Reflections and Prayers

Sunday next before Lent- 14th February, 2021

Mark 9:2-9

 

Warm greetings to you after a week of snow here in Gravesend!

Today is of course also St Valentine’s Day- my prayers and blessings for all your loved ones and for those whom you love but see no longer because of death. Let us praise God for the gift of love.

 

A new Vicar for Christ Church

I am delighted to announce that the Rev’d Andrew Davey is to be the new Vicar of Christ Church, Milton. Andrew is currently a priest in the Diocese of Southwark and before ordination was a church-based community worker. Andrew hopes to be instituted in May this year. Please pray for him, his wife Alison and their adult children.

 

Lent

Lent begins this Wednesday on Ash Wednesday, 17th February. I will be posting ashes to those who have requested them in time for Wednesday and will be celebrating a simple Eucharist on the day at 9.30am on the parish Facebook page. I know that not everyone is a ‘Facebook person’ but I am also aware that a few of you have recently mastered visiting the page, and you do not have to be registered with Facebook to view the page. If you go onto Google (or whatever search engine you use) and type ‘St Aidan’s Church Gravesend Facebook’ and the link will come up. Just click on that and the page will appear. If you visit the page a few moments before the service starts it will be begin playing. If you watch it later, just click on the ‘play’ arrow on the video. In any case, I pray that you will have a good and holy Lent. I recommend that you make some time to read the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial and death in one of the gospels, and  pray for those who suffer injustice and execution in our own time.

I will be emailing out the resources for the Lent course soon to those who have asked for them.

 

Peter Harris Seminar- Zoom session for conversation

For those of you who have received the resources for Peter’s seminar, there will be a Zoom session on Saturday 20th February at 10am. I will send out the link nearer the time. The session is there as a chance to talk over your responses to the seminar and to ask Peter any questions. My thanks again to Peter for providing such an interesting topic for us to think about. I will post the resources on the Faith and Spirituality section of the parish website for anyone who would like to read them over at leisure.


 

Mark 9:2-9

Today’s reading recounts the events on a mountaintop which are usually entitled the Transfiguration, a term which means to metamorph into something else. 

The story is well-known and is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Unusually, all three accounts very closely resemble each other (often the stories differ between gospels in varying ways) with only minor differences. This suggests to us that the three writers felt the importance of this story and its message.

What is that message? After all, it is a very dramatic story shrouded in mystery and a whole host of interpretations. In such a case as this, it is probably best to look at the ‘facts’ of the story: Jesus ascends a mountain with Peter, James and John. Whilst there, Jesus’ clothes become dazzling white and Moses and Elijah appear beside Jesus. The three figures speak with one another whilst the three disciples look on, astonished. Peter (always the first to spring into action) offers to set up ‘tents’ for Jesus, Moses and Elijah; presumably in reference to the Jewish feast of Tabernacles (tents), which recalled the time the Israelites lived in tents during the time of the Exodus, or to the time in Hebrew scripture when the ‘Name of the Lord’ dwelt in a Tabernacle. In any case, the gospel writers tell us that Peter offered to do this  because he didn’t know what to say-the disciples are afraid.

Then comes the cloud which overshadows the scene, and the voice of God is heard, commanding those present to listen to Jesus, who is God’s ‘beloved’ (in Luke, Jesus is ‘chosen’). In each version of the story, Jesus and the three disciples then return down the mountain, after Jesus forbids them to speak of what they have seen. After the Transfiguration experience, all four men are changed- Jesus, Peter, James and John. We could say, then, that the transfiguring does not apply to Jesus only; yes, Jesus’ physical form is changed on the mountain, but the very lives of the disciples are changed, too. They will never be the same again.

This part of the gospel narrative is charged with intense drama- Peter has just confessed that Jesus is the Messiah; the effects of this understanding would be reason enough for their heads to be spinning and their hearts pounding, but to see Jesus changed before them, glowing white- then to see two figures of enormous importance to Jewish tradition- Moses and Elijah- and then to hear the very voice of God- well, we can only wonder at what this did to them! Not only that, but with their hearts and minds bursting with all this, Jesus tells them not to tell a soul- how they must have longed to shout from the rooftops, or at least have a chance to talk it all over with the other disciples. 

These two aspects- the drama of the event and the forbidding of its broadcast ‘locate’ the event theologically.

The dramatic experience takes place on top of a ‘high mountain’ (probably Mt Hermon. Tradition has suggested Mt Tabor but this is too far away to fit the order of events within a realistic time scale).

 

The Old Testament often features mountains as places where people communicate with God. Moses himself received the Ten Commandments on Mt Sinai (and descended the mountain with his face ‘shining white’); Elijah met with God on Mt Horeb and received his commission to anoint kings and prophets (there, God spoke to Elijah in the ‘silence’ which followed a raging wind, earthquake and fire), the Temple was set upon a ‘mount’ in Jerusalem, marking mountains out as places of worship. They are also a sanctuary- Elijah sheltered from the earthquake in a  mountain cave, and, much earlier in the Old Testament, the ark  of Noah finally rested on a mountain top when the flood waters receded. The significance of the Transfiguration taking place in a mountain setting is not be understated, then. It represents the importance of what God is doing with Jesus- revealing him- in a changed state- so that the disciples may see who he ‘really is’.

Secondly, Jesus’ command not to speak of the event encapsulates it in time. Jesus is not content for his Messiahship to be known yet, so those who witnessed the Transfiguration don’t get to tell all and sundry. This also reveals that we ought not to envy Peter, James and John their experience, or wonder ‘why doesn’t God do dramatic things in my life?’ because the event itself is less important than what it signifies. Peter’s anxious reaction of offering to put up shelters for the three holy figures is a natural human response to ‘make a claim’ to experience, to plant something real in the ground that testifies to that experience; it is like Peter scrawling ‘Peter woz ere’ in marker pen on a rock on the mountain- but again- this is not what the incident is about. God reveals Jesus as the Messiah, as his Son and his Chosen. He exhorts those to ‘listen’ to Jesus, not to do anything else. 

This then, turns that exhortation to us- we can also listen to Jesus, and be open to joining with him in transfiguration, in consciously seeking to be changed spiritually and wholly. Pray then, that all people may quiet our tendency to ‘leave a mark’ of our witness to Christ and instead listen to divine promptings from Christ. We can receive these in visions and dramatic experiences (it does happen!), but also through one another, through our experiences of everyday life, through the pages of the Bible and other writings, and it is worth noting that since God has done these revelatory things then, in time, the whole of the world has been transfigured, and whilst there are many holy sites and special places in the world, we can commune with God anywhere- the mountaintop may well be your living room!

 

Prayers

For all followers of Jesus Christ, that their journey of discovery will ever enrich and surprise them.

 

For the Church, that it may be a fitting place to encounter God, and for our homes that may be sanctuaries and places of worship and praise.

 

For our parish, its schools and businesses and for those who are housebound.

 

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

 

For the repose of the souls of the recently departed, and those whose anniversary occurs around this time. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory. Amen.

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

 

Second Sunday before Lent- 7th February, 2021

John 1: 1-14

 

Grace and peace to you in the name of Christ the Lord.

Our gospel reading today is the powerful and arresting ‘prologue’ to John’s gospel which introduces us to the idea that Jesus is the ‘Word’ of God who was with God before creation. My thanks to the Rev’d David Scott for his bracing thoughts this week on that dramatic gospel, and on how we can listen to that Word.

 

Here are some reminders of things coming up:

 

Peter Harris Seminar

A number of you have asked for the materials for Peter’s seminar on the ‘finality of Christ among the gods’ These will be emailed to you in time for Saturday 13th February, the day when we would have met in church for the seminar. If you would like them, or a hard copy if you are not online, please let me know.

Ash Wednesday- 17th February

We will not be in church this year but I hope to provide as much as I can to enable you to begin Lent prayerfully. There will be a eucharist on our Facebook page at 9.30am on the day. I am also offering a pack with prayers and a small amount of ash for you to pray at home and mark yourselves or one another at home with the cross on the forehead. Please ask if you would like these dropped off to you.

Lent Course- 21st February-21st March

Again, we cannot meet in person for this course, but I have prepared a version that you can use at home whether you are an internet user or not. For those who are online, there will be a fifty minute session on each Sunday at 7pm on ‘Zoom’. Night Prayer will follow on Facebook at 8pm. I have made some adjustments to the course, and it will be focussing on making a journey with God through Lent, looking at God’s nature and seeing how that is shown in Jesus. We will be using prayers and readings from the Book of Common Prayer. A number of you have already asked for this but do let me know if you would like the resources.

 

Church opening and the Covid situation

St Aidan’s will remain closed throughout February and I cannot predict beyond that at this stage. It is encouraging to hear of developments in the effectiveness of vaccines and that the severity of the virus may have lessened a bit, but we must remain responsible and cautious.

 

The APCM -Annual Meeting

The diocese has asked parishes to hold this year’s annual meeting by the end of May. I have set a date of Sunday 23rd May (Pentecost) at 11.30am. I am hopeful that we will be able to meet in church as we did last year, observing social distancing. If that is not possible, we will hold the meeting online. People who do not have the internet can ‘dial in’ on a special number and hear the meeting. My thanks to Mike for the work he will now be doing to prepare for the meeting. Those of you who would normally write a report about various activities will not need to do so as we have not held these activities over the year. It will be a rather brief meeting I think! However, it is essential ( and a legal requirement) that we hold the meeting so that the PCC can be elected. We are still looking for a churchwarden to work alongside Dennis and myself. Please let me or Mike Welch know if you are interested.

Despite the closure of the church building, St Aidan’s has nonetheless been active in a range of ways and there is certainly a good deal of hope for the immediate future. I will update on this at the meeting. It is a way off yet, but if you intend to attend, please let me know so we can monitor capacity. I can be reached on 01474 352500/vicar.staidans@gmail.com.



 

Prayers

For Biblical scholars and theological educators, that we may learn more of God through the scriptures.

 

For those who have felt their faith strengthened through online worship.

 

For our parish community, schools and nursery.

In the Anglican Communion Cycle of Prayer we pray for The Anglican Church of Burundi.

 

For the souls of those who have died recently, and 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



 

John 1:1-14

L O R D  O F  A L L  C R E A T I O N :

John chapter 1:

“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

So begins the Gospel for the 2nd Sunday before Lent. 

Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels start with stables, shepherds, angels, wise men etc.  John starts with the Jesus who was around before creation began and even being part of the creation process.  That is quite a leap of faith.  Cute baby/Lord of all creation.  What a jump!  The epistle also gives us what is probably Paul’s most exalted picture of Jesus:  Colossians 1:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 

18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Co-creator, Image of the invisible God, head of the Church and Jesus will be the agent through whom ALL THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH will be reconciled to Himself.   Oh wow!  What a mighty Saviour and Lord we worship and honour!

The symbol of John’s Gospel is usually an eagle because John takes us to a soaring Jesus, hovering over creation and caring for all that goes on in the earth.  It is a challenging picture.

 

W O R D   M A D E   F L E S H !

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.  What would we do without words?  Words communicate.  I read somewhere that ladies use, on average, 3 times as many words a day as men do.  But I wouldn’t dare mention that here.  However, whoever we are, male or female, we all use words to give and receive information.  Even the famous Professor Stephen Hawkins had to find ways of communicating by using some brilliant technology. (RIP).

So God needs to communicate with us.  How should we hear God?

 

Creation.

Psalm 19 begins:

“1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 

2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 

3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 

4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

David Attenborough is an atheist as far as I know, but you don’t have to believe in God to be a prophet.  He issues warning after warning about how humans are destroying the creation about which the Bible says that God looked on and said that He was very pleased.

Let us hear the Word of God through His creation.  Take time to appreciate it and even praise God through it, hearing His Word through earthly nature and the stars in the heavens.   Psalm 95:

   

3 For the Lord is the great God,

    the great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,

    and the mountain peaks belong to him.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

    and his hands formed the dry land.

How privileged we are to have so many travel documentaries through a remote control.  Even if we can’t travel, we can see scenes from around the world and praise God for speaking to us through it all.

 

The Words of Jesus and Scripture.

Take great care to listen to God through Jesus and Word speaking to us in the Gospels – not just to read it but listen to the Word of God speaking through the words.  Even if people don’t worship Jesus as Lord and God, it is generally believed that He was the greatest teacher of ethics and morals who ever lived.

Take care to hear Jesus, not forgetting that Jesus the Word speaks to us right through the scriptures.

 

Words from others.

Take care to listen to those around you.  Sometimes God will speak to you through wise, comforting, challenging words from a friend, preacher or even a stranger.  Once, when still a teenager at work in Durban, people around me seemed to me to be avoiding me.  An older lady work colleague took me aside and gave me a little talk, the gist of which was: “You go around this place as if you own it.”  I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I adjusted my attitudes somehow and people began to relate to me better.

An American pastor was once asked how he got his teaching across to his congregation.  He said:  “First I tells ‘em what I’m going to tells ‘em; then I tells ‘em; then I tells ‘em what I told ‘em.”  If God is trying to tell us something, let the Word of God speak to us.  Don’t make Him keep repeating Himself!



 

Listening prayer

 

Heavenly Father,

 

I wait upon you.

I pause, still my mind and still my heart.

I wait upon you.

I stop, and listen beyond the everyday.

I wait upon you.

I rest, and allow my soul to have space.

 

I wait upon you.

Quiet, at rest, held.

I wait upon you.

And call Abba, Abba Father.

I know you have searched me, and you know me.

I know you are the beginning and the end.

I know you are the Redeemer.

I wait upon you,

Allowing your grace to penetrate my whole being.

And in this place, close, protected and eternal

I find that this grace renews my strength,

Wipes away my tears,

And promises new hope.

 

I wait upon you.

 

Listen to Jesus in the Garden

“I speak in the stillness of the morning. On a cool and quiet summer morning before the heat of the day and the hustle and bustle I speak words that refresh and give perspective.

“In my garden where flowers are blooming in my gentle rays of morning light to show forth my glory I speak words that beautify. In my garden where trees are standing tall in my sunshine and lifting their branches in

praise to me I speak words that enliven.

“The birds know my voice. I put the song in their mouths and they sing happily from branch to branch, each in its own beautiful voice. The butterflies know my garden. I put the flutter in their flight and they dance playfully from flower to flower, each in its own beautiful way.

“Come to me in my garden of delights. Don’t hurry into the day’s work. Don’t try to get a head start on your To Do List. Linger with me in my garden awhile. See how the birds and butterflies find refuge in my garden. Listen how they sing for me and for you. See how they play with me and with you.

“I am with you always but here in the garden I am present to you in a special way in the stillness of the morning. Join in with the birds and butterflies that delight to find refuge in the beauty of my garden. Sing and dance with me and many others will join our garden song.”

Rev’d David Scott

 

Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas)- 31st January, 2021

    

Luke 2: 22-40.

 

Blessings to you on this day of Candlemas- may you know  Christ the Light in your life now and always, and may the world, so often shrouded in darkness, be bathed in the light of Christ. 

My thanks to Mavis for this week’s wonderful reflection on Candlemas.

 

Well, a month ago, the 31st December, many said ‘goodbye’ to 2020 with something of a feverish sigh of relief and looked ahead to 2021 with some hope that there might be some hope this year. How are you feeling, a month on? Many unknowns open up before us but let us hope that some of those unknowns become opportunities to grow communities, strengthen friendship and spread encouragement. Whilst church remains closed for now, the online broadcast of the Eucharist will continue for the duration of our closure for those who wish to access that. The PCC will consider opening church when we feel it is safe to do so. That time is still a way off yet.

 

In the meantime…

 

Ash Wednesday-If you live in the parish,please let me know if you would like to receive a small packet of ashes for Ash Wednesday. These will come with a sheet with prayers and readings so you can observe the beginning of Lent at home in a traditional way. I will celebrate the eucharist at 9.30am on the parish Facebook page on Ash Wednesday. 


 

Parish giving-St Aidan’s is in need of any financial donations possible as we navigate the financial challenge of the pandemic in which the church hall is not in use. This is our main source of income and has been largely cut off for nearly a year. On behalf of our treasurer can I thank those of you who have generously continued to support St Aidan’s, and can I entreat those who have not, or not with regularity, to please resume if you possibly can. Currently the best way to donate is through a standing order via your bank. Payment details available from me (vicar.staidans@gmail.com). Alternatively, there is a ‘donate to us’ link on the parish website with a very easy to use procedure. Gift Aid options are available. Cheques (St Aidan’s PCC) or cash can be posted through my door and will be processed as soon as we can. It is no exaggeration to say that the church is only just surviving financially, so thank you for anything that you can give.

 

Peter Harris’ Seminar-Peter’s seminar The finality of Christ is available in the form of an emailed presentation with audio of Peter talking. There is an accompanying write-up of the main points of the talk for those who would like to read that too or who are not online. The resources are available for use from the 13th February. Please let me know if you would like them. A chance to talk it all over afterwards via ‘Zoom’ is being planned. If you are not online but would like the resources in paper form, please ask and we will get them to you if you live in the parish. Having had a preview, I can say it is another very stimulating topic, put across in Peter’s thorough but clear manner. I recommend it to you.




 

Prayers

 

For those rediscovering their faith during this pandemic, and for those finding their faith tested.

 

For families affected by the virus, for healthcare professionals, scientists and chaplains.

 

In thanksgiving for the coming Spring, the signs of which we see around us, and for the sense of hope this gives us.

 

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

 

For the repose of the souls of those who have died recently. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory.

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael





 

Luke 2:22-40

 

God placed his son within a devout family.  These verses tell us that Mary and Joseph were doing what all Jewish parents were required to do.   By Jewish law, Mary could not enter a holy place or touch anything holy until she had given thanks to God for her first-born and offered the accustomed sacrifice.  Mary came to be purified, and with Joseph, to offer two doves.   The offering of two doves was known to be the “offering of the poor” – those who were well-off would have offered a lamb.   

 

This event would have been an everyday occurrence in the temple for couples and their child – there was nothing unusual about it.  That is, until Simeon comes on to the scene and now we realise that it is far from the “norm”.  I remember making the point in my reflections for the Sunday after Christmas, when we were thinking about the shepherds, that the most likely source of Luke’s information must have been Mary herself, and surely again in the detail given in these verses the source could only have been Mary.

 

In Simeon, we have the picture of an old man, a good man, a holy man, living each day in sure and certain hope that he would see the Messiah before he died.  That hope sustained him, day in and day out.  He knew that in God’s time the promise to him would be fulfilled and that was sufficient for him.   Guided by the Holy Spirit he was in the right place at the right time when that day came.  Through the insight of the Holy Spirit he recognised in that very ordinary looking family the one he was waiting for.  He held in his arms the child and experienced the promise fulfilled.  Now he could leave this life, content in peace and joy, as the Saviour, the light and glory of the world, began his life on earth.    Simeon praised God in the words which we know as the Nunc Dimittis (v.29-32).   This delightful prayer explains what Luke tells us about him at the beginning of our reading today – he was waiting for the consolation of Israel – a description of the Messiah.   But there is more.  The Jews looked upon the Christ as their Saviour – but Simeon describes him as a ‘light for the revelation to the Gentiles’.  Jesus would not be the exclusive property of one nation – he came to be the Saviour of the world.  

 

There are times in our lives when we urgently crave for consolation – probably none more so than now when many are feeling afraid, anxious, lonely, have suffered bereavement.  Simeon found that God’s consolation – his comfort – is to be found in a person – his son Jesus.  

