Rev Olwen Woolcock

Service for the 5th Sunday of Easter

Service for the 5th Sunday of Easter

Service for the 5th Sunday of Easter

Welcome and notices

Hymn: God is love, let heaven adore him

In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Prayer of Preparation

Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Prayers of Penitence

A seasonal invitation to confession

Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us.
Let us therefore rejoice by putting away all malice and evil
and confessing our sins with a sincere and true heart.

Most merciful God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy
forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly,
love mercy,
and walk humbly with you, our God.
Amen.

Almighty God,
who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon you,
pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,
and keep you in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Gloria

Glory to God from the Creation Mass by Marty Haugen

The Collect
Risen Christ,
your wounds declare your love for the world
and the wonder of your risen life:
give us compassion and courage
to risk ourselves for those we serve,
to the glory of God the Father.
Amen

The Liturgy of the Word

Reading: Acts 7:55- end

55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.

This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

Hymn: Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus ( Hereford Cathedral Choir)

Gospel Reading: John 14:1-14 

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John

Glory to you O Lord.

14 ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe[a] in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know[d] my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

This is the gospel of the Lord.

Praise to you, O Christ.

Sermon

In my father’s house there are many dwelling places.

One thing that this coronavirus has done – is that it has made us reflect on where we live. Several times people have said to me – we’re nicely tucked up here. We’re very fortunate – we have a garden and we live in a pleasant place. There are worse places to be locked down. And then – what must it be like for people who live in a flat – or even more challenging – who live in a flat with children. There was a piece in the guardian about the country being divided by the virus into those who have a garden and those who have not.

And on the borders of our consciousness we are recognising that for those who dwelling places are precarious, for people who find themselves living in refugee camps or whose homes are makeshift huts and rooms in the slums of big cities, for those people who can’t easily shut a front door, then the virus makes them very vulnerable indeed.  

Yet at the same time, we are also realising that however nice your home is, however comfortable, however safe  – if you can’t leave it or daren’t leave it  – or you can only leave it sometimes following set guidelines – then to be at  home can be irksome, constraining and frustrating  and the phrase lockdown with all its connotations of being in a prison can become very real.  A dwelling place, it seems, is more than four walls even with a garden. It is a place where we can live out life in a way which means we flourish in ourselves and in our relationships with others.  

I think it is also dawning on us that there is no going back from our current situation, that there isn’t going to be some straightforward restoration which means that life will be the same as it was before. The phrase bandied about is ‘the new normal.’ None of us knows exactly what that means in practice – but it seems to me that it will be about more than social distancing. We will be living with risk, uncertainty and under the shadow of a virus which as yet we can’t control.  This is a huge change of outlook for us who, for the most part, have lived out our lives securely and peacefully in this corner of the world, convinced that we can deal with any threats which come our way. Living with uncertainty, maybe fear and a sense of impermanence. How do we do that?

Do not let your hearts be troubled, Jesus said to the disciples, yet how can they not be? How can ours not be?  In John’s gospel this conversation between Jesus and his disciples takes place at the Last Supper just after Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet. Jesus is encouraging and reassuring the disciples in the face of the storm that is coming – the onslaught of the Jewish authorities and his arrest and trial and death. He is preparing them for a new normal in their lives. He is not saying that there won’t be trouble ahead but explaining that although the future won’t be what they thought, that there will be a way forward.

The way forward for the disciples and for us is through this concept of a dwelling place. A place to be, not just a physical place but a place of life and nourishment, of growth and peace and says Jesus – and you will find that dwelling place in the Father’s House. 

How can we find it we might ask? Like Thomas, – how can we know the way? Jesus’s reply is – the way is through me. I am the way the truth and the life. This dwelling place is not in heaven or above the blue sky or only for after we have died, it is for now. It can be lived in now and experienced now.  Through faith. Believe in God, believe also in me.  Jesus tells them.  

I am the way, the truth and the life. The way begins with faith. Even to step out on the way of faith is to find the way. Indeed, once you are on the way you have already arrived!  And once on the way then the truth of Jesus will come alive in you and for you. And once you know that truth then you have already come home – to your dwelling place and what you will find there is the life that you can live.

This is deep – but it gets deeper. The reason that Jesus is the way to the Father’s House is that he is of the Father. Whenever Jesus says ‘I am’ he is identifying himself with the Father- for I am – is the very name of Yahweh. It is the name with which Yahweh makes himself known to Moses at the encounter that Moses has with the Lord at the burning bush. I am. Being. Existence.   In the last few weeks, we have heard Jesus describe himself this way – I am the Resurrection and the Life, he said to Mary the brother of Lazarus before he brought him forth from the tomb. I am the good Shepherd, he told the pharisees in the passage we read last week. And now to Thomas – I am the way, the truth and the life.

Jesus is making himself known using the name of Yahweh, the God of Israel, the Lord.  It is a huge statement to make and it is as though he is letting it dawn slowly on those who can take it in – what he is actually saying.  He goes on to explain to the bewildered disciples. Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Do you not believe that the I am in the Father and the Father is in me? This is the language of dwelling – of living within. Jesus continues “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me“.

The invitation is this. The assurance is this. If I Jesus, dwell in the Father and the Father dwells in me – then that is a place where you can dwell too. You who believe. There are an infinite number of dwelling places in this relationship of love between the Father and the Son. This is a dwelling place for now. This gives us a different place to ground our being. Not just in our houses with our gardens but in the Father’s house.

When we dwell in the Father’s house there is a safety and an assurance which remains whatever the risks and upheavals of the world around us. Indeed, it means that we live less in fear and more in a deeper knowledge of who we are in relationship with God. To dwell in the Father’s house means that we can live with uncertainty and with threat, for our soul, our being is not subject to the troubles of the world but is rooted in the Father.

I listened to thought for the day on Radio 4 on Thursday morning. It was led by a Buddhist – yet his story of an episode in the life of Buddha touched a chord with me and echoed the theme and the point of this talk. When growing up Prince Siddhartha was brought up in a palace, a luxurious and protected environment, kept apart from the sufferings of the world.  As a young man, he left the palace and had an encounter with the real world. He saw four things: first an old man, weak and frail, second a person who was very sick, thirdly he saw one who had died and then finally he saw a wandering holy man who lived at peace with the world. The young prince has a moment of revelation as he realises that all people whoever they are, are subject to age, sickness and death and cannot live as though they are not, suffering remains – but that the way to live at peace with the suffering and the world was in the way one lived one’s life – in a quest for holiness.

Although this is an illustration from another faith tradition it seemed apt – for the struggle and challenge for us, as Christians, is to recognise and keep understanding where our peace lies – in that dwelling, that abiding in Christ, in the Father’s House. In the next chapter of John’s gospel –  Jesus continues the point when he tells his disciples, abide in me and I will abide in you, it is the same word. To live, to dwell. The other story that we heard this morning, the hard story of the stoning of Stephen is of one who had found his faith utterly and completely and knew where he belonged and where he was truly at peace. May God give us grace at this time to dwell in our true dwelling place.

Let us pray.

God our Father

In these times of uncertainty, anxiety and wondering about the future, help us to understand once again that our true dwelling place day by day is with you. Help us to live in that place where love and belonging is a certainty.

Amen

The Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Prayers will be offered for the church and the world, our communities,
those who are suffering and the communion of saints. The response is:

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

In faith and hope we pray,
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Almighty God,
you bring your chosen people together in one communion,
in the body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
We rejoice in your light and your peace
with your whole Church in heaven and on earth.
Although we cannot meet to worship together at this present time,
make our unity real to us as we connect by phone and on line and in prayer for one another.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

In this time of suffering and anxiety
give to all who mourn a sure confidence in your loving care,
May we cast all our sorrow on you, whatever it may be
and know the consolation of your love.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Give your faithful people pardon and peace,
that we may be cleansed from all our sins
and serve you with a quiet mind.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Give to us who are still in our pilgrimage, and who walk as yet by faith,
your Holy Spirit to lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days.
Teach us that our dwelling place lies in your love.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Give us strength to meet the days ahead, in all their uncertainty and difficulty
confident in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those you love.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

May all who have been made one with Christ in his death and in his resurrection
die to sin and rise to newness of life.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

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

Hymn: Before the throne of God above

The Peace

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples
and said ‘peace be with you.’
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. Alleluia.

The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.

Let us offer one another a sign of peace.

The Lord’s Prayer

Let us pray with confidence as our saviour has taught us

Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen

Eternal God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:
grant us to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life;
who is alive and reigns, now and forever.
Amen

The Dismissal

The Blessing
God, who through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ
has given us the victory,
give you joy and peace in your faith;
and the blessing…

Hymn: Blessed assurance Jesus is mine

Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, Alleluia.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Alleluia.


You may like to watch and listen to this beautiful rendition of I am a poor wayfaring stranger sung by Jos Slovick , used as the theme tune to the film 1917 with images of the theme in the video – but which also echo some of the theme of this service. We can’t embed this in our main video for copyright reasons.

I am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger sung by Jos Slovick

Lyrics

I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger
Sung by Jos Slovick

I am a poor wayfaring stranger
I’m traveling through this world of woe
Yet there’s no sickness, toil, nor danger
In that bright land to which I go.

I’m going there to see my Father
I’m going there, no more to roam
I’m only going over Jordan
I’m only going over home.

I know dark clouds will gather ’round me
I know my way is rough and steep
But golden fields lie just before me
Where God’s redeemed shall ever sleep.

I’m going home to see my mother
And all my loved ones who’ve gone on
I’m only going over Jordan
I’m only going over home.

I am a poor wayfaring…

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