Sunday Worship 31st May 2020 – Pentecost

Today’s service begins with a hymn from Thy Kingdom Come. Play that first – I think you will recognise the tune – and then play the Youtube playlist underneath. If you prefer to go through the service and play each individually, you will find them all below.

Don’t forget that Zoom Coffee is at 11.30am on Sunday morning. All welcome. Do call the Rectory if you have any problems connecting. The number is on the contact page – link above.

Service written out separately

In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Grace, mercy and peace
from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And also with you.

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

Introduction

Jesus Christ, whom we worship, is our crucified, risen and ascended Lord and we have walked with him through his journey of love. We have faced the agony of his suffering and death on a cross. We have rejoiced at his bursting free from the bonds of death. We have enjoyed his risen presence with us and his revelation of himself through the breaking of bread. We have seen his return to the throne before which every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that this Jesus is Lord.

And now, with the followers of his own time, we await the coming of the promised Holy Spirit, his gift to his people, through whom we make Christ known to the world.

As we wait in silence,
fill us with your Spirit.

As we listen to your word,
fill us with your Spirit.

As we worship you in majesty,
fill us with your Spirit.

As we long for your refreshing,
fill us with your Spirit.

As we long for your renewing,
fill us with your Spirit.

As we long for your equipping,
fill us with your Spirit.

As we long for your empowering,
fill us with your Spirit.

Prayers of Penitence

Jesus says, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

Silence

Lord have mercy upon us,
forgive us where we have gone wrong and sinned and help us to walk from now on in your way. Amen

May the God of love and power bring us back to himself, forgive us and free us from our sins,
and restore us to newness of life by his Spirit.

Collect – Prayer for the week

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,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Bible reading – Acts 2

Hymn – Come Down O Love Divine

Gospel

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John
Glory to you, O Lord.

This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God

Sermon

This year, we have all been thinking a lot more about what is safe. Things that we used to do without thinking are suddenly dangerous and either banned or frowned upon. Last year we thought nothing of gathering in great crowds. Now we are all aware of the distance between us. Last year, going in a shop and pushing through a crowd to get to what you needed was rude, but not dangerous.

We are locked down now, for our safety and for the safety of others. Does safe mean boring? Well that rather depends on who you are locked down with. There is rarely a dull moment in our house, thanks to the younger members of the family, but we do have to work harder to find the high points of the week, especially on the weeks where every day is the same.

When you have always lived in a safe environment, you don’t notice it. Safe is certainly something I don’t appreciate until it is gone. Safe doesn’t mean the same for everyone. There are people for whom their own four walls are not safe places, those who are afraid of those they live with. For them, safety is in freedom and being elsewhere.

How do you relate God and safety? What images come to mind? The first thing for me is a hymn – an old one: Rock of Ages, Cleft for me. Let me hide myself in thee. Is God a place of safety, a refuge? There is something in that – God is ever present and his love is something that you can utterly rely on. But there is more to it than that.

At Pentecost, the disciples felt they were safe, gathered together in a house. Jesus had been resurrected for 50 days, he’d disappeared and ascended a few days earlier. They were waiting for what happened next. Jesus had promised them his Spirit and then suddenly it happened.

Tongues of flame and the gift of speaking in new languages. These frightened disciples, all huddled together in safety are thrust out into the crowds, given boldness to speak and spread the news that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.

What was the difference? It was the real presence of the living God. They had got used to Jesus being among them, challenging them and leading them. Now he was gone and a new way of being began.

Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church. It’s the day when the disciples stopped hiding away and came out in numbers and preached with boldness. The Church began with a great opening of the message of Jesus. People from all nations were gathered in Jerusalem and people from all nations could hear and understand and join in with that love which was made known in Jesus. It was the power of the Holy Spirit – God: alive and active and working in the world.

The experience of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was many things – but I am not sure whether it would have felt safe.

Do you remember that bit in CS Lewis’s The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe when the children realise what Aslan is?

Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Our experience of the Holy Spirit doesn’t have to be dramatic. The promptings of the Spirit can be subtle – a nudge in the back of your mind that you find it hard to ignore. A bible verse that suddenly catches your eye and it seems as if it was written specifically for you. Finding yourself in a beautiful place and feeling overwhelmed with wanting to worship the God who created it. The Spirit reaches us in many ways.

I don’t know whether you have ever been put on the spot and asked to talk about your faith. For me, standing up to preach the good news of Jesus the first few dozen times didn’t feel at all safe. I was terrified but, over time, I grew to recognise that the Spirit was with me and would help me to find the words as I needed them. It was an adrenaline rush – it happens still when I realise I am talking to someone who is on the verge of committing to Jesus and just needs the right words to push them in that direction. The Holy Spirit doesn’t make me feel safe, but does feel like an encourager to take risks for God.

A lot of people are worried or fearful of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can feel unpredictable, elusive, surprising, perhaps uncomfortable. How do we reconcile that with our image of God as a safe rock to rely on?

Think about it like this. A toddler stepping out away from their parents’ arms across a park – they have the confidence to go and explore, knowing that their parent is always there to go back to if there is a problem.

Charles Wesley describes the Holy Spirit as Love Divine – Divine Love. For me, following Jesus has been a series of exercises in stepping out in faith, knowing that the love of God through the Holy Spirit is with me as I obey God’s calling and step forward into unknown territory.

So my prayer for us all today is that we may grow to recognise more and more what it feels like when the Holy Spirit is prompting us, whether that is subtly or with power, that we may know the depth of God’s love for us and have the courage to speak with boldness to those who do not yet know the good news of Jesus. And in all this that we will have the courage to pray the ancient prayer of the Church at Pentecost: Veni Sancte Spiritus. Come, Holy Spirit.

