Sunday 31st May – Readings John ch 14 v 15-17 & 25-27 Acts ch 2 v 1-8

On this Pentecost Sunday the focus is on the concept of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

This concept sometimes makes some uneasy, and they have difficulty talking on this topic because of images of “speaking in tongues” and other so-called manifestations of the Spirit.

In staying away from this topic, we miss a vital and important aspect of the work of the Church.

That is what this Scripture is about, as Jesus talks with his disciples prior to his departure and declares that his Spirit will continue on with them—and us—to continue his work.

What is this work of Christ? First, it’s the work of reconciliation. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.”

What we proclaim is reconciliation: reconciliation with God, for without reconciliation with God there is no other reconciliation possible; reconciliation with our own true self, created in God’s image; and reconciliation with our brothers and sisters, in the Gospel we hear, “If you love me, keep my commandments; and I will ask the Father and He will give you another helper.”

In other words, there is only one test of love, and that test is obedience. But obedience is not easy, just as loving is not always easy.

But Jesus is saying, “I will not leave you in your struggle alone.” This is where he says I will send you a comforter, but in some translation is “Helper.”  Obedience is not easy; we are not left alone.

Often we hear and know of people talking about not being able to cope or about having difficulty coping with one thing or another. This is what Jesus is giving us when he speaks of this gift of the Spirit or the anointing of the Spirit—we will be able to cope with the difficulties and challenges of life.

 Jesus saying in this way: “I am setting you a hard task, and I am sending you out on an engagement very difficult. But I am going to send you someone, the Helper, who will guide you in what to do and who will make you able to do it.

The Holy Spirit will bring you truth and you are able to cope with the battle for the truth.”

 This anointing of the Spirit is also to be anointed with the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit of Truth given to the Church is the living presence, wisdom, power, and love that Christ brought to the world.

When we have received the “anointing” of the Spirit, our minds are opened.

Sometimes we wonder why some minds seemed closed and unwilling to see and hear truth.

 Could it be that we have not been open in prayer to receive the promises that Christ made to us and to receive the Spirit?

 How often have we prayed to be filled with the Spirit and included in that prayer the need to know the truth?

As we read through the New Testament we begin to see, little by little, how the followers were beginning to see and apply the truths of Christ.

 That is the Spirit at work. The anointing of the Spirit helps us to “open our eyes,” This is a prayer for the Spirit to be with us during our daily living, to be able to apply the lessons and spirit of Christ to our daily lives, to help us overcome sin and grow as Christians.

So when we are anointed by the Spirit, our minds are enlightened, and we are given strength for service. Conclusion: obedience and service are not easy.

 Loving is not always easy; reconciliation is often difficult.

 But as it often is in daily life, knowing that we are not alone as we go through challenges of daily Christian living, the Spirit of the Living Christ is with us.

 We must not just think that the gift of the Spirit is just for special occasions or special times of worship.

The Spirit that Christ is speaking about is with us at all times to offer guidance, strength, hope.

In the field of mental health we often talk about a healthy person as one who is able to be intimate, that is, one who can open up to another person and get close.

Or we might say the person has awareness—is aware of his or her own strengths and weaknesses and impact on others, whether negative or positive.

Or we might say a healthy person is one who has spontaneity, meaning the person is not stuck in a rut but is open to seeing things differently and responding differently.

 I believe this is close to what Jesus is calling us to when he says the Holy Spirit will be with you.

He is saying that we are willing to be intimate with his Spirit and open ourselves to him, that we seek to become more aware of our strengths and needs so that we can respond better to the leading of God’s Spirit, and, finally, that we are called to be more spontaneous in our living, meaning we are not stuck in only one way of experiencing life, or God, or ourselves and others.

 Jesus is saying his Spirit is with us.

It is part of his promise to us.

But we must be aware of our strengths and needs; we must desire to be closer in our walk, and we must be willing to step “outside the box” in spontaneity to follow his Spirit. We have stepped out of our comfort zone of going to church but God’s spirit is still with us as we worship from home.

Sunday 24th May – Luke 24:44-53

Luke 24:44-53

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Reflection

Once again today, as we look at the Ascension of Jesus, we are drawn to words. But along with the words we are given explanation of them by Jesus and guidance on understanding them. ‘Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.’ We are taken one step further as we now have something visual to interpret. ‘While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.’

In every sense as 21st Century Christians we find ourselves in an in-between zone. We are people who live in space and time with our feet on the ground, while recognising that there is more than ‘this’.

We are also, in Christ, redeemed people who know eternal truths and have our eyes set on the Kingdom.

Normally we like to know where we are. We enjoy that stability of at least being able to convince ourselves that we are in control. This page of history that is being written now, today, is our current living state. Many are feeling somewhat short of any sense of security. Never mind security for tomorrow; families and single people, those with some wealth and those with none, from our youngest children to our oldest members of our communities, all are wondering what next as we live through this in-between zone.

Our reading may help us to stop putting our sense of security in things that we have influence over and allow us to understand better that God’s underpinning is the only security that we have, or that is worth having.

The other day when on a conference call with some minister colleagues it was said that this moment in time was more of an Exodus than an Exile. For most of us ‘Exodus’ is a ‘going out’, being on a journey that will lead to a different place. Whilst Exile is more about being away from the normal for a while before returning to the same place from where you set off. I think in the main I go along with that but there also that tensions of taken with you to the new place that which is of value and worth and dear to you. In essence taking with you who you are as a people. Therefor in both things there is a going out and also a coming in. Perhaps we could and should, speak of ‘coming into’ the wilderness where the relationship with God is strengthened and a people’s identity is formed. Maybe it is not so much about the leaving but more about the arriving, although leaving has to happen, if we don’t leave somewhere we will never arrive anywhere. Across the generations many have been fearful of all and any change, whether that be journeying out of the comfort zones or journeying into those unknown as yet unseen new places. This is equally true of life’s journey in general terms but increasingly as we journey further through this pandemic I am tying more threads onto the tapestry of a faith journey too. Over the past few weeks I have been reassured greatly of God’s presence with us in all of this and how his word has a place in this season of change and this in-between zone we are witnesses to.

In our going out there is always also a coming in. Coming in to another realm or zone or environment.

We were taken into virus lockdown but there are plans being made that will lead us out of lockdown. 

We go out of the darkness and come into light. We go out of the cold and into the warmth.

We go out of the house and into the street. Jesus is taken out of the physical world, as he is taken from them but in that taking out so too Jesus is taken in, into his Eternal Home of Heaven, were once more all of us will be at home. I read a story the other day about a woman who as a result of the virus was facing financial hardship. “I’ll just have to battle my way through it” she said. A friend suggested she should speak to a debt advisor. “Oh I am a survivor I don’t need others to fight my battles” she declared.

Another friend added “a member of the local life-boat crew once observed that most of the survivors he knew were folk who grabbed a lifeline when it was thrown rather than deciding to keep swimming!”  

Living in an in-between zone with our feet on the ground, there is more than ‘this’.

In Christ we are a redeemed people who know eternal truths and have our eyes set on the Kingdom.

