Articles

Sermon for the Sunday after the Ascension (Easter VII) by the Rev'd David Warnes

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 23/05/2020 - 13:06

For many years I have been a casual collector of famous last words – the final utterances of the great, the good and the not so good. By the 19th century it had rather come to be expected that great men and women would use their final breath either to express some profound truth or at least say something memorable. One of my favourites, because of its combination of wit and theological soundness, was uttered by Charlie Chaplin. When the priest who was attending his deathbed said “May the Lord have mercy on your soul” Charlie retorted. “Why shouldn’t he? It belongs to him.” And belonging is one of the themes of this Sunday’s Gospel, in which Jesus says of his disciples:

“All mine are yours, and yours are mine”

This Gospel doesn’t have Jesus’ last words, but it is part of his final prayer for his disciples. It appears in St John’s Gospel shortly before the account of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, so it might seem an odd choice for the Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost because it takes us back to the day before the Crucifixion. It’s an appropriate choice because one of the other themes of this “Prayer of Farewell” is change – change for Jesus because his earthly life is about to end, change for the disciples because their understanding of Jesus will be transformed by his death and, after a brief, tragic “in between time”, by his Resurrection. For the same disciples, the interval between the Ascension and Pentecost was a time of waiting for change, another “in between time”.

The “Prayer of Farewell” can speak to us in a very difficult “in between time”, the weeks and months between the normality that ended with the beginning of the lockdown and the new normality that we cannot yet fully discern, and in the shaping of which we are called to play our part. In between times can be very difficult. The poet Matthew Arnold, a man who mourned the loss of faith – his own and other people’s - found himself

“Wandering between two worlds, one dead, The other powerless to be born”

Jesus understood the difficulty of “in between times” and his prayer acknowledges that he will not be present to the disciples in the way that he has been. He says

“And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world.”

The thrust of the prayer is that the disciples are being called to live in the way that Jesus has lived his earthly life – accepting change, and believing that change can be transformative, even the bitter and painful change of his death. Jesus’ acceptance of change made possible astonishing, empowering changes in his followers – the changes which we shall celebrate at Pentecost. They came to understand that their

calling was to be the continuing presence of Christ in the world, affirming the reality and the value of that world, while at the same time pointing to a greater reality. That became possible for them because they understood and began to live out the experience of belonging, of belonging to God and belonging one to another. And they lived it openly and open-endedly, seeking to share the possibility of abundant life which they had discovered.

It was that sense of belonging that made them receptive to the Holy Spirit and open to change. Our calling is the same as theirs; to live in the world, to engage with it and to care for its people. That involves challenging the world’s assumptions when those assumptions are obstacles to human flourishing. The practical witness that we and other Eco-Congregations try to make is an example of that kind of challenge. I think we are also called upon to challenge politicians when they treat people as a means to some social or economic goal, and when they employ the rhetoric of “We’re all in this together” while pursuing policies which penalise some in order that others may prosper.

“We’re all in this together” isn’t a bad summary of the Christian gospel, but the “this” that we are all in is nothing negative. The Christian doctrine of human togetherness rests on the understanding that we all belong to God. If we live out that truth, that sense of belonging, then the possibility of being “changed from glory into glory” can be realized.

Amen.

 

A prayer from Christian Aid for the people of Bangladesh & India

Submitted by Dean on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 16:25

'O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,

And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.' (Isaiah 54:11)

God of refuge, 

protect our sisters and brothers in Bangladesh and India, 

tossed far from their homes by Cyclone Amphan. 

Some afraid to evacuate for fear of a pandemic disease,

surrounded by catastrophe and debris. 

Comfort them as they journey and where they stay. 

Your love knows no distance, O God be near your children in peril.

Set them on their way to safety, let them find your help. 

Awaken in our hearts a love that reaches out –

a love that shelters neighbours from the storm,

a love that lays the foundations for recovery,

a love that perseveres. 

We pray for their protection to you, 

our God who never gives up. 

