Sermon from Rev'd Sharon for Sun 12th July 2020

May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit                      amen.

We have today, two readings that most of us will have recognised as they were being read out. It could be – that having identified the readings as an ‘oh I remember this one!’ – that the next thing you do is sit back and let your brain wander. Please try not to do that today because there are real challenges in these readings – challenges that might ask
Do we feed the seed of the Spirit of God that dwells within us?

Are we actively drawing ourselves closer to him through reading and prayer and allowing others to identify us as belonging to God?

Do we regularly ask God to make us more aware of when and where we might use our faith to grow his kingdom?
Do we recognise the potential for growth – are we working on ways that might allow that growth to happen?

You may well be thinking to yourself – hang on a minute isn’t that why we have a vicar? The answer to that is yes and no!

I will quickly remind you that everyone who believes in God and is a member of a worshipping community has tasks to do. Those tasks include living out our faith in our everyday life and ensuring that we sow the seeds of God’s love wherever we are. Every word we say and every action we make should let others know that we are disciples of Christ here in this part of Essex.

The questions I have had – but how? How do we do it? What do we do?

How many times do we need to try?, because I have tried before and it didn’t work.

My question is – have you tried to change your approach?

An example

I know many of you love to be out in the garden and I have seen some local gardens that are absolutely thriving at this time but the truth is that I am not green fingered, I have tried and tried and again more recently I have tried with a little patch in my back garden – I say garden the only things that grow are the grass and the weeds and the trees.

But just recently I have tried again and I am sure that at this point you are thinking that I will have a success story to tell you, when actually I don’t really have a success story because there were elements working against me – 2 of them actually a Cocker Spaniel and a Labradoodle who think it’s great to dig, however while they been away in kennels this week – please don’t think I put them in kennels just to replant the flower bed, but during that time I have replanted and taken time to be sure that my pooches won’t be able to dig them up on their return. Well that’s the plan but I will see what happens in due course.

 I am not someone who gives up lightly, I do try to approach things in different ways until I eventually find a way that fits.

The task we have been given is sowing the seed of God’s love, using both words and actions. Sometimes a direct approach works and sometimes it really doesn’t.

Trying again is not about weakness or focussing on previous failure but exploring new ways to succeed – trying to develop a new way of doing things with God through the power of the Holy Spirit that might work. A way that allows us to be ourselves because when we are truly ourselves – our faith and identity in Christ shine through.

Amen.

Sermon from Rev'd Sharon for Sun 5th July 2020

Sermon

May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit                      amen.

It is not often we hear Jesus truly fed up with the people that he has come to save.  Today however in this reading from Matthew 11 Jesus is incredibly frustrated and its not often I imagine him with a raised voice but at this point I do! –  these of course are my words, I imagine him saying  – “What is wrong with you?
We have come and told you amazing things about God and your lives and yet you do not respond. You are never happy! What is it you want? Do you even know what you want?”

Let’s be honest it is easy to understand Jesus’ frustration because John came not eating or drinking but teaching about God and trying to prepare them for Jesus’ arrival and all they say is that’s not normal he must have a demon and then when Jesus comes they call him a glutton and a drunkard because he sits and eats with sinners and tax collectors.

But rather than getting to caught up in frustration Jesus prays and thanks God that the right people have heard his teaching and responded.

Matthew 11.27 is a favourite of mine

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

And anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Jesus chose those who were hungry to learn about the love of God, those who were eager to follow him and pass that love and knowledge of God onto others from generation to generation.                         There would have been someone instrumental in delivering the love of God to you, we do sincerely thank God for them.

I have my mum to thank who sent me and my brothers to Sunday School, now whether that was because she wanted some peace and quiet on a Sunday morning or not I don’t know but I was truly glad that she did otherwise I am not sure that I would be here now.

What I do know is that we have also been given the task of revealing or introducing God to others.

It is not an onerous task we simply just have to be ourselves with God, ready to answer any questions that others may ask about what we believe, why we pray, and anything else to do with our faith.

A note of caution though and for this I have to ask you a question – have you ever played Chinese whispers?

That game when you are told something – it is normally whispered in your ear then you turn to the next person and whisper it into their ear and so on and so on. I have played it in teams and the winning team is the one that is closest to the original statement.

Usually what comes to the last person is vastly different from what was told at the beginning of the game.

When we are rushed we don’t listen carefully but pass the statement on before we have even checked that it makes sense.

When we are asked a question about our faith it is important that we don’t rush the answer because we are a little embarrassed to talk about it or worry about how much we should say because sometimes it difficult talking about things that are that important to us but do make sure there is time to talk so that your response can be fully understood.

Sharing your faith should not be a burden but a joy – just as Jesus said Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Amen.

Sermon from Rev'd Sharon for Sun 28th June 2020

Sermon

https://youtu.be/x8v4t34S23U

At the beginning of Matthew chapter 10 – Jesus has gathered his disciples together and explains to them what their mission is all about, how they should act if they are welcomed or if they are not. How they should not be afraid of what they face, Jesus didn’t tell them it would be easy – in fact he tells them that in some places they will not be welcome and in todays reading Jesus shows them the importance of their tasks.

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’ A reminder that once they are identified as belonging to God through following Jesus, others will treat them in a way that will either welcome them with open arms or turn them away sometimes violently. The reading from Romans urges us to keep God focussed, as being focussed we will be less likely to give way to temptation and keep ourselves closer to God. Of course in order to allow others to be able to welcome the one who sent  Jesus, means that we need to be ready to speak out about our faith whenever the opportunity comes – I wonder how you do it?

What prompts you into saying that you believe in God or that you go to Church?

How easy do you find it? How often do you do it?

Do you feel more comfortable being able to speak to strangers or to mention faith or prayer to people who know you? What is it that makes it easier to say that you are a Christian?

