Sunday 10th May 2020

                                               

Sunday 10th May 2020

Christian Aid Week

 

Today marks the beginning of Christian Aid week, so as we read, pray and reflect, let’s keep in our hearts and minds the work of Christian Aid, those who make it happen and the extra challenges they face during this time of the corona virus pandemic.

 

Call to worship

At times it can be difficult

to look forward in hope,

to face the future,

to trust that God is working for us.

But in this space,

God is with us.

Offering us a glimpse of heaven,

a taster of what is to come.

So, however difficult,

however challenging,

however uncomfortable,

put your trust in God

and worship him.

God is good, let us worship him.

 

Prayer

Lord God,

Giver of life,

Thank you for the light of each day,

And for your mercy new every morning,

We come before you at this time,

Bringing our sorrows, our worries

And all the things that weigh us down,

And get in the way of our relationship with you.

We come to ask for your forgiveness

For the things we have done and said,

That have hurt you and others.

Loving Lord,

Forgive us we pray,

Lift us to the light and the peace of your presence,

So that we may feel your love once more,

Especially through these difficult and testing times.

We pray together the prayer that Jesus taught us…

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done,

On earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil,

For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory

Forever and ever,

Amen.

 

Readings 1 Peter 2: 2 – 10

                  John 14: 1 – 14

 

Reflection

‘There was a time when… the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.’ Martin Luther King Jr.

This week’s lectionary readings are all written by or to people in distress. They are written

for people who need the promise of a refuge, who need to know that help is near. As we reflect on these passages, let us remain mindful of Christian Aid’s mission to end poverty.

We believe that everyone is equal in the sight of God. Yet we live in a world where poverty

still persists – the pandemic has also served to emphasise this for us. Poverty is an outrage against humanity. It robs people of their dignity and lets injustice thrive.

In February 2019, the Kenyan Government declared a national drought emergency. With

2.7 million people without enough food, the drought is said to be the worst in decades.

Droughts are now more frequent and more intense due to the climate crisis. Without a

reliable source of water, many communities are struggling to survive. Our planet is facing extreme climate events, rising sea levels and critical threats to human life. People living in poverty are on the frontline of this climate crisis. They are losing food, water, homes and family. Every day, they walk further, dig deeper and build stronger to survive. Unrelenting. Determined. They battle the worst of a climate crisis they did not create

The first letter of Peter was written to several churches located in Asia Minor: modern-day

Turkey. These churches made up a small community of faith, scattered across the Roman

Empire and were viewed with suspicion and hostility. What they needed most, alongside

messages of hope and encouragement was a sense of identity. And so, Peter takes them through their growing: from babies desperate for mother’s milk to people and communities with a strong sense of self. In verses 4-10, Peter encourages these new believers to know who they are and whose they are. Peter does not want simply to tell them what to do – how to act as people of faith – but to reshape their identity. He encourages them to see themselves as the community-based, living incarnation of a stone-built temple following the example of Jesus, the cornerstone.

Although the cornerstone was rejected, the final word drawn from the Old Testament

Scriptures about Jesus is not ‘rejected’ but ‘valuable’ and ‘chosen’ (v.6). And while the

readers of the letter feel maligned and shamed by their unbelieving neighbours, Peter

reminds them that they have been chosen. They are a movement of people: God’s people

chosen to proclaim mighty acts.

The last two verses of this text (vv.9-10) focus on what commentators have called the four

pillars of self-esteem: that we are acceptable, valuable, capable, and forgivable. Peter was

keen to energise these small bands of believers, to empower them to change the world one

community at a time. And to do that, Peter knew, as Jesus knew, that our identity needs a

rock-solid foundation. We must love ourselves in order that we can love our neighbours, next door, down the road and across the world.

As we turn to the passage from John’s gospel – one that we very often come across at funerals - the disciples are in the upper room. Their feet are clean, they have eaten together, and Judas has left. The atmosphere is intimate enough that these hardened fishermen, these risktakers and way-changers can share their fears for the future. Jesus urges them not to be troubled: that He is going to prepare a place in His Father’s house for them; that Jesus will come back for them and that, in any case, they know the way.

David Coleman from Eco-Congregation Scotland notes that the house-of-multiple occupation described here needs to be shaken free of its setting in funerals and its

post-mortem resonance in our culture. He muses that this is a passage that might have

inspired Christian Aid’s vintage strapline We believe in life before death, with ‘life in all its

fullness’ (John 10:10) added in for good measure.

But it is all too much for Thomas. He does not need the talking in riddles; he needs a plan and a map. Instead Jesus offers him the statement: I AM. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus is encouraging Thomas into a future that is wholly dependent upon a

relationship with Him and God. If you know me, Jesus says, you will know my Father.

Philip, perhaps trying to smooth the way, says that once they are introduced to the Father,

things are going to get right back on track. Philip is treated to a clear explanation about

how he has already seen the Father. The intimate atmosphere grows thick with confusion.

The mystery of faith is not in the obscure, it is in the here and now. It is in the disciples’

relationship and work with Jesus and by extension, with the Father. Jesus’ imperative is to

remind the disciples that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they can handle His mission from

here. It is in their hands to feed the hungry, heal the sick, welcome the stranger, clothe those who are naked and sit with those who are imprisoned. (Matthew 25:35-45) “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. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it” (14:12-14). Let us remember and take to heart this message and this promise that Jesus gave to the disciples – and gives to us, his disciples, today.

 

Prayer

God of abundant life,

we see your goodness all around us

and we thank you for every part of it;

from the plants and animals which play

their part in complex ecosystems,

to the dry deserts and stormy seas which

test the limits of life.

We pray that in this time of climate crisis and ecological emergency,

Together with the pandemic of Covid – 19,

you may help us to rediscover your

love of creation and to reflect that in our own lives.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

God who speaks through unexpected people,

We thank you for contemporary prophets

who are challenging us to act on climate change;

for indigenous people and their invaluable knowledge

of the land and sea where they live,

for scientists dedicating their careers

to warning us about changes to the planet,

and for young people striking for their future.

We pray that you will help those in power

to hear their prophetic voices.

Help them to see beyond short term

political priorities and business plans.

and give them wisdom and courage

when they face difficult decisions.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

God of second chances,

we recognise the damage we have done to the earth

and the injustice we see in society every day,

all of it fuelled by worship of profit and possessions.

We pray for the coming of a better world

with justice, kindness, and humility at its heart.

We ask that you guide us to be

co-creators of this new world.

Give us confidence to follow the prophetic voices

to stand against injustice to people and to planet.

So that together, in your strength,

we stop this climate crisis.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

We continue to pray for the situation we are experiencing now,

And we give thanks for all those who continue

To put themselves on the frontline,

Those who help others with supplies and medicines,

Those who keep in contact with those who are alone.,

Those who mourn the loss of a loved one. 

We ask all this in the name of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Saviour,

Amen.