Sunday 17th May – Genesis 22:1-14

Genesis 22:1-14

Some time later God tested Abraham; he called to him, “Abraham!” And Abraham answered, “Yes, here I am!” “Take your son,” God said, “your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go to the land of Moriah. There on a mountain that I will show you, offer him as a sacrifice to me.” Early the next morning Abraham cut some wood for the sacrifice, loaded his donkey, and took Isaac and two servants with him. They started out for the place that God had told him about. On the third day Abraham saw the place in the distance. Then he said to the servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there and worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham made Isaac carry the wood for the sacrifice, and he himself carried a knife and live coals for starting the fire. As they walked along together,Isaac spoke up, “Father!” He answered, “Yes, my son?” Isaac asked, “I see that you have the coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”Abraham answered, “God himself will provide one.” And the two of them walked on together.When they came to the place which God had told him about, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. He tied up his son and placed him on the altar, on top of the wood.Then he picked up the knife to kill him. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” He answered, “Yes, here I am.”“Don’t hurt the boy or do anything to him,” he said. “Now I know that you honour and obey God, because you have not kept back your only son from him.”  Abraham looked around and saw a ram caught in a bush by its horns. He went and got it and offered it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Abraham named that place “The Lord Provides.” And even today people say, “On the Lord’s mountain he provides.”

Reflection

We have spent some time over the last few Sunday mornings looking at words and how we use or understand them. The experience of Abraham serves as a good example of how we need to be sure of what it is we are hearing. It would seem that in today’s world word understanding or interpretation has taken on an even more important role for our lives. As we sift through that which is guidance and that which is instruction then mix in some media interpretation many are left wondering, What is it I am actually hearing? and how all of a sudden Is the message not as clear as it once was? But yet the message has not changed. Do you remember that game Chinese whispers? Someone whispers a story into the ear of another. Then the story is passed round a group of people each one taking it in turns to whisper into the ear of the next person. When the last person repeats out loud the story they have been told it is often so very different from the original. We must be careful what we say about others and we must be careful what we hear. Especially when we are listening for God’s voice, his instruction for our lives. Is what we are hearing in tune with the nature of God as revealed through Jesus when he says, ‘Let anyone who has ears to hear listen.’ How important it is that we are sure of what we hear. Confusion often leads to a quest for meaning that takes us to lots of places we need not ever visit. Ultimately we must choose and we must decide where our stand will be for each of us and all of us need to stand somewhere. It is important that we do not get our signals mixed up and our wires crossed. There are times when survival relies on sacrifice. The experience of Abraham serves as a good example of how we need to be sure of what it is we are hearing. What an inner struggle must have been going on in Abraham’s mind and heart. In today’s world we would be appalled and outraged that a man was ready to sacrifice his son. From a contemporary viewpoint the text presents us with a few problems and questions to ask. Why did Abraham think this is what God wanted him to do? Old Canaanite religion demanded that men should give their first born for their transgression, the fruit of their body for the sin of their soul. Men cowered before gods that they did not know. No cost was too great to appease the awful demands which ignorance, superstition and a onsciousness of sin, made upon them. Perhaps Abraham had witnessed such rites. And there is another question. If God did indeed speak to Abraham, at what point in this unfolding drama did it happen?

It could be argued it was at the point of no return as he raised his knife over Isaac’s trembling body.

How tragic the outcome if Abraham had not been listening for the word of God. There are times when survival relies on sacrifice. Wisdom is determining what sacrifice is being asked of you. Not being in Church, not being with friends and neighbours, not being able to cuddle a parent, a child, a grandchild, these are sacrifices we are making for the greater good of all God’s children. In this passage Abraham is portrayed as the supreme model of one who has faith and is obedient to God, It is the assurance of an unwavering faith. Even when asked to do the one thing that might seem to make deliverance impossible, if you dare to do it, God will always be as good as his word. As the hymn writer writes, ‘His truth at all times firmly stood, and shall from age to age endure’. Taken from Psalm 100

Heart and Soul 2020 – Sunday, 17th May – 2.00pm – 4.20pm

Heart and Soul 2020 – Sunday, 17th May – 2.00pm – 4.20pm

I am certain that by now you will have heard of the very special service to install Rev Dr Martin Fair as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on Saturday 16th May at 11am. This will be a very special moment in the history of our Church, and will also be an event where we can be assured of hope and inspiration in these challenging times.

We’re delighted to announce, as part of that ‘Big Weekend’ for the Church of Scotland, a special ‘Heart and Soul 2020′ event will take place (online) on 17th May 2020. The current crisis has meant that the original event, scheduled to have taken place in Princes Street Gardens on that day, has had to be cancelled.