I do remember that as a teenager I used to worry about speaking about going to church and preparing to be confirmed – it wasn’t because I didn’t believe – it was because it was important to me and I didn’t want them to make fun out of what was important to me. I did tell my friends after the event.

Faith is important to all those who believe; it shapes us, it defines us, it makes us accessible to others and for some who are on the brink of declaring a faith it makes us a safe person to talk to.

Many people are aware of our faith – my collar is a bit of a giveaway and our neighbours in the village are aware of our church attendance and recognise our faith by our words and action.

At the end of todays reading Jesus speaks about the reward for those who give even a cup of water to a child because they have read or been told about the work of Jesus’ disciples, will receive the reward.

Let the love of Christ in you continue to shine out to all those around you because we, like the disciples are given this task and all who share the love of Christ are welcomed into the Kingdom!

Amen

Sermon from Wendy King for Sun 21st June 2020

May I speak in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Today, in case anyone has missed it, is Father’s Day. This day can be quite an emotive day as it brings up different memories for different people. I have to be truthful and say I did have misgivings, but here goes.

To be honest my Father was a very laid back chap for most of the time it is only if we crossed the line that he would send us to our mother, to this day I don’t know why but there you go. Through our lives, (I have three sisters) our Father was not one to offer too much in the way of advice, he would always say just be careful who you might hurt or if you are going to hurt yourself. It stood us in good stead and for the most part he was the shoulder we cried on.

So how does this tale relate to our Gospel for today. Well I feel that Jesus is guiding his disciples and trying to impart on them his wisdom that all are equal in the sight of God. Jesus was guiding them making them to accept that they would be the teachers of the future and that when he had gone people would look to them for guidance and they should be mindful of this fact.

But it was not going to be an easy time for them, as he would be persecuted, so would they. If you like it was Jesus saying “look lads we are all in the same boat at the moment and that just as I am being looked on as a trouble maker so will you.”

But he reassures them to say he would always be with them in spirit.

For me these words are a reassurance that through the days we have been through and the days to come, it is going to be hard. What can we expect once we are able to worship together in church once more? Life for us could well be very different and how can / will we cope? We do have the reassurance that nothing will be asked of us that we cannot handle and even though there will be great expectations we can rise up to the challenge, be it due to finances, our time, our privacy and our energy. How will we carry on? Will it be in the same way or will there be major changes? We have the promise that Jesus is our reassurance and our guide, through our scriptures’ and through our prayers. We have had the blessing of those that have sought out and shared services with us throughout this crisis and we must continue to do so through our readings and our prayers.

Just as the disciples would take a new way of praying and worshipping, we have had to take a new look at the way forward. It is not going to be an easy time, during this lockdown. We, as the disciples and as laity, are being encouraged to step forward. As churches in our Benefice we have Rev Sharon as our leader and teacher and over the years together we have grown and will continue to do so. It may take some getting used to and some may struggle in the process but we are always assured of the presence of God.

We are known to him as he knows the sparrow; “And even the hairs of your head are counted”. May we all meet the challenges of the future as the disciples did, with the assurance that we are surrounded by Jesus’ love and as we step forward we do so with confidence.

Amen.

Sermon from Rev'd Sharon for Sunday 14th June 2020

May I speak in the name of the father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In today’s reading we find out so much about Jesus, about his ministry of teaching, proclaiming the Good News and healing the sick – and when he saw the sick his heart went out to them. Jesus did whatever he could to bring them back to full of health at that point. But then He realised there were sick people everywhere and what he needed to do was make sure that the harvest of healing would be plentiful. He went back and found his disciples and said to them the harvest will be plentiful but the labourers are few therefore lets ask the Lord of the Harvest the send the labourers out and you will be the labourers and you will make it plentiful. He said to them ‘I give you authority over unclean spirits and you will cast them out and you will cure every disease and every sickness. Then called them by name every one of them, they had been given their task and were ready to go and Jesus said to them ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, focus your work on the lost sheep of the House Israel’. Jesus told them go and find our sheep, find our people and make them well and strong physically but stronger more in their relationship with God bring them to full health both physically and spiritually.

Off they went proclaiming the Good News that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. You know that this time of lockdown has been very difficult, but the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. We have had so many people living up to the work of the disciples in both villages across the whole benefice. Standing up and doing extra work to enable others who have been confined to their homes, and I include myself in that for a part of it, it has been so nice to have phone calls asking how you are or asking if there was anything I needed and I know that a good number of you have also had contact from others willing to pick up prescriptions and shopping. As well as that amazing group to started these services all those weeks ago so that together in our own homes we can be spiritually together and worship God. We do have a lot of thanks to give.

So today I want to say thank you. Thank you to every single person who doesn’t just do the physical jobs but does the spiritual jobs too. I do know that every single one of us has been praying for our loved ones and for our parishes, held others in mind throughout the day because when we care about people they pop into our minds and we as think about them we offer them to God.

The disciples were sent out to proclaim the Good News and to heal the sick. The disciples today were sent out to deliver the shopping and medicines and share the love of God in every action they did – they lifted the spirits of all those that they saw because they knew that someone cared. I knew that this was a great benefice to be part of and both villages have lived up to my expectations and all I can say to you is – please don’t ever change. Keep loving, keep caring and keep being those disciples that Jesus calls us to be.

It will be a while until we can worship in Church again but do remember that you are never on your own because God is always there with you in all that are facing.

Amen.

Sermon from Rev'd Sharon for Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday 5.6.20.

These weeks in lockdown have been a demanding time, following rules given by the Government to help us to live safely during this difficult time of Corona virus. I have no doubt that the rules were needed and they have helped to lessen the spread of infection, but they have also left a number of people feeling isolated and going a little stir crazy that has applied to me too.   Rules and regulations are sometimes difficult to cope with, but they are there for a good reason – those reasons are usually about safety and well being.

