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Sacramental Reflection: Lent 2021

A Sacrament is an outer and visible sign of the inner invisible grace of God. Although there are seven sacraments within the Catholic Church, namely: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, marriage and holy orders; only two of them are recognised as greater sacraments of the Church of England, those being baptism and the Eucharist. That is because our reformed faith concentrates upon grace being evident in Holy Scripture, and only the two greater sacraments are actually dominical sacraments, instructions from our Lord Jesus Christ as given to us by the New Testament.

Reflecting on Sacramental Grace is therefore both a personal challenge as well as a prayerful liturgical response. The personal challenge of our baptism into the faith is quite simply a constant call upon all of Christ’s followers to re-evaluate their lives by seeking to remain true to the central elements of the faith which we profess. That challenge is of course a daily challenge to us, but it is also a challenge which we are reminded of through liturgy and by the initiation of others. Every time we attend a baptism of a new convert we are reminded of our own baptism, and the church frequently calls us to renew our baptismal promises in church as a means through which we can heighten their importance to us as personal followers of Jesus.

This element of prayerful activity can of course be extended to that of the second of the greater Sacraments, that of the Eucharist. We frequently engage in Eucharistic worship but an area of devotion often over looked is the veneration of the sacrament of our Lord’s body. In the Eucharist the priest symbolically draws down the power of the Holy Spirit and through the prayer of consecration the bread of the Eucharist becomes an outer and visible sign of the grace of God in our midst.

Praying before the reserved sacrament is therefore a really powerful medium of engagement with God through a visible sign of his grace. There are many different approaches to this prayerful activity.

Firstly there is the Service of Benediction, where the consecrated bread is taken either in procession through the faithful gathered together or through the faithful travelling up to venerate it. Tabernacles also hold the consecrated bread and these are vessels which form the focus of prayerful attention.

When the consecrated bread is carried in procession it is placed within a monstrance, the priest who carries it will wear a special robe called a Humeral Veil draped across their shoulders often with pockets at the ends so that human hands do not touch that which is divine.

Praying before the reserved sacrament held within a monstrance is a powerful way of focussing the mind on Jesus Christ. Prayerful engagement with the divine presence in a visible way is often easier for us to engage with, because we often find a visible sign of grace more approachable than the divine presence itself.

In kneeling before the symbol of Christ’s sacrificial offering we are reminded of the cost of our faith. We are transported to the foot of the cross and we share in the passion and the agony of our Saviour. In so doing we once again become Christ-like for each time we identify ourselves with him in prayer we become recipients of God’s grace.

The cross is the central element of our faith, which is why throughout Lent the cross holds a prominent place before us in Church. Through the depth of prayer made available to us by the sacramental presence of Jesus, we refocus our lives and we rejoice in following the Lord’s command in Matthew 16: 24. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Through the veneration of the Sacrament of grace, allow yourselves this Lent to be drawn closer to the Lord on the cross of our redemption.

Reverend Clive

Morning Worship for 21st February 2021

As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing on-line. 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:

Jesus told his disciples, if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Once we were far off, but now in union with Christ Jesus we have been brought near through the shedding of Christ’s blood, for he is our peace.

Blessed are you, God of compassion and mercy, to you be praise and glory for ever! In the darkness of our sin, your light breaks forth like the dawn and your healing springs up for deliverance. As we rejoice in the gift of your saving help, sustain us with your bountiful Spirit and open our lips to sing your praise, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Blessed be God for ever.

Collect of the day:

Almighty Father,
Whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, 
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: 
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save;
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

The preaching of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,
but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God.
To those who are called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the folly of God is wiser than human wisdom,
And the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you; because by your holy cross,
You have redeemed the world.

Hymn: Blest are the pure in heart.

Readings: Genesis 9: 8-17, 1 Peter 3: 18-end.

Hymn: Songs of thankfulness and praiseIn

Gospel Reading: Mark 1: 9-15.

Reflection:

Here we are once again beginning to celebrate the season of Lent and we have Marks rendering of the temptations of Jesus to look at with refreshed eyes. We shall be looking at the variety of the temptations set before Jesus whilst he was in the wilderness but note how these details are missing from Mark, they are only to be found in Matthew and Luke’s gospels. We will return to that later!

Temptations are of course all around us today in one form or another and Lent is a time when we seek to think these through, ask God for strength to preserve ourselves from them and in some way seek to address them both for ourselves personally in the way in which we live out our lives but also corporately in the way in which the world and its approach can be considered through the eyes of the Christian Faith.

Firstly then let’s take the temptations as they are delivered to Jesus in the accounts from Matthew and Luke, look at his response and then look at our own.

At this crucial point in the Lord’s ministry the Devil strikes within the very heart of Jesus, he can see that there is some doubt some uncertainty and indeed some trepidation in the heart of Jesus as he begins to consider how best to begin his public ministry. Let’s face it if you or I were in Jesus’ place I think we would be feeling exactly the same, we have a commission before us we have made a public declaration of trust before God through a very public baptism, we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit which now rests within us and now we need time to think and prepare for that which lies ahead.

Whenever we find ourselves in demanding situations we would do well to ponder on the approach of Jesus. He listens to the first temptation placed before him a simple enough request for the Son of God, turn these stones into bread, ease your hunger and prove to yourself that you have the power within you to do anything you want,

Wow what an opportunity, alone in the desert hungry for food, unsure and restless about the future, how tempting it must have been to have been weak and simply to use his divine power to put all at ease. But for Jesus this is a definite no!! His response however is not just simply dismissive it is really quite deep and profound. One does not live by bread alone, very true in all sorts of ways for bread can only keep us alive in this mortal life and by itself it is insufficient, but by placing our trust in every word which comes forth from the mouth of God true life can be attained. Here Jesus is declaring that the real power he has is not to merely change a stone into a loaf of bread but that within him as the very word of God incarnate there is all that we need to find eternal sustenance. Jesus needs nothing else but that which is within himself to sustain him and so the Devil rethinks his strategy.

Thinking this through in our own lives today we know that the Lord knows what we really need in this life and he willingly provides it but sin gets in the way of God’s provision. Thinking about the need for nourishment we in our society often place our desire for food over and above our desire to know the Lord, yet in many parts of the world this is not the case, many Christians who barely have enough to eat to keep them healthy are eager to hear the word of God and will place it as the most important thing in their lives. Why do we in the West and in an ever growing secular society find it so hard to search for the Word of God rather than to give way weakly to the very first of the Devils temptations?

Temptation number two picks up the same thread as the first,

because Jesus has within him the strength and purpose to avoid the temptation of obtaining immediate ease for himself the Devil then invites him publicly to show how protected by God he is and to thus reveal himself to others.

Here the temptation is more about trust than about immediate ease Jesus responds by asserting that it is sinful to test God. If we have trust and confidence in his provision for us we do not need to continually seek proof for that trust. In many ways this is the temptation to which so many in the world succumb, many Christians have lived lives of relative ease and comfort they have sailed through life with loads of privileges and opportunities and they are happy to say thank you to God, but as soon as something goes badly wrong their faith in God is immediately tested, their proof is dependent on the rewards they receive in life but of course faith in God is not about the success and comfort of this life but all about our life with God. Those like Jesus who cast away this temptation face all that comes upon them with confidence that God will give them the strength they need to grow through every experience no matter how painful or hurtful it may be.

Life is a gift to us from God and whatever comes upon us is also a gift, if we use it well for the sake of the kingdom.

