5 April 2020 – Palm Sunday
This Sunday we should be processing into church singing All glory, laud and honour, as we recall Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, hailed as the Promised One from God.
All glory, laud, and honour
to thee, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children
made sweet Hosannas ring.
Thou art the King of Israel,
thou David’s royal Son,
who in the Lord’s name comest,
the King and blessèd One.
The company of angels
are praising thee on high,
and mortal men and all things
created make reply.
The people of the Hebrews
with palms before thee went;
our praise and prayer and anthems
before thee we present.
To thee before thy Passion
they sang their hymns of praise;
to thee now high exalted
our melody we raise.
Thou didst accept their praises;
accept the prayers we bring,
who in all good delightest,
thou good and gracious King.
Instead we will be walking around our living rooms as we remember the excitement and acclamation that turned within days to sorrow and despair. And perhaps that mirrors where we are too with the rapid changes in all our lives due to the coronavirus.
We had just begun a new year, indeed a new decade, with hopes and ideas, and now everything has changed; all our plans, all our certainties are up in the air. There is fear and stress and most definitely uncertainty.
And yet not all is uncertain. We have a sure and certain hope in God, and God’s love, even though at times it may be hard to see that at present. I am already being asked where is God in all that we see around us? And God is with us – in those reaching out to others, perhaps people they had never spoken to before. In those volunteering, or praying for others; in the doctors, nurses, care staff, key workers and all those selflessly giving their time, and sometimes even their lives, for others. Loving our neighbour in the widest sense is much in evidence.
Holy Week and Easter will be very different this year without the opportunities to worship that we usually share. Yet this can be a chance to take a step back from everything and to spend time reading and reflecting on Jesus’ journey to the cross. The journey from acclamation and welcome at the start of the week to betrayal and denial a few days later. This is an opportunity to explore who we are and our relationship to the God who loves us. The God who loves us so much that Jesus opened wide his arms on the cross in love and welcome.
In the midst of darkness and anxiety we can identify anew with those first disciples, who thought that with his entry into Jerusalem Jesus’ teaching had finally born fruit, only to find everything crashing down around them on the day we call Good Friday.
The emptiness of Easter Saturday will be particularly poignant this year, yet even in the prolonged Holy Saturday of emptiness that we find ourselves in, there is always hope. God, whose nature is mercy, sent His Son, who experienced the fullness of our own human suffering, and makes all things new.
And speaking of new I am going to suggest that during Holy Week we each take time to prepare our own Easter Garden, our own garden of hope. Some may be able to collect leaves, grass or plants on walks (don’t pull up the bluebells!) of from their garden, for others it may be from pictures, toys or cards, but however we do it, , let us focus on hope, and let us prepare that garden to greet the risen Christ the hope for us all on Easter Day.
29 March 2020 – Fifth Sunday of Lent (Passion Sunday)
This Sunday British Summer time begins, and in the Church calendar we begin Passiontide and our journey towards Holy Week and Easter, but in circumstances that none of us have faced before.
Many, I know, will be struggling with the social isolation, fear and uncertainty of the current pandemic, and sadly we lost Geoff Walker this week. Never have we needed one another more. We are finding new and varied ways of keeping in touch, and technology has an enormous part to play in that, as well as a good old-fashioned phone call. The positive of all this is that we have time to talk rather than just a brief salutation in passing.
Establishing a routine for our changed daily lives is key, as is giving ourselves space. If you are working from home for the first time, or home schooling, don’t be too hard on yourself and take time to look up. Be aware of the moment, the warmth of the sun, the smell of the blossom, the sound of birdsong, which without the hum of traffic or planes overhead, has been wonderful
Take one day at a time, and try to be the best you can, without expecting yourself to be able to do everything in this new and changed world; be kind and compassionate, slow down. Helping others in whatever way, can help us too, resisting fear and building up community – love God and love your neighbour.
At Passiontide, one of the hymns we often sing is one written by Isaac Watts, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. Isaacs wanted his hymns to be singable and for people to have a passionate response to them.
When I survey the wond’rous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory dy’d,
My richest Gain I count but Loss,
And pour Contempt on all my Pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the Death of Christ my God:
All the vain Things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his Blood.
See from his Head, his Hands, his Feet,
Sorrow and Love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such Love and Sorrow meet?
Or Thorns compose so rich a Crown?
His dying Crimson, like a Robe,
Spreads o’er his Body on the Tree;
Then am I dead to all the Globe,
And all the Globe is dead to me.
Were the whole Realm of Nature mine,
That were a Present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my Soul, my Life, my All.
The journey to the cross is about broken dreams, hopes dashed, fear and betrayal. Jesus suffers all that humanity can throw at him, and on the cross dies. But as we know that isn’t the end, and more of that in the coming weeks.
Presently the world is hurting. There are worries, fears and concerns. Yet we know this time will come to an end, that during this difficult time we will learn new things, new ways of working and being community. New relationships are already being built and perhaps we are actually talking more with one another, because we have the time.
Our readings today are about hope and new beginnings, and both are essential for us to flourish, and are what we look towards as we give thanks to those working to keep us all safe and well. The display of support on Thursday evening was truly moving and uplifting.
So as we begin a new week, let us join together in our prayers for today
Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
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
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us
that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters
we do also for you:
give us the will to be the servant of others
as you were the servant of all,
and gave up your life and died for us,
but are alive and reign, now and for ever. Amen
22 March 2020 – Mothering Sunday
This Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent is known as Mothering Sunday, a time when
traditionally people returned to their Mother Church, and their families.
Sadly this year we have been unable to worship together, and many of you will not be able to visit parents, or receive visitors with the guidance on social isolation. We are unlikely to be able to worship together for some time although the church will be open for private prayer, with the safety measures in place, at the times already detailed. However, we will keep in touch with our weekly sheets and our website, and with hard copies for those unable to access the web. Arrangements may of course change as government advice changes.
We have also added a section on Worship Resources to our website. This includes links to worship resources, live streaming of services and an order for Spiritual Worship which you may like to use until we are able to share the Eucharist again together.
We are in uncertain and uncharted times, and our faith, our love and care for one another as children of God will be very important in the coming days and weeks. Reaching out to others, talking by phone, email or in person – allowing for the proper social distancing – will be essential for all our wellbeing.
Our reading from Colossians today particularly reminds us of this, as we clothe
ourselves with compassion, kindness and above all patience.
James and I will continue to hold you all in our prayers, as I am sure you will hold one another, and we will continue to be a presence in and around our community.
Do keep in touch, communications have never been so important.
This Sunday evening the Church has called for a National Day of Prayer and we will pray for those who are sick or anxious and those working in our Health Service and the emergency services. As part of that we are encouraging everyone to place a lighted candle in their window at 7pm as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished.
I will be lighting candles in the church at that time, so please join with me in your home by lighting a candle in your window and saying a prayer at 7pm.
The Church is not the building it is all of us, so keep well and shine as Christ’s light in this dark world.
© 2020 St Edmund, Chingford