Easter will be different this year.
But there will still be an Easter.
9TH APRIL 2020
Collect: God our Father, your Son Jesus Christ was obedient to the end and drank the cup prepared for him: may we who share his table watch with him through the night of suffering and be faithful.
Readings: Exodus 12.1-4; I Corinthians 11.23-26; John 13.1-17/31b-35
REFLECTION FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY
Tonight we should have been sharing in Holy Communion together.
We would have been part of the foot washing and after Communion walked together
to the Lady Chapel, our Garden of Gethsemane. The choir would have sung
“Stay with me, remain here with me” and the Watch until midnight would have begun.
Instead this year we are unable to meet together, and this seems very difficult as tonight is when the Lord’s Supper was instituted, created, made for us.
The Maundy Thursday service is always special because of this.
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the
Lord’s death until he comes.”
It seems ironical then that today of all days we cannot share the bread and cup together, to be in one place and become “one bread, one body”.
When we have a Eucharist service and have all
received the bread and wine,
Robin says the Post Communion prayer. The words of these remind us of why we
have this service and different prayers emphasise different aspects of its
I particularly like the prayer for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity which reads:
We praise and thank you, O Christ, for this sacred feast:
for here we receive you,
here the memory of your passion is renewed,
here our minds are filled with grace,
here a pledge of future glory is given,
when we shall feast at that table where you reign with all your saints for ever
The prayer shows us that in Communion we do several things;
We firstly receive Christ’s body and his blood –
given for us on the cross.
Receiving the elements needs actions on our part – we hold our hands out to receive the host and lift our faces to the cup to drink.
The act of Communion reminds us of what Christ did
and acts as a sort of
“aide-memoire” so we don’t forget. It is too easy in our busy lives to overlook or take for granted what happened at Easter and this act helps us every week to remember.
Although I’m not sure that I “feel different” every time I come to the altar the prayer assures us that we have received the grace of God – our minds are renewed and our hearts uplifted.
And the taking part gives us a promise – a pledge, an assurance that one day we will share supper with the Lord himself and be present at his table with all the saints in heaven.
So tonight, let us use the time we would have been together in church. Let us all gather together at 8pm and share our Communion in a different way and hear what the Lord has to say to us.
Perhaps we will light a candle, or say prayers, or simply sit and keep watch in our own homes. We can use the booklet prepared to help us this week.
Let us look forward to the day when the doors of St Andrew’s are open and we can share the bread and wine together again.
Let us hold onto these words and await Christ’s invitation anew:
Come to this table, not because you must but because you may,
not because you
are strong, but because you are weak.
Come, not because any goodness of your own gives you a right to come,
but because you need mercy and help.
Come, because you love the Lord a little and would like to love him more.
Come, because he loved you and gave himself for you.
Come and meet the risen Christ, for we are his Body.” Amen
10TH APRIL 2020
Collect: Eternal God, in the cross of Jesus we see the cost of sin and the depth of your love: in humble hope and fear may we place at his feet all that we have and all that we are, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Readings: Isaiah 52.13-end of 53; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10.16-25; John 18.1-end of 19
REFLECTION FOR GOOD FRIDAY
‘There are far too many Christians who sing “Hosanna” one Sunday and “Alleluia” the next, but do not come and stand at the foot of the cross,’ wrote Stephen Cottrell (now Archbishop of York designate) in 2016 as he urged his readers to attend Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services.
In 2020, perhaps it is the hosannas and alleluias which are harder to sing, in a season that can feel like we are caught in between times, waiting for life to restart. A season of loss – loss of freedom, of face to face contact, of feeling in control of our lives. Around the country, some face, or fear, losing their lives, or the people who are most precious to them.
What do we see as we come and stand at the foot of the cross and look up to Jesus?
Here is the Son of God, nailed down, betrayed and abandoned, giving up his very life. Here is God incarnate, his body completely vulnerable to the pain and death that are part of human life.
