Easter 6

Dear All,

Here then is another morning service for those of you who still need to stay at home for safety’s sake but also, because it can of course be used on any day of the week, for any and all of you to use at any time. The thoughts on the reading this time are based on a very personal meditation I had some years ago concerning ‘my love of God’. Though you may not share the problem I had/have, I hope, nevertheless, it will speak to you as God spoke through it to me.

Keep keeping safe

With every blessing and love

Mary

A Service to say at home for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Opening Prayer

This day Lord, may I dream your dream,

This day Lord, may I reflect your love,

This day Lord, may I do your work,

This day Lord, may I taste your peace.

Hymn – Sing something you enjoy!!

Canticle

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house

will be established as the highest of the mountains.

It will be raised above the hills

and all the nations will flock to it.

Many peoples will come and they will say,

let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that we may be taught the ways of the Lord

and may walk in the right paths.

From the mountain of the Lord shall go forth the law

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

The Lord will judge between the nations

and settle disputes for many peoples.

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares

and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation

nor ever again prepare for war.

Come, O house of Jacob

Let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Bible Reading

1 John 4:7-21

God’s Love and Ours

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

This is the Word of the Lord

Thanks be to God

Some Thoughts on the Readings from Mary

I’m afraid I may be going to shock you!

You see I have a real problem with love – I’m not entirely sure I know what it is and, more shocking still, the bit of it that has always worried me most is the continually repeated assertions we Christians make in our liturgies that we ‘love God’.

Do I love God?

Given this problem I decided I’d better think about the reading from 1 John as it mentions love 27 times in just 14 verses!

“What is this thing called love?” That’s a quote – someone will tell me at some point who it was written by, probably Shakespeare, it’s usually Shakespeare!

I know about some sorts of love. I love gardening – meaning I like it a lot, I enjoy it, it gives me pleasure, but I wouldn’t want to do it every minute of every day and I love doing other things too.

I love Thornton’s Continental Chocolates, especially the spherical ones with sugar crystals all over them. Again – eating them is a pleasurable experience but would be spoilt if it happened too often? (to say nothing of what it would do to my health and well-being!)

I love my family – I care about them deeply, I want what’s best for them – want them to be happy, I feel a duty towards them and, in that awful modern phrase, want to ‘be THERE for them’ if they need me.

I love my husband. Even after over forty years together I still get that excited

clap-my-hands, grin-on-the-face feeling as I hear his car come up the drive. I feel all the caring things I feel about family generally but with something extra and hard to explain – it’s as though we’re two halves of some whole thing, that without him I wouldn’t be everything I am. There’s a giving side to this love of course, I desperately want what’s best for him and long for him to be happy but it’s matched by a more selfish side – I am a better, happier, more fulfilled person because he is my other half.

But are any of these four types of love (and I don’t claim they’re all that there are) – are any of them at all helpful in finding out whether I can claim to love God?

Like the gardening love I love taking part in worship, I enjoy starting the day in prayer and thanksgiving (usually!), I get great pleasure from the way God speaks to me and supports me through his Word, through meditation and contemplation and through preparing things like this ‘sermon’ – but is that loving him?

Is it, rather, more like my love of chocolate? I suppose if I greedily only spent my time reading the Bible and in prayer, meditating and contemplating I’d soon get bored with it – or would I? Can you have too much of a good thing? – even a really good thing like this? – I think the answer is probably, ‘yes’ unless one is called to be a monk, nun or hermit.

Love of family and friends or partner, that deep desire for the happiness of another doesn’t somehow seem relevant here. God doesn’t need me to want what’s best for him does he? Unless what’s best for him includes what’s best for those he loves? Hmmm! Perhaps we’ll come back to that one.

There is something in the love of my spouse though that feels similar to feelings I have about God, the excitement of being in contact, the clap hands – grinning feeling that comes over me sometimes in his presence, the ‘not being complete without him’. But is that selfishness again, because I know that I am a better, happier, more fulfilled person because he is with me? I don’t think I can claim that as ‘loving’ him – it’s more about him loving me and I never had a problem with that!