In the Gospel today we hear about the rules that Jesus gives to the disciples – he reminds them first that he has the power to give the rules as he says – ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ – the Father sent him for a reason so that everyone will have the opportunity to know God and be known and loved by him. Jesus spent his whole ministry allowing people to know the love of God in all he said and taught and did. Jesus also said, ‘go and baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

These rules or directions are also for a good reason – Our Trinitarian God wants to be part of our lives, wants us to know his strength, his love, and that we are His!

The directions given to the disciples were about spiritual well-being – Jesus commissioned the disciples to baptise in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Through baptism we are filled with our trinitarian God.

Our God in three parts, – the Father who created the earth and all that dwells in it, the Son who lived and walked on the earth just as we do, who prayed to God the Father, just as we do. Who shared love and understanding and guided humanity towards God just as we are called to do.   And of course, the Holy Spirit who helps to guide us and keeps us travelling the right way and shows so many opportunities for us to welcome others into God’s Kingdom.

Jesus also reminds his disciples that they do not work on their own because he promises to be with them and with us always, to the end of the age.

It has been great to hear about the many ways, that so many of us have ‘been there’ for others during lockdown. People shopping for neighbours, and those delivering shopping, the delivering of prescriptions, the phone calls just to say hello and how are you? The phone box – food bank in St Osyth to name just a few – please do continue to do what you can for those who need help, but also remember to pray for them too.

Our response to our Gospel reading is simple, we roll up our sleeves and get on with the work that God has called us to – we share his love, in words or actions in our presence and in our prayers.
In other words we carry on inviting God in at the beginning of the day and journey with Him throughout the day responding to the opportunities that he shows us to reach out and share the knowledge of his love with everyone. I was once told that words are good, but actions are better.

See what you can do to make sure the God we know is shown in all our words and actions.

Amen.

Pentecost Sunday Intersessions

As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the apostles and the Church is born

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE CHURCH WORLDWIDE!

God’s Holy Spirit, residing in our whole being opens up the possibility of living as God intended – in harmony with our Creator.  Our hope is that this new relationship will also carry over into our relationships with one another. Just as the apostles experienced the force of the Spirit,  so we desire these waves of God’s energising love and power.  The apostles had taken Jesus’ prophecy to heart and had waited watchfully and prayerfully for the last nine days since the Ascension.  Can we watch, wait and pray to hear God’s voice?  

 As the Spirit enables us, let us pray.

Father God,

May all church leaders, ordained ministers and the laity

Be filled to overflowing, with love for your people,

Bursting with excitement and expectation

for spreading the good news of the Gospel

Spirit of the living God:

Fall afresh on us

May all those negotiating for peace

 in the delicate areas of national conflict,

 disputes and entrenched bitterness,

 be blessed with the peace of God,

 calm and patient beneath the pressures

 Spirit of the living God;

Fall afresh on us.

In our homes and places of work,

Our schools and hospitals,

May there always be time

for the warmth of loving concern

And the comfort of being valued.

 Spirit of the living God

Fall afresh on us.

For those who have died

And all who mourn their passing;

Calm the fears of the dying

And have mercy on us all.

Spirit of the living God

Fall afresh on us.

We thank you, heavenly Father,

For the gift of the Holy Spirit among us;

And we look forward to the future

With you at the centre of all we do.

Amen

SPECIAL PRAYERS FOR THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

Dear Lord,

As this pandemic continues, we ask you to keep us under the shadow of your mercy during this time of uncertainty and distress.  Sustain and support the anxious and fearful and lift up all those who have been brought low during the lockdown, so that they can rejoice in your comfort.

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us,

You taught us to love our neighbour and to care for those in need, as if we were caring for you.  Give us strength in this time of anxiety.  Help us to comfort the fearful, the sick, the isolated, the lonely and to assure them of our love and your love. 

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us,

We pray for doctors, nurses and and others who are caring for those suffering from Covid – 19, in hospitals and care homes. We pray for   your wisdom to medical researchers who are working so hard to find a vaccine.  Strengthen them with your Spirit, that through their skill and insights, many will be restored to health.

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us

We pray for all those returning to work in early June.  Give them a sense of peace and expectation for the coming months.  We pray for all children who will be returning to school in early June.  Please protect the children, teachers and other staff, from the disease and give wisdom to those making decisions about easing the lockdown.

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us

 We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,

to the mercy and protection of God;

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

 Amen

Sermon for 31.5.20. from Andy Brown

SERMON Andy Brown

It is Pentecost Sunday, and the day we remember what is essentially the birth of the church. The word “Pentecost” means 50 days, and it occurs 50 days after the Jewish Passover. We may associate Pentecost with the church, but if you look at Acts 2:1, you will see that the Apostles met together on Pentecost, and then the Holy Spirit came.

Jesus, prior to His Ascension and after His death and resurrection, had instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had been “clothed with power from on high.” (see Luke 24:49). The Ascension, usually celebrated on the sixth Thursday after Easter, reminds us of how Christ ascended into Heaven. For ten days, the disciples have waited for this event, not really knowing what would happen.

The Holy Spirit descends on them with great power. As Jesus ascends into Heaven, He does not leave the disciples to fend for  themselves, but sends His Spirit to dwell in and with them. We see this power displayed in an amazing way in Acts 2, with a great rushing wind and tongues of fire. The Apostles then begin to speak out in the languages of the people around them, sharing the Gospel  of Jesus with them. This is perhaps a reversal of the events at the Tower of Babel, centuries earlier when God confused the language of mankind and scattered them about the Earth. Now all people are united in hearing the news about Christ and what He has done.

For us, living in this part of the world in the 21st Century, these first Pentecost events may seem like something out of a movie. Very few of us, I imagine, can claim to have seen such works of power. I do not think such miracles are restricted to the Early Church, but such things are not the subject of our message right now.

For today, I want us to focus on the Apostle Peter. As the people see the strange actions of the Apostles, they begin to imagine they might be drunk. Peter leaps to their defence and begins a very eloquent sermon. With authority, he speaks of Old Testament prophecies from Joel and how God would pour out His Spirit. Until that point, the Spirit was reserved for only a select few of the Old Testament believers.

Look at Peter, and listen to his words. How he has changed in such a short time! Less than two months prior to this, he denied that he even knew Christ let alone was one of his closest friends. Now he stands tall and proud, proclaiming the good news about Jesus to a huge crowd. Later in Acts 2 we read that 3,000  people believed in Peter’s words, so the crowd was at least as large as that and of course probably more.

What has driven this change in Peter? What has made him so bold?

I suggest two things. Firstly, no one who encounters the Risen Christ can remain unchanged. Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and the others travelled north to Galilee. There he met the Risen Lord by the sea, and told Jesus that he loved Him three times (see John 21). Jesus restores Peter, and although the road ahead would not always be smooth and would in fact lead to martyrdom, Peter knew he had been accepted and forgiven by Jesus.

Secondly, Peter has indeed now been clothed with power. Peter no longer acts alone and impetuously, instead he is guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit shapes his words and gives him the confidence to face the crowds and Jewish authorities.

Peter does not do it in his own strength, but in the Lord’s.

For us here in St Osyth, or Great Bentley, or wherever you come from, we can likewise encounter the Risen Christ this Pentecost. We may not see Him with our own eyes, but that makes Him no less real or accessible. In the same way as Peter, we too can draw on the power of the Holy Spirit for our everyday lives. While we may not be called to speak to crowds like Peter was, the Spirit is as equally willing to aid us in raising our children, doing a good job at work or witnessing to those in our community.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Luke 11:13 (WEB)

Amen!

Sermon for 24.5.20. from Rev'd Sharon

At that last meeting with Jesus after he had told them he was returning to the Father, and explained that they would be given a helper, the disciples had so many questions and Jesus’ answer was that he could not tell when or where but God has it in hand and it will be in his timing.

I am sure you would agree that there are so many questions that we have and are asking about all that we are facing at this present time, that it made me smile when I read the opening question from the disciples to Jesus in today’s reading from Acts – Lord, is this the time…?

If I’m honest it made me think of lockdown and when we might be able to ease out in a safe way but then I thought about my childhood when me and my brothers were on a long car journey, I am sure you must know what I am going say – ‘are we nearly there yet?’  The answer for us was nearly always ‘not yet but we are getter closer’.

This is also what I think Jesus’ answer to the disciples was when they asked, ‘is this the time?’ – not yet but we are getting closer!

Jesus tells them that it’s not quite that easy, and tries to explain that there is a lot of work to be done and promises to give them some extra help – the power of the Holy Spirit who gives strength, timing and the right words and actions; the tools needed by all followers so that they can continue with his work.’

After Jesus ascended into heaven and the disciples were left on their own, they would have been inquisitive about where and when the helper would arrive but I am sure they also would be missing Jesus, they return home and wait.

I wonder how impatient they were on a day to day basis during the waiting time. How did they cope knowing that something was coming but they had no idea when?  Does this remind you of anything?

The disciples did exactly the right thing, they returned home and looked after each other while they waited.

How good are you at waiting? How patient can you be?

I only ask because I believe that things happen in our lives at the right time – at God’s timing. This interim time for the disciples between saying Goodbye to Jesus and waiting for the Holy Spirit to arrive was a challenge and might be described as ‘waiting with eager longing’ partly wanting the old way of being to come back but knowing they need to move forward with God and embrace a new way of being.

I believe we are called to do the same. So in all the uncertainty we are facing – let’s move forward with God and in stillness and calm embrace a new way of being.                       Amen.

Sermon for 17.5.20. from Jane Eade

As I write this I am hearing on the news about the new & purportedly reliable antibody test that has been developed for Covid-19 which means we should now be able to tell who has had the virus whether they show symptoms or not. I know this seems a strange way to begin a sermon but I hope you will see where this fits in soon.

Today’s reading from John 14 verses 15-21 tell us how Jesus promised his disciples, and us, that although he was to die, rise again & ultimately ascend to heaven, he was not really leaving us, we would never be alone as he would ask God to send us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to be with us always. What an amazing & life changing promise!

I think most of us know someone, maybe a few, who have received a real audible or visual ‘call’, an undoubtable affirmation that the Holy Spirit is with them & in them and is directing their lives, watching over them & guiding them in everything they do. It isn’t really possible to doubt or deny the existence and indeed the current relativity of the Trinity (God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit) when in the more difficult times one can think back to that physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit, of God, in one’s own life and know that whatever happens one is never alone, never facing difficulties or challenges alone and that although we can’t see it, or even comprehend it, ‘God is working his purpose out’, as we have all so often sung.

