“Live” from the Vicarage

Jenny and Jim each shared a short video reflection for Sunday 29th March 2020. You can watch again below.


Lent 5 and Passiontide

Passiontide is the name given to the final two weeks of Lent, beginning on the Fifth Sunday of Lent (known as Passion Sunday), and ending on Holy Saturday. The word “Passion”, in this context, refers to the last few days of Jesus’ life, and comes from the Latin word “patior”, which means “to suffer, to bear, to endure”.

Below are some resources for your own prayer and worship, both for today and through this week. Included below:

  • A downloadable booklet for today and the coming week
  • A photo to aid your prayers and reflections
  • A reflection by Suzie on today’s theme
  • Some prayers of intercession, by Carol Brooks-Johnson
  • A Songs of Praise hymn: Dear Lord and Father of Mankind



A reflection by Suzie for Sunday 29th March

Readings: Psalm 130 and John 11:1-45 (click on the Bible references to see the readings)

I have a long-standing interest in the meaning of names. Place names, first names, surnames.  As I thought about this a few days ago, I decided to look up the meaning of the name ‘Timperley’. Apparently, it means something like, ‘a clearing in a forest’. Who knew? Well, I imagine some of you knew well before I did!

Some of you will know that my given name is and always has been Suzanne, but that my first name is actually Audrey. I’ve read that Audrey means ‘noble strength’; Suzanne is Hebrew for ‘Lily’, and my surname, which is an old English name like my first name means, ‘noble stone’. Have any of you ever found out what your name means?

I delight in the knowledge that God knows each of us, and that he knows us by name. And he knows I’ve always been called ‘Suzanne’ even if I sometimes receive letters from certain organisations addressed to ‘Audrey’! It can be interesting to hear how people choose names for their children. Maybe we just like the sound of a name, or it is a name which has special significance in our distant or more recent family history. It is also interesting to observe how some names seem to come in and out of fashion. You might have noticed that if you’ve ever researched your family history.

There are a number of occasions in the Bible when the meaning of someone’s name has special significance. In 1 Samuel 1:20 Hannah called her long-for child Samuel as it means ‘God heard’ or ‘I have asked him of the Lord’; Isaac means ‘he will laugh’ as his adoring mother Sarah said, ‘God has brought laughter for me’ as she delighted in her new son (Genesis 21). There are others. Perhaps you can find some of them?

The passage in John’s Gospel which is one of the appointed readings for today, is about one of Jesus’s important recorded encounters with the family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, a family with whom Jesus enjoyed a particularly close relationship. Specifically, this reading is about how, following Lazarus’s death, Jesus raised him to life. It is during this time with the family in a revealing dialogue with Lazarus’s sister Martha, that Jesus declares, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’. And it is during this conversation that Martha makes that huge statement of faith, ‘Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world’ (John 11:27).

It was as I read the Bible text again this week, that I wondered what Lazarus’s name actually means. When I found it, I was interested to see that Lazarus means, ‘God has helped’ or ‘God is my helper’. It was shortly after discovering this nugget of information that I found myself humming that well-known hymn by Isaac Watts, and one which has been sung by Christians for over three hundred years, ‘O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come’. People of faith have sung this hymn in all sorts of situations down the centuries.

Another of the other readings appointed for today is Psalm 130 which begins, ‘Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice!’ The word for ‘depths’ in the Latin version of the psalm, profundis, is the source of our word ‘profound’. And although the psalm begins with the psalmist speaking from the ‘depths’, it is interesting to notice that the psalm is described at its beginning as ‘A Song of Ascents’ – it is a song of ‘going up’. So, whilst the psalmist may be crying out from a very difficult place, crucially he or she will not be staying there. But whilst they are there in those depths, they cry out to God – God who is present and who hears them.

Over this last week it has been deeply moving to see how people have shared prayers in various new ways. I had never prayed with people via a WhatsApp group until a couple of weeks ago, and now it happens each and every day. And like many others across the country, last Sunday I lit a ‘candle of hope’ at 7pm and placed it in my living room window. And I prayed.

On Wednesday 25th March, along with many others, some of you will have prayed the Lord’s Prayer at 11am. If you didn’t hear about this, or weren’t able to, please don’t worry. We are suggesting that each day at 11am, people from Timperley parish try to say the Lord’s prayer. In that way your prayer, and your voice will rise up to God at the same time as everyone else’s. Some of you will know the prayer by heart, but some of you may not, so here it is in both the traditional and more modern versions. You can say whichever version you prefer:

The Lord’s Prayer (traditional)

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 trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

(or)    

The Lord’s Prayer (modern)

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 forever.
Amen.

