- keeping in touch
Friday 3rd July 2020
Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (John 20:27-29).
Today the Church celebrates Thomas. Thomas was one of the twelve apostles, and his main characteristic seems to have been that of a questioner. He was a man who wanted to see, to understand, before he was willing to commit himself whole-heartedly. He is often rather unfairly held up as lacking in faith because of that.
Perhaps it would be more true to say that Thomas was honest. He did not pretend to a level of understanding, or of faith, which he did not have. He knew what it was to doubt, and he faced up to that. He didn't simply fall into line with accepted belief or allow himself to be carried along by it. In addition, Thomas was willing to voice his doubts, to be open about his lack of comprehension. This took courage. When the other disciples hold back, it is Thomas who tells our Lord that he doesn't understand. Such an admission often prompted Jesus into further teaching, which continues to benefit us today.
Thomas had a questioning faith, which proved also to be a more mature one. Of all the disciples, he is the one who declares “My Lord, and my God” (John 20:28) - accepting and acknowledging Jesus's divinity for the first time. Having worked it through for himself, Thomas's faith was all the more secure - enabling him to move forward and to grow. In this he is an example for us all. For our faith to truly flourish we must face up to our doubts and work through towards a true acceptance and understanding. ‘Faith is not a terminus but a starting point from which understanding can begin. This model is offered for acceptance by faith as the way to understanding. Its motto is “Credo ut intelligam” I believe in order that I may understand’ (Lesslie Newbigin).
In his later life, Thomas’ mature faith and courage are shown as he takes the Gospel to India. The Syrian Christians of Malabar have a tradition that they were evangelized by Thomas - and continue to call themselves the `Christians of St Thomas'. Thomas was eventually martyred and buried at Mylapore, near Madras.
The collect for today:
Almighty and eternal God,
who, for the firmer foundation of our faith,
allowed your holy apostle Thomas
to doubt the resurrection of your Son
till word and sight convinced him:
grant to us, who have not seen, that we also may believe
and so confess Christ as our Lord and our God;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for the bereaved, remembering especially those who cannot have their loved ones with them in their last hours, and those relatives and friends unable to attend a funeral. The inability to say a proper goodbye or to share together in mourning and remembrance is an added pressure at an already difficult time. We give thanks that we can now hold funerals in Church for a limited number.
In our Diocesan Cycle of Prayer today we pray for our bishops, Nicholas, Andrew and Karen. They ask us: Please pray for wisdom and good judgement in the oversight of the diocese as we come out of ‘lockdown’. May we all learn lessons from what is new and has gone well and we want to keep; and what is old and we value deeply and we want to retain.
Yesterday we drove 290 miles to Chelmsford and back so that I could officiate at my aunt’s funeral. I was very glad to do so, but it is by far the furthest we have travelled since the lockdown began - and, to be honest, we were somewhat nervous. It didn’t help that at times we were driving through absolutely torrential rain. Unlike previous such occasions, we were unable to stay overnight, nor was there a proper opportunity fully to socialise afterwards. Even so, it was a good and blessed time.
‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase’ (Martin Luther King, Jr.).
Thursday 2nd July 2020
Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel”’ (Amos 7:14-15).
The prophets of the Old Testament were called to bring the hard truth to God’s chosen people, so that they would be forced to take an honest look at themselves and realize their need for reconciliation with God. As we see from our brief glimpse of him in this passage, Amos was all about hard truths. This was a time of economic boom with luxurious living, moral corruption and rampant idolatry. Wealth and security had led the people to forget God’s ways. They needed to hear his word anew.
For Amos prophesy was not a job but a calling from God to speak out. That is true for all Christians. We are all called to be prophets: proclaiming the truth. Speaking God’s word to the world is not just the job of the ‘professionals’. It is what each one of us called to do. Many people believe that our faith should remain a private matter and its social implications should never be mentioned in the public arena. Se we need a balance of courage and discretion in facing such issues today. Too often we ask “Why doesn’t the Church speak out?” We are the Church – so our question should be “Why are we not speaking out?”.
