Tag Archives: hope

Death … interrupted

My Easter sermon for 2016.

Stop     … they found the stone rolled away, but they did not find the body

 Luke 24: 1-2

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.

The women expected things to be as it always was when someone died.

It wasn’t so much that life was carrying on as normal – death was carrying on as normal.

They had seen Jesus die. They had seen the body taken down and put in the tomb. The Sabbath then intervened but on Sunday morning they came back. What else could they do but anoint it for burial?

From then everything would go on in the same, slow, cold, dead way …

Except … they have to stop because death has been interrupted.

The two men in dazzling clothes had to begin the process of helping them to rewind through all that Jesus had taught them. How important it is to go back into Jesus’ story and recount it for ourselves: not to spend time in the place of death looking for the living words of Jesus.

 

Stand   … he is not here, but has risen. Remember!

Luke 24: 4b-6

two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember…

Life was pretty tough in first century Palestine so to be dazzled at a tomb wasn’t your everyday experience. These two men, certainly we are meant to understand them as angels from God, had terrified the women.

Don’t forget they had come in the dark to embalm a body and now it’s missing … or as they are beginning to remember, alive.

They stand there and the story begins to percolate in their hearts and bodies. Three lovely words from Luke: “then they remembered”. Imagine how that scene unfolded as they reminded each other of their shared experiences with Jesus.

They stood there holding unwanted spices for a dead man; perfumes to anoint a corpse. What do we do with these now? Throw them away?!?

They remembered! Jesus had told them it would be like this and, despite living alongside him for three years, it had not sunk into their hearts.

How often do we need to break out of what can become a sense of functional atheism? I’m in the church, I know about Jesus but will I let his death and resurrection become part of who I am.

 

Step out          … he commanded us to preach and to testify

Acts 10: 39-40, 42

39 ‘We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen… 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify…

The women left the tomb told the eleven and, initially, no one believed them until Peter went to investigate. Our second reading is part of the story of Peter preaching to the Roman soldier Cornelius and his household – being a witness to the resurrection.

Peter had crossed a great gulf between the Jewish Christian church and the Gentiles. Why? Well he says he can’t do any other.

We are witnesses to all that he did…

[God] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify …

Peter is remembering his story. He stepped in to the tomb and saw that Jesus was no longer in it. Then he stepped out looking with new eyes.

Luke says he went home amazed at what had happened. We know from the Bible that very soon he met Jesus face to face.

IMG_0208.JPG Perhaps you need to meet Jesus this morning in a new way.

To stop at the tomb and know that Good Friday is not the end of the story …

… or to stand and hear the words ‘he is risen’ and know they are true for your life too …

… or to find the right way to step out and be a witness in the place where God has put you.

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A hymn for Methodist Covenant services

This time of the year in the UK is when many Methodist churches hold their Covenant services: to celebrate God’s constant faithfulness and pledge their own lives in God’s service.

I wrote the following hymn some years ago and the words seem appropriate for the service.

It is best sung to the tune Morgenlied which was set in our 1932 hymnbook to the Harvest hymn Now the year is crowned with blessing.

Lord of ages past remembering
Lord of ages yet to be.
Hope of every generation,
yours the grace that sets us free.
Thorn and cross your battle tokens
symbols of a life laid down,
as the hope of all the nations
dies to claim us for his own.

So for this our generation
hear us as we bow the knee.
Shape our witness to our neighbour,
send your Spirit, set us free!

For the lives where hope lies bleeding,
for the homes where love has died,
for the victims of injustice,
raise, O Lord, a battle cry.
Bread and wine your passion’s tokens,
symbols still of hope restored.
In the sacrament we offer
we proclaim our dying Lord.

So for this our generation …

Make your Church a pilgrim people,
challenge our complacent ease.
Then, because your truth disturbs us,
Father, bring us to our knees.
Lives renewed your gospel tokens
symbols of the Spirit’s call.
As the world that you have ransomed
hears the truth: You died for all.

So for this our generation …

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG

Waiting in hope … a hymn for Advent

For preachers and worship leaders who are beginning to think about Advent services, here is a hymn which may prove useful.

I wrote it with the tune Deep Harmony in my mind, but the editor of Singingthefaithplus suggests Niagara as a more upbeat option. O Waly Waly is another lovely Celtic tune which would add a different dimension to the text.

 

We wait in hope for hope to come:

promised of old; the righteous one.

Help us to watch, expect and pray

and then to greet Messiah’s day.

 

We read the story of your plan:

this world redeemed by heaven’s Son.

Grace breaks upon the present time;

mercy and hope through David’s line.

 

We hear the prophet’s voice ring clear:

‘changed hearts and lives are needed here’.

So, when the Spirit fires your Church,

make us a sign for all who search.

 

We go to share this great Good News:

heirs of the promise – we will choose

to live in hope that all may sing

praises to Christ, the infant king.

 

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG http://www.songsolutions.org

1 Corinthians 13 … the online version?

I’ve been musing on the topic of love ahead of preaching at the weekend. The Gospel lesson is John 17: 20-26 where Jesus prays to God that those who come after him would be one, and known for their love.

It set me thinking about the many times that Internet discussions get way out of hand. So here is an adapted 1 Corinthians 13, the famous Bible chapter on love.

If I speak in the tongues of Google and of LinkedIn, but do not have love, I am a noisy ringtone or a nuisance call. And if I have blogging powers, and understand all mysteries of code and all knowledge of hashtags, and if I have all Facebook, so as to ‘friend’ many, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my PayPal balance, and if I hand over my smartphone so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on having the last word; it is not interested in a flame war; it does not rejoice in cyberstalking, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

But as for updates, they will come to an end; as for multiple online identities, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we tweet only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I Snapchatted like a child, I thought like a child, I shared like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish updates. For now we see pixels in a screen, dimly, but then we will see Facetime to Facetime. Now the Wikipedia page is only a stub but it doesn’t stop me writing about it; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known – and will know when to be offline. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

An advent hymn

We begin the season of Advent on Sunday, the preparation for the coming of the Christ child at Christmas. Here’s an Advent hymn for you, sung to the tune Deep Harmony

We wait in hope for hope to come:
promised of old; the righteous one.
Help us to watch, expect and pray
and then to greet Messiah’s day.

We read the story of your plan:
this world redeemed by heaven’s Son.
Grace breaks upon the present time;
mercy and hope through David’s line.

We hear the prophet’s voice ring clear:
‘changed hearts and lives are needed here’.
So, when the Spirit fires your Church,
make us a sign for all who search.

We go to share this great Good News:
heirs of the promise – we will choose
to live in hope that all may sing
praises to Christ, the infant king.

Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org