Weekly newsletter: April 18th 2021

The Parish Church of St. John the Evangelist, Wingates

                        

                                                   

 

18 April  2021
              

The Third Sunday of Easter
                        
Service of the Word

 

 Acts 3:12-19
12 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? 13 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. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 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. 17 ‘Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

Luke 24:36b-48
Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 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.’40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence. 44 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.’ 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

The Third Sunday of Easter  
Risen Christ, you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope: strengthen us to proclaim your risen life and fill us with your peace, to the glory of God the Father.

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 Homily 18th April – Carol McCabe

Have you ever been a witness? Maybe to an accident or a crime even. Maybe you have witnessed a signature at a wedding or maybe another kind of legal document.  There are many ways you can become a witness, but what does it mean to be a witness to Christ?

Being a witness of Christ in the most basic sense is to have and share our own personal stories, ones that reflect how He is the divine Son of God, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world.  That is the way the ancient Apostles did it, they knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and they spoke from personal experience.  However, that the disciples are witnesses, does not mean they now have all the answers. It means they now have the life Jesus wants to give them. They are witnesses based not on what they know, but on who they are, how they live, and how their relationship with the risen Christ, affects that new way of life.

We celebrate today the third Sunday of Easter, which means we continue reflecting, as the Church, upon the astonishing Good News at the heart of our faith. A human being, Jesus, after being tortured and executed, was raised to new life by God. Through this action, God showed Jesus to be more than just a man. Jesus is the Author of Life, and the channel of God’s healing and forgiving love.

Of course, this is good news, its great news, but it’s difficult news. People do not rise from the dead. Common sense tells us that, and every ‘right-thinking person’ must surely agree that these stories are but fantasy, pure wishful thinking. How can we possibly believe in them?
I wish I could make this good news less difficult. I wish I could explain to you exactly how God has brought this about and make your faith strong with solid scientific arguments. But I can’t. All I have, all we have, are the stories told in the gospels, and in Paul’s letters. We have the eye-witness accounts of Peter and Paul, John, and the other apostles.

‘You are witnesses to this,’ says Jesus, in today’s gospel reading from Luke.
The ‘witness’ who wrote the third gospel has traditionally been named as Luke; he also wrote the Acts of the Apostles, as a two-part history. Luke is writing perhaps fifty years after the events he is telling us about, and during this time, the significance of Jesus being raised from the dead has become clearer. Jesus was raised to life by the same God who blessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But this is different; Jesus is not one of the patriarchs, or prophets, no.  Jesus is the ‘Author of Life’, ‘the Prince of Life’, or the ‘Leader towards Life’. By the name of Jesus, the disciples healed the sick. Something that Luke especially, would have been drawn to as he was a doctor. 

In the gospel reading, the disciples ‘disbelieved for joy.’ It is almost as if their love for Jesus got in the way of them realising what had really happened. It takes time for the resurrection faith to take root. But over the next 30, 40, 50 years, these witnesses enter the depths of this good but difficult news. And they wrote down what they had witnessed, so that we too might believe.

The heart of the Gospel message, which we are called to be witnesses to, is the cross - but fortunately it does not stop there. Through the cross Jesus defeated death and won pardon for our sins. His cross is the door to heaven and the key to paradise. The way to glory is through the cross.  Fortunately, we have a time of grace too; not of 50 years, but of 50 days, during which our grasp of what has happened will take root. It will re-shape us, as we see possibilities of change for the better. We will become an ‘Easter people’ in the proper sense. 

Death does not have the final say. Neither does sickness, or disability; and neither does our ignorance, or weakness or sinfulness. If we allow this message to really sink into our hearts, these 50 days will be for us a ‘time of refreshing experience’. And in due course that will become our story.
Jesus will show us the way and give us the power to overcome all, that stands in the way of his love and truth reaching our ears and hearts. Just as the first disciples were commissioned to witness, to bring the good news of salvation to all the nations, so, we, too, are called to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to all who live on the face of the earth.  But it’s not enough to proclaim that Christ is risen, it’s not enough to believe in the resurrection. At some point we will have to move from the events to experiencing them for ourselves. The Christ amongst us.
God’s ways are not human ways. Let us pray that we may never allow God’s capabilities to be diminished by our own limitations. For if we are not careful, we will bind ourselves through our fears, our sorrows and losses, our runaway thoughts and distractions, our attachments and addictions to things, people and dare I say our beliefs.  Sometimes it’s our own unwillingness to allow or trust God to grow and change us. And without that we can not experience God in our lives and in those around us.  Without that we can not have a personal relationship with God through Christ, and without that we will have nothing to witness to.

I don’t know how this happens. I can’t give you a set of instructions. This new life, and the one we then can witness to, can not be acquired, it is received. I think it happens when we truly open up. That’s what happened to the disciples with Jesus’ hands and feet, with his flesh and bones, with the food. They saw and recognised something about Jesus and in doing so they saw something in themselves: holiness. That’s what can happen to us too.
“You are witnesses of these things.” He says to us. Tell it. Live it. Become it. The good news is ours. We are witnesses.      Amen

 

 Christian Aid Area Coordinator

After 37 years in the role, Brian Palin from St James' Daisy Hill is looking to retire from the role of Westhoughton Churches Area Coordinator for Christian Aid.  If you are interested in taking on this important role, or know someone who might, from next year, please get in touch with Carol.  Brian would be happy to speak to you about what the role entails.

This year Christian Aid Week is 10th - 16th May.  Due to COVID_19, no house to house collections can take place.  If you would like to do something else to raise some funds for this charity on behalf of our churches, again please get in touch.  Thank you.

 

Revd Carol H Pharaoh

Team Rector Blackrod, Daisy Hill, Westhoughton & Wingates Team

 

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FOOD COLLECTIONS   Urban Outreach say thank you for your support. 

You can bring your donations with you when you come to a Sunday Service in any of our churches. Just place your donations in the Grub Tubs provided.  You can also bring donations to St John’s, Wingates between 10 – 11 am on the first and third Saturdays of every month. (Next collection day Saturday 1 May 2021)

You might find it easier to make a financial donation to Urban Outreach.  You can do this via their website  https://www.urbanoutreach.co.uk/

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Zoom Coffee mornings

 On Sunday mornings at 11.30 am we hold a coffee morning on Zoom to which members of all churches in the Team are invited. For  access codes, please email Carol. Come along and join us!

 

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Confirmation 2021

We hope that Confirmation Services will be held later this year.  If you are a young person in Year 6 and above and would like to consider this, please ask an adult to get in touch and we will forward you a registration form to complete.  If you are an adult who would like to consider confirmation, again please get in touch.  Registration forms will also be available in our church buildings from this Sunday.  The deadline for completing the form is the 9th May 2021.  Please note, if we already have your details from last year when Confirmation Services had to be cancelled, you don’t need to apply again.  We still have your details and will be in touch soon.  Thank you.

 

Revd Carol H Pharaoh

Team Rector Blackrod, Daisy Hill, Westhoughton & Wingates Team