Sermon and prayers

Readings

Ezekiel 37:1-14  

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath[a] to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath[b] in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

John 20:19-29

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 

I remember that night how could I forget?

 It was the Sunday evening, we were trying to meet and pray together- those of us who were left in the city. Outside there was a mob gathering – Jews, Romans, everyone. They would have dragged us out and killed us, rabid with anger, the noise was deafening.

The temple police had been after us since they’d taken him away and then after they crucified him word had got about that Jesus’ body had vanished and rumours that he was walking about were all over. If they found us meeting they would have made examples of us. You could taste the fear amongst us disciples.

And we didn’t have any idea what was happening with Jesus. Was he dead? Who was this other person going around being Jesus? Was this the Messiah after all? Was he returned to lead us to victory? Were we going to battle now?

Mary told us, again, that she’d seen him alive, told us to hold on because he would come. Then Peter piled in with his story and said yes of course it was Jesus, not a ghost … ghosts don’t eat grilled fish.  

Anyway, we shut the doors, barred them, leaned against them, nobody could have got in, we stacked the benches against them and the livestock. I say it again nobody could have got in.

And then, He appeared and a great silence fell – and he said, ’Shalom‘ peace to each other and may Gods kingdom of peace and justice come -and we couldn’t hear the clamour outside anymore.

He showed us his wounds, his side, his hands-there they were undeniable. Proof.

This couldn’t be somebody else pretending, anyway it was him – how could we mistake? Nobody else made you feel like that – nobody else calmed the storms inside and out.

But then he started another storm. He offered peace again saying Just as the Father sent me, so I am now going to send you.”

And then, and then, he breathed the spirit into us. And in the middle of the turbulence the noise, and the confusion …we were made new. He breathed hope into our dry bones. Hope for the future, the hope that he was the Messiah and had risen from the dead.

Then we began to understand this was the breath of creation and only God can create, so we knew then that he was the Lord. There he was, body, wounds, dead, alive; the light in the darkness.

I wanted to bathe in this spirit for ever – it was as if he lived in us.

Then He told us to set people free from their sin and if we didn’t people would stay bound by them. I thought of a world bound by not knowing what we had just seen with our own eyes that Jesus was the son of God and through him we were going to enter into Gods peace.

That night in the dark and the chaos He gave us that responsibility, that burden. I got the feeling that if I retained any of those sins I would be burdened with them forever. They would become my sins. All along he’d said about the people who didn’t see him as the fathers son were those that were lost – was this what he meant? The real sin is denying that he was God and closing your heart to him. Choosing to live in the dark.

Now we had to convince the world that we had seen the truth. I stood there and wondered how do we do this?In this day and age -where our message competes with so many more easy messages. When the authorities hate the message – when no one wants to hear us – how do we do it? We didn’t even know if we were going to get out of this room alive – let alone tell the world the saviour had come.

Jesus always taught us that we are all welcome in his father’s house tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes. He was giving us himself so that we could take it to the rest of the world. He who had conquered death. And the glory of that moment overflowed – we wanted all of his creation to feel this and we would risk everything to tell it.

No, I never could forget that night. He‘d given us the task but also the power. We had to go out there and do it. If we didn’t tell this story – that we had witnessed the risen lord how would people know?  We had to reveal the messiah to everyone.

And then and there I prayed that all generations would see what we had seen, that when we were long dead people would know that Jesus is.  

Slowly the noise outside began again, but this time it sounded like people demanding their salvation. Wrapped in the joy of knowing the Lord lived we moved from the light towards the darkness outside.

We unbarred the doors – we had a story to tell.

Services schedule

Sunday live streamed eucharist from St Mary’s Pembridge or the Rectory. 11.00 am.

You can find this on Anna’s Facebook page or on Youtube.

Dial a sermon Call this number to hear the weeks sermon read by Anna 01584 701985

Morning Prayer

Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday I say Morning prayer at 9.00 am. You are welcome to join in in spirit.         

Tuesday Morning Prayer 9.00 and Saturday Compline at 7.00 p.m. on Zoom.

Friday Morning 11.00 a.m Celtic prayer on Zoom.

If you would like to join in on the Zoom services please let me know(This is for security purposes) and I will send you an invitation. It is very easy to join a Zoom session.

Janice Moore would like to let everyone know that although Christian Aid Week will not happen this year people can still donate on line orby sending a cheque  payable to Christian Aid to Christian Aid, 35 Lower Marsh, London, SE1 7RL.

 I am planning to live stream the Eucharist on Facebook – please wish me luck this is not something that comes naturally to me!however there has been a certain amount of interest in the sermons I have posted up on Facebook so I will give it a go.

