Sunday, 30 April 2017

Sermon Sun 30 April wk35: 'Gone fishin'...WMRBW

Continuing through the season of Easter and another resurrection appearance...

READINGS/ Psalm 25  Luke 10:1-11, 17-20  John 21:1-19

SERMON 'Gone fishin'
Let’s pray: May the words of my mouth, and the meditations 
of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, 
O Lord, our strength and our redeemer, amen.
If you had to choose, what would be your ‘go-to’ verse, passage, or story, from Scripture –
what’s your favourite,
or most comforting,
or most challenging,
or, even ...just the one you can actually remember the best?

I have a wee assortment, and in among them is the passage from John that we heard read earlier.
Here, in glorious print, we have before us a beach barbecue,
which makes this particular Aussie and barbie fan a very happy camper indeed.
There are other reasons I’m quite fond of this story, apart from justifying
the ruining of perfectly good cuts of meat on open coals so that
on the outside, they’re burnt to a cinder, while on the inside, they’re so rare, they’re still mooing.
Like Peter, I grew up on the water,
got to know my way around a boat,
understood the local tides, and where the rocks and sandbanks were;
knew the most likely places to catch fish...
and spent many an hour trying to catch them –
I speak the language of fish.
Like Peter,
and now following a calling, I’m learning about sheep and lambs,
a whole different language indeed.

The story of the disciples and their out of the ordinary fishing trip echoes another story,
this, in the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 5: it’s the calling of the first disciples.
As with the story in John, so, in Luke, Jesus is on the Galilean seashore,
however, in this earlier story, he’s surrounded by crowds
who’ve heard of his reputation for healing and teaching.
There’s actually such a crowd, that he decides it would be easier if he hopped into
one of the nearby boats, and continued teaching from there:
a wise move, as water carries sound very well.
Having finished teaching, he asks Simon, the fisherman,
to put out into deep water
and let down the nets...
to go fishing.
As with the story in John, Simon and his colleagues have been
out fishing all night – with not much to show for their labours.
Nevertheless, having told Jesus as much, the boat is launched, as is the other boat on the shore.
Amazingly, after a fruitless night’s work, here, in the light of day,
the nets grow heavier, and heavier –
so heavy that they threaten to sink both boats as the catch is pulled in.
Simon, recognising that something extraordinary has happened because of Jesus, reacts:
kneels at Jesus’ feet and calls him ‘Lord’ and begs him... to go away:
‘I am a sinful man,’ says Simon, who will later be renamed ‘Peter.’
In response to Peter, and to the other fishermen, who are astonished,
Jesus says: ‘don’t be afraid’
and offers them an enticing challenge:
‘from now on, you will catch people.’
It’s a challenge,
a call to follow...
and they do.
They leave everything, and follow him.

And here, in John’s gospel, it’s like we have a bookend to that first story:
we have Simon-Peter recognising the extraordinariness of Jesus –
he leaps out of the boat fully clothed...
and, there’s also an echo of the earlier calling of the disciples.
Once again, a night of work that produces nothing
turns into a morning where,
at the bidding of a man standing on the seashore, nets are filled to overflowing –
teeming with an abundant harvest from the sea.
Once again, a calling and a conversation:
‘Come and have breakfast,’ says Jesus.
And so, these fishy disciples are nourished physically, just as they are, spiritually,
in the act of seeing and being with Jesus once more.

After eating, there are other echoes:
echoes of that earlier conversation with Peter by that same seashore –
but now, Peter is much more aware of who Jesus is.
However, ...there are two much more recent conversations that also hang in the air;
a conversation around a table, in the week of the Passover ...
‘I will never deny you,’ says the impetuous Peter.
‘Yes, you will – this very night – three times before the cock crows,’ says Jesus.
And in the early hours of the morning, just before daylight,
a conversation in a courtyard with a serving girl by the burning embers of a fire:
‘I tell you, I do not know this man.’
The sound of crowing in the background ends that conversation.

On the seashore, by the burning embers where a meal has been cooked, and eaten,
the now- resurrected Jesus turns to Peter,
gives him the opportunity to come back,
to repent, if you like, of the denial
but also to pick up his calling –
when he was still named ‘Simon’:
‘Simon, do you love me?’
‘Simon, do you truly love me?’
‘Simon, do you love me?’
Three times, the answer is ‘yes.’
Each time, an instruction is given:
‘Feed my lambs,’
‘Take care of my sheep,’
‘Feed my sheep...’
and then, ‘Follow me!’
The circle is complete:
Simon is restored,
is reconciled,
is recommissioned to follow once more.

Just as Jesus had initially sent out the disciples on a training test mission,
now, with these words,
with the news of resurrection
and the message of the kingdom to share,
it’s time for the real work of mission to begin.
Thinking, with the crucifixion, that they’d lost everything,
in the light of the resurrection,
they realise that, in Jesus, they have everything.
Once again, they leave their nets and follow;
fear and grief now replaced with hope and faith.
In the light of resurrection,
Peter, and the rest of the disciples move into a different way of thinking – of seeing:
they see, not endings, but beginnings.
Looking through resurrection eyes,
they see nets full –
such a metaphor for God’s abundance;
they see promises fulfilled,
and possibilities of a broken world
being restored,
made whole.
They see God’s unlimited grace and mercy:
always, always, the invitation to follow, no matter how many times they’ve looked away,
no matter what it is they may have done –
God’s hand of friendship, always offered:
for, if there’s room enough in the kingdom for 3 times denier Peter,
there’s more than enough room...
for all.

And still, Jesus calls.
Calls us.
Calls us to change our way of seeing;
to maybe even consider changing our way of doing things –
to cast our particular nets on the side we might not normally choose to;
to be open to possibility.
One of my favourite Australian writers is a chap called Bill Loader.
I love his reflection on this story in John:
The blame forgotten,
shame covered,
Peter leapt into the sea.
Where tears once drowned hope
and denials became despair and self loathing,
now eyes had seen that figure on the shore,
that body once strung across the stained wood of execution.

A revived fishing business,
the dull depression of remembered cowardice,
of failed courage, 
bad dreams of abandonment,
a deep sea of pain,
now splashed with new hope.

Peter would make it to the shore.

He is risen. 
Peter is risen from the dead.
Three times denied.
Three times invited to love again
by him who three times prayed his own despair
and, three times mocked 'mid three crosses,
in three days rose to resurrect Peter.

Peter made it to the shore.

Others made it to the shore.
They ate together,
a fellowship of grace and rehabilitation,
of forgiveness and hope,
a symbol of the persistence of divine love,
...also for you and me....

Jesus calls us:
like Peter, we’re not perfect.
And that’s fine.
Don’t let the flaws we have, hold us back from following,
from casting our nets into the sea of God’s mercy, grace, and limitless love.
We are God’s walking, talking miracles:
God invites us on the journey of faith,
not because we’re perfect, but because He loves us,
sees us for who we truly are underneath all the stuff we hide behind, or get caught up in.
Nothing separates us from the renewing, forgiving love of God,
and nothing in our past or present stops God from calling us to be his.
We may be flawed, but we are beloved,
called as we are,
to show a flawed and beloved world
what the resurrection means,
what resurrection brings –
joy, and love.