‘A joint letter calling for Safe Passage for child refugees has now been signed by over 250 faith leaders. Our Bishops added their signatures to last week's Safe Passage open letters that call upon our Prime Minister to offer sanctuary to unaccompanied children stranded in Europe. The letters sent by Safe Passage in Wiltshire, signed by Bishop Nicholas and Bishop Andrew - and Safe Passage in Dorset, signed by Bishop Karen - explain more than 1,600 unaccompanied children remain stuck on the Greek islands. The letter comes as the UNHCR published their Global Trends Report, which has stated that an unprecedented 79.5 MILLION PEOPLE were displaced as of the end of 2019, with nearly half of the those forcibly displaced being children’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine, 27 June 2020).
‘Is it heartless to take issue with most diocesan mission statements? After all, they are the work of many hands. Committees and bishops’ leadership teams have sweated over them for days in conference centres and retreat houses, agonising over every word, poring over phrases, and satisfying competing interests and points of view. But few mission statements really focus on the imperatives of the gospel. They do not tell us much about how the Church should reflect on its identity and values, or how to respond to many of today’s pressing issues, such as the racism embedded in our nation’s culture and history. When Jesus preached at Nazareth (Luke 4.16-30), he quoted words from Isaiah 61.1-2. His message, he said, was “good news to the poor”. It is good news for the outcasts, the misfits, the ill and the dying, the disadvantaged, and the marginalised. The poor to whom Jesus refers are not only those who are poor in a literal sense: those without the money and opportunity to feed and clothe themselves. He also includes those who face illness, hardship, neglect, prejudice, exclusion, loss, and disability. He means the people who are deprived of what the healthy, the happy, and the advantaged take for granted’ (Anthony Bash, Church Times 26 June 2020).
The prayer after communion for this week:
O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Churchwarden and Deputy Churchwardens. They work hard for our Church and their ministry is particularly important now as we begin to open the Church up again.
‘Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are’ (St Augustine).
Wednesday 1st July 2020
‘I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples’ (Psalm 77:11-14).
The writer of Psalm 77 wrestles with his faith at a difficult time. Perhaps he has got God wrong? Does he limit God because he sees him through too narrow a focus? How about us? What are we asking God to be? Is he a troubleshooter - God who is good to have around when I’m in trouble; a distant authority figure - God gives us laws but isn’t really concerned about the ordinary parts of my life; a grandparent - God gives me what I want? God is so very much more than these. He is involved in every aspect of our lives: the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, when faith is easy and when it is hard. He loves us and he is there for us.
We can say with Paul ‘I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39).
As we look to economic recovery beyond the pandemic, the Vatican has recommended disinvestment from fossil fuels: ‘The Vatican has published a document aimed at Roman Catholics and other Christians on how to relate to God’s creation. It marks the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical Laudato Si’: On care for our common home (News, 26 June 2015). The document, Journeying for the Care of the Common Home, urges Christians to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies, build a circular zero-waste economy; and advocate forms of low-carbon development, such as reforestation. Released on Thursday of last week, the document was compiled before the pandemic by several Vatican dicasteries that have been working on “integral ecology” in association with other RC bodies since 2015. An English-language version has not yet been published, but Vatican News summarises the central argument that “everything is connected”. “Each particular crisis forms part of a single, complex socio-environmental crisis that requires a true ecological conversion.”‘ (Church Times 26 June 2020 - a dicastery is a department of the Roman Curia).
On 1st July 1535 Sir Thomas More went on trial in Westminster Hall for treason for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. On the charge of opposing the Henry’s marriage, Sir Thomas freely admitted that he had, “according to the dictates of my conscience,” told the King his true opinion. To do otherwise, he said, would have “basely flattered” his Majesty and made him “a wicked subject” and “a traitor to God.”
A prayer by Sir Thomas More
And give me, good Lord,
an humble, lowly, quiet,
peaceable, patient, charitable,
kind and filial and tender mind,
every shade, in fact, of charity,
with all my words and all my works,
and all my thoughts,
to have a taste of thy holy blessed Spirit.
