4th Sunday of Easter

                                         

The Eucharist

The Gathering
In the name of the Father, †
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 
The Greeting
Alleluia.  Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed.  Alleluia.
 
Prayers of Penitence
Christ our passover lamb has been sacrificed for us.
Let us therefore rejoice by putting away all malice and evil
and confessing our sins with a sincere and true heart. 
 
The Confession
Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour
in thought and word and deed,
through negligence, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry
and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for us,
forgive us all that is past
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name.  Amen.

 
The president pronounces the Absolution,
Almighty God,
who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon you,
pardon † and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,
and keep you in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
The Gloria
Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
 
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world: 
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.
 
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.  Amen.
 
The Collect
 
New Testament Reading
At the end of each the reader may say:
This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
 
Gospel Reading
Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the first and the last, says the Lord, and the living one;
I was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore.  Alleluia.                             
then as the Gospel is announced the reader says: 
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
Glory to you, O Lord.
The Gospel Reading concludes with:
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
 
Affirmation of Faith
Let us declare our faith
in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he was buried;

he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen. 
   
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
The Peace
The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said,
‘Peace be with you.’  Then were they glad when they saw the Lord.  Alleluia. 
The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you.
Let us offer one another a sign of peace.
 
Offertory Prayer
Be present, be present,
Lord Jesus Christ,
our risen high priest,
make yourself known in the breaking of bread.  Amen.
 
The Eucharistic Prayer (Prayer B)
The Lord be with you.
and also with you.                     
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.
 
It is indeed right, our duty and our joy,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
almighty and eternal Father,
and in these days of Easter
to celebrate with joyful hearts
the memory of your wonderful works.
For by the mystery of his passion
Jesus Christ, your risen Son,
has conquered the powers of death and hell
and restored in men and women the image of your glory.
He has placed them once more in paradise
and opened to them the gate of life eternal.
And so, in the joy of this Passover,
earth and heaven resound with gladness,
while angels and archangels and the powers of all creation
sing for ever the hymn of your glory:
 
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

 
Lord, you are holy indeed, the source of all holiness;
grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit,
and according to your holy will,
these gifts of bread and wine
may be to us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ;
who, in the same night that he was betrayed,
took bread and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of me.
 
In the same way, after supper
he took the cup and gave you thanks;
he gave it to them, saying:
Drink this, all of you;
this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as you drink it,
in remembrance of me.
 
Praise to you, Lord Jesus:
Dying you destroyed our death,
rising you restored our life:
Lord Jesus, come in glory.

 
And so, Father, calling to mind his death on the cross,
his perfect sacrifice made once for the sins of the whole world;
rejoicing in his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension,
and looking for his coming in glory,
we celebrate this memorial of our redemption.

As we offer you this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving,
we bring before you this bread and this cup
and we thank you for counting us worthy
to stand in your presence and serve you.
 
Send the Holy Spirit on your people
and gather into one in your kingdom
all who share this one bread and one cup,
so that we, in the company of all the saints,
may praise and glorify you for ever,
through Jesus Christ our Lord;
by whom, and with whom, and in whom,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all honour and glory be yours, almighty Father,
for ever and ever.  Amen.

Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.  Amen.
 
Breaking of the Bread
 
The Agnus Dei
Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world,
have mercy on us.

Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world,
have mercy on us.

Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world,
grant us peace.

 
Giving of Communion
Alleluia. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.
Therefore let us keep the feast.  Alleluia.
 
Prayer after Communion
 
Blessing
Alleluia.  Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed.  Alleluia.
The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.  Amen.

Go in the peace of Christ.  Alleluia, alleluia!
Thanks be to God.  Alleluia, alleluia!

               

                                  

 

Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Easter 2020
 
 The reading from Acts gives us a peek at the early Christian community in Jerusalem in those halcyon days after Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  We can almost feel their excitement as they rose from abject defeat, the crucifixion, to boldly preaching the message that Jesus, the victim of the religious and political establishment, has been raised from the dead and his teaching vindicated.  The early Church is empowered by that experience and making the most of the responsibility entrusted to them to bring others to faith in the Risen Lord.  Thousands come forward for baptism and become active members of the Christian community.  The Apostles find themselves in charge of a growing movement that will change the world.  Not bad for a bunch of country bumpkin fishermen, a tax collector and a Zealot.  If this isn’t grassroots what is?  The change coming from below as the powers of the world are challenged and shaken by the dawning of the Kingdom of God. 
 
