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Morning Worship for 24th May 2020

As you begin this act of worship in your own home remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with you in worship. If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the hymns and join in the singing. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting:

Rise up, followers of Christ
Rise up, and praise our Saviour!
Rise up, disciples of our Redeemer
Rise up and give glory to God!

Collect for the day:

O God the King of glory,
You have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
With great triumph to your kingdom in heaven.
We beseech you, leave us not comfortless
But send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us
And exalt us to the place where our
Saviour Christ is gone before,
Who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Our Declaration of faith

We look up into the sky
But our Lord is not there!
We close our eyes in prayer
And we see only darkness.
Faith calls us not to seek with the eye
But to seek with the heart, soul, mind
And all the strength that we have!

When we do this we find Jesus.
When we share a word of love we find Jesus!
When we open up ourselves to the Father
We see the Lord ascending.
Not ascending from us but within us
Filling us with love and joy and peace.
Certain that we are not left alone,
We rejoice that in the power of the Holy Spirit
We rise up with our ascended Lord.
We rise up as followers of Jesus!
This is what we believe and it is a joy to behold.

Hymn: Christ Triumphant ever reigning.

Readings: Acts 1:6-14, 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11, John 17:1-11.

Reflection:

Looking back and looking forward in Glory!

As I look back on days gone by as I have celebrated the feast of the Ascension, two particular memories come flooding back to me. The first was when I was the Rector of Ebchester in Durham Diocese: By tradition the deanery always celebrated this day together by having one shared service which was passed around the churches as each year went by. It just so happened that it was our turn that particular year, and so I raised it at the PCC to see if perhaps we could do something a little different! Everyone was keen, and I remember that the lady who was the treasurer at that time becoming really excited.

We abandoned our little church for the service and instead celebrated the Eucharist in the Primary School nearby, we had a really relaxed friendly evening service with over a 120 in attendance and we had the pleasure of listening to the Archdeacon of Durham as he addressed us on the day. Following the service we all processed outside into the school playing field and together we released helium filled balloons with messages attached seeking to look up, but also to share the glory of the Ascension with others.

We then headed off to the village hall for refreshments, and they really were truly triumphant! The treasurer had insisted that if we were going to do this we would do it well! There was a choice of wine or soft drinks to enter, followed by canapes with caviar, prawns, and smoked salmon!

A feast of glorious food was then presented with dishes being prepared from all around the globe! A sheer delight to the senses and a glorious way to complete our evening! Everyone had such a wonderful time that the memory is still as vivid today as it has always been.

The second occasion that sprang to mind was a pilgrimage the deanery organised to Walsingham! A full coach load of happy pilgrims set off on a glorious summer’s day to spend the day at the shrine of “Our Lady”. Following the procession and a very traditional Eucharist we were all free to wander around the shrine and we were drawn to a particular window! Only a tiny window and all that you could see were a few fluffy clouds and a pair of feet!

Clearly we were looking up and the window was serving to remind us of how Jesus was symbolically taken from us! But oh how we laughed!

It was one of those moments when through simplicity and poetic licence we were able to glimpse something beyond what we could see!

Looking ahead, this it seems is a time where we as the Church need to look beyond the obvious and seek the mysterious. A time to do things differently and yet also a time to stay true to the traditions of the past which have always been there for us.

Ascension is a time to celebrate with Jesus, and to give thanks, that as he symbolically leaves us to return to the heights of heaven, the Holy Spirit of God binds us together with him eternally!

So let us look back and delight, and look forward with eager expectation, that the Church like Jesus, will be once again lifted up in glory, and that we, will once again celebrate together and give thanks to God in and through the joy of sharing our lives with Jesus who is Risen, Ascended and Glorified.  

Hymn: Hail the day that sees him rise.

Sermon

Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said!!

These few words mark the beginning of the chapter of John’s Gospel from which comes the gospel message for today, for quite some time Jesus has been preparing his disciples for his departure; in Chapter 13 Jesus knew that his hour had come and from that moment on he changed the direction of his teaching. Now it was imperative that his disciples were fully prepared for everything which was to come, prepared not only for disappointment, disarray and fear and trembling but also prepared to pick up the baton from Jesus and to carry it with confidence in the public sphere.