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for peace in the world. As nations compete for scarce resources during the pandemic (in the news today we hear that the US has bought up the entire world stock of key Covid-19 drug remdesivir), or use this opportunity to increase their power and influence in the world - so we pray that God will lead us into his paths of peace and understanding. ‘By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace’ (Luke 1:78-79).
I shall be using a simple order for Morning Prayer in Church at 10:30am. I shall ring the bell and ask you to join me in prayer from your homes.
Tuesday 30th June 2020
Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’ (Matthew 8:26-27).
Although the disciples had some faith in Jesus, there was a great deal of fear and unbelief too. In Luke, the phrase is, “where is your faith?” what is become of it? You professed but just now to believe in me, is your faith gone already? In Mark it is, “how is it that you have no faith?” That is, in their exercise of it, their faith was only small. Clearly they did have faith - but they are finding it difficult to trust it, to accept its implications.
How often does that apply to us too when things are hard? We are like the father of a boy just before Jesus heals him ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). ‘We may have crossed the boundary from unbelief to faith, but we have not fully explored the new country’ (John Fenton).
We have been discussing when and how we can start services in St Laurence again. Of course, we don’t know how many would wish to come in the present circumstances. Opening up the Church is not as straightforward as it may seem. We have to ensure that proper procedures are in place to protect - as far as is practicable - all who come to worship. There is physical distancing to observe, orders of service to consider and arrangements for administering communion. In addition to all this, we must keep those areas of the building and anything people may touch as clean as we can. This requires both careful preparation and continuing vigilance - whilst not losing sight of the purpose for which we are here.
Guidance from the government on public worship was finally published yesterday: ‘No maximum number is specified for people attending for general worship, which includes led prayers, devotions, or meditations. The guidance confirms, however, that a maximum of 30 people are permitted to attend weddings, funerals, and other “life-cycle” services, such as baptisms, regardless of the size of the building… The guidance advises that all services should be completed in the “shortest reasonable time”, and the building emptied promptly.’ We are also encouraged to continue recording services (as we intend to do anyway): ‘It is recommended that, where possible, places of worship continue to stream worship or other events to avoid large gatherings and to continue to reach those individuals who are self-isolating or particularly vulnerable to Covid-19’ (Church Times 29 June 2020).
The July issue of Downton Parish News is now available free to view or download. For those unable to access our magazine through the website, there are a few printed copies available (free) in the Co-op, Chemist and Woodfalls Post Office. Please let anyone know that you think may want one. They and we would be most grateful.
The alternative collect for this week:
God our saviour,
look on this wounded world
in pity and in power;
hold us fast to your promises of peace
won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Parochial Church Council (PCC). As the trustees for St Laurence, the members have the responsibility for the risk assessments that need to be prepared for the Church and decisions on how and when we can start worship again.
On 30th June 1908 a large and powerful explosion occurred in the stratosphere above the remote taiga near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in central Siberia. The blast, caused by the explosion of an incoming comet or meteorite above the site, levelled about 2,000 square miles (5,200 square kilometres) of pine forest. The force of the explosion was estimated to be roughly 1,000 times the power of the atomic blast that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. We can thank God it didn’t happen somewhere more densely populated.
‘Faith which does not doubt is dead faith’ (Miguel de Unamuno).
Monday 29th June 2020
‘I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:18-19).
Today the Church celebrates the Apostle Peter. Peter was a fisherman from Bethsaida, a village near Lake Tiberias. He was one of the first disciples to be called by Jesus, along with his brother Andrew. The gospels portray him as a blunt and direct man, rather inclined to leap in with both feet. At first sight Peter was not the man that we might have picked out as a leader. However, he it is who generally takes the lead among the twelve and is the spokesman for the apostles. He also appears as ardent and humble with a passionate love of Christ.
It is Peter who first professes the belief that Jesus is the Christ: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ (Matthew 16:16). It is after this that our Lord says: `I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church’ (Matthew 16:18). It is on this passage that the claims of the Popes are made, and its interpretation has caused much controversy. After Jesus’ arrest, we have that poignant story of Peter’s denial of Jesus three times, and his subsequent repentance, and later restoration by the risen Jesus with the triple command to feed his sheep.
