Holy Thursday, 18th April                                                                                                     Morning Prayer: Luke 22.1-13; Psalm 36.1-3, 6b-9                                                            Evening Prayer: Luke 22.14-65; Psalm 42.1-11

Good Friday, 19th April                                                                                                       Morning Prayer: Luke 22.66 – 23.49; Psalm 22.1-24                                                           Evening Prayer: Luke 23.50-56; Psalm 130.1-2, 5-8

Easter Eve, 20th April                                                                                                          Morning Prayer: Isaiah 52.13 – 53.12; Psalm 102.1-3, 9-17                                                        (or Lamentations 3.1-24, 52-58; Ps 55.1-11, 16-19a)                                                           Evening Prayer: Philippians 2.6-11; Psalm 96.10-13

Easter Sunday (Year C): 21st April                                                                                        Morning Prayer: Luke 24.1-12; Psalm 96.1-6                                                                       Evening Prayer: Ephesians 1.3-14; Psalm 145.1-7

The Resurrection

God hear my prayer, do not hide away from my plea,                                                               give me a hearing, answer me, my troubles give me no peace.

I shudder at the enemy’s shouts, at the outcry of the wicked;                                                   they heap up charges against me, in their anger bring hostile accusations against me.

My heart writhes within me, the terrors of death come upon me,                                           fear and trembling overwhelm me, and shuddering grips me.

And I say, ‘Who will give me wings like a dove, to fly away and find rest?’                      (Psalm 55.1-6 NJB)

The first glimmer of light, the third day after the agony of the Cross. A great hush has descended on the land, the silence of iniquity, the silence of kings and governors who murder with impunity in all times and places. On a desolate hill the dew glistens on the tree of anguish, mingling with the blood of torn flesh. The aroma of death hangs like a pall over this place. Nothing stirs, no creature comes near. No bird flutters or alights on  beam or post, no glinting eyes peer from beneath stone or leaf, no hoof or claw, no coiled serpent to uncoil when the rays of the rising sun shine on this forsaken mound. And the world sleeps on….

But there is One who has risen from the sleep of death. It is first light in the garden of tombs, the new Eden where evil has been vanquished. The women who had come from Galilee with Jesus and had noted where he had been laid, approach the cave, their eyes reddened with sleepless sorrow. They bring various unguents to anoint the body of the Lord (cf Luke 23.55 – 24.1). They pass among trees that drip with the moisture that the cold damp night has deposited on them. It is as if they too weep, lamenting the passing of him who in the mist of time had witnessed the weaving of their splendour.               (See Genesis, ch. 1; Proverbs 8.22-31; John 1.1-5; Colossians 1.15-20; Hebrews 1.1-4).

But what is this? What has happened? The women see that the stone that had been placed over the entrance of the tomb has been rolled back. What can this mean? They peer into the space. The body of the Lord is not there. Two men appear in white raiment, angels of the Lord. Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here, he has risen. Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee: that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day. And they remembered his words (Luke 24.2-8 JB).

When the women returned from the tomb they told all of this to the Eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Mary the mother of James. The other women with them also told the apostles, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them (Luke 24.9-11 JB).

Peter, however, went running to the tomb. He bent down and saw the binding cloths but nothing else; he then went back home, amazed at what had happened.                  (*Luke 24.12 JB).

Just as daylight now pierces the interior of the empty tomb, so the light of divine truth  pierces the soul of man, illuminating the darkness, reaching like a sword of justice into the place where vain ambitions and evil plans ferment, exposing all the shallowness and duplicity, all the rebellion and strife. And through the searing pain of the Cross the grace of God bathes humanity with the healing balm of forgiveness (cf Romans, ch. 8).

