Sunday Worship 26th April 2020

Welcome to worship! Our service today uses the format that would have been used in the Husthwaite Worship for All service. This is a monthly service which is planned and led by a team of congregation members. They do a great job and I’m really pleased to be able to include a flavour of this worship. When we are all back in our church buildings again you would be welcome to come along and join them.

If this is your first time joining us on a Sunday, I hope you will find a way to meet God through these words and this music. You are joining in with a dispersed community of people whose faith is alive.

Do get in touch if you would like to take part in future weeks, whether that is recording part of the service or writing something.

Let us worship God:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Hymn – All my hope on God is founded

The Lord be with you
and also with you.

This is the day that the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Lord, direct our thoughts,
and teach us to pray.
Lift up our hearts to worship you in spirit and in truth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Setting the scene

It is often hard to know how people will react in an unusual situation. Sometimes people who you think will panic suddenly find strength, sometimes those who you thought could cope with anything are at a loss. As we deal with our current situation, I wonder whether you have surprised yourself.

Imagine you were there at Jerusalem for that first Easter, that you had followed Jesus all the way there and watched him die. What would you have done next? Would you have hidden? Would you have pretended not to know him? Would you have gone on with your life and travelled? Today we hear the story of what happened to two of his followers.

Confession

God our Father,
we come to you in sorrow for our sins.
For turning away from you,
and ignoring your will for our lives;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

For behaving just as we wish,
without thinking of you;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

For failing you by what we do
and think and say;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

For letting ourselves be drawn away from you
by temptations in the world about us;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

For living as if we were ashamed to belong to your Son;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

Praise

Blessed is the Lord
for he has heard the voice of our prayer;
therefore shall our hearts dance for joy
and in our song we will praise our God.

Reading – Acts 2: 14a, 36-41

You may also like to have a look at the Psalm and the other New Testament reading for today: Psalm 116 and 1 Peter 1: 17-23

Hymn – The Strife is O’er

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
Now is the Victor’s triumph won;
O let the song of praise be sung.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Death’s mightiest powers have done their worst,
And Jesus hath his foes dispersed;
Let shouts of praise and joy outburst.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

On the third morn he rose again
Glorious in majesty to reign;
O let us swell the joyful strain.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

He brake the age-bound chains of hell;
The bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
Let hymns of praise his triumph tell.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Lord, by the stripes which wounded thee
From death’s dread sting thy servants free,
That we may live, and sing to thee.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Words: Latin 17th Century translated by Francis Pott (1832-1909)

Reading – Luke 24:13-35

Sermon

Our sermon today is a reflection written by Guy Wilson, one of the congregation at Husthwaite.

If the embedded audio doesn’t work, you can go directly to it from here.

I was due to lead the family service at Husthwaite this coming weekend, but instead can only share a few thoughts remotely with you. The last time I was asked to lead a service was, by the Church’s calendar, exactly three years ago, so the readings are just the same now as then. But the times are very different. So I have been reflecting on what I said then about the set readings and what they now say to me. The Gospel reading is that most wonderful and enigmatic story of the encounter that two of the disciples had on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35). And it was entirely on that story that I concentrated in 2017. But in these most difficult of times the first thing that strikes me is the need to put that story in the context of the other three selected texts for this week. And these all talk of troubled times. Peter (Acts 2: 14a, 36-41) seeks to convince a crowd that the person they have just crucified is the Messiah for whom they had long prayed (not a comfortable message). The Psalmist (Psalm 116) recalls a recent time when he was alarmed and fearful, when “the cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me (and which of us has not felt similarly ensnared in the last few weeks?). And finally, Peter, again (1 Peter 1: 17-23) reminds members of churches suffering persecution of the perishability of all earthly things and the emptiness of “the way of life handed down to you from your ancestors”(a message that perhaps chimes with us just now in our world turned upside down). All these passages help set the scene for the story of the encounter on the road to Emmaus when the risen Christ journeys with two disciples, unrecognised until he breaks bread with them in the evening. What a wonderful story it is, however you interpret it, in whatever sense you believe it.

