Reflection for Lent 17 February

Bishop Paul reminds us that what we are experiencing this year with Lent as a kind of lockdown in itself that taken together with the national lockdown we are now experiencing a kind of hyper-Lent. As the Bishop put it Lent can be quite ‘pinched’ at the best of times so lets go easy on the harsh self-disciplines.

Joan from Bramhope Methodist Church sent me this wonderful alphabet acrostic I am grateful to Joan for letting me use this. It is a good example of one way in which we can “Get Creative in Lent”.

Another Lent approaches
Does the way I live my life
Equate with my beliefs?
Faith demands action
Go the extra mile.
How can I though?
In lockdown it’s so difficult.
Kindness must be my watchword
Love as He did.
Mark’s gospel to be studied
New insights to be found,
Opening up to the spirit’s promptings.
Pre-conceived ideas may be challenged
Questions will arise.
Re-tracing His journey may be painful.
Sentimentality must be put aside.
The truth of the story should be
Unfolded carefully, honestly
Visions of His sacrifice taken to heart.
We are called to follow His example
X is… a cross, His cross … where he took our
Yoke upon himself, all our sins forgiven.
Zealously I will try to follow that example.

Joan’s poem exemplifies the way in which I would like to spend Lockdown Lent this year: being creative and looking outward. All good preparation for that time when we can live outwardly again. And we can value all this extra time we have to appreciate God’s good creation. As Bishop Paul says, we live in the presence of our awesome God and we can see that in creation all around us.

I wish you all a holy and a happy Lent, a fruitful wilderness journeying.


Virtual Service 14 February

Good morning everyone
This Sunday we have the Gospel reading of Jesus’s Transfiguration – the story of the moment when God’s glory and light pour out of the person who we celebrated last week is the image of the invisible God in Colossians chapter 1. 

This week’s epistle contains a memorable verse from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians chapter 4 where Paul writes that God’s glory can be seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 

In my sermon today I explore this radical image of Paul’s that  in the face of Jesus of Nazareth we see the image of the invisible God, we see God facing us with love. 

An opening prayer
Lord Jesus, you come to us
with love shining from your face,
you invite us to follow you.
Help us to live lives that reflect your love and that honour you.
To your greater glory                                                                  
and the ushering in of your glorious kingdom.

Our opening hymn is an appropriate one for the Transfiguration. It is by Charles Wesley and it describes Jesus as being like the noonday sun shining in full strength,  “Dayspring from on high, be near, daystar, in my heart appear”:  The hymn is ‘Christ whose glory fills the skies…’

I am delighted that Thursday mornings have now become established as a time when we have zoom prayers as a parish. 
This week after that zoom meeting there will be healing prayers for half an hour from 11.15. Its an opportunity for us to ask for prayers for healing either for ourselves or for someone who is on your heart at the moment.

If you would value these prayers for healing simply click on the same link for morning prayer at any time between 11.15 and 11.45 on Thursday and we can pray together for healing.

Finally a reminder that our Lent course begins this week, “Get creative in Lent”, that’s 7 o’clock this Thursday.


Virtual Service 7 February

Hello everyone, 

There are now less than 50 days to go until we are officially in Spring and from today only 10 days to go until Lent begins. 

We are jointly running a Lent course with our brothers and sisters in Christ at Bramhope Methodist Church, starting on Thursday of next week. For six weeks we will make our way through the passion narrative in Mark’s Gospel and come up with our own creative response. In spite of all the restrictions imposed by lockdown, it can be a way of looking and living outwardly in response to Christ’s own passion. You will find further details of “Get creative in Lent” in this mailing.

We were sad as a nation to learn of the death of Captain Tom Moore earlier this week. As we celebrate his life of loving service we reflect that there is still so much to give us hope. And here is a hopeful, but I think, reasonable guess: that by Easter things will be better, spring will be breaking through, we shall all be enjoying more daylight and sunshine and as we think of the rock rolled away from the tomb on that first Easter morning it will coincide with the point at which lockdown might be eased.

For many Churches we are presented with lots of opportunities for celebration at around Easter. Also a date for all our diaries: Sunday 28 November will mark our 140th anniversary as the parish of St Giles Bramhope and you are all invited!