Affirmation of faith

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

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

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

This is the faith of the Church.
This is our faith. We believe and trust in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Hymn – Love Divine, all loves excelling

Intercessions

We pray for God to fill us with his Spirit.

Generous God,
we thank you for the power of your Holy Spirit.
We ask that we may be strengthened to serve you better.

Lord, bless your world
and fill us with Your Spirit.

We thank you for the wisdom of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to make us wise to understand your will.

Lord, bless your world
and fill us with Your Spirit.

We thank you for the peace of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to keep us confident of your love wherever you call us.

Lord, bless your world
and fill us with Your Spirit.

We thank you for the healing of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to bring reconciliation and wholeness
where there is division, sickness and sorrow.

Lord, bless your world
and fill us with Your Spirit.

We thank you for the gifts of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to equip us for the work which you have given us.

Lord, bless your world
and fill us with Your Spirit.

We thank you for the fruit of your Holy Spirit.
We ask you to reveal in our lives the love of Jesus.

Lord, bless your world
and fill us with Your Spirit.

We thank you for the breath of your Holy Spirit,
given us by the risen Lord.
We ask you to keep the whole Church, living and departed, in the joy of eternal life.

Lord, bless your world
and fill us with Your Spirit.

Generous God,
you sent your Holy Spirit upon your Messiah at the river Jordan,
and upon the disciples in the upper room:
in your mercy fill us with your Spirit,
hear our prayer,
and make us one in heart and mind
to serve you with joy for ever. Amen.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Peace

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 the Spirit to dwell in our hearts. Alleluia.

The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you.

Offertory Prayer

Holy Spirit, we thank you for coming upon the Church and inhabiting the lives of Christian disciples. We offer you these financial gifts in gratitude and to express our desire for all your gifts to us to bear fruit in our lives. Amen

Thinking and praying about Communion

For me, the Eucharist is always more than bread and wine. Communion is with God and with the people wherever we gather. Until we can be restored to our places of worship and gather together once more, I will not celebrate the Eucharist. If you cannot receive with me, it does not feel right for me that I should. That does not mean, however, that we cannot have communion with God. Today I will read the institution narrative from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, then offer a time of silence, finishing with the prayer for spiritual communion and the Lord’s prayer.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NIVUK)

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits you have given me,
for all the pains and insults you have borne for me.
Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally,
I ask you to come spiritually into my heart.
O most merciful redeemer,
friend and brother,
may I know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Today, we are using the contemporary language Lord’s prayer. Please pray in whichever language or version you prefer.

Filled with the power of the Spirit,
As our Saviour taught us, so we pray.

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 for ever.
Amen.

Prayer

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.

Come Holy Spirit, to all baptised in Your Name,
that we may turn to good whatever lies ahead.
Give us passion, give us fire;
make us transform the world from what it is,
to what You have created it to be. Amen.

Hymn – O Breath of Life

Commission

For fifty days we have celebrated the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over the powers of sin and death. We have proclaimed God’s mighty acts and we have prayed that the power that was at work when God raised Jesus from the dead might be at work in us.

As part of God’s Church here, I call upon you to live out what you proclaim.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, will you dare to walk into God’s future, trusting him to be your guide?
By the Spirit’s power, we will.

Will you dare to love each other and grow together?
We will.

Will you dare to share your riches in common and minister to each other in need?
We will.

Will you dare to pray for each other until your hearts beat with the longings of God?
We will.

Will you dare to carry the light of Christ into the world’s dark places?
We will.

Blessing and Dismissal

May the Spirit,
who hovered over the waters when the world was created,
breathe into you the life he gives.
Amen.

May the Spirit,
who overshadowed the Virgin when the eternal Son
came among us,
make you joyful in the service of the Lord.
Amen.

May the Spirit,
who set the Church on fire upon the Day of Pentecost,
bring the world alive with the love of the risen Christ.
Amen.

And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Filled with the Spirit’s power,
go in the light and peace of Christ. Alleluia, alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia!

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.

Some extra songs

I was looking for music for the service on Sunday. Neither of these are on YouTube, so it would make things more complicated for those watching to include them. However, I thought I would share anyway.

They are both from the Thy Kingdom Come resources site. Worth a look as there are loads more there.

Sunday Worship 24th May 2020

As usual, you should be able to hit play on the first video and then hear the whole service, which will switch between recorded liturgy and videos of hymns. A huge thank you to all the people involved in planning and preparing for this service.

If you would rather read on screen, then you can do that instead. Just scroll further down and everything is there.

Don’t forget that we have Zoom coffee at 11.30am. See the notice sheet for how to access it, or phone me beforehand.

YouTube Playlist for the whole service

There is one video that should go in front of the prayers, but can’t be added to a playlist. Here it is:

Service written out with separate videos

Greeting

Welcome in the name of Christ
Alleluia Christ is risen
He is risen indeed.
Alleluia, alleluia!

Hymn

Prayer

Amazing God, by raising Jesus to life you have changed everything; make us a people of hope and joy, for this is the start of a new life for us and all the world, through our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Reading: A dramatic reading based on Acts 1:6-14

Confession

Jesus is risen and all that is wrong can be made right. Let us be quiet for a moment and ask God to come close to us with his love and forgiveness.

Lord God, sometimes we are greedy and want to keep everything to ourselves.
Forgive us for our selfishness.
Lord have mercy.

Lord God, sometimes we spoil things that are precious, the world and its people.
Forgive us our hatred.
Lord have mercy.

Lord God, sometimes we ignore and ridicule those who seem unimportant to us.
Forgive us our prejudice.
Lord have mercy.

