Monthly Archives: April 2017

Palm Sunday

Calendar for Holy Week
Holy Monday         9am Silent Prayer
8pm Compline and Reflection

Holy Tuesday       9am Silent Prayer
8pm Stations of the Cross

Holy Wednesday   10am Eucharist
8pm Compline and Reflection

Maundy Thursday   8pm Mass of the Last Supper and Vigil 
                        Vigil includes prayers at 10pm and Compline at 11pm

Good Friday       10am Procession of Witness
Noon Church open for Silent Prayer
12.45 Stations of the Cross
2pm Liturgy of the Cross
                               7pm  Music for Good Friday

Holy Saturday     11am Children’s Workshop & Egg Rolling
8pm Lighting of the New Easter Fire
 
Easter Sunday     10am Family Eucharist

This week we enter into the sacred time of Holy Week. It is the most significant week of the year for Christians as it takes us on a journey through the final days, hours, and events of our Lord’s life.
The week begins reflectively on Monday with Silent Prayer at 9am and Compline at 8pm.
On Tuesday there will be Silent Prayer at 9am and at 8pm there will be Stations of the Cross; these are meditations on the journey of Jesus to the cross, beginning with his trial before Pilate. Most of the Stations are Biblical events, though some are from tradition. For these meditations we process around the church stopping at each station for a short reflection.
On Wednesday there will be a Eucharist at 10am and at 8pm there will be Compline.

On Maundy Thursday we move into the major liturgies of Holy Week. At 8pm in the evening we celebrate the Mass of the last Supper. This service includes the washing of hands (which we do in remembrance of Jesus washing his disciples feet); and remembering the Last Supper Jesus celebrated with his disciples. The service ends with the stripping of the altar and sanctuary as the mood of week begins to change and Jesus arrest and trial approaches. Following the Eucharist vigil is kept in the Lay Chapel until Midnight, remembering the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane, and his betrayal and arrest. You can come and go as you for any part of this vigil. The silence will be broken by prayers at 10pm; Compline at 11pm; and ends with a reading of scripture at Midnight.
 
Good Friday is probably the most significant and sacred day of the Christian year. The day begins at 10am with the Procession of Witness beginning at St Augustine’s and ending with prayers at Lee Green shopping centre. For this we join with the other Lee Churches.
At Noon the church is open for prayer and 12.45pm we once again have Stations on the Cross.
In the evening at 7pm there is Music for Good Friday of which there is more information elsewhere.

But the most significant act of worship of the day is the Good Friday Liturgy at 2pm. This is the act of worship we should aim to be at above all others as we sit with Christ during the final hour of his life on the cross. The Liturgy begins in silence as the priest lays prostrate before the altar. It is an act of surrender. The priest lies prostrate on behalf of everyone, surrendering to the love that brought God’s Son to the cross. Something extraordinary has been done for us. A unique gift of love has been given to us, and all we can do is surrender to it. The picture created by the prostration of the priest is one that reminds us of Christ surrendering himself to his call and purpose; and also of the only response that we ourselves can make: surrendering ourselves in return to that love; one act of surrender responding to another act of surrender. The moment ends with the singing of the words:
Ours were the grief’s he bore, ours were the pains he carried.
Ours were the sins he took on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
The service also includes the reading of the passion; the solemn prayers on behalf of all God’s creation; and the procession and veneration of the cross. All are invited to venerate the cross by either standing or kneeling before it; and by kissing or touching the feet of Christ for those who wish to. Again this is a moment of surrender to the wonderful gift of love we have been given. The worship concludes by the receiving the bread of Holy Communion which was consecrated on Thursday evening. The liturgy ends as it begins in silence.

Holy Saturday is a beautiful day of anticipation. We have gone through the painful events of Good Friday and we begin to look forward to the joy of Easter. In the morning at 11am we have a workshop and egg rolling for the children at which decorated hard boiled eggs are rolled down a slope to see who can get the furthest – it gets quite competitive! The egg rolling symbolises the stone rolling away from the tomb as we begin to look forward to the resurrection of Christ.

In the evening at 8pm is probably my favourite part of the week as we light the New Easter Fire; process into a darkened church; with the newly lit Easter candle; listen to the beautiful Easter proclamation being sung; hear readings of God’s saving acts and renew our baptismal vows at the font. The service ends with the sharing of the Peace and an eager anticipation of the wonder that is still to come.

The week is completed, of course, with the glorious celebration of the Risen Christ at our Easter Family Eucharist. Easter morning is a full on celebration of joy, wonder and hope. But I hope you will get the full impact of that joy by joining in as much as you can in the other worship of this very significant and Holy week.

