Until further notice the Church is closed and all Church Services have been suspended.

For more information please read the latest update on Coronavrius from Bishop Martin – click here.

During this difficult time for all, Church Services to include Prayers, Readings and Messages from Moira and David will appear here.


Day of Pentecost

(From Rev’d David Hider – Sunday 31st May 2020).

THANK YOU for joining our short act of worship for the Day of Pentecost.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

As we consider our failures, come, let us return to the Lord and say:
Lord our God, in our sin we have avoided your call.
Our love for you is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early.
Have mercy on us; deliver us from judgement; bind up our wounds and revive us;
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May the God of love bring us back to himself,
forgive us our sins, and assure us of his eternal love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[If you want to sing along to the Gloria below, the tune is Ode to Joy]
Glory be to God in heaven,
peace to those who love him well;
on the earth let all his people
speak his grace, his wonders tell:
Lord, we praise you for your glory,
mighty Father, heaven’s king;
hear our joyful adoration
and accept the thanks we bring.

Only Son of God the Father,
Lamb who takes our sin away,
now with God in triumph seated
for your mercy, Lord, we pray:
Jesus Christ, most high and holy,
Saviour, you are God alone
in the glory of the Father
with the Spirit: Three-in-One!

Today’s Collect (Special Prayer)
God, who as at this time taught the hearts of your faithful people
by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit:
grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things
and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort;
through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, verses 1 to 21
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

The Gospel according to John, chapter 20, verses 19 to 23
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.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Today’s Message
Just what was the disciples’ state of mind as they waited in that Upper Room in accordance with Jesus’ instructions some ten days earlier – the same Upper Room that they had retreated to after Jesus’ crucifixion and where Jesus made his first two appearances, a week apart, after his resurrection? We are told, on these earlier occasions, that the disciples were afraid because they thought that they might be next on the hit list of the ruling Jewish hierarchy. Today’s episode is only about seven weeks later, not quite as long as the period of time that we have been in lockdown. Did the disciples still feel threatened? Had the Jews softened their stance? My guess is that fear was still a significant emotion among them as they waited and, if not because of the threat from the Jews, but because they did not know what they were waiting for.

It’s a bit like us really – there is a definite parallel here. Fear is a dominant quality among many people of these times. Even I admit to feeling fear. To give you an example, Janet likes a few solar lights to illuminate the border opposite the French doors as we sit in our lounge in the growing dark. Last year’s ones have refused to light and no matter how much faffing I put into them, nothing could persuade them to even glimmer. So, they had to go. Normally, in situations like this, my reaction would have been, at the first opportunity, to leap onto a 700 bus, alight at Fishbourne, walk out to Homebase, purchase replacements, reverse the journey and commission new lights. I’d expect to complete the whole task inside three hours, give or take the 700 bus timings. ‘Not worth the risk’, I decided. Fear! Why? Well, we have been fed a continuous media diet of: ‘If you go out, you will likely die or get very ill. Or you’ll likely cause someone else to do so. And, then, it’ll be your fault that someone in the NHS frontline will die or become ill. And, by the way, because we are ‘listening to the science’ over this, we know these things to be true!’ Yes, the slogan is snappier than this, but the meaning is the same. And, when that same authoritarian message is being pumped out, not just in official briefings, not just via the TV / radio news, not just across the Home Pages of tablet/computer/phone, but also craftily inserted amongst the advertisements of TV programmes, it is bound to have an impact. Even with the easing of some of the restrictions (which would make my trip to and from Homebase entirely possible), the message has changed to ‘the science tells us that the easing of the lockdown will cause a second spike of the virus which will be worse than the first.’ In a simplistic view, it’s brain-washing. People’s psyches have been imprinted with such a negative message, now not easily shaken off. Fear, I would suggest, seems to have become a dominant force in current human life, as I suspect it was for the disciples pre-Pentecost. [My fear, by the way, is that, should my venturing out to get something as trivial as solar lights cause Janet to get ill (or worse!), I could never forgive myself.] Fear! Paralytic fear. So, how do we move on from this? Let us take a look at today’s Bible texts.

But, first, as it is such a long time since we have been able to gather for worship, the sequence of events that we have missed out on goes like this:
Palm Sunday (April 5th): Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem.
Maundy Thursday (April 9th): Jesus’ call to be servants to each other and the institution of Holy Communion.
Good Friday (April 10th): Jesus was crucified at Passover time.
Easter Day (April 12th): Jesus’ Resurrection
Ascension Day (May 21st): Jesus ascended into heaven, forty days after his Resurrection.
Pentecost (today!): The Holy Spirit came fifty days after Passover, ten days after Jesus’ Ascension.
Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks and is one of three major Jewish feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16), a festival of thanksgiving for harvested crops. And, this is exactly why Jews of many nations were gathered together in Jerusalem when the events of today’s Bible reading from Acts took place. The Day of Pentecost was an occasion of celebration for all nations, all peoples. St Luke wrote (Acts) from his experience of travelling. He had seen the Gospel take root in amazingly-different cultures. He knew the Spirit’s power to touch people across the known world. There would be no boundaries in the future, no Jews and Gentiles, no slave and free, no babble of Babel – but, one language for all, a language which was Good News of great joy for all peoples (as the angels had sung at the beginning of his Gospel).

And, at this time, I suggest that this is exactly what we need to experience – joy. Joy to combat fear. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost signals:
a transforming power stopping us in our tracks, enabling us to get our life into order.
a resurrecting energy, bringing the new life of Christ into our deepest being.
a gentle breeze bringing comfort and security, confidence and light, offering gifts of reflection and understanding to what we experience.
God, vibrant and universal, going ahead of us to touch lives and situations beyond the boundaries of our knowledge.
God is ‘on the go’ – opening doors, creating opportunities, softening hearts, achieving break-throughs that we thought impossible. God’s Spirit is that persistent power which breaks down barriers and creates peace and justice where prejudice and fear have ruled the earth. Just the antidote to our experiences at the current time.

It is God’s nature to warn us ahead of time if something is coming up that he wants us seriously to attend to. The disciples had taken Jesus’ prophecy to heart – and, they waited watchfully and prayerfully for nine days following his Ascension. So often, we miss the outpouring of God’s Spirit in our lives because we are not expecting him to act. Yet, as soon as we set ourselves faithfully and expectantly to ask for it and wait for it, God honours the honesty of our longing and makes his presence known. So it was that, at that first Pentecost celebration, the force of the Holy Spirit came in great power, surging like wind and fire into the place where the disciples were expectantly waiting – and completely ‘drenched’ them in waves of God’s energising love. What this experience of the elements of God’s natural power did was to replace any fear and fill the disciples with excitement and joy – to go and tell others about Jesus and the way God loves us. The disciples went running out into the street telling the crowds that Jesus of Nazareth – who had been crucified – was the promised Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. The result of all this activity was that many people came forward to be baptised to become followers of Jesus. The band of disciples grew from the one hundred and twenty (Acts 1:15) in the Upper Room by another three thousand (Acts 2:41)! The Church had been ‘born’ and, today, we celebrate its birthday.

Today, that same power of God’s Holy Spirit is still at work. It might be knocking on the door of your heart, my heart, asking us to throw away any fears which are weighing us down and replacing them with the love and joy of knowing Jesus. If we would allow him to invade our spirits, we, too, might be tempted to run into the streets to show people that we are followers of Jesus, though people would probably think that we are mad or drunk which was the experience of those first disciples (NB social-distancing might have to be observed for us to comply with the law!). And, we ought embrace the knowledge that – even in lockdown and restriction – the Holy Spirit might be rushing round ‘the Church’ at this very moment, challenging its members to go out into their local community to tell or show others about Jesus – in word and/or deed. Perhaps, we might just being asked to encourage someone we know to prepare for the commitment of baptism / confirmation which is the way the Church still works today (and will do in the future, though methods may have to change) to add to the number of those who are already part it (Acts 2:47). The question is: “Are you, am I, ready to abandon any fears that we might currently be feeling and accept the particular challenge of the ‘God-on-the-go’ to bring joy and excitement both into our own lives and into the lives of those around us?”

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people with the fire of your love.

Prayers
Please remember in your prayers:
front-line staff within the NHS and all who support their work;
any who are suffering from illness or struggling with the restrictions of daily life;
the residents and staff of our Care Homes;
the people who bring food and essential supplies to our stores or doors;
key workers in all areas that support our lives;
those working to develop a vaccine and to use science to defeat coronavirus;
our Government, national and local, and those planning a way out of lockdown;
the armed forces, especially those redeployed to various tasks within the nation;
our schools, businesses, transport systems, shops preparing to reopen;
for those pondering the challenges of returning to work or sending children to school;
for any known to us who our prayers at this time;
for those who fear that they might find the release and joy that Pentecost brings.

Father God, we thank you for all the good gifts around us
which add so much joy to our family lives:
for the sun which warms us and the air that gives us life;
for the loveliness of the natural world;
for the changing seasons, each in its beautiful order;
for our homes and families and friends;
for health of body and soundness of mind;
for music and books and works of art;
for the land of our birth, the land we love;
for the lives and examples of good and saintly souls.
Father God, for these manifold blessings and for all your love,
we give you heartfelt thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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 forever. Amen.

