Carol Kidd

28 posts

The Parable of the Talents

Preached by Carol Kidd LLM on 15 November 2020:  Second Sunday before Advent
Matthew 25:14-30 / 1Thessalonians 5;1-11

May I speak in the name of God, who by the power of the Holy Spirit calls us to build up and encourage each other, for Jesus sake: Amen

Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour and the majesty; everything in heaven and on earth is yours. All things come from you, and of your own do we give you.

What beautiful words – praise to God – a doxology of wonder, worship and thanksgiving – a promise to give in return for what we have received and in gratitude for blessings yet to come:

All things come from you, O Lord, and of your own do we give you.

Everything we have comes from God and belongs to Him. We are responsible for using the resources and talents He so generously gives – never for personal power or our own acclaim but to give Him glory – and always following His command to love our neighbour as ourselves. Accountable for our actions, with free will to activate or leave dormant our individual gifts and talents, we are called to invest [to the best of our ability] our God given time and energy, talents, skills, finances and resources in ways that will further His kingdom until He returns.

Of equal worth in God’s sight, it is essential to respect that He endows us with different gifts so that together we might form the whole body of Christ. Accountability, equal worth, respect, endowment: are all necessary for trust and love to grow and to be fulfilled within any meaningful relationship. Couples in love desire to commit to each other and make life-long vows – All that I have I give to you, and all that I have I share with you. How true this is for all who seek a true relationship with Jesus.

So, what has all this to do with the Parable of Talents?

It is about our relationship with Jesus – the expectations that arise from His love for us – and how in love and respect for Him we must always be ready to account for the way we use the gifts He provides.

Both of today’s readings can help us to be diligent in the way we invest our God given talents as we prepare for Jesus’ promised return: Paul calls us to stay awake and encourage each other to keep the faith – and in so doing help to build God’s kingdom until He comes. The master expected his deposit to generate interest – we can increase the investment God has made in us by sharing the gospel message and by the way we live our lives.

Today’s parable is not about earning salvation – rather it is about judgement. The unfaithful servant buried his talent in a way that prevented himself [or anyone else] experiencing its value. He was judged lazy and worthless because he had wasted the opportunity to use his gift to profit God’s work and mission

Called to be faithful in waiting – and in that waiting to be active for Jesus’ sake – are we prepared for God’s question: What did you do with the talent, the gift, I gave to you?

Let us pray, by the grace of the Holy Spirit we might each be able to reply: Lord, I did not bury Your gift – to the best of my ability I have, through faith, strived to use all You have provided to follow Your call to live my life in service to others: encouraging them to be strong in hope and love, that Your kingdom may come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

For yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour and the majesty; for everything in heaven and on earth is yours. All things come from you, and of your own do we give you. Amen.

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength

Preached by Carol Kidd LLM on 18 October 2020: Feast Day of St Luke
2 Timothy 4:5-17/Luke 10:1-9

 May I speak in the name of Jesus Christ, our strength and our redeemer: Amen

Like St Paul, many find comfort through their Christian faith when circumstances or illness bring physical or spiritual darkness and pain. Certainly, that was true for me several years ago when in the midst of a critical illness, in the middle of a bad night, I recalled how as a child I used to listened out for the bidding in the Communion service: “Hear the words of comfort our Saviour Christ says to all who truly turn to him”

Paul repeatedly turned to Christ for comfort and strength – through illness, persecution and imprisonment. Paul’s second letter to Timothy expounds the importance of trust and companionship. Trusting in God, who is ever faithful, Paul shows how we can draw strength from each other, and find the boldness to proclaim the message of the Cross, always being ready to share the good news of the kingdom that all may come to believe. Through faith, we meet Jesus in those who accompany us through difficulties and dangers, and we are called to be that presence for others.

In prison, with Luke as his sole companion, Paul provides a true example of trusting in Jesus’ constant saving love, even when others fail and fall away. Today we give thanks for St Luke, who Paul called: the beloved physician. Legend says that Luke knew Mary, Jesus’ mother, and was one of the 70 sent out by Jesus – the 70 were instructed not to be distracted or delayed in their mission but to always ready with words of peace, commissioned to pray, ‘to heal the sick’ and proclaim ‘the kingdom of God is near’.

In Luke’s gospel signs of the nearness of God’s kingdom are discovered through the story of the Annunciation and Mary’s song of joy. Only Luke brings us shepherds hurrying to welcome the newborn king. Only Luke tells how Simeon recognised the long-awaited Messiah as he took 8day old Jesus in his arms. And Luke reveals the importance of accompanying, and being accompanied, through illness and danger as he provides the story of the paralysed man lowered through the roof by his friends and the parable of the Good Samaritan.

As Christians, we too are called to share Christ’s peace in the way we act towards others, to offer prayers for healing, to share the kingdom message. In this time of unresolved tensions between nations, ongoing acts of unimaginable terrorism, many situations of discrimination, abuse, modern-day slavery, poverty and homelessness – as we encounter the consequences of a pandemic, for which there is still no cure – prayers for healing and wholeness are essential. Trusting Jesus as our compassionate companion, who is with us even in the midst of the anguish of illness and conflict, we can in confidence pray that we, and all who suffer, may know his healing love, comfort and peace – that can come through those who walk, sit and wait alongside in times of adversity and sickness.

Yes, prayers for healing can bring amazing, miraculous recoveries, but we must always remember that prayers are not magic formulas, and must always be offered in Jesus’ name.

We know that prayer does not always instantly overturn the nature of disease, illness or incapacity. Yet healing ministry can bring a sense of peace in the midst of anxiety, the confidence of knowing Jesus stands alongside and sends his Holy Spirit to bring comfort, hope and strength of body and mind.

Today’s Collect speaks of the ‘wholesome medicine of the gospel’. Luke’s gospel reveals Jesus’ promise that he will remember us as he comes into his kingdom, be with us in trouble and keep us in safety. Like Paul, we can pray for strength to cope with adversity, and the confidence to hand those struggles over to God. Healing and renewal may come in the here and now, or in the future that is known only by God. It is through our Christian faith that we can trust that, should suffering and illness lead to death – even so in death our prayers will be answered – for the healing peace of God is ever-present in His eternal kingdom and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

May we all know the comfort, and yes the joy of Jesus as our trusted companion, our beloved Saviour, that like Paul we can declare:

“The Lord stood by me and gave me strength”

Amen.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Preached by Carol Kidd LLM on 13 September 2020:  Trinity 14
Matthew 18:21-35

“May I speak in the name of Jesus Christ who calls us to forgive as we have been forgiven” Amen

Peter asked: ‘Lord, how often should I forgive?

Jesus reminds that forgiveness is not a simple matter of calculation. Peter’s question, of how many times forgiveness should be offered before giving up, brings to mind today’s many victims of abuse and the relatives mourning loved ones murdered in the Manchester Arena bomb attack, not forgetting all affected by the atrocities that have led to the Black Lives Matter movement …. And – and – and…. for there are many examples of damaged lives, people who have been sinned against who cry to God [now in 2020] that very same question: ‘Lord, how often should I forgive?

The parable reminds us not to act like the unforgiving servant who failed to reciprocate the mercy he received from the king. As anger and impatience, bitterness and hatred, consumed him the penalty he had to bear was imprisonment, separation from family and friends, disgrace within the community.

Sometimes, before being able to forgive, there is a desire to know how compensation will come – a sense of forgiveness in return for meting out punishment. As Christians we are called to offer forgiveness in confidence that the final judgement lies with God.

Rather than hungering for revenge, the act of forgiving can begin to release the victim from the power of evil. Yet when forgiveness is offered the significance of sin and suffering is not lessened, and the need for evil doers to be called to account still remains.

Forgiving does NOT mean the perpetrator will escape punishment. Forgiveness does NOT deny that the wrongdoing ever happened, does not make cruelty and harm acceptable. In forgiving those who sin against us we are not condoning their actions, nor giving permission for their behaviour to continue.

The Bible repeatedly condemns the actions of sinners, we can read how perpetrators of evil, judged by God, are called to bear the consequences of their sins. Distressed by the servant’s behaviour the community in the parable reported all that had taken place. Forgiveness and justice should always go hand in hand. Reporting sinful action is essential in protecting against others becoming victims and to stop the cycle of sin.

