Material for Worship on the Second Sunday of Easter

In today’s reading from St John’s Gospel, writes the Venerable Peter M Potter, we are still at the first Easter Day, but it is now evening and the scene has shifted to the upper room where the disciples have taken refuge.

When it comes to matters of faith and doubt, C. S. Lewis advocated embracing the most plausible hypothesis currently available to us. Importantly, this means we do not have to look for absolute certainty. Religious commitment is essentially about faith, which, in its turn, is a matter of trust in the plausibility of its claims.

Hymn: Now the Green Blade Riseth, CP153. As you follow the words, listen to the tune played by David .

Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid Him, Love who had been slain,
Thinking that He never would awake again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

Forth He came at Easter, like the risen grain,
Jesus who for three days in the grave had lain;
Quick from the dead the risen One is seen:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Jesus’ touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

A prayer of confession
In baptism we died with Christ,
so that as Christ was raised from the dead, we might walk in newness of life.
Let us receive new life in him as we confess our sins in penitence and faith.
Like Mary at the empty tomb,
we fail to grasp the wonder of your presence.
Lord have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Like the disciples behind locked doors
we are afraid to be seen as your followers.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Like Thomas in the upper room
we are slow to believe.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Collect

Almighty God, in your great goodness, grant that we, as pilgrims through the Easter mysteries, may hold them fast in our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

Readings
Acts 4.32-35 (read by Margaret)

John 20.19-31 (read by Les)

Reflection

There’s not much I can do about it now, I suppose. Not after all these years. But, you know, it really isn’t right. I mean, every time my name is mentioned – Thomas. Oh yes, people say – Doubting Thomas.
Why me? The other disciples didn’t get it at first, did they? When the women came back from the tomb in the garden, they didn’t believe what they’d told them. But nobody says Doubting Peter or Doubting Andrew, do they? Why not? It doesn’t seem fair. The name has stuck. Even in India – you know I travelled to India in those early days, preaching the Gospel? The name travelled with me and they even called their Church after me: The Mar Thoma Church.

Doubting Thomas… I mean, what would you have done? You saw him die on the cross, didn’t you? But then, in the upper room … I knew it was him. He said to me, “Put your finger here … reach out and put your hand in my side”. But I didn’t need to. I knew it was not a hallucination or a ghost. It really was him. Alive.
And there was something else. Oh, it was him all right. The one we had walked the length and breadth of the country with, gone fishing with, shared bread and wine with. But there was something else now. When Mary saw him in the garden, she called him “My teacher”. But no, in the upper room there, he was more than that. “My Lord and my God!” That’s what I called him and that’s who he is.
And no, I don’t mean I had turned this man who was our rabbi, our teacher, into a god – the way the Romans do with their dead emperors. He really is God. Now I come to think of it, when he walked and talked with us before he was – you know – crucified; well, it was like God walked and talked with us. Not that we realised it then of course. But that’s how it was. The one with us was the same as the Lord God who walked and talked with the first humans in the Garden of Eden.
So, I don’t know what came over me there, in the upper room. It was like some power had got hold of me and I blurted out the name of God. You know, the name we’re not supposed to say. I had seen God – like Moses; you could have touched him – like Jacob, who wrestled with him. Because that’s who Jesus is. Walking and talking with us in the cool of the evening – ah yes, the Garden of Eden. That’s what he is doing. Recreating and restoring it. Getting it back to how it was between us before it all went wrong. No wonder Mary mistook him for the gardener.
He was doing all this so we could be at one with him – an atonement, if we’re being precise about it. Think of the locks on the door of the upper room that evening. Didn’t stop him, did they? What about the wounds in his hands and feet? “I’ve still got them. You can touch them if you like?” That’s what he said to me. But those wounds didn’t stop him either, did they? Still at one with us.
You know – all this time; for centuries since we lost that easy-going close feeling of being at one with God, we’ve been trying to keep him at arm’s length – been afraid of him as if he were a bad-tempered parent; or we thought we were too big to hold his hand anymore; or we thought we knew better then him. What a shame, what a waste.
How often have you said to yourself – if only we could get it back; if only it could be like it was. When we really could be at one with God – not have that nagging feeling inside us that something’s wrong between us, something’s keeping us apart. But we can. We did. That’s what suddenly hit me there in the upper room. Jesus had been with us on the roads, in the fields. We had eaten and talked together; all natural and completely at one, even if we didn’t always get it. And there he was – my Lord and my God. It was me who said it first – for all to hear. They got the message.
And you call me doubting!

Prayers of Intercession
We pray for a world where many put their trust in force, weapons, oppression….. Open the way to freedom so that the peace of Christ may prevail among nations and in the hearts of all.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
Grant to us, our families, friends and neighbours the grace of the Resurrection. Break through the closed doors of our fear and doubt. … Give us confidence to face the challenges of daily living.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
Grant to the Church the wisdom to know and power to proclaim the good news of the Resurrection. … May her ministers be strong in the Holy Spirit to bring pardon and healing in the name of Jesus.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
Have mercy on all who suffer persecution for their faith, who must meet in secret and cannot worship openly. … Give them strength in their need and the knowledge that they are not alone.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
Remembering that our risen Lord still bore the scars of his suffering, we pray for anyone for whom life is difficult just now. … Be close to them, grant them courage and healing.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
We pray for the departed, especially those who have died recently and our loved ones whom we see no longer. … May they know our risen Lord in the fullness of his glory and may we share with them in his promised blessing.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
We make our prayers together with those of the saints triumphant in heaven, through your Son Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Closing hymn: Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord, CP136. As you follow the words, listen to the tune played by David.

Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord,
Alleluia, alleluia, give praise to His name.
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
He is the King of creation. Refrain.
Spread the good news o’er all the earth.
Jesus has died and has risen. Refrain.
We have been crucified with Christ.
Now we shall live forever. Refrain.
God has proclaimed the just reward:
Life for all men, alleluia! Refrain.
Come, let us praise the living God,
Joyfully sing to our Saviour.
Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord,
Alleluia, alleluia, give praise to His name.

Material for Worship on Easter Day

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Happy Easter to you and your family!

As you light your candle today, what about saying out loud the joyful words of the Gloria:

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.
Amen.

You may also wish to read the words or sing along as David plays the tune to a version of the Easter Proclamation.

Sing, choirs of heaven! Let saints and angels sing!
Around God’s throne exult in harmony!
Now Jesus Christ is risen from the grave!
Salute your King in glorious symphony!

Sing, choirs of earth! Behold, your light has come!
The glory of the Lord shines radiantly!
Lift up your hearts, for Christ has conquered death!
The night is past; the day of life is here!

Sing, Church of God! Exult with joy outpoured!
The gospel trumpets tell of victory won!
Your Savior lives: he’s with you evermore!
Let all God’s people shout the long Amen!

Nerys writes: There’s nothing more frustrating than spending many hours on a jigsaw puzzle only to discover that there is a piece missing – or is there? Can you imagine coming to the end of a good novel, a whodunnit perhaps, to find that the final page is lost? This is what many scholars think has happened to Mark’s Gospel. They believe that its end is missing, that the last leaf was torn off a very, very early copy and that alternative endings, based on the other Gospel accounts, were added by later editors. As you listen to Martin reading Mark 16.1-8, think how being left with this ending makes you feel.

I wonder whether this image from the Jesus Mafa series conveys for you the mood of the scene as depicted by Mark? Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome are bathed in the light that radiates from the angel but their surroundings are dark and bleak. We can understand their amazement. The had come to the tomb looking for a dead body but had found a living angel instead. They hold on to their now useless spice jars, their eyes wide as they listen to the heart-stopping news: ‘He has been raised; he is not here.’

What’s not as easy to grasp in Mark’s account is their fear. At a time when all hope had gone, these followers of Jesus are given a promise of new hope. Returning to Galilee means leaving Jerusalem with its terrible memories behind. It means a new beginning in the place where they were first called to discipleship. And surely, the words, ‘He is going ahead of you: you will see him’, would have been a cause for joyful celebration rather than terror. Why would these courageous, determined women who had stayed at the foot of the cross and ventured to the tomb, be rendered fearful and speechless by the angel’s words?

Could it be because in the midst of their grief and despair, they had been brought face to face with the shocking, disturbing reality that all Jesus had claimed was true? God was not dead but very much alive and was now at work in a new way in their lives bringing them to new birth, challenging them to overcome their fear and doubts, calling them to undertake the difficult task of spreading this revolutionary message of hope by returning to a hostile Jerusalem. It is no wonder they were overcome by fear and reduced to silence.

The abrupt ending of the Gospel encourages us to imagine how we would have responded if we were in their shoes. Let’s take a moment to do so now.

I wonder how the blank at the end of Mark’s story was filled in the gatherings of the early church? Would eye-witnesses have been called upon to give their testimony of the risen Christ, like those named by Paul in his letter to new Christians in Corinth? Our second reading today, 1 Corinthians 15.1-11, read by June, reminds us that the foundation the faith of the church is built upon is that message of hope first given to Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome, that God raised the dead Jesus to new life, defeating evil and death once and for all. It was on this message of hope that Peter, Paul and countless others down the centuries founded their ministries. The unexpected way Mark’s book finishes, encourages us to explore the faith that motivated the leaders of the early church, but it also challenges us to think of our own faith. As Easter people, do we take the empty tomb for granted or do we find ourselves, like the women, awestruck at this strange new work of God? You may wish to take a moment to wonder where Christ is now going ahead of you and what part he is calling you to play in his ministry and mission, among your family and friends and in your community.

On this Easter Day, we offer up our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows to God who is alive and at work in our world.

Let us pray,
• for our world and all its people …
• for all in positions of authority and influence …
• for those in need …
• for the who are suffering …
• for the Church which is Christ’s body …
• for ourselves and those we love …
You may wish to finish your time of worship by reading the words or singing along as David plays the tune to the joyful Easter hymn , .’Jesus Christ is risen today’.

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
now above the sky he’s King, Alleluia!
where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Stations Of The Cross

During Lent, members of St Mary’s have worked with Revd Jeanette to produce a prayer resource for Holy Week.

Here is Jeanette with a word of explanation:

Those of you who have been to the Holy Land have probably in the course of you trip walked the Via Dolorosa, following in the steps of Jesus as he made his journey to the cross. There is now historical doubt as to whether that actually was the route Jesus took, but that does not make it any less of a journey in faith with Jesus to the pilgrims who walk it. Nor should it.

The Stations of the Cross we have created, replicate that journey remotely, going even further on in the story and ending with Jesus in the tomb. With Bible readings, reflections and prayers, they help us to understand more deeply the agonies Jesus must have suffered as he willingly gave his life for us.

Stations as we know them today developed over the 15th and 16th centuries, with a varied number of Stations, anything from 7 – 30, but the 14 we now have became the standard. They can be found round the walls of many Churches, and different denominations, Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic, either pictures or plaques with the number of that particular Station. St Luke’s Glenrothes had a set of embroidered ones, which were simple but lovely. Holy Trinity Stirling also have a set around their walls.

The set of images we have used are paintings by Seiger Koder, a German priest-painter who died in February 2015, shortly after his 90th birthday.

Thanks to the following for taking part: Rob Smallman, Alison Diamond, Peter Holmes, Mary Birch (Readings), Alastair Christmas, Jill Wisher, Martin Wisher (Prayers), Jeanette Allan (Reflections), Moira Langston (Song), and a huge thank you to David Jamieson for putting the video together.

Attending a Service at St Mary’s during Spring and Summer 2021 – Some Frequently Asked Questions

Can anyone attend a service at St Mary’s? Yes, subject to seating being available, and you would be made most welcome.

How do I book a place? Please contact Sue at services @ stmarysdunblane.org or by phoning 01786 824004. To ensure that the maximum number of people can attend a service, Sue needs to know each week who wishes to attend. Sue knows this might be a bit of a pain, but can you please contact her by Friday each week if you wish to attend a service/services that weekend; this will enable her to fill as many places as she can and not unnecessarily disappoint others who might otherwise have been able to join us. Places will be filled on a first come first served basis, so please get your booking in early! Please let Sue know also if you are ready to flexible.

What if I just turn up? If there is a spare place, you will be asked to complete a form giving your contact details for NHS Test & Protect. This information will be held by the Rector for 21 days.

When should I arrive? The building will be open 10 minutes before the start of the service. You may need to queue outside for a little. Please make sure that you social distance while you wait.

What happens as I enter the building? A welcomer will greet you outside the door and check your name on the list of attenders. You will need to wear a mask inside the building. You will be asked to sanitise your hands and pick up your service sheet.

Where will I sit? You will be directed to a seat by a second welcomer. The pews furthest from the door will be filled first. Alternate pews will be taped off so that there will be a space of 2 metres behind and in front of you. If you have come on your own you will share a pew with one other person sitting, 2 metres apart. If you have come as part of a larger social bubble you can sit together in a pew. You will be asked to stay seated throughout the service.

What if I need to use the disabled entrance? Just let Sue know and we will make the necessary arrangements. There is a space for a wheelchair towards the front of the church and towards the back.

What about children? Children of all ages are welcome to attend and take part in Sunday services. They will need to sit with the rest of their household. An activity pack will be provided for them, to be collected on your way in. Please indicate the ages of the children when you contact Sue. A Families Service is held in the church hall at 4.30 p.m. on the last Sunday of every month. This service is short and informal with activities and discussion around your family table and music provided by the band. Please contact Liz on events @ stmarysdunblane.org for more information or to book a table.

What will the service be like? The Early Morning Service at 8.30 a.m. is a said Communion Service using traditional language. It provides a calm space for reflection and prayer. The main Sunday service at 10.30 a.m. is a livelier and more interactive communion service with readings and prayers, a short address and hymns played on the organ or by the band. The Night Service at 8 p.m. is a short, reflective, candlelit service using a variety of styles from traditional Compline to Taizé.

What about music? There will be organ music most Sundays at the 10.30 Service and the band will sometimes play. We are not allowed to sing together but we can listen to hymns or songs being played, following the words on the service sheet, and solo singers can contribute to the service. At the Night Service there is usually music, live or recorded.

Will there be a collection? There will be a bowl at the back of church for you to leave an offering if you wish but we would prefer you to donate by BACS or by standing order or direct debit, if possible. For details, please contact Alastair at treasurer @ stmarysdunblane.org

Will the service be filmed? The main service will be livestreamed so that those who can’t attend can watch it at home. It is broadcast on Facebook Live, which can be easily accessed via our Facebook page and will hopefully appear on your ‘home’ screen if you follow St Mary’s on Facebook. A video recording will appear on the St Mary’s website, www.stmarysdunblane.org, soon after the service. Only those taking part will be filmed. The camera is switched off during the distribution of communion.

What about communion? Every baptized Christian is welcome to receive communion at St Mary’s and anyone can come forward for an individual blessing. Each person, couple or family group will come to the altar individually, wearing a mask, having sanitised their hands. They reach out their hands to receive the bread, take a step to the side to consume having partially lifted their face mask, and then return to their seat. Then the next person, couple or family group will come up. The presiding priest will wear a mask while distributing communion and will avoid touching communicants’ hands. An arrangement can be made for the Stewards to place anyone who is unable to come to the altar at the aisle end of a pew. The priest will take communion to them wearing a mask.

What happens at the end of the service? Please stay in your seats until you are invited to leave by a welcomer. The pews nearest the main door will be emptied first. Please take your service sheet with you. Once you’re out of the building, please don’t cluster around the main doors of the church. Sadly, we are unable to provide refreshments at this stage.
What if I need to go to the toilet? The toilet in the church (through the door to the Vestry which is clearly marked) will be available. Please lower the cover before you flush. It will be cleaned straight after the service.

What if I need to speak to a priest? Whoever is leading the service will be around outside at the end of the service, weather permitting. You are always welcome to phone the Rectory on 824225 or send Nerys an email on rector@stmarysdunblane.org to make an arrangement to see her another time.

How is the church prepared for services? After each service, the occupied pews are wiped and all surfaces which may have been touched are disinfected. In addition, Carol, the church cleaner, gives the church building a thorough clean every Wednesday afternoon.

What provision is there for those who can’t attend services? In addition to the recording of the main service, every Saturday, Material for Worship is sent to those on the congregational email list and distributed to those not online. It contains audio recordings of the readings for the day by members of the congregation, and a reflection and a prayer by a member of the Ministry Team. If you wish to receive this regularly, please contact Nerys.

Can I come into the church building at any other time? As we are not allowed to have the church open without supervision, the building is closed at the moment. If there was a desire to have the church open for a few hours a week for private prayer, this could be arranged. Please contact Nerys if you would find this helpful. The porch of the church is open during daylight hours and contains a prayer board and materials to take away. There will also be prayer activities in the grounds during the Spring and Summer including opportunities to walk the labyrinth on the Rectory lawn.

What about weddings and baptisms? Yes, they are possible with limited numbers and safety measures in place. Speak with Nerys if you would like to know more.

Materials for Worship on Good Friday

O Lord, look with mercy on this your family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, given up into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

First reading: Isaiah 52.13-53.3, 11 read by Ruth

Sing along or read the words as David plays the tune of ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’

When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts

The Gospel of the Passion: Mark 14.1-15.47 read by Anthony

Peter writes: If I needed to give directions to anyone coming to St Ursula’s Church in Bern, I would tell them that, after they left the Autobahn, they should follow the sign to the city centre and then take the turning marked Entsorgungshof, which means “rubbish dump”. Sure enough there was one about 50 metres from the church and our house. Fortunately it was for glass, broken crockery, old mattresses etc – nothing smelly. On our walks Shareene and I used to pause and look to see what people were discarding. The word entsorgen means “to discard, get rid of” and it comes from sorgen, literally “to worry” or “care”. So, once you have got rid of stuff you don’t want or need, you don’t have to worry about it any more.

Is this what was happening on Good Friday? (Some scholars think that the hill of Calvary was actually next to the city rubbish dump.) On Palm Sunday the crowd had hailed Jesus as the Messiah but soon they decided he wasn’t the sort of Messiah they wanted after all, so their reaction was “Let’s dump him”. And did Pilate, the soldiers on duty that day, and the temple authorities say to each other: “Thank God that’s over. We’ve got rid of that trouble-maker and we don’t need to worry about him any more.” With the stone firmly in place over the mouth of the tomb they had achieved closure: out of sight, out of mind.

Is that what many people think about God today? “We don’t do God: we have no need of him and we’ve dumped him somewhere where we don’t need to bother about him.” Things often end up on the skip because people have replaced them with something else that looks more modern or prettier. Do these things really satisfy their needs, do they answer the fundamental questions of life? Or are they a means of avoiding these issues? A bit like the beauty products that claim to cover up the signs of ageing perhaps. A few years back a slogan appeared on the side of buses: “There’s probably no God, so stop worrying”. If you have got rid of him, then you don’t need to worry about the demands that faith puts on you. There have always been people who didn’t care that all your fellow men and women are created in the image of God, that creation is not there for our own selfish ends, that we are responsible for our words and actions. Examples of the consequences of such attitudes are not far to seek. (Of course there are people of other faiths and none who sincerely believe in human rights and environmental Pissues, and our response should be “they are not far from the kingdom of God”. The centurion at Calvary is but one of the characters in the Gospels who comes into this category.)

There is also something else that needs to be discarded, however; something that affects people of faith and those with none. It is spelled out in two of Jesus’ words from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And “It is finished”. The first, from Psalm 22, has been echoed by many who felt that God had discarded them; that he had not done what they counted on him to do for them. In an Easter sermon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer turns this round, saying that, on the cross, it is a fantasy God who is being forsaken, got rid of. What we are seeing there is the end of the illusion that God is some sort of superhero who will intervene at the last minute or is there to do our bidding. Christ on the cross is proof that simplistic ideas about God’s power have to be discarded and that we need to replace them by the message of Easter.

On the cross we see that “death’s dark powers have done their worst”. In 1940 Bonhoeffer wrote “God puts … love in place of hate, the Holy One in place of the sinner. There is no longer any denial of God, any hate, any sin which God has not taken upon himself, suffered and atoned.” The powers of evil have shot their last bolt, been found wanting and put on the rubbish dump.

Prayers of Intercession
You are invited to spend time in silent prayer after each bidding.

Let us pray for all bishops, priests and deacons, and especially Ian our Bishop Let us pray also for this congregation, whether present in church or worshipping at home.

Let us pray for the rulers of the nations and all who serve the common good.

Let us pray for those preparing to be baptised at Easter.

Let us pray for those in need; for those weighed down with sickness in body, mind or spirit; for the vulnerable and the lonely.

Let us pray for those who do not acknowledge the Lord our God that, following what is right, in sincerity of heart, they may find the way to God’s own self.

Let us pray for all our brothers and sisters who believe in Christ, that God would grant peace and unity to all Christian people.

Let us pray to Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth, for the whole of creation.

Amen

To finish your time of worship you may wish to sing along or read the words as David plays the tune of ‘My song is love unknown’.

My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me,
Love to the loveless shown
That they might lovely be.
Oh, who am I
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh and die?
He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know.
But, oh, my friend,
My Friend indeed,
Who at my need
His life did spend!
Sometimes they strew His way
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King.
Then “Crucify!”
Is all their breath,
And for His death
They thirst and cry.
Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries!
Yet they at these
Themselves displease
And ‘gainst Him rise.
They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of Life they slay.
Yet cheerful He
To suff’ring goes
That He His foes
From thence might free.
6 In life no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heav’n was His home
But mine the tomb
Wherein He lay.
Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine!
Never was love, dear King,
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my friend,
In whose sweet praise
I all my days
Could gladly spend!

Samuel Crossman

Materials for Worship on Maundy Thursday

Moira writes: Today begins the three holiest days of the Church’s year, the Paschal Triduum. They are holy because in his Passion, Death and Resurrection, Jesus makes humanity ‘whole’ again. He breaks down the barriers of suffering, sin and death. All the things that break us apart, those things that would separate us from God, from each other and even ourselves, these are all ‘put back together’ by his death on the cross and his rising from the dead. Holy Week this year is very different from previous years, but we have been able to participate in Palm Sunday celebrations from home, we have this reflection today and the reflection for Good Friday tomorrow. And even from home, we will be able to share in the joy of Easter Day, rejoicing in the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Our readings today are 1 Corinthians 11.23-26, read by Gudrun and the Gospel according to John, 13.1-17, read by Davie.

Today we reflect on this passage from scripture which shows Jesus reaching out to his disciples in the very human act of washing feet.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. (John 13:3-4)

Jesus knew that his time had come to leave the world and return to his Father. He knew the kind of death he would endure. He knew that his disciples would struggle for a bit without him. He knew he had done all that he could to prepare them for his death and resurrection, but he still felt the need to minister to them one last time as they met together to share in a meal of bread and wine. Jesus also knew that one of his disciples would betray him to the authorities, and yet he continued to wash the feet of all of them. This was a final teaching moment for Jesus. When he put his outer robe back on, Jesus returned to the table and asked this question? Do you know what I have done to you?” The example of care that Jesus showed to his disciples was to be replicated by them, and they were reminded that ‘servants are not greater than their master, not are messengers greater than the one who sent them’.

Peter’s reaction to that act of love and care is summed up beautifully in this short passage from “Love is Never Done” by Carol Dixon, sent to me by Ruth.

It was Mary who started it – who sowed the seed of the idea in my mind to wash the feet of my friends. Her absolute humility, and adoration, as she poured out the perfumed ointment, anointing me for my burial. She didn’t care that others were scandalised, as Peter was when I first knelt to wash his feet, yet in the end he embraced the act with joy. I’ll never know what Judas felt; perhaps he was revolted as I stooped before him, offering my wholehearted love. Something had changed in him the night he saw Mary prostrate herself at my feet; the crisis had been coming for a while. It wasn’t just the money, it was her utter devotion; maybe he suspected he could never match that, and second best was not enough for him. So he distanced himself from me, from the cause, from the kingdom, recoiling from the intimacy that I wanted to share with all as I knelt with bowl and towel. If you had been there, ask yourself, what would you have done?

Last year and this year we have been in periods of lockdown and I suppose it has felt like living in Lent for much of that time. It has been hard at times to stay positive and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, with the vaccine programme rolling out, we can have hope that this pandemic will recede, and we can return to showing God’s love in a more tangible way. God showed his love for his disciples, his friends, in the tangible act of humbly kneeling before them and washing their feet. In our passage from the Gospel of John, we are not told exactly when Jesus performed this act of love, but I would assume that it would be before they had eaten supper, before the act of betrayal by Judas. How do you think Judas must have felt as Jesus washed his feet, knowing that he was about to betray his teacher, his friend? Picture the scene, as they sat at the table. One was ashamed and one was indignant, and yet all shared in the bread and the wine. Peter was afraid that even if Jesus washed his feet he would still not be clean, but Jesus reassured him that it was only Peter’s feet that needed to be cleaned.

During Lent, we usually take time to reflect on the things in our lives that we could make improvements to. Perhaps we have been quick to judge, or slow to recognise the needs of others, or maybe we have lost the ability to be patient and slow to anger. But in these troubled times with so much of our freedoms taken away by the pandemic, perhaps this year we should be reflecting on the everyday things we have been able to do and look for the times of happiness and blessing that have come out of our restricted lives. For me, the simple pleasure of being able to be in my garden on bright sunny days has been a blessing. Having more time to spend walking with my husband and our dog out in the fresh air and getting more exercise has also been a blessing, and the joy of living so close to family and being able to see grandchildren has brought me so much happiness. That being said, all of this has made me more aware of how much we need to have family and friends in our lives. Jesus knew that his disciples would need each other even more once he departed from them, and his act of love for them, the washing of their feet, bound them together and taught them how they should spread God’s love to the world.

Today we also remember the ‘last supper’ the final meal that Jesus shared with his disciples in the upper room. As I searched for an image, I came across this Icon, “The Mystical Supper,” painted by the artist Rublev and I was interested to see that he had painted the scene at a round table rather than the iconic images we see of the Last Supper at a long rectangular table. To me, this image feels more intimate and more in keeping with how I imagine shared meals at the time of Jesus would be. Jesus could see the expressions on the faces of his disciples and would have known who was worried, concerned, anxious or nervous as the meal progressed. It is interesting also to see that some of the figures have been painted in light orange robes and others much darker. Certainly on that night, in that upper room, there were shades of darkness and light at play in the ‘mystical supper.’ Once again Jesus reminds us in this communal act of sharing in bread and wine, of his new commandment, ‘that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’ (v.34). Over this past year we have been unable to share together in the physical supper of bread and wine, but we have still received God’s Holy Spirit (our spiritual bread and wine) as we worshipped each Sunday at home, whether joining with the Facebook live stream or with the Materials for Worship. This time away from physically being together and receiving the physical elements of communion will make us appreciate even more the joy of sharing God’s love with those around us on Easter Sunday. You may wish to join in with a call to recollection and prayer for forgiveness from Thom M Shuman, which speaks to the strange times we are living in.

Call to Recollection
Now, just as on those nights long ago, we face choices: will we continue to live in fear, or step out in faith?
Will we trust in the One who is with us, or listen to the hollow words around us?
Let us confess our lives, our emptiness, our worries to the One who calls us, feeds us, redeems us, as we pray together, saying,

Prayer for Forgiveness
It has all disappeared, our God, our certainty of how life was to be, our daily activities and jobs and routines. So much has been taken away from us, lunches, family gatherings, worship – and even when we dare try, there is still that niggling worry in our minds. Simple things seem more and more possible, like shopping in a store, looking forward to a sporting event, maybe even going back to work – and yet, we wonder when the other shoe will drop. Yet this feeling, this uncertainty, these fears are exactly what you experienced on that night so long ago, Brother of our hearts. All your certainty dissipated as easily as that crowd that cheered you just a few days before. Your hopes, your dreams, your desires for your friends had been snatched away by those powers and circumstances beyond your control. Even a simple, last meal with your closest friends was full of doubts, questions, recriminations, as you huddled isolated from the world.

So now, fill us with your presence, Spirit of that night and this night and all nights. Fill us with that grace which enables us to look beyond our fears, to live as people of faith. Fill us with that love, which strengthens us to care for the most vulnerable around us, rather than the most powerful. Fill us with that hope, which is never quarantined, never isolated, never separated from us, in these and all the moments to come. Amen.

We finish by reading or singing along to David playing the tune to ‘An Upper Room did our Lord prepare’ by Fred Pratt Green.

An upper room did our Lord prepare
for those he loved until the end:
and his disciples still gather there,
to celebrate their Risen Friend.
A lasting gift Jesus gave his own,
to share his bread, his loving cup.
Whatever burdens may bow us down,
he by his Cross shall lift us up.
And after Supper he washed their feet,
for service, too, is sacrament.
In him our joy shall be made complete
sent out to serve, as he was sent.
No end there is! We depart in peace.
He loves beyond our uttermost:
in every room in our Father’s house
he will be there, as Lord and host.

Rector’s Letter – April 2021

Dear friends,

The Spring weather has drawn the gardening team back into the grounds of St Mary’s and there’s plenty for all of us to do. One of my favourite jobs at this time of year is clearing last year’s growth as it can make such a dramatic difference to the appearance of a garden and enables new growth to flourish. There is added excitement for me when working in the burial ground at St Mary’s as I never know what I’ll find under the bracken, brambles and ivy. Last week I came across a stone bowl, some seven inches in diameter with four crosses incised into it. I have no idea how old it is or what it was originally used for, but I was delighted to find it as the restrictions on movement in church during services means that we will not be using the font at our Easter services this year.

It’s easy to forget the connection between Easter and baptism these days, when baptisms, especially of adults, are such a rare occurrence. A look at the traditions and customs of past centuries, however, reveals that the practice of baptizing at Easter is almost as old as the Church itself.

We know that around 150 AD, becoming a Christian generally involved three stages: an initial assent to the faith, followed by a period when the new believer was expected to show the sincerity of their new faith by a change in their life patterns, and then a time of fasting and praying during the days before their baptism on Easter morning. By the early third century, the process became much more rigorous: the second stage involving three years of training and the final stage, a week of daily exorcisms, services, prayers, fasting and an all-night vigil leading to baptism at Easter dawn. When Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire in 313 AD, people flooded into the church, but many did not progress past the first stage and were Christians in name only. The bishops developed a solution to this problem by condensing the training time into an intense, serious period of forty days before Easter. Eventually, the whole church community became involved in the practices of Lent, and Easter became a time for us all to renew our baptismal vows.

So as we gather to celebrate the resurrection of Christ once more this Easter, we join with Christians around the world to remember also our own spiritual resurrection at our baptism. This year, as we remake the promises, whether at home or in the church building, I expect that we will experience a heightened sense of rebirth to new life. This Easter is the beginning of a new start for us as restrictions are relaxed and we move towards full life as a worshipping community once more. As we set off on this new journey, my prayer is that the Lord of life will walk with us and through us, leading each one of us and all of us together, to growth, to risk, and to service of others.

With love to you all,

Nerys

P.S.
Garden Furniture Wanted
Please get in touch with Nerys at rector @ stmarysdunblane.org if you have any garden chairs or tables in fairly good condition that you would like to pass on. We are hoping to make use of the Rectory lawn and the newly paved area behind the house for small outdoor meetings during Spring and Summer while restrictions to meeting indoors are still in force. Thank you

St Mary’s Gardening Team
Anyone is welcome to help to maintain and develop the grounds at St Mary’s. Any assistance with weeding, clearing, pruning or planting would be appreciated. Please get in touch with James at property @ stmarysdunblane.org if you would like to get involved or if you know of anyone who might benefit from doing a spot of gardening. We work individually and every care is taken to keep team members safe.

Material For Worship on Palm Sunday

Nerys writes: Palm Sunday is a strange day of mixed emotions. It is the day when we accompany Jesus to Jerusalem, joyfully proclaiming him king, knowing that this journey would cost him his freedom and his life. It is a time of looking back at our Lenten journey, giving thanks for God’s faithfulness towards us in difficult times, as we set off on a new journey to the foot of the cross and beyond. As you light your candle today you may wish to say this prayer:

Lord, you have brought me through the wilderness
And delivered me to the gates of the Jerusalem.
As I prepare for the mysteries of Holy Week,
Let me share my heart with Christ
As Christ shares his risen life with me.
Amen

Before reading the Gospel of the Palms, take a moment to reflect on the palm cross you have been given. It is not easy to imagine it as a living, shining, green frond growing on a tall, majestic tree. To the people of Israel, the date palm represented peace, plenty and fruitfulness. Palm branches were often depicted on coins and were carved into the walls and doors of King Solomon’s temple. In the ancient world, they were used on festive occasions as tokens of joy and triumph. Kings and conquerors were welcomed with palm branches being strewn before them and waved in the air. Among the Jews of Jesus’ day, palm branches and the cry of ‘hosanna’ were an important part of the Feast of Tabernacles, the culmination of the spring festivals which started with the Passover, but since the Macabbean revolt a hundred and fifty years earlier, they had become symbols of nationalistic pride. They were reminders of the belief that the Messiah was coming to raise up an army which would overthrow Roman oppression and free God’s people. It was these palms that the followers of Jesus used to greet him as he entered Jerusalem for the last time, intent on a very different kind of victory.

As you listen to Alastair read Mark 11.1-11, I invite you to use your imagination to enter into Jesus’ mind.

You may also wish to explore a recreation of the scene in an African setting from the Jesus Mafa series.

I offer also these words of reflection by the American artist and author, Jan Richardson:

It can be challenging enough to walk with intention into a future that is unknown. But to move with purpose toward a destination that is known, and fearsome? That is quite a different path, one that requires grace and courage we cannot conjure on our own.
Such a path offers a curious freedom, too, because it invites us to enter our future not as victims, helpless before our fate, but with intention and discernment, knowing that the path we choose—any path we choose—will hold its occasions of dying and rising. When we can meet those occasions with courage and grace, the perils of the chosen path begin to lose their power over us.

The palm frond in your hand, the symbol of victory, has been shaped into the sign of the cross, an instrument of torture, humiliation and death. The second of today’s readings is the Gospel of the Passion, Mark 14.1-15.47 (or 15.1-39). Hold on to your palm cross as you read it to remind you that this is ultimately a story of victory. After a time of silence to reflect on what it means for you, to feel God’s presence with you and listen for the voice of Love, you may wish to use the following prayer of commitment.

Almighty and everlasting God,
may this palm be for me
a sign of Christ’s victory over sin and death;
and may I who have been baptised in his name,
worship him as king, obey him as Lord,
and follow him in the way of the Cross, which leads to eternal life.
I ask this through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

You are invited to bring your time of worship to an end with prayers of intercession:
• For our world and all its people …
• For all in positions of authority and influence …
• For those in need …
• For those who are suffering …
• For the Church which is Christ’s body …
• For yourself and those you love …
You may also wish to listen or sing along to David playing Henry Hart Milman’s hymn,

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes ‘Hosanna’ cry;
O Saviour meek, pursue thy road
with palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
The winged squadrons of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
the Father on his sapphire throne
expects his own anointed Son.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, thy power, and reign.

Holy Week and Easter at St Mary’s, Dunblane, 2021

Palm Sunday

8.30 and 10.30 a.m. Eucharist with Distribution of Palms and Reading of the Passion

4.30 Service for Families with Children

8 p.m. Night Service

Maundy Thursday

8 p.m. Eucharist and Vigil

Good Friday

12 – 1 Stations of the Cross

1 – 2 Silent Reflection

2 – 3 Liturgy

Holy Saturday

8 p.m. Easter Vigil, including the new fire, renewal of Baptism vows and the first Eucharist of Easter

Easter Sunday

8.30 and 10.30 a.m. Eucharist

Please contact Sue at services @ stmarysdunblane.org if you wish to attend

Material for Worship on the Fifth Sunday in Lent

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”.

Today is known as Passion Sunday, writes Ven Peter Potter. It is a kind of curtain raiser to the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week. In modern English, the word passion denotes intense feeling, generally love, whether for another person, a football team or a political cause. It actually derives, however, from the Latin passio, “I suffer”. The word compassion (literally “suffering with”) retains this meaning, for a compassionate person enters into the suffering of another and tries to sooth it.

The German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a poem about how our suffering and God’s are interconnected. Let us follow the words as David plays the tune:

We turn to God when we are sorely pressed;
we pray for help, and ask for peace and bread;
we seek release from illness, guilt and death:
all people do, in faith or unbelief.
We turn to God when he is sorely pressed,
and find him poor, scorned, without roof and bread,
bowed under weight of weakness, sin and death:
faith stands by God in his dark hour of grief.

God turns to us when we are sorely pressed,
and feeds our souls and bodies with his bread;
for one and all Christ gives himself in death:
through his forgiveness sin will find relief.
Words, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. English translation (c) SCM-Canterbury Press

Jeremiah’s prophecy tells us we can come to God in penitence and confess our sins because we have confidence in his compassion for us. Take a moment to consider what you need to bring to God in penitence today and then listen to Jeremiah 31, 31-34, read by Tom.

But why does “passion” encompass both suffering and love? The events of Holy Week show us how Jesus allows himself to be given over (i.e., passively) to pain out of love for sinful humanity. In other words, he suffers in order to gain a new and better order of things. In the same way we are being urged to put up with the restrictions of lockdown for the sake of the public as a whole. This is more than self-interest; it is literally an act of compassion. “We are all in it together” actually has a spiritual as well as a moral dimension. Today’s Gospel reading (John 12, 20-33) is about some Greeks (probably Greek-speaking Jews who had travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover festival) asking to be introduced to Jesus. Jesus, however, does not directly answer their request but starts talking about wheat dying and growing. We listen to Alison reading the passage.

Why didn’t Jesus just say to Andrew and Philip, “OK, bring them here”? Did they actually get to see Jesus? We don’t know, but Jesus’ answer is surely saying that not only these Greeks, contemporaries of Jesus and his disciples, saw Jesus but that we can too in our day and in the circumstances of our lives. When we encounter situations like a grain of wheat lying in the ground apparently dead but then growing and bearing fruit, then we see Jesus. Suffering (as was soon to occur when Jesus was “lifted up from the earth” on the cross) does not have to be a dead end but can be a new beginning.

To go back to passion – love hurts, as the saying has it. One of my favourite hymns is Morning glory, starlit sky, which has the lines:

‘and the nails and crown of thorns
tell of what God’s love must be.’

It’s a great hymn, with echoes of Paul’s song about love in 1 Corinthians 13. The author W.H. (Bill) Vanstone laboured long and hard in a rather unpromising parish in the north of England. He described his experiences in a book called Love’s endeavour, love’s expense. By expending his love for his parishioners shoots of growth appeared as a result of his endeavours. Here are the words played by David.

Morning glory, starlit sky,
soaring music, scholar’s truth,
flight of swallows, autumn leaves,
memory’s treasure, grace of youth:
Open are the gifts of God,
gifts of love to mind and sense;
hidden is love’s agony,
love’s endeavour, love’s expense.
Love that gives, gives ever more,
gives with zeal, with eager hands,
spares not, keeps not, all outpours,
ventures all its all expends.
Drained is love in making full,
bound in setting others free,
poor in making many rich,
weak in giving power to be.
Therefore, he who shows us God
helpless hangs upon the tree;
and the nails and crown of thorns
tell of what God’s love must be.
Here is God: no monarch he,
throned in easy state to reign;
here is God, whose arms of love
aching, spent, the world sustain.

Love hurts because, the more we love someone, the more we find it hard to bear when they are in trouble and we are willing to bear pain and make sacrifices for their sake. The lessons of Passiontide and Holy Week can be our guide and comfort as the weeks of lockdown still stretch ahead before us.

PRAYERS
The Collect for Lent 5
Merciful God,
look upon your family as we travel to the foot of the cross:
and, by your great goodness, guide us in body;
that, by your protection,
we may also be preserved in heart and mind;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen.

Intercessions
Let us pray that Christ shall be glorified in the Church and in the world.
Lord, we pray for the peace of the world, especially in …. and other places of conflict and oppression; for places where crops die and do not bear fruit because of the effects of climate change; for governments and aid agencies in their task to bring relief to the suffering and needy.
Bless all who work to spread the Gospel and offer their lives in its service. … Guide the seekers after truth, that they may see your Son amidst the changes and chances of this life.
Have mercy on all who suffer in body, mind or spirit, especially … May they hear your words of comfort, be sustained in their affliction and find new life after loss.
We pray for those who have died to this world, especially … May they grow into the new life of heaven where joy is endless and where what has been offered on earth comes to perfect fruition.