Finally we see Jesus placed strategically and then comes the most dramatic temptation of all, you can have power and dominion over the whole of the world if you only fall down and worship me. For us this temptation is the hardest of all to ignore. So many people in the history of our world have sought such power and dominance and in their quest for power have bowed down and worshipped that which we know to be evil and corrupting. Every one of us has this temptation before us and it is such a struggle to ignore it. Power and control bring huge rewards in this life, not only does it tend to make us wealthy and able to engage with every opportunity but it also brings us status , success value and as such builds up our own self-esteem and our own self- importance and we cling to this desperately in order to prove ourselves to others. But what does Jesus do, he simply casts it all away, away with you Satan!! Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.

Service to God is costly as Jesus was to discover!! But he never wavered from his destiny and call. This lesson for us is the hardest one to bear, we live in a world were power and authority bring so much reward in this life that we are often corrupted by it. Service and humility are key virtues to being Christian, if we forget that then we are lost. Weakness is often our strongest strength if we know when to allow ourselves to be humbled and when not to be. At times we need to be strong, to be firm for the sake of the Kingdom but when we allow that to become personal then we fall into temptation.

True strength lies therefore in having a thirst for the Word of God, in placing our trust and confidence in him and not just in ourselves, and finally to acknowledge that to worship God is to serve both him and others. It is in having this strength, in being waited on spiritually by the angels of God that Marks account really brings to the fore. The details of the temptations may be missing but the end result is the same. Jesus is not left weak by his period in the wilderness rather he is renewed, restored and made ready to go forth from the wilderness and to proclaim the good news to others.

May we this Lent learn the lessons of service, humility and obedience and in the strength of Jesus repent and believe in the good news.

Thanks be to God

Amen.

Hymn: O for a closer walk with God.

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

We pray to the Lord for courage to give up other things and to give ourselves to him this Lent.

Give your Church the courage to give up her preoccupation with herself and to give more time to your mission in the world. We pray for mission opportunities to emerge in our midst and so be directed by your good grace to respond to them with renewed energy and faith filled vigour. 

May the blood and water flowing from the side of Jesus bring forgiveness to your people and help us to face the cost of proclaiming salvation.

Lord, meet us in the silence, and give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give your world the courage to give up war, bitterness and hatred and to seek peace. We pray for the nations of the world that they may come together through our present difficulties and not be divided from one another through selfishness and greed. May the shoulders of the risen Jesus, once scourged by soldiers, bear the burden of political and military conflict in our world.

Lord, meet us in the silence, give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up quarrels, strife and jealousy in our families, neighbourhoods and communities. We pray for peaceful and harmonious lives filled with love, dignity and respect for all. May the presence of the risen Jesus, his body once broken and now made whole, bring peace and direction as we live with one another.

Lord, meet us in the silence, give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up our selfishness as we live for others, and to give time, care and comfort to the sick. We pray for all suffering at this time with the effects of the Coronavirus. For all in hospital and in intensive care. We pray for the NHS and for all who are going the extra mile at this time. May the wounded hands of Jesus bring his healing touch, and the light of his presence fill their rooms. 

Lord meet us in the silence, give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up our fear of death and to rejoice with those who have died in faith. May the feet of the risen Lord Jesus, once nailed to the cross, walk alongside the dying and bereaved in their agony, and walk with us and all your Church through death to the gate of glory.

Lord, meet us in the silence, give us strength and hear our prayer, here and in eternity. Amen.

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: Forty days and forty nights.

A Song of the New Creation:

I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

I am the Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, whom I have chosen. Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea,
A path in the mighty waters,
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I make all things new,
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert,
To give drink to my chosen people,
The people whom I formed for myself, that they might declare my praise.

 I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Blessing:

The Lord bless us, and preserve us from all evil,
And keep us in eternal life.
May Christ, the Son of God, gladden our hearts
With the good news of his kingdom.
May God, our Redeemer show us compassion and love. 

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

An Order For The Beginning of Lent – Ash Wednesday Service.

The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you will not despise.

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

and also with you.

