Friday November 27th 2020
Gathering Prayer: I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I have hope.
StF: 351 – In Christ alone, my hope is found
Call to praise: O God, your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. The peace and light of Jesus Christ be with us all. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be forever and ever. Amen.
Thanksgiving: My heart is ready, O God; I will sing your praise and give thanks with a grateful heart. Free prayers of thanksgiving…. Be exalted, O God, and let your glory shine all around.
Readings: Luke 14:16-24 & Isaiah 25:6-9
I had one of those wonderfully unexpected encounters yesterday. Walking along Ridgeway in Newport I bumped into a couple who shared lovely stories about their time living and working around the Middle East. It was such a privilege to hear such happy memories and one theme kept repeating itself; how generous the people were. Everywhere they went people would invite them to share in a meal. These were poor people with very little but they wanted to reach out in friendship and kindness. This was a truly Godly encounter.
The Bishop of Damascus was once asked why the Christian Church in the South and East was growing and in the North and the West dying. “Easy,” he said, “we practice hospitality, you don’t.’ Anyone who has had the privilege of going to Africa, India, Pakistan, the Middle East will understand this sentiment. In the UK we have Food Banks and Marcus Rashford, in Uganda they have a banquet prepared for all in need. Here we give a food parcel at the doorstep, in Abu Dhabi they have a communal picnic in the park. Here we see our politicians vote on whether a child should eat or not, in Pakistan they invite all to the community centre to share their food; (and if you would like to donate to the Alice Foundation in Pakistan please do be in touch and I will point you toward Rackel and Iven Smith, whose vision and hard work is beginning to bear fruit.) This is not to put down the excellent work of foodbanks or Marcus Rashford, but to provide a contrast. Sue, my wife, remembers volunteering in the ‘Soup Run’ in Derby with a great deal of affection, and the real sense of community in this. This, sadly, is no more.
In all the fuss about 5 days of Christmas (more austerity, I’m sure it used to be 12!) it sounds like it is our divine right to celebrate Christmas how the blinking heck we like. It reads like rules are being made because we know people won’t follow the rules anyway. Didn’t this used to be called sin? Anyway. My favourite Christmas song is ‘I wish it could be Christmas every-day.’ That is because it is! We are an Easter People knowing and celebrating the knowledge that God’s heavenly banquet is ready and we have an entry ticket. Immanuel, God with us, has come and is amongst us guiding us by his Spirit, enabling us to create an earthly banquet, a pale image of the heavenly one, yet a foretaste of what is to come. Yes, we have cycles to the year and times of reflection; Advent and Lent for example, but, in the cold light of day, the Servant King has come; the King of Kings and Prince of Peace is active amongst us. It is Christmas every-day. God is here in the world and we seek to join in his purpose of reconciliation, healing, peace, joy and love. This purpose is often fulfilled communally; with one another; with other human beings.
A Local Preacher in Derby told this story: ‘My Father was a Local Preacher in the Methodist Church and, from the pulpit, over many years, he enabled a few people to know of the love of God in Jesus Christ. My Mother was a local preacher in the Methodist Church. She did her preaching in the kitchen with the finest tea and cake on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border and she enabled many, many more people to know the love of God in Jesus Christ.
StF: 588 – I come with joy, a child of God, forgiven, loved and free.
Call to Intercession:
Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. The heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.
Righteous God, we bring our prayers to you as acts of love for you and for our neighbours. Lord, in your mercy; Hear our prayer.
You protect those who trust in you. We pray for ourselves and those dear to us. You are gracious and just O Lord; hear our prayer
You invite all people, so that your house may be. We pray for our community and our neighbours. You are gracious and just O Lord; hear our prayer.
You are holy, and your decrees abide forever. We pray for your church in all places, that we may be faithful in solidarity across generations and geography. You are gracious and just O Lord; hear our prayer
You will destroy the shroud cast over all people. We pray for the world, for our enemies and for those in conflict. You are gracious and just O Lord; hear our prayer
We offer you other concerns we carry in our hearts. You are gracious and just O Lord; hear our prayer
We draw this prayers to a close as we, brothers and sisters in Christ together pray……Our Father
StF: 324 – In a byre near Bethlehem……and he’s here when we call him, bringing health, love and laughter.
Eternal God, grant to us this day and every day such readiness and delight in following Christ, that whether our lives are short or long, we shall have lived abundantly. Amen. – A New Zealand Prayer Book
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant us to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that, together, we may, with one voice, glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
This is the last you will hear from me for a while. Throughout Advent the Reverend Bethany Willers is leading us through this time of reflection. I am looking forward to this and I hope you are too. Gordon