SundaY24th MAY 2020
Sunday 24th May 2020 - Just When Things Were Going So Well.
HYMN – NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD
The hymn I want to point you to is one that was written in a lockdown. Martin Rinkart was a Lutheran pastor in the German city of Eilenburg during the Thirty Years War, at one point the only pastor. Three times armies overran the walled city. It was crammed with refugees, suffered famine, and then plague broke out. At one year he conducted 4,000 funerals including that of his wife. It was during this time, in 1636, that Martin wrote the words of this hymn. As you listen to them, think of what it must have meant to remain in the city through all that. What do his words say about his faith in God?
Creator God, we glimpse your beauty in setting sun, mountain top, eagle’s wing.
We sense your power in thunder crash, lightning flash and ocean’s roar. Creator God we praise you
Precious Jesus, we see your love stretched out upon a cruel cross. We stand in awe at your sacrifice, pure love poured out for humankind.
Precious Jesus we praise you
Holy Spirit, we see your power in lives transformed, hearts on fire. We listen for your still, small voice, comforting, guiding, calling.
Holy Spirit we praise you From the moment we awake to face the day ahead, you are with us, through good times and bad, Your presence enough for our needs. Every day I will praise you.
Through the hours of the day, in our travels and work, you are with us; in decisions we must make, Your wisdom enough for our needs. Every day I will praise you
As we lay down to rest at the end of the day, you are with us, as we lay our fears at your feet, Your peace enough for our needs. Every day I will praise you
God of all ages,
who from generation to generation has heard the cries of your children humbly seeking forgiveness, and has welcomed sinners back into your embrace, hear the thoughts of our hearts, examine our motives, forgive us our faults, of word and action.
We ask this through your Son, who died that we might know the true cost of forgiveness.
- Lockdown has been such a strange time. In the early days, for many people it was similar to having a holiday at home, a time to do those jobs which we hadn’t got around to doing or had put off for another occasion. But as the weeks have become months, self isolating and self-distancing has made life become quite alien compared to normal, when even walking along the pavement we or others have walked across to the other side of the road to avoid close contact. I almost felt like a leper with my little bell indicating unclean. Home tutoring has arrived at present and working from home has become norm for many; sadly, worries over loss of income and about employment in the future has also become a real anxiety for many.
- I have been one of the lucky ones who has been able to walk through the fields and lanes during this time. One thing that will remain in my memory is the abundance of the wildflowers which I have seen. I have always loved and been interested in wildflowers, following my mother’s love of nature, but this year I have watched day by day the early Spring flowers die away and the early Summer flowers appearing. The countryside has been truly beautiful. As I have watched flowers die back, producing seeds for next year, some of which have been dispersed by the wind, I have been reminded so much of God’s goodness in creation and of His promise that While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and Summer and Winter, and day and night will not cease.
- The hymn I have chosen is For the beauty of the earth, but as we sing or listen note the words of each verse, other things we have to praise God for. For the beauty of each hour; For the joy of human love; For each perfect gift of Thine; For Thy Church …
- Lockdown has been a time of contact via modern technology, a time of joy, a time of silly jokes, but also a time of stress and deep, deep sadness for many both in this country and throughout the world from all walks of life. We do not know the answer to the question: Why God? but He knows the reason and He is a God who is with us through all the changing scenes of life. He is working his purposes out. We don’t know what lies ahead for any of us, but we have a God who does, and a God who will walk with us into the future. So let’s give him our grateful praise.
TALK: This week I start off my talk on familiar turf:
HYMN: OH THE DEEP, DEEP, LOVE OF JESUS.
At times of uncertainty and pain, we need to know that we are enfolded in the arms of a God who loves us. The apostle Paul says; “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Rom.8:32
We pray for all whose lives have been touched by tragedy, whether by accident or a deliberate act. For those who mourn, immerse them in your love and lead them through this darkness into your arms, and light. For those who comfort, be in both the words they use and all that's left unspoken; fill each heart with love.
God of love and mercy, embrace all those whose hearts today overflow with grief, unanswered questions and such a sense of loss. Grant them space to express their tears. Hold them close through the coming days.
In a novel by William Brodrick, the priest detective Father Anselm, struggles with his role in a broken world. His Prior says to him; “Once you’ve heard a child cry out to heaven for help, and go unanswered, nothing’s ever the same again. Nothing. Even God changes. But there is a healing hand at work that cannot be deflected from its purpose. I just can’t make sense of it, other than to cry. Those tears are part of what it is to be a monk. Out there, in the world, it can be very cold. It seems to be about luck, good and bad, and the distribution is absurd.
We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair, faith and doubt, life, and death, all the opposites. That is the disquieting place where people must always find us.
And if our life means anything, if what we are goes beyond the monastery walls and does some good, it is that somehow, by being here, at peace, we help the world cope with what it cannot understand.”
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
HYMN: NO LONGER SLAVES
God’s plan is not only to love us, but to set us free from fear. Today we accept that slavery is wrong, and yet many of us live in it – slavery to fear of what is, to fear of what might be, to fear of what might have been. Jesus wants us to know the truth that he is bigger than all our fears, not just to heal, but to turn them to blessings. In him all things work together for good, according to his plans.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7 NIV
• Thanks to all of you who have been praying for David and Valerie, and Hannah, and their family this week. David says that they feel so surrounded by love. Keep on praying for them, and I’ll keep you up to date with what is happening.
Thanks too to all of you who have been praying for me. It has been a truly hard week. I am going to be taking the coming week (Tuesday-Monday) off.
There will not be a service email next Sunday morning. I hope that you will find other ways to worship - There will be a service on BBC1 or you could try Jonathan Smith’s service stream from Brookdale in Ilfracombe - http://www.brookdalechurch.org.uk .There are plenty of other streamed services out there – have a look, you might find some good ideas.
Could you also pray for my health, as I’m still having issues with breathing and fatigue.
Please pray for John and Pat Blake – Pat is back from hospital, but still needs a lot of care. Pray for Pat’s health, and strength for John.