Loving, Living, Giving: Loving Ourselves

This series will take us though the next ten weeks of worship. We are using the themes ‘Loving’, ‘Living’ and ‘Giving’ to explore ways in which it might be possible to be the Church even as we are unable to gather together. When we talk about being ‘the Church’, we’re not talking about buildings, and Sunday mornings, but about how we live as Christian people every day of the week, wherever we find ourselves.

Through the week we will continue to unpack the material presented here. We want to know what YOU think. You can join the conversation in our new Facebook Group (unlike the Facebook Page, the content of the group is only available to members of the group. You will, however, need to create a Facebook “profile” to access the group – please ask if you need any help doing this). We will also produce some short video reflections through the week to explore things further – look out for those on the Facebook page.


Below you will find:

  • A worship booklet to download and use over the next 10 weeks
  • A link to the readings for today
  • The organ music and words for today’s hymn
  • A reflection on today’s theme
  • Some questions to reflect on
  • Prayers of intercession


The readings for today are Psalm 139:1-18 and Mark 5:21-34. You can read each of them by clicking on them.


And can it be; Organist: Neil Provost

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?

‘Tis mystery all! Th’Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.


Reflection written by Suzie

Loving ourselves. There is much that can be said about this, but this morning I’ll share just a few thoughts.

On a Sunday morning in Autumn of last year, I spoke at Christ Church, Timperley. In that sermon I referred to a picture painted by Barbara Schwartz, a Dominican Sister based in America, and it is her interpretation of Jesus’s encounter with an unnamed woman in Luke’s Gospel 13:10-17. Here it is:

This was a woman who had been bent over with illness for many years. As with many women in the Bible her name is not recorded, but Luke records this tender, yet powerful life-changing encounter with a woman who would have been on the margins of society.  

Why did I look again at this picture as I thought about this week’s theme, loving ourselves?  I think it was a timely reminder that God knows our frailties, in whatever form they take, sees us, loves us and wants us to know that we are made in his image. The psalmist said:

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Psalm 139:14

And yet I wonder if there had been days when this bent over woman had not felt like that at all, had not felt ‘wonderfully made’. Then one day she met Jesus who looked up and saw her.  Here is a short extract from a poem by Pat Lee who, like the artist, is a Dominican sister who has responded to this story from Luke’s Gospel:

I see this woman everywhere, I feel her yearning, longing, hope strong as steel. When she sees Christ. Sees him looking at her, it is more than joy in her face, it is hope fulfilled. It is overwhelming joy. She has no questions at all. She is just there. She is there.

She cannot straighten up entirely, but her whole body is stretching, reaching for him. Her eyes, when she sees him. What a message is in her eyes. You are here. You have come to me. You see me. Me.

I don’t remember what her arms are doing or his, I suspect they are reaching out. But his face. His face is leaning into her. He has come to her, to fill up her longing. She will never be alone again. His eyes are fastened upon her, blessing her, loving her for the faith she has in him.

God sees us in our bodies. Of course, he does. For those of us who feel too fat or too thin, or too wrinkly or too spotty, or too middle aged, or too young or too old, or too clumsy, or too slow, or too whatever it is, God sees us, and he sees us in our bodies, we carry his image and he loves us. He sees me and he sees you.

God loves human bodies so much that his precious eternal son was born in a human body. The incarnation. The eternal Son of God was born and walked and lived and breathed among us. And one day as he did, Jesus saw this woman. He saw her in her bent over body, held out his hand to her when he didn’t even need to, and loved her.

And I continue to reflect on why we are called to love ourselves and what that looks like during a time of such challenge. Some of the things I’ve done to love and care for myself may seem trivial, but maybe they’re not trivial at all; the clumsy attempts to cut my fringe so I don’t feel so scruffy; the manicures I’ve taken time to give myself so I’ve cared for my hands which have many jobs to do; the lovely new beside radio I bought which I switch on during times of sleeplessness and which has helped me to get back off to sleep again; and of course the times I have sat quietly with God and prayed (with or without words).

We are called to love and care for ourselves.

Because we are worth it.

The Son of God saw the woman in the synagogue that day, and though we don’t know her name, he knows it. That’s the Jesus we follow; that’s the Son who shows us what God is like; the God who loves us in all our frailties and the God who is worthy of our worship and adoration.

God reaches out to us with his abundant love. He delights in us and want us to care for ourselves.

Because we are worth it.


Questions for reflection

  • How have you been caring for yourself during these challenging times?
  • Does thinking about how much God loves you, help you to love yourself?
  • What could you do this week to show love to yourself?

Prayers of intercession compiled by Linda

Many years ago, I was given a book published by Christ Church Mothers’ Union Thoughts for the Passing Months, and this beautiful prayer is taken from it:

Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of our recollection, the seat of mediation, the rest for our cares and the calm of our tempests.  Prayer is the issue of a quiet mind, an aid to untroubled thought.  It is the daughter of charity and the sister of meekness. It is a steppingstone to Heaven.

Let us be still and centre ourselves in prayer and know that we are loved and cared for

We are taking as our theme this week loving ourselves and Psalm 139:1-18, appointed for today, talks to us of God’s generous and unconditional love which surrounds us day by day.  The psalmist tells us how much God loves us and knows us, he has made each one of us and we are special and loved.

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise, you perceive my thoughts from afar.

Psalm 139:1-2

It is so comforting to know that we are loved and cherish by God and we need to love and cherish ourselves.

In these difficult times, let us give thanks for the love we enjoy in the community of our church and parish.  For the wonderful ways we are communicating through telephone conversations, our WhatsApp group and Facebook and sharing our thoughts and our prayers.  We know that every contribution is valued, and we can feel safe and loved in that knowledge.

Let us hold in our prayers our own needs for our families and friends, bringing them to mind, especially those we have not been able to see and hug for so long.  Keeping well and keeping safe has concentrated our minds and all that we do, and we pray that in time life will return to some sort of normality and we can be kind to ourselves.

It is not always easy to love ourselves, perhaps we are feeling lost, unloved, lonely, as though we are unwanted, or we are struggling with relationships or a long-term family feud.  Be with those who find themselves estranged from family that their suffering may be healed and that those they are in conflict with may also be able to offer the hand of love and friendship.  Lord be with those who find it hard to love themselves, to like whom they are, to have confidence to know that they are loved by God.

We pray for our world which has so much prejudice and we pray for the stronger united voice to be heard to start the healing process in support of the Black Lives Matters movement and know that all lives matter.  Let us love and respect the human race in all its diversity and richness of culture and tradition and let us love ourselves for the values and traditions which are part of us.  Lord it is not the colour of our skin which defines us but our soul.

Be with those who are unwell at this time, for those waiting for hospital appointments or results and for those working with love and dedication in our hospitals and care homes.  May those who have a daily battle with mental illness find peace and love.

Today we say a loving farewell to Ordinand David Murray and we send him on his way to St Annes Sale with every blessing.  Dave has touched many lives during his ministry training with us and he will be sadly missed.  We assure Dave of our love and prayers for his virtual licensing on Thursday 2 July.  Thinking of the next step in Dave’s ministry, the well-known hymn by Sydney Carter has the most wonderful and appropriate words for us to pray and reflect on

One more step along the world I go, one more step along the world I go,
From the old things to the new keep me travelling along with you
And it’s from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.

Sydney Carter (1915-2004) © Stainer & Bell Ltd

May we all travel safely wherever God is leading us on our step by step journey.

Amen


Want to explore this more? Come and chat about it – or listen in – over on the parish Facebook Group – click the image below!

Loving, Living, Giving: Loving Others

This series will take us though the next ten weeks of worship. We are using the themes ‘Loving’, ‘Living’ and ‘Giving’ to explore ways in which it might be possible to be the Church even as we are unable to gather together. When we talk about being ‘the Church’, we’re not talking about buildings, and Sunday mornings, but about how we live as Christian people every day of the week, wherever we find ourselves.

