Hooke Sunday School Explores Change

Our Sunday School meets on the 2nd Sunday of the month at 10.15 followed by our Family Service. We generally follow the Lectionary Reading for the day, and Easter 2 was the reading from John’s Gospel Chapter 20 v19-31. We learned how the lives of Jesus’ disciples were transformed by the Holy Spirit, after seeing Jesus re-appear to them whilst in a locked room.

We discussed how words can be changed. We found pairs of opposite meanings. We found ways in which people can think differently and their lives can be changed. We found ways in which objects can be changed: ie polystyrene cups into shakers for accompanying music. The young people decorated the cups and filled them with a selection of substances. They experimented to find out that the different fillings produced different sounds: low and high; mellow and tinny. The young people then used these instruments to accompany a couple of the songs in the Service which followed.

Joy & Pat

Easter Day 2018 Sermon by Rev Jo

We are here, the morning of very unexpected discoveries.

After Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, his denial by Peter, the deserting of the disciples, the mocking by the Romans and his painful suffering and death we reach the end.

This should have been the low point. The moment when the women continued the burial preparations begun 24 hours before. But the power of God transforms this moment of grief into an enormous surprise. It turns out this isn’t the end, but instead a new beginning.

Early in the morning, on the first day of the week. A new beginning, a new revelation, a new understanding. And how can the women and the disciples even begin to take it in?

It is so unexpected.

They expected to find his body there. Instead neatly rolled graveclothes.

They were worried he had been stolen or removed, instead he was present.

They ran, desperate towards the tomb, trying to make sense of yet more sorrow. And then leave again, not realising or quite fully comprehending what has taken place.

It is Mary who waits and then experiences the encounter first with the angel and then with the gardener, who turns out to be more than she expected.

I always love the fact that it is when Jesus speaks her name that she recognises him. It is through her relationship with Jesus, through their intimacy and familiarity with each other and the knowledge of his voice that she knows it his him. Reminding me of God’s promise in Isaiah 43:1, ‘Do not fear, I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine.’

And then a new instruction for Mary. She isn’t to stay here clinging on to Jesus, although surely that is what she wants to do. She must go and share what she has seen with others. Reveal what amazing things have taken place. Tell everyone that she has seen the Lord.

We have the same commission as Mary. And we have the same experience too.

Jesus knows us as his friends, we are in relationship with him. He has called us by name, we are his. He died for us and rose again for us. We meet him here in worship, through prayer, through story, through bread and wine. But we can’t stay here. We can’t cling on to him in this sacred space, if the grave can’t contain Jesus then certainly he won’t stay trapped inside a slightly cold church. Instead we are invited to leave and tell others that we have seen the Lord. We share, with Mary, with the disciples, with Christians all around the world in Christ’s risen life. We share in the forgiveness of sins, we share in worship with God and with one another today, we share bread and wine, we share the life of the church, we share a common faith.

And our response must be to take that new life, that love, that forgiveness, that hope, that joy out into the world and transform the world through love. We meet and see Christ in the lives of others, we share his love with everyone we meet.

Christ did not stay dead. He was not in the tomb. Death could not defeat him; the grave could not contain him.

He is risen, He is alive, He is present with us. I have seen the Lord. Now we must go and share that good news.

Easter Day Sunrise Service 2018 Sermon by Rev David

There is an account in the New Testament of St Peter’s instruction on the Christian faith to a man called Cornelius and his household (Acts 10). Who was Cornelius? He was a Roman soldier stationed in Caesarea. He was in charge of about one hundred men in the army of occupation. We are told he was a devout and God fearing man who gave generously to Jewish causes, so he was obviously a friend of the local Jewish community, we are told that he prayed constantly to God. He was not a Christian at that point, but was clearly looking for something, a man whose religious instinct had been awakened, no longer just dormant. But he had never heard of Jesus, or at least only indirectly.

However, he received a special message from God and was told to seek out Peter. Peter was not all that keen on seeing Cornelius simply because he was not a Jew, but then he too received a special message and was told to receive Cornelius. So they met. Peter instructed Cornelius in the Christian faith and eventually the Roman and his family all became Christians, followers of Christ. Peter had to explain that Jesus had been killed ‘by hanging him on a tree’, yet – and here was the important and difficult part -‘ three days later, God raised him to life’.