However, a number of features from the event in Princes Street Gardens can be transferred into an online format, and we’re going to screen an abridged ‘Heart and Soul’ at 2.00pm on 17th May – when the original event would have taken place. The programme will run until about 4.20pm. A recording of the event will be available soon afterwards. You will be able to watch the event live on the Church of Scotland website (www.churchofscotland.org.uk) and live on the Facebook page (fb.me/churchofscotland).

Hosted by our usual presenters, Rev Ken Froude, Seonaid Knox and Rev Justin Taylor, the event begins with a replay of the service of installation for the new Moderator, Rev Martin Fair. Without giving too much away, the event features a mix of worship, music, stories and some exciting ‘In Conversation’ guests.

Heart and Soul regulars ‘Fischy Music’ will lead a special segment for all ages, and we hope that you’ll join in all the actions from home! Spread throughout the afternoon will be some very special conversations: Hugh Pym will be in conversation with Prof Jason Leitch and Viv Dickenson from CrossReach, discussing how they have all been tackling Coronavirus and also how their own faith has helped them. Very Rev Susan Brown will be in conversation with Ross Greer MSP and Tara Shannon from CoSY discussing climate justice. Prison Chaplain Anne Stewart will be in conversation with Hospital Chaplain Mark Evans talking about chaplaincy as a career and the impact of Coronavirus in their places of work.

No Heart and Soul would be complete without some hearty singing, and we’ve chosen some highlights from the archive over the last ten years of Heart and Soul, the Guild Big Sing and the General Assembly to round things off.

Attached to this email is an image that we would ask you to make use of in any social media channels you have access to (for example, congregational and presbytery Facebook pages). If you are broadcasting a service of worship this weekend, perhaps you could consider using the image as part of your ‘online intimations’ and encouraging people to join us. This could be done both this Sunday, and next.

These are difficult times for many in our Church and communities. We hope and pray that ‘Heart and Soul’ might be a place where people can see that the Church of Scotland is still active, still open and providing hope for our nation. I hope you can help us publicise, and join us, during our very special ‘Big Weekend’.

With prayerful best wishes

Rev Bryan Kerr
Convener, Heart and Soul Project Group

Sunday 10th May

John 14:15-21

“If you love me, obeymy commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

Reflection

Since I looked at the reading for today I have been continually thinking about Maureen’s highly technical veterinarian description last week when she described that big muckle dug. It set me off thinking about words; how we use them and how we understand them. For example, what about these two statements. ‘How now brown cow.’ Then ‘Och aye the noo broon coo.’

Very, very different statements, but are they? They both mention the same colour; someone’s brown is another’s broon. They both mention the same farmyard animal; someone’s cow is another’s coo.

How we pronounce them may reflect something about us more than the actual words themselves. How, where and when we use them in their different forms may well depend to the circumstance we are in

and the company we are addressing at the time. The reading uses some grand words about love. But of course we all know loving someone is not only about the words we use to say that we love them, as each of us could express our love using so many different words and a myriad of ways to show such a love.

Some people want to make the Christian faith something that is extremely complex, to mix it all up and tangle it all up, a tangled mess of knots in a fishing line, or a never ending stream of theological conflicts

and problems to be solved, with so many odd pieces and slices of Biblical truths to be argued over and somehow unravelled. You’ve heard the saying: “It is as plain as the nose on your face.” Your nose is obvious to everyone else, but it is very difficult for you to see it unless you are looking in a mirror.

Something that maybe we should do more often, not in the way of vanity, but more to do with some self-reflecting. Sometimes the solution to a problem is plain to everyone else, but you can’t see it because it is too close to you. The other day I was on the phone to our oldest daughter Debbie and I walked from the living room into the kitchen then back into the living room then as I was walking again back into the kitchen I burst out laughing. In mid conversation I realised that I was walking about the house wondering where my phone was.

