Prayer Time From Christ Church for Sunday, March 29, 2020

Based on An Order of Service for Noonday, BCP p. 103


For a full transcript, please see below.

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Prayer Time from Christ Church for Sunday, March 29, 2020

Based on An Order of Service for Noonday, BCP, p. 103


Full Transcript

Opening Words

O God, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

 

Psalm 121

1    I lift up my eyes to the hills; *

          from where is my help to come?

2    My help comes from the Lord, *

          the maker of heaven and earth.

3    He will not let your foot be moved *

          and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4    Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel *

          shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5    The Lord himself watches over you; *

          the Lord is your shade at your right hand,

6    So that the sun shall not strike you by day, *

          nor the moon by night.

7    The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; *

          it is he who shall keep you safe.

8    The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in, *

          from this time forth for evermore.

 

       Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *

          as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

 

Words from today’s Gospel, the story of the Raising of Lazarus, John chapter 11 (38-44):

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”  Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead 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 upward 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 people 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."

 

Reflection

When we get to the raising of Lazarus in John’s Gospel, it’s like seeing the rapids of a river.  The current is moving very fast, towards even stronger rapids, and there’s no turning back before the waterfalls ahead.  Right after the raising of Lazarus, the Chief Priests and Pharisees decide to do away with Jesus.  Then the anointing of his feet by Mary; his triumphant entry into Jerusalem – palm branches waving in the air.  Then betrayal by Judas, leading to his arrest, trial, crucifixion.  We are drawn forward by the momentum, in this final stretch of the rapids leading to the events of Holy Week.  Palm Sunday is a week from today.

 

Once more, our Gospel connects with what we have been going through, because of the coronavirus.  Although we are not entombed in a cave with a stone against the door, like Lazarus, we are awaiting some kind of resurrection.  We are cooped up, unable to move around freely.  In a strange waiting time, alien to anything most of us have ever known.

 

I want to share two thoughts about this.  First, today’s Gospel is a picture of hope.  As Lazarus was called back out into the world again, from his enclosure in the tomb in death, we will emerge into the world again, on the other side of all this.  It is hard not knowing when.  But the time will come.  There is an old Irish saying, “There is no flood that doesn’t recede.”  This one will recede too. 

 

The second thought I want to share, is that we have a choice within ourselves, about how we are going to meet this time we’ve got to spend, cooped up.  In what attitude will we spend it?  Of course we will all start by doing the natural thing, and that is to feel imprisoned, frustrated, disrupted – it’s true, we cannot deny the reality of all that.  We are cooped up. 

 

But with a little luck, and with help from God, we can try to move through the frustration – move on from that, to thinking of this as a time of waiting. 

 

Waiting is different from just watching the calendar, it’s different from just staring at the clock.  Remember the old expression, “A watched pot never boils”?  Well a watched pot does boil actually, I’ve seen it, you probably have too.  But the focus on watching really does make the process seem to last forever.  If we get completely trapped into clockwatching, calendar-watching, always thinking nothing but, HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO LAST? – That is guaranteed to make the time move even more slowly, and guaranteed to make the experience feel 100 % negative.  Which it does not entirely have to be. 

 

How can we make this waiting time - a fruitful time? 


Easier said than done.  But here are a couple of things to try:

  • We can take what we have lost (for example, freedom to go where we like, when we like), and offer it up as a prayer.  That’s a basic principle of Lent anyway.  Giving something up, and offering it to God as seed that we plant for something good to come out of it.  “Giving something up for Lent.”  How often in the past we have turned that into only a symbol, giving up some little luxury like chocolate.  What might in other years be something trite – has now (through no choice of our own) become something big and compulsory for everyone!  We have no choice but to do without all kinds of freedom and in-person meetings that we always took for granted.  Think how much more God can make of that bigger sacrifice, if we offer it up as a prayer.
  • This can also be made into a fruitful time by reflection.  An important time to realize how frail our human lives are, and how completely we rely on God for our existence.  A time to count our blessings: clean water to wash with, enough to eat, a roof over our heads, heat when it gets cold at night.  A time to realize how interconnected, how interrelated we are with each other – how human choices and human lives, our lives, are interwoven with each other.
  • We can make this time fruitful also by praying for each other more often, thinking about each other more often.  This morning opening an email, I was surprised to see that Siân and I were being thought about by a former student, Chinese: she wrote from China to say that she’s read about how the coronavirus is spreading in New York, and would we like her to send us some face masks?  A little wave of the hand, whether it’s out the window or half-way around the world, can make a big difference.  Finding ways of saying hello, showing each other that we care – whether by a chat on the phone, sending a message by text, email, even on paper like in olden times, remember that? 