It is hard, and courageous to forgive, prayer is essential especially if it is not safe to forgive face-to-face. Calling on God’s mercy and grace will provide strength for the task ahead. Heartfelt prayer that the perpetrator might come to realise the damage done – the hurt they have caused – repent of their wrongdoing and turn to Christ’s saving love [so that never again will anyone else experience suffering at their hands], is the very prayer that starts to set the victim free.                                                                

Forgiving brings release from being consumed by bitterness, resentment and anger – yet it is not easy and may take a long time and unlimited patience, even years, to reach the place of meaningful forgiveness. The unforgiving servant was punished: no repentance = no forgiveness. In comparison a victim who forgives from the depths of their heart can find freedom to begin to move on and face the future.

For Peter and the others, the road to Calvary stretched out ahead – for us the Cross is the reason we can be assured that our sins have been forgiven. In relationship with Christ victims can find release and yes, the truly repentant who open themselves to judgement by confessing their sins can find redemption.

Through accepting Jesus’ freely given gifts of forgiveness, mercy and love the forgiving are forgiven and the depravity of sin begins to be healed. Forgiveness is both costly and free. Through death on the Cross our heavenly King paid the highest possible price. To those who truly believe in His saving love the gift of forgiveness is freely given.

Christ calls us to forgive as we have been forgiven, in return let us offer our lives in His service that others may know that they too can find freedom in Him. Amen.

‘Who do you say that I am?’

Preached by Carol Kidd LLM on 23 August 2020:  Trinity 11
Matthew 16:13-20

May I speak in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; Amen

‘Who do you say that I am?’

This question marks a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. A pivotal opportunity for the disciples to show their allegiance. Reaching the brink of His final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus asked: ‘Who do you say that I am?’

In an answer revealed by God, Simon responds to the challenge; earns the name Peter and the keys of the kingdom. Jesus’ question is the same for each one of us today. So, how will we answer? Who do we say Jesus is, and will we let God’s Spirit speak through us and find a new purpose to our lives?

Jesus held no I.D, no Birth or Baptism Certificate, yet we can fathom His identity through the disciples’ experiences of hearing Him preach and the recollections of those who witnessed His healing miracles; some from whom he cast out demons even declared His name, and the few who were in the boat when He calmed the storm, and the thousands whose minds were fed through parables and beatitudes and whose bellies were filled with fish and loaves, showed signs of recognition.

Having heard Him speak of kingdom values, the disciples sense increasing opposition by the authorities, as Jesus’ popularity increased. In the hostile territory of Caesarea Philippi Jesus responds to being wrongly identified [as a prophet returned from the dead] with the direct question: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Simon identifies and names Him as the long-awaited Messiah.

Shortly we will identify and name Jesus as our Lord in making the declaration: ‘The Lord is here – His Spirit is with us!’ And yet – and yet – who is the Lord who we proclaim? Are we ready to personally reply to Jesus’ question that is as much for us today as for the disciples over 2000 years ago?

Jesus asks us ‘Who do you say that I am?’

When we sense that God is calling us by name, it is the Holy Spirit that shapes our identity of who we are in Christ, the same Spirit as enabled Simon Peter to express the truth of Jesus’ identity, will fit us for discipleship in Jesus’ name and will help when we struggle to find answers on the journey of faith.

Jesus asks us to examine our own lives and answer His question.

It is one thing to say ‘Jesus is Lord’ when our lives are good, yet who do we say Jesus is at times of personal or national tragedy? As Covid rates and the number of desperate people crossing the Channel increase?

Who do we say Jesus is when we, or a loved one, receive a devastating diagnosis or when personal circumstances, even the darkness of mental ill health drags us down? When we are unable to attend church; or worship and prayer fail to provide the spiritual nourishment we seek?

When we invite Jesus into our lives, God’s Spirit will reveal the love, strength and hope that spring from a true relationship with Him, not just on Sundays or in the company of other Christians, but every day and even in the dark stretches of life’s journey.

Jesus knew Simon, as Peter, would face difficulties, fail Him by falling asleep at Gethsemane, even deny knowing Him – yet, trusted and blessed, Peter is given the keys to establish kingdom values, with the express message that, for the disciples, the time was not yet right to tell others the truth of Jesus’ identity.

Jesus asks: ‘Who do you say that I am?’

As Easter people, inspired by the Holy Spirit, now is the right time to tell the truth of Jesus’ identity and share, by example, the keys that help build His church and His kingdom: faith, love, obedience, prayer and witness! Jesus’ question marked a turning point in His ministry, provided a pivotal opportunity for the disciples to show their allegiance – so, in this strange time when worship is restricted and many churches remain closed, will we grasp the opportunity to seek ways and times to be outspoken like Peter in declaring Jesus is the Messiah, Lord and Saviour of the world?

When we take time to consider Jesus’ question and pray for God’s Spirit to speak through us, we can find a fresh purpose for our lives and discern new ways to share the gospel now and always. Amen.

Homily for Patronal Festival

Preached by Carol Kidd LLM on the evening of 26 July 2020: St James West End Patronal Festival

May I speak in the name of Jesus Christ who calls us to follow him, Amen

Six short verses from Mark’s gospel provide word-pictures of Jesus that have echoed down the years: The Sea of Galilee, working fishermen – boats and nets. Jesus calling people to follow and proclaiming the kingdom is near!

Images portraying Jesus calling the fishermen to a new direction in life; and their reactions in immediately leaving nets and following.

Calling and following – two essential factors of discipleship.

Hearing Jesus’ call, and choosing to follow, changed James’ and the other disciples’ lives. How do we hear the call, follow and serve Jesus today? Nowadays the tendency is not merely to follow directions and commands – but to chase alternatives. By applying freedom of choice, we follow orders and advice, but often only on our own terms.

Sadly, some Christians even apply personal boundaries in deciding who is good enough to help build God’s kingdom by choosing to invite those of physical or financial use, or who share the same mind-set as themselves. Not so with Jesus’ inclusive invitation – the call to ‘repent and believe in the good news’ was the message to any and all who came out to hear Jesus preach.

James’ faith was sufficient to leave his father’s business and follow with no clear vision of where it would all lead. For us too it answering the call to follow is a leap of faith. Jesus’ invitation will mean leaving behind familiar aspects of our lives with an unknown path ahead, one thing we do know is that as for James, life will never be the same again.

Invitations to ‘follow’ are central to this era of social media and decisions often speedy. The ‘follow’, ‘like’ or ‘share’ options are chosen as instant emotional reactions to a headline or an image, often because friends, people we know, have already responded.

James and John would have known Simon and Andrew, maybe seeing their friends already following gave them the impetus to follow too. Yet Jesus did not just call them to follow he also provided a purpose: they were specifically chosen to be ‘fishers of people’ – to share the gospel message. Even today Jesus calls everyone for a purpose and each of us will have a role to play in bringing others to faith – Jesus needs ‘fishers of people’ as much today as when he called the fishermen of Galilee.

So, how do we follow the call to share the good news in the circumstances where we find ourselves?

During lockdown sharing the gospel message and worship moved to the internet: to Face Book, YouTube, Zoom and other resources. Face Book informs each account holder how many ‘followers’ they have and suggests names of people to invite to ‘like’ their page…. Yet this does not tell the whole story.

Jesus’ call to ‘follow’ expects readiness and willingness to engage – to actively share with others his good news – not just to click and send a quick emoji response – for surely being a Christian is not just about ‘liking’ and ‘following’ from our computers – as in a hobby or brief interest – but calls for commitment, prayer, perseverance, repentance, letting go and stepping out on a new path.

It is imperative to remember that many do not have the technology or skills to engage with online resources so to encounter those from our congregation, our community and new seekers, we cannot simply send a ‘link’. Jesus ‘went out’ – we need to determine to serve him not only via computer screens but in finding new safe ways to go out into this world of social distancing in the power of the Spirit, and in his name, to meet and share with those who have not yet heard the good news.

