Reflections and Prayers

Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity- 27th September 2020

 

Matthew 21: 23-32

 

Grace and peace to you. 

We continue to journey through what seem to be rather thick, soupy waters as the national Covid-19 situation slowly unfolds, yet continues to change. At the time of writing, the capacity at weddings has been reduced to 15, funerals may remain at 30, but a baptism following on from worship may only have six. If you can identify the logic- or the science- behind those decisions then, as they used to say on TV, ‘answers on a postcard please’!

 

We had a good Annual Meeting last Sunday and it was lovely to thank David for some thirteen years in office as Churchwarden.

 

Harvest

 

If you would like to bring a non-perishable offering for the foodbank next Sunday (4th October) please do. We will also look at other recipients who may appreciate a donation of food items. We will still keep Harvest next week, but not in its usual all-age format. Donations of food will go straight into the foodbank box rather than laid at the altar. Thank you. Please pray for those who grow and produce food and for those who have very little food to eat.

 

Matthew 21: 23-32

 

This passage comes after several dramatic scenes in the gospel narrative; Jesus has entered Jerusalem in triumph- people have lain palm leaves and cloaks on the ground and cried ‘Hosanna!’; Jesus has cleansed the temple of its vendors and peddlers and even cursed a fig tree. 

These episodes begin to clarify the picture of who Jesus of Nazareth really is. He is greeted as the Son of David, the true descendent of the great King and the new heir. He brings religious clarity to the temple, which had lapsed into indolence, and he demonstrates his mastery over the laws of nature. 

 

We then come to today’s reading where we find Jesus overturning the assumptions of the Law. We can clearly see how Jesus made enemies of powerful people and this has led some theologians to characterise Jesus as a ‘freedom fighter’, a liberator and a giver of justice. All of these contain some truth, of course- Jesus does offer true freedom from spiritual captivity, and from the snares of secular and earthly power, Jesus does question the assumptions of the ‘powers that be’ and of the passive acceptance of those powers by an indolent population, and we can, as ever, see these issues as prominent in our own time as they were two thousand years ago. However, it would confine our own spiritual development if we limit our view of Jesus as an earthly liberator. The social justice that Jesus demands comes from heaven. The stinging criticism of the religious authorities is in response to their lazy and selfish tarnishing of divine law, so in this ‘tension’ between earthly justice and heavenly laws we see again that extraordinary energy that comes from Christ as God-Man. It is an uncomfortable and discomfiting reality sometimes, to really try to absorb that Jesus is God, but the gospels each, in their own way, insist on this, and the teachings of the Church over time have borne this out.

Our task, then, is to strike a balance between worship of the one God in the persons of the Trinity, and in keeping our ‘feet on the ground’ by defending the rights of the vulnerable and contributing to the building up of human dignity.

All flesh may be weak, but it is also precious and our earthly lives do have meaning- they are not a melancholy trek towards death or an ineffective ‘dry run’ before our true lives begin after earthly death; we can live fully and eternally, now. We know quite well that human life is vulnerable, fragile and that our will is often to wander far from God, but God, in his love for us, has placed the custodianship of the world, and indeed our own lives, in our own hands. Through the life of Jesus of Nazareth- the Christ, the Son of David, we have a lifelong guide to humanity and earthly life, with the saints lighting our way.

I pray that you may make full use of the life God has given you, in the service of Him and one another.

As the Quakers say, ‘Live adventurously. Let your life speak’.

 

Next Week’s Reading: Matthew 21: 33-end

 

Prayers

 

Please pray for all theologians, biblical scholars and teachers of the faith. For our bishops and theological educators, that we may always learn more about life in Christ. Help us to teach and learn from one another, and may we always be ready to learn of God from children and the young.

 

Pray for the government and all seeking to prevail against Covid-19.

In the Anglican Communion  we pray for the Episcopal Church of El Salvador.

 

We pray for the repose of  the souls of those who have died recently,and those whose anniversary of death occurs around this time, among them, Eric Hardy, Lilian Stewart, Peter Johnson, Shirley Robinson, Christopher Homden, Valerie Boyd, Paul Gethen, Leonard Giles, Audrey Bottomley, Stephen Akers. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory. Amen.

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity- 20th September 2020

Matthew 20:1-16

 

Blessings and peace to you today. This Sunday, St Aidan’s church holds its Annual Meeting after the Eucharist. It is an important meeting in which the church’s decision-making body, the PCC, is constituted for the coming twelve months. The activities of the church both inside the four walls and outside in the parish and wider community are looked at. It is a chance to ‘review’ the year and look ahead, but principally it is a celebration of the life of the parish and the work of the parish church. My thanks then, go to our PCC, especially the two churchwardens Dennis and Dave.

Churchwardens have a key role to play in the life of the parish church- with the vicar, they share responsibility for the church- both its physical, material safety and soundness, and also its worship, ministry and mission.

Many of you will know that Dave is stepping down from the role of churchwarden after (I think) 13 years of service. This is an unusually long period of service, and whilst we have all benefited from David’s calm, even-handed and careful approach, I know that David has ‘stayed on’ in the role for more years than he had planned for! We now have a vacancy for a churchwarden, who will work alongside Dennis and myself. Please consider stepping into this role if you want to further the life of the church in this way. It is a varied and interesting role, and two wardens are needed to spread the responsibilities fairly. I am very grateful to Dennis for being happy to continue as warden; could you be his new colleague? If you work or have many responsibilities and worry about time commitment but might otherwise be interested, please speak to me because we can ‘tailor’ the role around your availability to some extent. You would automatically become a member of the PCC and Standing Committee, so attendance at these meetings would be required alongside regular attendance on Sundays for worship.

 

Matthew 20:1-16

 

This reading challenges our innate sense of right and wrong- why should those who have done barely an hour’s work in the cool of the late afternoon be paid the same amount as those who have worked all day in the hot sun? We equate hard work with righteousness in our culture- how many of us have been to a social event of some kind, and fallen into conversation with someone we do not know, and found that after a few moments we are asked- or ask- the question, ‘so what do you do?’, meaning, ‘what is your line of work?’which also may mean ‘what is your worth to society?’, or ‘are you a proper person, or a layabout?’!!

It is worth keeping these kinds of judgements in check, because they risk reducing the value of the  human person to a ‘unit of production’- as much as we have an innate sense of right and wong, we also carry an innate sense of respect for humanity and the natural rights of each person; we balk at the idea of loneliness in old age or of neglect in childhood and this teaches us that those stages of life- at either end of one’s ‘working life’ are just as important as that middle, ‘active’ stage. We should not value ourselves or one another according to how much work we or others have done, but ought to enliven our belief in the sanctity and dignity of human life, and our connections with one another.

But what about laziness, indolence or indifference? Should these be discounted, then? No! If we truly are to be a human community then we all must play our part,  but at the root of this community is our spiritual connectedness. Silence, contemplation, peace and stillness are not signs of inaction and ineffectiveness, but are actually hallmarks of spiritual advancement- the balance to be struck is one between contemplation and action- and this is most clearly propounded in Ignatian spirituality, which seeks to encourage us to see ‘God in all things’, to see the world, the home, the workplace, the church, as our ‘monastery’, a place of prayer, study, stillness and activity. Who knows, maybe the ‘loafers’ in the marketplace may have been praying!

Fr Michael

Next week’s reading: Matthew 21:23-32

I am conscious that it is now some time since the pew bibles had to be removed. Should you wish to bring your own bible to church  so you can read along, please do so, remembering to take it home with you. 

 

Prayers

Please pray for our wonderful parish of St Aidan, for all who live and work and go to school here. Pray for our church, our PCC and our nursery school.

 

Please pray and give thanks for Dave Rawlinson as he steps down as Churchwarden. Please pray that a new warden may be found soon, and explore whether that may in fact be you.

 

In the Anglican Communion, we pray for the Episcopal Church of South Sudan.

 

Please pray for all who are in any kind of need, particularly those affected by Covid-19.

 

Pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died in the night just passed, for the recently departed and those whose anniversary of death occurs at this time of year, may they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory, amen.

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity- 6th September 2020

Matthew 18:15-20

 

Blessings and peace to you all. My thanks to the Rev’d David Scott for this week’s reflection on Ezekiel and Matthew. David asks us to consider how we as individuals and as a Church ‘ought’ to respond to changes in attitudes in society, especially if what we see is troubling. Let us pray that we will always be prepared to ‘stand up’ for what is just.

 

Bishop Simon’s visit

Thank you to those who were able to attend our Patronal Eucharist last weekend at which Bishop Simon celebrated the Eucharist and preached. It was good to have the Bishop with us and he valued being among us.

 

Annual Meeting (APCM)

A reminder that the APCM is happening in church on 20th September at 11am, following the 10am service. It is recommended to attend both  the Eucharist and the meeting. There  are still some spaces. Please telephone or email to ‘book’. 01474 352500/vicar.staidans@gmail.com



 

Sunday Worship

Our 10am Sunday Eucharist is going well but there has been no real demand for an 11am service so this will now be laid to one side. If the need for a second service arises, I will of course reinstate the 11am service.

 

Riverview Park Baptist Church (RVPBC)

The RVPBC are currently not meeting for worship at the Christopher Centre due to the Covid-19 situation. I have extended an invitation to them to worship with us subject to them ‘booking’ in. Please extend our usual warm welcome should any of our Baptist friends join us.

 

Prayers

Please pray for our local schools and nursery as they journey into their new term.

For all who are in any kind of need at this time.

For our PCC.

 

We pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died recently, and for those whose anniversary of death occurs at this time of year, including Vanessa McWilliams, Norman Judge, John Raisbeck and Denise Curtis. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory.

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael


 

THOUGHTS ON THE READINGS FOR TRINITY 13.

EZEKIEL 33/7-12.

 

7 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for[a] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.

10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of[b] them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

Dealing With Sin in the Church – Matthew 18/15-20.

15 “If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[c] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

If you are ever invited to a dinner, party or other social event by somebody, my advice is that you ask first whether Father Brown or Jessica Fletcher are one of the guests.  If they are, politely decline because you know that somebody will be murdered at said occasion.- and it might be you.

The actor Mark Williams (Fr Brown) apparently became a Christian through performing this role.  With the writers putting in a murder every episode, the police arresting the wrong person, Father Brown solving it and urging the perpetrator to repent and assuring them that, if they truly do so, God will forgive his/her sins……etc.

Of course, very few clergy have the chance to challenge a murderer to repent once a week but Ezekiel and Jesus are saying that we must be “watchmen” (watchpersons) warning people to turn from their sin. Wow!  How do you do that without seeming like a self-righteous prig?   Very difficult! We know how sometimes you get a very “righteous” person in a congregation who criticises so many others for their behaviour.  However that is less common these days as we have adopted new moralities – for better or for worse.  

These days it is virtually common practice to tolerate any shape of sexual relationship and sexuality that one can choose.  “It is my right.”  We have become a LOT more tolerant of individual choices of styles of living.    Perhaps it is right that we are living in a more tolerant age. Perhaps I am old and getting used to new things more slowly than the young.  Perhaps you have an opinion about it.? We’ve certainly come a long way since we locked up Oscar Wilde for being homosexual.  We’ve come a long way since we hanged a child for stealing bread.  

Of course I have used sexual identity as one example of changing attitudes.  What is the Church’s role in this? Can the Church speak out either in favour of, or in protest against, some of these changes when “Religion is a private business” is a common attitude in this country? Has faith become too individualised?  I only ask that we think about these things!