Through the week we will continue to unpack the material presented here. We want to know what YOU think. You can join the conversation in our new Facebook Group (unlike the Facebook Page, the content of the group is only available to members of the group. You will, however, need to create a Facebook “profile” to access the group – please ask if you need any help doing this). We will also produce some short video reflections through the week to explore things further – look out for those on the Facebook page.


Below you will find:

  • A worship booklet to download and use over the next 10 weeks
  • A link to the readings for today
  • The organ music and words for today’s hymn
  • A reflection on today’s theme
  • Some questions to reflect on
  • Prayers of intercession


The readings for today are Ruth 1 and John 15:1-17. You can read each of them by clicking on them.


Brother, sister, let me serve you; Organist: Neil Provost

Hymn: Brother, Sister, let me serve you

Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ light for you
in the nighttime of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow,
till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven,
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together
of Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that l may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

Richard Gillard, 1953.

Reflection written by Jim
Loving others

Over the last 13 weeks, there have been many songs going around my head (and escaping out of my mouth, much to my family’s annoyance…!), but one that has returned again and again is ‘Under pressure’ by Queen and David Bowie. Not only is it a fantastic tune, but the lyrics seemed suitably apt. Take a moment to listen to the track here before you read on.

Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets

It’s the terror of knowing what the world is about
Watching some good friends screaming
“Let me out!”
Pray tomorrow gets me higher
Pressure on people, people on streets

We have all known pressure over the last couple of months – some of us more than others, some in physical ways, many in emotional and mental states; the pressure of jobs (or loss of them or our role), the pressure of childcare or the absence of seeing family and friends, the pressure of forced isolation when going through the toughest parts of life: redundancy, ill health, death. The pressure of not having a ‘normal’ life or routine any more. Pressure. How many of us have been screaming ‘Let me out!’?

How have we coped under this pressure? Well there are good and bad reactions.

On the positive side, COVID-19 has brought into focus how we can love and appreciate people. Among the many awful experiences that this pandemic has wrought, there have still been times of light and hope, and these have been bound up in symbolic actions: clapping for careworkers and keyworkers on Thursday nights, signs of rainbows in the windows, the appreciation for those whom we had always taken for granted – the postal workers, the delivery drivers, shop owners, nurses and doctors, the recycling operatives and teachers. For maybe the first time, we have realised just how much we need other people for normal life to continue.

And then we have seen the larger demonstrations and symbolic gestures – those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, protesting and raising awareness, toppling relics of racism and injustice, and this week footballer Marcus Rashford campaigning to help avoid millions of children suffering from hunger over the summer. These actions helped us to love others by educating each other about the reality of life for others, promoting understanding and empathy, and above all by advocating dialogue and deep listening.

One of the enduring images of the past week has been the photo of Patrick Hutchinson, a Black Lives Matter demonstrator, carrying an injured white protester to safety. It is a modern day ‘Good Samaritan’, where differences of opinions were put aside as one person saw the common humanity of another – under the huge pressure of violence and crowds, love won over hatred.

But as well as the outpouring of love and affection, we’ve also witnessed another side of people: the selfishness of panic buying, the demonisation of ‘the other’, a culture of blame and judgement and finger pointing, bad decisions leading to worse consequences. Under pressure that burns a building down, splits a family in two, puts people on streets…

So how can we love others in a time of pandemic?

It’s all about presence – being there with another, walking the journey with them, despite the differences between them. Even at 2 metres distance, we can still walk alongside others as they navigate the hard times of life. Whether that is by talking with close friends who are struggling, or educating ourselves about the reality of life for those on the margins which can move us into action and help, loving others does not have to stop because we are isolated. As Under Pressure continues

Love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves

Queen and Bowie tap into a very biblical train of thought – caring for others (especially those on the margins) should also necessarily change the way we care for ourselves – but more of that next week. Jesus commended his followers to ‘love your neighbours as you love yourself’. The two go hand in hand. Being in tune with the love of God for those on the margins will change how we live and love ourselves.

The recent focus on institutional and systemic racism in the West has led many of us to reflect on our own parts in that evil. I am an example of white privilege, and to say glibly that ‘I’m not a racist’ or ‘I’ll love my neighbour’ when I don’t even know about what my black sisters and brothers have suffered in the past and continue to suffer every day, is an offence to the God I love and follow. I do not know the pressure they have endured, but ignorance and silence is no longer an excuse; ignorance and silence are not examples of love; they are very seldom synonymous with love. If I claim to love my neighbour, but live in ignorance of the struggles of others, I do a poor job of both loving and neighbourliness. 

This pandemic is a chance for Christians, for the Church, to be distinctive in how we treat others, to be seen as different because we act differently, and this distinctive nature comes from showing love to others – not just  to those we know and love; not just  to those who are ‘like us’; but loving those who are different, who are everything we are not. Corporately and individually, the Church has not done this well – we have not loved other well. We have not loved under pressure. Perhaps now is the time to start.

In these times, the voice of God seems to whisper, then say, then shout, then demand:

Why can’t we give love that one more chance?


Questions for reflection

  • How easy is it to love others in this time of social distancing?
  • How do we love those ‘on the edge of the night’ in this pandemic? How do we love those who are different from us, those who challenge us?
  • How do we grow in love for strangers? How might we share God’s love with them at this time?
  • How has the pandemic united us across the world, and how has it exposed our differences and injustices?

Prayers of intercession compiled by Sue Brown

“This is my commandment , that you love one another as I have loved you”

Lord, we pray for your church in these challenging times. It is a very different kind of church and we give thanks for our priests and leaders and your people worshipping you ‘together but apart’ We pray for our Church family here in Timperley and on this Fathers’ Day we give thanks for our fathers and their love for us.We thank you for your love for us – please help us to love as you have loved us.
Lord, hear our prayer.

It is more difficult in lockdown to show our love when we can’t meet people face to face, but love can be a prayer, a phone call to say “How are you? I’m thinking of you”, a letter or card or shared news and helpful advice on What’sApp!! Help us Lord to be always mindful of each other’s needs.
Lord , hear our prayer.

Father help us to love everyone, not just those we know! How do we love someone who ignores us and doesn’t speak to us or who is unkind to us? In these situations we should think WWJD -What would Jesus do? We should try to look for Jesus in everyone we meet and pray for God’ love for them. Help and guide us Lord to do your will.
Lord , hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for those who are anxious and depressed, the sick, lonely or sad. May they be aware of our love for them and feel your comforting presence and peace and know that in your hands, they are safe and loved. We remember all who have lost loved ones and ask your blessing on funeral directors in their ministry of caring for bereaved families.
Lord, hear our prayer.

When we light our candles this evening at 8 o’clock, we remember together especially those who have died, and think of the Light of Christ which brings hope and peace in our darkest hours. Now, I invite you for a few moments, to pray your own prayers for anyone, or anything on your heart at this time.
Lord, hear our prayer.

A prayer by Frank Colquhoun
O God, we love you because you first loved us, yet our love for you, is so feeble, while, your love is so strong. Teach us more of your love, that we may love you better. Help us to show our love for you by our love for others, even as you love both them and us. In Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Want to explore this more? Come and chat about it – or listen in – over on the parish Facebook Group – click the image below!

Loving, Living, Giving: Loving God

This series will take us though the next ten weeks of worship. We are using the themes ‘Loving’, ‘Living’ and ‘Giving’ to explore ways in which it might be possible to be the Church even as we are unable to gather together. When we talk about being ‘the Church’, we’re not talking about buildings, and Sunday mornings, but about how we live as Christian people every day of the week, wherever we find ourselves.