The most I could say, perhaps, is that I feel a deep gratefulness, thankfulness that God loves me, but I don’t think being grateful constitutes love.

Let’s turn to John’s words and see if he can help.

‘Dear friends,’ he writes to us down the ages, ‘let us love one another.’

‘Yes,’ I start to bluster, ‘I’ve already said – I know about loving other people, it’s knowing whether I love God that’s my problem . . . ,‘ but I am interrupted,

‘This isn’t a human achievement,’ John reminds me sternly, ‘the ability to love

is only yours because love comes from God, it’s his gift to us.’

And as we read on he has more to say, not only is love’s origin in God but God IS love and this is probably the single most important statement in the passage. It means more than ‘God is loving,’ or ‘God sometimes loves’, it means that he loves, not because things or people are worthy of love but because it is his nature to love. His love for us depends not on what we are but on what He is.

Well that’s a thought worth restating, reminding ourselves of, but it is still about his love for us not ours for him. John’s ahead of us, he agrees,

‘You’re right,’ he writes (in my paraphrase!), ‘it is not that we love God, stop looking for an answer to your problem by concentrating on yourselves, you will never find what this love is if you start from the human end.’

God loves us so much, God’s nature of love is so fundamental to his being God that, John reminds us, he sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice, he came himself and gave himself up to death to save us from the punishment we all so richly deserve.

This calls out huge thankfulness from us. I do live in a life where fear for what will happen to me hereafter has been (largely) driven out. I know it’s not down to me. I know God has paid the price. I know and I’m grateful but is my gratefulness enough to be called love?

‘Dear friend,’ says John soothingly (I can almost feel him patting me on the arm and telling me to calm down, stop panicking and listen), ‘since God so loved us we also ought to love one another. God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.’

My love for God, your love for God is to be shown in our love for others. That’s what God desires, that IS our love for him, so much so that he says

in our love for one another God’s love is made complete. He loves us, we try to love others in an act of supreme thankfulness and that is accepted by God as our love for him.

Suddenly other words, the words of Jesus himself burst into my brain,

‘In as much as you do it unto others, you do it unto me.’

We do love God, we can love him, we will love him every time we show love for others.

Can we just ignore the bit at the end though? where it says, ‘If anyone says ‘I love God, yet hates his brother he is a liar?’

We DO love our brothers, our friends, our neighbours! Don’t we? Or at least we try. Again the voice of Jesus from another place interrupts us,

‘Who is your brother? Who is your neighbour?’ and of course we know the answer. It’s the Samaritan, the outcast, the untouchable, the stranger

In God, in his death for us, in Jesus his Son, in his saving of us all, whoever we are, whatever we are, we have the pattern for the love we are to show. Christians should love, we should love, I should love, not because all those we meet are attractive people, are friends and family, husbands, wives or partners, those we are naturally drawn to but because we are being transformed by God’s love into the sort of people whose nature it is to love, to love like God, unconditionally. To love everyone and anyone however unappealing or unpleasant.

Do you ever wish you hadn’t asked a question? The answer to mine, to yours as well possibly, is a tough one and I, for one, am not sure I can do it. Yet,

paradoxically, as we discover that the ability to love at all is a gift from God

he reassures us that the power to love him by loving others will also be a gift, will be made possible because he, God, will live in us and we live in him. He will give us his Spirit and the nature of that Spirit is only, and can only be, love. It is our other half, it will make us complete and it will give us the power, the strength and the ability to love our totally loving God in the only way possible by loving others as he loved us.

Prayers

Let us pray to God,
who alone makes us dwell in safety:

For all who are still affected by coronavirus, through illness or isolation or anxiety, that they may find relief and recovery:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For those who are guiding our nation at this time and shaping national policies, that they may make wise decisions:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For doctors, nurses and medical researchers, that through their skill and insights many, worldwide, will be restored to health:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For the isolated and housebound, that we may be alert to their needs, and care for them in their vulnerability:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For our homes and families, our schools and young people, and all in any kind of need or distress:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For a blessing on our local community, that our neighbourhoods may be places of trust and friendship, where all are known and cared for:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For the vulnerable and the fearful, for the gravely ill and the dying, that they may know your comfort and peace:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

We 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

Closing Prayer and blessing

May the love of God sustain us this day,

May the light of Jesus radiate our thinking and speaking,

May the power of the Spirit penetrate all our decisions,

And may all we do this day witness to your presence in our lives.

