Sixth Sunday of Easter: 17th May 2020

COLLECT FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

God our redeemer,

you have delivered us from the power of darkness

and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:

grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,

so by his continual presence in us he may raise us

to eternal joy;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen

 

GOSPEL – John 14:15-21

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

 

 

REFLECTION – written by Gill Persicke

How do you tell truth from untruth in a world as complex as ours? That’s always a tricky one, of course – but I’ve noticed something striking about this pandemic of ours – in certain respects, it appears to be revelatory, revealing truths to us, both good and bad. Let me give you three examples.

A few weeks back, people were saying that coronavirus is “indiscriminate” - anyone can succumb (and OK, that’s a useful message, if it helps people understand that absolutely nobody is invincible). But the tragic truth is actually rather different: this pandemic does discriminate, depending on how privileged you are. If you’re a manual worker who can’t work from home, or someone suffering from poverty-induced stress and ill-health, or a member of an ethnic minority, or living in a refugee camp, you’re far more likely to suffer badly during this pandemic. The truth is this: “coronavirus plus under-privilege” is a lethal combination. Right now, the scandalous inequalities in our world are being laid starkly bare for what they really are – death-dealing. That’s a pretty uncomfortable truth for many of us to contemplate.

But here’s another truth, a much lovelier one, and it has to do with that birdsong. Has it actually got louder? Of course not – it’s humanity which has suddenly got a whole lot quieter. And so, millions of people who, until fairly recently, were too busy or distracted to notice, well, anything much at all, have started noticing the birds – and the sky and the trees and the whole of God’s creation. And a simple, unexpected truth has dawned on these people: that nature is replete with power and beauty – and, if we attend to it, it is also a balm to the human soul. For some people, the very fact that they have a soul at all may be an unlooked-for revelation.

Which brings me to other personal truths we may be noticing nowadays. I heard a stand-up comedian on the radio a few weeks back (broadcasting from her own kitchen, no doubt) – and she was saying that she’d always felt she had a novel in her, she’d just never had the time actually to make a start on it. But lockdown had revealed the chastening truth to her: that what she was lacking wasn’t in fact time at all, but two other things: a. talent, and b. self-discipline. I wonder what truths have been revealed to you over the last few weeks – truths about the way you normally spend your time, and about what really matters to you; truths about your relationships or your faith, your strengths or your frailties. Yes, there’s a lot of truth being revealed to us at present – and lockdown means that it’s hard for us to run away from it – for the moment . . .

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus makes to us a great promise – that God will send us, at the right time, a new companion, God’s “spirit of truth”. But, in the current state of our world, the words which follow seem to issue a timely warning: “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive”.

The world has, temporarily, entered a “thin” place, a place of sometimes piercing revelation. This was bound to happen, as lockdown deprives us of our usual occupations, as chaos unveils the chasms in our society, and as suffering gives us thinner skins. We are seeing some things more clearly now than we have ever done before. But the Big Question is this: what are we going to do with these truths which have been revealed to us?

And the temptation, of course, is for us not to receive them, to cover them up again as quickly as possible, and get back to our old familiar ways of doing and being. There is something which Christian tradition often calls “the world” (by which we mean unredeemed human nature), and that “world” doesn’t like revelation at all – it cannot bear too much truth, and especially it cannot bear the transformation which truth demands of us.

But now really is a time of opportunity. It’s a time when our revulsion at the death-dealing inequality we see around us can spur us into social transformation. It’s a time when, because more people have become sensitised to nature, we can be spurred into environmental action. And it’s a time when whatever we have learned about our own lives can spur us on to reform our lives: to build better relationships, to re-examine our priorities, and to relate to God more directly and deeply than we’ve ever done before.

But we can’t achieve this alone. The world is entering an immensely difficult stage in the pandemic, because huge decisions need to be made: medical, economic, political, personal decisions, you name it. (God help the decision makers and the administrators – let’s pray for them all). Yes, we must brace ourselves - we’re entering a time of disturbance, of some conflict, in all probability. So how we need the Holy Spirit right now! - that Spirit of truth, which is also, of course, a spirit of empowerment, empowering us to act upon the truths which has been revealed to us.

