Sunday Guided Tour - Third Sunday of Easter - April 26, 2020.

Here is the link to the U - Tube worship service 

                       Read the text below at your leisure or follow along with Rev. Jim and and Rick Young - Music Director

                                                                         

                                                                                     https://youtu.be/Ub5HAVAek1w

                                       You can also access this at Facebook : Friends of TrinityUnitedChurchThorold.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our Sunday Guided Tour here at Trinity.  Hopefully, you are comfortable and well, and you can experience this weekly service as a way of being together in spirit, though, in body, at some distance.

 

Please join with me as we begin with prayer:

Loving God, the world confronts us.  Every day, it seems, we’re challenged by conundrums and confusion; we’re unsettled by distancing and distortions and displacements; the world we thought we understood appears to be unravelling at the seams.  We so easily could lose our grounding and our place.  But you are with us.  You hold us close, and give us life.  You are our rock and shield when all around is sliding.  You are with us even when we walk toward that which seems so dark.  Help us this day in faith to see you clearly, and to follow you with confidence as you walk the ways of life, for us and all the world.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

When Morning Gilds the SkiesHymn #339

The readings for today are instructive and insightful and, on reflection, a guide to how we understand and walk the way of faith.  Also, this morning we are going to hear a passage from 1st Peter.  Rarely, at Trinity, do we read from the Epistles (the letters of Paul) or from the other letters in the New Testament.  That’s because, for me, the Epistles provide a very different sort of Christian message than the Good News of the Gospel that comes from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

 

The Epistles were addressed to the Gentiles  /  the Greco-Roman world in which the established concept of God was a product of philosophical thought, and not the God revealed to us in the life and death and witness of the One we know as Jesus.  I hope our Guided Tour will offer insights.  

 

Please join with me in our prayer for illumination.  Let us pray:

Gracious Holy Spirit, guide us in the ways and wonder of your love, that we might respond as faithful souls to Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me.”  This we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

The first reading we hear this morning comes to us from the Book of Acts.  

As we heard last week, the author of the Book of Acts is Luke, and the Gospel reading we soon will hear has been authored also by the gospel-writer Luke.  The conclusion we can draw from this is that the perspectives of the Book of Acts and Luke will be the same  -  that Jesus is the risen Christ, and that healing and forgiveness and redemption are the promise in Christ’s name.  

 

The Psalm we hear this morning reflects the promise of that same perspective:  that God meets us in our need, and loves and saves us.

 

And then we have the Letter of 1st Peter.  As I have said, I believe that letter prescribes a different kind of Christian message and approach.  The Letter of 1st Peter commends to us a way of life I think is foreign to the Good News that is Jesus, the Christ of God, but in its very contrast, we can hear a message that makes clear to us the Good News that is Jesus and so human, and the hope of life for all.

 

Hear first the message of the author Luke in Acts.  In the reading, we hear Peter speaking to the crowd after the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus:

 

[Rick:]

Acts 2:14a, 36-41  (New International Version)

Three Thousand new followers of the Way

Peter stood up with the other disciples, raised his voice, and addressed the crowd:  “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers and sisters, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off  -  for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

 

[Jim:]

“Repent and be baptized,” says Peter, “every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Repent:  (three senses to the word:) turn away, turn around, return  -  return to life, and relationship with one another and with God; 

to our humanity in common; 

to recognition of the single spirit that unites us; 

to the Eden of our hope before dissent; 

to the holy that is ours in heart, and ours with one another .. 

Repent, says Luke in Acts in Peter’s lips, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit  -  that’s not to say the Holy Spirit is foreign, and outside us, and beyond us.   We know that,  because Jesus himself has said the kingdom is within you  /  the Spirit is within us  //  As you did it to the least of these, he says, You did it to me.  I am with you and among you and within you ... the gift of the Holy Spirit is that we realize and recognize the Spirit is within us!  

In Jesus raised from death we’re given life and light and freedom so we can see!

 

It’s exactly the same message that comes to us the story of Emmaus:  

two travellers, travelling with the risen Christ, but unaware it’s Christ walking there beside them and conversing.