Introduction to Lent

Brothers and Sisters in Christ: since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. It became the custom of the Church to prepare for this by a season of penitence and fasting. At first this season of Lent was observed by those who were preparing for Baptism at Easter and by those who were to be restored to the Church’s fellowship from which they had been separated through sin. In course of time the Church came to recognise that, by a careful keeping of these days, all Christians might take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord.

Lord, we have sinned against you:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your mercy and love.
and grant us your salvation.

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

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God
You hate nothing that you have made
And forgive the sins of all those who are penitent.
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that, lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
we may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect forgiveness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Now place a Stone you have selected in your hand.)

Reading: Joel: 2: 12-17 (Followed by silent reflection holding stone.)

Reading: 2 Corinthians 5: 20 – 6:10

(After a period of silent reflection place stone on to a surface where you can see it and be reminded of it during Lent.)

Contemporised Gospel:

We are wayfarers, following roads to the ends of the earth,
pilgrims on our way to the end of the age.
Behold, I am with you to the end of the age.

We are travellers on the road to freedom, a community of grace with good news for all we meet.
Behold, I am with you to the end of the age.

We’ll travel lightly, travel together, learn as we go; we are disciples, our mission is love, the journey is long.
Behold, I am with you to the end of the age.

We travel with authority fearful of none; we are sent, opponents of evil, heralds of hope.
Behold, I am with you to the end of the age.

We’ll travel with humility, no task is too small;
We are servants, the cross is our compass, love is our sign.
Behold, I am with you to the end of the age.

When the way is uncertain, shadows are sinister, and dangers threaten, we’ll not be afraid, but take heart.
Behold, I am with you to the end of the age.

(Matthew 10 Luke 10:1-2).

The Imposition of Ashes:

As a sign of the spirit of penitence with which we shall keep this season of preparation for Easter, I invite you to place on your head ash prepared by yourselves, or to make the sign of the cross on your forehead, as a symbol of our salvation.

Blessed is the man who meditates day and night on the law of the Lord: he will yield fruit in due season.

Lord our God, grant us grace to desire you with our whole heart; that so desiring, we may seek and find you; and so finding, may love you; and so loving, may hate those sins from which you have delivered us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

The Blessing:

Christ give you grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow him; 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 peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen.

An Order for Night Prayer

Compline incorporating the Office of the Northumbria Community

The Lord almighty grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.

Amen.

Our help is in the name of the Lord

who made heaven and earth.

Cuthbert, a shepherd lad looking after his flock on the Lammermuir hills, had an angelic vision coinciding with the death of Aidan which convinced him that he was meant to follow Christ as surely as the beloved founder of Lindisfarne Abbey.

Cuthbert became a monk at Melrose Abbey, under the guidance of Boisil, who was then the prior. Cuthbert succeeded him. Later in his life he became a dearly-loved bishop at Lindisfarne, from where, until his death in 687, he loved to retreat in solitude to pray and fast on the Farne Islands.

A period of silence for reflection on the past day

Most merciful God,
we confess to you,
before the whole company of heaven and one another,
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed
and in what we have failed to do.
Forgive us our sins,
heal us by your Spirit
and raise us to new life in Christ. Amen.
O God, make speed to save us,
All: O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.

The following hymn is sung:

Before the ending of the day,
Creator of the world, we pray
That you, with steadfast love, would keep
Your watch around us while we sleep.

From evil dreams defend our sight,
From fears and terrors of the night;
Tread underfoot our deadly foe
That we no sinful thought may know.

O Father, that we ask be done
Through Jesus Christ, your only Son;
And Holy Spirit, by whose breath
Our souls are raised to life from death.
I will lie down and sleep in peace
for You alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
O God, and Spirit, and Jesu, the Three,
From the crown of my head, O Trinity,
to the soles of my feet mine offering be,
Come I unto Thee, O Jesu, my King –
O Jesus, do Thou be my sheltering.

My dear ones, O God, bless Thou and keep,
in every place where they are.