Absolution

May the Father of all mercies cleanse us from our sins, and restore us in his image to the praise and glory of his name through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Reading: 1 Peter 4: 12-14 5:6-11

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Peter+4%3A12-14%2C+5%3A6-11&version=NIVUK

Hymn

This one won’t embed in this page so you will have to follow the link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spE-BE23qxA

Reading: John 17:1-11

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2017:1-11&version=NIVUK

Reflection – Liz Crawshaw

“Are we nearly there yet?” was what our children, and I guess most of yours said about five minutes into any car journey.

The disciples have had a roller coaster of a journey with Jesus:

Three years of spending each day with him as he taught and healed and performed miracles.

One terrible day when he was arrested and then crucified.

One day beyond joy, when he rose from the dead.

Forty days when he appeared to them many times, the same and yet different.

Perhaps now things were getting back to how they had been. When they were with him on the Mount of Olives, they asked this question;

“Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

They want an end to the mystery. They want life to get back to normal. This was their “Are we nearly there yet” moment!

They still hadn’t quite got it. They thought of the Kingdom in political terms, but for Jesus the Kingdom was not a territorial one, it was a society where God’s will would be perfectly done, a kingdom founded on love, not power.

Jesus answers their question elusively, and says that it is not for them to know when the Kingdom will come. They might feel dismissed, a bit embarrassed for asking the question. Then Jesus with a “but” changes everything. Far from being dismissed, they are told that they are all utterly necessary for the future. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”

And then, Whooosh! as Fiona said in the reading, and he is gone. They are alone. Nothing.

Imagine yourselves standing there on the hillside, trying to make sense of what they have just seen. Alone.

They leave the mountain top experience and go down into the valley of normal life. They meet up with the women who had supported Jesus through his life and death, and with Jesus’ brothers and his mother. Some frightened fishermen, a doctor, a tax collector, a few women and some family members, to launch a new church into a hostile world. They were the proof that the growth of the church was not the product of a human plan, but the activity of the risen Jesus through his Holy Spirit. This group of ordinary people were to change the world. It’s so reassuring isn’t it that God can use ordinary people like the disciples, and like us. Their key principles for success? They were together, and they prayed. They stayed together, they joined constantly in prayer, and they waited for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus called them to be witnesses. There work was to tell their friends and family about Jesus, but not limit it to that, to tell Jerusalem first, then Judaea, which was the surrounding countryside, then Samaria, the hated foreigners living right next door, and to the ends of the earth; even as far as North Yorkshire! It was the power of the Holy Spirit living within them that would make them Christ’s witnesses. In court, a witness gives evidence of his own experience, otherwise it would just be hearsay. Christians are to be witnesses to what they have personally experienced in Jesus.

The disciples asked when Jesus was going to establish the kingdom. In one sense it was already established, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus has been exulted and has returned to the Father, but we are still awaiting a time when the whole world will live under God’s rule. We are living between the “now” and the “not yet”. God’s plan is for a new heaven and a new earth, when everything will be renewed and joined together. Jesus’ death and resurrection were the beginning of the joining up of Heaven and earth. God’s kingdom will come by transforming things within the world. When Jesus ascended into Heaven, his work was not over. Jesus was handing over his ministry to those who would follow him; not expecting them to rely on their own resources, but promising the Holy Spirit, the power that they needed.

Let’s think about the three key aspects of the disciples’ way forward. They stayed together, they prayed, and they relied on the power of the Holy Spirit.

In lockdown some of us have the luxury of time to look at things afresh, to assess our priorities and to pray. Some of us are continuing to work but in a way that bears virtually no resemblance to the job before. Some will reach rock bottom, feel completely powerless, and find God waiting there for them. Like the disciples our whole world has changed, and in all this Jesus calls us each one of us to be his witnesses. We have an opportunity to find out who we are, to understand our communities and to witness in the seemingly small but immensely powerful acts of ministry to others; offering help, ‘phoning, getting shopping, being there for those facing the death of a loved one alone, or being that person caring for someone they love at the end of their life. Being witnesses to who we follow, as we wait, as we stay together emotionally, if not physically, as we pray and as we are energised by Jesus’ Holy Spirit. We will gather strength and find new resources. In the anxiety, depression and fear we will grow. God’s grace will support and strengthen us.

We will stay together, we will pray and continue to join together in worship, and we will wait for a time when all this is over and we can start again; not going back to the old ways; the inequality, the injustice and the division that existed in our society, but as new, different people, who have suffered, and who have grown, and who are ready to “be” in a new way.

We don’t want to go back to normal. We need to find that much hackneyed phrase, “a new normal”, a normal inspired by the Holy Spirit, a normal where our lives are a witness to who we follow. “Are we nearly there yet?” – something for us all to think about. AMEN

Affirmation of faith

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

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

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

This is the faith of the Church.
This is our faith. We believe and trust in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Hymn

Intercessions

Let us pray

Jesus, Lord of life,
In your mercy, hear us.

Father God, we are called to be witnesses to the joy and discipline of life with Jesus your Son. Let us follow the example of the first disciples and bring to the daily lives of those around us the certain knowledge that there is love and hope for everyone. In this difficult time of social distancing and isolation, give us the confidence to approach others by whatever means we can.

Jesus, Lord of life,
In your mercy, hear us.

Father God, you gave us your Son to bring us to you. We pray that we can use the time we have gained through the Coronavirus pandemic to be true witnesses of the light we have been shown and to the great gift of love to all people throughout the world.

Jesus, Lord of life,
In your mercy, hear us.