When we think on the final discourses we are often minded to wonder what the disciples really made of them, why was Jesus telling them these things and why was there a sense of him leaving them; what must have been going through their minds, no wonder at times they were confused and uncertain and yet every prediction of departure, every hint of Jesus returning to the Father is grounded especially in the Gospel of John by the certainty that departure does not mean separation.

What do I mean by departure having nothing to do with separation?

In the eyes of faith, death itself, no matter how tragic it may seem and how much pain and loss is felt by those left behind has through Jesus been changed into victory.

In the joy of human relationship we have often lived a long time with a person, a partner, a parent or a child, throughout the time that was given to us by God whether it be long or short a bond of love of fellowship and a sharing of the most intimate parts of our very being will have been shared with that other significant person. I have often heard that bereavement is rather like amputation, there is something which was so much an intrinsic part of who and what we were which has now through death been taken away from us.

And this is so much with us all as we go through these difficult times, conscious every day of the updates which remind us of the tragic loss of so many loved ones.

Death is death an ending of a natural course of events, it is the one thing in life which awaits us all and when it comes to those who are close it brings the pain of departure but it does not bring separation. There is something which carries on, where and in what way is a mystery to us, but we can at times hear past loved ones speak to us, we can sense their presence, and feel their energy burning inside our hearts through our remembrance of them.

It is this intangible evidence of something beyond and yet something ever present which helps us to listen to Jesus more closely and with greater attention as he prepares us for all that lies ahead. Jesus looked up to heaven and said:

“Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,” the opening words of Christ’s high priestly prayer which reminds us of what he has done for us, why he came to be amongst us and what he promises us after he departs.

This morning’s text picks up the prayer after Jesus commends his disciples to his Father. But he does not just pray for them it is here that Jesus opens his heart and extends his prayer of fellowship to all who put their faith in him. As such it is a prayer which commends every one of us to the Father. Think on how significant that really is, for here we have a prayer to God from the Holy Son of God commending his followers, the holy chosen children of God to their Father. Children is the right phrase for us who follow Jesus, we follow with a thirst for knowledge, we understand so little and yet Jesus offers us more and more every time we look into his eyes for guidance and direction. Eyes which are ever present as we look into the eyes of one another in Christian love.

Departure but not separation,  Jesus goes on to say those immortal words “ Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Jesus may be preparing his disciples for his departure but he is never going to truly leave them alone. Yes he will return to the Father but Jesus promises all who follow him a life which transcends all that we know and understand, a life which is not however some distant hope not something to long for in the future but something in which we engage in as we continue to live out our lives today.

Jesus is within us and we are within him and in so being we are within and part of the unity the divine unity of almighty God. We need not look up into the skies to see a glimpse of heaven for it is within us and around us constantly in and through the fellowship of Christ into which we have been called by faith.

Jesus offers this amazing prayer for us just before he heads off into the Garden of Gethsemane, a place in which he just like us can pour out his soul to his Father. A place of tears, of pain and anguish yes, a place very much like the place so many find ourselves in today, but also a place where the true glory of God resides in our presence. Jesus by his life and death reveals the glory of God to every one of us, a glory which does not rest on transcendent power, judgement and control but a glory which is made manifest through weakness, humility and love.

Yet just as departure is not the same as separation, weakness, humility and love are not different from transcendence, judgement and control. They are inexplicably entwined together into what makes the Godhead so unique and yet so ordinary. God is love and in the perfected love of Jesus revealed to the world God is made known in a personal and intimate way. He does not lose his majesty but rather that majesty is revealed in its true beauty, and just as the Father shares who and what he is with Jesus so Jesus shares that with us. He promises a gift and the gift will come to us from on high a gift so powerful that once it rests upon us then our eyes will be opened and we shall truly see the glory of God.

“Father, the hour has come, Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.”

Through his life, death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus glorifies the Father, in so doing Jesus becomes sovereign over all mankind to give eternal life to all who have been given to him.