Psalm 91(amended)
Whoever has chosen to make
the shelter of the Most High their dwelling place
will stay in His over-shadowing.

He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
He is my God, and I am trusting Him.

He will rescue you from the traps laid for your feet,
and save you from the destroying curse.

His faithful promises are your armour.
You need no longer be afraid of any terror by night,
or the death-arrow that flies by day.

The Lord Himself is your refuge;
You have made the Most High your stronghold.

Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold.

How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

I will not lie down tonight with sin,
nor shall sin nor sin’s shadow
lie down with me.

O God of life, this night,
O darken not to me Thy light.
O God, of life, this night,
close not Thy gladness to my sight.
O God of life, this night,
Thy door to me, O shut not tight,
O God of life, this night.

Be it on Thine own beloved arm,
O God of grace, that I in peace shall waken.

Jesus, Son of Mary!
my helper, my encircler.
Jesus, Son of David!
my strength everlasting.
Jesus, Son of Mary!
my helper, my encircler.

The peace of all peace be mine this night
in the name of the Father, and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Scripture Reading:

The servants of the Lamb shall see the face of God, whose name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night: they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever. 

Revelation 22,4,5

Responsory:

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

For you have redeemed me, Lord God of truth.
I commend my spirit.

Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit.
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

The Nunc dimittis (The Song of Simeon) is said.

Save us, O Lord, while waking,
and guard us while sleeping,
that awake we may watch with Christ
and asleep may rest in peace.

Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace:
your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people;
A light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.

Save us, O Lord, while waking,
and guard us while sleeping,
that awake we may watch with Christ
and asleep may rest in peace.

Visit this place, O Lord, we pray,
and drive far from it the snares of the enemy;
may your holy angels dwell with us and guard us in peace,
and may your blessing be always upon us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 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.

In peace we will lie down and sleep;
for you alone, Lord, make us dwell in safety.

Abide with us, Lord Jesus,
for the night is at hand and the day is now past.

As the night watch looks for the morning,
so do we look for you, O Christ.

The Lord bless us and watch over us;
the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us;
the Lord look kindly on us and give us peace.
Amen.

Morning Worship for 14th February 2021

As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing on-line. 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

The God of heaven has made his home on earth,
Christ dwells among us and is one with us.
Highest in all creation, he lives among the least,
He journeys with the rejected and welcomes the weary.
Come now all who thirst and drink the water of life.
Come now all who hunger and be filled with good things.
Come now all who seek and be warmed by the fire of love.

Collect of the day

Almighty Father,
Whose Son was revealed in majesty
Before he suffered death upon the cross:
Give us grace to perceive his glory,
That we may be strengthened to suffer with him
And be changed into his likeness from glory to glory;
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

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and will not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and my song,
And has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
On that day you will say,
Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name;
Make known his deeds among the nations,
Proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing God’s praises, who has triumphed gloriously,
Let this be known in all the world.
Shout and sing for joy, you that dwell in Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.
Isaiah 12: 2-6

Hymn: Christ whose glory fills the skies.

Readings: 2 Kings 2: 1-12, 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6.

Hymn: Let all the world.

Gospel Reading: Mark 9: 2-9.

Reflection

Today we have heard one of the greatest stories in the gospel, the point at which the glory of the divine reality of Christ’s presence amongst us is revealed. I love this story and i use it constantly in baptismal addresses because it opens up for us the reality of gods purpose in sending us his son. It speaks powerfully of the use of symbolism and reminds us that at times even we mere mortals can receive a glimpse of that which is of god.

Looking deeply into the text and its context opens up yet another avenue of grace, that being the creative use of language in order to portray meaning and the positioning of stories for their maximum effect.

For Christians the full understanding of who Jesus was and how we are saved through him is only available to us as a community which lives in a post resurrection condition. And it is the significance of the resurrection to which this story leads us.

