Wednesday meditation

Today we are back at church (St David’s, Craig y Don) for our first meditation since the start of the pandemic. But we are continuing to provide an online version as well. Today’s meditation is from me, Rev Bev.

I went to see Jean H at her care home last Monday, the first time I have been allowed in to a care home for over a year. And that was only because she was very ill.

The following night I slept badly, for various reasons, and one dream stayed with me. It was of Jean trying to escape from the care home in her nightie, climbing down the front wall of the building! I wondered, in the dream, whether I should be trying to get her back inside or encouraging her escape.

My dream was nothing to do with the care in the care home – I could see that that had been excellent. It was more to do with the indignity and distress of getting ill and infirm, confused and separated from family and friends. And what my hope for her should be. Clearly, I wanted her to escape from the situation she was in.

Anyway, as many of you will know, she died a day or two later. It seems she had escaped without my help. And I am glad.

It seems that several of our community are doing the same. Don T, Jean’s good friend, died earlier this week as well.

…..

Virtually every day I look at the latest stats for the COVID pandemic on my tablet as shown by the BBC. And I hope each time to see a lowering of the figures for cases and deaths. Seeing the figures spiral is truly terrifying. How must it feel in India right at this moment? But seeing them come down is a strange experience too. It is very odd to find myself thinking, “Oh, only 20 people have died of COVID today. That’s great.”

Of course, it is great in the sense that the figures are going down. But it’s not great for those 20 people or their families. It’s a terrible tragedy, not lessened by the knowledge that they are only a few in number.

Every death matters because every life matters. We can’t cope with knowing about every death and every life it links to – we just don’t have the capacity. But God does. And every death matters to God because every person is precious to him. Every person is his precious creation.

…..

Matthew 10:26-31

…..

I want to share with you from a book I have been reading. It’s by the archaeologist, Neil Oliver, “Wisdom of the Ancients.” From his writing, I understand that he is an atheist. But listen to what he says (p223-226 extracts, paraphrased).

6,000-7,000 years ago there were hunters making use of a coastal territory in the land we know as Denmark. They were in the habit of burying their dead, laid out in graves. The cemetery a few of them created at the place we call Vedbaek was found and excavated in the mid-1970s.

Of all the graves, the example deemed richest is one of two containing a young woman and a newborn baby together. She was likely around eighteen years old when she died, of cause or causes unknown – young to us, but can say much, now about life expectancy then? The baby was newborn at the time of death and had been laid close by the woman’s side, on her right and upon a swan’s wing.

Beyond these observable facts, all else about her – and about the infant by her side – can only be supposition, or imagination. But all the time separating us from them has allowed for a percolation of sorts, or a distillation, so that what remains is strong, potent.

It is easiest to assume that they were mother and child, those two, and drowned together in the river of birth. That their remains were treated to kindly suggest grief and love in the hearts of those left behind on its banks, only watching as the current swept loved ones away.

The newborn was given back to the world not lying naked upon the earth but nestled on that white swan’s wing. Who does such a thing, thinks of such a thing, except someone who cannot bear the thought of the loved body cold on clay? This wing of a great bird inspires  no end of speculation. Maybe the baby’s spirit was to be carried aloft, into the heavens. Perhaps those left behind believed that like the migratory birds that leave when their time comes, disappearing beyond the horizon, the infant’s spirit, and the mother’s, might return to them when the time was right.

We of the twenty-first century try to hold death at bay. We are horrified by the thought, far less the sight, of it.

For 2,000 years Christians believed in life beyond the reach of death. For the last hundred years or so, in the time of modern science, we have been telling each other there is no such thing. That this version of events has made us happier in general is debatable at best. Now that we have only our span of years, however brief, death is an empty terror to be held at bay by the pursuit of endless youth.

Ten thousand years ago our ancestors imagined spirits carried aloft on the wings of swans. Our ancestors allowed for the hope of something better.