Reading Prayerfully

Saturday 8th April
 
Acts 15:31
And when they read it
they rejoiced because of its encouragement

Begin reading by placing yourself
in the presence of God and asking God’s help.
Read quietly, slowly, and pause from time to time
so you read with your heart as well as your mind.
– Jean Pierre de Caussade

Yesterday’s reflection about praying the Bible
applies to all the things we read,
we can learn to read prayerfully.
How often when we sit down to read something
do we merely skim over the words
without really connecting with them?
How often when we read a book
are we so intent in completing it, or finishing the chapter,
that we barely take in the words that we read?
Even reflections like these
can merely be read rather than reflected upon.
Reading prayerfully is to read slowly and deeply,
and allowing our focus not to be so much on
completing what we are reading but being fed by it,
allowing the words to connect us with God.
Someone once wrote that whatever we are reading
we should pause before we begin
and ask the author to convey the true meaning
of what they are trying to say.
Reading prayerfully is about pausing before we begin
and asking God to reveal the wisdom
contained within the pages,
and to give us the grace to receive it.
Whether we are reading the Bible,
a spiritual book, a novel, or the newspaper,
we can read it in a way
that allows it to become a form of prayer.

Basil Pennington Writes:
 
Read by time not by extent.
We have been so schooled in speed reading,
our whole atmosphere is so charged with the push
to get going and gets things done,
that if we decided to read a page or a chapter
there would be a strong urge to rush on and get it done.
If we determine to read for 10 minutes,
no matter how much or how little we cover,
much of the pressure is dissipated.
Really though, it is not a question of reading –
it is a question of listening.

Praying the Bible

Friday 7th April
 
Hebrews 4:12
The word of God is alive and active,
sharper than any two-edged sword
 
You do well not to drop from your hands
the polished mirror of the Holy Gospel,
for it provides the likeness of everyone who looks into it
and the resemblance of all who peer into it.
-Ephraim the Syrian
 
Another way to pray that the masters of prayer teach us,
is praying with the Bible.
To pray in this way is to set some time aside
and choose a biblical passage, perhaps from the gospels,
and read it slowly and reflectively,
allowing God to speak to you through it.
It is not a case of how much we read,
but how deeply we read.
It does not matter if we read a chapter
or just a few verses in the allotted time,
it is about allowing those verses to speak to us
and connect us with the presence of God.
Choose a passage and sit quietly with it before you.
You may want to light a candle before you begin.
Begin with a short time of silence and a prayer
asking God to draw you into his presence
through the passage that you read.
Read the passage slowly, not too much just a few verses,
and then read them again.
Stop if something grabs you, ponder it,
let it speak to you and draw you in.
St Bernard says we should chew the verses slowly
and savour their flavour.
Don’t try to interpret the passage, this isn’t Bible study,
just savour the words and let them speak to your heart.
Towards the end of you time of prayer
choose a sentence or a word from what you have read
to carry with you throughout that day.
Sit quietly with that word or sentence for a few moments
and end with a prayer asking God
to sustain you with his holy word.

 
Lawrence Freeman writes:
 
The aim is not to read a lot.
The discipline is to stay with the passage selected,
but with a sense of deepening freedom and openness.
Read and reread the passage or parts of it,
even aloud when you feel like it.
After several rereading’s you will probably find a particular word,
a detail or phrase standing out and asking for closer attention.
Zoom in on it, not like a jet attacking a target,
but like a bird watcher following a rare specimen.
The art is to listen with the heart.

They Have No Wine

Thursday 6th April
 
John 2:3
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him:
“They have no wine.”

In prayer take the unbiased approach.
Let things be as they are, without judgement.
– Pema Chodron

In the life of Mary, the mother of our Lord,
we find so many beautiful examples of prayer;
from her “Yes” to God at the annunciation,
to her faithful silent presence at the crucifixion.
But one of my favourite images of prayer that she left with us
was at the wedding in Cana.
She was there along with Jesus and his disciples,
and the wine ran out.
This would have been a socially shameful experience for the family,
and Mary approached her son with the problem.
She didn’t tell him what to do,
she didn’t ask him to make everything right,
she did not in any way try to manipulate him
into making a particular response.
She simply stated the problem and left it with him.
“They have no wine” she said.
For me, this is a beautiful example
of how to pray on someone’s behalf, or for ourselves.
Prayer is not about telling God what to do,
or imploring God to make things be the way I want them to be.
Prayer is simply about placing situations into God’s hands,
and trusting God with the outcome,
whatever that outcome may be.
Far too often in prayer we try and manipulate God
into doing what we want.
Mary teaches us to simply place our lives in God’s presence
and trust God’s response.

The Avowal by Denise Levertov
 
As swimmers dare
To lie face to the sky
and waters bear them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into creator Spirits deep embrace
knowing no effort earns
that all surrounding grace.

