Sunday 19/4/20

The Cross Country Parishes
SUNDAY 19/4/20 

On this page 
Sermon, readings, prayers.

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.

The Prayer Book Society has links to numerous on line services https://www.pbs.org.uk/churches-and-services/-1

A Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 2: 14 a, 22 – 32; John 20: 19 – the end

Last week we left the resurrection garden with Mary as she went to tell the disciples the glorious news that she had seen the Lord. Whether they believed her we are not told.  She was, after all, an unreliable woman and automatically unreliable.  She was also a woman who shortly before had failed to recognised the risen Jesus through her tears of deep grief.  John does not tell us what agonised conversations he and Peter had, reconciling their own moment of belief in the empty tomb with Mary’s breathless account of her encounter with the risen Jesus.  We are not told how the other disciples received Mary’s momentous news.  What happens next may give us a clue about the conversations that took place on Resurrection Day, because, by evening, we find the disciples locked into a room with their own fear.
We are told the source of the disciples fear was the ‘Jews’.  The rulers and leaders of the Jewish faith based in the Temple.  Whether the disciples feared that the Jews would find them and subject them to the same treatment they had meted out to Jesus, or whether they feared trumped up charges of stealing the body, and peddling deception by proclaiming the resurrection, we are not told.  
What we do know is that locked doors are no more able to keep the risen Jesus out, than a sealed tomb with a Roman guard could keep him in the tomb.  
What Jesus discovers in that locked room is very far from a group of confident disciples ready to tell the good news that Jesus is alive.  No wonder Jesus’ first words to them were the traditional Jewish greeting of the day ‘Peace be with you’. Yet this is a greeting which goes far beyond tradition.  Jesus knows that the disciples are genuinely terrified by the experiences of the last few hours.  Our very familiarity and familiarity with a risen Jesus can blind us to the reality of the first Easter Day for the disciples.
For them, the discovery of the empty tomb was as terrifying as it was perplexing; especially as the disciples were exhausted, mentally, physically and spiritually from the events leading up to the discovery of the empty tomb.
Jesus may have stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you’ on the evening of that first Easter Day, he may have commissioned the frightened group to go and tell the good news of the resurrection and the forgiveness of sins, but it would be some time before they could proclaim that news with the confidence Peter showed at Pentecost.
For now, they risk sharing the good news with their friend and fellow disciple, and his response is not encouraging.  Thomas is not going to be drawn in to the fantasies of a bunch of deeply grief-stricken men.  Like the rest of the disciples, Thomas needs time to explore and to discover the gift of faith in the risen Jesus for himself.
The evidence is he was not alone.A week later, the disciples are still cowering behind a locked door, but this time, Thomas is present as Jesus lets himself through the still-locked door.  The last week has been well-spent.  As far as we can tell, Thomas does not accept Jesus’ invitation to place his hands into the nail marks on his hands and into the sword wound in his side.  He has pondered long and hard.  Faced with the reality of the risen Jesus.  Now Thomas is ready to proclaim Jesus as his Lord and his God.
Like the disciples, we too find ourselves at a unique point in history, locked behind our own doors. It is a time may find ourselves more able to enter into the experience of the disciples that first Easter Week.  We may, or may not, be feeling terrified, but many are anxious.  I’ve heard more than one person say they are finding difficulty sleeping, or otherwise feeling a bit ‘wobbly’.  If that is the case we are not alone.  Earlier this week, I saw a piece on Facebook written by a mental health first aider/therapist called Imogen Wall, who helpfully explains that it is perfectly normal to feel a bit ‘wobbly’, and simply a biological response to any threat.  It is quite long, but I’ve reproduced it at the end of this for those who are interested in reading it.
Even if we are not consciously anxious, we are still shut behind closed doors.  So might this be a time when we discover for ourselves that the risen Jesus can still make his way through locked and closed doors?  Might this be a time when we can discover the risen Lord in new and fresh ways?  Could now be the time to ponder what it all means, and become comfortable with our discoveries?  
If we can, we may be surprised to find that, like Thomas and Peter we too will be able proclaim with confidence, when we can once again go out beyond our closed doors, that Jesus is alive; that he is our Lord and our King too..
S Anne Lawson
16 April 2020