 

So Simeon then, took the precious child into his arms and gave thanks for him.  This reminds us of the time when Jesus himself took bread and wine and gave thanks to God and said “Do this in remembrance of me”.  Let us pray it wont be too long before our churches are open again and we can take him – the Bread of life into our hands and bodies and feed upon him in our hearts with thanksgiving every time we go to Holy Communion.

 

But Simeon has surprising words for the mother of Jesus.  He looks to the future as he foresees that the one who brings comfort will also bring discomfort – his future teaching and ministry will shine a light on injustices and show things as they really are.   Yes, we know from the gospel stories that these prophetic words became a reality.  But we also know that because of his death and resurrection, we can experience his comfort most often, not as he helps us bypass anxiety and pain, but as he accompanies us through them.

 

Our focus is now turned to Anna.  In just three verses, we can learn a lot about this elderly widow.  She possessed divine insight into things not usually seen by others.  She recognised the holy child in the temple and was prepared to proclaim his significance to others.  Anna had been a widow for many years but instead of staying at home moping over her lot, she became a devoted worshipper in the temple, apparently attending services of both morning and evening prayer.   Like Simeon, her heart and mind were ready for the coming of Jesus, so she too welcomed the holy child.

 

There are, I would suggest, two kinds of widows.  Those who, having led busy lives, after the death of their partner, withdraw from life completely – becoming bitter and complaining.  Others, like Anna, find joy and comfort in their prayers and worship and in sharing their faith with others.   

 

Having had the experience of widowhood myself, I know how easy it is on an “off day” to try to withdraw from life – especially during “lockdown” and the long dark cold days of winter when even the thought of leaving the security of home to go for a solitary walk is far from inviting.   However, at times like these, I am so grateful to God for giving me a positive attitude to life – he makes me aware of my many blessings and gives me the incentive to get up and get going and I find his peace

 

Having a positive attitude is half the battle isn’t it.  It is always good to have something to look forward to as Simeon did.  Doubtless God still has many joyful surprises in store for us.  May I suggest we use the words of this well-known hymn as a prayer that the Holy Spirit will lead us to them at the right time.

 

Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us o’er the world’s tempestuous sea;

Guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us, for we have no help but thee.

Yet possessing every blessing if our God our Father be.

 

Mavis Prater

Reader.


 

 

 

Third Sunday of Epiphany- 24th January, 2021

John 2:1-11

 

Grace and peace to you. I hope that you are coping as we move through the difficult beginning of 2021.

My thanks to Pastor Alfred Osinibe for his stimulating reflection on the Wedding at Cana which you can read below. I receive many comments asking me to pass on thanks to our reflection writers and I continue to be so grateful for the range and scope of these. Next week, Mavis Prater will be taking us through Candlemas

Lent 2021

Ash Wednesday falls on 17th February this year; I think it unlikely that we will be in church for the traditional Holy Communion with imposition of ashes but let’s wait and see. If we are not in church by then I will offer you the chance to receive the ashes at home along with readings and prayers. This will enable you to begin Lent prayerfully and, if you wish, to mark yourself on the forehead with the sign of the cross in ash (the ash is made by burning last year’s palm crosses). Alternatively you can sprinkle the ashes on the crown of your head. If you live with others at home then naturally you can mark one another in this way (including children if they want to).

If you live in the parish and would like to receive this, please email or ring me by Sunday 14th February so I can prepare the materials, which will be dropped off to you. On Ash Wednesday I will celebrate the eucharist at 9.30am on the Facebook page which can be viewed here

 

Lent Course

I am hoping to hold a five-week Lent course on Sunday evenings at 7pm from 21st February to 21st March. This course will consist of self reflection and meditation on God’s love for you. It will involve spending time reading and in prayer during the week, with the Sunday sessions as a time to consider and explore our discoveries. The sessions will be online as it will not be advisable to meet in person. Again, if you are interested in this, please email or phone me. I will produce a version for folk in the parish who are not online so that they can participate at home.

 

Peter Harris seminar

Many of you have enjoyed Peter’s ‘Saturday morning seminars’ (not least the French coffee and pastries which Peter tends to bring!) and he is preparing one ready for Saturday 13th February  on the topic of The Finality of Christ among the gods. This session will explore Christian ideas around living in a multi-faith world. Unfortunately we cannot meet in church (there go the coffee and pastries…) but Peter has kindly prepared materials which can be emailed for people to read at home. Peter has also recorded a talk which accompanies the resources but there is also a write-up of Peter’s talk for those who do not have audio or who are not online. Once again, please let me know if you would like the resources. I am very grateful to Peter for doing this for us- it is good to know we can exercise our brains a bit!

I am also delighted to report that Peter has been elected by the PCC to serve as a Deanery Synod rep. I thank him again for serving our deanery and parish in this way.

 

School Governance and theological teaching

Very sadly, the Chair of governors at St George’s secondary school has died. John Harding was a devoted servant of the school as a teacher, deputy head, governor and finally Chair. He will be missed. The current vice-chair has offered to be interim Chair for the remainder of this year and I have offered to be vice-chair (I am already a governor of the school). I have since been elected to this role, which  continues the presence of Anglican clergy in senior governance roles at the school. In addition to that I am also the community governor for Tymberwood Academy (formerly Raynehurst primary). I am soon to begin teaching a course at St Augustine’s College of Theology (based at West Malling) which stretches from March to June.  These are good roles for me to occupy in the community, deanery and wider church but I want to assure you that St Aidan’s remains my priority and I would not assume these other duties if they compromised my calling as a parish priest.  Clergy are, nowadays, expected to have areas of work outside of the parish and it seems like education is mine. Once a teacher always a teacher!



 

The Rev’d Lawrence Smith RIP

The former rector of Northfleet and my training incumbent, Fr Lawrence Smith, has died. Fr Lawrence had been unwell for some time and sadly never got to really enjoy the retirement he had longed for after a forty-year ministry spanning work in the dioceses of Canterbury and London and of course Rochester. Fr Lawrence had a missional heart, a love for those in deep need and insisted that everybody deserved a chance. He was a bachelor, but his elderly mother, his sister and all the family will surely appreciate your prayers.

 

Funeral of Joan Howard RIP

Many of you know Joan, who was dedicated to St Aidan’s over many years and who died before Christmas. Her funeral is to take place on the 12th February at the Thamesview Crematorium at 12 noon. Please do pray at that time if you can. The funeral will be ‘live streamed’ on the internet so that people not in attendance can still view the service. Further details on how to do this will follow.



 

Prayers

For the United States of America following the inauguration of the new president, and for the relationship that nation has with the wider world.

For those affected by Covid-19, including those whose livelihoods are in peril, and for those isolating at home over many months.

For our parish, schools, nursery and the residents of St Gregory’s court.

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

For those who have died recently or whose anniversary of death occurs at this time. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory. Amen.

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

 

John 2:1-11 Key Points

  • There was a wedding and Jesus was invited, the wine ran out, and Mary noticed the need and brought it to Jesus' attention.

  • Jesus said His hour has not yet come. Mary said they should do whatever Jesus asked them to do.

  • Where Jesus was going to bring the solution through was in six traditional pots in the temple, but He needed servants that will fill the jar and draw out to others.

  • The steward did not know how this wine came about, but the servants that filled the jars and drew out of these jars knew where it came from. This became the first miracle of Jesus.

 

Without any doubt, people are spiritually and emotionally thirsty, marriages are running out of ‘good wine’, domestic violence has been on the increase since Coronavirus, mental health issues have risen so much in our society; some nations have newly voted for legal abortion  causing much disruption in those societies; we are all longing for the end of the COVID19 pandemic, many social economy issues gave us little or no hope, and many other situations facing us and that may still face us. 

It seems we are in the situation they were in at this wedding in Cana in Galilee. And as hopeless as that wedding was becoming, hope was brought in because:

  1. Jesus was in the picture. The question that we sincerely need to ask is, is Jesus in the picture in our family lives today, is He in the picture in our personal decisions and interactions with the world? He is sometimes taken out of the picture in our schools and in many social economic issues faced in our world. For the wedding feast in Cana in Galilee, there was hope because Jesus was invited.

People often make new resolutions at the beginning of a year, some resolve to take up more religious activities, but do these often lead to Jesus being in the picture? What is behind the resolution? Is it genuine?

  1. Another key element for me is Mary the earthly mother of Jesus. She saw the state of the wedding and intervened to forestall a disaster. She had a heart and an eye for detail, she wasn't just enjoying herself at the wedding, but she was on the look out for the challenges that were posed at the wedding  and she could boast of her confidence in whatever Jesus said!

Could we be more like this as Christians this year, who do not only do Christianity for our own gain, but are also on the look out for those whose wine is running out?

  1. Then there were the traditional jars. For years, these jars served traditional purposes, but as the wedding ran out of good wine, these jars served noble purpose in Jesus' hands.

Sometimes, people think of the traditional church as lukewarm, not zealous, but could this be a time that God proves many wrong as He finds people who have Jesus in their lives who can make Him known to our needy world?

  1. Finally,  the servants. These servants filled the traditional jars with water and drew out of it to serve good wine. These servants brought clergy men and women to my heart, ordained and lay who are serving the Lord faithfully and still willing to serve Him faithfully regardless of the season the world is in just as our vicar has served faithfully thus far.

It seems through the faithful witness of such servants, God will give out the new wine to broken homes, disrupted families, disturbed individuals, and our world that mostly believe not in Christ. 

This meditation on today’s reading brought the consecration hymn "here I am Lord, it is I Lord" to mind.

Prayer and Resolution

Why not spend time in prayer and make the following resolution either aloud or silently?

It is I that will invite Jesus into all my affairs this year, it is I that will be the Mary that observes with love what is going on with others, it is I that will be the jars to fill, it is I that will be the servant that will fill and draw out the water to give to the world around me that seems to be running out of wine. It is I that will be the mirror of Jesus to the world in this year 2021 that through me many will taste the good wine that is in Jesus. 

As God longs to find us in union with Him this year,  He wants to respond to the cry of many around us and those far away. Will you be the one that allows Jesus to fully enter in your life?  

