Dear Church Family, in the absence of actual church service at St Philip’s, I have gone on and on again for you to dip into a little at a time if you feel so inclined in the long days of social distancing ahead. Once again, there are some prayers attached.
On their death-bed, moribund Old Testament patriarchs bequeathed property to their progeny. At his Last Supper discourse, Jesus had no material legacy to dispense, only words of power, comfort and hope. He tried to make sense of the events to come with his disciples, especially the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension. At this Last Supper meal, because his still very human lads were arguing about who was greatest among the team, Jesus shamed them by washing their feet, teaching them that they should do the same for one another. Then, reclining at table, Jesus began to strip away the dream world utopia, which the disciples had imagined since the aurora of Palm Sunday. He began to prick their fantasies by revealing more of his real self and his immediate fate than ever before. Deeply troubled in spirit, Jesus foretold the betrayal by a traitor in their midst, just as the felon slipped out of sight unseen, to the shouts of “Who is he? Let me at him.” Jesus added that the morning rooster would not crow thrice until their stalwart leader, fell into the cusp of great failure, and denied his Lord thrice. Sorrowfully, Jesus told his disciples that he would be with them only a little while longer, but, where he was going, they could not then follow. At this revelation, the cold clutch of bewilderment and confusion, gripped their hearts. The happy world they had known for three years since their calling, was caving in around them. The very ground was shifting under their feet. They has seen him change water into wine, turn a few tiny loaves into food for thousands, and raise Lazarus alive, marvel works that had brought delight and abundance. Now, he was leaving; now, they were losing him. For women and men, who had given up everything to follow the Messiah, to hear that he was going, must have been terribly defeating.
There comes a time when we have to believe where we cannot prove; we have to accept where cannot understand. Even in this beastly social isolation, if we can tell ourselves that, somehow, there is a purpose, a plan being worked out, then even the unbearable can become bearable. Q. The pandemic has swept the normal away; there cannot be a return to what we held as normal. The new normal will change life for millions. Will people, who, in the past, strove to insulate themselves from religion, see how the churches shared the pooled resources they had and led the reaching out to the lonely and the hungry, in the name of Jesus? Will these non-believers seek the same power in their lives in a new religious rejuvenation?
Homily- The Last supper discourse
John 14: Verse 1: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.”
These are the words of a Good Shepherd comforting the hearts of his troubled sheep. Life for the disciples was teetering on heartbreak. Their world was about to collapse in chaos around them. Stubbornly, they had to trust in God to hold on. Jesus says “Don’t worry, be happy. I am about to give my life for you. Trust God and trust me.” This was not a pale hope of his; this was a command. This was a manual for stress management. Although Jesus was facing his own excruciating death on the morrow, he did not focus on his own troubles, but tried to comfort his disciples. Instead of making his fear a focus, Jesus called on his team to believe that just as he must ascend back to Father God, so he wanted his disciples to understand that there will be much more beyond Good Friday’s crucifixion and the resurrection. He implied, if we trust and obey, “all things (will) work together for good to those who love God” [Romans 8.28]. “If God is for us, what does it matter who is against us?” [Romans 8.31]. That kind of faith triumphs over fear. If we believe that God is as Jesus taught God to be, if we believe that if in Jesus we see the image of God, then the fact of amazing love becomes possible to accept, even when we still cannot understand. In this way, we will not lose heart, but retain faith in the storms of life.
John 14: Verse 2: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you and I will come again and will take you to where I am.”
John’s Jesus used a more personal word “house” than “Heaven,” and “rooms” or “abiding places,” instead of “mansions.” Jesus gave future funeral preachers an image of a great lodging in the sky with many “dwelling places,” in which we may abide, to commune with God. This was a profoundly comforting depiction of a home prepared for the recently departed loved one, and clearly designed to help folk in their fear of dying. The deceased, who had a life-long loving relationship with Father God, received the promise that they will be ‘at home’ there. John based his heavenly image on a non-canonical The Book of the Secrets of Enoch. (When the number of books thought to be necessary for salvation were determined, Enoch dropped out. Yet, the very first Presbyterian Church in Melbourne from 1852 was St Enoch’s.) Enoch has the basis upon which John drew: “In the world to come, there are many mansions prepared for men: good for good, evil for evil.” If there is universal salvation, and while everyone will be equal in heaven, are there different grades of blessedness? Will an archangel be something different from poor little Walter McEntee, creeping in with Adolf Hitler and Joe Stalin, crying “Of your charity, pray for me a poor sinner?” God’s messenger, Gabriel, carried the greatest news the world would ever hear to a young woman called Mary. Should he not be accorded a higher state of blessedness than the mealy mouthed and maggoty trio just mentioned? Will there be growth and becomingness in heaven? Anglicans do not subscribe to a Purgatory. This was a 12th Century Roman creation. Did it gain favour as a necessary financial cash cow to finance the building of mighty cathedrals and enormous monasteries? The rhyme went “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul to heaven on its way, wings.”
Purgatory was defined as a place or state of purification, which one may need to enter after death for a space, before a final face-to-face encounter with God. Where did this belief arise? In 165 BCE, Jewish patriot Judas Maccabaeus was collecting the bodies of his dead fighters from a successful stoush against the then occupying Greeks, when he noticed that all the slain Jews were wearing pagan amulets; they had not trusted in Yahweh-God entirely. He believed in the resurrection of the dead. So, where would the souls of his valiant warriors go, who, nonetheless, died fighting for God? In the Temple, Judas “made atonement for them, that they might be freed from sin” [2 Maccabees 12.44-46 * a second non-canonical Bible book]. Alas! only in the Second Century CE, was a Pharisee scroll found with a sarcastic Sadducee marginal comment: “What? Released from their sins when they wore a false god amulet? That’s a holy and a wholesome thought. Bleah!” The marginal comment was later incorporated into the full text, and Purgatory became a final help to heaven! If salvation was for all, where were the imperfect ones for a space? Was there another “dwelling place” from which the rich man, Dives, was awaiting deliverance? [Luke 16.19-31].
“In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.” Can this be an image of stages of growth, advancement and development in heaven? And, we have all eternity to achieve this. Hebrews tells us “We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God” [Hebrews 4.14]. With belief that Jesus is our mediator with God, who intercedes for us, this idea of possible growth is more attractive than the vision of heaven being no more than us lounging in our nighties on fluffy clouds lazily plinking on our harp. If heaven is as wide as the heart of God, not only is there room for all, there could be room for all the trades and talents and qualities and gifts which we failed to get around to, or to complete here, to be made perfect hereafter.
The notion of heaven was only foreshadowed in the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament. Through the prophet Isaiah, God had once said “Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is my resting place” [Isaiah 66.1]. Even the beautiful Temple in Jerusalem was woefully inadequate for a God, who cannot be confined to any human structure of bricks and mortar, no matter how magnificent. What feeling comes to one in a building like the gargantuan St Peter’s in Rome? Even in his prayer of dedication in 959 BCE, the Temple builder, Solomon, questioned: “But, will God really live on earth among people? Even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built” [2 Chronicles 6.18]. Solomon marvelled that God would choose to dwell among us. Jesus did. As Son of God, Jesus came among us in human form to reveal his eternal purposes to us. In doing so, God did not leave us orphan and alone, but reached out to us in love. In return, God wants us to reach out to him, in order to know God and love God and serve God with all our heart. God lives not only in a built house of worship but in the beating hearts of all, who are open to receive him.
