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Sunday 12th July

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The Cross Country Parishes
A Service of Thanksgiving, Lament and Restoration
on the Return to Public Worship 
during the COVID-19 Pandemic 2020


Welcome

Welcome to this service.  Whether you join us in church, or at home, we come aware that we have entered a different phase of the coronavirus pandemic.  As lockdown eases some kind of normality is being restored, albeit a very different kind of normality to the one we knew before lockdown.  That raises many different emotions for different individuals.  Frequently we find many different emotions within ourselves.  There is room for thanksgiving for so many things.  There is room for lament as some in our communities grieve for those who have died, whilst others feel a sense of loss through their own unemployment or the unemployment of those in their families.  Some feel a sense of loss at missing out celebrations for the key moments in their own lives, and in the lives of families and friends.  There is room, too, to acknowledge our fears and concerns about the on-going threat of the virus to health, employment and the economy.  Finally, there is room to look to the future and to hope of restoration and resurrection.  These are complex thoughts, feelings and emotions, and there is space for all of them within this service. 


LAMENT


Leader Even as we come in thanksgiving, we come conscious that in our communities, across the country and around the world many are grieving, and so we take time to lament and to recognise the many different kinds of grief and loss which have resulted, and will continue to result, from the COVID-19 pandemic.



Psalm 130


Leader Out of the depths I have called to you, Lord,

  Let your ears be open to hear my voice.

All My hope is in God’s word.

 

Leader If you recorded all our sins

  who could come before you?

All My hope is in God’s word.

 

Leader There is forgiveness with you:

  therefore you shall be feared.

All My hope is in God’s word.

 Leader My soul is longing for the Lord,

  more than those who watch for daybreak.

All My hope is in God’s word.

 

Leader O Israel, wait for the Lord,

  for with the Lord there is mercy.

All My hope is in God’s word.


 Leader Father, we commend to your faithful love

  those who are crying from the depths;

  help them to watch and pray

  through their time of darkness,

  in sure hope of the dawn of your

  forgiveness and redemption;

  through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

All Amen.


Reading Lamentations 3: 22 – 26 


Hymn Earth’s fragile beauties we posses


Canticle A Song of Lamentation


All   Great is your faithfulness, O Lord.


Leader Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?  

  Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,


All Which was brought upon me,  

  which the Lord inflicted

  on the day of his fierce anger.


Leader For these things I weep;

  my eyes flow with tears;  

  for a comforter is far from me,

  one to revive my courage.


All    Remember my affliction and my bitterness,  

  the wormwood and the gall!


Leader But this I call to mind,  

  and therefore I have hope:


All The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,  

  his mercies never come to an end;


Leader They are new every morning;  

  great is your faithfulness.


All ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,  

  ‘therefore I will hope in him.’


Leader The Lord is good to those who wait for him,  

  to the soul that seeks him.



All It is good that we should wait quietly  

  for the salvation of the Lord.


Leader For the Lord will not reject for ever;  

  though he causes grief, he will have compassion,


All According to the abundance of his steadfast love;  

  for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.

 

Lamentations 1.12, 16a,b; 3.19,21–26,31–33


All   Glory to the Father and to the Son

  and to the Holy Spirit;

  as it was in the beginning is now

  and shall be for ever. Amen.


All   Great is your faithfulness, O Lord.


Prayers


Leader Lord Jesus Christ

  when fear and anxiety besiege us

  and hope is veiled in grief,

  hold us in your wounded hands

  and make your face shine on us again,

  for you are our Lord and God. 

All Amen.


Leader Jesus, our companion,

  when we are driven to despair,

  help us, through the friends and strangers

  we encounter on our path,

  to know you as our refuge,

  our way, our truth and our life. 

All Amen.



THANKSGIVING


Leader Now that we have lamented, and recognised our own sense of loss, and the grief of the world in which we live, we recognise that even in the midst of grief and sorrow, God is faithful.  There is much to give thanks for, and so we turn to God in thanksgiving.


Canticle Te Deum Laudamus – A Song of the Church


All We praise you, O God,

  we acclaim you as the Lord;

all creation worships you,

  the Father everlasting.

 

To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,

  the cherubim and seraphim, sing in endless praise:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

  heaven and earth are full of your glory.

    

The glorious company of apostles praise you.

  The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.

The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you:

Father, of majesty unbounded,

  your true and only Son, worthy of all praise,

  the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.

    

You, Christ, are the King of glory,

  the eternal Son of the Father.

When you took our flesh to set us free

  you humbly chose the Virgin’s womb.

You overcame the sting of death

  and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.

  We believe that you will come and be our judge.

 

Come then, Lord, and help your people,

  bought with the price of your own blood,

  and bring us with your saints

 

Glory to the Father, and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning

is now and shall be forever.  Amen.


Reading Colossians 3: 12 – 15



A Sermon of Lament, Thanksgiving and Restoration
in the time of Coronavirus 2020
Lamentations 3: 22 – 26; Colossians 3: 12 – 15; Romans 8: 18 – 30


As some of us are able to gather in our churches for public worship there is quite rightly a sense of joy after many weeks of worshipping in our homes.  Yet we gather, painfully aware, that many in our communities remain at home, self-isolating or shielded, unable to share in the joy of a return to public worship.

We come conscious of our own loss and of the many losses in our families, our communities, in the country and world-wide.   There is space for thanksgiving, but we also need to lament for ourselves and the world around us.  Lament is a deep expression of grief which the Church has largely forgotten, but now we need to lament.

To put the national death toll into perspective, the population of Nantwich in 2018 was approximately 18,000.  The number of coronavirus deaths across Britain accounts for roughly 2 ½ times the population of Nantwich.  Then there are the other losses, large and small.  From loss of employment to loss of sharing the key moments in the lives of our families and friends, to loss of holidays and so many other things which make up the fabric of life, that is a lot of loss.. 

