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Words of reflection

Words of reflection on Luke 24: 13 – 35.

A number of people recently have asked: “ Where is God ?” “ Why are our churches closed”? Indeed they are questions I have asked, myself. Perhaps our reading from Luke’s gospel can help us find some answers to these and other questions.

Two disciples after witnessing the events in Jerusalem, of unrest, brutality, and crucifictions, especially of their friend and teacher Jesus. Their hopes were dashed, they had hoped Jesus was going to restore Israel, bring peace and freedom. They were bewildered, disillusioned and grieving.

We can often find ourselves bewildered, disillusioned, anxious and maybe grieving. Feeling someone or something has let us down. This may be especially true in the circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment with lockdown, isolation and the fear of getting the Corona Virus.

Jesus comes and walks beside them, helping them to think through and recall what was written in scripture and spoken by Jesus . Not recognising hat it was the risen Jesus walking and talking with them.

At the end of Matthew’s gospel, the risen Jesus says; “ all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me; therefore go and make disiples of all nations; baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age”. This was Jesus promise to his disciples and to us. As we think through the situation we find ourselves in and seek answers to our questions; God is walking beside us in the form of the Holy Spirit now, helping us to understand a little more as we read scripture and discuss with others.

When the disciple reached their home they invited Jesus for supper. This was the point that they recognised the risen Lord and they couldn’t wait to rush back the 7miles they had travelled to tell their fellow disciples. We all have free will and can choose to invite Jesus into our lives, ( this is not as difficult as trying to download skype or zoom, as I have been trying to do recently, ) No we just talk to him anywhere as if he is a neighbour or a friend, invite him in and communicate by reading and praying. We may not recognise Him at first, but he is there, especially in difficult times. He can be a guest in anyone’s home not just in church.

In Such An Hour by Fay Inchfawn

Sometimes, when everything goes  wrong:

When days are short, and nights are long;

When wash-day brings so dull a sky

That not a single thing will dry.

And when the kitchen chimney smokes,

And when there's naught so "queer" as  folks!

When friends deplore my faded youth,

And when the baby cuts a tooth.

While John, the baby last but one,

Clings round my skirts till day is done;

When fat, good-tempered Jane is glum,

And butcher's man forgets to come.

Sometimes, I say, on days like these,

I get a sudden gleam of bliss.

"Not on some sunny day of ease,

He'll come . . but on a day like this!"

Reflections on John 20

When you look for sermons on our reading from John 20 from :19 to the end of this gospel, you’ll find many are about Thomas and his unbelief. However, the story shows that the disciples were not having much more faith than Thomas; they weren’t great believers either. 

It says that on the evening of that day they were shut inside because of fear. Although in the morning they were told the Lord has risen, it didn’t brought them great happiness. Instead, they were behind locked doors because of fear. And in the midst of their fear, hiding behind locked doors; Jesus comes in their midst and says; Peace be with you.   

One of the most remarkable things in the story is that Jesus is not saying to the disciples; have I not told You I would rise on the 3rd day, so why didn’t you believe? There’s no accusation of unbelief or reproach by Jesus when He sees His friends again for the fist time after His resurrection. The first time He sees them again, His first words to them are; Peace be with you.  

Today in the fear of the outbreak of the Corona virus and many are locked inside in their homes, in fear of the virus, Jesus wants to stand in your midst speaking the same words again; Peace be with you. Jesus will not reproach us when we fall in doubt or show signs of unbelief. He’s not saying to us; why didn’t you belief? His words to all those who invite Jesus in their lives are the simple words; Peace be with you. It might sound a simple sentence, but the depth of these words reaches an enormous reservoir of peace, hope, trust and any other comfort we might ever need that only God can give.  

Peace be with you Jesus says; a peace of God no one and nothing else can provide.   

His peace be with you.

A special Prayer for Easter Midweek

Heavenly Father, we thank You for the message of Easter, of the risen Christ among us. Especially today in the middle of Easter week, we are conscious that there is so much that is uncertain, so much we can not predict and so much we neither know nor understand. Lord in Your great mercy, assure us of the victory of Christ.

Remind us once more in this week of Easter, that in all the changes and chances of our nation only You are our unchanging Rock, an unfailing Deliverer and our eternal hope. Lord in Your great mercy, assure us of the victory of Christ.

Help us to continue to celebrate Easter in the next few days of this Easter week. Knowing that Your love continues through all things, Your power continues through all things and Your presence is with us in all things. Lord in Your great mercy, assure us of the victory of Christ.

Give us today a sense of Your great care towards us, a recognition of all You have done and a confidence in all you will do. Be among us now, we pray, through the risen Christ. Help us to hear His voice and to offer You our praise. And guide us to understand that our hope is in You alone and to live in that assurance. Lord in Your great mercy, assure us of the victory of Christ.