 

Pastor Alfred Osinibe

 

 

Second Sunday of Epiphany- 17th January, 2021

John 1:43-51

 

Epiphany blessings to you. My thanks to Peter Harris for his agile reflection on Sunday’s reading and its message of evangelism- the message of good news to all people.

The world is in need of good news. Any good news will do! I am holding on to the fact that my football team is doing only moderately badly and has so far managed to avoid their customary post-Christmas slump. I am sure you will have your own version of the good news you are cherishing. On a note more relevant than football, I am pleased to report that the presence St Aidan’s now has online, particularly through its Facebook page, is attracting a good number of folk regularly, from near and far. This is good news indeed and I have received some encouraging comments from people about what these services mean to them. Not everyone is an internet enthusiast (often with very good reason) but it must be acknowledged that the Church in general has done very well at being present online during the pandemic. It has also proved to be a vital life line for me to keep up to date with what is happening around the parish. Facebook has a number of local community pages and some of them are very good- I have been struck once again by the neighbourliness shown by people of all ages and backgrounds locally, who seem determined to help one another keep going. If you do not use the internet, you may be encouraged to know that these good things are happening.


 

Annual Meeting (APCM)

This year’s Annual Meeting is due to take place on the 21st March but I have yet to receive confirmation as to how these are intended to progress. Last time we managed to meet in church- it may be possible to do so by then but I will keep you informed. Obviously, those of you who write about our groups and activities will not be required to do so this year and we will probably break the record for our shortest meeting of all time!

 

Prayers

As we move through Epiphany, let us pray that we will share in the courage and forbearance of the Wise Men as they journeyed through the darkness guided only by a small point of light. May we trust that in our own darkness we trust the true light, however diminished it may sometimes seem.

Pray for our healthcare professionals and scientists, hospital chaplains, care home and hospice staff at this demanding time.

 

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

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

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

 

John 1:43-51

Our reading today is John 1:43-51. One of the most important purposes of John’s Gospel is to convince us that Jesus is the Son of God who became flesh and is the long-awaited Messiah of Jewish expectation. The Gospel begins with the identification of Jesus as the Eternal Word and Creator (1:1-5) and later in verse 14 affirms that the Word, or God the Son, became flesh in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. This is one of the distinctives of our Christian faith: that God incarnated as a man and died in our place for the forgiveness of our sins. Death could not hold him, and he rose again to conquer it and make possible everlasting life for those who trust in him. These truths were understood and faithfully preserved by ancient theologians, often in the face of terrible persecution. Our belief is their legacy. John also had no time for the heresies that were infiltrating the Church during his lifetime, such as the Arian view that Jesus was not divine. In this first chapter, John presents a series of people who testify to the truth of Jesus’ eternal, divine nature: himself, John the Baptist (vv. 29-34, 36), Andrew and Peter (vv. 40-42) and finally Philip and Nathanael (vv.43-51) whose conversions are part of our reflection today.

One thing you might notice about this passage and its context is how quickly people recognise who Jesus is. On two occasions in this chapter John the Baptist sees Jesus and cries immediately that Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God’ (vv. 29, 36). Two disciples of John the Baptist consequently follow Jesus. One of them is Andrew (v. 40).  He introduces Jesus to his brother Simon who is similarly impressed by Jesus to receive a new name from him-Cephas (or Peter) (v. 42). The same speed of conversion happens to Philip and Nathanael (vv. 43, 49). Not everyone recognises who Jesus is and are drawn to him. The people of Nazareth who try to throw Jesus off a cliff, the hostile Samaritan village that denies Jesus and his disciples entry, the religious experts who argue with him and plot his death, the Sanhedrin who accuse him to Pilate, the Roman guards who beat, mock and lead him to Golgotha, Herod Antipas who dismisses him as a holy fool and Pontius Pilate who at least sees an innocent man, are blind to Jesus the God-Man. Many do receive him as such, for their hearts are not hardened with religious pride and political hubris but are open to being guided by the Spirit of Truth (14:17). 

Another interesting feature of this passage is how the good news of Jesus’s identity is passed on. The two disciples learn from John the Baptist who Jesus is. One of them, Andrew, passes the news on to Peter. It is likely that Andrew and Peter tell Jesus about Philip for he was from the same city called Bethsaida. Jesus calls Philip to follow him; he does, and he calls Nathanael to meet Jesus and Nathanael believes too. So often we think that evangelism is something done by professionals like Billy Graham who hire theatres and football grounds to preach to crowds, or that is it the minister’s responsibility. These verses reveal that all who have friends and acquaintances who do not know Jesus as their Saviour can tell them about him! Is there a greater privilege than that of leading someone to Jesus? We should not be ashamed of how small an act an invitation might seem on our part. Often what is of great importance has a modest beginning. In these passages we see the beginning of the Church that has served God and humanity for more than two thousand years! And it began with individuals telling each other about Jesus. God is concerned not only for the multitudes but also the individual who is like a lost sheep or a misplaced coin or a prodigal son (or daughter) (Luke 15:1-32).     

What else might we exegete from this passage? Philip was directly called by Jesus, not as Andrew who was directed to Jesus by John, or Peter who was invited by his brother. God clearly has various ways of drawing people to him. Some come by way of another and some, like Philip and later Saul (the future Paul) (Acts 9:1-9) come by way of direct revelation of Jesus. God knows our hearts and knows therefore what will work with us. 

Jesus says to Philip, ‘“Follow me.”’ In this invitation/instruction, we see the heart of what it means to be a Christian: it is following Jesus, devoting ourselves to him and treading in his steps. 

We also see the efficacy of God’s superabundant grace throughout this story. Philip, Peter and Andrew are from Bethsaida (v. 44), which was inhabited mainly by fishermen and their families and therefore without the ordinary advantages of education. Bethsaida was a wicked place (Matthew 11:21) and yet despite this, the grace of God is seen in his choosing these men. 

Nathanael is invited to see Jesus by Philip (v. 45). As Andrew before, so Philip here, having got some knowledge of Jesus himself, brings that knowledge to Nathanael, so certain is he that Jesus is the Messiah (v. 45). Philip is aware of the promises of the Old Testament that a Saviour would arise: promises couched in exciting metaphors and royal titles from Genesis right through to the Prophets. Jesus is named the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, Shiloh, the prophet like Moses, the Son of David, Emmanuel, the Man, the Branch, Messiah, the Prince. Yet Philip has a little humility to learn. It is not Peter, Andrew and he who have found Jesus; it is Jesus who has found them! Philip does not apprehend at this point, as Paul does (Philippians 3:12), that it is Jesus who has apprehended him. 

The objection which Nathanael makes against this is: ‘“Can any good come out of Nazareth?”’ (v. 46). There are a number of ways we can take this question. Nathanael might be teasing Philip with a rather prejudiced joke. He could also be showing caution about what Philip is saying because Israel had witnessed false Messiahs before claiming to be the Chosen One. If he means that the Messiah will not come out of Nazareth, he is right, for Bethlehem was the prophesied birthplace (Micah 5:2). Philip cannot give Nathanael an informed answer and rather than lose an argument with him, he does the next best thing: he invites him to come and make up his mind for himself (v. 46). Jesus himself is the best argument for faith, better than any apologetic a clever thinker might provide. 

So, Nathanael to his credit goes to meet Jesus and Jesus meets him with favourable encouragement: ‘"Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!"’ Jesus knows Nathanael’s heart well for indeed he created him! He is a genuine son of Abraham, not only of his seed, but of his spirit, a sincere professor of the faith of Israel. He is the Jew that is one inwardly (Romans 2:29) and so is saved by his faith. Secondly, he is not deceitful. He is honest before God about his sin. He is not a hypocrite like the scribes and Pharisees. 

Nathanael is astonished that Jesus knows him so well (v. 48), but God has complete knowledge of each one of us and loves us no less (Hebrews 4:12, 13). Jesus explains further: ‘“I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you”’ (v. 48). By saying this, Jesus is manifesting his divinity. He knows infallibly all that happens in his creation. Perhaps Jesus’ attention was caught by Nathanael’s praying under the tree and it was his devotion to private prayer rather than the egotistical public prayers of the Pharisees that caught the eye of Jesus. 

 

Nathanael’s response is adoration for Jesus: ‘“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”’ (v. 49). If anyone wishes to have evidence that the New Testament regards Jesus as God and man at the same time, then this verse is one of many. Jesus is impressed with Nathanael’s faith, but he nevertheless promises him much greater help for the confirmation and increase of that faith. Jesus says, ‘“Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”’ Those who truly believe the gospel will find further evidence of its truth through witnessing miracles, visions and supernatural sights. 

A lot can be said about this passage and you probably think, if you have kindly read this far, that I have proven that point very well. I think we can summarise what we learn from this passage in two ways. First, we see John the Gospel writer going out of his way to emphasise that Jesus was God who came veiled in human form. If Jesus had not been God, his behaviour as a man would not have been perfect and he could only have died for his own sins, not ours. And then where would we be? I dare not think. Secondly, we see the Missio Dei or God’s mission in operation. Jesus has come with the good news of who he is and what he has done on the cross and an empty tomb. He works himself the salvation of others as he does here when he reveals himself to Philip. But he also expects people to participate in his mission by bringing others to him, as Andrew and Philip do. And all of this is the consequence of love which seeks the salvation of whosoever will believe (John 3:16).

With all this in mind, I wonder which person we could invite to come and find Jesus?

Dr Peter Harris

 

The Epiphany-Sunday 3rd January 2021

Isaiah 60:1-3, John 1:10-18

 

Every blessing and a very happy new year to you as we move into 2021. Perhaps New Year’s Eve came tinged with mixed emotions- 2020 was in many ways an unforgettable year despite a feeling amongst many in the country it seems, that ‘forgetting’ 2020 is the best response. Rather, I think it far healthier to give thanks for the good that we received in 2020-however it came to us-and to offer to God our prayers for those who have really suffered and those who died as a result of Covid-19.

Some of you may have joined me on our YouTube channel for the Watch Night service in which we saw in 2021 in prayer and commitment to God’s service. If you would like to view that service it is still available on the St Aidan’s Gravesend You Tube channel. The best way to find it is to ‘Google’ You Tube and, once on You Tube, type ‘St Aidan’s Church Gravesend’ into the search bar. Once the church page comes up you will see the video there. Just click on it to play.

Today is the Epiphany of Our Lord and my thanks to Rev’d David Scott for today’s reflection. May Christ’s guiding light guide you this year and give you joy, even in times of anxiety and darkness.



 

Church Opening

The PCC have agreed with my proposal to keep St Aidan’s closed for a while longer. This is due to the continued high prevalence of the Covid disease in our region and that we are in Tier Four where the message at the present time is ‘stay at home.’ Officially, places of worship may remain open in Tier Four, but, for now at least, we judge that the risk to the public of this new strain is too high for us to gather together in church despite our observance of measures to restrict transmission. Currently, the hope is to open for worship on Sunday 17th January at 10am and I will keep you updated on that. I will continue to broadcast a celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays at 10am during the time of closure on our Facebook page and Night Prayer returns on Facebook tonight at 8pm, resuming its pattern of Sunday-Wednesday at 8pm. The Church of England website has lots of links to online worship, too.

 

I realise that if you do not have the internet at home these resources do  not apply to you, but you may remember that the Church of England has free phone line called Daily Hope. A call to the number below gives hymns, reflections and prayers for each day. The number is 0800 804 8044.



 

Prayers

Give thanks today for the arrival of the Magi from the East. May all who feel far from God be drawn to him.

 

Pray for the medics and scientists still working to prevail against Covid-19. We pray that populations will observe precautions and slow the spread of this disease.

 

Pray that 2021 can be a year of recovery and repair, and that we may grow in confidence that God is with us in times of trial.

 

In the Anglican Communion Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Anglican province of Alexandria in Egypt.

 

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

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael



 

THE VISIT OF THE WISE MEN

The Epiphany: 6th January.

ISAIAH 60/1-3:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

 

The other day, I saw part of a quiz on the television.  The question was:

Which one of these is in the Bible? 

  1. Mary rode on a donkey to Jerusalem.

  2. Jesus was born in a stable.

  1. An angel spoke to shepherds.

  1. Three kings came to visit Jesus in the manger.

 

The answer is number 3.  No! Not no.4.  3 gifts are mentioned, not  the number of people who brought them.  Isaiah speaks of “kings” coming; Matthew 2 mentions “magi from the east”.  I’ve even heard a representative of the empowerment of women say that there is nothing to say that women weren’t represented in this famous visit, although humourists added that they would have brought milk powder, baby blankets and nappies.

One new cartoon shows the three men approaching the nativity scene and whispering to one another: “Remember to say that we are from the same household.”

 

Humour aside, who were they?  Tradition has given them names. 

They have become known most commonly as Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar (or Casper – but isn’t he a friendly ghost?).

The wise men probably travelled from an area around southern Turkey.  A carol about them speaks of them travelling from “Persian lands afar”.   Scholars speak of them as Magi (from which we get our word “magic”, followers of Zoroastrianism.  Zoroaster was an ancient prophet who taught that there is ONE God.  The Magi would have been astrologers.  In those days astronomy and astrology were intermixed so that study of the stars included the effect they were having on our world, lives and history.  So it is not surprising that these highly intelligent, very important, rich men, priests of Zoroastrianism would have been studying the stars for signs of divine intervention into history.  So they would know very well the Old Testament prophecies about a coming King in the line of David and who would be born “in royal David’s city”.

Micah 5/2:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”

So the feast of the visit of the Wise Men, celebrated on 6th January as the Epiphany, i.e. the showing forth, manifestation of the Messiah King to the Gentiles, marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas.  The first manifestation, as Mavis reminded us, was to humble, local shepherds.  This manifestation was to rich, important people.

So Jesus, from babyhood, is for all levels of society, for everyone, for you and me.   Praise God for the greatest Christmas gift of all – His Son, Jesus.

 

O God, who by the leading of a star manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth:  mercifully grant that we, who know you now by faith, may at last behold your glory face to face;

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.

 

Creator of the heavens, who led the Magi by a star to worship the Christ-child:

guide and sustain us, that we may find our journey’s end in Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Lord God, the bright splendour whom the nations seek:  may we who with the wise men have been drawn by your light discern the glory of your presence in your Son, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Rev’d David Scott

First Sunday of Christmas- 27th December

Luke 2:  8-21

 

Christmas blessings to you. My thanks to Mavis for this week’s reflection on Luke which I commend to you wholeheartedly.

I am delighted that those who have been writing these reflections are happy to continue, so as we journey into 2021 we shall continue to produce this weekly ministry which I know had been a support for many during many difficult months.

 

Thank you to the volunteers who delivered Christmas cards on behalf of those who would normally have collected them from church. I hope that sending and receiving cards from one another has helped to bring at least some familiarity into this year’s Christmas. Can I also thank you, on behalf of my family and I for the cards which we received.

 

I received a Christmas greeting from Bishop Solomon, of the Anglican Diocese of Bo, Sierra Leone, and I print it here:

 

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those whom he favours. I bring you greetings from the Anglican Diocese of Bo. 

Christmas reminds us of the responsibilities to glorify and praise God, thanking Him for for the gift of His son.

As a Diocese you are in our prayers as the Covid 19 pandemic is still ravaging your country. We pray that God will protect you all from the pandemic. 

Wishing you and your  church family health, happiness, peace and prosperity this Christmas and in the coming New year.

Merry Christmas

 

+Solomon Bo 

 

New Year’s Eve service

Just a reminder that I will record a service for New Year’s Eve which will be on the St Aidan’s YouTube page (just go into YouTube via Google and in the YouTube Search bar type St Aidan’s Church Gravesend and the page will come up and the video will be there).

The video will be there from 11.30pm and is called a ‘Watch Night’ service. It is a kind of vigil service in which the people of God think of the year just past and look ahead to the new year with hope, but  also having made a promise to serve God. I thought that after the year we have had, some folk may like the chance to cross over into 2021 prayerfully and indeed to thank God for any blessings we have received in this strange 2020.

There is an order of service available if you would like to follow the service and I will email it to you should you request it. I can be emailed on vicar.staidans@gmail.com

 

Prayers

 

Pray for our country as the ‘Brexit’ process reaches its conclusion: pray for cohesion in our country, for neighbourliness and compassion. Pray also for our country as the Covid-19 pandemic continues its grip. For those working hard to vaccinate the vulnerable and many others in due time.

 

Give thanks to God for all the good that you have received in 2020.

 

In the Anglican Communion Cycle of Prayer we pray for leaders of other denominations, including Pope Francis, Archbishop Bartholomew the Ecumenical Patriarch (leader of the Orthodox churches), and the leaders of the Methodist, URC, Baptist and other churches.





 

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

This comes with every blessing, and all prayers for a Happy New Year,

 

Fr Michael



 

Luke 2:8-21

Our gospel reading today is well known and well loved and describes how God is fulfilling the promises made by the Old Testament prophets. 

 

Luke is a fantastic story teller – he now introduces a surprise element to demand our attention – ‘And there were shepherds’.   Why suddenly shepherds?  A few verses earlier we were in the stable with Mary, Joseph and a new born baby – the Son of God no less.  The answer is, because the event needs witnesses.  The chosen witnesses are a group of scruffy, smelly shepherds bedding down with their sheep on the hills above Bethlehem.  Shepherds have an honourable role in the Bible, from shepherd boy David to the unforgettable claim of the psalmist that ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ (Psalm 23).  Despite the biblical imagery, however, shepherds were considered to be the lowest of the low – outcasts of society.  Because of their work, outside on the hillsides, they were unable to have access to washing facilities which prevented them from taking part in great religious feasts and ceremonies.  Their testimony was not accepted in a court of law.  Also, of course, from a social point of view, they may well have been a bit unsavoury to say the least!

 

How did the shepherds react to the heavenly vision?  They were absolutely terrified – that’s not surprising is it.  When the unexpected happens at night – when the phone rings – we automatically fear the worst, don’t we?  In the same way, the shepherds must have feared the worst when they saw God’s messenger in front of them.  Had he come to announce that it was judgement day – if so, were they ready to be judged?

 

But that’s not why the angel had come – far from it!  “Do not be afraid”, the angel said “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.  To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is the Messiah, the Lord”.

 

It’s typical of the way God works throughout scripture that the most momentous announcement in history was made to a group of frightened men, living on the fringe of respectable society.   The angel makes it absolutely clear that the good news is for them “I bring YOU good news”.  They – lowly shepherds – were being entrusted with a message of joy for ALL people.  The news of the birth of the messiah was to be entrusted to them and to no one else.  

 

Just by listening to the angel’s message, the attitude of the shepherds changed.  Their fear was replaced with joy – the saviour had been born in Bethlehem just as the prophets said he would be – this baby was not just human – he was called “the Lord”!!

 

They weren’t content to hear the message and do nothing.  No – they wanted to learn more about this saviour, so without delay they went to Bethlehem.  It’s interesting isn’t it?  They didn’t debate whether or not they had time to go – whether it was convenient for them at this point – they didn’t worry about who would look after the sheep – no, they rushed off to find out more about this amazing baby.

 

And what a sight met their eyes!   There was the baby as the angels had told them, lying in an animal feeding trough for a crib.  Above the stable in the sky the angels sang that peace has come to mankind.  No doubt Mary’s thoughts went back to the time when she was first visited by the angel and was told that she would give birth to the messiah – now it had indeed happened – the angelic voices overhead confirmed it.   She would ‘ponder all these things in her heart’.   I suppose the shepherds could have declined to go to Bethlehem that night.  After all, it was a pretty bizarre instruction – they may even have wondered whether they were experiencing some mass hallucination!   But go they did, and their reward was to be the first people (other than Mary and Joseph) to see, with their own eyes, Jesus the Messiah.  

