Material for Worship on the 3rd Sunday of Easter

Nerys writes:

You may wish to start your time of worship today by listening to David playing the tune of ‘Lord of the Dance’.

Sydney Carter saw Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us to dance with him. As you follow the words, think of the pattern of this last week and especially the moments of resurrection and new life you may have experienced.

I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
and I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth;
at Bethlehem I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

I danced for the scribe and the pharisee,
but they would not dance and they wouldn’t follow me.
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;
they came with me and the dance went on.

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame;
the holy people said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me on high,
and they left me there on a cross to die:

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black;
it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back.
They buried my body and they thought I’d gone,
but I am the Dance, and I still go on:

They cut me down and I leapt up high;
I am the life that’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me:
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

As you light your candle today, on the third Sunday of Easter, and welcome the risen Christ into your heart and home, bring to mind the stories that you are familiar with of his meetings with his friends and followers after his resurrection.

‘The Risen Lord’ by He Qi

I would be surprised if you managed to remember the incident outlined in today’s Gospel reading! It is not one of the well-known stories that have inspired artists and poets down the centuries. It’s understandable that it is overlooked. It is so concise and crammed full of all the different elements found in all the other stories that it is difficult to summarise it or to give it a convenient label. But I think that it is worth taking some time to unpack it and ponder the disciples’ experience. This is their story of coming to believe in Christ, this is my story. It may well be your story too …

Listen to Morag reading Luke 24.36-48.

I wonder why the disciples at first think they are seeing a ghost? Why so you think they are unable to recognise the risen Christ among them?

Could it be that they have not yet realised that a new reality has been born, shattering our limited human understanding of life and death, spirit and matter, of who God is and how God works?

Did you notice that it is through seeing his wounded hands and feet, feeling his flesh and bones, eating the broiled fish with him that the disciples recognise Jesus? It is through experiencing an intimate encounter with him that the risen Christ becomes real. And, as all the possibilities of this new divine reality dawns on the disciples, their fear turns to joy.

And yet they are still disbelieving and wondering. They need Christ to open their minds so that they know that all that has been written about the Messiah had now been fulfilled. It is not an academic or intellectual understanding that they are given. They don’t have all the answers – so much is still a mystery – but now Scripture makes sense. Deep in their hearts they know that they have been given new life in relationship with Christ. They failed their teacher and friend so many times and they will fail him again, but they know now the freedom of forgiveness as they begin to live the resurrected life.

‘You are witnesses of these things’, declares Christ as he promises to clothe them with God’s power and instructs them to share who they are and what they’ve experienced with all nations, starting in Jerusalem. We are not told by Luke what the disciples thought and how they felt at this point but one of our other reading today gives us a good idea of how they responded. John’s letter, probably written in Ephesus a hundred years later, shows that the early Christians, still living with their questions and doubts, continued to be faithful to their calling to be witnesses despite the cost, and that the risen Christ continued to be present and active among them.

Listen to Margaret reading 1 John 3.1-7.

Just as the risen Christ was to his first followers and to the Early Church, he is to us now:

Christ our loving God, longs to meet us wherever we are so that he can become real to us – a living presence in our lives.

Christ longs to free us from the faults and fears that hold us captive, to give us peace and deep joy in the midst of the challenges of our lives.

Christ longs to open our minds to possibilities beyond our human understanding, to make sense of the past and to fill our hearts with hope for the future.

Christ longs for us to become witnesses of his forgiveness and his unconditional, limitless love.

Christ longs for us to testify through our transformed lives, through our hunger for justice and our concern for those in need that He is alive in us.

And Christ longs to clothe us with resurrection power, the power of God’s loving spirit within us.

Take a moment now in the presence of the risen Christ to reaffirm your relationship with him and to rejoice in the freedom of his unconditional love.

You are invited to pray for all those who are locked in today, adding the names of those you know and situations you are familiar with.
For all in our own community who are still shielding because of frailty or medical conditions,

For those who are trapped by addiction or mental ill-health,

For those who are isolated by hurt, loneliness and grief,

For those whose lives are limited by poverty and insecurity,

For those in coercive or violent relationships,

For all those across the world who suffer because of oppressive regimes,

For those caught up in situations of armed conflict, in natural disasters, drought or famine,

For all those who are imprisoned justly or unjustly,

For prisoners of conscience,

For refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in holding camps,

For those sold into slavery and trafficked,

For those who are forced to worship in secret,

For those struggling with unhelpful understandings of God,

For those beset by anxiety and self-doubt,

Loving God, help us to respond with compassion to those who call out and those who are silent.

In the name of the risen Christ, Amen.

You may wish to finish your time of worship by listening to David playing the tune of Edward J. Burns’ hymn, ‘We have a Gospel to proclaim’

We have a gospel to proclaim,
good news for all throughout the earth;
the gospel of a Saviour’s name:
we sing His glory, tell His worth.

Tell of His birth at Bethlehem,
not in a royal house or hall
but in a stable dark and dim,
the Word made flesh, a light for all.

Tell of His death at Calvary,
hated by those He came to save,
in lonely suffering on the cross;
for all He loved, His life He gave.

Tell of that glorious Easter morn:
empty the tomb, for He was free.
He broke the power of death and hell
that we might share his victory.

Tell of his reign at God’s right hand,
by all creation glorified.
He sends his Spirit on his church
to live for Him, the Lamb who died.

Now we rejoice to name Him King:
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
This gospel-message we proclaim:
we sing his glory, tell his worth.