Category Archives: Holy Week

Vigils, solemn services and the message of Easter hope

The week before Easter is known as Holy Week and will be marked with meditations, vigils and solemn services in the parish.

There will be a series of meditations for Holy Week at St John’s on Monday to Wednesday, April 15-17, at 7.30pm. On April 18, a day known in the Christian calendar as Maundy Thursday, there will be services at 7.30pm both at St John’s and at St George’s, with Holy Communion and a vigil, and the altar will be stripped of all coverings. At St John’s there will also be a ceremony of foot-washing as a reminder of the act of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at the meal he shared with them on the night before he died.

Lesley Crawley explained why the churches are doing this: “Maundy Thursday derives its name from a Latin word ‘mandatum’ which means command. Jesus was executed at the time of the Jewish Passover celebrations and he and his disciples shared a meal together at which he washed their feet in an act of humility and service. It is reported in the Bible that he told his disciples: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’ (The Gospel of John, chapter 13, verse 34).”

The following day is known as ‘Good Friday’ and commemorates the day that Jesus was executed by being nailed to a cross. There will be several services in the parish, starting with a silent vigil at St John’s Church at 8.30am and a service at 9.30am, while at St George’s there will be a Good Friday service at 2-3pm, with 3pm marking the time when it is traditionally thought that Jesus died. At St Mark’s in Upper Hale, there will be Easter activities for children ages five to 11 from 9.30am, followed by a service at 11am and hot cross buns (to book a place on the Easter activities, contact Hannah Moore on 01252 659267 or revd.hannah@badshotleaandhale.org).

Lesley continued: “Good Friday commemorates the darkness of Jesus’ death, but on Easter Sunday we celebrate the joy of his resurrection. Death could not hold him and in rising from the dead he showed that the God of love is stronger than anything that the world can throw at us.”

On Easter Sunday there will be services at St John’s at 9.30am, St George’s at 10am and 11.30am, and at St Mark’s at 11am. Both the 11.30am service at St George’s and the 11am service at St Mark’s will include an Easter egg hunt.

Lesley added: “Everyone is welcome at any or all of our services. Do come and explore with us the message of hope that Easter offers to us all.”

 

Holy Wednesday Reflection

Wednesday

John 13.21-32

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

In what follows my aim is to provide something for you to reflect on in the silence that follows.  If you find something that you engage with please feel free to stay with it and stop listening to me – what you reflect on for yourself is more important than what I say.

So far this week we have looked at what kind of disciple we are, and how to use our gifts and then the implications of living out our discipleship and where it might lead us to.  Today we are going to look at how we deal with our own failure to accept God’s will for us.

How often do we fail God?

Can we accept forgiveness for the times we betray Jesus?

Can we accept God’s will for us?

Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me – What?  Only one?  Did the disciples not betray Jesus by falling asleep while he prayed –by running away when he was arrested – by disappearing for his crucifixion?  Did Thomas not betray Jesus by insisting on proof?  Did Peter not betray Jesus by denying him three times?

And what about you?  How often, and in how many ways do you betray Jesus?

We are called to follow him – to go where he goes – we know his disciples did not understand at the end, and yet earlier in his mission he sent them out to “cure the sick … and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

What are you afraid of?  What stops you reaching out to those Jesus reached out to?  To those who are different to you; to those who society has rejected?

Do you find yourself judging those on the outside?  Do you judge yourself by God’s standards?  Can you forgive yourself for your failings the way Jesus forgives the disciples?  Can you accept God’s forgiveness when you get things wrong?

Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him

Can you see the glory of the crucifixion?  Do you see it as triumph or as tragedy?

When your plans do not come to fruition – when God does not seem to answer your prayers – how do you feel?

How easy do you find it to accept that God’s plan might be different to yours?  That God’s will might be different to yours?

How often do we fail God?

Can we accept forgiveness for the times we betray Jesus?

Can we accept God’s will for us?

Lord Jesus Christ, we confess we have failed you as did your first disciples.
We ask for your mercy and your help.

Our selfishness betrays you: Lord, forgive us.  Christ have mercy.

We fail to share the pain of your suffering: Lord, forgive us.
Christ have mercy.

We run away from those who abuse you: Lord, forgive us. Christ have mercy.

We are afraid of being known to belong to you: Lord, forgive us.
Christ have mercy.

May the Father forgive us by the death of his Son and strengthen us to live in the power of the Spirit all our days.
Amen.

Loving God, we thank you for the forgiveness you shower on us.  Help us to accept that you are a God of forgiveness who loves to set us free from the effects of our sin.  Help us too in our attempts to resist temptation and to hold fast to you.

We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Hear the teaching of Jesus:
‘Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’
Go now to do God’s will;
and the blessing …

Go in Peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ Amen

Lesley’s Easter Sermon

Matthew 28 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Easter, the most important day in the church year, the highest day of celebration. All over the world will be heard ‘Jesus is risen, Alleluia, he is risen indeed alleluia’. We can’t get enough alleluias on Easter day.. praise the Lord we say over and over and we feel a great infectious overwhelming joy.

Easter, the most important day in the church year, the highest day of celebration. All over the world will be heard ‘Jesus is risen, Alleluia, he is risen indeed alleluia’. We can’t get enough alleluias on Easter day… praise the Lord we say over and over and we feel a great infectious overwhelming joy.

My old vicar used to complain that people come to church on Palm Sunday and on Easter day, both days of celebration, and the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday get missed, and with it the point of Easter. Even in the passage today, we find the joy that I speak of but also the most extreme terror. We read of an earthquake and an angel who’s appearance was like lightening, who rolled back the stone and the guards were literally petrified – their terror was such that they became like dead men. They had a job to do – and they had completely lost control, their small world had been blown apart – they probably had plans and expectations about that day, they had weapons, they had authority, they were the might of the Roman Empire, and they were powerless, losing control even of their bodies.

And the women? It is hard to keep up with all the Mary’s in the New Testament – but we have here Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, (neither of which are Mary the sister of Lazarus nor Mary the mother of Jesus). They had a sad job to do that morning – to anoint the body of their dear friend. That job was clearly impossible given the lack of body… so their emotions were mixed… fear given the terrifying experience they had just witnessed and great joy, that perhaps the one they loved so much had indeed risen and was not dead, joy that they might once again see him.

But what is the point of all this high emotion? Why did it all have to be so awful during Holy Week? Well, of course, I don’t know. What I do know is that in the mystery of it all I find healing and freedom. Let me tell you about the things that have affected me this Holy Week…

On Holy Monday we had an Easter Labyrinth up at St Mark’s. We walked a course, one after the other, stopping at ten different stations and considering the journey that Jesus took through Holy Week. I was  asked to pick up a large stone and recognize heavy burdens that I was carrying, like the heaviness of the cross. I put the stone down at the foot of the cross and asked Jesus to carry it for me. With that acion was a great release. At the next station I was asked to pick up nails and remember that Jesus cried out “Father Forgive them, even in his great agony”. It is hard to forgive when we are still hurting, but we were invited to place down the nail as a sign of forgiveness. I was reminded that forgiveness is not an event, an action, but a state of mind and a state of the heart. It is all about loving others, my heart felt lighter.

On Maundy Thursday we had a service at St John’s where all the lights were on and Alan wore a bright white and gold chasuble and we remembered the New Commandment to love one another as Christ Loves us. As a symbol of that, and remembering Christ’s actions, Alan and I washed the feet of our fellow disciples. We then shared the meal of fellowship – communion – which was instigated on that very night at the Last Supper. But then the betrayal. The lights were all turned off, the church was stripped of all colour, the wood was laid bare on the altar, we took the left-over communion to the Lady Chapel and sat in silence and in darkness. One person after another slipped home – representing the scattering of the disciples, the disunity, the denial, the cowardice, the weakness that is within us all.

On Good Friday we met here at St George’s and spent an hour at the cross, considering some of the stations of the cross, hearing readings and seeing images. Each station led me into a greater understanding of the injustice, the pain, the horror of our Lord’s Passion, and the response of those around him on his journey. Christ’s own response was love, dignity, forgiveness and acceptance. Christ was carrying the cross for me in some mysterious way. Carrying it for all of us. And doing it willingly.

What could or should be my response? I was particularly moved by the repeated prayer by Saint Ignatius at the end of each mediation:

Dearest Jesus, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to love and serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and to look for no reward,
Except that of knowing that I do your Holy Will.

Amen

Finally, at the confirmation service last night we heard a reading from Paul – unless we die with Christ we cannot be raised with Christ. Unless we travel with Jesus into his death, into his pain and recognize within it our own pain and weaknesses and sinfulness then we will not be able to enter into Christ’s resurrection. Holy week is a wonderful way of doing that and each year it takes us deeper into the heart of God, if we let it.

So the joy we know isn’t just that one man once cheated death. No the joy is that for all of us we can overcome sin and pain and fear and all that is dark and instead know hope and love and joy in our lives today. We are Easter people and Halleluiah is our song.

Pray As You Go – Stations of the Cross

At St George’s yesterday we considered the stations of the Cross using Ignatian Meditations – they are here.

Each station led me into a greater understanding of the injustice, the pain, the horror of our Lord’s Passion, and the response of those around him on his journey. Christ’s own response was love, dignity, forgiveness and acceptance. Christ was carrying the cross for me in some mysterious way. Carrying it for all of us. And doing it willingly.

What could or should be my response? I was particularly moved by the repeated prayer at the end of each mediation:

Dearest Jesus, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to love and serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and to look for no reward,
Except that of knowing that I do your Holy Will.

Amen