Each one of us stands on our own particular version of that seashore in Galilee:
it may look a little like a field or a barn,
or the top of the Lowthers,
or along the Clyde;
perhaps, oddly, it may look a little like our back yard, or our neighbourhood, or place of work.
But, wherever it is, Jesus is there, asking us:
‘Do you love me?’
Calling us to:
feed his lambs,
tend his sheep,
feed his sheep...
to go into his world,
see through resurrection’s eyes
and share God’s amazing love.
For the first disciples, hope came in the morning.
Hope comes still.
In a world that seems to be lurching further and further into madness,
where hope seems hard to find,
we are the ones who see with resurrection’s eyes;
we are the ones who know
the One who is the hope of the world –
the One who stood by the Galilean seashore
and showed fishermen who’d lost all hope,
that all was not lost.
We are the ones who are called
by that One – Jesus –
to follow in his footsteps,
to walk in the path trod by fishermen, now hope-filled...
We will, at times, be called to go into strange and dark places,
but it is those places that most need the light that hope brings.
We will be called into places, face situations, that surprise us –
but with resurrection’s eyes,
we understand the One who, through defeating death, is the God of surprises.

And, as we are called,
so, we will be nourished on the way,
finding the One we follow
in the midst of the community of believers;
strengthened in the bread and wine of communion.
Sometimes – possibly, quite a few times – we’ll mess up.
When we do, remember Simon, called Peter.
Remember a beach,
a conversation,
and restoration.
New beginnings.
And, having remembered,
pick up your net,
cast it out onto the sea...
and remember the One
who loves you abundantly,
and who feeds you,
who never leaves, nor forsakes you...
and who calls you to be his own,
for the world’s sake.
And rejoice:
for your names are written in heaven. Amen.

Friday, 28 April 2017

UCPC presents: The Caledonian Fiddle Orchestra

Fiddlers' Rally with the Caledonian Fiddle Orchestra

Upper Clyde  Parish Church present a fiddlers' rally with:

The Caledonian Fiddle Orchestra

We're delighted to welcome back the CFO, who'll be performing in:

Crawfordjohn Hall on Friday 5th May at 7.30pm  

Tickets £10 each. Contact Janet 01864 504265

A light supper is included in the cost of the ticket.
There'll also be a bar on the night.

For more information on the Orchestra please see

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Sermon 23 April wk34: Who is it you're looking for?...WMRBW

We continued on an Easter theme, as we explored John's account of that first
Easter morning.  We began with Mary Magdalene meeting a gardener turned Messiah,
and moved across to an upper room, with Thomas and the other friends of Jesus...

READINGS/ Psalm 133;  John 20:1-31

REFLECTION 1/ Mary Magdalene
I thought that was it –
they’d taken him,
accused him,
tried him,
...crucified him.
I’d heard that last awful cry,
heard that last breath
and then his utter stillness.

I thought that was it –
seen him die
watched as his body
was taken from that cross;
saw him placed inside the tomb
and heard the roll of stone
in groove
and the subtle snick
as stone came to rest
and sealed him in.

I thought that was it –
his light put out,
my heart torn
like the curtain in the temple.
A part of me, also broken,
dead inside,
all hollowed out
and empty.
Who had I been following
all this time?
What was it I’d been looking for?
I’d dared to dream
but under death’s weight,
the dream was crushed.

I thought that was it –
and yet, I wandered
to the garden,
to the grave,
not quite ready
to let it all go.
Perhaps wanting answers,
to make some sense of things.
And there, confronted a scene
that made no sense at all:
a stone rolled away,
a tomb exposed and empty,
angelic messengers,
and a gardener suddenly turned Rabbi.

I thought that was it –
hope shut off,
the journey ended.
A time for weeping.
And then,
a voice,
warm and kindly.
I thought that was it –
but somehow it’s not,
for I
have seen the Lord.

Did he condemn me for doubting?
Not a bit of it –
he understood and answered.
Perhaps I should have believed earlier –
but had any of my friends been me,
I suspect they’d have done the same,
been sceptical,
Let’s be blunt:
no-one just comes back from death
and wanders into locked rooms
and starts up a conversation.
Was it the grief that was talking, I’d wondered.
Mary’s news of a garden sighting
had put the wind up us.
What could it mean?
Had she gone mad with the sadness of it all?
When Peter and John
had gone and come back
and reported an empty grave
and folded grave clothes,
some of us wondered if the authorities
had ordered it –
best take the body away
and not leave a place that could be
turned into a shrine.
That was certainly more plausible
than the dead rising.
Wasn’t it?
Stuck in that upper room,
with nothing to do but feel fear
and talk of wishful thinking,
I’d gone out.
Needed air,
just as much as we needed food.
And, perhaps, it was also useful to see
how safe it was to take our leave of the City.
Pragmatism and practicality –
that’s why I wasn’t there.
When I came back,
they were jabbering away excitedly,
claimed that they’d all seen him.
Had Mary’s madness spread?
Was there something in the water?
How could I believe what they were saying;
it made no sense.
It hurt too much to even consider the possibility,
and to raise hopes, so recently dashed,
back up again.
So I dug my heels in:
thought that one of us at least
should stop from falling over the edge
into the world of odd speculation
and hallucination.
I couldn’t face waking back up
into disappointment
and closed my mind
against all this talk of resurrection.
And so a week passed.
We were still stuck:
sat in that upper room
with no idea what to do,
or where to go.
It had been hard –
the only one of the group
not to buy into the constant wondering
of whether he’d appear again,
with my constant shake of head
my refusal to play their game,
saying only that ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’
And then
In the room,
a room now peace-filled.
The rabbi, calling my name,
stretching out his hands:
touch and see,
it’s me.’
And I did see –
even more to the heart of him
than the others, perhaps:
that he was not just a man,
but so much more:
‘My Lord, and my God.’

SERMON: 'Who is it you're looking for?
Let’s pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations
of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

Back in the day, there used to be a laundrette in Edinburgh called
‘The Lost Sock CafĂ©’ –
the name was pure genius and used to make me grin every time I passed by it...
I don’t know about you, but so many times when I do a load of washing,
I spend a lot of time looking for missing socks.
Mind you, these days, I also often find myself looking for a whole assortment
of items that I’ve put somewhere in the manse and then forgotten where they are!
I suspect I’m not alone in this.

Our gospel reading this morning is about looking
for that which seems to have been misplaced...
and about finding, but not initially realising, that what you’ve found is
what – or who – you’ve been looking for.
The first section of our gospel reading concerns Mary Magdalene.
There are so many Marys in the Bible, that’s it’s a job working out which one’s which at times...
However, we initially come across this particular Mary in Luke, chapter 8,
she’s a woman from the area around Galilee, a woman probably from the village of Magdala.
Jesus has been touring the area, teaching and healing –
and, we find, that Mary is one of those healed.
She, along with several other women, defy convention, and become followers of Jesus.
Mary, we discover from this first encounter in Luke, appears to be a woman of means:
we’re told that she uses her wealth to help support the other followers.
Now, over the centuries, a story has built up around Mary that she was a prostitute –
perhaps because she’s also been associated with another story
about the woman who came and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears of repentance.
But, actually, scripture doesn’t make a value judgement on this Mary one way or the other –
there’s no case from scripture to make concerning her past life, or her virtue.
Anyway, over a period of time, Mary, like others, has followed the rabbi called Jesus,
eventually arriving at the city of Jerusalem,
where things all seem to go so horribly wrong.