Just a word about Jesus’ words.  Obviously this refers to some quite serious sin, not criticising Mrs Jones’ flower arrangement.  The best person to confront another person is a good friend who has earned the right to confront because of a trusting relationship.  Then, hopefully, a criticism of behaviour can be discussed without threatening the friendship.  Sometimes, however, behaviour can be so serious that a person should be reported to the Vicar and Church Wardens.  Then will ensue a little group chat when support is offered to help change the behaviour.  “Tell it to two or three…”  However, if things get even more serious – and this doesn’t happen very often – the whole church could be told and the offender urged to repent, hopefully in as loving a way as possible (this would only really happen in particular types of church). Such a sad event is, as you know, quite rare today.  The main issue where this applies would be child abuse.  Here the church has become much more vigilant about offences in that area.  Other areas could be a person abusing his/her partner, stealing from the collection or charity box or even being overly critical of the Vicar or Wardens – OVERLY critical in a destructive, not constructive manner.  It is good that things like that are dealt with firmly but with as much love as possible.  May such cases in this church be very rare indeed.  And beware of self-righteousness!  That is a minefield.  We must remember:                                                                                                                                                                                      

  1. that we ourselves fall far short of the glory of God and that

  2. we never hate a person even when we hate something bad that we think the person does.

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Prov. 27:5-6

Prayers

Merciful Jesus, I need courage today for loving in sticky, broken, messy relationships. Sometimes the fear of making an even bigger mess makes it easier just to avoid or ignore certain people and issues. But that’s kind of like trying to ignore a compound fracture, skin cancer or a 102 temperature. The matter will only get worse. To say I’m conflict avoidant is not an excuse, but an acknowledgement of weakness and a confession of sin. Grant me, and others like me, the grace we need to love enough to confront.

Thank you for the stark frankness of your Word. When I multiply kisses but withhold life-giving rebukes from my friends, I’m living as their enemy—not merely as a poor lover, but as an enemy. When I’m not willing to offer a redemptive wounding, I’m a bad friend, not just someone suffering from busyness or a lack of priorities. Have mercy on me, Jesus. Grant me, and others like me, the courage and words that we need to love to your glory.

I bring to you my fear of man and love for relational placidity, which I know to be a snare. I confess it as sin and repent. I also acknowledge that I need the truth of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit for change. Jesus, it’s because of your open rebuke that my life is now hidden safely in you. It’s because you clearly revealed my need of your grace that I now rest in your love. It’s because you cared enough to confront me that I will eternally enjoy your comfort and peace.

Jesus, you took the ultimate unfriendly wounding of sin and evil on the cross that we might know your kisses to be those of a Saviour-Bridegroom. So very Hallelujah! No greater love can be found anywhere. In the coming days, help me to love well in messy stories among other messy people like me—help me and others like me. Bring the beauty of redemption, reconciliation and restoration. So very Amen we pray, in your compassionate and restorative name.  

Rev’d David Scott

 

 

Sixth Sunday after Trinity- 19th July 2020

Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

 

Latest updates on opening

My thanks to those who have helped me to open church for private prayer. We have had a few regular attenders and I am glad that they have found sanctuary in church in this way. We will continue with this pattern until Sunday 9th August, our proposed first Eucharist since churches closed in March.

 

‘Booking in’

It seems unpalatable to ask you to let me know if you intend to come to church! It is essential however. The spaces for 9th August are now full. I have kept a few ‘free’ for anyone from the community who may drop in. Once capacity is reached on the day, the door will be closed with a sign clearly stating that church is full. Please do not come in if you find the door closed. There will be another service at 11.30 am which I also require you to tell me about if you intend to come (phone or email). If necessary, we will have another service at 4pm. Church will be cleaned in between each service according to guidelines. Face coverings- at time of writing, the government is bringing in compulsory wearing of face coverings in all shops. This may in time extend to workplaces and places of worship. We must prepare for this, so if you will be coming to church if this directive is issued, you must bring a face covering with you.

 

The Eucharist

The service on 9th August and thereafter (until things change) will be a ‘said eucharist’ (no hymns or chanting). There will be no service books or pew bibles, but a sheet for the service which will be on the pew. Please leave it there and do not hand it in or take it home. Lines on the floor will mark out two metres’ distance. When it comes to receiving Holy Communion, please line up spaced by the lines. We will receive the Sacrament standing, and the wafer will be carefully dropped into your hand. Return to your seat by passing the choir stalls and font. We will not share the peace in the usual way. Any cash offerings may be left in the wooden plate by the font.  Thank you.

 

Rev’d Richard Martin- an announcement

Many of you will know Richard, who was sometime curate at St Aidan’s and is currently rector of Holy Family and St Margaret’s. Richard has accepted the offer of the post of Priest in Charge of the parishes of Hardwicke, Elmore and Longney in the Diocese of Gloucester. Richard’s final Sunday  will be 1st November. Please pray for Richard. We wish him well and I know many of you hold him in the highest regard. His sense of humour will be (maybe) missed. He has already joked that his new parish team don’t abbreviate their first letters (HEL)!! 

Richard’s wife Gill is a chaplain at a women’s prison in Bristol, so it is a good move for them both.



 

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43- The parable of the weeds

 

This parable nestles among a series of stories Jesus tells in Matthew about the Kingdom of God. Last Sunday, Alfred wrote to us about the parable of the sower- how the ‘ground’ of our hearts can be so ordered as to be fruitful with the seed of God’s word. In today’s parable we are again in an agricultural setting- remember that Galilee, principally a fishing region (we come to the parable of the pearl of great price later in Matthew) was situated in a country rich with farmland. Think of the stories Jesus tells about vineyards, harvests, crops. Much has been written by Biblical scholars, preachers and theologians about how Jesus used the social, economic and cultural contexts of his own time to tell people about God’s kingdom- we have seen similar things happening during Lockdown with churches increasingly engaging with the internet and providing media-friendly worship well suited to the situation we have all been living through (for those online)-but whatever the time we are living in, and whatever our cultural contexts and so on, these parables speak clearly to us. We may be less familiar with farming lore than first-century Galileans, but most of us know the problem of weeds! If you have ever turned your hand to gardening, or visited someone who does, or visited public parks and gardens, you will know the constant battle to control weeds in order to allow what you want to grow to have a fighting chance. It is work that never ends and actually, we do end up having to live with weeds in the garden, in the park, wherever, and just do our best to control them.

 

The farmer in the parable is quick to tell his staff not to pull up all the weeds lest they damage his precious crop- he knows that he will get a reduced yield because the weeds will limit the growth of his crop, but better that than losing much more. In doing so he creates a job of work at harvest time- separating the weeds from the crop and burning what is unwanted. In this example, Jesus makes it clear that in the kingdom of God, much of the real ‘work’ of salvation takes place at a later time. For now, we must learn to live with those things which can imperil our spiritual growth: temptations, distractions, vanity, idleness, whatever. But these are things which we can easily conjure from within ourselves, and we know we ought to work on overcoming these in in our time. The weeds in the parable are planted by the ‘evil one’, and so we come to the ‘problem of evil’.

The best way to deal with evil is, actually, to pay very little attention to it. As with a child who has a had a nightmare we might soothe them and say ‘ it was only a bad dream’- the same is true of ourselves and evil- it is ‘only’ evil, and if we focus instead on the cross, on Christ, on light and living out our salvation in the here and now, evil will have very little effect on us. Evil is like the weeds in the parable, we just have to live with it, do our best to control it, but trust that it will be dealt with ‘later’.

Naturally, if we succumb to evil temptations and open our hearts to let the false whisperings in, the result may be that we will turn our thoughts into actions and spread evil acts in the world- this does need to be confronted- but with prayer and Christian activity- we do not need to bother ourselves with evil itself. The truth is that the devil isn’t interested in you. He doesn’t care for you and has no love for you- he hasn’t got time to waste on individual people- he works on a larger scale, trying to sow confusion, division and hatred, but the truth within the truth is that the devil knows that he has already lost the final battle- Christ won the victory on the Cross and it is only a matter of time before the forces of evil face the final reckoning. We can be confident that God has this quite in hand and it  is nothing much for us to worry about.  As I have said before from the pulpit, Christian teaching holds that after death, Jesus descended to Hell. There, he set free those who were in chains in that ghastly place, and his very presence sanctified Hell and gives each soul hope that even there, salvation is possible. Dare we hope that the Devil himself will repent when he faces Christ at the end? That is up to him, and Christ.  In the meantime, let’s say our prayers, care for one another, learn from holy scripture and weed the garden!


 

Prayers

 

Lord, we know the end of the wicked. We believe that Christ has won the victory and we thank you with every fibre of our being for this truth. Help those who are lost in evil and destructive behaviours. Gently guide those who feel far from you, and those who feel they are not good enough for you. We trust in your mercy and compassion always.

 

We give thanks for the ministry of Rev’d Richard Martin. Bless him and the people of Holy Family and St Margaret’s as they prepare for his move to Gloucestershire, and we pray for the parishes in which he will serve.

 

In the Anglican Communion Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Episcopal Church of the Philippines.

 

We pray for the repose of the souls of the departed, for those who have died recently and those whose anniversary of death occurs around this time, including Derek Edwards, Jessie Pinder, Marguerite Ledsham. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory.

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

 

5th Sunday after Trinity- 12th July 2020

Matthew 13:19; 18-23

 

Blessings, grace and peace to you as we continue to journey together through the Christian year.

I am grateful to Pastor Alfred Osinibe for composing this week’s reflection. We are fortunate at St Aidan’s to have this chance to receive ministry from Alfred, who you will know worships with us alongside his family who also contribute much to the life of our church.

I pray that Alfred’s considered words on the parable of the sower will take root in our hearts and minds. My thanks also to Alfred’s wife Toyin for her help in bringing this about.


 

Church opening

We continue to aim for a first parish Eucharist on Sunday 9th August at 10.am. We will then keep to our pattern of a midweek Eucharist at 9.30. Even though we will probably still be prohibited from singing, our organist David has offered to play at key points in the service on Sundays- this will greatly augment our worship and I am grateful to David for that. It is likely that social distancing will still be in place which means that our attendance capacity is sixteen  in the pews. To this end I ask you to let me know by phone or email if you intend to come on Sundays- this will help us to plan for capacity. We will have to allow ‘room’ for people who may come in from the community (although I will use social media and the website to encourage local people to ‘book’). If the number who intend to come nears our capacity, I will offer a second service on Sunday at 11.30 am. Because there are no hymns, Sunday School or refreshments, the service will be shorter than usual so we can hold another service in the late morning. I am happy to provide a further service in the afternoon if required, but let’s see how we go. In any case, please do remember to let me know each week  if you intend to attend church- We hope to not have to turn people away, but this may happen if you arrive unexpectedly. This is not an ideal situation I know, but it is the only way in which we can maintain our safety measures.


 

I am on annual leave between Saturday 25th July-Saturday 8th August.  With this in mind, I require you to inform me if you intend to come to church on the 9th August by Thursday 23rd July at the latest, so we can prepare properly for that first service before my leave begins.

During my annual leave, please contact the churchwardens during that time for any matter relating to the church or parish, and to Rev’d David Scott (248735) or Mavis Prater (812330) for any pastoral or spiritual matters. Thank you.

 

Dr Peter Harris- Training in Lay Ministry

I am delighted to announce that Peter has been accepted to study for the Bishop’s Certificate in Christian Ministry within the Diocese of Rochester. This comprehensive training will enable Peter to deepen and develop his emerging lay ministry and open up options to train further, for example for the ministry of Reader. I will be supporting Peter throughout his studies, which will be woven into Peter’s other commitments as a husband, father, teacher, writer, Sunday School teacher! Please pray for Peter as he begins this exciting stage. If you would like to know more about lay ministry training, please speak to me or Peter.