And this is eternal life, to know you the only true God and Jesus whom you have sent.

Let us rejoice as the children of God that through our belief in him through the person of Jesus Christ we know that we are never alone, never isolated and never deserted. There will be departures in our lives as the tragic events surrounding us have so clearly reminded us, but in Christ Jesus there will never be any separation.

I close with the words of comfort from Romans Chapter 8:

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Amen.

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations. Use these headings for your silent prayers to God or use words and address them to Him who hears every word we utter.

For the Church as it celebrates Ascension and looks forward to the feast of Pentecost! We pray for the divine Spirit of God to wash over us all and to cleanse us, to restore us and to keep us strong through these difficult days.

We pray that we may find joy in our faith!
Worship with gladness in our hearts!
Share a prayerful moment thinking of one other whom we hold in our hearts and lift up to Jesus our Ascended Lord.

For the NHS with all the pressures and strains still upon it, that they would receive all the protection and supplies they need, that they would experience God’s protection in their work, courage for each day and stamina to care for all those in their care.

For the sick and vulnerable that they would receive the care they need and the support in their hour of weakness. For the lonely in our parishes, that they would know God’s presence in their solitude and receive a friendly call from the volunteers in our midst.

For those in authority charged with leading the fight against the virus: for our Prime Minister and his Ministers, for Scientists working on vaccines and other means of fighting the infection.

For our loved ones, who we miss so much, that we would find ways of staying in touch regularly and that You would be with them as You are with us.

And 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.

Hymn: Jesus shall reign where’er the sun.

Blessing:

God the Father,
Who has given to his Son the name above every name,
Strengthen you to proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord.
God the Son,
Who is our great high priest passed into the heavens,
Plead for you at the right hand of the Father.
God the Holy Spirit,
Who pours out his abundant gifts upon the Church,
Make you faithful servants of Christ our King.
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Reverend Clive and Carolyne’s bike ride on 20th May 2020

Reverend Clive and  Carolyne cycled from Sibsey Church, to Frithville, then to Langrick, then to Brothertoft and finally to Holland Fen, before the heat got to them and they headed back to base.

Morning Worship for 17th May 2020

As you begin this act of worship in your own home remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with you in worship. If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the hymns and join in the singing. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting:

Out of love comes celebration
And God’s kingdom is among us.
Where peace is the means of making us one,
Where truth does not stumble and justice is done.
Out of change comes possibility
And God’s new creation is begun.

Collect for the day:

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.

Our Declaration of faith

Bless to us, O God,
Our souls that come from on high.
Bless to us O God,
Our bodies that are of earth.
Bless to us O God,
Each thing our eyes see.
Bless to us O God,
Each sound our ears hear.
Bless to us O God,
Each odour that goes to our nostrils.
Bless to us O God,
Each taste that goes to our lips,
Each note that goes to our song,
Each ray that guides our way.
(The Iona Community Worship Book.)

Hymn: Come down O love divine.

Readings: Acts 17: 22-31, 1 Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21.

Reflection:

Living in the kingdom of God’s Son!

These few words from the collect are what we should ponder on today. What does the kingdom truly mean to us and have we thought through how it impacts upon us? I can remember many parishes ago giving a sermon on the kingdom of God, when the service was over the church organist came over to me and said, Clive I did not understand a single word of that!

What do you mean when you speak about the kingdom and can you explain it to me in layman’s terms without the theology?

So I smiled and simply replied with this!

The kingdom of God is in our midst, Jesus opened the door to entering into it, and as long as we follow him, we both live within it as well as long to have its mysteries fully opened to us to enjoy in all its fullness.

The kingdom is not something far off, it is not a heaven that awaits us after this life. This life is lived within the reality of heaven. Heaven is in our midst, heaven and the kingdom are one and the same. By living our life with Jesus we are welcomed into it and we behold its glory.

Still confused?

