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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Be filled with the Holy Spirit

17 May 2017

Opening Prayer/Worship

Hymn: Spirit Divine attend our prayers

Theme: King of kings

Topic: Be filled with the Holy Spirit

Reading: Acts 7:55-60
But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ 57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.

Introduction
Our walk with God goes a lot better when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to completely surrender our thoughts, words and deeds to His control.  This is important especially when things are not going exactly the way we want or expect.  Even in the face of pain, suffering and imminent death, Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit to the point that the He prayed to the Lord to forgive his assailants.  Although, it may be argued that anyone can do that, it is less difficult to forgive and do the will of God when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, than in our own strength. 

Questions/Discussion
1) What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? 
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
   do not let me ever be put to shame;
   in your righteousness deliver me.
2 Incline your ear to me;
   rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
   a strong fortress to save me. 
3 You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
   for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
4 take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
   for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
   you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. 
15 My times are in your hand;
   deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16 Let your face shine upon your servant;
   save me in your steadfast love.

Romans 8:1-11
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot,8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Galatians 5:22-26
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

2) What are the lessons for us in John 14:1-14 regarding our relationship with God?  
John 14:1-14
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ 5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ 8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’9Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

3) What are some of the challenges to being filled with the Holy Spirit?  How do we overcome them?
Ephesians 4:29-32
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Colossians 2:6-15
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

1 Peter 2:2-10
Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture:
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
   a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
‘The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the very head of the corner’,
8and
‘A stone that makes them stumble,
   and a rock that makes them fall.’
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
10 Once you were not a people,
   but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
   but now you have received mercy.
  
Intercession/Worship  

Conclusion
It is less difficult to do the will of God when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, than in our own strength. 

Closing Prayer (Collect for Fifth Sunday of Easter)

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Give us grace to love one another and walk in the way of his commandments, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Perfect in every good work

10 May 2017

Opening Prayer/Worship

Hymn: When we walk with the Lord

Theme: King of kings

Topic: Perfect in every good work

Reading: Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Introduction
Our God is perfect and expects us to be perfect, not in our strength, but through our faith in His Son Jesus Christ and obedience to the Holy Spirit.  We are called to be perfect in every good work; and we can only fulfill this mandate when we allow the Holy Spirit to control our thoughts, speech and action.  Being perfect in every good work requires total and complete surrender to the move of the Holy Spirit, and resolute desire to know and do the will of God at all times.  This may be relatively easy sometimes and difficult at other times, but if we resolve to serve Christ, He understands our weaknesses and imperfections, and will always fill us with grace for each day.  Perfection in every good work is not just about doing well, but doing the things we do because of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Questions/Discussion
1) What does it mean to be perfect before God? 
Matthew 5:43-48
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Hebrews 12:1-17
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners,so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. 4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—
‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
   or lose heart when you are punished by him; 
6 for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
   and chastises every child whom he accepts.’ 
7Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? 8If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. 9Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. 11Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,13and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
14 Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. 16See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal.17You know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, even though he sought the blessing with tears.

1 Peter 1:13-25
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ 17 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. 18You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21Through 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. 22 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. 23You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For
‘All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers,and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord endures for ever.’ That word is the good news that was announced to you.

2) What are the lessons for us in John 10:1-10 regarding being perfect in every good work?  
John 10:1-10
‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

3) What are some of the challenges to being perfect in every good work?  How do we overcome them?
Psalm 23:1-6 (KJV)
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Acts 17:24-31
The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,
“For we too are his offspring.” 
29Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

1 Peter 2:19-25
For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. 
22 ‘He committed no sin,
   and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ 
23When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.24He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Intercession/Worship

Conclusion
Perfection in every good work is not just about doing well, but doing the things we do because of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Closing Prayer (Collect for Fourth Sunday of Easter)

O God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make us perfect in every good work to do your will, and work in us that which is well-pleasing in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Essence of Faith

3 May 2017

Opening Prayer/Worship            

Hymn: Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me

Theme: King of kings

Topic: Essence of our faith

Reading: Acts 2:14A, 36-41
Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd, "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.

Introduction
Last week, we discussed hope; this week we turn our focus on faith.  Faith is indispensable in our walk with God, for without faith, it is impossible to please God.  Faith in God is having confidence that He is who He says He is and will do what He promised to do.  Faith encompasses God’s universal love and salvation to everyone, and His promises to us as individuals, families, communities and nations.  Note that at times present reality can be in disagreement with God’s promise of healing, provision, deliverance, help etc.  It is as such times that we need more grace to believe regardless of discouragements.  Our God is forever faithful, and will always do what He promised to do.

Questions/Discussion

1. What is faith?
Matthew 17:14-20
14When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15“Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” 17  “You unbelieving and perverse generation,”Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”18Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. 19Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 20He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

1 Peter 1:17-23
17Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.


Hebrews 11:1-6
1Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for. 3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. 5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

2. What are the lessons for us in Luke 24:13-35 regarding faith?
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.
3. Why should we have faith even in the face of discouragement?
Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17
REFRAIN I will lift up the cup of salvation.
I love the Lord, because he has heard the voice of my supplication, because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him. The cords of death entangled me; the grip of the grave took hold of me; I came to grief and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: "O Lord, I pray you, save my life." R
How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things he has done for me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. R
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his servants. R
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant and the child of your handmaid; you have freed me from my bonds. I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the Lord. R
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. In the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah! R

Mark 11:22-26
22  “Have faith in God,”Jesus answered. 23“I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”26

James 1:2-8
 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Intercession/Worship

Conclusion
Our God is forever faithful, and will always do what He promised to do.

