Rocky Road Epistles Chapter 4

Rocky Road Epistle 7th April 2020

Chapter 4

Happy Easter and welcome to chapter 4 of the Rocky Road Epistle from Laura, your minister in exile!

Here we are in Holy Week approaching Easter without all the usual activities, sorry that you’ll have to cook your own breakfast on Sunday morning.

At present life is without the usual trappings, it certainly highlights what is important for life.  We have chance to pray, to read the Bible and think as we wait in this sort of “limbo”, unable to change our situation and wondering when the restrictions will be eased. 

Passage for next week is Luke 24 v.13-35

You should have had a communion service for Maundy Thursday in last week’s mailing. 

If you can celebrate it at 7pm on Thursday (9th) by yourself, you’ll know that others from RRBC are doing the same.

If you would like to you can join with some of us online through the “Zoom” system.  You will need to provide your own with bread and wine (or equivalent).

  • If you are on e-mail you should have received the link. 
  • If you have a smart phone you can also access this, please contact me and I can send you the necessary links and password. 
  • If you have a phone and want to listen in to the service - then you can. Please let me know beforehand if you want to join in and I will let you have the necessary passcode. 

Thoughts and prayer for Good Friday

As we think about Jesus suffering on the cross, we are reminded about those who are suffering at this time and who have suffered in the past, for example slaves in the 19th century slave trade.  They were people like you and me, yet were treated like animals, and traded like objects.  They were taken from their homes by force and trafficked to faraway countries.  Those who survived the horrific sea crossing were then sold to the highest bidder. 

Those slaves wrote and sang songs.  You might expect the words to complain and protest at their treatment.  Even asking where is God in this, does he not care, why does he let us suffer?  Yet the songs do not.  Here are the first 2 verses of one of their songs

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they him to the tree?

The song asks simply were you there?

In Jesus the slaves saw a man like themselves, someone falsely accused, beaten, jeered at, imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.  The slaves knew what it was like to be beaten, accused and taunted.  Jesus suffered like they suffered, but this Jesus prayed ‘Father forgive’.  How could Jesus love those who were unlovable, who had been so cruel?  Jesus showed a way of love, a way of freedom and forgiveness.  On the cross Jesus died for the sins of all people, of every race and colour.  So for these slaves Jesus had to be who he said he was, otherwise he could not have done what he did.  For the slaves who sung this song, the answer was yes, I was there, he died for me.

They found forgiveness and hope through the cross.  Whatever they were going through they knew God understood, God cared and there was hope of a better future.  Or as an African-American preacher, S.  M.  Lockridge, put it “It’s Friday.  But Sunday’s Coming!”  Friday is a day of pain and death, but Sunday brings the joy of the resurrection.  You cannot have Easter Sunday without Good Friday. 

Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, our crucified saviour, thank you for dying for us that we can be forgiven and know God as our father.  We can rejoice in the hope of this day because we know what happens next.

Around your cross were those who were deeply upset, including your mother.  We pray for those this day who have lost loved ones or are deeply distressed, especially in the middle of this Coronavirus outbreak, may they know the hope of Easter because you were wounded and broken for them.

You suffered on the cross, you knew pain, beatings and betrayal.  Around the world there are those who are suffering, those beaten, those who are betrayed.  People who are wounded and broken, may they find the help they need and hope in their lives because you were wounded and broken for them.

Father you sent Jesus to die for us, but praise you that was not the end of the story.  Now you send us out into a world that is wounded and broken to speak of your love shown by the fact that Jesus was wounded and broken on the cross.  Amen

Reflection for Easter Sunday

Based on the passage for the week - Matthew 28 v.1-20

The passage has a pattern like a sandwich,

Bottom layer of bread v.1-10, is made of four ingredients,

1) They knew Jesus had died

The women had seen the crucifixion, how they must have suffered witnessing their beloved friend and Lord going through such agony.  They knew though that he was dead and knew the tomb where he had been buried.  As they waited for the Sabbath to be over, they must have been thinking about what had happened.  They were in limbo, nothing to hope for, afraid of arrest, their lives on hold and in their grief forgetting what Jesus had said.  Even now on the Sunday they could do very little.  Just go to mourn at the tomb for didn’t know how they would move the massive stone.

2) They heard Jesus was alive

The women went to the tomb, there was an earthquake, an angel and a message.  The stone was rolled away by an angel – not an everyday occurrence, yet the message was more amazing, “Jesus is risen, just as he had said”.  We are told that the women went rushing away, afraid yet filled with joy.  Afraid of what?  Of being arrested, afraid of what would happen when the guards recovered or simply not daring to believe the news which was too good to be true?    

3) They met Jesus personally

Jesus met them, they worshipped him and he said to them “do not be afraid”.  Everything was going to work out, Jesus was alive, their few days of limbo were over.

4) They were given a message to tell others

Jesus gave them something to do.  It was very simple, “Go and tell the other disciples to go to Galilee and meet me there”.

Filling v.11-15 is bribery and fake news

The guards reported what had happened and were bribed to spread untruths.  Fake news is nothing new and, like now, spreads very easily.

Top layer of bread v.16-20, same four ingredients as on the bottom layer.

1) They knew Jesus had died

The other disciples were in limbo, they had seen Jesus arrested, they all knew Jesus had been crucified, died and buried in a tomb.  Three years of walking with Jesus had just ended in a very dramatic way.  They were scared, not sure what to do, hadn’t remembered the words of Jesus.  They gathered together supporting each other. 