Someone once told me he didn’t think much of Jesus’ suffering – when he thought of his wife’s long struggle with cancer leading to her death, what is a few hours on the cross? But the point about Jesus’ human suffering is not that it is more intense than anyone else’s. It is that it is real – the Son of God enters into our suffering in a particular time and place, in a particular way. It is significant that he is crucified with two others, one on either side of him. Jesus enters into the heart of our experience, right in the midst of us.
The cross has such spiritual significance for us that we can come to see it only as a symbol, and forget it was a reality. It might give us a jolt to compare Jesus’ death to a politically motivated execution of a prisoner held on death row on flawed evidence.
In a sense it is a death like any other, and yet it is a death like no other. There is a rich complexity in what is happening on the cross. The price for sin is paid; death is defeated: ‘by his bruises we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5).
Yet death is not bypassed. It remains part of our universal human experience. We will all die. And along the way we will experience ‘little deaths’ as from time to time we lose something which has been meaningful to us.
In the conversations I’ve had recently, I’ve been aware that there are deep questions about what God is doing at this time. Has he turned away from us?
The cross shows us that in loss, in suffering, even in death, God is there. It shows us that during this time, when we have to think carefully about going out of our front doors, and cannot come into our church building, we are not waiting to encounter God again. Thankfully, Holy Week and Easter cannot be postponed or cancelled. In the events of these days, God meets us where we are. The Lord is here. His Spirit is with us.
Much has been written about the theology of the cross, but in the Gospel accounts, Jesus says little at this point. This part of his life is not like one of his parables, whose meaning he readily unpacks and applies. He endures the cross; he does not offer us explanations of it.
I will close as I began, with words from Stephen Cottrell: ‘in the Christian faith you can only understand by standing under.’
This Good Friday, come and stand at the foot of the cross. If you can, set aside the usual time for the service, 2pm-3pm – the last hour of Jesus’ life. Linger meditatively with the readings. Spend time in silence. Stand under the cross until your understanding has been developed, perhaps challenged or changed, perhaps healed. Take your renewed understanding into Holy Saturday, into the wait for the renewal of all things.
12Th APRIL 2020
Collect: God of glory, by the raising of your Son you have broken the chains of death and hell: fill your Church with faith and hope; for a new day has dawned and the way to life stands open in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Readings: Acts 10.34-43, Colossians 3.1-4, John 20.1-18
For your prayers:
- All those across the world affected by the Coronavirus; the sick and the frightened
- For all medical professionals and researchers
- The sick and those who have died
- Please note that all church services, meetings and events are suspended until further notice, and the church building, hall and office will remain closed.
- BUY & BUILD! NEW ST ANDREW'S: Thank you very much for your ongoing generosity towards the toilet extension. Although the Coronavirus dominates our lives donations continue to be received for the fund. Thank you very much! We are happy to report that work is still continuing through contact with our architect. Drainage works are to be carried out in due course when we can access the building again.
REFLECTION FOR EASTER SUNDAY
For me, one of the greatest losses of this current crisis is the Easter Vigil service on Holy Saturday night. If I had to choose, I suppose it would be my favourite service of the whole year. The church is in darkness as we gather at the door to light and bless the New Fire. From this a taper is used to light that year’s Paschal Candle. We process into church, stopping along the way to light the servers’ candles, then the people’s candles, then the candles on the altars. The Light of Christ grows and spreads throughout the building. Then we go on to hear the story of our salvation, after which we welcome the Risen Christ as all the lights in the building are thrown on amidst a cacophony of sound from instrument and organ leading into the Gloria in Excelsis, before we renew the vows of our baptism and celebrate the first Eucharist of Easter. The sense of drama is profound.
Back at the beginning, as the Paschal Candle is lit, the priest says these words…
“May the light of Christ, rising in glory, banish the darkness from our hearts and minds.”
As we live through these days of the Coronavirus crisis there is more than enough darkness in our hearts and minds. As I prepared this address it was becoming clear that by this weekend we would be in the teeth of the gale, with cases peaking, our NHS stretched almost to breaking point. With a tragic death toll in our own land, and even grimmer stories from overseas, talk of banishing darkness seems a bit of a challenge. There is a heck of a lot of darkness to shift.