To me, the skeletons of the Vedbaek mother buried with her baby are beautiful beyond adequate description. I feel in my heart the wonder of knowing that love, and the grief that is love’s necessary travelling companion, lay waiting to be found in a grave cut thousands of years ago. Untouched, unwearied, those most human of emotions had survived time. Lovelier still is the hope borne on the wing of a swan. It implores US to live in hope…

…..

That is Neil Oliver, contrasting the faith of the ancients, the faith of Christians and the lot of those without faith.

Well, we get to choose which we are. And I know which I would rather be.

Those of us who choose faith, choose hope – we are the story-keepers, we are the ones who keep the hope alive. We know to whom we belong and to whom we are going.

Just as Jean did. And Don. And all those many from our fellowship who have gone before us.

We will not lose heart. We will do what is necessary to send our friends on their way. And when the times comes, we trust that others will do the same for us. Because we, like them, are loved and valued. We are precious in the sight of God.

…..

Prayers for healing and wholeness

Elizabeth Pass provides our reflection for today’s prayers of healing and wholeness. Thank you, Elizabeth.

Next week we restart the healing service at church – St John’s, Llandudno, 1.45pm, Thursday 29th April, and led by me. We would love to see you there. The service will also be on the blog.

‘My grace is sufficient for you,
For my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9)

In the ministry of Christ healing was a sign of the presence of God’s kingdom, bringing renewal and wholeness of life to those who turned to God in their need.  Jesus commissioned his disciples to proclaim the kingdom and heal the sick (Luke 9:2).  The Church believes that the healing power of Christ is exercised through medical and related professions, through faith and prayer, and the care of the Christian community. 

God desires wholeness for all people. We bring to God our frailty and brokenness  –  felt not only in physical illness, but in guilt, anxiety, and all the burdens which weigh us down.  We also bring our concerns for others and for the world. We come to God who knows our needs before we ask, and whose love revealed in Jesus Christ is stronger than suffering and death.

To start, take some time to bring yourself into an awareness of the presence of God. If it helps, imagine yourself sitting in your church alone, resting in the prayerful atmosphere.

Jesus said:  ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Matt 11:28-30

Jesus said:  ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ John 10:10

In Jesus Christ, we hear the Good News
that God is like a mother hen
who shelters her chicks
under her wings.
We believe that God is love.

In Jesus, we see a God
who wept for the people of the world,
and weeps for our mourning.

In Jesus, we see a God
who reaches out with healing hands,
who sees our pain and makes us whole.

O God, you died for us and conquered death for us,
but sometimes we find it hard to believe in your love.

We see your creativity in all the earth,
but fear to ask for our own healing.
Forgive us and bring us to faith.

Hear Christ’s word for us:
If we have faith as small as a mustard seed,
God’s power is released in us.
Our healing is a gracious gift. Amen.

Reflection:

A reading from Ecclesiasticus 38:1-14


Honour the doctor for his services,
for the Lord created him.
His skill comes from the Most High,
and he is rewarded by kings.
The doctor’s knowledge gives him high standing
and wins him the admiration of the great.

The Lord has created medicines from the earth,
and a sensible man will not disparage them.
Was it not a tree that sweetened water
and so disclosed its properties?

The Lord has imported knowledge to men,
that by their use of his marvels he may win praise;
by using them the doctor relieves pain
and from them the pharmacist makes up his mixture.

There is no end to the works of the Lord,
who spreads health over the whole world.

My son, if you have an illness, do not neglect it,
but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you.
Renounce your faults, amend your ways,
and cleanse your heart from all sin …
Then call in the doctor, for the Lord created him;
do not let him leave you, for you need him.
There may come a time when your recovery is in their hands;
then they too will pray to the Lord
to give them success in relieving pain
and finding a cure to save their patient’s life.  (NEB translation)

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

Following last weekend’s moving funeral service for Prince Philip, I don’t think I will have been the only person to dig out our copy of the Bible which includes the section known as the Apocrypha! 

