A week on with the coronavirus and life looks very different to how it did just a few days ago and it feels slightly uncomfortable seeing people walk past wearing face masks and pictures on the news of the Police talking with people having a picnic on a beach. I watched the One Show on television last night, something I wouldn’t normally do as I would have been preparing to go out to a meeting and there was one presenter, one guest and a production crew of four people, very odd indeed. Things changed significantly on Monday evening when the Prime Minister announced a much tougher approach than we have seen so far. Karen and I were talking the other day and commenting how this feels reminiscent of the foot and mouth crisis of 2001 only far more extreme.
The difficulty at times like this is that if we are not careful all we can see is negativity. I am used to being out and about, meeting people, enjoying being in the countryside particularly at this time of the year and instead, I am cooped up in the house most of the time. The frustration doesn’t help either “shop online rather than leaving the house” the Prime Minister told us on Monday evening, have you tried this? The very best deliver slot I can get is the 14th April, almost three weeks away, some supermarkets simply say “no slot available” I even tried to click and collect but was no more successful which is incredibly frustrating. A week ago, we could go to the shops, but the shelves were empty because of panic buying, today with new rules about bulk buying, there’s stock on the shelves, but we’re advised not to go there! What are we meant to do?
There are positives there though if we look out for them. I saw a news item where a shop keeper is putting together free packs to deliver out to his regular customers who are now house bound, there are co-operatives springing up where volunteers are helping out the vulnerable, my telephone has been red hot over the last few days to the degree that the batteries are now needing charging on a regular basis, this means that I have actually been speaking to people, rather than just e-mailing. Six of us at Elmsett had a new experience this morning as we shared a “Zoom Meeting” using video conferencing, we have our new Circuit website Methodistic.org.uk with people from around the circuit contributing now to our new “thought for the day” and new material is finding its way on there daily.
I have enclosed a service for this coming Sunday (Passion Sunday) which you can follow on the day, I have also added a prayer, published by the church of England which you might find helpful. Christians up and down the country are being invited by Churches Together to light a Candle at 7pm and place it in our windows as a visible sign of the light of Christ, the Light of the world, you might want to join us. We talked in our meeting this morning about how to deal with Easter and a suggestion was made that we place a cross outside the Church and invite people to hang prayers on it, thoughts, feelings, poems etc during the next couple of weeks and then invite people from the community to come and place flowers on the cross on Easter Day, this can be an outward sign of the journey we face as Christians at Easter as we journey from darkness to light.
In these uncertain time keep positive in the Love of Christ.
Love and God Bless
Passion Sunday Service
Note: The hymn numbers are from “Singing the Faith” the current hymnbook of the Methodist Church, you will need to look them up if your Church uses a different book. I have also put links into YouTube for the hymns, my choice might not be yours, so by all means look for alternatives.
Bible Reading: Psalm 130
Hymn 565 Only by grace can we enter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F21gQwATaac
Prayer Caught between joy and despair, we yearn for the fulfilment of God’s desire beyond the brokenness and neediness of this life. We pray for the transformation of the church and the world.
Gracious God, the author of salvation, we give you thanks for Jesus Christ, our Lord, who came in your name and turned the lonely way of rejection and death into triumph. Grant us the steadfast faith to enter the gates of righteousness, that we may receive grace to become citizens of your heavenly kingdom.
Holy Father, who gave his only son so that we might find life and live it abundantly, awaken in us the humility to serve wherever creation is broken and in need. By your Spirit, call us into the world as a holy people, dying to the things which separate us from your love, and being raised with the abundance and joy of hope and peace. Through humility let us crucify our pride. Through simple living let us crucify poverty. Through solidarity let us crucify suffering. Through faith let us crucify despair.
Sovereign Lord, everlasting and almighty, in your tender love for your children, you sent your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, as we continue to pray saying:
The Lord’s prayer:
Old Testament Ezekiel 37: 1-14
Think for a few moments about the reading, it is perhaps familiar to us all, think about anything you have read that makes you feel uncomfortable, does anything amuse you? Make you feel happy? Give you hope?
The reading starts quite negatively, the prophet must have felt hopeless as he looked at the dry bones, not only dead, but far beyond any hope of restoration. Ezekiel knows that he doesn’t have the power to do anything himself and yet God works through him, it is the man who prophesies, and the miracle happens.
We might feel quite helpless today in the midst of all that is currently happening around us, it might be that all we can feel is the hopelessness of our common plight and yet we believe in a God who breathes new life into the bones.
Hymn 391 O breath of life, come sweeping through us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AapvdRqSYrk
Epistle Romans 8: 6-11
Possibly one of the most frustrating aspects of life in the last week or so has been the response of some people who have emptied the shelves in supermarkets, meaning that some have been forced to go without, one of the saddest things I’ve seen was the video of critical care nurse Dawn Bilbrough crying when she went to do her shopping after working a forty eight hour shift and had not been able to get what she needed because others had taken more than they needed.
Paul is teaching us that life is more than simply our bodily needs, it is about our Spiritual needs, looking back at the Ezekiel reading, the resurrected bodies are not the same as they previously were, the breath within them is now the breath of God, they emerge different because of that very fact.
As we live through the present age, let us pray that we emerge, not simply as we were before we experienced all of this but filled with the Love of God in the power of his Spirit.
Prayer You might find it helpful to light a candle or look a picture that helps you.
Pray for people in need at this timeThe Church, seeking to fulfil God’s calling in these strange circumstances The world, remembering that there are more news stories than just the Covid 19 crisis. Remember world leaders who are making decisions at the moment that can mean the difference between life and death. This country, our government, our NHS workers and the strain they find themselves under, those who are now housebound and feeling the loneliness of isolation. The people on our prayer lists in our Churches. Ourselves as we strive to cope the best we can
Hymn 346 Christ is the worlds light https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tkmod9AW99s
Reading: John 11: 1-45
This Sunday is Passion Sunday, a day when we reflect on the importance of the cross. One of the key distinctions of Christian theology is the Easter Story for we believe that Christ died on the cross for us and was raised to life on the third day. The story of Lazarus reminds us that God has power over all, even death itself. John goes to great length to tell us that Lazarus is not just ill, not just asleep but dead for four days and encased in the tomb and much like the Ezekiel story, life is breathed back into him.
The Easter story is about being born again, leaving behind what has been and moving forward with God. As I have said in my pastoral letter this week, we might easily feel depressed by what is happening in the world at the moment, or like the bones in the valley, like the Roman people reading Pauls letter, like Lazarus, we might see this experience as being raised to new life in Christ. Amen!
Hymn 345 And can it be https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29myH7xXI4M
Prayer Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.