Lockdown Service for Sunday, 26 April 2020 (Easter 3)

[You may follow this service in whatever way you choose, but you might like to start by watching the video of the instrumental prelude and then listen to the audio recording just below it, while scrolling down to follow the words of the service on screen. Remember, you are in control here. George and the rest of the team are waiting for you, so come and join them.] [The video recordings of all the music for this service can also be viewed here: Music Videos from Service for Easter 3 (Sunday, 26 April 2020).]

Instrumental Prelude:
Movements 2 & 3 from Telemann’s Sonata in F major

Performed by Rocío Sánchez López-Ibáñez (recorder) and Adrian Boynton (piano) at the ‘Amazing Grace’ Service held in the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul, Olney, on Sunday, 15 September 2019


Call to Worship

Good morning, fellow pilgrims!

God is good!

All the time.

While two of the disciples were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognising him. Lord, open our eyes, and travel with us, for you are risen indeed, hallelujah!

Alleluia! God is good.

How wonderful it is for God to make it possible for us to continue meeting together even without a physical contact; we thank you God. And because we are thankful, let us pause for a few seconds, gather our thoughts and begin to worship together.

Hail to the Lord of Life,
who animates and inspires us
through the wind of the Spirit.

Alleluia! God is good.

Hail to the Lord of Life,
who turns despair into joy
and death into dancing.

Alleluia! God is good.

Hail to the Lord of Life,
who transforms darkness into light
and sends the Spirit to guide us on.

Alleluia! God is good.

Praise and glory to God,
who raised Jesus from death,
and gives us eternal hope
in the face of darkness and defeat.

Blessed be God for ever.

Alleluia! God is good.

Hymn: Jesus, stand among us at the meeting of our lives

Jesus, stand among us at the meeting of our lives,
be our sweet agreement at the meeting of our eyes;
O Jesus, we love You, as we gather here,
join our hearts in unity and take away our fear.

So to You we’re gathering out of each and every land,
Christ the love between us at the joining of our hands;
O Jesus, we love You, as we gather here,
join our hearts in unity and take away our fear.

Jesus stand among us at the breaking of the bread:
join us as one body as we worship You, our head.;
O Jesus, we love You, as we gather here,
join our hearts in unity and take away our fear.

Graham Kendrick (1977)

Opening Prayer

Redeeming God we come humbly into your house this morning with hearts full of joy and praise. We come asking you to gather us in, however we have come. Some of us come with heavy burdens and some come with light loads; some come with heavy hearts and some come with joy bursting from the seams. However, we come, gather us Lord and lead us to that place where the veil on our spiritual hearts may be removed so that we may recognise you in the everyday activities in our lives and communities as we ask this in the name of the risen Christ.


Prayer of the Week

Loving God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread:
Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work.
May we, too, open our doors to our neighbours,
so that love and friendship can flourish, and all can enjoy the feast.
May the risen Christ walk by our side and never, ever leave us.


Bible Readings

Acts 2: 14a & 36–41

Read by Richard May-Miller

Peter addresses the crowd

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: …

36 ‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’

38 Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ 41 Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.


This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Hymn: The love of God comes close

The love of God comes close
where stands an open door
to let the stranger in,
to mingle rich and poor.
The love of God is here to stay;
embracing those who walk his way.

The peace of God comes close
to those caught in the storm,
forgoing lives of ease
to ease the lives forlorn.
The peace of God is here to stay;
embracing those who walk his way.

The joy of God comes close
where faith encounters fears,
where heights and depths of life
are found through smiles and tears.
The joy of God is here to stay;
embracing those who walk his way.

The grace of God comes close
to those whose grace is spent,
when hearts are tired or sore
and hope is bruised and bent.
The grace of God is here to stay;
embracing those who walk his way.

The Son of God comes close
where people praise his name,
where bread and wine are blessed
and shared as when he came.
The Son of God is here to stay;
embracing those who walk his way,
embracing those who walk his way.

John L. Bell & Graham Maule, The Iona Community (1988)

Luke 24: 13–35

Read by Martin Petchey

On the road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognising him.

17 He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’

19 ‘What things?’ he asked.

‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.’

25 He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. 29 But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.


This is the Gospel of Christ.

Praise to Christ our light.

Sermon by Revd George Mwaura

An Emmaus Experience

Based on Luke 24: 13–35.

Let us pray together.

Loving God open our ears to hear your word and know your voice. Open our eyes to recognise you even in the darkness of suffering. Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills, that we may serve you today and always.


There’s a story about a young American boy named Walter Elias. He was born in the city of Chicago, but his parents moved out to the countryside in Missouri to become farmers. Walter had a vivid imagination and so a large farm was the perfect place for him and his curious mind. One day while playing in the orchard, he saw an owl perched on a branch on one of the apple trees. He stared at it for a long time trying to remember what his father had told him about owls: they rested during the day because they hunted throughout the night and so … this owl was asleep, he concluded. He also thought that the owl might make a perfect pet if he could catch it. Being careful not to make any noises, he crept upon the unsuspecting owl until he was standing beneath the branch on which the owl slept and grabbed it by its feet. The events that followed are difficult to explain, but suddenly there was chaos everywhere. The owl came to life and desperately tried to fly away, and Walter screamed as he frantically tried to keep his grip on the owl. The air was filled with fluffing and feathers as they both wrestled. In his panic and attempt to bring it under control, he swung the bird too hard and smashed its head on one of the branches killing it instantly. After things calmed down, Walter looked at the dead bird and he was heartbroken. He held it in his hands as he cried uncontrollably for hours, then he went to the farmhouse, got a shovel and buried the owl in the orchard.

As the years passed by, he never got over what had happened that summer day and he would constantly dream of that owl. Deep down it affected him for the rest of his life and as an older man he said he never, ever killed anything again and he could not stand the sight of blood. Something profound happened after that event in young Elias’ life that transformed him. Something that redeemed him from the pit of despair and made him devote the rest of his life – giving expression to thousands of animals on the big screen. His full name – if you have not guessed it by now – is, of course, Walter Elias Disney, popularly known as Walt Disney. Young Walt Disney experienced something that day that changed his life for ever. He started seeing all of nature’s creatures through a new lens and he sought to give them a voice.

And the disciples in today’s scripture had a similar experience. What they heard and saw left them forever changed, and they saw life in a whole new way. Try and visualize our two disciples Cleopas and his brother, standing outside their door with Jesus, whom they still didn’t recognise. They just knew that they liked Him, and they didn’t want to part company with Him yet. He was a good companion and He warmed their hearts. And Jesus obviously wanted to stay with them, but knew it was bad manners to invite oneself into someone else’s home, so He acted like He was just going on to the next village.

I can visualise the brothers saying, ‘Hey, you know what, it’s getting late. Do you really have to get where you are going tonight? We have really enjoyed talking with you on the way here. Why don’t you just stay the night with us, and you can be on your way tomorrow. That way we can talk some more over supper.’ I think we all know how they felt. Sometimes when we meet new friends, we end up having so much fun that we don’t want to say goodbye, and what was supposed to be a short visit turns into a long night of great conversation over good food and several bottles of Merlot and Sauvignon to lubricate the vocal cords. That is how it is when Christ shows up at the door of our hearts. He is polite and stands outside talking to us, waiting for us to invite Him in. Perhaps we are like Cleopas and his brother, we do not even recognize at first that Jesus is speaking to our heart; we only know that somewhere deep in our soul there is a conversation taking place. When eventually we invite Christ into our hearts, He will reveal Himself to us and after He is revealed in us, we are never the same again. Like Walt Disney was transformed for ever, the two disciples were never the same after the encounter with the risen Christ; they believed that He truly was the son of God. Paul of Tarsus too had his Damascus Road moment and when Christ was revealed in his life, he was never the same man again. He travelled far and wide taking the Good News of the gospel message to the Jews and Gentiles alike and finally dying for it.

Those disciples on the road to Emmaus knew then that they had not been following Christ in vain and the power of the Resurrection now dwelt in them. If Jesus were still in a grave somewhere in the garden tomb or the Holy Sepulchre, depending on which version of events you choose to believe, we would not be here this morning. The Resurrection changed everything, and it can change you too. The power of the resurrected Christ dwelling in our hearts transforms lives. If Jesus conquered death itself, then there is nothing in this life that we cannot overcome when the power of Christ dwells in us. There is no situation, no sorrow, no heartbreak, no pandemic, no sin, no addiction or affliction and no stronghold of Satan that can bind the power of God which dwells in us. Not even COVID-19!

But, but, there is a catch, Christ must be invited. Sometimes, even when we are enjoying someone’s company and we would love for them to come over for supper, we fail to invite them because we do not feel like our house is tidy enough. If our house is a little messy, we do not want people to think it is always like that, so we end up not inviting them over. We are afraid they might look down on us; after all, first impressions matters a lot. Oddly enough, that is the same reason many people are hesitant to invite Christ into their lives. They feel as though their lives are too messy to have someone as perfect and as powerful as Jesus come in. What do you think would have happened if the disciples had said to Jesus, ‘Well, friend, we would love to invite you in, but our house is a wreck. Maybe next time, eh?’ They would have missed the biggest blessing of their lives. They would have missed seeing Jesus revealed. The truth is, there are many loose ends in our lives, there are untidy places that have not been cleaned and Christ knows that, but he knocks on our doors anyway. People often tell me when I go pastoral visiting or when praying with them that they will come to church when they have got their lives straightened out. I feel sorry and sad at such an attitude. I know from experience that when our lives are a real mess because of bad choices, misfortunes, or circumstances that Christ is the only one who can straighten it out. Yet people turn away from their only source of help. Jesus does not look down on us just because things are a little bit messed up, oh no, no; on the contrary, He wants to help us. He wants to give us the power that dwells in Him so that we can overcome the things of this world that keep us chained down and stop us from achieving our full potential as God intended.

The way to salvation is to invite Christ into our lives. But salvation is not the only point of our focus this morning. Even seasoned Christians like us often shut Christ out of many areas of our lives. Some of us have closets in our homes that we dare not open. We are afraid that if we do, the junk might spill out and come crushing us down. What is my point? Christ must be invited into every corner of our lives, no matter how untidy or dark it is, if we are to enjoy the full benefit of God’s transforming power. The revelation of Christ begins with a talk and that is how it started on the Emmaus road. The disciples had a talk with Jesus. He responded to them. They invited Him to stay, and He revealed Himself to them in the breaking of the bread. Jesus often reveals Himself to us through the breaking of the bread, and Communion with the Risen Christ can leave us forever changed. It allows us to see life in a whole new way, just like Walt Disney and those two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

So, where are you in your experience? Are you still heart-broken because Christ died, or are you still in a searching process? If so, let this process continue, as it will surely lead you to the heart-warming experience. God deeply longs for us to walk with Him in close fellowship so He can fulfil His plans for our lives, and when we invite Him in, our lives are never the same again. I pray you will welcome Him in, for He is risen indeed.



Anthem: O for a closer walk with God

O for a closer walk with God,
a calm and heavenly frame;
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb.

What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
how sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
the world can never fill.

Return, O holy Dove, return,
sweet messenger of rest:
I hate the sins that made thee mourn
and drove thee from my breast.

The dearest idol I have known,
whate’er that idol be,
help me to tear it from thy throne
and worship only thee.

So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.

William Cowper (1731–1800)


By Maggie Kean

Dear Lord and Father, we come before you with both gratitude and humility: gratitude because, despite what is going on in our world, you remain God – and you are our Father. We can come to you and seek comfort, and know that not only do you see and understand our pain but you share that pain with us. We come with humility, because we are afraid and feel helpless.

We pray for the leaders all over the world who have the great responsibility over your people. They have to make very difficult decisions about what to do in unknown territory. We ask that you grant them your wisdom and strength.

We pray for those who have lost loved ones. May your Holy Spirit be their comfort. We pray for those who have loved ones who are unwell – may they too, know your comfort. We pray for those who live alone and are suffering greatly of loneliness – Lord, be their comfort.

We pray for the vulnerable, who are at greater risk of abuse because of lockdown – Lord, hear their cry, and send the help they need.

We gratefully remember before you the key workers who are caring for the sick and who are keeping our country running. We ask that they will be given special blessing and strength from above.

We pray for those who have lost their jobs or businesses and those who fear being plunged into poverty. Lord, we ask for your grace and your peace. Grant us all, with our different fears and frustrations, a faith that persists in trusting you because of our knowledge that you remain the same from age to age, loving and caring for the people you created.

Thank you for all the good we are seeing in the world and in our communities at this difficult time: the countless volunteers – in the NHS and care homes, food banks, and those who are supporting neighbours in their communities in many different ways.

We end our prayers today, by remembering the special cause of YMCA, which serves more than 65 million people in 120 countries around the world. Bless the men and women who dedicate their lives to transforming communities, so that young people everywhere can have the opportunity to belong, contribute and thrive.

We bring all these prayers before you in the name of Christ our Lord and Saviour.


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.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.


Hymn: When we walk with the Lord (Trust and obey)

When we walk with the Lord
in the light of His word,
what a glory He sheds on our way!
When we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey,
for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus,
but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise,
not a cloud in the skies,
but His smile quickly drives it away;
not a doubt nor a fear,
not a sigh nor a tear,
can abide while we trust and obey.
Trust and obey …

Not a burden we bear,
not a sorrow we share,
but our toil He doth richly repay;
not a grief nor a loss,
not a frown nor a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey.
Trust and obey …

But we never can prove
the delights of His love,
until all on the altar we lay;
for the favour He shows,
and the joy He bestows
are for them who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey …

Then in fellowship sweet,
we will sit at His feet,
or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do,
where He sends we will go,
never fear, only trust and obey.
            Trust and obey …

John Henry Sammis (1846–1919)

Dismissal and Blessing

Walk with us on the treacherous roads we travel today. Help us to know your presence with us, and to be your presence to others. And, at the end of the day, may we all enjoy your feast.

And may the blessings of God Almighty: Father, Son and Holy Spirit rest and remain with us and all those whom we love wherever we are now and for ever.


Brothers and sisters, live and love the Lord without allowing the present circumstances to bring you down. We serve a higher God, who has raised Jesus our Lord and is fighting with us in our present predicament!

Hallelujah! Amen

Instrumental Postlude:
Movement 1 from Telemann’s Sonata in F major

Performed by Rocío Sánchez López-Ibáñez (recorder) and Adrian Boynton (piano) at the ‘Amazing Grace’ Service held in the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul, Olney, on Sunday, 15 September 2019


May God’s blessing surround you each day,
as you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin,
go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

© 1982 Cliff Barrows

[The video recordings of all the music for this service can be viewed here: Music Videos from Service for Easter 3 (Sunday, 26 April 2020).]