Sunday 26/4/20

The Cross Country Parishes
SUNDAY 26/4/20 

On this page 
Sermon, readings, prayers & hymns.

8.00pm Bishop Keith has called for us to pray for the Diocese and for the World every Sunday evening by lighting a candle. 

On line, TV & Radio  

8.10am BBC Radio 4 a Christian Service.

Chester Cathedral. Stream - Chester Cathedral

The Prayer Book Society has links to numerous on line services

A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter
Luke 24: 13 – 36

There is something about the Road to Emmaus which is at odds in every way with the circumstances I am writing in. To begin with, it is a fortnight on from Easter Day. I can see the cross outside St Mary’s confidently proclaiming that Jesus is alive from my study. 

Yet here we are on the Road to Emmaus on the first Easter Evening.  Cleopas and his companion are still bereft; reeling from the events of Good Friday.  Now they are confused as well as rumours that Jesus is alive have reached their ears.  This is hardly resurrection joy for the Third Sunday of Easter.
Then there are the details of this story, which features 2 friends walking together, meeting a stranger and sharing a meal together.  An everyday activity we can only dream of as we continue to live through lockdown. 
What are we to make of this very human story viewing it, as we do, from our own situation as we are unable to meet family members, let alone friends, to go for a walk, much less to share a meal together?  
Perhaps the first thing to note is that wishing to meet with family and friends is a very human thing to want to do.  Walking together is very natural. When I preached from this passage at my parents’ Golden Wedding celebration, I told of how many situations had been resolved in their married life as they walked and talked together.  They were not alone. It is far easier to talk as we walk than when we sit facing each other. 
Sharing bread, or a meal together is also a very basic human need.  The very word ‘companionship’ comes from the Latin Comme Panis, meaning to break bread.  Sharing meals with friends and with strangers is said to be the deepest form of fellowship.
These are things I was very aware of last year when I had the most wonderful experience of hospitality by the local village church while on holiday.  All they knew was I was a visitor and I was on my own.  When asked what I was doing for the rest of the day, I said I was going for a walk.  “Come with me.”  said the Churchwarden’s wife, and come and share a meal with us this evening.  Only after the invitation had been made did they discover I was a vicar and that my great-grandmother had grown up in the village.  I had a wonderful, memorable, afternoon and evening. 
Yet here we are, just 6 months later, unable to walk or share a meal with our closest family, much less friends, unless share our home.  We cannot meet together to share the bread and wine of communion.  All I can offer you is the celebration of Communion on your behalf Sunday by Sunday in my makeshift chapel at the Vicarage, and the possibility of making your spiritual communion if you wish.  (An order of service accompanies this sermon as a separate document in Worship Resources page please follow this link.  Guidance on Spiritual Communion & Coronavirus)

Our journeying along the road of faith as companions must, for the moment, be “together apart”.  Encouraging each other through phone calls, the parishes’ WhatsApp Group, text, and any other technological means that we are comfortable with.
So, what are we to make of the Road to Emmaus, which seems so very much at odds with the situation in which we find ourselves today?  I think there are two things.
The first is to acknowledge that this is a very human story.  It speaks of our basic need of companionship, especially when life is challenging and confusing as it was for Cleopas and his companion; as it is for us as we continue to find our way through the strange land of the coronavirus pandemic without a map.  We have a basic human need to share meals with family, friends and strangers.  If we are missing these things, we are perfectly normal.  There would be something very wrong if we were not.
The second is to look more deeply at Luke’s beautifully written account.  I know it is a ‘vicar thing’, but over the years I’ve talked often with colleagues about the place of scripture and preaching and the place of Communion in worship.  Is one more important than the other?  Some traditions would say that scripture and preaching is most important; some would say it is Communion.  Many, including me, would say that they are of equal importance.  When we gather together for worship, we both break the word and break the bread.  Both are important.
Which is the clue we need as we look more closely at Luke’s account.  Jesus does just that.  First, he breaks open the word of God, explaining his resurrection from the Old Testament.  Only later does he break the bread and reveal himself as the risen Christ to Cleopas and his companion.
During this time of lockdown, perhaps we are being given opportunity to break the bread of life, the word of God, and to eat our fill.  If we can do that, we may discover the risen Jesus revealed in new ways, long before we can be together again to find him, together, in the broken bread.  

Prayers for 26 April 2020

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened and sustained
by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Post Communion Prayer

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread:
open the eyes of our faith, 
that we may see him in all his redeeming work
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.  Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Lord, that we may know you in the breaking,
in the break of day, in the breaking of hearts,
and in the breaking of bread,
help us to know that you are risen indeed,
and that you are with us as we gather ‘together apart’.
May your church ever proclaim your presence,
and know that you travel with us on the road.
Teach us, Lord, to abide in you,
that we may know you abide in us.
We pray that your church will walk with the downcast,
the seekers, the troubled in heart,
and help to reveal your love and presence.
Lord, abide with us
and we will abide in you.

We pray for all who journey,
for those who are leaving places of pain and sorrow,
for those whose lives are in danger,
for all pilgrims and seekers,
for refugees and the homeless,
for all who travel, and for all who have the care of them
Lord, abide with us
and we will abide in you.

We give thanks that you come to us.
Make us aware of your presence in our homes.
Help us to be aware of you as our hearts burn within us.
Help us to see you, O Christ, in everyone we meet. 
We pray for the lonely, for all who feel rejected,
for the outcasts of society.
Lord, abide with us
and we will abide in you.

We pray for the broken-hearted,
for those whose hopes have died
for all who are confused by the pain and sickness of our world.
We remember all who travel by lonely paths,
all who are coming to the end of their journey in this world
and walk towards the sunset.
We pray for the elderly,
for all who are in care,
for all who struggle to cope on their own.
Lord abide with us
and we will abide in you.

We pray for all who have died.
We pray that you will protect us in our journey,
until we share with the saints in your kingdom.
Lord, abide with us
and we will abide in you.

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

Prayer during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress. 
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, 
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort 
knowing that nothing can separate us 
from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you taught us to love our neighbour,
and to care for those in need 
as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength 
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick,
and to assure the isolated
of our love, and your love, 
for your name’s sake.

For those who are ill

Merciful God,
we entrust to your tender care
those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens
your everlasting arms
are there to hold them safe. 
Comfort and heal them,
and restore them to health and strength; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

For hospital staff and medical researchers

Gracious God,
give skill, sympathy and resilience 
to all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure. 
Strengthen them with your Spirit,
that through their work
many will be restored to health; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

For the Christian community

We are not people of fear: 
we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety. 
We are not people of greed:
we are people of generosity. 
We are your people God,
giving and loving,
wherever we are,
whatever it costs
For as long as it takes
wherever you call us.

Barbara Glasson
President of the Methodist Conference


Ye choirs of new Jerusalem: 

 As we are gathered, Jesus is here:  

Open our eyes, Lord: 

Lord of the dance: 

We have a gospel to proclaim: