Rector’s Letter – June 2021

Dear friends,

By the time you read this, we will be in Ordinary Time, the longest season in the Church Year, stretching from Pentecost to the beginning of Advent. After the extraordinary year we’ve experienced with its great uncertainties and challenges, its many losses and unexpected joys, I for one am looking forward to settling into the rhythm of the tempus ordinarium which literally means ‘measured time’. With the great festivals of the church behind us and the easing of restrictions to our worshiping and our meeting together, my hope is that the summer and autumn months will be a time for us to enjoy some of the ordinary things of church life, things we took for granted before March 2020.

In his poem ‘The Bright Field’, R. S. Thomas recalls his experience of seeing sunlight breaking through onto a small patch of land. It is only later that he realises with regret that the field contained the treasure for which he yearned. I hope that you will join me, if you can, in making the most of any opportunities to worship and meet together in the weeks ahead. It won’t be as it was before the pandemic or as it will be when the danger of the virus has passed, but, in the words of the poet,

Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past.

It’s so easy to miss the pearls of great price that lie along our way because we are too busy looking over our shoulders or scanning the horizon.

It was only when they sat down together with the risen Christ that the two on the road to Emmaus recognised him in their midst. Sometimes it takes a turning aside, an inner shift, to enable us to catch glimpses of the glory of God in the ordinary present of our lives and to become aware of the Spirit of Love at work within us and among us. My prayer for the weeks of Ordinary Time is that despite the limitations imposed on us, we as a congregation would take pleasure from our time together in God’s presence, be that in our Sunday services or when groups gather once more in the hall.

I hope that we will continue to listen deeply to each other as we discern together the way ahead, embracing new initiatives, encouraging and supporting those who ready to work for the future of St Mary’s. Members of the Vestry and others are making great progress on different fronts to ensure that there will be opportunities for growth in the years ahead, Leaders of Young Church are experimenting with new patterns to make our worship more accessible to families with children, and members of the Pastoral Care Team are figuring out ways to better respond to the needs of those in our midst who are lonely or bereaved. Please pray for them and please get involved if you are able.

I hope that we will also listen out for the voices of those in need in our local community and across the world and find ways to respond with compassion. It was a privilege last month to host the service to launch Christian Aid Week in Dunblane and to learn more about the way the charity is helping those living in Climate Chaos and raising a voice on their behalf. Over £6,000 was collected by means of the envelopes and the Just Giving Page. Thank you to everyone involved.

This month we will return to the ‘Faith into Action’ conversation series of previous years, focussing on the way God is calling ordinary people to serve others in extraordinary ways. We will start by marking Carers Week in the company of Kate Sainsbury who has founded the Appletree Community near Auchterarder to provide a home for her son Louis and other young people with profound and complex needs. Look out for an opportunity to add prayers for carers and those who are cared for to a noticeboard in the church porch. These will be read in the services on Sunday 6th June. For more information on Carers Week and to add your voice to the call to Make Carers Visible and Valued, visit www.carersweek.org

Later in the month you will be invited to make ‘people chains’ to help show our readiness as churches to walk alongside all refugees and asylum seekers and their families. On World Refugee Day, 20th June, Hugh Grant will introduce us to Forth Valley Welcome which helps New Scots to integrate into their local community. I hope that this will be the starting point for a conversation about ways in which we at St Mary’s might wish to be involved in supporting displaced people both locally or globally. For more information, visit www.refugeeweek.org.uk

The livestreaming of the 10.30 a.m. eucharist and the distribution of the Materials for Worship at Home will continue for the time being with a review at the end of the month. Please get in touch if you are benefiting from these resources and wish for them to continue.

With my love and prayers,
Nerys

Material for Worship for Trinity Sunday

When you think about it, the belief that God is Trinity is the foundation for our belief that God is also love, it’s all about relationship. If God were not Trinity, the most we could say with absolute confidence would be that God occasionally – or even regularly – chooses to act lovingly, but not that God’s very essence is love.

Let’s hear Margaret read our first Lesson from Romans 8:12-17

Belief in God the Trinity says that before there was ever anything external to God, towards which God could act lovingly, God’s being was still expressed in the love between Father, Son and Spirit. This ‘love’ of God is not an abstract quality, unrecognizable by the usual marks of what we humans would call love. It is personal, dynamic, and creative. It is full of delight and generosity. We, God’s creation, came to be, out of the exuberance and sheer vitality of that love, and we are designed to share in it, to be drawn more and more into the reality of the loving God.

As we view the image, let’s respond in the hymn ‘Holy, holy, holy one’ CP 489 played by David.

Holy, holy, holy One,
Love’s eternal Trinity;
we who hear your call, respond:
“Here I am, my God, send me.”

Holy source of all that lives,
through creation’s mystery,
your love speaks and we reply.
“Here I am, my God, send me.”

Holy Lamb, Loves sacrifice,
mighty in humility,
overawed we humbly say,
“Here I am, my God, send me.”

Holy Spirit, Deathless Joy,
though we face Love’s agony
touch our lips and we will cry,
“Here I am, my God, send me.”

Three Times Holy, loving God
call our name, and we will be
each Love’s living sacrifice
“Here I am, my God, send me.”

Alan Gaunt CP 489 A&M

So, let’s now listen to Morag reading this morning’s gospel. John 3:1-17

The verse we all know so well, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” is the climax of the odd, teasing conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. ‘This is the point of it all,’ Jesus says, ‘that God’s beloved people may live with us forever.’