The purport of this event will soon become evident to Christ’s followers through his many resurrection appearances. A new dawn of realisation will rise in hearts and minds presently numbed with sorrow. They will be enlightened. Then, enraptured by joy and fired with zeal, the truth will radiate outwards to capture the world. The first witnesses to the resurrection who will join those sanctified by the breath of God at Pentecost, will be among the band of heralds proclaiming the new Way, for the Holy Spirit will invade their spirit to fill them with the fullness of Christ. For now, grief and shock overwhelm the people of God. They are not fully alive to the magnitude of the moment, the mystery of redemption (cf Luke 24.13-49; John 20.19-29; Acts 1.1-11; Romans 5.1-11).

Christ’s death and resurrection are all of a piece, they are indivisible. On the day of his crucifixion time stood still. Now on this mournful morning, this Dawn of dawns, it is the first day of a new era. For Christ to liberate us from the sting of death he must himself be released from death. He also unshackles us from the strictures of legalism, for he is the Word, he is the Light. Those pious women who sought to tend the scarred body of the Lord on that feverish dawn will come to the Light that enlightens mankind and they will see the risen Lord (1 John 1.1-7). They will see as we see (John 8.12).

For Christ’s death to have any meaning there had to be a subsequent narrative of cosmic proportions. This is the crux of the matter, this is the key to it all. If Christ’s death had been a finality, if it had resulted in bodily decay, he would have entered the pages of history as a mere footnote, an inconvenient holy man who had ruffled the religious establishment and paid the ultimate price, a prophet who had spoken truth to power and met with violent persecution.

But the narrative is very different. The Christian faith is about the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah foretold. Holy Scripture contains the revelation of God, the unfolding drama of salvation history, a text inspired by God and written down by holy men for posterity. The whole of the Old Testament moves forward to the New Testament, to a turning point: the life, death and teachings of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, as recorded by men who witnessed the spiritual convulsions manifested during his walk on earth and the spiritual revolution that came in his wake (Acts 2.1-41 passim; 1 Corinthians 2.6-16; Titus 2.11-14).

Christ’s legacy cannot be confined to the annals of prophecy. His purpose, his presence and his teachings are too momentous for that. He is Prophet, Priest and King. He is the unique manifestation of the divine, the summit of God’s salvific plan, the means of redemption, the author of new life in the Spirit. It cannot be understood in any other way; it was not meant to be any other way. The evidence will not allow us to diverge from divine truth. The great tide of history has been intersected by events unheard of in human experience, and the face of the earth has been renewed by the hand of God  (Psalm 104.30; Ephesians 1.3-14; 1 Timothy 3.16; 1 Peter 1.3-21).

In the end there is a beginning. In his infinite mercy and forgiveness, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son for our salvation (John 3.16). For Christ to liberate us to live a life of love, as God had intended for humanity at the time of creation, he had to die for the accumulated transgressions of mankind. He had to draw all the derangement of the human condition to himself so as to release us from evil. His sacrifice is the atone-ment for the disfiguring disease of sin. For us to be redeemed and enter eternal life, he had to suffer an ignominious death, conquer evil and rise to glory, creating a path for all who respond to his call and embrace the faith. For us to don the cloak of discipleship is to follow the example of his teachings and actions, to display courage in the face of adversity, to exude the same depth of love and compassion, to be all-consumed by his transforming friendship (John 15.15-17) so that we become the eyes, hands, feet and mind of Christ in the human maze (Matthew 5.1-16).

In Christ the human and the divine are interwoven for the salvation of mankind, and we must keep before us the astounding fact of his victory over evil and death. He bids us to follow him here as citizens of the kingdom of God, and when our labours are done and the evening of life turns to night, to be fully reconciled, to rest with him in eternity (John 14.1-6). With this in mind, this magnificent inheritance, how is it possible, how is it reasonable to disregard our true destiny? Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (Ephesians 5.14 NJB). Now is the time for foolish dreams to be dispelled, for the sleep of human reason to be awakened by the dawn of enlightenment. Now is the time to seek understanding. Now is the time to be still and acknowledge God (Psalm 46.10 NJB)….to be still and know God. For this is the day which the Lord has made, a day for us to rejoice and be glad (Psalm 118.24 NJB).