The disciples and the first few other early Christians could physically see the Holy Spirit entering them as tongues of fire  hovered above their heads and they began to speak in all sorts of languages that fishermen from the Galilee, thought of by others as rough and poorly educated, could never have known or been taught. Even in the case of the first non Jewish Christians, the Roman Officer Cornelius and his household in Caesarea, there could be no doubt that the Holy Spirit had entered them too as Simon Peter and a few of his fellow christian followers witnessed them suddenly also speaking different languages as they praised God. Many other members of the fledging Christian movement in Jerusalem were very critical, perhaps even horrified, and doubted that such a thing could have happened to a group of Gentiles of all people! Such a thing was unthinkable and flew in the face of all their Jewish laws and beliefs. But Peter, backed up by those who had accompanied him, told them “As I began to speak the Holy  Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said ‘John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit’ And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11 v15-17)

But today there are many of us who have never had that personal audible or visual affirmation that the Holy Spirit is with us, we rely purely upon faith, and perhaps, if we’re lucky, a strong and solid Christian upbringing. At difficult times like we are going through at the moment those little seeds of doubt can start to creep in and the questions of non Christians like ‘how can you believe in God when so many people are dying?’ start to play with our minds trying to undermine that faith. Or even perhaps if your own friends and family have died or are dying; I don’t think there is anyone now who remains untouched by the appalling death toll even if it is someone you knew who has been lost though not as close to you as a friend or family member, still those little seeds of doubt can grow and flourish and spread with the same efficiency and speed as the virus if we let them go unchecked. And so, back to this morning’s announcement about the far more reliable antibody test that has been developed, now we can tell exactly who has definitely had the virus whether there were obvious symptoms or they were asymptomatic meaning the person showed no obvious signs of the virus but had it anyway. Just as not showing symptoms of Covid-19 doesn’t mean we haven’t had it, so, not having had an obvious audible or visual sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit certainly doesn’t mean we don’t have it as deeply ensconced within us as those who have. The only prerequisite, Jesus said, was that we believe in him, love him and obey his commandments. The very things we have always done before we need only keep doing now! How amazing is that?!

The last of those commandments, given literally just before Jesus ascended into heaven, was “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And then you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1 v8) and so that we do not need to worry that we won’t know what to say when we are called to do so he also said “And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.” (Luke 12 v11-12). How much easier then should it be to defend our faith before our friends and neighbours?

At the moment we hear endlessly about the ‘R’ number and how this affects the rate at which the virus spreads exponentially. If one person infects more than one person then the virus begins to get ‘out of control’, if that same person infects less than one person then the virus is halted.

So now let’s consider the ‘R’ number of our faith, we have shown that we can all be confident that the Holy spirit is with us whether it has been shown overtly to us or not, that that same Holy Spirit will help us to defend and proclaim our faith in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit when we are called to do so. Most of us are going to live a long and healthy life and the only thing we have really been tasked with is to defend and/or proclaim that faith to one or more people for the ‘R’ number of the word of God to spread exponentially, to become ‘out of control’ and unstoppable.

What an incredible dream to aspire to and what a perfect time to stand up for what we believe in when so many people are asking those ‘difficult’ questions or, as was reported a couple of weeks  ago, there are more people searching online for prayers than ever  before.

Amen

Sermon for 10.5.20. from Rev'd Sharon

The readings today had obviously been well chosen for this weekend. The Gospel reading from Luke speaks of a time when family members are reunited, communities restored and celebrations bringing people back together. It is a time when the whole community celebrates and work towards a new way of being. Our Old testament reading from Micah reminds us that we need to work together as a community, to “not learn war any more” but focus on truly becoming people of peace, people of God, that work together and allow His work to be done and His love to be shared. It is no surprise at all that they were chosen for our service over this VE Day 75th Celebration weekend, when we give thanks for those who enlisted and fought for us and our freedom & safety, and for those who worked so hard at home to keep the home fires burning, and making sure that all that needed to be done was done through the creation of the Home Guard and the Women’s Land Army – again fighting/working for our freedom and safety. They did an amazing job and when Victory in Europe was declared there was a great celebration, huge gatherings in London and King George and his family greeting the crowds from the balcony at Buckingham Palace and sharing in the country’s joy. Princess Elizabeth (as she was then) and her sister, Princess Margaret, were given permission by their parents to join in the celebrations with the crowds – although they had to do so secretly.

As Christians, we are called to step up and do what is needed when we are in difficult times – at this time when we are battling  with the enemy we cannot see, it is great to hear how our   communities are at work within the villages we represent, making sure our skills and gifts are used any way they can be because with  every action we undertake for others, Gods love, peace and joy is shown and shared.

As a person of this generation I give thanks for all that was achieved 75 years ago by people I will never be able to thank. In return I work daily to be a presence of peace and a presence of God wherever I am, and I know that together we can continue to bring God’s peace to this place.

Amen

Eighteen months ago when the Queen’s Pageant Master implored every village, town and city to prepare celebrations for VE DAY 75 never could we have imagined the situation we are facing today.  I quote from the original remit with slight adaptation…

“The 8th May 1945 was the day peace emerged after nearly six years of war, so the 75th anniversary on 8th May 2020 represents an important milestone in our history.  I am sure you will agree that we cannot let this day pass without reflecting on the enormous sacrifice, courage and determination of people from all walks of life who saw us through this dark period. Our celebration, VE Day 75, would have covered the weekend of 8th – 10th May 2020, and was to be an international celebration of peace – a time to remember, reflect and pay tribute to the millions who played such a vital part in achieving it.

This includes the Armed Forces personnel from many countries who gave their lives, and those who returned home injured in body and mind; the hard-working women and men who kept the factories, mines, shipyards and farms operating throughout the years of turmoil; the ARP wardens, police officers, doctors, nurses, firemen, local defence volunteers and many others who put their lives on hold to safeguard the home front.”

This is not dissimilar to the situation we are in today when we all work to help each other in the best way that we can.  The message from VE Day was “Never give up, never despair”. As the Queen proclaimed in her speech last night “We remember from our homes and our doorsteps.  But our streets are not empty; they are filled with love and the care that we have for each other.”

I do hope that you will enjoy this service.  Thank you to everyone who has helped in any way, great team work.  God bless, Mary Maskell

Sermon for 3.5.20. from Rev'd Sharon

The Gospel reading from John 10.1-10 is about ‘Jesus the Good Shepherd’ and reminds us about the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep.

