display and pray. Start at the table at the back of the church and remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Then move round anti-clockwise and pause for a moment, reflecting on the way Jesus broke bread with his closest friends and shared a cup on Maundy Thursday. Pause then at the foot of the cross and recall the words of Jesus, Father forgive them … and know that you are forgiven! Then move round the front of the church to the opposite side and the empty tomb. The last of our windows invites you to walk the road to Emmaus. Take your seat and in our worship be prepared to meet with Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. Pray that through all we share your eyes will be opened and that you will recognise the risen Lord. Then take with you the presence of the risen Christ into all that lies ahead, knowing that his promise will ever be in your hearts: Lo, I am with you always to the end of the age!


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