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Intercessions for Third Sunday of Easter Year B: 19 April 2015

Emmaus

 A wayside shrine in Lower Austria, painted by Albert Huspeka in 1996. CCL.

The Collect

Almighty Father, who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord: give us such knowledge of his presence with us, that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life and serve you continually in righteousness and truth; 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. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Acts 3.12-19

Peter addressed the people, ‘You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you. ‘And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.’

 

Psalm 4

Refrain: In peace I will lie down and sleep.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness; *you set me at liberty when I was in trouble; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
How long will you nobles dishonour my glory; * how long will you love vain things and seek after falsehood?
But know that the Lord has shown me his marvellous kindness; * when I call upon the Lord, he will hear me.
Stand in awe, and sin not; * commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. R
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness * and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many that say, ‘Who will show us any good?’ * Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us.
You have put gladness in my heart, * more than when their corn and wine and oil increase.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, * for it is you Lord, only, who make me dwell in safety.

Refrain: In peace I will lie down and sleep.

 

Second Reading: 1 John 3.1-7

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

 

Luke 24.36b-48

While the eleven and their companions were talking about what they had heard, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’

If you could be one of the disciples for a day, which day would you choose? I think for me it would be this moment, watching Christ eat a piece of grilled fish just like the old times, the very ordinariness of it. And then ‘he opens their minds to understand the scriptures’: the full understanding of the meaning of the resurrection is unlocked as they share their meal, knowing that they are somehow reunited, forever.

 

Prayers of Intercession

Give us today, O God,
a glad heart and a clear conscience,
that when we come to this day’s end
we may rest in peace with Christ our Lord.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, open the minds and hearts of your people to the living reality of your presence amongst us, and help us to live our lives reflecting that reality in ourselves and to others. We thank you that in the Eucharist, the beating heart of Christian worship, we your people have taken, eaten, and remembered for nearly two thousand years, opening ourselves to transformation in mind, body and spirit.

Lord, may we see you more clearly day by day: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, look with tenderness on this fragile earth, our island home. Help, we pray, all our human efforts to nurture nature, the flora and fauna you have entrusted to our care, the air that we breathe and the water that we drink. Help us as we work towards a fairer distribution of the world’s resources, so that none shall die for lack of food or clean water. Look with compassion on a world where the innocent still suffer and authority is often unjust. Give wisdom to those who rule over others and teach them to use their power aright.

Lord, may we love you more dearly day by day: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The local community

Lord, grant that we shall know the presence of Christ in our families and among our friends. May he always be the unseen guest at our meals, so that we may welcome others in his name and take pleasure in their presence.

Lord, may we see you more clearly day by day: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord of gentle strength and steadfast courage, be present to those who live in fear so that they too may find courage. When others whisper that you have faded from human sight and are lost in silence for ever, hear their cries and melt the ice of their fears. Make those who suffer know the reality that your steadfast love will never fail but endure for ever and ever.

Lord, may we follow you more nearly day by day: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we give thanks for the departed who are lifted up with Christ to eternal life….May they rejoice with him in his risen and ascended glory

 

Merciful Father, accept these prayers….

 

Prayer after Communion

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread:
open the eyes of our faith,
that we may see him in all his redeeming work;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Post Communion (3rd of Easter) © 1985 Anglican Church of Canada: The Book of Alternative Services Invitation to Confession (Easter Day until Eve of Ascension) © 1988 Continuum (Mowbray) (Adapted) Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000

‘Downton Church — Season 2: Eight Lessons the Church Could Learn from Downton Abbey’ by Dr Wendy Dackson

 

Downton Abbey Church Logo

by Ken Howard and Wendy Dackson

Alrighty then! Our recent blog post “10 Ways the Church is Like Downton Abbey” got quite a lot of views. So, like our friends in Public Television, we decided to renew Downton Church for a second “season.” And the theme for season two is “Eight Lessons the Church Could Learn from Downton Abbey.”

Indeed, there much agreement in the comments we received that Downton Abbey – both the story and the production – was an excellent metaphor for the organized Church. Both are centuries-old institutions, both have a tendency toward aristocratic organization and behavior, both are steeped in tradition and stymied by traditionalism, both have a higher opinion of their own inherent holiness than their histories reveal. In other words, as institutions, both Downton Abbey and the Church are prone to similar mistakes.

Yet as the historical premise of Downton Abbey and the current cultural context of the Church (“in a world where everything is changing, an institution struggles for relevance…”) reveal, both institutions are capable – albeit reluctantly and imperfectly – of learning and change. So taking the metaphor a step further, what are some lessons that the Church can learn (or perhaps remember) from looking in the mirror of Downton Abbey.

Lesson #1 Noblesse oblige (with nobility, obligation). One thing that the various members of the Crawley family learn again and again, each in different ways, is that with positions of social power and influence comes social obligations: an understanding of their responsibility for those whose lives and livelihoods depend upon them. Lord Robert always seems keenly aware of the house’s obligation to provide economic sustenance and social stability (maybe too much of the latter) to both those directly employed by the house, and those on the wider estate and in the village. Lady Cora seems more attentive – though in a somewhat naïve fashion – to the emotional lives of those who depend on them. Lady Mary, on the other hand, makes a transition from self-centered debutante to more of a socialite with a conscience, who understands that part of their responsibility to those around them is to remain relevant to their needs in a time when those needs are changing in big ways.