Following the Ascension, Peter begins to flourish. He takes the lead immediately and is seen clearly as the leader of the first church. Peter is the one who speaks on the day of Pentecost; he is the first to perform a miracle in the name of Jesus; together with John he performs what amounts to the first confirmations (in Samaria); and he is the first to baptize Gentiles into the Church.
The tradition connecting Peter with Rome is well supported. St Jerome records that Peter was bishop there for 25 years before suffering martyrdom. He probably died during the reign of Nero, in the persecution of 64 AD. The old legend that Peter was fleeing from Rome when he met Christ along the Appian Way, is recorded in the book Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz (and the 1951 film).
You will have seen in the news that Churches can begin opening up again for worship from next weekend. We have not yet made a decision on how we are going to respond to that. We will keep you informed. Whatever we do, I shall continue recording Sunday services and posting them on our website, at least for the time being.
‘In today’s digital age whilst Zoom, social media and online church services are keeping many connected during the coronavirus lockdown, those self-isolating without internet access can be left feeling forgotten. Daily Hope, a free phone line, was set up to address that - and since it was launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby on 26 April, more than 150,000 calls have been received, totalling more than 1.7 million minutes of listen time’ (Diocese of Salisbury Grapevine 27 June 2020).
The prayer for today:
who inspired your apostle Saint Peter
to confess Jesus as Christ and Son of the living God:
build up your Church upon this rock,
that in unity and peace it may proclaim one truth
and follow one Lord, your Son our Saviour Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for those due to be ordained this year. In addition to those who were due to be priested on Saturday, there are the many new curates across the country who are waiting to be made deacon. Here in Salisbury Diocese, they are being appointed as lay workers – and, as with the new priests, will be ordained now on 26th September (the priests at 11am and the deacons at 5pm).
‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like’ (St Augustine).
Sunday 28th June 2020
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me’ (Matthew 10:40).
Jesus is sending his disciples out to share the good news. They are his ambassadors. They go in his name and with his authority, proclaiming the Kingdom of God. So it is with us ‘we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us’ says St Paul (2 Corinthians 5:20). An ambassador of Jesus Christ is any person who is a follower of Jesus and is thus sent out to live and work to his praise and glory in daily life. This is about people living out their Christian discipleship among all the people and places of their week. Paul precedes his declaration with ‘God.. reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us’ ((2 Corinthians 5:20).
The Church Times this week is devoted to an ‘attempt to stimulate debate within the Church about how life might be once the threat of the coronavirus pandemic has receded’. Here is part of just one contribution:
‘Crises reveal truth. They lay bare weaknesses, they expose dysfunctionality, they magnify pre-existing problems, and they show up the holes in systems and structures. You cannot lie to a crisis, and you cannot hide away from it. So, what is the coronavirus crisis telling us?
First, it is revealing something about our national life, and any attempt to rethink the ministry of the Church of England must begin with an attentive listening to the culture that it is our task to transform in Christ. I believe that we are seeing the unpicking of the lie that people today are not interested in the gospel. We have, instead, a nation relearning how to pray, looking to us for answers to the big questions, and accessing church life through online means in a way that we could not have imagined possible six months ago. Some studies reckon that one in three of the population have attended online worship since lockdown began. One Sunday, the Christians crashed Zoom.
At the same time, we are called to serve a nation on the brink of the most serious economic catastrophe in peacetime. Foodbank use has spiralled, unemployment is likely to reach levels unknown since the early 1980s, and the closure of schools is having a profound impact on the well-being and prospects of the most vulnerable children. The hollowing out of local government and the voluntary sector through ten years of austerity gives churches a huge responsibility to serve the neediest.
We are at a point in history when the nation is crying out for the ministry of the Church. But are we ready? Are our patterns of ministry robust enough to grasp hold of the biggest evangelistic opportunity that any of us will ever know?’ (Rt Revd Philip North, Church Times 26 June 2020).
The collect for this week:
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
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.
There is a service for today and a service sheet you can download or view online in order to join in. Do listen out for the bell at half past ten when I ask that you join me in a time of worship and prayer.
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for volunteers helping others in their community. Behind the headline stories of selfishness, there are greater numbers of people helping out and engaging with their neighbours. We are discovering new ways of being community, and this has been a real silver lining to the events of these past months.