Faithful God,
who fulfilled the promises of Easter
by sending us your Holy Spirit
and opening to every race and nation the way of life eternal:
open our lips by your Spirit,
that every tongue may tell of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord Jesus, we thank you that you have fulfilled your promise
and given us your Spirit to abide with us for ever:
grant us to know his presence in all its divine fullness.
May the fruit of the Spirit be growing continually in our lives;
may the gifts of the Spirit be distributed among us as he wills
to equip us for your service;
and may the power of the Spirit be so working in us
that the world around may increasingly come to believe in you.
We ask it, Lord, in your victorious name. Amen.

From Easter Day until today, we make this proclamation of Christ’s victory over death. This does not simply mean that Christ will live for ever, but that resurrection is for all who trust in him by faith. So, for the final time this season:

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

Holy Spirit, sent by the Father,
ignite in us your holy fire;
strengthen your children with the gift of faith,
revive your Church with the breath of love,
and renew the face of the earth;
and the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
be with you and your loved ones,
this day and for evermore. Amen.

 

 

Sunday after Ascension Day.

(From Rev’d Canon Moira Wickens – 24th May 2020).

Good morning, and welcome to this short service.

We begin today by either singing or saying the following. As you do, accept that you really are, in your own homes, in the awesome presence of God.

Be still for the presence of the Lord,
The Holy One, is here,
Come, bow before Him now,
With reverence and fear.
In Him no sin is found,
We stand on Holy ground.
Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
The Holy One is here.
The Lord be with you:
Jesus said, “Before you offer your gift, go and be reconciled”. As brothers and sisters in God’s family we ask our Father for forgiveness.
In the wilderness we find your grace, you love us with an everlasting love:
Lord have mercy.
There is none but you to uphold our cause, our sin cries out and our guilt is great.
Christ, have mercy.
Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed, restore us and we shall know your joy.
Lord have mercy.
May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen

Let us pray: This is a special prayer which you will be invited to use each day this week, more details after the readings.

Almighty God, your ascended Son has sent us into the world to preach the good news of your kingdom: inspire us with your spirit and fill our hearts with the fire of your love, that all who hear your Word may be drawn to you, through Christ our Lord. Amen

Readings: Acts 1 v.6-14 and John 17 v. 1-11.

Today, we find ourselves in between two very special events in the church year. On Thursday we celebrated the Ascension, and next Sunday is of course Pentecost, the birthday of the church.
So, instead of giving you just one reflection this morning, I would like to offer you a short reflection for each day this week, so that together we are ready and prepared to receive the life changing gift of the Holy Spirit next Sunday.

Each day, I invite you to begin with the special prayer at the start of this service, then reflect on the given subject, finishing with, ‘Come, Holy Spirit, Come’. Please don’t rush ahead to the next day, but enjoy being in the present moment each day of the week. You do not have to spend very long on each one, but please do take a moment at whatever time suits you.

Sunday 24th. God the creator.
We say the special prayer. Then: Our gospel reading today is part of the great prayer of Jesus, in it He assures us that He prays for us always. With this in mind, let us simply rest in God’s presence. Let us acknowledge just how much we are loved by the one who created all things. Let this love fill your hearts and your minds.

‘Come Holy Spirit, come’.

Monday 25th: We are unique.
We say the special prayer. Then: Yesterday we reflected on how much God loves us, today we pause to ponder that if God loves us then we must be quite nice people really. So today, as you take a few moments out from home schooling, housework or work, acknowledge to yourself that you are indeed a unique and special person. Think about the things that you are good at, think about the way you are made, and give thanks.

‘Come Holy Spirit, come’.

Tuesday 26th. The created world
We say the special prayer: Today we ponder on the created world, the world that we see in daylight hours and the world we see at night. Then, choose just one thing from outside that you really love. It may be a flower, a tree, a blade of grass, a bird, or even a little tiny bee or a star. Then simply pause long enough so that you become deeply aware of its beauty, its colour, texture and if a flower its perfume, wonder at its perfection. The created world, so awesome, so wonderful, created by God, continued to be cared for, by us.

‘Come Holy Spirit, come’.

Wednesday 27th. Our families.
We start with the special prayer. At some time during this day, let us sit for a moment and think about our families. Let us name them one by one; and acknowledge how much we miss them, and what they mean to us. Take time over this, as each name comes to mind, imagine their face, their laughter and their hugs.

‘Come Holy Spirit, come’.

Thursday 28th. Our friends.
Again, we say the special prayer. Our friends are those we choose to spend time with, during these last few weeks, despite phone calls we will have found ourselves missing our friends a great deal. Today, I invite you to give thanks for just 5 of your friends, and as you do, bring to mind why they are special, and let us all pray that we too can be a good friend to them.

‘Come Holy Spirit, come’.

Friday 29th. Letting go.
The special prayer. Today, we spend a short time letting go of past hurts that may be clogging up our hearts. Some we may not realise that they are still there. Letting go is not the same as forgetting, but it is really important that we do this. And so, as we sit for a few moments, let us bring to mind the people that have hurt us in our lives, either deliberately or unintentionally. We place the hurt before God, asking him to take them from us so that our hearts are ready for Him. On this day, we also acknowledge any worries, concerns, anxiety or even anger that we experience during this time. We remember that Jesus prays for us, every single moment of every day, and He knows our needs.

‘Come Holy Spirit, come’.

Saturday 30th. Be kind.
For the last time, we say the special prayer. The voice most of us listen to more than any other, is the voice in our own minds. The person we find most difficult to forgive, is ourselves. So today, Be kind to yourself. You are wonderfully made, yes, we all make mistakes and fall down, but God lifts us up, sets us on our feet, and encourages us to try again. The one who thinks they have never made a mistake is the one who makes the biggest mistake of all. Today, we pray for the courage to forgive ourselves, to be kind to ourselves, and then let us sit for a few moments in silence, before saying once more:

‘Come Holy Spirit, come’

Please remember in your prayers this week:

Our local school as they prepare for some of their children to return to lessons after half term.
For Naomi and all the staff.
For parents and children.
For those who feel lonely, anxious or worried about loved ones or their jobs.
We pray for the bereaved who may feel very alone at this time.
And let us give thanks for our community, the wonderful weather we have been able to enjoy, and for our family, friends and neighbours.
 
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come,
Your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day 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 forever. Amen.

God has made us one in Christ, He has set His seal upon us and, as a pledge of what is to come, has given us the Spirit to dwell in our hearts.

The Peace of the Lord be always with you.

Notices.
As we continue to live a new ‘normal’ way of life, enormous thanks are given to the Fishbourne Volunteer Squad who continue to be available to shop, or collect prescriptions for those who need a little bit of help during this time. Please do not hesitate to call them, there are about 100 willing folks in this team, so no one is being a burden.

If you have some photo’s, or would like to write about what you have been doing during these last weeks, do send them to Alan, it really would be lovely to hear some news from more of you.

Finally, Happy Birthday to Janet Hider who celebrates her ??th birthday on Friday.

Let us pray:
Eternal God, giver of love and power, your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world to preach the gospel of His kingdom; confirm us in this mission, and help us to live the good news we proclaim, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing
The Spirit of Truth lead us into all truth, give us grace to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and strengthen us to proclaim the word and works of God. And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all today and always. Amen.

Be at peace, stay safe, and hang on in there, we will meet again, this time will not last forever. Love and prayers to you all, from Moira.

Ascension Day. (From Rev’d David Hider – 21st May 2020)

Thank you for joining us in this short act of worship for Ascension Day.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for forty days we have been celebrating with joyful hearts the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, his bursting from the tomb and his defeat of the power of sin and death. He appeared to his disciples many times and told them about the Kingdom of God. Today, we recall how he left this earth and returned to his Father, ascending into heaven to take his throne over all dominions and powers. Trusting in his reign over all creation, and submitting to his kingly yet loving rule, let us hear again the story of his parting.

But, first, let us pause to bring before God any failures which we now regret:
Lord Jesus, you suffered a cruel death on the cross for our redemption,
yet we have forgotten your pain and stayed in the realm of the evil you defeated.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you were raised from death to bring us new life,
yet we have preferred the comfort of the familiar,
and the empty promises of a sinful world.
Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you have ascended to your Father and our Father, your God and our God;
plead there at the right hand of God
for our forgiveness and entry into the fullness of his presence.
Lord, have mercy.

