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Order of Service - 10 May 2020 Audio

Following guidance by the Diocese, live-streaming from the Church is at the moment not allowed. Prayers, readings and reflections (audio file included) are available below:

The Fifth Sunday of Easter 10 May

The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Today's Sermon is available as an audio recording here. Press play to start.

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Easter V 10th May 2020

"Lord enthroned in heavenly splendour,

First begotten from the dead,

Thou alone, our strong defender,

Liftest up thy people's head.

Alleluya,

Jesu, true and living bread."

 

Collect

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant that that, as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect; through Jesus Christ our risen Lord.

 

Readings

Acts 7:55-60, 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14.

 

Prayers

When our hearts are troubled, bless us with faith to offer strength and assurance in our homes and in our work.

We pray for the sick and those who bravely sacrifice themselves to care for them. We pray especially for Charlie Chesser, Otto Lein and Bill Scott.

We pray that we may so follow Christ in this world that we shall be gathered into our Father's house.

 

The Living Stone

This is another Sunday when we are not able to meet in the parish church where our celebration is centred on the Mass, the Holy Eucharist; the sacrament which most completely and perfectly expresses our identity as human beings, as children of God. By the celebration of the Eucharist we assert the divine nature of our humanity and our participation in the divine and risen life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We also assert our common purpose and our unity as the Body of Christ, the Church. “It was [Christ’s] will that his gifts should remain among us; it was his will that the souls which he had redeemed by his Precious Blood should continue to be sacrificed by sharing the pattern of his Passion. For this reason he appointed his faithful disciples the first priests of his Church and enjoined them never to cease to perform the mysteries of eternal life. These mysteries must be celebrated by every priest in every church in the world until Christ comes again from heaven, so that we … may have the example of Christ’s Passion daily before our eyes, hold it in our hearts, and even receive it in our mouths and in our hands and so keep undimmed the memory of our redemption.”[1]

We express in the clearest terms that the Church is not an impersonal institution which exists in some de-humanised vacuum, but that rather it is made up of living stones, made up of flesh and blood humanity. God became man; God took flesh in his Beloved Son. The Incarnation is the point of contact where the divine became fully human and human kind was caught up in the divine. There could be no more eloquent or intimate expression possible that we matter to God in our individual humanity, in ourselves as human persons. People matter to God not as it is for some political systems or pseudo- socio-economic philosophies as units for production and exchange, not as an undifferentiated, lumpen proletariat whose only reality is economic, but individuals matter to God because they are created in his image; they are part of the divine economy of his love.

Our existence and purpose is to live out the reality of Christ’s words in the Gospel, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”[2] It is by looking to Christ in faith that the promise of those words will be fulfilled within us, that the promise of redemption will be accomplished. By loving Christ with the same love that he loves us we may express our complete humanity and come to our eternal reward,[3] because it is in Jesus Christ, in his suffering, Passion, Death and Resurrection that the whole of God’s truth has been made known. When the Word was made flesh at the Incarnation Christ came “full of grace and truth”[4] as the “light of the world”[5] so that we would no longer be in darkness but should know the truth, “the truth [that] will make you free.”[6]

The Passion and Resurrection of Jesus which is celebrated in the Mass is a unitary act of salvation and redemption. In the Passion and Resurrection, and in their calling to mind and their re-presentation in the Mass, we experience the disclosure of divine love. For our good and for our sanity, we need constantly to recall this overpowering and overwhelming fact. Living in the light of that fact, living in the light of the Resurrection as the revelation of the love of God means the transformation of our ordinary view of life. Yet, while we know that to be true, incontestably true, most of us are from time to time, in certain moods and in certain trying situations, and certainly in the horrors of the present times, are liable to be overwhelmed not, as we should be, by the power of God’s love revealed in Christ, but by the apparent meaningless futility of our existence, the dangers. When we think of the individual tragedies which have visited the lives of so many individuals over the past months as the pandemic raged and destroyed, lives lost, families torn apart and derelict, livelihoods lost, it is difficult to comprehend a God of justice or that a God of love and compassion presides over the destiny of man.

But we have also witnessed acts of selfless sacrifice, of love and care, of generosity of spirit, of giving above and beyond the call of mere duty. The redemptive action of God in Christ Jesus is before us. The power of the cross and the powerful witness of Christ’s resurrection from the dead overcomes and re-orders man’s disposition and means that the chaotic and capricious cruelty which disfigures our lives does not have to be, does not have to ensnare us. We do not have to be enslaved to our baser instincts. The redemptive activity of Christ is evident in the liturgy of the Mass for there the substance of ordinary, basic, simple, unostentatious things is transformed beyond themselves into that which Christ, through his priest, says them to be, “This is my Body … This is my Blood.” It is not mere symbolism: it is the inescapable reality of sacramental transformation. Love changes you. The love offered then on the Cross and offered on the altar changes you.

That sense of Christ’s redemptive action on the Cross and in the Mass struck me with particular force last week during continued isolation, as I was listening to the final moments of a performance of Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. The prophecy in the first opera of the Ring cycle, Das Rheingold, that a day of darkness would engulf the gods has come true in Brünhilde’s Immolation and the destruction of Valhalla: all ends in catastrophe. In these final pages of the cycle Wagner returns to leitmotifs that have run through the four operas, and they are woven into a symphonic synthesis that is both musically and dramatically satisfying but which is emotionally bleak. Wagner’s “petrified vision … does not redeem … in the final moments of the Ring; [we are left with] a strange riddle”[7] rather than a resolution that offers something beyond itself. There may well be a musical and dramatic resolution but that is not the same as redemption. For that listen to the last pages of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, “The Resurrection.” There is glory; there is transcendence. The immolation of Christ on the Cross does not end in darkness and destruction, in a landscape of ruins, betrayal and shattered illusions. The resurrection of Christ is an affirmation of life. It means that human life cannot end in a barren landscape of despair, or in confusion and chaos: it has to move along the way of Christ inevitably towards light, towards life, towards truth, and towards love. God in Christ Jesus does not lie in the roofless ruins of the eternal Jerusalem. He is risen. Our God lives, our God reigns.


[1] S. Gaudentius of Brescia

[2] John 14: 5

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church London, Geoffrey Chapman [1994] §1698

[4] John 1: 14

[5] John 8: 12

[6] John 8: 32

[7] John Deathridge, The Riddle of the End ENO programme 2004-2005 Season.