Worship for Sunday 23rd April 2023, by Peter Smith

Opening music: Christ the Lord is Risen Today (EASTER HYMN) arranged and performed by Barbara Ann Fackler

Call to worship (©wild goose publications)

Gracious God, you take us seriously

And you listen to our questions

You walk alongside us

You share out journeys

 You surprise us and bless us

You fill us with wonder

 You call us together

You call us to life


HYMN StF 311 The day of resurrection


   1      The day of resurrection,
        earth, tell it out abroad!
        The passover of gladness,
        the passover of God!
        From death to life eternal,
        from earth unto the sky,
        our Christ has brought us over
        with hymns of victory.

   2      Our hearts be pure from evil,
        that we may see aright
        the Lord in rays eternal
        of resurrection light;
        and, listening to his accents,
        may hear, so calm and plain,
        his own ‘All hail!’ and, hearing,
        may raise the victor strain.

   3      Now let the heavens be joyful,
        let earth her song begin,
        the round world keep high triumph,
        and all that is therein;
        let all things seen and unseen
        their notes of gladness blend,
        for Christ the Lord is risen,
        our joy that has no end.

St John of Damascus (c. 675–c. 750)
translated by John Mason Neale (1811–1866)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 311 .

Prayer of approach © Revd Michaela Youngson.

Loving God

When everything was dark
and it seemed that the sun would never shine again,
your love broke through.

Your love was too strong,
too wide,
too deep
for death to hold.

The sparks cast by your love
dance and spread
and burst forth
with resurrection light.

Gracious God,
We praise you for the light of new life
made possible through Jesus.
We praise you for the light of new life
that shone on the first witnesses of resurrection.
We praise you for the light of new life
that continues to shine in our hearts today.

We pray that the Easter light of life, hope and joy,
will live in us each day;
and that we will be bearers of that light
into the lives of others. Amen.

Prayer of confession

Loving God we come into your presence and seek forgiveness for our sins


If we have fallen into despair,

Lord, forgive us.

If we have failed to hope in you,

Lord, forgive us.

If we have been fearful of death,

Lord, forgive us.

 If we have forgotten the victory of Christ,

Lord, forgive us.


May the living God raise us from despair, give us victory over sin and set us free in Christ.  Amen

ReadingActs 2: 14a, 36-41

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

1 Peter 1: 17-23

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

 HYMN 308 On our journey to Emmaus

 Gospel  Luke 24: 13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.


I can understand the two disciples we met in the Gospel reading wanting to escape Jerusalem and all the turmoil and disappointment of the last few days.  They needed to get home, back to the familiar and the normal.

Three years ago, I had booked a cottage for a week in Barnard Castle, which had not then come to be associated with eye tests.  Over the weekend it became clear that life was about to change and when it was announced that the Prime Minister would address the country on the Tuesday, all I wanted to do was get home.  So, I cut short my holiday and returned to Manchester on the Monday afternoon.  If we were going to be locked down then I needed to be at home, among the familiar things where I could feel safe.

There were similar feelings about place when my great friend Ian died.  There was nothing I could do after hearing the news, so I went to carry out the theatre audit at Keswick.  He loved theatre for one thing, but I also knew it was one of the clients that would be supportive – and knowing that meant I was okay.

So, we find these two disciples, part of the outer circle, on the road home.  We are only given the name of one – Cleopas – leading to speculation as to who the other disciple could be.  Tradition has named them Simon, but it is also possible that they were the wife of Cleopas.  If Cleopas is the Clopas of John, then we have a name – Mary.  One of the women at the foot of the cross.  The unnamed disciple is reported as silent – perhaps another case of men trying to write women out of the story or discounting them as witnesses – although never quite succeeding.

The stranger

They are joined on the road by Jesus, the Stranger, who they do not recognise. Not an unusual occurrence for those who encounter the risen Christ in the Gospel stories.  For example, Mary Magdalene only recognises him when her name is spoken, and the disciples when fishing fail to recognise Jesus when an apparent stranger gives them instructions from the shore.  Amidst all that has happened they do not dare believe that Jesus has risen and so they do not see him.

Having recovered from their shock that this stranger knows nothing of what has happened in Jerusalem, they allow him into their company – perhaps relived that they have someone outside of it all to talk to.  They needed someone to break the cycle of endlessly going over the same ground, the what ifs, the if only we had… etc.

Those chance encounters with someone else can be double edged.  Sometimes we look for our earliest means of escape.  I did when meeting the elderly lady on the train who asked if I had ever contemplated eternity.  At other times we find ourselves in fascinating conversations, talking about all manner of things, about life, doubts and faith, hopes and disappointments.  Listening to another person’s story.  A bit like the time at the Edinburgh Methodist Conference when learning that the bar was closed on the Saturday evening an eclectic group of us set of in search of refreshment.  I found myself deep in conversation with someone I would not otherwise have shared with – a deeply rewarding evening.