As with the other friends of Jesus, she’s been through a pretty traumatic time;
her whole world has been turned upside down in the course of a week.
The rabbi that she’s followed –
who’s healed her,
who’s caught her imagination...
who’s taught her,
who’s shared conversation,
and food with her...
the rabbi that she has followed,
who she’s committed to,
and, whose followers she’s financially supported, dead.
And she was there:
from acclamation on the Sunday,
to accusation, to crucifixion, and death, on the Friday

Mary Magdalene has seen it all, and watched Jesus, the beloved Teacher,
placed in a stone-sealed tomb with a sense of awful finality.
The dream has ended –
having descended into the stuff of which nightmares are made.
This is not how it should be:
after all, shouldn’t stories have happier endings than this?
Especially when it had all begun with such promise,
surrounded by what seemed to be a fulfilment of the words of the prophets of old?
But, the rabbi dead.
And along with those other friends of Jesus, there, in Jerusalem, she grieves.

Perhaps, in her grieving, as can happen, questions arise:
had putting her faith in Jesus all been for nothing?
What was it that she’d been looking for?
Who was it that she’d been looking for, and seemed to find in Jesus?
What were her hopes, her expectations, of this travelling rabbi?
Whatever they were, they’d quite literally come to an abrupt dead end.

A couple of days after his death, she finds herself
going to the garden in the early morning.
The account we heard from Luke last week,
mentions other women also going there with her,
and with spices to finish tending to Jesus’ body.
Here, in John’s gospel, however, we see only Mary.
Whether drawn there out of tender practicality to minister to his body,
or, drawn there to find some comfort in being near him even though he’s no longer alive,
there she arrives at the garden.

We know the story:
of the stone, somehow rolled away and the tomb, exposed and empty.
In the midst of her grief, and confusion, her primary concern is voiced:
‘where have they taken the body’ –
‘they’ presumably meaning the authorities.
What new cruelty is this?
Haven’t ‘they’ already done enough?
We also know that in John’s story of that first Easter morning, there’s a lot of running:
Mary races off and meets Peter and John.
Peter and John then race off to see the tomb.
They presumably race off to tell the others
Thereafter, Mary is back in the garden...
looking for Jesus,
wondering what’s happened,
even the comfort of being near where he’s buried has been taken away.
And then, a strange conversation with angels, who ask her why she’s weeping.
Having answered the angels, another conversation with the gardener,
who also asks that same question:
‘why are you weeping?’
But then, follows it up with another:
‘Who is it you’re looking for?’

As with many of the resurrection appearances, there’s a strange lack of recognition by Mary:
often those who see the risen Lord, don’t immediately seem to understand that
they’re facing Jesus, until Jesus, in some way or another, reveals who he is by word or action.
It’s one of those puzzling things:
why don’t they realise it’s Jesus?
I wonder:
if you’re not looking for something, or someone,
might that actually play some part in not seeing it when it’s right there in front of you?
Also, Mary Magdalene, and the other friends of Jesus, had seen him die:
and nobody comes back from the dead –
unless you’re Lazarus and Jesus has done the raising.
Their grief, and the whole way in which they saw the world,
had put up some quite understandable barriers to seeing Jesus for who he really was:
for resurrection is not an everyday event...
it’s way beyond the ordinary.

But, back to the garden.
Jesus says to Mary:
‘Who is it you are looking for?’
Mary had been looking for a body,
not a living, breathing Jesus.
Mary had, in Jesus’ lifetime,
been looking for so many things in Jesus:
all her expectations about
what the Messiah would be like,
what the Messiah would do.
A good deal of that may very well have been tied in with cultural expectations.
It’s hard not to want a warrior Messiah to rescue you when you’re living under
an occupying power that has no real understanding
of your culture,
or your God.
Mary, having her hopes of Jesus as Messiah crushed by his death,
is there in the garden, and, momentarily,
she doesn’t see the Messiah,
she sees the gardener
through tear-filled eyes.
Only when he calls her name does she find just who she’s looking for,
and is amazed.

But wait.
Hadn’t he talked about overcoming death?
The conversations begin to come back.
Hope dawns with the beginnings of understanding.
And now, not needing to cling on to her own expectations,
now liberated to see a different way
of looking at things...
of looking at Jesus,
she moves from the tomb
she moves from death
into an understanding of new life, new possibilities.
She heads off to share her story with Jesus’ other friends...
who can’t quite believe her –
for, when we move to the second half of this chapter in John,
there they are, in the evening,
stuck in the upper room,
with doors locked in fear.

Effectively, they’ve ‘done a Thomas’ to Mary: they seemingly refuse to see –
given that they stay put.
Who is it that they’re looking for?
Well, they’re not even looking at this point; they’ve closed themselves off,
closed their minds to the possibility, dismissed it as nonsense.
Only when Jesus appears, and bids them be at peace, do they begin to see:
that which was lost has now been found –
Jesus has risen.
The resurrection penny begins to drop:
what’s deemed nonsense in human terms makes perfect sense to the One
for whom nothing is impossible...

Thomas, as we know, isn’t there...
And, given the earlier reaction – of lack of – to Mary’s news by the others,
it’s quite hard lines on poor Thomas,
that, when Jesus appears to the disciples,
Thomas is the one who gets stuck
with the label of ‘doubter’.
He returns to a changed atmosphere:
something’s happened while he’s been away.
The others claim to have seen the Lord.
...No matter what Thomas had been looking for in Jesus,
what he may not have been expecting was a risen Messiah.
‘Unless I see him, and touch the wounds, I won’t believe,’ says Thomas.

A week later, still in that upper room,
but this time with Thomas present,
Jesus appears once more,
greets them with words of peace,
and has a conversation with Thomas.
Seeing is believing –
but what is it that Thomas sees?
The others have all seen Jesus,
but it’s only Thomas who goes that step further:
now he knows who he’s looking for –
this is not just Jesus, the man –
there’s something more at work here.
It’s Thomas who gets this, and who responds in words of worship:
‘My Lord, ...    and my God!’

And, bit by bit, as peace fills their hearts,
as the news spreads of resurrection,
the friends of Jesus even manage to leave the upper room that they’d locked themselves in.
They find their faith,
find their voice,
and find themselves rising up together to share the story of the One
who rose from death...