I wonder what went through Cornelius’ head at that moment. Was he unconvinced? Sceptical? Why, people don’t die and then come back to life, certainly not in an advanced and sophisticated society such as that of the Roman Empire at that time. But Peter went on: yes God raise Jesus to life, and what is more – Peter hammered the point home – god allowed him to be seen, not by everybody but by certain witnesses chosen beforehand. It strikes me that Peter was being a little modest in his claim about the number of people who saw Jesus risen and alive. St Paul, writing to the Corinthians said that on one occasion the risen Christ was seen by 500 people at the same time, and added: ‘If you doubt it, you can verify the fact because most of those who saw Christ on that occasion are still alive.’ St Paul was writing very early on and knew what he was saying.

But to return to Cornelius, Peter is at pains to point out, ‘now we are witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead.’ He could have gone further – perhaps he did – and told Cornelius about the empty tomb, how he had run there with St John. John could not refrain from saying he got there first! They both ran and saw the empty tomb. Moreover, they saw the linen cloth which had been wrapped around the dead body of Jesus, and they saw that the cloth which had covered his face was in a different place.

They had not expected to find the tomb empty. They had failed to understand the teaching of the scripture that ‘Christ must rise from the dead’. St John is at pains to point that out. He and Peter had gone to the burial site only because Mary of Magdala had rushed to tell them what she had seen – an empty tomb.

Where was the body? Who had stolen it? I can see these questions playing in Cornelius’ mind. What had happened? Obviously someone had taken it, someone had stolen it. That was the rumour. This had unnerved the people responsible for killing Jesus. So they had bribed the soldiers who were guarding the tomb to say they had fallen asleep, and while they were asleep someone came and rolled the stone away and took the body. They took the money and spread the story – a very far-fetched story. But the tomb was empty and something very important had happened, because the disciples remembered what Jesus had said: ‘Yes, on the third day I will rise again.’

Where, Cornelius insisted was the body? Where was Jesus? He was told by St Peter that many had seen him alive, but his appearance was often very strange. Mary of Magdala thought he was the gardener. The two disciples walking on the way to Emmaus failed to recognise him, they saw him, but all seemed different now. Jesus had changed, acting after the resurrection quite differently from the way he acted before he died. But he was still the real Jesus, risen from the dead.

Now the apostles’ lives were beginning to change also. Once the Holy Spirit had come down upon them they were transformed and went on saying again and again ‘Jesus has risen from the dead’. The truth of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is what they preached and it is to that they gave witness. Cornelius was received into the Christian community and he too, and his household, became witnesses to the fact that the tomb was empty and Jesus Christ was alive, risen from the dead.

Indeed, many people joined together in community simply because Jesus Christ, true God and true man had risen from the dead. A community grew up out of an acknowledgement of the fact. Even more than that, there were people prepared to be witnesses, even to the extent of losing their lives – becoming martyrs for Jesus. I think of Cornelius going back to his family and reminding them of what they have learned – that they must be witnesses by the way they live, and that Jesus, who had risen from the dead, was to be their leader. They were to learn about the Gospel, follow the things Jesus said and do as he bid.

Everything was different – and so it as to be for us. As we come together at Easter in the great act of worship, we listen to the word of God proclaimed. Then we must go back to our households and tell them that we, too, should be witnesses to Christ, to the Gospel, to the Church. We must be witnesses because out there are thousands and thousands of people who do not know Christ, yet are searching, wanting. The religious instinct in every person, perhaps, in our time is beginning to awaken. Who can tell them where to find the truth but those who belong to the Christian Community which believes in Christ who died and rose from the dead? That is the task for all of us to be witnesses to that fact and to all that follows from it for Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed and for that we all shout Alleluia.

Easter Day 2018 Sermon by Rev David

Mark 16: 1 – 8

One of the programmes that I have been watching on TV is Master Chef. No doubt you’ve seen it or parts of it. Contestants have to cook a two or three course meal in a given amount of time and then submit it to be judged by the presenters, Greg and John, and one or more judges, – generally top star chefs including Beaminster’s own Matt Folas. Just occasionally one of the elegantly laid out food on the plate gets a complete thumbs down from one of the presenters or one of the judges. I’ve seen a couple of programmes where what looked like a good, well presented dish is sampled and pronounced by at least one judge as horrible. Just what is not hoped for or expected by the contestant.

The unexpected is what confronted the woman who’d gone to the place where Jesus had been buried two days earlier. They had gone to finish the burial rituals, embalming the body with aromatic spices. But there was no body. Nothing to embalm, Nothing to anoint. Jesus had gone. Imagine for a moment what must have gone through the minds of the woman. Had Jesus been taken by body snatchers or grave robbers? Had his body been taken by the religious authorities to prevent it becoming a place of veneration? Had it been taken by Jesus’ followers for reburial somewhere else? If so why? And if so how was it that someone didn’t let on where they had buried him. It is one of the pillars supporting the resurrection – there is no place known where the body may be. After all it would soon have become a place to go and put flowers and remember Jesus. Just as people do today at the grave of a loved one. But in the case of Jesus there is nowhere to be close to his body. There is nowhere because there is no body. Jesus died – no doubt about that but Jesus came alive – he had risen from the dead.