Then think about a journey into nature. Now that we are free to exercise more fully, take a little extra time as you walk, or run or cycle! You start your journey from where you are and every step you take opens up a greater awareness of everything around you. I have been taking my dogs out every day mainly taking them the same way. But has my journey been the same? No it is always different. I meet different people out with their dogs, sometimes I wave to some neighbours if they are out and about, sometimes that is just a wave sometimes it’s a conversation. A few days ago it was a glorious morning and I saw a huge hare bounding across the field and spotted in one of the dykes a female mallard with eleven beautiful ducklings in tow!

Every day reveals something different about the journey we take and the journey of faith is no different. As we open our hearts to Jesus so much is opened up to us, we see people differently, we respond to them differently, God reveals a little more of his grace to us daily and we grow ever closer to him as our journey both in life and death continues. The kingdom is real, the kingdom is amongst us, the kingdom awaits us to respond to it fully and when we do we will enter it fully, and continue to discover aspects of it until that day when we shall in the words of 1 Corinthians: 13: v12 enter into it fully (“for now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”)

So open your eyes of faith, soak up the beauty of the kingdom of God and allow each day to reveal a little more of God’s glory as we live and breathe within the power of the resurrected Jesus. He who opened up for us the reality of the Kingdom and welcomed us into it with humble sacrifice and grace.  

Hymn: Breathe on me breath of God.

Sermon:

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of your life is, have you ever pondered on the nature of the universe and the point of creation. Why we are here and why is the world the way it is?

Deep questions which most of us will at some point in our lives have already considered. For those of us who follow Jesus we find an answer to those questions in him and through him, but just as he for us provides credible answers, so too do others find their answers elsewhere.

In our lives today often such key questions have been placed to the fore-front of our minds, Jesus serves to set them at rest within us unless we become troubled or challenged to readdress them and at times such as these our faith can be strongly put to the test.

One of the key times for many people when considering the meaning of life comes at the point where they are seeking answers where nothing is taken for granted.

Later teens and university life  is often the point in a young person’s life which forms a considerable amount of who and what they will carry with them in later life in relation to those key questions, and in the reading from acts Paul sees himself speaking to a group of people in a university city.

Athens at the point of Paul’s visit was not a politically powerful place, it was however recognised as the seat of academia, the Oxford and Cambridge of our day. Like many places which thrive on academic excellence life can become rather rarefied and all things become open to speculation and constant re-evaluation. It is within this kind of environment in which we find Paul seeking to promote the faith of Christ.

Why is Paul there and what is his purpose?

Is he there to convert and prosyletise the Athenians if so he did not do that well, of all the places where Paul sought to spread the gospel of Christ Athens remains the only place where his words brought no real condemnation or persecution, and for the record where his teaching actually bore very little fruit. Why is this i asked myself, where did he go wrong how can he be so effective elsewhere and yet not there?

A dilemma for us to ponder on when we think of our own nation and the society in which we live today.

Athens was renowned for its openness of debate its constant searching for something new and different, it was a fashion house of idea and speculation but not a place of great depth and truth. It was in this kind of atmosphere that Paul finds himself being considered the purveyor of something new, something worth listening to at least for a while

This is where Paul then strives to meet the Athenians where they are, in their own backyard as it were. He has used this particular approach many times in the past, he placed himself alongside the Jews in Antioch by expressing the reality of Christ as being a part of God’s purpose in their history, to the ill-informed pagans in Lystra he spoke of Christ as being that of God which was revealed in nature, and here in Athens he himself speaks to the cultured Athenians through the medium of philosophy.  In his address to the Athenians Paul seeks to represent the Christian religion of revelation as the perfected fulfilment of the religion of reason. His address is heard and he gains a few converts, the others in those dying words of all philosophical debate respond by saying we shall hear more of this another time. Let us come back tomorrow and discuss this some more.

How St Paul must have wept, where was the passion where was the depth, where was the longing for justice and truth, all calmly pushed to one side in favour of sensible ordered philosophical discussion which in the end brought forth virtually no result at all.

Despite his allusions to the reality of God as creator, the depth of his argument in relation to the times and boundaries of life as set by God, and even when alluding to their own distinguished poets and writers which speak of humanity as the offspring of God, there is still no passioned response still no grasping and searching for the truth which will set them free.