Does Nicodemus understand that? It is very hard to tell, just as it is hard to tell what he is doing there at all, creeping about in the dead of night like a young revolutionary rather than a weighty religious leader of a people who have made a sensible compromise with their irreligious rulers.

Right from the start of the conversation, Jesus wrong-foots Nicodemus. Nicodemus has rehearsed what he is going to say to open the conversation. He pays tribute to Jesus’s ministry, while at the same time making understated claims for his own credentials. ‘I’m someone who can recognize the activity of God,’ he says in effect, ‘and you’re really doing very well, old chap.’ To which Jesus answers, in effect, ‘How would you know?’ All through the sharp-edged conversation, Nicodemus is trying to get things back on track, back into normal conversational and debating mode, and Jesus won’t let him. The activity of God cannot be ordered by your, or anybody else’s little checklists, he says to Nicodemus. You must tear them up and be prepared to start again.

Nicodemus, like all religious people throughout the ages, believes to some extent that God is love. But he believes that God’s love is measured and sensible and follows a set of rules. He believes that Jesus’s healings are, largely, consonant with the activity of God, but he has some worries about them, which is presumably why he is here, to get Jesus to fill in the proper forms. And he does deserve some credit for this, many of his colleagues couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see even this far into the love of God. But it is not far enough, because all Jesus’s replies to Nicodemus suggest that Nicodemus has to let go of all the measures that he has been using and launch out into the unfathomable reality of the totality of God’s love.

God does not love; when we have met the requirements, or when we have changed enough to be lovable, or when we were lucky enough to be born, in one race or sex. God just loves. And trying to measure the love of God is like trying to control the wind. God will do anything for this world he loves, including coming himself, the Son, to die for it. To understand this is to be, in Jesus’s words, born again, to start the world again, learning to walk and speak and think and grow in a world where the love of God is the breath that we breathe, so that our every response to the world around is informed by that love.

So don’t try to measure the wind of God’s love, Paul argues, just go with it, let it breathe through you and power you – God’s Spirit, in modern parlance, a totally renewable power source. To be filled with the vitality of God’s love is to share in God’s relationship with God, and to know ourselves beloved.

It is also to share in God’s wild love for the world, so that like Isaiah we say, Send us! Paul and John, both warn us that our love must be as insane as God’s. No reintroducing the checklists, no loving on our terms only. God the Son preferred to go to the cross rather than force his creation into a dutiful, fearful obedience to the Father, if our loving in any way reflects God’s love then that must be our choice also, if necessary.

It’s wonderful, it’s exhilarating, it’s scary and we are called to it by our baptism. Let’s pray that out into the world. Amen.

Intercessions

Loving God, help us to love your world and ours as you love it, so that we work for justice for all your people: we work for an equal sharing of the resources of our world; we work to be good stewards of the creation you have given us so that the earth and all that is in it is not damaged by our exploitation and greed.

Where we have failed to love your world as you do but have damaged it and exploited it. Forgive us.

Where we have failed to care for your people who are unable to care for themselves. Forgive us.

Where our greed has damaged your world and its people. Forgive us.

Grow your love in us so that we may be lights to the world, and your love may be known through us. Amen.

Our final hymn, written by Michael Hare Duke has the title ‘Daring, Dancing Trinity’ and is sung to the tune Blaenwern.

Lord, your love has called to being all that fills the earth below,
myriad stars beyond our seeing, tiniest creatures that we know;
earth and air and fire and water woven in the grand design,
witness to the final meaning of your love for humankind.

Human lives are made for sharing; joined in trust and truth we grow,
speech of silence opening pathways to the hearts we seek to know.
Welcome love, by your renewal worn out ways turn upside down;
weak is strong, success is failure, and the wise becomes the clown.

From yourself we take our nature, Maker, parent, love divine.
Bound into your life we flourish, leaves and branches of the vine.
Through the Christ we see your pattern, life surrendered, life restored:
echoing through all creation sounds the spirit’s deep accord.

Love releases us for taking one more risk than we might dare;
glory breaks through dark and danger, shows the Lord transfigured there.
God who planted our affections, help your gifts to grow more free,
fan in us the fires of loving, daring, dancing Trinity.

Michael Hare Duke (former Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane)

Materials for Worship at Home on the Feast of Pentecost

Nerys writes: Today as you light your candle and prepare for worship, you are invited to say the words, ‘Come Holy Spirit; Holy Spirit come!’
In our Gospel today, Jesus, at the Last Supper makes a promise to his disciples that when he leaves them, they will not be alone. He will continue to be with them spiritually through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. Our reading from the Book of Acts, gives a dramatic account of how those disciples, on the day of the Jewish festival of Pentecost experience being filled with the power of the Spirit.
As you listen the passages, look out for the very distinct imagery used by the two authors to express their different understandings of the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

Susi reads John 15.26-27, 16.4b-15.

Heather reads Acts 2.1-21.