The story reveals peter and the disciples as being terrified before this divine revelation unfolding before them so immense was the occasion that they were over whelmed by it, confused and uncertain as to how to respond, hence peters rather foolish response, shall we build 3 dwellings lord, one for you one for Moses and one for Elijah? For why would heavenly beings require an earthly abode?

Many of the stories which we have of Jesus often although depicted as happening in real earthly terms are often stories which speak more about Christian doctrine than they do about historical actuality. And the transfiguration could well be understood in these terms

There is strong support for the view that the transfiguration is in fact another post resurrection appearance of Jesus, a story which has been placed into the context of our lords life in order to reveal the messianic reality of Christ in our midst.

The beauty of this careful use of symbolic language and its purposeful positioning in the text is exemplified by that which precedes it the great confession of faith by peter, here we see Jesus responding positively to his disciples in affirming his messianic calling though the time was not right for that to be revealed to humanity in general, it for them and us could only make sense when viewed through the reality of Christ’s call to suffer to die and to rise again.

In Matthew this part of the messianic secret is made clearer by the injunction to the disciples not to speak of the vision to anyone, until after the son of man has been raised from the dead yet in Luke the request is somewhat different, it is the disciples who consciously refrain from speaking of it, for who speaks to others of personal experiences through which we have been unsure and afraid of what we have witnessed? And yet perhaps there is a message here for us today that being; that faith is mysterious and often unsettling and that is the very reason we should not shy away from sharing our experiences with others.

I remember being aware of having a theophany of god on a number of occasions, many of us can feel close to god in and through the beauty of creation and yet this is not the same as receiving a revelation of god in a personal way as experienced by the closest disciples of our lord.

My awareness of being touched by god has come to me in a variety of ways, but more often than not it has been through the medium of prayer. We are rapidly approaching the season of lent, a time when our prayers should become more focussed on god, and what he is about to do for us through his son. Earlier in my ministry i always started lent by going on a silent retreat. I used to go to a Passionist monastery for three days, during which i shut myself away from the outside world. I stayed in a little cell with a little bed, a small bathroom and an altar.

I lived on bread and cheese and glasses of water and devoted myself to reading and to prayer.

The altar was a significant part of my prayerful activity because on the altar stood a monstrance, some beautiful examples of which i had the pleasure of viewing recently in the treasury of the Loreto in Prague.

A monstrance for those of you who may not have heard of the term is an ornate atar piece with a glass transparent centre which opens up and into which you place the host, the consecrated bread from the Eucharist,

This was the focus of my prayers and through the adoration of the blessed sacrament i often found myself experiencing a closeness with god which was truly deep and at times rather alarming.

God of course is not in all things, we as Christians do not uphold such pantheistic expressions of belief, but we know that through all things we may catch just a glimpse of the hidden reality of god in our midst.

Those early disciples were richly blessed in catching a glimpse of the divine presence and yet we through the glory of scripture can also share in that revelation today.

For the truth of the transfiguration is that this Jesus Christ is truly the son of god and being transfigured before us Christ opens up our hearts and minds as we seek to respond to the glory which is around us.

The transfiguration story also speaks not only of the future but also of the past the story is beautifully crafted in order to bring together symbols of power and authority which draw together the old Israel and this new beginning in Christ. Hence one of the reasons for using this text in a baptismal context for it draws together that which was before and fills it full of the divine light of the living lord.

The old is represented by the figures which appear in the vision, namely Moses and Elijah. Moses speaks primarily of the law and Elijah of the prophets these are the things which bound Israel together and it is through them that the reality of gods creative intention is revealed.

So in this divine theophany why were these particular figures drawn together why these as opposed to others. Well according to tradition both of these figures were themselves transfigured, they were elevated direct from this life into the heavenly life beyond it.

These men revealed through their own transfigurations something of the divine reality of god. For their assumption into the heavenly realms directly from this earthly life were tangible visions of the promise of resurrection.

The symbolism in the gospel story continues to remind and instruct us of the significance of the stories of the old testament as we seek to grow in our understanding of Jesus.

It is good for us to recall the stories surrounding the Israelite people in the wilderness who were protected by the presence of god around them, exodus 24 a reworking of the mosaic covenant speaks clearly of the cloud in which god reveals himself to Moses, and here in this story of Jesus the Shekina of god comes down to earth again. And from the glory of the lord comes forth direction. This is my son the beloved listen to him, here again we are reminded of the presence of the glory of god throughout the stories of the Israelite people and here again we are reminded of that call to the symbolic action of baptism, for the call here is the same as that at the baptism of our lord another great moment when we glimpse just a little of the divine glory in and for ourselves.

The story of the transfiguration tells us clearly what the real meaning of Christ’s life truly was, simply part of the divine event toward which all creation had been moving and in which god was acting for the salvation of the world.

So let us as we prepare for the coming of another season of lent be bathed in the divine glory of god as we come before our lord in prayer. For as Christ’s chosen people it is surely through prayer, that we are ourselves most likely as mere mortals, to witness the glory of god, the Shekinah of the lord through which we shall share in the power and the glory of that revealed in the transfiguration of Jesus Christ our lord.

Amen.

Hymn: Be still for the presence of the Lord.

Prayers for others

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,
Let us pray to the Father through Christ who is our light and life.

Heavenly Father, hear us as we pray this day in thanksgiving for the glory revealed through the Transfiguration of our Lord, may we be richly blessed as we share in the glory of his majesty, and in so doing may we also be challenged to respond to him with reverence, humility and love. We pray for your church that we filled with your divine grace may be open to the bidding of your Holy Spirit, and be freed through joy to move forward into new ways of being a viable witness to the Lord in our rapidly changing world.

On this day we also remember those who have given willing service in the past and we pray especially in thanksgiving for St Valentine of Rome who gave his life in martyrdom, and for the missionary zeal of Cyril and Methodius. We pray for those who have given devoted service to the proclamation of the Gospel, often in dangerous and inhospitable places. We pray that the gospel may still be heard freely in the world and so be enabled to bring hope and comfort to your children.

Father we pray that you may continue to look in mercy on the needy in our world today. We pray for all struggling with the current pandemic, for all in hospital receiving critical care, we pray for their families and loved ones separated from them at this time. We continue to pray for all the carers, for Doctors, Nurses, Ancillary workers, Ambulance drivers, and for all within the NHS, be with them through their current struggles strengthen them in body and mind so that they may all stay safe and well.

Father, your Christ is the one in whom faithful servants find their peace, look in mercy on the departed, that they may see your salvation. We pray with a heavy heart as so many of our loved ones have been taken from us, for those who will rest within your loving embrace we give you thanks. For those who mourn their loved ones we pray that your love may rest upon them and bring them comfort amidst their sorrow.

Amen.

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: Mine eyes have seen the glory.

A Song of the Redeemer

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord the praises of the most high.

Who is this that comes from Edom,
Coming from Bozrah, his garments stained crimson?
Who is this, in glorious apparel,
Marching in the greatness of his strength?
It is I, who announce that right has won the day,
It is I, says the Lord, for I am mighty to save.
Why are your robes all red, O Lord,
And your garments like theirs who tread the winepress?
I have trodden the winepress alone,
And from the peoples no one was with me.
I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
The praises of the Most High;
All that God has done for us in his mercy, by his many acts of love.
For God said, surely, they are my people,
My children who will not deal falsely,
And he became their Saviour in all their distress.
So God saved us by his love and pity;
He lifted us up and carried us through all the days of old.

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord the praises of the Most High.

Blessing

The Lord bless us, and preserve us from all evil,
And keep us in eternal life.
May Christ, the Son of God, gladden our hearts
With the good news of his kingdom.
Let us bless the Lord, thanks be to God.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.