Here is something to ponder: In the main, Judaism offered no clear teaching or clear guidance about the destiny of individuals after death. The focus of Judaism was not on getting to heaven but on living life here and now. Israelites placed emphasis on the perpetuation of memory of the family dead, and on making the most of life this side of the grave. The names of kin were hallowed in multi-generational graves to preserve memories of deceased kin from oblivion. “Death after death,” the fading of memory of a name and recollection of deeds done, was a horror to them. Q. Imagine the heart-wrench faced by Holocaust survivors, to realize that so many victims had no known grave. In the Hebrew Scriptures, a Temple Psalm voiced the hopeless state of the rich: “Those who trust in their wealth and boast of great riches, must finally die, leaving all their wealth behind. Their grave is their eternal home, where they will stay forever. They will die just like animals” [Psalm 49. 12, 20]. This was the teaching of the Sadducees, the cruel, priestly aristocracy from 2nd Century BCE unto the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, who rejected any concept of an afterlife. Paul was arraigned before the Jewish high council: He defended himself “I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors. I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead” [Acts 23 6-9]. The Sadducees adhered only to the first five (of thirty-nine) books of the Bible, which made no mention of resurrection. In the Early Church time, the non-priestly Pharisee experts in legal matters groped towards a belief in the afterlife, before themselves being largely erased by Rome in the devastation of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Both Sadducee and Pharisee had once maintained that the dead went to a shadowy, silent netherworld, a land of no return and no escape called Sheol/Hell. By the time of Jesus, some Pharisees were moving to a belief that even Sheol would one day end. Q. Did Jesus hurry things along? Did John? He wrote “The time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son and they will rise again” [John 5.8]. In the Apostles Creed, are the words “He (risen Jesus) descended to the dead. On the third day, he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven” (Prayer book p.78). And, in the Creed of Saint Athanasius, Jesus ”descended into hell.” (Prayer book, p.408 ). Q. Why did Jesus descend to the dead, between the time of crucifixion and resurrection, even before ascending to tell Father God that all was well? Belief is: Jesus brought salvation to all the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world. Peter wrote “Good News was preached to those who are now dead” [1 Peter 4.6]. This descent is called “The Harrowing of Hell,” where to “harrow” means to despoil/triumph over death forever by rescuing the souls of the righteous. Did Jesus’ visit scoop up for heaven everyone back to our first matrilineal ancestor, Mitochondrial Eve, who lived about 200,000 years ago in Africa? Q. Once cleared out, was Sheol/Hell covered over forever? And, universal salvation is the godly reward for all?
Job, writing about 2000 years BCE, feared that he would be initially eaten by worms, but, one day see God face to face. ”I know that my Redeemer lives, and, that, in the end, he will stand upon the earth. And, after my skin has been destroyed, in my flesh, I will see God” [Job 19.25-27]. About 700 BCE, Isaiah rose to believe “Your dead will live. Their bodies will rise. You, who dwell in the dead, wake and shout for joy; the earth will give birth to her dead” [Isaiah 26.19]. And, Daniel, writing from 536 BCE, practically leaped into the light “Everyone, whose name is found written in the book, will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life and others to shame” [Daniel 12.1-3]. And, Job, again: ”Even a tree has hope. If it is cut down, it will sprout again. Its shoots will not fail, though its roots have grown old. At the scent of water, it will bud again like a new seedling” [Job 14.7-9]. Job’s budding hope is remarkable.
Heaven came to be thought of as the eventual abode in the afterlife, for the redeemed dead, a banquet hall for the righteous. Frightened to near death by the sight of the attacking Philistines, in 1010 BCE, King Saul denied the law of his religion by engaging in a necromantic summoning of the shade of the dead prophet Samuel to divine his chance of winning. Samuel was wild: “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up out of the ground? [1 Samuel 28.15]. In the centuries following the exile and return (586-538 BCE), the Sadducee party, which came to control the religious leadership of Judaism, erased the concept of Sheol and afterlife. At death, all contact with the world and God ended. Psalm 6.5 ”The dead do not remember you. Who can praise you from the grave? Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love? Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds? Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk?”
During the exile (586-538 BCE), refugees in Asia witnessed religions other than Judaism. Significant transformations took place vis-à-vis Israelite beliefs about death and the afterlife. The resurrection of the body became a pervading expression of a blessed afterlife. The near-annihilation of Jewry under Greek persecution around 170 BCE, focussed attention on the afterlife. Stories of heroes such as Enoch and Elijah, who were taken up to heaven without dying, firmed people’s faith in a home over the range. The mythic story of Enoch was lifted out of Babylonian myths more than Israelite. After walking with God for 365 years, “he was no more, for God took him” [Genesis 5.22]. We sing “Bring me my chariot of fire” for Elijah’s rise: “As Elijah and Elisha were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men separating them, and Elijah was carried in a whirlwind into heaven” [2 Kings 2.11]. After Enoch and Elijah, the only other person to be taken bodily to heaven was Jesus at the Ascension [Acts 1.9].
John 14: Verse 3-6: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? Jesus said to him, ’I am the way and the truth and the life.’”
Honest Thomas was bewildered, confused; he was very literal. He was too earnest to be satisfied with any vague explanation. He needed not a GPS, but a human map to get to the right location.
