Written Service for Rugby and Daventry Circuit on
11th April 2021
It is good to gather in spirit again, if not in body
yet, with you. This is low Sunday, once also used as Local Preachers
Sunday, again perhaps as most ministers were taking a break after a
very exhausting Holy week! However it really was to empathize how great
on Easter Sunday should have been our praising, rejoicing, and gratitude
for the glorious message to us of Jesus Christ our Lord raised to life
despite all human endeavor to kill him.
Both these thoughts combine to give us today a moment of personal reflection.
The day should be given over not only to thinking about the real meaning
and impact of Easter for all of us, but what has been the effect for
each one of us from the presence of the risen Christ in our own lives,
and in the life of the congregation to which we belong.
Into that reflection shall we gather what as a result of His presence
in our lives we have seen, heard, and done, and then whom have we told?
John whose testimonies we will treasure today begins his Gospel, his
good news,with the words:
'Out of his full store we have received grace (unmerited
favour) upon grace, for while the Law was given by Moses, grace and
truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God: but God's
only Son, who is nearest to the Father's heart, he has made him known.'
( John 1 v16-18)
1 Sing to him in whom creation
found its shape and origin;
Spirit, moving on the waters
troubled by the God within;
source of breath to all things breathing,
life in whom all lives begin.
2 Sing to God, the close companion
of our inmost thoughts and ways;
who, in showing us his wonders,
is himself the power to gaze,
and his will, to those who listen,
by a still small voice conveys.
3 Holy people, priests and prophets
caught his accents, spoke his word;
his the truth behind the wisdoms
which as yet know not our Lord;
he the love of God eternal,
which in Christ was seen and heard.
4 Tell of how the ascended Jesus
armed a people for his own;
how a hundred men and women
turned the known world upside down,
to its dark and farthest corners
by the wind of Whitsun blown.
5 Pray we, then, O Lord the Spirit,
on our lives descend in might;
let your flame break out within us,
fire our hearts and clear our sight,
till, white-hot in your possession,
we, too, set the world alight.
6 Praise, O praise the Holy Spirit,
praise the Father, praise the Word,
source, and truth, and inspiration,
Trinity in deep accord;
through your voice which speaks within us
we your creatures own you Lord.
Michael Hewlett (1916-2000) Reproduced from Singing the Faith
Electronic Words Edition
Words: © Michael Hewlett / Oxford University Press. From
English Praise, 1975, Oxford University Press.
Prayers of Adoration, Thanksgiving and Forgiveness.
Creator God we come to worship you, to marvel at your creation, a thing
of so many elements, of so much beauty, of related complexity, of checks
and balances, that even now after millennia we are still becoming more
fully aware of its workings, even though you have placed us in charge-
a little lower than the angels, as the psalmist put it. As we learn
of its wonders we realise you are testing our natures and our motives,
and our destructive forces threaten the existence of ourselves and your
Yet in your mercy you have not left us devoid of knowledge
of you, and of your purposes. You have given us a need to seek to understand,
to feel care and concern for others, and the witnesses through the ages
that have sought to make you and your ways known. So as your sons and
daughters we come to thank you for your greatest gift- the living testimony,
exemplar, to who you are, your son our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we as
humankind sought to destroy. For us you raised him to life from death
that we might know new life, hope, and joy, for whatever our lives experience,
and with it a sense of your continued care and presence. In this moment
we would bring into our prayers our present frustrations, trials and
difficulties, knowing you want us to share them with you alongside our
Accept our awe and wonder as we reflect both upon what
we have learnt of you in both the Easters in our lives, and from the
Good Fridays of our days. In those we know we have felt victims, and
been persecutors, or silent bystanders of what should not be. We seek
reassurances of your forgiveness, urged by your tortured son, a new
vision of your beautiful creation, and in that your purpose for us,
praying earnestly for the courage to join in chorus with that great
cloud of witnesses to which you have called us through our risen Lord.