Through the week we will continue to unpack the material presented here. We want to know what YOU think. You can join the conversation in our new Facebook Group (unlike the Facebook Page, the content of the group is only available to members of the group. You will, however, need to create a Facebook “profile” to access the group – please ask if you need any help doing this). We will also produce some short video reflections through the week to explore things further – look out for those on the Facebook page.


Below you will find:

  • A worship booklet to download and use over the next 10 weeks
  • A link to the readings for today
  • The organ music and words for today’s hymn
  • A reflection on today’s theme
  • Some questions to reflect on
  • Prayers of intercession


The readings for today are Psalm 27, Psalm 31, Psalm 42, and Mark 12:28-34. You can read each of them by clicking on them, but you don’t have to read them all!


Love Divine; Organist: Neil Provost

Hymn: Love Divine

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down,
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
All thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesu, thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
Into every troubled breast,
Let us all in thee inherit,
Let us find that second rest.
Take away the love of sinning,
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its beginning,
Sets our hearts at liberty.

Come almighty to deliver,
Let us all thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve thee as thy hosts above,
Pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
Glory in thy perfect love.

Finish then thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love and Praise.


Reflection written by Suzie

One of the themes we are looking at in this teaching series is ‘Loving’, particularly  what it means to love God, each other and ourselves. There is much that can be said about this, but this morning I’ll share just a few thoughts about loving God.

We are called to love God. God wants us to love him. How do I know this? When asked which commandment was the first of all, Jesus answered:

The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:29-31   NRSV

I have read these words many times. I have said them out loud many times. I have memorised them. If I was feeling poetic, I could say they are engraved on my heart. And yet, I sometimes wonder if I do actually love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.  I often delight in the abundance of God’s love for each of us, but what about my love for him?

I do love God very much, but I don’t always tell him. Do I sometimes assume he knows already, so it is left unsaid? In response I would say I should tell him more, but crucially I know that the things we say and do for others also bear witness to our love for God. They are beautifully intertwined. Showing God we love him, exhibiting our love for him, isn’t only about saying it, and that’s it, ‘job done’.

Week after week after week during this current crisis, I have been deeply moved by the kindness of others. This hasn’t necessarily been things that people have ‘done’, it has also been in the things people have said and the kindness and care they have shown in a conversation, email, message.  I think God delights in the ways in which our love for him spills out and is expressed to others.

But of course, we do want to tell God we love him too. One of the worship songs which has been a favourite during both traditional worship services and Café Worship in the recent past, is one which is based on Psalm 42:

As a deer longs for flowing streams
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God

Psalm 42:1-2a NRSV

Here the psalmist has a deep desire for relationship with God. The Psalms can sometimes put into words the myriad of human feelings and thoughts which I neither have the wisdom or insight to express.

This is not sentimentality. This is not the Scriptural equivalent of an emoji of a bear holding a love heart (not that there’s anything wrong with those emojis!) This is a deep need, a deep longing. God wants us to love him, hunger for him and reach out to him. So if you do want to actually tell God you love him today, there are many ways you can do that, and the words below are offered in case you find them helpful too:

As the deer pants for the water,
so my soul longs after you.
You alone are my heart’s desire
and I long to worship you.

You alone are my strength my shield,
to you alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire
and I long to worship you.

I want you more than gold and silver,
only you can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy-giver
and the apple of my eye.

You’re my friend and you are my brother,
even though you are a king.
I love you more than any other,
so much more than anything.

Martin Nystrom based on Psalm 42:1-2. © 1983Restoration Music Ltd. Administered by Sovereign Music UK.


Questions for reflection

  • What do you think loving God looks like in practice?
  • Are some of us finding it easier or more difficult to love God at the moment?
  • Do we need to actually tell God that we love him, or should we assume he knows?
  • Could making a beautiful thing, playing a piece of music, or some other activity also be a way of showing God we love him?

Prayers of intercession compiled by Aileen Moran

The theme of our worship this week is Loving God, and one way of showing our love for God is by showing our love for others.

Heavenly Father we share with you our love and concern for the world.

Uppermost in our minds today is the Covid19 pandemic which now thankfully appears to be on the decline with New Zealand being declared Covid19 free. We ask for your healing for those who are sick and your protection for those who are vulnerable. Help the young and strong to exercise caution to keep them from unwittingly spreading this disease and help us all to maintain the social distancing rules  We know that you are always with us and that where your people are hurting, you too are hurting and where your people are responding with love, you are in their midst

We share with you our love and concern for the Church.

While we are still unable to worship together in our church buildings, we are still most definitely a church, getting used to new ways of worshipping, using modern technology and being kept together by our hardworking clergy. We give thanks for Jim, Jenny, Suzie, Dave and Lee and ask you to give them and all clergy strength to continue their ministry with all the extra work the pandemic has created. Despite these strange circumstances, or maybe because of them, we have become a close community, friends of Jesus and blessed by that friendship we seek to be a blessing to others.

We share with you our love and concern for our community and culture.

Father we ask you to give the leaders of all nations the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth. Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.

We pray for small businesses and workers in a variety of industries facing layoffs and financial hardship. Keep them from panic and help us to support them in any way we can. Father we ask you to give patience and understanding to parents with school age children as they take on the role of teacher as well as parent… We pray for Christians everywhere. May your Holy Spirit inspire us to pray, to give, to love, to serve and to proclaim the gospel, that the name of Jesus might be glorified around the world

We share with you our love and concern for people in a bad place today.

Lord, please supply the necessary support for those with mental health issues who feel isolated, anxious and helpless. As the NSPCC report a huge surge in calls for help, please provide safety for children, whose homes are not safe places for them. We pray for those people awaiting operations and hospital treatments that have had to be postponed. Help them to stay patient and positive

Lord, help us to remember that every person is as unique and valuable to you as the disciples were to Jesus. Help us to treat each other with the love and respect that we would give you.

Finally we share our love and concern for ourselves, for you told us to love our neighbour as ourselves. We offer you our gratitude for so much and also our need for so much

We offer these prayers in hope and in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Help us at every opportunity to love as you loved and to serve as you serve. Give us courage to speak of our hope in Jesus, who suffered for us, rose from the dead, and is coming again. Amen.

Adapted from Jen Michel’s Praying in Pandemic.

Jen Pollock Michel is the author of Teach Us to Want, Keeping Place, and Surprised by Paradox. She lives with her husband and their five children in Toronto.


Want to explore this more? Come and chat about it – or listen in – over on the parish Facebook Group – click the image below!

Loving, Living, Giving: Introduction

This series will take us though the next ten weeks of worship. We are using the themes ‘Loving’, ‘Living’ and ‘Giving’ to explore ways in which it might be possible to be the Church even as we are unable to gather together. When we talk about being ‘the Church’, we’re not talking about buildings, and Sunday mornings, but about how we live as Christian people every day of the week, wherever we find ourselves.

Through the week we will continue to unpack the material presented here. We want to know what YOU think. You can join the conversation in our new Facebook Group (unlike the Facebook Page, the content of the group is only available to members of the group. You will, however, need to create a Facebook “profile” to access the group – please ask if you need any help doing this). We will also produce some short video reflections through the week to explore things further – look out for those on the Facebook page.


Below you will find:

  • A worship booklet to download and use over the next 10 weeks
  • A link to the readings for today
  • The organ music and words for today’s hymn
  • A reflection on today’s theme
  • Some questions to reflect on
  • Prayers of intercession


The reading for today is Isaiah 43:1-7, 18-21, which you can read by clicking here.


Will you come and follow me; Organist: Neil Provost

Hymn: Will you come and follow me

Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?

Will you leave your self behind
if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
should your life attract or scare,
will you let me answer prayer
in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see
if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free
and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean
and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean
in you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around
through my sight and touch and sound
in you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.