Colin Markham

* In John 20.3-10, Peter is accompanied by John

Easter Monday, 22nd April                                                                                                  Morning Prayer: Luke 24.13-53; Psalm 85.8-13                                                                    Evening Prayer: 1 John 1.1-7; Psalm 21.1-7

Easter Tuesday, 23rd April                                                                                                  Morning Prayer: Acts 1.6-26; Psalm 122.1-end                                                                    Evening Prayer: 1 Peter 1.3-12; Psalm 98.1-4, 7-9

Easter Wednesday, 24th April                                                                                            Morning Prayer: Acts 2.1-47; Psalm 16.1-end                                                                     Evening Prayer: 1 Peter 1.13-25; Psalm 25.10-14

Easter Thursday, 25th April                                                                                                Morning Prayer: Acts 3.1-26; Psalm 31.19-24                                                                      Evening Prayer: 1 Peter 2.1-10; Psalm 118.19-27a

Easter Friday, 26th April                                                                                                      Morning Prayer: Acts 4.1-31; Psalm 2.1-2, 7-12                                                                  Evening Prayer: 1 Peter 2.11-16, 21b-25; Psalm 135.1-6

Easter Saturday, 27th April                                                                                                 Morning Prayer: Acts 4.32-37; Psalm 111.1-6                                                                      Evening Prayer: 1 Peter 3.8-12; Ps 34.9-16

____________________________________________________________

Welcome to the Fellowship of St. Peter

The aim is to promote Christian faith and spirituality.  The central focus is on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Christianity in the modern world

As the number of churchgoers dwindle in the western world, orthodox Christians need to overcome their differences and consider a form of unity that recognises their common purpose.  It’s time for the faithful remnant to act as a creative minority and formulate a unified response.  The goal must be to preserve the orthodoxy of the faith in the face of the continuing erosion of religious liberty in an atmosphere that is increasingly hostile to Christianity.

The Fellowship extends a hand of friendship to those who have withdrawn from churches which have aligned themselves with secularism and liberal values, thus fatally compromising the integrity of a faith that is essentially counter-cultural.

We must read the signs of the times.  The era is drawing to a close.  It is time to stand up and be counted as the people of God.  Do not be afraid.  The gathering darkness will not enshroud the light of faith nor quench the flame of truth.  These will remain, along with all those whose steadfast faith shields them in the coming storm.

‘And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’ (Matthew 28.20).

The word of God

The word of God is a powerful force for enlightenment, a necessary counterweight to secular humanism.  The Fellowship seeks to recapture something of the simplicity and vitality of the church in apostolic times, before the purity of the Christian message was corrupted by spurious doctrines.  The emphasis is on spirituality that supports the life and ministry of Christians everywhere, regardless of denomination.

The Bible speaks to the world.  All Christians have something of interest and value to share through their witness.  The aim of the Fellowship is to promote prayer, Bible study and spiritual reflection which will bear fruit in daily lives.  These disciplines can form the basis of a Rule of Life that requires a strategic withdrawal from the mainstream.

Let the word of God fill your hearts and minds, let it guide and inspire you and refresh you like a clear mountain stream.  Be still with God in prayer.  Be an instrument of his loving purposes, a purveyor of peace, and let your peace rest on all those you encounter, especially those in need of compassion and healing.  Heed their cares and bind their wounds.  Live in uprightness and modesty and exercise restraint in your material needs.  Guard your tongue, practise discretion, speak only words of counsel and encouragement, the words of Christ.

Your eyes, hands and impulses should be those of Christ.  Pray always for strength and enlightenment.  Praise and thank God and place into his care your needs and those of others.

Bible.  Prayer.  Witness.  These are the three principles on which the Fellowship is founded.

Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.  (Ephesians 3.16-19).

stpeter

Why Peter?