The way Luke describes the coming of God’s Spirit with the imagery of fire and flame has fascinated me for a long time, as it has captivated artists down the ages. We may never know exactly what happened in Jerusalem during that first Pentecost festival after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like all the other key events which we mark during the Christian year, Pentecost is shrouded in mystery. Luke, who wrote the only account we have of it, wasn’t present, didn’t witness it first hand and uses similes to convey what it was like – a sound from heaven like the blowing of a violent wind and what seemed to be tongues of fire coming to rest on the apostles as they were filled with the Holy Spirit. A literal understanding led some medieval artists to represent the scene like an old advert for British Gas, with a neatly-formed single flame on each individual’s heads. Modern artists tend to show flames engulfing the whole company, making them one, as in this batik by Solomon Raj, a Lutheran pastor and artist from Andhra Pradesh in India.
The idea of God as fire was nothing new in Jewish scripture. You will remember how Elijah’s sacrifice on Mount Carmel was consumed by fire from heaven as were the sacrifices of David and Solomon, and how, at the giving of the law to Moses, Mount Sinai was covered in smoke as God descended on it in fire.
But when we think of God’s Spirit as fire, there are a range of images we might be drawn to.
We could think of the beauty and tranquility of a single candle flame which lightens the darkness and guides our steps. God’s Spirit is the spirit of truth who stills our restless minds, giving us clarity, helping us to find our way in life and to lead others to Christ.

We could think of a fire in a hearth which provides warmth and comfort. The advocate-spirit of God, the opposite of Satan, the accuser, is a reassuring presence who reveals Christ’s love for us and enables us to bring consolation to others.

Or we could think of a fire fanned by wind, like a forest fire that consumes everything in its path, cleansing the land and stimulating new growth. God’s spirit has the power to renew us, stripping away the old, preparing us for the next challenge as we respond to Christ’s call.

I wonder what kind of holy fire you need in your life today?
At the heart of the 1982 Eucharist is a simple prayer. You may wish to make it yours, changing the pronouns to the first singular:
Hear us, most merciful Father,
and send your Holy Spirit upon us …
[that] we may be kindled with the fire of your love
and renewed for the service of your Kingdom.

This renewing is not a one-off event but a process. We need to be filled with the fire of God’s Holy Spirit time and time again because the flame burns low. We lose clarity, the sense of God’s comforting presence with us becomes dim, our lives become cluttered, squeezing out and diminishing the power of God’s love.
Let us pray that God’s Spirit would also fill others:
We pray for world leaders and all those in situations of power and influence that they would be filled with the Spirit of Truth.
Come Holy Spirit.
We pray for all those who suffer that they would know the comforting presence of the Spirit of Love.
Come Holy Spirit.
We pray for God’s Church, here in Dunblane and across the world, that we would be renewed and blaze with the Spirit of Justice and Compassion.
Come Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit come. Amen.

Here to finish is Julia singing ‘Spirit of God’ by Margaret V. Old on the tune of the Skye Boat Song.

Spirit of God, unseen as the wind,
gentle as is the dove,
teach the truth and help us believe,
show us the Saviour’s love.

You spoke to us, long, long ago,
gave us the written word;
we read it still, needing its truth,
through it God’s voice is heard.
Spirit of God….

Without your help, we fail our Lord,
we cannot live his way,
we need your power, we need your strength,
following Christ each day.
Spirit of God….

Material for Worship on the Seventh Sunday of Easter

Our Gospel reading today is part of Jesus’ prayer to the Father at the Last Supper, writes the Ven. Peter M. Potter. He prays about his departure from his disciples after his death and after the Ascension.

Blessing them, He withdrew. Jan Richardson

We follow the words of the Ascension hymn, Hail the day that sees him rise, played by David. CP 167

Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia,
to his throne above the skies; Alleluia,
Christ, the Lamb for sinners given, Alleluia,
enters now the highest heaven. Alleluia!
There for him high triumph waits;
lift your heads, eternal gates.
He hath conquered death and sin;
take the King of Glory in.

Lo, the heaven its Lord receives,
yet he loves the earth he leaves;
though returning to his throne,
still he calls mankind his own.

See, he lifts his hands above;
see, he shews the prints of love;
hark, his gracious lips bestow
blessings on his church below.

Still for us he intercedes,
his prevailing death he pleads;
near himself prepares our place,
he the first-fruits of our race.

Lord, though parted from our sight,
far above the starry height,
grant our hearts may thither rise,
seeking thee above the skies.

Then listen to how the number of apostles was restored to twelve, Acts 1.15-17, 21-26, read by Martin

and then a reading from the Fourth Gospel (John 17. 6-19), read by June

Sometime in the 1590s, the theologian and reformer William Melville addressed King James VI with: “I must tell you that there is two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland …” the one ruled by James and the kingdom ruled by Christ Jesus, “in which Jamie Saxt is but God’s silly vassal.”. At first sight, what Jesus says in these verses from John’s Gospel does sound as if there is a sharp division between earthly kingdoms and the kingdom of God: “They [the disciples] do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”

For reflection: Does this verse apply to you and, if so, how?

Actually, it is rather more complicated: two verses further on he says to his Father “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. At the Ascension, the disciples ask Jesus “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” They had recognised the connection between the fulfilment of God’s promises in the resurrection and the coming of the kingdom. It also leads us to look for connections too.

Now you don’t need me to tell you that we have just had an election and also that we are just coming to the end of Christian Aid Week. Are the aims of Christian Aid part of God’s manifesto and were they reflected in the manifestos of the politicians we have just elected?

To what extent was the way you cast your vote influenced by Jesus’ teachings?

In verse 18 of our reading today, Jesus says to his Father “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. Here Jesus is signalling that the disciples are being given a mandate to carry on his work in the world. At Pentecost the disciples become apostles – the word means one who is sent out – and the embryo Church which comes into being is to be agent of the restored kingdom. As Tom Wright, professor of theology at St Andrews, says we have been saved through the resurrection in order that we might be God’s rescuing stewards over his creation. Salvation does not mean that we are saved by being snatched out of the world but precisely the opposite. We are saved in order to be salt and light in the world.
When Jesus ascended into heaven he was not washing his hands of the world but, again precisely the opposite. The Ascension affirms that he is everywhere present and at all times. At the beginning of his earthly ministry, he proclaimed “The kingdom of God is among you” or “within you”. Our Eucharist Prayer picks this up with words that point to what our response to this should be “Worship and praise belong to you, Father, in all places and at all times”.

Can you think of other parts of the liturgy where the features of the kingdom are illustrated?

The kingdom of God is already here, and we can see signs of it at many times and in many places, often when we least expect it. Yes, when we look at the world today, we can see that there is evil and wickedness – in Yemen, Northern Ireland, racism, the heartless scams people have fallen victim to during the pandemic. But we have to set against this the sheer amount of good there is too – often small, unnoticed. The pandemic has also engendered an increase in good neighbourliness; many churches have embarked on new activities in their local communities. I think too of the acts of spontaneous kindness shown to us by neighbours and complete strangers when they saw that Shareene’s disabilities were getting us into difficulties.
Can you recall some of your own Good Samaritan moments?

These are all signs that the kingdom is among us and we are to be witnesses to them. They are instances that Christ is being glorified in the world today.

So, was Melville right? Or does the fact that James (and we) are “God’s silly vassals” mean that the two kingdoms are one and the same?

INTERCESSIONS

We pray:
for the world that Christ came to save ….
May all who exercise authority learn his ways of justice and integrity.

for those you have given us in love to be our family, friends and neighbours …
Guide them with the grace promised to all who are your own.

for those who have heard and sought to follow but have fallen away …
Come tenderly to them and bring them back in the way that leads to eternal life.

for the sick …
Have mercy on them and grant them healing and peace.

for the people of your Church …
Draw them together in unity, inspired by the oneness of the Father and the Son.

for those who in faith have entered into the fullness of eternal life …
May we with them grow into the vision of that glory.

Our closing hymn is an encouragement to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”, the instruction with which we are dismissed at the end of every Eucharist and the proper response to all that Jesus did for us for us.

Sent forth by God’s blessing, our true faith confessing,
the people of God from this table take leave.
The supper is ended: may now be extended
the fruits of his service in all who believe.
The seed of his teaching, our hungry souls reaching,
shall blossom in action for God and for man.
His grace shall incite us, his love shall unite us
to work for the kingdom, and further his plan.

With praise and thanksgiving to God ever-living,
the tasks of our everyday life we will face,
our faith ever sharing, in love ever caring,
embracing as neighbours all those of each race.
One feast that has fed us, one light that has led us,
unite us as one in his life that we share.
Then may all the living, with praise and thanksgiving
give honour to Christ and his name that we bear.

Materials for Worship at Home on the 6th Sunday of Easter

Nerys writes: As you prepare to worship today, on the first Sunday of Christian Aid Week, I invite you to look closely at this photo of Rose Katanu Johathan, a 67 year-old widow from Kitui county in eastern Kenya.
She and her family are caught in a cycle of climate chaos. From severe drought to flooding, extreme weather robs her of what she needs to survive. Without a reliable source of water, she is often hungry and thirsty and struggles to provide for the six grandchildren who are in her care.

(Photo: Rose Katanu Jonathan by Adam Finch, Christian Aid)

Our readings today remind us of the way Christ calls us to relate to Rose and people like her. In John 15.9-17, read here by June , Jesus, after washing his disciples’ feet, commands them to love one another just as he has loved them. In this way, they will no longer be God’s servants, but beloved friends, sent to ‘bear fruit that will last’, reaching out in self-giving love to the world around them. In our epistle, 1 John 5.1-6, read here by Martin, the writer goes a step further, using the idea of the family to emphasise that the love of God and the love of others are inseparable. If we love our parent God, he suggests, then we should also love God’s other children as brothers and sisters. And, if we think of every single human being as a member of our own family, then obeying Christ’s command to selflessly love them is not a burden. William Barclay in his commentary on this passage tells a memorable story of a boy walking to school carrying on his back a smaller boy who is unable to walk. A stranger asks him, ‘Do you carry him to school every day?’ ‘Yes’, answers the boy. ‘That’s a heavy burden you carry’, remarks the man. ‘He’s not a burden’, responds the boy, ‘he’s my brother’.

Luke Connaughton’s song ‘Love is his word, love is his way’ gently sums up the messages of both readings. You may wish to listen to David playing the tune Cresswell as you follow the words or sing along.

Richer than gold is the love of my Lord:
better than splendour and wealth.

Love is his word, love is his way,
feasting with all, fasting alone,
living and dying, rising again,
love, only love, is his way.

Love is his way, love is his mark,
sharing his last Passover feast,
Christ at the table, host to the Twelve,
love, only love, is his mark.

Love is his mark, love is his sign,
bread for our strength, wine for our joy,
‘This is my body, this is my blood’,
love, only love is his sign.

Love is his sign, love is his news,
‘Do this’, he said , ‘lest you forget
all my deep sorrow, all my dear blood’,
love, only love, is his news.

Love is his news, love is his name,
we are his own, chosen and called,
family, brethren, cousins and kin.
Love, only love is his name.

Love is his name, love is his law.
Hear his command, all who are his,
‘Love one another, I have loved you’.
Love, only love, is his law.

Love is his law, love is his word:
love of the Lord, Father, and Word,
love of the Spirit, God ever one,
love, only love, is his word.