May the God of love bring us back to himself,
forgive us our sins, and assure us of his eternal love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Today’s Collect (Special Prayer)
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ
to have ascended into the heavens, so we in heart and mind may also ascend
and with him continually dwell;
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 1, verses1 to 11
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

A reading from the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 24, verses 44 to 53
Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Today’s Message
As the vicar designate, I approached the door of the Church of the Ascension at Peacehaven for the first time, I noticed, right at the top of the concrete pillars on each side, part of a human foot disappearing into a cloud. It was an image that could have been drawn by a six-year-old at a Sunday School lesson and, once seen, could not be unseen during the fifteen or so years as the incumbent there. ‘Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight’ must have been the text for that lesson. Yet, those images summed up for me, a modern-day Christian, that the Ascension story must be something of a test case – a test case for our ability to cope with the antique outlook of the ancient view of the universe that we find in the Bible. For many, including myself, it is difficult to understand the story of the Ascension in our modern, space-age time. The Bible uses the language of ‘taken up’ or ‘up there’, assuming the antique view of the world as a kind of three-decker sandwich:
heaven above,
earth, here in the middle,
and hell down below
– all within easy reach of each other, a cosy universe and, of course, entirely man-centred. However, in our day of space travel, of men on the moon, of telescopes and radio telescopes probing away into the vastness of the universe, we have a very different world picture. We know that our earth is simply a tiny speck in an immense vastness. We know it is not the centre of the universe – but, with apologies to any real scientists reading this, earth is a third-rate planet of a fourth-rate insignificant star on one of the remote fringes of a great galaxy – which itself only one of a huge army of galaxies that extends away and away into infinity. No longer can we believe, comfortingly, in the earth as the mid-point around which all else revolves – and, nor can we believe any more that the stars are bright pinholes in the floor of heaven above. So, we are forced, to ask ourselves what can we make of the Ascension story? What is it really about? What was, or is, the Ascension?

Firstly, the Ascension is not an account of a movement in space. The difference between an astronaut and Jesus Christ is that the astronaut comes back to earth at an appointed man-decided time, while the date and the time of Jesus’ return is known only to the Father in heaven. Secondly, the Ascension story is not describing a moment in time, a specific event which happened at a specific moment of time on the fortieth day after the Resurrection which is how the Church Calendar still represents it. Yet, our knowledge that the earth is round, a small speck in the vast universe, when added to the fact that God is a spiritual Being, means that we are not easily able to see Christ’s ascent as the start of a journey in the physical sense, just as our ancestors did.

But, all this does not lessen our belief that Jesus was rejoining his heavenly Father. There can be no doubt that the first disciples thought that Christ’s return would be soon – and, it was very natural that they should do so with the limited knowledge of the universe that they had. Indeed, with such expectation, some of them were affected in their attitude to daily life and they neglected routine duties. In others, feelings of disappointment – and, even of doubt – arose when they waited in vain. We should accept the fact that the time of our Lord’s return is something God does not mean us to know – and may be long delayed. For some Christians, this has resulted in their putting it out of their minds – or, at best, assuming that it is not likely to be in their earthly lifetime. So, if our belief is that Jesus was rejoining his heavenly Father, where did he go? St Luke tells us: ‘Up into heaven’. How did he go? St Luke says: ‘He was taken up, and a cloud hid him from view’. I submit that this is all God intends that we need to know. But, still, there are those who argue interminably about the logistics of the Ascension. It might be my failing, but I believe that the Ascension cannot be explained logically, reasonably or common-sensibly. Yet, we believe St Luke when he tells us how Jesus was crucified, dead and buried – and, how he rose from the dead. So, why should St Luke be any less believable when he goes on to tell us about the Ascension? Or, somehow, do we think that, with the Ascension story, St Luke is being inconsistent and losing his perspective of the events of that time?

We know that all the information that we hear and read is fed into these wonderfully articulate and muscular minds that God has given to us. We digest the data, interpreting and understanding according to our capacity, or our mood of the moment. Usually the healthier and happier we are – both physically and spiritually – the less sceptical we are. There is recorded the following inscription:
There is an old Christian tradition,
that God sends each person into this world
with a special message to deliver,
with a special song to sing for others,
with a special act of love to bestow.
No-one else can speak that message,
or sing that song,
or offer that act of love.
These are entrusted only to that one
very special person.
I like to believe that these words, as well as describing you and me, are also applicable to St Luke. A scholar, doctor, artist, missionary and author, Luke knew how to glean his data, sift his information, and write accordingly, in nicely manicured Greek, not wasting words, yet presenting an account comprehensible to a wide range of readers. The fact that Luke saw fit to record the Ascension twice – once in his Gospel and once in the Acts of the Apostles – is surely a measure of the importance that he and his source(s) attached to it. When Jesus ascended back to his Father, it did not really matter how, or even where, he went. He returned to glory – freeing the Holy Spirit for mission on earth, to live in the hearts of Christians the world over.
God the Father was not coming.
Jesus the Son had done his work.
So, the Spirit had to come (more of that another time).
And, we have Luke’s record in Acts that at the ‘end of the world’ – when the Spirit has finished his work – Jesus will return, as he left. What does it matter if we do not understand it? It will happen, whether we do or not!

Prayers
Please remember in your prayers:
front-line staff within the NHS and all who support their work;
any who are suffering from illness or struggling with the restrictions of daily life;
the residents and staff of our Care Homes;
the people who bring food and essential supplies to our stores or doors;
key workers in all areas that support our lives;
those working to develop a vaccine and to use science to defeat coronavirus;
our Government, national and local, and those planning a way out of lockdown;
the armed forces, especially those redeployed to various tasks within the nation;
our schools, businesses, transport systems, shops preparing to reopen;
Moira, the Churchwardens and PCC Members as they try to work out, when allowed, how best to re-awaken our Churches for people to gather again.

Jesus, our ascended and exalted Lord,
to whom has been given the name above all names:
we worship and adore you.
Jesus, King of righteousness, King of peace,
enthroned on the right hand of the Majesty on high:
we worship and adore you.
Jesus, our great High Priest, our Advocate with the Father,
who lives for ever to make intercession for us:
we worship and adore you.
Jesus, the Pioneer of our salvation,
bringing many to glory through your passion:
we worship and adore you.
To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb,
be praise and honour, glory and power,
For ever and ever. Amen.

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 forever. Amen.

God our Father,
you have raised our humanity in Christ
and have fed us with the bread of heaven:
mercifully grant that, nourished with such spiritual blessings,
we may set our hearts in the heavenly places;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

Risen Christ,
you have raised our human nature to the throne of heaven:
help us to seek and serve you,
that we may join you at the Father’s side,
where you reign with the Spirit in glory,
now and for ever;
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be among you this day and for evermore. Amen.

 
 
Sixth Sunday after Easter. (From Rev David Hider – 17th May 2020)

WELCOME to this short act of worship. Thank you for joining in with us all.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

Lord Jesus, you raise us to new life.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you forgive us our sins.
Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you feed us with the living bread.
Lord, have mercy.

May the God of love and power forgive us and free us from our sins,
heal and strengthen us by his Spirit, and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Today’s Collect (Special Prayer)

God our redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us
to eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.     

New Testament Reading: Acts 17:22-31;

Then, Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 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, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From 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, so 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. For ‘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.’ Since 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. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because 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.”

Gospel Reading: John 14:15-21

Jesus says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Today’s Message

Can you calculate the value of ‘x’ from the equation 2x+3=x+10? Now, don’t roll your eyes upwards and say that you cannot understand things like this. Surely, it is much easier to solve this very simple algebraic equation than to understand the new interpretations on social mixing where, apparently, one can invite a cleaner (or child nanny) from outside your household to come into your home, but not a relative (or friend). Or one can meet with one other person from outside your household in a public space, but not in your garden. Anyway, the answer to the algebraic sum is at the end of the article. But, the answers to the other conundrums …?

Deriving the answer to the above equation is a bit like explaining to people who God is. ‘What therefore you worship as unknown’ as St Paul said to the Athenians. It is as if people call God ‘x’, the unknown. We solve our mathematical ‘x’ mystery by working through, step by step, gradually getting a clearer idea of the value of ‘x’. In the end, it becomes quite clear to us. Similarly, as we take the newly-granted extension to our exercise regime during this period of restriction, we can extend the range of our travels to look closer at the beauty and order of our world – all the physics and chemistry of it, all the variety and colour and shape and sounds in it – and, in so doing, begin to work our way towards discovering what God is like. The sheer wonder of creation means that we can work out that God must be clever and thoughtful, and imaginative and faithful. ‘The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth,’ says St Paul as he continued his address to the Athenian audience. But, the Good News for us is that Jesus, by coming to earth and living among us, shows us exactly what God is like. We can now actually see who God is.

With Jesus’ life there in front of us through our reading of the Gospel texts and through trying to live in his company every day, we can build a very clear idea of what God is like. We can see:
that God is forgiving and totally honest and good;
that God is responsible and stands up for what is right (whatever happens to him and however much people sneer);
that God looks for the good in people and does not condemn them or give up on them;
that God’s love has been proved stronger than death.
If we put our faith in this God, whom Jesus has revealed to us in a new and clear way – and, if we claim to love him – then, as our Gospel text tells us, we will have to start doing as he says. In other words, be obedient to him by keeping his commandments!