As I said, clock-watching and calendar-watching are not the way to go, since a lot more of this waiting time is ahead.  It’s now clear that in these prayer-time online services we’ll be keeping Holy Week and Easter together; how strange will that be?  VERY.  As with everything else at the moment.  It’ll be kind of surreal – but very strange though it may be, we’ll be together in Spirit, together in God. 

 

And I am sure of this.  Togetherness in Spirit, togetherness in God, bears fruit.  It always has.  It always will. 

  

Now let us join together in prayer in the words that Jesus taught us:

 

Our Father, who art in heaven,

      hallowed be thy Name,

      thy kingdom come,

      thy will be done,

         on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

      And forgive us our trespasses,

      as we forgive those

        who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

      but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

      and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.  Amen.

  

Lord, hear our prayer; And let our cry come to you.

 

Let us continue to hold in our hearts those known to us who are in special need at this time. We remember by name: Anne, Carlos, Matthew, Donna, Ann, Regis, Bruce, Andrew, Diana, Gail, Patricia, Robert, Joanie, Ryan, Craig, Jeff, Mary, Brian, Marie-Claire, Ruth, Sarah, and Nancy.   


Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts, to direct and rule us according to your will, to comfort us in all our afflictions, to defend us from all error, and to lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

An ecumenical prayer from the Christian denominations in Scotland, adapted for our use: 


We turn to you, our Father, for we need your help.
Lord Jesus, as you have promised, be with us, whatever lies ahead,
Strengthen us, Holy Spirit, as we face this together.


We pray for our world and our country,
as coronavirus threatens our lives and our livelihood, leaving many in lockdown,
while key workers continue, despite the risk.


We pray for government leaders,
responding to medical and scientific advice,
making tough decisions for the wellbeing of all.


We pray for all who serve on the frontline in medical and social care;
facing increasing numbers, overstretched resources
and distressing human need.


Bless those who are ill, those who are alone and afraid,
those exhausted looking after their family, those worried for the vulnerable,
those fearful for their finances, those shut in to their fears.


Thank you for those working:
to manufacture needed resources,
to find a vaccine,
to keep in contact with the isolated,
to encourage others at this time. 


Lord, give us faith,

hope and love and hear our prayers,

in Jesus' name.  Amen.  

 

Let us bless the Lord. 


May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always.  Amen.

Prayer Time from Christ Church for Sunday, March 22, 2020

Based on "An Order of Service for Noonday," Book of Common Prayer, p. 103


For a full transcript, please see below.

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Prayer Time From Christ Church for Sunday, March 22, 2020

Based on An Order of Service for Noonday, BCP p. 103


Full Transcript

Opening Words

O God, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

 

Psalm 23

1   The Lord is my shepherd; *

         I shall not be in want.

2   He makes me lie down in green pastures *

         and leads me beside still waters.

3   He revives my soul *

         and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.

4   Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

         I shall fear no evil; *

         for you are with me;

         your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5   You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *

          you have anointed my head with oil,

          and my cup is running over.

6   Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *

          and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

 

Words from today’s Gospel, John chapter 9 (verses 32-37)

[The man who had been born blind, after receiving his sight from Jesus, said to the Pharisees,] “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and are you trying to teach us?” And they cast him out.  Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.”

 

 

Reflection

The Gospel today tells the story of the man born blind.  It’s a story of someone’s world moving from darkness to light – and there’s a connection between that movement, and faith.  All of us right now are in a time that seems dark.  In this sense: it’s a time when we can’t really see where we are.  We cannot see the path ahead of us, amid this spread of coronavirus, with all the upheavals in our lives, that seem to take a different shape every day.  We can’t see where the path is pointing, what direction it will go, or how long it is.  The story of the man born blind speaks of God’s ability to provide light enough to see the way ahead.  If only one step at a time.  And the one thing we need right now is the faith, the trust, that God will provide that light and see us through.  Because he will, you know – whatever the path ahead, God will see us through.

 

Last week in my Prayer Time video, I said that I feel there must be some kind of Holy Spirit algorithm in the way certain readings pop up in the Lectionary on certain days.  Even when many decades have passed, between the time when the Lectionary was put together, and the situation of a particular moment.  This week it’s happened again.  In this time when we don’t know what is ahead, don’t know what direction we are going – and when we need reassurance that God will see us through – lo and behold, the Lectionary has given us Psalm 23.

 

“The Lord is my Shepherd.”  It compares us to sheep.  I’ve heard it said that sheep are brighter than people give them credit for.  Apparently they are good at facial recognition, and can remember a human being for many years.  My own experience of sheep still says they are pretty clueless.  Siân and I love to go walking in the Northwest highlands of Scotland, and when you come across sheep, up there, it’s a wonder that those narrow single-track roads are not strewn with road-kill.  The sheep have no sense that it might be a bad idea to stand in front of approaching cars.  Even when you inch forward and honk at them lightly, often they stay just where they are, and look at you ... probably trying to remember your face.