We Are Prayed

Wednesday 5th April
 
Romans 8: 26
The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit intercedes within us
with groaning’s too deep for words.

We don’t pray. Only God prays, in us.
Prayer is something that happens in and through us.
We are prayed.
-Regina Ryan

Yesterday’s reflection was about prayer being a pure act of faith;
remembering that God shares Holy Communion with us
in every single moment of the day.
That act of faith, that awareness of God’s presence,
opens the door for God to pray in us.
Teresa of Avila reminded us
that one of the great obstacles of prayer
is praying as if God were absent.
Another obstacle is thinking that we do the praying.
We don’t. God does.
We are prayed, as Regina Ryan reminds us in today’s quote.
Or, as St Paul tells us, the Spirit prays within us
with groaning’s too deep for words.
So prayer is not something we do well or poorly,
we are neither giants of prayer or minnows of prayer;
we are simply the channels and vessels
that God chooses to pray in.
And God uses everything in prayer:
our strengths and our weakness, our joy and our pain,
our gifts and our vulnerability, our faith and our lack of faith;
it is all useable by God in this great movement of prayer.
All we have to do is to offer God each moment.

When we are Weak, We are Strong by R.S Thomas
 
When we are weak, we are
Strong. When our eyes close
on the world, then somewhere
within us the bush
burns. When we are poor
and aware of the inadequacy
of our table, it is to that,
uninvited, the guest comes.

An Act of Pure Faith

Tuesday 4th April

Acts 17:27-28
Seek God and feel your way toward Him,
and you will find Him.
For in Him we live and move and have our being.

All difficulties in prayer come from one single flaw:
praying as if God were absent.
– St. Teresa of Avila

Abhishiktananda, a French Christian monk
who explored Hindu spirituality in an Ashram in India,
said that the entrance into prayer is an act of pure faith,
and that praying is simply believing
that we live each moment in the mystery of God.
Prayer in its purest form is about living life
knowing that God intimately shares each moment with us.
If we live in this knowledge,
we are at prayer in whatever we are doing.
St Teresa of Avila tells us that we run into difficulties with prayer
when we forget that,
and live and pray as if God were absent.
I know what she means, I have done that many times!
“Where are you God” I have inwardly prayed.
“I am right here!” God has replied when I have taken time
to open my eyes to see and ears to listen.
Today let us remember and know
that God is with us in each moment
and, in each moment, enjoy the communion of prayer.

 

God Dwells in our Soul by Julian of Norwich
 
How we should rejoice that God dwells in our soul!
And how much more that our soul dwells in God!
Our soul is made to be God’s dwelling-place;
And the souls dwelling-place is God.
We are enfolded in the Father,
and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit.
And the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
are enfolded in us:
all-mighty, all-wisdom, all-goodness,
One God, One Lord.

The Whole Body Prays

Monday 3rd April
 
Ephesians 3:14
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father
 
The whole body prays when we bow;
it is the posture of surrender.
-Suzuki Roshi

We tend to think of prayer has something we do with our mind:
we pray in our head,
we think about people when we pray for them,
we concentrate on a prayer or image.
But prayer is something that involves our bodies
as much as our mind or spirit.
In traditional ways of praying our bodies are always involved:
we kneel, we sit, we stand, we bow,
we may make the sign of the cross,
we put our hands together or hold them upwards,
some traditions dance or lie prostrate.
The body is involved in our prayer in so many different ways.
Some pray through practising yoga or tai chi,
or other forms of movement.
When I go out early in the morning to walk the dog
I often see a gentleman in the park practising tai chi,
I become mesmerised by the gracefulness of his movements
and his complete absorption in what he is doing.
In fact, I find it relaxing and prayerful just to watch him.
I have always loved walking, and praying as I walk
has become as natural for me as sitting or kneeling.
I particularly find walking
in the early morning conducive to prayer,
the early birdsong, the rising sun,
the morning coolness, the rhythm of my steps.
So I encourage you not to neglect your body when you pray,
God often uses its natural rhythms
to draw us closer into his presence.

Living Testament by Gil Hedley
 
Your body
Is a holy book
A scripture –
The pages of your flesh
are marked
in exquisite detail
with the finest hand,
inscribed by Spirit
with the poetry
of love,
lessons of mercy
miracles,
angelic hosts,
and the story
of your life
perfectly told
an illuminated manuscript
of a sacred writing
epic in scope
majesty
and grace.
Every hair
on your head
and line on your face
every rushing tide
of wind and wave
moving you
from within
this living testament
bear witness
to the truth
layered
within you –
study this text
with conviction then,
reflect with care
upon its meaning,
and enjoy
the divine
inspiration.