So let's offer the prayer your
Son taught all his disciples to off- Our Father
Our Father in heaven hallowed be your Name
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven
Give us today our daily bread,
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us
Save us from a time of trial
and deliver us from evil
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours now and forever.
Our two readings are taken
from John's testimonies
His first Letter to the churches in Asia Minor- 1 John 1 -2v2
1 John 1 v1 - 2 v2 NIV
The Incarnation of the Word
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have
seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this
we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have
seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life,
which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you
what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with
us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
4 We write this to make our[a] joy complete.
Light and Darkness, Sin and
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God
is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have
fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not
live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all[b] sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth
is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and
will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his
word is not in us.
2-1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.
But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father-Jesus Christ,
the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not
only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
The conclusion of his Gospel-
John 20 v19-31
John 20 v 14-31 NIV
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did
not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, "Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried
him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."
16 Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!"
(which means "Teacher").
17 Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have
not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them,
'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news:
"I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said
these things to her.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when
the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish
leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with
you!" 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.
The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the
Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed
on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone's
sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the
Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other
disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks
in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand
into his side, I will not believe."
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again,
and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and
stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27 Then he
said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out
your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen
me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have
The Purpose of John's Gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence
of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these
are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son
of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Lets declare the Easter Greeting:
Alleluia Christ is risen: He
is risen indeed
In that certainty we rehearse a modern hymn I first
sang as the Methodist Conference in 2013 with 300 fellow Methodists
that underlines the significance of what we have just heard and confirmed.
1 See, what a morning, gloriously bright,
with the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
folded the graveclothes, tomb filled with light,
as the angels announce Christ is risen!
See God's salvation plan,
wrought in love, borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
fulfilled in Christ, the Man,
for he lives: Christ is risen from the dead!
2 See Mary weeping, 'Where is he laid?'
as in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
hears a voice speaking, calling her name;
it's the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
speaking life, stirring hope, bringing peace to us,
will sound till he appears,
for he lives: Christ is risen from thedead!
3 One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty;
honour and blessing, glory and praise
to the King crowned with power and authority!
And we are raised with him,
death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
and we shall reign with him,
for he lives: Christ is risen from the dead!
Stuart Townend (b.1963) and Keith Getty (b.1974)
Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition
Words and Music: © 2003, Thankyou Music. Used by permission.
two thoughts with which to begin to look at John's writings to us about
what happened post Easter.
'The truth is we have all faced different tests in our
lives that God has brought us out of. The other flip side of that is
the true meaning of testimony- to be a witness or give a report.'
'I chose to let my scars tell a beautiful story instead
of a tragic one. I needed to experience the dark to truly appreciate
and understand the light.'
Are these in any way true for you in your journey of Faith?
Our readings from John's letter and his Gospel- his Good news speak
to me so profoundly of the effect Christ's victory over death on him
and on those others in that upper room. An upper room where they were
huddled, hoping the world, its authorities in particular, but also its
roused mob, would not notice them, or if they sought them not find them.
Can we begin to imagine what His sudden appearance amongst them did
to and for them? If we can begin to feel their amazement, perhaps genuine
thankfulness too, would we be also surprised if the implications of
His return for each one of them may have also begun to frighten them?
His twice uttered wish for peace for them may well have been much needed.
Especially as He began to explore for them their ongoing commission
to change the world!
Of course one wasn't there-missed it all- perhaps you
may have real sympathy for Thomas -even identify with him - that anytime
something really wonderful or significant happens, you are somewhere
else? Had they (or those who talk of Christ's presence in their lives
to you) as a modern hymn puts it 'sown a wish to reap a dream'? We know
from two previous references John makes about Thomas that we are dealing
with someone solid -down to earth- loyal and dependable -if perhaps
a little pessimistic- ring any bells?
