The Sunday Eucharist readings, prayers and reflections are available below.
SUNDAY 15 NOVEMBER
Today's sermon is available as an audio recording here. Press play to start.
King of glory, King of peace,
I will love thee;
And that love may never cease,
I will move thee,
Thou hast granted my request,
Thou hast heard me;
Thou didst note my working breast,
Thou hast spared me.
Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing thee,
And the cream of all my heart
I wil bring thee.
Though my sins against me cried,
Thou didst clear me;
And alone, when they replied
Thou didst hear me.
Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee;
In my heart, though not in heaven,
I will raise thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
To enrol thee:
E'en eternity's too short
To extol thee.
Almighty Father; whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of all; govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, and bring the families of the nations, divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin, to be subject to his just and gentle rule; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Matthew 25:1-13.
Grant to the Church knowledge of God's will and the grace to perform it.
May those with power use it to help the weak and draw all together for the common good.
We pray for those who suffer, for the poor and hungry, for the sick and homeless and for those who have no one to care for them. we pray especially for the sick, for Mary Maxwell and Paul Evans.
May the dead, ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven, be welcomed into God's Kingdom.
It’s interesting how when we hear or read the scriptures, passages will suddenly leap out at us as though they were written exactly for our present situation. That’s always been the experience of Christians. So we shouldn’t be surprised, when reading St Paul’s First letter to the Christian community in Thessalonica, if we feel stopped in our tracks by this – “When they say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them.” That sounds as though it could have been written for a time of Pandemic and lockdown.
There’s no question that the worldwide misery caused by Covid-19 has shaken many people’s picture of daily life; and the unnerving thing is the rapidity with which this has happened. The routines, and the family units, and the securities, and the plans for the future which we took for granted have crumbled in front of us. Small wonder that so many feel disorientated, uncertain and frightened.
It’s no exaggeration to say that, perhaps for the first time in their lives, people have begun to question the foundations on which our Western world rests. When so much is suddenly unpredictable, and what we took to be “normal” looks as though it might never return in the way we knew it, then the cultural pressure to chase power and possessions and success begins to look unconvincing. “When they say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them.”
But although those words fit the bill right now, St Paul didn’t mean them in that way. Certainly, the world he lived in knew all about wars, plagues, social unrest and everything else which destabilises societies, so his words do have a resonance with us; but he was looking to a bigger picture, namely, the return of the Risen Lord Jesus in glory, an event which would bring to an end the world order we know. This was a common idea with the earliest Christians.
Of course, they soon realized that the Second Coming of Christ was unlikely to be imminent, and that we Christians have to live out our faith here and now. But the notion of Our Lord’s Second Coming has not vanished from Christian minds - it’s there in the Creeds, after all - so it might help us to notice two things about it.
The first is that over the centuries the Church has consistently warned us against speculating about when that Second Coming will be and what it will be like. Those things are known to God alone, and we’re meant to leave the details with God.
The other point is a reminder that though this world is God’s creation, it’s not meant to be all we need. In some way it will have an end, a truth which Christian thought accepted long before the cosmologists suggested it. But while we have this world, we must care for it as a great gift. Our Gospel reading today tells us that it matters what use we make of the riches entrusted to us by God. Also, we must honour this world as the place where God comes among us in Our Lord Jesus Christ.
But if the Second Coming of Christ is not meant to preoccupy us, beyond the belief that it will happen, it should prompt a question. Where and how does Our Lord Jesus Christ come to us now?
Our Lord comes to us supremely in the Eucharist, when we receive His living presence under the forms of bread and wine. (Incidentally, it’s worth pointing out at this time that Christ is fully present in both those elements, and gives Himself fully to us even if we can receive only one of them, as is the case at the moment.) Making our communion means what it says, making ourselves available to be in living communion with Our Lord, bodily as well as spiritually. For this reason, forbidding Christians to receive Christ in communion, which is what has happened in lockdown, is a grievous loss to us. And what is true of the Eucharist is true of all the sacraments; they bring us into relationship with Our Lord.
However, there are less obvious ways in which Christ can approach us, ways which are appropriate to each person. To some it will be in music, to others it will be through nature, through family and friends, or whatever. It may not be clear immediately that it is the Lord who is reaching out to us – that realization may come much later. Only then will we see that all along God in Christ has been at work in us and around us.
All this reminds us that even in such bleak and uncertain times as these, God is with us. Indeed, we can go further and say that we can never escape the presence of God, though we can choose to shut our eyes and hearts and minds to Him. But why deprive ourselves of the unfailing source of strength and support which is constantly offered to us?
If the Pandemic can remind us that we are not self-sufficient, and that even the most treasured of earthly possessions are to be received with thanksgiving but also, in the end, to be surrendered back to God the Giver – if these truths can be reborn in us, then this sad time will not be without purpose.