Easter

Easter is about surprises. If you go out for a walk today, surprise one of the people you meet on the road (from a 2 meter distance) and say to him or her; Happy Easter because the Lord is risen today. I don’t know whether the other will respond with; He is risen indeed. But, he or she will at least be surprised by what you say.

What happened to the disciples on Easter morning was not less surprising.

The experience of this surprise was for the disciples a kind of spiritual experience which we might better call a spiritual distortion, because their whole world view turned upside down. It’s not normal that dead people re-appear on the 3rd day after their funeral and greet their friends.  

Churches are generally not good at letting people doubt and pastors or ministers are expected to know exactly who God is and how He works with and for His people in this world. Doubt and confusion do not really fit into this pattern. But that’s exactly what the first Easter is all about; doubt and confusion.

Doubt about the resurrection of Jesus and confusion about how and what had happened.

Take for example the witness of the 2 Mary’s who went to the grave to pay their last tribute to the corps of Jesus, as we read in Mark. In those days no one wishing to convince someone of an event would use women as witnesses. 

The doubt and confusion of the resurrection was accompanied by an overturning of certain fixed rules of behaviour in that society.   

The disciples didn’t believe the story at first and it made them think very hard. This experience is a powerful reminder to us. God wants us to be aware of the reality of the risen Lord that we become enthusiastic witnesses.

The disciples and other friends of Jesus have gone through the doubt and confusion for us at the first Easter. But, it didn’t hold them down. Their doubt and confusion turned into the greatest incentive ever seen in this world of convincing others of this truth. They did not go alone, because it was the risen Christ Who appeared to them and helped them overcoming all doubt and confusion. 

As the disciples so many years ago we can overcome doubt and confusion to rejoice and be thankful for what the resurrection really means; sin and evil, all leading to death, have been overcome through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Hans

 

A very different Easter

The empty tomb

Three years ago, my wife Anna and I celebrated Easter somewhere very different.

On Easter Day, we attended a sunrise service on the banks of the Chobe River in Botswana, just over the border from Namibia. It was a mix of traditional hymns and African singing, local people mingling with elderly British ex-pats, with the sermon preached by a visiting, evangelical American pastor. Despite the location, the sun was concealed behind grey cloud, which made us feel strangely at home, as did the hot cross buns and miniature Easter eggs that were handed out after the service!

I thought then about how different it was from the villages where we worship week after week: different – and yet, essentially the same, with people gathering to witness their faith and celebrate the most extraordinary event in recorded history. This is the story that has spread to the farthest reaches of every continent; the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the implications that these events have for how we live, how we treat each other and for our relationship with God.

Three years on, this Easter is very different again: but this time, it’s unlike any other – no gatherings in churches anywhere this weekend, but services held only online, along with TV recordings made in previous years. Yet despite the challenges of the uncertain times we are living in, the key messages of Easter remain undiminished – the two central propositions of the Christian faith.

·      Firstly, that Jesus was not just another radical who challenged the authorities and became difficult, but that it was God himself who had entered His creation in the person of Jesus Christ. This is not a God who is remote and unknowable, but a God who, in that human incarnation, lived what we would recognise as a normal life for 30-plus years and then suffered the very worst that any of us could experience – torture and violent death. If the story ended with that violent death, then it would indeed all make little sense. But of course, that is not where the story ends.

·     The second central claim of the Easter story and the Christian faith is that Jesus then rose physically from the tomb: that on that first Easter morning and on some ten subsequent occasions was witnessed walking, talking and even eating with the disciples and others. Death had truly been overcome – it was a very real and tangible demonstration that death was not the end.

Without the resurrection, nothing about Christianity makes sense. If it’s not true, then nothing matters. But if you accept the Resurrection, then you see everything from a quite different viewpoint: it changes everything. I have been re-reading Rowan Williams’ thoughts on the Easter story recently. Sometimes, he cuts through the difficulties with an extraordinary clarity – no less than when he observed that “all Christian theology is essentially reflection on Easter”. For at Easter we realise that although Jesus’ crucifixion seemed to mean that the whole purpose of His life and mission had been defeated, the resurrection then demonstrated victory, over both the worst that humans can do to each other and over the apparent finality of death. The impact of this is immense – as are the implications for the life that it challenges us to lead.

We have seen in these last three weeks how people of all faiths or none are responding to the challenge that Christians recognise in the commandment to “love your neighbour as yourself”: the immense generosity of spirit demonstrated by so many acts of kindness and selflessness all over the country.  That is truly something to celebrate this Easter. For, in Rowan Williams’ words, this is a time when we can “simply ask for whatever healing it is that you need, whatever grace and hope you need … then step towards your neighbour. Easter reveals a God who is ready to give you that grace and to walk with you.”