The word, “banish,” is powerful. It conjures up fairy tales in which the villain of the story is sent away never to be seen again. It is an action that speaks of power and authority, one whose ability to command is undisputed. We are tempted to question, as we encounter our “worst ever” experience, whether there is enough light, enough power and authority, to banish this much darkness.
It is important to remember that the power of Easter message lies as much in death as in resurrection. They become two sides of the same coin. Jesus does not simply pop up with an eternal sticking plaster saying, “There, there; it’s alright.” Those who took part in the first Easter Day were very clear about death. Most of them had seen Jesus die for themselves. In fact, the first ones to experience the Risen Christ had done so. The women come to the Tomb with spices. They were expecting a dead body, and to embalm it. The disciples hid in the upper room in case they were next. No one expected the Empty Tomb.
Up to that point there is one basic narrative. Of course, the Gospel accounts vary a little, but basically, we can broadly set out a series of events from what we now call Palm Sunday to Good Friday, through to the nothingness that is now Holy Saturday. But from the moment of resurrection, the story of the Risen Jesus goes off in all sorts of different directions: from the wildly different accounts of the Empty Tomb, to the garden early in the morning, a boat on the Sea of Galilee, to the Emmaus road. Once Jesus is risen the narrative is beyond human control, and our engagement must move from record to response as Jesus appeared to each in the way that met them where they were. And as he did so, there is a central question – or group of questions - to be answered… Who is this? Do you know him? And above all, can you see? That is, can you see what God has done?
The disappointment of the couple on the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24 is palpable. They are heading sadly away from Jerusalem, simply the latest in a vast procession of fallen heroes and shattered dreams. Only when the unrecognised Jesus pieces it all together for them that their hearts begin to burn within them, and, at supper, in breaking bread, they see and understand. And their direction is changed as they retrace their steps not with heaviness but with joy. The cross was no terrible accident that had be reversed: it was part of the journey.
Suffering is real. Suffering happens. And when God enters history in Jesus he suffers too. That does not stop being true at Easter. Suffering is not removed, but it’s spell is broken.
Yet that spell is broken not by a magic wand, nor even by looking at things in a different way. A whole new dimension lies open; as on the Emmaus road, whole different direction of travel.
As we follow the Risen Christ into a future yet to be revealed, we step forward with confidence, not by denying suffering but bearing it bravely, as we allow his resurrection power to take us and our daily lives forward into all sorts of new possibilities, so that in the words of St Paul to the church in Rome, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8, 38-39).
Until we meet again; a very Happy Easter to you all. Amen.
HYMN OF THE WEEK
Jesus Christ is Risen Today
Jesus Christ is Risen Today is a great Easter Hymn heralding the joy and thanksgiving for the resurrection of our Lord.
Though we know very little about the origin of this hymn it brings together the two great themes of Holy Week and Easter, the Cross and the Resurrection.
The popularity of Jesus Christ is risen today is due, in part, to the tune 'Easter Hymn' which is one of the most famous of all hymn-tunes.
It is a stirring tune which has the effect of gathering everyone together in joyful praise to proclaim 'Jesus Lives', Alleluia'!
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once, upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!
praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save, Alleluia!
pain which He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation hath procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He's king, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing, Alleluia!
May the God whose power breaks through the stone,
break into your life and free you from all that binds you;
May the Risen Christ whose love is stronger than death
speak your name and bring you new life and joy;
The Spirit who walks the road with you
give you wisdom to understand and courage to share
God's new life for the whole world.
This week’s notices
BBC's Christian Easter TV and radio programmes
See the link below:
Open Door is a local charity providing a day centre for people who
are homeless and sleeping rough. It has its origins with a former curate of
this parish working with members of our congregation so is close to the heart
of many at St Andrew’s. They are currently looking for a new Honorary
Treasurer. Interested people with a financial background are invited to have an
informal chat about the post, information about which can be found at https://www.tauntonopendoor.
The seasonal Daily Prayer leaflet for is on the parish website. See also…
You can hear the Prayer for the Day (Collect) read aloud on the Church of England website at
Prayers for use during the current crisis…