So how should we respond?  Lament has a long history in the Jewish-Christian tradition.  The Psalmist knew what it was to cry out of the depths to God.  The people of God lamented over Jerusalem as it lay in ruin after the Babylonian invasion of 586 BC.  The disciples lamented as they witnessed the crucifixion.  There has always been a place for lamentation in the experience of God’s people.  Our time for lamentation is now.

As Christians it is essential that we lament at the foot of the cross.  The cross is central to our Christian story as the Church and as individuals.  It is one of the deepest, most enduring sorrows known to the world.  If we are to lament for the grief of the world and for our own losses, we must spend time in Good Friday.

Yet, as Christians we are also an Easter people.  The sorrow of Good Friday ended with the resurrection, but for the disciples there was no quick move from the lament to triumphant joy. For them, resurrection morning was an experience of fear and confusion.  Their fear and grief was so great, could not recognise the risen Jesus in the Easter Garden or on the Emmaus Road.

The halting journey of the disciples from cross to resurrection is a good model of our journey out of the coronavirus pandemic.  There will be great thankfulness, but there will also be fear, anxiety and confusion.  It will be a journey, perhaps a very long journey.  Resurrection joy will come, but not before we have travelled through the space between lament and resurrection.

However long the journey from lament to resurrection, there is room for, and a need of thanksgiving along the way.  Thanksgiving that in this small part of the world, we have not been hard-hit by the virus.  Thanksgiving too, for the small things.  For me, that has been thankfulness for the loving care of neighbours, friends and church members; for the changing seasons.  You will add your own thanksgivings.  The small things need to be celebrated alongside the thanksgiving that few in our communities have lost their lives to the virus. As we heard in the reading from Colossians, if we are to live the Christian life, we must do everything with thankful hearts.

Thankfulness is just as essential as lamentation, but there is a third action we need to consider: restoration.

 ‘Restoration’ means to ‘restore to the original form’.  At the heart of our faith is the cross; the place where the relationship between God and his people was restored.  Yet, restoration also lies in the future.  In Romans 8, Paul writes of the creation groaning.  Remember the flooding of the early months of the year?  The bushfires and flooding in Australia?  Then came coronavirus.  Creation certainly continues to groan, and as Christians we are not immune from suffering that brings.  

The good news is that the and groaning of creation will not last for ever.  Restoration will come.  Individually we will be restored when we join the life of heaven at the end of our earthly lives.  Creation too, will be restored at the unknown time when Jesus returns at the end of time.

For now, the world is imperfect.  Restoration is patchy and incomplete.  This will be especially true as we continue to journey through this time of coronavirus.  Restoration from coronavirus will be slow.  Progress will be halting.  We may re-trace our steps on a number of occasions.  And, like the final restoration of creation, restoration of creation at the end of time, restoration may not be a return to the normality we knew pre-virus.  But with the help of God, they can be better.

So what might restoration look like for now?  Far from being the great leveller coronavirus was said to be at the start of the pandemic, it has revealed the appalling inequalities in our society.  If we are longing for restoration, we do well to listen to the Prophet, Micah. ‘What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  

Amen.

S Anne Lawson

8 July 2020



Hymn Angel voices ever singing


Prayers


Leader How generous is your goodness, O God,

  how great is your salvation,

  how faithful is your love;

  help us to trust you in trial

  and praise you in deliverance;

  through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

All Amen.


                Leader Faithful Lord,

  whose steadfast love never ceases

  and whose mercies never come to an end:

  grant us the grace to trust you

  and to receive the gifts of your love,

  new every morning,

  in Jesus Christ our Lord. 

All Amen.



RESTORATION


Leader We have lamented and given praise.  Now we can look forward and focus on restoration.  At the very heart of our Christian faith is the restoration of the relationship between God and his people which was made possible by Jesus’ death on the cross.  Yet there is a sense in which restoration in the Christian faith remains in the future.  As we gather, still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we are very aware of the brokenness of the world in which will live; a brokenness which will only be restored when Jesus returns at the end of time. 


Reading Romans 8: 18 – 30


Prayers


Leader Jesus, Lord of time,

All hold us in your eternity.

 

Leader Jesus, image of God,

All travel with us the life of faith.

 

Leader Jesus, friend of sinners,

All heal the brokenness of our world.

 

Leader Jesus, Lord of tomorrow,

All draw us into your future. Amen.


The Address


Concluding Prayers


All In darkness and in light,

  in trouble and in joy,

  help us, heavenly Father,

  to trust your love,

  to serve your purpose,

  and to praise your name;

  through Jesus Christ our Lord.


An Acclamation


Leader The Lord God almighty is our Father:

All he loves us and tenderly cares for us.

 

Leader The Lord Jesus Christ is our Saviour:

All he has redeemed us and will defend us to the end.

 

Leader The Lord, the Holy Spirit, is among us:

All he will lead us in God’s holy way.

  To God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

  be praise and glory today and for ever.

  Amen.


Hymn Go forth and tell



The Blessing


Leader Listen to God’s voice within.
It is the stirring of belief.

Voice your words of doubt and question.

They are the making of faith.

Touch those scars and heal those wounds.

That is the place of resurrection.

Let the breath of God sustain you

today and every day,

and may the blessing of God Almighty,

the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

be among you this day and always.

All Amen.


This service is © The Liturgical Commission

of the Church of England 2020


HYMNS

Earth’s fragile beauties we possess  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hy7NTNgykOk

Angel Voices ever singing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nig-VqlyGzA

Go forth and tell  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNyDd9qtuk0