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Sunday 24th May 2020- Seventh Sunday of Easter

posted 22 May 2020, 04:42 by Church Office   [ updated 24 May 2020, 06:38 by CHS Info ]


You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 24th May 2020

Seventh Sunday of Easter

In our Pram Service (8am) this week we will be hearing the story of the Ascension (big word) and think about how we learn to do new things – write our names, ride a bike and suchlike. We will have song with actions and a join in prayer.  Pram Service is available every week as a video to download and play at a time that suits you so that you don’t have to come to church in your pyjamas (though you can if you like). To join us live follow the zoom link 

Sunday School (9:30am): Continuing theme of what Jesus is, we will talk about Jesus being the way - showing us our path, helping us find our way, guiding us when things get tough, easing us through some of the tangles and briars we are bound to meet. So, bring bricks, train tracks, Lego, paper and pencils for drawing so we can create the tricky paths we might face - high adventure on rocky crags, avoiding water sodden marshy bits, busy and hectic roads with confusing road signs and finger posts. You name it we can find any number of tricky places to get bogged down in, Jesus helps us find our way. After Ascension Day we know that Jesus is with God, and he shows us the way to be with God. Follow this zoom link to join:  You will need the password which can be found in our newsletter, to subscribe please follow the instructions on our homepage. 

Thursday was Ascension day, next Sunday will be Pentecost: these few days are a time of absence and waiting . Things will be different but how? In our readings this time marks our growing up: Christ has no hands on earth now but ours. The task of carrying on Christ’s mission may be daunting but — he promises that he will send us his Spirit. The same Spirit that moved over the water of creation bring forth everything out of nothing . Christ’s hands are now multiplied across the face of creation ready to usher into being a new creation.


Acts 1:6-14 It is comforting that the disciples who lived alongside Jesus and witnessed his death and resurrection still had no clue what his mission, and therefore theirs, was really about: not the recreation of Israel as a political power but the recreation of the whole earth.

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

John 17:1-11 Again the risen Christ commands his disciples to wait, again he promises them the same power that he received from God, the creator of all things, again he tells them that God’s recreation is intended for all.

1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 6 "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.


Is it time yet?” 

“It is not for you to know the time.  Right now, you are to go back home and wait”.

This could be a conversation between journalists and a cabinet spokesperson.

But, it is between Jesus and his restless and impatient disciples, who are just desperate to get on with this whole kingdom of God thing and who are constantly “are we nearly there yet?”

If not now, when when when?

You just have to wait.

Their situation speaks to ours: they have been through a time of trauma and distress and now they will enter a time of absence, distance, uncertainty and all they can do, all they must do, is wait.

And they comply. They return home and self-isolate – it’s a bit crowded, the whole bunch of them together, but they wait.  And whilst they wait, they pray.

Prayer, wrote the Hebrew scholar, Abraham Heschel, is “the quarantine of the soul”. 

“Prayer clarifies our hopes and intentions. It helps us discover our true aspirations, the pangs we ignore, the longings we forget. It is an act of self-purification, a quarantine for the soul.”

There is a great deal of praying going on at the moment.  Humans turn naturally to prayer in times of fear, pain and uncertainty.  If we are honest though much of our prayer is a list of requests: people, places and situations for which we seek God’s intervention or at least the assurance of God’s presence and concern.  If prayer is a way to “open a window to God” we tend to open it wide, shout through it and shut it closed before God has a chance to answer.

One of the things that I have learnt is that prayer is not about us changing God it is about God changing us.

To open a window to God is to be fully present, bringing, of course, all our fears, concerns, worries, sorrows, hopes and desires and allowing God to be fully present too.  Over time, just as stone is worn smooth by the water of a stream, so our souls, our wills, our inner desires, become shaped by God’s will and God’s desires.  God’s longings become our longings too.  

The disciples start by longing for the restoration of their nation “is now the time that you will restore the kingdom of Israel?”  They desire the freedom, honour and power for their people.  God’s longing is way bigger than that.  God’s desire is for the healing, life-giving power of the Holy Spirit to be given, not only to Jerusalem and all Judea, but even to Samaria, indeed to the ends of the earth.

In opening ourselves to God we become a part of God.  This is what Jesus is describing to his disciples in the passage from John: all that abiding and dwelling and being one.

If I dwell in God, God’s will becomes my will too and so God’s good desires for you, for your neighbour, for those on the other side of the world become my desires for you, your neighbour and all God’s people too.

Prayer is the work of ever expanding the heart to encompass more and more of God’s creation.

But this is not work we can do alone.

The disciples are to quarantine their souls together.  Which I guess means that in placing their desires and longings, hopes and fears, before God they also place them before one another. 

I know that for much of the time we prefer to smile and wave and keep a stiff upper lip but this will not expand our hearts, it will not make us one with God or with one another.

As we wait for easing of lockdown, the end of the pandemic, the coming of God’s spirit I wonder if we might find a way to share our prayers with one another.

Next week is Pentecost, the feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit – y’know, my favourite festival when we get to set fire to all manner of things.  We will not be able to gather in church to pass the light of Christ from one to another.  Instead I am proposing that we pass on our prayers.  Writing them on templates of flames and doves (the symbols of the Holy Spirit).  Which I will then assemble together to form hanging that we can let down from the minstrels’ gallery when we can again gather in church.  You can find further details on the website, in the newsletter and on facebook.

If you can, please join this work of praying together, that in this quarantine our souls and hearts might expand to receive the future God longs to give us.


Mighty God,
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.
As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people. Amen.


Prayers of Intercession

God, we pray for the church, that we may be as one body of Christ. Open our eyes to the needs of the church throughout the world, and guide the church to speak out for justice and mercy in this time.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God, we pray for the world, that we may be as one in its stewardship. Open our eyes to the beauty of nature around us, and guide us to re-shape our lives to better protect your creation.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God, we pray for our community, that we may be as one. Open our eyes to see your face in the faces of our neighbours, and guide us to reach out to the isolated and those in need.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God, we pray for the sick, that we may be as one in caring for each other. Open our eyes to both the needs and gifts offered by the sick, and guide us to help each other in this time. We pray especially for the needs of those dear to us who need healing: for Jane, Heidi, and Albert Bell; Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika and Bernard Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte and Jonathan Aubrey.

Lord in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God, we pray for the grieving, that we may be as one in remembering the dead and comforting their loved ones. Open our eyes to the ways those who have gone before us left the world better than they found it, and guide us to follow in their example.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

Merciful God, accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.


Thursday 21st May 2020 - Ascension Day

posted 20 May 2020, 06:29 by Church Office   [ updated 20 May 2020, 06:30 ]

Please join us for our Ascension day service on Thursday at 8:15pm after the NHS clap for carers by clicking this Zoom link:

You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Thursday 21st May 2020

Ascension of the Lord



Ascension Day marks our growing up: Christ has no hands on earth now but ours. The task of carrying on Christ’s mission may be daunting but — he promises that he will send us his Spirit. The same Spirit that moved over the water of creation bring forth everything out of nothing. Christ’s hands are now multiplied across the face of creation ready to usher into being a new creation.

