“LOOKING TO SUNDAY” Easter 2B

Lectionary Readings:

Acts 4:  32 – 35
Psalm 133
1 John 1: 1 – 2.2
John 20: 19 – 31
 

A popular car-sticker around Christmas time reads, “A dog is not just for Christmas”.  A similar thought ought to inform our worship today.  Resurrection is not a one day event to be celebrated and then packed away with the Easter bunnies and the Easter eggs. (That is if there are any of those left).  For fifty days, until Pentecost we are to explore what Christ’s resurrection means in the world and in our individual lives.  The disciples and the women on that first Easter morning found it difficult to grasp the full meaning of what had happened.  They were left in a haze of uncertainty and incomprehension.  Our Alleluia’s last Sunday may have left us with sore throats but we still need to put flesh on them if we are not just to remember a past event in history but really  LIVE RESURRECTION!

This Sunday goes by a number of titles.  Sometimes called Low Sunday because of the contrast between today and the greatness of Easter Sunday.  It is also named “St.Thomas’s Sunday” which connects with the Gospel reading for the day.  In the year 2,000 it was also designated “Divine Mercy Sunday” by Pope Paul 11.  This arose from the experience of a Polish Nun, Faustina Kowalska, who reported visions and visitations by Jesus and conversations with Him.  The first prayer of the Mass on this day begins, “Heavenly Father and God of Mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead for He is alive and has become the Lord of Life.  This is about as good a summing up of Easter that I can think of.

During the weeks of the Easter season there are no Old Testament readings.  They are replaced by a succession of readings from the Acts of the Apostles.  These give us a picture of the early church’s vibrant resurrection faith that should inform all of our worship and fellowship in this Post- Easter period.

Psalm 133:

This is one of a group of Psalms called the Psalms of Ascent (Ps. 120 – 134).  These were most possibly sung by pilgrims travelling up to the Temple at Jerusalem for the great Festivals.  The goodness and pleasantness of unity, that v.1 speaks of originates from God and flows down to all the people.  Living in unity assumes a sharing of the resources of the earth and that there is access for physical wants and spiritual comfort for everyone.  No doubt the Psalmist had in mind God’s covenant with the people of Israel when these words were spoken, but in our day we need to re-examine what that might mean in our multi-cultured and multi-faith society.  The Psalm has a lot to say about how we live along side other people with tolerance and understanding.

“Welcome each other as he welcomed you
Sharing your life to the Glory of God
Live in the spirit of covenant love
Welcome each other as Christ welcomed you
 
(da Noust)
 

John 20 v. 19 – 31

This gospel passage is always read on this second Sunday of Easter.  It continues John’s account of the events of the first Easter Day.

The disciples find themselves “in the dark”. They have heard the news from Peter,that the tomb is empty and heard the message from Mary that she had met with the Risen Christ. But what are they doing this night. They are not celebrating. The door of the room in which they are gathered is bolted and barred. The fear that grips them is that the same thing that happened to Jesus, will happen to them. Fear paralyses. A locked door allows nothing in and nothing out. Jesus came and stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you’. And then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Pull Back The Bolts

‘Whose there?’
Starting at every sound
they slumped behind locked doors’
defeated
shattered;
 
‘Peace be with you!’
That voice –
in this room
this very room/
Not held by lock or bar’
here’,
in this very room
he lives?
 
Pull back the bolts!
We must away
He is here
but now
he’s out ahead of us;
out in the conflicts of the world
the world for which he died;
the world for which he lives!.
 
‘ As the Father sent me, so I send you.’ Then he breathed on them, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit!’ 
 
DOUBTING THOMAS
 
 
 

Because Thomas’s gets a bad press in the story and has gone down in history as a ‘Doubter’, I always want to be his defence counsel. He was not there when Jesus came to the rest of the disciples that evening. We are not told why. He only asked to have the same experience that the others had already received. I can identify with Thomas in his need to have a ‘hands on’ encounter instead of  just accepting the word of others. We are told that he was a ‘Twin’, who is never identified in the gospels and there are times when I want to be that ‘Twin’. and stand alongside Thomas.

“Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief”
 
The poet,  Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, :- “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds
 
 
 “Lord, come alive within my experience,
with my sorrows and disappointments and doubts,
within the ordinary movements of my life.
Come alive as the peace and joy and assurance that is
stronger than locked doors within, with which we try to shut out life
Come alive as the peace and joy and assurance that nothing in life or death can kill”
(Rex Chapman)

EASTER SUNDAY 2012

GREETINGS ON EASTER DAY

FOR MEET IT IS THAT THE HEAVENS SHOULD REJOICE;AND THAT THE EARTH SHOULD BE GLAD, AND THAT THE WHOLE WORLD, BOTH VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE SHOULD KEEP THE FEAST

FOR CHRIST IS RISEN, THE EVERLASTING JOY 

 

 

THE WHISPER

There’s a whisper in the darkness
There’s a whisper in the night
There’s a whisper in the dawning
and it’s growing very light
The man on the cross
Who was dead
Is risen, and he lives!
 
There’s a whisper all around us
There’s a whisper in the breeze,
There’s a whisper in the rushes,
there’s a whisper in the trees,
The man on the cross
Who was dead
Is risen and he lives!
 
There’s a whisper that is spreading
for the news has broken free,
Now the sound is growing louder
and it’s news for you and me
That the man on the cross
Who was dead
Is risen, and he lives! HE LIVES
 
( From : ‘A Song for Easter’)
 
 
 
            

                         

        

 

HOLY WEEK 6/2012

SATURDAY

IN STILLNESS THE EARTH AWAITS THE RESURRECTION

 

” Now there was a garden in the place that he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid”

HOLY WEEK 5/2012

FRIDAY

THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST 

“Then he handed him over to them to be crucified”

HOLY WEEK 4/2012

THURSDAY

JESUS WASHES THE FEET OF THE DISCIPLES

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done for you’

HOLY WEEK 3/2012

WEDNESDAY

JUDAS AT THE LAST SUPPER

“After receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night” 

HOLY WEEK 2/ 2012

TUESDAY

 “NOW THE GREEN BLADE RISES FROM THE BURIED GRAIN

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain;but if it dies, it bears much fruit”

HOLY WEEK 1/ 2012

MONDAY

MARY ANNOINTS THE FEET OF JESUS

“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, annointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair”

 

“SATURDAY NIGHT AT EIGHT”

 

 

THE PRAYER OF THE DONKEY

O God, who made me
to trudge along the road
always,
to carry heavy loads
always,
and to be beaten
always!
Give me courage and gentleness.
One day let someone understand me –
that I may no longer want to weep
because I can never say what I mean.
Let me find a juicy thistle –
and make them give me time to pick it.
And, Lord, one day, let me find again
my little brother of the Christmas crib.

(From, “Prayers from the Ark , Carmen Bernos de Gasztold

 

  

THE DONKEY
 G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked 
And figs grew upon thorn, 
Some moment when the moon was blood 
Then surely I was born; 
 
With monstrous head and sickening cry 
And ears like errant wings, 
The devil’s walking parody 
On all four-footed things. 
 
The tattered outlaw of the earth, 
Of ancient crooked will; 
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb, 
I keep my secret still. 
 
Fools! For I also had my hour; 
One far fierce hour and sweet: 
There was a shout about my ears, 
And palms before my feet. 
 

John R

“LOOKING TO SUNDAY” Palm/Passion Sunday Year B

Lectionary Readings:

This is a difficult Sunday to plan worship for.  I remember when it used to be Palm Sunday, plain and simple.  Then the lectionary elves realized that many folk don’t attend Holy Week services and so jump from the Triumphant Entry on Palm Sunday to the celebration on Easter Day.  This change in the liturgy for this Sunday has been done with the best of intentions, but it does pose difficulties for worship planning.  There is a lot of text and story this week that perhaps ought to be allowed to speak for itself with the sermon taking a less dominant role.  If the whole of the worship can be framed in such a way, that it is a dramatic retelling of the story it may help folk to enter into it and make it also their own story.  What we do matters greatly this week as we enter into the Passion and Death of Christ in Holy Week. 

Liturgy of the Palms: Mark 11; 1-11

Today all roads lead to Jerusalem.  From far and wide the people gather for the great Passover Festival.  Perhaps they come with mixed emotions.  They are going to re-enact the great moments in their history and recall the promises and doings of God in their history.  Yet for some the joy of this festival will be tempered by the all too obvious yoke of the foreign power that has conquered their country.