 

Did they I wonder, as the carol suggests, bring a lamb as a gift? We shall never know, but what we do know is that they were not content to keep the news to themselves – indeed no.   Luke tells us that they made known what they had been told and what they had seen concerning the child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.  Just think, if the shepherds had kept the good news to themselves, there would be no Christmas celebrations.   Luke, who all through his Gospel has an eye for the downtrodden and the outcasts of society, must have enjoyed giving the shepherds the starring role on that first Christmas night.

 

Those first visitors to the stable and their story must have amazed Mary.  Pieces of the jigsaw were beginning to be put in place in her mind, but what of the final picture?  In the years to come, and as the cross cast its shadow across the life of the man who was born in Bethlehem, his mother would remember with joy the visit of the shepherds and what they had told her about her son.  It would give her strength and faith as she struggled to come to terms with his lifestyle, with her fears for him as well as her pride in him.  For now though, like any other baby, he needed warmth, protection, food and love.  Mary and Joseph made sure he received them.

 

So as you ponder upon the verses of our gospel reading, may I suggest you think back on some of those special moments when God spoke clearly to you, setting pieces of your life’s jigsaw firmly in place.  Enjoy the memory of them and have faith that all the other pieces will be provided at the right time.    As we enter the New Year, many are struggling as we look into the future, wondering what it may hold.  Lots of things are, of course, beyond our control.  Fear comes with being human in an unpredictable world.  But at the heart of the nativity story is the message that, in God’s care, we need not be afraid. 

Amen to that!

 

Mavis Prater

Reader


 

 

Third Sunday of Advent- 13th December, 2020

John 1:6-8;19-28

 

Advent blessings to you on this Third Sunday

This third Sunday is sometimes called Gaudete Sunday which means ‘rejoice!’ and- rather like the third Sunday in Lent (‘Refreshment Sunday’) which is usually kept as Mothering Sunday and is a welcome break from the austerity of Lent. Why, then, is there a ‘rejoice’ Sunday in Advent? Traditionally, Advent- like Lent- had a penitential character to it. By ‘penitential’, we mean ‘saying sorry’ or self-examination. In our contemporary society, with its anticipation of the Christmas Feast (in more ways than one!) there is perhaps less room for penitence, but the reason for this was (and is) that the anticipation we feel is not just for the coming of Christmas, but the second coming of Christ, when he will come as our saviour and judge. This is a good reason to prepare ourselves to receive Christ by self-examination and prayers that we may be made ready to receive his judgement.

 

This Sunday is also the week in which we think of John the Baptist and indeed the themes- rejoicing, penitence and John coincide today: John comes to call us to repentance- to make our paths straight, but the message he brings is ultimately one of joy. May you know that joy this day and always.

Church Opening

It is still our intention to open for public worship on Sunday 20th December at 10am. There are a few spaces left. Please book of you intend to come. The choir will be singing a few carols which will combine the Advent Carols we missed with some of the carols for today. I am very grateful to David our choirmaster and our choir for preparing these carols, and can I use this opportunity to again extend an invitation to you to join the choir? We really do need some more voices to augment what we already have and the choir is open to all ages if you enjoy singing. Remember that (in normal circumstances) the choir meets at around 9.30am on Sundays to run through the hymns for the day and anyone can join in this run through and sing with the choir on that day as a ‘taster’ and indeed as a way to sing when the choir from time to time. If you joined in this way you would not need to wear robes. If you wanted to join the choir more formally in time that would be wonderful. Choir members rehearse on Monday mornings at 10am in church. We have missed very greatly the gift of music in church, not having sung together since March. It would be a great joy to have some new voices in the choir for when we can all sing again.  Please speak to me or David if you would like to do this.

Christingle

A reminder that Christingle packs can be collected from church on the 20th at around 11am (after the service) or from the vicarage from 12 noon until 3pm. Please request a pack from me (352500) or Jenny Rawlinson (352253) so we can have it ready.

There will be a short Christingle talk and story at 4pm on Christmas Eve on the St Aidan’s Facebook page.

 

Christmas services

Christmas Eve- 11.30pm Midnight Mass

Christmas Day-10am Holy Communion

Please book for these services.

Christmas Cards

Remember that cards for church friends with addresses within the parish can be brought to church and dropped in a bag. These will be delivered by volunteers. Please write names and addresses clearly on the envelopes.

 

John 1:6-8; 19-28

 

‘He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light’ writes John in his Gospel of the coming of John the Baptist. This is the ‘lot’ of John; to not ‘be’ the light, but to bear witness to it, to proclaim it. In fact, this is the lot of all the holy ones of God, the saints, the angels, the prophets of the old times-to proclaim and show the way, to praise and magnify his holy name.

 

In Medieval spirituality, St Mary was sometimes compared with the moon- the light she sent to the world was a reflection of the light of Christ and this is true of all the saints and of ourselves: We are not the light, but we are inheritors, or heirs of the light and we receive its inestimable benefits. We ‘glow’ with the light of Christ, like the moon glowing with the sun’s light, and like moonlight which has its own character, we too characterise Christ’s light with our own being. God loves each of us for who we are and we each seem to emit our own spiritual light.

 

John’s life was short and dramatic. His parents were told he would be a ‘nazarene’ nothing to do with Nazareth, but a rather obscure term that seems to be something to do with extreme religious observance. The later description of John wearing a coat of camel’s hair and eating ‘locusts and wild honey’ supports this image we have of John as a sort of ‘wild man’ of the desert (although the ‘locusts’ mentioned were possibly a type of wild bean called the locust bean, and not the insects or their grubs).

 

Nobody knows with any certainty how John the Baptist spent his life before emerging in the gospel story, but it is thought that he was a member of an ascetic (strict) Jewish sect that based itself in the desert of Judea. John had definitely drawn a large group of followers-disciples, really-some of whom may well have thought that he was the Messiah. He is quite clear in denying this and says elsewhere in John’s gospel that he is not worthy to tie the Messiah’s sandals. This, again, is true of us. We know that we are loved by Christ, but if we allow humility and penitence to shape our hearts, we can receive that love fully when we acknowledge our unworthiness. This is not to diminish our experience of life’s richness or to disrespect ourselves, but to testify to our longing for Christ and that our own strength will not save us in time of trial. This, when nourished in our hearts, produces joy and a lightness of spirit which we celebrate today.

 

Prayers

Pray for all churches and places dedicated to John the Baptist today.

Pray that we may nourish the light which is in us through prayer, reading of scripture and Christian acts so that we may show Christ’s light to others.

Give thanks for all that gives us joy- even during these difficult times.

 

In the Anglican Communion Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Church of the Falkland Islands.

Pray for the repose of the souls of the departed. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory. Amen.

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

 

Advent Sunday- 29th November, 2020

Mark 13:24-end

 

Advent blessings to you today. My thanks to Mavis Prater for this week’s reflection, which you will find below. I am going to let Mavis ‘do the talking’ this week, so just a couple of quick notices from me first.

 

Church Opening

You will have learned by now that Gravesend has been placed in ‘Tier Three’ of the government’s new system for restrictions- the toughest level. This means that churches can open for public worship, but that people must only attend with those with whom they live, or are in a ‘bubble’ with. Regarding church opening at St Aidan’s, the PCC and I have decided that St Aidan’s will remain open for private prayer only through most of December. Our first opening for public worship will take place on Sunday 20th December, 10am. This is the ‘Nine Lessons and Carols’ service, which we hope will take place this year. If singing is allowed, it will be choir only I expect. If you intend to come to this service, please ‘book in.’ Thank you. Further updates will follow as and when.

 

Prayers

Pray for a holy and blessed Advent as we await the coming of our Lord.

 

Please pray for our community, particularly those affected directly by Covid-19.

In the Anglican Communion Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Lusitanian Church (Portugal).

 

We pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died recently and whose anniversary of death occurs at this time of year. Rest Eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory. Amen.

 

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael


 

Mark 13:24-end

Happy New Year!  No, don’t worry – I haven’t completely lost it!  Today is Advent Sunday – the first Sunday in the Church Year.  We would normally celebrate this New Year by lighting the tall Advent Candle in the sanctuary at the beginning of our Service of Advent Carols and Readings.  But sadly, because of Covid 19 restrictions, such celebrations are not possible this year.   

 

Advent simply means “coming”.  During the Advent season, Christians are called upon to reflect on probably the two most significant of all comings:  the one that happened 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, and the one we are promised at the end of human history, when God’s purposes will be finally and gloriously revealed.  Our gospel reading today most definitely refers to the latter.  

 

It is remarkable in the light of verse 32 that so many throughout history have attempted to predict when Jesus will return.  I am old enough to remember the “End Time” rallies common in the 1950s and 60s.  Speakers would produce complex wall charts and do amazing things with numbers and Greek and Hebrew words ‘translated’ into numbers.  Using the Bible and current affairs, there would be confident predictions that the second coming was only a year or two away.   I am always amazed by the way that some can claim to know more about the end-times than Jesus himself.   Surely it shows such arrogance to think that our small human minds can grasp what God alone knows!   But the second coming is as certain as the budding of the fig tree announces the coming of summer (v.28).    During these difficult months of “lockdown” many have found solace in the wonders of nature – looking more carefully at signs of the seasons – perhaps noticing for the first time the beauty of the changing colours of the leaves of our trees as they prepare for the coming of winter.  

 

The teaching here does not mean to suggest that the second coming described in verses 26 and 27 would be immediate but is meant to stop us from becoming apathetic.   What is the difference between ignorance and apathy?  I don’t know and I don’t care!  That’s the way a lot of people feel about Christ’s return.  They don’t know and they don’t care!  Yet the Bible repeats this theme over and over again.  Whilst doing my research for this reflection, I found that there are over 1,800 references in the Old Testament to Christ’s second coming and more than 300 in the New Testament.  For every biblical prophecy concerning Christ’s first coming, there are eight prophesies about his second!  I found that quite amazing.

 

The thrust of our gospel reading today is to be alert - to be ready.  The command to be “on our guard” first appeared in verse 9 of this chapter 13.     This doesn’t mean a paralysing fear for the future but rather a sense of being more alert to the way we live our lives in the here and now.   The year 2020 has been far from easy for most of us – for some more challenging than others.   The days without any set routine to follow can have been dry and dull – often hard to “stay awake”.    Our faith journey can be a bit like that, can’t it?   Our relationship with God can become reduced to a sluggish routine.  

 

But our gospel reading emphatically tells us not to put off, or be put off, for the Son of Man will come.  Yes, the times may be full of trouble and distress – yet he still comes to us.  We should look for the signs of his coming and of his presence in our lives.    We have been left in charge of this world, each with our own responsibility.  At the beginning of this Advent season, we remember the first coming of the one who, as the familiar hymn reminds us “came from heaven as a helpless babe and entered our world – his glory veiled.”  Jesus, the “servant King calls us now to follow him and give our lives as a daily offering”.  As we serve him now, we must look forward – be alert to the day of his return in the full glory of his kingdom – and not be caught sleeping.  

 

I have found this story in a book compiled by Revd. David Adam which I feel says it all – it is perhaps a little long but I hope it “speaks” to you too.

 

      It was near Christmas in the Advent season and Peter waited for God to come.  He prayed every day “God show me your face and I shall be saved”.  Peter had tried to live a good life; he was now old and looked forward to the coming of God.  He continued to work in his paper shop where he had worked most of his life.  Here he heard all sorts of conversations and met many people.  A single mum was telling her friend how she did not have enough money to buy presents for her child.  When everyone else had gone, Peter said to her, “I heard what you said.  I have a few toys on the shelves – they are not selling very well – go and pick anything you would like”.  She could hardly believe it for there were some wonderful things on the shelves.  As she went away with her arms full, she thanked him.  Peter was delighted.  Her smile was his reward.

       Later that day, he caught a young lad stealing a magazine from the shelves.  He was on his way out with the magazine up his jumper when Peter stopped him.  He could have called the police or told the boy’s parents.  He saw the boy was poor and afraid and he felt sorry for him.  “If you want a magazine and have no money, tell with me” he said.  “Magazines are soon out of date; I can always find you one to give you but you must not just help yourself.  Take this magazine for free, but ask me another time”.  The boy’s face changed from a look of fear to a beaming smile.  He thanked Peter and ran from the shop.

        It was getting dark as the old man came into the shop.  He was saying how lonely he felt since his wife died and this would be his first Christmas on his own – he was not looking forward to it.  Peter said “We were expecting a friend to come for Christmas, but he can’t make it.  We have prepared for his coming – would you like to come instead?  We would love to share Christmas with you”.  The old man’s face lit up in a beautiful smile and he said “You have made me feel so wanted – I would love to come”.

       That night Peter prayed his Advent prayer; “Show me your face and I shall be saved”.  In a dream God spoke to him and said “Peter, today I came to you and three times you made me smile.  Grace and peace be with you”,

 

Having read this story, may I suggest you pause for a few moments to reflect on what you have been given – abilities, time, friendships, energy.  Then consciously and deliberately offer them and yourself to God – praying that the way you live your life in the here and now be a practical way of revealing God’s presence as we await his second coming.

 

I wish you all God’s richest blessings

 

Mavis Prater (Reader)




 

Second Sunday before Advent- 15th November 2020

Matthew 25:14-30

 

Grace and peace to you. Today’s reflection comes from the Venerable Andy Wooding-Jones, Archdeacon of Rochester. Andy was due to be with us today as our preacher and I am grateful to him for sending us  a ‘distilled’ version of his sermon this week. Andy hopes to be with us at St Aidan’s when circumstances allow and I know that many of you were keen to meet him.

 

Covid-19 update and local cases

There is no update to share this week- as far as we all know, churches may open again in early December which will mean a Parish Eucharist here on Sunday 6th December at 10am- but we watch and wait.

Unfortunately the vicar of Shorne, has contracted the virus and is in hospital. So do please keep him and the people of Shorne parish in your prayers. In addition, we have had a positive case at the church hall group of St Aidan’s Nursery, in line with measures, the Nursery is closed but will reopen next Thursday.  There have also been cases at Riverview Infants’ and Juniors. These cases underline that this disease is still very much on our doorstep and we must all remain careful and vigilant. If it transpires that cases locally are rising fast, the PCC will need to discuss whether it is right to open for worship on 6th December, even if we are authorised to do so. My hope is that the Church of England will again let incumbents and PCCs know that the decision lies with them. Please keep our community in your prayers.

 

Friends of the Holy Land (FHL)

One of the charities which St Aidan’s supports is the Friends of the Holy Land, who support Christians living in the West Bank of Israel-Palestine. Everyday life for Christians in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem  and other holy sites is never easy, but with the onset of Covid-19 the pilgrimage and tourism industry has collapsed. There is no furlough scheme there and no state aid, so  for 80% of residents of Bethlehem, particularly busy at this time of year normally, their main source of income has stopped and many folk are laid off.  Donations will be used to provide emergency support via FHL’s Bethlehem office, and can be made online at friendsofheholyland.org.uk/christmas or by cheque (payable to Friends of the Holy Land) to Friends of the Holy Land, Farmer Ward Road, Kenilworth, CV8 2DH. More information can be found online. 

Gospel Talks

A reminder that this Sunday at 7pm on the parish Facebook page we have the third of four talks on each of the gospels- this week it is Luke.

Remembrance

Many thanks to those who attended prayers last Sunday where we also marked Remembrance. Hopefully next year we can meet at the memorial to RAF Gravesend once again.


 

Matthew 25:14-30

I am so sorry that I cannot be with you in church this Sunday as planned and look forward to worshipping with you soon.   

Thank you for all you have been and done as a church community in the challenges and opportunities of these last weeks and months.

 

Today’s Gospel reading is the familiar parable of the talents, or loaned money, as some translations describe it.   A man, going on a journey entrusts his servants with different sums of money according to their ability.   The different values were not about favouritism but about what each could manage – being overwhelmed by responsibility would not be a legitimate excuse – laziness or a wrong attitude to the master could be more problematic.

 

The story

 

Two servants ‘put their money to work’ and double the value of the money lent to them.   Their actions are risky but they balance their sense of responsibility and the opportunity they are given.  They use both their abilities and the money entrusted to them.

The third servant was not ‘bad’ – the master trusted him with some of his wealth.    However, he is not willing to take risks, not prepared to use any of his ability and is fearful of his master.   Consequently, he buries the money entrusted to him and awaits the master’s return.

The master on his return affirms the first two servants: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” 

The third servant is condemned for his wickedness and laziness – he should have known better – even depositing the money in the bank would have been a better course of action.

 

God entrusts us with Treasure (our money and possessions), Time and Talent (our ability).  The challenge that flows from this passage is how we steward the things that God has entrusted us with?    Do we live from a place of responsibly sharing and using all we have been entrusted with and spotting opportunities to serve?

Or are we more like the third servant burying, hiding, holding on to the things we have been given?

 

Maybe we need to ask God how we are stewards of our time – are there moments when, like the priest and pharisee in the story of the Good Samaritan, our agenda is more important that the opportunities  God may put before us?

In Philippians 2 we read how ‘Jesus does not cling to equality with God but becomes nothing’.    Do we ever cling to our treasures, our money or our possessions, rather than making them available to Godly opportunities?

What about our talents?   Psalm 139 reminds us that ‘we are fearfully and wonderfully made’.   Is our God-given ability used for Him – in our workplace, in our family or amongst our neighbours, in our church community?     Might God be asking you to use a talent or an ability as you respond to an opportunity in this strange season?

Prayer

Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,

  the glory, the splendour, and the majesty;

  for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.

All things come from you,

  and of your own do we give you.

May we who have received treasure, talent and time from you 

be good stewards of all we have been given.   

Help us to see your opportunities and respond.

May we be your good and faithful servants.

Please strengthen and help us.

Amen

Ven Andy Wooding Jones



 

Prayers

Please pray for the residents of Bethlehem as they face a difficult Christmas period.

Pray for our parish and community as we journey through these challenging days, and for those currently affected by the virus.

In the Anglican Communion Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Church of Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

We pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died recently, and whose anniversary of death occurs at this time of year. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them. Amen.

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

 

 

All Saints’ Day- 1st November, 2020

Matthew 4:1-12; Revelation 7:9-end.

 

Greetings to you on this All Saints’ Day. Ordinarily we would have a 4pm Memorial service in thanksgiving for those people for whom the parish has arranged a funeral in the last year. Instead we will remember them this morning as we light the Baptism candle- symbol of Resurrection.

The Baptism Candle will be lit for a second time later today when Dollie Louise McNamara is baptised at noon. Please pray for her, her parents and godparents as she begins a new life in Christ.

 

My thanks to Rev’d David Scott for this week’s reflection on the reading from Revelation.

 

Black History Month Thanksgiving Service

Every congratulation to Dr Jellina Davies and the Executive team of Black History Association (Gravesham and Kent) for their excellent Thanksgiving service last Sunday afternoon, via ‘Zoom’. There were over eighty participants including those from Sierra Leone, Texas and several locations around the UK. The service was inspiring, interesting and joyful. St Aidan’s is a parish affiliated to the Association and I hope to share news of other events and activities in due course.

 

‘Happy’ Pumpkins

Many thanks to those who made cheerful pumpkin pictures, some with positive and inspiring messages, which are now decorating the church entrance. Let’s hope we can hold another ‘Light Cafe’ next year.

 

Prayers

Pray for the bereaved, and those who comfort them.

Pray for the parish of All Saints, Perry Street.

Give thanks for our blessed patron, Aidan of Lindisfarne.

 

In the Anglican Communion Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Church of the Province of West Africa.