In Acts we see the community focused on Jerusalem, the former quiet life in Galilee is not an option as Jerusalem is the centre of the Jewish world and the transformation of the world begins here.  They understandably rely on the familiar, remaining attached to the Temple and its round of worship and prayer.  They gather at home for the “breaking of bread”, the Eucharist, and the “prayers” which would have included the freshly minted Lord’s Prayer.  These are what sustains the early Christians and keeps them together.  The separation between Judaism and the followers of Jesus won’t come until Jerusalem is sacked by the Romans and the Temple destroyed in 70CE, another 40 years or so.  The Jewish authorities are hostile to the Way but the people of Jerusalem themselves are more open-minded.  Remember the crowds on Palm Sunday and those on Good Friday?  They are still present and now many are singing a new tune.  This alone is amazing because no Messiah was expected to suffer death and rise again.  The blinkered expectations of what a Messiah was and who they were, where they were from, enabled the authorities to condemn Jesus as a blasphemer and send him to Pilate.  Now the people are reconsidering these expectations and preconceived notions and giving the Apostles a second hearing.  Why?  It can only be down to the exhilarating power of the Resurrection that filled them with confidence and faith, with the added, and often underestimated, power of the Holy Spirit behind them.  God does what God wants and nothing can stand in the way of his desire to save humanity from itself.  God will use us just as he did those unprepared, doubt-ridden Disciples to bring to fulfilment his purposes for all of Creation.  We may derail the best laid plans through our self-interest and free will, but God is constantly pulling his great endeavour back to centre as death and darkness are pushed aside by God’s light and love.  What an amazing God we have! 
 
The odd thing about the Gospel reading is that we are taken back into time before Jesus’ death, when our thoughts are with Easter and what it means to live after that momentous event.  The resurrection stories are too few to fill the post-Easter lectionary, so we look further afield for our Gospel reading.  But it does tie into that period of intense teaching and witness the Apostles were sharing with Jesus’ own sense of mission.  We see Jesus challenging the Pharisees, the self-appointed guardians of the Jewish faith in the First Century.  They are a bit slow on the uptake as they can’t get what he is saying to them.  They understand his shepherd imagery, the Messiah, the kings of old, even God himself are portrayed as Israel’s shepherd in scripture.  They may even see themselves as shepherding the people by guiding them into deeper observance of the Law.  Jesus makes the point that, just as sheep in the communal village sheepfold only obey their own shepherd’s voice, so too will his own followers only listen to his voice and follow in his footsteps.  The Pharisees though are leading the people astray.  It is a case of the blind leading the blind, for Jesus alone is the true shepherd (as is God throughout the psalms and the Prophets).  Small wonder then that the Pharisees are angry at being called on the carpet by this “itinerant preacher and healer” from the backwaters of Galilee. 
 
The seeds that led to Jesus’ crucifixion and the subsequent proclamation of the resurrection by the Apostles, are intricately tied to challenging the religious and political authorities that Jesus himself started.  He wasn’t afraid to call for justice and to speak up for the poor and disenfranchised.  When the Emperor Constantine legalised Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, the Church climbed into bed with political power and began to lose her edge and be tamed.  At times the churches have been little more than lap dogs, Henry VIII comes to mind, and counted power and influence dearer than truth and care for the marginalised.  In our own Church of England the widespread rebellion against the impact of Thatcherism in the “Faith in the City” report is seen as the high water mark of the Church’s challenge to the political and financial powers that excluded many and relegated them to poverty.  Now, it would seem, that what challenge to the Bishops and those who govern our Church is rather limited to those areas that are “acceptable” or where our national Church hasn’t been seen to be active, addressing issues like institutional racism and sexism (how long did it take to consecrate women as bishops?).  Thanks to Covid 19 the Lambeth Conference has been postponed, to a great collective sigh of relief at Lambeth Palace and in the Archbishop’s office.  A post-colonial fantasy of “unity” at any price far more important than honesty or justice.  It’s hard to imagine the Good Shepherd being very happy in the corridors of power, whether that be Lambeth Palace or the Palace of Westminster.  It isn’t enough to avoid the difficult questions and hope that by dithering the issues that challenge us will sort themselves out.  That’s not how Jesus went about working for positive change.  His was not anything for a quiet life.  Jesus is to be found working at the sharp end, challenging, cajoling, demanding all that makes for a God centred life and always honours and values those left out of our wider society.  But what can WE do?  Especially in the middle of a pandemic and the isolation it has brought?
 
The day WILL come when we no longer need to shield or shelter at home.  When life begins to get back into its familiar routine and patterns, but do we really want to go back to exactly the old way of doing and being?  Would we rather not put the lessons learnt and the experiences gained into permanent practice?  Imagine neighbours speaking to one another every day, helping one another; the homeless welcomed into hotel rooms, and those whose work is largely overlooked finally appreciated, always.  So much has changed that could continue to enrich all our lives if we but made that a priority, if we held on to what good has come from this dreadful experience.  That will depend on each one of us and not any government or politician.  Power from above often hinders, it’s to the grassroots we must look and encourage those things that really matter.  If we don’t, God will have to, yet again, pull us all back to the centre, to walk the only road that leads to authentic, abundant life.  Anything else is second best.  We have the opportunity to make a real difference that will last.  Like the Apostles we don’t have to do this in our own strength.  God is with us and we can make it a reality for all if we are willing to do our bit.