As one commentator on Psalm 130 said in the past, ‘there is a word for that place where we cry out to God and where we speak and hear the promises of redemption, it is called the ‘church”’. Indeed it is. And that of course is not ‘the building’. Although the buildings are closed and we are not able to meet physically, we are still ‘the church’. As Bishop Keith, acting Bishop of Chester, said in an open letter to the Diocese on 24th March, ‘The great truth is that though the church buildings are closed and our movements restricted, the church of Jesus Christ is never closed. In fact, the church is more open than ever. To see some of the live streaming from last Sunday and hear the stories of what is going on in communities in very different places is a gift of real hope’.

We are continuing to think creatively about how we pray with and for each other in these challenging times. Over the coming days and weeks, particularly as we approach Holy Week, continue to hold onto God. Continue to call out to him. Pray in hope and faith through his son Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life. Continue to pray for yourselves and for each other.

And remember, wherever you are, and whoever you are, God knows you by name – whatever your name means.


Prayers of Intercession by Carol Brooks-Johnson

Today is the fifth Sunday of Lent, also known as Passiontide Sunday.  We are two weeks to Easter.  Lent is the most significant period in the Christian calendar but, this year in particular, I think God will forgive us if we have been a little distracted.  Many of us will have found it difficult to concentrate on where we are in the Christian year when we have had to cope with so many other worries.

Today’s Gospel reading tells the story of the death of Lazarus, his being risen from the dead by Jesus and paves the way for Jesus’ own death and resurrection.  Perhaps there are some similarities in this with where we are now – Lazarus was ill, Jesus was in the midst of an uncertain time, they faced death and they rose again.  

So, let us pray:

Lord, at this time of great anxiety please forgive us if we sometimes forget you.  Please assure us that you are with us all during this period of uncertainty. Let us be confident that you are there so that we can say, in the words of today’s Psalm, “In the day of my distress, I will call upon you.”

Lord, we pray for all those going above and beyond the call of duty to help us especially  

– for all health care professionals
– for all education providers
– for all those supplying us with food and other essential items
– for those providing public services
– for those providing our transport system
– for those in local and national government
– for the 500,000+ volunteers signed up to help
– for the smaller voluntary organisations all playing their part
– and for the millions whose contribution we may never see but is there non the less.

Lord, we pray for those in particular difficulties at this time

– those suffering from Covid 19
– the families and friends of those unwell with Covid 19
– the bereaved
– those self-isolating
– those feeling lonelier and more anxious now
– those with financial worries
– and for the millions whose pain we may never see but it is very real

We pray that all those that need help, and all those providing help, will be strengthened by you to carry on.  And our prayers extend to the whole world and all faiths.

Lord, teach us to never underestimate the power of prayer.  Encourage us all in Timperley to say the Lord’s Prayer at 11.00am each day quietly in our own homes in the knowledge that one day we will be together and we will be able to hold hands and say it out loud. Be with us as we continue the journey towards the resurrection of Jesus and a beautiful resurrection in our own world.

And finally, a prayer from our diocese –

Lord Jesus Christ,
you taught us to love our neighbour,
and to care for those in need
as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick,
and to assure the isolated
of our love, and your love,
for your name’s sake.
Amen.


A hymn: Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
(Sorry it looks a bit dated, but we wanted one with the words for you to sing along!)



Labyrinth Prayers

Today, Linda shares a different way of praying that you might find helpful.


I recently bought a small wooden labyrinth when I visited the Chapel in the Fields at Broadheath for a quiet day.  It has been made by a woodworking group which meets there, and it is a very a beautiful and tactile piece of wood to hold and caress.  I find my labyrinth is a comfort to me and I am able to hold it, follow the path and allow my thoughts and prayers to come into my mind and as I follow the path slowly with my finger (on the hand I do not use for writing) as I place those thoughts and prayers into God’s hands.  The labyrinth always leads you to the centre, this is not a maze.

Take time to sit and be still.  You may want to have some music playing softly in the background or you may enjoy total peace and quiet.  Be aware of your calm and steady breathing and empty your mind of everything that is concerning you apart from what you want to think and pray about.  It could be something that is concerning you at this time, the present health situation, or you may want to focus on a happy event or something that has happened recently or in the past that you want to remember.