May we all receive and celebrate that grace this Easter; and may it sustain us as we await the better times that will surely lie ahead. Amen.

Good Friday

When writing my PhD many years ago, I came across a sentence from Prof. Dr. Carl Braaten on whom I did my research, describing in a few words the heart of the message of Good Friday and Easter. Braaten wrote: Without the light of the Easter morning the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth would probably have remained eclipsed forever by the blackout on Friday noon. The blackout of Friday noon is of course the moment on which Jesus Christ died on the cross.  

There are many theories about the question of what is the real purpose of the death of Christ? Some of those theories are varied with some mutually compatible, when others are very complex, but each of those theories offer a different interpretations on the death of Christ. In this jungle of different theories and theologies about why Jesus had to die on the cross, all of these are perhaps encompassed in the words of the former Archbishop of Canterbury during WWII, William Temple, who once wrote: Nothing can achieve a power at all comparable to that of the love of God unveiled in Jesus Christ, and above all in His death. There, we see what sin mean to God and how He bears it. And as we see we are won out of our selfishness to a love which answers His.  

As Braaten showed in his sentence, without the message of Easter the ministry of Jesus Christ would perhaps never even been mentioned in the history books and no one would have ever heard about Him. He then would have been like one of the many advocates for liberation from oppressing powers, or one of the freedom fighters, but without using weaponry.  Easter is only within a few days, but now at Good Friday we should already look ahead to what happened on that day. Without Easter, Good Friday can be nothing more than a day of mourning or remembrance. But, with Easter in view, the meaning of Good Friday becomes a day of looking forward to a glorious day, even when it feels a day of sobriety and sadness.  

Hans

Maundy Thursday

A few years ago, one of our church members, showed me a small leather purse with some new coins in it.  It was Maundy Money, presented to her by the queen at a special ceremony in one of the Cathedrals. 

The word Maundy derives from the Latin Mandatum, which means command and it refers to the command Jesus gave His disciples to love another as recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 13, verse 34.   Queens Maundy Money, as it is officially called, are coins which are legal tender but do not circulate because of their silver content and numismatic value. The first Royal Maundy money ceremony took place in the reign of Charles II, when the king gave people undated hammered coins in 1662. The coins were a four penny, three penny, two penny and one penny piece.  

Today, those who receive Royal Maundy Money, are men and women in the older age bracket, who are chosen because of their Christian service they have given to the Church and to the community. The ceremony takes place once a year at Maundy Thursday and there are as many recipients as there are years in the sovereign’s age. At the ceremony, the queen gives each recipient two small leather string purses. A red purse contains ordinary coins, while a white one contains the silver Maundy coins, amounting to the same number of pence as the queen’s age.   

The ceremony is a symbol of the queen her role to serve the people and is based on the command Jesus gave to His disciples to love another. Jesus not only gave this command, but He also showed them what He meant by washing the feet of His disciples.  The ritual of washing feet before dinner was normal in those days, like washing hands before going to eat, but it was performed by one of the servants in the household and certainly not by the host. Jesus however turned this upside down and instead washed the feet of those whom He had invited by Himself. In doing so, Jesus could rightly say; love another....as I have loved you.

There should be no servant/master relationship between those who put their trust in Christ and Jesus gave the example by washing the disciples feet. A Maundy Service in church would have reminded us of this practice and of its symbolic significance. Bill organises this service every year and instead of washing each others feet, we share food prepared by each participant to share with each other before we finish with a short service.  

Because this year we’re not allowed to have service in Church, Bill has made a service for us to be watched as a video on Youtube, via the website, via Facebook, or directly on Youtube. The service reminds us all, that as a church we’re serving each other and there is no relationship like master or servant, but we should all be caring for each other as one. 

Thoughts from isolation
Hans has asked me to share a message that I sent to members of the church in Lovell last weekend.   What a strange few weeks these have been! My wife and I are in isolation like so many others. In our case this would have likely happened anyway because Barbara has an unrelated medical condition that increases the need for personal care.   On the positive side, the garden has never been in such good order. On the negative, I miss just being able to pop out to the garden centre to browse and let's be honest, just indulge in the odd plant or three.   I have been asked how people may continue to support the church. Financially this can be done by sending your gifts to  - Lillingstone Lovell PCC - sort code 20-57-40 Account 40021792. Sadly the bills don’t just stop even in these circumstances.   Should you need support or just a friendly voice then you can contact me or the church office on 01280814430 and someone will get back to you. But do follow the advice to stay home unless absolutely necessary.   Our church building like all religious buildings is shut, as they are for all faiths. I think this is unfortunate. I understand no gatherings of more than two people and that therefor our services must be cancelled. But many find solace and mental strength from being able to use the church just as a place of quiet contemplation and many more a necessary place; a place to commune with God Our Father. For me this is the first time for more than 40 years that I have not gone to a church building on Sunday without a specific reason .I am finding that very strange. When working it was a way to switch off from the day to day pressures. Since retiring it has got me out of the house and able to meet and talk to a group of people I like to think of as like minded friends.    However the Diocese is broadcasting a service every Sunday morning at 10.00am. The link is https://www.oxford.anglican.org/coronavirus-covid-19/livestream/. If that doesn’t workout go to the the Diocesan of Oford web site and use the Directory or try  oxford.anglican.org/livestream