Before a flight, the pilot and co-pilot check the flight-plan, the route of flight, the destination, the weather pattern, the amount of fuel on board, the cruising altitude, the number of passengers and the payload of luggage. They may introduce themselves to the passengers, but, it is only a voice. Then, it is the turn of the cabin crew to brief the passengers before the flight. Very few passengers bother to listen. Yet, in-flight, if the aircraft suddenly drops or the cabin fills with smoke, everyone, the ones who are not hysterical, listens intently to the cabin crew. In the crisis, they need a person to listen to. Frightened people begin confessing their sins to God. If very frightened, they confess sins they have never committed. We wouldn’t try to tell the pilot or the cabin crew what to do, that we know a better way to right the plane. No, we listen. From all eternity, God-in-Jesus had a flight plan for our salvation, which was to get us to heaven. Jesus came to planet earth as a fully experienced Messiah. To get us to our destination, “the Son of man came to seek and save those who are lost” [Luke 19.10]“He suffered for sins once for all time, he died to bring us safe home to God”[1 Peter 3.18]. He came and he taught the way to God.
Thomas needed reassurance. A teacher would love to have Thomas in class; he was so focussed seeking clarification. He came straight out: “Jesus, get real! We don’t know where you are going. We don’t know the way. How can we pick up a cold track to where you’re going? We have no idea what you’re talking about.” We St. Philippians are here, now. Given the corona virus, we are groping aimlessly through the darkness of our new, imposed way of life. We have been forced to wander away from old certainties such as congregating together. We would like a clearly marked road to direct us to our Father’s house. More, we need a person who will say “I am the way.” Jesus did not offer a map; he became THE way. In his life, he directed us personally. “I will take you there. I am the way, the truth and the life. I am he who heals, forgives and embraces outcasts. I pray for those who hurt me.”
People may ask “What is God like?” In Jesus, we hear that God is someone who understands the virus, as God understands all suffering and pain. We also hear that, in Jesus, God brings victory over despair, defeat and death. God cannot be understood independently of the witness of Jesus the Way, the path-way. If a person actually leads us in the right way to a destination such as salvation, we are assured of getting there. The path-way was staring the disciples in the face, but they could not see it. “I go to prepare a place for you (a place in the intimate presence of Father God). I will come again and take you with me.” May we respond, saying “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name” [Psalm 86.11]. And, “You show me the path of life. In your presence is the fullness of joy” [Psalm 16.11].
He is the Truth in the flesh, and truth sets us free. In the world, we may hear “What is true for me is true.” No, there is an objective truth outside ourselves. It is Jesus as Lord. He is the Life. For his Jews, the Torah was the Book of Life. It instructed people in life-giving faith and practice. Jesus became THE Life-giver. He promised “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” He is oxygen to a virus victim. He is the kiss of life. When I prefer to be apathetic, He can help me be life-giving.
John 14: Verse 6 (part 2): “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Today, people may bristle with indignation, asking, “Surely, this is too narrow-minded?” By the time that the school of John wrote, old Judaism had been all-but destroyed by brutal Rome and its adherents dispersed as ‘the Wandering Jew.’ Gentle Buddhism had no god and the founding of Islam was still six centuries away. Ancient Hinduism, from far away India, was not on the screen. In the Early Church era, the stoning of Stephen and the manic journey of Saul of Tarsus to Damascus to extinguish the followers of Jesus showed that the new Christian “Way,” had come under immediate persecution. Forged in a life-or-death climate, this stressful pressure was transmitted to the writing of John. In the war-zone, there must be muscular Christian utterance, hence the choice of possibly offensive and exclusive words.
John 14: Verse 7: “If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Middle-Eastern and Grecian gods were invisible; no one ever saw their god. On the Sistine Chapel ceiling Michelangelo painted our God showing God’s rear end! The artist had erroneously interpreted the words of God speaking to Moses “As my glorious presence passes by, I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen” [Exodus 33.22-23]. Moses had wanted to see God’s glory, to be assured of God’s real presence. To “see God from behind” means we can only see where God has passed by. Jesus has come to show us God visiting and active in our lives. He says “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father” [Verse 9]. To see Jesus is to see what God is like.