 

New artwork- standing cross

 

I am pleased to introduce you to this new piece of religious art which was commissioned for our Prayer Corner and has been made by a local artist, Matt McCloud. I had asked Matt to combine a number of elements including a reference to our historic link with St Mary, Chalk and our current patronage of Aidan which is shown in the two saints either side of Christ. I hope that the cross will be a good focus for devotion and it will be generally kept in that part of the church, but can be moved to other places. The stand is actually made from one of our broken choir stalls! There will be more on the Prayer Corner soon, as we are looking at giving it a new lease of life (including a new name). I hope that these changes will be in place by the time we can meet in church again in August.





 

The parable of the sower- Matthew 13:19;18-23- Alfred Osinibe

This parable will be very familiar to many of us, and features:


 

  • Multitudes came to Jesus as he sat by the sea.

  • Jesus told this parable to those multitudes of people- his ‘audience’ was growing!

  • The story centres around three themes: Sower, Seeds, Grounds. We will mainly be looking at the Grounds- the Sower is God and the seeds the Word of God.

 

Let us now look at those types of grounds:



 

  • Ground type 1: The wayside or the path: Seeds sown here were susceptible to fowls of the air

  • Ground type 2: Stony/Rocky ground: This ground type lacked deep soil, and since it has no depth, the seeds got withered as the sun rose.

  • Ground type 3: Thorny ground: Though the seed grew, the thorns outgrew and choked it up.

  • Ground type 4: Good soil: Seed sown on this ground grew well and brought forth abundantly. 

 

Reflections

  • Our ears have a great role to play as to what comes into our hearts.

  • Our hearts also have a great deal to do in the outcome of the effect of God’s word in our lives.

  • Every word spoken is a seed that can germinate in our hearts, so the types of ‘ground’ in the story are really our hearts. 

Ground type 1: The wayside or the pathway ‘heart’ shows the effect of God’s word in our lives as a result of our individual  understanding, and many things can hinder our hearts from understanding the word of God, like events in our society, our personal challenges can all snatch away the effect that the word of God ought to have in our lives. Our hearts can become hard like  a pathway over which the world seems to trample. We must guard against this.

Ground type 2: Stony or Rocky ground: The word of God that comes to us can bear no fruit even though we received it joyfully initially, but we did not think further on it, we did not give it more room to sink deeper, so, when difficulties, persecution or challenges arose due to the word heard, one can easily give up and fall away, thereby giving no room for the seed of God’s word to grow. This is a great sadness, because the desire to grow the word is there, but the strength to endure difficulties is not. These difficulties are the stones which stop us from keeping with the word of God. When we commit to endurance in difficulty, the stones fall away.

Ground type 3: Thorny ground:  Again, we see that the effect God’s word can have upon our lives can also depend on our attitude to wealth, material things, the pursuit of  our personal care and that of others, and if not carefully sought, these can choke God’s word in our lives.

Ground type 4: Good soil: This good soil can be our truest hearts, though we do not gain this good soil  without personal challenges, difficulties, society events, global issues, but as we reflect regularly on the word of God, and gain understanding of God’s view and not just our personal or world view, then, the word of God can bear fruit bountifully despite our season of life, our circumstances, or the changes and chances of the world.

 

As we see a great change in our world in the past few months, we, the people of God,  still have the Seed of God’s Word that can grow into peace, assurance and calmness despite the impact of the pandemic, and the reality of our personal issues. For this to happen, we must prepare the ground of our hearts to receive the Word fully. We must listen with our hearts and watch for God’s view of the world, and not our own. Amen.

Prayers

Lord, we magnify your holy name. We worship you and praise you now and for ever. We thank you for your Word, for your holy scriptures and for the example of the sower, God’s word coming into our hearts. We pray deeply, Lord, that we may prepare our hearts to receive your word. Amen

 

Lord, we see a world in turmoil. We see unrest and anxiety. Help us to see the world through your eyes and not only our own. May we conform our view to yours. Amen.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea.

 

We pray for those who are unwell, in hospital or recovering at home. We give thanks for the healthcare workers and chaplains at our local hospitals and hospices.

 

We pray for the response of the souls of the faithful departed, for those who have died recently, particularly those who have died as a result of Covid-19, and for those whose anniversary of death occurs around this time, among them, Emily Bird, Edwards Jarvis, Richard King, Jennifer Palmer, Robert Burns, Margaret Relf, Barbara Mitchell. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory. Amen.

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

 

Fourth Sunday after Trinity- 5th July 2020

Luke 10: 25-37


 

Greetings to you. My thanks to the Rev’d David Scott for his thoughts this week- David has chosen the parable of the Good Samaritan as his focus- perhaps more appropriate now than in many a year. David closes his writing this week with the wonderful prayer of St Francis- there was a saint who lived the truth of humility and service to others. May we all take to heart the words of this prayer.

 

Church Opening

My thanks to the PCC for their careful consideration and even-handed responses to my proposals regarding the opening of St Aidan’s for public worship.

We have agreed that it is still too soon to open. We prefer to wait a few more weeks to monitor the national and local situation regarding Coronavirus and also to allow our current pattern of prayer times to become established locally- those who have attended have found sanctuary at St Aidan’s.  We must prepare a detailed risk assessment and make decisions about the nature of the public worship we will offer. There is also the fact that I have some annual leave due at the end of July. So- taking all that into account we have decided to plan to open St Aidan’s on Sunday 9th August at 10am. 

This will be a service of Holy Communion with readings and a sermon. Currently, singing and chanting is prohibited so unless the situation changes by then, there will be no hymns or sung psalms until further notice.

I understand that for some of you, coming back into church after such a long break may still feel inadvisable. Should you prefer to wait until the Coronavirus situation has stabilised further, I completely understand. Only come to church when you are ready. When you do- you will be most welcome! More details will follow on exactly what will happen on the 9th August, but there will almost certainly still be a need for social distancing, hand washing on entry, and a limit on capacity. We will take each step as it comes, but at least we now have a date to move towards. Alleluia!

 

Online worship

It has been good to welcome some of you to Night Prayer at 8pm on Sundays-Wednesdays on the parish Facebook page. This is a live office of prayers for late evening, but after the live recording has ended, the video is then available on the Facebook page if you prefer to view it later in the evening, or earlier the following day. There is a pre-recorded Vigil Office on Saturdays from 5pm on the You Tube Channel- ‘St Aidan’s Church Gravesend’.


 

Prayers

Please pray for our parish church, that it will be a safe space for people who come to worship God in word and sacrament.

 

Pray for our ministry team, PCC and those who hope to begin hiring our hall again soon.

 

Give thanks for all that we have received in lockdown, and commend to God anything that has been troublesome.

 

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the United Church of Pakistan.

 

We pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died recently, and those whose anniversary of death occurs around this time of year. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory.

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael



 

THE GOOD SAMARITAN!

Luke 10, verses 25 to37.

Jerusalem to Jericho is a 16 mile journey.  Jericho is 864 feet below sea level; Jerusalem is 2474 feet above sea level.  The road was known as the “Way of Blood.”

 

The so-called Good Samaritan’s Inn lies on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem.  It is so-called because we know that we are speaking about a PARABLE – a made-up story designed to teach a truth.  However, the existence of the road is very real and it was a very dangerous one on which to travel.  People would only journey in groups, definitely not alone as we hear in the story.  There were multiple places where thieves could hide and attack unsuspecting travellers.

 

The story is prompted by Jesus being asked “Who is my neighbour?”   Jesus, as He often, responded with a story which became one of the two best known parables of Jesus’ repertoire, the other being The Prodigal Son, both in Luke’s Gospel.

We all know the story.  A man – presumably a Jewish man – is attacked, stripped and robbed leaving him injured by the

roadside.  A priest and a Levite come past and both fail to help the man.  He is helped by a Samaritan man.

To cut a long story short, Samaritans and Jews did not get along at all.   Samaria was the northern neighbour of Judea

and north of that was Galilee.  People  journeying from one to the other often crossed  the Jordan to bypass Samaria – a 3 day extra journey.  The Jews felt that the Samaritans had deserted and compromised the Jewish faith and that they were God’s chosen ones.

 

What do we learn from this famous parable?

  1. It is often harder to love the neighbour nearest to you or, indeed, in your own family.

           Reports are saying that lockdown has magnified home tensions even leading to domestic violence.  Family life can often lead      

          to rifts in relationships.  We pray that,  with God’s guidance, we can keep closeness in our families and pray for those who

          who are struggling.  Do I have to do more to keep family relationships healthy?

  1. Your friends – close ones – are most likely to be those most like you, e.g. same religion, nationality etc.  You have much in common with them tending to think in similar ways and like similar things.  This parable challenges us to do our best to understand those who are different us, e.g. religion, nationality, race.  It is so easy to BOX people, i.e. dismiss a whole group with a single judgement, e.g. “Roman Catholics do what they like during the week, confess it at the weekend, get forgiven and then do what they fancy.”  Or: “Those happy clappies! It’s all emotion with them.  Religion is just a high and it is insulting to God.”  You can add countless examples to these whether it is religion, race, political beliefs.  Boxing is so common.

  2. Loving one’s neighbour has a very practical side to it.  How do I love my neighbour in practical ways?  Is God asking me to do more?  What are my motives?  I have to ask myself whether I am doing good in order to be liked more or because I want to help my neighbour genuinely?  If you are like me, it is probably about mixed motives.

  3. The Good Samaritan left money to care for the injured man.  Do I spend my money in a way that God approves?  Am I generous with my money giving away a good portion of my earnings to the church, to charities?  Do I pray about this asking for God’s guidance.

        

 GO AND DO THOU LIKEWISE!

 

Let us pray:

O God of love, 

whose Son Jesus Christ taught us how to love our

    neighbour,

teach us to do the same,

guiding us by Your ways  to be loving in our

     attitudes and actions,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.









 

The Prayer of St Francis.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.

 

O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.



 

 

Third Sunday after Trinity

Matthew 10:40-end

 

Blessings and greetings to you. My thanks to Mavis for this week’s reflection and prayers. I am very grateful to our growing team of ministers who are contributing to our spiritual life, and am pleased to add that we shall benefit from reflections from Wendy Giles who leads our All-Age worship in church, and also from Pastor Mduh, who is the minister at the Calvary Apostolic Assembly church who meet in our hall on Sunday afternoons (in normal times!) and also from Alfred Osinibe who worships with us and who is also a pastor.  These reflections will be appearing over the coming weeks alongside the words of Rev’d David Scott, Dr Peter Harris, Mavis and myself. I am pleased to hear many comments from people who appreciate these reflections.

 

Church Opening

My thanks to those who helped me to open church on the 24th for prayer- the first time St Aidan’s was open to the public since March. We had a few who came and prayed for a little while and we will continue to offer this pattern of prayer on Wednesdays 9am-11am and Sundays 10-12noon until further notice. Do please take note that it is not a service- church is simply open for you to come in and pray. Entrance is via the Powerhouse doors where hands are to be washed in the WC. Exit is via the main doors, having used the hand sanitizer provided. We also supply masks should anyone require one.

 

Public Worship

You will have seen that the government has now said that places of worship may open for public worship from the 4th July. In churches, this means that weddings and funerals can take place (max 30 people) in church again. Baptism is still in cessation. St Aidan’s will not be opening for public worship that soon.  We will be monitoring the situation carefully. The earliest likely date would be towards the end of July, or early August.