©1987  WGRG, Iona Community, Govan, Glasgow G51 3UU, Scotland

Reflection written by Jenny

See I am doing a new thing…

Isaiah 43:19


So much has come to an end in recent months. Whatever we return to will be different, just as each of us will different. Apart from one another, we have evolved. Some us of have been through great loss, through intense loneliness and anxiety. Others have been frantically busy, balancing multiple roles and responsibilities.

All of us will have faced endings of some form. Some of our endings will be welcome: perhaps we have been left with a sense of relief at what is past. Perhaps we have seized the opportunity to let something go, or to lay something down. Perhaps we have enjoyed a change of pace, and the abandonment of unsustainable patterns of life.

Other endings have been more difficult to come to terms with. We may long for how life used to be, but with no sense of when – or if – it will be like that again. Some endings are temporary, and we can look ahead with hope to a time when the things we love are reinstated.

The prophet Isaiah speaks to a people facing endings. In a great song of hope Isaiah rallies people from dark despair to bright optimism. He speaks of the presence of God in the darkest of times. Of the love that God has not just for God’s people, but for their children yet to be born. And into this song of hope comes a great promise: “I am about to do a new thing”.

The recent weeks have been full of loss and uncertainty and endings. It is right for us to mourn a way of life that 4 months ago seemed so simple and uncomplicated. And yet within the loss and the uncertainty, I can also hear a note of promise: there are new things emerging.

New ways of relating to one another
New ways of praying
New friendships
New forms of worship
New acts of kindness
New priorities
New awareness

In all our endings and beginnings, perhaps this is a point for us to stop and reflect. Not to cling to the past, nor to rush into the future, but to ponder the moment. To lament our loss and to celebrate our hope.

Over the next ten weeks we will think about what it means to live as the Church, apart but united together in prayer and worship, and in an outworking of our Christian faith summarised in three ways: Loving, Living, and Giving.

In ‘Loving’, we will explore what it means to love God, others, and ourselves. In ‘Living’, we will think about how to be people of faith at home, as a church, and in our everyday lives. In ‘Giving’, we will consider our own giving to God and to others, both in terms of time and money, as well as the giving of our very selves.

In these ways I hope we will be able to reflect on the things we value about our life together. I hope we will be both challenged and encouraged: challenged to make significant changes in our own lives and the life of our church so that we can best share God’s love in this place, and encouraged in all that we are already doing to this end.

We are going through significant trauma and change. This is not a time to find magic solutions or to plan for the long-term. And yet, as many of us face a very different way of life in the months ahead, it is a good time to begin the corporate task of asking how our experiences now, as a church community, might equip us to continue in love, in life, and in giving.


Questions for reflection

  • What are you missing about life before the pandemic?
  • Are there things about the “old” way of life that you are not missing?
  • What new things might God be doing among us?
  • How might our church life be shaped by the themes of ‘Loving’, ‘Living’, and ‘Giving’, even while we are apart?

Prayers of intercession compiled by Janet Groos

We were baptised in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. On this Trinity Sunday we ask for grace to continue, strengthen and grow in our faith.
Lord, hear our prayer

The concept of the Trinity is difficult for some of us to understand fully, but we thank you, Father, for sending your son to die for our salvation. We thank you, Jesus, for having redeemed us from our sins by your sacrifice and we praise you, Holy Spirit, for lighting the path we are to follow. May we keep open hearts and minds to know that path and constantly pray for guidance.
Lord, hear our prayer

We thank you, Lord, that, in this time of isolation, we are assured of your presence.  Your promise, revealed by the prophets and confirmed by Jesus and the apostles, is our certain knowledge that you are all knowing and all powerful. Help us to remain steadfastly confident in this promise and forgive us when we weaken and let challenging circumstances test our conviction. May we allow your spirit of love, hope and faith to guide and support us.
Lord, hear our prayer

We remember and bring before you, Father, your children throughout the world who suffer and die because of conflict, disease and malnutrition. While we praise you for the beautiful weather we are presently enjoying, we are mindful that drought and climate change are proving devastating for many. May our leaders, and all who have influence, be moved to work together for universal peace and a sharing of the gifts you have provided for all humankind.
Lord, hear our prayer

During this time when we are unable to worship together, Lord, we pray for each and every one in our Parish of Timperley, and for our clergy. We thank you for the opportunity we are being given, to join together in the new ‘Loving – Living – Giving’ initiative. May it prove be a time of learning and of strengthening our faith. Let us grow together, despite isolation, and may each concept serve to help us in our Christian journey through life.
Lord, hear our prayer

Father, we ask for your comfort and blessing on those who have been recently bereaved, particularly if they were parted from their loved ones at the end of their lives. May your spirit truly help them to a sense of unity, oneness and peace.

May I share with you a poem by Graeme McMeekin, a director of Tearfund:

Between Friday and Sunday, is Saturday,
Between death and resurrection, is mourning,
Between uncertainty and certainty, is faith,
Between pain and celebration, is hope,
Between loneliness and community is love.


Want to explore this more? Come and chat about it – or listen in – over on the parish Facebook Group – click the image below!

Pentecost

Today is the Festival of Pentecost, often known as the “birthday of the Church”. Pentecost was a Jewish festival celebrated 50 days after Passover (hence Pentecost). Fifty days after Jesus had risen from the dead, the disciples were again gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit turned up, and transformed their lives in the most dramatic of ways! Two thousand years on, we still see God working throughout the world and in the church through his Holy Spirit, and we pray for God’s Spirit to continue that work in our lives, and in our communities.

Below you will find:

  • A booklet of liturgy for Pentecost
  • A hymn
  • A reflection for Pentecost
  • Prayers of Intercession

The reading for this Sunday (click on the Bible reference to see the text):
Acts 2:1-21




A reflection for Pentecost written by Suzie

Rich reds, vibrant yellows, hot oranges, striking blues and greens, bright whites.  

Hands and arms lifted high in praise. Arms outstretched. Hands reaching up and out in an attitude of joyful prayer.

Flames, wind, movement, energetic, swirling brush strokes. People looking upwards, people looking at each other. Doves.

Over the last few days I have been looking at some modern pictorial interpretations of the events described in today’s Bible reading from the book of Acts – the events of the day of Pentecost. The day often known as the ‘birthday of the church’. The day the Holy Spirit came, following Jesus’s Ascension, to empower God’s people to continue to share the Gospel. Ordinary people. Men, women, children. Young and old.   

Pentecost is a message to the church, from the church to each successive generation down the years, reminding us that the through the power of the Holy Spirit the church has received the authority and spiritual resources to proclaim the Gospel afresh in every generation. Next week from Trinity Sunday, we are going to be starting a ten-week teaching series called ‘Loving, Living, Giving’. We’ll be thinking about what it means to be the church in Timperley in a time of pandemic. One of the themes we will be thinking about is ‘What new things might God be doing among us?’

Pentecost was not a one-off Biblical benchmark against which we are supposed to measure our local activity each year. Pentecost reminds us that we can be assured that the Spirit of God is living, active and moving amongst us in this place now. Pentecost challenges us to live faithfully in the promise that Jesus Christ is with us for all time, and certainly in the midst of massive change and uncertainty.

On 2nd June it will be the second anniversary of my ordination as priest in Chester cathedral. Some of you were able to be there on that day. And on that day, a centuries old chant was sung, Veni, Creator Spiritus’ (Come Creator Spirit). Over the years it has been translated into many languages and is often sung in Latin. It is heard on many special occasions including coronations, the consecration of Bishops, at ordinations, and at Pentecost. It is an invocation of the Holy Spirit, ‘Come Holy Spirit’. Words which are picked up in the church’s ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ days of prayer between Ascension and Pentecost. The first verse is:

Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.

Come Holy Spirit. And when we pray these heartfelt words at the moment, of course we may do this in the midst of all that we face; the unknowns, the uncertainties.