Amen

The Lord bless us and keep us,

The Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us,

The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us,

And give us peace.

The Lord bless us.

Amen

Easter 3

Worshipping Together –Apart

Dear All,

Here then is this week’s Bible Reading and some thoughts on it. You will see that once again I have placed it in the centre of an informal Service of Eucharist which you can use at home, alone or with your family – wherever you do it you will in fact be worshipping together. There are no rules, using what you have to hand, making your kitchen table your altar and following Christ’s instruction to remember him in this way, you will find that, perhaps unexpectedly, you too ‘recognise him at the breaking of the bread.’

With every blessing

Keep keeping safe

And remember you are never separated from the love of God or from the prayers of us all

Mary Tucker

A Service to say at home

Call to Worship

The Lord be with you

And also with you

God in Jesus has revealed his glory

Come let us worship together

From the rising of the sun to its setting

The Lord’s name is greatly to be praised

(Hymn – Sing something you enjoy!!)

Prayer of Confession

Holy God we bring you ourselves

All that we are and all that we long to be

Our weakness, our failures, our sinfulness and our brokenness

Son of Mary Have mercy on us

Carpenter of Nazareth Have mercy on us

Healer of the sick Have mercy on us

Bringer of light Have mercy on us

Saviour of the poor Have mercy on us

Bread of life Have mercy on us

You who call us sister, brother, friend Have mercy on us

Your body and Spirit with us

Holy God we bring you ourselves

All that we are and all that we long to be

Our weakness, our failures, our sinfulness and our brokenness

Have mercy on us

Bible Reading – read Luke 24:13-35

The Walk to Emmaus

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

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

Some Thoughts on the Reading

Recognising Jesus at the Breaking of the Bread

Many years ago now we were staying in a posh hotel down in Devon, very near the place where they were shooting the film, ‘Ladies in Lavender’, with Judy Dench and Maggie Smith, a most unlikely place for us to be it has to be said.

We, along with the rest of the family, had been summoned, in an ‘Agatha Christie like’ way, to this cliff top venue by my Mother in Law (long gone now but much loved and missed.)

It’s OK, no one was actually murdered (though I do remember a few tense moments as she ordered us about with the authority of the one who was paying the bill), but something extremely embarrassing did happen.

Dressed to the nines, and most uncomfortable, my husband and I were proceeding through the grand entrance hall towards the dining room when, coming towards us, I spied a familiar face. The trouble was,

that, though I knew I knew him, for the life of me I couldn’t think who it was! As we closed on each other

I did what I always do on these increasingly frequent occasions (I think it’s an age thing), I smiled broadly and confidently, exuding, I hoped, absolute certainty of who this was and, as we drew near to each other said what I always say in these situations, “Hello! How nice to see you. How are you?”

I was aware of two things immediately. One was a strange gasp from my husband at my side, the other, a momentary look of confusion on the face of my approaching friend. “Ha!” I thought, “It’s not just me!” I thought. Put someone in the wrong environment and we can all find it difficult to place them. He pulled himself together quickly however, and as we passed, smiled back with equal confidence and replied, “I’m fine thanks and how are you?”

As neither of us had received the necessary clues to identity we perhaps hoped for and which would have enabled us to chat further, we both kept moving, passed, and continued on our opposite courses, me still wracking my brains to place my associate.

My thoughts however were rudely interrupted by the hoarse and embarrassed whisper of my long suffering spouse who, red in the face and horrified, said, “What did you do that for?”

I started to explain about my ‘not being able to place a friend in a strange place’ technique but, before I could go on, he said, “But you don’t know him, it was Charles Dance, he’s a famous actor!”

Well how was I supposed to know the cast of the film were staying there? I’m just relieved it wasn’t Maggie Smith! Who’d want to be on the receiving end of one of her Downton-esque put downs?!