Our sister, Rose, is struggling to survive. The climate crisis has made the weather in her part of Kenya unpredictable. It doesn’t rain for months at a time. Rivers run dry, crops wither and die, cows, sheep and goats become weak and unable to produce milk. During these times of drought, Rose sets off every morning on a long and dangerous journey to look for water for her family. She walks under the hot sun on an empty stomach. Rose is doing all she can to give her grandchildren a happy childhood like the one she enjoyed but the unpredictable weather caused by climate change is driving her to the brink. The rain when it comes is often so heavy and relentless that it causes flooding, destroying any crops that have survived. Rose believes that God gives her strength and helps her persevere but she knows that life can’t continue like this for much longer.

In Kitui county in eastern Kenya, 8 out of 10 people grow crops for food and to earn a living. Without a reliable source of water, whole villages are facing starvation. Christian Aid, through their local partners, are helping these communities to build earth dams which capture rainwater. With a dam full of water nearby, Rose would be free from her exhausting daily journeys. She could grow vegetables for her family to eat and to sell at the market. A dam would help her withstand long droughts and relentless rainstorms. It would help her protect herself from coronavirus. It would make it possible for her to see her grandchildren grow up and live life in all its fullness.

In her message for Christian Aid Week, Revd Sally Foster-Fulton, the head of Christian Aid Scotland, speaks about the way the Covid crisis has made us realise how connected we are. It has also shown us what is possible when we put each other first. But when a crisis is not on our doorstep, we often don’t respond. We, in this country, are coming through the Covid crisis, but there is no end in sight for Rose and the two billion people across the world facing persistent threats to their livelihoods because of the climate crisis. Christian Aid is working with local partners in 29 countries to bring practical immediate solutions like the building of earth dams in Kenya. They are also seeking to introduce long term solutions like drought-resistant crops and renewable energy. And they are campaigning for climate justice, calling for changes in global policies and finance, and preparing to make sure that the voices of people like Rose are heard at the COP 26 summit in Glasgow later this year.

Sally says, ‘Too often we forget how much we belong to one another. The need is huge, but so is hope, especially if we stand together.’

This Christian Aid Week, we are invited to give, act and pray for a better world.

As we pray now for our own families and those known to us who are in need, let us also pray for Rose and all our brothers and sisters whose lives are affected by climate chaos.

We can make Sheila Erena Murray’s hymn our prayer of commitment, following the words or singing along as David plays the tune.

Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently,
nourish the life of the world in our care:
gift of great wonder, ours to surrender,
trust for the children tomorrow will bear.

We who endanger, who create hunger,
agents of death for all creatures that live,
we who would foster clouds of disaster,
God of our planet, forestall and forgive!

Let there be greening, birth from the burning,
water that blesses and air that is sweet,
health in God’s garden, hope in God’s children,
regeneration that peace will complete.

God of all living, God of all loving,
God of the seedling, the snow, and the sun,
teach us, deflect us, Christ reconnect us,
using us gently, and making us one.
(Sheila Erena Murray)

You may wish to finish your time of prayer with this Christian Aid Week prayer by Rachel Addis.

God our Mother and Father,
we praise you for the blessings you shower upon us.
Bless the lives of all our sisters and brothers
and their precious children.
In life’s saddest moments,
may we feel your love most, O Jesus.
Continue to dwell in our hearts, Lord.
May your love keep us strong. Amen.

For more information about Christian Aid’s work with local partners in 29 countries affected by Climate Crisis, not only providing immediate, practical solutions but also seeking to introduce long term solutions campaigning for climate justice, please visit www.christianaid.org.uk
For the Christian Aid Week message of Revd. Sally Foster-Fulton, click on this link: Sally’s message for Christian Aid Week 2021 – YouTube
This year there will be no doorstep collection of Christian Aid envelopes in Dunblane. Instead, donations can be dropped off at church next Sunday or at the Rectory, Meldrum’s, Charisma or Smallprint on the High Street during the week. If this is not possible, please contact John Hamilton (824552) who will collect your envelope. You could also make a donation electronically by visiting the Dunblane Christian Aid JustGiving Page. (Details of how to find it is on page 20 of the St Mary’s Magazine.) Please don’t forget to Gift Aid your donation if you can! Thank you.

Material for Worship on the Fifth Sunday in Easter

Our reflection this week for the Fifth Sunday in Easter was prepared by Rev Moira Jamieson.

Let’s listen to the gospel of John, chapter 15:1-8 read for us today by Colin.

In today’s gospel passage from John, we are reminded that Jesus is the true vine and that his disciples are those who are grafted to him. The images contained in this passage are so appropriate in this season of planting and growing. Those who are keen gardeners and those who just like to plant a few flowers in their gardens, know that without nurture, the plants will not thrive. A few weeks ago, when Sandy and I were walking our dog Brachan in the Colzium Lennox Estate, I noticed that some branches had been broken off the trees with all the recent high winds. The leaves were beginning to wither and turn brown. Lying close by were branches with no leaves on at all, probably more accurate to call them sticks! Anyway, I think we all realise that had I tried to plant either of these branches in new soil, there would be no chance of a new tree growing up from them, and that’s because the branches cannot live without being attached to the tree, and the life-giving sap which comes from the trunk and roots of the tree. This is also true of our Christian life as disciples of Jesus. If we are not grafted, or rooted, in the life of Jesus and His Father, our faith will wither and die.

