Notes of Meeting Sunday 17th April 2022

Lee Street Church

Notes of Meeting 17th April

Worship for Easter Day led by Sue Clarke

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life”- an expression so often used it has become a cliché. But for us, as Christians, it is a statement that sums up the truth of this day-

a truth the apostles discovered as, huddled behind closed doors, Jesus appeared among them;

a truth broken-hearted women discovered as they found the tomb empty and the stone rolled away;

a truth countless generations have discovered since, as the risen Christ has transformed their lives. For each one suddenly life began again- a clean sheet, a fresh page, a new chapter.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, we praise You that we can worship You not simply as the crucified Christ, but as our risen Lord and Saviour. We praise You that death was not the end but a new beginning. We praise You for this time of joy, of thanksgiving and celebration- a time that speaks of victory, renewal and hope. Lord Jesus, we praise You for the great message of Easter and the wonderful truth of new life in You.

SONG: All heaven declares   10

SONG: Come people of the risen King   

Today we are remembering that day which transformed the course of history and which, across the years has transformed countless human lives. This was no ordinary first day of the week- it was the first day of a new era and a new creation. God was doing something unique. Today, Easter Day, we remember the day on which evil, sorrow and suffering, even death itself were finally defeated!

Reading: Luke 24 v1-8

Praise

Leader:                 What’s that you say?

People: Jesus is risen!

Leader: But He was dead!

People: Jesus is risen!

Leader: Nailed to a cross

People: Jesus is risen!

Leader: Laid in a grave

People: Jesus is risen!

Leader: Dead for three days

People: Jesus is risen!

Leader: Now He’s alive?

People: Jesus is risen!

Leader: Death overcome?

People: Jesus is risen

Leader: [triumphantly] Hope for us all!

People: Jesus is risen

Leader: Shout with one voice:

People: Jesus is risen! Alleluia!   

 

 

SONG: Jesus Christ is risen today   285

Reading: John 20 v24-28

SONG: He has risen   753

Meditation by Thomas

He was just a man, that’s what I thought. A wonderful person, fantastic teacher, the most caring sort of bloke you could ever hope to meet, but just a man. And nothing wrong with that, of course; it’s not every day you meet someone as special. In fact, thank God he was a man, as much flesh and blood as we are. He knew what it was to be human, to share our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows, our life and death. He laughed as we do, wept as we do, suffered as we do. I know, for I was with him for three years of his life. But I’d thought that his life was over, when they laid him in that tomb and rolled the stone across. I’d really thought that was it, until something happened, something astonishing, marvellous, incredible- he appeared to me again, just as he’d appeared to the rest of the disciples, as large as life, and I knew then he wasn’t just a man, he was God! I understood, at last, what he'd been on about before, those words which had never made sense earlier: “whoever has seen me has seen the Father, no-one has ever seen God but I have made Him known to you.”

“Of course”, I said. “Of course” and I fell down and worshipped him. Do you know, God was more real to me then than I’d ever dreamed he could be. So, when shortly after he disappeared, you can imagine we were gutted. It felt as though our world had fallen apart, as if we’d been cut off from God, until all at once we knew he was with us after all, nearer than he’d ever been before. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t see him. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t touch him. We felt his presence deep inside, guiding us, renewing us, working through us. And again I remembered his words, “The Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth”. He was a man, he really was, as human as you and me. But he was God. He showed us the Father; I know that sounds incredible but it’s true. Yet he’s also Spirit- God with us now, deep in our hearts. You don’t need my word for that, you don’t need anyone’s, for you can experience it for yourselves.

Reading: Acts 1 v3

“After His suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God”.

When Jesus took His last breath on the cross, darkness fell. But it was not the end. Jesus, the Light of the World, overcame death and the darkness within and around us. Whatever is going on in the world, whatever personal challenges you are facing, Easter reminds us of the hope found in the resurrection.

He is not here, He is risen!

SONG: Crown Him with many crowns    77

Look at the cross

Look at the cross. What do you see? Something that says Jesus loves me.

Look at the cross. What does it say? That Jesus took my sins away.

Look at the cross. What does it show? That Jesus lives and loves me so!

 

SONG: You laid aside your majesty  633

SONG: There is a redeemer   544

 

Brian’s Easter Message

This morning we’ve sung and declared our belief in the resurrection of Jesus – songs of triumph – Jesus was crucified, buried, and then conquered the grave by rising again on the third day - death could not hold Him.  It is of course the foundation of our Christian faith – if there was no resurrection, then we are still separated from God by our sin.

So it’s important for us to be sure of our facts – clear in our own minds that what we believe is based on sound undeniable truths.

Paul had much to say about this in his writings – he was of course very conscious of the many who denied that Jesus had risen – how could he, they would say?  “We saw him hanging there dead on the cross - no one comes back from that”.  “The soldiers knew he was dead”. Others by tradition denied the possibility of anyone coming back from the dead.

So Paul in his writings expanded his argument about the resurrection of the dead.

