Rev. Nigel Robb April 30th
Post Easter reflections for a locked down Church
1.Prayer in distress and grief
O Loving God, you are our guide and support, ever present and always concerned for us whether we walk in the light of good fortune or the shadow of pain and trouble.We know we can rely on your faithfulness and with gratitude and confidence we can lean like weary travellers upon you as our guide and leader.
We thank you for the care for the world you have made and the destinies of men and women who embrace your nearness in true belief and faith. We know that your love and mercy are stronger than the powers of tragedy and death.
Lord of hope, wisdom and comfort, hear our pleas for those in their season of distress. Remember your sons and daughters throughout the world who mourn the loss of a close relative or friend; those to whom word has come that some illness is beyond all medical skill; and those for whom the day brings no remission and the night only long and restless hours of doubt and fear.
Minister in your mercy to all to whom trouble has come and who are at their wits end and at a loss how to meet it. Come with reason and consolation to those who cry out in protest and rebellion. Add strength to those who weave sorrow into the pattern of their living and through faith in your wise care to come through to victory.
Bind up the broken ends of life, and encourage all in seeking meaningful life, away from disbelief, coldness of cynicism and anger.
May we feel your nearness in every loss, walking by our side, and lifting us up when life’s load has crushed us down.
Point us beyond our pain and tears to the light of Jesus our crucified risen Saviour.
Creator, Redeemer and Guide,
We are all too aware of our insufficiency to be, or to do, or to offer anything of or by ourselves to relieve the pain and sorrows of the human race.
Hear our prayer as we approach the mercy seat and embrace in our intercessions those whose names and lives lay claim upon our hearts.
Remember in your wise care and keeping all those whose minds or bodies are beset by anxiety, disaster or pain.
Come as the God of comfort with consolation and work though all care givers to heal and restore all who suffer at this time.
Support those who research in laboratories and universities so that new cures may be found and the struggle against disease may be strengthened and sustained.
Stand by those who watch and wait through the hours of long days and sleepless nights.
Surround them with an awareness and assurance that outside and beyond all human aid there is a love that will never let them go.
We bring before you, Merciful God, our world in all its brokenness, sorrow and distress. Defeat and remove all that spoils human relationships and hasten the day, in the light of the current challenges, when the family of the nations may learn the ways of peace and cooperation.
Hear these our inmost petitions and desires and in your pity save, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We come, O God, out of our human situation, marked by depression, flagging enthusiasm for life, and spirits whose creative thrust has either been deflected or dulled.
We bring all our concerns, failures and burdens, our low spiritual energy, insufficiency and lack of vision, pessimism. We give you thanks for those men and women whose lives and witness have made their world and their day better and different.Open our eyes to the light they shed or the truth for which they stand and seek to defeat the corruption of the human situation.
Make us aware of our need to be grateful for the companionship you offer us with goodness, mercy and care day by day. Help of the helpless, we know we have no other to lean upon in a time like this.
Hear our prayer of thanksgiving for your untiring goodness to us and the privilege as human creatures dependent on your grace.
4. The world in our experience
There are so many difficult and negative things in our world:
Injustice, poverty, greed, loneliness, illness, to name only a few. We look around us and it is easy to become disheartened. We lose hope and become depressed. We lack the ability to see things in proportion as we are bombarded with information, statistics and predictions based on speculation.
Yet are we so different, however, from Christians that have gone before us? They too lived in an imperfect world.
Hebrews 3:1-11 suggests that ‘we are God’s house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory’.
We are to rely on God’s care and guidance, wisdom and love. This is a time to set aside anger, bitterness, and indifference, and look at how God is working in and through those around us. The care professionals, the health and support workers, the shop workers and delivery drivers and all those who meet community needs by cleaning and doing the tasks we so often ignore. The love which we have taken for granted and the social interaction which we have lost, at least for the time being, all are brought into sharp focus. We are called to hang on, confident that we may come before God to ask for the strength we need to face the future.