Perhaps here you would like to think about the ways in which your life is rooted in God. As you reflect you may wish to look at this Byzantine icon of Jesus the True Vine. (Athens, 16th century)

Our passage this morning contains wonderful imagery and metaphors of the vine grower and his vines. Whatever the reason for using these metaphors, the image of the vine was the central focus for Jesus’ teaching that day and His use of the vine not only enabled Him to depict Himself as the true vine and His Father as the gardener, but also to depict His disciples (and us) as branches of that vine. We can assume that Jesus as a young boy, would have grown up with rabbinical teaching of the Torah, or Old Testament, and that He would have been familiar with the prophets. In the Old Testament, Israel was often depicted as a vine or vineyard and in the book of Isaiah chapter 5 verse 7 it says, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are His pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!” This verse points out that the vineyard, which was planted by the Lord of Hosts, was expected to produce good grapes and instead it produced only bad grapes, which had to be destroyed. So the metaphor of the vineyard suggests something belonging to God, which is tended by Him and which is expected in due course to yield fruit. No one can be considered a branch in the Lord’s vine unless there is a connection to Him. No one can bear fruit for the glory of God unless they are attached to the vine. It’s interesting to note that no less than six times in these verses, Jesus uses the phrase, “in me” and He is talking about a situation that is an absolute necessity for life and fruit bearing. It seems to me that Jesus is saying to us in this passage, that we cannot be a fruitful branch for the Glory of God, until we have a vital, life-giving connection to the vine. Without that connection, the “sap of life” cannot flow in us and through us. Before we can have anything else from God or with God, we must have that vital connection, which is our relationship with God. For us to have a hope of heaven and life eternal, we must first have a good relationship with God, where He is the vine and we are the branches, united in love and forgiveness

Think about what way we might, in our daily lives, show that we are rooted in God’s love?

Listen now, and sing along if you wish, to the hymn “O Jesus I Have Promised”

O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end:
be thou ever near me, my Master and my friend;
I shall not fear the battle if thou art by my side,
nor wander from the pathway if thou wilt be my guide.

O let me feel thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
my foes are ever near me, around me and within;
but Jesus, draw thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.

O let me hear thee speaking in accents clear and still,
above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen, thou guardian of my soul.

O Jesus, thou hast promised to all who follow thee,
that where thou art in glory there shall thy servant be;
and, Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow, my Master and my friend.

O let me see thy footmarks, and in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly is in thy strength alone.
O guide me, call me, draw me, uphold me to the end;
and then in heaven receive me, my Saviour and my Friend.
John Ernest Bode

We now listen to the first letter of John 4:7-21 read by Mary.

Having a good relationship with God and abiding in Him are what we, as disciples of Jesus, should be striving to do. And what does it mean to abide in Him? In our second reading from the first letter of John we heard, “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” Abiding in God therefore, means abiding in His love, and sharing that love with everyone. The letter also says that those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, abide in God and goes onto say that those who say that they love God but do not love their brothers and sisters are liars and therefore do not abide in God. In verse two of our Gospel reading, Jesus speaks of how the branches of the vine are removed when they bear no fruit. He ‘cleanses’ the branch by removing from it anything that saps its vitality and strength. Those of you who are gardeners will know that in order to produce beautiful roses every year, or a good yield of fruit from fruit trees, they need to be pruned in the Autumn and sometimes also in the spring. Anything that consumes life from the plant, but produces no flower or fruit, must be pruned away. So it is in the life of the believer. We as Christians, must not allow things into our lives that will hinder our walk with God, otherwise we are in danger of being “pruned” by Him. In order to become good followers of God, we must allow him to prune the things in us that will cause our faith to wither. After the ‘pruning’ we have a wonderful promise. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” This is our challenge this week, that we bear much fruit in the name of Jesus and bring glory to our Father in heaven. Amen.

In your prayers today, ask God to help you cling more closely to him and to his word and pray for all missionaries who spread the good news of his gospel.

Pray for families who are struggling in this time of change. The hungry, the lonely, the bereaved.

Pray for any known to you who are ill at this time and for all who care for the sick at home, in hospital, in care homes and hospices.

Pray for peace in our world and give thanks for those who seek to find peaceful solutions to conflicts. Pray for Myanmar, for Yemen, for Palestine, for Northern Ireland and for any countries where greed, injustice and violence prevail.

Pray for your own family and the family of the church, giving thanks to God for his promise to abide in us if we abide in him.

Heavenly Father, you alone can bring harmony to the minds of your faithful people. Give us grace to love the things you command and to desire the things you promise. Amen.

The final hymn this morning is “Will You Come and Follow Me.”

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known?
Will you let my life be grown in you, and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare, should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen?
And admit to what I mean in you, and you in me?

Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell that fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around
through my sight and touch and sound in you, and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go, where your love and footsteps show,
thus I’ll move and live and grow in you, and you in me.
John I. Bell

Materials for Worship at Home on Good Shepherd Sunday

Nerys writes: Today is known as Good Shepherd Sunday because the gospel reading is taken from the tenth chapter of John where Jesus describes his ministry as that of a shepherd. Unlike cattle who are herded from behind with shouts and prods, sheep prefer to be led. In Jesus’ day, a shepherd would know each of his sheep by name and they would respond to his voice as he called them to follow him to new pasture.

As you light your candle and prepare yourself for worship, you are invited to think about people who have been ‘good shepherds’ for you. Who shared with you the love of Christ and showed you His way? Who has helped lead you in right paths or walked with you in dark valleys? Who has given you comfort and calmed your fears? Who has shown you hospitality and grace, making a place at the table for you? Take a moment to give thanks to God for them.