James left overhauling and mending his nets. Given a new sense of reason and purpose his life was renewed but not without challenges to be faced. Are we prepared for the challenges that Jesus’ invitation brings, as well as the joys that it offers? Are we ready to embrace Jesus’ call to follow him, to repent of our failings and, like James, be strong in discipleship through good and difficult times?

Every day Jesus calls us, as individuals and as a church, to seek ways to renew our faith – to react to Jesus’ calling – to be prepared for the consequences of following. We need to work together to find new ways to follow Jesus’ call to share the gospel message.

So, are we ready to leave our safety nets, put old ways behind and take fresh steps forward filled with faith and purpose? Let us consider, pray and discern what it is that Jesus is calling us to do at this particular time and then work together for the good of God’s kingdom as we journey on with Jesus as our guide. For, what better purpose is there for our lives than serving Jesus who calls us to follow?

A few thoughts for our Patronal Festival.

Amen.

On the 72nd Anniversary of the NHS

Preached by Carol Kidd on 5 July 2020: Fourth Sunday after Trinity
Psalm 145:8-15 / Matthew 11:16-19;25-end

 May I speak in the name of God, whose kingdom is everlasting: Amen

Today’s psalm reminds us that the kingdom of God endures throughout all ages – a fact truly worthy of praise – and in our intercessions we will be giving thanks for the NHS which has endured and has proved invaluable in this generation especially during this current crisis. For this week it is the 72nd birthday of the National Health Service: the institution that has served every single one of us and for many, myself included, has provided a journey of vocation and service.

Now, when the demand on the NHS is high, is surely the right time to celebrate the diversity of its inclusive teams, the amazing spectrum of expertise, and the deep desire to provide holistic care that matches the founding principles to:

  • meet the needs of everyone
  • be free at the point of delivery
  • and based on clinical need, not the ability to pay

Thursday evenings are no longer marked by applause and praise yet everywhere you go rainbows remain visible – the banner in the churchyard continues to express love for the NHS.

As lockdown is eased it is even more important than ever that we pray for the staff who, day by day, night shift by night shift, enclosed in claustrophobic PPE, continue to be active in serving, compassionate in caring and dedicated in distributing a sense of hope in the midst of the ongoing pandemic for which, as yet, there is no vaccine, no definitive end.

The ability to communicate a sense of hope, to be alongside sharing and supporting in situations of joy and thanksgiving, as well in times of despair and conflict, take its toll. Yet staff, weary from carrying the heavy burdens of life and death situations and decisions, are often seen paying respect, offering encouragement, lovingly applauding, as a survivor of Covid leaves the hospital where, for many weeks, the nurses and doctors have been their closest comfort in times of real fear and danger. Importantly, within the inclusive team, hospital chaplains provide a source of hope and solace, supporting staff as much as they are alongside patients and families, following Jesus’ example, they are there for people of all faiths and none.

Surely, they mirror God’s characteristics by being ever available, non-judgmental, and gracious in their generosity of spiritual care and prayer.

For we know that: ‘The Lord is gracious and merciful – the Lord is loving to everyone.’

Even more amazingly: ‘the Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all those who are bowed down.’

In the New International Version of the Bible the word ‘merciful’ is translated as ‘compassionate’: ‘the Lord is gracious and compassionate – he has compassion for all he has made.’

Having worked for the National Health Service for 40yrs [from 1976-2016], firstly as a Registered Nurse and then for 35 years as a midwife, I particularly remember the ‘6 C’s – the benchmarks of excellence: ‘competence, care, compassion, communication, courage & commitment.’ As a Christian, these attributes play an essential part of growing in faith and recognizing Kingdom values – they are a part of my past and are woven into my present as I strive to take them forward in my Lay Ministry.

I would like to suggest that – even if you have never worked in the NHS – the 6 C’s can provide expressions of wholeness that enrich the relationship Jesus invites us to share – for if anyone is competent in judgement and leadership it is Jesus who is full of care and compassion, communicates with us in a myriad of ways and we know from the gospels how his commitment and love for us led him even to the Cross where his courage knew no bounds.

Our past is part of our present and we bring with us attributes learned through our life experiences – during lock-down the experiences people have faced – even that of their own mortality – have in many cases resulted in increased care and compassion for others; has brought the discovery of new and better ways to communicate and it has taken courage to cope with days fraught with anxiety and loss.

Yet sadly while a commitment to care for others has been a priority for many, the competence of some decisions has been questioned.

Now restrictions are being eased what will our response be? Will the goodwill and thankyous continue? Will we speak out for the vulnerable when we see flaunting of guidelines and question inappropriate decisions? Or will we prefer to spend time joining in the grumbling we hear around us without attempting to make a difference?

Jesus warned against being churlish and childish like those in the market square – instead we need to be open to new understandings – as children are when they are loved and encouraged to learn by discovering new wonders that are all around. It is in being open to the wondrous signs of God’s Kingdom [that was and is and is to come] and how we respond to Jesus’ call, that we will come to know more truly God’s will for our lives and be encouraged to follow where he leads for: ‘the Lord is sure in all his ways, and faithful in all his deeds.’

Jesus promises that when we take up the yoke of discipleship he will share the load during the difficult times – so let us echo his care and compassion – let us communicate his love to others by sharing the wonderful promise he gives to all of us to strengthen our resolve even when our courage falters and trust him to remain faithful when our commitment is wavering: Jesus says: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’

May that precious rest be with all NHS workers as they continue to serve the sick and suffering – and when we are brought low with the tiredness of trying to find a way out of this confusion and crisis let us always remember that it is in resting in Christ and sharing our burdens with him that strength can found – then restored and renewed let us dedicate ourselves to his service, following his example of serving others, and like the psalmist tell of the glory of his enduring kingdom never forgetting to make known to the next generation the wonders of his mighty acts.

Amen

Trinity Sunday 2020

Preached by Carol Kidd LLM on 7 June 2020: Trinity Sunday
2 Corinthians 13: 11-end / Matthew 28:16-20

May I speak in the name of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Amen

Today marks the ‘Feast of the Holy Trinity’ when we celebrate the three in one relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jesus sent the disciples out to minister and evangelize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. As brothers and sisters in Christ, charged with continuing the mission of Jesus – albeit in new ways due to current restrictions – St Paul’s farewell words to the people of Corinth should guide our lives. When we share the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit we follow in the footsteps of the early Christians and Jesus’ great commission.

God the Father, not only dwells with us through the gifting power of the Holy Spirit [celebrated last week at Pentecost] but extends an inclusive welcome through the love of Christ His Son. All are invited into the relationship of grace, mercy and love that has existed since Jesus and the Spirit were with God when the world was created. The co-equal relationship of the Trinity is not exclusive and inward-looking but inclusive and outward-looking, gathering in believers, seeking the lost and inviting everyone into a loving community of faith. We are welcomed at our Christian baptism in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and at Christian funerals the departed are entrusted into the care of the Holy Trinity.

In our worship, forgiveness is granted and blessing made in the name of the Trinity. And in our worship, we praise the united Divinity through the ‘Glory be’ at the end of Psalms and the Gloria, as well as within the Creed and the Eucharistic Prayer. Today Vicky will introduce the Peace with a three-fold greeting that we will be invited to share.

Martyn Percy recently stated that: ‘Social distance between God and humanity is abolished in the Incarnation.’ [1] In this strange time of social-distancing personal relationships are struggling due to separation and we are physically isolated from community activities that nourish and enhance our lives. Many are lonely and especially miss gathering together to worship, pray and receive the Eucharist. How reassuring then that God is not just watching from a distance rather He desires to be with every single person.

It is through the unity of the Trinity, [revealed at the Annunciation, in the Incarnation and at Jesus’ baptism] that Christ desires to gather and support, to come near to and to be at one with us.

There is the well-known saying, “two’s company, three’s a crowd”. That may be so in a close one to one relationship where a third person is seeking inclusion and feeling excluded – but that is not so in the Trinity. Rather than being in a competitive relationship Father, Son and Holy Spirit make up a perfect united community and all God’s people are invited to know the freely given hope, joy and love of Christ and the strength and peace of His Spirit.