5. Bless the Lord
Psalm 34 states
I will bless the Lord at all times…
When the yoke is easy and the burden is light
When the path is clear
When the work is fulfilling
When the words flow
When the rain begins to fall
When the tasks pile up
The schedule and demands tighten and increase
When the nights are no longer restful
When anxiety fills our bodies
When the work is draining
When the church shuts its doors
When failure is looming
When the world appears to have rejected us
When the fight is far from over
When we are sure we cannot go on.
God is present in our loneliness, and able to hear our pain and prayer.
God surprises us by sneaking into even the most desperate of times
God blesses us at all times and in all places.
Let us bless the Lord.
6. If only….
How easy it is to complain, to react with negativity, especially when things do not feel like they are going our way.The line waiting at the supermarket is long and slow, the meeting always seem to run on endlessly… there are many grievances of our own we can add. Sometimes, even, if we are honest, we complain not only to God, but about God, 'If only you had....'
Much of the experience of ministers is shaped by the visits we do to those with huge and often long running health issues, which often lead to spells in hospitals and care, and severe limits on what they can do and where they can go.People who are not happy about their circumstances by any means, but who do their best not to complain about them. Instead, they make the choice to stay positive, greet each day as a gift, and warmly embrace any human contact as a sign of grace.
It is so easy to get caught up in complaining that we forget that we belong to a God who loves us so much that he came among us in the life of Jesus, so that ‘whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life’John 3:16.
I wonder what life would be like if for every complaint we have we express our thanks for a gift we have been given?If we looked at the world and saw what God has done and is doing among us, through us and for us every day.
7. Journey with Jesus
From Bethlehem to Nazareth,
From Jordan to Jericho,
From Bethany to Jerusalem,
From then to now,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To heal the sick,
To mend the broken hearted,
To comfort the disturbed
To disturb the comfortable,
To cleanse the Temple,
To liberate faith from convention,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To carry the cross,
To lead the way,
To shoulder the pain of the world and take it away.
Come Lord Jesus, to this place, our community, and our lives,
Be our companion in all that we say and do,
Give us courage to face the unknown in the path before us.
‘Steadfast’ is an archaic word. We certainly do not use it in our everyday life. We only really find it in relation to God and in the Bible. Psalm 36: ‘How precious is your steadfast love, O God.’
What does the word mean? Strong. Immovable. Never wavering, even a little bit. Trustworthy, even to the extreme edge of reality. No change of opinion – ever. No fluctuation. No wondering what might be different today.
This is the nature of God’s love for each of us: steadfast, immovable, never changing. God’s welcome to us will never fluctuate or waver, no matter what we have done, or what we have left undone. Whatever we have been or not achieved, whatever we have failed to do, or have been unable to believe, God’s delight and love for us will continue like the creation God has made.
The immensity of God’s love for us is simple, shocking and steadfast.
Read John 20: 1-18 ‘Mary Magdalene went and announced to the Disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord…’.
Like Mary Magdalene and the disciples we have followed Jesus the Saviour of the world, for some time. Like them, we have expectations, or at least hopes for what Jesus would do. We, like them, have seen some of our hopes crucified. In spite of our prayers, a day came when what we most needed or desired, happened. Or a day dawned when what we most feared came upon us. When the death of our hope arrived, it felt as if our God had rejected us, had not heard our pleas, and had extinguished our future, and Jesus had died, powerless to aid us.
In the passage there is attention focus on the tomb. We are told it was dark, the stone was rolled away, the disciples stooped to enter it, the linen wrappings were lying there, and the cloth that had been on the head of Jesus was rolled up. The disciples knew all about the tomb.
So do we. We suffer the greatest disappointments in life; we get very familiar with the tomb where hope remains buried. Then, we often want Jesus to stay there with us. We look for the comfort of a dead Jesus who understands our despair, makes our losses bearable, and helps us cope with how it is. If we are angry, we only want Jesus to tell us that we were cheated when our dreams were stolen, and we should blame someone for our losses. If we are a little more positive, we only want Jesus to make the tomb a nicer place to live – maybe he can make this place better.
Jesus does not like tombs. He did not spend much time in his own tomb, and we should not expect him to settle into ours, but go on before us in the future trusting in his power to transform our lives, hopes, dream, illusions, disappointments and mistakes.
How will we use words this week?