What might the Church learn? Despite the claim that churches are somehow under siege from the prevailing culture (at least in North America and western Europe), they still hold a privileged position. Whether as employers of lay professionals (educators, administrators, musicians, and a variety of others), or as shapers of public opinion and policy (as evidenced in the new-but-contested RIFRA laws in Indiana), they influence people well beyond who shows up in any given congregation on Sundays. That influence shapes public perception of the Church –for good or ill. Churches might be better attuned to how their actions affect those with whom they have little if any contact.

Lesson #2 – Willingness to change. Speaking of change, another thing the members of the Crawley household all seem to learn – albeit reluctantly – is that change (sometimes profound change) is often a necessity. And they display willingness (if under duress) to listen to and act on (if sometimes fumblingly) voices other than their own about better ways forward. Indeed, one by one each of the family members seem to learn the painful lesson that the world doesn’t revolve around their comfortable traditions, and that awareness of the changing needs of the world around them often requires them to adapt – not just by adding electricity, telephones, radios, and other new-fangled technology, or sporting new fashions at social occasions, but by making deeper changes and finding new reasons for being.

What might the Church learn? That “modernizing” is more than trying to be “trendy” or “relevant” to a particular generation – right now, the millennials. Concentrating on new music that sounds more like what young people hear on the radio, or being more “cool” in the language used in preaching, or using “contemporary” forms of worship isn’t enough – worse than not enough, in some cases it may actually be harmful: like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, when we really need to be getting people into lifeboats. This is not a new problem. Every generation in From the very beginning, every generation in Church has faced the challenge of translating the Gospel for a new generation. The problem arises when, instead of offering the new generation a true translation in words they understand, we instead sugarcoat it with passing cultural affections in order to make it easier to swallow. True modernizing means discovering what are the public perceptions and beliefs about the faith are and addressing them honestly and directly, without compromising the core of Christian faith or cheapening the tough demands that being a follower of Jesus entails. It isn’t easy or quick, the way changing up the music or adding projection screens might be.

Lesson #3 – A Sense of Family. At Downton, the servants are more than simply support staff to the family and the house. By and large, there is a palpable sense of family between the upstairs Crawleys and the downstairs servants: a feeling of connection and interrelatedness. And while the relationship is not always pleasant – or healthy, for that matter – it is deep and strong… How else could a character like Thomas survive for all these seasons? And how else could the Dowager and Isobell become such a mutually (and lovingly) irritating odd couple.

What might the Church learn? William Temple is frequently misquoted as saying that “the church is the only institution that exists primarily for those outside it” (click here to read what he actually said), how Christians behave toward other Christians is important. When the Church treats its loyal members badly – especially when longtime, committed lay people are treated badly – it does more than encourage those individuals to leave. It undermines the public perception of the Church as a benevolent institution. Because when church is important to people, they share all the reasons why. But when church loses its luster, people share those reasons, too.

Lesson #4 –Willingness to “bend the rules” in order to “do the right thing.” There is a ongoing tension at Downton Abbey between the need to respect the rules (or follow tradition, which is harder) societally and the need to do what is right in individual cases. And example of this was the case of Mrs. Patmore’s dead nephew, Archie, and his exclusion from the war memorial, which Lord Grantham resolved by erecting a special memorial to honor Archie’s sacrifice. This goes to the heart of the tension in the church between tradition (honoring things that have been tested by time) and traditionalism (worshipping tradition for its own sake), which the Church has had to learn century after century.

What might the Church learn? First, we might learn that some rules just shouldn’t exist in at all. Second, we might learn that service doesn’t have to be perfect to be sincere and devoted, and that the people who render service also don’t have to be perfect, either. Finally, we might learn that we will garner more loyalty by finding ways to show appreciation than we will by finding ways to withhold it.

Lesson #5 – Willingness to find humane ways to outplace members of the downstairs household when continued relationship becomes untenable. Time and again, the Crawley family finds ways to part ways with servants who have become too difficult or embarrassing to endure. On the plus side, they realize that in an “incestuous” institution like the aristocracy one has to take great care in the way that people are let go, since termination without reference is tantamount to a sentence of lifelong poverty or worse (in the case of pregnant Ivy), and even laying off a person due to the elimination of a specialized position (in the case of Mosley) may render an otherwise loyal and competent former employee without honorable work. They have learned from painful experience not to throw anybody “under the bus.”

What might the Church learn? Don’t throw people under the bus. See Lessons #1 and #3. ‘Nuff said….


Would you like to know what Lessons 6, 7 and 8 might be? Please follow the link here:

“Hell Hath No Fury…” by David Rhodes

Capture

 

Every journalist knows that when it comes to a news story, you need to put the punchy stuff in the first sentence. To grab people’s attention.

 

One paper used to have a big poster on the wall of its newsroom that said: Who The Hell Reads The Second Paragraph?

 

If he hadn’t had other plans, the 14th century poet Dante would have been a good newsman. His epic poem The Commedia starts with a bang. Lost in a dark wood, the hero is suddenly confronted by a lion, a leopard and then by a hungry wolf.

