The Bread of Love

The Old Testament reading for Morning Prayer today was about God providing manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. We are also going to be thinking about the road to Emmaus on Sunday. These two pieces of scripture originally sparked me to write this, but I’ve put some photographs round it now…a bit of a sneak preview of something I will be thinking about more on Sunday. What are we doing when we break bread together?

A blessed Holy Saturday in lockdown…

Whispers of the hope of Easter

It has struck me over the Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) that our emotions in this current state of lockdown are perhaps heightened to something more like that of the disciples as they watched Jesus, and all of their hopes, crucified all of those years ago. So often, in the midst of modern life, it is so difficult to even begin to grasp at that despair, that fear, yet this year…the fear feels close, the despair of the unknown feels close. As we learn from the story of Jesus, their was indeed light and hope ahead. That light and hope did not explode on the first Easter Day with the disciples saying to one another, ‘See, I knew it would be alright!’ Rather, it was Mary Magdalen and Mary who first discovered the empty tomb, and the reasons for that. They went to the disciples to tell them, but telling them wasn’t enough, they had to see for themselves. They did not believe these rumours straight away – why should they, it seems so unbelievable?! Gradually these rumours spread, as more people met the risen Christ, the whispers of Easter became jubilant exclamations! The time for that will come, and where it is sometime after Easter, it perhaps gives us greater insight into that first despair.

Join us tonight at Up All Night as we tell the story of our history!

Holy Week Compline

All you will need is a comfortable spot and a little over 15 minutes. Feel free to bring a cup of tea and just let the words wash over you, or join in with the words on the screen.

“Before the ending of the day, Creator of the world we pray…”

Holy Week Compline

All you will need is a comfortable spot and a little over 15 minutes. Feel free to bring a cup of tea and just let the words wash over you, or join in with the words on the screen.

“Before the ending of the day, Creator of the world we pray…”

Holy Week Compline

All you will need is a comfortable spot and a little over 15 minutes. Feel free to bring a cup of tea and just let the words wash over you, or join in with the words on the screen.

“Before the ending of the day, Creator of the world we pray…”

Sunday’s Homily

Hold on to the Hope of Christ

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John

Glory to you O Lord

Gospel reading John 11:1-45

This is the Gospel of the Lord

Praise to you O Christ

Homily

The Rev’d Morna Simpson

A final prayer and blessing:

God of compassion, you call us out of the bindings of death on this, our resurrection day: make us ready to surrender the fear in which we hide to step into your future alive and unashamed; through Jesus Christ, the life of the world. Amen.

Steven Shakespeare, Prayers for an Inclusive Church: Year A Collects, Lent 5

Further information which may be of interest…

The Guardian: A letter from the UK to Italy

Lemn Sissay: Some things I like

Detention

As a former teacher the word detention was unfortunately part of my regular vocabulary whilst working in schools. Something perhaps less well known, thought about or understood though, was that detention was issued often not to punish, but rather with the intention of getting to know a student who was causing some sort of trouble. Troublesome behaviour often turned out to be a cry for attention, for someone to talk to about something which had been playing on their mind, or for affirmation and encouragement. These detentions then were often a new beginning, a starting point to a different way of being…even though at first sight they seemed negative, the result was actually positive.

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During my time in Tokyo I visited a detention centre where the word detention seemed to have all the negative connotations and stereotypes that our minds would first jump to. Whilst in the waiting room I met a man who had settled in Japan many years ago as a foreign national. The waiting room was a funny sort of place, one of those places which helps you to forget where you are or why you are there, with a collection of toys in the corner, a television on the wall and quite a bit of coming and going. There was a strange sense of community around shared experience which encouraged conversation between perfect strangers. As conversation was initiated with this man, he was different to the others I had encountered in the waiting room. He did not want to talk, he did not want to admit any association with anything to do with the detention centre. His words still stick in my mind. He was keen for everyone to know that he was here with a friend who was visiting, nothing to do with him; “I came here years ago, but not like this. These people are something else….” 

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For those who were being detained who I met, the story was rather different. Most who allowed me the privilege of hearing their story had been forced to leave their homes because their lives were in danger, real danger – returning home would result in death, and not because they had committed a crime which was punishable by death. The reasons for these threats to life were based on matters which we, in the UK and the West more widely, take for granted: some may have chosen to follow a different faith to the majority; others to align themselves to an alternative political path than the ruling regime; others still because their birth has brought them into a tribe or group which is hunted. Those I spoke to were desperate to go back to their homes, yet they also wanted that to be a safe place. They did not want to live in Japan, and benefit from all that that society offers, they just wanted to be safe. Safe. It is a small word with huge meaning, with feeling which cannot always be evidenced or explained. Safe. The journey towards which has led to vulnerability and further feelings of fear following any number of years in the detention centre which I visited – most over three or four, some as long as eight years.

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Other stories I had the privilege of hearing were about people who had settled in Japan. They had spouses and children, they had lived there for a number of years, and now were detained, for reasons which they could not understand. For those of us on the outside, it is easy to draw conclusions, to claim that there must have been good reason for their arrest and subsequent detention. It can be easier to convince ourselves of that, especially in the face of the deep uncertainty of no apparent reason. The harsh reality seems to be different from good reason though. Neither is it something that is only happening in Japan, far away from our homes, and where we can have any influence. @DetentionAction are working so hard to tell similar stories of people in the UK who have been detained indefinitely, whom the Home Office have detained after years of them working and paying tax in this country.

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This Christmas I found myself thinking about the stories I have heard, both at home and abroad, and the real people behind them. As I witnessed the nativity story being acted out and retold in any number of ways by school children, at crib services, and carol services, I noticed how little has changed since these times. Mary and Joseph, as well as Jesus when he arrived on the scene, were refugees far away from home, strangers in a foreign land. To add further complication, once Herod had heard of the little baby born King of the Jews he ordered that all baby boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity be killed – Mary and Joseph were then fleeing for the life of this little baby. There was such hostility towards them in these stories as people of difference, people who posed a threat, and sadly that hostility still seems present in our world today, in the stories of those who are still fleeing for safety.

My prayer, as we approach Epiphanytide, is for greater understanding of the stranger, for ears that wish to hear, eyes which are willing to see, and hearts which are burdened with a deep sense of compassion for real people behind real stories, which we may prefer to ignore, yet have a duty to hear….

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemöller, 1892-1984

20+C+M+B+18

Over Epiphanytide there is a custom to bless the home with a prayer and chalking in the year and initials of the wise men who journeyed over a long distance to meet the Christ-child. This custom is about welcoming the Christ-child and the unknown visitor into your home.

Using the blessed chalk (I still have some if anyone local needs it), mark the lintel of your front door (or front porch step) as follows:

20 + C + M + B + 18 while saying:

The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and eighteen years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.

Then offer the following prayer:

Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live or visit here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.