The first reading in Saturday’s service was from The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach.  Also known as Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach after its author) it’s one of the 15 books in the Apocrypha, a collection of spiritual and ethical teachings very similar to those in Proverbs.  It particularly highlights the values of wisdom and holiness.  Some Bibles insert the Apocrypha between the old and new testaments.

How relevant is chapter 38 in these Covid days!  Very occasionally you may hear of someone who chooses not to seek medical advice and help, saying that they will rely solely on God for healing and comfort.  Maybe they see this as some kind of test of their complete trust in God, in God alone.

Thinking about this I was reminded of the passage in Ecclesiasticus praising the expertise of doctors and pharmacists.  How reassuring to be reminded that all gifts of healing, artistry, teaching, administration, caring and many others are gifts from God.  Is it wise to reject some and only value others?  Not according to the writer! 

Over the past year of lockdown how thankful we’ve been for the NHS staff and others whose training, care and skills – all God-given – have brought comfort and healing both to the sick and to the sorrowing.  We’ve prayed for them (especially those we know personally) as they have sought to relieve suffering in any of its several forms: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.

Next time we pick up a packet of paracetamol or a bottle of cough mixture, let’s remember Sirach’s wise words and give thanks to God for the skill and expertise that has created medication: ‘The Lord has created medicines from the earth, and a sensible man will not disparage them … from them the pharmacist makes up his mixture.’

But there are times when human help is not enough on its own. Disease can affect not only the body.  Dis-ease can also afflict the soul: perhaps a guilty conscience, a reluctance to let go of bitterness, a determination not to forgive someone for past hurts.  Is that why Sirach urges us to ‘renounce your faults, amend your ways, and cleanse your heart from all sin’?

May God bless us as we walk with wisdom and holiness in the comfort, peace and reassurance of his presence.

Trust him and he will help you;
steer a straight course and set your hope on him.’  (Ecclesiasticus 2:6)    

——-

We continue in prayer…

O God, we cry to you in our anger
that people hurt each other.
Be with us and heal us, O God.

We feel the fear and pain experienced by
an innocent and trusting child.
Be with us and heal us, O God.

We carry with us the things
that have been done to us which hurt and destroy.
They stand before us and weigh us down.
They stop us living with joy and hope.
Be with us and heal us, O God.

We watch on, as around the world
War and conflict abound.
And we feel helpless to prevent or resolve.
Be with us and heal us, O God.

Lift us up on the wings of your Spirit.
For you are stronger
than all the forces that stand against us.
Set us free with your peace and your power.

Set us free,
heal our wounds,
O God who never leaves us nor forsakes us. Amen.

We say together the prayer that Jesus gave us:                                                

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. 
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial 
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, 
now and for ever.  Amen 

Together, let us bring to the Lord those for whom we have been asked to pray….

Peg T
Margaret B
David & Carolyn S
David B
Elizabeth P
Muriel A

Spend some time in prayer for those God places on your heart. Include yourself.

May the Lord of love,
who is more powerful
than all those who would harm us,
give us healing for all that is past and peace for all that is to come.
May he surround us with comfort and warmth
and fill us with life that is stronger than death.
Amen.

Lift your face to the light.
You are beautiful in the sight of God.
The seal of the Spirit is upon you.

Walk freely
and open your heart to life,
for Christ walks with you
into a new day.

Go in peace.
And may God keep you safe:
God the Father hold you firmly,
God in Christ take you by the hand,
and God the Spirit guide and protect you.

May the Lord go with us and grant us the joy of Jesus Christ.  Amen

Some material included in this service is copyright © 2000 Dorothy McRae-McMahon

Sunday worship

This Sunday’s (25th April 2021) worship is led by Mark Ramsden and its title is “Five Flaws of the First Flock” – sounds like a tongue twister to me!

Photo by Sam Carter on Unsplash

The service will be held at St David’s, Craig y Don, at 10am and repeated at St John’s, Llandudno, at 11am. It can be followed via livestream from 10am (and later as recorded version) here.