There will be two parades today.  The first parade is intended to be a reminder to the people that they are living  under the Roman occupying forces.  The Roman governor will ride into town on his white charger flanked by Roman soldiers to take up residence in the town.  Passover is an occasion  when patriotic feelings run high and could lead to unrest and disturbances.    The power of Rome needs to be visibly displayed.  The second is a more impromptu parade.  Jesus, riding on a donkey, not the most compliant of animals, also enters the town with his followers.  There is in this procession no pomp or ceremony.  Flags and banners take the form of Palm branches torn from the roadside trees and the cries of their Hosannas counter the cries of  allegiance or submission to an earthly emperor.

On That Day:

On the day when Jesus arrived in town, Joe Farmer was busy choosing a new car.  He heard the distant cheering “Hosanna, Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”.  Mentally he made a note and promised himself “I’ll hear the prophet one day, but not now.  Joe was far too occupied with the trade-in price, fuel consumption and the virtues of the different models, and whether either car was better than his neighbours.

Having a coffee, 22-year-old Esther Romantic also heard the uproar coming from the High Street.  She felt an impulse to go and join the crowd.  The story she had heard of the prophet had attracted and encouraged her, but Esther’s Wedding Day was only six weeks off and she still had many things to do, about the flowers, shade of eye shadow and whether on the table she wanted with every place-card a wish bone.

For Jim Smiley, the real estate agent, it was infuriating.  Time was money.  Here he was stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of town, thanks to these idiots with their grins, slogans and Palm branches, supporting this man called Jesus who had said some pretty rotten things about real estate.  Jim was due in five minutes to meet a wealthy client.  He yelled at a policeman “How about some law and order”.

Professor Nicodemus was lecturing at the university.  He noted the small numbers that had turned up today.  Those who had were restless.  He asked the reason.  They gave him the news that a prophet was leading a demo in the Town Square.  On an impulse Nicodemus dismissed the surprised students and hurried off down the High Street where somewhat embarrassed he joined the crowd and found himself shouting “Hosanna”.  At the sound of his own voice the Professor felt his own soul jump as if a birth was about to take place.  It seemed as if all things were becoming new.

Palm Sunday is for each of us the moment of opportunity, to take with both hands or to let slip through our fingers.  Will we turn disinterestedly away occupied by our own things, or will we walk with Jesus to the city, to Good Friday and His Cross.

                                    ……………………………………………………..

Liturgy of the Passion:  Mark 14;1 – 15;47 or Mark 15; 1-39

The reading, either the long one or the shortened passage, takes us through the events of Holy Week.  In the brief, quick changing scenes Mark vividly portrays the drama of Jesus’ last days.  In the story there is tragedy, conspiracy, betrayal, loyalty, awe, the supernatural, the mundane.  The back drop is the Passover Festival, a recalling and celebration of what God had done in the past.  How many though saw superimposed on these events what it was that God was doing at that moment?  The story Mark tells requires no embellishment or preachy explanations.  In its retelling in our worship it will allow us to step firmly into Holy Week.  May we find holiness in unexpected places and prayerfullywalk with Jesus to the Cross.  The love for us of our crucified Saviour opens the door to all things on earth and in heaven.  “Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that is God’s prove of his love for us” (Romans 5:8 REB). 

“One Friday in Eternity

A man was framed they say,
A man was framed but why the fuss,
It happens every day;
With all the trappings of the law
It happens every day.
One Friday in Eternity
Repeated every day.
 
One Friday in Eternity
A man was flogged they say,
A man was flogged, but why the fuss
It happens every day;
Imprisoned, brain-washed, tortured, starved,
It happens every day.
One Friday in Eternity
Repeated every day.
 
One Friday in Eternity
A man was hung they say,
A man was hung but why the fuss
It happens every day;
Hung, shot or crucified, who cares,
It happens every day,
One Friday in Eternity
Repeated every day.
 
One Friday in Eternity
That man was God they say,
If that is true – If God was there –
It happens every day;
If God is sharing mortal pain
It happens every day.
One Friday in Eternity
It happens every day.
 
(From, “One Friday in Eternity”)
 
 
John R
 

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