In our own Parish we are developing a new Parish web site. The link for that is http://nbpchurches.org.uk/ On this you will find an increasing volume of news and other information. This months Parish Magazine is on there for you to enjoy.

  Last Sunday I was due to preach at the Deanery Lent Evensong. The theme for the series was christian care. In our communion service within the prayers of penitence we are reminded to “ Love your neighbour as yourself”. All around us we see examples of the vast majority of our community working together for others. Whether it by a phone call to someone who might be isolated or collecting some shopping. It has been good to see how people are acknowledging each other and showing courtesy to each other. Long may that continue. Let us shut out the actions of idiots and those in the press who always look for the negative in every situation. Let's be encouraged that the vast majority are working - together - for the common good - truly following the principles of Love your neighbour as yourself.   One of the set Gospel readings for this recent Sunday, Palm Sunday, on, and the Death of Jesus. But it ends with the Centurion and those who were with him proclaiming “Surely he was the Son of God”.   In this difficult time let us as christians never forget the sure and certain knowledge that he is The Son of God. That he will watch over us and will lead us out of our current troubles if we will believe and have trust in him.   May the Lord Jesus watch over you and your families and keep you well and safe.   Every blessing. May we all meet again soon when times are better.   Ian
Parish letter

All Buckingham households in our Parish will receive a letter about what the church can do for those living in our parish, beginning Tuesday 7 April. Those living in Maids Moreton already received a letter from the parish and church council together. We already received quite a few phonecalls (up to 4 a day) from those living in the parish requesting some support in shopping's or collecting prescriptions, or other inquiries. The letter (here underneath) to all Buckingham housholds explains it further.

 

MESSAGE FROM St EDMUNDS CHURCH

Dear Reader,

As the situation around the Corona Covid-19 outbreak appears to continue with restrictions about our moving around, we want to inform you about the support your Parish church at Maids Moreton can give you.

The office in St. Edmunds church functions as a community hub for dealing with requests for help and support where ever needed, for example, we can help with shopping or collecting prescriptions. 

Also, if you are feeling isolated and would like someone to talk to we would be happy to listen.

The office cannot be open as per directive by the Authorities, but you can leave a message on the answer-phone by calling (01280) 814430 in the office or send an email request to the address given on our Facebook account, or to the email address on our new website at www.nbpchurches.org.uk

Several times per day we will listen to messages left on the answer phone and we will call you back, or reply to your email at the earliest opportunity.

We will always do our best to help, but if we are unable to because of Governmental guidance or because we’re not in a position to support you, we will forward your request to other organisations who may be in a position to help.

For any other information about what your Parish church can offer you, please have a look at our website: www.nbpchurches.org.uk.

If we can be of any help you, pease do not hesitate to ask us.

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, 590 MP.

Wow! I've made it.

I was reading this hymn earlier this week, when at last I had decided even I had to lockdown, and it lead me to know the only place to look, in this mess we find ourselves in, was to God. The second verse says: "Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Psalm 121 says:" I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth." Yes I have questions, why is this happening? looking for reasons etc, and yes, God encourages us to ask and seek. Although my questions and looking for reasons have not clearly been answered, I have found comfort and confidence in what I have read to know God is aware and remains the maker and redeemer of heaven and earth. Can I encourage you also to: first, seek the Kingdom of God, second, to read His word and third pray.

Cast all your care upon Christ our Redeemer, and trust in His promise to be by your side.

His love will uphold you, His arms will enfold you, let Him be your Saviour, your shepherd and guide.

Fret not nor fear, for whatever befalls you, remember for love of you Jesus was slain.

In dying for us, He shared our human sorrow and bore on His shoulders the weight of your pain.

Though life be fraught with all maner of sorrows the stresses and strains that beset us each day.

Be firm in your faith for the Lord will be with you, and be by your side as your strength and your stay.

( Rev John Davey, Nottingham City Mothers' Union Branch,uk )

 

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