After Lazarus had been raised to life again by Jesus,
and despite protests of the disciples about being dangerous to go to
Jerusalem again, it was Thomas when Jesus had said he would go, who
first said he would go too and die with him! It was Thomas who asked
Jesus to be shown the way to the place Jesus was going ahead to prepare
for them-his beloved 12. I am the away, the truth, and the life was
the answer he (and we receive). Now Thomas was again to want a real
answer to this sighting of Jesus if he was going to believe. Then Jesus
came, and aware of what Thomas had said was the proof he would need,
offered that exactly to Him! At this point Thomas the Jew recognized
Jesus's risen divinity- My Lord and My God- the first to do so.
Yes I hear myself and you say, but we know the story
and wonder at it still. But how does that translate for us in our Covid
world? It is not the exact threat that left this little fellowship frightened
in an upper room- but it has left us ( not for the first time of course)
with a real fear that has changed our world. The question at such times
for us, His followers, entrusted with His truth that in giving our lives
away we will find it, is what are we to do now for such a world? The
answer I see increasingly in New Testament Terms- indeed biblical terms.
As of old we must give our testimonies to a world where many want to
know who is ultimately in charge. Not just what the bible says, or Jesus,
as handed down to us, said, but what as the risen Lord he has said to
us through our journey with him. The whole Bible could be read and seen
to be a book of testimonies responding to current situations but much
of eternal value and wisdom.
But for it to be real for our generation, meaningful
and powerful its needs our testimonies also to speak ofour experience
not only of uplifting moments, but also our failures, and of our scars
that tell a beautiful story where darkness leads to Light.
What have you and I to say about the living God- Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit in our own lives, and about the pressing needs
of our world today in 2021? Have we written it down and have we told
In posing this question to myself I found I wanted to
say things in my own journey. I did write much of it down in a 70 page
autobiography when I got to 70- in case I forgot! However recently I
had three different situations besides this sermon to do just that.
In my house group we have been looking at Acts- what did those upper
room disciples do with the challenge Jesus gave them. We have had to
answer whether we had ever taken on a simple task for our Lord that
had led to great challenge. Where to start I thought? Well how about
a phone call to run a Christmas Party for 30 youngsters 7-11? It changed
my life and my future career came from it. Perhaps I should say the
request was from the author of Born in the night, and the area Notting
Hill in the 60's. Then our Street Pastors in Daventry held an AGM to
disband after 10 years of walking the streets for and with our Lord.
It took me only a little time to recount 5 A4 pages of incidents where
He has led us to meet need and talk of our Faith as the reason for being
there. Then Anthea and I had a zoom with a number, who were members
of the same Meth SOC university discussion group over a 10 year period,
in which we were asked to update our Biogs. from 2012 when we last met.
13 A4 pages was the result from 17 of us with many references to service
in Methodism and the wider world detailing where God had called us.
I want to finish on an important lesson I learnt from
one of those biogs. It was from a member, I did not know, whose beloved
husband now had character changing Alzheimer's. I wrote to her afterwards
moved by what she was going through, and in reply she said probably
many of us like her had had difficulties too. Of course she was right-
I know a number well, who have had real difficulties, some still ongoing.
Ourselves included had not mentioned them, and yet I could have because
in these God had not left us - but with an act of love so unexpected
and unrelated, relatives were moved to be there for our loved ones.
It is important in our testimonies the scars are allowed to tell a beautiful
God incidence when 'It's Friday but Sunday is coming' has actually come.
That is the Easter story for all of us and it is for us to tell it.
Thanks be to God our Father Amen.
We note a modern Hymn a testimony
to what the writer makes of the Faith
risen while earth slumbers
Christ has risen where hope died
Christ has risen and for ever
Lives to challenge and to change
Singing the Faith 296
Christ has risen while earth slumbers,
Christ has risen where hope died,
as he said and as he promised,
as we doubted and denied.
Let the moon embrace the blessing;
let the sun sustain the cheer;
let the world confirm the rumour.
Christ is risen, God is here!
Christ has risen for the people
whom he loved and died to save;
Christ has risen for the women
bringing flowers to grace his grave
Christ has risen for disciples
huddled in an upstairs room.
He whose word inspired creation
Is not silenced by the tomb.