Have you ever said to someone, “I need another pair of eyes. I just can’t see it.”  Whatever it is.

It wanders away from where you placed it. You can’t find it and call out for help to look for it. And the reply comes, “There it is.  Right there on the table.” It was right there in front of your eyes. Or in my case. There it is right beside your ear or lug.

It’s as plain as the nose on your face can also apply to human relationships. When that fishing line comes reeling out and creates what seems like a thousand knots, that fishing line becomes one glorious tangled mess. Do we try to unravel each knot, each conflict, each argument? or cut through the tangled mess and come up with simple solutions. How do we handle the word of God?

If we set out to read the whole Bible in one year; that is 66 books, 1189 chapters, three chapters a day, five minutes per chapter 92 hours of reading.  

How would we summarize all of that?  

Is it a tangled history of war and conflict, of exodus and rescue, of curse and blessing?  Is it a tangled list of theological principles and teachings that we can argue over until the cows or the coos come home? 

Whatever colour that may be. How would you summarize all that reading? I wonder if verse 21 might be worth reading again.

‘Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them’

Less than forty words to summarize 66 books, 1189 chapters and 92 hours of reading. 

God has shared this abundance with us freely, and we are to love in the same way, sharing the abundance of generosity with all of God’s children around us.

It is so simple, so very, very simple.  It is as plain as the nose on your face. 

Sunday 3rd May – Psalm 23

Reflection

It is brutally honest about who Jesus is and what he has done for us his flock of sheep and lambs. The voice and the actions that follow are one with each other. For Christ to say he is the good shepherd may be easy, for Christ to show he is the good shepherd was indeed anything but easy. He does not call upon us to do anything that he himself has first not done for us. He does not stay aloof and point the way from some remote position. He rolls up his sleeves and he gets right in there going to the deep and painful parts of life with us. His action and his word could never be separated. His love for each one of us could never be brought to question. His faithfulness to the father could never be denied. His steadfastness loyalty to his calling could never be diminished.

Sunday 26th April

Luke 24:13-35 On the road to Emmaus

For everyone of us there have been times when we find ourselves wrestling with doubts.

Staggering, shuddering questions unexpectedly thrust themselves upon us. They disturb our peace and can even threaten to undermine our faith completely. To make things worse these moments are often followed by a sense of guilt. There is a sense in which we feel wrong or even sinful to entertain such thoughts or doubts. All of this can result in a lonely struggle. Yet look to the scriptures and we discover that doubt is not as uncommon as we might imagine. Alongside all those glowing testimonies of faith there are several examples of faith being tested to the limit. Doubt may come to us all, however secure in faith we appear to be. All of this is not something to be ashamed of. God is able to take our questions and use them to lead us into a deeper understanding of his purpose and enrich our sense of his love.

When we get to that point on our road’s journey, we discover that doubt is not the opposite of faith, for many it is an essential part of the journey of discipleship. For many people this story of two disciples is strange, they are leaving Jerusalem in despair having been followers of Jesus they saw all the wonders he performed, how he amazed people with his deeds and his talk of God’s wisdom. He was their teacher, their Rabbi, they shared all these good things with him and THEN they saw him put to death, killed on a cross as a common criminal. Their world has dropped out from under them. Their hopes and dreams have been dashed on the rocks. Has Jesus disappointed them? He did not choose the way of war he chose another way, the way of the cross. Christians were called people of the way or more accurate people of the road, before we were called Christian’s.  And, this morning, along this particular road, we encounter these two disciples. I wonder what Emmaus meant to them? Perhaps they were going back home, heading back to their ordinary lives and somehow just get on with things. We see Jesus this morning encountering disciples on the road of life, we see the power of Easter at work. As they walk along Cleopas tells Jesus the story of Jesus, all the things that he said and did, filling them with amazing hope. In the end he was put to death by the authorities. This is the third day, the day that Jesus said he would rise, a group of women are saying they have seen the tomb empty, an angel told them that he was risen.

