Gathering:

Good morning & welcome to a short service of thanksgiving for 75th anniversary of VE Day.

Today’s service will take the form of a selection of readings and prayers, whilst we also listen to Holst’s Venus the Bringer of Peace, from The Planets. Between each set of readings & prayers we will keep a period of silence.

This piece of music, along with the readings, has been chosen because the fruit, or reward, for victory is surely peace - good and godly relationships between all people, all nations, for all time. Peace is the greatest of all prizes and the noblest of all outcomes.

But, as well as reflecting on peace and resolving to always work for peace, we must also spend a little time remembering and giving thanks for those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen who lost their lives fighting in Europe, for the sake of universal peace - victory belongs to no one and it belongs to everyone, for the victory that they won is truly a universal victory.

Remembering well, with thanksgiving, is so especially important, for when we remember well, we are strengthened to live better, more peaceful lives - in the here and now and into the future. Our job, yours and mine, is to ripen the fruit of victory, never letting it become bitter or hollow. So, let us keep a minute’s silence whilst we remember those who gave their lives to secure both victory and peace.

SILENCE (1 MINUTE)

A collect for universal peace: Father of all, your risen Son gave new hope to his apostles with words of peace and the assurance of his presence; send your Holy Spirit into the troubled places of the world, bless them with Christ’s gift of peace and strengthen the resolve of all who work to reveal your kingdom on earth as in heaven; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive & reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.

Reading: Psalm 72:1-8

SILENCE (20 SECONDS)

A Prayer for the Nations. This prayer was written by Eric Milner-White, a former Dean of York Minister who also served as chaplain on the Western Front in the First World War:

‘O God who woulds’t fold both heaven and earth in a single peace, let the design of thy great love lighten upon the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to thy Church, peace among nations, peace in our dwellings, and peace in our hearts; through thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

And a prayer for peace written by someone unknown; an anonymous author: ‘Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe, Amen.

SILENCE (20 SECONDS)

Let us pray together the words that Our Saviour, the Victor of Life over Death gave us: Our Father….

Blessing:

The Peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, and the blessing…

I have a confession to make, I always have difficulty in differentiating between a naturalist and a naturist, I keep getting the two things mixed up in my head. It doesn’t matter how many times I try to get it straight, if I ever have to talk about it I have to stop and make sure that I am saying the right thing. This, I am sure you can imagine, can make things quite tricky when you are as fond as I am in talking about the natural world and sharing in the bounty of God’s creation.

God’s creation is referred to as “the second book of God”; many of the metaphors and the themes in the Bible can be seen in the natural world around us. It is an image that is glorious far above and beyond our wildest imaginations. You only have to look at the world around us, especially at the moment to see the wonders that it entails. It was the Great American Pioneer Naturalist John Muir (who was actually born in Dunbar, in Scotland) who stated that, “Between every two pine trees is a doorway to a new world”. In the last few weeks I have talked to a lot of people on the telephone, trying to find out if they are alright, have everything they need and many of them have been talking to me about how their garden is a source of joy and pleasure at the moment. Indeed, it's well documented that gardening and being in the natural world has benefits for us all, both physical and in our sense of well-being.

And the reason that I am talking about this is that today is Good Shepherd Sunday, the day when we specifically remember Jesus as being the Good Shepherd. We have in the past tended to think of ourselves as his flock. After all, God tells us human beings that we are made in his image. It only makes sense that Jesus should be talking about us when he says that he is our shepherd. But if any of you who watch the big budget nature documentaries on the BBC will have noticed, nothing is an island, all the inhabitants of this earth are interconnected.

As our understanding of how the world develops, we are increasingly being made aware that nothing in this beautiful, wild world of ours is unconnected. For far too long we have thought ourselves as being set apart from nature when the truth is that we are completely reliant on it. If we are called to be Christ-like then we are also called to be shepherds of God’s Creation, just as Jesus is the shepherd of us.

The fact is that looking after our own little patch of ground, whether that is growing veggies in an allotment or tending the roses and nasturtiums around our houses, is beneficial to us. That then suggests that we are born to be custodians of Nature, to look after our world, God’s world, because in the end, as this health emergency tells us, we are but a small part in all its wondrous glory.

In China they have a saying,

           “If you want to be happy for one day, get drunk.

            If you want to be happy for a year, get married

            If you want to be happy for life, be a gardener”.

I think that we should start an organisation, Gardener’s for God, because even if we don’t know how to look after sheep, we do know how to look after Creation and ourselves.

 

Amen.

Rev'd. Mark Nelson

I wonder where comes to mind when you think of the great pilgrimage sites - you know, those places that many Christians long to go to in the hope and expectation that they will discover God afresh when they arrive: Jerusalem, Rome, Santiago, Holy Island, Iona, Canterbury, perhaps, or maybe even Walsingham?  Well, one place you probably wouldn’t think of is Emmaus, for, in the words of that great 1980s rock song, to walk the road to Emmaus really was to walk the ‘road to nowhere.’  

Emmaus was a place of no significance whatsoever; politically, civically, religiously. Emmaus was not a place where you went in the firm hope and expectation of encountering God. Emmaus was boring, it was bland, and it was banal. It was a place that seemed to have been left behind; a place that had no real sense of identity and offered little in the way of hope or beauty.  Can you think of somewhere you just dread having to visit – somewhere which is at the very end of your ‘road to nowhere?’  If you can, you have found your imaginary Emmaus.

And yet, it is on the ‘road to nowhere’ that Jesus, wondrously, pitches up and walks alongside Cleopas and his unnamed friend. And this is interesting for who on earth might you think was Cleopas, and who was he walking with?  The message seems to be clear: Jesus is perfectly able to pitch up and walk alongside us, each and every one of us, whoever we are, even when we might feel that ‘we’re on a road to nowhere.’  All we need do is to be open to the possibility. In fact, I would go further and say that sometimes all we need to do is stop trying too hard to find God and simply let him find us.

Now please don’t get me wrong: I love the great cathedrals and parish churches. I love our parish churches. I am also sad that I will not be able to get to Santiago, as planned, this year. But one of the messages from today’s gospel reading is surely this:

‘Do not despair when you can’t see the road ahead, and when all feels uncertain, and when you can’t sense God walking alongside you, for God really is perfectly capable of meeting us when we think and believe ‘We’re on the Road to Nowhere.’

God, you see, cannot be contained. God cannot be locked away in those special places we so like to visit – although He is surely there too – God is in the words of a song we sing at Great Horwood School - ‘everywhere;’ that is why I will begin the words for the Liturgy of the Eucharist by saying ‘the Lord is Here,’ and you will respond, and let’s this week do it with real gusto, His Spirit is with us.’ You see, we are not actually ‘on the road to nowhere.’  We might not have a particularly good road map or strategy for the way ahead. We might even feel lost and anxious, but the reality – the divine reality – is simply this - that The Lord is with us,’ and even in these strangest of times, he desires nothing more than to walk with us and feed us through both word and sacrament.

One of our challenges as the COVID church is, I think, to have the open-mindedness to simply let God be God, walking with us and feeding us, wherever we are and however we feel, for one thing is sure:

We are not walking ‘the road to nowhere.’

We are walking the road, instead, to somewhere. All is not lost, God is walking with us, for us, and alongside us, feeding us through word and sacrament. Amen.