Easter Sunday - 12 April 2020
Updated: Apr 12
Good morning, everyone - Happy Easter to you! I'm afraid you're having to hear from me, Christy, for the second time in two days. My husband, Nick, reckons you have it easy though and should spare a thought for him who hears from me daily...
At the end of the Good Friday reflection, I left you with a suggestion to watch "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". Nick and I watched it on Friday night and despite being familiar with the story since childhood, we were still struck by lessons missed, or perhaps forgotten.
In the story, Aslan, the lion, is a metaphor for Jesus. The first we hear of him is a lot of excited chatter amongst the animals about his return after a long absence that has left the land of Narnia in the grip of a never-ending winter, and at the mercy of Jardis, the cruel, evil witch.
There are many evils that can turn our lives into what feels like a long, endless winter - illness, depression, the loss of a loved one, job and family pressures... Right now, the biggest threat facing us all is the devastating effect of the COVID-19 virus on our lives, our loved ones, and our livelihoods. One thing it has not - and cannot - change, is our ability to meet with God, right here, right now - we just need to invite him in.
The arrival of Aslan is evidenced long before we meet him - through the thawing effect that the hope of his coming brings to Narnia. Everywhere spring and the promise of new life is emerging, just at the mention of his name. The four children, through whose eyes we are encountering this magical land, stumbled into it through a magic wardrobe. They don't know or understand anything about Aslan, but the evidence of his presence and power is all about them - in nature and the words they are hearing about him.
Everyone is anticipating a great battle where Aslan will defeat Jardis once and for all. An army has gathered, and weapons training is in full swing. The one fly in the ointment is Edmund, one of the four children. This young boy, separated from the others, has been enticed by Jardis into trusting her. Her promises of power and delights of his choosing convince him to betray not only his brother and sisters, but everyone loyal to Aslan. Too late he discovers that his pride and greed will cost him not only their lives, but his own.
A rescue effort is mounted, and Edmund is saved. He is taken aside by Aslan for an earnest discussion. When they return, Aslan tells Edmund's siblings that the matter has been dealt with and need not be spoken of again.
Reflecting on this the day after watching the movie, Nick said to me, "Did you notice how Aslan (the lion) told everyone that Edmund's betrayal had been dealt with and need never be mentioned again? And did you notice how everyone just moved on from there? God seems to be able to do that after I make apologies to him, but I seem to keep bringing up the stuff I feel bad about. I guess I'm just not as big as God."
"And yet, isn't this evidence of us still thinking we're cleverer than God?" I replied. "That he can forgive, but our own judgment cannot be satisfied? How would it be if I apologised to you for saying something hurtful to you, and you said it was okay, and then I kept on bringing it up again and again? You would think I didn't believe you, and my inability to forgive myself would sap the joy out of our relationship, wouldn't it? Isn't it an incredible relief to hear someone you've hurt say "it's okay" and to know they've let you off the hook? Shouldn't we feel that more with God than with anyone else?"
And yet, even knowing this, it's still easier said than done, isn't it? Nevertheless, the longing for the relationship to be restored remains and I guess our ability to press through to its restoration depends on just how much we want that.
Edmund is forgiven, but later Jardis returns for Edmund, declaring that according to the law of the land, while others may have forgiven him, the consequences of his actions demand his death. Aslan takes her aside for a private discussion and when they return she declares Edmund is free of the bond. Everyone is confused but thrilled - except for Aslan, who seems strangely sad. Only later will we discover that he has offered his own life in place of Edmund's.
Forgiveness might set us free, but it comes at a high cost to God. When he forgives us, it's not because he has discounted the severity of our wrongdoing, it's because he has taken upon himself our guilt and the consequences we deserve to face, so that we can receive the peace of being forgiven and restored into a right, loving relationship with God - when we're ready to admit our mistakes and ask for his forgiveness.
My friend, Stephanie, wrote a song that speaks very much about her own experience of this. (You may find it odd that she speaks of Jesus as a "Lamb" rather than a lion. Biblically he is referred to as both. Before Jesus' death and resurrection, lambs were one of the animals most used in ritual sacrifices to bear the consequences of disobeying God in place of humans. The only problem was, that one lamb was never enough because people kept disobeying God, so sacrifices were a regular part of religious life. When Jesus died for us, he became the final sacrificial Lamb, as through him, God took on himself the punishment that our wrongdoing demands according to his own laws.)
As you listen to this, why not take the opportunity to consider the things that are weighing you down with guilt. Perhaps it's time to apologise to God, thank him for sending Jesus to die in your place, and ask for his everlasting forgiveness?
Richard is going to walk us through how exactly Jesus' death and resurrection made this possible... and reveals what else Jesus has bought for us with his sacrifice.
If the movie ended with Aslan dying, Edmund free, but the witch ultimately winning, it would be a pretty dismal story. Instead, a miracle takes place the day after Aslan's execution: he is mysteriously resurrected and the stone table on which he was killed is broken! Because an innocent was prepared to take the place of the guilty, the curse can never again be meted out to anyone else. He returns to defeat Jardis once and for all.