Father, accept the payers we offer in the name of Christ, lifted on the cross for our salvation.
Amen.

Material for Worship on Mothering Sunday

Nerys writes: For a number of years, our Mothering Sunday services at St Mary’s have been all-age gatherings but today is a rare opportunity for a reflection aimed at adults only.

For many, this is normally a happy day, a time to show our love and gratitude to our mothers, to receive cards and gifts from our children and to enjoy precious time with our families. For some, however, this celebration of motherhood brings the pain of longing, loss, grief or guilt. For those of us who were here in Dunblane in March 1996, Mothering Sunday is inextricably linked with memories of the tragedy that struck our community. And now, it will also carry a reminder of the beginning of the first Lockdown and all the suffering and loss caused by the pandemic. Mothering Sunday can be a bitter-sweet day but it is also an opportunity to remember that we have a mothering God whose care for us extends throughout our lives and beyond and who has promised to be especially close to us in difficult times.

So, as you light your candle today, take a moment to bring to mind what Mothering Sunday means to you and to share your joy or pain with God who is listening.

You may wish to finish your time of prayer by listening to a modern hymn based on the writing of the medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich, sung by Moira.

Mothering God, you gave me birth
in the bright morning of the world.
Creator, source of every breath,
you are my rain, my wind, my sun;
you are my rain, my wind, my sun.

Mothering Christ, you took my form,
offering me your food of light,
grain of life, and grape of love,
your very body for my peace;
your very body for my peace.

Mothering Sprit, nurturing one,
in arms of patience hold me close,
so that in faith I root and grow
until I flower, until I know;
until I flower, until I know.
Words, Jean Janzen; Tune, John Bell

Today’s readings, 1 Samuel 1.20-28 and Luke 2.33-35, acknowledge both the joy and pain of those who are mothers or who care like mothers, and give an insight into the heart of God. They are taken from two stories set in Jerusalem featuring two mothers who had brought their sons to the Temple to be dedicated to God. The first, read here by Colin, is the story of Hannah who had known the desperation and shame of childlessness and the delight of answered prayer. The second, read by Mary, is the story of Mary whose pregnancy was a source of potential disgrace, who was forced to seek refuge in a foreign land soon after the birth but who carried with her the secret joy of the angel’s message and all that she had seen and heard in Bethlehem. Both had come to the Temple to offer their sons back to God, Mary in accordance with Jewish law and Hannah to honour her promise. In order to allow them to fulfil their calling, both mothers would need to step back and stay in the background as their sons’ lives unfolded. Simeon’s prophecy is a reminder of the painful cost of that letting go. As Mary stood at the foot of the cross, pierced to the heart, I wonder if she remembered those glorious and dreadful words?

Mary’s was not the only heart to be pierced that day as Jesus allowed himself to suffer and die for love of the world. Our mother God was suffering too and continues to suffer alongside mothers in war zones, refugee camps and in situations of poverty and injustice. In her writing, Julian of Norwich returned again and again to the necessity of trusting in God’s mothering love and to her confidence that with God, ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’. I invite you to join with me to pray for each other, that when we experience the pain of the world’s suffering and the cost of caring, we would know God with us, bringing us all the perseverence and hope we need to continue to give of ourselves for the sake of others.

‘Compassion’ by Sister Mary Southard, a member of the Congregation of St Joseph, La Grange Park, Illinois.

Our prayers today have been written by Hugh. You can listen to him here, or read them yourself.

Holy and loving God, on this Mothering Sunday we give thanks for all who nurture and care for your world and all its people. Help us all to play our own part in that work, according to the different gifts you have given to each one of us, to give of what we have to share in that work.

We give thanks for the signs of new Spring life all around – the snowdrops, bulbs emerging, the longer days. Help us to care for your world, seeking and speaking out always for a fair sharing of its resources. We pray for those in countries already affected by rising seas, those suffering from drought and deprivation.

We pray for those who are finding it difficult in this pandemic – the lonely, the sick, those out of work, those struggling to meet living costs. We give thanks for the scientists, care workers, doctors, nurses, and all who are working to keep us safe and well. Thinking of countries who do not yet have enough vaccines, encourage leaders here and elsewhere to ensure fair sharing of those. We give thanks for the work of World Health Organisation and others seeking to bring medical help to people in all countries.

We pray for those in other countries forced to flee from their homes, thinking especially today of the people of Yemen and Myanmar. We give thanks for those who work to support and care for them and those seeking ways out of the violence.

We remember today the children and the teacher whose lives were cut short here 25 years ago. We pray for their parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers, and all those directly affected. We know that you share with us the pain of that time and of our present time where people continue to die at the hands of others. Open our hearts to the fullness of your love, help us to live in true community, at one with all who are suffering or in need, that none may feel themselves excluded or eliminated.

We pray for those in our own community and beyond, and for those known to us personally, who are experiencing any kind of hardship or ill health or mental distress. Lord bless them and comfort them.

We pray for St Mary’s, for all who serve in this church, for all who are part of the church community, and all in the broader community we seek to serve.

Holy and loving God, help us to live and work in a spirit of love and care for all, inspired by this mothering Sunday and the life and message of Jesus, your Son our Lord, in whose name we pray.
Amen

If we were meeting for worship in church today there would have been an opportunity to make a donation to the Mothers’ Union Make a Mother’s Day Appeal.

If you wish to give a gift which will help empower women and girls in developing countries to flourish, please visit
https://www.mothersunion.org/mothering-sunday

Rector’s Letter – 10th March 2021

Dear friends,

I was surprised and delighted with the news this week that we will be allowed to open the doors of the church building not only for Easter services but also for Palm Sunday and Holy Week. We will need to wait for the guidance of the Bishops’ Advisory Committee before we can make any firm plans but I hope that we will be able to move forward into the season of Easter with eucharistic services, whilst offering home communion to those who will not be able to attend. It’s great to be able to look forward with confidence once more after so many weeks of uncertainty. I feel so grateful to the Scottish Government for recognising, not only the importance of gathering for worship for the well-being of church members but the contribution churches have made in caring for their local communities.

Bishop Ian has chosen two local charities from opposite ends of the diocese for his Lent Appeal this year. We at St Mary’s are very familiar with and proud of the work of Start-up Stirling which provides practical help and emergency food for those in financial difficulties. The other organisation, Angus Creative Minds, based in Forfar, was established in October 2019 with the aim of bringing people of all ages and walks of life together to engage in creative activities. The dream was to have a space in Angus where trained artists, photographers and authors could work side-by-side with folk who were trying something for the first time or who are living with loneliness or mental health issues. A building was acquired and adapted in Forfar and volunteers had started running art, creative writing and photography groups and planning larger events when the pandemic struck. Gatherings are now on line and imaginative activities like the ‘Postcards from …’ project have been initiated enabling those in need of support to continue to receive it.

This year’s Diocesan Synod was held on line last Saturday with a record number of clergy and lay representatives attending. Once essential business was completed, we took part in a series of presentations and discussions on the theme of ‘Looking Forward’. We learnt of the plans for a Season of Pilgrimage including events in early September which groups from St Mary’s might like to attend. We are invited to walk a section of the Fife Pilgrim Way from Culross to St Andrews, to take part in a guided pilgrimage by car and bike along the Three Saints Way from Killin to St Andrews and to attend an ecumenical gathering at St Andrews hosted by Bishop Ian. Next year pilgrimages to the Holy Land and retracing the journey of St William of Perth to Canterbury will be organised..

Synod was also introduced to members of the newly formed Diocesan Youth Committee and heard about their plans to provide resources for charges like ours which have young people. This Lent, the group is running a competition called ‘Church of the Future’, encouraging youngsters in the Diocese to share their ideas on what might be done to make their own congregations more eco-friendly. This is a response to the resolution made in our General Synod to work towards becoming a carbon neutral church by 2030. We had an opportunity to discuss on Saturday what local charges can do and what we need help with, in order to reduce our carbon footprint. We were also encouraged to give feedback on the proposals to revise Canon 4 on the election of bishops. As these include important but potentially contentious changes to the way our church appoints the leaders and pastors of its dioceses, consultation is widespread.

