Reflection – 22 August 2021

Here’s my reflection for Sunday 22 August.

If you’d like to join in our online worship follow this Zoom link. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85061262911?pwd=SjFoODcvOVdFZUhTengxRVRkNzJPUT09

Our worship session starts at 11.00 British Summer Time.

Mark

Call to Worship

O God, you are the gathering one 
who calls us into community 
with each other 
to love and work, 
to support and heal.

You are the gathering one 
who calls us into community 
with all people; 
to bring justice and hope, 
freedom and truth.

You are the gathering one 
who calls us into community 
with the whole creation; 
to live in harmony, 
to cherish and renew.

Let us worship the God 
who makes us one.

Opening Prayer

This is the day that you have made, life-giving God.
Joining with angels and archangels
and with the chorus that is rising throughout all the earth,
we will rejoice and be glad this day.
You take our endings
and you make your new beginnings.
Your surprise and astound us
in places where we expected
that you were absent.
You challenge us to reconsider what is possible.

Living Lord,
Saviour Christ,
we praise you,
for you are raised by the power of God
and there is a new creation
and, by your grace,
we are all in it!
Alleluia!

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Let’s have our first hymn – Be Still for the Presence of the Lord.

Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
The holy One, is here;
Come bow before him now
With reverence and fear
In him no sin is found
We stand on holy ground.
Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
The holy One, is here.

Be still, for the glory of the Lord
Is shining all around;
He burns with holy fire,
With splendour he is crowned:
How awesome is the sight
Our radiant king of light!
Be still, for the glory of the Lord
Is shining all around.

Be still, for the power of the Lord
Is moving in this place:
He comes to cleanse and heal,
To minister his grace –
No work too hard for him.
In faith receive from him.
Be still, for the power of the Lord
Is moving in this place.

The Presence of the Lord is here you know – here in this building but also wherever you are – online, in Nottingham, in Bingham, just across the way in Newark. Jesus said For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.

Now there was no internet in first century Palestine but if there was I’m sure Jesus would have been using it to get his message across and I’m sure he’s OK with us gathering virtually as well as in person.

We’re gathered together – and he’s here with us – wherever we are.

So today is the first Café Church Sunday since we’ve been back in the building but you’ll have noticed that there hasn’t been a breakfast and we aren’t in the church hall sitting round tables. That will all come – but it might mean looking for someone else to do the catering – Deborah needs a break after 10 years so if anyone would like to take the task on please let me know.

And we’re in here because this is where the internet signal is. But you may have noticed that there are a couple of tables set out in the church – we will be having some group work later and I’ll be asking you to move for a while – but not yet.

There is still a café church quiz.

1Alan Sillitoe novel._ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _
2Parish Church of Newark_ _ / _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
3Video game featuring Lara Croft_ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _
4Only rock band to have had number one UK albums in 6 decades_ _ _ / _ _ ­_ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _
5Singer of ‘You’re So Vain’_ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _
6The twelfth Doctor Who_ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _
7Oysters wrapped in bacon_ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _    
81974 Bob Marley song_ _ / _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _
9Radio 4 panel show on Sunday at 2pm_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _
10Another name for body snatchers_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _

Did you spot the link?

There are bits from each of these in the resurrection story – or stories.

Let’s have our reading – this is from John’s Gospel

John 20:1-18

The Resurrection of Jesus

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14 When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[b] ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Before we have another song I want to show you a short video.

You’re going to need to do some counting

So how many did you count?

And  – how many of you spotted the chicken? Be honest!

We’ll come back to that later.

Let’s have another song – one just to watch and listen to rather than sing along.

It’s called God of the Women. To the familiar tune of Lord of all Hopefulness

God of the women who answered your call,
Trusting your promises, giving their all,
Women like Sarah and Hannah and Ruth —
Give us their courage to live in your truth.

God of the women who walked Jesus’ Way,
Giving their resources, learning to pray,
Mary, Joanna, Susanna, and more —
May we give freely as they did before.

God of the women long put to the test,
Left out of stories, forgotten, oppressed,
Quietly asking: “Who smiled at my birth?” —
In Jesus’ dying you show us our worth.

God of the women who ran from the tomb,
Prayed with the others in that upper room,
Then felt your Spirit on Pentecost Day —
May we so gladly proclaim you today.

O God of Phoebe and ministers all,
May we be joyful in answering your call.
Give us the strength of your Spirit so near
That we may share in your ministry here.

Talk and participation

You’ll remember that our theme for the summer has been looking at the differences between the Gospel accounts of the same story. We’ve tended to concentrate on the so-called synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, but today I’ve included John  as well.

Of course all 4 of the Gospel writers include the story of the Resurrection. If you look at what people would consider the main Christian festivals only 2 of them mention Jesus birth (and in completely different ways) – but they all cover Jesus’ death and resurrection. I think a lot of Christians would argue that it’s the crucifixion and resurrection that are the most important stories of all in the Gospels. (Personally I’d argue that it’s Jesus’ teachings that mean the most to me but maybe I’m unusual.)

But clearly the resurrection is important. There’s more than one way of understanding what happened and what the significance of the resurrection is (we’ve looked at some of that in Bible Book Club fairly recently), but that’s something for another time.

Today what I want us the think about is this. If this story is the most crucial story of all in understanding what Jesus was and is – couldn’t the Gospel writers have got their stories straight?

It’s time for you to do some work:

Below are copies of the resurrection stories from all 4 Gospels – I’d like you to go into groups and look at these three questions:

Mark 16:1-8Matthew 28:1-10Luke 24:1-10John 20:1-18
The Resurrection of Jesus 16 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.[a]  The Resurrection of Jesus 28 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead,[b] and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’  The Resurrection of Jesus 24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.[a] While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women[b] were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men[c] said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.[d] Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.  The Resurrection of Jesus 20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14 When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[b] ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.    
  1. What do the stories agree on?
  2. Where do the stories differ?
  3. Why might the stories differ?

Pause for while to come up with your own answers.

My thoughts are below

First of all what do the four versions agree on?

  • Early Sunday morning
  • Tomb is empty
  • Women were first on the scene
  • Mary Magdalene

And what differences did you spot?

  • John – Mary Magdalene on her own – others have several witnesses but in v2 Mary says we
  • John – the men are the ones who do most of the witnessing not the women. In the others the women are trusted to go and tell the disciples. But then Jesus speaks to Mary
  • Mark – a young man, Matthew an angel, Luke and John 2 angels
  • Mark and Luke – Jesus doesn’t appear or speak.

Why do you think the stories might differ?

  • Different perspectives
  • Different sources/ different witnesses
  • Different things noticed – the white rooster
  • Different emphases by the 4 writers?

Are any of the differences really significant to you?

Just a few words from me to close.

So can we believe this story when the Gospel versions differ so much?

There are two things I want to point to that suggest the answer is Yes.

The first one is something the gospel writers all agree on – that it was women who were the first on the scene to witness the empty tomb. In the Jewish tradition the word of women wasn’t held in very high regard. It had to be men who were the witnesses. It’s worth noting that in Acts 1 when the 11 got together to make the numbers back up to 12 it seemed to them inevitable that it had to be another man who joined them to bear witness to the resurrection. Despite the important role the women had played at the resurrection scene. Now if you were in a culture that placed little value in the evidence of a certain group of people and wanted to make something up to convince it was true – would you choose as your main witnesses precisely those people whose word wouldn’t hold much weight in your culture? Wouldn’t you choose the most trusted people you could find? Wouldn’t all your witnesses be men. Unless you were actually telling the story as it actually happened?

The second one comes from the fact that, whilst the fundamental are the same the accounts do differ in detail. Because that gives the ring of authenticity. Let’s go back to the skipping rope.

While you were all focussing on what you’d been told to (and by the way not all getting the same answer anyway even though you’d only been asked to count something!) all sorts of other things were happening that not everyone noticed. The colours were changing, the people holding the rope were changed about, there was someone dressed as a huge white chicken dancing across the screen for heaven’s sake. We can all see the same thing and all notice different things about it. We’re not lying when we say there were 36 jumps, or 38 or 35, we’re not lying when we say the colour of the background was red or swear it was blue we’re not lying when we say  of course there was no big white chicken. We’re just being human beings trying to concentrate on what’s important.

How many women went to the tomb? How many angels were there? Precisely what was said, who said it and to whom?

I don’t know! Are you hearing what I’m telling you? – the tomb was empty – that’s what matters. The tomb was empty! I’m absolutely sure about that!

Time for Prayer

Intercessions

Closing prayer

Our final hymn is, unusually for me, an old one – we have a gospel to proclaim. Another one we can sing to if we wish.182

We Have A Gospel To Proclaim

Good news for men in all the earth;
The gospel of a Saviour’s name,
We sing His glory, tell His worth.

Tell of His birth at Bethlehem,
Not in a royal house or hall
But in a stable dark and dim,
The Word made flesh, a light for all.

Tell of His death at Calvary,
Hated by those He came to save,
In lonely suffering on the cross,
For all He loved His life He gave.

Tell of that glorious Easter moon,
Empty the tomb, for He was free.
He broke the power of death and hell
That we might share His victory.

Tell of His reign at God’s right hand,
By all creation glorified,
He sends His Spirit on His Church,
To live for Him, the Lamb who died.

Now we rejoice to name Him King,
Jesus is Lord of all the earth,
This gospel message we proclaim,
We sing His glory, tell His worth.

Finally we will close by saying the grace to one another:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

and the love of God

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all

evermore.

Amen

If anyone has any questions or comments about the above, or would like to talk to me about it don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Mark Taylor

07954 172823

newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com

Quiz answers

  1. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
  2. St Mary Magdalene
  3. Tomb Raider
  4. The Rolling Stones
  5. Carly Simon
  6. Peter Capaldi
  7. Angels on Horseback
  8. No Woman No Cry
  9. Gardeners’ Question Time
  10. Resurrection Men

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