A text version of the service is available here for those who cannot access the livestream or church-based version. Thank you to those who take such copies out to thsoe who need them.

All our circuit churches are now open for Sunday worship. You can find details on our circuit website here.

Wednesday meditation

Today’s meditation is offered to us by Sue Lewis. Thank you, Sue.

Next week (28th April) we are restarting our Wednesday meditations at St David’s, Craig y Don, live in church at 11.30am! This is the first time we have had a meditation at church since before the first lockdown in March 2020. Shocking, isn’t it?

It will feel odd being back together in the space next week, especially as we will have to be socially distanced and very careful about our level of interaction. We will need to experiment with how the chairs can be placed for example. And there will be no coffee morning preceding the meditation of course. Nonetheless I hope that some of you will want to attend in person. It is important that we meet physically together to see one another face to face, and give and receive the support and encouragement we all so desperately need.

I will be leading next week’s meditation and look forward to seeing some of you there. For those who remain at home, don’t worry, I will still be providing the reflection on the blog, though I am sure those of us leading them will want to do things that are aided by being together so please bear with us as we feel our way.

Meanwhile, back to this week, and over to Sue…

A Question of Love

Have we loved and felt loved over the last 12 months?

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.”  says C.S. Lewis, and who among us has not felt this vulnerability of late? We reach out to others, sometimes to reveal this vulnerability, to look for reassurance, companionship, and love, and hope these feelings are reciprocated.

“The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis may have been written in the 50’s but feels just as relevant for us today as it was then.  

It delves into the four types of love: “Affection”, “Friendship”, “Eros” and “Charity”.

For this meditation, I thought it may be useful be to reflect on each of the Four Loves and think about how we have experienced them over the last 12 months.

‘Affection’ (Storge) the most well-known love, it is familiar love, the type of love a mother and child may have for each other, or the love we may have for an animal, the people we collaborate with in school, work or with family. Those with whom we have been ‘thrown together’ during lockdowns. It is a natural and emotive love.  A love that has no expectations. A love that feels like an ‘old pair of slippers’ or ‘a warm blanket wrapped around us.’

Who have we felt close and familiar with over the last year? How have they helped us?

‘Friendship’ (philia), a love in which people are side by side with each other as opposed to face to face. Bonded by common themes or activities. There must be that connection for philia to work.

 We can, Lewis says, survive without this type of love, but it brings ‘value’ to our survival, and adds as Christ said, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” You also can say to your Christian Friends “You have not chosen one another; I have chosen you for each other.”

Who have we found friendship with?
Have these friendships strengthened over the last year?
What value have they added to our lives?

‘Eros‘– Romantic love, the sense of being in love or loving someone. That being absorbed in one person, face to face. Not just falling in love, but ‘being’ in love.  A challenging one to ponder on, especially after long periods of time being together in the same house(!) or being apart for considerable amounts of time.

How easy has it been to sustain relationships like this over the last 12 months?
How does it feel without Eros in our lives?

The first three loves may all be transient, but we come now to the final love, the only one that is not a ‘human’ love. The most important love of them all.

Charity’ (Agape) the unconditional, divine love that comes from God, the love that exists for us regardless of changing circumstances. Selfless Love that is recognised as the greatest love of the four. It is unwavering and everlasting.

How have we been reassured by Gods love over the last year? Has it sustained us?
How have we returned this love?

Let us pause and finish now by reflection on the Four Loves. Ask God to guide us in our friendships and with everyone we love. Ask God to open our hearts and receive his love, and for us to love him back. “Agape”.
Amen

Prayers for healing and wholeness

The service of prayers for healing and wholeness is not being held at St John’s, Llandudno, at the moment but continues online. Today’s reflection is shared with us by Rev Chris Gray. Thank you, Chris.

