Welcome and Call to Worship
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)
Hallelujah! Christ is risen
He is risen indeed.
We join with Christians around the world and throughout the ages in celebrating the resurrection of our Saviour. We will hear again the good news, pray for ourselves and all people, praise our God and saviour.
Prayers of adoration and confession
Blessed are you, Lord our God, creator, redeemer and king of all;
to you be glory and praise for ever!
From the waters of chaos you drew forth the world,
and in your great love, fashioned each one of us in your image.
Now, through the deep waters of death
you have brought your people to new birth,
by raising your Son to life in triumph.
May we, the first-fruits of your new creation,
rejoice in this new day you have made;
may Christ, your light, ever dawn in our hearts
as we offer you our sacrifice of thanks and praise.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit: one eternal God,
resplendent in brightness, radiant in purity,
inconceivable in majesty,
to you we give all blessing, glory, honour and power,
always, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.
Christ our Lord calls all who love him
earnestly to repent of their sin
and live in peace with one another.
So, let us confess our sin
before God and each another.
you love us, but we have not loved you;
you call, but we have not responded.
We walk away from our neighbours in need,
wrapped up in our own concerns.
We have gone along with evil,
and failed to do what is right.
God our Father,
help us to face up to our shortcomings,
and to trust in you,
so that, as you reach out to us,
we may repent, turn to you, and receive forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Assurance of forgiveness
Sisters and brothers in Christ, "God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned." (John 3:17-18)
Hear once more Christ’s word of grace to us: “Your sins are forgiven”
Thanks be to God.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen
He is risen indeed.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray.
God of endless love, ever caring, ever strong, always present, always just.
You gave your only Son to save us by the blood of his cross.
We thank you, Holy Spirit, for the times when you breathed on the people and they were refreshed and revived in their spirits.
Breathe on us today and renew our lives.
You take our endings and you make your new beginnings.
Your surprise and astound us in places where we expected that you were absent.
You challenge us to reconsider what is possible.
Living Lord, Saviour Christ, we praise you, for you are raised by the power of God and there is a new creation and, by your grace, we are in it!
When the day is quiet and the world still sleeps and the morning is crisp and love breathes again we praise you, O God of resurrection.
When the time is now and the moment is on us and the place is here and the grave clothes are folded we praise you, O God of renewal
When the day is new and the sun is fresh and the light is clean and the stone has rolled we praise you, O God of empty tombs.
Now we see the world differently.
What we thought was the way of things yesterday, is no longer the way of things today. We are living in a different world.
Will we ever see the world we knew again?
Our Family will be there, our friends will be there, but Life as we knew it will change.
When the shouting has stopped, and the suffering ended, and the betrayal complete, and the darkness stolen, then we praise you, O God of life.
God of mercy and love let us serve you in our world. We pray for countries where justice seems far away, where human rights are ignored.
Let us remind those in power that people should not be forgotten. We pray that the dignity of life is respected, we pray for all those who have lost their employment. We pray for those essential workers, who are there day and night for us all, in whatever their capacity.
May we act to challenge injustice and seek to affirm your love for all humankind.
God of mercy and love let us serve you in our world. We pray for those who have no peace, for those who are troubled and torn apart by lack of self-esteem, for those who torment and victimise the vulnerable.
We pray for men and women affected by violence in the home and for those who live by violence. May they learn of your love, and somehow come to newness of life even in the midst of despair. We pray for those who live in our Community at this time. Even though our neighbours seem so far away, we pray that they will be OK, that they will keep their “heads up” in this time of isolation. May we be there to help them if they need us.
We pray for our Church here at Carlingford, for our Leader Richie and his Family. May they be given your strength at this difficult time of Ministry. May he be encouraged in his work and ministry to us. We pray for our congregation, and all our friends within this Church. We all must pray that we will be there for each other, by a phone call, or a note sent in the mail. We pray our connection each Sunday, by our service, whether on the internet or by a letter, will sustain us and keep us connected together.