 

Introduction to the reading:

Open My yes, That I May See.  Hymn #371

Luke 24:13-35.   (New International Version)

Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus

Now on that day of resurrection, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about eleven kilometers from Jerusalem.  They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.  As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast.  One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.  The religious authorities and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.  And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us.  They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body.  They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.  Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

 

The Lord said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, the Risen Lord explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.  But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.  There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true!  The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”  Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

 

[Jim:]

In the breaking of the bread, they knew!

In the breaking of the bread, they saw; they recognized; they understood!  

In the breaking of the bread, they realized the risen Lord was with them  - and their whole life was restored.  It’s the same for every Christian person at Communion.

 

The traveller, the risen Christ, had been with them all along.  The gift had been with them along the way.  They hadn’t had to do a thing to make it happen.  

They only had to see; and in the breaking of the bread, their eyes and hearts and souls were opened, and their whole life was restored, renewed, made whole, and healed.  

It’s what Peter, too, was saying.  The Holy Spirit was received in recognition.  

The Spirit had been always there; all the people had to do was know and see, and in the risen Christ, they could!  In the risen Christ, their lives had been restored, renewed; and in the psalm, we maybe hear the heart of their response:

 

[Rick and Jim:]

Congregational Reading:  Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19. (New International Version)

How can I repay you, God?

Rick:    I love you, Lord, for you heard my voice;

             you heard my cry for mercy.

Jim:     Because you turned your ear to me,

             I will call on you as long as I live.

Rick:    The cords of death entangled me,

             the anguish of the grave came over me;

             I was overcome by distress and sorrow.

Jim:     Then I called on the name of the Lord:

             “Lord, save me!”

Rick:    What shall I return to you Lord

             for all your goodness to me?

Jim:      I will lift up the cup of salvation

             and call on the name of the Lord.

            I will fulfill my vows to you Lord

             in the presence of all your people.

Rick:   Precious in your sight, Lord

             is the death of your faithful servants.

Jim:     Truly I am your servant, Lord;

             I serve you just as my mother did;

            you have freed me from my chains.

Rick:    I will sacrifice a thank offering to you

             and call on your name, O Lord.

Jim:     I will fulfill my vows to you Lord

             in the presence of all your people,

             in the courts of the house of the Lord  -

             in your midst, Jerusalem.

             Hallelujah!

 

Sung Response:         #179, verse 4 and refrain

             Hallelujah, hallelujah.

             Give thanks to the risen Christ;

             hallelujah, hallelujah!

             Give praise to God's name.

             Come let us praise the living God,

             joyfully sing to our Saviour.     R

 

The psalmist speaks thanksgiving and deep joy  -  for freedom and deliverance and gifts freely given .. gifts without condition; the gifts of life and life restored in God. 

 

Ministry of Music  -  Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

The final reading for today is 1st Peter 1:17-23.  It seems at odds with what we hear in gospel and in Acts and in the Psalm.  The message actually seems demanding, and conditional  -  not free or freeing or life-giving.  And that, of course, is likely, because the letter that’s 1st Peter is not Gospel.  It’s scripture, to be sure, but it’s not Gospel.  The letter of 1st Peter’s is interpretation.  It’s the attempt made by the author to understand the meaning of the life and death of Jesus, and the resurrection.  

 

But the author of 1st Peter is neither Galilean nor someone who knew Jesus face-to face.  He’s a follower, a convert, a Gentile, a believer, probably Roman.  He knows new life and life made new, but the pathway he prescribes to find it is contextual, a product of the times and his condition, and not eternal!  

 

Hear now the passage from 1st Peter, and keep in mind the freedom and the freeing of the Gospel!

 

1 Peter 1:17-23 (New International Version)

Souls purified through obedience

17    Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in                      reverent fear.

18   For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty              way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without                      blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your              sake.

21   Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in          God.

22   Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one                another deeply, from the heart [or from a pure heart]. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of        imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 

So ends the reading.

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially,” says 1st Peter .  It sounds like a condition, an assessment, a decision for each person based on their merits.  But that’s not Gospel; because God’s judgment always is for love.  God’s judgment always is for love and life and healing and forgiveness; and the life and death and resurrection of Christ Jesus is the Gospel proof!

 

“You have been redeemed,” says 1st Peter, “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”  Redemption in the one we know as Christ is certain, that’s for sure.  In Christ, we’re not consumed by death or wrong or hurt or by misgiving; we’re not lost or without hope or strength.  As Luke has Peter saying in the Book of Acts, we are baptized into the resurrection of the Living Christ; and as we see it, and embrace it, we find our lives renewed again, and time and time again.