Peter represents Everyman in all his frailty, vulnerability and confusion.  He was headstrong yet inspired, well-meaning but impetuous.  His heart was in the right place but he didn’t always live up to his own rhetoric.  He triumphed over his weaknesses by the grace of God and saw the perfect vision of Christ and what that vision meant for the church and the world.

Peter was a leading figure during Christ’s walk on earth.  He occupied a position of seniority amongst the disciples.  He was there at all the major events during Christ’s ministry and in the final days leading up to the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven.  It was to Peter and his fellow apostles that Jesus entrusted the legacy of truth enshrined in his teachings, the keys of the kingdom.  After Pentecost Peter and his companions went out to the world to proclaim the Gospel.

Acts of the Apostles.  Peter became a leading light in the early days of the church, the apostle to the Jews living in the diaspora.  His authority in the nascent Christian community has to be viewed against the ascendancy of Paul as apostle to the Gentiles, a position that gave Paul equal authority in the direction of missionary work.

In terms of Peter’s primacy of leadership, however, “….one should not look in Peter or in the primitive church for the developed conception of the primacy which appears no earlier than the third century.  The development of power possessed by the church and by Peter into monarchical leadership lies outside of biblical theology.” (John McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible)

The Gospel of Mark.  The church historian Eusebius (d. ca. 339) wrote: “Mark, who became Peter’s interpreter, wrote accurately, though not in order, all that he remembered of the things said and done by the Lord.  For he had neither heard the Lord nor been one of his followers, but afterwards followed Peter, who used to compose his discourses with a view to the needs of his hearers.” (Recommended reading: Meeting God in Mark, by Rowan Williams (SPCK, 2014)).

1 and 2 Peter.  Of the two letters that bear Peter’s name, the first seeks to encourage and strengthen early Christian communities suffering persecution, reminding them of their heritage.  The second has more to do with the dangers of heresy and how Christians can have confidence in the truth of Scripture.  These encouragements and warnings resonate with us living in times of moral decline and religious indifference.

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into a heritage that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away.  It is reserved in heaven for you who are being kept safe by God’s power through faith until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the final point of time.  (1 Peter 1.3-5 NJB).

Peter was martyred in Rome during the Neronian persecutions, probably in the year 64.

Jerusalem Cross

There are various interpretations of the symbolism.  The four smaller crosses are thought to denote either the four gospels or the way the Gospel spread to the four corners of the earth.  In terms of God’s revelation and world history, the city of Jerusalem is of huge political, religious and symbolic importance.  The focus is highlighted in the gospels and in the emergence of the first Christian communities described in the Acts of the Apostles.  It was from Jerusalem that the apostles scattered to proclaim Christ

Bible translations used

Scripture quotations are from the Jerusalem Bible (JB), copyright 1966, Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd., and Doubleday Inc.; and the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), copyright 1985, Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd., and Doubleday Inc.  In quoting from both the JB and the NJB, ‘Yahweh’ is rendered ‘Lord’.

The spiritual life

We must keep the Bible open before us.  It is our enlightenment, our source of consolation, our prayer book.  It contains the revelation of God’s purposes in salvation history.  It is the well-spring of all the truth, goodness and wisdom that God wishes to transmit to human beings who he ordained to administer the complexities of the natural world and to carry forward knowledge of salvation history with its outcome in the incarnation of Christ.

The Lord guides and strengthens us, keeping us firmly rooted in the faith. Throughout all the trials we endure in this troubled world, Christ is with us.  The word of God inspires us in various ways, and through the Holy Spirit we gain knowledge, wisdom and discernment, maturing in the faith as citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Remain within the confines of God’s kingdom.  Stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to salvation.  Do not look with longing towards the sunlit hills at every temptation. Too many have trodden the path to destruction, too many have fallen by the wayside.

The Christian life is about being transformed by Christ, being absorbed by him so that his teachings and his very presence guide our every motivation and action.  Christ’s love is mediated through us in the power of the Holy Spirit.  We follow the leadings of the Spirit in order to renew and deepen our faith.

There is a wonderful symmetry involved in the divine-human relationship.  Christ, the sinless one, is the embodiment of human perfection.  Through his very nature as Son of God he brought mankind nearer to the Father.  Through Christ, God shared in our humanity and he also made it possible for us to share in his divinity.  Christ underwent the ultimate sacrifice to reconcile man to his creator, making it possible for God’s plan of salvation to be brought to completion, inaugurating a New Covenant with mankind.  We need to keep before us the astounding truth of his victory over evil on the Cross, through which mankind gained forgiveness and the freedom to live the gospel life infused with selfless love (cf 1 Corinthians 13.1-13).

Christ established a new reality, that to be justified by faith is a sacred identity.  We are identified as Christians when we accept and appropriate the fullness of Christ.  This requires a heroic response from human beings because it runs counter to human pride, the instinct for autonomy.  The response must be underpinned by contrition and humility and it is brought to perfection by obedience.  Once we take hold of Christ we become his disciples.  Discipleship is a life-long commitment, a transforming friendship with Jesus. (Luke 9.23-26; John 15.14-17).

Christ’s death and resurrection brings to mankind redemption and salvation to eternal life.  Christ has opened the way for us to follow him to the perfect vision, far superior to the limitations and imperfections of our earthly existence.  To consolidate the New Covenant with man, the Father has sent us the power to sustain us on our journey through the snares and pitfalls of this troubled world.  This power is the Holy Spirit (John 14.16, 26).  Christ’s presence is manifested in the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit reminds us of his teachings, works in our conscience when we fail, grants us perception when we read Holy Scripture, inspires us in our prayers and meditations, whispers to us in our silent spaces, strengthens us in times of adversity and provides us with prophetic speech.  The Spirit empowers us in our various ministries and impels us to rise above the banalities and temptations of a world that is hostile to our sacred calling.  (Mark 13.5-13; Romans 12.3-9; 1 Corinthians 12.4-11; Ephesians 4.7-13; James 1.16-18, 3.13-18; 1 Peter 3.13-17, 4.7-19).

The worldwide community of faith

Christians across the world have a common purpose: striving to live the Gospel life in the face of widespread indifference or open hostility to the teachings of Christ.  The Christian faith is essentially counter-cultural yet many churches are now aligned with secular humanism, thus inflicting upon themselves the fatal wound of apostasy.  The enemy is no longer at the gates, he is within the citadel.

For our Spirit-filled life to succeed we are to distance ourselves from the corrupt influences of modern culture (1 John 2.15-17, 5.18-20).  There are to be no half measures, no compromise with evil in any of its forms, no accommodation with other religions.  This detachment is crucially important to safeguard the integrity of the Christian faith.  These are perilous times.  Christianity is under assault from atheistic humanism, the dominant force in social and political culture.  Faced with this threat there is to be no weakening on our part.  We are to profess the faith and demonstrate in our lives the true destiny of humankind, the freedom to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.  There is no higher ideal for man to attain (cf Mark 12.28-34; Romans 13.8-10).

Discipleship

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) portrays Christ as the new Moses, but he far exceeds all the prophets and patriarchs of old by his uniquely divine provenance and his destiny as Saviour of the world.  He is not only the promised Messiah, he is also Priest, Prophet and King.  His teachings lead us into the Kingdom of God, into a realm of love, creating a priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2.1-10).  We yearn for the promised homeland above where our labours will be rewarded by eternal peace (2 Peter 3.8-14).

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5.1-12) are a concise presentation of the Christian ethos, describing the blessed virtues essential to life in the Spirit.  They are the supreme ethical and moral guide to Christian life and discipleship, illuminating our path in the human maze.  They set out the Christian way of life, lived in response to Christ through faith.  We strive to uphold values intrinsic to human dignity, stable family life and the maintenance of social order: humility, gentleness, compassion, justice, peace, integrity, courage and witness.  All the blessings of the kingdom are encapsulated in the Beatitudes.