As Christians we are tasked with helping others become adopted children of the Heavenly Father. That will only happen when, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we display the inclusive love of the Trinity in our own actions. It is not in turning away from those we do not understand, or blaming God for tragedies, that will help usher in God’s Kingdom but by offering the welcome Jesus exampled and sent His disciples out to proclaim.

In the book: ‘Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense’[2] William Vanstone equated the Trinity to a family who allows each member to flourish – he described the Trinity as a community, seeking to extend their generous, never-failing, circle of love to those who are lost and unloved, including the rejected and the suffering.

Christian discipleship, how we relate to God, is defined by the Trinity. Christian life must be loving and inclusive because God in Trinity is loving and invites all; Christian life should be communal, transparent, humble and joyful, because God in Trinity is communal, transparent, humble and joyful. Within the community of the Trinity there’s no jealousy, no conflict, no disrespect. There’s no lying or hiding, and no blaming. Within the community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit there’s just love: perfect love, perfect unity and open communication. The Holy Trinity reaches out to humankind with a peace beyond understanding. It is not for us to strive to make sense of the mystery of the threefold Godhead but rather we are called to enter into and accept the love that is offered.

Working in perfect unity God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not only looks outward to the world but engages and abides with us, and especially cares for those who so dearly need the courage, strength, care and compassion that ALL are invited to discover for themselves.

Jesus commissioned and sent out the disciples to share His message of good news in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let us follow that command knowing that He is with us ‘always to the very end of the age!’

Paul, in his farewell to the people of Corinth, gifted a ‘Three in One’ blessing of unending love and fellowship that sustained the early Christians. Today it can be for us a prayer of strength, comfort and affirmation:

‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’

Amen


[1] https://modernchurch.org.uk/martyn-percy-a-plague-of-numbers

[2] Vanstone WH {1977} ‘’Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense” Darton, Longman and Todd

Good Shepherd

Sermon preached on 3 May 2020: Fourth Sunday of Easter by Carol Kidd
Psalm 23 / John 10:1-10

May I speak in the name of Jesus Christ our shepherd and our redeemer. Amen

Today is often known as Good Shepherd Sunday: as God’s word is opened and explored through the familiar words of Psalm 23, and the story Jesus told of the shepherd guarding his flock. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the one who calls us to listen to his voice. It is Jesus who says to all who are ready to hear and draw near: ‘I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness’ [John 10:10 GNT]. A promise of fullness of life – a message you and I, and the whole world need to hear at this time as our lives are affected in so many ways by restriction and isolation, anxiety and danger – but we jump ahead.

In the parable there are many images – for now let us stay with Jesus the shepherd and listening to his voice: The shepherd calls his sheep by name, goes ahead and the sheep follow because they know his voice. [10:3/4]. Sheep in the fields know their shepherd. In the bible the sheep run from a stranger’s voice, if your ever watch sheep in a field they scatter when chattering ramblers pass by, yet as the shepherd arrives there are many welcoming bleats of joy!

The mark of today’s shepherd is not a tea-towel style headdress and a crook but more likely to be the roar of a four-wheeled motorized off-road buggy ridden by a young person in jacket and jeans with their dog enjoying the ride, ready and eager to be at work. The sheep, young and old, run and follow anticipating feeding time for they know the ‘voice’ of the shepherd’s vehicle, the ‘voice’ of the whistle that calls to the dog, the ‘voice’ that is the bark of the sheep dog ready to gather them to be fed. They know the voice that will feed and care for them and when necessary lead them to safety.

Sheep follow the voice of their shepherd who is at the centre of their lives. At this time of pandemic, we need more than ever to keep Jesus, our Good Shepherd, central to all that we say and do and take time to listen to his voice and hear his good news for the world. As we struggle with being isolated from family and friends – from the flock with whom we share so much – statistics and desperately sad news fill our TV and computer screens and are fixed in our minds – and yet – if we take time to listen and hear the truth of Jesus’ good news we can find comfort.

Fear and anxiety are natural reactions when we are concerned for the well-being of those we love and for our own health. Psalm 23 reminds that the Lord is our shepherd who provides for our needs and gives us strength. Anxious and afraid of the Corona Virus – often referred to as an invisible evil – the psalmist’s prayer can be ours:

“even if I go through the deepest darkness,
I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me”

Ps 23:4 GNT

Jesus our redeemer will lead and shepherd us through the difficult times.

This life of ‘lock-down’ will not last for ever – a new ‘normality’ will evolve. It is through hearing and recognizing Jesus’ voice – by listening to him and hearing his call – that his gifts of goodness, blessing and unfailing love will be received and our fears and anxieties for the future be allayed.

It is a fact that many are experiencing loneliness of isolation and hunger and thirst for spiritual refreshment. For the psalmist it is God’s voice that leads him to rest in green pastures and leads him beside the quiet waters – on our daily exercise walks we can find our Lord calling to us through sounds of nature, in the beauty of springtime and in the hello’s of those who we pass by – observing social distancing does not mean we are to ignore and disregard others.

Jesus our Shepherd understands our fear of danger, of the virus robbing us of our freedom, stealing away our opportunities for contact with others and threatening our lives and the lives of those we love. We heard in the gospel story that when the sheep were threatened by thieves and robbers they were led to safety. As the sheep trusted the shepherd for protection so, in faith, we can put our trust in Jesus to be with us in times of danger and uncertainty. The current uncertain situation has robbed us of many things that we have taken for granted and we are having to find alternatives.

Through the challenge of closed churches different styles and forms of worship are evolving, Christians are exploring new ways of being together. Following the theme of the parable: Jesus our Shepherd encourages us to find new pasture. Going on ahead he calls us to follow, to share his message so others will hear and know in their own hearts his voice. As we face challenge and change it is by encircling all that we do and say in prayer, by making all our actions in Jesus’ name and for his sake, that others will want to be a part of his flock and know for themselves the joy of being blessed and held freely in his love.

We are Christ’s sheep. Even when like lost sheep we become doubtful, anxious and afraid the wonderful truth is that, if we will only listen to his voice, our Good Shepherd will always be our guide, guardian and rescuer everyday of our lives even to eternity! Jesus says: “I tell you the truth” [v1] “I am the gate. Whoever comes in by me will be saved” [v9]. To all who hear his voice, listen and follow in his way Jesus declares: “I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness” [John 10:10 GNT]

Let us pray:

May the truth of Jesus’ word dwell richly in our hearts that we may not only be comforted when we hear his voice but fully listen to his call, be ready to bring others to hear his message of salvation and follow as he leads all believers to a full life in this world and the next, Amen

Resurrection

After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices to anoint the body of Jesus. On the way they said to one another: ‘Who will roll a way the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ [it was a very large stone].

Then they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled back. So, they entered and saw a young man and they were alarmed.

‘Don’t b e alarmed,’ he said. ‘I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here he has been raised!’

Mark 16: 1-4; 5b-6a Good News Translation

Reflection: Resurrection

Jesus, you had told your disciples that you would die and on the third day rise again!

Each of the four Gospels contains a different version of how the stone was moved.

Mark’s story describes a very large stone, so heavy the women’s central thought was how to remove it. In both Luke and John’s accounts the stone has gone or been rolled aside. Matthew tells of an earthquake with an angel moving the stone out of the way and proceeding to sit on it.

Lord, may we be known as your disciples through our
reactions to the good news of your resurrection.
Roll away any stones and doubts that close our hearts
and reveal the truth of your saving love.
May we truly declare, and take out to the world, the
Gospel message that you are our Lord and Saviour, our
ever present help in time of trouble, now and for eternity.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

14. Jesus is laid in the tomb

Joseph [of Arimathea] bought a linen sheet, took Jesus’ body down, wrapped it in the sheet, and placed it in the tomb which had been dug out of solid rock. Then he rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph were watching and saw where the body of Jesus was laid.

Mark 15:46-47 Good News Translation

Reflection: Jesus is laid in the tomb

The darkness falls: the world is hushed.
The Cross stands bare and empty.
The stone cold tomb receives its guest.

As the Sabbath begins: Jesus is laid to rest.

The large stone makes the seal complete.