Father God, we pray for those who are worried about friends and family who they are unable to be with, or even see. We ask that your gentle hand be on those who mourn the loss of a loved one and keep the souls of all who have died in everlasting grace.

Merciful father,
accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Lord’s Prayer

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 for ever. Amen.

Thanksgiving for offerings of money

Gracious God, accept our gifts and,
with them, our lives
to be used in your service,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hymn

Prayer

When we stand gazing upwards, bring us down to earth: with the love of a friend, through the songs of the sorrowing, in the faces of the hungry.
When we look to you for action, demand some work from us: by your touch of fire, your glance of reproof, your fearful longing.
As ruler over all: love us into action, fire us with your grace, to make us willing subjects of your rule. Amen

Blessing

May God’s Holy Spirit be in our life;
may God’s Holy Spirit be in our world;
may God’s Holy Spirit be in the love between us and may God;
Father, Son & Holy Spirit, be with us all always. Amen

Dismissal

Go in the light and peace of Christ.
Let us shine with the light of his love.
Thanks be to God.

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.

Sunday Worship 17th May 2020

Edited to say – sorry to anyone who tried to join coffee this morning. Zoom was having trouble and only let three people in. Do try again next week.

This week, worship is in the same format as the last two weeks. You should be able to hit play on the first video and then hear the whole service, which will switch between recorded liturgy and videos of hymns. It got increasingly windy during filming as you will see!

If you would rather read on screen, then you can do that instead. Just scroll further down and everything is there.

Don’t forget that we have Zoom coffee at 11.30am. See the notice sheet for how to access it, or phone me beforehand.

YouTube Playlist for the whole service

Service written out with separate videos

The Greeting

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you
and also with you.

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

Hymn – Come Down O Love Divine

This video won’t embed here – hit the link to hear it.

https://youtu.be/fIvKDgktutI

Opening Prayer

Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
The first commandment is this:
‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Prayers of Penitence

Let us ask God to have mercy on our tired land,
and to prosper the work of our soiled hands.
Let us ask God to forgive our delusion of self-sufficiency
so that we may praise him for his provision and goodness.

Lord, you give us this good earth,
yet we take your generous gifts for granted.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord, you give us this good earth,
but we squander its rich resources.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Lord, you give us this good earth,
but we fail to share your bounty
with all of your children.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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

The Collect

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.

Reading

Acts 17.22-31

Hymn – The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases

Reading

John 14.15-21

Sermon – The Revd Dr Stephen Pope

The disciples, in our Gospel reading today, are struggling with a big life event. Jesus is telling them He is about to leave them. That He is to go, go to somewhere they cannot follow Him to, is a bombshell to them. Jesus gets in some instructions He has for them, starting with a new commandment, to love one another as He has loved them.

But the questions start. Two of them came into last week’s gospel reading. Now, Jesus has answered those questions and goes back to the instructions He is trying to give them.

He starts again, with His original theme of love.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command”, He says, “and I will ask the Father and He will send you another Comforter to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth.”

Well, it says ‘Comforter’ in the King James version of the Bible many of us were brought up on. Today’s reader probably said said ‘Counsellor’ or ‘Advocate’ depending on which translation was being used. To me, both of these words seem to imply a law court connection, and if any of you have had to give evidence in court, you probably did not find that a comfortable experience.

So why ‘Comforter’ got changed in the newer translations to ‘Counsellor’ or ‘Advocate’ puzzled me, for years, and I expect I’m not the only one.

However, recently I learned which Hebrew word was equivalent to the Greek word ‘Parakleitos’, the one used here to describe the Holy Spirit. In its form as a verb, it is commonly translated in the King James version as ‘to Comfort’.

For example, it is regularly used for when people comfort someone who is bereaved, such as in Isaac being comforted after the death of his mother Rebekah.

It is also used in Job, when, after all His misfortunes, some of his friends went to ‘sit with him and comfort him’.

We find it used in the book of Ruth. Ruth, a young widow from Moab had come to Israel with her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, who was also widowed. Ruth had gone to glean in the fields. The owner of the fields, Boaz, notices her, is impressed by her work attitude and what he heard about her. He goes and tells her she is welcome, and will be safe to continue working in his fields. Ruth expresses her gratitude for this unexpected kindness and attention and and says that she found his words “a comfort to her”. Clearly she felt socially supported by this courtesy to an unknown foreigner.

It is also the same word found in that verse in Psalm 23 – ‘thy rod and thy staff they comfort me’. The Psalmist, writing from a sheep’s perspective, sees the rod and staff as the shepherd’s means for providing defence against predators, and as useful tools for extricating a straying sheep from awkward places. Having a shepherd with the means of being able to effect a rescue would be very important for a sheep.

And this same word is translated as ‘Comfort’ in many Old Testament prophecies, including the ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people’ at the beginning of Isaiah chapter 40. You probably also know it which as the first sung part of Handel’s oratorio ‘Messiah’. But was for the Jews of the time a welcome prophecy that after going through hard times, God had news of good times ahead. This would have been very good news.

These examples all suggested to me that the root meaning of this word was more to do with support than with lawyers. And then I realised that the legal tones of the words Advocate and Counsellor do make sense in this context if we remember that the job of lawyers is to support their clients in dealing with the intricacies of the law, as well as to know the technicalities of legal processes.

So, let’s go back to the upper room. After Jesus had announced that He was about to go away, the badly rattled disciples certainly would need support in the difficult times that would follow.

As disciples, their undergraduate days were almost over, and they were soon to be sent out into the world to preach the gospel. But they would still need support.

So Jesus said, “I will send you another [counsellor/advocate/person to support you]. The Spirit of truth, who will lead you into all truth”.