The good shepherd knew the needs of the sheep and would invest all his energy in providing for them – the shepherd knew where the safest places for them to graze were, where to find the cleanest running water and the safest places for them to sleep, providing them all that they needed to grow well.

The good shepherd had to be calm and brave, being out on the hills at night with the flock and only the moon and stars to lighten the sky was a solitary and often dangerous place to be but they knew the cost of the sheep, the importance of the flock and put their all into keeping them safe.

From the other side, the sheep knew the shepherds voice and would respond to him instantly. Wherever he went they would happily follow him because they knew that with him, they would be well cared for.

This relationship we hear about Jesus and the Sheep is about us with God – do we recognise his voice? Are we happy to simply be with him? Do we look forward to responding to his invitation to journey with him? Do we have the courage to do it?
are we excited about sharing the story of our relationship with God with other people?

I believe there is something very special about recognising God’s words, whoever says them, and they could be people we know or absolute strangers but we recognise that we have heard something that helps us move closer to God’s plans for us.

But seriously, what about us? Do we take time to simply be with God?
Are we good at listening, so that we might hear when God is calling us to a particular task or role or place?
Do we have good Christian support around us, that allows us to test out/discuss with them what we think God might be calling us to?
Are we brave enough to carry it out when we have gone through this stage of discernment?

God very often calls us more than once – so we must keep connected, keep listening, keep responding and be the people God calls us all to be.

Amen.

Prayer for 3.5.20.

Praying through the Rainbow

We have taken each colour of the rainbow for our prayers and will be using each colour in turn over the next few weeks, with a break next week when we will have special prayers to commemorate VE day.

Red The colour of love, we give thanks for the social action and acts of kindness.

Galatians 5:14

‘For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command “love your neighbour as yourself.”’

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the acts of kindness we have seen in our village and community, especially during this time of lockdown. People have given their food, time and energy to help others. We thank you for the work of the volunteers who are supporting the parish council to deliver food and medicine to those in need. We thank you for those who work in our community, putting themselves on the front line to care for others. We thank you for the care workers, shop keepers, farmers and delivery drivers who provide for our needs. Father, keep them safe in their essential work.

Orange In heraldry, the symbol of Strength and endurance, we pray for leadership.

1 Timothy 2 v 1-2

‘I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf,  and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.’

 

Heavenly Father, we pray for Strength and Endurance for leaders around the world. We thank you for the symbol of strength and endurance that the Queen is for so many in the UK and thank you for the encouragement she brings to many through her speeches. We pray for our government and leaders, the Prime Minister and the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England who are leading the government response to Coronavirus. We pray for all scientists and civil servants who are supporting the government in their work. Give them wisdom, strength and endurance in all they do. We pray to for local government and parish councils and for all the work they are doing on the ground to support their communities. We pray for all those in authority and the police force as they try to implement the government guidelines, Lord, give them strength and endurance.

We also pray for those known to us who are sick at this time, we think especially of: the Rev’d Sharon on her road to recovery, Nick as his chemotherapy had to be cancelled on Tuesday and he awaits the results of a scan. We pray also for Sue as she struggles in hospital with coronavirus, having just lost her husband a few weeks ago. Sue is an old friend of Mel and Tina’s, who are self isolating and can do little to practically support their friend. Pray for those in need of healing and long term prayerful support: Nick, Helen, Pamela, Chisato Takaya, Peggy, Nina Hatchett, Dominie and Graham, Sienna, Peter, Pamela and Jane Eade.

We remember Sylvia Colmer who died recently. May she rest in peace and rise in Glory.

Sermon for 26.4.20. from Rev'd Sharon

I do love these Easter readings – they are so comfortably familiar and yet however many times you hear them there always seems to be something new and relevant to say to us today.

Our reading tells us about 2 followers of Jesus, who were walking to Emmaus, they were deep in discussion as Jesus joined them in their journey, so intense was there conversation that they didn’t really look at Jesus as they walked and he had to ask the question – what are you talking about, why are you getting so heated about it? Ok my words but the same intention! They must have looked at him but in their grief and frustration at all that happened, not recognise Jesus.

They begin with their disbelief that this person has not heard about the man of God who had been put to death.

They are quick to fill him in with the amazing story of women going to the tomb and finding that his body had gone!

Jesus then starts to explain to them all that needed to happen. I imagine that their journey must have flown by as they listened and started to understand God’s plan as Jesus reminded them of God’s work and his relationship with his people.

As they reached Emmaus and the 2 followers started to slow down – it looked like Jesus was going to continue his journey until they invite him to stay and share a meal with them. As Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it – they suddenly recognised him, and instantly Jesus vanished from their sight.

They could not believe it – such was their excitement that they had been travelling with Jesus, they decided to gather themselves and return to Jerusalem retracing every step of those 9miles in order to find the other believers and share their news that Jesus made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread!

I know that it will be a while before we can come and worship together as the body of Christ and share in the breaking of bread and I am certain that you miss communion as much as I do but we must be reminded that this is just a moment in time,  God is always in relationship with us, whether we are in Church or not.
It doesn’t matter where we pray, God hears and loves us more than we will ever know. God knows the strength we have because He gives it to us through his presence in our lives. All that is required in return is that we share it with others and make his name known.             Amen.

I am very much looking forward to us gathering and worshipping God together when it is safe for us to do so.

Until that time take care, keep safe and look after yourself.

The blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit be with you now and remain with you always.

Intercessions for 26th April 2020

Prayers for our Time 

Loving and compassionate God, in this the third Week of Easter, we beseech you that you hear our prayers today for those whose lives are overshadowed by COVID-19, its spectre haunting their existence. We pray for those struck down by this disease and struggling to come to terms with its implications. Reach out into their turmoil and despair, and bring strength and hope. We pray for those who carry the virus but are not yet under its sentence, perhaps never becoming so, yet facing prejudice and fear, coupled with the knowledge that their closest relationships are clouded by the fear, or reality, of passing the disease on, reach out into their anxiety and isolation, and bring comfort and support.

Lord in your mercy

Lord, hear our prayer

Loving and compassionate God, we thank you for the work of our truly remarkable National Health Service – its consultants, clinicians, nurses, GPs, 999 dispatchers, paramedics, ambulance drivers, chaplains, cleaners, caterers, porters, technicians and support staff all those whose dedications and skills are providing a service that we often take so much for granted but need now like never before. Grant your blessing and equip and enable them in all they do, providing them with all the resources they need – physical, emotional and spiritual – to continue their work of healing support and comfort and especially in this time of peril. Work through them to express your loving care, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and reach out to them in the contrasting circumstances they will face – the joy of childbirth and heartbreak of bereavement, the delight of recovery and shock of bleak and terminal diagnoses, the exhilaration of an all-clear and trauma of surgery – so much hope and despair, faith and fear, so many joys and sorrows, beginnings and endings. In the midst of life they also walk in the shadow of death. Reach out to hold them Lord in your loving hand and reach out to heal.

Lord in your mercy

Lord, hear our prayer

Loving and compassionate God, hear our prayer for those who serve as carers for loved ones or for residents in care homes and hospices. Support them in their demanding ministry, often at great personal cost and through your blessing may they in turn be a blessing to those they care for and protect. When exhaustion overwhelms them, renew their vigour. When patience is tested, grant fortitude. When all seems bleak and fear takes hold, shed light and bring hope and the reserves to continue. When tears flow bring comfort. In all they do, may they be sustained by the knowledge that they too are loved, they too are cared for – above all by you.

Lord in your mercy

Lord, hear our prayer

Loving and compassionate God, we pray for those under the shadow of death from COVID-19, for those who weep, mourning those they’ve loved and lost; happiness that ran so deep followed now by such a cost. Each day brings now added pain, memories of times they knew, never to be shared again – life a case of getting through. When their hearts are fit to break – hurt too bitter to express – grant them solace, dull the ache, comfort them in their distress. In their anger, loss and shock, help them find in you a friend; in their turmoil be their rock, one on whom we can depend. Though they feel they cannot cope, gracious God, reach out to save; bring to each new life, new hope in your love, beyond the grave.

Lord in your mercy

Lord, hear our prayer

Loving and compassionate God, we pray for those on our pew sheet who are in poor health, especially those known to us, and those from St Mary’s Church Great Bentley in are unwell at this time. We remember all who have recently died including Sylvia Colmer and ask that you be with their friends and families especially at this time, when it may not be possible for them to say good-bye in person or attend funerals. 

Lord in your mercy

Lord, hear our prayer

Rejoicing in the fellowship of Saints Peter and Paul, St. Osyth and of all your saints, we commend ourselves and all people to your unfailing love.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. 

Amen.

Sermon for 19.4.20. from Rev'd Sharon

I do love this reading, it follows on directly from last week where Mary went to the tomb, and through the words of an angel and hearing Jesus say her name – came to believe that Jesus had risen. She then ran and told the disciples.

Today’s reading tells how Jesus shows himself to the disciples who were gathered together behind locked doors because they were fearful of what the Jews might do to them.

Jesus instantly identifies himself by showing the scars that caused his death, he shows his hands and his side. Once they had truly identified Jesus, they rejoiced that he was with them and they received the Holy Spirit and were commissioned by Jesus to forgive sins.

Thomas was the only disciple not present when Jesus appeared and although the disciples had told him, they had seen the Lord – it seemed too farfetched – for Thomas seeing was essential to his believing. I have to admit that I am a bit like that, I find it hard to get my head around things that simply don’t add up – and Jesus being nailed to a cross, having a spear thrust in his side and being seen taking his last breath, then being announced as living, breathing and visiting the other disciples would have me in a complete head spin.

That week must have had Thomas completely bewildered, the other disciples were acting as if Jesus was alive and yet how could he be? Then Thomas saw him, Jesus was present with them, without any door being opened to welcome him in. There was no need for introductions, no need for proof but still Jesus gave it. Thomas was invited to see the scars and to place his own fingers on them to check their validity. When Jesus invited Thomas with the following words ‘do not doubt but believe’ he made that great affirmation of faith – ‘My Lord and my God!’

I have no idea how you first came to know the presence of Jesus Christ in your life but I am sure that you will remember the first time that God became real to you. I am sure there will be special times in your journey that you have felt God’s warmth or strength or knowing that you are not facing something challenging or scary on your own. Sometimes the realisation of God or Jesus’ presence dawns after the event when you look back and wonder how on earth did I manage that?

The answer is that we didn’t manage on our own and we don’t have to manage on our own because wherever we are, there God is! He promises to never leave us and invites us to walk with him daily and to learn about and share his love with others around us.

It brings us all to that place where we can respond to the declaration ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen!’ with the words – He has risen indeed! Alleluia! because of our own personal relationship with our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen.

18.4.20.    A Prayer for our time

Written by Nicky Underwood

Dear God,

We give thanks for our glorious spring weather and that we are surrounded by the sounds of nature helping us to appreciate, and value, the beauty of the earth.  It is helping to bring a feeling of calm in these uncertain times where normal routines have been turned upside down. We are blessed to be able to be hear the myriad of birdsong and the buzz of bumble bees, honey bees and other insects as they continue their normal routine whilst the  hectic hustle and bustle of our modern life has stopped – for four weeks, leaving towns, streets, holiday resorts, and roads eerily quiet – as we face Lockdown due to the presence of the biological agent COVID-19.