We pray for our Church Council, and those that are working as normal, to uphold the work of our Church.
God of mercy and love let us serve you in our world
In your name we humbly ask that we may be a channel for your peace and love.
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.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.
Matthew 28:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Resurrection of Jesus
28 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Colossians 1:15-24 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Supremacy of Christ
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— 23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.
Paul’s Interest in the Colossians
24 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
The Image of God
I want to start by asking two questions:
What is your image of God?
What do you think God's image of you is?
Or, to put it another way, what do you think is God like? and what does God think you're like?
But how is it that we know what God is like? How do we see God?
Do we see God in the beauty of a sunset? In the wonder of creation at a microscopic level? In the vastness of the universe we see in the night sky? In the destructive force of a cyclone? In seemingly miraculous rescue from disaster? In acts of love and compassion? In the pure smile of a newborn child or grandchild? In the faces of those we love and choose to spend our lives with? I'm very fond of the line from the musical Les Miserables, "To love another person is to see the face of God".
And I think that all of those things are a glimpse of what God is like, because we certainly do see God in creation and in our lives - in fact, Paul writes to the Romans (1:20) “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…"
But try as we might, by our own efforts, we can do nothing more than merely glimpse God - whether it's through the beauty and complexity of the world, through acts of love, in the innocence of children or through loving and being loved by those we care for.
Left to our own devices, we fall short, we do not see God, we do not know God, because - as Paul says in today's reading from Colossians (1:21) we have become "estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds" - because we as a people and as individuals have turned away from God.
But Paul tells the Colossians, and indeed us today, how it is that God can be seen; from the opening of this morning's reading:
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." (Col 1:15)
It is in the Son, in Jesus, that can we see God, and it is only in Jesus that we truly and fully see God. We may have glimpsed the awe and the wonder and the love and power of God in creation, but it is only in his Son that we see his full image.
In John's gospel we read that "No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known." (John 1:18) To know Jesus is to know God.
And later in John's gospel Jesus emphasises this when he says “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6)
Now, we may well see others as role models, examples of Christ-like behaviour, people to be followed, people even to be inspired by, but we need to remember that they are not the image of God. We've seen it historically in the Church as saints became objects of worship, I think we can see it in how we regard the great reformers too, but even in modern times we tend to hold people such as Martin Luther King Junior and Mother Therese as pinnacles of faith, people to be emulated. And they are, of course, great inspirations and role models for us.
But no matter how good and faithful these people might have been, we need to remember that it is not them who are the image of God, but Jesus.
And so it is too, with the activities of life. No matter how 'good' the cause is, no matter how essential or important the work, we need to be sure that it is not taking our focus away from Christ.
Having identified Jesus as the image of God, Paul goes on to explain what that means for us, that Jesus is “ the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created.." (Colossians 1:15)
Paul's use of the term 'firstborn' in this context, means heir - the firstborn son is traditionally the inheritor of the estate. So Jesus is the heir of God's creation: All things were not only created through him, but they were also created for him.
And then, we read that "He is the head of the body, the church;" (1:18a) and that may seem to be a little odd. Jesus - image of God, firstborn over creation, everything made through him and for him. And now he's running a church…
Because we Christians get a bit preoccupied with explaining how the church is a body of people rather than a building, and it's easy to come up with the view that Jesus is fairly passive in these arrangements - that we should try and be like Jesus, we should try to do what Jesus would like us to do. But Paul tells something more: that Jesus is the head of the church: Not our church councils, not our presbytery not even our synod, and not the bishops, cardinals and popes of other denominations. The church, as a body, answers to Jesus.
Paul writes that "[Jesus] is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything." (1:18b). Jesus' resurrection – the resurrection that we celebrate this morning – points to our own resurrection. Once again he is described as the firstborn - the heir to the resurrection life. And so Paul's commentary moves from the creation of everything through to the redemption and reconciliation…
"For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross." (1:19-20)
And this is the essence of our faith: God created all things through his Son; that creation turned away from him - we turn away from him; and then God made peace through his Son. God didn't turn away from us, God didn't do the wrong thing by us, and yet it is God, through this phenomenal sacrifice who moved to make peace.