We too, in our lives, need someone to support us in our fight against ‘the world, the flesh and the devil’. We need someone to help us resist those attempts to take us away from more abundant life and turn us back towards death and those things that will damage and destroy our love, our joy, our peace and our patience. For that matter, we will still need our kindness, our goodness, our faithfulness, our gentleness nor our self-control as well. We will need, as the disciples did, all those gifts, and more in our lives.

The disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit openly in their lives at the first Pentecost, a feast day we will be celebrating in 2 weeks time. We we don’t need to wait until then to ask God for more of the Holy Spirit’s support, power and energy in our lives until then. We can ask for more of his presence and power in our lives any time.

Are you aware of anything you would like God to give you help with at the minute. Anything you would like more support with?

How?

Stop. Make time. Listen – with our minds, with our bodies, with our spirits. Then have a conversation with God about it.

In fact, you could ask God now if you would like to. One of the few advantages of being in your own house for the service is that, if you wanted to, you could pause the service, talk with God right now, and continue with the rest of the service when you are ready.

And for all of us, whether we are struggling with life in general, or lockdown and coronavirus in particular, God is always ready to hear us, respond to us and support us.

Amen

Hymn – God Is Our Strength And Refuge

Creed

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is,
seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God, begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge
the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is
worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Intercessions

We pray to Jesus, who sent His Spirit to comfort and help us

Loving Lord Jesus,
You want us to Love others as you love us,
Show us more of how you love us that we may show more love to those we meet or talk to.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Loving Lord Jesus,
You want us be a Support and Comfort to those who are struggling,
Give us the humility we need to tell you of our own struggles that we may receive your help and so be better able to help fellow strugglers.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Loving Lord Jesus,
You offer us Truth in our innermost being,
Help us to embrace it so that others may more easily recognise it and embrace You when they see it in our lives.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Loving Lord Jesus,
Through Your Spirit, your disciples went from fearful to Bold,
Give us the courage we need to take opportunities to help spread the good news of your kingdom.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Loving Lord Jesus,
As we have grieved for losses in our own lives,
We pray for those who are mourning the loss of ones dear to them,
and especially for those not able to attend the funerals of their loved ones.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Loving Lord Jesus,
We remember that your earthly father was a working man,
We pray for those unable to earn an income enough for their needs,
and that we might be generous in our giving and in our prayers.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Loving Lord Jesus, 
in your mercy, hear us, accept our prayers,
and be with us always. Amen.

The 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.
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.

Offertory Prayer

Blessing

God the Father, who created the world,
give you grace to be wise stewards of his creation.
Amen.

God the Son, who redeemed the world,
inspire you to go out as labourers into his harvest.
Amen.

God the Holy Spirit,
whose breath fills the whole of creation,
help you to bear his fruits of love, joy and peace.
Amen.

And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you, and remain with you always.
Amen.

Tend the earth, care for God’s good creation,
and bring forth the fruits of righteousness.
Go in the peace of Christ.
Thanks be to God.

Hymn – Now Thank We All Our God

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.

The service also includes material from Seasonal Worship from the Countryside, And LWPT (The leaders’ of Worship and Preachers’ Trust).

Sunday Worship 10th May 2020

This week, worship is in the same format as last week. You should be able to hit play on the first video and then hear the whole service, which will switch between recorded liturgy and videos of hymns. Some reverb appeared in the processing of the videos – hope it isn’t too distracting.

If you would rather read on screen, then you can do that instead. Just scroll further down and everything is there.

Don’t forget that we have Zoom coffee at 11.30am. See the notice sheet for how to access it, or phone me beforehand.

YouTube Playlist for the whole service

Service in sections with text

The Greeting

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Praise the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He has given us new life and hope.
He has raised Jesus from the dead.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Opening Prayer

Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
The first commandment is this:
‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Christ our passover lamb has been sacrificed for us.
Let us therefore rejoice by putting away all malice and evil
and confessing our sins with a sincere and true heart.

Most merciful God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy
forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly, love mercy,
and walk humbly with you, our God.
Amen.

Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon us,
pardon and deliver us from all our sins,
confirm and strengthen us in all goodness,
and keep us in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The Collect

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,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Reading

Acts 7: 55-60

Reading

John 14:1-14

Sermon

This week in our house, we’ve been singing the classic song “Oh, you’ll never get to heaven”. If you don’t know it, you are missing a treat.

Oh you’ll never get to heaven.

In a biscuit tin

‘cos the Lord won’t let

no crummy ones in.

It’s a song that never ends as all you need for another verse is two words that rhyme and off you go again.

Oh you’ll never get to heaven
in Mummy’s car
‘cos Mummy’s car

won’t get that far.

Some people make the mistake of thinking that Christianity is all about getting to heaven, that this is the be all and end all of life. Far from it.

The gospel reading we had today is one that I often use at funerals. It is a reassuring reading for those who are recently bereaved to hear. Usually when I preach on it, I’m speaking to people who need that reassurance that there is something beyond death.

Today, however, I want to speak more generally. Because there is much more to this reading than a glimpse of our final destination and a reassurance that there will be accommodation when we get there.

John’s gospel includes a long farewell discourse as Jesus prepares for his imminent betrayal and death. At this point in the gospel, Judas has already left to arrange the betrayal and Jesus is talking to his closest followers at the last supper. None of them, of course, have any idea what he is talking about when he tells them what to expect in the coming days. Thomas and Philip are both asking questions about what is really going on and, more to the point, who Jesus really is. They must know that he is unusual and gifted, wise and holy, but they don’t seem to have grasped the essential truth about Jesus’ relationship with God, that he truly is God’s Son.

