Sunday Worship, 18 April 2021

Welcome

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 6: 35

Watch our service here:

Hymn 416 Christ is alive! Let Christians sing

Opening Prayer

It is now two weeks since Easter:

 the holiday seems like a distant memory

 Easter eggs have been eaten

 or are now ‘Reduced to clear’ in the shops

 so that they can focus on something else

and it is easy to think that Easter has been put away till next year

Maybe there was an element of that among the disciples

 as they went home from Jerusalem

 as they left behind the scene of Jesus’ death and rising again

 as they went back to homes, families, work, daily routine

it was so easy to leave behind the pain of Good Friday

 and the joy of Easter

Jesus came to them in their ordinary, everyday places

 reminding them that he was always with them

 that he really was alive for ever

 that life could never be the same again

 that you called them to be Apostles

  to be witnesses to the ends of the earth

  to your Good News and love for people

We confess that at times we like to settle back into our routine

 to treat the amazing stories of your love and commitment

  as though they were decorations to go back in  abox

  till this time next year

But Jesus is alive!

He is risen from the dead!

Life cannot be the same again

We have Good News to take to the ends of the earth

By your Spirit fire us up to go an do that

Through Christ our Saviour we pray. Amen

All age time (for ages 0-100)

Has anyone taken the opportunity of travel restrictions being eased to visit somewhere, or someone outside their local authority area? I won’t ask where you went! It’s good to have that sense of freedom. We are also looking forward to further restrictions being lifted later this month or next. Some of us are looking forward to staying away somewhere, some are looking forward to meeting up indoors, some are looking forward to shops, cafés and restaurants reopening, some are looking forward to travel over the Scottish border.

  • Using your fingers if necessary, can you think of 10 places you would like to go, either with the current easing of travel restrictions, or with those promised for a week on Monday? (eg go to Oban, the Borders, the Isle of Man, Inverness)
  • Again, with fingers if necessary, can you think of 10 things you’d like to do, either with the current easing of travel restrictions, or with those promised for a week on Monday? (eg see relatives in Aberdeen or Ayr, going shopping at Braehead, have a swim, have a coffee with friends, or go out for lunch to a specific restaurant that you like)
  • What do you think God would like you to do when current restrictions are eased?
  • What do you think God wants his Church to do when current restrictions are eased?

Bible reading

Luke 24: 36b-48

Hymn 443 He is Lord

Reflection

[Meeting with Ian Jackson in Salford] I’m sure many of you will have your own story about being suddenly dropped in at the deep end, and having to do something for which you feel ill-prepared.

I suspect the disciples felt a bit like that after the encounter with the Risen Jesus we heard about this morning. As well as confronting them with his risen presence, and a whole lot of Bible texts (remembering that they probably couldn’t read and wouldn’t have a Bible at home) he drops in this little bit at the end – by the way, you are my witnesses for the world to these things. We’re what? Me? Us? They had largely been roadies till now, who went along as a sort of ready-made crowd, enjoying the stories and the magic, seeing different bits of the country, and getting to try Martha’s home-baking. Jesus was the one in charge, who decided where they were going, did the talking, came up with the answers, could work the magic, and basically did most of the work.

Now they were going to have to do things themselves, and that must have been a shock. They could barely get their heads round the idea that he had risen from the dead, let alone wrestle with arguments from Jewish Scripture. They might require the latter if they got involved in arguments with well-educated Jews who would have none of this Risen Jesus stuff. And then what if they got caught up in disputes with people who had had a Greek-style education, and were able to quote the works of great philosophers? There was a whole lot they didn’t understand themselves. They had their own hard questions, for which they didn’t seem to have answers. So how on earth could they possibly be witnesses to the whole world?

Despite all that Jesus sent them out: the disciples became the Apostles. They had been hangers-on, now they were the leaders. They were the ones people looked to for guidance and information. The story they told became the core story of the church. They didn’t study for a degree, they didn’t go on special courses, there was no guidance on public speaking, project planning or management skills. They were simply themselves, with their own collection of skills, experiences and weaknesses – but willing to do what Jesus asked of them, and helped by his Spirit to discover strengths they never knew they had. For all their weaknesses, faults and short-comings it is likely that within a decade of Easter there were Christian groups as far away as Rome, and over the next generation they sprang up in many communities around the Eastern Mediterranean. They simply tried to be what Jesus asked of them: witnesses to what they had seen and experienced.

Most of the Apostles probably died within a generation of Easter, but their work laid the basis of the church’s witness and mission for all the years since. Their legacy lived on in the people who followed after them. We are their heirs for the 2020s and 2030s. It is to us that Jesus has committed the task of witnessing to the folk in Dumbarton. If we don’t do it, will the church still be here in 10 or 20 years? It isn’t a role reserved for ministers, or theologians, or people taken on specially by 121 or the Vatican. It’s a job given by Jesus to every one of us.

  • We can ask for God’s help to strive towards living by his standards and values. We live in a world where dishonesty, injustice, corruption and the like are not only widespread but accepted and at times applauded. Being recognised by others as people who are honest, trust-worthy, who don’t spread gossip or rumour, don’t bad-mouth people, who are caring and considerate in their treatment of others, is an important witness – and it is surprising how many will notice. You don’t need a PhD to be honest, or understand quantum physics to be trust-worthy – it’s something we can all strive for
  • There was a lot the Apostles didn’t understand, but they didn’t just leave it at that. They were ready to study on their own and together, to wrestle with problems and have disagreements. Maybe that is something we need to think about. Yes, it’s harder when you get older and you feel embarrassed to admit that there are things you don’t know, and it’s harder to try to learn things than it was a generation or two ago. But we are never too old to learn new things. There are books available to help us understand the Bible better, to help us when praying to put our feelings into words. There are books and DVDs that can help us look at some of the questions that we and others have. What can we as the Church of Scotland in Dumbarton do to help our own folk and people outside the church learn about Jesus, and consider some of the hard questions? We’re looking at trying to have something like new members’ class material online. Have you any thoughts on what else we could do using electronic media? We tried Lent Studies on Zoom, and they were appreciated by those who took part. What else should we be looking at, and thinking about?
  • And without carrying a soap-box around, we have to be ready to admit that we are Christians, go to church, and here is what we think. We grew up in a world where people knew the story of Jesus, even if they didn’t go to church. We grew up in a world where it wasn’t the ‘done thing’ to talk about religion. Most folk now have no real understanding of religion in general or Christianity in particular – though they may have heard snippets from people of more extreme views within the Christian tradition. The Moslems aren’t going to tell the world about the Risen Jesus, nor will Jews, Buddhists, atheists or any other such group. It is to us, all of us, that he has committed the task, and we have to be ready, like the Apostles to do what we asks us to do – while at the same time being ourselves

Prayers for others

Heavenly Father

You have sent us out to be witnesses in the world

 to your love and your Good News

We aren’t very confident about it

 we have doubts and questions of our own

 we aren’t sure how to answer the hard questions other people ask

 there is a lot that we don’t know

help us to know what to do

 to trust in your presence and strength with us

 to grow to know you better

we pray for all who are ill,

those who look after them

 and those who worry about them

those waiting for or receiving treatment

 and those for whom there is no treatment

those who are lonely, feeling down, or grieving a friend or loved one

those who are worried about home, work or money

 a friend or a relative

those who are living with the after-effects of natural disasters

those who do not have enough to eat, or somewhere to call home

those who long to live in peace and safety

those who have fled from their homes seeking safety

We pray for the Queen, the Government

 all in positions of leadership in this and every land

We pray for you church

 the worldwide church

 the wider church in Dumbarton

 our own congregation

help us always to be faithful to Jesus our Lord

We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us

And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us

Hymn 412 The strife is o’er

Blessing

Christ was raised from the dead

by the glorious power of the Father.

Set out, then, on a new life with Christ,

 And the blessing of God Almighty.

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