SUNDAY REFLECTIONS

Each week The Reverend Richard Terrell reflects
upon the biblical reading
from The Common Worship Lectionary
that is used in local churches

EASTER SERMON

         On this Easter morning we have passed through the hours of darkness into the hours of light and an Easter Candle has been lit and carried through our midst.

         The Candle, representing the Light of Christ, was accompanied by the words, “May the Light of Christ, rising in glory, banish all darkness from our hearts and minds.”

         Today we have gathered to celebrate a momentous event.   It is an event which we celebrate with joy, with relief and with hope every Easter Day – the Resurrection of Jesus.

         We celebrate Easter with JOY because the events of the first Easter brings us through every sadness, setback, cruelty and brutality.   In the Easter message we have the joy that only those who have experienced the resurrection for themselves can know.

         ‘Hark, the herald voices cry, singing evermore on high, Alleluia!’

         We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with RELIEF, because the Easter message tells us that the time of waiting is over, the darkness has passed away and life has been restored.

         ‘Jesus lives!   Thy terrors now can no more, O Death, appal us.’

         And we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with HOPE because the Easter message tells us of new life.   Jesus Christ, raised by the Father from the grave, gives us hope for the future.   Raised with Him, transformed by Him, we become new people with the hope of life eternal.

         ‘Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son, endless is the vict’ry thou o’er death has won.’

         So on this Easter morning we have feelings of joy, relief and hope as we understand and reflect upon what has taken place.

         On Good Friday we ourselves, remembering what had happened, stood at the foot of the Cross.   We identified ourselves with a small band of disciples and not a few enemies.   We watched with them as Jesus hung on the Cross and we witnessed His last, gasping, breath.

         Then we recalled Joseph of Arimathea – a secret follower, we are told – who obtained permission to take the body down from the Cross and place it in his own private tomb just as darkness was falling and the Sabbath began.

         We recall some faithful women and followers of Jesus preparing the body for burial.   But with the Sabbath immanent, there being no time to do everything.   So they waited until the Sabbath had ended and returned to the tomb the following day.

         So on the first day of the week – which we know as Sunday – the scene was set for the first Easter Day.

         The women, still sorrowful and grief stricken, made their way to the Garden.   As they journeyed they were concerned about how they could move the great stone that sealed the tomb.   As they entered the garden, there was no sign of a guard that Matthew said had been put there by the Jews.   There was no one to help move the stone.

         Yet they need not have worried for, looking up, they saw the stone had been rolled back.   They then saw a young man, dressed in white, standing before them.   “He is not here,” he said.   “Look there is the place where they laid Him …”   “He has been raised again.”

         There are varying accounts of that first Easter morning which is only to be expected.   Ask any witnesses to recall an event, or listen to the reports of an incident, and you’ll notice variations in the detail.

         Perhaps the women were under strain and fearful of arrest, at the time.   Perhaps the dawn light affected what they saw or how they saw it.   Variations may suggest an honesty that may authenticate an event.   It shows there has been no attempt to smooth over the differences or harmonise the reports.

         The reports of the events of the first Easter morning, in essence, reveal to us a group of breathless, amazed, incredibly joyful and excited people who try to tell others what appears to be a totally unbelievable story.

         As the hours and the days of the first Easter pass the events become more generally known and clearer.   The disciples are shown evidence that would prove, beyond all doubt, that their Lord had risen from the dead – as He said He would.

         As the truth begins to emerge the disciples find that their saddened hearts are turned to joy.   The DARKNESS of Good Friday is turned into the LIGHT OF EASTER.

         Now as we celebrate Easter we must remember that this is not only a time to recall events long past but also a time to recognise that Easter has a message for today.

         The Easter message is the same today as it was for the first disciples.   CHRIST IS RISEN.   Christ has conquered death and sin.   He promises to bring us out of darkness into His glorious light.   He promises New Life to all who believe and trust in Him – a new life today and a new life beyond the grave.

         The message of Easter encourages us to be strong and faithful when life seems difficult and hopeless.   It assures us to hold fast to God’s promises and trust in Him.   It assures us of God’s help and presence, freely given and graciously available.

         From the DARKNESS that covered the earth on Good Friday came the all-embracing triumph and LIGHT of Easter Day.   From death on a Cross and burial in a cold dark tomb came the splendour and the greatness of the first Easter morning.