Acts of the Apostles 1: 1-11

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension of Jesus

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

It is comforting that the disciples who lived alongside Jesus and witnessed his death and resurrection still had no clue what his mission, and therefore theirs, was really about: not the recreation of Israel as a political power but the recreation of the whole earth.

Luke 24: 44-53

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Again, the risen Christ commands his disciples to wait, again he promises them the same power that he received from God, the creator of all things, again he tells them that God’s recreation is intended for all.


“While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?’” (Acts 1:10-11). Seriously - give them a break. I’d certainly be standing looking up toward heaven, if I’d just witnessed the risen Christ ascending to the skies, and I’d bet you would be too.

But the point is there’s stuff to get on with, work to be done. This is an ending, of course, but it is also a beginning. A new beginning in which the disciples are invited to participate, even more, to be the means by which this new thing - the thing that will in time become the Church - is realised. As with the resurrection, the consequence of the Ascension is a demand for action. The tomb is empty because the risen Christ has already gone on ahead, somewhere else, and invites us to follow. And even if you have just witnessed the Ascension, why would that mean you should stand still, gazing into space? As Luke puts it in his gospel rather than in his letter which we know as the Book of Acts, immediately before the Ascension Jesus says to his disciples that as it had been written, “the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” That is what is to be done. No time for standing still.


What follows from the Ascension is repentance - the Greek word metanoia means a complete change of mind, a reforming of oneself – and forgiveness. Not condemnation, but forgiveness.The Ascension is a tricky proposition for the preacher. Does Luke intend a literal reading? The two accounts he offers us differ in significant ways and I wonder if this in itself could be a clue that a literal reading, sort of “Beam me up, Scotty” (please excuse my irreverence) is not what he was trying to evoke.

What matters to me, is that Christ who gave himself up to suffering and death is the same Christ who sits in glory at the right hand of God. Christ who having risen from the dead still bears the scars of crucifixion, ascends to God the Father still wounded. And the woundedness of humanity is embraced by God; redeemed, forgiven, and loved. Luke’s Jesus touches lepers, scandalises people when he praises the woman who bathes his feet with oil, and the woman who dares to touch the hem of his garment because she knows she deserves to be free of the bleeding she has suffered for years - and the being made an outcast that went with that, of course. He calls outsiders to be his followers, tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. In which case, the Christ who sits in glory at the right hand of God calls us to a change of mind, a re-forming of things. Maybe this is not so far from the contemporary realisation that those whose work has been dismissed as unskilled are anything but unskilled, and that work on which society has not placed a high value is actually essential.

As Tom Wright points out in Luke For Everyone, Luke’s Jesus ends where he begins, by referring to the Hebrew scriptures. The last thing he does before the Ascension is to “open their minds to the scriptures” that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again. And right back at the start of his public life Jesus had read from the scroll in his home synagogue, that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free ...”

That is still what is to be done. No time for standing still.



Risen and ascended Christ,
you surround us with witnesses
and send us the Counselor
who opens our minds to understand your teaching.
Bless us with such grace
that our lives may become a blessing for the world
now, and in the age to come. Amen.


Prayers of Intercession

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,

you have exalted your Son Christ Jesus to your right hand,

and made him the head over all things for his body the Church:

hear us as we pray for the Church throughout the world …

Make us and all your people receptive to the gifts he pours upon us,

that we may use them to your glory,

and the building up of the body of Christ.

Lord, in your mercy:

All   hear our prayer.


Lord God Almighty, the Ancient of Days,

you have given your Son all authority in heaven and on earth:

hear us as we pray for the world he came to redeem …

Grant that we may know even in this time the things that make for peace,

and may strive for the reconciliation of all people

in his kingdom of justice and love.

Lord, in your mercy:

All   hear our prayer.


Father of all, whose Son has promised to be with us always,

to the end of the age:

hear us as we pray for those among whom we live and work …

Grant that this community may journey together with Jesus, responsive to the needs of our neighbour.

Lord, in your mercy:

All   hear our prayer.


O God our Redeemer, whose Son ever lives to make intercession for us:

hear us as we pray for those in any kind of need …

May he who has borne our infirmities strengthen and heal them,

that they may find grace to help in time of need,

and rejoice in his salvation.

Lord, in your mercy:

All   hear our prayer.


Heavenly Father, whose Son has borne our humanity into the heavenly realms,

and gone before us to prepare a place for us:

hear us as we remember before you those whose earthly sojourn is over,

and whose life is now hidden in him with you …

Make us joyful and expectant, that at his coming with all his own

we too may go forth to meet him, and share in his eternal joy.


Merciful God,

All   accept these prayers

for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ.



Sunday 17th May 2020 Sixth Sunday of Easter

posted 15 May 2020, 04:37 by Church Office   [ updated 17 May 2020, 05:28 by CHS Info ]


You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 17th May 2020

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sunday school is continuing this week at 9:30am with drawing, singing and dancing as they explore Jesus' claim that he is our bread and vine while we are the branches.Jesus is our bread and drink, the door we go through, the shepherd who cares for us and the food that lets us survive. Bring along any homemade (or regular) bread and fruit juice, paper, colouring pencils/pens, brushing and crayons for drawing more bread and vines.  Please follow the zoom link, you will need the password to join the Sunday school meeting which you can get via our newsletter. If you would like to receive our newsletter please go to our homepage where you can subscribe. 


Our readings for today are both about how we can know God:

Acts 17: 22-31

22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

‘For we too are his offspring.’

29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”


In Acts: 7:22-31 St Paul tells the Athenians that God cannot be found in temples or statues or philosophy but has been revealed to us as a human being.  We do not have to search outside ourselves to know God; by becoming human Christ has given us a way to know God in our very selves.


John 14:15-21

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”


Jesus explains this to his disciples in John: 14:15-21 by loving one another—by committing ourselves to other human being flawed and limited as we may be—we can know God fully.  As we grow closer to each other in love there God is dwelling within and between us.  



 Some years ago, Tim Beaumont, who some of you will remember, came to preside and preach at the 8 o’clock Communion Service at Holy Trinity Clapham.  When it came to the sermon, Tim looked up from the lectern, said “God is Love”, and then sat down for 5 minutes, then stood up to continue the service.  He gave people time and space to reflect on what that meant to them, before sharing in the sacrament of God’s love in Communion.

I am sometimes tempted to do the same – what else do we need to know: God is love, and he loves us, and if we love God, we can live in him, and he will live in us. Sermon for today!

But what does that all mean?  Seriously - how can we know God?

The Athenian people were, as we hard Paul observe in our first reading, “very religious in every way”.  They had lots of “objects of worship” – idols, things, that they worshipped.  There were altars to many gods, all made by human hands.  We may not have those sort of idols, unless we worship our cars, or our houses (some people do), but there are many things that we consider to be important in our lives, and for some of us, some of those things may seem more important than God.  For a very high percentage of the population of our country God comes low down on their list of priorities – and that’s because they don’t know God.