 

Many of you will be eager to know when Holy Communion can be shared again- we await guidance from the Church of England and I will let everyone know in due course. In essence, I think it likely that the following will apply: Communion will be in ‘one kind only’, i.e bread only (the priest must consume the wine); singing hymns and psalms will be prohibited until further notice; Communion will be distributed standing (not kneeling at the rail yet) and people will stand at least one metre apart in a line down the aisle (i.e like we do now, but with bigger gaps!), returning to pews by going round by the choir stalls. Effectively, I envision a Sunday service to be rather like our Wednesday Eucharist- a ‘said’ eucharist with readings, sermon, prayers and Holy Communion. We await guidance on what might happen regarding Sunday School. For the time being, we have had to clear the corner of toys and books for very young children.

 

In any case, these reflections will continue to be produced weekly for as long as they seem to be the right thing to do.

Online worship

If you have the internet at home, you can now access some more prayer services via the St Aidan’s Facebook page and the You Tube channel (both are entitled ‘St Aidan’s Church Gravesend’ and can be found easily).




 

 The current pattern is:

Night Prayer (Compline): Sunday-Wednesday 8pm on Facebook Live (you can watch them later if you cannot make 8pm)

 

Vigil Office: Saturday 5pm on You Tube (again, available to view anytime from 5pm).

 

It is not necessary to ‘follow’ the service but if you would like to, all Church of England worship liturgies are on the Church of England website:

Night Prayer https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/daily-prayer/night-prayer-compline

 

Vigil Office

https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/daily-prayer/morning-and-evening#mm008e8

 

The aim of these offices is to provide a sanctuary in a noisy, frantic time. Much online worship is also quite ‘noisy’ and ‘busy’ and I wanted to provide something more peaceful for the evening hours. I hope they are helpful as we each try to grow in Christ.


Prayers

In the Anglican Communion Cycle of Prayer, we pray for the United Church of North India.

 

We remember those who have died, and whose anniversary of death occurs at this time of year, including Winifred Martin, Cedric Carr, Patricia Cook. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory.


This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

*

Greetings on this Third Sunday after Trinity

Gospel reading:  Matthew 10: 40-42

 

Jesus is still thinking about mission in these two short verses as he talks about the disciples being welcomed.  He has previously spoken about the hostility they will experience – now he is talks about hospitality.  If all had been hostile to the Gospel, the disciples would not have survived to tell the message and Christianity would not have grown.   But many people were longing for the “good news” and readily welcomed the disciples.

 

Hospitality was a characteristic of the Middle East.  Among the Jews, it was typified by Abraham and Sarah who welcomed the three strangers and found they had welcomed angels (Genesis 18).  This is referred to by the writer to the Hebrews when he says how we should be hospitable “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in so doing, some have entertained angels without knowing it”. (Hebrews 13:2).

 In the verses we are thinking about this week, Jesus reassured his hearers that he would always be watching over them.   Nothing that they ever did for him would go unnoticed or unrewarded.  They (and we) are like ambassadors for him – representing him, his qualities, his values.

 Sadly, of course, over the past months, we have not had the opportunity to offer hospitality to even our close family and friends, much less to the stranger.

Mission in any shape or form has been pretty impossible for most of us.  However, we have witnessed, through the thoughtfulness and kindness of friends and neighbours who have ensured our safety and comfort, we have been well aware of the metaphorical “cup of water” (v. 42).

 The disciples are to go out in the name of God.  They are to be his representatives, his image, his icon to the world.  The Jews believed that to receive the envoy of the king was to receive the king himself.  To welcome a messenger of a friend is the same as welcoming the friend.  Not all doors are closed to Jesus – many still long to hear the good news.  We are his disciples and if we don’t take the message, how will people hear?

 Whilst doing my preparation for these reflections, I came across this story, which I think illustrates perfectly our theme for this week.

 The Selfish Giant banned the children from his garden.  He built a wall around it and put up a huge notice which read 

 

“TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED”

From that time, spring did not come to the giant’s garden – it remained in winter.  By keeping himself to himself, there was no warmth in the place.

Only when the children sneaked back did spring return with them.  It was then that the giant realised his hostility to the children had kept him in the cold.

(The full story of the Selfish Giant can be found in “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde).

 

Hostility and selfishness brings about isolation – hospitality opens us to the warmth of relationships.

 

So as the “lock down” (the winter) begins to ease and the warmth of human contact begins to return, our prayer must be that we can begin to show how, through hospitality (when considered safe to do so), Christ can be proclaimed and accepted.

 

Until that time, the words of this prayer may be helpful.

After each phrase, the response is:  Guide and strengthen us, O Lord.

Lord, long ago you called ordinary people like us to be your disciples,

and we believe you are calling us to follow you today.

As we seek to be your faithful disciples …….

As we face up to life’s problems …….

When we are faced with important decisions ……

As we seek to do things of which you would approve ……

In choosing between what is good and what is best ……

In the choice of how we use our time ……

And above all, as we choose you to be our way, our truth and our life.

Amen

 

May God richly bless you all

Mavis (Licensed Reader)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 June 2020: Second Sunday after Trinity

 

Matthew 10:24-39 

 

My thanks to Dr Peter Harris who has composed the reflection this week. I am pleased to announce that Peter has been accepted for training on the Bishop’s Certificate in Christian Ministry course. This course is part of a training program for those looking to enter Lay ministry, and Peter will be authorised to preach a number of times across each year. Those who attend St Aidan’s with some regularity will have benefitted from Peter’s emerging ministry as as a leader of seminars, as a Sunday School teacher and as a writer of challenging books in defence of Christian belief in our secular and increasingly agnostic culture. I am looking forward to supporting Peter during his training. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.

 

Church Opening

St Aidan’s will be opening for private prayer from Wednesday 24th and again on Sunday 28th. The times are:

Wednesdays: 9am-11am; Sundays 10am-12 noon.

We will monitor this situation very carefully. My thanks to the Standing Committee and PCC for their input.

Please do let me know my phone or email if you are intending to come to pray. This will help us to manage numbers if necessary, and to ensure that there is space for local people who may come in. At this point, it will not be possible for candles to be lit. Instead, a single candle will burn on the altar as a focus for prayer. The prayer sessions will take this form:

Entrance through Powerhouse doors. Wash your hands and enter church. Sit in a pew seat where a white laminated card is placed. Do not move the card along the pew or sit in another spot on the pew- this ensures distances are maintained. If you are coming as  a household, you can all sit together in a pew. Exit via the main doors, using the hand gel provided. Prayer ‘desks’ are placed by the altar rail in case you wish to kneel in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament (consecrated bread) which will also be on the altar, in a ciborium. The Lady Chapel may be used for prayer- use the plastic chairs only.

Church will be cleaned in between sessions.

 

St Aidan’s You Tube Channel

I have set up a You Tube channel, which you can find by going to You Tube online and searching for ‘St Aidan’s Church Gravesend’. You will find there a recorded service of the Vigil Office, an evening service of prayers and readings for the night before Sunday. They will appear each week, alongside some other recordings. I hope that if you choose to view the Vigil Office it will help you in your preparations for Sunday, and to keep Sunday special during these difficult times. I do appreciate that not everybody is on the internet, but I hope that those who are not can appreciate the importance of keeping people as connected as possible.

 

Prayers

In the Anglican Communion Cycle of Prayer we are asked to prayer for the Anglican Church of Nigeria this week. Please also pray for Bishop Solomon and the Diocese of Bo.

 

Please pray for our parish church and people as we re-open the building for prayer.

 

We pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died recently, and for those whose anniversary of death occurs around this time, including Celia Skinner, Muriel Rayfield, John Northcott, George Spooner, Ronald Moore, Joshua Blanchard, Thomas Whitehead, Maureen Bentley, Abraham (Geordie) Alderson. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory. Amen

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael


 

From Dr Peter Harris

I remember once listening to a message preached by a rather naïve young man who asserted that as Christians, we were not meant to suffer in any way other than persecution. He used the Gospel reading for this week-Matthew 10:24-39- as his ‘proof’ text. Unfortunately, he did not consider the many parts of Scripture where a plethora of sufferings other than persecution are described as afflicting faithful believers. Indeed, the story of the bereavements and depredations that Job suddenly suffered for no apparent purpose is one, long, eloquent refutation of this man’s mis-teaching of God’s word. I came to the conclusion that as he continued on his life, he would realise his error, though I hoped that his spiritual mentors, if he had any, would take him to one side and gently and firmly correct him before life inevitably did it for him.

Let us pray: Father, enable us to understand your word so that we may rightly discern its truth and therefore may be a source of understanding to each other. Amen.

However, the young preacher was right in one thing: in Matthew 10:24-39 Jesus warned His apostles that they would suffer poor treatment at some point because they followed Him and did His work. The context is Jesus’ endowment of his twelve disciples with the power to drive out of people evil spirits and heal all manner of sickness and His commission to them to go to the Israelites and preach that the Kingdom is at hand (10:1-7). The blessings of the Kingdom were to be given freely for the disciples themselves had received them freely (v.8).

A person would be forgiven for thinking that the response to healings resurrections and deliverance would be universal gratitude. But Jesus warned his disciples that the response would include opposition such as rejection, arrest, floggings, betrayal and hatred (vv. 14-22). Jesus’ warnings are for us too for we also seek to tell others that the Kingdom is at hand: that the day of salvation is here. Though we live in a society that has been influenced by Christianity since the late 2nd Century A.D., and whose head of state is by law an Anglican, we too can feel the sharp edge of persecution, albeit unofficially, such as mockery or rejection by work colleagues, friends and family. Sometimes it happens officially, for example, when someone loses his/her job because they hold to a traditional Christian moral teaching which offends the politically-correct squadrista who are bent on circumscribing Britain’s tradition of free speech.    

What explanation did Jesus give for this? Well, this brings us back to the beginning of this week’s reading. As disciples and servants of Christ our teacher, we are not above Him, though we can aspire to be like Him in the same way that disciples and servants can aim to be like their teachers and masters (vv. 24, 25). But becoming Christ-like means also being persecuted as Christ was. The very same characteristics of Christ that threatened and angered His opponents, such as speaking the truth courageously, will unfortunately, when replicated in us, cause the same thing. Therefore, Christ warned that if He, the Master, had been called ‘Be-el'zebul’ or the Devil, so too will we, His followers, be slandered (v. 25).

None of this is at all attractive when we consider it purely from a human perspective. No one wants to be rejected, slandered or even beaten for their faith. But Christ’s powerful assurances are encouraging. Verse 28 reminds us that we are to fear God who has power over our souls and bodies and not humans who can only destroy our bodies. With the example of God’s care for sparrows, Christ deployed a logical argument known as argumentum a minore ad maius which presents a stronger proposition as true if a weaker proposition is first found to be true. Thus, Christ’s first proposition was that God the Father is deeply concerned about what happens to sparrows, despite their seeming near worthlessness from the human perspective. Based on this proposition, He moved to a logically entailed stronger proposition which is that if the Father cares that much about sparrows, then how much more does He care about humans (vv. 29-31)! Verse 32 presents another assurance: that if we acknowledge our allegiance to Christ before other people, Christ will acknowledge us as His before the Father. In other words, He will own up to us as His!  

 

Let us pray: Father, thank you that during persecution, or any other form of suffering, that you care deeply for us and that we are yours. We thank you too that the power to endure and overcome comes from you and never fails us. Amen.

 

Christ has one further warning for us. Verses 34 to 36 alert us to the fact that allegiance to Christ will bring conflict. Some critics of Christianity have argued that verse 34 with Christ’s promise of the ‘sword’ has given Christians the justification to start wars of religion. That may be the case for some Christians, or so-called Christians, but Christ was referring to conflict between His followers and members of their families. Even parents and children will be alienated from each other because one party to the relationship is a Christian. But Christ was emphatic: if we prefer our families to Christ, we are not worthy of Him (v. 37); and if we are not prepared to suffer, which Christ metaphorically described as taking up our cross, and to follow him, we also do not merit Him.

 

The climax is verse 39 and it takes the form of a paradox which is worth quoting to get the full force of its import: 

 

‘He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.’

 

What does this mean? I would suggest that the life we build for ourselves by our own lights will be no life at all, for it will be founded on our sinful natures. If we give up the life we envisage for ourselves and embrace the life He gives us, we will indeed find life in its highest form in this life and which will continue everlastingly in His presence in the next. We are to look beyond our present sufferings for they do not compare with the glories that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). 

 

Enduring persecution does not sound at like something we can do, and that retaliation comes more easily. I remember when I worked for another school to the one I am at now, I had a colleague who despised my Christian faith and enjoyed using bad language and blasphemy whenever I was near to upset me. One day, my patience grew thin and I told him coldly that if he carried on with his mockery, he would ‘regret it’. As I was a lot larger than him and meant what I said, his behaviour stopped. But with my threat, I lost the opportunity then on to present to this man the Gospel of peace and the loving Saviour. My witness to him was undermined. Like the apostle Peter with his sword-flailing, ear-chopping antics when Christ was arrested, I was failing to conform the will of God which is that all should be saved and none should perish (2 Peter 3:)   

 

But our hope is in Christ the All-Sufficient One and not in our gritted-teeth, clenched-fist efforts at obedience which all too often end in failure. Romans 8:1-17 makes it clear that it is by His Spirit that we can put to death fleshly deeds and live in a Christ-like fashion. If we are children of God, His Spirit is dwelling in us and enabling us to want to live and actually to live supernaturally which in part means enduring persecution when it comes and blessing our enemies (Luke 6:27-36). Just as we cannot save ourselves from perdition, neither can we by our own strength improve ourselves in the direction of perfect holiness in the way God intends.   

     

Let us pray: Father, thank you that in losing a self-centred life we ought not to have and which in the end does us no good, we can enjoy a life of loving and serving you and people, which is the only satisfying way to live. May we as Christ-like people, by the power of the Holy Spirit, be part of the way you bring the unsaved to yourself, and for whose salvation our persecution is a price worth paying. Amen.

 

First Sunday after Trinity- 14th June, 2020

‘Green’ Greetings! Today begins the season of ‘Ordinary Time’ when the colour of the vestments and other liturgical items in churches are in the colour green, a ‘season’ which lasts all through the Summer, autumn and just into winter.  Does this feel like ‘ordinary time’? Probably not! However, there is some comfort in having marked Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi and to now head out into Ordinary Time until November 1st- All Saints Day. What will the country and wider world look like by then? Will the ravages of this virus be largely behind us? Will we still be observing restrictions or will we be in the grip of a ‘second wave’? 

There is no doubt that these have been very worrying times. Westcourt has had one of the highest death rates in Kent from Covid-19 so we have been affected by this on our own doorstep. I also know that some members of our congregation have come down with the virus but thankfully have made a full recovery.

 

Church Opening

It is in this anxious atmosphere that the government has announced that places of worship can now open for ‘private, individual prayer’. This means that individuals or households can attend church to pray. Public worship is still ceased and no prayers will be led during this time.

I urge you to consider carefully whether you are content to come to St Aidan’s to pray in the current circumstances. 

The PCC have looked at my proposals for the ways in which we could open, and they have agreed that it is something which we would like to offer. My thanks to the PCC for their level-headed responses. We have decided to open twice a week, subject to the national situation regarding infection and loss of life.

 

The times of opening will be:

Wednesday 24th June- 9am to 11.am

Sunday 28th June- 10am to 12 noon

 

We intend to then open each Wednesday and Sunday at those times until further notice. Church will be cleaned and checked before each session and we are leaving 72 hours between each session which will mean that any virus in church will die away in between times. We have completed a risk assessment.

Like many clergy, I had hoped to open St Aidan’s under more relaxed and joyful circumstances than those in which we find ourselves. Instead, these are some of the things you can expect:

  • Entrance and exit through the second set of doors

  • Wash hands on entry and exit

  • Maintain social distancing at all times inside and outside church (please do not greet each other with hugs, etc, however much you may want to!)

  • Follow the directions of the stewards at all times

  • Capacity is sixteen- you will need to return another time if we are ‘full’ (*please see note below).

  • Sit in places marked with a laminated card and nowhere else

  • Children must be closely supervised at all times

  • Candles cannot be lit due to transmission risk- instead a single candle will burn on the altar as focus for prayer

  • The Blessed Sacrament (consecrated bread of Holy Communion) will be placed on the altar in a ciborium (special lidded vessel) to allow for some eucharistic devotion

 

* In order to ‘leave room’ for people coming in from the community to pray (ie not regular attenders) we will restrict regular attender capacity to 8 initially. It would be helpful if you would let me know by phone or email if you are intending to come to pray, stating which day and time (e.g for both hours, or just one). This will help us to manage capacity. We may ask you to attend at a different time if necessary. 01474 352500.

 

Those of you who are over 70 years must take extra care- please consider carefully the risks.

Those who should not attend church:

Anyone with symptoms of Coronavirus (high temperature, persistent dry cough, loss of usual sense of taste and smell);

Anyone who is shielding.

 

I write these words with a heavy heart- we were hoping for a celebration in church that the difficult days were over, but it does seem that we will be living with the virus for some time to come. Whilst myself and the PCC are very pleased to open St Aidan’s as a place of sanctuary and prayer, we are still some time away from ‘normal’ worship. I will keep you updated regarding any further changes but I must also add that if the rate of infection in the community starts to climb quickly and/or if the national picture becomes worrying, we will close St Aidan’s without delay. Our first priority must be public health.

 

Praying the Litany

Thank you to those who have been praying the Litany on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Do join in if you wish. The need for ‘communal’ prayer whilst we are apart is greater than ever.

 

Nursery and local schools

Please keep our Nursery manager (Gayle) and her staff in your prayers as they do an excellent job in opening nursery for those families who wish to send their children in. Tymberwood Academy, Westcourt Primary, Riverview Infants’ and Thamesview have all been gradually opening to the eligible year groups. Please keep them all in your prayers, and for those children who are still being schooled at home. For some families this will be a very long and difficult summer and I am looking at ways we can support them.

 

Today’s Reading- Matthew 9: 35- 10:8

 

Let’s turn our minds to the medicine of the Gospel and allow ourselves to be healed in mind, body and spirit.

 

This passage is marked by compassion, prayer and action- very relevant to our current times.

Jesus is moved by the sight of the people he encounters who are ‘harassed and helpless’, ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. He turns to his followers and laments the size of the task: an immense number of people in need of bringing to God (harvesting) but such a small body of labourers! He instructs them to ‘ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out labourers into his harvest’; Jesus is asking his followers to pray. Let us hear those words of Jesus as directed to each of us, let us ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out more workers who will join this task of bringing people to God- we are in greater need now than in recent times because many people will feel a need for God but will lack the confidence or the knowledge in how to find him- we must be ready as signs to God and we need others to join us in this work. Still others will feel far from God- some will doubt God or feel angry and frightened. This needs a pastoral response and again we should pray for readiness to model the Christian way which is welcoming, reasonable, hopeful and mystical. All these are needed to gain wholeness as a person.

 

We next turn to the apostles and the ‘roll call’ of the twelve- those who were deliberately named as the first labourers who Jesus had to hand and who he chose to go out and start work in his name. Who were the apostles? We have probably all heard sermons or read texts which tell us that they were ordinary people, humble people and this may be so, but they were named for a reason- we are meant to remember them not least because almost all of them died for their faith. Let us then give thanks for the apostles and see in ourselves the seeds of apostleship- may we be energised to ‘go out’ in Christ’s name in any way we can and help in the healing of the people who are most certainly harassed and helpless at this time (we are finding ways to ‘go out’ whilst staying in!).

Finally, we note that Jesus instructs the apostles to go ‘only to the house of Israel’. This is because Jesus is acutely aware that the greatest need is among those who are already close to God in the religious terms of Jesus’ day (ie  Jews)- once they are made whole, the circle can widen to include others.

What is the ‘house of Israel’ in your life? What needs attention from prayer and self-examination first? What in our society is the house of Israel? Which aspects of our community (local and wider) need apostleship? Pray for those areas of life and society that are in most need of wholeness and healing and send your compassion, your prayers and your action there. Keep praying for others to join us, and may Christ bless the work of your heart, mind and lips in his name. Amen.



Prayers


Church opening- please pray over this situation both locally and further afield.

Social justice- Pray for true equality, justice and peace to prevail.

For those who have died recently including all who have died from Covid-19.

For those whose anniversary of death falls at this time. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory.

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

 

Trinity Sunday- 7th June 2020

 

My thanks to Rev’d David Scott for this week’s invigorating reflection on the Holy Trinity. I am grateful that David has chosen not to explain the Trinity: many have tried but as the Irish monk St Columbanus wrote, the harder you try to understand or explain in logical terms the mystery of God, the further that knowledge will move from you! 

Thanksgiving for diversity

 

You will have seen and been troubled by the terrible scenes in the United states following the murder of African American George Floyd by a white police officer, and there have been demonstrations in the UK too, demanding that society recognises that ‘Black Lives Matter’. At St Aidan’s we are truly blessed with a very diverse congregation and I thank God for that daily. We have people from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa, the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, and we support Hope Gardens India and the Diocese of Bo.  This diversity is one of our greatest treasures and I want to assure all of you as Vicar, that those among us from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (‘BAME’) are held in equal regard, esteem and respect by me. Yes, we have heard people counter that ‘all lives matter’ and this is true, too, but nobody can avoid the historical record which speaks of appalling treatment of BAME people by the ‘colonial’ powers in Europe in the past and into our own time, and in the Americas and elsewhere.  I remain hopeful that St Aidan’s will have some involvement in this year’s Black History Month service in October, which is less a lament about the past, but a thanksgiving for the contribution of BAME culture to our society. Let’s not wait for October to give thanks for this though, let’s give thanks to God for this now!

 

RAF Banner, Lady Chapel and Prayer Corner

I am pleased to update you that our banner depicting RAF Gravesend, our church and Chalk  St Mary is now once again on display in St Aidan’s (thanks to Barbara’s son in law!). The banner is on the south side (opposite the organ) and is on the wall above where the Lady Chapel altar used to be. I know many of you have not seen the interior of St Aidan’s since we reinstated the Lady Chapel- I must say that since we have taken down the projector screen, the chapel is now bathed in glorious light and I hope that it will be a place where you can sit and pray before or after the service, and at other times (whenever that will be…). 

 

Praying the Litany

 

We have introduced the  praying of the Litany (from Common Worship or the Book of Common Prayer on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays and those of you who are on the internet have received a copy. If you are not online, I shall be contacting you by telephone to see if you would like a copy of the prayer posted to you. If you do, please choose  one of those days (or all three if you wish) and pray the prayer through at a time of your choice when you know you can commit to it. Try to then keep to that day and time as much as you can. In this way we will create a ‘wave’ of prayer through the week at a time when it is desperately needed.