Hearts are grieving and in pain. And yet and yet;
God ordains what happens next
Lord, be with all who suffer and those who mourn.

Enter hearts sealed by sadness and grief.

Dry their tears: bless them with comfort and peace.

In the darkness there is no darkness
with you O Lord; the deepest night is clear as the day.

[words of a Taizé chant]

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

13. Jesus is taken down from the Cross

When it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea arrived; his name was Joseph, and he also was a disciple of Jesus. He went into the presence of Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

Pilate told him he could have the body, so Joseph went and took it away. Nicodemus, who at first had gone to see Jesus at night, went with Joseph. The two men took Jesus’ body and wrapped it in linen with the spices according to the Jewish custom of preparing a body for burial.

Matthew 27: 57-58a / John 19 : 38b-40 Good News Translation

Reflection: Jesus is taken down from the Cross

Blessed Jesus, you inspire acts of love.
Joseph and Nicodemus grew in faith.
Showed compassion and care.

Did your mother hold you one last time?
Were these two men an answer to her prayer?
How deep is our love for you? How sure our faith?
Can we be the answer to another person’s prayer?

Lord, we seek a deeper relationship with you.
We wish to grow in faith and trust.
Inspire our witness, fill us with compassion.
May we always be sensitive to the needs of the living,
the sick, the dying and those who mourn.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

12. Jesus dies on the Cross

Standing close to Jesus’ cross were his mother Mary, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there.

It was about twelve o’clock when the sun stopped shining and darkness covered the whole country until three o’clock; and the curtain that was hanging in the Temple was torn in two. Jesus cried out in a loud voice: ‘Father! Into your hands I place my spirit!’ He said this and died.

John 19:25 / Luke 23: 44-46 Good News Translation

Reflection: Jesus dies on the Cross

Love and sacrifice. Darkness and dying. With his mother and close friends standing by Jesus gives up his spirit to redeem the world.

Thinking of his suffering renders us speechless. Jesus falling silent places himself in God’s hands.

Accept his gift of eternal love and everlasting life. He is with you always, even to the end of time. Do not speak, in silence let him into your heart.

Lord, we offer you all that we are, all that we have,
and all that we do.
We place into your hands all our hopes and fears,
praying may Your will be done.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

11. Jesus is nailed to the Cross

Two other men, both of them criminals, were also led out to be out to death with Jesus. When they came to the place called ‘The Skull’ they crucified Jesus there, and the two criminals, one on his right and the other on his left.

Jesus said:
‘Forgive them Father! They do not know what they are doing.’

Luke 23: 32-34a Good News Translation

Reflection: Jesus is nailed to the Cross

Dear Lord, the horror of your agony is unimaginable.
You taught love yet you experienced such hate.
Even as you felt the nail s driven into your tired flesh
you still spoke words of forgiveness.

Lord, we may not know, we cannot tell, what pains you
had to bear, but we believe it was for us
you hung and suffered there.
Help us to understand the immensity of your gift to us,
We pray:
In your mercy, forgive us our sins.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

10. Jesus is stripped of his garments

They took Jesus’ clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier.

They also took the robe, which was made of one piece of woven cloth without any seams in it.

The soldiers said to one another:
‘Let’s not tear it; let’s throw dice to see who will get it.’

John 19: 23-24a Good News Translation

Reflection: Jesus is stripped of his garments

The soldiers had no respect, empathy or compassion. Jesus you know what it is like when others make us feel exposed and unfairly scrutinised.

When they treat our wellbeing as a game
Be with us in our vulnerability, when we are rejected;
It is not our outward appearance that matters to you
but rather the person you created us to be.

Lord, may we show care for those who are stripped of all
their dignity through no fault of their own.
May we ever strive to realise our full potential thanking
you for seeing us as we are and loving us always.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

9. Jesus falls for the third time

Sometimes they strew his way,
and his sweet praises sing, resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King.
Then ‘Crucify!’ is all their breath,
and for his death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run, he gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries! Yet they are these
themselves displease, and ‘gainst him rise.

‘My Song is Love Unknown’  S Crossman (1624-83)

Reflection: Jesus falls for the third time

Was it tiredness, muscle cramps, dehydration or dizziness that caused him to stumble?
Exhaustion bringing him to despair?

We too have times when we feel we cannot go on. When the heavy daily load brings us to our knees. We may face circumstances in our journey through life when the future seems so bleak, we feel we are falling and are tempted to lose hope.

Through the words of the hymn ‘Father, hear the prayer we offer’ let us truly pray:

Lord , be with us in the hours of weakness,
in our wanderings be our guide,
through endeavour, failure, danger,
Father, be thou always at our side.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

8. Jesus speaks to the women

A large crowd followed him; among them were some women who were weeping and wailing for him.

Jesus turned to them and said:
‘Women of Jerusalem! Do not cry for me, but for yourselves and your children.’

Luke 23: 27 28 Good News Translation

Reflection: Jesus speaks to the women

Who were these women who were so distressed?

Maybe they had heard his teaching, seen him perform healing miracles and had hoped for greater things. They may have shed tears of self pity that Jesus had not become the kind of messiah they had expected.

Lord, forgive when we weep for unfulfilled desires and
fail to give thanks for the good times.
May we pray for others as much as for ourselves,
knowing there is a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

7. Jesus falls for a second time

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much… I will be put to death but three days later I will be raised to life.’

He also said:
‘If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget about self, carry his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’

Matthew 16: 24 25 Good News Translation

Reflection: Jesus falls a second time

Jesus had entered the city to cheers and hosannas only a few days ago, now he heard the watching crowd jeer and shout out obscenities as he fell again onto the dirt of the road under the weight of the cross.

Were the disciples who had followed him to Jerusalem remembering the words he had spoken?

How incredibly humiliating it must have been for Jesus to fall to the ground in front of mocking faces, and yet he remained humble accepting the fate of death on a cross.

Lord, when despair and danger take us to inner places
of darkness, help us to always remember that because
you have experienced human weakness your love will
lift us and you w ill save us when we fall.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

6. Veronica wipes Jesus’ face

If we ask:
‘When Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’

Jesus will reply:
‘I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.’

Mathew 25: 37; 45. Good News Translation

Reflection: Veronica wipes Jesus’ face

Legend tells us that Veronica was willing to risk danger, and her own safety, by coming out from the crowd to wipe the sweat from Jesus’ face through a small but significant act of kindness.

Although the story is not told in the Gospels, it brings a reminder of the importance of seeking ways to relieve the suffering of others, of seeing Jesus himself in the faces of those who are despised, abused and on the margins of society.

Lord, you call us to ease the burdens of others where
the smallest of gestures can mean so much.
By your grace, may we too step out with compassion,
striving to see your reflection in all who are feeling
rejected and weighed down by indifference and pain.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

5. Jesus is helped by Simon

During his earthly ministry Jesus told his followers: ‘If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, take up his cross every day, and follow me.’

Luke 9:23 Good News Translation

On the way to the place of crucifixion ‘they met a man named Simon, who was coming into the city from the country, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ Cross.’

Luke 15: 21 Good News Translation

Reflection: Jesus is helped by Simon

Simon of Cyrene did not offer willingly to help carry the Cross of Jesus. The task was forced upon him.

Jesus never forces anyone to follow him.

He calls us to be his disciples, asks us to bear the burdens of others as if it is him who we are serving.

Lord, by sharing its weight, Simon served you on the
day you were most in need of loving kindness.
May we seek ways to carry your Cross for you,
for you are in our midst in the homeless and the poor;
in the sick and starving and the refugees crying for help.
You told your disciples the way would not be easy.
Lead us to bear the burden of others
as if we were serving you

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

4. Jesus meets his mother

When Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to the Temple, Simeon, led by the Holy Spirit, took the child in his arms and gave thanks to God!

‘Now, Lord, you have kept your promise, and you may let your servant go in peace.
With my own eyes I have seen y our salvation.’
And to Mary, Jesus’ mother, he said:
‘Sorrow like a sharp sword will break your heart.’

Luke 2: 28 30; 35. Good News Translation

Reflection: Jesus meets his mother

Jesus, you met your beloved mother, Mary. Mary’s willing ‘yes’ to God led to your being born into a world of strife and sin, to bring healing and peace.