I want to read some verses from his first letter to the Corinthian church where Paul sets out his evidence for the resurrection, and also where he looks back at some verses from the Old Testament which speak of the suffering Messiah.

READ 1 Cor 15: 1 – 9

Paul describes in verse 3 four things that he considered to be of prime importance

  1. Christ died for our sins –  cf Isaiah 53:5 which speaks about a suffering Messiah
  2. He was buried
  3. He was raised on the third day
  4. He appeared to many people – many witnesses

Here Paul then sets out in some detail some individuals and groups of people who had been witnesses of the resurrected Jesus. In a court of law, witnesses are most important – people who have had first-hand knowledge of the event under scrutiny by the judge and jury – they must have seen the event with their own eyes and be able to tell others clearly what they saw. It’s no use a so-called witness saying “My aunt Agatha told me that a friend of hers saw …… happen”. The people Paul writes about, many of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this letter some 25 years later, had all been first-hand witnesses.

Firstly, Paul says Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples – the gospel writers all give accounts of Jesus appearing at different times and places to his beloved disciples, even revealing to some of them the nail-prints in his hands – yes, it really was Jesus himself.

Then Paul says he appeared to over 500 people – this was possibly in Galilee, where of course there were many believers as a result of Jesus’ teaching and the miracles he had performed there.

Then he appeared to James – I’ll come back to him later.

Then he appeared to all the apostles, and finally to Paul himself.

So here was evidence from enough witnesses for Paul to have absolutely no doubt as to the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Paul then goes on in 1Cor 15 to expand his argument by pointing out the situation if there was no resurrection – if it was all a complex web of lies.

 READ  1Cor 15: 12 – 19

In summary, Paul is saying that if there is no resurrection, then:

  • Not even Christ has been raised
  • Paul’s preaching is a waste of his and their time
  • We are false witnesses
  • Your faith is futile
  • You are still unforgiven sinners
  • Those who have died are lost
  • We who put up with persecution for the sake of our faith are to be pitied most of all.

What a catalogue of failure that would be. What a disaster for all who had faithfully put their trust in Jesus. But Paul doesn’t finish there – in v 20 he comes out with a categorical statement where he says “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead”. He had this certain personal knowledge, based partly on the evidence he has already given earlier in this chapter, and also because even he, once a great persecutor of the Church, had been confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus. This had changed his life once and for all.

Many books have of course been written to support the biblical accounts of the resurrection – the evidence of witnesses who were able to declare with absolute certainty that they had seen and met with the risen Jesus. These were not dreamers, suffering illusions – no, they were people who had the life-changing experience of meeting with the risen Jesus. Some saw the imprints of the nails in his hands, others who knew him well were able to testify that yes, this really was Jesus himself, although he was now in a new resurrected body.

It is also true to say that many books have been written which seek to disprove the resurrection, denying all the evidence which we find in the scriptures and elsewhere. Some eminent writers and philosophers who have set out on this course have been forced to change tack mid-ocean, when they’ve come to realise for themselves the truth that what the bible says is true after all.

I want to look briefly at 3 people who, for me, help to confirm the fact of the resurrection.

Two are found in the bible – one is from more recent history.

I want to firstly look at James –  listed by Paul as one to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection. This is the same James who later went on to write the epistle of James which we have in our bibles. He was a half-brother of Jesus, and is first mentioned by name In Matthew 13, where we find Jesus back in his hometown of Nazareth, teaching the people in the synagogue. As always, there was a difference of opinion among his listeners – some were just amazed at the teaching he gave them. After all, he was just a son of a mere carpenter and Mary – they knew his family well – his brothers are named as Joseph, Simon and Judas, and he had sisters as well. Others in his home-town just queried where his wisdom came from. But they lost out, because we then read that Jesus soon moved on, and didn’t do many miracles there because of the lack of faith shown by the people. It seems that, as so often during his ministry, it was the Jews who were most active in rejecting his teachings, whilst others, including the Samaritans, were much more willing to listen and respond to his words.

We also read of James indirectly in Mark 3:21 where we find that Jesus’ family had travelled down from Nazareth to Capernaum to take charge of their young son Jesus, who was causing such a stir amongst the people with his wise teaching.

But despite being brought up with Jesus it appears James didn’t accept the authority of Jesus during his period of earthly ministry. You can imagine the feuding that possibly went on between them as brothers.  It was only later, after Jesus had risen from the dead, and had appeared to him personally as recorded by Paul here in verse 7, that James became a believer. Meeting with the risen Jesus was for him a life-changing experience, and he was quickly accepted into the Christian church in Jerusalem. This was no easy step for him – the church was under fire from the Jewish authorities – the same people who had hung Jesus on the cross were now making life hard for his followers -  but for James there was now no choice – he had to admit the Jesus really was who he had claimed to be – the Son of God.