 With my prayers for you all have a good Sunday.

Anna Rev’d Anna BranstonRector of the Arrowvale Group of Parishesabranston2002@gmail.com

Acts 2.42–47

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.


John 10.1–10

10‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Sermon Easter 4

Community – the word is everywhere. We are expressing huge amounts of gratitude and pleasure in a renewed feeling of community. At the same time there have been heated debates as to whether this is a reflection of the early church or not.

The argument is that our new ways of worshipping from home mirror early Christian house churches. Although I think that is partly true I am more interested in how we are forming how we are developing our church as communities amid the Corona virus crisis.

And I believe we have much hope and encouragement to draw from the accounts of the formation of the early church.

The passage from Acts could be likened to our current situation in that

early Christians met at home and worshiped there, as many disciples from near and far came to join the church. In the same way we are adding to our numbers via streamed services on Facebook and Zoom Certainly what is true is that we are being profoundly affected by a renewed sense of the value of community and service to others. Which is a good thing.   Underlying all this is the knowledge that we are changed and when we change the world changes. 

The early church was formed in the immediate drama of the resurrection and the change that flowed from that. We are being changed by this virus but 4 weeks into Easter we should remember that the overarching change in the life of Christians is still the resurrection. This above all is what we have in common with the early church and what brings us hope and encouragement.

The reading from Acts tells us of the formation of this church community. People coming from all over to be fed physically and spiritually and by doing so they find commonality in shared belief and being ministered to by the Apostles, pooling their resources to feed the new disciples and fund evangelists.

Following Jesus’ missionary instruction to take the Gospel to the whole world

the early church began the transformation from an exclusive Jewish sect to the Gospel for all. The early church communities had to be open to newcomers.

My commentary puts it this way,

 ‘They respond to the new face at the table. They learn new scripts and live into new roles. They make room for those that are different, even as they stand “together” (vs. 44) in worship, service, learning and fellowship. They are open to the surprise of the Spirit and to the awe-filled work of God’s.’

Shared identity was formed by the setting of boundaries – establishing what Christians actually believed – otherwise known as doctrine. Many converts were being made while the church established its doctrine. Reports of the early church tell of services of hymns, scripture reading and eucharists. 

Newcomers had to be taught what Christians believe (See the letters of St Paul) and by liturgy. Developing a system of teaching what the belief was is where we get both catechism and the creeds that we still say today.

This carried on for a three hundred odd years until Constantine established Christianity as the state religion setting  firmer boundaries on doctrine and liturgy and liberating Christians from persecution and martyrdom.

In a time of change and turmoil let us learn from the accounts of the earliest Christians how to be church. How to respond with openness to the Holy Spirit.

How do we react to our heightened awareness of the needs of others ?     

If we are truly desirous of bringing the Good News to everyone what can we do ?

If we are to be like that early church we should be properly prepared.

This is still the season of Easter when we rejoice in God’s ultimate act of divine love for the whole world. We will convince people that Christianity is indeed the religion of love by being those communities of love ourselves. The ‘community’ we have been so happy to rediscover is what the church should be.

The community where we are relearning how to value the bonds of eating together and the spiritual labour of praying together.

We  are like the early church if we are open to change, growth, and

learning what it is to be a Christian in the world.

What must we do to nurture it ? What will we have to sacrifice to keep the Church alive? Futher hope and encouragement lies in the knowledge that the early church grew, amidst turmoil and often conflicting and fluid understandings of what Christianity was (Plus ca change), an influx of different tribes and cultures and practises.

The early Christians were establishing the fundamental principles of the faith. The principles that hold good today and forming communities that obey the commandments to love God and our neighbours. In the end for the church to grow everyone had to sit down together and share bread. Emphasising again and again the Christian commonality in the body of Christ.

The early Church did it physically – we are having to learn how to do it remotely. Church may well, in the future, exist more outside our beautiful buildings. In buddy systems, small house churches, On-line, on the phone. It will still be Church and we will through shared scripture, prayer, and liturgy remain in communion with our predecessors on the early church. Because we share in the boundless grace of the Love of God.