 

This alarming scene is rapidly followed by a terrifying journey down into the bowels of Hell. Not surprisingly, the book was a bestseller. And still is.

 

The last part of Dante’s poem is about Heaven. But nobody reads that bit. It’s dull. After the burning fires of Hell and the shrieks of the damned, anything would seem dull.

 

Ask most Christians to describe Hell and they would be able to come up with some pretty stark imagery. Ask them to describe Heaven, and they would be struggling to get beyond harps and fluffy clouds.

 

The Church realised early on that the stick of Hell was much more effective than the carrot of Heaven when it came to encouraging people to live good lives. And encouraging them to go to church.

 

In fact Hell was an excellent way of making people conform to all sorts of things. It was a political tool, as well as a theological image. People in power loved it.

 

Occasional mentions in the Bible of the ‘wrath’ of God were all that was needed to give Hell the scriptural seal of approval. The Ten Commandments suddenly had an invisible ‘or else’ stuck on the end: in block capitals.

 

The trouble is that the idea of Hell doesn’t work if you listen to what Jesus seems to have been saying. The father of the prodigal son was expected to be furious with the boy when he came home in disgrace. Yet the Jesus story shows the love and forgiveness of the father as unconditional.

 

On one occasion, Jesus is asked how many times his followers are to forgive someone who offends against them. Not seven times, but seventy times seven, Jesus says with a smile. Just keep doing it.

 

What do we do about our enemies, they asked him. And in first century Palestine the poor and oppressed had lots of enemies. Love them, Jesus says. Seek their well-being.

 

So if we are supposed to love unconditionally and forgive seventy times seven, how is it that we are going to burn in the fires of everlasting Hell for a couple of sins we may have commit here on earth? Where then is God’s forgiveness?

 

It doesn’t stack up. You can’t have a loving God and Hell. God so loved the world that he sent us his son, we are told. It defies all reason that He was simultaneously stoking up the furnaces of Hell for the moment any of us stepped out of line.

 

But what about crime? Violent crime? What about punishment for that? And in truth we do have an instinct that says that people should be punished when they do serious wrong.

 

But how do we square that instinct for punishment (or is it revenge) with a loving God? What, for example, if an extremely wicked man died and found himself at the gates of Heaven. What would happen to him?

 

The book Finding Mr Goldman presents us with exactly that scenario.

 

Instead of being cast down into the burning lakes of Hell when he dies, Mr Goldman finds his life of greed and violence is laid bare before him. In the company of an untidy but likeable tramp who bears a striking resemblance to Jesus, Goldman sets out on an impossible quest to save his soul.

 

Day by day he encounters people whose lives he has destroyed. He has a growing realisation of the terrible things he has done. But, for some strange reason, the tramp does not seem unduly concerned about it.

 

Eventually Goldman is confronted by the shattering reality of Hell and realises that all is lost. It is only then, when all hope has gone, that he discovers the depth of God’s love.

 

Can Goldman be redeemed? Perhaps so. But in the last pages of the book, he meets someone else who has committed even greater evil. A holocaust of suffering and death as bad as anything the world has known. Can that man enter heaven?

 

‘No,’ says the man, ‘I could not bear the pain.’

 

‘The pain of your punishment?’ asks Goldman.

 

‘Of my forgiveness,’ says the man.

 

How the book ends is a mystery. But it ends in laughter. With a cat called Florence, a poet, a reunion, and a very fine horse. With a much noisier and more boisterous image of Heaven than we might imagine. And a very unexpected encounter with our Maker.

 

Perhaps Dante would have been better off with the Goldman version of events than his own?

 


DR

 

© David Rhodes

Finding Mr Goldman (SPCK) is written by David Rhodes, a former newspaper journalist and parish priest. He also developed the innovative inner city Retreats on the Streets in Leeds. His work for social justice alongside homeless and vulnerable people led to a number of successful books including The Advent Adventure, Sparrow Story and Faith in Dark Places (all published by SPCK). David tweets @RhodesWriter and blogs at www.turbulentbooks.co.uk

 

 

 


This is in the nature of an experiment, the first time I have asked an author to review his or her own book. But, as a writer myself, I know what it is like to see reviewers and publishers blurbs do their best to give a fair account of what the book is meant to be all about, but I have often found myself wishing that I could write my own.
I did not pick this quite out of thin air – I already follow David Rhodes on twitter. And two writers I particularly admire had already given enthusiastic reviews:

 

‘A vivid parable of false riches and ultimate redemption. This sparklingly well-written fiction entertains unerringly at the front door while the truth slips in at the window.’

Adrian Plass

and

‘Fresh, witty, fabulously economical and with acute and wise observations. I just wanted to read on and on.’

Janet Morley

I have ordered my copy, and will add to this if I can when I have had a chance to read it. Meanwhile, you may like to read it?

Intercessions for Second Sunday of Easter Year B: 12 April 2015

 

The Collect

Almighty Father, you have given your only Son to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Acts 4.32-35

The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

 

Psalm 133

Refrain: Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Behold how good and pleasant it is * to dwell together in unity.
It is like the precious oil upon the head, * running down upon the beard,
Even on Aaron’s beard, * running down upon the collar of his clothing.
It is like the dew of Hermon * running down upon the hills of Zion.
For there the Lord has promised his blessing: * even life for evermore.