         So today remember the change from DARKNESS TO LIGHT.   Out of ruin and destruction, despair and sinfulness, came goodness.   With the events of Easter remember how God brought new life and hope.

         Today, as we shout our ‘alleluias’ and proclaim that ‘Jesus Christ is risen today,’ remember also that Jesus told us, ‘I am risen and I am still with you.’   The darkness has been lifted from our lives.   A new light is shining within us.

         So as we leave church today, with the Easter message ringing in our ears and proclaimed by our lives, remember the joy, the relief and the hope this day brings.

         ‘Alleluia,’ we proclaim.   ‘Christ is risen,’ we declare.   Rejoice now that out of DARKNESS has come LIGHT and that Jesus Christ is risen indeed.   Alleluia!

Sutton Bingham 2021

PRAYER

Eternal Father, at this Eastertide you have reminded us, through the resurrection of your Son, that from darkness you have brought light.   Help us to shine with the brightness of your one true light, set us aflame with the fire of your love, and bring us to the radiance of your heavenly glory;   through Jesus Christ our risen Lord and Saviour.   Amen.

EASTER 3

GOSPEL READING FOR SUNDAY 1st MAY 2022
John chapter 21, verses 1 to 19
Jesus appears to some of the disciples

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

REFLECTION

Do you enjoy fishing?   I have heard people say that they love to fish even if they don’t catch anything because they enjoy the peace and relaxation.   I will have to confess, it doesn’t sound like much fun to sit in a boat or on a  bank and catch nothing.   But that’s what happened in our reading today.

After the trauma of the crucifixion of Jesus some of the disciples decided to go fishing.   It probably didn’t matter what they caught.   They simply wanted to ‘get away.’

As the sun began to rise, a stranger hailed them from the shore and told them to cast their net to the right side of the boat.   Would they take any notice of what was said?   Would you have followed a stranger’s instruction?

The disciples decided to do so and to their amasement found they were catching so many fish that they couldn’t even pull the net back into the boat.

Peter suddenly recognised the stranger.   It was Jesus.   It was the person whose crucifixion they had witnessed.   Now Jesus was appearing to them.   The disciples were seeing the risen Lord.

Afterwards they all had breakfast together on the beach.   As they were gathered Jesus questioned Peter about his love for Him and warned him of the cost of discipleship.

Peter and the disciples soon realised that obedience is one of the key words of discipleship.   What, I wonder, would have happened if the disciples had ignored the stranger’s instruction?   What would have happened if people had not responded to the invitation Jesus gives to ‘Follow me’?

Every day we are challenged to listen for and hear the voice of the risen Lord.   Every day we walk in the shoes of those first disciples.   We long for Jesus to be with us.   Like the disciples in our reading we shall find we are not disappointed but invited to follow Him.

Will you ignore what Jesus requires of you or be one of those ‘Easter People’ who become one of The Lord’s obedient disciples?

PRAYER

Father
we know that you have wonderful things in store for us
when we faithfully follow your Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
We pray that we will always be obedient disciples
and know your presence with us.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

EASTER 4

GOSPEL READING FOR SUNDAY 8th MAY 2022
John chapter 10, verses 22 to 30
Jesus holds us in His hand

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’

REFLECTION

In our Bible reading today, a group of people were gathered around Jesus asking whether they are to believe that He was the Messiah.   He replied by saying that the things He did testified to Him and that if people did not believe then they were not His sheep.

“My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me,” He said.   “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.   No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Those who give their heart to Jesus place their lives in His hands.   We have His promise that we are safe and that nothing can snatch us from His care and protection.

We may have our ‘ups and downs.’   We may stray away from Jesus at times.   But like a good shepherd Jesus will give us a little nudge and a tug to encourage us back into the fold.   Even if we really mess up, Jesus will pick us up and place us back where we belong.   We shall be held lovingly in the palm of His hand.

Today we have been given an image with a great promise we hear on other occasions in the Scriptures.   We see Jesus as a shepherd who loves and cares for those who belong to Him.   He is the One who will hold, cuddle and not allow us to be snatched away from Him.   Jesus our shepherd will safely protect us, His sheep.