After a few hours Jesus began to be seen by various groups of people. Mary Magdalene on the first Easter morning. The disciples in the upper room. The disciples out fishing. The disciples walking to the nearby village of Emmaus. All those were as unexpected as was the empty tomb when the woman went there. Gradually it began to sink in that in some way or other Jesus had come alive again, and he was risen from the dead. The resurrection is one of those unexpected events events that happen from time to time. In John’s Gospel account it was Simon Peter who ran to the tomb, went in and believed. I would love to know more about what he believed; believed that Jesus had risen from the dead; believed that Jesus was who he claimed to be – the son of God. We don’t know.

But probably by the end of what is sometimes called Easter Week many of those who had been followers came to accept that Jesus has come alive again. Thomas was one who had a problem with the idea and it was totally unexpected – just like the unexpected comments on a dish in Master Chef which look so elegant and promising but just do not taste very good.

Some find it difficult today to accept that Jesus rose from the dead. That sort of thing does not happen. But then when God is involved all sorts of amazing things do happen. When the angel visited Mary to announce her to be the Mother of God’s son Jesus he reminded her that nothing is impossible with God. (Lk 1:37). We need to be careful in our understanding. God does do unexpected things. It is one of the exciting aspects of Christianity. God surprises us with some of the things he does. And that is the true significance of the resurrection. It is above all the chance to begin to see the power of God at work.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with an insight into God’s power. And that is no different today as it was 2000 years ago. The problem it seems to me is that we are not prepared for the unexpected and not for unusual things to happen. When we really learn to trust God unexpected things happen. We are invited to put our trust and faith in Jesus, believing him to be God’s Son. It all starts with our learning to trust God. Really trust him. It is something we have to work at. It does not come easily. But if we do God is faithful to his promise.

It might be worth taking a little time today to ask yourself – how committed am I to Jesus and what are the unexpected things that have happened to you because you are a Christian. It is worth taking a little time today to review your lives and ask where and how had God done unexpected things in your life and give thanks to him for them.

I suspect that everyone can find something; well give thanks for it. And the greatest gift of all and the most unexpected one is that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, spent time with us learning about human life and then died so that our sins can be forgiven.

And for that I say Alleluia. Amen

Good Friday – Third Hour 2018 Sermon by Rev David

‘It is finished.’ (John 19: 30)

‘It is finished.’…

…It well might not have been. Suppose that Jesus had yielded to the Tempter’s suggestion that what the people wanted was food for the belly, while Jesus knew that what they needed was God’s word. Suppose that he had yielded to the Tempter’s suggestion that what the people wanted was fun and excitement, while Jesus knew that what they needed was a life with the quality of eternity. Suppose he had yielded to the Tempter’s suggestion that what the people wanted was force, powerful leadership which would drive the Romans into the sea, while Jesus knew that what they needed was the worship of God worked out in service to their fellow human beings.

Let us suppose for a minute;

That Jesus had headed Peter’s enticing words: ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’

That at the crucial moment there had been no horrified rebuttal: ‘Get behind me Satan.’

That in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus had inverted the prayer and said ‘Not your will but mine be done.’

We should pause and reflect that at the last, as he looked up into the Father’s face, Jesus could not have cried ‘Accomplished! Completed! Finished.’ He would have had an incomplete offering to make to God. Our liturgy could never have contained in the 1662 version, the words ‘A full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.’ In this cry ‘It is finished’ we see the first rays of Easter light. We cannot and must not, separate Good Friday and Easter Day.

Good Friday, (which is a corruption of God’s Friday) would have been the Devils field-day if it had not been for the event of Easter. It would have signalled the final triumph of evil.

Our Christian faith is that at the moment of victory the whole human prospect was changed. At that point in history there was a new creation, the daybreak of the world. And the ratification was the resurrection. In one irreducibly miraculous act, baffling all human explanation, God raised him high and gave him a name above every name. And the early church took up the shout ‘Christ reigns.’

‘It is finished’ is a cry, a rallying cry, which the church needs to hear today. If that cry is heeded, it spells an end to that almost morbid self-denigration and defeatism which has marked some sections of the church for all too long.

Again we should pause and reflect and think that we follow a crucified Christ, we would follow no other. But we follow a Christ who at the moment when men thought they had defeated him, saw that he had defeated the forces of evil and cried ‘Finished!’ Accomplished!’ ‘Consummated!’ ‘Achieved!’ Here is our hope.