Paul speaks clearly of the power of the resurrected Jesus and the forth coming day of judgement but his words fall on the infertile soil of measured reason,  

Where then is the challenge to our questioning today on those key issues of life with which we began, where do people look to find those answers today. How are we as Christian apologetics in today’s world to seek to encourage others to open up their hearts and not just their minds to the possibility of truth revealed in Jesus Christ?

The church in mission seeks to say that we have to get out there, we have to be with people where they are at and be in tune with what makes them tick in order for our message to be heard. Yet i wonder at times, just how effective this really is. Of course we can no longer simply expect people to come to us we must go to them and yet in so doing are we not becoming like St Paul, preaching to those whom we know will only partly listen and soon disregard the words which they hear when the next novelty comes along which they find attractive and which meets their ever changing demands and expectations.

It seems that our societies approach to that which carries within it eternal truth is rather like the seed of a powerful parable which although springs up when it hears the word of god is soon choked by weeds or burnt up and allowed to die in the infertile soil of reason.

Paul had very little effect in Athens and in many ways we have very little effect in our own universities, in our own cities and within the context of our own society, and I wonder whether we should pay a little bit more notice to Paul in Athens and whether instead of trying to be everything to all people we should simply concentrate more on being like Christ.

Debates will come and go philosophies will change but only the truth in Jesus as the saviour of the world will live on into the future which matters. The future which leads us ever forward into the loving embrace of almighty god. Jesus calls us to go forth into the world and Paul in so doing in many places and in many ways effectively brings the gospel of Christ alive to others. And i think that is the key for us today, not simply to seek to be alongside others and meet them where they are but to be alongside them not like them but different, dynamic and filled with the presence of god as revealed to us in Jesus.

Surely that is true mission not to engage in meaningless debates which lead us nowhere, but to engage in the reality of life in Christ, to live the gospel and not just to preach it, for it is only through living out the faith of Christ every day of our lives wherever we may be, however different it will make us and however unpopular in the eyes of the world we may become that we will truly be engaging in mission; and therefore truly believe and bring others to believe that in Jesus all the answers to eternal questions are met.

Thanks be to God.  

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations. Use these headings for your silent prayers to God or use words and address them to Him who hears every word we utter.

For the relaxation of the lock down, that people may keep safe as they return to work, that people will be responsible as they exercise more widely, that we may all seek to ensure that the changes which are still upon us help us to stay united together, to remain alert and continue to care for those around us.

For the NHS with all the pressures and strains still upon it, that they would receive all the protection and supplies they need, that they would experience God’s protection in their work, courage for each day and stamina to care for all those in their care.

For the sick and vulnerable that they would receive the care they need and the support in their hour of weakness. For the lonely in our parishes, that they would know God’s presence in their solitude and receive a friendly call from the volunteers in our midst.

For those in authority charged with leading the fight against the virus: for our Prime Minister and his Ministers, for Scientists working on vaccines and other means of fighting the infection.

For our loved ones, who we miss so much, that we would find ways of staying in touch regularly and that You would be with them as You are with us.

And 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.

Hymn: O for a thousand tongues to sing.

Blessing:

May the God who shakes heaven and earth,
Whom death could not contain,
Who lives to disturb and heal us,
Bless you with power to go forth
And proclaim the gospel.
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Morning Worship for 10th May 2020

As you begin this act of worship in your own home remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with you in worship. If you have you-tube then please find an appropriate version of the hymns and join in the singing. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting:

Heaviness may endure for a night:
But joy comes in the morning.
God has been our refuge and our strength:
A present help in trouble.

For VE Day:

Dear friends, at this time we commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, when the sounds of war fell silent on this continent.

We also become conscious of our need for God’s forgiveness for the sin and the desire to dominate others that leads to conflict between people, and war between nations.

And as we remember the many soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women who gave their lives restraining evil and opposing tyranny, so we also give thanks for the years of peace that the nations of Europe have enjoyed since the Second World War.  

Collect for the Day:

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.