Whenever Jesus says “I am” it should remind us of that relationship. Right back when he spoke to Moses, God referred to himself as “I am”.

In this passage, Jesus makes the statement “I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the father except through me”, he says.

Trying to get to heaven is not a reason to follow Jesus, because if that is your only reason, then you are going to find that you have travelled a long way from where you thought you were going. When Jesus says I am the Way, he is not saying that he is a route to get somewhere fast. We are not looking for the fastest or most direct route to heaven, we are looking for a way of travelling which is most fulfilling, and most in line with the way Jesus himself lived. The journey is important. The means of travel is important. The way we are with the people we travel with is important. When you say Jesus is the Way, it is recognising that our journey with him is like taking a walk on a country hillside, where each step shows you something new and wonderful in nature and you can see all around in every direction, see how the next step will take you nearer or further from each surrounding landmark. Travelling with Jesus is about the journey, not about getting quickly to the destination.

At each stage of life, figuring out which path is the one that takes you closest to Jesus is hard. Staying on that path is harder still. Yet if we know Jesus and keep trying to know him more, we will find that his Way of being will bear fruit, not just at the end of life but throughout life.

So, that’s I am the Way. Now what about the truth?

The theologian Carnell gives a good definition of truth, he says ‘Truth, in its simplest dimension is a judgement which corresponds to things as they actually are.’
He continues by saying ‘For the Christian, God is truth because He is the author of all facts and all meaning. There is no reality apart from the eternal nature of God Himself and the universe which He has created to display His glory.’

When Jesus says I am the truth, he is stating quite clearly his divinity. There is no truth apart from God and his creation. If Jesus is saying that he is the truth, he is stating that within him we can see God’s eternal nature.

We spend a lot of time at the moment judging whether things we hear on the news are fake or true. Fake news is bandied about with such frequency that we can easily lose sight of what is true and what isn’t. Jesus is truth. If we know Jesus we can relax our guard and be confident in him. He is not trying to be anything he isn’t. He doesn’t sling mud and he doesn’t lie. He just is.

Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life.

Life is what it’s all about. We do believe in eternal life, but that isn’t the same as just trying to find a way to cheat death. We believe that eternal life starts when you realise that Jesus is the Way and the truth. Eternal life includes our life here and now. We are not waiting for some heavenly reward, we are already living the life that comes from following Jesus. It is a life lived in community with the whole Church. It is a life which seeks to glorify God rather than the self. It is a life that seeks to serve as Jesus served and love as Jesus loves.

Thomas a Kempis in his work The imitation of Christ elaborates further.

Follow Me. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living. I am the Way which you must follow, the Truth which you must believe, the Life for which you must hope. I am the inviolable Way, the infallible Truth, the unending Life. I am the Way that is straight, the supreme Truth, the Life that is true, the blessed, the uncreated Life. If you abide in My Way you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free, and you shall attain life everlasting.

Particularly at the moment, when we are in lockdown, it’s easy to feel adrift and unsure about what we are meant to be doing. If we can keep in mind who we are aiming at in life, the day to day decisions will be easier. We are not seeking to accumulate enough points to get to heaven. We are seeking Jesus, trying in all our everyday routines to be more Christlike, to live as he would live and to love as he loves us.

Affirmation of faith

Let us declare our faith
in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe. Amen.

Jesu, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high:
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, oh, leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenceless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.

Instrumental

Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name,
I am all unrighteousness;
Vile and full of sin I am,
Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.

Words: Charles Wesley

Act of Commitment

Let us pledge ourselves anew to the service of God and our fellow men and women: that we may help, encourage and comfort others, and support those working for the relief of the needy and for the peace and welfare of the nations.

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.

O Lord our God,
as we remember, teach us the ways of peace.
As we treasure memories, teach us to hope.
As we give thanks for the sacrifices of the past,
help us to make your future in this world,
until your kingdom come.
Amen.

Collect for Peace

Almighty God,
from whom all thoughts of truth and peace proceed:
kindle in the hearts of all people the true love of peace;
and guide with your pure and peaceable wisdom
those who take counsel for the nations of the earth;
that in tranquillity your kingdom may go forward,
till the earth is filled with the knowledge of thy love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

A prayer for the Sovereign

Almighty God, the fountain of all goodness,
bless our Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth,
and all who are in authority under her;
that they may order all things
in wisdom and equity, righteousness and peace,
to the honour of your name,
and the good of your Church and people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Intercessions

We pray to Jesus who is present with us to eternity.
Jesus, light of the world, bring the light and peace of your gospel to the nations.
Jesus, Lord of life, in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, bread of life, give food to the hungry
and nourish us all with your word. Help us to see our part in your ministry.
Jesus, Lord of life, in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, our way, our truth, our life, be with us and all who follow you in the way. Deepen our appreciation of your truth and fill us with your life.
Jesus, Lord of life, in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, Good Shepherd who gave your life for the sheep, recover the straggler, bind up the injured, strengthen the sick and lead the healthy and strong to new pastures. We pray for all those with Covid-19, those suffering other illnesses and those caring for them.
Jesus, Lord of life, in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, the resurrection and the life, we give you thanks for all who have lived and believed in you. Raise us with them to eternal life.
Jesus, Lord of life, in your mercy, hear us, accept our prayers, and be with us always. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us

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.

Spiritual Communion

While we are unable to gather we cannot share in the Eucharist. We can, however, pray for the presence of Christ within us.

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits you have given me,
for all the pains and insults you have borne for me.
Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally,
I ask you to come spiritually into my heart.
O most merciful redeemer,
friend and brother,
may I know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen

The Peace

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, ‘Peace be with you.’
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. Alleluia.

The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you.

