Our Worship for 3rd Sunday of Easter (26th April)

Welcome to our online worship offering for today, the 3rd Sunday of Easter. Our ‘virtual service’ includes a contribution from our ‘Stay at Home’ choir, hymns, the Gospel reading for the day, a reflection from Jane, our Vicar and some intercessions. Why not find a quiet place to enjoy this; it will take about half an hour.

The Lord be with you, and with thy Spirit.

Hymn: We begin our worship with the hymn ‘This Joyful Eastertide’ sung by members of our choir from their homes.

This joyful Eastertide, away with sin and sorrow
My Love, the Crucified, hath sprung to life this morrow:

Had Christ, that once was slain we're burst his three day prison,
Our faith had been in vain, but now hath Christ arisen.

My flesh in hope shall rest, and for a season slumber:
Till trump from east to west shall wake the dead in number:

Death's flood hath lost its chill, since Jesus crossed the river:
Lover of souls, from ill my passing soul deliver:

Our Gospel Reading – Luke 24: 13-35. The Walk to Emmaus

You can either listen to this dramatised reading or simply read the text below

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognising him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Hymn: We have a Gospel to Proclaim

A Reflection on Today’s Gospel: Rev Jane Cresswell

Reading today’s very familiar gospel passage, I surprised myself with a new reaction … I felt quite envious of those disciples going on a journey!  Not something that most of us will be doing for the foreseeable future because we are doing what we know we have to do at the present time and staying at home.

Having seen Jesus die on the cross, Cleopas and his friend had given up hope and were wending their weary way back to Emmaus, not waiting with the other disciples in Jerusalem.  You can imagine their conversation – Why did it have to end like that?  What could we have done to avoid this happening?  How will we go on with our lives now that everything we believed in, worked and hoped for, seems to be in shreds and tatters?  

They may have given up on Jesus, but Jesus does not give up on them.  As they walk they find a mysterious stranger walking alongside them in the same direction, one whose questions draw from them the real anguish and distress they are experiencing.  And in turn, the stranger starts to make sense of what has happened for them, pointing them back to the Old Testament prophesies, explaining that the Messiah had to suffer and die in order to break through the barriers of death and hell before rising to new and eternal life which could then be offered to all of us.

Of course, they still don’t recognise him, but they must have been lifted by his company and conversation, because they entreat him to stay and eat with them.  Hospitality is such an integral part of middle eastern culture and such an integral part of God’s welcome to us.  We miss the weekly invitation to come and share in bread and wine during this period of enforced abstinence.  How precious it will be to celebrate the Eucharist together when we finally meet again.  

Perhaps too we miss the joy of sharing our meals with others.  Maybe after this we will value more highly the privilege of offering hospitality to others around us and welcoming them to our own tables.  But we can still be hospitable people.  I have been deeply touched by the generous hospitality of those who have left slices of cake and other good things on my doorstep.  And I have seen the pictures of my son eating his skype dinner with good friends, each in their own homes but nonetheless sharing some of the joy of eating and drinking and chatting together.  Table fellowship is a great gift to offer and a great gift to receive.

And of course, it is in sharing that meal at Emmaus, and seeing and hearing Jesus take and bless the bread and break it, that the eyes of those first disciples are well and truly opened and they recognise him for who he is, exclaiming to each other with the beauty of hindsight “didn’t our hearts burn within us when he talked with us on the road?” 

What do they do next?  In joyful excitement they rush straight back up the road to Jerusalem to share with all the other disciples the good news that they have seen the Lord.  Their journey from disbelief to faith involves a journey back to Jerusalem and a journey into mission and worship.  And when they arrive, they discover more good news, that the other disciples have also heard that Jesus is alive and hear how he appeared to Simon Peter.

Whatever our preoccupations, and whatever inner journeys we are making, let’s keep our ears and eyes and hearts open to welcome the unexpected stranger who emerges from the shadows to walk with us and shows himself as the Lord of life.

Anthem: O for a closer walk with God

O for a closer walk with God, a calm and heavenly frame
A light to shine upon the road that leads me to the lamb
Return O holy Dove, return! Sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made thee mourn, and drove thee from my breast. 
So shall my walk be close with God, calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road that leads me to the lamb.
William Cowper ( 1731-1800 )

Our Prayers for Today: You can follow the words below the link.

In our prayers today, we remember that we are part of the world-wide body of Christ, that our present situation offers us the opportunity to realise our common humanity and come together to further God’s kingdom on earth.

Let us pray to the Lord; Lord have mercy. 

For all those who are struggling within the confines of their homes
For all those who are worried about money, their jobs and their futures
For all those who are alone and feel they have no one to love them
Let us pray to the Lord….Lord have mercy
 
For all those key workers who are putting their own health at risk to help others
For all those in authority seeking to make the right decisions at the right times
For all those whose experience and skills are so important to us at this time.
Let us pray to the Lord…Lord have mercy
 
For our families and friends
For our congregation and neighbours
And for all those whose paths cross ours
Let us pray to the Lord….Lord have mercy
 
For our church, our bishops and our clergy
For Christians throughout the world playing their part in supporting others
For ourselves that we may live God’s love by prayer, by word and by deed.
Let us pray to the Lord….Lord have mercy
 
We offer these prayers in the strength and love of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.  Amen.

Hymn: Word that formed Creation

Word that formed creation, earth and sea and sky;
Word that brings salvation, Word that will not die;
speak now in us that we might hear your call;
Living Word of Jesus, sound within us all.

Love that formed and named us, filled this clay with breath;
Love that seeks and claims us, Love beyond all death;
come now and fire the life that flows from you;
Love that raised up Jesus, raise us up anew.

Some of joy and wonder, sound so wild and free;
voice of wind and thunder, boundless as the sea;
Music of God, the love that casts out fear;
Song that sang in Jesus, sing within us here.

God of all creation, form our hearts anew,
God of our salvation, lead us home to you;
Spirit, inspire our hearts to hear your call;
living God of Jesus, come renew us all!

Notices:

  1. If you’ve enjoyed this ‘virtual service’, don’t hesitate to comment at the end of it especially if you would like to contribute anything or say what you would love to see in our worship.
  2. Increasing numbers of our congregation are also enjoying the Diocese of Oxford ‘Church at Home’ service at 10:00am at oxford.anglican.org/livestream You can also download the order of service.
  3. Today is 26th and we’re doing the 2.6 Challenge! What have you got planned involving 2 and 6?! If you don’t know what all this is about, read ‘We’re doing the 2.6 challenge’ post on our website; our church really does need the money!
  4. Ten people came online (on Zoom) last Wednesday evening for Compline with Jane and Suzanne. If you would like to join us next Wednesday, download ‘Zoom’ onto your computer (its free) and email Jim (oliverjim1@sky.com) for the meeting number and password.
  5. Grateful thanks to our choir for singing for us from their homes. This isn’t easy; it involves listening to the background music on one machine whilst recording on another! Then there is hours of work in synchronising everyone’s recordings into one. Thank you all for continuing to enhance our worship offerings.

Final Hymn: Sing of the Lord’s Goodness.

A Blessing:

On our heads and our houses, the blessing of God;
On our coming and going, the peace of God;
In our life and believing, the love of God
At our end and new beginning, the arms of God to welcome us and bring us home.    Amen                        [John L Bell]

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