Service for Sunday 14th April 2013
Year C Easter 3
Call to Worship Psalm 30 (responsive) from Uniting in Worship
Hymn Together in Song 147 To God be the Glory
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
You have always loved this world you made, and have always loved us, the creatures of your world. You loved this world so much as to give it the gift of Your Son.
He came into this world, and gave us one command: to love. Because he loved us, we were asked to show his love, to reflect it in every aspect of our lives and our dealings. He commanded us to love you, to love each other, even to love the unlovely, even to love those who have hated and mistreated us.
Sometimes it is hard to love. It is hard to love our enemy. It is hard to love those who persecute us.
To love means to forgive, and there are so many kinds of wounds to forgive. There are the wounds which everyone can see. The physical scars which tell their own story, which are open and honest and visible. Your Son knows the pain of these kinds of wounds, the wounds of the nails in his hands and feet. They are the wounds which are often easiest to cure. They can be seen, investigated, and treated. Many physical wounds will heal and leave only a scar as a sign of where the hurt has been.
There are the wounds which on-one sees. The wounds which are kept secret in the quietest, darkest parts of our lives. There are wounded memories, wounded emotions, wounded relationships, wounded consciences. Your Son also knows about these wounds: the wounds of being betrayed with a kiss, being abandoned by friends, being denied by a loved one. These are injuries which can hurt the most and do the most damage, unseen.
Yet, for all their pain, we tend to cling to our hurts. Instead of opening them to the air and letting them heal, we hide them away and let them continue to fester. We hold tight to our hurts and we do not know how to let them go. And so we become trapped, held in the prison of past things, and suffering under the power of past persecutors. Your Son showed us the way to escape this prison, praying forgiveness on those who had hurt him.
Gracious God, send the breath of your Spirit into our lives. Release us from the unnecessary burdens of pain and hurt which we carry. Heal those parts of our lives which keep us trapped. Help us to truly forgive so we can truly love. And when we truly love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we will know that we are free, and that we are healed.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
Jesus not only teach us to forgive those who have harmed us, but he shows us how it is done, by forgiving us all that we have done.
So I have confidence to say to you: Our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!
Hymn Together in Song 209 And can it be
Reader: This is the Word of the Lord
Response: Thanks be to God
“I’m going fishing,” Peter said. I heard it used once as an example to show that Christians suffer stress as much as anyone else.
Peter definitely had something to be stressed about.
Try putting yourself in his place for a while.
Jesus had said to him, “You’ll deny me three times.”
At the dinner table, sharing in a celebration and surrounded by friends, the idea must have seemed absurd. Of course he would never deny Jesus.
In the safety of that room, Peter said exactly what he was thinking, “No, I wouldn’t deny you, even if I have to die with you.”
But later that night, when it wasn’t so safe, when many of the people around him weren’t friends, when there really was a risk he might with Jesus; he did deny him, three times, just as Jesus said.
There’s a huge difference between being theoretically willing to give up one’s life, and actually coming forward when the risk is real.
Peter had done what very many people would have done in the same situation. And really, his speaking up at that time would probably not have made any real difference to what was to come. But having made that choice, he was left with the guilt of having done it.
Have you ever done something you were sure you would never do? Something for your own self-protection or self-benefit, that harms someone else?
When we do things for our own self-protection, knowing that we have let someone down, we are often left feeling guilty. Sometimes we deserve the guilt. Sometimes, we don’t. But the feeling is the same, whether or not we have really earned it.
In Peter’s case, his denial ensured he stayed alive. He would not have been able to save Jesus, and there would have been no purpose served by his death anyway. Perhaps Jesus already knew this when he predicted Peter’s denial.
When Jesus took Peter aside and asked three times, whether Peter loved him, it wasn’t some sort of test.
Peter had denied Jesus, and had done so three times. He was carrying the guilt of doing that, and the hurt associated with his feelings of guilt. Peter was never going to be effective in carrying the message of the resurrection while he was carrying his own personal burden of guilt. He was more likely to give up and just go back to fishing.
In asking three times for Peter to affirm his love, Jesus might have upset Peter, but he also gave him the opportunity to bring that guilt out into the open and deal with it. Each of those times Peter had denied Jesus was now compensated for with an affirmation of his love.
Through having the wounds of guilt which Peter carried opened, and healed, he was able to do exactly what Jesus was sending him to do , to care for the sheep, those who Jesus himself cared for.
It hurts to have what we’ve done wrong brought out into the light. But usually we have to face up to what we’ve done wrong if we ever want to be part of putting it right. We can’t accept forgiveness without admitting that we need it.
There would come a time when Peter would again be called on to risk his life in claiming his allegiance to Jesus, and in this future time, a much stronger and more mature Peter would sacrifice his life for that allegiance.
When we’ve faced up to the things we have done wrong, and have known God’s love and forgiveness, it helps us learn and to grow, and it can make us stronger people for the next time we’re in a difficult situation.
Hymn Together in Song 393 Christ is alive, with joy we sing
Prayers of the People
you know the needs of this world,
you know where there are nuclear missiles
you know where there are incurable diseases
you know where there are lives that could be saved by clean water
you know where people are living in fear
you know where people are starving
you know where people are homeless
you know where children are not being educated.
God you know it all.
You know the needs of this world,
and you know all of the needs we have,
and the people we are concerned about.
And so we come to you in prayer,
knowing that you already know it all,
knowing that your love is greater than all of our needs,
and we pray for your healing, peace, and love to change what is wrong in this world
and we offer ourselves to help be part of that change, wherever you would have us be.
In Jesus’ name.
Passing of the peace
Hymn Together in Song 537 Let us talents and tongues employ
Service of Holy Communion
Hymn All Together OK 413 The Summons