In saying this, I wonder how many of us find it easy to be obedient? If you are anything like me, my guess is that most of us would admit to finding it very hard. Simply, we do not want to do what we are told – we want to do what we choose! I am sure that this is why ‘fear’ has been employed to ensure that we keep to the rules of the lockdown. However, Jesus says that the way we can tell if someone really does believe in him and love him is by whether they are obedient to him and obey what he says. Take the armed forces where everyone has to obey orders. One example is that to drill by marching and parading helps the soldiers get used to doing what they are told straight away. It just would not work, where there are guns and explosives around, to have soldiers who were not disciplined. Obedience, for such Services’ personnel and for others, could be a matter of life or death.

But, Jesus cannot use us as his soldiers in the battle against evil unless we are trained to obey him – in the same way that good soldiers obey their commanders. Jesus told his followers this: ‘If you love me, you will do the things I command. The one who knows my commands and obeys them is the one who loves me.’ But, Jesus is not getting hold of us in a half-Nelson and saying: ‘Now listen you, obey me or else!’ He would never, ever want to force us to do anything. He respects us too much for that. However, he is saying: ‘OK, you say that you love me and trust me as your Lord. If you really mean this, you would be doing what I told you out of love and respect for me. If you just go on pleasing yourself and doing what you want all the time, it shows that you do not really love me at all.’ If we are honest and think about it, he is right – and we cannot get away from it. If we do mean it when we say we love and trust Jesus – then, we will have to get in training to be more obedient. Here, we would do well to recall words said at the Baptism Service: ‘Fight valiantly under the banner of Christ against sin, the world and the devil, and continue his faithful soldier and servant to the end of your life.’ This means listening to God and saying ‘yes’ to him – whether it is what we want to do, or not. Make no mistake, this is a very hard thing to learn. But, it is worth learning because, being friends with Jesus, is the best and happiest thing that could ever happen to us. And, to be friends with Jesus, there are only two rules: ‘Love him’ and ‘Obey his commands’. It couldn’t be simpler.

N.B.    Answer to the algebraic equation: 2x+3=x+10.
           Take ‘3’ from each side gives: 2x+(3-3)=x+(10-3), i.e. 2x=x+7.
           Take ’x’ from each side gives: 2x-x=(x-x)+7, i.e. x=7.
Simples!!!

Prayers

Please remember in your prayers:
front-line staff within the NHS and all who support their work;
any who are suffering from illness or struggling with the restrictions of daily life;
the residents and staff of our Care Homes;
the people who bring food and essential supplies to our stores or doors;
key workers in all areas that support our lives;
those working to develop a vaccine and to use science to defeat coronavirus;
our Government, national and local, and those planning a way out of lockdown;
the armed forces, especially those redeployed to various tasks within the nation;
our schools, businesses, transport systems, shops preparing to reopen;
for those pondering the challenges of returning to work or sending children to school;
for any known to us who need our prayers at this time.

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 forever. Amen.

God our Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life:
may we thirst for you, the spring of life and source of goodness,
through him who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

Risen Christ,
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples:
help your Church to obey your command
and draw the nations to the fire of your love, to the glory of God the Father;
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be with you and your loved ones, this day and for evermore. Amen.

PS    If, like me, you’re becoming a little confused about what day of the week it is (or even the date!), you might have missed the fact that Christian Aid Week has just finished. However, I am sure that they would still welcome a donation. This can easily be done via their website:

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter.

Alleluia Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed, Alleluia.

Good morning everyone. I hope you are all keeping safe and well.
Let’s worship God together.

God, be gracious to us and bless us, and make your face shine upon us.
Lord, Have mercy.

May your ways be known on the earth, your saving power among the nations.
Christ, have mercy.

You, Lord, have made known your salvation, and reveal your justice in the world.
Lord have mercy.

May the God of Love and power forgive us and free us from our sins, heal and strengthen us by His Spirit, and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to the Father, (repeat)
Glory to God, Glory to God, son of the Father, (repeat)
Glory to God, Glory to God, glory to the spirit. (repeat)

To God be glory for ever, To God be glory for ever.

Alleluia Amen, Alleluia Amen, Alleluia Amen.

Today’s special prayer.

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ have overcome death, and opened to us the gate of everlasting life; grant that, as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, now and forever. Amen.

Readings: Acts 7 v 55-60 and John 14 v 1-14.

Reflection:

Jesus said, “do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”.
Those words at the beginning of our Gospel reading are very challenging, especially when they follow the first reading set for today which tells us about the stoning of Stephen. It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, “don’t panic, trust in me, it will be OK”.
And that surely is easier said than done, especially when life is painful.
It goes without saying that the heart can become profoundly troubled, and when the heart is troubled nothing seems right. And we’ve all been there at different times of our lives, some of us may be there right now.

Where we would normally go about our daily life with a certain eagerness and excitement, when our hearts are troubled, there’s a sense of fear that seems to overshadow almost everything, and there’s no escaping it until our hearts are at peace again.
So what do we do when we are troubled to the very depths of our souls, when we don’t even know if God is with us during those times.

There are many in the world today whose hearts are very troubled, filled with fear, worry, anxiety, perhaps even despair. Not one of us has ever experienced a global pandemic before, and so it is not surprising that so many feel uncertain and concerned about the future. And yet within this, the words of Jesus stand firm and true, we can be assured that we are not alone, that God is with us every step of the way, this time will come to an end.

We need to remember where and when Jesus spoke those words of encouragement. He was in the upper room with his disciples, enjoying a meal, having a bit of a party, just before heading out to the garden of Gethsemane, where he would be betrayed, arrested, flogged and crucified. He’d already told them that Peter would deny him 3 times and that Judas would betray him. Yet despite all that was to happen, he simply told them not to let their hearts be troubled or afraid, no matter what happens he said, trust in God.

Now this is not just a bit of comforting advice from Jesus, it is in fact a command, albeit a very strange command. Those words form the very basis of Jesus’ ‘sermon’ to his disciples which carries on right through chapters 14,15,16 and 17. It is a sermon in which Jesus gives His disciples, and us, reason after reason to believe in God, so that even when we hit rock bottom, our hearts will not be completely afraid.

He never gives us a preview of all the difficult moments that will come into our lives, but just as he did for his first disciples, he does for us to this very day. We must always remember that Jesus has promised that He will sustain us through every single one of them.
And like Peter, it doesn’t mean we will never make a mistake, or that our faith will never waiver, but it does mean that in the end, everything will get worked out.
No matter what happens in our own life, no matter what happens in the world, we need to hold on to the great truth, that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
And further on in chapter 14 he gives us this awesome gift,
“Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you, do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. So may we all be strengthened, encouraged and trustful. Amen.

This week we continue to pray for:

Our NHS staff and all front line workers.
All those who have volunteered to help others at this time.
Our local school, Naomi, the staff and the children of key workers. Let us remember families who are struggling financially.
For those who are finding this time difficult, the lonely, the bereaved, the anxious and the fearful.
We pray for our grand children and families.
For one another, our friends and neighbours.
And let us give thanks for those who give us a reason to smile, for those who are there for us and for those who help us to see the beauty in the created world.

Notices: With heavy hearts it has been decided to postpone this year’s Church and School Fete until next year. But be on the alert, Mike will be back, rounding up all you wonderful helpers.

The church has recently paid for some very special books for our local school, these books are to help any of the children who may be feeling worried or anxious during this time. The books are available for families to borrow, and I too have a set which can also be borrowed by any of you.

What a great day Friday turned out to be, so very different to what was planned, but as always, the people of this country rose to the challenge in the most spectacular ways.

If you wish to, let us sing:

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Final prayer and Blessing.

Eternal God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, grant us to walk in His way, to rejoice in His truth, and to share His risen life, who is alive and reigns, now and forever. Amen.

May the Father from whom every family on earth and in heaven receives its name, strengthen us with His spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by Faith. And the Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.

Be at peace, Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. Love and prayers from Moira

 

 

Many of you will have been aware that plans were being put in place for a great community event on this day. Obviously this can’t go ahead now, and so I offer you this service to use as you wish.

V.E. Day. 8th May 2020. A short Act of Remembrance.

Jesus said: “ Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. John 15 v13.
“This is my commandment, Love each other”. v.17.

Let us pray.
Lord God our Father, we pledge ourselves to serve you and all humankind, in the cause of peace, and for the relief of want and suffering, and to the praise of your name. Guide us by your spirit, give us wisdom, courage and Hope, and keep us faithful, now and always, Amen.

If you like, you could now sing:,
Make me a channel of your peace, where there is hatred, let me bring your love, where there is injury, your pardon Lord, and where there’s doubt, true faith in you.

O master, grant that I may never seek, so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love with all my soul.

Act of Remembrance.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn, from the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them.

A time of silence. You may wish to light a candle to help you focus.
Then we say:
I believe in the sun, even when it does not shine.
I believe in love, even when I cannot feel it,
I believe in God, even when He is silent.

If you are able to, we stand to sing:

God save our gracious Queen, long live our noble queen, God save the queen. Send her victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over us, God save the queen.