Blessing

God grant to the living grace,
the departed rest,
the Church, the Queen,
the Commonwealth and all the world peace and concord;
and the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.

VE Day

Our service this Sunday will include an act of remembrance and prayers led by Roy, a member of our congregation and WW2 veteran. You can see his remembrances on Facebook today here.

Bishop John has also sent a message for VE Day, which you can view below.

Daily Worship from Taizé

There are so many possibilities at the moment for joining in worship online. As well as joining us here each week, why not join some other forms of worship that may not be quite so familiar?

One great source of spiritual comfort for me at the moment is the daily evening prayer from the Taizé community in France. Usually, at this time of year, there would usually be well over a 1000 young people praying together in the main church there. Now, the brothers are the only people praying there, looking back to their community origins during and after WW2. They have divided their community into households of about 10 brothers. Each day one of the groups leads prayers which are streamed live on their Facebook page.

To join them live, go to this page at 7.30pm UK time and look for the videos section. Or you can watch a previous evening prayer any time.

What to expect?

We have used Taizé chants in our worship so you will probably be familiar with the short repetitive phrases of music. There will also be a psalm, passages of scripture and some brief prayers. There will always be a time of silence lasting around 5 minutes.

Initially, you might find the variety of languages surprising. During the course of a half hour of worship, there may be a dozen or so languages used – in the songs, the bible readings and prayers. English is always used for some parts of the service. Often a prayer or bible verse will be repeated in multiple languages.

You can find the latest order of service if you want to follow along here. This will give you links to the words and music for the songs and also more of an idea of what is being said.

Over the years, I have learned so much about prayer from the community at Taizé. It is this form of worship I turn to when my head is full of anxious thoughts and I crave solitude and peace. This is medicine for the soul, which is particularly needed in these anxious times.

Sunday Worship 3rd May 2020

Welcome to worship!

This week I am trying out a different format, following some requests for more video content rather than just audio. You should be able to hit play on the first video and then enjoy the whole service, although there may be a bit of a jump between different sections and possibly some adverts – I have no control over that!

You may find the audio levels are not quite right – the birds were very loud today. I’ll try and get a better microphone for next week. If you would rather read on screen, then you can do that instead. Just scroll further down and everything is there.

Don’t forget that we have our first Zoom coffee at 11.30am. See the notice sheet for how to access it, or phone me beforehand.

YouTube Playlist for the whole service

Service written out

The Greeting

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Praise the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He has given us new life and hope.
He has raised Jesus from the dead.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Opening Prayer

Faithful one, whose word is life:
come with saving power
to free our praise, inspire our prayer
and shape our lives
for the kingdom of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of Penitence

Jesus Christ, risen Master and triumphant Lord, we come to you in sorrow for our sins, and confess to you our weakness and unbelief.

We have lived by our own strength,
and not by the power of your resurrection.
In your mercy, forgive us.
Lord, hear us and help us.

We have lived by the light of our own eyes,
as faithless and not believing.
In your mercy, forgive us.
Lord, hear us and help us.

We have lived for this world alone,
and doubted our home in heaven.
In your mercy, forgive us.
Lord, hear us and help us.

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.

The Collect

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.

Reading

Acts 2: 42-47

Reading

John 10: 1-10

Sermon

How do you feel about being called a sheep?

I know from hearing from farmers that some sheep are awkward, some are prone to escaping, others seem to have a death wish. Most, however, are happy to follow the flock, to just carry on eating grass and moving in whichever direction their fellow sheep are moving, aided by the sheepdogs and farmers.

The metaphor of sheep and shepherd is often used to describe the relationship between Christians and Jesus. He is our shepherd – the good shepherd – the gate for the sheep – and we are his sheep.

What does the life of a sheep look like then? At some point the metaphor breaks down. We are not called to live in a field and eat grass – our digestive systems would soon rebel. So what does it mean to be a sheep who belongs to Jesus?

This question is really asking what we should do as members of the Church. We can look back at the early church to see what they did. The passage from Acts 2 gives us a picture of life in the early church – so early that it is talking about the weeks after the first Pentecost, only a couple of months after Jesus died. The famous description is found in verse 42.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The passage goes on to talk about them living together in community, sharing everything in common, giving to those who were in need and

welcoming new believers into the community.

At first glance, you might think that nearly all of this impossible in the current lockdown situation. When you hear the words “all who believed were together”, does that make you sad? True, we can’t be together in person, but we can be together in purpose and we can keep in contact. Remember, this verse is talking about a time before there were designated church buildings in every community. This took place in the home as well as at the temple in Jerusalem.

Let’s go back to that verse – they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Rather than mourning what we can no longer do, let’s look at what we can do and look at what we mean by those four things.

First – the apostles’ teaching.

Who were the apostles? They were the leading disciples. They were teaching what they had heard directly from Jesus. How can we learn from them? By going back to the Bible. The gospels were written using the teachings of the apostles and their memories of Jesus. The New Testament letters also come in response to those teachings. The Old Testament contains the Jewish heritage that all the teachings of the apostles are based on. As it says in the letter to Timothy – all Scripture is God-breathed. The better you know the bible, the more you will recognise the sound and feel of God’s still small voice. This is why our life as Christians should include regular encounter with Scripture, whether that is at a service or in private.

The second part of the Christian life is – fellowship

Now, this is harder for us at the moment. Fellowship is celebration, it is gathering, and we can’t do that, but it is also getting to know one another and sharing our life stories and knowing each other well enough to be able to serve. This we can do. I think we are seeing a growth in fellowship in all our villages. Having been confined to houses, we are now more aware of everyone else and more likely to look out for them. People seem to be taking the time to make sure people have regular contact and support. Although much of our fellowship is at a distance of 2 metres or more, it is still fellowship, it is still that building and sustaining of a community, that faithful self-giving service.