Cleopas and his friend are sharing their disappointment and despair with the Risen Christ himself on the third day, and they think Jesus has not yet risen. Eventually the disciples need to make a choice. Do they invite Jesus into their homes? They do and he goes. Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him as he took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them; and he vanished from their sight. They finally realized it was Jesus and they embraced the reality of who Jesus was he was the Messiah the Risen Christ. The reality of the story of Emmaus, is that it is our story too. Each of us wants to encounter the Risen Christ, we want to know what difference the resurrection means to our lives, we want to know what Easter means for us. Only when we walk the road, when we follow in the way of Jesus, only then will we get it. We encounter the Divine, the Risen Christ and it changes us into courageous disciples. It is with that courage that we head out and share the Good News with others. Jesus the Christ is our mysterious Risen Lord.

Psalm 16 – A psalm of David

Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge. I said to the Lord, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.” The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them! Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods. Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance! I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever

Reflection

The Psalms have been and continue to be a great source for people finding encouragement and strength to continue on life’s journey because in the Psalms we encounter real honest gritty conversations that the author has with God. They are often penned in times of uncertainty such as the times we ourselves are experiencing right now. David displays his confidence in the Lord both for this life and the next. It is a Psalm of praise of the faithfulness and the might of God. David is still a refugee, he has already been promised the kingdom, but it all seems to be in the distant future, if at all. David takes God’s word as good even in his present circumstance. God is the source of all the good things that have happened to him. The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places, and he has delightful inheritance. David’s heart is glad, as he rejoices in praise and rests in security for he focuses with the whole of his being upon God. The boundary lines that David speaks of, those pleasant places of godly inheritance is the Promised Land of Canaan. Not only is there good land but there is guidance and instruction from God who is constantly by David’s right hand. God has assigned David his portion and his cup. David is assured that the Lord will not abandon him even in the grave. He rejoices that he will rest secure way beyond death and the grave. Verse ten is quite a remarkable statement.  ‘For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.’ Remember David was God’s chosen and anointed ruler over Israel, in this sense his position as king was holy. The Holy One refers also to Christ, known as the son of David. David trusts that his path of life would lead to eternal pleasures. Even after death he would be in relationship with God. He did not know how this would happen but he was confident that it would. Remember the Old Testament writers did not have the New Testament revelation and teaching of life after death. David was speaking with a prophetic vision of the resurrection from the dead.

This first Sunday after Easter once again we bear witness to the resurrection! The Holy One’s body did not decay as it was resurrected from the dead. The prophetic message of the Psalm has become a reality for all believers. Jesus has fulfilled all that was written. In Psalm 16 every believer can share, and own for themselves, the confidence of David. I would argue even further that our confidence ought to be greater because we have seen its fulfilment. We have received a foretaste of those eternal pleasures that await us in heaven. If the Lord has assigned to us our portion then we can be content. No matter the level of difficulties our earthly circumstances may be there is in store for us eternal good and in that knowledge we too can be confident and rejoice. God did not abandon Christ to the grave nor did he let him see decay. Not only did the Old Testament testify of Christ’s resurrection the disciples have seen the risen Christ with their own eyes! The foretold prophecy had become reality.

Easter Sunday

Mark 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Reflection

When people remake an old classic movie they like to tell the same story but in a new and invigorating way. In Church we have this wonderful old story that has addressed the world through many a trying time, and who would argue that ours is not a trying time, and yet still it remains relevant for us. All week during our reflections I have made reference to how different this year is from any other we have experienced. I think this morning it would be good for us to simply revisit this wonderful moment and see it for what it was and is.

We all know the Easter story so well, it is so much more than just an account of events.