2) They heard that Jesus was alive

We know this story so well, we know that Easter Sunday is coming when we celebrate Good Friday, but the original disciples did not know what was coming.  The women came to tell them Jesus was alive and give the message of going to Galilee.  As we learn from the other gospels, the women were not believed.  Perhaps the men were so wrapt up in their own grief that they could not grasp the truth of what was said.

3) They met Jesus personally

John tells us “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.  The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord (John 20 v.19,20).  They met Jesus, who blessed them with peace.  They were overjoyed!

4) They were given a message to tell others

Jesus met them all again in Galilee and they were sent to spread the good news to all.  Not just to tell, but to make disciples.  Matthew 28 v.19 & 20 says “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  This message has travelled over 2000 years and all over the world to reach us.

This Easter as a result of something dramatic, something not seen before, the whole world is in a state of limbo because of Coronovirus.  No one knows when the shutdown will be over.  But we have a greater hope founded on something more dramatic.  We know Jesus has died, we have heard Jesus is alive, we have met Jesus personally and we have been given a message to tell others.  These 4 ingredients should impact our lives as we live in the limbo between the resurrection on Easter Sunday and the second coming of Jesus.  We can live with hope remembering the words of Jesus that he is with us always to the very end of the age.  Nothing can separate us from his love.

Prayer

Living God,
we worship you today with joy in our hearts
and thanksgiving on our lips.
When the powers of evil had done their worst,
crucifying your son, and burying him in death,
you raised him to life again: an act of power giving hope to the world.

Lord Jesus,
we rejoice that death could not keep you in its grip;
that you were raised to life, alive for evermore.
You greeted your friends and now you stand amongst us in your risen power.

Spirit of God,
you are always giving life to the people of God,
giving birth to children of God.
Remodel us in the image of Jesus,
fill us with his love and enable us with his risen power,
that we might be faithful to his way,
used by you in the redeeming of your world.  Amen.

Encouragement in prayer

  • On a Sunday morning, around 10.45am, take time to pray, read the week’s passage & reflection and even sing the hymn below.  Around 11am say the Lord’s Prayer
  • On a weekday morning around 10am pause to pray for a few minutes, use the prayer diary or the directory to pray for a few people from our fellowship as well those you are concerned for.  Again, finish that session with the Lord’s prayer
  • Use the prayer diary which has Bible readings on weekdays
  • Why not make a note of one or more “Daily Joys”, things that have brought you joy that day and then tell someone else in the fellowship so you can rejoice together?

Suggestions

  • Each Wednesday and Sunday at 7pm, Lynn Green (General Secretary of the Baptist Union) is hosting a live prayer event that is gathering Baptists up and down the country.  This is a great way to feel connected to the wider family at a time when many of us are isolated and under pressure.  Please use this link to connect to the event www.baptist.org.uk/prayerbroadcasts
  • Sing Resurrection – see below.
  • I intend to have a weekly Bible Study over “Zoom” each Wednesday at 7.30pm for anyone who is interested. You do not need to have been in a house group to be involved. Please let me know if you are interested.

Hymns for Easter Sunday

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once, upon the Cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss.  Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the Cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save.  Alleluia!

But the pains that he endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured; Alleluia!
Now above the sky he’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing.  Alleluia!

Thine Be the Glory

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory Thou o'er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave-clothes where Thy body lay.

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory Thou o'er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom
let the Church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
for her Lord now liveth; death hath lost its sting.

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory Thou o'er death hast won.

No more we doubt Thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is nought without Thee: aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through Thy deathless love:
 bring us safe through Jordan to Thy home above.

Sing Resurrection

A counter-infection of joy and hope for Easter Day

Easter Sunday 2020 will be an Easter Sunday like no other before it.  We cannot sing the great Easter hymns inside our churches, but we can sing them in this way…

At 10am on Easter Sunday April 12th we call on all who want to celebrate the resurrection to go outside and sing Jesus Christ is Risen Today and Thine be the Glory at the top of their voices!

You could sing them…

  • in your garden
  • in your street
  • like an Italian from your balcony!
  • on your permitted daily walk in your local park
  • by the sea or by a lake

...all of course always keeping a safe spatial distance.

Why Jesus Christ is Risen Today and Thine Be the Glory?

They are probably the best loved Easter hymns known by the largest number of people. They are cheerful, confident and joyful acclamations of resurrection and will be uplifting for other people to hear on Easter morning. 

Jesus Christ is Risen Today is very ancient based on a 14th century Latin hymn, but reworked in the Lyra Davidica of 1708, so it is an expression of unity and connects us with all those who have gone before us. 

Thine Be the Glory was first written in French (A Toi la Gloire) by the Swiss writer Edmund Budry and connects us with the worldwide church. 

How to make this happen…

  1. Please share Sing Resurrection with as many people as possible by social media, email, phone. 
  2. Let’s share it globally too and see if Sing Resurrection can happen at 10am in 24 time zones around the world!
  3. Invite friends and neighbours in advance to listen out for Sing Resurrection or to join in themselves.  Visit
    Churches Together in England Sing Resurrection
    for more information and for the words of the hymns. 

Participating organisations

Churches Together in England logo Northumbria Community