The Athenians had even erected an altar with the inscription, “to an unknown god”.  Paul saw this as the perfect opportunity to explain that this god they didn’t know was “the God who made the world…Lord of heaven and earth” and this God is not confined to man-made shrines.  I think this passage in Acts is wonderful – Paul explaining how God can be known because it is God who gives us life and breath, and the deep inner instinct to search for him: “though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘in him we live and move and have our being’…”

The Athenians had a need to worship, but they had not yet found satisfaction in what they were searching for because they were trying to create gods, rather than understanding that God made them.  Chapter 3 of John’s Gospel, verse 16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” God’s love becomes human in Jesus Christ.

The love of God is in God’s trinitarian existence – God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – we repeat that throughout our liturgy, but how often do we reflect on what it means?  We can experience God as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, and it is the interdependence of the Trinity which expresses the love of God. God’s very being is love, love in unity, reaching out into the world to create us, to save us, and to sustain us.  We can experience God in the beauty of creation, in the stories of Jesus the man, and in the presence of the Spirit in our lives.

Jesus promised that the disciples would receive the Spirit of Truth, the sustainer, helping them to know God, ‘because he abides with you and he will be in you’.  He will not leave them “orphaned” –“I am coming to you,” he says – so he and the Spirit are one, and “… you will know that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you.”  

The promise is that we can become part of God. If God is Love, then we too can love if we allow ourselves to be part of God’s love.  And if we love, we will keep God’s commandments.  We don’t have to keep the commandments in order to be welcomed into God’s love, but the command is to love, and in loving one another, as he has loved us, we become part of the love of God: “I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

We can come to know God by living in his love and sharing that love with others.  In practical terms that means loving everyone – even the people we find difficult, or unattractive, the people who are very different to us. As we grow closer to each other in love, there God is, dwelling within and between us. 

Loving isn’t just a feeling, it has to be love in action.  So at the end of Christian Aid Week we need to ask ourselves what we’ve been able to do to demonstrate some of God’s love in Action, reaching out to help our poorest brothers and sisters in the parts of the world most at risk from Climate Change, disease, hunger and poverty.  That means sending money.  And in this country some can help in practical terms delivering food parcels to those who are isolated at home, making phone calls, volunteering or making donations to support organisations like the Ace of Clubs, Food Banks,  Refugee Action, Shelter, the Children’s Society – there are so many charities working hard to provide for those in need.  You can show your love with time or money, and with prayer for all who are less fortunate that us, and above all by the way we live our lives day by day.

The current pandemic is a real struggle for those who are bereaved, and for so many people whose lives are becoming more difficult to manage in the isolation.  The hope of many of us is that the restrictions will at least bring about a recognition for the need for us to live our lives differently in the future, flying less, driving less, living more simply – and we will need to continue to share God’s love will all our neighbours near and far.  By doing this, I pray that more people may come to know God and also live in his love.  Amen


Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
you have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by your spirit to keep your commandments,
that we may show forth your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
to all your people. Amen.


Prayers of Intercession

Dear Lord, infect your church here on earth with your overwhelming love so that we may transmit that love to a society which seeks to bolt the door, isolated in fear. Test us so that we may be alert to opportunity and dead  to indifference.

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer


In a world where there is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed, isolate the feverish forces of intolerance, pride and fear. We give thanks to you for scientists and medical experts working to overcome diseases of mind and body. As Christian Aid Week concludes, continue to bless their work for the poor and marginalised in the uncertain future.

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer


In a time of social distancing, guide us as we embrace our families, friends and neighbours with our words, eyes, ears and practical actions, leading us to new ways of being community.

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer


Jesus promised us the Advocate, your Spirit of truth. Send your warming Spirit to protect all in the intensive care unit, in the care home and  in isolation - and particularly to our friends

Jane Bell, Heidi Bell, Albert Bell, Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko, Bernard Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte and  Jonathan Aubrey

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer


Though isolated from the graveside mourners we ask you to give rest to your servants, Enzo, Shirley, Edith and Gillian, with the saints. Where sorrow and pain are no more – but life everlasting.

 Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer


Rejoicing with St Mary, St Dunstan and all your saints we commend the whole of creation to your unfailing love.

Merciful God, accept these prayers for the sake of your son our saviour Jesus Christ, Amen

Sunday 10th May 2020 Fifth Sunday of Easter

posted 8 May 2020, 07:39 by Church Office   [ updated 10 May 2020, 06:45 by CHS Info ]

 Sermon for Easter 5
 Full service

You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 10th May 2020

Fifth Sunday of Easter


This Sunday is the Fifth Sunday of Easter our readings explore how we see God in the face of Christ and in Christ’s brothers and sisters (that’s us folks!).

This week in Pram Service (8am) we are exploring how we are all made in God's image. You will need to send me a picture of your face so we can can see how Christ can and does shine through each of them (these photos will not be published anywhere and will only be used for the service). Be sure to bring some pens and paper with you too as they will come in handy. Here is the link for pram service

For Sunday School (9:30am) Jesus is the good shepherd - we are the sheep who know his voice to be that of the friend who loves us always - who calls us through the gate always - never a thief or bad voice - but ... to get to him we have to follow him, to learn about him, to listen to him. Our judgements about who should or should not get through is never never ours, it's always Jesus'. We'll draw gates, doors, cracks in walls, fords through puddles, lakes and rivers, hidden paths through swamps to create our own path to follow Jesus so be sure to bring paper, pens and pencils for drawing. We will be singing Rejoice the Lord is King, please click here for the words. We will hear the story of the good shepherd who calls his sheep each night to safety, who keeps out the danger, who is the only one who judges, who has never in all his life turned away the repentant - who minds the gate to heaven - and the sheep know his voice. Then we will talk to God about the things that they need help with, the difficulties of today's funny life. We will finish sunday school with the Lord's Prayer. The Link for sunday school is here: The password for the meeting can be found in our newsletter, you can subscribe to our newsletter through the link on our home page. 


Acts 7:55-60 

55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

Jesus has assured his disciples of his presence with them and asked them not be afraid but the struggle and conflict that they will inevitably face is seen in the fate of St Stephen the first martyr. However, as Jesus promised, Stephen is able to carry out the works of God, showing forgiveness to those who are intent on his destruction just as Christ did before him.


John 14: 1-14

Jesus the Way to the Father

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

The disciples beg Jesus to show them the face of God before he leaves them so that they may be confident in their faith: Jesus tells them that if they have seen him then they have already seen the Father. This is how we see the face of God in those whose actions and lives are Christ like.


On Easter Day this year, we read Matthew’s account of the resurrection. Cast your minds back - the women were on their way to Jesus’ tomb. Then “... suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it” - talk about making a dramatic entrance. I love the detail that he sat on it. As though he needed a rest, after all that descending from heaven, and the earthquake, and having moved the stone. There’s something rather wonderful in the contrast between this everyday remark, and the utterly momentous significance of the thing he’s sitting on, which was after all the stone across the entrance to the tomb of Christ. But I digress. And more scholarly critiques are available (just in case you were in any doubt!).

