Sunday Services will resume from 6th September 9.30am. NB this will be a said service. Communion will involve taking bread but not wine. Seating is still arranged for social distancing. Facemasks should be worn.
The midweek service will now start at the later time of 10.00am on Thursdays. All arrangements are currently subject to change due to Coronavirus.
Notice is hereby given that the APCCM postponed due to coronavirus will now take place on Monday 6th September 2020 in church at &.700pm (followed by the next PCC meeting).
Please see the the following homily kindly given by Father Joseph Cooper who conducted our Service on Thursday 6th August 2020.
NB it is hoped to return to Sunday Services very shortly (albeit in a restricted socially distanced way).
May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Why did the Lord take Peter, James, and John to the top of a high mountain and be transfigured in such a dramatic manner? There are many reasons, He did it to fulfil ancient prophecies, He did it to reveal His divine nature, He did it so that we could better understand His relationship with God the Father, He did it to demonstrate that death is not the end – having a chat with Moses and Elijah must have been an amazing moment, He did it to make all sorts of subtle theological claims about Himself and His place in salvation history; but perhaps most importantly, He did it so that Peter, James and John, would fully and truly believe in who He was and is. This was a moment to fortify themselves for the dark times ahead, the crucifixion and those early days of persecution were just over the horizon. And of course, the Transfiguration is an amazing moment of history, one would hope these privileged few disciples would go and tell others.
And we know that they did for in 2 Peter Chapter 1 we read, ‘it was not any cleverly invented myths that we were repeating when we brought you the knowledge of the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; we had seen His majesty for ourselves’. So to paraphrase, we have seen it, we have heard God the Father speak to us in His Sublime Glory, everything that was foretold about Him is true and we want you to know so that you can have full confidence that Jesus is the real deal. We are guardians of this great life-changing truth and we wish to pass it on to you, so that you too will come to believe what we know is true. The glorious truth that Our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God and He has conquered death and all who believe in Him will dwell with Him in paradise forevermore.
It is a wonderful message, but we are of course inhabitants of a sinful, fallen world. There are many distractions around us, death, illness, ageing and suffering can threaten to knock us off course at various times in our lives. And that is perfectly normal. If you’ve ever struggled with your faith, had a bit of a wobble or been through a dry spell; you are in very good company. Even after the transfiguration, remarkable as that event was, Saint Peter, still didn’t fully grasp who Jesus truly was and he went on to publicly deny Him on the night of Our Lord’s arrest. It was only after the Resurrection and his baptism by the Holy Spirit that Peter was transformed into the man we read about throughout the book of Acts and of course in 2 Peter today. And of course, remember poor old Thomas where Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ Blessed are those who believe because of what they have read in the Bible, blessed are those who believe because of what they have heard preached in Church, blessed are those who believe because of what their parents, Sunday school teacher, friends, neighbours and so on taught.
‘You will be right to depend on prophecy’, we read in 2 Peter this morning. ‘And you will be right to depend on prophecy and take it as a lamp for lighting a way through the dark until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in your minds’. Where do we find the prophecies? In the Bible! The Bible is the lamp, the torch, the light and the truth which will guide us through times of darkness. We can pick it up whenever we want and reread amazing accounts like the Transfiguration at any time to fortify us for what lies ahead. The truth is the truth, God does not lie, His word does not change, the promise of life eternal is a glorious reality for all who place their trust in the Son of Man.
Church services will resume from 7th July 2020. But there are a number of restrictions to reduce the rist of coronavirus..
Stay safe St Andrews PCC.
Well, we are entering into a new phase. Our society begins to open up again, cautiously, after months of lockdown. We do not yet know for sure when churches will be open again, but we do know that it seems likely that in the near future churches will begin to open for private prayer. As with any new phase, there is much uncertainty and cause for disquiet, alongside a certain sense of excitement and new hope. What will this new phase be like? To use a phrase that some people are getting fed up of: what will be the new normal?
As with any time of uncertainty, there seems to be a variety of ways of looking to the future. First, we could be idealistic. I have enjoyed thinking about how we might all have learned important lessons during this time about valuing creation and one another. Perhaps this includes also being more aware of the presence of God. The problem with idealism of course is that it assumes that a few months of lockdown will have changed our world. I doubt that we are all ready to accept a radical change of lifestyle though. There could be some small changes even so, such as a willingness not to let busyness overwhelm us or perhaps to be a bit more aware of the people and the world around us.
Another response would be to take a pessimistic view and to imagine our world changing for the worse. Some might perhaps imagine that our human nature is so bad that we have earned this situation. Well, undoubtedly we are not all free from fault and there are many lessons to learn. As far as punishment is concerned though, it seems very unlikely that this has happened to give us our just deserts. That image of God is very much at odds with the God of compassion revealed to Moses in the book of Exodus; the God who, in the words of Moses, has mercy on a headstrong people, who forgives faults and sins and adopts this wayward people as God’s own heritage. The way forward will not be easy, but God does not intend destruction for the world or its people.