Nearly 2 000 years on, how do we see Jesus, in the light of the Easter accounts?
Who is it that we are looking for?
Writer and Christian activist, Jim Wallis notes that:
'With the Easter eyes of resurrection faith, 
we can see the door through which we too can walk, through which we are invited, 
where we also will be given the news of the resurrection.
And with this hope, sisters and brothers, 
we can know our sins forgiven, 
and our lives made whole. 
We can look into the faces of our children and believe there is a future for them.
With this hope we can look into the eyes of the poor, the suffering, and the dispossessed 
and believe that God is able to establish justice for all. 
With this hope we can together build new communities of faith that will 
someday overcome the barriers of race and class and gender. 
And with this hope we can even look forward to a day when our nation 
no longer measures its security by its weapons, and its status by its wealth.'

As those first friends of Jesus began to look at Jesus through resurrection eyes;
as Mary was moved to run from the garden and tell the news
of new life,
of hope,
and of things thought impossible made possible by God...
as the others eventually moved out from
the upper room and began to share the good news of Jesus with others,
and to spread the message of God’s love in word and action,
so I encourage all of you:
to remember the story,
but don’t just remember it,
allow God’s Spirit to move you -
out of this building and into the world,
to share the message of life and of God’s love:
to be people of the resurrection,
and, in so doing, to transform the world.  Amen.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter Sunday Celebrations, 2017

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

A very happy Easter from UCPC. 
Here's a wee taste of our Easter celebrations today...
with the sermon from our main service at 10.30 further below.

8.00am in Crawford:
At our early bird service, we rolled rocks, and ate rolls - bacon, to be precise - as we welcomed in Easter morning. We even attempted an unaccompanied singing of an 'Alleluia'.
Due to the weather, we opted for an indoor service!

10.30am in the parish church at Abington:
It's been our practice for the last several years to 'bury' our Alleluias on the first Sunday of Lent...
A little like putting away a favourite toy, we try not to have any hymns with the word 'Alleluia' in our Lenten Sundays, or use it in worship at all. At times, a couple escape here and there, for joy just can't seem to be contained. Over the years, our Alleluias seem to mysteriously escape and somehow transform.
The first Sunday of Lent 2017 saw each member of the congregation present, given a dolly peg, on which we wrote 'Alleluia'. We then thought of one thing we could praise God for, and then gathered the Alleluias in our special purple Lent box, and placed them
at the foot of our Cross....

This morning, we found that the buried Alleluias had resurrected from dolly pegs to butterflies, floating cheerfully above the chancel step. Handily, the Minister was just the right height to fit below the lower bar of the butterfly frame...!

And Easter Sunday at UCPC, isn't complete without decorating our wooden Cross with daffodils. Helpers came forward during our first hymn and were just about finished by the time the music had ended. Other helpers had fashioned stones used in a meditation in week 5 of Lent into a heart last week, and this week, into 'Easter'.
these stones would cry aloud...
of God's love
these stones would shout...
of Easter and new life

This morning, as we thought of resurrection, we heard the following readings...and then, below, today's sermon. Post-worship morning tea pics, thereafter...

Our Lenten prayer tree:
leaves were used to write prayers
over the course of Lent - these
concerns were prayed for at our
Lent 'prayer and breakfast' meetings
on Saturday mornings.
On Easter Sunday,
green leaves had blossomed..
READINGS/ Ezekiel 37:1-14; Colossians 1:9-29;
 Luke 24:1-32

Let’s pray: may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

Dry bones, sitting,
within an ancient prophet’s vision.
Dry bones,
long past remembering life.
Dry bones, changing,
moving and rattling and drawing together –
thigh bones connecting to hip bones
hearing the word of the Lord,
feeling the breath of the Spirit:

Dry bones, standing
in the middle of a valley,
Dry bones...
no longer,
Dry bones now sinewed, renewed,
re-membered, piece by piece.
with hope restored,
and God’s Spirit within...
God saying
‘this isn’t the end, but the beginning.’

Women, walking.
Early in the morning.
remembering Jesus, even at this last.
Women, walking,
and carrying spices to tend his body –
spices prepared and mixed
with a combination
of love and sorrow.
Over the week,
a growing shadow:
darkness, like a long, clawing arm,
ready to snatch away joy,
extinguish the light.
The air hung heavy
with plot and betrayal
and impending ...ending.

Women, walking.
Heading to the garden.
surely remembering
how hearts had hardened,
remembering shouts of
Women, who had watched
who had waited
even when the sky had darkened
and shadow truly fell across the land.
Women who’d witnessed his body -
being taken down,
seen it wrapped with care,
in linen,
who had walked to the burial place
following those carrying the body
to the tomb.
And then,
... Sabbath-wait
until they walked again to that place
in the gloom:
but the light was not sinking,
not leaving,
the light was growing,
finding its strength,
pushing back the darkness;
breathing life into dry bones –
and was there an echo:
God saying
‘this isn’t the end, but the beginning’?

Women, running.
Faces alight with fright, and dawning hope.
reminded of Jesus’ words
by the strangest of messengers.
Women, running
to tell the story
of where they’d been -
of what they’d seen:
a stone, rolled,
an empty tomb, body to tend.
Of being near-blinded
and blind-sided
by strangers appearing
bright, like lightening,
Women, remembering -
words from the Word
for the Word was with God,
and the Word was God:
Jesus, the Word,
who had been,
right at the very beginning –
even, before the beginning.

Two men, walking.
Leaving the city.
Two men,
walking the road to Emmaus,
talking and pondering.
wondering about women –
it was ever thus  –
thinking about what they’d said
as they’d burst into the tomb
of that upper room
where all the friends sat, ...hiding.
Two men, joined by another,
walking alongside,
listening, teaching,
reminding them of the words
of their teacher.
From conversation,
an invitation:
an open door,
a welcome table
and words of blessing
that bring memory
into present reality –
replacing fear and sorrow
with hearts, burning,
fiercely with joy
at the words of the Lord:
‘do this, remember...’
In the ending, is the beginning.

Men, women, children, still walking.
Going to that garden
Men, women, children,
still walking along a path trod
by countless generations,
all sharing a memory,
all holding ...hope,
all carrying the light
in a world that feels filled
with shadow reaching out;
of darkness, like a long, clawing arm,
collecting fearful hearts
and clutching hate tight
and wanting only... ending.
But that
is the old dispensation:
before the resurrection.

Men, women, children,
walking, running,
sharing the greatest story ever told:
of death defeated,
and fear’s power broken.
Men, women, children - us:
called to remember him,
and to re-member him
every time we share in bread and wine
and one by one...
become one in him,
his body,
and, in that becoming,
finding our own new beginning:
for we are the Easter people –
rescued from darkness,
to be his own,
to be joyful
‘and to live in thankfulness,
not in fear.’
We are the Easter people,
who know the story of resurrection;
who live not in the shadow of death,
but in the brightness of life
in all is fulness.
are the Easter people
and we will walk
as he walked,
calling out injustice,
speaking truth to power,
cherishing the least and the lost,
celebrating each person’s uniqueness
and sharing those things held in common;
seeing in all
the hand of the Creator,
who brought us into being,
who walks with us in our endings
who guides us into the promise
of his glory,
and into a new beginning.