We who are baptised into Christ, who have taken up our cross to follow him, are heirs of that hope. True the forces of evil are on the rampage and we are in the midst of the conflict. But their final defeat is guaranteed, for, as we affirm at every Eucharist,

‘Christ has died: Christ is risen: Christ will come again.’

We pause and reflect on these words.

So while our heads are bent over the world’s pain and sickness and sin, and our backs ache in doing our part in alleviating them, our hearts are sustained by the triumph of faith.

‘It is finished!’

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Amen.

Good Friday 2018 Sermon by Rev Jo

This week, this holy week, has been full of difficult and tense relationships. Our pastoral care has served broken relationships, abusive relationships, manipulative relationships and failed relationships. There have been lies and gossip, accusations and half-truths. There have been tears and unkind words. Yet there has also been listening, learning, forgiveness, honesty, reconciliation and glimpses of new life. Because through the love that we receive from God and the freedom we receive from God and the power we receive from God we have been able to offer new life, new chances, forgiveness, grace and acceptance. We can love powerfully and in transforming ways because God loves us and is in relationship with us. We love because Jesus loves us. As Jesus says at the end of John 17:25, just before the account of his death that we will hear read later, ‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and those that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have love me may be in them, and I in them.’

We need to hear and know that we are loved. We are accepted. We are adored and cherished and valued. Not for what we do but for who we are, a child of God. God loves you.

The essence of faith for me is knowing that we are loved by God and are in relationship with him. That love is not earned or necessarily deserved. It is freely given. We are made in the image of God and we are cherished by him. He has known us from before we were conceived in our mother’s womb and he will know us into eternity.

The whole of scripture is about relationships. God with us, us with God and us with each other. And time and time again we read or hear about broken relationships, forgotten promises, fractured lines of communication. We strive and fail and fail again to live the way God wants us to. And sometimes we feel that God fails to be the God we want him to be. We feel let down, abandoned, disconnected. Yet at the heart of the failures and new starts there is love. A bond, a connection of love, that draws us deeper into the heart of God.

Jesus lived out relationships with his friends, his disciples, with the crowds, the passers-by and those who sought him out. Some of those relationships were deep, loving, lifegiving. Some of those relationships were fleeting yet life transforming, some were strained and difficult. Some needed forgiveness to flourish. But all whose accounts we read and hear were changed by being in relationship with Jesus, God’s son.

Jesus himself was in relationship with God his Father. He prayed to him. He did his will, he was obedient. He heard him speak, his knew his love and affirmation. And at times he felt abandoned by God, isolated, forsaken. Yet he was prepared to offer himself as the ultimate sacrifice, in the ultimate act of love, to restore us into that intimate and eternal relationship with our creator. To die to bring us life, life in all its fullness. To die to remove the sin that might drives us to hide from God or deny the love of God, to restore all things, to make God’s love known.

There are many ways to view the action of Jesus dying on the cross. We see Jesus as the Passover lamb, the sacrifice, the payment for our sins, the restoration of broken promises, a new and final covenant. But at the heart of the death of Jesus is love and relationship and the promise of new life. The cross is place of suffering but also restoration. It is a place of obedience but also of freedom. It is a place of hate but also a place of love.

At our Experience Easter last week, I gathered with a group of 8 year olds around the cross. We talked about the symbols displayed there, the crown of thorns, the dice, the nails, the suffering, the pain. We talked about the terrible place the cross was and we explored the suffering. And we prayed for those who suffer now. One child prayed passionately about God transforming the life of the lonely. And one of the adults with him, who was lonely herself, heard his prayer and was touched and transformed. Touched that God would hear her prayer, articulated by a little boy and transformed because she suddenly realised that God understood and knew her loneliness because he was in relationship with her and because Jesus suffered as she suffered. The simple act of hearing that someone loved her enough to pray for her, that God would hear that prayer and standing there beneath the symbol of the cross and knowing the Jesus suffered the same loneliness and abandonment that she felt, brought her comfort and hope. It was a moment of restoration. And a moment of love.

The cross breaks down barriers between us and God. It shows us that God knows our suffering. The cross demonstrates love, freedom and forgiveness. It gives us a place to bring our hurt and suffering and resentment and to know that God understands it and will transform it. The cross shows the relationship God has with his creation and demonstrates that it is a relationship of love. We dwell at the cross today, but we know that we are healed and restored though the painful action of sacrifice and suffering. The gift of love, forgiveness, freedom and transformation is ours to receive.