Let us pray.
Let us give thanks for the selfless and courageous service and sacrifice of those who brought peace to Europe, and for the good example they have given to us.
We pray for nations still devastated by war, for those who suffer the effects of past wars and for all innocent victims whose lives have been shattered by the cruelty of others.
As we pray for all world leaders, let us remember those who this day will lay down their lives for the good of others, we pray for the weary, the lost and for those who have lost hope, may they glimpse God’s love through the actions and words of others.
We pray for the young people of our own day and for all who will shape the future of this nation and the nations of the world, may they be inspired by those who have gone before them to serve as they have been served.

The Lord’s prayer.

Blessing.

May the road rise up to meet you, the wind be always at your back. the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall gently on your fields, and, until we meet again, May God hold you, in the Palm of His hand. Amen.
Finally, a couple of things to sing during this day as you celebrate in your own homes and gardens, we may be physically apart, but we are together in spirit.

We’ll meet again.

We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.
Keep smiling through, just like you always do, til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

So will you please say “hello”,
To the folks that I know?
Tell them I won’t be long,They’ll be happy to know.
That as you saw me go, I was singing this song.

We’ll meet again……………………………………..

You’ll never walk alone.

When you walk through a storm,
Hold your head up high,
And don’t be afraid of the dark,

At the end of a storm,
There’s a golden sky,
And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,
walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown,

Walk on, walk on,
With Hope in your heart,
And you’ll never walk alone,
You’ll never walk alone.

May God Bless you all, and may the souls of those who have died in recent weeks rest in peace.

 

The Fourth Sunday of Easter. (From Rev David Hider – 3rd May 2020)

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

Lord Jesus, you suffered a cruel death on the cross for our redemption,
yet we have forgotten your pain and stayed in the realm of the evil you defeated.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you were raised from death to bring us new life,
yet we have preferred the comfort of the familiar,
and the empty promises of a sinful world.
Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you have ascended to your Father and our Father,

your God and our God;
plead there at the right hand of God
for our forgiveness and entry into the fullness of his presence.
Lord, have mercy.

May the God of love and power forgive us and free us from our sins,
heal and strengthen us by his Spirit, and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Today’s Collect (Special Prayer)
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings: Acts 2:42-47; John 10:1-10

Today’s Message
There are shepherds and there are shepherds – and, it matters which kind we have. Jesus was the One who pointed this out. There are thieves out there who are masquerading as shepherds who are ready to do violence for their own ends – and there are hirelings out there who are masquerading as shepherds, who do not care what happens to the sheep so long as they get their wages. Neither of these will do. However, we do have a Good Shepherd who will lay down his life for us, if necessary, to protect us. He leads us to green pastures and still waters – and we love him for his gentleness. But, underneath the gentleness, is a will of iron. Nobody, but nobody, will take us from his care. We are absolutely secure. This does not mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us. It means that, even when the worst the world can do is happening, we are still totally safe. Nothing can take us from him. Surely, this is something to hang on to as we struggle to cope with coronavirus, the lockdown and its long-lasting future effect on our daily lives.

At the same time, the tyrants of the world may continue to strut around like they own the place – but, their time will pass. Much of what goes on out there in the world is just bluster. We spend so much time and energy proving things. But, to whom? To the people around us? More often, it is just to ourselves. And, nearly always, these are things that never needed proving in the first place – not if we believe in a God who knows. In normal times, we hurry, hurry, hurry to get someplace and, having got there, wait anxiously until it is time to hurry someplace else – and, often spend whole days and weeks never actually having been anywhere. We need take one step back from all that frantic importance to learn what is important in life and not let ourselves get hooked on any of the rest. And, now, in this time of restriction, is a good opportunity to do just this.

In the face of the world’s pain at this time of pandemic – and not forgetting (as we seem, conveniently, to have done) the places in the world where hunger rages, disease rampages and conflict dominates – what is really needed are people who are focused, calm, alert, open.
People who listen.
People who have dealt with the anger inside themselves.
People who know they are loved.
People who breathe deeply of greenness, who drink deeply of still waters, until greenness and stillness become gifts they themselves can offer to the world.

So, here is an invitation. Here, in our often too-busy lives, there is a calling that I think we sometimes miss – a calling just to be. Our spirits need it for themselves – to bring recovery and renewing and refreshment. But, more than that, the world also needs it from us. In this sense, to be serene is to be prophetic.
It is to call the world’s bluff, when forces out there try to whip us into some new frenzy or panic.
It is to witness in word and deed to the reality and presence of God in Jesus Christ.
It is faith, founded not on sweetness and light and all the things one sees through rose-tinted spectacles – but, on a world literally made new by the death and resurrection of Christ.

Recall what Jesus said to Peter, by that lakeside in Galilee, after he had risen from the dead. “Do you love me, Peter?” he asked. “Then feed my sheep.” (John 21:17) In other words: ‘Do you appreciate what I have done and been for you? Then, go out and be a shepherd yourself. Green pastures. Still waters. Give them to the world in its need. Do it in my name.’ And, today, Jesus invites us – that is, you and me – to do just the same. As Moira said last week: “although it may seem that we can’t ‘be’ there for others, actually we can, just in a different way.” So, go on and ‘phone a friend’ (as the TV Game Show suggested), or send an email / use social media / post a card / write a letter to someone who might need to know that there is, at least, one person who cares. Be the ‘shepherd’ to a ‘sheep’ who, because of current circumstances, may be feeling separated from the flock. And, remember to check that they are not ‘in need’ of anything through their enforced isolation and be prepared to act should there be such a problem. Jesus does not abandon us in our need and neither should we abandon others of his flock in theirs. Green pastures. Still waters. Nothing beats kindness – and that’s what good shepherds are all about. Aren’t they?

Prayers
Please remember in your prayers:
front-line staff within the NHS and all who support their work;
the residents and staff of our Care Homes and Hospices;
the volunteers making scrubs and other PPE equipment;
those who are working to develop a vaccine against coronavirus and various other devices to help life return to its next level of normal;
the people who bring food and essential supplies to our stores or doors;
key workers in all areas that support our lives;
any who are suffering from illness or struggling with the restrictions of daily life, especially any known to us;
our Government, national and local, and their advisors;
the armed forces who serve in the hot-spots of the world and those redeployed to various tasks within the nation.

We also remember in your prayers John Gostling, former Churchwarden at Apuldram, who died in the early hours of Tuesday 28th April. Please pray for his wife Mary at this very difficult time. John had spent the last six weeks of his life in a Nursing Home. Very sadly, Mary was not allowed to visit him. Thanks are given to the Nursing Home who arranged for her to have an hour long phone call with him the night before he died. May he rest in peace.

On Thursday, the Bishop of Chichester announced the following:
The Revd Ruth Bushyager, currently Vicar of St Paul’s, Dorking in the Diocese of Guildford will serve as Bishop of Horsham.
The Revd William Hazlewood, currently Vicar of the United Benefice of Dartmouth and Dittisham in the Diocese of Exeter will be the next Bishop of Lewes.
Please pray for Bishops Ruth and William and their families as they make plans to leave their current parishes, move and take up life in their new settings.

A Prayer for VE Day on Friday 8th May (from the Act of Commitment for Peace)
[PS You might like to display banners/flags in your windows for this 75th anniversary.]

Lord God our Father,
we pledge ourselves to serve you and all humankind, in the cause of peace,
for the relief of want and suffering,
and for the praise of your name.
Guide us by your Spirit;
give us wisdom;
give us courage;
give us hope;
and keep us faithful, now and always. Amen.
We pray in the words that Jesus taught his first disciples:
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 forever. Amen.

Merciful Father,
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again:
keep us always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.
So, let it be. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight;
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be with you and your loved ones, this day and for evermore. Amen.

 

The Third Sunday of Easter. (From Moira – 26th April 2020)

Alleluia! Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed, Alleluia.

Let us sit in silence for a moment as we acknowledge that although we are physically apart, we do come together each week to worship God.

Every Sunday, this short service goes out to about 90 households, which means at least 140 plus people are reading it, so although we are apart, our hearts are together in Spirit.

Lord Jesus, you raise us to new life,
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you forgive us our sins,
Christ have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you feed us with your grace and love.
Lord have mercy.

May the God of Love and power forgive us and free us from our sins, heal and strengthen us by His Spirit, and raise us daily to new life in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sing: He’s got the whole world in His hands. (I can’t hear you)

Readings: Acts 2, 14a then 36-41, Luke 24. v 13-35.

Reflection.
They were so downcast, everything it seemed, had gone wrong. So why, did Jesus simply not say, “hello, it’s me”, why did he let them keep walking for seven miles, why didn’t he just put them out of their misery and answer their questions. Rarely do any of the gospels give us a straight answer to what we should believe or what we should do. And today’s is no different, we are not given any answers, rather the whole story raises several questions, and invites us to reflect.

The road to Damascus is such a well known story and many different sermons have been preached about it. Today, I invite you to think about it in a slightly different way. To see it as your story.

