Sunday 18th March 2018 Passion Sunday

Galatians 6:14  I boast only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ

Central to the Good Friday worship is the Veneration of the Cross.
The Cross bearing Jesus is carried slowly up the centre of the church.
Three times the priest stops, raises the cross, and says:
“Behold the wood of the cross on which our saviour dies”.
To which all respond: “Come let us worship.”
After the procession all are invited to come forward
and to offer veneration to the cross and to Christ.
Some simply come forward and bow, others will kiss the feet of Christ,
and others will simply touch the cross
to connect with the love that Jesus perfected in this selfless act.
It is a very moving part of the day that recognises and honours
everything that our Lord has done for us and given to us.
It is also symbolic of our commitment to make known God’s love
in our own lives and ministries as Christians.

Whenever I venerate the cross on Good Friday
I think of the words we hear each week at the Eucharist:
This is my body, given for you.
In receiving Holy Communion we receive that body within ourselves,
at this ritual on Good Friday we give ourselves
in surrender and service to that body.

This is my Body by Daniel O’Leary

This is my body.
Those words seem to reverberate around the earth
with transforming power.
They were first whispered by our creator
when the world was brought to birth;
again when the word became human.
It is God become atom, become galaxies,
become universes, become earth,
become flesh, become everything.

Sermon for Lent 5 Passion Sunday

A couple of weeks ago Roger Bannister died.
In 1954, he was the first athlete in the world to run a mile in under 4 minutes.
At the time, it was said that would never be done,
that the human body simply did not have the capacity to run that distance that quickly.
It was thought that it would never be done, but Roger Bannister did it,
and not only that, just 46 days later, the Australian John Landy, did it again.
Within 3 years 300 other athletes ran a mile in under 4 minutes.
But Roger Bannister was the first.

It’s remarkable isn’t it, that something not thought possible was achieved once,
and after that, was repeated again and again.
But according to the scientist Rupert Sheldrake, experiences like this are not unusual.
He calls it by an academic term: Morphic Resonance,
which to simple folk like me, apparently means
that once something has been achieved in one place
it will be achieved again and again elsewhere.

He speaks about experiments with rats in a London laboratory
where they are taught to do a certain trick.
Once the rats in that London laboratory have mastered that trick,
other rats in other parts of the world are also capable of doing the same thing.
There is a link across time and space between species.

It also works with things like crystals.
When a new chemical is made for the first time it is usually hard to crystalise it,
But once they are crystalised once, they crystalise quicker throughout the world.
They are somehow connected and respond to what goes on elsewhere.
All very fascinating, but not being a scientist or being a person who thinks scientifically,
it is not something that would normally hold my attention for very long;
except that I think it has a profound thing to teach us about the spiritual life
and our commitment to it.

Let’s face it, sometimes we wonder
if our spiritual practice has any bearing upon our world at all.
What difference does it make in the great scheme of things
if I come to church every week or not?
What difference does it actually make to our world if I pray?
What significance is there really to one small, unseen, act of kindness?

Well according to the scientist Rupert Sheldrake, who also happens to be a Christian,
those acts make a significant difference to our world.
Because of what he calls “Morphic Resonance” the way you and I live our lives
has a greater impact on the rest of the human race that we would ever imagine.

Because we worship, because we pray,
other people around our world will be drawn to this spiritual practice,
even though they have no idea who we are or what we do.
And likewise we have been influenced and taught
by the practice of others who we have never even heard of.
We are part of each other, we are intimately connected to each other,
we influence each other, support each other and encourage each other
in the most incredible ways.

The simple things that you and I do matter and have a purpose.
Often we feel that we are of no real significance in this vast world and universe,
but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Because we smile at someone the world is changed.
Because of one gentle word, one small act of kindness,
one small unselfish sacrifice; one moment when we refuse to judge or criticise;
because we stop to offer a moments reflection and prayer…
the world is influenced, people we have never met are empowered,
and God’s kingdom breaks through.

Of course modern practitioners give fancy names to it like morphic resonance,
but the ancients have always known about this.
Francis of Assisi
knew the power of doing small, unknown, seemingly insignificant things.
Another of the old saints spoke of going into a chapel
and seeing an elderly peasant woman offering a few prayers at the altar.
He had a vision of the whole world revolving around that woman’s simple prayers.
She, of course, had no idea of their impact.

We do not have to achieve great feats like Roger Bannister
to open new possibilities for human kind.
We simply have to do what is ours to do….
lovingly, kindly, gently, faithfully and prayerfully.
Living our lives, simply in the service of Christ
will charge our world with the wonder of God’s love.

What you and I think, say and do on a daily basis matters,
and is significant not only for us, but for our world.


Saturday 17th March 2018

Psalm 61:1 Hear our cry, O God, listen to our prayer

The Good Friday liturgy also includes the Solemn Prayers.
On this Holy Day, when Christ flooded the world with love,
we pray that this beautiful outpouring may flow to all parts of our world
and to all aspects of creation.
We stand at the foot of the cross on behalf of all God’s creation
and pray that such love may be known and experienced by all.
We pray for the world wide church, and people of all faiths;
for all world leaders and governments
and those who work for peace and justice;
for the natural world, the environment and our responsibility towards it;
for all who suffer sickness, are oppressed, deprived, or bereaved;
and for the grace to love a holy life in response to God’s love.
The Solemn Prayers are offered in words, silence and music.

The following is one of my favourite poems
that I always read on Good Friday.
It never fails to move me.

The Coming by R.S Thomas

And God held in his hand
a small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
as through water, he saw
a scorched land of fierce
colour. The light burned
there; crusted buildings
cast their shadows: a bright
serpent, a river
uncoiled itself, radiant
with slime.