On this day in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his consort, Sophie, were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia, precipitating the outbreak of World War I. Five years later, on 28th June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed at the Palace of Versailles in France, signifying the end of World War I.
Saturday 27th June 2020
‘Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ (Luke 14:34-35).
Salt is good as long as it is salty. If not, it is thrown away. Salt in the ancient world was used in several ways: as a catalyst for a fire, as seasoning, as a preservative and as fertilizer. In each case the presence of salt facilitated some function. But once salt ceases to perform its role, then it is good for nothing. Similarly, Jesus says, the disciple who loses “saltiness” can become useless to God. Discipleship is serious business to Jesus. We need to count the cost and be committed - and successful discipleship requires that we put God first.
We are called to be the salt, the leaven of our culture and of our time. Jesus’ point in talking about salt is this: If we lose our basic nature, our God-given usefulness, then we are unhelpful to the Kingdom and God’s work in the world. His message is a harsh one, but one we need to hear.
‘The kind of lifestyle God expects from his people means unquestioning loyalty to the one God, a loyalty which will find practical expression in a caring society. Only if that call is heeded can the people lay claim - as they are only too anxious to do - to the promises of God’ (Robert Davidson).
Bishop Nicholas writes ‘The prospect of churches being able to re-open for worship is a relief and will be a great joy for many. There is also likely to be some anxiety about whether reopening is possible in local circumstances and some may be wondering whether the easing of lockdown is wise. As I write, I have not seen the statutory instrument that relaxes the current prohibition nor the government’s detailed guidance on how the relaxation is to be effected. Equally, the national Church’s guidance is provisional until those documents are available. I understand that the government guidance may not be available until the end of the week and so the national Church’s guidance will follow on from that.’
Today we were due to have our Church Fete. Being unable to hold it means we miss out on the fellowship as we come together to put it on as the Church community. Also we cannot offer this occasion to our neighbours; we miss an opportunity to share the faith and raise the profile of St Laurence in the village; and we miss out on much needed income. It is perhaps some small consolation that it is raining this morning and more is forecast. We really need the rain, so we can’t complain if the Lord takes this opportunity to give us some!
Also today eight deacons in the diocese were due to be ordained priest. This has been rearranged now for 26th September. We hold them in our prayers at this time.
Lord, you have called us to be the salt of the earth.
Sprinkle us across our village,
across our world,
to bring the flavour of your Kingdom wherever we go.
Lord, you have called us to be the light of the world.
Uncover the radiance that is within us,
to shine the truth of your love wherever we go.
Lord, may our light shine before others
that everyone we meet
may see our lives of worship
and glorify you, our Father in heaven.
(based on a benediction by Sam Hargreaves)
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Bishops: Bishop Nicholas, our diocesan bishop, and Bishops Andrew and Karen, our suffragan bishops. They continue to work hard to hold everything together and to offer us guidance, supporting and encouraging the wider Church and us in the parishes.
‘God’s people witness to his truth from within their life in the world. They share a vision of mankind united and at peace; they build on the insights already vouchsafed to men, but move beyond them by giving glory to God alone’ (J.B. Muddiman).
Friday 26th June 2020
Gideon said to God, ‘In order to see whether you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said, I am going to lay a fleece of wool on the threshing-floor; if there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said.’ And it was so. (Judges 6:36-38).
I have a lot of sympathy with Gideon. Who hasn’t at times longed for some assurance that we are making the right decision? How do we know? What if we’ve got it wrong? I have found that making a choice and then sleeping on it can often help, but that doesn’t always work. So here God gives Gideon a sign - but even that is not enough. He needs another sign before he is willing to do what God asks of him.
In today’s world (and probably it has always been so) there are those who will criticise whatever we do - and perhaps at times we are too ready to criticise others. Who is not wise after the event, when it is too late or when we are not the ones making the decision? I am reminded of something said by one of our lecturers at theological college about when we spoke up in chapel. He told us that yes, there would be those who would criticise, but the other 95% were right behind you, supporting you. That is not to say that we shouldn’t hold others to account. As has been said, the role of the Church in society is to hold up a mirror so we many see the true consequences of our actions.