 

Corpus Christi

Thursday is the feast of Corpus Christi (‘the Body of Christ’) and I will celebrate the Eucharist in St Aidan’s on that day in thanksgiving for the gift of Holy Communion, which is the reason for the feast. If you would like to let me have anything else you would like to give thanks to God for, please email or ring me before then and I will include yours in the prayers.

I know that many of you will be missing Holy Communion badly and it is a great sadness to me that I am unable to bring Communion to the sick. I think it will be a long time yet  before we can gather together at a Eucharistic celebration in our customary way and this is also a sadness. 

 

However, the Blessed Sacrament is kept in St Aidan’s constantly, and the light burns above the aumbry night and day. This light signifies the presence of Christ in the sacrament, and because the sacrament is kept in the parish church, the parish itself is sanctified by the presence of Christ (it may be helpful to have in mind the image of the parish as the church and the church building as the aumbry of the parish). The reserved sacrament is not only kept for the sick, but is a powerful symbol of the care the Church extends to all who cannot be present in church, which at present is all of you! I am a member of an Anglican organisation called the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament  (CBS) which promotes Eucharistic devotion, and I join with other members in praying for all those Christians who are feeling separated from Holy Communion. However, do keep in mind that I celebrate a Eucharist in St Aidan’s each Sunday and pray for the parish and community.  You also have the important prayer for ‘spiritual communion’ in the home worship papers you have. For ease of use I include it again here, and encourage you to say this prayer on Corpus Christi and each Sunday.

 

Lord Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot at present receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as being already there and unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me  to be separated from you. Amen.

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

 

Thoughts on the Trinity- Rev’d David Scott

 

At theological college, when the preaching roster was put up, the first thing we looked up was who the poor chap was (only chaps in those days) who had to preach on Trinity Sunday. So now Fr Michael puts me right there on the lockdown roster. I forgive him. Or is there anything to forgive? 

 

Way back in College, I think we thought we had to give a brilliant exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity. Maybe at College but I haven’t been there for about 55 years. So I am NOT going to explain the Trinity. Someone said: If you get to understand the Trinity, stop and write a book about it and you will be famous. No! The doctrine of the Trinity arose out of Christians’ experience of God’s action in our lives and that experience led to the creeds we all recite. (See last page). 

If you think about the creed, you will realise that the first and last paragraphs are much shorter than the middle one. Who Jesus was caused centuries of debate and discussion, sometimes even violence as the church agonised its way towards understanding who Jesus was :God? Man? Half God and half man? More God than man? More man than God? But no! Listeners to Jesus concluded that what He said is what God would have said. He really was the Word of God. His actions and behaviour were God-like. Could He be more than the prophet Messiah they were expecting? Yes, He was divine in all aspects. But surely if He was divine, then He could hardly represent us ordinary humans. He couldn’t have suffered temptation, emotions, pain. That is unfair. However, apostles, scripture and theologians all concluded that, for Jesus to be the suffering servant, He had to be fully human. Conclusion: Jesus was both fully man and fully God – man so He could represent us in His suffering, man so that we can know that He shared our temptations, our problems, our illnesses, our tragedies. Yes, this could only be done by fully man. Meanwhile, surely the salvation of the world could only be won by God. The man Jesus and Jesus the Son of God carved out a covenant of love and forgiveness towards us all. If Jesus was merely a man, He would probably be read about in books depicting Him as one of the world’s greatest moral teachers, if not THE greatest. But we WORSHIP Him – rightly as far as I and millions of Christians believe and do. However, we do not worship a Saviour who left us at the Ascension. He promised “another Comforter”.

 

 A South African archbishop, Bill Burnett, used to teach that there were two words for “another” and that the one that Jesus used meant “another Person THE SAME AS I” rather than another who is different from me. He was, of course, talking about the Holy Spirit who would come on the apostles and the followers of Jesus. “The Father and I will come and make our home in you”, said Jesus. (John 14/23). Imagine that! God, through His Spirit, makes His HOME in you. Paul says we are temples of the Holy Spirit. That means that, even if not in the temple building (the Church), we are walking, talking temples, created by God, redeemed by the Saviour, taking God wherever we go and wherever we are. Jesus in flesh was confined to one place at one time. In the Spirit He is everywhere at all times. Great news! So rejoice in being children of the Trinity at this time and always. God the Trinity is with you. Hallelujah! 

 

Collect for Trinity Sunday

 

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity: keep us steadfast in this faith, that we may evermore be defended from all adversities; 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. 

 

Prayers for Trinity Sunday

 

Through your efforts, blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we have been redeemed, created, and sanctified. Although we have never understood the fullness of the Trinity, you have granted us new life and have declared us innocent through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. For this we worship you in humble adoration. Keep us in the faith until we join the elect around your glorious throne. We ask this in your name, you who live and rule, ever one God, through all eternity. Amen. 

O God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in whose name we are baptized and into whose fellowship we have been received. We cling in faith to you, the only God. We praise you dear Father, for having loved us and sent your Son to die for our sins. We praise you dear Jesus, for having redeemed us from our sins by sacrificing yourself for us. We praise you, Holy Spirit, for having sanctified us for you gave us faith and through faith cleansed us from sin. 

 

O Triune God, graciously enable us always to believe and obey, and to worship and confess you; Creator, Redeemer and Sanctified, one God, eternal and all glorious forever. Amen. We bind unto ourselves today The strong name of the Trinity By invocation of the same, The Three in One, and One in Three. Of whom all nature has creation; Eternal Father, Spirit, Word. Praise to the Lord of our salvation. Salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen.

 

The Nicene Creed

 

WE BELIEVE in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

 

 

Day of Pentecost- 31st May, 2020

Acts 2:1-21

 

This comes to you with every blessing on Pentecost Sunday- when Christ made good his promise at the Ascension to send the Holy Spirit to the apostles. May each of us receive the grace of the Holy Spirit with eagerness and humility.

 

Church Opening

There is nothing definite to update you on since last week. There is some expectation that when churches do open, it will be for private prayer only (at least at first), but everything is still ‘up in the air’ so we continue to wait. I will liaise with relevant people in due course about finalising our ‘opening up’ plans. Please hold this situation in your prayers.



 

The account of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts is dramatic and well known- the sound of a high wind, the ‘tongues’ of flame appearing over the heads of the apostles and the gift of speaking in many languages is rich in powerful imagery about the might of God, the suddenness with which he sometimes brings things about, and the confusion which oftentimes greets these acts. The assumption from some bystanders that the apostles were drunk has inspired many a sermon over the years but it is reasonable that people would wonder what on earth was happening- these are strange, perhaps fearful events which suddenly take place, upsetting everything in their path. The apostles themselves must have been amazed and not a little afraid at the way in which the Spirit makes himself known to them.

 

However, Pentecost is often referred to as the ‘Birth of the Church’ because in that anointing of the apostles by the Holy Spirit, they received their commission to teach, heal, baptise in Christ’s name. The book of Acts is a ‘rollercoaster’ story of those heady first years of the followers of Jesus, who gradually became organised and formed the offices of bishop, priest and deacon (as they would become known). These first Christians and their leaders founded the Church, which, since those earliest of times, has always been about more than buildings (and which we are confronted with anew in our current times); obviously, the first followers did not have purpose-built gathering places and they had to find clever ways to distribute both spiritual writings and matters of organisation and administration to the various communities of Christians grouped around the Mediterranean. Remember that those first years were marked by persecution and martyrdom (all the apostles but John the Evangelist are said to have been martyred); it took over three hundred years for Christianity to largely find acceptance but by this time, the followers had formed a definite Church which was shaping and honing matters of theology (ideas about God), Christology (ideas about Christ) and ecclesiology (ideas about the Church) which have formed the bedrock of Anglicanism ,Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

As we celebrate the ‘Birth of the Church’ today during this time of cessation of public worship, we may feel separated from our churches, but it’s an excellent opportunity to remind ourselves anew that ‘Church’ means much more than a special building. 

 

The Church is the whole of our experience of life as Christians.

When we pray at home, we pray alongside millions of others. When we commit acts of charity we do so as part of a body of Christians living out gospel values of service.

When we read and reflect on the Bible or other religious writings we increase our faith.

When we spiritually receive Holy Communion through our love of Christ and our desire to lead a life shaped by Him, we take our place within the body of Christ in the world- the Church.

We are truly blessed by the Church in all these ways (and more) and today we give thanks to God for the sending of the Holy Spirit and the establishment of the Church.

 

What of the buildings? I know that you will not be thinking that church buildings do not matter- they do- and in ‘going to church’ we commit ourselves physically to our beliefs; when we  give of ourselves through time spent and other actions for the church building we honour Christ in the world- the church building becomes a sort of picture of Christ, a symbol, icon or emblem of Christ in the midst of our community. Church buildings are powerful testimonies to the gospel in our broken world, they are holy places set apart for Christian worship and the receiving of the sacraments and as such are very, very special. We treasure our St Aidan’s church and I invite you this week to give thanks to God for our church, and to pray that the building will be kept safe and secure during these coming weeks.

 

Please pray for:

Those who would have received the sacrament of Holy Baptism in recent weeks at St Aidan’s. May this happen soon so they may begin their adventure with Christ.

Those who have had funerals conducted hurriedly or very simply with no church service. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory.

Those who long to receive Holy Communion. May they be comforted and enlivened by the Holy Spirit.

 

Please give thanks for:

The birth of the Church at Pentecost;

The graces you have received through the Holy Spirit;

The patronage of our church and parish by St Aidan, and the first patronage of our area by the Virgin Mary when the land was part of Chalk St Mary.

 

My continuing thanks to you for your kind pastoral care of one another and do be assured once again of my continuing prayers for you all. 

 

Fr Michael




 

 

 

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter, 24th May, 2020

 

My thanks to Mavis for composing this week’s reflection and prayers, which can be found below.

 

There is no clear progress yet as to how and when churches may be open again for public worship since the government suggested that places of worship may possibly open in certain ways from early July. Naturally I will update you. In the meantime the Archdeacons have asked clergy to begin planning how we may adapt any advice that comes to our own parish context, and I have been at work on this over recent days and I am grateful for the feedback I have received from the churchwardens, ministry team and other church office holders on my initial proposals.

 

In due course I will set out our finalised ‘plan’ for opening St Aidan’s but you will understand that the picture is subject to change so we will simply need to be patient and proceed carefully. In any case, I should like to say that the decision to attend church once it opens again rests entirely with each person and if you feel unsure or anxious about the risks involved do please keep yourselves safe. I hope that when my plan for opening is released it will offer some reassurance that we are doing all we possibly can, but I also understand that some will prefer to remain at home over the coming weeks and months. These reflections will continue to be published and delivered after church opens, for those who choose to remain at home for now, and I am pleased to hear from many of you about how much you appreciate what they contain. 

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael



 

From Mrs Mavis Prater

 

Greetings to you all on this Seventh Sunday of Easter


 

Our reflections this week are based on the Gospel reading:  John 17: 1-11

 

Last Thursday we celebrated Ascension Day.   Just before his Ascension, Jesus told his disciples what they were to do next – his instructions were clear.  “Wait in Jerusalem – you will be given the power of the Holy Spirit – this will enable you to become my witnesses in all Judea and Samaria and to all the ends of the earth”.

 

This period between the Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost must have been a very special time for the disciples.  They returned to Jerusalem as Jesus had told them and we can read in the first chapter of Acts that they were constantly in prayer – there must have been a great bond developing between them – a bond that would be such a source of strength and encouragement to each of them in the future.   They must have been fully aware of the risks they would be taking - after all, they had seen what had happened to their Lord and master.  They must have gained much strength from praying for one another.  