 

So it’s fair enough for us to be compared with sheep, in Psalm 23.  Because we are clueless ourselves right now.  We don’t know what’s going on, quite where we are headed, or how long it will take to get to the other side of all this. 

 

Times like these can teach us how completely we need to depend on God.  Our shepherd.  And I don’t mean only to bring us out the other side of this crisis, though that of course is our daily prayer.  I’m also talking about faith in God to help us move through each week, each day, each hour, in an attitude of deep trust.  For many of us this is a new thing, we are used to trusting in ourselves alone.  We don’t like to admit that we ourselves are not in control of one thing or another.  But the present moment shows clearly: we are not in control, we need to trust our Shepherd. 

 

The words of this Psalm are so deep.  They resonate with all of us in a slightly different way.  But here’s what they are saying to me right now – I offer these thoughts just as one way of hearing Psalm 23.

 

The Lord is my shepherd; I accept that I am a clueless sheep at the moment.  That’s okay. 

 

I shall not be in want.  We are in want of many things of course: close presence with our circle of friends including those we would normally work with; our friends in church; being with loved ones who are far away.  But faith in God our Shepherd brings us back to the basics – those green pastures and still waters mean food and drink certainly, but also times of rest and serenity which will continue to come our way if we open up our hearts, and set aside time for God every day to revive our soul, as the Psalm says, and teach us patience, during this trying time.

 

Next come these words, He guides me along right pathways.  I don’t want to trivialize this, but think of all the empty shelves in the supermarkets right now, empty not because people are buying what they need, but because some are stockpiling like crazy - depriving others.  Think of the people, many of them, who are glib about defying regulations which are being put in place literally to save lives.  As the Governor said yesterday, a time like this can bring out the best in people and it can bring out the worst.  May our Shepherd guide us along those “right pathways, for his name’s sake” – so that people can see we are Christians by the way we behave in the midst of all this.

 

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.  This is what you call complete and perfect trust, and it’s something we all need to grow into, day by day, because some degree of fear is natural in times like these.  But the antidote to fear is having God with us.  I shall fear no evil - why?  For you are with me, it says, that Shepherd’s rod and staff are a comfort. 

 

Hour by hour, day by day, week by week, may God give us awareness of some new facet of his goodness and mercy – touching all the days of our life, especially these difficult days of waiting and not being in control.  In time, dear friends, we will return to that table God spreads before us, celebrating the Eucharist together in the house of the Lord.  But for the time being, while that banquet is in the future, may we all look to God our Shepherd to provide for us and sustain us in countless other ways.  And may we hold fast to the ties of love that connect us with each other.  Amen.

  

Now let us join together in prayer in the words that Jesus taught us:

 

Our Father, who art in heaven,

      hallowed be thy Name,

      thy kingdom come,

      thy will be done,

         on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

      And forgive us our trespasses,

      as we forgive those

        who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

      but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

      and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.  Amen.

 


Lord, hear our prayer; And let our cry come to you.

 

Let us continue to hold in our hearts those known to us who are in special need at this time. We remember by name: Anne, Carlos, Matthew, Donna, Ann, Regis, Bruce, Andrew, Diana, Gail, Patricia, Robert, Joanie, Ryan, Craig, Jeff, Mary, Brian, Marie-Claire and Nancy.   

 

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, “Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:” Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen.

 

The Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Lent:  Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

God of healing and hope, in Jesus you meet us in our places of pain and fear. Look with mercy on those who have contracted the new virus, on any who are vulnerable, and on all who feel in danger. Through this time of global concern, by your Holy Spirit bring out the best not the worst in us. Make us more aware of our interdependence on each other, and of the strength that comes from being one body in you. Through Christ our wounded healer. Amen.

(The Reverend Dr Sam Wells; St Martin-in-the-Fields, London)


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.

Prayer Time from Christ Church for Sunday, March 15, 2020

Based on An Order of Service for Noonday, BCP p. 103


For a full transcript please see below.  

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Prayer Time From Christ Church for Sunday, March 15, 2020

Based on An Order of Service for Noonday, BCP p. 103


Full Transcript

Opening Words

O God, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

 

Psalm 126

1       When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, *

                  then were we like those who dream.

2       Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *

                  and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3       Then they said among the nations, *

                  “The Lord has done great things for them.”

4       The Lord has done great things for us, *

                  and we are glad indeed.

5       Restore our fortunes, O Lord, *

                  like the watercourses of the Negev.

6       Those who sowed with tears *

                  will reap with songs of joy.

