April 2018

Sunday April 1st:  Mark 16: 1-8

The two Mary’s and Salome had come to do what was their custom – to anoint a body after death.  They realised on their way that they would be unable to access the tomb, or cave because strength would be required to roll away the stone guarding the entrance – but when they got there, to their amazement this had been moved, and there was no body.  More than that, someone was there, who told them they should go and tell the disciples that Jesus wasn’t there, but had gone ahead to meet them in Galilee.  No wonder they were terrified – this was something utterly unknown, unexpected, and impossible to understand.

Sometimes our faith can be like this; we meet a situation where God is trying to help us and what he says, or does, or causes someone else to do for us, is so difficult to understand and accept.  Yet he is there with us when we need him. So ask God for help today for any situation in which you feel you are struggling – and feel his strength and power surrounding you.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.  Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.  “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

 

Sunday, 8th April: John 20 19-30

This story of someone we remember as ‘Doubting Thomas’ relates to so many of us when we just cannot accept part of the Gospel, the good news about Jesus, unless we have ‘seen it for ourselves’.  In this world where we have to be careful of hackers, of scams, of tricksters and people out to defraud us, it is sometimes a big ask for us to accept and take on board what God has given to us and what is ours to keep forever.

God offers us a fresh start in our life; absolute forgiveness for anything wrong which we know we have done, freedom from whatever has held us back, and confidence to move forward with him.  What a promise this is?  Can we all take that step forward with God and trust in him to be with us and help us - as millions and millions of people have done before us?  Can you accept his challenge?  May God’s blessing be with you as you do.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

Sunday 15th April: Luke 24: 36-48

Jesus showed himself to his disciples so that they could believe  – and so they could then go out and testify to others, a living witness to what they had seen and then believed.  We too are asked to witness to God to other people – he wants us to share his good news with those we live with, those we meet, and those we work with.  God wants everyone to have the gifts he has given to us – his forgiveness, his love, his strength - as we go about our lives.  We should be longing to share all this with other people.

Can you share your faith with other people as you meet them?  Can they see you are different because of the way you live?  Ask God to help you see opportunities, knowing he will give you the strength and courage to respond in the way he wants you to.

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.

 

Sunday 22nd April: John 10: 11-18

Jesus knew his listeners would understand when he talked to them about looking after sheep.  They needed the help and caring of their shepherd – and we need this too in our lives.  We can be under attack from so many sources in our busy world – whispering words of temptation, trying to lead us down paths we know we really should not be going, encouraging us in actions which are not helpful to us or to other people.  Jesus is our shepherd – he is there to lead us down the right paths, and to ensure that we have sufficient help for our journey of life.

Do you need some help right now in your life?  Do you find it easier to give in, than to take a stand which you know is really the right thing to do?  Jesus is there for you – ask him for help, and listen when he tries to give you this so that you can respond.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

 

Sunday 29th April: John 15: 1-8

It is relatively easy to get enthusiastic over a new project, a new plan, a new commitment in one’s life, but problems come when the novelty begins to wear off and perhaps one’s commitment slackens.  So it is with our Christian life; we give our lives to Jesus, the world seems a more wonderful place in which to live, we join a church and their activities, and then time goes on and gradually it becomes easier to stop doing this and that, until only an empty framework remains - we are cutting ourselves off from the “vine” – the source of our support and help.   Does this sound familiar? 

Can you let the excitement and fervour of your commitment to God back into your life?  Will you allow him to help you cut out the parts of your life which he feels are unnecessary, and, with his help, concentrate on improving where he wants you to do so?  He is there ready to help you do this if you ask him.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.




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