It contains essential elements of the gospel and of our faith. Christ’s resurrection continues the pattern of his ministry as He keeps faith with those on the fringes. Women who lived on the fringes, without recognition and few rights, it is they that are chosen by God to make the discovery that the tomb is empty. They are the ones, chosen by God, to be first to receive the Good News and they are the ones chosen by God to ensure that the story got out. Those on the margins may change identity over the years but the status remains.

The women at the tomb are told you will not find him Jesus in the darkness of the tomb

but in Galilee, this is where they live and work. The journey and adventure of faith has begun. If we wish to find the risen Christ we too have to embark upon a journey, not among the dead things of the past, but where we live and work, the Risen Christ is in the world where the disciples are. They will find him in their Galilee, in their homes and their places of work. This Galilean destination can have any geographical destination title you wish.

We may find our Galilee in Musselburgh, Fisherrow or Inveresk, in Haddington or Tranent.

In any town of any land across the world we will be where we will be and this is where we will find the Risen Jesus. We have to move forward to find him.

Easter is not an historical event to look back on as much as it is a living experience for today. He is risen not just for the few but for all.

Because of the Resurrection, the disciples were changed.

Because of the Resurrection, our view of death has changed.

Because of the resurrection, our view of Jesus has changed.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

What matters more is not that Christ had risen but that Christ is risen.

Easter morning says to us that through the resurrected Christ there is nothing that we should fear.

Easter morning says to us that through the resurrected Christ there is no need to search for words, Christ has had the final say.

Easter morning says to us that through the resurrected Christ we are never alone for he is risen and leads us on the way even in our confusion and doubt.

He is there with us.

This Easter Morning we witness once more that new light.

Christ the risen Saviour is the Light of the world.

Holy Week – Good Friday

Mark 15: 16-41

Today we discover how far people can journey from God. On this most horrid day of history the worst humanity can offer was experienced. Led through the streets his burden ever heavier, the cries of derision ever louder, but yet the faithful Son onwards he goes. Taken and delivered to the place of the skull, nails pounding through his flesh, lifted high upon a cross, a spectacle for all the world to view. In and through all of this suffering he cries ‘Father forgive’. Innocence and sin mixed with death and compassion. Love and hate mixed with justice and peace. Oh for the strength to walk with our Lord and Saviour.

Jesus is handed over to the soldiers, Pilate’s bodyguards. The dreadful routine of crucifixion had now begun. Question if they even they knew anything of the one that they mock. To them this was simply a deluded Galilean going to a cross. Then they prepared him to go out to crucifixion.

Jesus has been stripped, his hands tied behind his back and with his back bent double he is tied to a post. The lash, a long leather thong, studded with sharpened pieces of bone and pellets of lead. This scourging reduced the naked body to strips of raw flesh, inflamed and bleeding sores. Men died under it, men lost their reason under it, few remained conscious to the end of it. They take him to the barracks for more mockery.

Crucifixion is the most terrible and cruel death which man has ever devised for taking vengeance on his fellow-men. This was a punishment so awful that the Romans forbid it

be the fate of any Roman citizen. It is not a pretty picture but this is what Jesus Christ suffered willingly for us. The procession toward the place of crucifixion was part of the torture. The route would be as long as possible so as to allow many people to see it and take a warning from it.

Jesus had been scourged, mocked and been kept awake all night.

He was physically exhausted, staggering under the cross as he reached the place of execution, Golgotha. The drink offered was an act of mercy it would have been drugged so as to numb the pain.

Then we hear the mocking and the taunting of the crowd.

They are centred around Jesus and his apparent helplessness upon the cross. ‘Come down and we will believe you’ they shout.

Today, Friday, his enemies gloated as they wrongly believed they had ended it all.

He said nothing as the insults flew his way.

He said nothing as the bruises covered his battered body.

He said nothing as the welts and sores burst out across his skin.

He let them do their worst until their worst was done.

He let them do all of this to him, the innocent one, the one who had done no wrong.

The one whom the religious and political courts could find no charge to be answered.

He let them do all of this and then he cried out,  ‘Father, forgive them…’