On a bare
hill a bare tree saddened
the sky. Many people
held out their arms
to it, as though waiting
for a vanished April
to return to its crossed
boughs. The son watched
them. Let me go there, he said.

Friday 16th March 2018

Genesis 43:28 And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves

At the beginning of the worship at 2pm on Good Friday
the priest lies prostrate in the sanctuary in silence
and then we sing a haunting piece of music:

Ours were the grief’s he bore, ours were the sins he carried,
Ours were the sins he took on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

This beginning to the service is an act of surrender to love.
What Jesus gave to the world by saying “Yes” to God,
and taking that long lonely journey to his death, was pure love.
He met humanities selfishness, cruelty and brutality head on,
confronted it with love, surrendered to it in love,
and took human life to a new level.
What other response can we make but one of complete surrender?

A Prayer by Charles de Foucauld

My Father, I abandon myself to you, do with me as you will.
Whatever you may do with me I thank you.
I am prepared for anything.
I accept everything, provided your will is fulfilled in me.
I ask for nothing more, my God.
I place my soul in your hands,
I give it to you, my God, with all the love of my heart,
because I love you.
and for me it is a necessity of love, this gift of myself,
this placing of myself in your hands without reserve,
in boundless confidence, because you are my Father.


Thursday 15th March 2018

Mark 15:5 And it was the third hour when they crucified him

The central worship on Good Friday in our tradition
are the 3 hours between Noon and 3pm when we remember the time
that Jesus was nailed to, hung and died on the cross.
The church is always open from noon
for both silent prayer and the liturgies of the day.
Between each act of worship the church is kept silent.
There are Stations of the Cross at 12.45pm (see 6th March reflection).
The main Liturgy of the day is at 2pm,
remembering Jesus’ last hour on the cross and his death.
This liturgy includes a silent beginning, a reading of the Passion,
the Solemn Prayers, the veneration of the cross,
and the receiving of Holy Communion consecrated on Maundy Thursday.
The coming days reflections will look at each of these devotions.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

– American Spiritual


Wednesday 14th March 2018

Ephesians 2:16 Be reconciled in one body through the cross

The morning devotion on Good Friday
is the Procession of Witness with the other local churches.
It is a devotion of solidarity.
Solidarity with Jesus who walked the journey to Calvary, to his cross.
We make that journey through the streets of our community,
carrying a cross as Jesus carried his.
It is also a witness of solidarity with the other churches in the area.
We may have differences from each other in belief and practice,
but we are all united by the Cross
and by the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
It is also an act of solidarity with our community,
it witnesses to those we serve that we stand with Christ in their midst,
a witness to God’s loving Presence among us and within us.

Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend,
– Albert Camus


Tuesday 13th March 2018

Mark 14:50 And they all forsook him and fled

Good Friday is one of the most important days of the Christian Year.
Along with Christmas and Easter it is at the heart of our Christian faith,
and yet many Christians choose to avoid the worship on this day.
I know the church will be full on Easter morning
but Good Friday sees much fewer numbers for its Liturgies.
And yet, without Good Friday there would be no Easter Sunday,
without Good Friday there would be no Christian Faith.
Perhaps the reason for poor attendance on Good Friday
is the emotional impact that the worship on this day has upon us.
Easter and Christmas are days of celebration and joy,
but Good Friday takes us into the region of sorrow, pain and vulnerability.
Maybe this lent it is time for each of us to explore
our feelings towards Good Friday, how we normally spend it, and why.
Reflections over the coming days will explore the devotions for this day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life was full of Easter Days
without the shadows of Good Friday surrounding them?
But then, without Good our Good Friday’s there would be no Easter Day.
The things in life that bring us the most joy and happiness,
also have the potential to bring us the deepest of pain and sorrow as well.
A particular friendship can fill us with wonder and delight,
but when we are close to someone we suffer when they suffer.
Without bitterness, nothing would taste sweet.
Good Friday and Easter Sunday belong together,
both in our worship and in our daily lives.
It is impossible to have one without the other.
We can’t avoid our Good Fridays they are the very thing
that help us recognise and truly experience our Easter moments.
Let’s not avoid this coming one if we can possibly help it,
it is the doorway to resurrection and life in all its fullness.


Monday 12th March 2018

Mark 14:37 Could you not watch with me one hour?

The vigil that follows the Maundy Thursday service invites us
to sit and watch with Christ during his anguished prayer,
and his pivotal decision in Gethsemane to say “yes”
to all that was to unfold in the coming night and day.
This night showed the human emotions of Jesus in turmoil,
and his willingness to completely surrender to love’s call.
We are told that he prayed that “the cup may be taken from him”,
yet, despite his anguish, also praying: “not my will, but thy will be done.”
As we sit with Jesus on this holy night,
we keep silent prayer in the chapel up to Midnight.
The silence is broken only by prayers at 10pm, Compline at 11pm,
and the Gospel reading of his arrest just before midnight.
You can come and leave as you wish during this time.

All of us have at some stage in our lives have sat keeping watch
with loved ones going through difficult times.
It may be by a hospital bed, or anxiously at home;
waiting for results of tests, or maybe exams, or news of a job.
We wait anxiously, hopefully, fearfully, or sometimes anticipating joy.
Those who have worked in schools know all about waiting for OFSTED!
Waiting, keeping vigil, can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally,
as the disciples who sat with Jesus in Gethsemane discovered.
We read that they fell asleep during the process.
Our vigil on Maundy Thursday
reminds us of the many vigils we keep in life.
But, as Jesus discovered, we never wait alone.
We read that angels came and ministered to him.
This night as we sit in vigil with our Lord, we are reminded
that in our own times of trial God comes to us
and strengthens us in our vigil, in a whole variety of ways.