‘My grace is sufficient for you,
For my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9)

In the ministry of Christ healing was a sign of the presence of God’s kingdom, bringing renewal and wholeness of life to those who turned to God in their need.  Jesus commissioned his disciples to proclaim the kingdom and heal the sick (Luke 9:2).  The Church believes that the healing power of Christ is exercised through medical and related professions, through faith and prayer, and the care of the Christian community. 

God desires wholeness for all people. We bring to God our frailty and brokenness  –  felt not only in physical illness, but in guilt, anxiety, and all the burdens which weigh us down.  We also bring our concerns for others and for the world. We come to God who knows our needs before we ask, and whose love revealed in Jesus Christ is stronger than suffering and death.

To start, take some time to bring yourself into an awareness of the presence of God. If it helps, imagine yourself sitting in your church alone, resting in the prayerful atmosphere.

Jesus said:  ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Matt 11:28-30

Jesus said:  ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ John 10:10

Loving God,
in whom all things are made whole,
you sent your Son our Saviour to heal a broken world.
Visit us with your salvation,
that we may be blessed in body, mind and spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
‘Anyone who comes to me I will never turn away.’ (John 6:37)

In the presence of God, let us confess our sins.

Lord Jesus, you came to reconcile us to God and to one another.
Lord Jesus, you heal the wounds of sin and division.
Lord Jesus, you offer us a new beginning.
Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

God is love.  Through Jesus our sins are forgiven.
Let us live in the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

Holy God, you give life to all;
you meet us in our need
and bring hope to those who look to you.
Give peace to our hearts and minds as we pray to you with confidence;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Reflection:
One of the things that I enjoy about living in Conwy is that we are so close to the River Conwy and the sea. I’ve come to appreciate the regular rhythm of the tides as they move in and out, so predictably that tide times have been known for centuries and can be judged down to the minute. And each tide produces a different mood. High tide, especially with dancing waves under a blue sky and a radiant sun, brings a buoyant, lively feeling to anyone walking by the shore. A low tide, especially if there are large stretches of mud flats under a grey sky, can produce a more restrained and even melancholy spirit within someone gazing out towards the distant sea.

There are echoes of this contrast in Psalm 42. On the one hand, the writer looks back to moments when life seemed good and everything as it should be:

These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng. (Psalm 42:4)

On the other hand, the writer seems to be full of woe, almost to the point of despair:

My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:3)

I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:9-10)  

It is as though the tide has been high, and the psalmist’s life and mood have been good, only for the sea now to retreat further than ever before, leaving him floundering about in the mud. Quite what has brought him or her so low we’re not told; we do not know who his enemies are who taunt him with such scorn; but clearly the sparkle and beauty has gone out of life, leaving him feeling that the future has little to offer.

However, there are in the psalm several moments when the writer’s mood suddenly changes. It is as if he remembers that the tide always turns, that no matter how far it goes out it will eventually come in again. Have hope, the writer says, trust in God, for things will change:

By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me –
a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God. (Psalm 42:5 & 11)  

The psalmist’s testimony resounds across the ages, reminding us of the God who brings joy out of sorrow, light out of darkness and life out of death. It is particularly powerful for us as we move through this great season of Easter this year. The pandemic has caused our lives at times to be touched by melancholy and sadness. We have been living under restrictions. We have been unable to thrive in ways that we normally would, enjoying the presence and love of family and friends, and the freedom to go where we want and do what we want. Although the tide is seeming to turn and we can live with more hope and freedom now, there is still an edge of uncertainty to everything. Nevertheless, as we read this psalm and as we recall the resurrection of Jesus, we remember that we serve a living God for whom defeat and despair are never the last words.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God. (Psalm 42:5 & 11)  

As we come to pray for ourselves and those we know and love who are sick or anxious or struggling, those for whom the tide may be out and the mood dull and gloomy, those who thirst for God, let us do so remembering the God of resurrection power in whom we can place our hope.

………………..

