Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic all public worship across the Church of England has been suspended. Worship has therefore moved to online live-streaming. Below is the text of the simple service I live-streamed from Peterborough Parish Church on Sunday 22nd March 2020, for the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
A Simple Order of Service
Lent 5, Passion Sunday – 29th March 2020
Good morning from the centre of Peterborough. Today we can’t be inside the church because earlier this week we were told that churches had to close as part of the efforts to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
It feels very odd not being able to be inside the church, and even stranger not being able to come together. So this is coming from my study at home.
Although we can’t be together physically for this act of worship, over the next few moments we can pray together, read the bible, reflect and seek God’s grace to hold us and guide us through all the week ahead will bring. And it is very hard to second guess just what the week will bring, given how dramatic that past few weeks have been.
If you have the order of service from the e-newsletter sent out on Friday, this is the order of service that I am going to use. I am live streaming this at 9.15am in the morning but it will be available on the church facebook page to view later as well.
So, I invite you to be still for a moment as we focus our hearts and minds on the God whom we have come to worship.
Opening Prayer (Post Communion for Passion Sunday):
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us
that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters
we do also for you:
give us the will to be the servant of others
as you were the servant of all,
and gave up your life and died for us,
but are alive and reign, now and for ever. Amen.
Throughout Lent we have been travelling through the first creation story in the Book of Genesis, following themes in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book, by Ruth Valerio, ‘Saying yes to life’. Today brings us to Day 5. The theme this week is ‘Let the waters teem with life and let birds fly’. Click on the links below to read the passages.
Psalm 130 Between the readings:
Sung Version: Words and Music by Keith Getty, Jordan Kauflin, Matt Merker, and Stuart Townend)
Gospel Reading: John 11:1-45
Our theme throughout Lent has been the first Creation story in the Book of Genesis. In this we have been following the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book for this year, by Ruth Valerio ‘Saying Yes to Life’ (SPCK Publishing). As we have noted all along, this is a poetic reflection on God as creator, not meant as a literal account of how the world came into being – we look to science for that. That said, this familiar story still has many riches to unfold for us to discover.
On Ash Wednesday I spoke about God as creator; the creation being the action of his will and purpose. It is not random, but willed and wanted, made from and for love.
On the first Sunday of Lent we looked at Day 1 in the story, at light, and seeing this as showing God’s purpose and active presence.
The second Sunday we moved on to Day 2, where space is made for this purpose to get to work. That space is made within God, who accommodates creation.
The third Sunday brought us to Day 3, where the land produces vegetation – trees and plants, seeds and fruit trees. The seas are also made, but the creatures have yet to emerge. We belong to the earth – it is the setting for our pilgrimage, one which is blessed and blesses.
Last week we arrived at Day 4, stars and planets lighting up the sky. This planet is in orbit and part of something so much bigger and connected than daily living reveals, inspiring awe and wonder set before us, where God’s future held out before us is greater than the past.
Today, Day 5, we go back to the seas and land, and they teem with life: sea creatures and winged birds. That life emerges from the seas has a startling resonance with current scientific theories of life being triggered in the hydrothermal vents in the sea-beds. Life comes out of the seas.
The Hebrew language uses the same word for ‘creatures’ and ‘beings’. Some translators render this as ‘soul’, but the meaning of the word is ‘being’ or ‘life’. Every living being, creature, draws its breath, its life, from God. It is to be honoured as such, for when God saw it, it was good.
The oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface. Not only are they vast, they are powerful. Human beings are puny in comparison. Anyone who has stood in the waves and been overcome by them knows that we are as driftwood in their force. And yet, it is these waves, these storms at sea that Jesus calms in the story of a boat tossed and in danger of being wrecked in a storm (Mark 4:35-41). The oceans are powerful, but God is more powerful, because he is their creator.
The power of God was expressed in the gospel reading (John 11:1-45), with that touching story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It is a story of hope that even death is answerable to God. Or as St Paul put it in his great letter to the Romans,
“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, … nor things present, not things to come, … can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39)
We are so used to being in control, being able to fix things, that we expect to be able to deal with anything that comes our way. We are facing something at the moment that is beyond us, and so much of our society is shutdown to slow the advance of this Covid-19 virus. When we are being battered by such forces which are more powerful than we can handle, God is not defeated. Whatever comes, our life is precious, for it comes from his breath, and the same Christ speaks words of peace, stilling that storm and the storms of life, even those which arise from the place where life emerged. Nothing can separate us from that love.
As we reflect on Day 5 of the creation story, we celebrate that all life comes from God and is to be honoured as such. We are to care for the seas, stop polluting them because we depend on them. And remember that when we face forces we can’t tame or control, there is one who stands above them and who is therefore our hope. The God who raised Lazarus, because life is precious to him, will raise us too.
*The video referred to can be found at http://www.spckpublishing.co.uk/saying-yes-resources
God of hope and consolation,
In times of anxiety,
may we be drawn by your hope, not driven by fear.
In sickness and in health,
may we find your song of praise to lift our heads in thanksgiving and joy.
When times are hard,
inspire us with your generous love to be mindful of the needs of all people.
In isolation and physical distance,
helps us to reach out to others with words of encouragement and companionship.
Bless all whose work ensures our common wellbeing,
that together we may travel through this vale of misery
to the bright dawn of your new tomorrow,
which is always much greater than the past.
We bring before God the prayers on our hearts…
The Lord’s Prayer
We sum up these and all our prayers, the ones we can find words for and the ones we can’t as we say together the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.
The Collect for Fifth Sunday of Lent
Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and save the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and ever. Amen.
Christ crucified draw you to himself,
to find in him a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope, and the assurance of sins forgiven;
+ and the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen
We are exploring various ways for us to keep in touch over the coming months. Please keep an eye on our social media feeds and website and sign up for our e-newsletter if you would like to receive this direct.
God bless; stay in touch, look out for one another and stay well.
Wednesday was the Feast of the Annunciation – when the Angel announced to Mary that she was to be the God-bearer, her ‘yes’ would bring Christ among us. We end with our Cathedral choristers singing a version of Mary’s song, The Magnificat, ‘Tell out my soul’.
End of livestream.