As you enter the labyrinth, take time for your walk and slowly move along the path.  You may want to stop and rest and move slowly on.  As you reach the centre of the labyrinth rest a while and place your prayers in the centre.  As you slowly make your way out of the labyrinth, perhaps resting from time to time, reflect on what you thought and prayed on your way in and hold those thoughts.  When the leave the labyrinth, place your hand on it and hold those prayers.  This is a comforting thing to do.

I enjoy using my labyrinth and I pray that you may also enjoy your time as you venture along this path.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png

This is a simple example of a labyrinth, if you go onto Google you will find many examples to walk with your fingers or labyrinths which can be physically walked.

Linda Goodchild

Mothering Sunday

Today we celebrate the ‘mothering’ of the Church, and of God, to people through history. We remember God’s love for each of us, as fierce and protective and nurturing as a mother. We recall how for centuries, our buildings have represented something of ‘home’ for so many of us. And we give thanks for one another: for the love and care we find in our community life together.

Below are some resources for your own prayer and worship on this special day. As ever, do you know someone who would appreciate receiving these as a print out? Could you print off copies for them? Included below:

  • A downloadable booklet for Mothering Sunday
  • A photo to aid your prayers and reflections
  • A reflection by Suzie on today’s reading
  • A prayer for Timperley, adapted by Carol Brooks-Johnson

A reflection by Suzie for Mothering Sunday

Over the last few days I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be the ‘family of God’ and ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’, and I continue to do so. As it is necessary to put public services on hold, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have explained that we will need to become a different kind of church over the coming months. To help us the wider church is providing lots of resources to enable us to continue our walk with God at this difficult time, and many of you will have noticed that we have already begun to think about how we do this in Timperley parish. New things are emerging.

And so I offer you these thoughts for today, Mothering Sunday.

One of the readings appointed for today is from Exodus 2:1-10. Here it is:

The Birth of Moses
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Some of you may be very familiar with this reading and others of you may not. It is about a baby called Moses. A baby who grew into a man who loved God, followed God and had a special role in leading God’s people. A baby who during his very earliest days, weeks and months of life was in terrible danger. At the time he was born, as a Hebrew baby boy, he was at risk of being killed because of the orders of the tyrant who was ruling the place where he was born.

So, when Moses’s mother gave birth to a baby boy, she and the rest of the family were understandably terrified for his safety. In verse 2 we read, ‘The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months’.

There is so much packed into that single verse from Scripture.

In an initial attempt to keep Moses safe from the authorities, she hid their beloved baby for three months. Can you imagine? For those of you who have ever had any experience of looking after a baby as a parent, grandparent, auntie or uncle what kind of a challenge is that to keep a baby quiet for three months? The family must have worked in shifts in their tiny slave home, making sure he was soothed, fed, kept clean. How lightly must they have slept making every effort to keep him quiet, hidden and safe. They did everything they could to keep him safe.

‘Three months’. I have read this passage and those words from the Bible many times over the years. ‘Three months’. If you say them quickly as you read through the passage, you might even skim over them and not give them much further thought. And yet in the current situation, some people will be self-isolating for twelve weeks, a not dissimilar amount of time. Some people in the church family, and perhaps in your own family, will be doing this.  And though there is much that is different about the circumstances in the Bible passage and our own contexts, I have to admit I have read this verse from Scripture more deeply and through a different lens this year.

So, we all know Mothering Sunday will be very different this year. Some of you will be missing family members today for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps they are in another country, perhaps you or they are self-isolating. Mothering Sunday can be a complex day at the best of times, for some it is often an immensely joyful day, whilst for others it can be crushingly sad.

But this year it is different again.

Of necessity, many of us will be disconnected from families, and it has been interesting to see some of the ways in which some people are sharing their love for their mothers and others over recent days when they cannot be with them. Technology has been a help to some, as it has become much easier in recent years to Skype, Facetime and share photos electronically. One of my most cherished photos (and there are a few) is the old-fashioned kind, and I am looking at it as I write these words in my office at the curacy house. It was taken on the day of my baptism in 1966. I am in my mum’s arms and my dad is looking adoringly on. I look at it every single day as it reminds me of the day I became a member of God’s family and began my journey with God.

Looking at photos can be a special way of reminding us of our loved ones. As I look at my precious photo, I am reminded of the time I came to see that God looks at each of us as a loving parent. Wherever we are. Whoever we are. We are each dearly loved children of the same Heavenly Father. Although we are in challenging times, as Jenny said last week, we will face this together and we will face it prayerfully, in the hope of God who holds us through our darkest times.