Anyway, he says to the women: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” Similarly in Mark, the messenger, this time described as “a young man, dressed in a white robe” (as in Matthew, he has also taken a pew, we just don’t know if that was on the stone or not) says “He has been raised; he is not here … go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

Jesus is always going on ahead, always dynamic, always inviting us to follow, to come on, to keep up.

Today’s gospel forms part of John’s lengthy farewell discourse, so in the arc of the narrative he is going ahead into Jerusalem, and to all that will happen there. And in the passage itself he says “I will go and prepare a place … I will come back and take you to myself … I am going to the Father”. He tells his disciples that they know the way, and Thomas says well if we don’t know where you are going, how can we know how to get there?

And in a way this is where the narrative brings us up sharp, the talk of coming, going, coming back again, the perplexed questions of where and how, all stops, with one of the “I am” statements that characterize the Gospel of John: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”. I would have thought that this one of the “I am” sayings is second only to the Book of Revelations in having been (mis)used and abused, as what comes next - “No-one comes to the Father except through me” - has unfortunately been used by many over the years to suggest we can draw a line between those who are right, and those who are wrong, those who are included, while everyone else is excluded. Reading this saying in its context reveals depths of meaning that will inevitably be missed if it is used as a slogan, as though on those posters printed in Hi-Viz, luminous colour put up at railway stations.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him “I am the way …” - what if this is not about rigidity, or rules, but about relationship?

Before this, Jesus has said “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places” - there is a dwelling place there for the disciples, who were his immediate audience; there is a place there, deep within the heart of God, for all who have ever lived; there is a place there for us.

After this, Jesus speaks about God the Father as “the Father who dwells in me …” - what if we perceive “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” as relationship, and as journey, rather than as an object, immutable, fixed in time and place? Interestingly, the Greek word monai used for dwelling places is the noun form of the verb used shortly afterwards in John, when Jesus talks about abiding - “Abide in me and I will abide in you.”

The driving force of relationship, of course, is love.

On Friday evening I caught a few minutes of BBC One’s VE Day anniversary coverage. They broadcast a woman who had lived through the war, who said this:

“[This was a war that had to be fought.] It was a time of wonderful comradeship, a time of great sadness, sometimes a time of great joy … the war changed my life forever. Things were never the same. The thing that kept me going, during the war, was lots of love, all kinds of love, both given and received. Because love comes in many forms.

How apposite.

To return to the beginning, to the empty tomb and the risen Christ who “has been raised; he is not here”. The risen Christ who is already “... going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” Jesus who says “I am the way” is always going on ahead of us, dynamic, forward-moving, not standing still.

The implication of the words of the messenger at the empty tomb is that the disciples will have to follow the risen Christ, who has gone on ahead “there you will see him …”, the messenger says.

May we dare to do the same.



Prayer 1

Creator of the universe,
you made the world in beauty,
and restore all things in glory
through the victory of Jesus Christ.
We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured
by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed,
the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace,
to the glory of your name. Amen.


Prayer 2

Risen Christ,
you prepare a place for us,
in the home of the Mother-and-Father of us all.
Draw us more deeply into yourself,
through scripture read,
water splashed,
bread broken,
wine poured,
so that when our hearts are troubled,
we will know you more completely
as the way, the truth, and the life. Amen.

Prayers of intercession

Let us pray for the Church, for the building up of our community of believers, locally and nationally. For those who are new to faith and those who are not. For all who are able to join us online, as well as those who are not: that God will guide and protect us, build us up in our love for each other, a house of living stones where God is glorified day after day.

Lord, hear us

Lord, graciously hear us


Let us pray for the world, and particularly for those who suffer because of war, famine or natural disaster. We pray for everybody affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. We pray for our own country as we seek to recover, for the Queen and the government, and all the ministers responsible for making difficult decisions on our behalf: that God will kindle within each one of us a desire to fulfil what justice requires for the whole human family and the natural world over which we have stewardship.

Lord, hear us

Lord, graciously hear us


Let us pray for those who are lonely, and struggling to cope with isolation, or otherwise travelling through a time of pain or anguish which is hard to bear. For all of our key workers, for refugees and those separated from their families. For those who lack sufficient food or adequate housing. For our own families and friends. And for our enemies: that God will grant each of us a kind heart and true desire to reach out to all the abandoned, and gather us together once more to give thanks for all the mercies God shows to us.

Lord, hear us

Lord, graciously hear us


Let us pray for those who are sick, at home or in hospital, and especially during the pandemic: that they will find enduring strength and healing in the name of Jesus Christ. We remember especially in our prayers: Jane Bell, Heidi Bell, Albert Bell, Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko, Bernard Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte and Jonathan Aubrey. We also remember in a moment of silence those known only to us: let us pray that they be sustained by God’s merciful help.

Lord, hear us

Lord, graciously hear us


We remember, too, those who have recently died or whose anniversary of death falls at this time, and who live forever in Christ’s love through their share in his death and resurrection:


            Shirley Dobson, and we pray for her family, for Keith and Vicki

            Edith de Lisle

            Gillian Davies, and for Jo Ross and her family.


We pray for those who mourn: may they find assurance that Jesus has prepared a place for all in the world to come. And for ourselves: that we may be prepared for the hour of our own death, when God will call us by name, to pass from this world to the next. 

Lord, hear us

Lord, graciously hear us


Almighty God,

You have promised to hear the prayers

Of those who ask in the name of your Son;

Listen in kindness to all our prayers, 

And give us your greatest gift:

To know you, the only true God,

And your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


Merciful Father,

Accept these prayers,

For the sake of your Son,

Our saviour, Jesus Christ.


Sunday 3rd May 2020 Fourth Sunday of Easter

posted 1 May 2020, 14:42 by Church Office   [ updated 4 May 2020, 14:38 by CHS Info ]

 Sermon - The Good Shepherd
 Full parish service - 3 May 2020

You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of these readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 3rd May 2020

Fourth Sunday of Easter

This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday.   Every year we hear a passage using sheep and shepherds to describe Jesus’ relationship with his people.  In Biblical times the analogy of shepherding was used to describe rulers and leaders.  Today it gives us an opportunity to think about trust and belonging.

In pram service (8am) this week we will have stories of sheep: thirsty sheep, hungry sheep, smelly sheep, naughty sheep, scared sheep … you get the idea.  We’ll have some songs and prayers and will make sheep together.  If you’d like to join in the craft please download the sheep template and print on card (click here).  You will need some cotton wool and glue to make the sheep look properly sheep-like. Here's the link to pram service.

In Sunday school (9:30am) Bring drawing materials to the table, or the floor whichever suits best. After opening with hellos we'll start with a hymn - the Lord is my Shepherd - where we are silenced as a group so can sing our hearts out at home along to the version I share.  What you'll need: white paint, white fluffy stuff, paint and glue, pens, pencils, paper. I'm guessing, you work it out! Here's the link to Sunday school. There is a password in the newsletter (if you would like to receive the newsletter please give your details here). 


Acts 2:42-47

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

John 10: 1-10

The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.



Jesus is on about sheep again.  He talks about sheep a lot, maybe too much because “when Jesus used this figure of speech with them”, we’re told, “they did not understand what he was saying…”

Every year, three weeks after Easter, we get sheep, shepherds, sheepfolds, and I’m still not sure that we understand what Jesus is saying…

This year’s bit of sheep wisdom talks starts off with who the sheep listen to.  Apparently the sheep will follow the voice of the shepherd but not of the thieves and bandits.  Well, I’m not sure that’s true.  Sheep like people get distracted by all kinds of things and wander off following the promise of this or that without paying the least attention to any shepherd good or not so good.

So Jesus tries again: this time he explains that he is not the shepherd he’s the sheep gate.  The gate. For real.

I’m not sure that this clears things up any but let’s go with it.

Gates, they open and close right? They can be about security: they can keep things out and keep things in.   They can be about opportunity: they can let things out and they can let things in.

We are used to this language of open and closed.  Whether we as a nation are open for business or closed to immigrants.

We tend to prefer a gate locked tight when we are under threat – mainly from violence (open gates might let in terrorist) or economic insecurity (open gates might let in masses who will use up homes, jobs and social security budgets). 

Currently we have a dilemma: if our gates are shut we will keep out the virus that threatens our physical survival but we hear the voices of many arguing that if we don’t open them soon our economic survival will also be under threat.

So we get the gate metaphor. But here’s the thing.  Jesus’s gate seems to be pretty much permanently wedged open: the sheep move in and out they seem to have both security and opportunity. 

I suspect that this might be the point.  Jesus is not a king like other kings, he is not a shepherd like other shepherds and so it should come as no surprise that he is a gate not like other gates.

The whole sheep, shepherd, gate conversation begins just after Jesus has healed the man born blind.  The point about being blind was that it excluded you from the community.  Jesus heals the man and in doing so he heals the community because they should now all be gathered together without some left outside.  However, the community find another reason to exclude the formerly blind man this time because he was healed on the Sabbath.  So, having been brought in from outside because he has regained his sight, he is thrown out again.

The thing about Jesus, the striking thing about Jesus, is that Jesus never throws anyone out. No one. Ever. Not the rich young man who can’t bring himself to give away his riches, not Judas whom he knew would betray him, not the condemned man being crucified next to him, not the soldiers who executed him.  No one gets shut out.  Ever.

This is a hard thing for human beings to cope with.  Our security rests on us being able to know who is in and who is out.  We want to be able to keep out those we disagree with, those we feel threatened by, those who might challenge us.

And the church is often a terrible example of this: arguing constantly over keeping out gays and women and people who are suspected of thinking and believing differently.   Yet at the same time churches have always been a place of sanctuary.  The church is one of the few places in society where anyone, anyone at all, can pole up and be a part of us.  Church at its best is the most radically open of places.

We will always find this teaching hard, we will always struggle to accept homophobes as well LGBT people, perpetrators as well as victims yet it is what Jesus asks us to do. 

Thank God then that WE are NOT the gate or gatekeeper.  We are the sheep. We are always the included never the includer. 

We don’t get to judge who comes in and who goes out, that is Christ’s job. 

We get to experience the discomfort and the excitement, the challenge and the change, the abundant life that will inevitably flow from keeping the gate wide open.  


Mighty God,
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.
As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people. Amen.

Prayers of Intercessions

Lord, grant us the stillness and calm of your Spirit that we might concentrate on these few minutes of prayer together.

Lord of all nations on earth, we ask you to give guidance to the leaders of all countries, who have the heavy responsibility of shaping policies to do what is best for their people – your people.  May they make wise decisions and now more than ever be prepared to work together for the greater good in the current situation.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer


We pray for your Church throughout the world that it might come together in unity and we ask for your blessing on all the clergy who are working tirelessly to maintain the ministry of your word and pastoral care in these difficult circumstances.  We think particularly of our own parish.  Lord, as you taught us to love our neighbours as ourselves, give us courage that we might do what each of us can to help those in need, to comfort those in distress, to offer practical help and assure the isolated of your love.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer


We pray for doctors, nurses and medical staff who are caring for the sick and those working in care homes.  Strengthen them with your love and keep them safe.  Give them skill, sympathy and resilience to carry on.  Give your wisdom to all those throughout the world who are searching for a cure.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer


We pray for our local community in Clapham, our families, some of whom may be far-flung and we cannot see at present, our friends, our neighbours, the elderly, the isolated, the anxious, those who are struggling financially, the hungry and the homeless.  Lord, lift up all those who are brought low and keep them in your love and mercy at this time of uncertainty and distress.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer


We bring before you the sick and the suffering and entrust them to your tender care.  Comfort them that they might be restored to health and strength and may your everlasting arms be there to hold them safe.  We ask in particular for your blessing on Jane Bell, Heidi Bell, Albert Bell, Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Bernard Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Shirley Dobson, Jane Roberts and Damien Harte, and in a moment of silence we remember any others close to us or known to us ………..

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer


We pray for the souls of those who have recently died, including Gillian Davies, and we pray for Jo Ross and her family, and also Enzo Saunt, and we pray for his family, Rosie, Ant and Maria.  We think of all those who are mourning a recent bereavement.  May they know your comfort and support and be surrounded with your love.  

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer


On this ‘Good Shepherd’ Sunday may we think of ourselves as your flock, Lord, safely garnered into your sheepfold, so that we might increasingly trust in you, dedicate our lives to you and grow in your Spirit knowing that nothing can separate us from your love.

Merciful Father –

Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Sunday 26th April 2020- Third Sunday of Easter

posted 23 Apr 2020, 04:56 by Church Office   [ updated 27 Apr 2020, 11:59 by CHS Info ]


You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of these readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 26th April 2020

Third Sunday of Easter



Acts 2:14a, 36-41

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified." 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, "Brothers, what should we do?" 38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him." 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

The inclusivity of the gospel story is echoed in this reading in which the promise of God’s presence, the Holy Spirit, is for all without exception.


Luke 24:13-35

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?" 19 He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him." 25 Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

We are so familiar with the story of the road to Emmaus that we often skip forward to the denouement when the disciples suddenly recognise Jesus and their sorrow turns to joy. Yet the story is very much a journey: a long road from bewilderment, disappointment and grief in which the disciples gradually have their minds, heats and eyes opened. This gradual revelation that God journeys with them comes about as they journey together and as their welcome the stranger in their midst. We today experience God’s presence with us most strongly when we accompany one another and the stranger in our midst on our journey through life.


It is strange to have a story about journeying when are going nowhere.

In normal times I would be making a mighty mess with the children in church this morning as, with the help of some paint and a great long roll of paper, we built a long, unfolding path of footprints from one end of the building to the other.

