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- Midweek Reflection, June 3rd 2020 3 June 2020
The Gospel reading set for today is from Mark Chapter 12, verses 18-27 and the story itself is the question posed by the Sadducees regarding marriage at the resurrection. Essentially, they were trying to catch Jesus out, so that they could accuse him of some kind of offence. The story relates to a husband who died with no children, leaving the widow to marry his brother. In fact, there were seven brothers and none had children with the widow before they all died. Then the widow died. The Sadducees asked what would happen at the resurrection when the widow would have seven husbands at the same time.
Jesus accused them of not knowing the Scriptures and not understanding the real nature of the power of God. He told them that, at the resurrection, there would be no marriages. He also told them that, at that future time, they would have to understand that He was not the God of the dead, as there would be no more dead people, that He would in fact be the God of all the living.
This is an interesting concept. I wonder about the mindset of those resurrected people. If they had had long and happy marriages that were only separated by death, would there not be an expectation that they would be married again in their new lives? Would their blissful new lives not be quite as blissful as they might have expected? It’s a bit of a conundrum, which is why the Sadducees thought that it would be a good, trick question that would show Jesus up and catch him out. But they hadn’t done their homework very well because Jesus was easily able to catch the Sadducees out for not understanding the Scriptures, not what God could actually do.
I think that we today may also have an occasional doubt and, even after much scholarly study of the Scriptures over the last 2,000 years, I wonder if we fully understand the power of God, or is it just too huge a concept for us to grasp much more than a very small understanding of His nature – if at all. I think that to develop our understanding, we need to read the Bible regularly and pray for God’s guidance in developing that understanding. As a result, we may feel that we are drawn closer in our relationship with God.
- Resuming Worship at St Helena’s 23 May 2020
Well, we have government permission to begin worshipping together in St Helena’s again from 23rd May. So on Sunday, 24th May, we are able to gather in St Helena’s for a Service of Holy Communion at our usual time of 9.30am.
Anne and I have been into church and spaced the chairs so that we can observe some physical distance (see picture below), and we will all use hand gel as we enter and leave the the church. If, at the moment, you usually wear a face mask and gloves when you are out or in spaces with other people, you are welcome to wear them in church.I am so delighted that we are able to share an Easter greeting together in the real world, though I have enjoyed worshipping with you virtually for the past nine Sundays.Alleluia! Christ is risen.He is risen indeed. Alleluia!Worship will then continue as usual in church Sunday by Sunday and we look forward to seeing you whenever you are able to join us.
- Ascension Day Thoughts 20 May 2020
I have never understood the mind of serial killers. I suppose that’s because whatever they had done went completely against my personal beliefs. They are often described as inhuman, almost as monsters. But what does it mean to be ‘human’? I think that we can sometimes be quick to define humanity to exclude people whose lives and crimes threaten us. We label some as ‘inhuman’ so that we don’t have to think of them as being like us, or face the idea that in other circumstances we could be like them! Some of our most serious ethical debates tackle the question of humanity.
This week we have the feast of the Ascension, a day when we celebrate humanity. The story of the Ascension relates what happened to Jesus after his resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead as a fully human person, recognisable as the same Jesus as he was before his crucifixion. But clearly, after his resurrection, Jesus didn’t hang around on earth as his work here was done. There quickly came a time when God’s presence, in the form of the Holy Spirit would carry on God’s work both within and around humanity.
The doctrine of the Ascension is very important to Christians to understand what it means to be human. The picture of Jesus ascending into the clouds tells us that Jesus, the man, had returned to God. Humanity had become part of God forever. After the resurrection and Ascension, Jesus didn’t stop being human. All that he was, all that we are, was taken into the nature of God. Human beings were always God’s creation, but the Ascension casts us in a different light: now we are truly in God.
So we are encouraged to value humanity highly and rightly. We are not perfect – humankind is capable of the utmost cruelty and violence. But we are worth redeeming, worth sending the Holy Spirit to, worth being taken up into the Godhead. We must take the hard, ethical questions seriously because they concern the humanity that God has taken to himself. We can be realistic about human nature, but we can also be optimistic about it. Our future is bound up with God’s future and, as with Jesus, the sky’s the limit!!
- A thought on the Gospel reading for Easter 6 (John 14:15-21) 16 May 2020
‘Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I … But when I look ahead up the white road, there is always another one walking beside you’. T.S. Elliot in ‘The Wasteland’
In tomorrow’s Gospel we hear of Jesus’ promise to his friends of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate. He makes it to them that last Thursday evening in the Upper Room as he readies them for his departure.
An ‘advocate’ is someone who looks out for you; someone who is on your side – who speaks up for you; someone who encourages you, supports you and comforts you. Someone who is absolutely there for you.
Jesus’ promise is a deeply personal one. Jesus is promising his friends, and us, that the Spirit of God will ‘abide’ (a favourite verb in John’s gospel) with them, and with us, through thick and thin –and forever.
The Spirit of God has, of course, been there since the very beginning. We hear in Genesis 1 of God’s Spirit hovering over the waters in creation. And throughout the Hebrew Scriptures God promised his people: ‘I am with you’. But often he would be present to them only indirectly, as for example, when appearing to Jacob in a dream (Genesis 28:15).
The extraordinary difference is that, here, God makes this deeply personal promise directly – in person! Here Jesus is effectively telling his friends that God hasn’t only revealed himself afresh in the human form standing and kneeling before them (as if this wasn’t enough!). But that soon he will do so in the fresh intimacy of the Holy Spirit; the one who will accompany them; be alongside them, be within them; and be with them – for all time.
Jesus is promising them, and us, that in all our struggles against loneliness or isolation or depression or pain; that in all our times of joy and laughter and celebration, God is with us directly and intimately and absolutely.
What a wonderful message of hope for the disciples that evening in the upper room. And what a wonderfully hopeful message it is for us today.
- Prayers for use in observing VE Day 2020, the 75th anniversary 7 May 2020
Prayers may include the following:
- – an expression of sorrow for the atrocities of war;
- – that former enemies may be forgiven,
- – that we may be freed from feelings of fear, revenge, and xenophobia,
- – and finally, that we may be thankful for times of peace and find joy in the company of one another.
An Act of Commitment
Let us pledge ourselves anew to the service of God and our fellow men and women: that we may help, encourage and comfort others, and support those working for the relief of the needy and for the peace and welfare of the nations.
Lord God our Father,
we pledge ourselves to serve you and all humankind, in the cause of peace,
for the relief of want and suffering,
and for the praise of your name.
Guide us by your Spirit;
give us wisdom;
give us courage;
give us hope;
and keep us faithful now and always.
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.
from whom all thoughts of truth and peace proceed: kindle in the hearts of all people the true love of peace; and guide with your pure and peaceable wisdom
those who take counsel for the nations of the earth; that in tranquillity your kingdom may go forward,
till the earth is filled with the knowledge of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For those who served and died in World War II
O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those men and women
who have died in active service,
particularly in the Second World War,
whose sacrifice brought Victory in Europe.
As we honour their courage and cherish their memory, may we put our faith in your future;
for you are the source of life and hope,
now and for ever. Amen.
For those who serve today
O Lord God of Hosts,
stretch forth, we pray, your almighty arm
to strengthen and protect our service men and women. Support them in times of conflict,
and in their rest and training keep them safe from all evil; endue them with courage and loyalty;
and grant that in all things they may serve without reproach; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For the peace of the world
O God, who would fold both heaven and earth
in a single peace;
that the design of your great love lighten
upon the waste of our wraths and sorrows
and give peace to your church, peace among nations, peace in our dwellings and peace in our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
These prayers have been taken from the Church of England website