Welcome to our service from Craigmillar Park and Reid Memorial Churches in Edinburgh for the third Sunday of Easter. We consider what the resurrection meant for Jesus’ disciples and what it means today for us.
Call to Worship (from Psalm 122):
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
HYMN 352 O for a thousand tongues, to sing
Living God, whose majesty is now apparent in the gift of your resurrected Son
Be with us now in the power of your Holy Spirit as we pray.
Lord, you step into the chaos of our lives,
and you bring peace.
You chase away the darkness and distress
of doubt and fear,
bringing calmness, confidence and strength to all who believe in you.
In your peace, we are made whole.
Grant us the courage to be witnesses
of Christ’s continuing purpose in our time.
Forgive us for the ways in which we have disappointed you
through our selfish acts and heedless behaviour.
Forgive us for the ways we have doubted you
and allowed our fears to overcome our trust in you.
Forgive us for our failure to recognise the blessings you bestow on your followers
and the gift of peace which you freely offer to us.
We ask your help, O God, in restoring right relationships with you and with each other.
Rejoicing in the peace you offer us, we pray as our Saviour taught us:
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.
Luke 24, 36-48
Two disciples who had met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus returned to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples that the Lord had indeed risen. This passage tells what happened next.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
Acts 3, 12-19
This passage starts abruptly so just a bit of context first. Peter and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, were going to pray at the temple in Jerusalem, probably not so very long after the events of the first Easter. They saw a lame man, begging. Rather than give him alms, Peter told him to rise up and walk, in the name of Jesus. The man did so – the writer of Acts describes him as ‘walking and jumping’ – and the onlookers were amazed. The passage we are now going to hear describes Peter’s reaction to their astonishment.
When Peter saw this, he said to them: ‘Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
‘Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
I Know That My Redeemer Liveth (Handel) — Choir of New College, Oxford
Grant, O Lord, that in these words, we may behold the living Word, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Imagine the scene in Jerusalem that we’ve just heard described in the first reading. For us, it’s two weeks since the events of Holy Week and that first Easter, but for those eleven disciples it’s just a matter of hours. They are shocked by the brutal unfolding of their beloved leader’s prophecies and probably also by the betrayal of Judas; are they looking at each other, wondering if anyone else is going to turn on them? They are probably in hiding, terrified for their own safety and wondering too what to do next. Is this the end of their hopes and dreams? Into this mix of high emotion come, firstly, the women who reported the empty tomb, and later Peter, who saw that baffling sight for himself, and then they hear the testimony of the two who met Jesus himself on the road to Emmaus and were inspired to return to Jerusalem with the news: Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. So they start to feel a twinge of hope. Could it really be true? What if it is a trap? What should they do next? Perhaps panic sets in and the volume of talk and argument rises.
And then Jesus himself appears among them. His first words are intended to calm them: Peace be with you – shalom in Aramaic, Jesus’ own tongue. Perhaps we can all sympathise with the disciples who react, not with joy but with surprise and fear. But Jesus asks for food and they realise that this is no ghost, but a living, breathing, comforting presence. They see his wounds and they hear his explanation. They start to believe their own eyes. They have become living witnesses to the miracle of the Resurrection. We are not told whether they do indeed become calm but we do know what they do next because the passage from Acts tells us.
Just a few days after this experience, the disciples are back out in public, braving their fears even to the extent of entering the temple and coming under the eyes of those who had Jesus crucified. Peter cures a lame man in Jesus’ name, drawing more attention to themselves. Clearly, their confidence has returned and they willingly testify in public to Jesus as Messiah and Lord. “We are witnesses”, they say. They go on to found a church, a movement that has transformed the world, and of which we are part.
What has happened? How did a group of frightened men gain such strength, such confidence, such calm certainty, within just a few days? What does that mean for us?
We know, of course, what happened. They experienced the reality of Christ’s presence and they were blessed by him. Shalom, Jesus said, a word that includes in its meaning a sense of contentment, completeness, wholeness, well-being and harmony. It is a spoken assurance that all is well with the world, just as God intends.
We cannot usually claim to have faced what those first disciples experienced but we have all had our lives disrupted over this last year, in small ways and perhaps in larger ways too. We have known fear and uncertainty and we too have retreated from the world into small rooms for our own and others’ safety. We may feel isolated and, like the disciples, wonder what the world holds in store for us next.
We can, however, be sure what will happen next because these passages tell us. Jesus will break through the walls which surround us, literal or otherwise, we will experience once more the reality of his presence and we will remember that we too are witnesses to the glorious truth of the Resurrection. Like the disciples, we will receive the gifts of sureness and strength and Jesus will bless us with both peace and confidence. Shalom.
The disciples were assembled behind closed doors
when suddenly You entered, O Jesus our Almighty God.
You stood in their midst, and gave them Your peace;
You breathed the Holy Spirit on them.
And so we cry to you:
Glory to You,
and our peace!
In glad thanksgiving for your goodness, we offer you our gifts of money, time and talents. Help us to
make good use of these resources to further your kingdom in our land, all to your glory.
As we travel through this pandemic,
we give thanks for all those who have offered signs of resurrection
in their work and commitments.
We pray for doctors, nurses, care and support staff
who tirelessly tend those in need,
at times with potential harm to themselves.
We pray for the scientific community
as it continues research and development
in care and prevention.
We pray also for those who need health and social care; be with them as they struggle and grant
them your peace.
Christ of light,
We pray for those whose futures have become dark through unemployment, poverty and ill-health.
Give them hope and allow the light of your grace to shine on their lives.
Christ of resurrection,
we remember in deep thanksgiving those we have lost.
We grieve with those
who mourn the death of loved ones.
May we be those who share the memories and love
that allow hope to rise from loss.
In the name of Jesus Christ,
Your risen One.
Shalom, my friend
May God bless us.
May God keep us.
May God be gracious and look kindly on us.
And may the Lord’s face shine upon us
And give us peace, give us peace. Shalom
This service was prepared by Pauline Weibye, Session Clerk at Craigmillar Park.
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reflection ends with a fragment of liturgy from the Northumbria Community, adapted from an original Greek Orthodox liturgy.
Benediction and aspects of the prayers and reflection adapted from the Church of Scotland’s Weekly Worship resources