As we begin to open up our buildings for private prayer and - we pray - soon for services, we ask for God’s guidance and direction. We pray for the wisdom to use St Laurence, and all the buildings in our Team, to advance God’s Kingdom - that we might be ready witnesses to the hope that is within us. ‘Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence’ (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Yesterday I quoted the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, saying that this is ‘the first period without public worship and the sacraments in England in more than 800 years’. She was referring to the time when, during the reign of King John, Pope Innocent III placed the kingdom of England under an interdict for six years between March 1208 and May 1213. So we can be thankful that our lockdown looks like being somewhat shorter!
We are not people of fear:
we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.
We are not people of greed:
we are people of generosity.
We are your people God,
giving and loving,
wherever we are,
whatever it costs
For as long as it takes
wherever you call us.
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for our Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) who play an important role in the pastoral ministry of our Church, as they continue to exercise their ministry at this time, and we give thanks for their dedication.
On 26th June 1945 the Charter of the United Nations was signed in San Francisco. Also on 26th June 1483 Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester, began his reign as Richard III after usurping power from his nephew, Edward V. We continue to live with this tension between the need to cooperate together as the basis for any stable community and the pressures of individual greed and ambition.
‘We must put our confidence in truth. But that doesn’t mean sitting back, and waiting for the truth to shine from above, as one might sit back and wait for the day to break. It means following with devoted obedience the truth we have seen as true, with an entire confidence in God, that he will correct, clear and redirect our vision, to the perception of a freer and a deeper truth. Go with the truth you have, and let it carry you into collision with the hard rocks of fact, and then you’ll learn something’ (Austin Farrer).
Thursday 25th June 2020
‘When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes’ (Matthew 7:28-29).
These verses complete Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the first of five great discourses by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. Here Jesus is seen to be speaking with real authority. He is not just another itinerant preacher. The impression is given that those present hear his words as trustworthy, to be relied on. Then, as now, people could tell the difference between that and those whose words did not ring true - who only want something for themselves or are simply spouting the ‘party line’. As in the parable that immediately precedes these verses, the wise person takes his words and builds on them - they are a rock that provides a solid foundation for life. We can have confidence in Jesus’ words because they are authentic - overshadowed by the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth - taking us as it were into God's very presence.
‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world… Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth’ (John 17:6,17-19).
As we hear that the lockdown is being eased from next month, we await advice from the national Church as to what this can mean for us in practical terms of opening up and holding services. That will be dependant on the detail of the Government guidance once it is published. We remember particularly those couples who have been waiting simply to get married in Church - even if this means forgoing a big celebration.
Whatever the guidance is, we will be following a careful and cautious approach. ‘The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who leads the Church of England’s Recovery Group, said: "The last three months have been an extraordinary time - the first period without public worship and the sacraments in England in more than 800 years. There will be real joy as we begin to come together again - if even at a physical distance - but I also know that many will be understandably cautious at this news. We will not be returning to normality overnight - this is the next step on a journey. We’ve been planning carefully, making detailed advice available for parishes to enable them to prepare to hold services when it is safe and practical to do so. It is important to say that the change in Government guidance is permissive, not prescriptive”’ (https://www.churchofengland.org/).
‘God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord”’ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
Lord, help me see with eyes that are wise,
not eyes blurred with overwhelming emotions.
Help me act out of a heart that follows you,
not a heart heavy with worry.
Help me think with a holy perspective,
not a mindset based on my own opinions or feelings.
Give me wisdom and discernment,
and the ability to recognize and follow wise instruction when I receive it.
I realise that this is my 100th Daily Reflection. Who would ever have thought when all this began that it would continue for so long. It seems clear that we are still in for the long haul - and that will impact different people in various ways. We must continue to hold those most affected in our prayers.
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we pray for politicians and their advisors. As they make decisions that affect us all to a degree that we have never experienced before, we pray for true wisdom and a willingness to put the good of all before any personal benefit or ambition.
‘To be wise, you must have reverence for the Lord. To understand, you must turn from evil’ (Job 28:28).