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CCNL prayer Prompt April 2022

One day, a friend inquired about possibly exploring Jesus together. Calling herself a “cynical atheist” without any religious background, she reasoned that if she chose to not believe in any God, she should perhaps at least check out the opposing view. She was curious about friends who considered Jesus very important in their lives who suggested she read the gospel accounts with us. After several months of repeatedly reading John first, next Mark, then Matthew and Luke, she observed “I kind of like Jesus. He surprises me, not what I expected… for sure a great teacher. But the miracles, what was that about? They seem like attention-getting stunts to impress people or build his reputation.” Over the next months, rereading the Gospels, then Acts and Romans resulted in many more challenging questions. Less skeptical, but still analytical, she shared More weeks of searching the bible and more interesting conversations, God was speaking deeply into her soul. , acknowledging that Jesus’ death was an act of great love, evil in the world and in herself daily, realizing it demanded a sacrificial choice from her, felt God’s profound compassion, seeing her need to make things right with Him. It was an invitation to submit her will to God’s will and trust him with her life. But then… this was a big question: That question lingered in her mind for some time. It is central to our faith.

As Christians, we must not take for granted the wonder of the resurrection nor should we discount the extraordinary difficulty of believing the amazing mysterious power of the risen Christ! In Mark 16:1-8 (MSG) we read these words “Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.” Pause for a moment to truly engage with these highlighted words. Even these women who had been told face to face by Jesus that he would rise again, even though they trusted him, walked and talked with him, still it was initially almost impossible to believe.

March 2022 was an intense month with many layers. Juxtaposed side by side to the Easter narrative are our ‘dailies’ where we watch anxiously as armed conflict in Ukraine is unfolding so rapidly; we see the fear of an estimated 5 million+ displaced people, not only from Ukraine but also Russia; we’ve seen protests, divisions and angrier people in Canada; we are stunned by quickly escalating inflation; and have marked off two years of the Covid 19 pandemic. We are familiar with strong feelings similar to the women's responses at the tomb to describe some emotions we may be experiencing about current events – shock, alarm, confusion and a little numbness. But also in March and April, many Christians observe forty days of Lent before Easter - time set aside for spiritual preparation and opportunity for both personal and collective reflection about Jesus’ sacrifice for us. In the biblical account, those who followed Him lost hope as their dream of an expected Messiah had ended. Three long days passed after his death, waiting in grief, fear and uncertainty even when Jesus left them with a promise that He would suffer, die but then come back to life. Those too were difficult fearful confusing days for his followers.

Let’s ask ourselves what difference does the reality of a risen Christ practically make to us today? This is at the center of our prayers together in April. There is overwhelmingly good news in the mess of past and present pain and chaos in the world. Jesus has risen from the dead and is a living God! Heavenly Father, as we pray, guide us to consider personally the powerful impact of the resurrection:

May we let the resurrection of Jesus speak into our deepest fears. Help us God when we feel afraid – the news each day can remind us how very tentative and perilous life feels right now. Give us much courage to face scary moments - both personally and globally – and especially as we pray for people in the Ukraine and Russia. In Jesus’ time, it was a dangerous choice for the women to go to the tomb to care for Jesus’ body. Even to be seen at the burial place of Jesus, “this folk hero Jesus executed by the state” in Barbara Brown Taylor’s words, would have been viewed as an outrageous act of defiance. We in London are not being forced to leave our homes, our families or to defend our country. Our acts of courage may be difficult conversations we need to have, or commitments we need to make way outside of our comfort zones, or acts of forgiveness, humility or reconciliation that we have been unwilling to take. It may be bad news of sickness or job loss or broken hearts - in whatever our anxious moments are, we ask your Spirit to turn our thoughts Lord to your resurrection, conquering even death giving renewed hope for us as people who place our faith in Jesus.

May the resurrection of Jesus validate once again the truth of His words and His character. 1 Peter 1:3-5 says “What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole”. Thank you, Jesus that you did what you said you would do. We can fully trust you. Your credibility remains intact. Important when we live in today’s cynical culture. Your words and your actions are powerful proof of who you say you are. Our hope of eternal life beyond this life is because you have proven it to us. Give us grace to choose to live our lives daily with our credibility intact too.

May the resurrection of Jesus give us greater power over sin in our lives. Not a day goes by when we do not sin in some way. We may lie, get angry, not care for others, judge quickly, envy… we do not want to remain being held hostage to that kind of life. We ask you to set us free because of what you did for us. “Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer captive to sin’s demands! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.” Romans 6:6-11(MSG) Please guard us from unnecessary guilt and shame as we seek to develop new life-giving habits, living and loving more like you God each day.

May the resurrection of Jesus remind us that evil does not win ultimately. Some days Lord, we despair as we watch evil and injustice triumph. We feel quite helpless … and often hopeless. Whether it is on a worldwide scale, right here in London, or in someone we may know, and even sin having control in own lives, we wonder where you are Jesus. You taught us to pray about your kingdom coming “here on earth as it is in heaven”. Your death and resurrection ushered the hope of the emerging Kingdom of God. Theologian N.T. Wright words it like this: “The resurrection completes the inauguration of God’s kingdom. It is the decisive event demonstrating that God’s kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven. The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.” The words of an old hymn should echo in our minds as we listen to the news or face difficult events … “O let me ne'er forget, that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet. This is my Father's world”. The resurrection was a taste of a new creation when all things will be made right again, when Justice shall reign. Unimaginable right now – yes. But we place our hope in you, not as naïve, foolish dreamers, but as testimony to the belief in who you are. Alleluia.

May the resurrection of Jesus challenge us to allow room for doubters. Faith is a journey. There’s an intriguing statement in the conclusion of Matthew’s account of the resurrection that is easily skipped over probably because we are eager to get to the Great Commission verses that follow. Chapter 28: 16-18 (NLT): “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some of them doubted. Then Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples…”. Even after everything they had witnessed, even with the risen Jesus standing in front of them, “some doubted”, not just Thomas. Some out of eleven? Even those who had seen miracles, shared meals together and had deep conversations with Jesus, who had their feet washed by him - they still doubted? Be present with us in our questions and misgivings. Lord God, teach us to offer more grace, patience and winsome responses to those who doubt. Thank you that you do not give up on us and may we not give up on you. Help our unbelief.

May the resurrection of Jesus empower us to share this good news with others! How encouraging to read in Acts that those who believed told others … “While Peter and John were addressing the people, the priests, the chief of the Temple police, and some Sadducees came up, indignant that these upstart apostles were instructing the people and proclaiming that the resurrection from the dead had taken place in Jesus. They arrested them and threw them in jail until morning, for by now it was late in the evening. But many of those who listened had already believed the Message—in round numbers about five thousand!” Acts 4:1-4 (MSG) May we become more and more Easter people of the living God. Let the good news of Christ’s rising from the dead to life again touch dead spots in our hearts, refresh our faith with springs of living water that spill over into our homes, our words, our friendships, and our churches, into broken places and suffering hearts, into places of war and injustice, into hopelessness and helplessness, inviting all to know this amazing Jesus.

May we join with followers of Jesus around the world and shout with joy “He is risen, he is risen indeed”. AMEN.

1. May the resurrection of Jesus speak into our deepest fears.
2. May the resurrection of Jesus validate the truth of His words and character
3. May the resurrection of Jesus give us greater power over sin in our lives.
4. May the resurrection of Jesus remind us that evil does not win ultimately.
5. May the resurrection of Jesus challenge us to allow room for doubters.
6. May the resurrection of Jesus empower us to share this good news with others!