We continue in prayer:

Christ our Saviour, born for us,
bring healing and peace to all people….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, baptized in the Jordan,
give hope to all who come to you….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, tested in the desert,
give courage to those who are tempted….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who comforted and healed,
bring wholeness to all who are broken….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who hung in agony on the cross,
bring strength to those who suffer….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who died to save us,
give peace to all who face death….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, raised from the tomb,
bring light and life to all the world….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, present among your disciples,
unite all your people in love….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

We thank you, gracious God.
You have loved us from the beginning of time
and remembered us when we were in trouble.
Your mercy endures for ever.

We thank you, redeeming God.
You have come to us in Jesus Christ
to save us from our sins.
Your mercy endures for ever.

We thank you, holy God.
You have sent us your Spirit
to comfort us and lead us into all truth.
Your mercy endures for ever.

Gracious, redeeming and Holy God,
glory and praise be yours, now and for ever.  Amen

Together, let us bring to the Lord those for whom we have been asked to pray. You may well have others you wish to pray for too…

Peg T
Margaret B
David & Carolyn S
David B

Take some time now to bring your concerns to God. If it helps, try saying them out loud. Feel yourself held in God’s safe hands.

We say the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:

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.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil,
For the kingdom, the
power and the glory are yours,
now and for ever.  Amen

Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.
Teach us to offer ourselves to your service,
that here we may have your peace,
and in the world to come we may see you face to face;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord look on you with kindness
and give you peace.  Amen.

Go in peace to rejoice in God’s love
and to reflect his glory.
May the Lord go with us and grant us the joy of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Some material included in this service is copyright © 1989 National Council of Churches USA

Some material included in this service is copyright ©1999 Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes

Wednesday Meditation

We plan to begin meditations at church soon, starting on Wednesday 28th April (led by me, Rev Bev). It will be rather like Sunday worship, at least to begin with (until we work out other possibilities for safe seating). We look foward to seeing you then.

Today’s meditation is from Paula Hammond. Thank you, Paula.

This meditation is taken from a book by Nick Fawcett.

WE HAD COME, JUST AS HE’D TOLD US TO.

Reading: Matthew 28:16-20
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Meditation

We had come, just as he’d told us to –
up on the mountains of Galilee where we’d walked so often,
where we’d sat at the Master’s feet,
where we’d watched as he taught the crowds
and marvelled as he fed the multitude –
and suddenly it was like old times,
for he was there once more,
standing by our side,
that old familiar smile,
that warm, comforting presence,
Jesus, alive and well.

Can you imagine what it felt like,
After the shock, the horror, the disbelief at his death?

We’d been crushed,
distraught,
everything we’d lived and worked for turned to ashes,
and there had seemed no point to anything,
no future,
no hope,
nothing to lift the pall of misery that overwhelmed us.

Do you wonder we fell down and worshipped him!

It was as though we had awoken from some dreadful dream
to find the sun burning bright,
and we were terrified of closing our eyes even for a moment
in case the darkness should return and the nightmare begin again.

I know it was foolish, but we actually hoped nothing had changed,
that we could pick up where we’d left off,
and follow once more in the Master’s footsteps.

But of course, we couldn’t,
for it had changed –
not just him,
but us,
and everything.

They’d laid him in a tomb,
and he’d emerged victorious.
They’d tried to destroy him,
but he could not be defeated.
And it was a message the whole world needed to hear –
the victory of love,
his triumph over evil,
good news not just for us but for all.
Yes the work would continue, just as we’d hoped,
only it needed us to carry it forward,
our willingness to speak,
our faith to respond,
our courage to go out and make disciples of all nations,
so that they too might know the risen Christ
and respond in turn.

It could no longer simply be us and him,
much though we might have wished it –
there was work to be done,
a message to share,
a kingdom to build,
and he needed our help to build it.

We’d come and met him, just as he had told us to –
now it was time to go!