You’ll know the song "The servant king"… there is a line in it that "hands that flung stars into space, to cruel nails surrendered". Think about that - the Son, the heir of all creation, through whom all things were made was rejected and mocked and flogged and nailed to a cross.
The Son of God, the very image of God is nailed to a cross…
And this, this is the God that we as Christians know. God who knows what it's like to experience human life, who knows sorrow and suffering.
And that should be our image of God.
Which brings us to the second question I asked: what image does God have of you? What do think God thinks you're like?
Do you think that God thinks of you as a hopeless sinner, someone with dark secrets, which you might try to hide, but God knows?
Or do you think that God sees you as the pinnacle of the Christian faith, goes to church every week, reads the bible every day, prays all the time, puts quite a reasonable sum in the offertory? You know, someone that God should be really proud to have as a follower?
Or do you think God thinks of you as a person who does a fair few good deeds, tries to do what is right, sometimes gets it wrong, but really, on balance you're not too bad -and you hope that God will look after you in the end?
It’s easy to fall into any of those views, but Paul tells us something quite different - from verse 21, Paul tells the Colossians that "… you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—." (1:21-22)
Paul captures the gospel neatly (as he has a habit of doing throughout his letters) when he says that. Once we were separated from God, but through Christ we have been reconciled with God.
If we have turned to Jesus in faith, God doesn't see us as a hopeless sinner, nor does he see us as an enthusiastic follower of the law, nor does he see us as someone who's, on balance, not too bad. Because of the reconciliation in Christ we are holy in his sight. God's image of us is people who are without blemish and blameless before him.
Whether we have dark secrets, or we are exemplary in our public expressions of faith, or are just 'not too bad', we are made holy in God's sight. Not through any action of our own, but through the grace of God in Christ.
Paul doesn't end there, and he goes on to explain that we must “continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.” We must hold fast to the gospel, the very gospel that Paul is explaining.
And though we are saved, though we are made without blemish and blameless in the sight of God, we mustn’t put our feet up. Paul explains how he has worked to share the gospel, how he has suffered to spread the good news of Christ:
“I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” (1:24)
Paul's work in spreading the good news of Jesus, which in his case involves physical suffering, is in response to Jesus and for the sake of the Church. Paul isn't suffering or risking his life in order to earn God's favour, he is doing it because God has given him his favour. And so it is with us: people often think of Christians as people who are doing the right thing - being moral and ethical and helping the poor and so on - in order to be right with God, but really, we are made right with God through Christ, and in response to that, we work to do the right thing.
Paul says later in verse 28 “It is [Jesus] whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Col 1:28)
So let’s uphold the image of God: Not simply the glimpses of God that we have in creation, and that we experience through our friends and families and communities, but the full image of God that we have in Jesus. Jesus through whom all things were created and are sustained.
Jesus, God the Son, who entered the world, who lived and taught and healed. Jesus who died and rose again, who ascended into heaven. And who will come again, in glory.
Let us be reassured that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we, his followers, are holy in God's sight, without blemish and blameless before him.
And recognising what God has done for us, let us respond as Paul did, and as faithful Christians throughout the ages have done; suffering if we must, but proclaiming the gospel in word and in action. Let’s all be servants of God, continuing the commission God gave to Paul, presenting the word of God in its fullness, making Jesus known.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. He is the one we proclaim; warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
And we do this to the glory of God.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed.
Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.
Hymns for Easter Sunday:
Looking Out: Where is God?
Next Sunday: 19 April, 2020
Theme: “From Doubt to Belief”
Reading: John 20: 19-31
Lectionary Readings for Next Week
Psalm 16, Acts 2:14a, 22-32, 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31