A blessing for the week ahead:

And now may God the Son,
the head of the Church, 
the image of the invisible God, 
and the Word made flesh … 
draw alongside us this lockdown 
and fill us with renewed energy and hope.  Amen.


Virtual Service 31 January

Hello everyone,
We celebrate Candlemas this week, also known as the feast of the Presentation of Christ. We would normally have had lighted candles in Church to remind us of Simeon who held the Christ child, the light of the nations, in his arms. 

At the end of this season of Epiphany I make comparison in my sermon today between the journey of Magi who make their long journey to find the Christ child, and Simeon and Anna and their own lifelong journey to come face to face with the promised Messiah.

We had our first prayer zoom last week on Thursday morning. This was a new thing for us as a congregation, to pray together virtually, and it was wonderful to be able to do so. Last week was an opportunity to pray for family and friends. This week the focus is on NHS Frontline staff and all keyworkers. So maybe see you this Thursday – you will find the zoom invite in the link below.

I am sorry to say that we made the decision to cancel our virtual Christingle service today. I am, however, delighted to say that as a parish we have made a donation of £1,300 to the Children’s Society. If you would wish to make a donation to the work of the Children’s Society please go to their website

Today at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, old Simeon proclaims Christ as the light of the nations and the glory of God’s people Israel. A blessing of light to close, from God the Father of light:

May God the Father, 
who led the wise men by the shining of a star, 
the find the Christ, the light from light, 
lead you also in your pilgrimage to find the Lord. Amen.


Virtual Service 24 January

Hello everyone, 

Next week we may get an indication from our Prime Minister of how long this current lockdown will last. The likelihood is that we may not yet be at the half way stage, so we need to dig deep for spiritual resources to sustain us. 

I am conscious that this is yet another week when we don’t have holy communion to sustain us. But we are a people who are fed by both word and sacrament and we have an opportunity at a time like this to dig deep into God’s word. 

So this week in addition to a sermon from me there is an opportunity to look at our Gospel reading today in greater depth. I have produced a Bible study which reads these verses and sees God’s word as a Rabbi would, as a sacrament: a means of God’s presence, “an outward, visible sign of God’s invisible grace”.

There is a prayer zoom invite embedded in this week’s mailing for this Thursday morning at 10.30am. Although the Church is closed in this third lockdown for private prayer we can still pray together. We will have prayer zooms each successive Thursday and for as long as the Church remains closed. There will be a particular focus for our prayers each week, and this week our focus is on family and friends. There will also be an opportunity to pray for healing, both for ourselves and for the people on our hearts at this time. 

Our prayer this week reflects the gracious sign that Jesus performs at a wedding at Cana in Galilee:

Wondrous God, 
turn the water of our faith 
into the wine of your Spirit’s mercy 
until the whole creation gathers round your throne 
and your children discover you have saved the best till last.  Amen

Prayer taken from Joining the Angel’s Song, Eucharistic Prayers by Samuel Wells and Abigail Kocher (Canterbury Press, 2016)

Vicar of St Giles
Tom’s Bible Study

Virtual Service 17 January

Hello everyone,

In our Gospel reading today Jesus speaks hopeful words to Nathaniel: “You will see greater things than these”. And a wonderful promise, “You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man”. Tradition has it that Nathaniel was much older than Jesus and the other disciples, yet Nathaniel is told to look forward in hope, and to expect to see great things.

As a Church Council we made the difficult decision this week to close the Church for acts of worship and private prayer. It may feel that this makes it harder to look to the future in hope. We will review this decision at a PCC meeting later this month. For the time being these virtual services continue to be our main way of being Church, Sunday by Sunday. Although we can’t pray in Church we can still pray together, so watch this space for some zoom invitations in the weeks ahead. 

Nathaniel wasn’t a spring chicken when he was called by Jesus but Jesus encouraged him to keep looking forward towards a hope-filled future and, as Jonathan says in his sermon today, to walk in the light of that hope.  A prayer based on our Gospel reading today:

Lord, thank you for the promise you made to Nathaniel, that he would see great things in the future. For us when the immediate future looks bleak and precarious help us to see beyond that and to claim that promise for ourselves, that a future spent with you is one full of promise, full of potential, full of hope. Amen.