Refrain: Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

 

Second Reading: 1 John 1.1-2.2

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us – we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

 

Gospel Reading: John 20.19-31

When it was evening on 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.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he 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.’ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Jane Williams has the following (search ‘vitality’ here): ‘The task that Jesus gives his followers is an awesome one. He sends them out to build a fellowship that is strong through its truthfulness. They know they lied about their own capabilities…and they know that their lies led to the disintegration of the fellowship at the cross of Christ. Now the new fellowship must be different. It must be based not on any foolish and unrealistic estimates of their own strength but on the vision of the searching and gentle God who has called them. It must give people a chance to glimpse what genuine fellowship, the life of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, might be like. Very occasionally the Christian community can mirror that life, as in Acts 4, but more often it can only bear witness to the fact that the fellowship is made up of people who know their own weaknesses, and have needed and continue to need, the forgiveness of God in Christ.”

Let us pray in faith to the Father, who raised his Son from the dead.

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, grant to your Church the spirit of unity, that we may dwell together in your love and so bear to the world the salve of your healing and the dew of your blessing. And fire your Church with longing to speak your word: the earthly rulers of your time hoped to seal you forever in a tomb, but your word could not be contained and burst forth in splendour. Help us now to echo and re-echo the good news down the ages.

Lord, raise us to new life in your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, bless us with the gift of understanding each other. As we share stories, whether of grief or anger, joy or laughter, may we delight in this blessing. Like the very beauty of holiness itself, a sense of your presence in our places of prayer, you surprise us by restoring your creation when we are looking in the other direction. May we all hear your invitation to share in the hospitality of your table  and in your cosmic dance of life.

Lord, raise us to new life in your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The local community

Lord, you bring peace to our communities. Give us we pray the desire for harmony amongst us, and reconcile any conflict. Strengthen the fearful and the lonely. And open our hearts to share with each other all that we have of our riches, our time and our talents.

Lord, raise us to new life in your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, your absence leaves us paralysed but your presence is overwhelming: breathe on us with your abundant life that where we cannot see we may have courage to believe. Where we are in mental distress, may your presence alleviate our pain and give us hope for the morrow. And when we are in physical pain, may your presence help us distance ourself from our anguish.

Lord, raise us to new life in your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, our hope is in you, in life, in death and to eternity. We rejoice with all who have entered into the fullness of life eternal, and we pray especially for….  May we, with them, have a share in your eternal kingdom.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

 

Prayer after Communion

Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him:
deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Invitation to Confession (Easter Day until Eve of Ascension) © 1988 Continuum (Mowbray) (Adapted) Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Collect (2nd of Easter) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

‘Those Who Passed By’: a Good Friday Reflection by Taylor Carey

 

Presence_in_pain

This image, which was originally posted to Flickr.com, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 20:01, 11 May 2014 (UTC) by Jonund (talk)

 

Mark 15:29-32

In a culture which grasps rather than attends, and abstracts rather than embodies, we have a problem with human weakness. We are, in fact, disgusted by it, for it shatters our illusion of omnipotence. And the trouble is that we prefer the fiction.

And so we project our disgust onto everyone and everything that dares remind us of our inescapable messiness, limits, and diversity. ‘We hate the poor’ (or words to that effect), said a provocative advertisement on Market Street some weeks ago. And the truth is that too much of our culture, including much of what passes for our religion, can find nothing but contempt for those who would muddy the crystalline waters of our imagined perfection; those who persist in being poor, female, mentally ill, gay, or just in disagreement with us. We heap our disgust onto them. But this is a terrible continuation of a costly fiction. Projective disgust involves ‘the displacement of self-repudiation’ onto those too vulnerable to wrench themselves from their cross.[1]

‘Those who passed by hurled insults at him’. If our most cherished fiction is our total self-reliance, our untrammelled ability to manipulate the tool shed we call ‘the environment’, is it then surprising that so many regard the image of a helpless God, nailed to a tree, as offensive and disturbing? Yet, this is where God is to be found, and found as most totally being God. The Cross is not some mechanical process of celestial justice; it is – radically – the outworking of God’s inner nature. He is to be found most supremely in the very depths of rejection and despair. And Christian thinkers like Martin Luther and St John of the Cross have recognised the need for us to spend time kneeling there with Him, letting our own projects and projections break against the gnarled wood of that blessed tree. Here is the ‘fairest of the children of men’ who, at the same time, in the words of Isaiah, has ‘no beauty or majesty to attract us to him’.[2] The beautiful, disgusting God.

We stand today beside a testament to the madness of a humanity so enraptured by its self-sufficiency that it cannot recognise the very basis upon which human dignity and community are forged. The memory of Patrick Hamilton, taunted and burned here, forces us to recognise our own habits of projective disgust. If, as the American writer Marilynne Robinson puts it, ‘community…consists very largely of imaginative love for people we do not know’, we must surely recognise the centrality to any society of a properly humanising education, one that introduces challenge and diversity, whilst cultivating generosity and trust.[3] One that looks beyond the obviously impressive, to those neglected fenlands of beauty hidden in every face and behind every eye.