The glorious love song of the angels on the night you were born often goes unheard, war and terrorism reign in too many countries, hate in too many hearts.

Lord, you call us to follow the example of Mary.
By your grace grant us the strength to step out from the
crowd, to seek your face among all who suffer
from effects of war and hatred.
Help us to offer a mother’s love.
When we say yes to God show us how we can help
build an everlasting peace, world without end.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

3. Jesus falls for the first time

The soldiers ‘beat Jesus over the head with a stick, spat on him, fell on their knees, and bowed down to him. When they had finished mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.’

Mark 15: 19-20 Good News Translation

‘He bears the weight of all our woe, a stumbling figure bowed and scarred I see my Saviour go.’

Words from ‘A purple robe; a crown of thorns’
A traditional Passiontide Hymn

Reflection: Jesus falls for the first time

Jesus, your love for all was inclusive and generous. Yet you became an object of bullying and derision.

Beaten, humiliated, you stumbled and fell.

The crowds watched and did not intervene.

Even today those who are bullied, victims of inhumane behaviour, fall under the weight of suffering.

Lord, we are sorry for the times we have failed to speak
out against bullying, oppression and cruelty.
Through your compassionate love save all who are
brought to their knees by cruel words and actions.
Help them find the courage to be who you have created
them to be, free of the weight of the misdeeds of others.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

2. Jesus carries his Cross

Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped. The soldiers made a crown out of thorny branches and put it on his head. Then they put a purple robe on him.

When the chief priests and the temple guards saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’

Pilate said: ‘You take him, and crucify him. I find no reason to condemn him.’ Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.

So, they took charge of Jesus and he went out, carrying his cross.

John 19: 1 2, 6, 16 Good News Translation

Reflection: Jesus carried his Cross

Whipped, scourged and beaten, Jesus you still had to find the strength to carry the cross laid upon you.

When we are beaten down by daily grind, the actions of others, illness and despair, where can we find the strength we need to carry on along life’s road?

Do we look to you for help, trusting through faith that you are already helping us to bear our heavy load?

Lord, help us to carry the crosses that weigh us down each and every day. To set our eyes on you, knowing that you are with us to help ease the burdens we bear.

May we ever seek your presence to guide our feet, your loving arms to uphold us and your very self to lead us and let us always see your footprints before us when the road of life is full of difficulties.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

1. Jesus is condemned to death

Pilate asked the crowds: “What shall I do with Jesus called the Messiah?”

“Crucify him!” they all answered.

But Pilate asked: “What crime has he committed?”

Then they started shouting at the top of their voices: ‘Crucify him!’ When Pilate saw that it was no use to go on, but that a riot might break out, he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said: ‘I am not responsible for the death of this man!’

Matthew 27: 22 24 Good News Translation

Reflection: Pilate washed his hands of any blame.

Innocent Jesus you stood silent in the face of false accusation and were falsely condemned. Faced with decisions that affect the lives of others do we sometimes wash our hands of responsibility? Or do we speak out for those falsely accused and let our faith be shown?

Lord, may we be known as your disciples through our reactions and actions, not just when in church or with other Christians, but in our homes, workplaces , among our friends and when with strangers.

May we ever seek to speak out for people who through no fault of their own are condemned to lives of oppression and feel the world has washed its hands of them and abandoned them to an unjust fate.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world

Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord

Sermon preached on 5 April 2020: Palm Sunday by Carol Kidd
Psalm 118 / Liturgy of the Palms Matthew 21:1-11

When we began our Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday little did we imagine that congregations would
be locked out of church buildings on Palm Sunday. As we remembered that we are but dust and to dust we shall return, we never expected to hear night after night news reports of the latest number of recorded deaths for each 24 hours. Lent study groups halted – truly our Lenten journey became far more of a time of wilderness than we ever imagined – of social distancing and self-isolation, of fear and anxiety as implications of Covid-19 moved from threat to reality.

Of course, there is great sadness that in 2020 we are unable to stand together in the churchyard raising high Palm Crosses to be blessed before hearing the Passion Gospel. Yet we must not forget that Holy Week is before us. We will not walk into church, following the choir, led by the processional cross singing the well-known chorus ‘All glory laud and honour to thee Redeemer King’. Importantly that does not mean that Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday have been cancelled. Through written liturgy, via social media, internet or phone – alone or in company with those with whom
we share our homes – it is essential that we strive to stay strong in faith ever walking with Jesus on his
journey to the Cross.

Singing, saying or even shouting ‘Hosanna’ is needed today, even more than ever, because the message of Easter – that Jesus truly is our Lord and Saviour – is God’s reply to the Palm Sunday cry that has echoed down the centuries: ‘Hosanna’: ‘Lord save us.’

All four gospels retell eye witness accounts of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the day a large crowd gathered to spread cloaks and branches on the road to welcome the man they had heard so much about: Jesus, the friend of fishermen, women and outcasts, the parable preacher, the miracle worker who not only healed but had just raised his friend Lazarus from death.

In Jerusalem each year at Passover, ‘Hosannas’ rang out in remembrance of freedom – freedom from oppression and slavery – as a call for God’s promised Messiah to come to redeem his people. In anticipation that the long-awaited Messiah had indeed come in the person of Jesus, the cry Hosanna became not only the hope of a saviour but a shout of triumph!

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord

The same words from psalm 118, meaning ‘O Lord save us!’ that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, are used at every Eucharist in remembrance of his passion and resurrection. As we follow this service of Spiritual Communion how relevant then, that we share the psalmist’s cry of ‘Hosanna’: for Hosanna means ‘save now’: Save us now O God, save us from enemies, from suffering, from all that threatens even from death.

Today we are the people who cry to Jesus as our freedom is curtailed, human contact restricted, simple things we have taken for granted not available. Lord, save us and all your world from the pandemic and its consequences.

The crowds pinned their hopes on Jesus as the one who came to save, yet, we must never forget they soon turned against him and cried ‘Crucify!’ When Jesus did not act according to their desires, they chose Barabbas. We too are given a choice. To accept God’s invitation, or to decline because we are afraid of the trials and difficulties of discipleship. Jesus said following him would not be easy.

Circumstances threatening our lives, and of those we love, do challenge our faith. Cause us to cry out: ‘Lord save us!’ As in the words of the beautiful hymn ‘Lord Jesus, think on me’ we can ask for support when we are in pain and misery, for direction through darkness and perplexity.

The good news is we can be assured that he will hear us. Jesus is holding fast our past, present and future. He is the one who saves. There is no short cut to Easter from Palm Sunday – to walk with Christ means to follow his call, accept his gift of forgiveness – to hear his words of love as he washes the disciples’ feet – to watch and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane – and to wait at the foot of the Cross.

Today and throughout Holy Week let us pray for grace, guidance and strength for all God’s people throughout the world.
As we cry out ‘Jesus, save us!’ courage and hope will be ours. Good news can be seen in those who are working together in new ways to help society and individuals to cope as the pandemic continues. Although temporarily separated from worshipping together in person, we can communicate and share Jesus’ love through our actions, care and prayer. ‘For the foreseeable future’ has become a tag-line for the current crisis. As Christians let us keep our eyes fixed on being held in Jesus’ love – not just for the future we might think we are able to see or think we can predict – but even to eternity!

Though Palm Crosses have not been blessed and distributed, recalling the crowds greeting Jesus as the ‘Son of David’, their prophesied messiah – we too can welcome him again into our hearts and into our lives and gain strength for whatever path lies ahead.

The journey of Lent ends – a new journey begins.

In faith we can confidently declare ‘Hosanna’: ‘Jesus, save us.’

As the Easter story unfolds anew, we have the promise that his mercy endures for ever!

Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Amen.

“Glory to God in the highest, for you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father!”

Preached by Carol Kidd on 16 June 2019: Trinity Sunday
Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15

May I speak in the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Amen

Glory to God in the highest, for you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father!

A thanksgiving to God for forgiving and freeing us from our sins. Words that in our liturgy follow prayer to the God of love and power to heal and strengthen us by his Spirit, and raise us to new life in Christ.

Trinity Sunday is set aside in the church calendar as a time to celebrate and give praise and glory to God: Father, Son and Spirit each unique yet equal, working in unity.

We have been greeted in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, soon we will be invited to declare our faith in the triune God in the words of the Creed, and at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer the Trinity will be praised for:

“Through Christ, and with Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory are yours, O loving Father, for ever and ever, Amen”

As Christians we will encounter, question and wonder about various Holy Mysteries as we deepen our understanding of God. It is not necessary to be experts in theology and doctrine or to know for certain everything about God, for having hope in what we do not yet fully understand is part of the journey of faith.

Jesus, as his trial and crucifixion drew near, understood it was all too much for the disciples to understand, the time would come when it would make sense and they would form new communities in his name.

As Easter people we are part of the world-wide Christian community who hold fast in faith to the everlasting hope that God has given because, as Paul explained, the Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts which will surely help us to bear all things.

There is the well-known saying, “two’s company, three’s a crowd”. That may be so in a close one to one relationship where a third person is seeking inclusion and feeling excluded – but that is not the structure of the Trinity. Rather than being in a competitive relationship Father, Son and Holy Spirit make up a perfect united, inclusive community.

I wonder how many communities are represented here? Many of us belong to several communities. Here we are part of the church community. We also belong to communities where we live or work and various groups or clubs where we claim membership.

Relational communities exist through unity in diversity where all who wish to be a part can find a sense of belonging despite differences. An important part of the Collation Service on 25 June will be the opportunity for representatives from different community groups to introduce themselves to Rev’d Vicky. Some will be people who we will recognise, others may never have been in St James’ Church before. What is important is the invitation and the response, a time for relation building as here in West End we welcome our new Vicar whose responsibility is relational to all who live in this parish not just those of us who attend services.

The whole of Christian life, how we relate to God, is defined by the Trinity and determined by God’s invitation through his Son and by his Spirit and how we respond to his call.

Christian life must be loving and inclusive because God in Trinity is loving and invites all; Christian life should be communal, transparent, humble and joyful, because God in Trinity is communal, transparent, humble and joyful. Within the community of the Trinity there’s no jealousy, no conflict, no disrespect. There’s no lying or hiding, and no blaming. Within the community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit there’s just love: perfect love, perfect unity and communication.

As a church we need to ask how we can move towards a greater expression and experience of community following the example of the Trinity. To do so we need to consider how we think of the three ‘persons’ of the Trinity: God the Father is the creator and sustainer of all things, God the Son redeems, restores and reconciles all that is broken, the Holy Spirit empowers, comforts, guides and inspires revealing the Father and the Son’s quest for loving renewal.

It would be wrong to dismember the Trinity. If we only speak of God’s concern for creation, it can leave God powerful but remote. If we focus only on God as Christ the Redeemer we rightly speak of his salvation, healing and forgiveness; but the danger is that we lose sight of the larger picture that God blesses not only individuals or groups who praise his name, but also that God wishes to bless and draw to himself all communities and indeed the whole world. And if we focus solely on the effects of the Holy Spirit by which God’s grace is shared and our lives are filled with inspiration as God’s love is revealed, then we risk forgetting that God as Trinity reminds us that creation, redemption and renewal belong together!

God as Trinity demonstrates and teaches us that in order to build bridges between the wider community and the community of faith evangelism, prayer and contemplation belong together. The very nature of our Triune God calls us to live lives of mutual care, giving and receiving.

If God is a community of ‘persons’, then we too are called to the community-building task – and the nurture of family, friendships, communities of faith, partnerships in the workplace and hospitality in our neighbourhoods is the creative and demanding task to which all are invited.

Charles Ringma (contemplative and spiritual writer)

The Trinity can be understood as an Icon of what it means to be community. God invites us to be community-builders. God the Father desires that we offer a loving, diverse, fully inclusive welcome in his name in this place and beyond. God the Son desires that all are invited to share in the bread and wine of the Eucharist or a blessing and to enter into relationship with him. God the Spirit desires that by his strength the love of the Father and the Son will be known throughout the world.

This Sunday and every Sunday, today and every day, may we boldly seek to reflect the wonder of the Trinity, to strive to be the community we are called to emulate and give praise and thanks to God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Glory to God in the highest, for you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father! Amen

The light of Christ is strong, life-giving, healing, leading and redeeming

Preached by Carol Kidd on 20 April 2019: Easter Vigil

We began this evening in darkness before gathering around an ordinary fire which through blessing became sacred and provided the momentum for our return into the church building. Fire plays such an important part in the history of humankind. For wandering tribes, hot ashes were carried as smouldering fire; when they stopped they kindled it, and afterwards they shared a meal; they warmed themselves and around the fire made their home.

As humankind evolved, primitive round huts had a central space for the fire used for cooking, heating and for providing light. In the wilderness desert Moses was drawn to speak with Yahweh by the amazing spectacle of the burning bush. His Lord heard his people’s cry for food, provided manna and sent a pillar of fire to guide them by day and protect them by night. Jesus lit a fire on the shore at daybreak to guide his disciples that they might return to him and be nourished, fed and prepared for the task ahead.

Fire to attract attention, fire associated with gathering people together in unity. Fire is a great provider: it is necessary for preparing food to satisfy our physical hunger, flames are associated with candles used in our spiritual lives, and of course tongues of flames appeared at the coming of the Holy Spirit.

This Holy Saturday we have gathered around while the fire was blessed, and followed the light taken from the blaze as we walked behind the sacred flame which lit the way as our steps trod in the light of the new Paschal Candle from which our individual candles sprang to life. Soon we will come to the Eucharistic banquet at the centre of our worship – the sacred meal that is for all who wish to come, taste and see.

We are invited to receive the elements of Holy Communion, the Blessed Sacraments of bread and wine that are to us Jesus’ body and blood, prepared as he instructed in remembrance that he lived and died and rose again, to take away not just our sin but the sins of all the world.

Jesus came to be an eternal flame always in our midst, a fire at the centre of our lives, bringing light for dark times, filling us with the warmth of his Holy Spirit dwelling within. Out of darkness he came with his most marvelous light. From the darkness of death itself he came, and he is life itself to us. To those of us who have often found ourselves bruised and weary from day to day living, he brings light and new life. He came of his infinite love to gather our complicated lives for himself, and to give them back to us newly refreshed and restored. In his light all human life and love become immortal, undying and enduring, because Jesus Christ our Lord has vanquished death – and death being vanquished, what other evil can we ever really fear?

The feast of Easter is above all things a feast of hope and of courage. Christ the victor, risen from the dead, is a conqueror of death. The journey ends not in death, but life. Indeed our Christian journey has no ending if we think of death as the door to new life – with the light of Christ close at hand, we find he has taken the horror out of death, and if we invite him in we must be prepared to carry his light, not just into the midst of the people but also out into the world.

Are we ready to share Christ’s resurrection light? His message of good news?

Maybe we still – quite naturally for we are only human – have times when we are not quite sure what it all means and, like the women and Peter that very first Easter morning and Thomas at his first encounter with his risen Lord, we can find ourselves wondering about what really happened, trying to piece together the mystery of the resurrection.

Luke’s version of the story places Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of Jesus and Joanna as the bearers of the light of God as they tell others the great news. Interestingly they do not appear frightened at the beginning of the story. They saw the stone rolled away and went in. When they entered they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus yet they did not hesitate; they only expressed fear at the dazzling appearance of the two messengers. Frightened by the presence of the two men in clothes that gleamed like lightening, the women heard the resurrection message: ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here he has risen!’

It is in the light of the knowledge of the resurrection that we come to understand that God has promised that he will grant us the greatness to start again if at first we fail. Out of darkness to us who so often live in darkness, he still comes with his marvelous light. He desires for us to do as the women did and tell others, even if at first we find that those we speak to about our faith seem to treat our testimony as nonsense. We are called to share the wonderful Easter message so others will wonder what truly happened, seek answers and come to know Jesus for themselves.

Life is triumphant. Life is eternal. The light Jesus brings will never from this time be extinguished and the life he brings us shall never die. The old are new, the new are old on Easter Day. In declaring Christ is risen indeed we preach the resurrection and join with Christians world-wide in celebrating not a dead hero but a living Saviour!