Our Declaration of faith

How awesome are the words of God
And how victorious is his promise to us,
That through all the trials of life he will always be with us.
I saw a ladder which rested on the ground
With its top reaching to heaven,
And the angels of God were going up and down it.
This is none other than the house of God,
And this is the gateway to heaven.
 
You will see greater things than this.
You will see heaven wide open,
And God’s angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
 
You are the temple of the living God,
And the Spirit of God dwells in you.
The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple.
This is none other than the house of God,
And this is the gateway of heaven.

Hymn: Praise my soul the king of heaven.

Readings: Acts 7: 55-60, 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14.

Reflection:

We amidst the current difficulties of this time are asked to reflect on the commemoration of VE Day now 75 years past. Images of sheer joy and excitement are displayed in the footage available to us of the past, recognising all the celebrations which took part rejoicing that finally the years of war were over and the nations of Europe were once again at peace with one another.

Having parties and special celebrations were clearly all being planned for this time of commemoration but sadly those have had to at least in part be put on hold. We cannot engage with one another in the same way and in many respects we are back into a time of conflict, albeit with an invisible enemy.

And yet we can still in some small ways pay tribute to both the sacrifices made by others alongside engaging in the sheer joy experienced by people when troubled times are over and life can be renewed. We wait patiently at this time for things to improve, for infection rates to continue to decline, and for an eventual easing of the restrictions currently placed upon us. Patience is the key word at this time, just as so many patiently endured many years of war and the cessation of normal life until they could gather together to rejoice. So too must we wait with patience, for us it has only been a few months, but in reality our lives will inevitably be changed for a long time to come. Pausing however to remember victory over past struggles is I feel a God given moment through which despite our current fears and anxieties we can look to the future with a joyful disposition. It lifts the spirits of humanity to raise a smile and to give thanks whenever troubles are put behind us and we are once again free to engage with all the blessings that life can bring.

For some there will of course be much sadness in their hearts for the loss of loved ones amongst us, and the pain of separation from loved ones will still be sharply felt. Though a smile and a joyful moment shared with another can lift the heaviness of loss and bring forth joy from within.

In commemorating VE Day we recognise that through solidarity and resolve we can come through great trials and tribulations. So as we pause to remember the celebrations of the past, let our own hearts celebrate the strength and endurance of humanity, which with God’s help can always overcome darkness with light, and sadness with joy.

Heaviness may endure for a night:

But joy comes in the morning.

God has been our refuge and our strength:

A present help in time of trouble. 

Hymn: Now thank we all our God.

Sermon

Betrayal and love

Isn’t it odd that these two words which are in many ways direct opposites often find themselves entwined together. Love is the gift of God to his people and we are called to recognize that and to see it perfected before us in and through Jesus.  We are called as his followers to take seriously the commandment to love which is placed before us at this crucial point in the gospel of John. Judas has been incredibly close to Jesus, and had become one of the inner circle, one of those who was to share in the final fellowship meal Jesus was to have with his closest friends.  But love in this case had turned sour, it had failed to reach up to expectations and was ultimately to be betrayed with dire consequences for all concerned.

Betrayal is all the harder to accept when it comes from someone close. Sadly we hear today of so many betrayals between those whom we would have expected to have been the least likely to have been the perpetrator. People who are close to us and know us very well are themselves always therefore able to arm themselves with the knowledge of what they know of another and to use it for their own advantage. This is what we know as betrayal.

To take something precious and to despoil it either for personal gain or because of differences of opinion is both therefore a betrayal to the individual and a betrayal of the message of Jesus. Jesus awaiting Judas to return has shared with his Disciples a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  But how do we fulfill that call from Jesus and how do others recognize it within us.

The key is that love itself is the greatest ambassador of the Christian faith. Jesus knows this and so calls us to seek to live out our lives filled with it, and to express it to one another. Others will know that we are followers of Jesus because they will see us living out the reality of selfless love as we move forward together as the Christian community in this place.

Love of course is not easy, Jesus never said it would be it is something which needs to be worked at. We may fall in love with someone and feel that relationship to be truly amazing, and if that love is sure and deep then it will stand firm no matter what may be thrown against it. Yet that is not always the reality of personal love, often within it there are betrayals sometimes these are so brutal that love itself is extinguished and dies. Yet the propensity of the love of Jesus is that despite betrayal love can continue to grow and to flourish.