A third response would be to think that nothing will change, that we just have to get on with things and that it will be business as usual. This assumes that God has no part to play in our lives or that transformation cannot happen. Even those who are people of faith can sometimes have an idea of God that resembles an absentee landlord. We have been left just to struggle on as best we can as things fall apart or as we cause damage ourselves. There will be a time of reckoning, but in the meantime it is all up to us just to get on with things. Again, this image of God is very far from the one portrayed by St Paul, who uses the words of what we now know as The Grace to describe God’s relationship with us: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Grace, love and fellowship: a beautiful description of God’s engagement with us. This feast of the Most Holy Trinity reminds us that God is revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit: not three Gods, but one eternal God who has become known through Scripture and experience in three particular ways. First, as the Father, who has created the world and its people out of nothing in an act of pure love. God is the creator of all and the giver of all life. His will for us is life and not death or destruction. As Jesus says to Nicodemus in St John’s gospel: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.”
So God is revealed as Father, but also as Son, as we think of the grace of God. Far from being like an absentee landlord, God dwells among us. Jesus came among us – the Word made flesh - to show that God is with us, that we matter to God and that we have a destiny of everlasting life. Christ became present in our world without leaving his Father behind because in Christ we see the very presence of God. Through prayer, that relationship of Father and Son was maintained during the earthly life of Jesus. The good news is that we are invited into that relationship to be God’s beloved sons and daughters.
Relationship is at the very heart of God, which is why St Paul speaks about fellowship. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct, but not divided. In a world where divisions, bigotry and hatred are all too visible, we see a better model for human life. Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, to be received by all who are ready to accept. The Holy Spirit breaks down the barriers that divide us, makes possible the forgiveness of our transgressions and draws us into community. We may differ about many things, but these should never be a cause for hatred. Our belief in the God who is revealed to us in Christ enables us to receive that Spirit through whom we are brought into fellowship with God and with one another. What a wonderful gift this is!
I think that in the days ahead it would be best not to trust either too much or too little in human nature and human strength. The best we can do is to look to the God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity whose grace, love and fellowship comes to embrace us. Despite our shortcomings we can share the hope of a better way forward. We do not have to walk into that future alone, but in the presence of Christ who draws us into unity with God and with one another.
Imagine not recognising someone whom you had known for a few years and had seen on a regular basis! This is precisely what happens in the gospel passage for this week, near the end of St Luke’s gospel. Two disciples are walking away from Jerusalem, the place where Jesus had been crucified and buried. They are downcast and deep in conversation when they are joined by a stranger who asks them what they were discussing. When they pour out their story and tell of their shattered hopes and dreams, the stranger does not commiserate with them but declares them to be foolish! In most circumstances this would sound rude, but here it is a moment of honesty that opens up a conversation - one that would have a lasting impact on those two men.
The stranger delved into the Hebrew scriptures that we call the Old Testament. These would have been familiar to those two men. But now it was as if they were hearing them for the first time. Everything in those passages shed light on Jesus, the person they thought they had known and understood but who now appeared a stranger to them. They were so intrigued that when they reached the village of Emmaus, their destination, they asked the man to stay with them.
As the spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen points out, the man who was their guest now becomes the host. He takes bread and breaks it to share with them and suddenly they realise whose company they are sharing. In that moment of recognition he disappears from their sight but they no longer feel bereft. They acknowledge how, when he was speaking to them about the scriptures, their hearts were burning within them. Also they share their recognition of Jesus at the breaking of bread. Filled with enthusiasm they return to Jerusalem to find that others too had encountered the risen Lord.
This strange but beautiful passage from Luke’s gospel invites us to consider why it might have been that the men failed to recognise Jesus. When Jesus calls them “foolish men” he is not condemning them but he is drawing a line under an old story that was no longer a source of life. Their expectations of Jesus as an earthly liberator had to die with Jesus on the cross. When Jesus, risen from death, met his disciples once again they had to get to know him as if for the first time. No wonder they failed to recognise who it was. Jesus is now leading them into a much greater reality and a vision of the future that they could never have dreamed of.
This passage invites us to consider whether our own ideas about Jesus are too small. One thing is for sure: Jesus will never be contained within our own limited outlook on life and the world. Mary Magdalene found she could not cling to him and neither could the two disciples on the road to Emmaus keep him as their own personal house guest. Christ is always leading us beyond the narrow horizons of our worldly vision.
In every Eucharist we are invited to bring our story before God, just as the disciples on the road poured out their story of loss and sadness. We come to acknowledge our failures, our disappointments, our sadness and fears and to hear the reassurance that God forgives us and loves us. We come to hear the word of God, not just as a familiar old story, but as if for the first time as it tells the story of Jesus but also, in some way, our own story too. Then we come to share in the action of Jesus himself, breaking the bread and sharing his own life among us. Do not our hearts burn within us? Do we not recognise who it is that comes alongside us on our journey and as we join together as the Church, distanced as we might be at this time?
Cleopas and his companion came to know that the journey they had shared with Jesus really did not end in death. As much as we might somehow like to return to a time in the past when we imagine everything to have been okay, we know we cannot do this. For the disciples, the cross and the empty tomb meant that they had to say goodbye to all that. But the wonderful thing is that by his resurrection, Our Lord heals our memories and opens up for us a future of hope and of new life. At this terrible time, let us keep that in our sights.