The day of Pentecost in the book of Acts is infused with energy, dynamism, colour, shape. Some of us may not be filled with energy and dynamism at the moment. And some of us might be. Some of us might have days or hours when we are filled with enthusiasm and energy for a project or idea. And days, or parts of days when we just need to sit and be; that’s all we’re capable of.

When I experience a day like that, I think of some words about prayer written several years ago by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He once intriguingly and brilliantly compared it to sunbathing. In these days of warm, long sunshine, I wonder if they may be helpful:

When you’re lying on the beach something is happening, something that has nothing to do with how you feel or how hard you’re trying. You’re not going to get a better tan by screwing up your eyes and concentrating. You give the time, and that’s it. All you have to do is turn up. And then things change at their own pace. You simply have to be there where the light can get at you.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘sunbather’ at all, in fact I crave the shade. Nevertheless, I have found this observation still immensely helpful during those times when prayer has been an effort.  I have found it a huge relief to know that when we struggle for words, we can still, and should still reach out to God.

As someone who lives alone, of necessity, as I write it is now 75 days since I had any physical contact with another human being. No handshakes, no hugs, no pats on the back. Not even a fleeting, affirming touch on the shoulder. That’s the way it is for me during this crisis. I completely understand that. I also realise that some of you may be in similar circumstances. So when this week I looked again at one particular picture depicting the day of Pentecost, an image I’ve had on my iPad for four years, I looked at it differently. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find out who created it. Here it is:

I gazed on those excited, animated figures with their outstretched arms, reaching out hopefully to God. I thought about the days and nights when I have done that recently with God. Not with others, of course, just on my own.

I share this in case it is helpful to someone else. There have been times when in recent weeks, like a small child, I have literally stretched out my arms and said, ‘Heavenly Father, please pick me up. Carry me on your shoulders, pick me up’.

Sometimes when it comes to prayer, there are times when we just don’t have the words, don’t know how to articulate what we’re thinking, feeling, asking for. Don’t know what to say, or possibly how to pray. In Paul’s letter to the Romans we’re reassured that the Holy Spirit helps us when we feel like this:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness: for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27, NRSV

As we focus today on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the radical social equality of this, remember it is the same Spirit who helps us as we pray (in or out of the sun), as we pray for ourselves, for the community of which we are a part, for Christ’s church, and for the world with all the unknowns we face at this time. The Holy Spirit has spoken through God’s people at every stage of human history. And the dynamic Spirit of God continues to do that.

He even helps little me.

  ‘Come Holy Spirit, help me to pray. Even when I don’t have the words’.    


Prayers of Intercession for Pentecost by Carol Brooks-Johnson

It is hard to believe that we have now had 11 Sundays without being able to worship together in church.  We have missed so much.

Away from church, we have all missed out on so much more – some of it trivial but some of it very painful.

And all this loss and pain can make us angry, afraid, despondent and isolated.

Today, I would like us to reflect on what we have missed, in order to help us look forward with optimism to a new time and a time of being together,  particularly in the light of our celebrating Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit which sustained the followers of Jesus when they were mourning his loss.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

Let us Pray:

Lord, help us to keep in mind the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus at this time.  Just as those followers were, we are 50 days from Easter Day and 10 days from Jesus’ ascension and we have been awaiting the Holy Spirit too.  As Jesus prepared his followers for his ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, may we be in a state of preparedness as well.  May our hearts and minds be strengthened by the Holy Spirit and may we carry on the mission of the Christian Church just as the early disciples did.

Lord, we mourn every special event in the church that we have had to face largely as individuals or with just our own household – much of Lent, Mothering Sunday, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Easter Day, the Ascension and now Pentecost.  We are also saddened to have missed the Craft and Coffee Morning, our contribution to the Manchester Marathon, the Lent lunches and the Lent courses.  Help us to accept this situation knowing that you have been with us every step of the way and that you are preparing us for the next stage.  Wherever we are, we continue to be your people.  Lord, comfort and heal us.

Lord, we mourn what we have lost in our homes – the fellowship with family and friends, the birthdays, the anniversaries, the going out, the freedom and so much more.  Help us to tackle such loss and be calmed by you, trusting that the current situation will improve and you will stay with us.  Lord, comfort and heal us.

Lord, we grieve for those who have been unwell, for those who have died and for those bereaved in recent months.  Help us to believe that you are with us now and for ever.  Lord, comfort and heal us.

As a consequence of our grief, we are impatient to return to normal.  Lord, as we do take tentative steps towards a “new normal” be with us on the emotional journey –

when we feel anger and irritation towards others, help us to forgive and also be with those fuelling our negativity;

when we feel the ache of loneliness, reassure us with your love and presence so we know that we are not alone;

when we are gripped by fear and anxiety, enfold us in your arms and give us courage and protect us until the storm has passed.

At this moment, the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi seems particularly pertinent:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

And finally Lord, let us not forget the many positives that we have seen over the last three months and we pray that, in due course, these positive effects will remain –

we thank you for the clearer skies and the fresher air.  We thank you for the rejuvenated trees and flowers.  We thank you for the invigorated wildlife and the sunniest Spring since records began.

we thank you for giving us a greater appreciation of our health and care workers, teachers, scientists, commercial drivers, emergency services, those enabling us to have food on the table and the many others who have kept our country going – sometimes at great risk to themselves.

we thank you for those who have volunteered tirelessly in countless ways to help others in their time of need.

Until we can all be together in one place, like the disciples at Pentecost,   AMEN.



Sunday after Ascension / Easter 7

On Thursday we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension, and today we find ourselves in the ten days that span Ascension to Pentecost. A time of watchful waiting, of liminal space. We recall the waiting of the disciples and we commit to God our own waiting: perhaps more so this year than others! We are joining with churches around the world in praying daily “Thy Kingdom Come” – you can see more about this here.

Below you will find:

  • A booklet of liturgy for the Easter season
  • A recording of the organ music for the hymn
  • An extra hymn for Easter 7
  • A reflection for Easter 7
  • Prayers of Intercession

The reading for this Sunday (click on the Bible reference to see the text):
Acts 1:6-14

If you would prefer to use the liturgy for Ascension today, you’ll find that on this page.



Alleluia, Alleluia!; Organist Neil Provost


A reflection written by Jim

One of the advantages of lockdown has been the opportunity to watch some of the films of our own childhoods with the children. So over the last eight weeks we’ve been watching a lot of Disney films and one of the ones that we all love is the original Jungle Book. Watching it again has made me appreciate just how funny it was, not just for children but for adults, with all its slapstick humour and funny characters – the scene with Baloo and Bagheera trying to rescue Mowgli at the monkey Kingdom while imprisoned by King Louis is still one of the funniest scenes in my view in the annals of animated film.

When I was thinking about this reading from Acts it was another set of characters from the film that sprung to mind: the vultures.

Buzzie: Hey, Flaps, what are we gonna do today?
Flaps: I dunno. What’cha wanna do?
Ziggy: I’ve got it! Let’s flap over to the east side of the jungle. They’ve always got a bit of action, a bit of a swingin’ scene, all right.
Buzzie: Aw, come off it. Things are right dead all over.
Ziggy: You mean you wish they were. [all laugh]
Dizzy: [seriously] Very funny.
Buzzie: Hey, Flaps, So what we were going to do?
Flaps: I dunno. What’cha wanna do?
Buzzie: Look, Flaps, first I say, “What we’re going to do?” Then you say, “I don’t know. What’cha wanna do?” Then I say, “What we’re going to do?” Then you say, “What’cha wanna do?” Let’s do something!
Flaps: Ok. What’cha wanna do? [Buzzie sighs]
Buzzie: There you go again. The same notes again!

The vultures reminded me a little of how the disciples must have felt after seeing Jesus return to heaven – so what do we do now?

What’cha wanna do?