We do know that James went on to be one of the leading members of the church in Jerusalem, and that he met up with the apostle Paul before he went on his last voyage to Rome. It seems likely the James was stoned to death when the church was suffering severe persecution, particularly by the Roman authorities.

But what I want to emphasise is the effect that the risen Jesus had on James – just seeing him again, probably talking together – how many of the things Jesus had said suddenly made sense to James – and he was never going to be the same again. No longer a doubter – now a believer with a mission to tell others, fearless in the face of severe opposition. No more doubts – he had truly encountered the resurrected Jesus.

The second witness I want to draw upon today is Stephen.

One of the 7 men chosen by the disciples soon after the resurrection to look after the distribution of assistance to widows and other needy folk in the church at Jerusalem. We don’t know when or how he became a disciple of Jesus, but he was acknowledged as standing out above others in his faith, grace, spiritual power and wisdom. It seems he was foremost in working miracles and in preaching the gospel to unbelievers. This brought him into battle with the Jewish authorities of the day, and he was brought up before the Sanhedrin to face charges of blasphemy. He responded to their charges by looking back on the history of the Jewish nation, and attacking them for the way they had crucified the Messiah. Stephen then claimed he could see Jesus standing at the right hand of God – this claim led to him being physically seized and stoned to death. He met his end courageously as he prayed for his persecutors and committed his soul into Christ’s keeping.

His death was not in vain, as we read that, although it resulted in a wave of persecution against the church in Jerusalem, the believers there became scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, and this resulted in great growth of the Church throughout the country.

So much for the records we read in scripture of 2 witnesses of the resurrected Jesus – James and Stephen.

Now I’d like to fast-forward in time to 1956, and witness the work of 5 20th-century martyrs. They were American missionaries, devoted to reaching out to some of the untouched tribes in Ecuador. They had for a number of weeks been making contact with a tribe of Aucas, well known for their belligerence and dislike of any outsiders approaching their settlements. They had used their MAF single-engined plane to lower gifts of food and clothing to the people below, The aim was to show friendship to the people in a practical way.

Then the time came for them to approach the village, and try to meet the Auca people face to face. They landed on a sandbank next to the river and disembarked from the aircraft. Before they had a chance to present themselves as peace-loving friends, the Auca tribesmen came with their spears and put the five missionaries instantly to death; they then proceeded to destroy their aircraft.

This was of course a shattering experience for all those associated with the missionaries, particularly their wives, who were supporting them in their mission. You might have expected them to pack their bags and head back home to the USA, But they didn’t – and it was I believe only a few months later that contact was made again with the Aucas, and the seeds began to be sown for a Christian church to be formed right there in that community within 3 years of the massacre of the 5 missionaries.

Why do I mention this now? Because here again is evidence of the reality of the risen Jesus, when people have been willing to sacrifice their lives in order to tell others about the Saviour.

Would they do this for a made-up fable? No, of course not. Down the centuries, thousands of people have been willing to suffer persecution and even death simply because they have refused to deny the resurrection of Jesus.

I’m reminded of the words of an old song – one we used to sing regularly here when the church first opened back in the 1960s,

 

God hath not promised skies always blue
Flower strewn pathways, all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing kindness, undying love.

 

Life following Jesus is not the proverbial bed of roses – it can be hard, as evidenced in the examples I’ve used this morning. Each one of them had committed their lives to honouring the name of Jesus who they knew had done just what He said he would do – rise again from the dead. The sure and certain fact of Christ’s resurrection gave them, and in fact gives us all a hope for the future – death is not the end; because He lives, we know that He gives us eternal life too, if we truly believe in Him.

As John 3:16 reminds us “God so loved the world that he gave his son Jesus, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life”. What a wonderful promise, particularly when we feel in the midst of adversity.

May our knowledge of the living Jesus so affect our thinking and our lives day by day, “Christ in us – the hope of glory”.

The words of our next song give us great encouragement “Because He lives I can face tomorrow …”

SONG: God sent his Son  (Vs 1 & 3) 736

Sue then concluded the service:

Prayer

Almighty God we off You our thanks and praise. Because of Your great mercy, You give us new life through the resurrection of Your Son.

Lord Jesus, we thank You that your victory of good over evil; of love over hate; of life over death continues to make such a difference to our lives. We thank You that you turn our weaknesses into strength; fear into confidence; and doubt into faith. We praise You that for each of us there is always the assurance of a new beginning, when it seems like the end, new hope where there seems only despair.

Fill us with Your living hope, that is all times we may trust in You, the one true God who makes all things new.

Amen

SONG: Thank you for the cross Lord   1528

Psalm 145 v10-13

“All You have made will praise You, O Lord; Your saints will extol You. They will tell of the glory of Your Kingdom and speak of Your might, so that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendour of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and Your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving towards all He has made”.

 Revelation 5  v 12-13

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise.. Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is them singing: to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever.”

SONG: Thine be the glory     551

 

Notices

  1. Wednesday 10.30am- Coffee Morning
  2. Next Sunday – speaker expected is Paul Carter