I think it is fair to say that nobody has the potential to wind us up quite like family can. Whether that is parents, siblings or children when we live together, we all learn just how to press each others buttons to get maximum effect. There are certain things that my family do that are always guaranteed to get me riled up.
Firstly, we have the teenaged, monosyllabic, shrugging grunt when something is unknown. Something that I am absolutely sure I did when I was that age but we will leave that there. The other is on the car journey and being asked those 5 words, 5 little words that are asked over and over without thought and can destroy any enjoyment that a car journey (remember them?) can have.
ARE WE NEARLY THERE YET?
Sometimes it gets asked through eagerness or boredom and in extreme cases can be asked before you have even left the street. And of course it all depends on that word “nearly”. If my family are heading back to Scotland and I get to within an hour of our destination then Yes, we are nearly there. But if we are going to the supermarket (not something that we have done as a family since the lockdown) we would only nearly be there in the last few hundred yards. It is all relative.
Nobody likes to wait, waiting in line at the checkouts of the supermarket is nobody’s idea of fun. Waiting for an important letter to arrive, for exam results, for someone to get out of the shower are all things that few of us actually enjoy. But there are times in our lives that the only thing that we can do is to wait. Waiting is an inevitable part of life, and that was never truer than now.
Take just now for instance. With us all still in the grip of lockdown, a lockdown that looks as though could be with us for a while and will then be slow in its easing we are facing the dawning of a new reality. And as we start to see what that reality will be, we are forced to wait, to wait and see what emerges. This won’t be rushed, this can’t be rushed, we have no choice but to just wait… to watch and to wait.
There is a wonderful passage from psalm 130.
My soul is waiting for the LORD.
I count on his word
My soul is longing for the LORD
More than the watchman for the daybreak.
Let the watchman count on daybreak
And Israel on the LORD (Psalm 130:5-7)
People have been watching and waiting for as long as there have been people.
In the Acts of the Apostles reading that we have just heard there are 3 distinct groups of people waiting, You have the remaining Apostles, you have the women from Galilee and you have Mary, with the brothers of Jesus. It tells us of people coming together, coming from different lives, all connected to Christ in different ways, with different histories but those three groups come together to become one community, this will become the church.It is only when they come together that the picture of Jesus becomes more complete. It is only when they are together that there are witnesses to the whole of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
The Apostles who were there from the time of Jesus' baptism until his crucifixion. You have the women of Galilee who were the first to learn of His resurrection in the empty tomb – something that was not witnessed by the Apostles and then you have Mary, Mary who was there from the beginning and at the end. They come together in prayer as they wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Just as we come together in prayer to bear witness and take part in the works of the Holy Spirit, just because we are in lockdown does not mean that the Holy Spirit is in lockdown, He is working harder than ever!
God came to them then and He comes to us now. The exact word used in the passage is the word “dynamis” from which we get the word Dynamite or dynamic, that in itself tells us something of the nature of God. It bursts forth from the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times.
Jesus had a clear roadmap that He gave His disciples, first Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria (a neighbouring country that was not well liked at all) then the rest of the world.
Just like for those original disciples, the world has now changed for us. We find ourselves in a new reality but we are called to make sure that as we emerge from this lockdown, God’s voice is heard, His Kingdom proclaimed.
The adventure of the Holy Spirit has come before and it comes now. We are nearly there, let us keep going!
Ascension Day: Luke 24:44-end
Somehow or other over the last forty to fifty years, Ascension Day seems to have been cut adrift from the other major feast days in the Church of England. When I was at primary school, we all got marched to church on Ascension Day for a special service and then had the afternoon off as extra holiday. Nowadays in the Church of England, Ascension is, overall, marked quite soberly and with restraint. In other churches and especially the Orthodox Church, Ascension Day remains a major feast and festival, not just theoretically, but in practice. So, I am really pleased that today’s prayers have been written by a young member of the Greek Orthodox Church, locked down with her grandparents here in Winslow; thank you Zoe.
So why should we take Ascension Day seriously; what is the so what or invitation behind the Ascension? Surely all Ascension, you might think, is the tiny bit of detail wedged between the Resurrection and Pentecost? Well, it may well be that not much bible footage – in fact just three verses – is given to the Ascension, but that does not mean that it is not hugely significant. In fact, maybe it is so significant that to add extra words, to pan out the story, would be to diminish its significance? Just a thought?
The Ascension invites us and beckons us to do two things, or to look in two directions:
First, it invites us to look backwards at story of Jesus’ life, or the incarnation, afresh, from the perspective of a little distance. It invites us to see his life through the lens of Eulogy. This means looking at his life with a sense of praise and thanksgiving, remembering all that he did and achieved on our behalf.
But, a word of caution: please don’t, when you are Eulogising over Jesus’ life, fall into the trap of recollecting the facts of his life – then he did this, then he did that. Remember the why or the purpose of his life, the value and ethos of his life, and then take that into your hearts, so that you are strengthened to live better, more purposeful lives in the nitty gritty of the here and now and on into your unknown and unknowable futures.
Secondly, the Ascension allows to look forward in a spirit of anticipation to Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church. Pentecost is the moment when the church is breathed into being and given a common language spoken in diverse tongues. It is also the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise that he will not leave us orphaned.
Ascension Day invites us to pause and stand stock still, providing us with the opportunity to look back at the life of Jesus, through the lens of Eulogy, in a spirit of praise and thanksgiving, truly remembering all that he achieved through his earthly life, and to look forward to Pentecost in a spirit of hopeful expectation. Through the Ascension, the past and the future are brought into the present.
Today, let us take our part in recapturing the essence of Ascension Day,
VE Day 2020
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….
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…
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