The Fifth Sunday of Easter:  10th May 2020
Christian Aid Week

 

Opening Prayer

God of all the Earth,
be present with us now,
in each of our homes,
as we connect together.
Build us into a spiritual house,
a holy priesthood,
offering spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to you
through Jesus Christ,
our risen redeemer and healer.
Amen.

 

Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Risen Christ,
your wounds declare your love for the world
and the wonder of your risen life:
give us compassion and courage
to risk ourselves for those we serve,
to the glory of God the Father. 
Amen.

 

Gospel Reading:  John 14:1-14

Jesus said to his friends, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

 

 

Sermon  Revd Dr Fiona Haworth

John 14:1-14:  Christian Aid Week

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.’ Our gospel opens with the words of Jesus that we need to hear right now.  They come from the evening that Jesus spent with his friends on the night of his betrayal and death.  Jesus has washed the disciple’s feet, and then Judas leaves the gathering to go to the High Priest and set in motion the handing over of Jesus. It was the time of the Passover, the Jewish feast of liberation.  Jerusalem would be in a state of heightened anticipation and watchfulness, the occupying forces present in numbers to keep a dangerous peace.  No doubt those gathered in that upper room mirrored the anxieties and fears of wider society. 

It is to these frightened people that Jesus speaks words of reassurance that are deeply loved in the life of the church.  ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’  Most of us will be familiar with these words from their use in funeral services.  They are deeply comforting in the face of death, promising life to come in God’s eternal presence. 

Yet we often forget that they were spoken to reassure people who had a lot of living still to do.  They are an invitation to life in the face of death, abundant, joy filled, lifegiving life.  The life God longs for, for all his children, all around the world.  As Christian Aid reminds us, ‘We believe in life before death.’ 

 Jesus begins with an invitation to believe in God and believe also in him.  This translation loses something of the intimacy of the words.  Trust in God, trust also in me is the sense conveyed.  This is about relationships not creeds or dogmas.  Then Jesus speaks about preparing a place for us to dwell which may have new resonance now, confined as we are to our homes, our dwelling places.  Dwelling has a sense of waiting or staying in one place as we are right now, though not by choice. 

For many of us this means learning new ways of engaging with our families, friends and faith communities.  We are discovering how to be connected even when we are constrained and prevented from being physically present to each other.  And as we learn about these new ways of being connected it is important that we don’t lose sight of those we are also connected with through our shared humanity, people around the world facing the pandemic, and in East Africa, reeling from a plague of locusts and recent torrential rains that all affect the ability of governments and healthcare systems to protect and care for their people.

As the disciples discovered, the promise of dwelling with God is not just a future promise, but a present reality.  The Father is already present in the life and ministry of Jesus.  ‘Trust me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.’  And this promise of dwelling in the Father is made to all who trust in Jesus.  We can dwell with God now, know the reality of God with us, through the promises of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit. 

And just as God dwells with us, God also dwells with all those who have placed their trust in Jesus around the world.  There are many dwelling places in the house of God.  There are many ways of worshipping, many languages in which praise is offered.  There is room for all in the expansive love of God.  Too often we see the words of Jesus, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life as a way of sifting out and narrowing down the boundaries of grace.  In fact, these words, like the other ‘I am’ sayings in John, are words of grace, love and abundant life, and a call to us to model that abundant, lifegiving love. 

And so, as we stand at the beginning of Christian Aid week, we remember that we are part of a worldwide family of those made in God’s image.  We may, like Thomas and Phillip be uncertain or afraid, we may not yet have it in us to look to a future life of abundance and promise, but the promises of Jesus hold true however we feel.  We may need to express our doubts and fears, our anguish at the prayers that have apparently not been answered.  God holds all this, and invites our honesty, just as Jesus invited the honesty of Thomas and Phillip.  And we too will need to face up to the hard questions posed by this pandemic, and by the climate emergency that is already causing devastation in so many lives.  We too, in time, will need to find the courage to face our fears and address them, as Jesus gave Thomas the opportunity to do so after God raised Jesus from death. 

The promises of God are made to all people in all ages.  God has already given us a dwelling place of beauty and abundance, and we have despoiled it.  The impact of human greed, carelessness, and drive for profit has left our planet vulnerable to climate change and to the ravages of disease.  The pandemic has shone a light on the weaknesses of our economic systems that leave so many struggling to simply live.  In this Christian Aid week, we are invited to stand in solidarity with the poor and the dispossessed of the world, to work with them to ensure that all can flourish and live abundantly. 

These words of Jesus are a loving invitation to dwell in God, that with God we may be empowered to work for the life giving, truthful ways of God to be known throughout the world.  Amen. 

 

 

Intercessions, written by Linda Pountain

Let us pray:

As we continue, in this season of Easter, to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and on this, the first Sunday of Christian Aid week, we bring to God the needs of the church and of the world.

Loving God, we pray for the Church throughout the world, united by your love for us and the knowledge that as we face the current global pandemic, we can place our trust in you.   We thank you for being with us at all times and in all places.   We pray for all Christian leaders, for Archbishop Justin, for Bishop Graham and for the leaders of our sister churches.   We pray too for Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, the Chief Executive of Christian Aid.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Loving God, we pray for our church of St Peter Mancroft, for all those we normally worship alongside and whose fellowship we miss.   We thank you for the members of our ministry team and for all that they are doing to reach out and to support us.   Bless all who are isolated: families coping with home schooling; those who are ill; and those facing challenges in their daily work.   Help us to keep in touch, to support each other and to be faithful in prayer and Bible study.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Loving God, we pray for the work of Christian Aid to end injustice which drives so many people around the world to endure extreme poverty.   We pray for all facing the consequences of global warming: drought, flooding, famine and disease and now battling against coronavirus with few healthcare resources.  

In this Christian Aid week, with no opportunity for house to house collections, stir the hearts of each one of us, that we might give generously and enable its work to continue amongst our vulnerable global neighbours.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Loving God, we pray for the leaders of the nations, especially the leaders of our own nation as they steer us through our current crisis.   Grant them wisdom in the difficult decisions they have to make.    We pray that the global pandemic will bring nations closer together, with a greater reverence for our planet, an increase in concern for one another and a fairer distribution of the world’s resources.

On this weekend, as we remember the ending of the war in Europe, we thank you for those who sacrificed their lives and gained for us the peace that we continue to enjoy.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Loving God, we pray for all in any kind of need, trouble, sorrow or sickness:  for those suffering from Coronavirus; for those who are ill and having to cope with delayed operations and treatments; for those suffering from mental health issues; for anxious relatives and all medical staff working selflessly to help in this time of crisis.   From our own community we pray for Pam, Simon, Janet, Angela, Martin and Val.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Loving God, Jesus taught us that in your house there are many dwelling places and that there is a place prepared for each of us.   We pray for all those who have died recently, amongst them Brian Noble, Andy Pott and Anita Robinson.   And we pray for those who have died from Coronavirus and other causes, who have left this life lonely and afraid.   We pray too for all ministers, funeral directors and hospital chaplains as they minister in the most difficult of times.

And finally, on the anniversary of their deaths we remember with love, Kathleen Martin, William Fribbens, Philip Mansfield, Florence Bolton and John King.

Loving God, you call us to be the agents of your love in the world.   Help us as we pray to listen to you, lest we, in some small way, are called to be an answer to those prayers.   This we ask in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.   

Amen

 

The Blessing

May the presence of the Creator refresh you,
may the comfort of the Son renew you,
may the inspiration of the Spirit restore you
to be love in action, even from a distance,
in our neighbourhoods, near and far, this day and for evermore;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.