To finish this week’s forward-looking newsletter, here is a poem by Emily Dickinson sent to me by Peter H.
It will be Summer — eventually.
Ladies — with parasols —
Sauntering Gentlemen — with Canes —
And little Girls — with Dolls —

Will tint the pallid landscape —
As ’twere a bright Bouquet —
Tho’ drifted deep, in Parian —
The Village lies — today —

The Lilacs — bending many a year —
Will sway with purple load —
The Bees — will not despise the tune —
Their Forefathers — have hummed —

The Wild Rose — redden in the Bog —
The Aster — on the Hill
Her everlasting fashion — set —
And Covenant Gentians — frill —

Till Summer folds her miracle —
As Women — do — their Gown —
Or Priests — adjust the Symbols —
When Sacrament — is done —

Peter writes: Given the year it has been, we can share the poet’s anticipation of better times, and her optimism of what summer will bring. The initial picture she paints is one of ladies and gentlemen relaxing in the sun and little girls playing. It becomes clear that her imagination of their colours and enjoyment contrasts with the paleness of the landscape at the time of writing; the poem is being written, as one can see from the reference to the village being “drifted deep” in snow, in late winter. She offers a lovely comparison of the snow having the whiteness of Parian marble. But what summer will bring is then imagined by a wonderful evocation of the colours and sounds of the natural world.

As is often the case , Dickinson ends the poem with a broader perspective. In the first instance, she uses the image of women folding their gowns to signal the end of summer. The second image, of the priest who is tidying the various vessels associated with communion, gives, I think, a sense of completion and fulfilment: following the expected cycle, the summer, like the service, has come to an end. There is a deep feeling of satisfaction that the ordering and progression of things has been fulfilled.

As with all her poems, Dickinson uses hyphens in place of more conventional punctuation. She was anxious that her poems be heard, so the hyphens indicate how she wanted these breaks to be a part of the music of the poem.

Thank you for your generous response to the appeals for warm clothing for homeless people in Glasgow and for jigsaws and other items for the folks of Clare House. Please continue pray for the Ministry Team and Vestry as we plan for the weeks ahead. I hope to have more information for you in the next newsletter. In the meantime, please be assured of my prayers for you and your families.

With love,
Nerys

Material for Worship on the Third Sunday in Lent

Our reflection this week for the third Sunday in Lent was prepared by Rev Moira Jamieson.

You may wish to sing along to or read the words of this hymn;

Jesus Christ is waiting, waiting in the streets;
No one is his neighbour, all alone he eats.
Listen, Lord Jesus, I am lonely too.
Make me, friend or stranger, fit to wait on you

Jesus Christ is raging, raging in the streets,
Where injustice spirals and real hope retreats.
Listen, Lord Jesus, I am angry too.
In the Kingdom’s causes let me rage with you.

Jesus Christ is healing, healing in the streets;
Curing those who suffer, touching those he greets.
Listen, Lord Jesus, I have pity too.
Let my care be active, healing just like you.

Jesus Christ is dancing, dancing in the streets,
Where each sign of hatred he, with love, defeats.
Listen, Lord Jesus, I should triumph too.
On suspicion’s graveyard let me dance with you.

Jesus Christ is calling, calling in the streets,
”Who will join my journey? I will guide their feet.”
Listen, Lord Jesus, let my fears be few.
Walk one step before me; I will follow you.

© WGRG, Iona Community, 1988.

This week as I have been preparing this reflection, I have been thinking about the many injustices going on in our world right now. Injustices which have escalated in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Our government has been trying to do their best to protect everyone by rolling out their programme of vaccination, and I commend them. However, in poorer countries people are dying from the virus because they are already weak from hunger and disease and their governments, because of international debt, cannot afford to buy the vaccine that is needed. In today’s gospel passage, John 2 v 13-22 (read here by Rob ) Jesus sees injustice going on in the Temple and he rails against it. This is not an easy passage to read. We find Jesus, the caring loving Jesus who heals the sick and has compassion on those in need, storming into the Temple in a rage! It’s an image that is disturbing and uncomfortable. I don’t know about you, but I remember as a child, fighting or arguing with my brothers and stomping off, slamming doors and then facing the wrath of my mother. And so, I suppose, I should find this passage about the cleansing of the Temple quite reassuring, after all here is Jesus throwing things around in a ‘church’ of all places – the Jesus who was so good the rest of the time. It makes me remember that he was also human as well as divine.

This story is more complex than we think. The whole system of commerce in the temple was well established, and indeed, became a money-making exercise for the temple authorities. Historians tells us that once a year, Jewish males had to pay a temple tax and that tax could be paid only in temple coin, not with Roman or Greek coins, which is why the moneychangers were there. But the moneychangers charged a huge fee for the exchange; often up to half the amount being changed went into their pockets, out of which the temple took its substantial cut. Additionally, any sacrifice offered at Passover had to be that of an animal without blemish. The temple authorities offered perfect animals for sale. Anyone bringing his own animal had to have it inspected by the priests. Not surprisingly, the animal was nearly always rejected, and the person had to buy another from the priests. Therefore it was not simply the presence of the moneychangers and the animals offered for sale that so angered Jesus – after all, they were services meant for the convenience of people who had travelled long distances to get to Jerusalem. It was the misuse of authority in the blatant and gross overcharging of even the poorest people that set Jesus off. It is that blatant misuse of authority which is happening in our world today which must tear at the heart of God, as he sees injustice and deceit playing out here on earth.

From the Jesus Mafa collection

John tells us that that chaos ensued, with Jesus overturning tables and driving animals out with a whip made of cords. People, including the disciples, were stunned and confused, a situation not helped by Jesus when they asked for an explanation. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” That didn’t make sense to them. The temple had been under construction for 46 years, how could Jesus raise it up in three days? As with so many things, the disciples only worked it out later, in the light of resurrection hindsight. They came to realise that the temple of which Jesus spoke was his body, not the bricks and mortar of a building. However, there is another lesson to be learned from this reading, and that is the need for righteous anger in face of injustice, extortion and especially the exploitation of vulnerable people should not be tolerated. The plight of refugees, those fleeing from oppressive regimes and war, and the callous people who exploit their vulnerability should make us angry. Anger at such things is not a bad thing, it’s a good and cleansing thing. Such anger is not the opposite of love. Anger at injustice is an appropriate expression of love and a cry for righteousness. Righteous anger is not a loss of control, Jesus is not out of control, in fact he is noticeably clear about the targets of his wrath. Righteous anger is about taking control, it’s a move out of passive acceptance towards change. St. Augustine of Hippo once said. “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage: anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Before Lent, some of us met on Zoom to discuss the theme of Worship. What it means to us and how we have had to adapt during lockdown, among other things, and we had a final session with Bishop Ian exploring the future of worship in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Over the years the church has had to adapt and change as the world and society have also changed. Sometimes these for some, have changed and upset established tradition, and seem to have created chaos. But God’s wisdom often works in the midst of chaos, and in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 1:18-25 (read here by Kathryn) Paul extols the grace of God, who saves his people from their foolishness as he tells them, “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” In this passage, Paul helps his readers (and us) understand the wisdom of God and how it should show itself in their (our) lives, transforming them (us) in the way that they (we) think and behave. People who have been transformed from unbelief into belief and who grow strong in their faith, have a strong connection to God through the love of Christ on the cross. During Lent, we can take time to ask ourselves how close our relationship to God is and how, being a Christian has shaped us and moulded us as we grow in our faith and our belief. Paul asks us to believe in the wisdom and power of God to work in people’s lives, transforming us, and moulding us to be the people he wants us to be. Let us try to keep faith this Lent and take time to reflect on the strength or otherwise of our closeness to God. “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” Amen.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, grant us wisdom to see the injustices of this world and to take action where we can. Help us not to be impassive and think that we cannot make a difference to the lives of others. May our prayers reach out to you as we pray for the people of this world. (Please add your own concerns here.)