This day, of all days,
is a reminder:
of God’s love,
of God’s blessing,
of the Good News of the gospel,
which is, that:
‘this isn’t the end, but the beginning.’

Let’s pray:
Lord, can we over-do the alleluia’s? Can we mend all the broken ones from Friday? 
Can we hear them unfold in the sunrise? 
Lord, might we have ears to do so and live in the echo 
of this promise of the renewal of life always. 
Might we dare to believe beyond tombs, beyond crosses, beyond graves... 
and towards new life, towards transformation, 
towards resurrection where we now live in the renewal of life 
and in the spirit of Jesus Christ alive among us. 
May we play in the morning dew of the garden and search for footprints. 
May we join the dawn chorus with alleluias. 
May we break bread and see light explode among us and in its shadow, see Jesus here. 
May we live as a community of resurrection 
always living into the promise of transformation, 
believing into and living in the spirit of Jesus Christ. 
This is our prayer, this is our celebration, this, is our now, and evermore...Amen.
*prayer from Spill the Beans

Tea or coffee? Our Easter hospitality crew on duty
There wasn't much cake left
by the time the minister
managed to take this pic...

Easter morning tea...

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Easter Sunday services

Come and celebrate Easter at UCPC:

40 Acts of Lent: Day 40 - Delivery

Act forty - Delivery by Michael O'Neill

Prepare to celebrate. You've done it, but He did it first.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship." 
                                                                                                              Romans 12: 1 (NIV)

We started 40acts this year talking about "intentional, uncomfortable, inconvenient, radical, contagious, over-the-top, joyful, and - most importantly - Christ-like generosity."
What has that looked like for you?

Along the 40-day journey, it was my 10 year-old son who taught me that Christ-like generosity was a living sacrifice.
Declan and I were spending a Saturday together. He still loves spending time with me and we were both looking forward to our day: breakfast followed by a haircut, then off to a local shop with a table tennis table to play on for free.

A woman with clear physical and learning disabilities arrived seconds before us.
She wanted to play, then turned to Declan and asked if he would play with her. I knew that more than anything he'd been looking forward to his time with me and table tennis was high on his wish list.

I was unprepared for his response.

Without looking at me, he smiled, shrugged his shoulders, said "sure", and proceeded to the open table with her. Eileen had the use of one arm, so serving was a challenge. When she did connect with the ball, it was to send it flying across the room . . . over and over again.
As he smiled and faced his worthy opponent, Declan was a living sacrifice.

What comes in to your mind when you hear the word sacrifice?

For thousands of years, forgiveness of sin required a blood sacrifice – the killing of an animal. All that changed when Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross. The cross changed everything.

We hear fewer and fewer references to 'sin' in the West. It's a word that jars our sensibilities and disrupts our individualistic tendencies. We want to be tolerant of others and we want others to be tolerant of us, so we downplay sin, and by extension, the sacrifice that frees us from it.

Yesterday we observed Good Friday, the crucifixion of Jesus, the blood sacrifice that, once and for all, offers forgiveness of sin and delivers us back to God, the Father, reconciled.
It cost Jesus everything. It cost us nothing.
But with it, comes an invitation to be a living sacrifice. The Apostle Paul speaks of this in Romans 12 when he urges us to offer our bodies to others as a living sacrifice.

On behalf of the entire team, I would like to thank our writers - who often moved me to tears -for their vulnerability. And I would like to thank all of you who joined us from your phones, homes, classrooms, churches and offices for bringing life to Romans 12 this Lent.

Will you join me in being a living sacrifice and living lives of Christ-like generosity all year round?

Choose how to complete this act...

Spend five minutes reading Romans 12 today and be refreshed and re-inspired by the words.

Think back over the last seven weeks.  What sacrifices have you made that could be repeated during this last day of 40acts in order to be generous to your neighbours?

What has your 40acts journey highlighted? Can you see patterns in the way you've used your time, talents and finances? What more could you do with them? Have you made temporary sacrifices in the last seven weeks that should become permanent?

Friday, 14 April 2017

Good Friday worship

Join us this evening for...

40 Acts of Lent: Day 39 - testimony

Act thirty nine - Testimony by Bekah Legg
People keep their stories to themselves. But sharing stories can be a powerful way to connect with people, motivate them, and rouse them to action in their own lives. You're full of stories: many of them untold. Don't keep them – your stories, your 'testimonies' – to yourself.
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason 
for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..."
                                                                                                                            (1 Peter 3:15)

I don't know about you, but the thought of sharing my faith with someone who doesn't already know God is pretty scary. I know it's important, I even pray for opportunities, but when the time comes, I've been known to be lost for words, or at least words that make much sense.
But the truth is, we don't need to have all the answers and we don't need to become master theologians. We just need to know our own story. There is nothing as compelling as your story, the twists and the turns, the moments when God changed everything. Your story is unique and no one can tell it quite like you.

My story is one of knowing God all my life, ignoring him for a while, and ending up in a disastrous marriage on the other side of the world before literally escaping to bring up two small children as a single mum. It's a story of being restored to the person I was intended to be and finding out what freedom in Christ really looks like.

To begin with it really wasn't something I wanted to talk about at all. But then I met a lady in the school playground who was going through a situation that I could understand. It was time to start talking.
Since then I've had my ears open for those moments when I may be able to contribute something useful, and I've learned that even some of the most mundane moments of my life will resonate with someone. Sharing our story with people can be frightening; opening ourselves up makes us vulnerable but it's the best way to connect, and if we will allow people to see how God has transformed our lives, perhaps we can help him transform theirs too.

Choose how to complete this act...

If you've never told your testimony, plan it out first. Try different lengths. For example: one that works like a trailer for the full movie. Or an extended version for that long conversation over a meal. Write them down, to focus your thoughts. But remember that listening is more important – your story is never more important than the person you're telling it to. And make sure you don't slip into Christianese.

If you have a testimony in mind, pray for an opportunity to tell it.

Keeping your stories to yourself? Take a leap. Talk to your church leadership about ways you can share them with others. Get in touch with groups who could use someone with the experiences you have. Experienced and lived through injustice? Charities could find your story invaluable.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Maundy Thursday worship

Join us this evening for...

40 Acts of Lent: Day 38 - 'Wash day'

Act thirty eight - Wash Day by Andy Frost
Today's Maundy Thursday, the day when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. It was a simple act that said so much about service, humility, showing others their significance, and God's kingdom. So today, prepare to wash some (literal or symbolic) feet.

"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." 
                                                                                                                            John 13:14–15 (NIV)

The Passion Week is building to a crescendo. The day of the Passover has arrived. The Passover feast reminded the Jewish people of their story, their dramatic escape from captivity 1,500 years earlier. The salty water reminded them of their tears, the bitter herbs reminded them of the bondage and the unleavened bread reminded them of the hurry with which they had escaped Egypt.
And as groups shared this meal across Jerusalem, perhaps the question on the people's lips was
'When will God send another liberator, like Moses, to free us from Rome?'

The disciples sat with Jesus, going through the familiar patter of the Passover feast, when suddenly Jesus goes off script. He begins to redefine the bread and the wine as 'my body' and 'my blood'. And midway through the meal, Jesus does the unthinkable. He washes his disciples' feet.

In those days, with dusty and dirty, sewage ridden roads, people's feet needed to be cleaned. There were no socks, just sandals. And it was usually the job of the lowest servant in the household.
But that night, Jesus, their Lord and Teacher, ties a towel around his waist and begins cleaning between their toes. Can you imagine what must have been going through the disciples' heads?

It's in this instance we see so clearly that Jesus was not the kind of liberator they were expecting. He was not going to do battle with the kingdom of Rome but was going to usher in a very different kind of kingdom. And as he washes their feet, knowing that one of them will betray him and that the others will desert him, we see the humility of God.

Jesus says, 'I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.' (John 13:15 NIV)

Unbelievably, the disciples that night end up arguing over which of them is the greatest (Luke 22:24). They seem to have completely missed the point. How could they?
But then I feel that sense of conviction, that I, like those disciples, can too often miss the challenge of humility and service. This Maundy Thursday, let's do as Jesus has done.

Choose how to complete this act...

Keep it simple: offer to do the washing up or wash the windows. Or, learn to do something around the house that you might not normally have done for someone else.

Offer to wash something a little more unusual – your neighbour's car, their wheelie bin, their patio.

Wash something really dirty for someone else. The kids' football boots might be caked with weeks' worth of mud. The pavement in your street might need a jet wash. There could be some obscene graffiti on a wall in your area. Go and scrub it off.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

40 Acts of Lent: day 37 - 'content'

Act thirty seven - Content by Paul the Apostle
Contentment isn't easy to achieve, for all of us. On bad days we feel like we've got nothing. On good days we feel like we have the world to share. Today's challenge is a personal reflection: how can you be generous in every situation? Spend time looking to God to fulfil your needs or thank him for what you already have.
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength".
                                                                                                            Philippians 4:12–13 (NIV)

So what is the secret of being content? Actually, it's not really a secret at all. Here's what I've learned that allows me to be content whatever my circumstances:

1. Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

2. Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.

3. Fill your minds and meditate on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

So why not take a leaf out of my book? Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realised. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Today's blog was written by Paul the Apostle (paraphrased and directly quoted from Philippians 4:4–14 The Message).
Choose how to complete this act...

Thank God for five things you're grateful for today, as a starting point.

Look at your lifestyle. What do you consume which alters how you look at your own life? Do you read lifestyle magazines; spend lots of time on social media? And, if you use social media to only put up the best pictures and moments of your life, why not show some imperfection today? Be real; be honest. It can inspire others to do the same.

If you really struggle to find contentment and find yourself looking in loads of different places for fulfilment, spend time with God working on that, today. Try to spend that time in quiet and stillness.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

40 Acts of Lent: day 36 - 'Habit'

We are nearly there in our 40 Acts journey over Lent. Before you launch into today's 'Act', 
take a moment to get comfortable, relax, and as you do, look back over these last 35 days of Lent.
Were there any 'aha!' moments?
What challenged you?
What did resonated the most?
And, always useful for feedback: if UCPC were to do this again over Lent,
would you make use of this tool for spiritual reflection?
And now, on to Act 36...

Act thirty six - Habit by Paul Oxley
Breaking a habit is a challenge, but creating a positive one can be even harder. The theory says it takes 21 repeat goes at making a habit stick. What generous action could you start turning into a chain of repeats, today?
"His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'"
                                                                                                                         John 2:5 (NIV)
The gap between dinner and bath time for our two girls (five and three) can either be a joy-filled hour of delight, or it can be a foretaste of the foul afterlife. The evening in question was becoming the latter.
Exasperated, I announced, 'It's dance time!' marched everyone into the lounge and searched online for suitable music for little girls to dance to. Though the beginning of the disco was slightly enforced by me, it wasn't long till we were all 'shaking it off' in serious style. The girls loved it!
Guess what we did the next night after dinner?

Yep. Danced.
And the next night. And the next. It's who we are now – it's what we do. Not every evening, but most. If you're ever invited for dinner at the Oxley house, bring your dancing shoes!

Were you to borrow my phone you'd notice the suggested music on my account is not what it used to be (nor what I'd like it to be); the computer chip has changed its understanding of who I am!
Reflecting on our last 35 acts this Lent, has there been a challenge which, though initiated under slightly forced pretences, brought great joy to you and others? Why not do it again?!

And then again.
And again.
Let it become what you do, who you are; allow it to shape how others understand you. Make it a habit, not an event.

I guess that having resolved to do this, you'll quickly hear a little whisper of doubt suggesting this new generous habit is silly and unimportant. When that happens, listen instead to the voice of Jesus, who always encourages us towards kindness and extravagant generosity. Then, as Mary said, 'Do whatever He tells you,' and shake it off!

Choose how to complete this act...
Just one option. Start today. What generous action from the last 35 days do you want to make a habit? Commit to putting this into practice regularly.

Monday, 10 April 2017

40 Acts of Lent: day 35 - Against the tide

Act thirty five - Against the Tide by Jan from the Mahabba Network
Following the crowd is easy, but it's not always a good thing. Especially when what's popular excludes people, or isolates the already lonely. Swimming against the tide is the biggest challenge. But trying it – even just giving it a shot – can be life-changing.
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ 
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…"
                                                                                                    2 Corinthians 5:18 (NIV)
It's the end of a lovely evening where a group of my friends and their children have gathered to mix batter, toss pancakes and sample a range of toppings whilst chatting and drinking tea. The washing-up done, people gather their children, get their coats and adjust their hijabs before leaving the house.

'Thank you so much; it's been really fun,' I exclaim, as we embrace goodbye.
'Yes,' says another, 'some of us have been here seven or eight years and we've never been invited to an English home before; thank you.'

Another day I stop to chat to the new (Somali) owner of a local eatery being refurbished. He tells me a little about his dream for the cafe and, as he warms to his theme of creating a new kind of meeting place, he describes a venue which will attract a wider, more diverse clientele.

'The trouble is the white people are just not integrating into this area,' he says, 'so anything we can do to change that will be positive.'
Never been invited? Not integrating? Who's keeping who at arm's length?

Jesus did something positive when he moved into the 'neighbourhood' (John1:14 The Message) and spent time with those not usually invited to the parties of the day. His life ended with arms outstretched in sacrificial surrender to the reconciling work of God. Now all are invited to step out of alienation from God and each other and into friendship with Love Himself. It's the ultimate triumph of friendship over fear.

In a culture which seems to thrive on negative perceptions and suspicion of difference, building friendships with people from other faith communities is one way we can do things differently. How will you swim against the tide of mistrust and fear? In which ways will you live out the message of reconciliation with which we have been entrusted?

Choose how to complete this act...
Have a think. Are there any situations where we're in danger of following the crowd? First stop is social media. Review last week's posts. Are we ungenerous in how we talk about others on Facebook and Twitter? Resist joining in for the sake of it especially if it might take you to narcissistic or gossipy places.

Office gossip? Train delays making everyone grumpy with train staff? Collective moaning becoming a habit? Think about how you can turn against the tide. Or, something tougher: Who have you been pushing to the back of your mind during the 40acts challenges? Take the challenge to do good to that person today, even if you think they won't appreciate it.

Challenge ungenerous behaviours that damage communities, our country, and the world. For example? Well, are we locked into a worldly pattern of consumption? Thinking about how our shopping choices affect the world? Generous in the things we like and share on social media?

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Sunday worship 9 April: Palms and Passion

journeying to Jerusalem and through Holy Week

As has become our practice, Palm Sunday is a time for remembering, in Scripture and through meditations, the events from the entry into Jerusalem, up to and including the death and burial of Jesus.
Below are the texts used this morning, and various meditations and prayers...

With the sun high in the sky,
the smell of herbs and roast lamb from the Passover hang heavy in the shadowed alleyways of the city;
the sound of children crying mingles with the whispered questions
of the people meeting between doorways.
Down the escarpment in the Kedron valley
Jesus stands, watching, in the heat of the day.
This is the time,
this the place where Jesus needs to make his decision
to trust love or turn his back and walk away.
And as the city ceases to hesitate, unaware of the decision being made,
Jesus turns to the donkey,
pauses for the length of a prayer,
and climbs on its back...
Let us go with Jesus, to Jerusalem.
*adapted from Spill the Beans


1st Hymn/ Hosanna, loud hosanna

The King is coming.
Our God arrives, clothed in frail human flesh,
riding a humble donkey...
This is not the first time 
You have come to us, O God
The history of human affairs 
is the history of Your arrival among us,
As Creator,
Prophet's voice and
Priest's desire.

The story of each of our lives 
is the story of Your coming to us,
As Comforter,
And so we praise You...

God, made flesh:
it is relatively easy for us to roster someone
to go and gather palm leaves
to spread in the church today.
And we can easily find music
and a few good words
to help us to remember
and re-enact Palm Sunday.
But what if You arrived
inviting us to really lay down
something important to us
to acknowledge Your arrival?
What if we knew the imminence
of the danger that accompanies You,
or sensed that the authorities
were watching us as we worship?
How then, Jesus, would we meet You today.
and what would we spread before You?
And how would we regard humility
from the One we hope will save the world?

Palm Sunday Jesus, help us to see
how and where You enter our world today,
and what You ask us to lay at your feet,
and how we may welcome You in.

Gathering for worship today,
we are like the crowd that lined the streets,
witnessing your entry into Jerusalem.
Some of us gather here, full of enthusiasm.
Some of us gather, 
wearied by what life has thrown at us.
Some of us have come out of curiosity.
Some of us out of habit.
Some of us gather with great expectation.
Some of us with no particular hopes.

It is here, O God, that you meet us and greet us and, if we will allow,
it is here that you surprise us with your love and your grace.

So open our heavy eyes, and tired minds,
steal into our closed hearts 
and surprise us today with joy.
Quell those unrealistic expectations,
but open us to the possibility of hope
and allow us to glimpse the goodness of your purpose for us.
Even when we cannot name it ourselves, you know what ails us.
We submit to your knowledge of us
and we open ourselves to the need for your forgiveness,
a forgiveness that comes freely and abundantly.
So with cleansed hearts and open minds,
we join in the cry 
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest...

THE LORD'S PRAYER/ Our Father...Amen.

1st READING/ Luke 19:28-44 Entry into Jerusalem

REFLECTION/ Fool’s errand
It started with the search for a donkey:
a fools errand for the disciples.
It ended with a parade
a clown's procession for the common people.
For Jesus used that donkey
to laugh in the face of the authorities;
taunting them,
flexing his muscles of influence and popularity.
He really should have been keeping a low profile.
But, throwing caution to the wind,
he took himself into the city
and, enjoying, momentarily,
the protection of the crowd
he pushed his enemies over the edge.
And ...he knew it.
He looked around, saw it was late, and left.
Late on so many levels.
Late in the day.
Late in the journey.
Too late for him.
His boats were now burned
and the salvaged timber
already fashioned into a cross.
A simple request: ‘Find me a donkey,’
set in motion a whole series
of truths and dares,
of arrest and trial,
of betrayal,
...and denial.
His fate was sealed
and so was our redemption
as palms dissolved into passion.
A fool's errand indeed!
*adapted from Spill the Beans

2nd Hymn/ Ride on, ride on in majesty

2nd READING/ Luke 19:45-48; At the temple/
                            and 22:1-6 Judas agrees to betray Jesus

silver coins are scattered on communion table
REFLECTION/ Bystanders at the Temple
The evening sun hollows out the temple courts with long shadows.
Motes of dust float through the beams
of tired sunlight in rhythm
to the piling of temple coinage.
A rapid flap of wings from a caged dove
adds to the regular soundscape
of Solomon’s house:
shoes shuffle, voices hush, prayers are made, expensive sacrifices given:
the sound of the poor being milked
in the name of God who himself
despises such a vulture’s feast
by those who claim to serve him.
In the flow of sound comes another, unexpected: a single table upended,
coins scatter in a jangle of light
caught in the orange beams of sun,
a whip cracks from an angry young man
who means new business in the temple,
the crowd suddenly hush
cowering back among the shadows
making space for heaven’s entry;
traders shout, the whip cracks once more,
another table overturns, guards hesitate,
the man roars like a caged bear,
sweat being shaken from his long hair
as he turns his head towards them.
And, as suddenly as it happens... it stops.
The man of light is gone
and darkness falls deeper now,
...a single coin rolls and settles
and the rapid flap of wings
among cages now strewn and broken
echoes round the court,
as a dove frees itself
and takes to flight,
rising over the offering,
escaping into the evening sky. ...
*adapted from Spill the Beans

NARRATIVE/ Thursday...preamble/
With tables turned, and the day ended,
so the week unfolds...It is Thursday:
bread/ bottle of wine– placed on communion table
In an upper room,
the table is made ready for the feast.
He is eager, they are puzzled;
wine is poured and bread is blessed.
The One who is the Word
speaks into startled silence:
breaks bread, and says it’s his body, broken;
pours wine,
talks of the shedding of his blood.
This, a meal, not soon forgotten.
At the table, tempers fray:
ambition unmasked, they fight for power.
The beloved teacher watches as they squabble.
Three years
and yet they’ve missed his point entirely.
Quietly, he pours water into basin,
takes a towel,
and kneels before them:
gives them the place of honour
with his servant’s heart.
There is still a little time to learn.

bowl, towel, and a jug of water are placed on communion table
3rd READING/ John 13:1-17 Jesus washes the disciples’ feet

water is poured into the bowl, towel draped over
Jesus, my Lord.
What are you doing?
You must stop this now.
Look, everyone will see.
You can’t do this to me.
Not me.
You’re the guest of honour.
Not the servant.
You’ll get your prayer shawl dirty.
Look, it’s going to trail in the water.
Dirty water for washing feet.

Are you mad, Lord?
Please get up now before everyone notices.
It’s not your job to wash hot and dusty feet.
That’s the servants’ job, not yours.
Come on, get up.
Please Jesus, please get up.
I lean on your shoulder,
glance down, and see your own feet.
I don’t think I’ve ever noticed your feet before.
These are strong feet, I realise.
They bear witness to your active life, tramping and travelling over rough roads and hillsides.
Bare, calloused, raw,
...There is something so vulnerable
about the sole of a foot.
There is something so vulnerable about you kneeling here at my feet.
Why would you do such a thing?
What are you trying to teach me?
It’s so... menial, this job you’re doing.
I don’t like the feeling of being reliant on someone else.
Not at all.
I like to be in control, thank you very much.
Is this what you are trying to teach me?
Or is it something else?
Is it about hospitality, learning to serve?
Is this what I need to learn?
But I’m a man!
It’s not my job to serve, to offer hospitality.
That’s a job for the women, the servants.
Not a man’s job!
Is this what you want us to do?

Yet here you are…
Here you are doing exactly that.
You, my Lord and Master, my friend and brother,
kneeling right here.
Are we to serve too?
Are we to do this to others?
You know, I don’t know if I can…
But if you can, then I must.
As you wash my feet,
I wonder who else you will do this to.
Will you do it to everyone, each one of us?
Surely not just me, Lord.
Will you do it to Judas?
Will you?
Are we to reach out to everyone?
To wash the feet of all?
The homeless?
The addict?
The diseased?
The weak and the hungry?
Those different from us?
Those from a different country?
Those from a different faith?
Surely not... them?
And then I see your eyes,
reflected in the water of the bowl.
And our eyes meet.
...Lord, ....I’m trying.
I’m really trying to understand.
Give me time and I’ll get it.
I know I will.
Just let me get my head round this awesome thing you’re asking of me.
Of us.
None of us are ready, Lord.
But we’ll try.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, let us serve you as you have served us.
*adapted from a piece by Ruth Innes

3rd Hymn/ The Servant King

You had little of your own to give, Lord.  
What money you had was probably a loan.  
What food you ate was usually given.  
What bed you had was always offered.  
Even your grand arrival was on a borrowed donkey.  
You had little of your own to give, Lord, and so you gave yourself instead. 
Accept our gratitude, embodied in these gifts;  
borne out of our bruised faith  and your unblemished faithfulness,  
for it is the least we can offer.  Amen.

The shadows have suddenly lengthened
and the time has come to leave behind
the bread half eaten
and the wine half drunk,
the taste of promise caught up in endings still sharp on our lips,
and to go deeper into the darkness
where heaven is handed over to the betrayer.
Indeed, as we have lingered here, the rush of the darkness has swept the light aside
and the night has already begun crush the light.
Let us go to the place where Jesus prays and the betrayer steals away the Prince of Peace...

4th READING/ Luke 22:39-53 Jesus prays, and his arrest

As you kneel there in the garden
in the coldness of the night,
and you contemplate the terror
of the quenching of the light,
do you think back to that garden –
and I speak now like a child –
to that perfect heaven,
which was our home,
that Paradise undefiled,
and remember how you trembled
with your love for this poor earth,
as you emptied all yourself
into that lowly stable birth:
the first step of a journey
through this world of sin and power,
on the path of loving service
which has brought you to this hour?

Do you remember how you left behind
that glorious world of light,
as you kneel there in the garden,
in the coldness of the night?
As you fall in prayer upon the grass
of dark Gethsemane,
are you thinking of that story
of the serpent and the tree?
Just a story known from childhood,
now rewritten in your life –
through the agony of temptation
and the sweat of inner strife.
As you ask if God is willing
to remove the cup of pain,
does the memory of Eden
steel your heart to think again,
and to bow before your calling
as the Father’s loving Son,
and to say in calm acceptance:
“not my will, but yours, be done?”
*by Peter Dainty

5th READING/ Luke 22:54-65 Peter disowns Jesus, Jesus is mocked

4th Hymn/ This is the night

6th READING/ Luke 22:66-71; 23:1-25 The Trial

purple cloth is hung over horizontal beam of Cross
7th READING/ Luke 23:26-43 The Crucifixion
during which, we sing ‘Jesu, Tawa Pano’ in the English version:
Jesus, we are here, Jesus, we are here, Jesus, we are here, we are here for you...

REFLECTION/ The Things He Carried: The Amazing Love Of God
How could he bear all those things?
The weight of the cross.
The piercing mockery of the crown of thorns.
The burden of the sin of the world.
The dashing of the hopes of his followers.
The crushing rejection.
Each a weight more deadly than the last.
How could he carry all that and still cry:
‘Father forgive’?
How could he carry all that
and still say to the thief:
‘This day you will be with me in paradise’?
How could he carry all that and,
on seeing his mother watching
with breaking heart, say,
‘Woman, your son’?
How could he carry all that and
in the depths of rejection cry,
‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
How could he carry all that and say,
‘I thirst’?
How could he carry all that and cry,
‘It is finished’?
How could he carry all that and, at the last, say,
‘Father into your hands I commend my Spirit’?
Bearing the weight of the cross,
the crown of thorns,
the sin of the world
the unfulfilled hopes
the rejection...
still Christ knew the amazing love of God
there for him and for us
there in the beginning and in the end:
all that he carried
was carried in the amazing love of God.
*adapted from Spill the Beans

If the cross tells us anything, O Lord,
it is that You know and share our suffering:
You are with us,
and all those who are victims of disease,
of the violence or abuse of others,
of our own ignorance, foolishness or sin.
Help us and restore us, O Lord, we pray.
You are with us,
and all those who inflict pain on others
and on our world,
through our selfishness or greed,
through our brokenness or anger,
through our rigidity or need to be right.
Help us and restore us, O Lord, we pray.
You are with us,
and all those who are fearful of threats
to this world we call home,
to our safety and survival,
to our sense of community
and togetherness as people.
Help us and restore us, O Lord, we pray.
You are with us, Lord,
and hear the cries of our heart –
and so, in quietness, we bring before you all
who are on our minds and in our hearts this day...
Silent personal prayer

Christ of the Cross,
See our need of Your grace,
Hear our prayer for Your mercy,
And come to us again, to help and restore,
because we cannot heal ourselves.

5th Hymn/ When I survey the wondrous cross
during which, purple cloth is removed from Cross
Cross is covered with black cloth...

8th READING/ Luke 23:44-56 Death and burial


6th Hymn/ What wondrous love is this?


The choice has been made, the way chosen,
the clash between humanity and love
comes to a head.
The story has been told,
so let us join the journey and
share that story:
of a God who can give no more so gives himself....
let us return to the world where we live
...carrying our crosses,
to wait and watch:
for a stone to be removed;
for the flame of hope to be re-lit;
...the hope that defies despair,
the life that defies death,
the beginning that defies the end.
While we wait,
remember... that no matter
how abandoned we may feel
we are not alone.
God has not, and will not, abandon us.
Thanks be to God.  
Let us go in peace,
to wait, to watch,
and to love and serve the Lord... Amen     

we leave in silence....