In these difficult times of self-isolation, changed work status – being sent home from school or university; with the home being our permanent makeshift environment for work, hobbies and entertainment,  we are thankful it is spring: A time of hope. As we look around us we see new beginnings; the wonder of plants growing from small dried seeds, flowers blooming, trees blossoming all in great profusion. We are thankful for gardens that this is a sanctuary we can enjoy looking out on and being in.   We pray that the spring helps us in our self-isolation, to keep in good spirits and able to face the reality of COVID-19. 

We thank you for the unexpected blessings that have occurred during this time such as:families suddenly having time together; time to be more creative in preparation of meals; time to contact friends and family by writing, emailing, phoning and through Social media and time to try something new.  

Great Lord of love and wisdom, we praise you for the blessing of love.  We give thanks that we are able to share this love with family friends and those in need. We celebrate that this love is sweeping the nation and hope that it will give a fresh understanding to what is important to us now and in the future. 

In St. Osyth, in ages past, we had a princess who gave her life to be a nun, to care and to heal, then monks followed in her footsteps to continue to care for the health and education of the community.  We give thanks that St. Osyth, its parish and its Benefice with Great Bentley, is a place where great work still continues. We are blessed that we are part of a community where the individuals with diverse talents and skills are working together to enable care and kindness to be spread among us.  Let us rejoice that there are people actively working to help the vulnerable know that there are people out there who are willing to help and care about them. 

Let the golden moments shine to stamp out the darkness, in the name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. 

Amen. 

Easter Sunday

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

For our St Osyth and Gt Bentley Service please click here – includes a sermon from Rev’d Sharon and Intersessions from Danny Wright

11.4.20. Sermon from Rev’ d Sharon

Our season of Lent this year has truly been like no other!

Lent is usually a time where, as a worshipping community we focus on preparing ourselves for the events of Holy Week, the foot washing of the disciples on Maundy Thursday, Jesus’ trial and death on Good Friday, and of course the good news of the empty tomb on Easter Day.

All as we expected but this year has been nothing like what we have ever experienced before. I had never expected to live in a time when Church doors would lock people out. That there would not be a place of silence and calm where we can remember others before God.

It is, however, incredibly uplifting when you hear about so many people being there for others in so many different ways, since the outbreak of Coronavirus here in the UK and particularly in this village and Parish. Those who make phone calls to check others are well and coping with being confined to barracks and to remind them that they are not forgotten. The many different people who have and who still are delivering shopping or medication to those who have had to isolate. The village people looking after and serving the Village! Many thanks to all those who have enabled all of this to happen!

This difficult time that we find ourselves in is allowing us to explore what it truly means to be a Christian, allowing the way we live out our faith to make a real difference in the lives of others around us and drawing us closer to where God wants us to be. We also need to share what we believe, the truth of Jesus Christ, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the work that God has called us to be involved in.

Today’s reading about Mary at the tomb and finding the stone rolled away, we have all heard many times before, but it feels like I am hearing it for the first time, maybe because of the times we find ourselves in now with too many lives being lost each day to Corona Virus, maybe that feeling of how do we get through this? Just remember we get through things, not on our own by our own strength, but through the love and power of our Triune God – Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

How the Virus Stole Easter By: Kristi Bothur With a nod to Dr. Seuss

Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.

People were sick, hospitals full, Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.

As winter gave way to the promise of spring, The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.

People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen. They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.

April approached and churches were closed. “There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.

“There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out. No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”

Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest. The world was focused on masks and on tests.

“Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed. “Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went. The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.

The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed. The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.

“Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling. “They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.

“They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do! Their mouths will hang open a minute or two, And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.

“That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.” So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.

And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies. It started down low, then it started to rise.

But the sound wasn’t depressed. Why, this sound was triumphant! It couldn’t be so! But it grew with abundance!

The world stared around, popping its eyes. Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!

Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small, Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!

It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came! Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine Stood puzzling and puzzling. “Just how can it be?”

“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies, It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”

Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before. “Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

And what happened then? Well….the story’s not done. What will YOU do? Will you share with that one Or two or more people needing hope in this night? Will you share the source of your life in this fight?

The churches are empty – but so is the tomb, And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.

So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer, As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.

May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people. May the world see the church is not a building or steeple. May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, May the world find Joy in a time of dejection. May 2020 be known as the year of survival, But not only that – Let it start a revival.

A Poem for our Time

Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan monk, living in Ireland, penned this touching poem about coronavirus . It was published on St Patrick’s Day.

It was sent to us by the Rev’d Martin Flowerdew – who will be remembered by many.

 LOCKDOWN

Yes, there is fear.

Yes, there is isolation.

Yes, there is panic buying.

Yes, there is sickness.

Yes, there is even death.

But, they say that in Wuhan, after so many years of noise you can hear the birds sing again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet, the sky is no longer thick with fumes, but blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi people are singing to each other across the empty squares,

keeping their windows open so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the west of Ireland is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today, a young woman I know is spreading fliers with her number through the neighbourhood so that the elderly may have someone to call on.

Today churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are preparing to welcome the homeless, the sick and the weary.

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.

All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a different way.

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality –

  • to how big we really are
  • to how little control we really have
  • to what really matters.
  • to Love.

So we pray and remember that, yes, there is fear, but there does not have to be hate.

Yes, there is isolation, but there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes, there is panic buying, but there does not have to be meanness.

Yes, there is sickness, but there does not have to be disease of the soul.

Yes, there is even death but there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic, the birds are singing again.

The sky is clearing.

Spring is coming, and we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul, and, though you may not be able to touch across the empty square, sing.

Richard Hendrick OFM Cap

March 13th 2020

Easter 2020 Christ is Risen
Allelulia

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