Jonathan’s Sermon For Today

Virtual Service 10 January

Hello everyone
Today the Church commemorates the Baptism of Christ. This third national lockdown is going to be a baptism that we will all be baptised with. None of us can escape it – it is a universal experience of stress and anxiety that will test our ability to cope. 

The Prime Minister in his address to the nation on Monday night alluded to the fact that this will be the most difficult lockdown of all. We enter lockdown with the numbers of people contracting the virus at a rate higher than it has ever been in the UK. A reminder that the days and weeks ahead are going to be tough. 

So we pray for ourselves and those we love; we pray for our nation; we pray for those on the front line in the NHS; for all essential workers. We pray for all who seek to bring hope and to help us remain connected. And we pray for deliverance. 

My sermon today reflects on Christ’s baptism alongside our experience of lockdown and suggests that we can find hope in the midst of feeling out of control, in the midst of chaos and in the face of death.

Sometimes when we surrender control something surprising happens, we can be open to new possibilities and we can experience hope. By entering the waters of the Jordan river Jesus enters into our chaos, all our fights to keep our heads above water. And Christ’s baptism points to hope even in the midst of death. These are the words written on the font at Portsmouth Cathedral. I think they speak to us at the start of this third and most difficult lockdown. 

“When you went down into the water it was like the night, and you could see nothing, but when you came up again it was like finding yourself in the day. That one moment was both your death and your birth”. 

It may feel like the night at the moment. But hope will come as surely as the dawning of a new day.


Virtual Service 3 January

Hello everyone,
Happy New Year! 

I’ve got some good news and some bad news. If you want the bad news first: the bad news is that Christmas ends on Wednesday; the good news is that we can sing Christmas carols for another four weeks until 2 February. If you want the good news first: the good news is that its still Christmas; the bad news is that we have to sing carols for another four weeks. 

Please support a local appeal by the Children’s Society – a simple idea to make sleep packs for young asylum seekers as a way of countering the effects of sleep deprivation. In this mailing you will find ways in which we can be engaged as a Church, helping with giving particular items that are needed or by making a financial donation.

The birth of a New Year calls forth the desire in us to bestow a blessing upon those we love, and the following blessing is by the Irish poet John O Donohue:

Beannacht: A Blessing for the New Year
On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders
And you stumble, May the clay dance to balance you.

And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window
And the ghost of loss gets in to you,
May a flock of colours, indigo, red, green, and azure blue,
Come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays in the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you,
An invisible cloak to mind your life.  Amen.


Virtual Service 20 December

Sunday 20 December Virtual Service Hello everyone
 It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent. The fourth candle on the Advent wreath represents Mary. This is the prayer I used this week:

Lord Jesus, Light of the world,
blessed is Gabriel who brought good news;
blessed is Mary – your mother and ours.
Bless your Church preparing for Christmas.  Amen.

Jonathan sets us some homework in his sermon today to read through Luke’s Gospel with an eye out for all who positively respond to Christ. Jonathan encourages us to think of Mary’s own positive “yes” to Christ. We ask God to help us to say “so be it” with Mary (Luke 1.38) and to respond positively to his call, even when that call is, as it was for Mary, demanding and beyond our comprehension. 

As with the Advent tradition of listening to Handel’s Messiah the Nine Lessons and Carols service included in this mailing gives us an opportunity to claim God’s salvation history – the story of God coming to redeem his people – as our story too: God speaking into our history, our context, our need of deliverance.
As the lessons unfold and the carols beckon us towards the new-born child in the manger Mary’s experience is made universal, that every Church “becomes Bethlehem” at Christmas:

I open the stable door
I kneel before the infant
I worship with the shepherds
I adore the Christ Child
I ponder the Word made flesh
I absorb the love of God
I give glory with the angels
I receive the living Lord
I hold him in my hands
I go on my way rejoicing
Glorifying and praising God.

Click on Jonathan’s Picture to See his Sermon