Instead of Jerusalem and Emmaus being actual places, let us see them as representing human life and moments of real experience. Jerusalem is the place of heartbreak, loss, pain, hopelessness the times when everything has gone wrong.
Emmaus, represents the place of healing, of restoration, the place where new life and hope is discovered. The seven miles inbetween them is not simply about how far they had to walk, but that the journey had to be complete. The number 7 represents this.

Overall, this reading is an amazing story of shattering and restoration. The road to Emmaus is in fact our story.
If your life has ever been shattered, then this is your story. If your life has ever been restored, then this is your story. And if you’ve been in that in between place, then this is your story also.

It is not however about a one time journey, we take it time and time again throughout our lives.

We all know those moments in life when we feel such pain, loss and brokedness, those times when things didn’t quite work out in the way we wanted them to, it is at those times that we too can feel just like those disciples on that first Easter Day.

All their expectations had been shattered, they felt completely lost, sure they had heard some rumours that Jesus was alive, but it all sounded like an idle tale. So there was nothing to keep them in Jerusalem, they desperately needed to get away from the pain while they tried to make sense of what had happened.

Why they chose to go to Emmaus is unclear, but I guess it was a case of anywhere would be better than staying where they were.

And so Emmaus becomes the escape from life, or so those first disciples thought and we, may think, What we don’t know, and what Cleopas didn’t know at the time, is that actually the place of Emmaus is also the way back to life. Ultimately, it wasn’t an escape from life that took them along the road, but a hunger for life. It wasn’t brokenness that took them there, but a hunger for wholeness.

Hunger is far more that just physical, it is also spiritual and emotional. We all hunger for life, for love and for wholeness, we hunger for community, meaning and purpose. Today’s reading reminds us that all those hungers are met and filled by the person of Jesus. We are reassured that it is ok to feel lost and hopeless, we are reminded that the journey we need to take will be as long as it needs to be, and we are given the certainty that we will be restored to wholeness.

And this is where we need each other, we are called to be the one who walks alongside those who are hurting, avoiding the temptation to give easy answers or to hurry the person along. But to walk with them for as long as it takes. And we must never forget, that we are also called to be the one who allows others to walk with us in our time of need, we don’t ever have to do it alone.

The great truth is, our brokenness is not an ending. There is always more to it than we see or know. It can in fact be the breaking open of a new way of life, a new way of seeing the world around us, a fresh understanding of who we are and who God is. The sufferings and difficulties that we experience are not just wiped away as if they never happened, but they are given value by each step we take on our road through life, and we are changed by each and every one of them.

Perhaps this is so very true for all of us at this time. ‘Normal’ life has been shattered, it is scary, and it can be so very hard, difficult and painful. But perhaps amid this pandemic, a new way of living is breaking through. We are all learning what is really important, what we truly need, and daily we are given a renewed way of looking at the world around us.
We see the beauty in small things, we find joy in simply being, rather than doing. Every single one of us will be changed by the experiences that we are going through. And although it may seem that we can’t ‘be’ there for others, actually we can, just in a different way. Picking up on David’s reflection from last week, we are still the church, we can still be there for each other, we just need to continue discovering new and exciting ways to do this. Let us all see the signs of Hope and new life all around us as we take this journey from this ‘Jerusalem’, to the place of ‘Damascus’ which undoubtably lies ahead of us. Amen

Prayers:

This week, let us pray for our local school, and the staff who continue to care for children of key workers.
For the residents in Manor Barn, Cornelius House and all care homes, and for all who care for them.
For the sad, the lonely and those who feel afraid.
Let us give thanks for all those who are giving their time to help neighbours in need. And for all those who have survived this terrible pandemic.
Finally, let us rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus walks with us every step of the way.

Lord’s Prayer.
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. 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.

Notices. (Just in case you were missing them).
Good new, both Beau and Luke will be starting Fishbourne school in September. Where does the time go.
If you are having to isolate, don’t hesitate to ask for help from the Fishbourne Volunteer Squad, details on the website.
Finally, the answers to the mid-week questions.
The photo of the deer was taken in the back garden of Gordon and Gillian’s house.
And Mark was planting a tree. Not just any tree though, a special one in memory of those who have died.
Well done to John and Gay who were very quick with the right answers.

Let us pray:
Living God, Your Son made himself known to His disciples in the breaking of the bread, open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in all His redeeming work: for He is alive and reigns, now and forever. Amen.

Blessing.
God, who through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us the victory, give us joy and peace in our faith each and every day. And the Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be upon us and all whom we love. Amen.

So be at peace, let love fill your hearts, and be kind to yourselves.
I miss you all, Moira.

 

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia! (From Rev’d David Hider – 19th April)

Like Mary at the empty tomb,
we fail to grasp the wonder of your presence.
Lord, have mercy.

Like the disciples behind locked doors,
we are afraid to be seen as your followers.
Christ, have mercy.

Like Thomas in the upper room,
we are slow to believe.
Lord, have mercy.

May the God of love and power
forgive us and free us from our sins,
heal and strengthen us by his Spirit,
and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Today’s Collect (Special Prayer)
Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to rise again for our justification:
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you
in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings: Acts 4:14a,22-32; John 20:19-31

Today’s Message
The disciples were in lockdown for ‘fear of the Jews’. We are in lockdown for ‘fear of catching/spreading the virus’. To the disciples, Jesus came ‘and stood among them and said: “Peace be with you.”’. Likewise to us, Jesus comes, stands alongside us and says: “Peace be with you.” The setting of about two thousand years ago and ours today are very similar. So, what else does Jesus go on to say and is it relevant today?

Our Bible story tells us that the disciples are meeting together – perhaps, in the Upper Room where they had held the Last Supper – after the remarkable events of that Easter morning. We are told that they are scared. Scared that they might be the next to lose their lives now that the religious authorities have taken Jesus’ life? Scared that they might be hunted down and killed? So, the doors are locked.

But, locked doors hold no problems for the risen Christ. Suddenly, he is there among them! He shows them his hands with the tell-tale marks of his crucifixion. He greets them in his normal calm fashion: ‘Peace be with you!’ They have scarcely taken in his appearance when they are given the first of a number of remarkable commands. There is no time for niceties – it is time to be moving. Jesus says to them: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ They are to be sent out to do God’s work. Jesus has completed his task – he has made it possible for his disciples to continue with his Father’s work. And, he will be with them always. Through him, they receive the power to do God’s work. Here are the first priests being sent forth – out into the world to continue the work that Jesus started. Here, too, are the first Christians being sent forth out into the world to carry the good news of love, hope and peace.

It all sounds so simple. And, yet, with all this time for reflection as at the present, I wonder whether there is something essentially wrong with ‘the Church’ today and, without criticism, I even wonder whether there might also something wrong with ‘our’ church. So much of our leadership focus and so many of our programmes are concerned with trying to bring people into church to worship. A good example of this is the current fuss about churches not being open for Services during this time of pandemic. All would do well to note that Jesus’ words to his disciples are about going out to take the message of God into the world – not of bringing people in to worship. ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you,’ says Jesus.

So, as I see it, the challenge is to see how – and whether we are willing – to change ‘our’ church to ‘look outward’ and not ‘inward’. How? When? These are the real questions. What we do know is that if we do nothing – that is, in effect, maintain the status quo – the Church, as we know it, will probably ‘die’, become extinct. Not this year – but, more likely, it will happen within the lifetime of our grandchildren. Thinking on, perhaps the pandemic has a positive side (and, golly, doesn’t it need one!). Church worship has not stopped since the Churches closed their doors! It has continued, albeit in a different format and setting. And, if numbers are to be believed, Churches up and down the country are reporting larger numbers of people ‘connecting’ with their ‘new’ worship offerings than would normally attend their regular Services. Surely, in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury (as Moira quoted last week), this says that ‘we cannot be content to go back to what was before.’ Indeed, the effects of dealing with the pandemic have affected – and will continue to affect – so many aspects of our lives that it is inconceivable we could ever return to doing exactly what was done pre-coronavirus – with the result things will have to change come what may. Strategies for social distancing; physical touching; sharing the common cup (chalice); use of Service/hymn books; use of face masks (?); and so on, will need to be addressed, at the very minimum, before we can worship together again in Church. Messy Church, PCC and other Church Committee meetings, Jumble Sales and other fund-raising events, Book Fayres, Social gatherings (including refreshments after Services) will need re-thinking before they can resume. This is not evolution but ‘revolution’, so please pray for Moira and the Churchwardens who will have to take the prime role in leading us through it.

This also places an enormous responsibility on each one of us. I think that there is a unique opportunity to use the enforced lockdown period to stand back to reflect.

Firstly, given the call of Jesus to look outward and not inward with the Gospel message, can we identify any selfish needs that we, personally, might have of the way the Church works and how it does things? Can we, then, put that selfishness aside to help us reach out to enable others to become part of the Jesus story?

Secondly, thankfully, there has been good in the public reaction to the coronavirus lockdown in that neighbourliness has become much more pronounced. ‘Love your neighbour …’ is the stuff of the Gospel. This is the part of the ‘go and tell’ which does not actually require words. Showing a loving act or a helpful hand is part of the DNA of the Christian. The trick will become as to how as both a Church and as individual Christians, post-lockdown, we might continue / even enhance such acts as a way of reaching out to take the love of Jesus into the community.