John 14: Verse 8-10: “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’” Jesus said to him ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me. Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father. How can you say ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”
Jesus answered Philip in words like these: “Don’t you guys get it? Don’t you understand that I was the Son of God in heaven? I gave up my rights as God to become a human here below. My sole purpose in coming to planet Earth was to choose you as my disciples first, to show you what God is like, to show you every aspect of God’s character that could be conveyed in human terms, and, the life-empowering, intimate relationship that my Father and I have with one another. I came to reveal God’s nature in a way that could be seen and touched. “The Father and I are one “[John 10.30]. “The Father is in me, and I am in the Father” [John 10.38]. This is the hard bit to understand, Philip. Without ceasing to be God, I became fully human as the man you call Jesus. One day, church people will hammer out a creed to be recited on Sundays. It will describe me as “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary and became truly human [Nicene Creed].” Jesus may have continued “No one ever saw Father God.” In the written Scriptures, holy prophets only communicated God’s messages, God’s Good News, to foreshadow that a Messiah would come one day, who would be both God and God’s unique Son. The writer to the Hebrews will posit: “Because God’s children are human beings, the Son became flesh and blood. Only as human beings die, could he die to destroy the one who has power over death. And, chaps, that great contest will begin later this evening in the Garden of Gethsemane and be carried out tomorrow on Mount Calvary” [Hebrews 2.14]. Philip, when you see me and you trust me, you are seeing and trusting God who sent me” [John 10.45].
Sometimes, people will say admiringly, “S/he is a chip off the old block.” “Isn’t s/he like the mother?” “S/he’s so like his Father, if you shut your eyes, you can see and hear the old ones…” Jesus did this for God. Jesus brought God’s mind, God’s message, God’s heart to us. Jesus came because God sent him, because God so loved the world, that perfect God could not leave God’s earthly creation incomplete. Always, Jesus based his words and works on God. He spent hours in prayer seeking God’s view and way forward. But, what mental equipment did Jesus have to work with? Q. Is it possible that, when “the God from God” came to planet earth, all the marvellous knowledge Jesus had was limited to his human talents and his application to study and prayerful reflection only? From infancy, did Mary, the local synagogue school, and the Holy Spirit teach him, that, as the apprentice Messiah, he should spend all his study on the available Scriptures, especially the passages that seemed to point to him, and to reflect deeply and apply them to himself, especially indications of his eventual fate as the Suffering Servant from Isaiah?
John 14:Verse 12: “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
This is a stunning promise coming on top of Jesus’ shown marvels. Why did Jesus promise this? His personal ministry was limited to three years in a very small place. He never travelled more than eighty kilometres from his birthplace. Empowered by his Holy Spirit, his disciples will travel into the world, energized by his Holy Spirit, using the efficient Roman roads and reliable shipping lanes, and, will evangelize and perform marvel cures for 2000 years. They, and us by extension, would be indwelt by the Spirit to do greater works, worldwide, than First Century humans would be able to imagine.
We are faced with the corona virus, a variety of which may have been prevalent periodically in the Mediterranean countries. Without antibiotics and social distancing, the frequent visitation of dread disease would have worsted places like Palestine of 33 CE. In Jesus’ day, there was little if any cure for the possessed, the leprous and those with mind problems. From 1938, a horrified world began to be aware that a European country was exterminating the enfeebled, the gays, the Jews, the Romany people, which was a horrid aberration from normalcy. The world today would never consider exterminating corona victims. Heroic medical personnel are giving their full energies and their lives in an attempt to lessen the scourge. Has this care evolved from the pastoral actions of Jesus, while alive, and from the beginnings of his disciples’ pastoral outreach, for, the triumphs of their ministry over subsequent centuries far outdo the triumphs of Jesus when alive.
John 14: Verse 13-14: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father will be glorified in the Son. If, in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
At the beating heart of our belief is a person, Jesus, who has promised that he is one with Father God. Is it because of this verse, that we conclude our prayers by saying “through (in the name of) Christ our Lord?” Can the assumption be that, if we include this form of words, we can expect Jesus to snap to attention and come to the party lickety-split? And, without it, Jesus won’t come? We cannot possibly dream that we can tie Jesus’ hands by invoking his name, so that he could not exercise his discretion.