Walt Whitman once wrote some beautiful words to this effect. He said:

There is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, a thought that rises, independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining eternal. This is the thought of identity — yours for you, whoever you are, as mine for me.  [4]

For Whitman, as for so many who have knelt before the Cross, Christ’s call from the depths of His agony will only be answered when that vision of the unique human spirit – loved into existence and charged with God’s grandeur – is put at the heart of our lives together. When the outcast, the stranger, the weak, and the lonely are brought in; when we truly inhabit ourselves again, radically attuned to the sheer inexhaustibility of God’s love, in the very midst of our frailty and weakness.

This is the wish of a God who gives Himself upon the Cross that He might be All in All. Many pass by and hurl insults at Him. But let us stay here with Him, that we might gaze upon the depths of His beauty.

 

 


 

[1] Martha C. Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton, 2010), p.33.

[2] Psalm 45:2 and Isaiah 53:2 respectively. In the current form of the Divine Office, the latter forms the antiphon for the former during Holy Week Vespers. For a (truly) beautiful reflection and exposition on this paradoxical theme, see Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, ‘The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty’ (2002)

[3] Marilynne Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books (London, 2012), p.21.

[4] Walt Whitman, ‘Democratic Vistas’, in Specimen Days & Collect (Philadelphia, 1882), pp.239-240.

Intercessions for Easter Day Year B: 5 April 2015

Giotto_di_Bondone_-_No._37_Scenes_from_the_Life_of_Christ_-_21._Resurrection_(Noli_me_tangere)_-_WGA09224

Giotto di Bondone: Resurrection (Noli me tangere) via Wikimedia

 

Alleluia. Christ is risen: He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

 

The Collect

Lord of all life and power, who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him: grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ, may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity.  Amen.

 

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Acts 10.34-43

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Psalm 118.1-2,14-24

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; * his mercy endures for ever.
Let Israel now proclaim, * ‘His mercy endures for ever.’
The Lord is my strength and my song, * and he has become my salvation.
Joyful shouts of salvation * sound from the tents of the righteous:
‘The right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds; the right hand of the Lord raises up; * the right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds.’
I shall not die, but live * and declare the works of the Lord.
The Lord has punished me sorely, * but he has not given me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness, * that I may enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord; * the righteous shall enter through it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me * and have become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected * has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing, * and it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made; * we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15.1-11

I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you – unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them – though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

 

Gospel Reading: John 20.1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple out-ran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.“’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

So much to say but, for me, Jane Williams says it best: “Why should hope and promise be harder to bear than death and despair? Why is it so hard to believe, now as then, that life and transformation and joy are as much part of the world and its maker as death and disintegration? The Christian hope of new life is not based on a kind of blind and meaningless optimism. On the contrary, all our hope is scarred with the wounds of the cross, and it is only hope because of that. It is the hope that God is indeed God. God is the creator, the source of all life, and nothing can make him not God. Our active, malignant sin that desires and makes death and destruction cannot force God into nothingness, and neither can our passive, despairing sin, that colludes with death and resurrection because  it can see no alternative. So when the angel speaks the word of life and joy to us, let us believe them, and go and tell them, make them real and credible to others, show them the scars that are the source of life, not its end.”

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, on this day of all days we give thanks for your goodness and mercy, which endure for ever. Let us dance with one another, evangelical and anglo-catholic, charismatic and pentecostal, as well as those who fit no label beyond that of follower of Christ. May gratitude fill the heart of each and every one. Open for us the gates of the city, the city of harmony and peace. Then together, restored to unity, we shall enter them singing our songs of thanksgiving and praise.

Lord of life, you hold the gate open to us: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord of creation, we thank you for the cycle of creation, death and rebirth. After the bleakness of winter when it is hard to remember that new life is waiting, just under the surface, we thank you for the return of spring. We thank you for the example of your son, who fulfilled his destiny despite the bitterness of the cup, and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Now the green blade rises from the buried grain, wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain; love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

 Lord of life, you hold the gate open to us: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The local community

Lord, because He is risen we are together seeking your communion. Because he is risen, we find in your presence forgiveness, wellspring of a new beginning, and source of energy for the journey. Though we long to hold fast only to you, teach us draw strength and offer our own efforts to the people we live amongst: our communities and our neigbours, for they have need of us as we have need of them.

Lord of life, you hold the gate open to us: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, you make the day dawn with promise. We pray for  those who suffer in body, mind or spirit. When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain, by your touch you revive us and give us new hope. Be with us in our travails, and may we, too, see the green shoots of renewal.
Lord of life, you hold the gate open to us: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, through the resurrection of your son light triumphs over darkness and life triumphs over death. In giving you thanks and praise, we bring before you those whom we love who have departed this life that, free from sorrow and pain, they may be one with you in your kingdom.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

 

Prayer after Communion

God of Life,
who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son
to the death of the cross,
and by his glorious resurrection
have delivered us from the power of our enemy:
grant us so to die daily to sin,
that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Acts 10.34-43 © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton Invitation to Confession (Easter Day until Eve of Ascension) © 1988 Continuum (Mowbray) (Adapted) Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000

Intercessions for Palm Sunday Year B: 29 March 2015

Mosaic in Palermo commons wikimedia

Mosaic from Palermo c.1150 via Wikimedia under CCL

 

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; 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.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

[Liturgy of the Psalms
Mark 11.1-11
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.]