Third – the breaking of bread

Now, there are several possible meanings for this. In the very early days of the Church, it probably just meant sharing food together, sitting down at the table with other believers. As the Church developed, this became a radical tradition – Jews and Gentiles sat down to eat together. Slaves ate with free people. None of this happened usually in society so was tending towards being scandalous. Of course, when we hear the phrase breaking of bread, our minds probably turn quickly towards the Eucharist. Towards the liturgical breaking of bread that has been inherited. Both are a part of our lives as the sheep of Jesus. The breaking of bread is very closely linked with fellowship. When you share food together, you get to know people better. This is why we have joint meals after services every so often. When we eat together, we build up fellowship and create stronger bonds of love between members of our community.

The final piece of the jigsaw is prayer because when we pray, we communicate with God himself. Depending on which translation is used, this final part of the Christian life is called either prayer or the prayers. In other words, a more or less formal sort of prayer. It doesn’t matter whether you pray using written liturgy or whether you talk to God as it occurs to you. However we pray, God hears us, delights in our voices and responds. We can always set aside more time for prayer.

So there’s our four elements of the Christian life. Think about the normal life of our churches. Can you see all four of those elements within our communities? If not, which is missing?

Our life of worship while confined to the home can follow that fourfold pattern. Engaging with the scriptures through regular reading of the bible to hear from God, thinking about the communities in which we live and contributing to the well-being of others, breaking bread in our homes, or using creative technology to connect with others over food – zoom dinner parties anyone? And above all, praying whether together or apart.

This picture of early church life doesn’t need a building. We know that we will return to our church buildings in the future and I hope we will find when we get there that the life of the Church has continued to grow and develop in isolation.

Don’t be put off by the high standard this sets. I’m sure that the early Church had just as many disagreements and fallings-out as any modern day group of Christians gathered to worship. This pattern is an aspiration – something to aim for and hope that we make it most of the time.

This then is the life of the sheep that belong to Jesus. We can be confident that Jesus is looking out for us, gathering us under his protection and leading us through whatever life brings. We are his sheep. It’s hard to be a sheep on your own. We need other sheep to show us the way and give us the confidence of being part of the flock. Jesus shows us a pattern of life which brings us closer to him.

Through the apostles teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer, we can thrive as his sheep and be brought through our current trials to future fresh pasture.

Affirmation of faith

Let us declare our faith
in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe. Amen.

Intercessions

Let us bring our prayers before our risen Lord and Saviour.

Jesus, Lord of life: in your mercy, hear us.

We pray for the worldwide Church, scattered and worshipping in homes. We pray for Justin and Sentamu our archbishops and all who advise them. Inspire them with the Holy Spirit that the Church may thrive in isolation.

We pray for the worshipping communities of our villages, especially those who are isolated and unable to pray with us.

Help us to be good members of Christ’s flock, learning from the apostles, growing in fellowship, breaking bread and praying, that we may be prepared for those the Lord is adding to our number.

Jesus, Lord of life: in your mercy, hear us.

As our lives are dominated by the pandemic, we pray for all involved in working to combat Covid-19. We pray for frontline medical staff and all who support them, for research scientists and for keyworkers of all kinds, especially those who keep our food stocks supplied. We pray for the Queen and her government, and for civil servants.

Jesus, Lord of life: in your mercy, hear us.

We pray for our schools: for Mrs Jackson at Crayke and Miss Bennett at Husthwaite and for all their staff. We pray also for families dealing with the pressures of schooling their children at home and for all children who are lonely and missing their friends.

Jesus, Lord of life: in your mercy, hear us.

We pray for all who are sick, for all suffering with Covid-19, and for those who are fearful of catching it. We pray for those with terminal illness and for those recuperating from illness. We pray for all whose mental health is not good and for whom isolation is an increasing strain.

Jesus, Lord of life: in your mercy, hear us.

We hold before you all those we know who have died, those whose funerals we will conduct in the coming weeks. We pray that they may rest in peace and rise in glory.

Jesus, Lord of life: in your mercy, hear us.

The Lord’s Prayer

Gathering our prayers and praise into one, let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us

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.
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.

Gloria in Excelsis

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.

Praise

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He has given us new life and hope.
He has raised Jesus from the dead.
God has claimed us as his own.
He has brought us out of darkness.
He has made us light to the world.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

The Peace

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, ‘Peace be with you.’
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. Alleluia.

The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you.

The Blessing

God, who through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ
has given us the victory,
give you joy and peace in your faith;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.

Distributing the monthly Village Link magazine

We are all accustomed to delivering flyers and other post round our villages. During the Covid-19 outbreak, the Church of England guidelines specifically advise against delivering paper door to door:

Some Studies suggest that Coronavirus COVID-19 can live on paper and cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours, and so any paper delivery represents a transmission risk. Local hand-deliveries also mean a volunteer will touch gates and postboxes and may come into close proximity with those who may be shielding. For these reasons, parishes are encouraged to look to digital communication, and telephone calls to keep in touch. The Government has designated postal workers and delivery professionals as key-workers, so any vital printed communication should be sent through the post.

While we continue in lockdown, we will keep to this rule, hoping that rules can be relaxed within the next few weeks. The last thing I want is for our churches to be responsible for spreading the virus within our villages.

This means that we have to look at more creative ways of contacting people. In particular, we need to try and get a monthly magazine with a circulation of 600 to as many of the people who normally receive it as possible.

You can find a copy of the magazine here. Please forward it to friends and neighbours who you think might not be in contact with me.