Christ has risen to companion
former friends who fear the night,
sensing loss and limitation
where their faith had once burned bright.
They bemoan what is no longer,
they expect no hopeful sign
till Christ ends their conversation,
breaking bread and sharing wine.
Christ has risen and forever
lives to challenge and to change
all whose lives are messed or mangled,
all who find religion strange.
Christ is risen. Christ is present
making us what he has been
-evidence of transformation
in which God is known and seen.
Reproduced by permission. Words by John L. Bell
& Graham Maule © 1988 WGRG, c/o Iona Community, Glasgow
CCLI No. 5310
Lets make our intercessions for a world including ourselves
that needs His challenge to change.
When we say Lord: let our hearts respond 'let your
voice be heard'.
Lord we bring to you our world beset with many voices,
many insecurities, many tragedies
In the din Lord: let your voice be heard.
We pray for those are lost or confused in their thoughts
by the many voices that seek to persuade them what they should think,
or be, or do:
Voices that shout at them to believe this or that
Voices that undermine their sense of wellbeing or self value- through
divisive issues of
gender, race, colour, disability, or religion
Voices that seek to inflate or belittle who they are
Voices that exploit their fears for personal advantage or gain
We are mindful as your people you have given us to be lights to the
way, the truth, and life
In these mind games Lord: Let your voice be heard.
We pray for those who are in extremis as we sit here-
in war zones, on the road or seas as refugees
Or banished to camps or islands, or locked away in prisons, those caught
up in violent protests, or persecuted as a unwanted minority.
These we know are your children too, of equal concern to you.
Make us mindful of the proclamation and responsibilities you have given
us in our actions.
In these calamities Lord: Let your voice be heard.
So we pray for those in positions of power over what happens to others:
Governments, officials, law enforcers, financiers, employers, leaders
of communities, charities, and in families.
May they be mindful of their responsibilities, duties of care, and the
fall out from what they decide and do. May they seek not self interest
but a sense of justice, fairness, and equality modeled on your loving
forgiving relationship with us.
In such forums Lord: let your voice be heard.
Father God as we enter a new phase of this pandemic
we would bring to you those whose are suffering from covid, long covid,
and now delays for many other conditions in operations and treatments
or supplies or former reliefs- shared care, meetings for sharing and
support, and sustaining human contact. With them we bring to mind their
carers, nurses, doctors. We thank for all those who continue caring
at great cost to themselves, and those who in these situations have
not been able to mourn the loss of loved ones or come to terms with
what now cannot be.
We would particularly think before you of
In all this sea of pain Lord: Let your voice be heard.
Finally for ourselves- sometimes bewildered at the twists
and turns in our lives and those we especially hold dear, when doubts
spring up and answers/understanding/ elude us as events moves us towards
despair rather than the joys and certainties of an Easter day. For these
times give us fresh visions and experiences of your presence and continued
care for us and others that we can feed in to a puzzled world as true
witnesses to our joys as 'Resurrection People able to shout Alleluia
as your true voice in this world.
This we ask through our risen Lord Jesus. Amen.
We sing a song of hope for
This joyful Eastertide what need is there for grieving?
1 This joyful Eastertide,
what need is there for grieving?
Cast all your cares aside
and be not unbelieving:
Come, share our Easter joy
that death could not imprison,
nor any power destroy,
our Christ, who is arisen!
2 No work for him is vain,
no faith in him mistaken,
for Easter makes it plain
his kingdom is not shaken:
3 Then put your trust in Christ,
in waking and in sleeping.
His grace on earth sufficed;
he'll never quit his keeping:
Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000)
Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition
Words: © 1969, Stainer & Bell Ltd.
God of power may the boldness of your Spirit transform
May the testimonies of witnesses encourage us
May their spirit and our experiences of their truths give us conviction
that Jesus Christ is our risen Lord, and
to proclaim the word and works of God to all in what we say and do
And may the blessing of God, Son, and Holy Spirit remain
with us always.