This week the Gospel is about my namesake Thomas meeting the risen Christ, and that moment when Thomas cries out “My Lord and my God”.
We give thanks for Thomas and for this statement of faith articulating Jesus’s divinity in a way that none of the disciples achieve in Mark’s Gospel, the Gospel we are following this year.
We also give thanks for all the memorable words of Jesus in our Gospel reading, and the reassurance they bring to us: “peace be with you” … “I am sending you” … “Receive the Holy Spirit” … “Reach out and touch” … “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”…
Perhaps through a particular phrase Jesus speaks to you today and into your life and the situations you face this week.
If we feel afraid… Jesus says “peace be with you”. If we feel God is calling us… Jesus says “I am sending you”. If we feel we have let God down… Jesus says “peace be with you”. If we feel empty or inadequate… Jesus says “Receive the Holy Spirit”. If we feel we have been shutting God out of our lives… Jesus says “peace be with you”.
An Easter blessing:
for whom no door is locked,
no entrance barred:
open the doors of our hearts
that we may seek the good of others
to the praise of God the Father. Amen.
|Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!|
Happy Easter everyone. Our thanks to Marva Fuller, Sara Leefe and Joy Smith for decorating the Church with Easter flowers – which coincides with a return to Church today.
I am sorry to report that Dudley Reyner died earlier this week at home with Betty beside him. We remember Betty and the family in our prayers. May Dudley rest in peace and rise in glory.
Easter this year will be a subdued affair, falling so close to the national anniversary of those we remember who have died from Covid-19 since that first lockdown. We can’t sing congregational hymns and our return to Church won’t be with a celebration of communion. So we have to continue to dig deep. One way in which we can do this is to reflect on what keeps us steady, and to reflect on happier Easters in years past.
I have invited members of the St Giles’s communications team, Jenni and Gill and Sarah, and my wife Helen to share their experiences of a memorable Easter. As you listen to their stories I trust it might inspire memories for you that bring resurrection hope and joy.
An Easter Collect
God of glory,
by the raising of your Son
you have broken the chains of death and hell:
fill your Church with faith and hope;
for a new day has dawned
and the way to life stands open
in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
|Good Friday Reflections Hello Everyone,|
Of all the Gospels it is perhaps Mark’s Gospel that is most suited to the year we have just had. Mark is the only Gospel to resist having a happy ending, with the women running terrified from the tomb, and the last words of Jesus are a cry of dereliction from the cross. Mark’s Gospel helps us to stay with Good Friday before we move too quickly to Easter Sunday.
If we had been in Church this year the spoken and sung elements would have been interspersed with space for silence and reflection. So in between the musical and spoken elements that follow you may wish to spend a little time in silent reflection.
Two of the songs I have chosen are well known contemporary songs and two of the songs have words that may be unfamiliar – although you will recognise the tune to “When you prayed beneath the trees”. I chose a less familiar song – a hymn from Malawi – “Holy Lamb of God”, because I thought the tune captured the mood of Good Friday, particularly the sorrow of that cry of dereliction from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”.
The focus running through the three reflections is to explore what we find distinctive about Mark’s passion narrative. I conclude with a poetic reflection on Psalm 22 and the way in which the poet Malcolm Guite links the psalm with the two psalms on either side, in order to see better how “Christ himself is crying through this Psalm”.
With Very Best Wishes,
|Good morning everyone,|
This Holy Week is my last one here at St Giles’s. I intend to simply share two things that you probably know mean a lot to me: music and poetry.
The music is a reflection on the passion I have been involved with preparing for with the Leeds Festival Chorus, an event called “The Easter Journey” with music and readings appropriate for Holy Week. We have included the contact details of Fiona Kirby the person who can send on a zoom invitation if you would like to join in as a guest.
The poetry is from Malcolm Guite’s book on the Psalms, “David’s Crown”. I would like to reflect on psalms that Jesus would have sung with his disciples after the last supper on Maundy Thursday, on psalm 22 on Good Friday, and finally two ‘resurrection’ psalms on Easter Sunday.
On Maundy Thursday evening we will produce a virtual communion which would work well following an evening meal that day. To join in I would encourage you to please set aside a little bread and wine – or something special to drink after the meal.
At Good Friday there will be a pre-recorded series of three reflections accompanied by music which will go out at 12noon. This year we will be reflecting on the Passion narrative in Mark’s Gospel alongside Psalm 22.
On Sunday morning as well as our usual virtual worship to celebrate Easter morning, there will be a live act of worship in Church at 9.30am.