Christ came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5.17-19).  The validity of the Ten Commandments remains (Exodus 20.1-17).  In the Beatitudes Christ describes the spirit in which the Commandments are to be lived in both church and society.  They exemplify Christian discipleship.  They are echoes of the divine, revealing Christ in his perfection.  They define the inward motivations of integrity and love that characterise discipleship, as well as the blessed rewards of faithful service in Christ’s name.  Our acts of charity and mercy spring from a heart filled with selfless love founded on the teachings of Christ and energised by the Holy Spirit.

The teachings of Christ are uncompromisingly radical.  They are employed to combat philosophies that erode the dignity of man: consumerism (money and possessions bring happiness); relativism (there is no absolute truth); secularism (a world view without God); existentialism (life has no purpose).  In the midst of these evils the Gospel shines like a beacon of truth.  And through it all we persevere in the name of Christ, despite the difficulties we encounter on our journey of faith (1 Peter 4.12-19).  God will restore, strengthen and support us in times of adversity (1 Peter 5.10-11).

Our faith is a wonderful gift to possess and convey to others.  Discipleship places on us a sacred responsibility.  It is a joy and a holy privilege to walk with Jesus, to be in his loving presence in a life of Christian service (Luke 10.23-24; John 15.1-17; Ephesians 4.7-16).

Further reading

J. Heinrich Arnold   Discipleship: Living for Christ in the Daily Grind.  Plough Publishing, 2nd edition, 2011.

Steve Chalke & Alan Mann   Different Eyes: the Art of Living Beautifully.  Zondervan, 2010.

Rod Dreher   The Benedict Option: a Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Sentinel, 2017.

Cameron Lee    Unexpected Blessing: Living the Countercultural Reality of the Beatitudes. IVP, 2004.

John Stott    The Radical Disciple: Wholehearted Christian Living.  IVP, 2010.

John Valentine   Follow Me: Becoming a Liberated Disciple.  IVP, 2009.

 

8 thoughts on “

  1. RE: the Nathanael article, I have always associated this story with maybe some evidence of Jesus’ sense of humor.

    Put in Americanese, I can picture Jesus chuckling just a little bit at Nathanael’s “easy” acceptance of Jesus’ deity based on just Jesus’ vision of N. under a tree. I can almost hear Jesus saying, “Really? Nate? You ain’t seen nothin’, yet!”

    If one may be so casual :).

    I hope.

    Cheers,
    Phyllis

    Like

  2. ….which is why I referred the reader to John 2.25….’he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.’ We wouldn’t expect anything less in the One who was both human and divine. True some of us lesser mortals have a keen perception about human motives, and others go further with some kind of psychic insight, but Jesus’ insight was divinely inspired.

    Like

  3. RE: the review of the Benedict model of fellowship book

    Fellowshipping on the Internet, as it were, seems fitting, though. The remnant gathering in the ether…where the “wind” of the Holy Spirit blows “withersoever He wills,” unrestrained in His creation by brick, mortar, dogma, or denomination…

    Cheers,
    Phyllis

    Like

  4. I like your allusion to John 3.8. Very apt. It’s the only option for the many who are disillusioned with ‘churchianity’, but on the other hand it would be just as easy for the enemy to inflitrate, which they assuredly will.

    Like

  5. Good timing for a Biblical treatment of angels. There are so many angel “worshippers,” you might call them, out there, and little discernment.

    Beautifully written postscript, particularly this:
    “Over-analysis leads to spiritual paralysis, speculation triumphs over objective truth, philosophy replaces divinity. Thus the great truths of the Christian faith are swept away in the floodtide of secular opinion. But when the tide recedes the Word of God remains in the sands of time, in the Rock of Ages.”

    Like

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