And to conclude, a reminder of the poem written by poet Jamie Tworkowski which Jenny found and which both of us shared in the sermons last Sunday:

Conversations will not be cancelled.
Relationships will not be cancelled.
Love will not be cancelled.
Songs will not be cancelled.
Reading will not be cancelled.
Self-care will not be cancelled.
Hope will not be cancelled.

How about saying it out loud today, tomorrow or whenever you need to?  

The audible sound of hope is wonderful.

And in a national call for prayer this Mothering Sunday, the Archbishops, together with other church leaders, are encouraging us to pray, particularly remembering those who are sick or anxious and all those involved in the health and emergency services. We are encouraged to light a candle of hope at 7pm this evening. I will be doing it. Light is a very important image throughout the Bible. Right from the beginning in Genesis through Exodus, the Psalms, letters, Gospels. If you would like to join in, it would be lovely to see your photos on our Parish WhatsApp group or Facebook page – ask us if you’re not sure how to access these!

But even if you’re not able to do that, be assured of our continuing prayers, love and care in the days and weeks to come and remember that whatever changes happen around us, continue to hold onto God. As the family of God and brothers and sisters in the Lord, wherever we are today, let’s remember the words in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians;

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God’. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

Amen.


A Prayer for Timperley

Heavenly Father,

We come to you right now under a cloud of uncertainty.  Covid-19 has spread amongst your people, scaled mountains, crossed borders, entered countries and traversed oceans.  It has touched male and female, young and old.  It has entered homes, schools, governments, hospitals, clubs and much more.  As a people united, we cry out – do not be far from us God.

For those currently afflicted by this virus, we seek your help. Protect us all from this illness, especially the elderly and the vulnerable.

We lift up to you the medical professionals across our nation and around the world.  We think of the scientists battling this disease.  May you bless gifted hands.

We pray that there will be no hoarding, nor gathering of more than we need.  We pray for our food banks.

For all those working tirelessly to provide us with food, protection, services of all kinds, we ask your blessing.

May the spirit of selfishness no longer find a home in the hearts of people around the world.

For the those on the margins of society, we ask for protection.

For those who have nowhere to lay their head, may you not only protect them but give them shelter.

For parents who can’t spare time off work to look after their children, surround them with those able to help.

For vulnerable adults and children who may lose some of their protections we seek safety.

For those worried about finances during this time, may you financially provide for them.

For the bereaved, may you sit next to them and comfort them.

For those who feel stressed, depressed or anxious during this time, we ask for respite and reprieve.

And for our world leaders, we ask that you generously pour out your wisdom upon them.  May they govern your people safely during this uncertain time.  May they seek to care for the ill, the orphaned, the bereaved, the refugee, the poor and the oppressed.

In this difficult time, may generosity flourish amongst neighbours and strangers ensuring we all have enough, and we are cared for, right now in Timperley, and spreading far quicker and wider than this virus ever will.

We ask all this in you name Lord.  Amen

Adapted by Carol Brooks-Johnson from “A Prayer for Covid-19″ published by Radio 98.5 Sonshine FM, Perth, Western Australia.

Churches Together in Timperley: Lent Lunch

Superstar

Our Churches Together Friday Lent Lunches this year have been based on the York Course material focused around the theology seen in the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. Although these sessions have had to be cancelled, Jim reflects on the session he was to lead, looking at the song Gethsemane and its connection to the Psalms

Jenny and I have a bit of a soft spot for some of the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Over the last decade, many of our long car journeys have been passed in the company of ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, ‘Cats’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. And one of our favourite songs is Gethsemane, which is the focus of our time today. It is a superb ballad, one that really stretches the range and vocal chords of many a good singer (and us warbling along in the car – I’ll let you guess who gets the high notes best!). You can hear that it is dripping in emotion, as Jesus spans the octaves, and moves from questioning, doubting, anger at God to the agonised realisation and acceptance of what lies ahead.

This is Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper, just before his arrest, speaking to God (found in Luke’s Gospel here. It is often called the ‘Agony in the Garden’ and we can see why. Jesus is left with an agonising choice: to run away and save himself, or stay and be arrested, tortured and killed, thereby saving the whole world. The weight of this decision must have pressed down on him, and in Superstar we hear Jesus wrestling with the ‘why’ – why should I die? What’s the plan God?? Tell me there’s some bigger reason for it?