 

Knowing that you are being remembered in prayer by other people when you are going through a difficult period is such a wonderful source of strength and comfort, isn’t it.  In my funeral work I always tell the bereaved families that they will be remembered in prayer in our services for several weeks, and even though they often do not profess to have a Christian faith, they are genuinely grateful to be remembered in this way.

 

Prayer was obviously extremely important to Jesus.  He needed frequently to turn aside from his duties and his teachings to spend time with his Father.  There are many Biblical references to the times when he either got up early, or during the night-time, and went to find a quiet place where he could spend time in prayer – listening to his Father’s words of encouragement and guidance, as well as opening up to him his own thoughts, worries and cares. 

 

Today’s gospel reading contains what has become known as the High Priestly Prayer.    Prayer has been defined as having a conversation with the Lord.  In these verses we are invited to listen in on that conversation.  Jesus knew that his time on earth was coming to an end.  On the completion of the prayer, he went across to the Garden of Gethsemane so that Judas could meet him, and the betrayal could begin.

 

Jesus’s prayer, probably the most intimate and moving of all the times when we overhear him in communion with his Father, is for his disciples as he leaves them.  He is well aware that they will face many dangers after he has gone, so he commits them into the power of God’s name.  He prays too for all who will believe in him during the coming years and for the world that it may come to know the love of God.    It seems difficult to imagine that anyone present could have remembered with such clarity the precise words that were used, but John, the beloved disciple, drawing on his own closeness to Jesus, undoubtedly seems to capture here the very heart of his master’s prayer.

 

Although the opening five verses are often referred to as Jesus’s prayer for himself, there is no self-focus involved.  The cross remains central to his thinking.  It is there where he will be glorified, and he prays that he might be able to carry his ministry through to the glorious conclusion that his Father intended.

 

But what was this glory of which Jesus prayed.   For most of us, crucifixion - a particularly cruel form of execution - could be described as many things, but hardly glorious!   Yet in these verses that we are concentrating on today, it is Christ’s glorification that is focused upon.  Here, only hours from Golgotha, Jesus prays that his death will be the means by which the Father will glorify him, so that the Son may glorify the Father.   We may well ask ourselves how such a barbaric act can possibly end up by being glorious!  The answer surely is that only in that way can Jesus exercise his divine authority to give eternal life to those God has given him.  The Father will be glorified in the completion of the work which he has sent Jesus to do, which is nothing less than be the saviour of the world.  Perhaps that accounts for the triumphant final cry from the cross “It is finished”!  The task had been accomplished – only glory now lay ahead.

 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

So as we reflect upon these verses, let us consider how we can make them relevant to us today and find in them themes for our prayers.

 

(a)  As you “listen in” on that holy conversation, how might it change the things you “talk to God” about and which people you pray for?


 

(b)  Jesus prayed for protection for his disciples and for all believers in years to come.  During these difficult and worrying times, that protection could not be more relevant.  We must continue to pray for all who have been affected in any way by Covid 19 and for all who make decisions concerning our future as they begin to look towards lessening restrictions. 

 

(c)  Jesus prayed that all his disciples might be one.   He knew that Satan would attack them after he had gone and his main method of destroying them would be to divide them.   Please pray for unity amongst Christians – particularly thinking of the work of our local Churches Together (of which our Vicar is vice-chair).

 

(d)   Let us ponder the strength of Jesus’s companionship with the disciples over the three years while he was with them on earth.   Although it is difficult to have “social” companionship with those with whom we pray at this time, nevertheless, we must also continue to support them with phone conversations and other means of contact.   Pray for the plans being considered for re-entry into places of worship.  

 

(e)  Eternal life means knowing God.  Some people, even Christians, seem to think that “eternal life” simply means life after death.   But it doesn’t.  It is that of course, but it is also a life that begins here and now.  It is a quality of life more than a quantity.   What does “knowing God” mean to you and to me?  Make it a focus of thanksgiving.

 

(f)  In the Anglican Communion Service, the introduction to the confession describes Jesus as “our advocate in heaven”.  An advocate is someone who pleads our case, like a defence lawyer.  And in these verses, we see Jesus doing just that; praying for his disciples, both those who followed him then and those, like us, who would come after.  It’s a marvellous picture – Jesus is on our side and what-ever happens and at all times, Jesus is praying for us!  Alleluia!

 

Be assured of my thoughts and prayers

Mavis – Licensed Reader.





 

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter- 10th May 2020

John 14:1-14

Easter greetings and blessings as we continue to journey through this most wonderful of seasons together, in the best ways we can.

At the time of writing, the full social restrictions are still in place, but in the coming week that picture may change as the country awaits updates from the government on possible easing of some measures.

You may have learned by now that  the Bishop of Rochester, Bishop James, has developed symptoms of possible Covid-19 infection. He currently awaits a test. Having observed all the measures, he thinks the likely cause of infection was weekly shopping. With this in mind, and if restrictions ease somewhat in the coming days, please continue to be very vigilant in observing social distancing and hygiene routines. This is absolutely essential. It would be dreadful if there was a rise in infections. 

Bear in mind that the virus can survive on packaging for up to three days, so it is good practice to wipe all packaging with a damp cloth to destroy any virus that may linger on your shopping once you have brought it home. Wash hands afterwards, of course.

Clergy in this diocese now have authorisation to enter church alone (or with members of their household) to pray and celebrate the eucharist. I will be celebrating the eucharist in St Aidan’s this Sunday morning and each Sunday onwards. If you have requests for prayer which you would like me to offer at the altar, please telephone or email me with requests. Remember that you do not need to impart sensitive information unless you wish to, and intentions may be for yourself, others or concerns in society and the wider world. Please keep Bishop James, and all those who are ill, in your prayers.

 

John’s Gospel Reading

 

Today’s Gospel is John 14:1-14. This reading is very well known and includes the famous phrases of Jesus ‘In my father’s house there are many dwelling places’; ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ and ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’. 

It is a passage rich in meaning about who Jesus Christ is for the believing community. Remember that John’s  gospel was written last and the ‘picture’ of Christ has changed somewhat from that in Mark, the earliest gospel. By the time we get to John, we see Jesus as  a cosmic figure, in existence before the beginning of creation as the ‘Logos’, the ‘Word’ who was ‘with God’ and ‘without whom, not one thing came into being’ (John  Ch 1). 

We can see how the deliberations of the early Church over the divinity and humanity of Christ, across a number of ‘Ecumenical Councils’, were informed by these passages (and others). Many of the central doctrines of the Church were forged in these early centuries (the last major Church Council met in AD 451 by which time most of the great theological work had been done), and we have inherited the belief that Christ is and was timeless, that his nature is both truly human and truly divine. He is not a separate ‘Son of God’ but is fully God in the person of the Son- this is of course the foundation of the Trinity, the great doctrine of the faith held by the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches (and others).

 

During this season of restriction, distancing and disease, we have benefitted from these beliefs. Christ is at both and the same time with us and also with the Father in heaven. In this Easter season, we celebrate Christ’s victory over death. Christ enters, at that point, into his resurrection life, a life unlike human, earthbound life. We see this in his resurrection appearances in the gospels and Acts; how he is able to appear and disappear, how his appearance changes. This shows us that Jesus is no longer limited by time and space. The implications for the Church, and the local parish church are enormous during this current period.

We have long known and often talked about the ‘church beyond the walls’- well, we are encountering that now more than ever! The church has to be more like Jesus than ever before- unlimited by time and space, and able to adapt and change without compromising our essential nature. Surely, the internet has really allowed churches to transcend time and space by uploading worship and such ,which is accessible any time or anywhere; for those not ‘online’, the church has had to find ways to reach people and we continue to try our best to do that at St Aidan’s.

In any case, whether you are online or not, this is a time to really take to heart the transcendence of Jesus Christ- he is not limited to altar, pew and aumbry, but is with us in all times and all places. Likewise, it is a time to connect with the outreach of the church, and its possibilities for the future.

For me, though, despite the usefulness of the internet, there is no substitute for meeting together in church. Not only because we believe in incarnation- God with us in the flesh (as we are when we meet and never are though a computer screen)- but because church buildings, including our own dear St Aidan’s, are special places, they are holy places consecrated for worship and the sacraments. Let us pray that we may soon- when it is safe- gather again, and worship the divine Word together.

 

Please pray :

 

For those responsible for co ordinating the response to this pandemic- scientists, medics, politicians and other agencies.

 

For those suffering away from the glare of the media’s attention: For East Africa, as a second locust swarm continues to devastate crops, for tensions on the Korean peninsula, for refugees and victims of persecution.

 

For our parish of St Aidan, our borough of Gravesham and our Deanery of Gravesend, particularly those parishes in interregnum: Christ Church Milton, St Mary Greenhithe, Northfleet, Rosherville and Perry Street, and soon to be at Swanscombe.


 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

01474 352500

vicar.staidans@gmail.com.

 

 

John 10/1-10. Gospel for 4th Sunday of Easter- 3rd May

This week's reflection comes from the Rev'd David Scott.

The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

  1. I AM!  The name of God, Jehovah/Yahweh, given to Moses by God, means I AM WHO I AM or I WAS WHO I WAS or I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.  In other words, whatever we have or the world has gone through, God is here/there.  I AM!  In fact, 2 of the 7 famous I AM claims of Jesus are in this chapter: one, i.e. “I am the gate for the sheep” is in this passage; the other, i.e. “I am the good shepherd” comes a few verses later. So this is a real claim by Jesus to have that special relationship with the Father Creator- and hence to be the bridge between Heaven and earth, i.e, the bridge to Heaven for us.  “I AM THE GATE FOR THE SHEEP”, the gate through which His sheep, i.e. you and I can go safely into God’s sheepfold.  Hallelujah!

  2. Sometimes I watch for a while, before getting bored, those competitions where border collies have efficiency and obedience competitions as to which shepherd and dog herds the sheep into a pen better than others.  Perhaps, having owned a very intelligent border collie of our own, I have a special interest in those beautiful creatures.  The shepherds in Israel did NOT have border collies. No dogs! The shepherd would lead the sheep from pasture to pasture, the sheep trustingly following the shepherd to safe feeding areas or to a safe sheepfold.  “MY SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE”, said Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  Do we have a working knowledge of Jesus’ words in the Gospels?  They reflect the VOICE of Jesus.  We TRUST Him and follow Him through the trials and tests of life (“valley of the shadow of death” – this can be translated “the valley of deep shadows”) to the security of green pastures and fresh waters.  We trust and obey, as the spiritual song says in its chorus. 

  3. JOHN 10/11-14:  11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

  4. We trust and obey because Jesus knows His sheep and we know Jesus.  When we, the flock, are attacked, as is happening at the moment, we know the true Shepherd is protecting and is even ready to die for the sheep.  Jesus is at the gate and we are safe inside His kingdom.