When viewed like this, the call of Jesus is relatively simple! And, I think that is what he always intended it to be! Jesus still tells his disciples of all ages: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ This is echoed by the priest at the end of each Communion Service: ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’ – to which the communal reply is: ‘In the name of Christ. Amen.’

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

Prayers
Please remember in your prayers:
front-line staff within the NHS, their families and all who support their work;
any who are suffering from illness or struggling with the restrictions of daily life;
the residents and staff of our Care Homes;
the people who bring food and essential supplies to our stores or doors;
other key workers in all areas that support our lives;
our Government, national and local;
the armed forces redeployed to various tasks within the nation;
those whose plans for marriage, baptism and funerals have had to be deferred.

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 forever. Amen.

Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him:
deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

Risen Christ,
for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:
open the doors of our hearts,
that we may seek the good of others
and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace,
to the praise of God the Father.
And the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
be with you and those whom you love, this day and for evermore. Amen.

 

ALLELUIA, CHRIST IS RISEN.
HE IS RISEN INDEED, ALLELUIA. (From Moira – 12th April)

Happy Easter everyone.
Just under 2000 years ago, all the powers of Hell could not stop the Resurrection of Christ. And nothing, not even the corona virus will prevent it today.

And so may the light of Christ, rising in glory, banish all darkness from our hearts and minds.

I invite you to light a candle, and as you do so, say, ‘the Light of Christ, has come into the world’, knowing that this light burns brightly in each one of your hearts.

Let us pray.

Lord of all life and power, who through the mighty resurrection of your Son, overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in Him: grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ, may reign with him in glory, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen.

Let us on this most extra-ordinary Easter Day, with our brothers and sisters across the world, affirm our faith.

Do you believe and trust in God the Father, source of all being and life, the one for whom we exist?.
All: We believe and trust in Him.

Do you believe and trust God the Son,who took our human nature, died for us and rose again?.
All: We believe and trust in Him.

Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit who gives life to the people of God, and makes Christ known in the world?
All: We believe and trust in Him.

This is our Faith, we believe and trust in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Readings for today. Acts 10. v 34-43 and Matt. 28 v.1-10.

Reflection.
Some words from Justin Welby. ‘After so much suffering, so much heroism from key workers and the NHS, we cannot be content to go back to what was before, as if all is normal’.
Although those words were spoken for this present time, they hold a truth about every Easter, we cannot, having experienced the Resurrection of Christ, ever go back to the way we were. There is no doubt that this year everything feels very different, some of you I know have struggled, others are deeply worried about what the future will be like, all of us will have been deeply affected by so many deaths in recent weeks. It is as if we are living through a horror film. But the promises and mystery of Easter stand just as firm and strong as they always have, the darkness will be overcome, this time will pass, we will see one another again, oh and how we shall sing, laugh and cry together.
In Mark’s account of the Resurrection there are two words which often get overlooked. The message given to the women who had gone to the tomb was as we know, ‘go and tell the disciples’, but Mark then adds, ‘and Peter’. Peter who had recently denied Christ three times and was probably not feeling so good about himself, was now to get a special message, a message of profound healing. This healing is offered to all of us as well. May it also bring healing to the whole world at this time, for the world desperately needs it.
Today we have the most amazing truth to share with others, Jesus is indeed alive, we are changed, filled with renewed Hope, Joy, Peace and Love. So let us rejoice, not in the way we have done so in previous years, but in this special and unique way that we are offered this year. And may many more in the world catch a glimpse of God’s glory this Easter time, so that their lives too will be changed forever. Amen

Prayers.
Today, let us pray for those who feel alone and bereft at having to stay away from loved ones.
Let us pray for those in our nursing homes and all care workers.
We continue to pray for all in hospital and for the doctors and nurses who give so much of themselves.
Let us also pray for Thomas, who would have been baptised this morning.
And let us Thank God for one another, we may be physically apart, but our hearts are united as one.

God of Life, who for our redemption gave your only begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by His glorious resurrection have delivered us from the power of our enemy: grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of His risen life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The peace and joy of the risen Lord be with each one of you.

Before we ask for God’s Blessing, let us either sing, or listen to:
Thine be the Glory. You will be able to find this on Google or if you have Spotify. if you don’t have this access, just sing it as best you can.

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight; and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with each one of us this day and in the days to come. Amen.

And so go and be in peace, with God and with yourself.
Shine as a light in the world, to the Glory of God the Father.

One more thing, just to remind you, may bring my Easter eggs to church when next we meet, I am really going to miss my chocolate this week-end.

This afternoon, at 3.00 p.m, do pour yourself a glass of wine or beer, go into your garden, or to the front of your house, invite the neighbours and together let us raise a glass as we celebrate this unique Easter Day.

Love and prayers to you all. Moira

 

GOOD FRIDAY. A CELEBRATION OF THE CROSS. (From Moira – 10th April)

Dear friends, today we are reminded just how much God loves us, and the whole world. As you read through this, please, if you are able to, place a small cross in front of you. This could be a palm cross, a wooden one or one that you create yourself.. I invite you to join with me in the prayers, hymns and readings that follow, and then at 3.00 p.m, the time that Jesus died, to pause for a moment so as to hear those awesome words from God, ‘I love you this much’.

Prayer.
God of eternal love, we approach you with a sense of deep wonder. Your love reaches out to us in the face of rejection, pain and loneliness. You continue to suffer in the conflicts and failures which are our lives. And yet, still you love us. Open our hearts and minds to contemplate your passion, assure us again of forgiveness and acceptance, and so fill us with your love that we may recognise and answer the call to share your passion in the world. This we ask, through him in whom your amazing love is revealed. Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Please do take time now to read The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to John. John chapter 18-chapter 19 v30.

After you have read this, do sing the following, (you can sing quietly), to the tune of Abide with me.

Christ, Son of God, we recognise your claim,
No one but you dare speak the holy name,
This great I AM will bear love’s awesome cost,
Not one of those who love you shall be lost.

Christ, by your friends in daily life denied,
Bruised by the fall which follows sinful pride,
You, only you, can pardon and restore,
Reach out your wounded hand to us once more.

Truly ‘bar Abbas’, Christ the Father’s Son,
Sinless, you die for every guilty one,
Call us to witness truth, and hear your voice
Justice and righteousness, shall be our choice,

Christ, Priest and Victim, this is now your hour,
Victim of priests, and princes lust for power,
Help us destroy the god’s of pow’r and pride,
And stand with you among the crucified.

Christ, Son of Mary,, Brother of us all,
Give us the grace to answer to your call.
Grant us to live by faith, that when we die,
Your ‘It is finished’, is our final cry.

Reflection . And then he kissed him.
There is no greater betrayal than the one that is done by a friend. None of us will ever be nailed to a cross like Jesus, but perhaps we can relate to the hurt that Jesus must have felt after being betrayed by Judas, when he had kissed him so that the soldiers knew who to arrest.
It hurts when a friend lets us down, it can be agony and we may want to hurt back, to justify ourselves. But Jesus did not react to what Judas did, he silently gave himself over to the authorities, and now hung on the cross. He willingly made himself vulnerable, knowing that humanity would make a choice, accept his love, or reject him. We know which choice was made.
And so he came to his death almost alone, his friends had run away in fear, the crowds had dispersed as the’ fun’ was now over. But not everyone had left. As Jesus gazed down, he saw his Mother and the disciple he loved so much. From the depths of agony he continued to create and to give. With just a few words he gave his mother and the disciple to one another as a wonderful gift. And he continues to give each one of us to others as precious gifts as well.
As we reflect on those who stayed by the cross, stayed with the agony and pain that was right in front of them, we are reminded of all those who this day stay close to those who are in agony, and to those who will die. Our doctors and nurses have witnessed so much death during these last few weeks, they must be afraid, they may at times want to run away, but they do not, they stay, and make bearable that which is unbearable. In their lives, they reveal by all they do, the love, strength and compassion that surely comes from God.
The cross, at one and the same time a sign of horrific suffering and a symbol of hope and love. As we gaze at our own cross, let us be assured that it is the way to freedom, to life, and may we re-discover the love and glory of God. As we acknowledge that the man who died on that cross did so for each one of us, let us say, ‘sorry’, but let us hear once more those beautiful words’, ‘I love you this much’.

Prayers.

Father of the crucified, hear our prayer for all who are fearful, and who are moved by that fear to strike out at others, that they may learn the joy of letting go and accept your gift of love.

Father of the crucified, we pray for all who are fearful due to the corona virus, we pray for all those who are suffering from this terrible illness and for their families and friends. Be with those who feel alone or abandoned, and with those who are separated from their grand children and loved ones.

Father of the crucified, bless all those who work for the NHS, especially those who have given their life for others, we pray for all care workers, post men and women, dustbin men and all those who continue to work, so as to serve the needs of others. Help us all to be mindful of those who do not have a safe place to stay in, and of those who do not have enough to eat.