Jesus knew he was about to be betrayed by one who had loved him, and so it came to pass, but the depth of the love within the Lord Jesus was so deep and full that he continued to love not only his betrayer but all who would heap insult pain and death upon him.

For us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus this is the love we are called to exercise it is not so much a personal expression of an intimate love with another, but rather a love which is borne out of conviction. Jesus loved and continues to love us all, even when we get things completely mixed up and allow bitterness and regret, disappointment and unfulfilled expectations to lead us away into the darker recesses of betrayal.

We are always of course prone to failure, and the sadness is that often we dwell on this which means that we turn in upon ourselves and remove love from within.

When we remove that inner love we find ourselves unable to love others and this is where betrayal creeps in. The devil is always seeking the opportunity to drive us away from loving one another as when we do, we not only betray them but we also betray Jesus himself.

We are all entitled to our opinions and we are also entitled to seek to encourage others to listen and respond to them, but we must do so within the spirit of a loving acceptance of one another. To love is our duty before God, we may of course dislike and disagree, but to move forward together in love is the key to being a Christian and allowing others to see that within us.  

Jesus continues in his eternal love for us, he calls us to live within that love and to express it to one another. Remember those immortal words from St. Paul ‘love is patient and kind. Love envies no one, is never boastful, never conceited, never rude; love is never selfish, never quick to take offence. Love keeps no score of wrongs, takes no pleasure in the sins of others, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face, there is no limit to its faith, its hope, or its endurance.  

Love conquers all things and we see this constantly through the faith we have in Jesus. So let us take to heart the message of the gospel, let us renew ourselves in our commitment not to dwell on negatives but always to be positive in the Lord Jesus. Let us put love before expectation and desire, and let that love be genuine, for when we fail to love one another we fail to love the Lord Jesus, whose love for us never falters, Jesus may well have been betrayed but he has never or ever will betray us. Because his love for us is constant and true. We cannot always be like Jesus but we should always seek to be, holding him before us as the exemplar of the faith which we profess in his name.

So do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. In giving you a new commandment, I encourage you to love one another just as I have loved you, for by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Let this commandment rest on our hearts as we seek to move forward as the Christian community in this place, holding secure a loving and genuine trust of one another within the eternal love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations. Use these headings for your silent prayers to God or use words and address them to Him who hears every word we utter.

For those who served and died in World War II.
For those who serve today.
For the peace of the world.
For the people of the world, that they through a variety of different communication methods may truly be able to share special moments of remembrance and thanksgiving with each other as well as being able to offer up their supplications to you through the dark days presently upon us.

For the NHS with all the pressures and strains upon it, that they would receive all the protection and supplies they need, that they would experience God’s protection in their work, courage for each day and stamina to care for all those in their care.

For the sick and vulnerable that they would receive the care they need and the support in their hour of weakness. For the lonely in our parishes, that they would know God’s presence in their solitude and receive a friendly call from the volunteers in our midst.

For those in authority charged with leading the fight against the virus: for our Prime Minister and his Ministers, for Scientists working on vaccines and other means of fighting the infection.

For key workers who are working to keep our country going, for health, strength and determination to play their part.

For our loved ones, who we miss so much, that we would find ways of staying in touch regularly and that You would be with them as You are with us.

And 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.

Hymn: Guide me, O thou great Redeemer.

Blessing:

God grant to the living, grace; to the departed, rest;
To the Church, the Queen, the commonwealth,
And all people, peace and concord;
And to us and all his servants, life everlasting;
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, come down upon you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Reverend Clive and Carolyne’s tribute to VE-Day.

Hi all


We created an afternoon tea scene amongst our bunting with tea and cake accompanied with my Major’s cap and staff cane, lilacs in a vase with the red white and blue balloons adorning the music stand with the words we’ll meet again upon it. We had fun creating it and it certainly seemed to catch the eye of passers by.  We hope you all had a memorable day. God Bless

Clive and Carolyne