Closing Prayer (Collect for Third Sunday of Easter)
O God, your Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread. Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Living Hope

26 April 2017

Opening Prayer/Worship

Hymn: My hope is built on nothing less

Theme: King of kings

Topic: Living Hope

Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Although you have not seenhim, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Introduction
Hope is the expectation of a specific event in future.  As Christians, our hope is in Christ, hence the term living hope.  Neither death nor grave could hold Jesus captive; in fact even in the grave, Jesus is Lord!  Since we have this living Hope, our confidence that God is with us is unshakeable.  Things happen in our lives that tend to shake our faith, but since our hope is in Christ and Christ alone, we should not be shaken.  Although we do not know the future, we know that Christ holds the future.  We also know that His thoughts for us are of good and not evil, to bring us to an expected end.  Hence as we live for Jesus, let us always remember that we serve a living Saviour, and to keep our hope in Him alive always.

Questions/Discussion
1) What is your understanding of living hope? 
Jeremiah 29:10-14
For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Acts 2:14A, 22-32
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: 22 ‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24But God raised him up, having freed him from death,because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25For David says concerning him, “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh will live in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” 29 ‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.30Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, “He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.” 32This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

Romans 1:8-17
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. 9For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, 10asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. 11For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13I want you to know, brothers and sisters,that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. 14I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15 hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’

2) What are the lessons for us in John 20:19-31 regarding living Hope?  
John 20:19-31
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. 

3) What are some of the hindrances to having living Hope?  How do we overcome them? 
Psalm 16:1-11
Refrain: God will not abandon me to the grave.
Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; I have said to the Lord, "You are my Lord, my good above all other." All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land, upon those who are noble among the people. R But those who run after other gods shall have their troubles multiplied. Their libations of blood I will not offer, nor take the names of their gods upon my lips. R O Lord, you are my portion and my cup; it is you who uphold my lot. My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; indeed, I have a goodly heritage. R I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me, night after night. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand I shall not fall. R My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also shall rest in hope. For you will not abandon me to the grave, nor let your holy one see the Pit. R You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore. R

2 Corinthians 4:7-18
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—‘I believed, and so I spoke’—we also believe, and so we speak,14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Hebrews 10:19-25, 32-39
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 32 But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. 35Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. 36For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. 37For yet ‘in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one will live by faith. My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.’ 39But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.

Intercession/Worship  
Conclusion
Let us always remember that we serve a living Saviour, and to keep our hope in Him alive always.

Closing Prayer (Collect for Second Sunday of Easter)
Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt, may we, who have not seen, have faith and receive the fullness of Christ's blessing, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

The Celebration of the Holy Eucharist
Prayer Over the Gifts
God of grace, you have freed us from our sins and made us a kingdom in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Accept all we offer you this day, and strengthen us in the new life you have given us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer 2
The Lord be with you.
        And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
        We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
        It is right to give our thanks and praise.
We give you thanks and praise, almighty God, through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer. He is your living Word, through whom you have created all things.

By the power of the Holy Spirit he took flesh of the Virgin Mary and shared our human nature. He lived and died as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all.

In fulfilment of your will he stretched out his hands in suffering, to bring release to those who place their hope in you; and so he won for you a holy people.

He chose to bear our griefs and sorrows, and to give up his life on the cross, that he might shatter the chains of evil and death, and banish the darkness of sin and despair. By his resurrection he brings us into the light of your presence.

Now with all creation we raise our voices to proclaim the glory of your name.
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Holy and gracious God, accept our praise, through your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; who on the night he was handed over to suffering and death, took bread and gave you thanks, saying, “Take, and eat: this is my body which is broken for you.” In the same way he took the cup, saying, “This is my blood which is shed for you. When you do this, you do it in memory of me.”

Remembering, therefore, his death and resurrection, we offer you this bread and this cup, giving thanks that you have made us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you.

We ask you to send your Holy Spirit upon the offering of your holy Church. Gather into one all who share in these sacred mysteries, filling them with the Holy Spirit and confirming their faith in the truth, that together we may praise you and give you glory through your Servant, Jesus Christ.

All glory and honour are yours, Father and Son, with the Holy Spirit in the holy Church, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer
And now, as our Saviour Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Breaking of the Bread – 8: Easter Season
Lord, we died with you on the cross.
        Now we are raised to new life.
We were buried in your tomb.
        Now we share in your resurrection.
        Live in us, that we may live in you.
The gifts of God for the People of God.
        Thanks be to God.

Prayer after Communion
Father, we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands the bread of life. Strengthen our faith that we may grow in love for you and for each other; through Jesus Christ the risen Lord. Amen.

The doxology
Glory to God,
whose power, working in us,
can do infinitely more
than we can ask or imagine.
Glory to God from generation to generation,
in the Church and in Christ Jesus,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Blessing
May the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Dismissal
Alleluia! Go forth into the world,
rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.

Thanks be to God. Alleluia!