Father of the crucified, on this Good Friday, we remember all those who will die this day, help us all to let go of fear, give us grace and courage to face what ever the next few weeks or months might bring.

Thanks be to thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits, which thou hast given us. For all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for us:
O merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may we know you more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly. Amen.

‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for others’.

Now we all wait, just for a little while, for that day when we will re-discover that the events of this day were not the end of the story.

 

MAUNDY THURSDAY – from Moira (Posted 9th April)

Dear Friends, as we begin this most unusual three days before Easter, here is the first part of the unfolding drama that took place all those years ago, and continues to take place to this very day.
As is the normal practise, there will be no Blessing at the end of this nor on Good Friday, our Blessing will come on Easter Day.

The Lord be with you all.

Remember Lord, your compassion and love, for they are everlasting.
Lord have mercy.
Remember not the sins of my youth, but think on me in your goodness,
Lord have mercy.
O keep my soul and deliver me, for I have put my trust in you.
Lord have mercy.

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

The Collect Prayer.
God our Father, you have invited us to share in the supper which your Son gave to his church to proclaim his death until he comes, may he nourish us with his presence, and unite us in his love, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Bible Readings: 1 Cor.11. v.23-26 and John 13, 1-17.

A Reflection.
On the night before he died, Jesus invited his friends to a life changing party. As they ate and drank, he took some bread, broke it and shared it among them, saying, do this to remember me. In that action he gave to his church that great gift of Holy Communion. This year, although we cannot physically come together to celebrate this in church, we can perhaps remember Jesus in a different, special, way. Today, as you sit down for a meal, either by yourself or with your family, take some bread, break it, and as you do, remember that Christ is with you, at your very own table. As we do this our hearts will be united in Christ’s love.
A love that he revealed in the most unusual meal. When the disciples arrived for this meal, their feet were very dirty and covered in dust from the road. Normally a servant would have washed the feet, but not on this night. It was Jesus himself who took a bowl of water and a towel, knelt down and washed the dirt away. In this one action, it was as if God himself had knelt, looked those disciples in the eye, and said, ‘this is how much I love you’, as he met their basic need.
We are reminded that Jesus continues to kneel down, to look us in the eyes with such compassion and love. He continues to meet us at our point of need. So many people are feeling anxious and afraid at this time, there is loneliness, sadness and great loss all around, none of us have ever experienced anything quite like what the world is now facing. Let us be assured, that whatever we feel, Jesus cares very much, he is with us, and he will gentle wipe away our fears, in the same way as he wiped the dirt from the feet of his first disciples. I promise you, He will fill our hearts with his peace, as we acknowledge his presence with us.

Today, let us pray for all those who ‘kneel’ down to care for others.
Let us pray for those who are unwell.
Let us pray that this terrible virus will be stopped.
And let us pray for one another, remembering especially those who live on their own.

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.

They came to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, ‘stay here, while I pray’. Then he took Peter, James and John with him. A sudden fear came over him, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘Abba Father, everything is possible for you, take this cup from me, but let it be your will that is done’.
When he came back, he found the disciples sleeping, he woke them and said, ‘could you not stay awake for just one hour’.
Again he went away and prayed the same words to his Father.
When he returned he again found them asleep, he said, ‘You can sleep on now, and take your rest, It is all over, The hour has come.

THE WAY OF THE CROSS – from Moira (Monday 6th April)

Dear friends, as we begin this most unusual Holy Week, I thought I would share with you some reflections and prayers based on the journey Jesus himself took to the Cross. Some of you will be familiar with this, for others it may be very new, please do use it as you wish.

Prayer.
Lord God, the Cross reveals the mystery of your Love, a stumbling block indeed for unbelief,
But the sign of your power and wisdom to those who do believe.
Teach us to contemplate your Son’s glorious passion that we may always believe and glory in His Cross, and in whose name we pray, Amen.

JESUS IS CONDEMNED TO DEATH.

Pilate came outside and said, Look, I am going to bring him out to you, to let you see that I find no case. When the people saw him they shouted, ‘CRUCIFY HIM, CRUCIFY HIM. Pilate again said, ‘I find no case against Him’, but they replied, ‘We have a Law, according to which he ought to be put to death, because he claimed to to be the Son of God.

Reflection: Jesus is condemned to death, but who by, was it Pilate, the man who could find no case against him.
Was it by the crowd, whipped up by mass emotion, egged on by those whose loathing of Jesus had turned to determined hatred.
Or was it by us, by the rash judgments we make, by our failure to insist on justice or by our indifference in the face of injustice.

Lord Jesus, give us the strength to stand firm for what is right, and the courage to suffer injustice with dignity and compassion. For you are Lord, for ever and ever. Amen.

JESUS TAKES UP HIS CROSS.

Jesus said, ‘if anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself, take up his cross, and follow me’,

No one passes through this life without any burden. Some burdens are given to us, some we carry on behalf of of others, but the burden of the cross is surely a weight too heavy for anyone to bear. But that weight, was taken up by Jesus.

Lord, have mercy on us for adding to your burden.

JESUS FALLS.

Jesus would fall three times on this journey, each fall worse than the last. The cross is a contradiction, the weight of which bore down on Jesus’ bruised shoulders. There are many contradictions that accompany us through life. We are called to holiness, but often driven by our weakness, This Holy week, may we not despair of our strength to bear the stresses of life, because it is not our strength that will prevail, but the strength of Jesus.

Lord Jesus, as we fall as sure we ill, have mercy on us. When we fall as we surely will, give us strength and new hope.
When we fall, as we surely will, forgive us and make us yours. Amen.

JESUS MEETS HIS MOTHER.

At Cana, Jesus had said to his mother, ‘Woman, why turn to me?, my hour has not yet come’. Now His hour had come and His mother is there for him, and with him. Mary did not always understand, but her trust in God, and her maternal love reached beyond any lack of understanding and way beyond the sorrow in her own heart.

Lord Jesus, when our minds do not understand, give us a trusting heart, that we may come to understand even as we will be understood, For you are Lord, for ever and ever. Amen.

SIMON HELPS CARRY THE CROSS.

As they were leading him a way, they seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus.

Simon did not volunteer to help carry the cross, would we have done?. Yet, having helped in this unique and holy way, his life and the lives of many others were changed. So that this imposed duty came to be seen as a wonderful and joyful privilege. None of us can take the place of Jesus, Simon did not take the cross from him, but he did help. None of us can take anyone else’s burdens from them, but we can help, and in helping we too are changed.

Lord Jesus, in this time of great uncertainty, when we witness so many stepping forward to help others, we ask you to Bless every single one of them so that their and our lives may be changed forever. Amen.

VERONICA WIPES THE FACE OF JESUS.

She stepped out from the crowd, knelt down in the dirt, and gently wiped the face of Jesus, this one small act of kindness reminds us all that there is great value in the smallest act of real kindness. As we think about Veronica, let us pause to acknowledge all in the NHS who this day give of themselves to wipe the faces of those in desperate need.

Perhaps you would like to say the Lord’s prayer here.

JESUS IS STRIPPED OF HIS GARMENTS.

These people stare at me and gloat, they divide my clothing among them, they cast lots for my robe.

As we imagine this scene, we cannot escape the contrast of the Armour of the soldiers and the nakedness of Jesus, But here we see the vulnerability and exposure, which is the cost of loving to the point of no return. In this self-divestment, Jesus is showing us the deepest nature of God.

Lord Jesus, you alone are our protection and comfort, may we wear the clothing of our Christian Faith with dignity and courage. For you are Lord, for ever and ever. Amen.

JESUS IS NAILED TO THE CROSS.

The hammer, a tool of the carpenter’s workshop, is now used to inflict the cruellest of blows, to bind the body of Christ to the hard wooden cross. The hammer hits hard, but the hammer does not strike on its own, it is wielded by another human hand. Our hands can do so much good, or so much harm, the choice is ours.

JESUS DIES.

Death is without doubt a dark moment, none so dark as this one. The Son of God dies, the human breath of God expires. The brutal finality of death casts a long and sorrowful shadow.
It is here that we see that the love of God takes hold of any known or imagined limits, and goes beyond them, through any suffering. Death is a silent moment, none so silent as this one where we hear the ‘silence of eternity, interpreted by love’.

Lord Jesus, As we reflect on your death, we pray for all those across the world who have died because of corona virus. Be with their families and friends, by your grace, may they know your love, and your lasting peace. Amen

THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD.

The cross, a symbol of despair and failure, or a symbol of triumph and victory. Perhaps when we look at a cross we see both.
Ultimately, the glory of the Resurrection gives us hope, and reveals to us the mystery and triumph of the Cross.

Lord Jesus, the power of your Resurrection, which has won for us the victory over sin and death, makes the Cross a symbol of glory. May we always rejoice in that Glory, may we always hold fast to hope, and may we all be strengthened at this time of darkness and fear across the world. Amen.

“There is no greater Love, says the Lord, than to lay down your life for a friends”.