Pentecost is coming soon, just a couple of weeks now. Pentecost is never, of course, merely a Christian thing, a sending-down of the Spirit on just the churches alone – but this year, I’m going to be praying with a passion that God sends her Spirit of truth and empowerment on the whole of Planet Earth. Can you see God holding our beautiful, frail, confused planet in the palms of her hands, visiting it afresh with truth and power, with healing and renewal? We may find it hard to be hopeful right now, but let’s try to envisage that, believe it possible, pray for it . . . expect it!

Amen

 

Intercessions, written by Richard Wilson

Let us pray for the Church and the World, and let us thank God for his goodness.

We thank you for the blessings that we share – for the loveliness of spring, for the neighbours, friends and family we may be in touch with. We thank you for the kind word and generous act; the excellence of others that thrills and brings joy to us; the help and comfort that comes when it is most needed. Help us to remember and pray for those who are struggling at this time. We pray that you are with all people who are worried about the future and what it might hold for them. We pray for the disadvantaged and dispossessed who know only a plastic sheet for their home, or a few handfuls of rice with which to feed a family. Give us the resolve never to accept unjust and inhuman behaviour to others, and to be beacons of your commandment to love one another throughout this world.

Lord in your mercy,

hear our prayer

Heavenly Father, you promised to hear us when we pray in faith. In our troubled world, help us to see beyond the self-doubt and questioning, so that your truth may shine through. When all seems beyond our understanding, help us to look to others who were an inspiration and testimony to faith when their circumstances were being tried to the very limit.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer

Strengthen and guide our Bishops and the ministry team at St Peter Mancroft – Edward, Fiona, Lorna, Graham and Gill – and all the good and caring people who work in your name. Guide our Church leaders through the difficult decisions they have to make. In your wisdom, help them not to lose sight of your own Son’s shining and profound example whilst He was living during a time of conflict and difficulty.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Bless and guide Elizabeth our Queen: give wisdom to all in authority; and guide this and every nation in the way of justice and peace; that all may honour one another and seek the common good. Help and comfort all our leaders who have to wrestle with impossibly difficult choices, and touch them with your compassion and counsel so that their decisions will have a fair and just outcome for those affected.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Bless our families and friends, and all those we love. Help us to be charitable and open-minded. Temper our criticism and unnecessarily sharp words when we know it doesn’t help. Help us to be tolerant of all we come into contact with, and always to live out your great commandment of loving our neighbour as we love ourselves.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Comfort all those who suffer in body, mind or spirit, and particularly in our own community at this time, we pray for Pam, Simon, Janet, Angela, Martin, Val and Nina

For a moment, we quietly remember in our hearts those known only to you and ourselves.

Comfort all worn down and demoralized by suffering and poor health; those dealing with difficult news; those frightened and worried by what tomorrow might bring. We pray for the lonely and forgotten whose anguish is hidden from us, and whose courage we will never know. We keep in our prayers all key workers who continue to work in these troubling times. We ask that all your people will trust to seek out your hand to lighten their darker moments.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

We remember those who have recently passed away, and particularly we pray for Andy Pott

At their year’s mind, we remember Margaret Chase, Eric Reynolds, Kat Segger, Vivienne Johnson, Richard Johnson, Jean Hanton, Mary Hawker, Kathleen Sword and Edith Anderson

We thank you for the way they graced us with their presence, and so added to the joy of our own lives. According to your promises, grant us with them a share in your eternal Kingdom.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Dear Lord, as we set out at the beginning of a new week with all that it has in store for us, grant us the grace, humility and resolve to follow in your ways of love and understanding. And now, in the fellowship of St Peter and all your saints, we commend ourselves and the whole of humanity to your unfailing love.

Merciful Father,

accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.