|It was Saint Augustine who said that Christians are an Easter people. Easter is the spiritual
heart of our faith and our life, and it forms the foundation of our worship. Every Sunday is a
celebration of the resurrection and every time we break bread together in the Eucharist we
proclaim the dying and rising of Jesus.
In the weeks leading to Easter this year we have been reminded that evil is not simply
an idea; it is the reality of lives destroyed and of hatred allowed to flourish.
We see it as we watch events in the Middle East and hear the stories of those people
who have been forced to live under the tyranny of Daesh.
We see it closer to home in the face of a violent thug who used religion as a
pretext for murdering four innocent people on Westminster Bridge.
What does it mean for us to celebrate Easter this year with these events so close?
What does the Easter faith say in a world like ours? Is it simply an escapist fantasy,
or is there a message to sustain us?
The Gospel takes evil seriously. It doesn’t pretend that evil is not real or powerful.
The Gospel makes us face human sin and frailty with honesty. We see in the
Cross of Jesus the failure of politics and religion: Pilate sends an innocent man
to be executed because it is convenient and the chief priests hold a kangaroo court
to get rid of a man who threatens their privilege and status. We also see in the events
of Holy Week the failure of friendship and human courage: the crowds who hailed
Him as king call for Jesus to be crucified, and He is deserted and denied by his
friends and left to face the Cross almost alone. Only the women stay with Him.
But Easter is not a tragedy; it is a victory. It is the victory of life over death, of love
over hatred and of truth over falsehood. But Easter victory is the victory of resurrection;
and the only way to resurrection is to go through the Cross. The path to the victory
of the empty tomb takes us through Calvary.
As we pray for the victims of hatred and prejudice; for the civilians caught up in
warfare; as we try to comfort the bereaved and support those broken by the mess
and pain of life, we do so as an Easter people. We do so as a people whose hope is
shaped by the Cross and the resurrection of Jesus.
We look at the Cross and the empty tomb and they speak to us of a God who is with
us in the pain and brokenness of life in this world; of a God who weeps with the
victims of our world. They also speak to us of a God who will bring us through
to victory beyond suffering and defeat, on the other side of the Cross.
As an Easter people we know that nothing in this world, not sin and evil, not betrayal
and jealousy, not even death itself is more powerful than the love of God in Christ.
As the people of the crucified and risen God we can face the world and all of its
pain with hope and with trust. We put ourselves and those we love and pray for
into the hands of Jesus - into the hands that still carry the marks of the nails.
We know that nothing in all creation: not life or death, not powers or armies or
hate filled men; nothing in all creation can ever separate us from the love of
God in Jesus. For, as Augustine said,
‘We are an Easter people, and “Alleluia” is our song.’
We are here to help people love and worship God.
We aim to be, and encourage others to become, committed and active disciples of Jesus,
who love God and worship him, who know the power of the Holy Spirit and who show
God’s love in every part of their lives.
|Prayer for the month
|Thought for the month
|Below you will find extracts from this month's Parish Magazine
First Words..., A Prayer for the Month & A Thought for the Month
|The prayer of Silence.
“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation...
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.”
I am sure that I am not the only person who at times finds prayer difficult.
Sometimes it is more than difficult; it is impossible.
At times the problem is with words: they are insufficient. How can human words
express the glory of the infinite and infinitely loving God? They cannot. I am often
silenced in the presence of God, especially when I have been contemplating the
death of Jesus. Here I am confronted by a love which is deeper than human
thoughts can ever capture. All that I can do is kneel in silent praise.
At times such as these silence is more eloquent than words.
At other times I pray in silence simply because I know that I do not know how to
pray or what to pray for. When a friend speaks of the pain of loss or of the sudden
onset of a devastating illness, words fail me. I know that whatever I say will not be right.
And when I pray in these circumstances I do not know what to ask for.
Sometimes we hear of a natural disaster striking some corner of our world,
or of a people whose lives are devastated by the outbreak of war or violence.
Our words are not adequate.
At times like these words when fail me, all that I can do is kneel in silence before
God and hold that person or that situation in my heart before the Father whose
love and compassion are without limit; the God who knows the needs of every
person better than I ever will; the God who knows the cries of our hearts.
As is often the case in human relationships, so with God, there are times when our
silence can say much more than our words. Some people have the gift of intercession;
God gives them the right words when they pray. But for others God gives us the
gift of silence. We hold others in our hearts before the God who is their Father;
the God whose love for them is without limit and who
knows their needs better than we can.
Even when words fail us we are still called to pray for the world and for those
who God brings into our lives each day. Praying, interceding for others is our duty
and our privilege. I believe that it delights God’s heart when we come to Him,
not for ourselves and for our needs, but with others on our hearts. And, whether
we pray in words or in silence, it is part of our calling as children of the Father.
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|April is a very busy month here at St Mary’s.
This month we will celebrate Holy Week and Easter. This is the central celebration of the
Church’s year and it is the heart of our worship.
On Palm Sunday (9th April) we will mark the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We will
be given Palm Crosses in Church, reminding us that the crowds who welcomed
Jesus into Jerusalem as King cried out ‘Crucify him’ only a week later. In our morning
service we will have dramatised reading of the story of Jesus’ Cross and Passion.
On the evening of Palm Sunday we will be celebrating the work of possibly the
greatest hymn writer in the English language, Charles Wesley. It is an opportunity
to come along and sing and worship together at the start of Holy Week.
On Monday 10th April in the evening there is a special service in the Cathedral in
which we will be invited to renew our baptismal promises. It is a time to meet
together as a diocese and to pray for each other.
Maundy Thursday is on the 13th April. In the evening we will have a
commemoration of Jesus’ Last Supper, starting at 7.30pm.
The service ends with a silent vigil in Church for an hour as we remember
Jesus’ words to His disciples asking them to keep awake with Him in Gethsemane.
On Good Friday (14th April) we keep Three Hours at the Cross. From 12 noon to 2pm
there will be a Bible Reading, a Hymn and a brief reflection every half hour.
Please feel free to come and leave throughout this time - try to enter or leave
just before the half hour if possible. At 2pm we begin the special service for
Good Friday which focuses on the Passion of Jesus, and ends at 3pm when
we recall that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took Jesus’ body from the
Cross and laid it in a tomb.
On Easter Day (16th April) we celebrate the victory of the Cross as we mark
Jesus’ resurrection. We light the Easter Candle, a reminder that the risen
Lord Jesus is with us, and we celebrate the defeat of death and evil.
On the Sunday after Easter (23rd April) the Annual General Meeting will be held
in Church after the 10am service.
Please pray for those who will stand as members of the PCC or as Church wardens.
Finally on the weekend of the 29th and 30th April we are having a Parish Weekend
at Home! On the Saturday morning we will meet in Church to discern together what
God has been saying to us and where He is leading us as His Church here at St Mary’s.
Then on the Sunday morning we will have a special celebration service at 10am
followed by a bring-and-share lunch.