Prayers, Readings and Reflection for 4th Sunday of Easter

3rd May 2020

Alleluia. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Confession

Jesus Christ, risen Master and triumphant Lord, we come to you in sorrow for our sins, and confess to you our weakness and unbelief. We have lived by our own strength, and not by the power of your resurrection. In your mercy, forgive us. Lord, hear us and help us. We have lived by the light of our own eyes, as faithless and not believing. In your mercy, forgive us. Lord, hear us and help us. We have lived for this world alone, and doubted our home in heaven. In your mercy, forgive us. Lord, hear us and help us. May God, who loved the world so much that he sent his Son to be our Saviour, forgive us our sins and make us holy to serve him in the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for the day

Risen Christ, faithful shepherd of your Father's sheep: teach us to hear your voice and to follow your command, that all your people may be gathered into one flock, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Old Testament Reading:
Genesis 7: 1-23
Psalm:
Psalm 23
New Testament Reading:
Acts 2: 42-47
Gospel Reading:
John 10: 1-10

Reflection by Mac Leonard, Licensed Lay Minister.

A video of this talk is available.

History repeated...

We’re not in church this morning – the doors are locked. I’m writing and you’re reading this because of ‘lockdown’. We’re at home and our front door is shut - we’re locked inside. The door keeps our relatives, our neighbours and our friends away from us – no handshakes, hugs, kisses. We can’t go out unless it’s for essential reasons. And if we do go out … two metres have taken on a new and frightening significance … we meet people looking like masked bandits in a wild west film … and if somebody coughs?! On both sides of the door life is far from relaxed, far from that we would wish.

And worst of all – all our accepted and comforting ways of faith are locked behind locked doors. For the last seven weeks no Holy Communion – at least not in the way we’ve become used to with its prime place in our worship over the last forty or so years. No fellowship with our sisters and brothers after the Service. And for me the most special of all – sharing the peace we all need so much – has been reduced to e-waving to a computer screen.

Our reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells of those first Christians in many ways being in a similar situation as ourselves. It could be dangerous to go through the door – the Pharisees and the Romans posed threats. Before long the ‘ichthus’ fish symbol was to become a secret sign indicating refuge for fellow Christians escaping persecution. But this didn’t stop them. No ‘church’ building - so “they broke bread in their homes and ate together.” No ‘Sunday routine’ - so “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts”. And as many Christians today are doing if they are able – “they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” And their witness was so effective! “Everyone was filled with awe - and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

What can we learn? Are we willing to learn? The first thing is that our faith is based on a personal relationship – not with ceremonies and our sisters and brothers but with Jesus himself. Without the normal ‘rush’ we have more time to spend searching for and enjoying His company – and like those first Christians devote ourselves to prayer and study of the scriptures. Secondly, like those first Christians we need to be filled with the Spirit. They had just experienced Pentecost - but we don’t have to wait until 31st May because we can ask for God’s Spirit to motivate and guide us every day. And finally, is God asking us to make changes? For many people there’s no real change - the church door is always closed – or appears to be. Let’s use this time to find new ways of opening the faith-door so that when this is all over “the Lord may add to our number daily those who are being saved.”

Prayers

Let us pray to the Lord, who is our refuge and stronghold. For the health and well-being of our nation, that all who are fearful and anxious may be at peace and free from worry: Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us. For the isolated and housebound, that we may be alert to their needs, and care for them in their vulnerability: Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us. For our homes and families, our schools and young people, and all in any kind of need or distress: Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us. For a blessing on our local community, that our neighbourhoods may be places of trust and friendship, where all are known and cared for: Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us. We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray, to the mercy and protection of God. Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Closing Prayer

Merciful Father, you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd, and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again: keep us always under his protection, and give us grace to follow in his steps; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing

God the Father, by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead, strengthen us to walk with him in his risen life; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always. Amen. Remain in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, alleluia. Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.