Let us pray: “Stay with us, Lord, on our journey and be our companion on the way. In your mercy, increase our hope and inflame our hearts, so that we may recognise you in the scriptures and in the breaking of bread. Amen.”
Well, spring is here and Easter has arrived. It doesn’t feel very much like it normally does though! As we face a pandemic there is no rush for the coast or other outdoor beauty spots. No getting together with groups of friends and relatives. So many things feel different at this time. The signs of spring are all around us, but our outlook is not the same.
Maybe, at least in part, this might take us a bit closer to the experiences of the first Easter. We know how that story worked out and we know how it did not end with the death of a good man upon a cross. Yet it took the disciples of Jesus some time to recognise that this was so. All they knew at first was that they had suffered a terrible loss. For some of them, Simon Peter included, their self-image seemed to have been shattered. They had to pick up the pieces, bit by bit and start over again. The world around them seemed to keep on as normal but for them nothing felt the same any more.
We can capture something of Mary Magdalene’s distraught tone as she reported to the Beloved Disciple how the body of Jesus had been taken away. He and Simon Peter ran to the tomb and Peter went inside. There was no sighting of the risen Jesus at that point in time and yet St John’s gospel leads us to believe that something shifted in the consciousness of the disciples: “Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
At this time we look out upon a changed landscape. It is not difficult to experience fear or sadness as we hear the news and look at the statistics. We don’t really know when this will end. Throughout Holy Week the liturgy and Scripture readings have invited us to enter into the experience of dereliction as we survey the Cross on which Jesus gave up his life. But that same liturgy and those same readings do not leave us there. They are our guide in an unfamiliar situation as we seek to find our bearings and to recognise signs of hope and new life.
For Christians the empty tomb with the stone rolled away and a visit from a group of bewildered disciples is where it all began. For the first disciples, to borrow the words from one of the prefaces used at the Eucharist, “life is changed, not ended.” Nothing would be the same. This was because the Lord of life could not be held captive in a tomb. That life emerged once again and gradually this became known to the disciples in their daily circumstances and encounters.
There was a peace and a joy at work here which gradually drove out fear and gloom. God really can bring life out of death. The power of the Resurrection breaks the bonds of sin and tears apart the chains of death. That new life which we experience through faith in Christ is like a light in the darkness, which, as St John reminds us in the preface to his gospel, the darkness could not overcome.
The darkness will not overcome us either. Even now, in these troubling circumstances which we face, there is always a reason for hope. The life of God, revealed in Jesus, is stronger than death. By our sharing through faith in the life of Christ, we too are partakers of his risen life. The love of God overcomes everything that might drive us apart. For this reason, even in difficult circumstances we can rejoice.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia! Happy Easter.
“His state was divine, yet Christ did not cling to his equality with God… he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.” (Phil. Ch 2: 6;8)
The Passion of St Matthew takes us on the journey with Jesus into Jerusalem, from the enthusiastic welcome he received, through to the people turning against him and then his trial, suffering and death. In this account we see how shallowness and celebrity worship meet with humility and sacrifice. We see too how the worst and most cruel aspects of our humanity encounter the grace and mercy of God.
This year we have the strangest Holy Week I have ever known. A month ago I would never have dreamed of celebrating it in the dining room with an online congregation and no one else present. We would not have chosen a time like this, but can we learn from it?
Among all the bad news of recent times there have been some very positive things too. For once it is not the rich, the powerful and the famous who are getting all the attention. Clapping the people who work for the NHS and all the carers and key workers is becoming something of a pattern for Thursday evenings. These are the people who might often be taken for granted unless we or our loved ones suddenly need them. Now it seems that many people do need their care and thank God that they are there for us.
This is a time that challenges our priorities. The message of the Scriptures contains a challenge for us too. What is most important in our lives: the worship of fame, money and possessions - or the acts of love, devotion and care that build us up as human beings? Jesus spoke truth to power and he wasn’t taken in by people’s shallow praise. He gave us an example of love and service that has continued to inspire people throughout history and in our own time too.
During Holy Week we hear of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, taking on the kind of action that was normally reserved for the most menial servant. From Matthew’s gospel Ch 20: 28, Jesus said: “…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus turns our world view upside down. In him we see how humble service, rather than being something to be despised or taken for granted, is made noble and holy. Jesus, who was despised and rejected and then put to death, was raised to the heights of heaven and is a beacon of hope for all who look to him.
So for now our heroes are the people who are rushed off their feet in hospitals and care homes; the people who take the housebound to doctor’s appointments, fetch their shopping and their prescriptions; paramedics, ambulance drivers, police and the fire service; providers of public services; people who stack shelves in supermarkets and serve people. Often those people are hardly noticed and at times have to deal with abuse.
When all this is over, and I’m sure we all long for that, what will have changed? Will we still be taken in by the shallow things the media invites us to worship, or will we be focused on more important human values?
Christians do not worship a distant God, who is remote from our lives. In the face of the “Servant King” who is Jesus, we see the living God. May we never lose sight of his glory.
Keep Safe and Well
I am a rather old Saint.