  

By his own words, though, Christ was never lamb, but Shepherd.  And neither was he immutable or omnipotent.  He laughed with those who laughed, and wept with those who wept.  He got angry.  He felt fear.  In the wilderness, when tempted by the devil, he rejected the perfections of the God of the philosophers.  He was human, he declared, vulnerable to hunger and to weakness and to pain.  Vulnerable to agony and empathy and to grief.  

And faithful  - utterly, completely  -  in his love for God and all his fellow beings.  Faithful to his love of life for all.

 

The Gentile way, the way that was 1st Peter, was the way of philosophical perfection: the way of good and evil in their opposites; the way of mind and spirit over body and the crassness of the flesh; the way of perfect over imperfection.  But Jesus’ way was wholeness.  

 

For Jesus, perfection meant the way of wholeness and completeness  -  good and bad, strong and weak, joy and sorrow, faith and doubt  -  all of it together  -  all of it together being human, and the promise he is with us every moment, every step along the way.  

If purified for 1st Peter means perfection  -  without blemish, without stain, without fault at all  -  the author has it wrong.  Because perfection for the Living Christ is wholeness: life in all its fullness  - right and wrong in every way, in body and in soul, with the promise of forgiveness and redemption and life made new in the strength of Resurrection. 

 

 And the author of 1st Peter in the very end might have it right:  “You have been born again,” he says, “not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”  If he means we have been born again     by recognition of the risen Christ among us and beside us and within; 

born again by recognition of the Word of God as the One who was born among us  -  full of grace and truth and promise   full of hope and help and strength; born again in the experience of acceptance and forgiveness  - he’s got it right.  Because the risen Christ is here for us:  undaunted, un-dissuaded, empathetic; giving strength and understanding; bringing us together in ways that heal and offer promise and new hope. 

 

This morning and this day we know the best of hope and promise that is life  -  

life that’s ours together, and the soul of One who has been raised to life and brings us into grace and new communion for the life of all the world.

 

This is the promise of the scriptures we call holy;

this is the promise of the life we find in faith.

Thanks be to God!

 

Commissioning and Benediction:

       Oh Lord, open the windows of our mind

       and fill us full of light.

       Open wide the door of our heart

       that you may come in and abide with us forever.

       Oh Lord, shine upon our minds as the sun shines upon the trees;

       and as they lift up their branches to your light

       so may we lift up our hearts to your love.

       May the love of the Lord Jesus

       draw you closer to himself and to one another.

       May the power of the Lord Jesus

       make you better able to serve him day by day.

       May the joy of the Lord Jesus ever fill your heart.

       And may the blessing of God  -  the Father, Son and Holy Spirit  -

       abide with you forever.  Amen.

Blessed Assurance.   Hymn #337

Please Pray for One Another. - Pastoral Prayer for April 26

A Prayer during times of COVD-19, by the Right Rev. Richard Bott, Moderator, The United Church of Canada

 

In this time of COVID-19, we pray:

When we aren't sure, God,

help us be calm;

when information comes

from all sides, correct and not,

help us to discern;

when fear makes it hard to breathe,

and anxiety seems to be the order of the day,

slow us down, God;

help us to reach out with our hearts,

when we can't touch with our hands;

help us to be socially connected,

when we have to be socially distant;

help us to love as perfectly as we can,

knowing that "perfect love casts out all fear."

For the doctors, we pray,

for the nurses, we pray,

for the technicians and the janitors and the

aides and the caregivers, we pray,

for the researchers and theorists,

the epidemiologists and investigators,

for those who are sick,

and those who are grieving, we pray,

for all who are affected,

all around the world...

we pray

for safety,

for health,

for wholeness.

 

May we feed the hungry,

give drink to the thirsty,

clothe the naked and house those without homes;

may we walk with those who feel they are alone,

and may we do all that we can to heal

the sick—

in spite of the epidemic,

in spite of the fear.

 

Help us, O God,

that we might help each other.

 

In the love of the Creator,

in the name of the Healer,

in the life of the Holy Spirit that is in all and with all,

we pray.

 

May it be so.

Trinity United Church Thorold 

905-227-4644  /  tuc@vaxxine.ca