Some people through the years have given far from complimentary words to say about Superstar, but for me one of its great strengths (and encouragements to my faith) is the human portrayal of Jesus – this is a Jesus who is not aloof and all-powerful; this is a Jesus who not only suffers and dies, but gets annoyed and frustrated and overwhelmed. It is a Jesus who goes through all the emotions of life, the real life that many of us experience – loneliness, grief, doubt, depression.

The Bible holds a very useful treasury of similar feelings, found in the book of Psalms, in the Old Testament – a collection of 150 songs that speak from the heart. They praise God, doubt God, thank God, rage at God, say sorry to God, question where God is. They are personal songs, and communal songs: bringing personal needs and the feelings of the community before God.

This week I read Psalm 38 and to me it seemed pretty pertinent:

1    Rebuke me not, O Lord, in your anger,  ♦ neither chasten me in your heavy displeasure.
2    For your arrows have stuck fast in me  ♦ and your hand presses hard upon me.
3    There is no health in my flesh because of your indignation;  ♦ there is no peace in my bones because of my sin.
4    For my iniquities have gone over my head;  ♦ their weight is a burden too heavy to bear. 
5    My wounds stink and fester  ♦ because of my foolishness.
6    I am utterly bowed down and brought very low;  ♦ I go about mourning all the day long.
7    My loins are filled with searing pain;  ♦ there is no health in my flesh.
8    I am feeble and utterly crushed;  ♦ I roar aloud because of the disquiet of my heart. 
9    O Lord, you know all my desires  ♦ and my sighing is not hidden from you.
10  My heart is pounding, my strength has failed me;  ♦ the light of my eyes is gone from me.
11  My friends and companions stand apart from my affliction;  ♦ my neighbours stand afar off.
12  Those who seek after my life lay snares for me;  ♦ and those who would harm me whisper evil and mutter slander all the day long. 
13  But I am like one who is deaf and hears not,  ♦ like one that is dumb, who does not open his mouth.
14  I have become like one who does not hear  ♦ and from whose mouth comes no retort.
15  For in you, Lord, have I put my trust;  ♦ you will answer me, O Lord my God.
16  For I said, ‘Let them not triumph over me,  ♦ those who exult over me when my foot slips.’ 
17  Truly, I am on the verge of falling  ♦ and my pain is ever with me.
18  I will confess my iniquity  ♦ and be sorry for my sin.
19  Those that are my enemies without any cause are mighty,  ♦ and those who hate me wrongfully are many in number.
20  Those who repay evil for good are against me,  ♦ because the good is what I seek.
21  Forsake me not, O Lord;  ♦ be not far from me, O my God.
22  Make haste to help me,  ♦ O Lord of my salvation.

To me this reads as Old Testament social distancing and self-isolation!! Perhaps not many of us are coping with ‘wounds which stink and fester’, but I’m sure that many of us are sharing some of those other emotions:

I am utterly bowed down and brought very lowI go about mourning all the day long…I am feeble and utterly crushed;  I roar aloud because of the disquiet of my heart….My heart is pounding, my strength has failed me; the light of my eyes is gone from me. My friends and companions stand apart from my affliction; my neighbours stand afar off

As our material from the York Course puts it, in the Psalms:

The whole of human existence is here, both that which makes us immensely proud and immensely ashamed. The Psalms are a mirror of selves, not the selves we pretend to be, not the facades we like to project, but our true, marvellous, awful selves, nevertheless loved by God….The Psalms allow us to lament before God about our current ills, permitting us to also lament elsewhere.

In our current situation, it is time to embrace again the Psalms, and the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane. In this time of crisis, fear and anxiety, we still need to feel able to question, to wrestle with God about what is going on. We won’t find easy answers; maybe all we will find is the strength to cope with whatever happens next; maybe we will come to a place of painful acceptance, a letting go of control as Jesus did in Gethsemane; maybe we will find that God is actually here among us, suffering and wondering too…

God thy will is hard
But you hold every card

Perhaps during the next few weeks of distancing and isolation, we could read one Psalm a day – to spend some time reflecting on bringing our whole selves to God: to echo their words of praise and thanks, of doubt and rage. Perhaps we will find these ancient texts are expressing our emotions, struggles and faith at this time of uncertainty.

Prayer Card

You can download and print this parish prayer card, which you might like to pass to local friends, family and neighbours who are especially anxious at this time. It assures them of the prayers of the Church, and has a simple prayer for individuals to use, and contact details for the clergy.

If you have any trouble you might need to download a PDF viewer, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader.