Reflection for Thursday 14th May 2020

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Our gospel reading today follows from the vine and the branches parable.

Chapter 15 is Jesus considered his farewell discourse to the men and women who follow him and for us today.

John 15: 9-17

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

14You are my friends if you do what I command.

15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

17This is my command: Love each other.

REFLECTION –

Love that intense feeling of deep affection often described as a mother has for her new born, just one dictionary interpretation of the word.

Somehow, the love that Jesus speaks about in scripture, isn’t quite this. I think that love is a commitment to consistently put another person’s well being and happiness before your own.  It’s the love a spouse has for another when he/she puts the other spouse’s needs or desires before one’s own.  It’s the love that overlooks another’s faults, and focuses on his/her endearing qualities.  It’s the love parents have for their   children when they play with a child even though they are really too tired to move.  It’s the willingness to lay down one’s life for another to protect that person from pain.

True love is hard.  It is demanding.  It requires virtue and brings out the best in all involved in the love relationship. 

Sometimes, it is difficult to love – When our kids are whiny, or our spouses are annoying.  With acquaintances and strangers, it can be even more difficult.  We know that all people are God’s children. Unfortunately, it is often hard to see God in them – especially when they are rude, or don’t think the way that we do. 

This passage is beautiful.  I especially love the part when Jesus said, “It is not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”  He picked me!  He picked me!  He picked you!  How do we bear fruit that will remain?  By preaching on the street corner?  By shouting from the mountaintop?

I think that Mother Theresa and St. Therese of Lisieux truly understood and lived this gospel.  Their way of life – their goal – was to do everything with love – to see the face of Christ in everyone with whom they interacted.  But they were saintly individuals, you might say.  Yes, they were.  How could Mother Theresa care so tenderly for the dying, the wretched, the foul smelling?  How did St. Therese’ treat with only kindness the nuns who were jealous of her and downright mean?  They obtained much grace to love like Jesus loves through prayer. Both of these great, yet humble ladies, began their days with extended time in the Presence of our Lord.  

In our situation today with the deadly coronovirus, we see that tender care for the sick and dying by hundreds of health care workers in the NHS, Nursing Homes, friends and neighbours putting others before themselves.  That surely is a ‘thing called love’.

Let us look to them as shining examples of how we can live Jesus’ command to love one another.  A good start would be to extend our prayer time – reading God’s Word and listening to Him in silence – by 5 minutes each day.  If you spend 0 minutes now, try 5.  If you spend about 5, try 10.  God wants to pour grace upon us – to quench our thirst for Him – but we must come to the well to drink – to fill up.  Prayer time is when we meet Him at the well!  Amen

Collect an alternative prayer for the day

Risen Christ,

your wounds declare your love for the world

and the wonder of your risen life:

give us compassion and courage

to risk ourselves for those we serve,

to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Reflection for 13th May 2020

The Rev’d Roger Elks

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Today finds me up in Northampton, sitting in little caravan in my daughter’s garden. Ruth and Johnny became proud parents of baby Emma, who was born today, Tuesday, although this reflection is coming out on Wednesday. So all’s doing well. And Liz and I are up here just to help out for a little while. And we’re very pleased with all the good things that God has given us.

One of the wonderful things he gave us was a little house in Wadebridge where we’ve been living for a while, unfortunately not up in North Devon, but the Internet is better in Wadebridge. And in that house is a little garden and it’s quite small, but it’s manageable. And it means, as opposed to the big vicarages that I’ve been privileged to live in over 25 years, I’m not always spending my time in the garden cutting lawns and cutting hedges. I can actually do some of the gardening stuff. And over the five years we’ve been in Wadebridge, we’ve planned and planted in the hope that the plants will bear fruit. And in our case, the ‘fruit’ is flowers looking nice. And just as we climbed into the car on Sunday to drive up here, the roses and the lupins and the peonies and the clematis were all about to come out. So we’ve left our youngest daughter in the house on pain of death, not to forget to water the plants so that when we come back, everything is still blooming. The purpose of a flower in our garden is produce colourful flowers and to look beautiful; to look nice. That’s the purpose of us planting them there. If they don’t do that, then we have to ask the question, what is the purpose of them being in our garden?

