Praying at home, Sermon & Readings for Sunday 15 March

Praying At Home

Prayers, Sermon & Readings for Sunday 15 March

Please use these prayers,saying them aloud at home, remembering that as you pray others are praying with you.

We remain the church family, loved by God and always in His presence.


We come from scattered lives to meet with God.

Let us recognise God’s presence with us now.

Keep a short silence as you still your heart and mind.

As God’s people we have gathered in God’s presence, separated by distance but united in God’s love

Let us pray.

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful people,
and kindle in us the fire of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Prayers of Penitence

In the light of Jesus, let us examine ourselves and confess our sins.
Keep a short silence, reflecting on what you need to bring to the Lord to ask for His forgiveness
Father, we have sinned against heaven and against you.
We are not worthy to be called your children.
We turn to you again, have mercy on us,
bring us back to yourself as those who once were dead
but now have life through Christ our Lord.

May the Father forgive us by the death of the Son,
and strengthen us to live
in the power of The Spirit
all our days.

The Bible Readings (please click here)

Read the Sermon (please click here) and then, spend a moment thinking about what resonated with you.

The Creed

We affirm our faith in the words of the Apostles Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Prayers of Intercession

We intercede for others in the quiet of our hearts.

Lord, meet us in the silence and hear our prayer.

Pray for the Church locally and worldwide.
Pray for the country in which we live and pray for the needs of the world.
Pray for those in sickness, sorrow or any other adversity.
Pray for yourself in your isolation that God would sit with you.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.

Faithful God, may we who have shared in this time of worship
Glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Our salvation and hope,
Who reigns as Lord now and forever.
Fill us, Good Lord with your Spirit of love;
And as you have fed us with your presence,
so make us one in heart and mind,
In Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let us bless the Lord…
Thanks be to God.

If you want to live out your faith in your isolation, why not telephone someone, to encourage them and let them know that they are not alone.

« The Lord will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.

Do not be dismayed.

(Deuteronomy 31:8b)

Liturgical material adapted from Common Worship (C) 2000 Archbishops Council

( Please click here for a printable version of the prayers from above )

Sermon for Sunday 15 March

(please click here for a printable version of the sermon)

Lent 3 (A)

During the selection process for those who feel called to ordination in the Church of England the interviewers will, of course, seek to test one’s sense of vocation but they will also test one’s ability to communicate that sense.

During one such interview, I was asked to summarise the Christian Gospel in one word. I chose Joy. Joy which is so much more than being happy. Joy which is that inherent internal glow that persists even when things aren’t going

However, over the almost 20 years since I was first asked that question, I think my answer has changed. I would now say Hope.

As you have probably heard me say before in sermons – hope, in this context isn’t just a wish – “I hope I it will be sunny today” – It is. a bit like joy, an internal sense of assurance of something that has already been achieved. My joy, amongst other things, comes from this assurance – the assurance that I am loved and accepted by God regardless.

“God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) God loves us not because of what we do or don’t do, not because we’re particularly pious or religious. He loves us, because he loves us – and that’s something that will never change.

Our readings today are, in great measure about Hope. As a side issue, they also possibly give us an opportunity to reflect on how communities respond to God.

The Exodus account of water from the rock is probably a very familiar one. It is mentioned in the psalm set for today (Ps95) which lovers of the Book of Common Prayer will recognise as the canticle used at Morning Prayer usually called the Venite. When I hear this story, I am always taken back to All Saints’ Church, Finchley Road in London, where I attended Sunday School. One the wall of the room we used was a picture of a rather scary looking Moses standing beside a rock that was spouting water like a leaking fire hydrant – it’s funny what memories stick in the mind, isn’t it!

Overall, the story of the Exodus is one of how God provided for his people – the plagues and the Passover, the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, the pillar of Cloud/Fire to guide them in a featureless wilderness, Manna to feed them and now water. Here we have the account of how God brought deliverance from slavery and oppression, how he gave guidance and how he provided for their basic needs. And yet we also get the sense that the Israelites never quite seemed to be able to trust God. In this reading, rather than lifting their eyes to the future that God has promised them they look back, with spectacularly rose-tinted spectacles – “Why did you bring us our of Egypt?” (Ex 17:3).

“Forty years long was I grieved with this generation and said ‘It is a people that do err in their hearts, for they have not

known my ways.’” (Ps 95:10 BCP) This is a people who seem to be living without Hope, they have no confidence in their future even though they have already had the most amazing demonstrations of God’s power and his care for them.

As a community they don’t seem to feel willing or able to do anything for themselves. They expect Moses to solve their problems for them.

Let’s contrast that with what we read in the Gospel reading.

Once again this is about God providing water in a barren place – not the Samaritan countryside but the dried-up heart of the woman that Jesus met.

This is a passage that is so full of things to explore that it’s almost difficult to know where to start but as I read it with that word ‘Hope’ in my mind and alongside that reading from Exodus, I was struck by a sense that the two passages are sort of mirror images of each other.

The Israelites looked back on their past with longing.

The woman looked back with shame.

The Israelites had water provided to them by God.

The woman brought water to Jesus.

The Israelites were entirely passive and questioned God’s presence.

The woman becomes an active evangelist taking the “living water” to her community.