We pray for all refugees who are fleeing violence in their own countries and who seek the safety of another land. May they be treated fairly and justly. Bless all who try to improve conditions in refugee camps and those who care for the health of those living in squalid conditions. We pray especially for the children.

We pray for those who are facing violence and abuse of any kind in their lives. May they find refuge for themselves and their families. At this time we think of the people of Myanmar and their situation. Bless the work of charities who provide refuge for victims of abuse.

We pray for all who are struggling at this time to feed their families. May they receive the help they need to enable them to keep their families strong and healthy. (Please pray for local initiatives like foodbanks.)

We pray for those who are ill at this time, especially those with Coronavirus and those with life-threatening illnesses. May they know the healing power of Jesus in their lives through those who care for them. We lift before God all those on the prayer tree at St. Mary’s. (Please pray for those you know who are ill at this time or in need of prayer.) Heavenly Father surround them with your love.

God of mercy and compassion we lift all these our concerns to you and ask you to keep us walking in your ways as we continue on our journey of faith this Lenten tide.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rector’s Letter- 3rd March 2021

Dear friends,

I had a funny experience last week which gave me pause for thought. It happened during an on-line meeting with colleagues from across the Province. An item came up on the agenda which was close to my heart. I waited for a chance to give my opinion. I started with a question but instead of responding to me, the next speaker raised another issue. I asked my question again at the next opportunity. Again nobody gave me an answer and the discussion moved on. Puzzlement soon turned to hurt and annoyance. Why were they ignoring what I had to say? Why was my point of view deemed unworthy of a response? What was the purpose of me being on the committee if the rest weren’t ready to listen to me? It was only later in the meeting that I realised that I had forgotten to press the ‘Unmute’ button on my computer to allow the others to hear me!

‘You need to unmute yourself,’ is not a phrase any of us would have predicted a year ago that we would be saying to each other but it has now become a common expression in on-line meetings of all kinds. In our day-to-day life, some of us have a tendency to stay mute on issues that are important to us because we’re afraid to upset others or to be labelled in some way. A church community, however, should be an environment where everyone feels safe to give voice to their thoughts, opinions and feelings. I hope that in the months ahead we at St Mary’s will have opportunities to talk together about thorny issues, not by debating them but by sharing our experiences. It is only by taking time to prayerfully listen to each other’s stories that we can build the trust we need to disagree well and without fear. Please get in touch if there is an issue you would like to learn more about.

At another on-line meeting last week organised by Christian Aid, we were discussing how churches can help change the attitude of world leaders when they meet in Glasgow later in the year for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (also known as COP26). We agreed that the first step is for us to unmute ourselves. We need to start speaking and praying together within our own worshiping communities so that we can then raise our voices together on behalf of those who are most affected. Dr Martin Luther King said, ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal … Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter … In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends’. I hope that as we prepare for Christian Aid Week this year, we will engage with the issues and come together with members of other churches in Dunblane and across Scotland to make our voices heard.

It is very easy in these difficult times to put God’s voice on mute and focus on ourselves. My prayer for us all is that we use Lent as an opportunity to listen to the voice of Love calling us through our praying and our reading of Scripture to walk in Christ’s footsteps.

With love to you all,

Nerys

Materials for Worship on the Second Sunday in Lent

Nerys writes: On the altar in St Mary’s stands this icon written by Diana, the late wife of Hugh Grant. It is there as a reminder that this year we focus on the writing of St Mark, author of the shortest and possibly the most puzzling and challenging of the four Gospels. Although it was the first Gospel to be written down, it didn’t attract the attention of the great commentators of the early church, and for many hundreds of years it wasn’t used much in public worship. Yet, there are many stories of the extraordinary impact it has had on the lives of all sorts of people. One of these is the famous German theologian Jürgen Moltmann who first read Mark’s Gospel when he was a prisoner of war in Kilmarnock in 1945, soon after he and his fellow-prisoners had been shown photographs of the horrors of Belsen and Buchenwald. In his autobiography he writes: ‘I read Mark’s Gospel as a whole and came to the story of the passion; when I heard Jesus’ death cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I felt growing within me the conviction: this is someone who understand you completely, who is with you in your cry to God and has felt the same forsakenness you are living in now … I summoned up the courage to live again.’

Because it is so short, Mark’s Gospel can be read in one sitting. What about joining me in reading it as a whole this Lent, at this time when so many are feeling forsaken?

The passage for today is at the heart of Mark’s Gospel. I invite you to listen to it with the ear of the heart, allowing God to speak to you through it.

First you may wish to light a candle or have a moment of silence and then say:

Lord God, I open my ears to hear you.
Lord God, I open my eyes to see you.
Lord God, I open my heart to love you.

As you listen to Barbara reading Mark 8.31-38, notice what thoughts or feelings arise within you. If a particular word or a phrase stands out, take some time to reflect on it before listening to the passage again, this time read by Andrew.

As you let the words of Scripture resound in your heart, notice any prayerful response that arises within you. As you bring your Lectio Divina or ‘holy reading’ to an end, rest for a while in God’s presence beyond thoughts and reflections.

It is only the second week of Lent and already we are on the road towards Jerusalem, the cross and the empty tomb. Jesus has asked his followers who they think he is. ‘You are the Messiah’ was Peter’s response. And now Jesus informs them what that means: rejection, suffering, death and resurrection. Peter can’t handle this and objects, only to be publicly slammed down. Then Jesus speaks to all who are listening. If we want to follow him, Jesus tells us, then we must be prepared to deny ourselves and take up our cross.

Take up your cross – what a huge challenge lies in those words! For Mark’s first audience which was probably a persecuted community, possibly in North Africa, the message was straightforward. And the same is true for Christian communities today in Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Eritrea, Egypt, Yemen, and Nigeria who live with discrimination, harassment and even the risk of death because of their faith. But what about us at St Mary’s? Take a moment to ask yourself, what does it mean for us as a Christian community in Scotland to deny ourselves, take up our cross and faithfully follow Christ? As you do so, you may wish to reflect on the image below of Jesus taking up his cross from the Jesus Mafa Collection or read or sing along as David plays the tune to C.W. Everest’s hymn, ‘Take up thy cross, the Saviour said’.

Take up thy cross, the Saviour said,
if thou wouldst my disciple be;
deny thyself, the world forsake,
and humbly follow after me.

Take up thy cross: let not its weight
fill thy weak spirit with alarm;
his strength shall bear thy spirit up,
and brace thy heart and nerve thine arm.

Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,
nor let thy foolish pride rebel:
thy Lord for thee the cross endured,
to save thy soul from death and hell.

Take up thy cross then in his strength,
and calmly every danger brave;
’twill guide thee to a better home,
and lead to victory o’er the grave.

Take up thy cross and follow Christ,
nor think till death to lay it down;
for only they who bear the cross
may hope to wear the glorious crown.

To thee, great Lord, the One in Three,
all praise forevermore ascend:
O grant us in our home to see
the heavenly life that knows no end.

‘Jesus takes up his Cross’ from the Jesus Mafa Collection

Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness asking himself what it meant to be Jesus the Messiah. In his Gospel, Mark sets out to answer this question and by doing so helps us to answer our own question of what it means to be disciples of Jesus the Messiah. For Peter in today’s passage, Jesus’s answer is unacceptable and unbelievable. He vehemently rejects the idea of a suffering self-giving Messiah, causing Jesus to rebuke him just as he had rebuked the Tempter in the wilderness. It is difficult for us also to accept Jesus for who he is and to follow in his footsteps. Time after time, we will be tempted to take the easier route in order to avoid risking the conflicts which are bound to accompany committed discipleship. It is only by letting go of our preoccupation with ourselves that we can walk with Jesus in the paths of love and service.

Let us pray to our loving God to increase our faith. May we be more ready to trust you and move forward with you wherever you lead us.

Let us pray for the persecuted church, for their oppressors, for nations that foster persecution, and for those who ignore it.

Let us pray for all leaders and their advisers to have the courage to be honest, the will to be just, the greatness to be humble and the openness to learn.

Let us pray for those who suffer and are in need, asking God to show us how we can love and serve them.

The Collect for today
God of patience and humility, in your love you gave your Son to be rejected and raised up on a cross. Gather us under its shadow and open our eyes to its mystery, that we may share even now in the life that is from above; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen