Sunday 29 March 2020
Poem (Rev Alison Britchfield)
Christ’s Church is not closed!
Christ’s Church is not closed!
The doors may be shut and locked,
the lights out in the building up the street
But the Church isn’t closed.
We may be told to stay at home, self-isolate,
We may be ill or too frail to come,
We may be disillusioned with the institution, or with God
But the Church isn’t closed.
The Church cannot close because it is not a building.
The church is YOU, and me, and every child of God
Who feels the tug of his love and senses his presence,
Even in the darkness, even in loneliness,
Even in fear or sorrow.
The Church is open, though the building is closed.
It will stay open as long as his children stay open to God,
And seek his presence wherever they may be
This day Christ says to you, “I am with you always”.
So take this moment to enjoy his companionship,
To be still, to give thanks and to hand over your cares
And know that you do so in company with God’s family,
not only in our building but all over the world.
Great God, we haven’t been here before.
We are living in a situation where everything seems strange and unfamiliar.
Everything is changing - and continuing to change, and we look for stability.
You, God, are that stability.
You are constant and steadfast in your care and compassion for us.
So we bring to you the prayers of our hearts,
knowing that you will understand what we are feeling and thinking at this time.
In our prayers and worship
help us to remember your love,
your power, and the resources you offer us.
Help us to remember that you are with us every moment of every day.
And help us to remember that we are part of the church
and that the church continues to work in the world.
May we discover ways in which our faith can be acted out practically
in those moments when we support those in need around us.
God our maker,
Jesus our healer,
Holy Spirit of love and life
hear our prayers.
To those who seek you,
to all who need you,
to the world you cherish,
bring healing, bring wholeness, bring peace.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us in the time of trial
and deliver us from evil
for the kingdom, the power and the glory
now and forever.
Ezekiel 37: 1-14
REFLECTION ON EZEKIEL – See BONES Video
John 11: 1-44
REFLECTION ON JOHN READING
Within the word “crisis” are the two ideas of danger and opportunity.
A crisis is usually not welcome and seen as a negative, but it is often possible that good things can come from it.
The story of the death of Lazarus in John 11 is memorable and dramatic.
As far as we can see, Lazarus and his two sisters Mary and Martha were very close personal friends of Jesus. The news that Lazarus was dying came as a great shock to him, and by the time he got to Bethany he had died (and according to local customs) had already been buried.
“Jesus wept” (Jn 11:35) is famously the shortest verse in the whole of the Bible.
His love for his friend was not in doubt, and Jesus had returned to Bethany even though word had come to him that some people there wanted to kill him.
But in this tragedy there was an opportunity for Jesus to do something that would help not only his friend, but encourage and build the faith of his disciples.
When Lazarus was raised, great good was able to emerge out of a dark crisis.
TO THINK AND PRAY ABOUT.
It doesn’t seem like an exaggeration to suggest that we too are living in a time of crisis.
There is uncertainty, and fear, and people are suffering. Danger is very much in evidence.
But what might be the opportunities that are coming from this time?
What good can you see for our world, for our church, and even for us as individuals?
It could be a spirit of co-operation and recognising our common humanity.
It could be the church responding to the crisis by finding new ways to communicate the gospel.
It could be new opportunities for us to support the neighbours around us in practical ways.
Think about what we might be able to learn together and ask God to show us ways in which positives can be seen in our strange predicament.
God has not stopped speaking, guiding and communicating with us.
What is God saying now?
God understands where we are and who we can become.
So in your prayers over this week ask God for wisdom and insight into new ways to stay connected to God, to our sisters and brothers in our church, and in all our relationships with relatives, friends and neighbours.
Prayers For Others (from Christian Aid Website)
Love never fails.
Even in the darkest moments, love gives hope.
Love compels us to fight against coronavirus alongside our sisters and brothers living in poverty.
Love compels us to stand together in prayer with our neighbours near and far.
Love compels us to give and act as one.
Now, it is clear that our futures are bound together more tightly than ever before.
As we pray in our individual homes – around the nation and around the world – we are united as one family.
So, let us pause and find a moment of peace,
as we lift up our hearts together in prayer.
Hear our prayers
for the health workers tending the seriously ill
for the scientists working on a vaccination
for the researchers analysing data and identifying trends
for the media outlets working to communicate reality
for the supermarket workers, hygiene and sanitation providers
for the good news stories of recoveries and effective planning
for the singing from balconies by locked-down communities
for the recognition that isolation doesn’t need to mean loneliness
for the notes through letterboxes offering help and support
for the internet and telephones and technology that connects
for the awakened appreciation of what is truly important
Thanks be to God.
We pray for those who are unwell and concerned for loved ones
for those who were already very anxious
for those immune suppressed or compromised
for those vulnerable because of underlying conditions
for those in the ‘most at risk’ categories
for those watching as their income stream recedes
for those who have no choice but to go out to work
and for those who are afraid to be at home
for those who feel lonelier than they've ever been
and for those who are bereaved and grieving.
God be their healer, comfort and protection,
be their strength, shield and provision
be their security, safety and close companion
And raise up your Church
to be your well-washed hands and faithful feet
to be present to the pain
to respond with love in action
if even from a safe distance.
God, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
May the God of peace inspire us,
May the God of justice empower us,
May the God of hope encourage us,
To live the Good News.