When I read today’s Gospel passage, the thing that really struck me was the weirdness of the two disciples not recognising the man they’d been with for the last days, weeks, possibly years. It didn’t seem to make sense.

In the BBC series ‘The Passion’, made in 2010 I think and watched by me again this last Holy Week, they had the risen Jesus played by a different actor on the road at the beginning of this story and then changed him back to the original one at the breaking of the bread.

That, I have to say, just didn’t feel right to me and I continued to worry away at how on earth they couldn’t have recognised him when the true tale I’ve just told you came to mind.

Walking through that hotel foyer, I was so taken up with not making a fool of myself by admitting to someone I thought I knew that I couldn’t for the life of me remember who they were, that actually, really and truly, my ‘eyes were closed’, I was ‘kept from recognising’ a really famous face I knew well, and ended up making an even greater fool of myself!

The disciples had a similar reaction once they recognised Jesus and he had gone. They couldn’t believe that they hadn’t known who it was. “Didn’t our hearts burn within us?” they gasped in amazement at their own blindness. But they had been so taken up with their grief and their disappointment at the apparent failure of all they had thought Jesus stood for, that their eyes were closed, they were kept from recognising a really familiar face. I’m sure they too felt really foolish, but that feeling was far outweighed by their joy at the revelation they had received, so much so that they set off immediately on the return walk, of some 15 or 20 miles, to share their new found recognition with their friends. Lack of recognition, we must admit, is not so unusual or so inexplicable as we may at first have thought

The other possible interpretation of the words, “Their eyes were kept from recognising him.” is that this was part of the plan, part of God’s plan and we can empathise with this too. In things that happen in our lives, embarrassing things, unfortunate things, frightening things, even tragic things (and we are experiencing quite a lot of this at present), and whether we want to say they are part of God’s plan or just things that, having happened, are used by God, with hindsight we recognise that we have grown from the experience.

These disciples not only failed to recognise their Lord and leader in the resurrected flesh, but had also failed to recognise in their own scripture, ‘The law and the Prophets’, just what sort of a God they were dealing with. They had failed to recognise in the person of Jesus, through those days, weeks and perhaps years together, what sort of salvation he was going to bring.

Believing in a wrathful God who needed to be placated by sacrifice and careful keeping of the law, expecting a conquering hero who would drive out the Romans and re-establish Jewish supremacy, they could not recognise the ‘suffering servant God’ who loved them, who died to save them and in whose weakness was strength and absolute victory.

No wonder they went racing back! Not only were they taking the news that Jesus truly was alive, but a new understanding that their long talk with the unrecognised ‘stranger’ on the road had given them. And that, I suppose, is the message for us. We may not always be aware that God is at work. We may not recognise that the experiences we have, the people we meet (or pass at a distance!), the things we do, are all part of God’s plan or can and will be used by him in that plan. But it may well be, that in our prayer time in the cool of the evening or on a Sunday morning in the quiet of Church (yes it will come again), in the familiar words and at the breaking of the bread (on altar or kitchen table), things fall into place, our eyes are opened, and we are briefly and strongly aware of the Jesus who has walked with us, sometimes unrecognised but always there, every step, on the road of our lives.

Prayers

We pray to the Lord for courage as we walk, together but apart, the road of life.

In this unprecedented time of crisis, give your Church the courage to give up her preoccupation with herself and to give time to your mission in the world. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

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 as we work together and apart in your damaged world. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give your world the courage to give up war, bitterness and hatred, and to seek peace and healing for each other. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

May the shoulders of the risen Jesus, once scourged by soldiers, bear the burden of our times. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up quarrels, strife and jealousy in our families, neighbourhoods and communities. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

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. Give us the courage to give up our selfishness as we live for others, and to give time, care and comfort to the sick and those who care for them in ways that are safe for them and for us. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

May the wounded hands of Jesus bring his healing touch to all who suffer, and the light of his presence fill their hearts and homes. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, 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, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer, here and in eternity. Amen.