7       Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *

                  will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

         Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *

                  as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

 

Malachi 1:11

From the rising of the sun to its setting my Name shall be great among the nations, and in every place incense shall be offered to my Name, and a pure offering; for my Name shall be great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts.

 

 

Reflection

Greetings and welcome to you all, as we at Christ Church use this different way of worshipping together, because of the new coronavirus precautions.  If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to watch or read the statement by Bishop Provenzano, about why gatherings in our churches have been suspended for the time being.  His statement is on the diocesan website, www.dioceseli.org


Many of you have told me what a challenge this presents for you – and no wonder!  We get deeply attached to the places we are most accustomed to pray, to the place where we bring our burdens, our joys, disappointments and our hopes.  That is, to the altar of God.


Think of Psalm 84. 

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord;

My heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house

And the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

By the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts,

My king and my God.

 

The Gospel reading for this third Sunday in Lent in year A, turns out to be one of those readings that makes me think there must be some kind of Holy Spirit algorithm in the Church Lectionary.  So often, a reading pops up which especially speaks to the current moment.  Something which could never have been foreseen or forecast by the human beings who sat down and put the Lectionary together all those years ago. 


Today it’s the Samaritan woman at the well, that’s in John chapter four.  What a memorable character she is.  She is no shrinking violet, she’s sassy, and she’s bold in what she says to Jesus.  And in what he says to her, she sees that he is not just some ordinary passer-by.  She says to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.”  Then she questions him, cleverly shifting the topic away from what he has just been talking about, that is, the large number of husbands she has had.  She makes a move to turn it into a discussion about theology and worship.  This is where that Holy Spirit algorithm seems to kick in, because her question is about where it is correct to worship.


Speaking as a Samaritan, she says, “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  ….  The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”


It’s pretty amazing, to me, for this reading to pop up today, of all days.  The Samaritan woman, in asking her question, wants a simple answer.  Where does worship correctly happen – in this place or in that place?  On this mountain or in Jerusalem?  Jesus tells her the time is coming; no, he says, the time now is, when physical location is not the point.  Worshipping God faithfully is not about being at the correct GPS place, a precise location with a pin stuck into it on a map … not even if that place is the Temple in Jerusalem. 


No, faithful worship is something which can happen anywhere.  It’s about worshipping “in spirit and in truth,” no matter where we are physically.


There’s a lesson for us, today.  A lesson which circumstances are, you could say, forcing us to take on board at the moment.  At a distance from our usual beloved services at Christ Church, we have no choice but to be reminded:  Wherever we offer up prayer and worship with true hearts, and in the Holy Spirit, we are with God and God is with us.  Our prayers will find God and he will find us.


Where is it for you right now?  I wonder.  At the kitchen table or a desk?  Living room sofa?  Maybe in bed?  Wherever you are, your prayers will find God and God has found you.


One of the things I believe we proclaim, as Resurrection people, is that nothing can happen which is so bad, that God cannot bring some good out of it, in one way or another.  That principle is shown in the cross and resurrection, and in lesser ways too. 


During this time of loss, we are without the joy of sharing worship together in person in the church we love.  One good thing about that is, it’s only temporary.  But an even better thing could be this.  This strange and completely unwelcome experience may actually help teach us all to pray more naturally and more often, anywhere.  Especially at home. 


Hopefully this time away from our shared services together in church, with God’s blessing, can make our personal prayer lives stronger.  Then, when we are back together at Christ Church on the other side of all this, we will have not only that joy to celebrate.  We’ll have another string to our bow, a place or places at home which have been made holy, hallowed, by faithful worship in spirit and in truth.

 

The Lord’s Prayer

 

Our Father, who art in heaven,

      hallowed be thy Name,

      thy kingdom come,

      thy will be done,

         on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

      And forgive us our trespasses,

      as we forgive those

        who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

      but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

      and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

Lord, hear our prayer;  And let our cry come to you.

 

For the special needs and concerns of this congregation.  We remember by name: Anne, Carlos, Matthew, Donna, Ann, Regis, Bruce, Andrew, Diana, Gail, Patricia, Robert, Joanie, Ryan, Craig, Jeff, Mary, Brian, Marie-Claire and Nancy.   

 

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, “Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:” Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


God of healing and hope, in Jesus you meet us in our places of pain and fear. Look with mercy on those who have contracted the new virus, on any who are vulnerable, and on all who feel in danger. Through this time of global concern, by your Holy Spirit bring out the best not the worst in us. Make us more aware of our interdependence on each other, and of the strength that comes from being one body in you. Through Christ our wounded healer. Amen.

(The Reverend Dr Sam Wells; St Martin-in-the-Fields, London)


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore.  Amen

Sermons by Father Piret

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