Prayer

God of all,
we talk much about witness, evangelism, mission;
about sharing the good news,
being a light to the nations;
but when it comes to it our words are rarely backed up by actions.
We focus instead on worship, prayer, private devotion;
on personal growth and times of fellowship;
our minds turned in on the Church
rather than out to the world.
Forgive us for our lack of faith,
our lack of courage and our lack of vision.
Give us the words to say and the will to speak them;
and, above all, grant us a life
which in every part proclaims your glory and tells of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Prayers for healing and wholeness

Today’s service of prayers for healing and wholeness is via the blog only, and includes a reflection by Rev David Ray. Thank you, David.

‘My grace is sufficient for you,
For my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9)

In the ministry of Christ healing was a sign of the presence of God’s kingdom, bringing renewal and wholeness of life to those who turned to God in their need.  Jesus commissioned his disciples to proclaim the kingdom and heal the sick (Luke 9:2).  The Church believes that the healing power of Christ is exercised through medical and related professions, through faith and prayer, and the care of the Christian community. 

God desires wholeness for all people. We bring to God our frailty and brokenness  –  felt not only in physical illness, but in guilt, anxiety, and all the burdens which weigh us down.  We also bring our concerns for others and for the world. We come to God who knows our needs before we ask, and whose love revealed in Jesus Christ is stronger than suffering and death.

To start, take some time to bring yourself into an awareness of the presence of God. If it helps, imagine yourself sitting in your church alone, resting in the prayerful atmosphere.

We come in this service to God
In our need, and bringing with us the needs of the world.

We come to God, who comes to us in Jesus,
And who knows by experience what human life is like.

We come with our faith and with our doubts.
We come with our hopes and with our fears.

We come as we are, because it is God who invites us to come,
And God has promised never to turn us away.

Let us pray.

As if it were not enough to bring sound from silence,
light from darkness,
order from confusion;

as if it were not enough
to make the world excellent and intricate;
you gave the kiss of life to the dust of the earth,

You made male and female,
me and us.

So we thank you, creating God.

As if it were not enough
to watch the world you had created,
to admire your handiwork from eternity;

as if it were not enough
to care and be kind at a distance;
you sent your Son to be flesh of our flesh,
bone of our bone,
to live and walk beside
me and us.

So we thank you, loving God.

As if it were not enough
to do all this and return, triumphant, to glory,
you still hear our cries in the courts of high heaven,
and promise your Spirit for the healing of the nations
for me and for us.

So we thank you, God of power,
Lord of our weakness,
Spirit of our salvation.

Reflection:

Almighty God, who promises forgiveness and new life to all who truly repent, have mercy upon us,
pardon and deliver us from all our sins
and keep us in life eternal,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Reflection:

In the early 1990’s I was a Methodist minister in the Wakefield Circuit in Yorkshire. Whilst there I had the privilege of knowing and working with Stephen Cottrell. At that time he was a young priest in the Church of England. He is now the Archbishop of York.

Stephen came to lead a Quiet Day at one of the churches I was responsible for and he led a session on the Road to Emmaus. Stephen sowed seeds in my soul that day as he spoke about the companions on the road.

You can read what happened in St Luke’s gospel 24:13-35.

Two disillusioned and despairing disciples walk out of Jerusalem. They had followed Jesus for about three years. They had loved him. Now he was dead. They had hoped for so much, but their hopes had been dashed. Their Lord had been crucified. Their hearts ached. They were empty. These disciples of Jesus were in darkness.

On the road to Emmaus a stranger caught them up and listened to them. And he said, How foolish you are, how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Christ have to suffer these things?” And the stranger went on to explain the scriptures. Dawn was breaking into their darkness.

Later, at Emmaus, the eyes of the disciples were opened as the stranger broke bread.

They recognised that the one who had walked with them was Jesus and they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us on the road as he talked with us and opened the scriptures?” The light of day had come.

Have you ever considered that when the two disciples were walking out of Jerusalem to Emmaus they were going the wrong way? Well, they were! Jesus had told his disciples that they should stay in Jerusalem and there they would experience something new. But these two disciples couldn’t cope. They needed to escape.

And what happened at Emmaus? Jesus turned them round and sent them back to the city.

A word for us here maybe? We need to make sure we’re on the right path. But how can we be sure?

Well, on the road to Emmaus the two disciples were not alone. Jesus walked with them. No, they didn’t recognise him at first, but he was there nevertheless. 

Like those two disciples sometimes we are too busy with our own agenda, or too preoccupied or too small minded to recognise Jesus – but he’s there. He meets us where we are, stays with us even if we are going the wrong way, listens to us and then speaks.

Some of you may be experiencing darkness, others struggling in the twilight, hopefully others, having just celebrated Easter, are singing and dancing in the glorious light of the risen Christ.

Wherever you are at this moment in time, let me reassure you that you’re not alone.

You have companions on your road, although they may not be physically present with you. And you can be a companion to others on the road.

But more than that – much more than that – you are accompanied by the God who called you, loves you and cares for you and who longs for you to live in the freedom, peace and hope that his light shines on you.

Prayer
Loving God, as we journey from the cross, help us to walk with you on the right road.
On the way to Emmaus you came to your disciples as a stranger and their hearts burned within them.
Help us to expect you as a companion as we travel, and to welcome you as a friend, so that our hearts will be warmed too.
You are risen, alive with us – we don’t walk alone.
We claim your promise to be with us as we journey through good and not so good.
Stir us up in faith and hope and inspire us to walk faithfully with you.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

————————————

We continue in prayer.

O Christ our Lord, as in times past
not all the sick and suffering found their way to your side,
but had to have their hands taken, or their bodies carried,
or their names mentioned,
so we, confident of your goodness, bring others to you.

As in times past, you looked at the faith of friends
and let peace and healing be known through them,
look on our faith, even our little faith
And let your kingdom come.

We name before you
those for whom pain is the greatest problem;
who are remembered more for their distress than their potential;
who at night cry, ‘I wish to God it were morning’
and in the morning cry, ‘I wish to God it were night’.
Lord Jesus Christ, Lover of all,
Bring healing, bring peace.

We name before you
those whose problem is psychological;
those haunted by the nightmares of their past
or the spectres of their future,
those whose minds are shackled
to neuroses, depression or fears,
those who do not know what is wrong
or what to pray.
Bring healing, bring peace.

We name before you those in whose experience
light has turned to darkness,
as the end of a life or the breaking of a relationship
leaves them stunned in their souls
and silent in their conversation,
not knowing where to turn or who to turn to,
or whether life has a purpose any more.
Bring healing, bring peace.

And others whose troubles we do not know
or whose names we could not say aloud,
and all the troubles of the world,
we bring to you now in silence
a silence which you understand.
Bring healing, bring peace.

Lord God,
you alone are skilled to know the cure
for every sickness and every soul.
If, by our lives, your grace may be known,
then in us, through us, and, if need be, despite us,
Let your kingdom come.

We ask your blessing on all who tend the sick,
counsel the distressed, sit with the dying,
or advance medical research,
that in caring for your people
they may meet and serve you.
Let your kingdom come.

For those who, in this land,
administer the agencies of health and welfare,
we ask your guidance that, in all they do,
human worth may be valued,
and the service of human need be fully resourced.
Let your kingdom come.

For those in positions of authority who seek justice and peace
And work for the healing of the nations.
Let your kingdom come.

These prayers we ask in the name of him whose flesh and blood
have made all God’s children special.  Amen

Together, let us bring to the Lord those for whom we have been asked to pray….

Peg T
Margaret B
David & Carolyn S
David B

Take some time now to bring your concerns to God. If it helps, try saying them out loud. Feel yourself held in God’s safe hands.

We say the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:

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.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil,
For the kingdom, the
power and the glory are yours,
now and for ever.  Amen

Now may the God of hope fill us
With joy and peace in believing,
That we may abound in hope
In the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen