Below these sermons you will also find a very topical poem entitled
How the Virus stole Easter
Pentecost - 31st May 2020
Preacher: Reverend Noelle Taylor
As I prayed Morning Prayer with some of my colleagues earlier in the week I was struck afresh by the words of Zechariah quoted in the Benedictus:
In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us.
Words for such a time as this as we come to celebrate the birth of the Church – Pentecost. When the dawn from on high broke upon a bunch of ordinary folk who were so afraid of what the Jewish leaders might do to them they were cowering behind locked doors.
Are they words for such a time as this as we too cower behind locked doors? It was God’s tender compassion for humanity that Jesus came to reveal to the world, with his compassionate interaction with untouchables such as lepers and haemorrhaging women. As he came to comfort his frightened, bereaved disciples he brought with him a challenge: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ As God the Father sent Jesus to show the compassion of God to a broken world so Jesus commissions his disciples to do likewise.
How compassionate are you I wonder. As I walked around the playing fields yesterday I was reminded of the rich seam of anger bubbling just under my relatively calm exterior. I saw bags of rubbish left by picnickers strewn across the grass and I felt rage and ashamed at the thoughtlessness and sheer lack of care that humanity has both for one another and our world. As I read about the shenanigans of those who purport to govern us I discover I want vengeance... perhaps not so different from behaviour exhibited by the first disciples. Do you remember the story of Jesus passing a Samaritan town being asked not to enter and the sons of thunder – James and John asking – shall we cast fire down from heaven and destroy them?
It was to these firebrands, braggart Peter and the rest of the motley crew of disciples that Jesus came with his challenge. It is to the motley crew that we are that Jesus also comes. The first disciples were not expected to pull themselves up by their sandal straps - Jesus breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. Jesus breathed on them and gave them the power of God to be and do what they could not do in their own strength. Jesus says to us too ‘Receive the Holy Spirit….” so that we too so we can be and do what God needs us to do to show God’s tender compassion to the world we live in today.
The verse from the Benedictus continues:
In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
In some measure we already have received from God the gifts we need to live life in all its fullness, if we feel a lack in this we only have to ask and receive any further gift of the Holy Spirit. But there are people living around us who too are dwelling in darkness and under the shadow of death, but with no understanding of God’s tender compassion or gift of the Holy Spirit to help them survive or even thrive. The challenge of Pentecost is that Jesus says to each of us: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Will you allow the peace Jesus offers to reside in you? and allow Jesus to send you as he chooses?
May the tender compassion of our God for you and the rest of our suffering world fill us with God’s renewing grace.
Easter 7 - 24th May 2020
Preacher: Reverend Noelle Taylor
I live under the illusion that John’s Gospel is my favourite – then I read it and I find myself thinking “what?” It’s certainly not an easy read this week.
On Ascension Day we heard the story from the Acts of the Apostles, of the moment when Jesus stopped being physically present with his disciples.
They had been with him for three years witnessing how he lived. They were convinced he was someone special and then, rather than seize the power they had been sure was his for the taking, Jesus submitted to the power of the religious authorities and allowed himself to be killed.
The disciples fell apart and it took some time for them to believe various eyewitnesses who said that their dead friend had risen from the dead. But gradually they realised they were being given another opportunity to witness how Jesus lived. Their hopes for him were ignited once more and at the beginning of the Ascension Day reading on Thursday (Acts 1:4-11) we heard them ask: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”…oh dear… if you ever catch yourself lamenting that you just don’t change – same sins, same failings, remember Jesus didn’t give up on his disciples, he won’t give up on you!
In today’s reading from John’s Gospel we listen in to one of Jesus’ prayers. I wonder what the disciples made of Jesus’ request that God would glorify him as he had glorified God. Did this raise their hopes that Jesus was going to act at last in defence of their beleaguered country and gain the glory they so patently desired for him and perhaps themselves?
Irenaeus, saint from the 2nd century, described the glory of God as being “man fully alive.” Jesus, as he speaks of glorification is speaking of the fullness of life that he demonstrated as he lived on earth. A fullness of life that somehow he was able to reveal even as he died on the cross. A glory, or fullness of life that he had known with God before the world was made and that he longed to return to even though the gateway to this glory was through the appalling portal of his death on a cross.
Eternal life is knowing God, and having the life of God within us – this same fullness of life that Jesus had.
10 days after the ascension of Jesus the disciples were suddenly filled with this life. The Holy Spirit of Jesus came and turned their lives upside down or perhaps it turned their lives the right way up! Whichever it was - they suddenly became fully alive.
Life did not become easier for them. As the way of Jesus failed to die down with the death of Jesus, and as rumours of Jesus’ continuing life grew, so the authorities became more desperate and attacked these empowered followers. Followers who seemed invincible as they did not seem to even fear death anymore.
Filled with the Holy Spirit they too were glorified as they became fully alive. Some, like Jesus, showed this life in all its fullness even as they were killed. Some lived to spread the good news about Jesus and the life he offers all who want it.
How alive do you feel in this scary world that we are living in? Do you want the life in all its fullness that Jesus offers us? Fullness of live that is available in the midst of whatever you currently face not just some future dream for when everything is ok? It is costly – Jesus described it as laying down one’s life, letting go of the illusory control we think we have over our lives. But if we dare let go of the life we wanted to shape for ourselves, and hand ourselves over into God’s eternally loving hands, we will find ourselves living more deeply, more thoroughly than we ever thought possible.
It is 7 days until we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, as the church prays “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people and kindle in us the fire of your love.” shall we dare pray:
“Come Holy Spirit fill my heart and my life and kindle in me the fire of your love”…?
How the Virus Stole Easter
By Kristi Bothur
With a nod to Dr. Seuss
Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began
Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.
People were sick, hospitals full,
Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.
As winter gave way to the promise of spring,
The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.
People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen.
They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.
April approached and churches were closed.
“There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.
“There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out.
No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”
Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.
The world was focused on masks and on tests.
“Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed.
“Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.
The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.
The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed.
The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.
“Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling.
“They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.
“They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.
“That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.”
So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.
And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.
It started down low, then it started to rise.
But the sound wasn’t depressed.
Why, this sound was triumphant!
It couldn’t be so!
But it grew with abundance!
The world stared around, popping its eyes.
Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!
Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,
Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!
It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine
Stood puzzling and puzzling.
“Just how can it be?”
“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,
It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”
Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.
“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
And what happened then?
Well…the story’s not done.
What will YOU do?
Will you share with that one
Or two or more people needing hope in this night?
Will you share the source of your life in this fight?
The churches are empty - but so is the tomb,
And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.
So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,
As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.
May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.
May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.
May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,
May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.
May 2020 be known as the year of survival,
But not only that -
Let it start a revival.