Liturgy of the Passion

First Reading: Isaiah 50.4-9a

The servant of the Lord said: The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens – wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backwards. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;  I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.

 

Psalm 118.1-2,19-24

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; * his mercy endures for ever.
Let Israel now proclaim, * ‘His mercy endures for ever.’
Open to me the gates of righteousness, * that I may enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord; * the righteous shall enter through it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me * and have become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected * has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing, * and it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made; * we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Second Reading: Philippians 2.5-11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly  exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel Reading: Mark 14.1-15.47

Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.
Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and given him the name that is above every name.
AllPraise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’ While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’ Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’ While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’ When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same. They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’ Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ All of them deserted him and fled. A certain young man was following Jesus, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”’ But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said,‘I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,” and “coming with the clouds of heaven.”’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him. While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept. As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’ And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also taunted him. When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.


A complicated day. The RSCM has: ‘The joy, expectation and hope will soon turn to fear, pain and despair: today we try to hold both together. As he entered Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah and showed he was a king: in embracing humiliation, injustice and a cruel death, he accepted the mantle of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. So two threads of ancient promise are united in the king who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The Revd Alan Garrow writes (p.133): ‘Jesus set his face like flint and endured the torture that was laid on him because he had an unshakeable grasp of where his priorities lay and what his life was for. There are all kinds of pressures which, while not of the same order as those endured by Jesus, are constantly capable of blowing our churches, and Christian lives, off course. We must be constantly aware of God’s future purpose for us if we are to avoid being pressured into comfortable, but ultimately useless, cul-de-sacs.

 

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, we pray for your Church and people. You are our hope of victory, yet, like your disciples of old, we constantly betray you. Grant us so to recognise your coming that in our answering clamour we may yet show firm commitment. And in our answering awe, when words die away, may the very stones cry aloud your name.

Lord of pain, of passion and compassion: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, bless us with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and the exploitation of people. You are wounded in the weeping of Africa. You are suffering on the scarred streets of Europe. You bleed in the bombings of the Middle East. Lord, help us to direct your righteous anger so that we may work tirelessly for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

Lord of pain, of passion and compassion: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, lend us your eyes to see the world around us as you see it. Show us what needs to be done, and give us the imagination and strength to do it.  Bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we really can make a difference in this world, so that we are able, through your grace, to do what others claim cannot be done. Bless us with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that we may seek truth boldly and love deep within our hearts.

Lord of pain, of passion and compassion: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we pray for those who suffer in body, mind or spirit, remembering always the example of Jesus our brother, who followed the path which necessity dictated and, as he was repudiated by more and more people on the way to the Cross,  felt forsaken and desolate.  Lord, bless us with the gift of tears to shed for others, so that, in your name, we may reach out our hands to comfort them, in the knowlege that God is with them, and that the God who is with them cannot be defeated.

Lord of pain, of passion and compassion: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord of the cross, we give thanks for your holy martyrs, for all who have suffered for others and for truth. For those who have sacrificed for us and are now at rest. Through your cross and passion, may we share with them in your glory.

 Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

Today’s prayers are based on a four-fold benedictine blessing – Sr. Ruth Marlene Fox, OSB – 1985 shared by Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented. Also Janet Morley’s ‘All Desires Known.’

 

Prayer after Communion

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant,
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation:
give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father.

 

Christian Arrives at the Cross and Sepulchre

Thus far did I come loaden with my sin;
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in
Till I came hither: What a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?
Must here the Burden fall from off my back?
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?
Blessed Cross! Blessed Sepulchre! Blessed rather be
The man that there was put to shame for me.

John Bunyan 1622-1688

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Post Communion (Palm Sunday) © 1984 General Synod of the Church of Ireland Invitation to Confession (5th Sun Lent until Weds of Holy Week) © 1988 Continuum (Mowbray) (Adapted) Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Gospel Acclamation (5th Sun. of Lent until Weds of Holy Week) © The Archbishops’ Council 2002 Collect (Palm Sunday) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for Fifth Sunday of Lent Year B: 22 March 2015

WLA_ima_Landscape_at_St_Remy

What can a person do when he thinks of all the things he cannot understand, but look at the fields of wheat. . . . We, who live by bread, are we not ourselves very much like wheat . . . to be reaped when we are ripe. . . . -Vincent van Gogh, 1889

The Collect

Most merciful God, who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ delivered and saved the world: grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross we may triumph in the power of his victory; 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. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Jeremiah 31.31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt – a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Psalm 51.1-13

Have mercy on me, O God, in your great goodness; * according to the abundance of your compassion blot out my offences.
Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness * and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults * and my sin is ever before me.
Against you only have I sinned * and done what is evil in your sight,
So that you are justified in your sentence * and righteous in your judgement.
I have been wicked even from my birth, * a sinner when my mother conceived me.
Behold, you desire truth deep within me * and shall make me understand wisdom in the depths of my heart.
Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; * wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear of joy and gladness, * that the bones you have broken may rejoice.
Turn your face from my sins * and blot out all my misdeeds.
Make me a clean heart, O God, *and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence * and take not your holy spirit from me.
Give me again the joy of your salvation * and sustain me with your gracious spirit;

Second Reading: Hebrews 5.5-10

Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek.’ In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Gospel Reading: John 12.20-33

Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.
Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and given him the name that is above every name.
All: Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.