This morning I will still be encouraging our families to stick their feet in some paint but the path will only go to the front door and back.

In our story the journey heads out of the front door and goes from Jerusalem all the way to Emmaus and back to Jerusalem again but at its heart, its core, is the need to stand absolutely still.

The disciples are leaving, they are turning their backs on Jerusalem and putting behind them all that has happened: the betrayal & the arrest, the trial & the torture, the dying & the burial of the dead.

They are moving on.

As they walk away, they are joined on the road by a stranger, a stranger who asks them to tell him why they are leaving & what has happened; and they stop walking and they stand still and are sad.  Such a poignant phrase “and they stood still and were sad”.

Although they want to move on, although they want to put in all behind them, they stand still and are sad and say: “we had hoped…” we had hoped that Jesus, our beloved friend, inspiration, guide, who is now dead, we had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel.

They voice their loss and their disappointment: the future that they thought was opening up before them, the possibilities that can never unfold, the potential that will now never be realised.

It is a moment of such deep and honest pain and grief.

And it is astonishing. 

For at times like this we want to put it behind us, to move on, to build another future, take another path.  Human beings have an almost infinite capacity for denial and distraction, we will do almost anything to avoid facing pain, our own and others.

But here are our disciples staring that pain right in the face and what is more they are sharing it! Sharing it with one another and with a total stranger. They do not change the subject, they do not put a positive spin on it, they do not try to convince themselves or anyone else that everything is, or will be, just fine.

We have a phrase: getting it off your chest: you’ll feel better once you get it all off your chest.  But they don’t! Having bared their souls they don’t suddenly feel much better instead,  they continue trying to walk away from what has happened, trying to put it behind them.

Resurrection takes time. 

In none of the gospel stories does the world suddenly change when Christ is risen: the women are afraid, they men doubt, the disciples go to ground or run away.

But whatever they do Christ draws near, wherever they go Christ goes with them. 

The beauty of this story for me is that these disciples do not go to the tomb, they do not seek answers. No, these disciples put their heads down and slope away but God still meets them exactly where they are.  God journeys with them even though they are headed in entirely the wrong direction.

Jesus listens to their disappointments and shares their sorrow and slowly, gently opens the truth of God’s promises to them, and then stays with them until they are ready to recognise him.

Though we speak of all the collateral benefits of this pandemic: the community goodwill, the support of those whose work is hard and life-threatening, the wonders of technology keeping us connected. We are also growing tired of the uncertainty and the constraints.  Across the world there is a restlessness, a desire to put it all behind us and move on. 

I am famously impatient but by painful experience I know that I cannot make things better by rushing headlong down a different path.

Resurrection takes time and only through time can time itself be redeemed.

The road to Emmaus gives us pause to ponder the painful yet necessary process of standing still awhile and acknowledging our loss, our uncertainty, and our doubts.   Knowing that, even though we so often will not recognise God’s presence, God is nevertheless drawing near, walking with us, waiting patiently for as long as it takes for us to open our eyes and see Her.



Recalling how the disciples on the road to Emmaus found comfort in God's Word and recognized Christ in the breaking of bread, we pray for the needs of the Church and the world. With confidence we pray:

We pray for our Parish: that it may be a community where Jesus of Nazareth is proclaimed in Word, encountered in the Eucharist, and seen on the face of each person around us.  We give thanks for those who are supporting and encouraging neighbours and caring for their needs.

We pray for all the sick and dying in our community and for those who tend to their needs.  We pray especially at this time for all health and care workers, for those whose work puts them at risk: may they find strength in Christ who had first to suffer before entering into glory.

We pray for the sad and disillusioned and those who feel that they have lost their way in a meaningless world, that Christ may renew their faith and hope.

We pray for peace in the world, especially in the Yemen and Syria and in all countries where terrorism and violence have become a part of daily life.

We pray for those whose decisions affect the lives of others, for leaders locally and nationally, for those working in essential jobs, for those whose work is fraught with anxiety, for those who have lost their jobs.

We pray for those who have died and those they leave behind, that they may know the presence of Christ beside them as they take each step and his tender understanding as they stand still and are sad.

Thank you, God, for revealing yourself in your beloved Son, Jesus. Wherever your word is spoken, wherever bread is broken, may your name be hallowed forever and ever.




Sunday 19th April 2020- Second Sunday of Easter

posted 17 Apr 2020, 09:44 by CHS Info   [ updated 19 Apr 2020, 09:28 ]

Our Sunday Service was online, 
with Revd Caroline Clarke presiding. You can hear the sermon on YouTube here.

You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of these readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here

Sunday 19th April 2020

Second Sunday of Easter

The disciples are GLAD when they see the risen Christ yet the doors are still locked when he returns. Fear and doubt as well as Joy and belief are an important part of our faith journey. Can we truly be glad when Christ returns bearing the wounds of his execution and death in his risen body? In actively displaying the results of cruelty and injustice in human society Jesus challenges us at the same time as he offers us a new way of living. We need to be able to confront and take responsibility for our part in a world that inflicts pain and suffering if we are to embrace a new way of living together, a way that leads to peace, justice and inclusion for all people. This is not an easy path but … we have the risen Christ with us always.



1 Peter 1: 3-9

Praise to God for a Living Hope

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.


John 20.19-31

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus Appears to Thomas

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.



Sermon for Easter 2 19 April 2020      Church of the Holy Spirit, Clapham

1 Peter 1.3-9; John 20.19-31

Yesterday was the first cool, cloudy, morning for quite a while, and I found it extra-hard to feel the joy of Easter. While the sun was shining, our one-hour walk each day has revealed so much beauty in the signs of new life on trees and flowers, and it has been possible to relate that to the truth of resurrection – we could see new life coming out of old barren branches, new growth sprouting from the seemingly dead earth!

That new life is all still there, still growing, but the greyness yesterday heightened feelings of doubt, and even anxiety – will this ‘dead’ time of lockdown ever end? 

I am generally an optimist, so if I am experiencing some doubts about that, I realise it must be increasingly difficult for those who tend more to the feeling that it can only get worse, and it will never get better.

I wonder how the disciples were feeling on the two Sunday evenings described in our Gospel today. For three years they had devotedly followed Jesus, but in recent weeks they had become increasingly anxious about the opposition he was facing. When Jesus decided that it was time to go to Bethany, where Lazarus had died (John 11.7), and the disciples pointed out that the people in Judea had been trying to stone him, Thomas was the one who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11.16)  Realistic?  Yes – maybe he was – their lives would be at risk if Jesus were to be killed.

At the Last Supper, when John (chapter 14) describes Jesus telling the disciples that he’s going to ‘prepare a place’ for them in his Father’s house, you may remember he says, “And you know the way to the place where I am going”.  It is Thomas who responds, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’  Honest? Willing to ask questions? Yes – I like Thomas!

Now, just a few weeks later, Jesus had been killed. No wonder they were hiding behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews” on that first Easter evening.  If Jesus was no longer in the tomb, they would be the first to be suspected of stealing his body. They had heard the good news from Mary that she had seen Jesus alive, but in their fear they couldn’t believe it, or if they believed it, they didn’t know what it meant.

It was into this place of fear that Jesus came, greeting them with the words, “Peace be with you.”  He had promised them his peace at the last supper (John 14. 27): “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Here, the risen Jesus brings them that peace, reassuring them that it is still available for them.

We don’t know why Thomas wasn’t with them on that first Easter evening, but he represents all of us who find it hard to believe that a man who was so clearly dead and buried could be alive.  He needed to see with his own eyes, and touch with his own hands -  to get visible and tangible proof of what he’d been told. 

The following Sunday evening Thomas is there – and the doors are still shut, the disciples are still scared, hiding away.  Even those who have seen Jesus find it hard to know what this all means.  Again, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” 

Thomas doesn’t even need to touch – he has seen Jesus, and even more than the other disciples, he has seen “My Lord and my God”.  As so often with John’s Gospel the ‘seeing’ is also ‘understanding’, and this whole Gospel story is told for us so that we too may believe “that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing [we] may have life in his name.”

Many of us may be like Thomas at times, not able to believe.  My prayer for today is that in all the darkness and doubt that we are facing during this lockdown that we will be able to say with conviction that Jesus is ‘Our Lord and our God’, and that we may not only know the peace that he brings, helping us to accept what we’re going through at this time with trust and hope that it will come to an end, but that we will also allow ourselves to be changed by this belief as the disciples were – changed from frightened people cowering in an upper room, into people inspired to go out into the world to bring light and life to others.

Our present circumstances may make that difficult for many of us until the lockdown is over, but we can plan and pray about how we can live our lives differently in the light of the resurrection. Because, as we heard in our first reading today from the first letter of Peter, the resurrection gives us “a new birth into a living hope”.  Death and Darkness are defeated by Life and Light – everything is changed by this. 

Ruth Etchells, in a book called A Rainbow-coloured Cross* wrote a prayer for Eastertide:

“… O my dear Lord teach me that Easter changes everything or it changes nothing, and so it must begin – and continue – by changing me.  So let me live out the power of Easter in this very place, Lord. Never doubting that here, even here, you intend life abundant: and it is for me in your strength, to help make it happen. Amen”





* A Rainbow-Coloured Cross: Personal Prayers with Easter Supplement Ruth Etchells 2007 SPCK.  A book in which Ruth Etchells suggests, in her introduction, that “prayer is a key that unlocks prison gates and frees us into this world and the next… releasing us from whatever binds or imprisons us and narrows our existence, that we may discover for ourselves again the marvellous liberty that is God’s gift; and so enter more fully into our inheritance.”  She wrote an earlier volume, Safer than a Known Way, which has a seasonal supplement for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.



Intercessions for Eastertide

Common Worship: Times and Seasons © The Archbishops' Council 2006 published by Church House Publishing


In joy and hope let us pray to the Father.

That our risen Saviour may fill us with the joy of his

glorious and life-giving resurrection …

we pray to the Father.

Hear our prayer.

That isolated and persecuted churches

may find fresh strength in the good news of Easter …

we pray to the Father.

Hear our prayer.

That God may grant us humility

to be subject to one another in Christian love …

we pray to the Father.

Hear our prayer.

That he may provide for those who lack food, work or shelter …

we pray to the Father.

Hear our prayer.

That by his power war and famine may cease through all the world …

we pray to the Father.

Hear our prayer.

That he may reveal the light of his presence to the sick,

the weak and the dying,

to comfort and strengthen them …

we pray to the Father.

Hear our prayer.

That, according to his promises,

all who have died in the faith of the resurrection

may be raised on the last day …

we pray to the Father.

Hear our prayer.

That he may send the fire of the Holy Spirit upon his people,

so that we may bear faithful witness to his resurrection,

we pray to the Father.

Hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father,

you have delivered us from the power of darkness

and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:

grant that, as his death has recalled us to life,

so his continual presence in us may raise us to eternal joy;

through Christ our Lord.



Prayer 1

Hear us Risen Lord,

Our resurrection and our life.

O Lord, our hearts overflow with sounds of exultation and victory.

We will say it again and again, “Jesus has triumphed! Jesus is exalted!”

This is your doing, O God who is our strength and salvation,

yours alone, And it is marvelous in our eyes.

 Behold, you have made your people to dwell in unity,

And have given us the blessing, life forevermore.

On this day, you have acted;

We will rejoice and be glad in it.



Prayer 2

God of mercy,

you wash away our sins in water,

you give us a new birth in the Spirit,

and redeem us in the blood of Christ.

As we celebrate Christ's resurrection,

increase our awareness of these blessings,

and renew your gift of life within us.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

 one God, for ever and ever.


Holy Week Services - Maundy Thursday - Good Friday - Saturday - Easter Day

posted 6 Apr 2020, 05:49 by CHS Info   [ updated 11 Apr 2020, 05:37 ]

Click here for the Stations of the Cross video from some younger people.

Click here for services on Maundy Thursday - Zoom

Click here for services on Good Friday
        Stations of the Cross - Zoom
        Good Friday Service - Zoom

Click here for Services on Easter Sunday   
Dawn Service -   5:30   -        
Festival Mass - 10:30   - Zoom


Sunday 5th April 2020

posted 2 Apr 2020, 13:39 by Church Office   [ updated 7 Apr 2020, 08:19 by CHS Info ]

 Palm Sunday Sermon
 Palm Sunday service

You are welcome to join our 10:30am Sunday Service next Sunday. It's online - our Parish Eucharist - is at 10:30am at

Sunday 5th April 2020

Palm Sunday

This page can also be downloaded as a printable document - click here for the readings, prayers and the text of the sermon

Today marks the beginning of Passiontide: 7 days in which we follow Christ’s last days on earth and enter into the mystery of the passion. This is a time when we reflect upon the difference between our expectations (of ourselves, the world and God) and God’s expectations—always surprising, always unexpected, creating possibilities we never dared hope for.


Matthew 21: 1-11 Jesus comes to Jerusalem as King

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,

    ‘See, your king comes to you,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”


Matthew 27: 11-54 The Passion Reading

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.


The Soldiers Mock Jesus

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

The Death of Jesus

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”


A PROPER Palm Sunday would involve a procession down Abbeville Road; the making of a great a joyful noise; the singing of Hosannah, the waving of palm branches.  

On a PROPER Palm Sunday we would each have a brand new palm cross made of real palm leaf. 

On a PROPER Palm Sunday we would kneel together to sing the Passion Chorale.

Today, on this not quite as planned Palm Sunday we read of a not quite as planned Passover: A PROPER Passover would not involve an arrest.

A proper Passover would not involve the disciples fleeing leaving Jesus in social, spiritual, emotional & political isolation. 

A proper Passover would see the community gathered not dispersed.

A proper Passover would end in singing not in torture.

So, like ours, the disciples’ plans were going as planned.

We like to do things properly, there’s nothing wrong we that, but it can fool us into thinking that we are in control, that everything that happens is all down to us and our efforts.

The disciples did not make Passover happen; their plans were disrupted and yet, and yet Passover happened anyway.

God’s people were set free, liberated not just from slavery in Egypt but from fear: fear of death, fear of violence, fear of annihilation, fear of suffering, the fear that separates us from God and neighbour.

Passover happened, not as the disciples had planned, but it still happened.

God’s people were shown a path of freedom. 

They did not make this path by their own efforts; efforts which included the following:

competing with each another;


making promises they could not keep;

falling asleep;

falling asleep again;

falling asleep AGAIN;

getting shouted at by Jesus;

getting violent;

running away;

denying they ever knew Jesus in the first place – Jesus? Who’s he?;

The path to freedom was provided, not by their own efforts but by God’s grace.

This is the path God is leading us down this Palm Sunday.

A path we did not chose and did not make yet still the path God graciously provides to set us free.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is: this is NOT a path that avoids suffering, shields us from pain, or protects us from loss. 

It is not a path that actively invites suffering, pain or loss either but one which accepts them.

The cross is not IN the way of resurrection.  It IS the way of resurrection.

What is in the way, IS the way

In the passion gospel we heard this morning the earth shakes and the rocks split, the ground literally moves under the disciples’ feet.

At this moment the world is moving beneath our feet: across in globe lives and communities, hopes and dreams, plans and projects are being shaken.

And whilst it may appear that much is coming to an end, much is also beginning.  What is beginning, we cannot, as yet, imagine (just as the disciples found it impossible to imagine a dead man living) but, nonetheless, something new is beginning.

We can trust God on this.

For we are a people who have a couple of thousand years’ experience of this kind of thing:

We can’t stop the earth moving but we can keep looking for the path, not the planned path or the proper path, but the path of life that God is surely laying for us.



      We pray to Christ in his suffering:

For forgiveness for the many times we have denied Jesus,

             let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For all people,

that we may come together as your community

in times of  suffering or distress

             let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For those who make laws, and administer them,

That their decisions may be grounded in justice and love for all people equally,

            let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For those who have the courage to work for others in times of disease or danger

             let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For those who are sick or afraid or in isolation,

that they may find support and encouragement,

             let us pray to the Lord.

 Lord, have mercy.

That we, may find mercy in the day of Christ,

             let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

All   Holy God,   holy and strong,   holy and immortal,    have mercy upon us.


Sunday 29th March 2020

posted 28 Mar 2020, 00:56 by CHS Info   [ updated 30 Mar 2020, 13:37 ]

You are welcome to join our 10:30am Sunday Service next Sunday. It's online - our Parish Eucharist - is at 10:30am at

Sunday 29th March 2020

Last Sunday of Lent

The sermon and the whole parish eucharist can be played by clicking on the arrow.



Ezekiel 37:1-14 The Valley of Dry Bones

37 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very 

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

John 11:1-45 The Death of Lazarus

11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Prayers for this week and the sermon can be found as a pdf here.


“Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory”

John 11:3-4

Lord, the one that you love is ill.

How true.  How very true.

We are ill.

We’re all ill.

So, the question cannot be whether or not we are ill but rather, whether or not this is an illness that leads to death? or to God’s glory?

This pandemic is more than just an illness it is also a revelation: a beautiful revealing of how sick we all were to begin with.  The grave clothes are being stripped away as the illness reveals what is wrong with us, with our culture, with our society, with our economy.

To be sure, in the midst of it, there are so many exquisite, tender signs of hope and love and communion; but it is also opening our eyes to things we had been blind to.

For me Lazarus’ tomb is a familiar place: a place where I sometimes dwell and hide all that is broken and wounded and sick in my own life.  It is a safe place, because it is hidden, and I am not forced to share my hurt with anyone else or even acknowledge that it exists.  It is also a dangerous place because, in it, nothing is ever going to get better.

The grave clothes binding Lazarus are like the bandages over a wound: we need to unbind them so that the wound may heal but then again, if they are bound, we don’t have to look at what lies beneath.  Lazarus’ sisters do not want the stone rolled back from the mouth of the tomb: what’s inside, what lies beneath, stinks.  It may frighten, it may terrify.  What if they cannot cope with what they are confronted with?

What if we cannot cope with what we are confronted with?

It takes courage to face the stark reality of things: the systemic inequality and injustice that have made the impact of the virus so much worse than it could have been; the greed, the fear, the division it has generated.

It also takes courage to own our part in it.

I do not know whether it is worse for the sisters, the friends and neighbours who have to confront the stench of decay when the tomb is opened; or for Lazarus, who must expose himself and his sickness, to the world around.

When Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter form the dead he does it in private, he goes into the room on his own, he takes her by the hand and whispers to her, “little one, rise”.

Now, that is the kind of resurrection I want.

But for Lazarus, everything is SO public, so open to display.  Jesus does not enter the cave, he stands and shouts, he SHOUTS at the dead man.  And then he hands him over to the gathered crowd: unbind him and let him go.

And, this is definitely NOT the kind of resurrection I want: this public display where all and sundry get a good look in and the sick man must be restored not through the healing hands of Christ but the hands of his relatives and neighbours.

It needs to be public because Jesus is not just offering the chance of new life to the dead man, he is offering it to everyone. 

Everyone is sick, everyone stinks, everyone needs to confront what is wrong, everyone needs to work for its healing.

The grace of this virus is its radical universality and equity.  No one is immune, no race, no nation, no class of people.  We are in it together, for better and for worse.

Healing is never a once and for all offer.

But this pandemic, this crisis, is perhaps a once for all moment - because it is so communal, because it affects every single one of us – a moment to choose, together, whether we will gather the grave clothes more tightly around ourselves, or whether we will respond to the voice of Christ, who calls us out into the light.

Whether this is an illness that leads to death, or, to God’s glory.


God, our hope is in you.

Breathe on us and our world, as you blew your breath into the field of dry bones.

Bring life into our weariness, and joy into our despair.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer.

We pray for those living with only the bare bones of resources…

for those with no fresh water, for those who have lost their land and their livelihood.

We pray for those who feel that the life has gone out of their relationships…

for those feeling friendless, for those who have lost loved ones, especially the families of victims of violence.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who feel entombed by their circumstance.

Those whose lives are constrained and bound, those who live with depression.

We pray for those who feel let down, disappointed, abandoned.

for those who are anxious and those who fear for the future.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are tempted to despair.

For the imprisoned, the sick, the refugee, those who live with the threat of conflict and violence, those who lack the essentials for life.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer.

God of hope, draw close to them.

Bless them with the promise of hope that no despair can overcome.

Raise us all from the tombs of our past mistakes into the light of new possibilities.

Breathe life into our weakness and bless us with fresh strength.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer.

God of life, breathe on us now, confirming your presence within us,

Call us from our tombs, give us courage to entrust ourselves to you and one another

That we and all your children may be unbound and set free

To breathe your life and love and hope and restore your world to fullness of life.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer. 



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