We 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

A Home Communion

Take bread and wine or juice and pray

Blessed are you O God

For you have brought forth bread from the earth

Blessed are you O God

For you have created the fruit of the vine

Here at your table

You offer us light, bread and wine for the journey

To nourish us as sons and daughters

Jesus took bread, and having blessed it

He broke it and gave it to his disciples saying

Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you

In the same way after supper, he took the cup of wine

And gave you thanks, he gave it to them saying

Drink this all of you, this is my blood of the new covenant

Which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins

So now, following Jesus’ example

We take this bread and this wine and pray

Lord Jesus Christ, present with us now

Breathe your Spirit upon us and upon this bread and wine

That they may be heaven’s food for us

Renewing, sustaining and making us whole

That we may be your body on earth

Loving and caring in the world

Look – The bread of heaven – The light of the world

Here is Christ, coming to us in bread and wine

The gift of God for the people of the world

The table of bread and wine is now made ready

It is the table of company with Jesus

So, come to this table, you who have much faith

And you who would like to have more

You who have been to this sacrament often

And you who have not been for a long time

You who have tried to follow Jesus

And you who have failed

Come – it is Christ himself who invites us to meet him here

Eat your bread and sip you drink and take a moment of quiet before praying

Concluding Prayer

Holy God, we have seen with our eyes

And touched with our hands the bread of life the light of the world

Strengthen our faith

That we may grow in love for you and for each other

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

And may the blessing of God Almighty the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with us all, those we love and those we pray for. Amen

Palm Sunday

Worshipping Together –Apart for Palm Sunday 2021

Dear All,

Here we are again – my turn to put something on the website (or rather to give Stilman something to put on it) that we can use to worship ‘together but apart’ this Palm Sunday. However, as I prepare this, I am hopeful that, unless Mr Johnson’s ‘Roadmap’ has to be changed, we will be able to meet, still masked and distanced of course, in our churches to celebrate Easter next Sunday. Keep your eyes on this website and the church noticeboards.

Today’s service is an Iona Communion Service which is very easy and appropriate for us all to use in our own homes, another ‘kitchen table Eucharist’ and as usual I’ve inserted two ’Passion Gospel’ Bible readings and some thoughts on them. Think of us as you celebrate and be sure we will be thinking of all of you.

With every blessing
Keep keeping separate, keep keeping safe
but remember you are never separated from the love of God or from the prayers of us all

Mary Tucker

A Service to say at home (adapted from the worship of the Iona Community)

Gathering Prayer

Creator of the cosmos,
Of eternity and time:
Be with us in this time.
Saviour of the world,
Healer of the nations:
Be with us in this place.

Breath of all that lives,
Of people near and far:
Stir within our lives.

Creator, Son, Spirit
God of here and now:
Be present in our worship
That we may find new ways
Of being present in your world.

(Hymn/Song – Sing something you enjoy!!)

Part of the Passion Gospels

Matthew 21:1-9

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosannain the highest heaven!”

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Mark 15:25-38

It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.

They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Thoughts on the Readings

We are certainly on a strange journey today, one minute triumphantly shouting hosanna, waving our palms and throwing our coats into the road in a carnival atmosphere, the next seeing the face of the ‘triumphant king’ and wondering at the sadness there, wondering at the strange humility.

Finally we are faced with the realisation that this man is God. God totally emptied, totally humbled, totally human and afraid, for among the cheering masses he also saw the hatred. He knew as no one else did the inevitable outcome of his very public arrival at the Passover feast.

In recent times, not surprisingly, I have become aware again of a need, a message that needs to be given, a comfort that is cried out for, a continuing fear that needs to be addressed, and it is through this crucial and central story of Christianity that we can all, in the end, find comfort.

So many people, Church people, good people, faithful people seem to be living in fear and not just because of our current Health Crisis. They are God fearing but their fear is about ‘not being good enough for God’, and in particular, ‘not being good enough for heaven’. They are fearful in life but even more fearful when facing the inevitability of death.

It was summed up for me one day in a way that I’ve recounted many times because it made such an impression on me. I was on chaplaincy duty in Tewkesbury Abbey, years ago during my training days, when a woman of mature years said to me fearfully,

“I’m not as young as I used to be – I need to start earning some Brownie points with God.”

The discussion that followed, as we talked about the grace of God, the grace – the free gift – of God’s forgiveness, caused an immediate change in her. The message that God has paid the price of her sin, all of our sins, reducing her to tears of both joy and amazement.

Today’s readings, parts of ‘The Passion Gospel’, though they are a hard and often painful read, tell the story of God’s sacrifice through his Son and it is this which brings us the reassurance that, when the time comes, and it may not be for a long time, we may enter heaven, not through our merits but through his mercy and love.

So, as Christ paid the price by obedience to God, the consequence for us here and now is that we must live our lives in thankfulness and amazement at his generous work in dying to save us, and as our own sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving live lives of obedience to him as far as is possible for us, dependent continually on his all saving sacrifice and forgiveness when we fall short.

Prayers

We pray to the Lord for courage as we continue to walk, together but apart, along the road of life.

In this difficult time, give your Church the courage to give up her preoccupation with herself and to give time to your mission in the world. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

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 as we work together and apart in your damaged world. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give your world the courage to give up war, bitterness and hatred, and to seek peace and healing for each other. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

May the shoulders of the risen Jesus, once scourged by soldiers, bear the burden of our times. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up quarrels, strife and jealousy in our families, neighbourhoods and communities. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

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. Give us the courage to give up our selfishness as we live for others, and to give time, care and comfort to the sick and those who care for them in ways that are safe for them and for us. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer.

May the wounded hands of Jesus bring his healing touch to all who suffer, and the light of his presence fill their hearts and homes. Lord, help us to recognise you in our lives, 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, help us to recognise you in our lives, give us strength and hear our prayer, here and in eternity.

Amen.

We 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

A Home Communion

(use some bread or a plain biscuit, some wine or juice)

What we do here in our own homes today, we do in imitation of what Christ first did.

To his followers in every age, Jesus gave an example and command rooted in the experience he shared with his disciples in an upstairs room in Jerusalem.

So now we do as Jesus did.

We take this food and drink, the produce of the earth and fruit of human labour.

In these, Jesus has promised to be present, through these, Christ can make us whole.

Eucharistic Prayer

The Lord is with us,
And with all those with whom we worship, together but apart.

We lift our hearts together.
We lift them to the Lord.

We give thanks together to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is indeed right, for you made us,
and before us, you made the world we inhabit,
and before the world, you made the eternal home
in which, through Christ, we have a place.

And so we gladly join our voices to the song of the Church,
to those from whom we are separated
on earth and in heaven:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

And now,
lest we believe that our praise alone fulfils your purpose,
we fall silent and remember him who came because words were not enough.

Setting our wisdom, our will, our words aside,
emptying our hearts and bringing nothing in our hands,
we yearn for the healing, the holding, the accepting, the forgiving
which Christ alone can offer.

(we pause quietly for a moment)

Merciful God, send now, in your kindness
your Holy Spirit on this food and drink
and fill them with the fullness of Jesus.

And let that same Spirit rest on us,
converting us from the patterns of this passing world,
until we conform to the shape of him whose food we share.
Amen.

Sharing God’s Gifts

Among friends, gathered round a table,
Jesus took bread and broke it, and said,
‘This is my body, broken for you.’
Later he took a cup of wine and said,
‘This is the new relationship with God
made possible because of my death.
Take it, all of you, to remember me.’

He whom the universe could not contain is present to us in this food.
He who redeemed us and called us by name now meets us in this cup.

So we take this food and drink.

In them God comes to us so that we may come to God.

(Eat, drink, share the food and drink you have prepared and prayed over)

The Peace

(We bring to mind all those with whom we would usually share this moment, holding them on our hearts.)

Christ who has nourished us is our peace,
strangers and friends, male and female, old and young, near and far away,
Jesus has broken down the barriers to bind us to him and to each other.

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

Concluding prayer

In gratitude, in deep gratitude for this moment, this meal, these people,
we give ourselves to you.

Take us out to live as changed people
because we have shared the living Bread and cannot remain the same.

Ask much of us, expect much of us, enable much by us,
encourage many through us.

So, Lord, may we live to your glory,
both as inhabitants of earth and citizens of the commonwealth of heaven,
knowing that we do so with your blessing
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
this day and for ever more.
Amen.