Here we have a person who came out to collect water in the middle of the hottest part of the day probably because that was how she could best avoid other people. But instead of isolation, she had her eyes opened to the possibility of a future that was very different to her past – she is given real hope and that transforms her. It gives her the confidence and desire to share that hope with others – and she appears to do it very effectively.

But there is also a really good lesson in evangelism here . At the very end of the reading, the Samaritans say to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard ourselves”. (John 4:42) It’s important for us to realise our own limitations and not to assume too much for ourselves. It’s not our pretty words, clever arguments or even an Alpha Course that will bring people to a lasting faith. Our job as evangelists is to introduce people to Jesus, let them meet him for themselves. Faith doesn’t come listening to us, copying us, learning from us – faith comes from being able to experience the living water at first hand in relationship with Jesus.

The question is “What kind of community are we?” or possibly more importantly “What kind of community do we want to be?”

At times we, in common I suspect with most other communities, look back with longing at “the good old days” – a time when things were better – more people came to church, people had more respect for God and for religion, when we used the proper words, sang the proper hymns etc.

On one level that’s not wrong and is possibly justified even if we do generally tend to overlook the bad things and focus only on what was good. However we have to be careful that this doesn’t mask a lack of trust for what God is doing now and will do in the future. We mustn’t fall into the trap of the Israelites of being passive victims of circumstances and waiting for Moses, the Bishop, the Ministry Team, the Chaplaincy, or “them” to sort things out.

To be a healthy, strong Christian community each one of us needs to have access to that living water for ourselves, to have a real relationship with God through Jesus. And, as with the Samaritan woman, for each one of us to play our part in bring others to a similar relationship with him.

But this isn’t something that we can do alone. An important part of a relationship with Christ is an acknowledgement of our place as part of his body – the Christian community, the Church. Personal prayer and spirituality is important but so too is corporate prayer and worship.

One of our problems as a widespread community is that we generally meet in relatively small numbers. Whilst there is undoubtedly a certain comfort derived from praying with people we know well, we miss out on the encouragement and the energising effect of worshiping with friends and strangers alike. I am often told how much people love coming to Christmas & Easter services, when the church is full, or nearer to being full – it does make a difference.

Sadly, I feel that when considering our churches we might be perceived as demonstrating a distinct lack of hope. With problems of finance, finding wardens, committee members, an organist, with aging and dwindling congregations, do we perhaps tend to come over as a bit like the Israelites – longing for some rosy past with no obvious trust in the future?

To help us look forward we need to refresh ourselves and our church life. We need to relearn about Hope, to trust in God’s love for us and for his love for our church and our communities. We need to ensure that we are not like the Samaritan Women who was withering and dying from the inside. We need to regain and demonstrate confidence in our future – not overlooking the challenges, but not being beaten down by them either.

When we consider the future life of our worshipping communities here in Aquitaine, we should certainly act with a degree of realism – starting from where we ARE, rather than where we were/should be/would like to be (and indeed, we need to acknowledge that overall we are actually in a pretty good place!). But we also need to be clear on where we want to be in the future – or to be more accurate, where we believe God is calling us to be. The future is in our hands.

We are the ones that God has called to be his body in this place. We are the ones in whom he has confided his trust and his faith. And if we approach the future with prayerful hope and trust, he will be alongside you on every step of the journey – but we need to make those steps because, at the moment, we are the only ones here!

In four weeks time we will celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter morning. The ultimate demonstration of God’s power to bring new life out of death. As we complete these final weeks of our Lenten discipline and then pass through the dark times of Holy Week and prepare for that joyous moment, let’s look forward to the opportunities that we have ahead for bringing that new life, that living water, into our churches and our local communities.

Additional reflection

I wrote this sermon at the beginning of last week when, whilst the Coronavirus was in everyone’s mind, it had not yet come to head as it has now.

I did consider rewriting parts, but I decided that I would rather add this reflection at the end. Now, more than ever, God’s Hope is a real blessing to us. Today, the short-term future seems very unsure and the situation is developing and changing day-by-day. For many people this is a confusing and fearful time and I suspect that some are feeling that the light at the end of the tunnel has just been switched off – feeling hopeless. As Christians this is our opportunity to demonstrate how a relationship with Jesus changes everything and allows us to carry on, not ignoring the challenges but equally, not being paralysed by them.

For me, I have been particularly struck by the fact that this is the very first time in my life when I have not been allowed to go to church – and that seems like a big deal. I don’t want to compare our current difficulties with the life of the Persecuted Church across the world but, if you are feeling disoriented by having your church closed down for a few weeks, try to imagine what it would be like if that was your everyday reality.

Over the coming days we will be exploring the many ways that we as a community can continue, in some way, to worship and pray together.

We will also be looking at how, as a community, we can ensure that no-one need feel completely isolated or alone.

I would like to thank you all for the overwhelmingly positive response that I have received to my decision to suspend worship for the time being and for your continued cooperation in ensuring, as much as we can, the health and welfare of our sisters and brothers.

Please continue to pray for each other and for me, the clergy and Chaplaincy Wardens as we continue to monitor the situation and seek to make the right decisions for our Chaplaincy over the coming weeks.

God bless you all!


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