These two disciples were fortunate, it was one of the later examples.  They encountered Christ in the stranger.

The scriptures

Luke tells us that Jesus spent the time on the road unlocking the scriptures,

 “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” 

It is always a great joy to be in the presence of someone who can help us see and understand the Bible.  In the written word we encounter the living God and the story of God’s people. 

But the study of the Bible requires the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the labours of scholars and translators and the work of theologians.  Those who can help us explore our questions and grow in faith.

I sometimes despair of those who deride the study of theology and the work of scholars.  Who would have us abandon the training of preachers, and seem to boast of their own lack of education or interest in it.  Some will tell you that Jesus called fishermen and they didn’t need to pass exams, take courses etc and look how the Church grew.  They of course completely miss out the fact that the Disciples undertook a fairly intensive three year training programme, where sent out on missions and had to report back on how that went.  All with the best course director they could ask for – Jesus.

I want a church lead by and full of people of faith with open active minds that thirst for learning, knowledge and wisdom.  Not frightened of the new and ready to be surprised and awed by the world and God’s revelation.

Jesus as he worked with the two on the road broke open the scriptures to them – helping them make the connections with their experience and reason (tradition was yet to come). 

In fact, having those four in dialogue with each other – scripture, reason, tradition and experience lead us deeper into faith and our understanding of God, helping us to better love – God and our neighbour.

The breaking of bread

They arrived at their destination and extended the usual hospitality to the stranger, but I also suspect that they did not want this encounter to end.  The stranger assumes the role of host and it is in the actions of taking, blessing and breaking the bread that they finally perceive that it is the risen Christ who is with them.

They reported that he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Some of you will know that I am a member of the Methodist Sacramental Fellowship (MSF), partly because the eucharist is such an important part of my faith. 

It was real struggle through lockdown not to be able to meet to share Communion and not to be allowed for until a long way through the pandemic to be able to share online. I will admit to getting quite annoyed with clergy friends who posted pictures on Facebook of their home communions and not entirely pleased with suggestions that spiritual communion was an alternative.  I was in part reminded of the story of the little boy who usually received communion in his home church, but when visiting another one received a blessing instead.  I could go along with his indignant demand “I want my Jesus”.

Last weekend at the MSF conference on the Sunday morning I was suddenly all emotional when the celebrant gave me the wine – perhaps because the three of us distributing communion used the chalice.  Perhaps it was because we really do meet Jesus at his table.

Or thinking back to the Methodist Conference in 1993 when on the Wednesday we received the bread and wine the day after an exhausting and at times painful debate on sexuality that could, if it had gone a different way, put members of the LGBT+ community outside the church.  We met Christ in the breaking of the bread, still there somehow all together.

I am not surprised that John Wesley spoke of Communion as a converting ordinance.  He had in mind those who were already on the road to faith and baptised as infants.  Those on the road to faith would surely describe our two friends travelling with Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

But despite this idea that Holy Communion could prove the point at which faith takes hold, commitment begins the church, including the Methodist Church has spent a lot of time and effort in the past in fencing the table allowing only members in – those baptised and confessing a trinitarian faith – who are one of us.  In fact, communion services often used to be an add on to morning services leading my friend Ian as small child to think as he left that adults remaining had been naughty and were being kept in!

The debates about whether children should or should not receive communion (they can) has lead us to reflect on our practice and our understanding.  For each of us as we participate in the communion service it is a unique but also corporate experience in which we are invited in to the presence of God.  Some speak of celebrating the holy mysteries, which reminds us that we do not need to be able to explain or understand how Christ is present to us as we receive the bread and wine.

Last weekend at the MSF we sang hymn 580 from Singing the Faith as our communion hymn:

   1    Come, Lord, be our guest,
       find your way among us;
       you whose word and will
       sowed the seed which sprung us.
       Earth, your former home,
       still is where we meet you;
       therefore we greet you,
       Christ, our God alone.

   2    Come, Lord, be our guest,
       join our conversation;
       free our tongues to speak
       without reservation.
       Where your people meet,
       you perfect their pleasure;
       therefore we treasure
       all you have to share.

   3    Come, Lord, be our guest,
       gathered round your table,
       we confess our faith
       more than fact or fable.
       You who made, of old,
       all that earth was needing,
       blessing and feeding
       here will make us new.

   4    Come, Lord, be our host,
       bread and wine are waiting.
       On your words depend
       all our celebrating.
       Fill us with your love,
       healing and forgiving;
       then, in us living,
       show our love your way.

John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 580 Words and Music: From Love From Below © 1989, WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH  Scotland.  <www.wgrg.co.uk>

You will see that it moves from the invitation in the first three verses “Come, Lord, be our guest” in which we see echoed the invitation to the stranger to stay at Emmaus to the last verse “come Lord be our host”.  Just as the stranger become the host as the bread was shared we are reminded that when we gather round the table to receive communion, it is not the congregation, or the minister, or the Church that is host, but Christ himself. 

And as we gather, with Christ as host, we know him in the breaking of the bread.


It would have been so easy for the two disciples to stay put, overwhelmed by their experience and put off the return to Jerusalem till the morning.  But no, they rushed back to share the good news.  It could not wait. 

At the end of our communion services we are expressly sent out into the world to share and to serve.  Having encountered Christ there is an imperative to share the good news with others, and what better way to do so than in acts of love?

The news that God’s work of salvation through Christ is too important to keep to ourselves.  The task of building the Kingdom too urgent to delay.  God’s love so great that and so overwhelming that it needs to be shared in acts of love for our neighbours.

We have met the risen Christ and accepted the invitation to follow him, we know the love of God and have been blessed by the Holy Spirit.

Let us continue to walk with Christ this Eastertide and forever. Amen.

HYMN 597 O thou who this mysterious bread

   1      O thou who this mysterious bread
        didst in Emmaus break,
        return, herewith our souls to feed,
        and to thy followers speak.

   2      Unseal the volume of thy grace,
        apply the gospel word,
        open our eyes to see thy face,
        our hearts to know the Lord.

   3      Of thee communing still, we mourn
        till thou the veil remove;
        talk with us, and our hearts shall burn
        with flames of fervent love.

   4      Enkindle now the heavenly zeal,
        and make thy mercy known,
        and give our pardoned souls to feel
        that God and love are one.

Charles Wesley (1707–1788)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 597 .

Psalm 116: 1 -4, 12-19

 I love the Lord, because he has heard
   my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
   therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

The snares of death encompassed me;
   the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
   I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
   ‘O Lord, I pray, save my life!’

What shall I return to the Lord
   for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
   and call on the name of the Lord,

I will pay my vows to the Lord
   in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord
   is the death of his faithful ones.

O Lord, I am your servant;
   I am your servant, the child of your serving-maid.
   You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
   and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
   in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
   in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Prayers of intercession

In the power of the Spirit let us pray to the Father who raised his Son to life.

Holy God, strengthen your Church

to be the Body of Christ at work in the world and give grace to all who proclaim the message of the resurrection.

God of mercy: keep us in your love.

Let the joy of the resurrection be known throughout the world and draw all people into the life of your new creation.

God of mercy: keep us in your love.                                          

Give grace to our families, friends and the communities around us.

God of mercy: keep us in your love

Grant healing to the hurt and broken, peace to troubled minds, and lead all in sorrow to the joy of resurrection.

God of mercy: keep us in your love

Rejoicing in the resurrection we remember all who have died, praying that they may come to be with Christ, your Son, for ever.

God of mercy: keep us in your love Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

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.  Amen.

Prayer of dedication (URC worship notes)

Generous God,  Thank you for gift of life and the promise of new life.

We bring our gifts in many ways – in time, money, and skills –

and offer them as a sign of our gratitude.

Bless those who are unable to give, and use us all to serve you.  Amen.

HYMN 294 All you that seek the Lord who died

   1      All you that seek the Lord who died,
        your God for sinners crucified,
        now, now let all your grief be o’er!
        Believe, and you shall weep no more.

   2      The Lord of life is risen indeed,
        to death delivered in your stead;
        his rise proclaims your sins forgiven,
        and shows the living way to heaven.

   3      Haste then, you souls that first believe,
        who dare the gospel word receive,
        your faith with joyful hearts confess,
        be bold, be Jesus’ witnesses.

   4      Go, tell the followers of your Lord
        their Jesus is to life restored;
        he lives to quicken humankind;
        he lives that all his life may find.

Charles Wesley (1707–1788)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 294 .


God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
strengthen you
to walk with him in his risen life;
and may almighty God bless you,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Alleluia! Go in joy and peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Alleluia!

Closing music

Fanfare and Dance on EASTER HYMN from Triumphant Gladness: Five Pieces for Easter (Organ)

Concordia Publishing House Music

Bible readings NRSV

Call to worship ©wild goose publications

Prayers of intercession from MSF Easter Evening Prayer

Prayer of dedication (URC worship notes)

Blessing and dismissal ©TMCP