 

We pray for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed, including those whose funeral was conducted this year, and those whose anniversary of death occurs at this time of year. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and Let light perpetual shine upon them. May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory. Amen.

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael



 

Revelation 7:9-end

 

A Wikipedia site defines a saint as follows:  A saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God. However, the use of the term "saint" depends on the context and denomination. In Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran doctrine, all of their faithful deceased in Heaven are considered to be saints, but some are considered worthy of greater honour or emulation;[1] official ecclesiastical recognition, and consequently, veneration, is given to some saints through the process of canonization in the Catholic Church or glorification in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

 

But let’s go back to Sunday School where many Sunday School teachers have a way of saying that there are saints with a small “s” and Saints with a big “S”.

Romans 1:7:

Paul wrote: “to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 1:2:

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours….”.

2 Corinthians 1:1:

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:….”.


 

Colossians 1:2:

To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father…..”.

 

There are more examples in Paul’s epistles.  These references definitely indicate that EVERYONE who believes and trusts in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are saints of God.  I.e. that is you and me.  Fr. Michael could easily add the word “saints of St. Aidan’s” to his “Good morning…..”.  He probably won’t but he could. 

In history there are thousands and thousands who have been executed rather than deny the Lord Jesus.

In history there are millions who have stood firm in their faith when persecuted, refusing to deny the Lord Jesus.

On a north African beach, a line of Egyptian Christians and one from another African country died, having their throats cut by Isis members rather than deny Christ.

There are saints who are being arrested and put on trial in Iran.

There are saints who are suffering terribly in North Korea (the worst in the world) and North Vietnam.

Saints are being persecuted, some even languishing in jail for years, for being a Christian in China.

Saints are being persecuted in Burma (Myanmar) by extreme Buddhist forces for being Christian.

Saints in northern Nigeria and neighbouring states are losing their lives, family members, churches, crops, cattle because of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.

The list could go on and on.

“In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”, said Jesus.  (John 16/33).

There are saints who care for the lonely, the ill, the worried, the despairing.

There are saints who volunteer at or contribute to food banks.

There are saints who faithfully intercede for the world and its needs.

There are saints who care for, clean, arrange flowers etc. for their church.

There are saints who care enough about the Body of Christ to be in attendance at church as often as they can.

All saints should be striving for perfection but all saints know they fall far short of it, say a sincere sorry and, with God’s help, move on.

The list could go on and on.

 

Thank You, dear Lord, for ALL the departed saints who now worship in white robes around the throne of God praising Him and interceding for our world.

Thank You, dear Lord, for ALL the living saints who suffer for and serve the Lord Jesus in every country of the world.

Thank you, dear Lord, for the saints of St Aidan’s who love God and serve their neighbours in every way they can.

God bless you,

Love from st. David, being saved by grace.

 

Thank you, God, for the tremendous sacrifices made by those who have gone before us. Bless the memories of your saints, O God. May we learn how to walk wisely from their examples of faith, dedication, worship, and love. 

 

How shining and splendid are your gifts, O Lord
which you give us for our eternal well-being
Your glory shines radiantly in your saints, O God
In the honour and noble victory of the martyrs.
The white-robed company follow you,
bright with their abundant faith;
They scorned the wicked words of those with this world's power.
For you they sustained fierce beatings, chains, and torments,
they were drained by cruel punishments.
They bore their holy witness to you
who were grounded deep within their hearts;
they were sustained by patience and constancy.
Endowed with your everlasting grace,
may we rejoice forever
with the martyrs in our bright fatherland.
O Christ, in your goodness,
grant to us the gracious heavenly realms of eternal life.

 

 

Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity (Harvest, Feast of St Francis of Assisi)

4th October, 2020

 

Matthew 21:33-end

 

Grace and peace to you. My thanks to Alfred Osinibe for his invigorating reflection on the parable of the ‘wicked tenants.’

 

Harvest

Thank you for any donations left this week. We will ensure they go to where they are needed in our area. As noted in the prayers below, do please pray for all who work in the harvesting and production and distribution of food at this time. When ‘Brexit’ finally hits at the end of the year, nobody is quite sure what this will mean for food prices, availability of food and for freight traffic in Kent, but officials seem resigned to the reality that it may be an unstable transition for a time.

St Francis

Today is also St Francis’ Day and we thank God for calling Francis to serve him in such humility. Francis is also known for his wisdom on God’s activity in creation and the natural world, so it seems right to honour Francis today as we celebrate Harvest.

 

Bible Study

 

I have received a couple of enquiries about Bible study- I am happy to run a Bible study and I propose to do this in November, in two ways: an online bible study on Sundays from  1st-22nd November at 7pm on Facebook Live (St Aidan’s Church Gravesend page), and a ‘face to face’ study in the West Room on Wednesdays 4th-25th November following the morning Eucharist and ending at about 11am (numbers for this will need to be limited due to Covid. I will advise on capacity next week). The sessions would last around an hour and will cover the four gospels in order of writing (so, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John). We will look at the ‘picture’ of Jesus that emerges across the gospels and how this and each gospel affects our faith today. The same course will run in each format. It is likely that the online course will run in any case because enquiries have come from that source. The ‘in person’ course is mainly for those who cannot access the internet.

 

If you are interested in either, please let me know- 01474 352500/vicar.staidans@gmail.com.

Thank you.


 

Matthew 21:33-end

Things to think of

  • The atmosphere in which the parable was spoken was when Jesus’ authority was questioned by the chief priests and the elders of the people.

  • He told the parables of the two sons and then this parable of the tenants to point them to the matter of authority.

  • Some keywords to think of are Landowner, tenants, harvest. 

  • The vineyard was leased to tenants by the landowner while he went to another country.

  • Harvest time came

  • He sent slaves to collect the produce

  • The tenants were cruel, they seized, beat, killed and stoned the people the landowner sent to receive the product the vineyard has made.

  • He sent his Son with the hope that the Son will be respected

  • The tenants unanimously agreed to maltreat and kill the Son for the inheritance.

  • They then seized the Son, threw Him out of the vineyard and killed Him.

  • Jesus asked what will the owner of the vineyard should do, and they replied he will put them to a miserable death and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him produce at the harvest.

  • Jesus told them the Kingdom will be taken away from them and given to those who will produce fruit for the kingdom.

 

Meditation moment

First, let us concentrate on the Landowner: God the Maker and giver of life is the owner of our lives, homes and the world at large and all that lives therein.

Secondly, the vineyard of this landowner: The vineyard was fully cared for, and this vineyard could symbolise  our individual lives, homes and this world and those that live in it. Our world and everyone that lives here whether Christian or non-christian are fully catered for by God, He gave His rain and sunshine on all and above all gave breath to all living beings.

Thirdly, the tenants: The tenants were given the custody of the vineyard, showing trust from the landowner to the tenants  and the landowner did so with the expectation that they would care for the vineyard and ensure a good yield. 

In this parable that we are considering this Harvest Sunday, we see that the tenants represent each believer across the world. God gave us the custody of the earth, the custody of our neighbours, friends, children, spouses, He has much trust in His people to be His caretakers of this earth and its dwellers.

This brings the hymn “Lord of the Dance” to my mind, the Lord of the dance has drawn us into His dance at creation, redemption and even in entrusting His world into our care, He desires that we dance for Him wherever we may be! 

God expects us to sincerely labour over all He has put in our care. And thinking of the time that we are in across the world, God is depending on Christians to be His tenants, to bring hope to the hopeless. As we see the surge of the Covid-19 virus , I believe God is giving us Christians a great privilege to be responsible for caring for the souls of people as one that will bring Him a good yield.

The question to ask is how faithful am I over the vineyard of my life,? my spouse?, children?, grandchildren?, neighbours?,  and what produce do we intend to give back to the Lord when He comes at harvest time?

It was such an encouragement to see people within our parish asking the vicar for a Bible study, course!  these are ‘harvest, people’ that are seeking and thirsting to know God the more at this critical time. 

Fourthly let us look at  harvest time: It is clear that the landowner gave the vineyard to the tenants with the hope of receiving some produce at harvest time. Unfortunately, the landowner was met with disappointment, because the tenants were unreliable, undependable, untrustworthy.

Rather than give the landowner produce from the vineyard, they killed all whom He sent to them at harvest time. And we see that this step and action of theirs was not without consequence.

Before we look at the consequence of their action, let us speculate briefly what could be the precursor to this action of the tenants. I suggest that it could be that communication between the tenants and the landowner has declined, and instead they have grown in communication with themselves as tenants, and have ignored communication with the landowner before harvest time, the most crucial period.

Is declining to communicate not what usually makes  out of tune with each other and with the Lord Himself, the Landowner? When our time in His Word and  our personal prayer is abandoned, we start to be more self-centred and begin to lose cognisance of what He expects of us, forgetting that He is expecting fruit from our lives at harvest time.

 

What is the consequence?

The vineyard was taken from the tenants and given to others. It is as if the marvellous opportunity given to them was not well utilized.

 

Lesson for us

As Christians who have been entrusted with our lives, our children, spouses, neighbours, and the world at large,  are we living in constant communion with our Landowner, are we mindful of the fact that God, the landowner expects fruit from us? 

What has our individual life produced so far, particularly in this year 2020?

May the way we respond to neighbours, children, spouses, grandchildren etc show the world that we are indeed Christians who are tenants for the Lord. Amen

Pastor Alfred Osinibe

Next week’s reading: Matthew 22:1-14

Prayers

Please pray that we may each receive the word of God for us, and help in his harvest of life, peace, justice and mercy in this world.

 

Pray for all those who work in food production, in agriculture and fishing, especially for those whose livelihoods are vulnerable due to Covid-19.

In the Anglican Communion Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Anglican Church of Tanzania, and our own diocese’s link with the Tanzanian dioceses of Mpwapwa  and Kondoa.

 

We pray for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed, and those whose anniversary of death occurs around this time of year, among them 

May they rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory.

This comes with every blessing,

Fr Michael

 

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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