Alleluia  Amen

‘Do not be afraid; for see -I am bringing you good news of great joy!’

Preached by Carol Kidd on 25 December 2018: Christmas Day
Luke 2:1-20

Good News! We have arrived at Christmas Day!

At Church Alive we always start by asking if anyone has any news that they would like to share – usually it’s a birthday, or anniversary, something exciting, something to be thankful for, that we are not worried about sharing with everyone else. The person sharing their good news is invited to light a candle. Some of you may have been present when Abigail raised her hand high in the air really eager to be asked and so excited to tell Revd Linda in a ‘loud’ whisper of awe: ‘My mummy’s going to have a baby!’ Abigail was here at our crib service yesterday with mummy, daddy, her brother and her new baby sister.

For Abigail she was sharing good news of great joy, even mummy hadn’t been prepared to tell everyone just that soon – and we like surprises don’t we?

Good News indeed! Luke describes how first one angel then a whole host of angels appeared to the shepherds – very ordinary people whose job meant being with the sheep at all times, day and night – the ‘glory of the Lord shone around them… they were terrified’. No small wonder, for the sky was shining.

The message had three parts: ‘Do not be afraid’; ‘See, I am bringing you Good News of great joy’; and ‘For all the people’.

Most importantly the shepherds did three things. ‘They said to one another, let us go and see’ – in other words they worked together, by sharing what had just happened they helped each other. ‘They went with haste’ – they didn’t make excuses, didn’t hang back, they went as fast as they could. ‘They made known what had been told them’ – it was such good news it had to be shared!

How many of you have already shared Christmas wishes today? In person? By way of a phone call? Through a text or by social media? So many ways to send Christmas greetings. Who needs a heavenly host of angels when there are e-cards, the ability to skype and see and speak to loved ones far away, Instagram, Messenger, live stream video link and more?

Yet – how disappointed are you when you have great news to share and send out a message, wait eagerly for replies, expect others to respond with exclamations of happiness or a smiley emoji… and your phone remains silent, no ‘ping’ to indicate a notification has arrived, someone has responded – you wonder did the people you sent to get the message?

God knew then by the shepherds’ response that His message had been received. Sometimes – maybe often – 2000 years later when people are more interested in the social and commercial side of Christmas, does God sometimes wonder: are the people hearing the message today?

The angel told the shepherds ‘Do not be afraid. The baby born is the Messiah, the Lord’. They responded, they went, they shared. Their daily routine returned to normal, yet they would be forever changed by the experience. Nor would those with whom they shared the good news of great joy, for ‘all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them!’

God asks us to be like the shepherds: ‘to praise God for all we have seen and heard’. As it has been told to us by others, so we must pass it on and not be put off, not to be afraid if there is not an instant notification.

The Church of England ‘Follow the Star’ initiative this year has encouraged finding out more, deepening faith and sharing. They have used a new version of the famous Carol ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ by Will Todd. That Carol has the line ‘the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight’ – God takes all our hopes and fears and through the birth of Jesus he shares in our joys and sorrows. He is with us celebrating the good times, strengthening and comforting in the difficult days.

May we be ready to go out to share the Good News with the attitude of the shepherds: praising God for all we have seen and heard’.

Amen

‘Do not be alarmed… the end is still to come: This is but the beginning of the birth pangs!’

Preached by Carol Kidd on 18 November 2018: 2nd Sunday before Advent
Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:14,19-25; Mark 13:1-8

May I speak in the name of Jesus who delivers us into new life, Amen.

If you have come to church hoping to hear good news – today’s a good day!

Look again at the gospel reading…

Here is Jesus in resolute ‘tell it as it is’ mode – no parable or miracle, no love your neighbour, no gentle words of protection – instead of instant comfort we hear prophesy of destruction, wars, rumours of wars, natural disasters and by the way that’s only just the start! His sermon continues from verse 9 onwards – it is the last, longest and probably most difficult discourse to his disciples.

So how can Jesus’ tough straight to the point speaking help us when there are so many alarming happenings reported day after day in the news?

At a time when many are facing uncertain futures can we like the psalmist truly have the confidence to declare that our fortune lies in the Lord’s hands?                            

The good news? Jesus said many will try to lead us astray but ‘Do not be alarmed’ at wars and rumours of wars, kingdoms against kingdoms, earthquakes and famines.

But it is not that simple is it? When we hear that Jesus says ‘do not be alarmed’ how does that work whilst threats of war are a reality and a fine line exists between nations respecting nations – when this very week, day after day, we have had before us the devastating effects of the Californian wildfires – the total destruction of the town named Paradise?

And yet – and yet – Jesus’ words can resonate as a positive message of God’s faithfulness, fully reflecting Jesus’ love and care for his disciples then – and us today.

Let me try to explain how I understand it:  

His message is clear: ‘don’t be troubled’… of course if we are concerned and told ‘not to worry’ more often than not we let it bother us a great deal – even scare us – and subsequently it can lead to our fear rubbing off on others.

Jesus says:
‘Do not be alarmed… the end is still to come:
This is but the beginning of the birth pangs!’

For over 35 years I had the privilege of walking alongside countless women and families, as a midwife I was a guest sharing their journeys of pregnancy and birth. An essential part of that role involved helping couples prepare for the ‘big day’ – providing information and choice so that rather than fearing what was to come there would be hopeful anticipation – a ‘looking forward to’ the birth process.

Any apprehension resulting from not knowing exactly how long or how painful the labour might be can be counterbalanced by the positive expectation of meeting and celebrating the new life coming into the world.

The name ‘midwife’ is relational and simply translates as ‘with woman’. Today’s readings very much follow the theme of ‘God with us’ sharing, teaching, warning, advising and reassuring. And he gives us choice – chooses us to be in a relationship with him – tells us clearly what to expect if we invite him as a guest into our lives.

Jesus had been teaching and healing in the courtyard of the Gentiles within the Temple compound. Herod’s Temple – immense in size and grandeur, majestic, visible for miles, clad with gold that reflected the sun’s rays. One of the disciples admired and drew attention to the stones of the incredible building – Jesus predicted its destruction and history tells us that within 40 years of Jesus’ death the Temple was trashed and burned by the Roman Army.

For the Jewish people the Temple represented the place where God dwelt separated from the ordinary people by the sanctuary curtain and only accessible to the High Priest. The time was fast approaching when Jesus would make the ultimate sacrifice and the curtain of the Temple would be torn in two. Mark records an eye witness account of Jesus privately meeting with Peter, James, John and Andrew: he gave them a warning – no not to frighten them but to prepare them for their future.

In labour early signs precede the active phase when the contractions are strong and there is hope that the labour will become established and lead to a birth. Applying this analogy can help us understand Jesus’ warning to the disciples then – and to us today: ‘Do not be alarmed’. There have always been and will be even more disasters resulting from forces of nature and tragedies of war caused by human error, greed and sin yet we can be assured that God’s kingdom will be established and the suffering and pain will end.

Jesus’ message for the disciples can strengthen us. When we see all the traumas of the world and cry out to be led safely through life’s difficulties, he will hear our worries and guide us in the way that leads to new birth as children of God. From personal times of trial and darkness, illness and loss, to world events of devastating proportions, it is when we are in a trusting relationship with Jesus that he will guide us, empower us, present us with choices and deliver us from pain and anguish and transform our lives.  God has promised to be faithful and asks us to hold fast to the hope we place in him as an encouragement to others.

‘Do not be alarmed… the end is still to come:
This is but the beginning of the birth pangs!’

The birth pangs should not frighten for they herald the incoming of God’s kingdom. When a labour reaches its fullness the baby is born – the new arrival is announced! With any new birth comes a sense that yes life will be changed with new journeys, new challenges ahead – so we are blessed with the offer of sharing in a loving relationship with Jesus confident in the new and living way he has opened up for us.

Even when warned by Jesus of turbulent times yet to come we can find assurance in his message and the words of today’s post Communion prayer summarize our desire:

‘Gracious Lord…..bring us at the last to that fullness of life for which we long.’ Amen