Today we remember the important role of the donkey as Jesus enters Jerusalem in fulfilment of prophecy. Zechariah chapter 9 and verse 9: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey.”
The donkey is a humble creature. The donkey points us to Christ, the one who humbled himself taking the form of a servant and who dies on a cross to bring about our salvation.
A Palm Sunday collect as we together move forward into Holy Week:
Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant,
and in obedience died on a cross for our salvation:
give us the mind to follow you and to proclaim you as Lord and King
to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
I shall look forward to seeing some of you face to face next week. We will keep going with the virtual services for a while yet.
“Stay here with me, remain here with me, watch and pray”
Tonight we commemorate the night on which Jesus instituted the meal by which we remember him. The attached liturgy for holy communion has its roots in the Passover meal where children are invited to ask questions about why this meal of all meals is celebrated, and where the Prayer of Thanksgiving over the gifts provides a response.
I was greatly inspired by Bishop Paul’s reflection for today and have included his words as a sermon.
And our thanks as a parish to Val for the beautiful prayers for Maundy Thursday.
Every blessing in Holy Week
Bishop Paul’s Reflection for Maundy Thursday
|Good morning everyone|
Today, 21 March, marks exactly a year since we went into that first lockdown. A lot has happened in that time. I feel I have learnt a lot about myself, I feel I have drawn closer to the people I care about, and closer to God. I feel like I have been able to sift out what is important to me and to cherish it. I trust that we will be able to build on all that we have learnt this year.
We have some good news to share this week: it’s official, we are “re-opening” the Church, and hope to start back in the Church building for worship at 9.30am on Easter Sunday. We will also keep going with the virtual services for the time being.
In line with a phased return, our live worship will be a “Service of the Word” to start with, sadly not a communion service just yet. As in previous lockdowns we continue the practice of no congregational singing, wearing face masks inside the building and observing physical distancing as before. I really look forward to a time when I will no longer have to phrase things in terms of prohibitions… We trust that this time this is really it: now that the Church is open we will stay open. I am really looking forward to seeing you all again.
It is officially spring this week: having more than 12 hours of daylight each day certainly helps. My blessing for this week is in the form of a poem that both celebrates spring and anticipates the end of lockdown.
“Unlocked” by Hannah Stone:
I am unlocked when frogspawn bubbles in puddles and ponds,
I am unlocked when the first daffodil
blows its trumpet from a muddy pit,
I am unlocked when catkins confer unearned epaulettes
of golden dust on passing shoulders,
I am unlocked when song-birds pierce the dawning day
with messages about nests,
I am unlocked when I observe new ivy tendrils
strengthen their hold on falling trees,
I am unlocked when I no longer count the minutes spent outside,
I am unlocked when I no longer flinch
at two-tone sirens passing in the street,
I am unlocked when sketchy plans begin to colour themselves in,
I am unlocked when a hand extended is grasped and clasped,
I am unlocked when my hands are no longer empty.
|Good morning everyone,|
Wishing you all a happy Mothering Sunday.
Today we give thanks for all mothers and all carers, all who have a mothering and nurturing role. We give thanks for all mothers and indeed grandmothers and great-grandmothers.
We give thanks for the work of the Mother’s Union. Pray for a blessing on our local branch. It would be appropriate to use Mary Sumner’s personal prayer to begin:
All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as possible for thee; and every life I touch, do thou by thy spirit quicken, whether through the word I speak, the prayer I breathe, or the life I live. Amen.
In my sermon today I explore the idea of both Mary and Jesus being meek. The word meek comes from the same root as the word gentle. And meekness is not weakness, quite the opposite. Meekness is about having great strength and courage… and perseverance.
|Good morning everyone,|
I am looking forward already to next week, Mothering Sunday, which is traditionally when we can have flowers in Church as a respite in the rigours of Lent. Mothering Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to keep in touch with each other by the simple act of delivering flowers – as we did this time last year. A symbolic way of people feeling included in the face of restrictions which, by their very nature, exclude.
We now have date to work towards, 21 June, as part of a national phased return to ‘normality’. We are tired at this point in time but also excited about a future which beckons when we are no longer excluded from one another but can relate to one another, face to face.
Jesus expresses anger and rage this morning in our Gospel reading. The source of his anger is when he sees how people are excluded from worship. Which begs the question: is our place of worship a house of prayer?
And a good question to ask in Lent, and as we prepare to be gathered again: do our corporate gatherings for worship reflect the heart of a God who gathers the outcast and the outsider?
This work of Jesus, of overturning tables, is never over until it is fully over – until everyone is truly, radically, included.
Heavenly Father, help us to grow in our prayer life. Fill our hearts with a desire to pray with one another. May our church be a joyful house of prayer, a place where all without exception are welcome to worship and pray. Give us a prayerful heart for the outsider and the excluded. Amen.
Sunday 28 February Virtual Service
Good morning everyone
I have an important announcement to make this week which you will find in the last YouTube link along with the closing blessing. I have included what I say there in writing at the end of this week’s missive from me.
I hope Lent and lockdown continues to go well for you. This past week we have been given our first indication of a staged ending to the national lockdown. I was particularly encouraged by that mention of all restrictions potentially ending in June – which gives us all hope.
We continue to think of Steve at this time mourning the death of his wife Kath. Kath’s funeral service will be here at St Giles Church this Friday 5 March at 2.15pm. The hearse will make a slight detour up Breary Lane to call outside their former house on the way round to the Church. So if you wanted to pay your respects to Kath as part of the village community I understand that the hearse will be coming up Breary Lane at 5 minutes past 2 on Friday.
Our ecumenical Lent course “Get creative in Lent” continues on Thursday evenings. It is not too late to join in. Each session ‘stands alone’. We are making our way through the passion narrative in Mark’s Gospel. This week we will read chapter 12 where Jesus is teaching in the Temple, telling parables and answering difficult questions. Please join in our fellowship together, by simply clicking on the Zoom invite in this mailing.
On Shrove Tuesday I was interviewed for the post of vicar of the parish of Upper Wharfedale and Littondale in the Dales, where there are four Churches at Arncliffe, Hubberholme, Kettlewell and Conistone. I was offered the post and have now accepted it. I appreciate this news has come out of the blue. Applying for this new post was something of a test of calling. Bishop Paul knew about this and had agreed to it. I have a strong sense of calling to my new role and believe it to be the right move for me and indeed for us as a family. I feel very sad, however, at the thought of leaving St Giles’ folk and indeed the village of Bramhope. As a family we felt quickly at home and welcome here – and we have felt loved and appreciated throughout our time living in Bramhope.
Reflecting on ministry at St Giles’s, we have been through a lot together, particularly this past year. As we transition out of lockdown, I am looking forward to all that we will continue to share and achieve. It is a privilege to have been – and indeed to continue to serve – as your parish priest. But I’m not going just yet… I will be with you for Easter and beyond but imagine that we will be moving house in early June and that I will be licensed by Bishop Helen-Ann soon after that. I understand that the search for my successor will begin at that point.
Bishop Paul in his Lent reflections urges us to be kind this week, to ourselves and to others, in fulfilment of the commandment to “love your neighbour as yourself”. A benediction for the week ahead (by the singer-songwriter Maggi Dawn):
Sorrows may surround you;
sadness overwhelm you;
yet be confident of this:
that you shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
And now may this God,
who holds you in trouble,
tends you in sorrow,
and leads you to green pastures,
this three in one and one in three God,
bless you, and bless you, and bless you.
Yours as ever in Christ
|Good morning everyone,|
In Jonathan’s sermon he encourages us to be better followers of Christ – as the hymn states: “O for a closer walk with God / a calm and heavenly frame. A light to shine upon the road / that leads me to the Lamb”. This is a key theme in Mark’s Gospel: “following Jesus on the Way”, and the following prayer from the Iona community reflects this:
Jesus says “I am the Way for you”. So we come to follow Christ;
Jesus says, “I am the Truth for you”. So we come to dwell in the Light;
Jesus says “I am life for you”. So we come, leaving behind all else to which we cling.
Its not too late to join our ecumenical Lent course, “Get creative in Lent” on Thursday evenings. We are making our way through the passion narrative in Mark’s Gospel. This week we will read chapter 11 where Jesus enters Jerusalem, cleanses the Temple and curses a fig tree. You will find further details and a zoom invite in our weekly e-mails, sign up from the home page.
We are including Bishop Paul’s weekly Lent reflections in these mailings. This week Bishop Paul considers the covenant God made to Abraham because he was found faithful. May we all be faithful in our following the Way.
Where Christ walks … we will follow.
Where Christ stumbles … we will stop.
Where Christ cries … we will listen.
Where Christ suffers … we will hurt.
When Christ dies … we will bow our heads in sorrow.
When Christ rises again in glory … we will share his endless joy.
There is no other way.