Praying in his “name,” means that, first, we try to understand Jesus’ mind so that our prayers will be in accord with the essential character of Jesus; it is a matter of bringing our lives and prayers into congruence with Jesus’ will. That is, asking always “Can I truly pray this request in the name of Jesus?” or am I praying for something out of my own desires and selfish ambition? The prayer based on self cannot be fruitful, only the prayer based on “Thy will be done,” and, that is, praying for those things that we know Jesus would gladly bless. Thus, prayers for revenge, overmuch wealth, extraordinary power, would not be covered by his promise. Many do feel that Jesus has let them down and their trust is shattered by his (seeming) failure to keep his promise. We may blame our insincerity in praying; it wasn’t made fully in Jesus’ name, or, in accord with his will, or, that we doubted his efficacy. Since Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, since he is the true door into the sheepfold, where life abounds, in all these places, where truth and life are served, we will see him.
Creator God, you made the atom and the ocean, but, now, your whole world of wonders has been diminished by a pandemic intrusion. Yet, you still bring new light into shadowy places. I give sincere thanks for the company of parish friends with whom I can always feel safe. Big-hearted friends who phone or email or drop a gift at front door, and with whom I can open up when fear may begin to touch my mind. Thank you, Holy God, that, with them, I need not weigh my thoughts nor measure my words, but feel free to pour them out just as they come. In turn, may I breathe my constant kind wishes with my caller-contacts whenever it may be helpful to do so. Help me never to close down my shutters on any around who may be in need of my compassionate caring. Lord in your mercy. Hear my prayer.
Shepherd of Souls, the corona virus shutdown is taking mental toll on souls, to bring about restlessness and depression. Some are distraught and are forced to dip into precious savings and term deposits to cope. You have given us a spirit of joy and a glimmer of light as you repeat to us “Do not worry.” Direct your blessed light into their hearts to give them the peace with its strength to manage their affairs, Lord. We pray for your blessing on our media people, that their influence be always positive and optimistic, rather than feeding fear and negativity. Our daily television diet shows spectral images of the poor, the homeless, the migrant workers and overseas students who are trapped in poverty since part-time employment dissolved. A media picture that has touched many is of a tiny boy kneeling in a rain swept Guadalupe street asking you, Holy God, to end the scourge, so that he can once again hug his ailing grandparents, locked down inside. Lord Jesus, as once you came walking on the stormy sea, help these souls to believe “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds you so much dread, are big with mercy and will break with blessings on your head.” Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Saviour of the World, at your Last Supper, you faced a confusing crisis; you would have to take a journey through death in social isolation on the Cross. Yet, this state is where the world of freezing winters long ago forced people into annual seclusion. Modern home heating has distanced and erased this view for us all. We are now faced with helping one another along a road we have not travelled before. Give any of us in a state of confusion, the wisdom of your blessed guidance as a directory. We hear sad-eyed news of corona victims who have embarked on their final journey before their time. Lead them gently, Lord, to be safe home with you, to sleep in the love of all loves with you. Help us to keep on keeping on, Lord, so that, when the crisis has diminished, as a church family, we may be able to pick up the pieces of living and praying together. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus, when you were once refused hospitality in a Samaritan town, your disciples wished to call down fire upon it. For a space, a Samaritan-like virus has repulsed all of us from one another’s company. We have had to dispense with being a church family at worship, and this has been distressful to all. With the direction of our medical community, we seem to have arrived at a cross-road in viral infection, and the cross may be budding with new life. The obstacle may well be an opportunity. Where are you leading us, Lord, both as a nation and as a sick-struck world? We know that you have never left us, so guide us back to rebuild community living and loving once again. In faith, we know that we will meet you on our own Emmaus Road to accompany us in our healing and rebuilding ministry. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Jesus, your triumphant rising from death’s tomb changed everything. We people have of late languished on the Good Friday side of the grave. Hopefully, resurrection is close for us too. We will need your help to think outside the box to build a brave new world. The virus has caused an in-breaking of hopeful glimmers of love into all our lives through selfless acts of care and concern. Brother Jesus, in your life among us, you gave to so many souls a spirit of joy. Come close to all who are continuing to rise to the call of action to fight the dark dread. As we settle into the rhythm of the new normal, we will follow your model and rededicate ourselves to reach out to support one another with creative responses. May we image you as we transform our weakened world from its present state to a whole new and beautiful creation as directed so by your Holy Spirit. “O for a thousand tongues to sing, my dear Redeemer’ praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace.” Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Cheers until next Sunday, Father Walter