All services are suspended at St Mary’s
until further notice.
However, let’s not forget those early christians had to meet behind closed doors - not because of a virus but because of the fear of persecution. Numerous little christian communities sprang up, meeting in people’s homes, praying, singing and sharing their lives and their faith. So that will be our model for the foreseeable future!
You are invited to ‘gather’ at 10.30 each Sunday morning for a time of worship. Whether you are alone or meeting in a household, we will all be together in spirit. As from this Sunday we would like to attempt worshiping together via 'Zoom'. You can download it here: https://zoom.us/download. If that doesn't appeal to you you will find resources below that you may find helpful for this Sunday and if you scroll down further you’ll see a suggested way to construct your worship.
The 5th Sunday of Lent
Readings for the day:
Ezekiel 37:1-4, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45
Martha. Bustling, practical Martha. Always busy, always ready to take action. Organising large supper parties for Jesus. And, in today’s reading, marching out of the house of mourning to confront him some way out of the village. Clearly, she couldn’t wait any longer to see him. The inactivity of the period of mourning must have been torture for her. Even if she didn’t believe that Jesus could resurrect her brother – why should she? – at least going to meet him was doing something.
Perhaps at the moment her frustrations speak to us more clearly than ever. As avenue after avenue for action is closed down, we are driven to rely on ourselves. Our horizons narrow. And all in response to an onslaught from an invisible, even phantom, enemy. There is an inevitable sense of being cut adrift from our normal life, and a great temptation to dwell on what has been taken away from us.
For some, this will be a period of great and genuine anxiety: those whose income has dried up; who wonder how they will feed the family; or who have the virus. The practicalities of daily living will have to take precedence. For them, Martha’s faith even in the face of bereavement is something to hang on to. Her reward, if you like, for her impatience to see Jesus is a promise of future life, and the opportunity to express her own faith. Her statement of faith is as climactic as Peter’s in the other gospels. She is not afraid to go out and challenge God.
But for others of us, is this a time of opportunity? Even for those who have children at home for unexpectedly long periods? A time to think about what we can do, not about the opportunities that seem to have been snatched away? In our enforced ‘social distancing’, can we find more time for God? Can this period of trouble be an opportunity for prayer, for learning to wait upon God and to increase our trust that God does have a plan for us?
Time seems to be flowing very slowly at present, as the situation changes day by day. The thought of several months of this is truly depressing. But perhaps we shouldn’t be thinking like that. Perhaps we should be more focussed on what is happening each day. Making each day an opportunity. To use the time we don’t spend commuting to read more, to talk more to our families, to study more, perhaps to resume that hobby that we abandoned because ‘we haven’t had the time’.
Martha and Mary, and Lazarus, discovered that just because God delayed in coming to them, this did not mean that he had abandoned them. We must look forward with the same faith. We can pray for the discovery of a vaccine. We can pray for the end of the epidemic. We can pray for those whose lives have genuinely been turned upsidedown by it. We can pray for those who work in the NHS and in our vital industries. But what we should not do – and this is perhaps the hardest thing of all – is squander our mental and physical resources by fretting constantly about how long it is going on for.
The Psalmist tells us to ‘wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy and with him is plenteous redemption’. At the moment, that is the best advice we can take. Wait for the Lord. Wait on the Lord, and have faith that he can uphold us through this period of crisis.
Most of us, I suspect, usually identify more with Martha than Mary – perhaps because it feels presumptuous to think we are like Mary, but we can easily imagine being Martha. And her frustrations and anxieties will speak clearly to us now more than ever. But let us emulate her faith, not her impatience, and use this time to deepen our relationship with God.
Mary and Martha were two of Jesus’ closest friends and he often spent time in their company, relaxing, sharing a meal and talking about things that were important to them.
In today’s story they are grieving and frightened but Jesus is there for them.
Draw a picture of the scene as you imagine it.
Underneath the picture write the names of your friends.
As you write their name (or draw their picture) say a prayer of thanks for them and ask Jesus to be close to them as he is to you.
At 7pm light a candle of hope as a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source & hope in prayer
A SUGGESTED FRAMEWORK FOR WORSHIPING ON SUNDAY
1. If you’re at home with your partner, family, or significant other begin by gathering around the table. If it’s just you maybe you could phone or FaceTime a friend to “join” you for worship.
2. light a candle to symbolise the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is a good way to signal that you are entering into sacred time, and the place where you were chatting and laughing just a moment ago is recognised as a sacred place.
3. An opening prayer is also a good “marker” between whatever came before and what is about to happen. You could say something like, “Jesus, you promised that wherever two or three are gathered in your name, there you will be also. Here we are. We trust you to be here as well. Amen.”
4. Read from the scriptures. You can find the readings set for this Sunday above.
5. Read through the reflection prepared by one of the St Mary’s Worship Leaders. You will find it above.
6. If you are with others take some time to share thoughts about the readings and the talk.
7. Enter into a time of prayer and conclude byasking for God’s blessing.
8. Blow out the candle.