Those two disciples travelling away from Jerusalem were, just like us today, sad beyond sadness, confused beyond confusion: we because a tiny, invisible thing has changed our whole way of life and brought the reality of death so much closer; they because their joy and trust in their teacher, Jesus, had been shattered by his brutal and untimely death. They, like us, were shaken to their foundations, and they were running away, journeying home, to try to pick up their shattered lives. And then, somehow, something amazing happened. They met someone on the road and, through that meeting, they came to know, not to believe, but to know, that they were wrong, that their despair was misplaced, that somehow, Jesus was still with them and that he always would be. That is what I talked about three years ago and that message of hope is surely even more important to us right now.

But something else strikes me now about that story and that is that the disciples did not recognise Jesus. Well, after all, he was dead, they had probably seen him die, so why should they recognise him now, when he had left them for good? They were still living in the old reality and had not yet come to terms with the new. How many times in recent weeks have we suddenly come up against the new reality that has so changed our lives? It’s difficult to think differently, to act differently, to change a lifetime of manners and social interactions in a blink of an eye. But that is what we are having to do. And in the process, amidst all the blackness and pain, are we not, if we open ourselves to it, learning a “new” reality, or perhaps rather re-learning and remembering the importance of things that in our past busy existence we either took for granted or did not value sufficiently? How much more now do we value the warm brush of sunlight on our skin, now that we are not supposed to be outside so much? How much more do we value the love and companionship of our families now we are physically separated from them? How much more valuable does a hug seem now we can’t embrace the people we most want to in their time of need? In our kitchen we’ve a plaque inscribed “Family: where life begins and love never ends.” It’s never seemed truer or been more poignant than now. So let us hope that some good comes from our present troubles. Let us hope when all this current turmoil ends we will not quite go back to where we were and what we were, but that we’ll all be changed, a little, for the better. More loving, more caring, more grateful, more open. Open? Yes, open to change, open to new things, open to new possibilities, always expecting the unexpected, and ready to see Christ wherever he appears and in whatever disguise. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were not at first open. For some time they failed to recognise Christ, but once they did their world suddenly righted itself, their fear and despair dropped from them and, instead of running away, they turned around and went back to Jerusalem and told the other disciples the great good news.

Let us hope in a few months’ time we can do the same. And to help us, the story of the Road to Emmaus has another message, which was given wonderful poetic form by TS Elliott in The Wasteland:

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
– But who is that on the other side of you?”

Of course, we know from the beginning of the story who that third person is who walks beside them. And he walks beside us, too… even now, no, especially now. Those disciples were in shock, all their hopes had been dashed. We, too, are in shock, all our hopes for the future turned upside down by fears for the present. But Christ is at our shoulder, too, walking beside us, waiting for us to recognise him and let him in. When those disciples realised who was with them, they suddenly knew. They didn’t just believe, they knew. They knew that they had been wrong and Jesus right, that he was with them and always would be. They knew they were held by a love that would never let them go. And that knowledge turned them round and changed their lives. That same presence is always with us, too. We, too, are held by a love that will never let us go. And that knowledge can surely give us the courage, both to get through our present difficulties, and then to step back out into the world able to expect the unexpected, open to change, open to new things, open to new possibilities, always expecting the unexpected, and ready to see Christ wherever he appears.

Affirmation of Faith

Do you believe and trust in God the Father,
source of all being and life,
the one for whom we exist?
We believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Son,
who took our human nature,
died for us and rose again?
We believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the people of God
and makes Christ known in the world?
We believe and trust in him.

This is the faith of the Church.
This is our faith.
We believe and trust in one God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Hymn – Now the green blade rises

Intercessions

Our intercessions this week take inspiration from the road to the cross. Thanks to Holy Nativity Church, Mixenden in Halifax for creating these and sharing them.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord:
thanks be to God.
Blessing, honour and glory be yours,
here and everywhere,
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

A service from New Patterns for Worship. Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.