 

The RSCM (2009) has: “Life comes through death. There is no escaping its totality, no hanging onto anything we value. It is costly: a complete letting-go. Yet we are not left in darkness. Just as there can be no fruit-bearing plant without the burial of the seed, we cannot know eternal life without the experience of death. It is this that marks his hour, says Jesus: glory and judgement in his death on the cross. In this moment all will be drawn to him. ”

Jane Williams unpacks the theology in a little more detail – you can read it here, by searching ‘zap’.

Prayers of Intercession

 

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, you come to meet us long before we search for you. May your Church, where you have promised to be present if two or three are gathered together,  be a gateway to encountering you. Sometimes this may be through the glories of the music and the spoken word, sometimes it may be in the silences in between. And may we, in turn, show forth your love to those we encounter.

Lord, teach us to be receptive to your presence: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, inhabit our darkness and brood over our abyss. Speak to our chaos that we may breathe with your life and share your creation. Inspire us with your strength that we may draw from it the courage to stand up for justice and peace in your world. And help us to bring in your kingdom of truth and liberty here on earth.

Lord, teach us to be receptive to your presence: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, where winter has reigned, let spring break out. Where hearts are gripped in ice, may your sun rise with healing wings. Lord, embrace the orphan in each of us. Welcome the widow that we are. As strangers, shelter us. Let us learn to be your neighbour and be loved. Link us to life through you.

Lord, teach us to be receptive to your presence: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord, take us to yourself, we who hurt so much in the depths of our being. We are caught up in the pain of life, and yet so often inflict pain in our turn on others. Embrace us with the hands that show the mark of the nails, your love swallowing up all our sin and pride. So we pray that our broken bones may heal as we join in the Cosmic Dance of the Lord of Life, who embodies your power to redeem and make all things whole.

Lord, teach us to be receptive to your presence: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Lord, you come to meet us in your cross and resurrection. We remember all those whom we knew and have now joined the great cycle of life and death… Draw them to yourself, that they may be lifted up into eternal life.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

Prayer after Communion

Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we do also for you: give us the will to be the servant of others as you were the servant of all, and gave up your life and died for us, but are alive and reign, now and for ever.


 

Copyright acknowledgement Collect (5th of Lent) © 1980 CBFCE; Archbishops’ Council 1999 / Church of the Province of Southern Africa Invitation to Confession (5th Sun Lent until Weds of Holy Week) © 1988 Continuum (Mowbray) (Adapted)Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Gospel Acclamation (5th Sun. of Lent until Weds of Holy Week) © The Archbishops’ Council 2002

To Their Credit – How Churches Are Helping The UK’s Poorest: by Nicole Holgate

Chtlogo_small_colour_400x400

 First, A Brief History of the Church Housing Trust

Prebendary Wilson Carlile founded the Church Army in 1882 and Church Army Housing in 1924, thereby starting a great tradition which continues to this day through the combined forces of Church Housing Trust and Riverside ECHG (formerly English Churches Housing Group).

The Church Army soon became the largest lay society in the Church of England and Wilson Carlile himself was centrally involved in its social work for the homeless, often spending nights on the Thames Embankment in winter in order to care for those sleeping rough. Because of this work, many found the courage to try life in a hostel from where they could move on to better lives.

Church Army Housing transferred its hostels to Church Housing Association in 1977 and in 1984 Church Housing Trust was founded to raise charitable funds to support the hostels and the trust became a registered charity in 1991. In the same year Church Housing Association merged with Baptist Housing Association and United Reformed Church Housing Association to become English Churches Housing Group, and Church Housing Trust remained an independent charity raising funds for their work with the homeless. More recently ECHG became part of the Riverside Group and continues to be one of the leading providers of supported housing for homeless people.

Mission Statement

Church Housing Trust takes positive action to provide better facilities, opportunities and futures for homeless people whilst promoting a wider national understanding of the difficulties faced by those in housing need. It raises funds nationally for the establishment, equipping, organising, furnishing and maintenance of housing, hostel and other accommodation. Church Housing Trust reaches the elderly, students, single people, families and the physically and mentally ill who are unable by reason of poverty, sickness, age or youth to make adequate provision for themselves.


Nicole Holgate:”To Their Credit – How Churches Are Helping The UK’s Poorest”

The Church’s commitment to helping the most vulnerable members of society has never been more evident than over the past few years, as the need for food banks, the use of payday loans, and the increase of homelessness and rough sleeping have seen council and government-funded services stretched to their limits.

 

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has become a fierce advocate for the creation of a fairer financial system, encouraging churches and individual Christians to add their voices or actions. This came after the news that one million UK households took out payday and doorstep loans with APRs of up to 6,000% every month because they had no access to bank loans.

 

Archbishop Welby’s criticism of Wonga and other payday lenders helped fuel a campaign to rein in the sector. Now that the Financial Conduct Authority has imposed limits on payday loans, the archbishop has turned his attention to mainstream banks and their role in society. Most recently, accusing the financial services industry of ignoring poor communities, he called on banks to put people before profit.