The angels had told them to stop gawping at the sky, but then what was left to do? Well the only thing Jesus had told them to do was to wait: wait in Jerusalem until the gift of the spirit has arrived. It didn’t mean it was an easy thing to do. As I’m sure we all know waiting is not an easy thing to do. But it is more tolerable if we have a rough idea of how long: ‘wait for 5 minutes’ isn’t anywhere near as stressful to hear as ‘wait until the results get back’.

But Jesus hasn’t given the disciples any kind of timeframe at all – he hasn’t said whether this waiting would be days or weeks or months or even years. Some of us might be able to empathize with that not knowing how long will be waiting for – our current lockdown situation is open-ended, no one is sure how long it will take before things really change, or maybe get back to some sort of normality (whatever that may look like). Waiting is hard.

So what’cha wanna do?

If we remember back to the time after the resurrection, in John’s Gospel we see the disciples in a similar quandary, and they decide to go back to fishing, as if they don’t really know what to do after the resurrection, and the only option is to return to their life before Jesus, to the things they know best– fishing. Perhaps after the ascension, they would be tempted to do the same.

What’cha wanna do?

But instead, we see a different side to the disciples – no longer clueless and at a loss. They decide to take this time of waiting seriously, actually do something: we read that they ‘were constantly devoting themselves to prayer’, along with Mary the mother of Jesus and other female disciples.

What’cha wanna do? Go and pray was the answer!

It is a very positive view of prayer: they were devoted to praying together. This brings with it connotations of focus, dedication, a singleness of mind and purpose. They took this waiting seriously and spent the time communicating with God.

It is a very good example to us, as we enter this time between Ascension and Pentecost. These nine days have been taken up by all denominations of the Church as a concerted time to pray for our communities, countries and the world in an initiative called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. This can be a time where we devote ourselves to prayer.

I have recently been reassessing my prayer life, and reflecting on how I come to pray, and I came to the quite startling conclusion that I often see prayer as a chore – it is hard work, time consuming, and takes a lot of energy. I do not often equate prayer with joy, or think of God delighting in me when I come to pray. As so as a consequence I would seldom describe myself as being devoted in prayer. It is more like an obligation or a duty to be performed, and if I don’t do it, I feel condemned and guilty, which does not engender a desire to spend more time praying. But maybe now is a good time to reassess and change that attitude. Our other reading from Peter’s letter (1 Peter 5:6-11) gives us a few helpful tips for prayer:

  • To humble ourselves
  • To cast our anxieties on God
  • To be disciplined and keep alert to the wiles of the devil (rather than keeping alert to see the virus in our midst…!)
  • To resist the enemy

And why can we do all this? Because God cares for us. Prayer doesn’t have to be a chore or an obligation, but a joyful coming into the presence of the God who loves and cares for us. To bring before him our anxieties and cares, to listen to him because he love us and delights in spending time with us.

That is the other definition of devotion – being loyal and selfless because of love for another. The devotion of God to the human race led to the death and resurrection of Jesus; God’s continued devotion sent the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts; and God’s unwavering devotion to humanity is the foundation on which we can turn to him in prayer.

As part of Thy Kingdom Come we’re suggesting spending some time prayer walking around our parish, praying for the people and businesses that form parts of our community and listening to what God might be saying to us. This shouldn’t be entered into because we have to pray or because we should pray, but because we want to pray. To respond to the devotion of God and be devoted to communicate with him.  In these days of anxiety and waiting for us all, praying, communicating with God, seems like a good thing to spend our time doing.

So What’cha wanna do?


Prayers of Intercession for Easter 7, compiled by Jean Brookes

As the Church of God, let us take a minute to be still and pray together in what are troubled times.

God of glory may your light still continue to shine in our church community as you work among us and bless us with your presence. We offer you the gifts and talents you have given us and we offer you ourselves in all of the areas where you have placed us.

Christ, risen Lord be with us, and give us your peace.

God of glory, may the whole world come to know you and give you honour and praise. Encourage us all to stand up to wrongdoing, when we are tempted, firm in our faith, and strengthened with your power. Fill us to overflowing with ongoing thankfulness both in the calm and in the devastation following the storm, and help us to walk as children of the light so we may proclaim you as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Christ, risen Lord be with us, and give us your peace.

Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low by the situation they find themselves in; that we may all rejoice in your comfort, knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christ, risen Lord be with us, and give us your peace.

Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages curing every disease and illness, at your command the sick were made well. Come to our aid now in the midst of the global spread of the virus that we may experience your healing love. Heal those who are sick with the coronavirus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care. Jesus Christ healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow and be with all those people who have died from the virus. May they now reside at rest in your eternal peace. Be with the families of those whose relations are sick or have died as they worry or grieve. Defend them from the virus and despair they are experiencing due to not being able to be with their loved ones as they depart this life.

Christ, risen Lord be with us, and give us your peace.

God of Glory be with the doctors, nurses, key workers, researchers, care home workers, the ambulance services, volunteers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves on the front line making themselves at risk from infection. May they know your protection and peace.

Christ, risen Lord be with us, and give us your peace.

In your wisdom be with the leaders of all nations world-wide. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace as they work together to achieve it on earth.

Christ, risen Lord be with us, and give us your peace.

God of Glory, we give thanks that you are with us always. Your presence transforms our homes and our relationships. We bring before you the needs of our families and friends. We pray for all who strive to improve our communities. May those who seek to change our lives be people of vision and have any plans they decide on at the heart of our communities.

Christ, risen Lord be with us, and give us your peace.

Jesus Christ we ask you to stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare in place of our anxiety, give us your enduring peace that all may in heart and mind ascend and experience your power and your glory, so that we may rejoice with our loved ones who are now in your kingdom.

Christ, risen Lord be with us, and give us your peace.

Amen.

Adapted from the Jesuits Intercessional Prayers USA.



Ascension Day

Today is Ascension Day, where we commemorate the “ascension” of Jesus into Heaven. It marks the start of 10 days of waiting, as we recall the waiting of the disciples after the departure of their friend, and before the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost. During the following 10 days we will be joining a nationwide Novena: see more on our blog post here.


Below is a booklet for you to download and use in your prayers today, a YouTube video for the hymn music, and a reflection written by Jim.



A reflection on Acts 1:6-11

Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?

If you spend any time with children, whether in your home or in your place of work, you soon realise that they ask a lot of questions. Every day. About every conceivable subject. This week I came across a Twitter thread which rang very true from one mum called Kate Bowler – it was a list of questions that her six-year old had asked her at bedtime just as she was leaving the room, as a diversion tactic to delay sleep – there were some relatively mundane ones, such as ‘Have you ever eaten pumpkin seeds?’  and ‘Why do they call it a library – do books lie?’ as well as some more imaginative ones such as ‘Do you know anyone with one eye?’, ‘Does Dad have a job? Is he a ghost pirate??’ or ‘Have you ever been bitten by a wolf? Or a tiger? A bear?’

In the reading for Ascension day from the Acts of the Apostles we see another question being asked, though one which has more basis in reality than that of a six-year old – Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?

For the eagle eyed among you, there may be something that feels familiar in this reading. Let me recap – some confused disciples, looking for Jesus where he no longer in, then approached by two men in white who ask them a (rhetorical) question and then give them some answers….yes, it’s all very similar to what happened at the tomb on that first Easter day, when we read it in Luke 24 (give yourself an extra biscuit or chocolate if you got that answer correct!). It seems that just like at the resurrection, here at the ascension the disciples are looking in the wrong place for Jesus.

However, we can be sympathetic towards the disciples – they had just watched Jesus being lifted up before their own eyes, which isn’t something that happens every day. They don’t seem to have had much warning of it either, so it must have been a very surprising and mind-blowing turn of events to process. No wonder they were left standing staring up to heaven! They stand looking, trying to comprehend, trying to find answers, momentarily transfixed by awe and wonder (and no doubt a thousand questions!) And then a voice interrupts their concentration:

Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?

The obvious answer is: well that’s where Jesus went! But there is a deeper level: it is a natural reaction, when faced with such strange or confusing events, to look heavenward (both physically and metaphorically). In the midst of crises and problems, in the face of the unexplained, we look to God for answers, for help, for guidance. To turn our gaze to the one who created, redeems and sustains all things is a good thing to do – it broadens our perspective and helps us to realise who is in charge (God!) and who isn’t (us).

Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?

It is good to look heavenwards – for answers, for inspiration, for help – but God is also always calling us back to focus on the here and now too. That’s why the angels remind the disciples that Jesus will return again, with an implication that this won’t be any time in the immediate future, as there are other things to accomplish.

The voice of the angels immediately calls the disciples back to reality. The Ascension may fix our eyes to heaven, but Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit reminds us that God’s presence is among us, not distant from us, high in the sky. The question and presence of the angels brings back their gaze to earth, and while there, it allows them to see that the divine (in the figure of the angels) is actually there among them, and soon will continue to be with them when the Holy Spirit descends (but more on that next week – spoilers!).

Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?

I remember at Theological College our Principal reminding those of us about to be ordained: “don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good!” He was stressing that while it is good to dwell on God, to be diligent in prayer and worship, there is also a job to do for God: sharing his love, spreading his Good News. While God wants us to look to him for help and support, he wants us to be getting on with things here on earth too. No more so than for those first disciples: they were to carry the message of Jesus across the globe – that wasn’t going to happen if they just stood looking to the sky for the rest of their lives! They needed to see Jesus return to heaven, but then come back to reality and be ready for what God had in store next. There is a need for balance of the two: connection with God, and working with God – looking up and rolling up our sleeves, ready to act. 

For many years I have been fascinated by the example of some of the Celtic saints, especially St Cuthbert and St Bede (who actually died on the eve of Ascension day, 735). Cuthbert is a great example of the balance of looking heavenward, and also getting on with God’s work – he longed to be a hermit, living alone and spending his life in solitary prayer, but he was acutely aware of the need to tell others of the wonder and love of God, which led to him finally acquiescing to become a bishop, and spending his time preaching and teaching the local people. His focus was often on heaven and greater communion with God, but he realised there was a role for him to fulfil on earth too.

So why do you stand looking up toward heaven?

Because it’s from there, from focusing on God, that we can be reoriented to work in his world. Once we look to God, we can make sense of our own role, and be prepared to get on with it. Perhaps we should, like Cuthbert, have our hearts fixed on heaven, but our hands fixed on earth.

Thy Kingdom Come

Tomorrow is Ascension day, and the start of Thy Kingdom Come, a period of nine days of prayer for the whole Church.

On the website, there are lots of ideas to help you pray – you might like to download the special Novena Pocket Prayers booklet, which gives Bible readings and prayers for each of the nine days.

Or you might simply like to commit to praying for 5 friends every day. 

During this time, we’ll be praying for our parish; for different areas and people each day. Why not join us by prayer walking around Timperley or by doing a ‘virtual’ prayer walk? Have a look at our parish prayer booklet.

And you could join us at 11am every day as we pray together the Lord’s Prayer, wherever we are.

However you engage, please pray!

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Happy Easter!

The Easter season runs from Easter Day to the day of Pentecost 50 days later. The whole Easter season is marked by joyous celebration, as we put behind us the stark days of Lent’s denial, and celebrate the good news of the risen Christ. Of course, our celebrations feel much different this year, and perhaps not like celebration at all. But we hold together in prayer and worship, as together we face joy and sorrow knowing that Christ has conquered death, and looking ahead to life of resurrection where there will be no more pain, no more suffering, and no more isolation.

Here is our worship for Easter 6. Below you will find:

  • A booklet for liturgy for you to use in prayer and worship at home
  • A recording of the organ music for the hymn
  • A reflection for Easter 6
  • Prayers of Intercession

The readings for this Sunday (click on each Bible reference to see the text of the readings):
Psalm 66:7-end
Acts 17:22-31
John 14:15-21



Thine be the glory!; Organist Neil Provost

A reflection written by Jenny

How are you coping?

This week I started an online learning course with the Eastern Mennonite University’s Centre for Justice and Peacebuilding. For two evenings a week I am privileged to be gathering online with students from around the world, as together we address questions of “Trauma, Resilience and Healing in a time of Pandemic”.

There is no doubt that we are living through trauma. It might not feel like it. Perhaps you as an individual have been affected very little by events around us. Yet as a community and as a society, our resilience is taking an incredible knock.

So, through this time of trauma, how are you coping?

I am struck in my conversations with people as far away as the USA and Tanzania that there is much we have in common, as people of the world, as we face this trauma together.

Words and phrases like “social distancing” and “isolation” seem to be a common language, reflecting a commonality of circumstance.

In other ways we are very different. Here in the UK we are lucky enough to be relatively wealthy: we have good, basic infrastructure, healthcare, and economic ‘safety nets’. This is not the case throughout the world, and another common theme arising in my conversations last week was the way in which this pandemic is exposing injustices and inequalities that have always been present, and yet which are causing the most vulnerable in our world to be experiencing this pandemic in the toughest of ways.

As the weeks of this crisis have progressed, I have realised more and more than this isn’t a time for answers. We are still collecting questions, and it is important to ask, and to hear, those questions. I was struck by the words of our Psalm today:

You brought us into the net;
   you laid burdens on our backs;
you let people ride over our heads;
   we went through fire and through water;

It doesn’t dwell on the tough stuff, but the tough stuff is there.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like we are people caught in a snare: with heavy burdens on our backs as an unseen, little-known enemy rides over our heads. We are people going through fire and water.

Over the next 6 weeks at the Centre for Justice and Peacebuilding I will be exploring ideas of trauma in more detail. I will also be thinking about healing. Because, as much as we can’t feel it at the moment, healing for us will come. One of the questions I and my colleagues are asking is whether the Church has a role to play in bringing about this healing.

The Psalmist is able to look ahead to a time when life will be settled once more. They speak of how they will tell their story of the goodness of God:

Come and hear, all you who fear God,
   and I will tell what he has done for me.
I cried aloud to him,
   and he was extolled with my tongue.

I wonder what stories we will tell, when these days have passed?

The people I am learning from place great emphasis on the power of story to heal us.

Many of us like to talk. We like to tell our stories, and in telling them, we come to make sense of them. There is something deeply healing about being truly listened to, and heard, and understood.

In the days and the weeks ahead, I wonder what stories we will tell of these days of trauma?

But, more than that, what stories will we commit to listening to? To truly hearing?

If this pandemic is unveiling the deep injustice of our world, whose story will we hear?

The loudest voices – the ones easiest to hear – are usually those with the money and resources to shout about the clamour. But they are voices of determined, self-interested privilege. Do we need to block those voices out?

What about the small voices? The stories of oppression, of poverty; the stories of unclean water and racial violence?

These will not be easy stories to hear. And yet we have a small moment of opportunity to turn the injustice of our world on its head and begin to do the right thing.

So, today, in these times of trauma:

How are you coping?
What stories will you tell?
What stories will you commit to hearing?
How could these stories change how you live?


Prayers of Intercession compiled by Lynne Aves

Before we begin out intercessions this week, I would like to ask you to close your eyes and imagine that you are in church, with familiar people nearby.

You may open your eyes or leave them closed as you wish.

Father, we pray for members of our congregation, our church family, for your care and presence with each one of us as we go about our daily lives. Father we pray for those people in our community going about their lives, please be with them and guide them.

We will continue our prayers as we take a look around our church, straight ahead we see the cross, a most potent reminder of God ‘s love, generosity and commitment to us all.

Lord, we know that at all times in our lives we can turn to you and that in the difficult and dark times  we can open our hearts to you, lay down our burdens and you will help us.

Next we are at the font and we pray for all the children who have been baptised here, and their parents and godparents, as they provide love and support to these children as they grow in faith as well as years.

Father we pray for all people, in Britain and across the world who are preparing for baptism, some in difficult or dangerous situations.

We are at the lectern, we pray for our clergy in their ministry in Timperley, guide them as they prepare sermons, for meetings and pastoral visits, we are living through difficult times the workload is changed but just as important, in a more stressful way. Father, be with them.

We have come to the altar, we pray for the time when we and all in Britain and around the world will be able to receive communion, albeit a little differently.

Father, looking at our church windows, we pray that as daylight enters our church, that the light of Christ will pour into the life and work of all churches when congregations emerge from this current Covid-19 crisis.

Father as we look at our children’s area, we pray that the children who will use it, will feel that they are in a safe, warm and happy environment.

Father ,be with people in hospitals and care homes at this time both patients and staff.
We also offer prayers for families of friends watching at a loved ones side as  life slips away.

In this present time, Father be with us, give us strength and patience as we deal with self-isolation and other aspects of our present lives. Help and guide us to live as you want us to.

Amen.

Prayers adapted from The Intercessions Handbook, John Pritchard (2011).



Fifth Sunday of Easter

Happy Easter!

The Easter season runs from Easter Day to the day of Pentecost 50 days later. The whole Easter season is marked by joyous celebration, as we put behind us the stark days of Lent’s denial, and celebrate the good news of the risen Christ. Of course, our celebrations feel much different this year, and perhaps not like celebration at all. But we hold together in prayer and worship, as together we face joy and sorrow knowing that Christ has conquered death, and looking ahead to life of resurrection where there will be no more pain, no more suffering, and no more isolation.

Here is our worship for Easter 5. Below you will find:

  • A booklet for liturgy for you to use in prayer and worship at home
  • A recording of the organ music for the hymn
  • A reflection for Easter 5
  • Prayers of Intercession

The readings for this Sunday (click on each Bible reference to see the text of the readings):
Acts 7:55-end
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14



Alleluia, Alleluia!; Organist Neil Provost

A reflection written by Suzie on 1 Peter 2:2-10

Living stones. With its mixture of imagery from the Hebrew Scriptures and use of powerful metaphor about Christ and his followers, each time I have re-visited this Bible passage I’ve found this to be an image which inspires an array of different thoughts. Living stones.

To begin, what do you think of when you think of stones?

Is it perhaps huge blocks of rich golden sandstone, striking red sandstone, or functional breeze blocks? Or possibly recognisable Cheshire brick, or huge stones like the ones ancient people hauled to Salisbury plain, or maybe smooth pebbles on a beach? 

There are certainly many references to stones in the Bible; sometimes these are literal stones such as the stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments (Exodus 31:18); or the stone in Luke chapter 4 when Jesus is in the wilderness and is tempted by the devil who invites him to command a stone to become a loaf of bread (Luke 4:3-4).  And there is the stone which was rolled away from the mouth of the tomb which had briefly held Jesus’s body.

Other references are powerful metaphors, such as Peter being described as the rock upon which the church would be built (Matthew 16:18), and of course the cornerstone, chosen and precious, of today’s reading and used to describe Christ.

A cornerstone is vitally important. As the name suggests, it is one which is prepared and chosen for its crucial role and location as the basis for the construction of the whole building.  The construction of the building will be set in reference to it, so it is not simply a matter of aesthetics, but one which is crucial to the stability and longevity of the structure itself. For some of us there will be cornerstones in some of the memorable physical places we associate with our faith; and these places may be very precious to us. And these buildings were constructed, and all of this was possible because of the one who is the real ‘cornerstone’ of our faith – Jesus Christ.

Come to him a living stone … and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house (vv 4-5). Crucially this spiritual house is not an actual building with huge pieces of masonry, mortar and a roof – let yourselves be built are the essential words.  It does not say, build a spiritual house, but let yourselves be built. I wonder what that looks like? In our Christian formation we experience the lifelong process of being shaped and formed as we grow in our relationship with the living God.

Let yourselves be built.

In re-visiting these words, I decided to look at a collection of pebbles I have here at home. It may be a while before I am able to see some on a beach, or river bed so I am fortunate to have them here. As many of you will know they become smooth and so change shape over time as they encounter the weather, the movement of the water and each other. Each one is different. Here is a picture I took of a few of them yesterday:

Each one has its own shape. And whilst these are certainly not ‘living stones’, each one has its own unique contours which mean there isn’t another one quite like it.

We are living stones whose many different experiences of life have shaped us uniquely. And in our journeys of faith we continue to be shaped. As God’s people, as followers of Christ continuing our journeys of transformation in the power of the Spirit, we continue to be shaped. This living stone here in the curacy house, has a different shape compared to a few years ago. And there are some fairly rough edges which still need attention.

Which is why we hope and pray that little by little, each day we come to be more like Christ. He who is the cornerstone of our faith.  


Prayers of Intercession compiled by Neil Provost

Around the world almost every country has been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, directly with people falling ill with some succumbing and indirectly as the world’s economy  grinds to a halt.  Now is the time we need our world leaders the most. We need them to be strong but open minded, vigilant and not introspective, communicative but remaining sensitive with what they say, proactive but cautious. Father God, we pray to you to help Prime Ministers, Presidents and Monarchs the world over as they lead broken and fragile countries in this worst of times. Give the world’s people the sense and courage to listen to their leaders, do what is asked of them, and be wise to realise when they may be being misled so that we may find a pathway through this difficult time with the least harm to all.  Father God in your mercy, hear our prayer.

On Friday we celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE day. Let us take a few moments in silence to remember the fallen… We thank all those who fought to bring an end to World War 2, whether they fought on the front lines, protected our seas, or flew in the skies in search of attackers. We also thank those who fought from home; the women who worked in the factories, on the land and in the forces; the Home Guard who watched our shores and streets and prepared to be the last line of defence; the doctors and nurses who brought comfort and healing to the wounded who made it home. And in the midst of all the selflessness and heroism we remember that we too perpetrated atrocities under the guise of war and defending our freedom for which we should be eternally sorry. Lord God, help to us continue to bring peace both at home and abroad. Guide us on your way of love and show us how to be strong, so that we can still protect ourselves whilst avoiding needles violence. Lord God in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Our communities have been strained by the new  way in which we have to live whilst we fight the Coronavirus. Our churches and places of worship have been closed, weddings postponed and attending restricted funerals has caused much friction and distress within families and we can no longer greet our friends in the street with a handshake or a hug. But in the midst of this we have found new ways to communicate with each other, just as our Lord Jesus found new ways to communicate your word to the people. We can take comfort from the work of Jesus and the disciples who followed him as they struggled to communicate a new way. Lord Jesus, give us courage to follow your way so that our local leaders, both faith and secular, can see the rewards of their efforts to keep us together so that they too can remain strong. We all need each other and we need you Lord in these dark and difficult times. Lord Jesus in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all those who have fallen ill with Covid19. But we must not forget to pray all those who suffer from other illnesses and diseases and whom we would ordinarily pray for. We pray for all the sick of our parish. We pray for all those who are sick and known to us personally. We pray for our nurses, doctors, paramedics and all those involved in the NHS as they treat all of our sick.  We pray to the Holy Spirit to bring comfort, strength and endurance to all who are ill and to those who are terminally ill bring peace and a merciful death. Holy Spirit in your mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for the recently deceased; let perpetual light shine upon them and may they rest in peace. We pray for their grieving families and friends who feel the pain of loss: Lord help them to find peace and understanding through your word and compassion. At this particularly difficult time we pray for those who care for the deceased and all those who seek to comfort the bereaved. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray in a moment of silence for ourselves. Father God, Lord of all mercies grant what we ask of you and grant what we do not ask of you, so that we may bring your word, your glory, your love to the world. Amen.