The purpose of a person in God’s world, well part of the purpose of a human being in God’s world, is to bear fruit for our Heavenly Father.

Our passage is from John chapter fifteen verses one to eight and I’m going to read it to you now.

John 15 New International Version (NIV) The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

So our purpose is to bear fruit for the glory of God, and Jesus says, in verse five, that “if you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit”. It reminds us doesn’t it, of the parable of the sower where the seed falls on good ground and bears much fruit? And what is the fruit of a life of following Jesus? Well, it’s giving glory to God is good works, the good works God prepared for us to walk in. It’s not just good works, but good news as we bring Good News into the situations in which God places us. It’s doing the “will of Him who sent me”, as Jesus did the will of Him who sent Jesus. All in all, it’s becoming more like Jesus everyday. Vines producing grapes because they’re connected to the vine. And if we stay in Jesus, we produce the fruit in our lives as Jesus produced the fruit in his.

The passage says we need two things to be fruitful. One is to remain connected to Jesus and the other is to be effective. What does it mean to be effective? Is that our desire? I’m assuming that if you’re listening to this reflection or reading it, then you are in Christ Jesus, that you are connected to the vine. And that’s great. That’s a privilege that’s free because Christ died on the cross for us. But our desire surely needs to be to respond to God’s love. Not to do good works that we might be saved, but to do good works because we are saved. And when we reflect on what God has done in our lives through Jesus Christ, then we want to respond to that with a desire to bear much fruit for God. But it can be hard work.

It requires pruning or cleaning. It’s a similar root word in the Greek. And it requires a focus. We cannot do everything that we want to do in our lives. We need to make some difficult decisions. Sometimes the decision is a choice between being fruitful and being unfruitful in the time that we spend and the things that we do. And we have to make hard choices. Sometimes the hard choices are forced upon us. And we realise the value of life and the value of doing God’s will. Sometimes those choices aren’t forced upon us. And we have to shake ourselves out of lethargy and self-centredness and to go the extra mile, as Jesus taught; to love, to self-sacrifice, to deny ourselves in order to bear fruit. Those are hard decisions. Those are things that God wants to do in our lives. And they are tough, like pruning the parts of our lives that don’t produce fruit. These decisions that we have to make in order to be as fruitful as we can for the Lord, requires us to know his will, to know what are those things which bear much fruit. Jesus said, in verse 3, you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. And being a faithful Christian means turning to those things which produce fruit, turning constantly to God’s word, which you are doing today as you look and reflect upon this passage in John 15. To turn and to be challenged. Rather like turning towards the surgeon as the surgeon brings his scalpel down and order not just to be hurt, but to be healthy, to be fruitful, to bear much fruit. In the joy and glory of following Jesus is also some discipline and some sacrifice – so that we can respond to the love that God has given us by bearing much fruit in our lives.

You and I want to hear the words of our lord when he returns, don’t we? “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” So let’s ask that he may open our eyes today to see the fruit that he wants us to bear for him in our lives and for his glory. And let us be brave and courageous and loving in following Jesus. Amen.

Risen Christ,
your wounds declare your love for the world
and the wonder of your risen life:
give us compassion and courage
to risk ourselves for those we serve,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

May God bless us all and keep us safe. Amen.

Reflection for Tuesday May 12th 2020

Nigel Price

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John 14.27-end

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.  I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.  I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

“Come now; let us leave.

NIV translation

One of the last things I did before our church building was closed was to teach the Makaton signing for ‘Peace be with You’.  The guidance being given to us at the time was to refrain from touching, so our normal hand holding circle was outlawed.  I am not sure we anticipated what was to follow.

Peace, shalom, means more than the absence of trouble.  It means everything that brings us the highest good. I do not give as the world gives, says Jesus, because the peace which the world gives is just an escape – an avoiding of trouble – a retreat from facing up to difficult situations.

The peace which Jesus offers is a peace of triumph. Nothing in life can take away this peace – no sorrow, no danger, no suffering, no virus can ever make it less.  Nothing can take away the Peace that he offers.

The disciples are easily confused and Jesus reminds them that he has already talked about going away – if you loved me you would be glad that I am going to the Father.  Jesus was to be released from the world.  As we will see later with the disciples, for us also we feel the sting of sorrow and the desolation that accompanies death but even in the depths of our despair we should be glad when those we love go to a better place. For by our faith in the resurrection and eternal life, we know deep down that it is not death they suffer, but an entry into a new blessedness.