 

He added that banks should make sure all sections of society have access to bank accounts and free cash machines which, following the clampdown on payday lending, would give lower-income families much-needed access to financial services .  Between 1989 and 2012, 7,500 banks and building society branches were closed , two-thirds of these in deprived areas.

 

The Church of England now runs the  website ‘To your credit’, which advises individuals and churches how to get the most out of their banking, including the management of debts and ongoing bill costs. The Church Urban Fund has also launched a series of ‘poverty briefings’ to ensure that each diocese has the information available to form a tailored action plan to help those in the most financial trouble.

 

Last summer, inspired by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments on responsible lending, songwriter and music producer Charles Bailey approached the Church of England with the idea for a rap. The song, called ‘We need a union on the streets’ , tells the stories of young people who get into debt because of payday loans with high interest rates and aims to highlight credit unions as a better way to borrow.

While benefit cuts and stalled wages continue to have an adverse effect on those on the bottom rung of society, the Church has come forward as a spokesman on their behalf.  This puts the Church in the firing line of Members of Parliament and the media, who have all been quick to react, not always positively, and this seems likely to increase rather than decrease in the near future. However, some good ground has also been made, even if it may take a while before the wider community finally gets the point.

 

Nicole Holgate, Communications Officer

 

Church Housing Trust

@churchhousing

Facebook.com/churchhousingtrust

Pinterest.com/churchhousingtr

Intercessions for Fourth Sunday of Lent Year B: 15 March 2015

ULG-Ms363-fol86r

The Bronze Serpent: Ms. 363, Université de Liège http://jessehurlbut.net/wp/mssart/?p=3708

The Collect

Merciful Lord, absolve your people from their offences, that through your bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the chains of those sins which by our frailty we have committed; grant this, heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Numbers 21.4-9

The Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

Psalm 107.1-3,17-22

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is gracious, *for his steadfast love endures for ever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say this, *those he redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
And gathered out of the lands from the east and from the west, * from the north and from the south.
Some were foolish and took a rebellious way, * and were plagued because of their wrongdoing.
Their soul abhorred all manner of food * and drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, * and he delivered them from their distress.
He sent forth his word and healed them, * and saved them from destruction.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his goodness *  and the wonders he does for his children.
Let them offer him sacrifices of thanksgiving *  and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.

Second Reading: Ephesians 2.1-10

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Gospel Reading: John 3.14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus: ‘Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’

In ‘The Ministry of the Word’, the Revd Alan Garrow says:

“John portrays a world that is already lost. It lives according to its own ‘lights’, which give no light at all. The situation is parallel to that in [the Old Testament reading], where God acted and provided a focus (the bronze snake on a staff) as a sign of his saving involvement with them. John reuses the image of God entering a situation of chaos to provide a means of escape. He presents Jesus as the snake that is lifted up as a sign to the people of God’s faithful love for them,…John combines this image with that of light coming into darkness. Jesus is like a raised torch that brings order to chaos, hope to despair. As with the bronze serpent, there are two ways of responding to God’s actions in Jesus. We can turn away for shame or we can turn and be forgiven. Unless we are perfect, we will always be embarrassed by the light, but if we allow it to reveal who we really are, then God’s healing work of forgiveness can take place.”

Prayers of Intercession

Let us pray to God that in his light, we also may see light.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, from the moment of our creation you formed us for your glory. Forgive the discontent and dissension which has arisen in your Church, dividing us one from the other. Let your light so shine before us that all eyes are  lifted to see the salvation of the Cross.  Increase our faith, we pray: Give us hearts to long for you, grace to discern you and courage to proclaim you.*

Lord, shine your light into every corner of our world: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, even as the relentless winds of the universe raged through the silence of the ages, your heart was stirring to bring us to life. You are with us through all our bewilderments, redeeming our wastes and our sorrows. We go astray in the wilderness, lost in the trackless desert, and the mists come down in the mountains. You set our feet on a path we had not seen, and you lead us to a place we can make our own. You break the chains that keep us imprisoned and lead us gently into the sun.

Lord, shine your light into every corner of our world: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The local community

Lord, grant us the vision to reach out beyond ourselves and share our lives with others. Stretch our capabilities, our awareness of where we can help. Help us to know that when we give to others we do so from a well deep within ourselves that can never run dry. Truly, what we gave we still have. What we spent without measure, we still have. Only what we kept for ourselves have we lost.

Lord, shine your light into every corner of our world: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, you have chosen to hear our cry and share our poverty. Help us to understand that in this life all of us will suffer pain, and feel the sharpness of the serpent’s tooth. This is as necessary for us as it was for your Son and we cannot hide from these moments. But how we respond to pain and grief, that we can control. Help us to look up in faith that you are always with us, as you have promised us. Light a fire in our hearts and melt our despair, so that with all your creatures we may live in hope.*

Lord, shine your light into every corner of our world: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, in love and through your grace you lead us to your kingdom. We pray for our loved ones departed, and all who have the joy of being closer still to you.

 Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

Prayer after Communion

Lord God,
whose blessed Son our Saviour
gave his back to the smiters
and did not hide his face from shame:
give us grace to endure the sufferings of this present time
with sure confidence in the glory that shall be revealed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Collect (4th of Lent) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

 

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