My Dear Friends,
Before I write anything else, may I begin by paying tribute to Captain Tom Moore who, through walking 100 circuits of his garden before his 100th birthday, has not only raised an eye watering sum for NHS charities, but also raised the spirits of the whole nation. This he has done by his sheer determination to respond constructively, creatively and compassionately toward the crisis we are all in. What an inspiration. I salute you Tom! Today's Gospel is also a spirit-lifting one, as I wrote to those leading the ongoing Sunday School a few days ago, when confirming the passage of scripture we are all asked to read and think about this weekend (John 20 v19-end). What better image could we be given, both children and adults, than the picture this passage paints of the disciples experiencing fear, trappedness, sorrow, isolation in the upper room, and a risen, understanding, shining, smiling Christ standing in their midst, at the heart of that place of trauma, offering healing, reassurance, happiness, peace. The disciples left that room as transformed people, to ignite the world with hope. You and I are inheritors of the light they shared with us, which continues to shine into the darkness of our world, and you and I are called to celebrate and share that light with others, now, in the situations in which we all find ourselves. And I know that we are more than up to the challenge. I have been so heartened over the past weeks at the response you have all shown. * Your renewed appreciation, which you have spoken to me about in `phone calls and emails, of the importance of the Christian faith to your life. * Your desire to connect with others in the congregation and continue to commune with God in your prayer and worship, as some of us were able to do together last Sunday on Zoom. * Your immediate and generous response to our appeal as soon as the restrictions began to bite, for volunteers to help others in the congregation and community through `phoning around, making contact and offering practical assistance. * Your conscientious praying of our collective Pandemic Prayer which unites us all, as does our 9.30am-10am time each Sunday which we all try to set aside, to think of each other and pray together, while we are not able to meet together in church. * The beautiful cards, rainbows and Easter Eggs which the children have made, now proudly displayed in our windows to encourage passers by and make them smile. * Your requests to me to pray for those you care about when I continue to go into church on your behalf and ask God to protect and bless all those we love. * The good humour and shared jokes on WhatsApp which help to keep us cheerful. * The general sense that we are growing closer as a community whilst physically apart, confirming that were are indeed "one body in Christ" united in the Spirit and will continue to be so. You and I will be called to play our part in the rebuilding of our community and country in due course and, like Captain Tom Moore and so many others who are making a constructive contribution to our country by responding so positively to the challenges we all face, I know that we will be up to that. What gives me especial hope that this is so is what comes in the second part of today's Gospel passage. It was not just seeing the Risen Christ that transformed the disciple's lives, it was one profound thing more: He Blessed them with the gift of the Holy Spirit and in the power, the influence, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they left that room uniquely resourced to continue Christ's saving work, to heal lives and transform society through being faithful to the values and vision enshrined in Christ's teaching. And that same gift of the Holy Spirit is offered to you and to me. I hope that we will be able to congregate again in our church of St. Mary's for the feast of Pentecost on May 31st. If not, we will continue to meet on Zoom. But we need not wait until then to experience the renewed gift of the Spirit. As we follow the suggested sequence in WHAT? NO CHURCH? or some such service of our own devising this Sunday, let us ask that we may be given that enhanced gift of the Holy Spirit as we eat the bread and drink the wine; let us ask that we may not just be refreshed but also resourced by the Holy Spirit with the gifts we will need to be part of the recovery and rebuilding of the community and country we all love so much and where you and I are asked to help build Christ's Kingdom of loving acceptance, selfless service and compassionate commitment. In the power of the Spirit may we do this. In Jesus's name. Amen. Please note that our next scheduled ZOOM service will be at 9.30am on Sunday 26th April. Details to follow in my next mailing. Blessings and best wishes, Jeff
Lord, as we read again the story of your coming to your friends
Where they were frightened, grieving, trapped,
Standing before them, risen from the dead,
Defying all that robs us of the energy to live:
So be present today with all those similarly
Frightened, grieving, trapped,
And offer them, as once you offered your friends,
The reassurance and hope that comes from knowing
Your love and your peace.
And please bless us, equip us, use us in the days to come,
To sow seeds of hope in the lives of those around us,
To project your peace into hearts pierced by pain,
To share the light of your presence with those who live
In places of spiritual or emotional darkness.
May each one of us be animated by compassion,
Awakened to service and alive to the challenges
To help heal and rebuild our fragile, fragmented world.
This we ask that we might do
Not in our own strength or to our own glory,
But in the strength of your Holy Spirit and
To your eternal honour and glory.
May the Lord Bless you and keep you
May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
May the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you and fill you with
His peace. And the Blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Rest upon you now and remain with you, always. AMEN.