In Jesus name, 

Amen

To donate to Christian Aid go to www.christianaid.org.uk

 

A sermon for Ascension Day Thursday 21st May 2020 by the Rector

Submitted by Dean on Wed, 20/05/2020 - 10:08

Ascension Day Thursday 21st May 2020

On Ascension Day, I always think an appropriate anthem should be that unforgettable song from the finale of the ‘Sound of Music’:

“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu; to you and you and you and you and you …”

It would be an appropriate anthem because it speaks of leaving, of farewell but also gives us just the possibility of return. Adieu is not as final as farewell.

Today, Jesus leaves his disciples, or more correctly, today 40 days after his resurrection he leaves this earthly realm for his Father’s heavenly Kingdom. If we were being chronological about the Ascension then we should really read the Gospel portion before the Acts reading. As the Gospel reading ends Luke’s first book about the life of Christ and the Acts piece begins his second book about what happens to Jesus’ followers once he has returned to heaven.

No other human being, that we know, of has ever disappeared after a resurrection, as he did. Quite how he ascended is a bit vague and those paintings and stained glass windows that show his feet dangling below the clouds don’t really help to solve the mystery either. Suffice to say (and this is an act of faith) in some way Jesus departed from us on earth but with a promise to return.

Jesus was born into our fleshly life and today he makes or takes his leave of us in this earthly, fleshly form.  He was born as we are but was both God and human at the same time. The hymn writer Graham Kendrick says in one of his hymns:

“From heaven you came helpless babe,

  Entered our world, your glory veiled.

  Not to be served but to serve

  And give your life, that we might live…”

Jesus came to us in flesh, both human and God.

He came ‘God incarnate’ to prove God’s love for us, his creation, and he did so by atoning for our sins on the cross. In doing so he cleansed each and every one of us for all eternity and by the example of his life we are shown the path to eternal life in God.

When we die, we in our turn and in our own way ascend to God. Our souls return to our Creator, the One who made us of his very self. Throughout our lives our souls are restless and yearn for God - we desire to be one with him again. This in part explains our restlessness in life, we are forever seeking to return to God as Jesus did.

Like Jesus, when we die, we die in the hope of and with the promise of new life at the end of time. Quite what this means is unclear but we hope, we have faith, that it will be a glorious restoration of all whom we love into one new Kingdom of God. That is our Christian hope and it is this that Jesus affirms for us today, in his ascension. That is also our hope for all who have died recently during this pandemic time.

By his ascension, Jesus shows us that by taking his leave of us, he will and can return at another time. Just as we hope that we too will return at the day of the final resurrection. BUT in order to return you do have to leave in the first place. Once you’ve gone you can come back and to do so in the knowledge that those who love you will be glad to see you again is important. Remember the old saying:

“You have to let then go, in order for them to come back.”

Our parents and perhaps we ourselves, will have said or heard this phrase many times in relation to ourselves and those we love. In letting our loved ones go, we hope to see them again because we will always leave the door ajar for them to push open. This is what we are doing today saying; “Au revoir” to Jesus and hoping that we will see him return one day in this life or the next.

Today we are letting him go free, we are not clinging on to him, or trying to stop him; we are letting him go knowing that he has promised to return.

Amen

Thy Kingdom Come (Daily Prayer Resources)

Submitted by Dean on Tue, 19/05/2020 - 12:59

The days between Ascension Day and Pentecost are designated days of prayer for the building up of God's Kingdom. Below is a form of daily prayer to help you pray during the next few days.

Thy Kingdom Come

A global wave of daily prayer from

Ascension Day to Pentecost 21st - 31st May 2020

Send your Holy Spirit upon us, and clothe us with power from on high. Alleluia.

Blessed are you, creator God, to you be praise and glory for ever.

As your Spirit moved over the face of the waters bringing light and    

life to your creation,   pour out your Spirit on us today that we may walk as children of light and by your grace reveal your presence. Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Blessed be God for ever. Amen

Psalm 103

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, •

  and all that is within me bless his holy name.

  2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, • and forget not all his benefits;

  3 Who forgives all your sins • and heals all your infirmities;

  4 Who redeems your life from the Pit •

  and crowns you with faithful love and compassion;

  5 Who satis es you with good things, •

  so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

  6 The Lord executes righteousness •

  and judgement for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses • and his works to the children of Israel.

8 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, • and his kingdom has dominion over all.

9 Bless the Lord, you angels of his, •

you mighty ones who do his bidding and hearken to the voice of his word.

10 Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, • you ministers of his who do his will.

11 Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion; •

bless the Lord, O my soul.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning is now and shall be for ever. Amen.

Daily Readings

As you read the passages from the Gospels take time to ponder on the words and to listen to what the Holy Spirit has to say to you.

Thursday 21st May

Luke 1:26-35

Friday 22nd May

Matthew 2:13-18

Saturday 23rd May

John 6:1-15

Sunday 24th May

Matthew 8:23-27

Monday 25th May

John 12 :12-16

Tuesday 26th May

John13:1-17

Wednesday 27th May

Matthew 26:36-46

Thursday 28th May

John 20:11-18

Friday 29th May

Luke 24:13-35

Saturday 30th May

Luke 9.1–17

Pentecost Sunday 31st May

John 20:19-23

Pray for others

Praying for others to know Jesus is one of the most powerful evangelistic things we can do. Persistent prayer for others brings transformation to their lives. Consistently praying for others takes discipline, and there are many ways that we can build up habits that will help us to pray for our friends and family. Who do you wish to pray for? If you’re not sure who to pray for, ask God to guide you as you choose. Once you have decided, commit to praying for them regularly by praying the following words:

Loving Father, in the face of Jesus Christ your light and glory have blazed forth. Send your Holy Spirit that I may share with my friends (name your friends)  the life of your Son and your love for all. Strengthen me as a witness to that love as I pledge to pray for them, for your name’s sake. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will he 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.

May the Spirit kindle in us the fire of God’s love. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord. Alleluia, alleluia.

Come Holy Spirit,

Help me to wonder at God’s love,

to wait upon God’s word

and to act with compassion,

That God’s Kingdom might be on earth

as it is in heaven. Amen

Homily for Easter VI Sunday 17th May 2020 by Russell Duncan

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 16/05/2020 - 13:48

Easter VI – Sunday 17th May 2020

0ur streets are not empty, they are filled with love

Ever since I heard these words spoken by The Queen in her message of stoicism and hope for a time of adversity on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, they have been going round and round my head.  I had not expected them. I had not thought of seeing things in this way. They opened up a new way of understanding things. Not unlike looking at a painting or a landscape for the first time.

For many, myself included, we are all trying to make some sense of the global pandemic. Its sudden  impact upon our life, our work, our social diaries, our gathering together on a Sunday to name but a few.

One of the things which has surprised me most is that I miss seeing peoples’ faces and expressions particularly some family members and friends who do not have the benefit of being able to access modern technology.  I have only the tone of their voice to go on when we speak.  I cannot at present go and see them wherever they are. I have however been introduced to “zoom” both for professional and social use and am becoming quite adept at using it.  Until now, I knew nothing about it.

For me, one of the highlights is Thursday evening at 8.0pm when we clap for the NHS and other key support workers. I look forward to stepping out into my front garden and seeing familiar faces. Of smiles, of laughter, of brief conversations. Of knowing that neighbours are still there and safe despite our streets being empty. In some strange way, however brief, we are reminded that we are not forgotten, not isolated, not alone. We are part of a living community. This has been evidenced by (One) talking to new neighbours over the back garden fence whilst cutting down some long overgrown bushes which prevented light from entering part of their garden and (Two) a work colleague kindly and unexpectedly offering to get me some online shopping on more than one occasion.

Today’s gospel (John 14: 15-21) includes the familiar words “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 for ever”.

May we this week be people of love not only knowing that we are loved by God but by showing it in practical and even unexpected ways to neighbours (old and new) in the streets in which we live and among our families and friends.

“Our streets are not empty; they are filled with love”.