PRAYER

Father
we are thankful that
when we belong to Jesus
He holds us safely in the palm of his hand
and that nothing can snatch us away.
Help us to live confidently with this assurance
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

EASTER 5

GOSPEL READING FOR SUNDAY 15th MAY 2022
John chapter 13, verses 31 to 35
The New Commandment

When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

REFLECTION

Everywhere we go there are rules.   We have rules at home, rules at school, rules at work and so on.   We must follow ‘rules’ if we want to get along in this world.   It is true to say, I think, that if all of us would follow the rules of life proclaimed by God and found in the Scriptures, the world would be a better place.

The People of the Bible, with Jesus in particular, knew the importance of rules and our Bible Reading today underlined the one essential rule, proclaimed by Jesus, to love one another

.

Jesus was talking to His disciples, knowing that the day was coming when He would return to heaven.   He therefore wanted to prepare them for that day.   Jesus wanted them to live in such a way that they would not only praise God but also show to other people that they were His disciples.

So Jesus gave to the disciples what is described as a ‘New Commandment’ which would enable everyone to recognise those who were His disciples.

Showing love for others should be the mark of every Christian and underpin all our actions.   It should be the mark of a world where God reigns supreme and His followers reflected God’s love them and for the whole of His Creation.

People observe how Christians live and will see how we bear witness to Our Lord by the way we love another.

PRAYER

Jesus
we thank you that you loved us so much
that you gave your life for us.
Help us to love one another as you have loved us.
Amen.

EASTER 6

GOSPEL READING FOR SUNDAY 22nd MAY 2022
John chapter 14, verses 23 to 29
The Holy Spirit will come

Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

REFLECTION

I must confess that as a child, I was afraid of the dark.   When the time came to turn out the lights and go to bed, I wanted to know that I was not alone in the darkness.   That is where my Teddy Bear came to the rescue.   It was comforting to cuddle him in the dark.   Somehow, it was not so frightening with ‘Teddy’ in the bed with me.

When Jesus told His disciples that He was going to return to His Father, they realised that it would be a time of darkness and fear.   What would happen to them?   Would they be recognised as ‘the dreaded’ followers of Jesus, be sought out and harmed?

Jesus knew how His disciples were feeling so He offered words to comfort them.   Though He would not be with them the disciples were assured of His presence in a different way.   He told them of a permanent gift the disciples would be given – the gift of the Holy Spirit – that would give them peace of mind and heart.   The disciples need not be afraid, Jesus told them.

Those words were a great comfort to the disciples and they are a great comfort to those who are His followers today.   When Jesus returned to His Father in heaven, He asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit to comfort His disciples until the day when He returned.

It is a wonderful gift that Jesus gave to them and to you and me today.    We no longer have anything to fear.   Whenever we find ourselves in the dark or in the storms of life, Jesus is there, His Spirit is with us.

PRAYER

Father
we thank you for the Holy Spirit
who guides us and calms our fears.
We also thank you for the promise
that one day we will be in Heaven with Jesus.
In His name we pray.
Amen.

MARTIN’S MESSAGE

Martin the Monkey sometimes accompanies The Reverend Richard and helps to re-enforce the Gospel message. He usually attends on special occasions in the Church Year and shares his thoughts with you.

Christmas themed scene in hand crafted woodcut style

Humans can give some weird and wonderful gifts.   The best gift anyone can give me is quite simply a tasty banana.

Remember those guys at Christmas who, the story goes, gave a baby gold, frankincense and myrrh?   They were called ‘Wise Men’ and I guess they were to notice a bright star which they followed to lead them to the Child.   But ‘Wise’?   Did they not see the ‘unsuitable for children’ label?   Surely they could have found something more suitable to give!

Perhaps those gifts were ‘something for the bottom draw’ or did the Wise Men know something about Jesus others did not know?

I’m sure that if you and I were thinking of a gift for a baby, gold, frankincense and myrrh would be right at the bottom of the list.   But what would you have given?

The poet Christina Rossetti pondered the question in a carol we sang:-
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
f I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb;
if I were a wise man I would do my part,
yet what I can I give Him:  give my heart.

Guess that’s it!   That child in a manger, who became king of all, to be worshipped and adored, died for you and for me and for our salvation.   The simplest yet most valuable gift we can give Him is our heart – to follow Him and love Him all the days of our life.

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