Words can affirm or they can alienate
They can build, or they can belittle.
They can comfort, or they can criticise.
Words can delight or they can destroy
Words can empower or they can entangle
Words can be faithful, or they can be fickle.
Words can be gracious or they can be gratuitous
Words can be heroic or they can be heretical
Words can express interest or indifference.
Words can be just or judgemental.
Words can be kind or they can kill
Words can bring laughter leadership, learning, or they can be lugubrious, lethargic or downright lewd.
Words can mend or they can manipulate
Words can nurture or they can neglect.
Words can be obedient or they can be obstinate.
Words can bring peace or paralysis.
Words can bring quiet or they can make someone quit.
Words can reconcile or they can rationalise,
They can be sincere or sinister.
Words can build trust or create tension.
Words can unite or usurp.
Words can be victorious or they can be vicious.
They can be warm, or they can be wicked
Words can Xerox the good or x- ray the bad.
Words can yield to someone else’s opinion or put a yoke around someone’s neck.
Words can lift a human being up to the zenith of human life or make them feel like a zero.
Words, how will we use words this week?
He was born a human being,
Yet he is God.
He came to bring good News,
But many thought it was bad.
He did good, fed the hungry, cured the sick,
But they said he was evil.
He taught from the Scriptures,
Yet was called a heretic.
He lived among men and women,
But his allegiance was to the Kingdom of God.
He was a friend to many,
And they turned their backs on him
He lived a life of love,
Yet was hated.
He came to save the world,
But would not spare himself.
He despised evil;
He loved sinners.
He had the universe at his command,
But he would rather be with the poor.
He harmed no one,
And in return was harmed.
He was innocent,
Yet was declared guilty.
He came bringing peace
And was given a cross.
He showed God’s love,
But it brought out the worst in many.
He died for us.
What shall we do for him?
12. Prayer for the world
Almighty God, whose love is great enough to suffer for humankind on the Cross in anguish and despair, hear us as we pray for our world, in which your Son’s message of peace, justice and love is urgently required.
For those facing despair, rejection and whose expectation of improvement and hope has become extinct.
For those wandering in the wilderness of complacency, disloyalty, defeat and self-pity.
For the betrayers and the betrayed, the victims and the victimisers, and all who allow the destruction of dignity and self-respect through carelessness or ignorance.
For those engaged in war and destruction, the pitiful people who each day of their lives could enrich and protect the lives of others, but who stand by in silence and do nothing.
For the powerful and influential of this and every nation, and on whom is bestowed the gift of education for the empowerment of others.
For those struggling and savagely seized by temptations and evil desires, and those feeling unable to resist the pressure to conform.
For those who have no safe place to rest, no friends, no security or comfort.
For those who are handicapped or mentally ill, or distressed by bereavement, worry, or terrifying fears.
For all who are hurt by their own sin; those soured by jealousy, weakened by lust, hardened by arrogance and pride; the lazy, the idle and those who have wasted their lives with idle chatter instead of creative action.
Hear us as we offer them to you for your guidance, correction, care, encouragement and restoration, through our dying and loving Lord, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
Trust is a ribbon that ties us to one another
We weave the thread of trust through the cloth of our community
A thread of courage ties the weak to the strong
We weave the thread of courage through the cloth of our community
There is a ribbon of commitment that binds our community together.
The power of Jesus threads through us and empowers us all.
We weave the thread of power through the cloth of our community
Hope is a thread that leads us towards the vision of the kingdom.
We weave the thread of hope through the cloth of our community.
Threads of trust, courage, commitment, power and hope.
All those we weave through the cloth of our community.
14. Belief Affirmation
We believe in a God who always surprises us,
Who creates life from death,
Who brings good out of evil,
Who leads us from diaper to hope.
We believe in a God who is faithful to us,
Who shows mercy when we run away,
Who demonstrates patience when we deny the truth,
Who offers reconciling love when we betray.
We believe in a God who lived and died as one of us
To take the fear out of living and dying,
To open our eyes to death, within us and around us,
And open our hearts to new ways of living.
We believe in a God who forgives us,
Who sets us free from past grief and failure
And calls us forth into a new day.