From Mental Health First Aider/Therapist, Imogen Wall:
“IN CRISES, WE START DOING WEIRD STUFF: Over the last week I have struggled to sleep, stayed up late into the night reading endless news articles, bought pasta I don’t even like very much, got angry with my mum for not staying home. My spelling is a disaster and I’m definitely drinking more. I’ve been a bit teary, and all I really want to eat is cake, cake and more cake. From what I hear, I’m not alone.
If you’re having a wobble, you may also have noticed all sorts of weird stuff going on. Are you arguing more, talking faster, struggling to sleep, restless, desperate for information? Or are you teary and overwhelmed, perhaps feeling a bit sick? Struggling to make decisions? Just want to stay in bed? Tummy upsets? Having palpitations, butterflies, headaches? Ranting, picking fights or getting into arguments? Laughing unexpectedly or saying random, inappropriate things? Developing Very Strong Opinions on epidemiology overnight? Or have you just completely gone to ground?
If you are feeling any of these things: good news! You are not going mad. And you are 100% not alone. You are, in fact completely normal: a fully emotionally functional human being. Congratulations! Why? I’ll explain: take a seat and put the kettle on.
WE ARE LIVING IN TURBO-ANXIOUS TIMES. Well, no kidding. We’re in the middle of an unprecedented crisis that has showed up unexpectedly (they do that) and which presents a mortal threat to ourselves and everyone we know and love. It’s frightening and it makes us feel totally out of control. And this is on top of anything else we have going on.
HERE’S THE SCIENCE BIT. When we are exposed to threats and need to deal with them, our brain springs into action. Specifically a tiny, innocent-looking thing buried behind your ear called the amygdala (fun fact: it's the size and shape of an almond). It’s the bit in charge when we are frightened and right now, it’s in full tin-hat klaxon mode. Unfortunately, it’s a very ancient bit of kit. It came into being when threats basically consisted of being eaten by large scary animals like bears. You know that thing about when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail? Well, to the amygdala, everything looks like a bear. It’s also pretty basic, so it really only has two settings. They are no bear and BEAR!!!.
SETTING: BEAR!!!. Because all threats look like a bear to the amygdala, it preps you accordingly. There are really only two reactions to a bear about to eat you: fight it, or run away really really fast. So this is what the body gets you ready to do. It’s called the Fight or Flight response (there’s also freeze, meaning you just get paralysed). It does this by flooding your body with chemicals like cortisol, and adrenaline. Your heart rate goes up, you feel super alert, your breathing goes shallow, your muscles are ready for action. These chemicals are also largely responsible for a huge range of other cognitive/physical/emotional reactions like those in my intro. In a group fear situation like a pandemic, this tends to happen whether you think you're scared or not - anxiety is even more infections than COVID. Your body reacts even if your conscious mind doesn't.
BEAR V VIRUS: Obviously this is all great if you really are running away from a bear. But we’re now in a situation where we’re being asked to do the EXACT OPPOSITE of running away. We are being told to sit tight. Literally stay still. Process large amounts of information, make complicated decisions, and stay calm. All while a bit of your brain is running around yelling BEAR! BEAR! BEAR! This isn’t easy. The result is an awful lot of stress and anxiety. And if you’re anything like me, you end up feeling really overwhelmed and having all sorts of reactions.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS: Anxiety isn’t just mental – it’s also physical, cognitive and behavioural. You will notice all kinds of things: stomach upsets, headaches, insomnia, changes to eating, changes to the way you talk. It’s also cognitive: it’s very difficult to think straight when you’ve got the BEAR! BEAR! BEAR! thing going on – so we also become very bad at making decisions, absorbing information and generally thinking rationally. Which is EXACTLY what we need to do.
SO WHAT TO DO: well, the good news is it is possible to calm down. We can turn the amygdala from BEAR!!! to NO BEAR 😊, and not just by distracting it with cake and tea. Here are some solid, scientifically proven things you can do.
BREATHE. It’s so basic, but breathing exercises are basically magic. They work in minutes and you can do them anywhere. They work because of all the physical reactions the amygdala triggers, rapid breathing is the only one over which we have conscious control. Control your breathing and you are basically telling your body: it’s OK. There is no bear. Your body will then start to dial down the adrenaline and cortisol and all the other reactions will slow to a halt. How to control your breathing? It’s easy –The golden rules are these:
• In through the nose, out through the mouth. SLOWLY
• Make the outbreath longer than the inbreath – imagine there’s a candle in front of you and it mustn’t go out
• Breathe from the tummy not chest – really make your tummy go out when breathing in.
• Do it for two minutes and see how you feel
Seriously, try it – this technique is used by everyone from top athletes to the US military to help stay in control while under stress.
CALL A FRIEND: Don’t suffer alone. Call a mate - someone who’ll listen while you have a bit of a rant, or a cry, or a general wobble. Someone you can trust not to judge you and who’ll just sympathise. And if you get one of those calls, just be nice to them. You only need to be kind. You can’t fix what’s going on so just give them a bit of space to rant. And if you’re OK, call your friends and check in on them. Especially if they’ve gone silent.
LAUGH: it doesn’t matter what is funny – laughter is a huge releaser of endorphins. Silly memes, silly jokes, stand-up, rolling around with your kids – videos on youtube. The sillier the better. Also v good for bonding with friends, which will also help you feel less alone.
DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR HANDS. Yes you can meditate if this is your bag, it’s amazing. But if it’s not, then trying to start when you’re already anxious is really hard. So do something instead. Cook. Tidy. Knit. Draw. Bake. Garden. Mend things. This is what nice middle class therapists like me call Mindfulness.
TREAT YOUR BODY: We hold stress in our bodies at least as much as our minds. Take a bath or a shower. Put on things that feel good on your skin. Use nice smelling body creams. Stretch. Skip. Do yoga. Dance. Eat healthy but delicious things - fresh if you can get it. All of these will help calm you down.
SUNSHINE. It’s SPRINGTIME amid this horror – enjoy it. If you can’t go outside, open the windows and feel it on your face. If it’s safe for you to go outside (maybe you live in the country) do it, while of course observing social distance. Go for a walk. Being outdoors, connecting to nature, is hugely calming.
STEP AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA/THE NEWS: All it will do will scare you more and make things worse. Turn off the telly and avoid the psychopathic digital wild west that is Twitter. Stick to sensible sources like the BBC and the NHS, and limit yourself to short need-to-know bits a day. You’ll feel better immediately.
STEP AWAY FROM TERRIBLE COPING MECHANISMS: They will all translate as BEAR!! to your poor brain. Especially don’t get drunk, especially if you’re alone (BEAR!!), take drugs (BEAR!!), stay up all night reading (BEAR!!), get sucked into conspiracy theories (BEAR!!).  See? Stress levels going up already. Breathe.
BE KIND: to yourself and others. Now is not the time to go on a diet. Nor is this the time to start on Proust or makeover your life. You'll probably struggle to concentrate, fail and make yourself feel worse.  Don’t make this more stressful than it already is. Think comfort books, comfort telly, comfort everything. Everyone is wobbly, everyone is going to have a meltdown at some point. Understand that if someone is angry or aggressive, then they are also just scared. And eat more cake. Cake makes everything better.
So, there we go. Hopefully a bit less BEAR!!. Now, that kettle should have boiled by now. Go make a nice cup of tea, sit by a window and drink it in this lovely morning sunshine. We are British after all. And save me some cake ❤.