In preparation for that final battle with Jardis, Edmund's little sister, Lucy, is given an elixir with which she will be able to heal all those who are wounded. We too have such an elixir - it's called prayer and we are invited to pray God's healing power into the lives and circumstances of others. Let's join Jan and Ian in praying together now:
Our dear Heavenly Father, this Easter Sunday we thank and praise you for your amazing gift of salvation and eternal life to us all. We thank and praise you, Lord Jesus, that you suffered that cruel death on the cross for each and every one of us, taking the punishment upon yourself for ALL of our sins and “nailing them to the cross” (Colossians 2:14), so that they are not only forgiven but also forgotten! We thank and praise you, Holy Spirit, that you now live within us and empower us with the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
Hallelujah, praise the one who sets me free.
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me.
You have broken every chain,
There’s salvation in Your name,
Jesus Christ my living Hope.
("Living Hope", by Phil Wickham)
We pray now for all those we love and care for who don’t know you, Lord God, as their Heavenly Father, who don’t know Jesus as their friend and Saviour, and who have never experienced the power of the Holy Spirit working within, and through, them. (Please lift your own loved ones to the Lord right now.) Dear Lord, please reveal yourself to our loved ones, break down the barriers that have been holding them back from believing in you, and give them the courage to allow You to take control of their lives. May they know a peace that goes beyond their understanding and may they be overwhelmed by Your love.
Father God, in this world full of disease, disaster, persecution, sadness and pain we pray for a worldwide revival. We pray that you will reveal Yourself miraculously in dreams and visions. We pray that You will break down strongholds and turn people’s hearts to You. We pray that you would destroy the covid-19 virus and bring healing to those who are suffering with symptoms of the virus right now. We lift up our Prime Minister to You and ask, Lord God, that you would bring him complete healing.
We pray for us as a church - that we would all reveal Jesus to others, bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Empower us to serve You and honour You in all we think, say and do. May we live to bring glory to Your name.
In Jesus name we pray,
With Jardis defeated and the siblings crowned kings and queens of Narnia, Aslan prepares to leave. As Queen Lucy and her friend, Mr Tumnis watch him go they reflect on what they have learned:
Mr Tumnis: "He is not a tame lion"
Lucy: "But he is good"
Tame animals do our bidding, wild ones do not, and they can therefore be dangerous to humans. God is not "tame" because he is subject to no one and will not bow to our bidding, but we know by his actions in the Easter story that he is good and that he loves us. So while the Covid-19 epidemic has probably not miraculously ended as we say "Amen" today, neither has God's ability to act powerfully for good through seemingly dire circumstances. Trust him and pray - and if you feel prompted to act for good, do so, for one can seldom pray and not be moved to action by God in a fight against any kind of evil.
And now it is time to say goodbye for another week. We had initially planned to finish our Easter service with a choir item, but we were only able to fit in one rehearsal before lockdown began. Nevertheless, some of our congregation have managed to piece together a closing song that we hope you will enjoy. Bless you!
Feel free to share your Easter greetings and prayers in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
Two weeks ago we sent out an email to membership asking them to phone the next person down on the church membership list once a week to see how they are doing and to share what you've been up to. We suggested this might be a good opportunity to pray for one another, either during the course of the conversation, or over the coming week. It seems most folk have been doing just this, and it is deeply appreciated, thank you so much!
A reminder that if you would like to participate but have not given Mandy the go-ahead to include your personal details on the church membership list, you can do so by mailing your details to: email@example.com . This will allow her to also include you in any church-related emails that are sent out. You do NOT have to have formally joined the church to be included and can also request to be removed at any time.
D-groups on Zoom
Two of our D-groups have successfully used Zoom to meet. If anyone is concerned about the security issues around Zoom that are being expressed in the media, alternative options include Skype or Google Hangouts, which the leadership have been using for deacon's meetings. If your group would like to give this a go but doesn't know how to set it up, please ask your leader to contact Mandy and we'll see if we can help you get organised.
Anne has informed us that for those who usually attend Spring Harvest, it has obviously been cancelled as a gathering, but it is being streamed live via YouTube from 13th April. You don’t need to have been booked to go in order to access this. It’s all free. Just search for Spring Harvest Home and you should then be able to access the worship and talks.
Hayling Holiday Lunch deliveries (message from Sarah)
Thank you so much for managing the delivery rounds on Monday morning. Some of you are old hands at it now but to those who haven't done it before a particular thanks as you didn't know what it involved! Indeed it was made more difficult having to go alone - I know when I recruited you I assured you that you would be going in twos, but of course events overtook us. They were heavy loads to carry too as it was for two weeks.
We were sorry not to be able to do the fresh food - normally a good bag of bread, cheese etc. - but then apparently Mengham schools were delivering boxes to their families of fresh stuff for the week where they have previously delivered a daily packed lunch, so that would have helped. We delivered a 'Why Easter' booklet, and pray that that may sow a seed for God to water.
We were blessed too with some volunteers from St Peter's and the Bridge Church/Centre.
We have heard that vouchers are going to be issued to all families receiving FSM, which will include the holidays at this stage.
Mel's trip to Uganda
As many of you are aware, Mel made her second trip to Uganda in January/February this year but before she could share what happened there with us, the lockdown began. So she has prepared a bit of feedback, which will be going up on our website this coming week under "Missions". Do take a look - exciting stuff!
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Hayling Island Baptist Church
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