 I am trying to say that the church is changing and so it should and if we are to be more community, more outward facing then we have to ask ourselves what are prepared to sacrifice to make this happen

Easter 2 sermon and prayers. April 2020


Easter Greetings to you all! Hallelujah!
One of the prescribed readings for this Sunday [Second Sunday of Easter; 19th April] is in the New
Testament from the first letter of Peter, chapter 1 verses 3-9.
When I was reading over it, I was struck by the words in verse 6 in particular; ‘In this, you rejoice,
even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials’.
Biblical scholars have worked out that this letter was written between AD 62 and 64. Who was
Peter writing to? Well, unlike many of the other letters in the New Testament, Peter was not
writing to any one person or even any one Church specifically, but it was a letter intended to be
passed on to anyone or any community who were facing, or who were about to face, ‘suffering’.
The ‘suffering’ could be anything; physical [like persecution or illness], spiritual [like loss of faith] or
even economic [like famine or monetary hardship]. In addition, Peter was wanting to reach out to
those Christians who were being persecuted for their faith.
The purpose of the letter was to encourage the reader[s].
And furthermore, to address the question of how his Christian readers should respond to their
‘suffering’.
Life in the Middle East in the First Century was not easy. Most people never had enough money
because the Romans forced high taxation on everyone. Most people hated being under the rule of
the Romans and longed to be free. Most people were unskilled and made a living as best they
could. Many were farmers and were therefore subject to the vagaries of the weather. Healthcare
was virtually non-existent and most people, women in particular, died before they were ‘middleaged’.
And, if you dared to believe in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, you would be persecuted and
probably killed.
So, life in Peter’s day was not easy. …………….. And yet, he tells his readers to ‘rejoice’.
Our house is on Bearwood Lane, leading out of Pembridge village which is a mile away down it.
Since the lock down enforced on us because of the corona virus, and the accompanying suggestion
that we can [should?] go out once a day to take exercise, the lane has never seen so much activity.
Everyday, we must see between 10 and 20 people walking, running or cycling past; some we know
by name, some we know by sight [now] and others we have never seen before.
And without exception, everyone is surprisingly jolly and upbeat. ‘How are you?’ … ‘Are you
keeping well?’ …. ‘Lovely weather, isn’t it?’ ……… ‘Keep safe’.
This positivity continues even when the conversation is more in-depth. Yes, there are a few
grumbles about having to queue outside Morrisons, or not being able to buy everything that one
might want [or need], not being able to go out as one might want or the effect the dry weather is
having on the fields and crops, …… but …….
Overall, people seem to be looking for the positives rather than the negatives.
I find this both heartening and remarkable. Night after night, morning after morning, the radio and
television news seems to be more and more doom-laden. Everyday, we are told how many more
people have died from the corona virus, how our mental health is deteriorating, how the economy
is suffering, how the police are having to fine people for not keeping to the lock-down rules, that
medical and care staff are not receiving enough P.P.E. And so on and so forth.
Then, once in a while, a little bit of light shines through. The windows emblazoned with rainbow
motifs, the Thursday night round of applause for the NHS, Captain Tom Moore and his exceptional
fund-raising zimmer-frame walk, the fact that we are celebrating Easter.
Isn’t it all about seeing the Light amidst the darkness?
Peter exhorted his readers, whoever they were and whatever their trials and tribulations might be,
to rejoice. Why? Well, there are at least two answers to that question. One is, that the time of trial
and tribulation will come to an end, and secondly, because Christians of all people need to be
emphasising Resurrection over despair.
It is definitely the case that Light shines out of Darkness, Good comes out of Evil. These are not
platitudes; they are Truths. Furthermore, we are loved, unconditionally, by God, our Maker and
Creator, for which we cannot help but Rejoice. We also believe that there is more to Life than that
which we currently experience and that that future Life will be perfect and eternal.
In verse 3 of Peter’s letter, he reminds his readers of one of the central beliefs of our faith; that
Jesus has given us a new birth into a living hope, through His Resurrection from the dead.
The Resurrection has happened, the Resurrection is happening. Succoured by our Christian faith,
let us all look forward, with a living hope, to a new birth, a new, transformed Life for Easter is
happening and nothing can stop it. Hallelujah!
Amen
Prayer for the Second Sunday of Easter
Loving God,
we praise you again for this season
and the assurance it brings
that nothing can ever finally overcome your love.
You confronted the forces of evil,
allowing them to throw everything
they could muster against you,
and when they had done their worst
you emerged victorious,
no power able to hold you down.
Teach us always to hold on to that truth,
and so to live each moment in the knowledge
that, whatever we may face,
your love will see us through.
In the name of the risen Christ we pray.
Amen.
St Thomas Malcolm Guite
“We do not know… how can we know the way?”
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
And cut through their evasion and abstraction.
Oh doubting Thomas, father of my faith,
You put your finger on the nub of things
We cannot love some disembodied wraith,
But flesh and blood must be our king of kings.
Your teaching is to touch, embrace, anoint,
Feel after Him and find Him in the flesh.
Because He loved your awkward counter-point
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
Oh place my hands with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.