Sermon Lent 5

John Chapter 11 verse 35.   Jesus wept.

When I was a child in Sunday school that was my favourite Bible verse, for the simple reason that when we had to learn a Bible verse by the following Sunday and then stand up in Sunday School and say it. This was the one to memorise. You just had to get in there quick before anyone else did! Just 2 words the shortest verse in the Bible.

Now 50 years later, it is still one of my favourite verses for slightly different reasons. I find as I get older my emotions are much nearer to the surface. I cry much more easily now than when I did when I was younger. I have always been quite an emotional person but there was a time when I was much more in control of my tears, and I seemed to be able to hold on to them better, until it was safe and more appropriate to release them. Nowadays I find that my tears often flow despite myself.

I was having lunch with a friend recently who I had not seen since my dad died, and he was asking me about it. While we talked I suddenly realised that my tears where flowing quite freely. We both decided that it was something to do with age. He said that he too cried much more freely these days. Mind you, he also admitted that he recently had found himself crying through an episode of “Call the Midwife”, which made me laugh and him to get cross with me! He is 10 years older than me and I moaned “Is it really going to get that bad?” Being an Arsenal supporter I could be in real trouble!

But I have to say that simple verse from John, describing Jesus weeping quite spontaneously in public, I find very reassuring. Jesus had received a message from Mary and Martha that their brother Lazerus was dying. By the time Jesus got there Lazerus had died and Jesus was openly caught up in the grief of the two sisters, and others who mourned, and wept with them. Even though he would soon raise Lazerus from the dead, he still felt their pain and was affected by it. For me, it was one of the most important moments of Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus did many amazing things in his life. Sublime teaching, powerful miracles, made supreme sacrifices – but that moment, which takes up just one verse in the Bible, and uses just 2 words, “Jesus wept”, was for me as important as anything else. It showed that he was not some sort of detached, distant saviour. He loved. He cared. He empathised. He was one with them. Not just their saviour, their master, their teacher – he was their brother, their friend.

I can still remember to this day the first time I publically cried in the course of my ministry. It felt like a total failure. A young family I knew in the parish I worked in then, at the Elephant and Castle, lost their youngest child through a cot death. They asked me if I would go with them to the hospital chapel of rest, and say some prayers with them for their little boy Joshua, and anoint him. As soon as the parents saw him they dissolved into tears again, and as hard as I tried I could not hold my emotions in check when I tried to pray. I couldn’t get the words out. In the end we just all hugged each other and cried. I was cross with myself, and I felt that I had totally failed them, but later when I spoke with them, they told me that me being there with them, crying with them, had made them feel loved and supported, and had given them strength.

I learned from that incident that there is great power in tears. It is our tears that make us truly human and compassionate. Not clever words, not articulate prayers, but vulnerable uncontrolled tears. Our tears are often our most heartfelt prayer.

John Chapter 11 verse 35      The shortest, and one of the most beautiful and powerful verses in the Bible. May we never be ashamed of, or afraid of, our tears. So often they express more than words ever can. And in our tears, our God cries with us and through us; and expresses deep compassion for the world he loves.

When 2 or 3 are Gathered

Saturday 1st April
 
Matthew 18:20
When two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I among them.

Just gathering together as a Christian community
makes Christ present.
Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection
when they were gathered together.
– Thomas Keating

For me the main foundation of a prayerful and spiritual life
is regular worship with others.
There is no such thing as private prayer,
all prayer is community prayer,
our relationship with God is not just between us and God;
it involves the whole of creation.
When I mediate I use an app on my I-Pad which tells me
when I have completed the time I have set out to meditate for.
When I begin there is a gentle gong that slowly fades
and after the appropriate amount of minutes
the gong gently returns to remind me that the time is completed.
When I go to turn it off lots of faces appear on the screen
of people around the world
who have been meditating at the same time.
While I find that somewhat annoying,
it is a reminder that prayer is not a private domain
but something I do with millions of other souls
in this world and the next.
When we attend worship at church
our worship is shared with everyone else there
and with others worshipping elsewhere.
It is an important foundation for prayer.
It requires a commitment to be there
and enter into this holy cosmic relationship
and an awareness that all prayer is with and on behalf of others.

If You Want to Draw Near to God by Abu Sa’id

If you want to draw near to God
seek him in the hearts of those around you.
Speak well of all, present or absent.
If you would be a light for others,
be like the sun: show the same face to all.
To bring joy to a single heart
is better than building countless shrines for worship;
to capture one heart through kindness
is better than setting a thousand free.
This is the true lover of God:
who lives with others,
rises, eats and sleeps like others,
gives and takes with others in the bazaar,
yet never forgets God even for a moment.