Our three passages from Scripture today are very closely intertwined. It’s easy to forget that Psalm 23 which is so well-known to us, was equally well-known and loved by Jesus. He would have prayed it often, acknowledging the God of Israel as his shepherd, his leader and guide, especially as he walked through the darkest valley of suffering and death. By using the image of the Good Shepherd, so familiar to his listeners, Jesus in Chapter 10 of John’s Gospel is identifying himself with God’s saving work of gathering up and caring for his flock, ready to lay down his own life for their protection. And John in his first letter reflects on this, calling his readers to imitate Christ by sharing with one another and with those in need the love he showed, a forgiving, self-giving, sacrificial love.

Listen to Hannah reading John 10.11-19 and her sister, Laura, reading 1 John 3.16-24.

The image of the Good Shepherd has captured the imagination of artists down the ages. In fact the three earliest images of Jesus, found in the Catacombs of Rome, portray him as the Good Shepherd. And over a thousand years later, artists all over the world continue to be inspired to create images of the Good Shepherd according to their own styles and cultures. As you reflect on today’s readings, you may wish to spend time with this print by the contemporary American artist Daniel Bonnell where the Good Shepherd and the Crucified Christ are one.

Today we join with many other churches across the world in keeping ‘Vocations Sunday’. In the main service in church, Godwin Chimara from Aberdeen Diocese, who is being trained for the priesthood by the Scottish Episcopal Institute, shared the story of his calling with us. You can see a video of him in conversation with Nerys below:

The Good Shepherd calls each one of us to use our gifts in God’s service wherever we are and whatever stage of life we’re at. Vocations are not limited to public ministry in the church. We are all called to ‘lay down our lives for one another’. Think back to those people who acted as ‘good shepherds’ for you. How can you be a ‘good shepherd’ for others through prayer or action? What new possibilities is Christ calling you to?

Many writers also have been inspired by the image of the Good Shepherd, including Jane Eliza Leeson whose hymn ‘Loving Shepherd of thy sheep’ was first published as a poem in 1842. It is, in fact, a prayer of thanksgiving and commitment to Christ, our loving Saviour. You may wish to make it your own by changing the pronouns to the first singular as you read.

Loving Shepherd of thy sheep,
keep us all, in safety keep;
nothing can thy power withstand,
none can pluck us from thy hand.

Loving Saviour, thou didst give
thine own life that we might live,
bought with blood and bought for thee,
thine, and only thine, we’d be.

We would praise thee every day,
gladly all thy will obey,
like thy blessèd ones above
happy in thy precious love.

Loving Shepherd, ever near,
teach us all thy voice to hear,
suffer not our steps to stray
from the straight and narrow way.

Where thou leadest we would go,
walking in thy steps below,
till before our Father’s throne
we shall know as we are known.

Here is David playing the tune.

During your time of prayer for others today, you are invited to
• pray for the nations of the world and their leaders, for the people of India suffering so badly from Covid 19 and for a fair and effective distribution of vaccines.
• pray for all those in need and those for whom the future is uncertain.
• pray for those who are suffering in body, mind or spirit.
• pray for our community and for those seeking to support our young people and the elderly.
• pray for your friends and loved ones and those you find difficult to love.
• pray for the Church, for those who serve in authorised ministry and those who support them.
• pray for the Scottish Episcopal Institute, its tutors and students, for those who are responding to their calling to ministry and those guiding them.

Merciful Father,
You gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the Good Shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again:
keep us and all your children, always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps. Amen.

You may wish to finish this time of worship by singing along to the paraphrase of Psalm 23 from the Scottish Psalter as David plays Brother James Air. (The second half of every verse is repeated.)

The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

My soul He doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for His own name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For Thou art with me, and Thy rod
And staff me comfort still.

My table Thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me,
And in God’s house forevermore
My dwelling-place shall be.

Vocations Sunday – Nerys in conversation with Godwin Chimara

Rev Nerys Brown in conversation with Godwin Chimara from the Diocese of Aberdeen, a student at the Scottish Episcopal Institute:

Material for Worship on the 3rd Sunday of Easter

Nerys writes:

You may wish to start your time of worship today by listening to David playing the tune of ‘Lord of the Dance’.

Sydney Carter saw Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us to dance with him. As you follow the words, think of the pattern of this last week and especially the moments of resurrection and new life you may have experienced.

I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
and I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth;
at Bethlehem I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

I danced for the scribe and the pharisee,
but they would not dance and they wouldn’t follow me.
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;
they came with me and the dance went on.

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame;
the holy people said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me on high,
and they left me there on a cross to die:

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black;
it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back.
They buried my body and they thought I’d gone,
but I am the Dance, and I still go on:

They cut me down and I leapt up high;
I am the life that’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me:
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

As you light your candle today, on the third Sunday of Easter, and welcome the risen Christ into your heart and home, bring to mind the stories that you are familiar with of his meetings with his friends and followers after his resurrection.

‘The Risen Lord’ by He Qi

I would be surprised if you managed to remember the incident outlined in today’s Gospel reading! It is not one of the well-known stories that have inspired artists and poets down the centuries. It’s understandable that it is overlooked. It is so concise and crammed full of all the different elements found in all the other stories that it is difficult to summarise it or to give it a convenient label. But I think that it is worth taking some time to unpack it and ponder the disciples’ experience. This is their story of coming to believe in Christ, this is my story. It may well be your story too …

Listen to Morag reading Luke 24.36-48.

I wonder why the disciples at first think they are seeing a ghost? Why so you think they are unable to recognise the risen Christ among them?

Could it be that they have not yet realised that a new reality has been born, shattering our limited human understanding of life and death, spirit and matter, of who God is and how God works?

Did you notice that it is through seeing his wounded hands and feet, feeling his flesh and bones, eating the broiled fish with him that the disciples recognise Jesus? It is through experiencing an intimate encounter with him that the risen Christ becomes real. And, as all the possibilities of this new divine reality dawns on the disciples, their fear turns to joy.

And yet they are still disbelieving and wondering. They need Christ to open their minds so that they know that all that has been written about the Messiah had now been fulfilled. It is not an academic or intellectual understanding that they are given. They don’t have all the answers – so much is still a mystery – but now Scripture makes sense. Deep in their hearts they know that they have been given new life in relationship with Christ. They failed their teacher and friend so many times and they will fail him again, but they know now the freedom of forgiveness as they begin to live the resurrected life.

‘You are witnesses of these things’, declares Christ as he promises to clothe them with God’s power and instructs them to share who they are and what they’ve experienced with all nations, starting in Jerusalem. We are not told by Luke what the disciples thought and how they felt at this point but one of our other reading today gives us a good idea of how they responded. John’s letter, probably written in Ephesus a hundred years later, shows that the early Christians, still living with their questions and doubts, continued to be faithful to their calling to be witnesses despite the cost, and that the risen Christ continued to be present and active among them.

Listen to Margaret reading 1 John 3.1-7.

Just as the risen Christ was to his first followers and to the Early Church, he is to us now:

Christ our loving God, longs to meet us wherever we are so that he can become real to us – a living presence in our lives.

Christ longs to free us from the faults and fears that hold us captive, to give us peace and deep joy in the midst of the challenges of our lives.

Christ longs to open our minds to possibilities beyond our human understanding, to make sense of the past and to fill our hearts with hope for the future.

Christ longs for us to become witnesses of his forgiveness and his unconditional, limitless love.

Christ longs for us to testify through our transformed lives, through our hunger for justice and our concern for those in need that He is alive in us.

And Christ longs to clothe us with resurrection power, the power of God’s loving spirit within us.

Take a moment now in the presence of the risen Christ to reaffirm your relationship with him and to rejoice in the freedom of his unconditional love.

You are invited to pray for all those who are locked in today, adding the names of those you know and situations you are familiar with.
For all in our own community who are still shielding because of frailty or medical conditions,

For those who are trapped by addiction or mental ill-health,

For those who are isolated by hurt, loneliness and grief,

For those whose lives are limited by poverty and insecurity,

For those in coercive or violent relationships,

For all those across the world who suffer because of oppressive regimes,

For those caught up in situations of armed conflict, in natural disasters, drought or famine,

For all those who are imprisoned justly or unjustly,

For prisoners of conscience,

For refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in holding camps,

For those sold into slavery and trafficked,

For those who are forced to worship in secret,

For those struggling with unhelpful understandings of God,

For those beset by anxiety and self-doubt,

Loving God, help us to respond with compassion to those who call out and those who are silent.

In the name of the risen Christ, Amen.

You may wish to finish your time of worship by listening to David playing the tune of Edward J. Burns’ hymn, ‘We have a Gospel to proclaim’

We have a gospel to proclaim,
good news for all throughout the earth;
the gospel of a Saviour’s name:
we sing His glory, tell His worth.

Tell of His birth at Bethlehem,
not in a royal house or hall
but in a stable dark and dim,
the Word made flesh, a light for all.

Tell of His death at Calvary,
hated by those He came to save,
in lonely suffering on the cross;
for all He loved, His life He gave.

Tell of that glorious Easter morn:
empty the tomb, for He was free.
He broke the power of death and hell
that we might share his victory.

Tell of his reign at God’s right hand,
by all creation glorified.
He sends his Spirit on his church
to live for Him, the Lamb who died.

Now we rejoice to name Him King:
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
This gospel-message we proclaim:
we sing his glory, tell his worth.

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 Autumn 2021 – Some Frequently Asked Questions

Can anyone attend a service at St Mary’s? Yes, and you would be made most welcome. There is no longer any need to book a place in advance. If you have any questions, please drop an email to Nerys on rector @ stmarysdunblane.org or phone the Rectory on 01786 824511

What happens as I enter the building? A welcomer will greet you and ask you for your name and phone number or email address for NHS Test & Protect.  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 welcomer. We are observing one metre distancing but if you wish to sit 2 metres apart from others and would like to be near the exit, please let the welcomer know.

What if I need to use the disabled entrance? Just let Nerys 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.  A Whole Church Service is held roughly once a month. There is an informal Families Service in the church hall at 4.30 p.m. on the last Sunday of every month and also outdoor gatherings from mid August. Teenagers (from P7 to S6) will gather in the Quiet Garden at 10.30 a.m. on Sundays for Cafe Church. Please consult the Calendar and contact Liz on events @ stmarysdunblane.org for more information.

What will the services be like? The early morning service at 830 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 including traditional and modern Compline, Taize and Iona.

What about music? There will be hymns and organ music most Sundays at the 10.30 Service and the band will sometimes play.  At the Night Service there is often instrumental music. We are now allowed to sing behind masks.

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 is usually 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 . The pews nearest the main door will be emptied first.  Once you’re out of the building, please don’t cluster around the main doors of the church but spread out to chat. We hope to provide refreshments after the 10.30 a.m. service soon.

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.

What if I need to speak to a priest? Whoever is leading the service will be around outside at the end of the service. 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 week.

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 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? The church building is now open for individual prayer.  You are also welcome to walk the labyrinth on the Rectory lawn.

What about weddings and baptisms? Yes, they are possible with 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.