  5. Jesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit, taught eternal truths by using familiar objects and activities going on in society around Him.  Sheep were massively important over the centuries from the Patriarchs to Jesus’ time.  E.g. The large number of sheep in the land can be understood when it is realized that Job had fourteen thousand sheep (Job. 42:12), and that King Solomon at the Temple's dedication, sacrificed one hundred and twenty thousand sheep (1Kings 8:63).  An ex parishioner of mine living down at St Mary’s Bay area takes his dog out and counts the sheep for the farmer, keeping an eye on them for him.  The obvious Psalm for this Sunday is Psalm 23:

  6. 1.The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    2     He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
    3     he refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths
        for his name’s sake.
    4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[a]
      I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
      your rod and your staff, they comfort me.                               5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
      You anoint my head with oil;  my cup overflows.
    6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

  7. Father, I thank You for being the door of Your sheep. Lord, I adore You because You hear me, and through You I am saved! The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Lord You have come so that I may have life and have it more abundantly! Thank You for being the good shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep! You are not a hireling who sees His sheep as a job, but You are the good shepherd who sees His sheep as His children. So on this good shepherd Sunday, I thank You because, You know Your sheep and are known by Your own. Thank You Lord! Amen

  8. PRAYER TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD.

Lord of the 23rd Psalm,
I have known death,
and you have refreshed my soul.
I have known fear,
and you have comforted me.
I have known hunger,
and you have set a feast before me.
In the darkest valley
no calamity of humankind or nature has separated us.

Teach me to walk as you walk
Beside those in mourning
so that they will know joy,
Beside those in fear
that they will know comfort,
Beside those in hunger
that they will feast until their cup overflows.

As your goodness and love follow me,
May mine follow my neighbour
That the threat of the worst terrors
May turn to the knowledge of the comforts of the house of the Lord,
Where you have invited us to dwell forever.

And so let me strive to help build on earth
What you have promised us in heaven.
In the face of all calamity, present and yet to come,
Let me lead my neighbour beside quiet waters,
The quiet waters of the Good Shepherd.

AMEN

 

Third Sunday of Easter- 26th April 2020

 

Greetings and blessings to you on the Third Sunday of Easter.

I hope that you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well. 

 

Please continue to pray for the world and its needs as scientists, medics, governments and many others battle to prevail against the coronavirus. Let us remember, though that we are in Eastertide and despite the anxiety and strangeness of these days, we still cry ‘alleluia!’ at the great triumph of life over death, won for us by Christ. Be sure to give thanks and praise to Christ’s glorious name this week, and in the days and weeks ahead.

 

I am delighted that Mavis is providing our reflection this week and I thank her for her carefully prepared thoughts on the dynamic and invigorating story of the encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

 

Also this week, we have an Easter message and prayers  from the Rt Rev’d Solomon Scott-Manga, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Bo, Sierra Leone. I am grateful to Bishop Solomon for agreeing to give us his reflections; please keep him and the diocese there in your prayers. Bishop Solomon is the brother of Janet, a member of our congregation.

 

In future weeks, we can look forward to writings from Dr Peter Harris and the Rev’d David Scott, who, alongside Mavis and myself, will be providing monthly reflections as we journey through ‘Lockdown’ together. I am hoping to include resources for families as we go forward.

 

Naturally, I am monitoring advice from the government and the Church of England, and when- eventually- a plan emerges for reopening churches, I will let you know how we will approach that at St Aidan’s.

In the meantime, this comes with every blessing,

 

Fr Michael


 

From Mavis Prater

Third Sunday of Easter:

Luke 24: 13-35 – “The Road to Emmaus”

What a beautiful, human story – one to which we can all relate.

In the afternoon of the first Easter, Cleopas and his companion are walking together to Emmaus, possibly returning home after having travelled to Jerusalem for Passover. They were trying to piece together what had happened, mulling over Jesus’s betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion, and then the strange tale of the women at the tomb. They are deeply saddened by

Jesus’s death – a dear friend – and together sharing the sorrow they feel as a result of the recent events. Life had now no meaning for them. To their surprise, a third person has joined them and starts to ask questions – the friends are irritated and express blunt surprise ‘Are you so much a stranger and

so isolated in the city that you have heard nothing about what has been happening’? “What things” the stranger asks.

The deep disappointment felt by the friends comes across clearly in their answer. How poignant are the words ‘we had hoped’ (v.21). After three days nothing had happened. I can imagine that Jesus must have had a twinkle in his eye as he gently chastised them for their lack of faith (v.25). He then goes on to give them the most wonderful Bible study – no wonder their hearts burn

within them (v.32) and they long to hear more.

By this time they had arrived at the edge of the village – the stranger went to go on ahead, but the friends urge him to stay and eat with them as it was getting late. He does, and it is then, at the “breaking of the bread”, that Cleopas and his companion recognise that the stranger who had been accompanying them along the road was none other than Jesus himself.

 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

 

Let us now look at these verses a little more deeply, and see how we can relate them to our lives and use them in reflection and prayer.

(a) Many of us, I am sure, have experienced the sensation of a supportive figure alongside us in our darkest moments. (Think of the popularity of the Footprints story, printed on so many prayer cards). Just as these two friends walking along the Emmaus Road didn’t recognise Jesus, so we are often so caught up in our own problems and sadness that we do not realise that God

has been with us all the way. We sometimes look back and wonder ‘how on earth did I get through that?’ It is when we reach the later stage of our journey and look back that we can recognise that God was there with us all the way.

 

Lord God, you are with me, now and always, even when it seems hard to sense your presence. Help me to be open to you as I travel along. Amen.

 

(b) There is sheer despair in the simple phrase ‘we had hoped’ (v.21). Jesus’s followers were looking to him as their longed for Messiah – now all they had hoped for was gone. Think of your own personal disappointments – a job that didn’t materialise - a holiday you were looking forward to that was cancelled at

the last minute – a sudden bereavement. The long and excited period of anticipation was suddenly destroyed.

Have you ever said “we had hoped …..? What happened next? After a while, when things had died down and the dust had settled, could you look back and see a reason behind it, and be grateful for it?

 

(c) Jesus walked with the two friends. He opened the scriptures to them, reinforcing the continuity of prophecy, testimony and witness right from Moses to their times. During this period of “lock down”, we are all having the most unusual experience of finding time on our hands. Could this be an opportunity for us to take advantage of the many teaching aids that can be

found on the internet or may be read a book which would help us to study and have “our hearts burn within us”?

 

Thank you Lord, for the gift of the Scriptures. As I reflect on the Bible, give me the faith to receive your message; the wisdom to know what it means, and the courage to put it into practice. Amen

(a prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book)

 

(d) At the end of their walk, the stranger was seemingly going on, but the friends then uttered what were probably the most important words of their lives – “stay with us”. Jesus always waits for an invitation – he never enters where he is not welcome. Think also of the Book of Revelation (3:20). Jesus

never forces himself upon us. Unless we invite him he will always be a stranger but once we invite him into our lives he will make himself fully known.

“Father of all, we give you thanks and praise, that when we were still far

off you met us in your Son and brought us home.”

(Alternative Service Book, post communion prayer)


 

(e) “You’ll never walk alone” from “Carousel” is now synonymous with the epic fund raising efforts made by Capt. Tom Moore. Those words are indeed true because God is always with us, but we must still be open to his presence

and alert to the stranger who comes near and walks with us.

 

Dear Jesus, walk with me until my eyes are opened. I want no other destination but the one your will has designed for me. Amen.

 

Just another point which I have pondered while preparing these reflections.

Why, I wonder, did Jesus reveal himself only to his disciples?

Why could he not have shown himself to those who judged him in the Sanhedrin or to Pilate to condemn him for his cowardly injustice?

My thoughts and prayers are with you all during these challenging times, and I am so grateful for the ways in which we can support one another either through telephone calls or the internet. Modern technology does indeed have its uses!!!

 

I wish you all God’s richest blessings

Mavis

(Licensed Reader)










 

 

From: Rt. Rev’d. Solomon  Scott-Manga

Bishop,  Anglican Diocese of Bo

Text: 1Corinthians 12:26 – If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

Theme: “Coming together in pain and Joy”.

Today my Brothers and Sisters the entire world is sick because of this Covid – 19 ravaging the world.  We are totally confused why this is happening to humanity, but when we are down and out, and we cannot do it on our own we must turn our plans, our destinies and ourselves over to the Lord.  Our Lord and Saviour Jesus manifest his love for us in joy and pain.  He ate with sinners and wept with Mary and Martha when they reported their brother’s death.

What is your response when a fellow Christian is honoured? How do you respond when someone is suffering? We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  (Romans 12:15).  Too often, unfortunately, we are jealous of those who rejoice and apathetic towards those who weep.  Believers are in the world together – there is no such thing as private or individualistic Christianity.  We shouldn’t stop with enjoying only our own relationship with God, we need to be involved in the lives of others.

Therefore, Paul stresses the importance of our relationships with each other and with God.  We must not love during good times only, but during difficult times as well.  The Covid – 19 has brought fear in our lives today.  But with Jesus in the Boat, the storm will be calm.  It is our responsibility today to accept Jesus as our personal Saviour. Jesus loves us unconditionally; therefore we must endeavor to do the same.

Constantly ask God to be your helper.  It happened for Fontella Bass.  After her hit record “Rescue me”, she went for 25years without any success in her carrier.  She was broke and helpless, until she decided to turn her life over to the Lord in prayer.  Soon after her acknowledgement of broken relationships with friends, family and God, she found that God could come to her rescue; she renewed relationships with God and with humanity.  Paul reminds us that faith looks up, and that we need each other in joy and in pain.

God through Christ rejoices with us but most of all ask that we bring our burden to Him and He will give us rest. Christians all over the world today are praying for God’s intervention in our situation.

Like the market day, that brings people together including farmers, clothing sellers, blacksmiths and even entertainers.  Each person brings something to the market that is essential for the community.  Like the market the functioning body of Christ is made up of people with many different skills and abilities.  These spiritual craftsmen includes apostles, prophets, teachers those who do miracles, provide healing and serve other ministries (1Cor. 12:28).  The services they provide to the Church include Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, Discernment, Speaking and interpreting languages and other special services (1Cor. 12:8-10).

Practically everyone in the market brings something that will benefit others.  In a similar way every believer has been given some gift – some special ability by the Holy Spirit to expand, strengthen or encourage the Church. 

These talents may be exercised in many different ways.  For example, one having the gift of evangelism may evangelize through preaching, writing, speaking individually with people. 

All Christians must seek to discover what special gift or ability the Holy Spirit has given them.  They should seek to develop and use that ability just as each person brings some necessary item or service to the market, let us bring to the body of Christ the gift God has given to use so it will expand and mature. 

Finally brethren, if we lack the knowledge to know what our abilities and gifts are, then let us ask God to reveal them to us.  Let us use our gifts to rescue the suffering world.  Each of us has something to do. 

Let us Pray. 

Our God and our Father, maker and redeemer of the world we come before you today with heavy hearts.  Lord, we thank you for sparing our lives.  Abba Father, look upon us with Mercy, forgive us from our evil ways.  Lord do not punish us because of our wickedness; have mercy upon us,  Oh Lord. 

As a nations we commit our leaders both Political and Religious to you.  We pray for your wisdom, knowledge and understanding.  

Guide their paths as they lead their people, give them the courage to withstand this difficult moment in the world.  Lord manifest your power in their lives, thank you Lord for your faithfulness in keeping and protecting your people.  O Lord our God, I beseech you to preserve and protect the entire people in the world from this Pandemic Covid-19, let the Covid-19 Pandemic channeled against your people become obsolete and expire now in Jesus name.  O God arise, protect and preserve the entire world from this Pandemic.  Those who are hospitalized because of Covid-19 grant them your healing in the Name of Jesus.  Those who have died because of the Pandemic grant them eternal rest. 

Let the blood of Jesus and the Holy Ghost Fire build great walls roundabout everything and people.  Thank your Lord for answered prayer, for in Jesus Name I pray.  Amen. 

God bless you. 

+Solomon





 


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