Sadly following the announcement from the Prime Minister on March 23 all the benefice churches are closed. For details about what can be done regarding funerals, emergency baptisms etc see the Events page.
SUNDAY WORSHIP - PASSION SUNDAY
Rev Tom Ringland:
I hope many of you have received a copy of a little booklet called 'Worship at Home'. I shall be using this too. Let me know if you have not received one, but would like to. You can use it with the service below for Sunday March 29 - Passion Sunday
We are now learning to be the Church 'Together-while-Apart' - and a significant part of this will be continuing to draw near to God in prayer and worship on Sunday morning - knowing that others are doing so at the same time. This Sunday, the fifth of Lent, would have seen us all gathering at St Andrew's at 10.30 for 'Penhill Praise' - at 10.30 am. If possible it would be nice to keep that time, but any time is good!
It's Passion Sunday - and our attention focuses over these next two weeks on the walk to the cross, the final showdown. The readings are towards the end of this post.
Both these readings are about life - about revival - life restored.What comes to your mind as you read of the valley of dry bones? - we read 'there were many - and they were very dry' ...
how do you think Ezekiel would have felt?
Surely the situation was beyond anything he - or anyone else could affect.
But, in his vision,something extraordinary happens, that has captured the minds of many in art and song
Life is dramatically restored - bone by bone, sinew by sinew and finally with the granting of breath.
What are we told these bones represent?
This is all a picture of the renewal of a people who felt they had no future - no life - no knowledge of a loving God present by His Spirit.
The raising of Lazarus is another tremendously powerful and dramatic story with depths of nuance and detail.
As you read it afresh, what elements come to the fore?
Are there parts of the story you've not really noticed before?
Again the situation seems impossible. Word was sent for Jesus, but he did not come. When he did come, he was apparently 4 days too late.
How do we respond when God seems absent? Why do you think Jesus delayed?
As with Ezekiel 37, we see the impossible made possible and Lazarus is presented alive - a demonstration of Jesus' affirmation, 'I am the resurrection and the Life'.
The loudly spoken words 'Lazarus, come out' challenge me.
Come out from the tomb, from the place of death. come out from the darkness. Leave that behind and come.
What would God call us to come out from?
Are there places we are inhabiting which are denying us the fullness and freedom of the life he promises us?
Sometimes it can seem easier to stay and resist the invitation - we're comfortable in the world we know even with its fears and disappointments.
We are a people with a foot in two camps.
We are still in a broken world - marred by our actions, by temper, self interest and now by this plague ... but we have had our eyes caught by another world, characterised by life and love.
Every new day we need to face this new vision and turn our back on the other.
Every new day, like Lazarus, we need to hear the voice of Jesus, loud, clear, glad - saying 'Come on out'!
As we continue to pray today for all caught up in the challenge of the Covid-19 epidemic -
• for national and local government racing to prepare;
• for our great but stretched NHS;
• for engineers and designers creating the personal protection equipment, the virus tests and the ventilators ...
• for all infected and especially those who will die today
pray too for numerous outbreaks of life and love - in unexpected places
... and for grace to respond to the invitation to come out from our small and cramped worlds into this future
1 Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever child-like, no cares could destroy,
be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
2 Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
be there at our labours, and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.
3 Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, Your arms to embrace,
be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.
4 Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.
Jan Struther (1901–53)
Christ crucified draw you to himself,
to find in him a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope,
and the assurance of sins forgiven;
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
be with you and with those for whom you pray now and always
Ezekiel 37: 1-14
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’
John 11: 1-45
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’
Come, O Spirit of God,
and make within us your dwelling place and home.
May our darkness be dispelled by your light,
and our troubles calmed by your peace;
may all evil be redeemed by your love,
all pain transformed through the suffering of Christ,
and all dying glorified in his risen life.
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Live streaming of services is more important than ever and is still permissible from homes. We encourage us all to consider how we can be as creative as possible with streaming services and other resources. There are many, many fantastic examples of churches and clergy using technology to reach and engage communities. Read more guidance here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/church-resources/digitallabs/labs-learning-blog/beginners-guide-going-live-your-service-or .
See also -
• churchofengland.org scroll down for 13 daily reflections, the #LiveLent materials and worship and prayer resources
• arthurrankcentre.org.uk click on 'Together Apart' for a range of resources for rural churches
• leeds.anglican.org click on Covid-19 (the starry screen) for resources including services streamed from local churches