Prayers for 19 April 2020

The Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter

Risen Christ,
for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:
open the doors of our hearts,
that we may seek the good of others
and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace,
to the praise of God the Father.  Amen.

The Post-Communion Prayer for the Second Sunday of Easter

Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him:
deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

As we gather with God’s presence in the midst of us, let us pray.

We bring to you, Lord,
the Church in all its richness and all its need;
all its diversity and all its division.
Give us a fresh understanding 
of what it means to live in you;
may all of us
celebrate the reality of your presence among us,
filling us with new life and new hope.
Lord in your presence:
we lift our hearts to you.

We bring to you, Lord,
our nation, our world, our universe;
all the areas that are fastened shut to hold you out;
all the bewildered confusion
about who ware are and why we are here;
all the doubts and insecurity,
and all the searching for inner peace.
Lord in your presence:
we lift our hearts to you.

We bring to you, Lord, our homes and families,
and all the joys and sorrows of our relationships.
We bring the rooms in which we eat
and work and relax;
and invite you into them all.
Lord in your presence:
we lift our hearts to you.

We bring to you, Lord,
those whom life has damaged,
and all who find it difficult to trust in you;
we bring you those who need refreshment and hope,
comfort, healing and inner serenity
Lord in your presence:
we lift our hearts to you.

We bring to you, Lord,
those who approach death with great fear,
and give you thanks for all who have died.
Have mercy on us all, forgive us all that is past
and gather us into your everlasting kingdom
of peace and joy.
Lord in your presence:
we lift our hearts to you.

We bring to you, Lord, the love of our hearts
as we recall the extent of your love for us
which understands our frailty
and reaches out to us where we are.

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

Other Prayers
A Prayer for the coronavirus outbreak:
God of healing,
surround us with your love as together we negotiate the complexities of coronavirus.
Guide us all as we seek to support one another. 
Help us to be attentive to the lonely, the isolated, the fearful and those who are ill.
Mindful of the geographical isolation of many rural communities, 
we pray for everyone involved in the effective provision 
of food, medical supplies and pastoral care.
In the name of Jesus Christ, who walks alongside us in our difficulties.  Amen.
The Arthur Rank Centre
For our neighbours… 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. Amen. Dear God our Shield and our Defender, guide and protect my neighbour in this time of health emergency; deliver them from all harm and may your love and care ever grow in this place. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Christ Church Higher Bebington

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. Amen. May the wisdom of God lead the doctors, nurses and researchers, and all in the emergency services that they may know God’s protection; and that God will guide the leaders of the nations into the ways of justice and peace. And that the love of Christ will surround us and take away our anxiety and give us His peace. May He hear us and heal us. Amen

Christ Church Higher Bebbington

PRAYER FOCUS DURING THE COVID 19 CRISIS

Take one hand and look at:
Your thumb-pray for your church community and family.
Your first finger-pray for the NHS and those medical researchers looking for a vaccine.
Your second finger-pray for the Government and all those making tough decisions.                                    
Your third finger-pray for those in care homes and working with the most vulnerable in our communities.
Your little finger-pray for yourself and those known to you.
Take the other hand and read out loud
“ As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience” (Colossians 3:12) and let your thumb and each finger represent one of these “clothes” we are to put on.
       Thumb-Compassion
       First Finger-Kindness
       Second finger-Humility
       Third finger-Meekness
       Little finger-Patience