Jesus knows what is coming; what many will see as humiliation and shame on the cross. But Jesus loves his Father and will do what he is commanded; he knows that his obedience to God and love of men will be a vindication. It would not be defeat but a glorious victory.

Peace be with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

And now the Collect, the prayer for the day

Almighty God,

who through your only begotten Son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:

Grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,

so by your continual help
we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit

one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Thursday 7th May 2020

The Rev’d Roger Elks

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Reflection for 7th May 2020

John 13v16-20

Note to the reader: I prefer to speak from notes rather than prepare and read a script. This text is therefore a computer generated transcript of my recorded reflection for the website which I have corrected as much as time allows. This will help explain the odd grammar in places and the frequent use of “And” at the beginning of sentences!

Hello, welcome to our reflection for this Thursday. I hope you’re all surviving lockdown with us all and enjoying these reflections. And it’s nice to share and I’m enjoying watching my colleagues and bringing the scriptures to life through the Spirit, working through them. So today’s passage that we’re looking at is the gospel reading for the Communion service for today in the lectionary. It’s from John, Chapter 13. We begin to read at verse sixteen just after Jesus has washed the disciples feet.

16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.  Jesus Predicts His Betrayal 18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned[a] against me.’[b]  19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” (NIV)

There are two key themes in here. One about the betrayal of Jesus that we know will happen shortly. As Judas Iscariot leaves the meal. But also there is the sort of sandwich, the beginning and the end of the passage, about being sent and serving and I want to focus on that today.

I remember when I was in industry working in factories. Part of the joke was to tease the apprentices. Never happened to me. But sometimes t he Apprentice would be sent down to the tool room and to the stores and ask the storeman for something like a “long weight”. And they innocently went down there and the storeman would say, “Well just stand over there, laddie.” And after about half an hour, when he got bored or really started questioning, they’d explained to him that he had had his long wait and he could go back to the factory floor now. Or maybe he was ask to ask for a tin of elbow grease or something that would raise a laugh.

Being sent on errands; we all start at the bottom, don’t we? When we start work and we’re often the ones, when we do start, getting the tea, being a tea boy or or tea girl. Most of us start humble beginnings and that’s a good place to start, I think. A lot of people who now run companies started at the bottom and worked upwards. I remember a story of one vicar who told me that when after some church event, it was he as a curate and his incumbent were the only two left in the church hall. And they had moved all the chairs and then they started sweeping the floor and they were going backwards and forwards with the broom. And as the vicar passed, the curate and it was probably getting on for about eleven thirty at night. He looked and ever said, “You’re always a deacon.” And that’s true, isn’t it? We have this order of deacons, which was reminiscence of the of those early disciples who were set apart to serve at tables. But actually as an ordained person, you never lose that ordination. It’s just like the foundation on which the priesthood service is built. You are always a deacon. You don’t stop serving at tables with that humble role. It’s important not just for we who are ordained, but to all of us who serve others.

Now, in the Bible, in the Gospels particularly, there’s an awful lot of spending going on. God sends his Son. Jesus sent the apostles. Now, the word apostle actually means “the sent one”. And we read it how He sends out 12, doesn’t he? And then he sends out seventy two. And then in Matthew twenty eight, we read of what we call the great commission when he says to his disciples, go into all the world, make disciples and lo I will be with you always. And in John 13 this idea of sending has a precursor to it, which is that of humility. Here is Jesus washing the disciples feet being the lowest of the low. It should have been the slaves who did that obviously that hadn’t happened, none of the disciples wanted to lower himself to the role of a deacon or a slave to to do this humble task. And Jesus takes it upon himself. And then he says. “You’re not any greater than than me, are you? I’m going to send you and the ones who are sent are less than the one who sends. And as I have done this humble task. So you too will do humble tasks.”

Those who we serve as Christians receive not just the good work in themselves, they receive not just us, but says Jesus. Those who receive you, those who you serve, receive both Jesus, the one who sends us, and God the Father who sends Jesus. That’s verse 20 of John 13. “I am telling the truth. Whoever receives anyone I send receives me also. And whoever receives me receives him. Who sent me.”

So those who we serve receive not just ourselves, but they receive Jesus and our Heavenly Father.

When I was a Cub Scout, I remember that one of the things that we could do is do a good turn every day. It was part of the scout promise, wasn’t it? A scout does a good turn every day. I wonder if you can remember that those of you who joined me in the scout movement, and when I’d done my good deed for the day, I could get the two ends of my cub scarf and tie them in a reef knot, not a granny knot. And that would be a little tie at the end. And that would show everyone who turned up at the Cub meeting, would show that they’ve done their good deed. Now, we as Christians are to do our good deeds every day, and I’m sure we do as we look at them. But what’s special about the Christian is that the good deeds that we do are prepared for us to walk in. When we walk in the in the guidance of the Spirit and in the presence of Jesus, then the things that we do are not just ordinary things, but they become things that God works through. In Ephesians Paul writes, Ephesians 2v10,  “For, we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”

So today there are those good works which God has prepared for us to do in his providence. There are those who need our help. There are those who need to be served by us in one way or another. And I guess in lockdown we just need to be imaginative about how we do that. And it may be that they know who’s contacted them and serve them. It may be that it’s anonymous through some gift or whatever, or even a prayer where those for whom we pray do not know we’re praying. But they are there, those good works. And our job is to spot them and to do them and not to avoid them or forget them or neglect them.

But it is not just that good deed which is of benefit to the recipient. It’s not just the benefit of what we do practically or emotionally, but it is the fact that as we serve, this person is visited not just by us, but by God Himself. God himself comes into that person’s life through our service. What an amazing thought that is. Those little things that we do are the things that God uses to come into somebody’s life. Saint Francis of Assisi said “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words”. And every moment of our waking life, we are to preach the gospel, by doing those good works, by serving and it isn’t always going to be easy and nice. Sometimes it’s going to be sweeping the floor when everybody’s left. And sometimes it’s going to be washing dirty, smelly, dusty feet because no one else got round to it.

May, Lord, I not miss the opportunities God gives me today to bring Jesus into people’s lives. Amen.

And so let’s pray. The collect for today.

Almighty God, whose son, Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life. Raise us who trust in him from the death of sin to the life of righteousness that we may seek those things which are above where He reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

May God bless you and all our parishes and our communities as we continue through this lockdown period. And look for brighter and better days as we serve the Lord in humility and faithfulness. God bless.

Reflection for Tuesday 5th May 2020

Nigel Price

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John 10.2230

Jesus Is Rejected by the Jews

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’

John is very specific in giving us both the time and the place of this episode. The festival of the Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah, takes place around the time of our Christmas. Its origin lies in the time of one of the greatest ordeals of the Jews at the hands of a king of Syria. This King was a lover of all things Greek and had decided to rid himself of the Jewish religion for once and all. At first he tried this by peaceful means, and some Jews welcomed the new ways, but many were stubbornly resistant. So he resorted to a physical attack on Jerusalem and thousands of Jews perished with more sold into slavery. The Temple was desecrated, but six years later an epic struggle for freedom was won and the Temple cleansed. It was to celebrate this victory that the Festival of dedication was instituted. It was also known as the Festival of Lights, because lights would be set in the window of every Jewish home for eight days.

We are also told the place, the portico of Solomon. The first court of the Temple was the Court of Gentiles and two precincts ran down either side, the Royal Porch and Solomon’s Porch. People walked there to pray and meditate and as John tells us it is winter, it would be natural for Jesus to have sought shelter under the great colonnades.

‘How long are you going to keep us in suspense? There are two types of people behind this common question – some are eagerly awaiting an answer. They want to hear plainly that this is the long-awaited Messiah. But others are simply laying a trap, wanting to tease out a statement that will entrap Jesus into blasphemy.

I have already told you, he protests. Well, yes, but not plainly. So far by

plain statements, he had only revealed himself in private. But his deeds were there for all to see. Still the great majority of Jews did not accept the claims.

‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.’ In Palestine sheep were mainly kept for wool, not meat, so they were with the shepherd for many years. There were no sheep dogs and the shepherd would call his sheep by name. He led and they followed. The sheep got to know the voice of their shepherd and would respond only to him. Some of the Jews did believe; they are his sheep and they are promised two things:

They are promised eternal life, never to perish. The littleness of earthly life would be gone, replaced by the splendour and magnificence of the life of God.

They are promised a life that was secure, ‘no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand’. It would not mean that they were saved from sorrow, from suffering, from death. But in the depths of their darkest hours they would be conscious of those generous arms supporting them. Even in a world crashing to disaster they could know the serenity of God.

And you know what? Those very promises are made to us. How long are we to be kept in suspense? Not at all, for the moment is here and now. If we believe and if we belong to his sheep then we will hear his voice and those promises will be ours.

Today we are in a world that faces a disaster of truly biblical proportions. All that we knew and all that made us feel secure has been pulled from under our feet. But God brings us comfort and stability. We are doing things in different ways, learning new tricks, but God is our constant. The Father and Jesus are one. Believe in Him and you shall never perish. Only believe.

And now the Collect, the prayer for the day

Almighty God,

whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:

raise us, wo trust in him,

from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,

that we may seek those things which are above,

where he reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit

one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Monday 4th May 2020

The Rev’d Penny Body

Click here for the text of the reflection

Reflection for Monday 4th May

The Gospel John 12 verses 20 to 26

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

The Reflection

Today’s reflection is a bit different from normal – and a bit longer – because today is the first Monday of the month which is when the Wayfarers Group, based in Westward Ho!, would usually be meeting, so last week we considered two questions to share as a common reflection with you all today. The questions were:

Of the changes that have happened as a result of the coronavirus lockdown – which do you appreciate and why and

What things have you found you have really missed.

There isn’t space here to share everything but I will try to summarise and I expect you will recognise many of the thoughts from your own lives too.

On the first question our answers fall into three broad categories relating to time and space, a new sense of community, and an even greater appreciation of what we already have.

We have valued both the physical quiet such as less cars on the road as well as the removal of some of our normal tasks and activities leaving space for something new. What has filled the space has generally been life-giving and full of creativity. Life-giving because of so much less rush in our daily doings – and thus more peace – and time to create some more order in those long forgotten cupboards!

People have been writing, sewing and sharing in the springtime with the wonder of listening to a wren singing, watching stonechats flitting, blackbirds bringing up a family and wild flowers blooming. As one person said “when we are confined to a small space nature seems so much more alive and wonderful to watch”. When our space becomes smaller, paradoxically our awareness and appreciation of life grows bigger. God is all in all – and in the smallest, undistracted we can see his fullness.

Second is the sense of new community – we have all been humbled and honoured by people helping us and others with groceries, medicine and just keeping us sane. Camaraderie and care between neighbours has increased with the weekly clapping and general care for each other. A new sense of community is emerging on the coast path with people making more eye contact, smiling and engaging in brief conversation. As one person said “it’s a bit like a silent retreat where deep connections with very few words are made” and as another said it’s as if the “barriers of reserve” are being broken down. We are loving our neighbours and

new community is being born.

What people have missed is the other side of the community coin. It is the lack of physical contact with friends and family, meeting together in fellowship with our church families, not being able to share hugs, not singing together, not engaging in those group conversations that take off in different directions and widen our viewpoints. Whilst contact with family, friends or work colleagues through technology is good, and may in the future save some road miles, it is not the same as being together in the flesh.

God knows this – it’s why the incarnation is so important to us – that Jesus came as a real, live physical person into our world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We are people of physicality as well as mind and spirit.

Thirdly, we all already appreciate living where we do, and belonging to our church family as we do, but in this time of lockdown people are appreciating even more how lucky we are to enjoy the environment we do, to have enough space in our homes, to have gardens, to be mobile and normally able to go out, to have access to technology to make all those facetime calls with grandchildren. We know we don’t have the same worries as lots of other people about livelihoods and keeping businesses running, many of us being older or retired, but in our appreciating we have been filled with concern and compassion for all those who are bereaved, ill, struggling with isolation or over-crowding, poverty, people who have lost livelihoods or businesses, people working in risky situations, people who are unable to access friends, family and the wider world through the internet, people who have no-ne to rely on and this compassion as led to prayer and prayerful action.

In our gospel reading today, Jesus says “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Our previous way of life has not died, but it has been paused, and new things in our lives have been springing up like the wild flowers and God is surely using this time in our lives to bring us new life in so many ways. He is showing us new ways of being with him in nature and the quiet, new ways of being with each other, barriers broken down and new ways of being ourselves. He is helping us to understand what is most to be treasured in our “normal” lives and teaching us more about those in need. I pray that these “many seeds” may produce much fruit, take root in our lives and bring us closer to Him. Amen.

The Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Almighty God,

whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:

raise us, wo trust in him,

from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,

that we may seek those things which are above,

where he reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reflection for Friday 1st May 2020

Nigel Price

Click here for the text of the reflection

John 14.1-14

Jesus the Way to the Father

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

That reading is often chosen for funerals. Sometimes Thomas’s puzzlement is shared by others. In my previous parish we had no churchyard and most funerals were at the local crematorium at Hanworth. There was another at Mortlake only about ten miles away, but a good half hour’s drive in normal London traffic. One day I was waiting outside the chapel, waiting for the previous service to end. As I stood there, a priest came up and waited with me. After a while I asked, “can I help you?” “No, I’m taking the next funeral.” “I don’t think so, I am!” Consulting his diary, he exploded, “Oh [expletive deleted] I’m supposed to be at Mortlake!”

This week the number of deaths from Covid-19 careers towards 30,000, already 10,000 above what was hoped for as a ‘good’ outcome at the outset. Put in context though, on average in England and Wales there are some 10,000-12,000 deaths every week. It is running higher than that now, but these huge numbers mask the individual tragedies that are happening. Recently my sister-in-law’s mother died and the funeral will be in my old territory in a few days’ time. In normal circumstances I would have been asked to take the service – I conducted one for her father a few years ago. I

don’t think it was anything to do with the virus and she was well into her nineties, but even so death creeps up to surprise and unsettle us. It is an individual tragedy – fortunately close family will be able to attend – but for many in these strange times no mourners are allowed. Just at the time when one wants to give comfort, social distancing says ‘no!’ But do not let your hearts be troubled, says Jesus.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” so starts Charles Dickens Tale of Two Cities set in Paris and London at the time of the French Revolution. “it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Today we also have winners and losers. For some, such as me, little has changed. I work from home and work continues. Others have lost jobs or are furloughed. They fear for the future, wondering if they will be needed again. Some face the ruin of their businesses; others are trying to re-invent what they do. Some are in great demand – the delivery drivers, supermarket workers and of course health workers. Some may appreciate the novelty of being truly valued, but for front line health workers they face, perhaps for the first time in their career, the real prospect that they will lose their own life in the course of helping others. As Jesus says in the next chapter of John, ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. They have always lived with death, but in this crisis it is with them day after day, one third of hospital admissions with the virus results in death, and as they go home to grab a few hours respite, they know that death will be with them again the next day.

The only inconvenience we are suffering personally is that we cannot travel to see family and friends. But when I was a boy, living in Poole, my paternal grandparents were on the Wirral and once a year my father would borrow a car from a friend and we would drive up to spend a week with them. It is a small sacrifice to pay when others are stuck in tiny homes with no gardens and no nice countryside to walk in. Others are cooped up with frustrated and violent partners. Yet more are homeless on the streets, turned out of accommodation because they cannot afford the rent. Unlike the long term homeless they are rather naïve about the ways of the streets. Some are lucky, because many empty hotels are being brought into service to house the homeless, but for those left on the streets there are no commuters to toss out coins, there are no sandwich shops turning out unsold bread at the  

end of the day, there are no toilets, no day centres, no abandoned cardboard to make a bed and many subways closed off.

In the face of all that is going on, we may feel totally inadequate – what can we possibly do? Jesus says, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.’ We can pray – do not underestimate the power of prayer – we can be nice to people. Across a suitable social distance we can shout words of encouragement. We can look out for each other. In these ways we are doing the works that Jesus does – and in his own words, these are greater than the works he does.

I am sorry to have taken so much of your time today, but let us close by praying the collect for today, the feast of Philip and James.

The Collect

Almighty Father, whom truly to know is eternal life:
teach us to know your Son Jesus Christ
as the way, the truth, and the life;
that we may follow the steps of your holy apostles Philip and James,
and walk steadfastly in the way that leads to your glory;
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.