Message from the Rector
For Ascension Day (last Thursday), when we would normally have both an early morning service in Aldeburgh and an evening service for the whole Deanery, we came up with an online service of Holy Communion that joined together several of the deanery’s churches in a rather unusual way. The Revd Nic Stuchfield (Assistant Priest at St John’s Saxmundham) masterminded proceedings, several of our clergy contributed and three of our church buildings featured. I made it to the top of Aldeburgh church tower to record a sermon (on a glorious morning) and, if you haven’t seen the whole service you can still find it here:
From Ascension Day until Pentecost (next Sunday) the Church of England celebrates ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. It began as something solely English in 2016 and has now grown into a worldwide and ecumenical call to prayer. This explains a little bit more:
The ‘Lightwave’ community has been asked to co-ordinate activities in our diocese and there are lots of ideas here:
Here in our benefice you might like to light a candle in a window each evening and say a prayer for your family, town or village. And each evening at 5pm our Pilgrims Together group is holding a short Zoom gathering to pray five particular prayers and pray for five particular people. If you’d like to know more about ‘555’ drop the Pilgrims an email at email@example.com
And next Sunday the 10.30 act of worship will be a special service of Holy Communion for Pentecost. It’s the church’s birthday so it’s good to celebrate. Come Holy Spirit!
O God the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: we beseech you,
leave us not comfortless, but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us
and exalt us to the place where our Saviour Christ is gone before,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The Ascension of Jesus.
So, when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
1 Peter 4.12-14 – 5.6-11
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
The head that once was crowned with thorns
is crowned with glory now;
a royal diadem adorns
the mighty Victor’s brow.
The highest place that heaven affords
is his, is his by right,
the King of kings, and Lord of lords,
and heaven’s eternal Light;
The joy all of all who dwell above,
the joy of all below,
to whom he manifests his love
and grants his name to know.
To them the cross with all its shame,
with all its grace, is given;
their name, an everlasting name;
their joy, the joy of heaven.
They suffer with their Lord below,
they reign with him above,
their profit and their joy to know
the mystery of his love.
The cross he bore is life and health,
though shame and death to him:
his people’s hope, his people’s wealth,
their everlasting theme.
Thomas Kelly (1769-1855)
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
Reflection by The Revd Sheila Hart
It’s been 6 weeks now since that morning when we went to the tomb in the garden and discovered that Jesus’ body was missing.
6 weeks since Mary told us that He was risen and that she had seen Him and spoken to Him.
6 weeks since He suddenly appeared to us in the upper room where we were shut in because we were afraid of what might happen to us if we were to venture out and were recognised by the Jewish authorities for having been His followers.
6 weeks since he breathed the Holy Spirit into us and sent us out into the world as His Father had sent Him.
6 weeks since He had joined our friends for their walk on the road to Emmaus and revealed Himself to them when they shared a meal together.
We have all seen Him somewhere in the past 6 weeks, – in this room, by the seashore for breakfast after we had tried to bring about some sort of normality to our lives by going fishing.
And each time, as He has come and gone, He seems to have been hinting that there will be a time soon when we will no longer see Him in the flesh, so to speak, but this Holy Spirit will be with us and we will be responsible for sharing with our friends and neighbours what we have learned from Him over the three years He was with us.
Meanwhile, He has been quite clear on our brief encounters with Him that we are to stay locked up and that we are to prepare ourselves for something new.
And then only a few days ago He came to us again and told us that we would receive Power when this Holy Spirit came upon us and we were to be Jesus’ witnesses here, in Jerusalem, but not only that, we were to take His teaching to Judaea and Samaria – that place where we were not supposed to have any interaction with its inhabitants – and then to the ends of the earth, to the Gentiles, even. Talk about doing a new thing!
And then, to crown it all, like Elijah did to Elisha in days of old, a cloud took Him up into the heavens, out of our sight and we were left gazing into the sky wondering where He had gone and what we were to do now.
Those men in white suddenly appeared out of nowhere, just like they had done on the morning when He had disappeared from the tomb and asked us what we were doing gazing into heaven and what’s more they told us that eventually he would come back to us in the same way as we had seen Him go from us – in a cloud? I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me. We’ve been locked up again praying and seeking God as to what we should do next. Watching and waiting for this so-called power from on high that Jesus promised us.
Sounds familiar? Possibly. Isn’t this where we have been for the past weeks? Locked up through fear of being infected with Covid 19 or anything else that is likely to put us in harm’s way?
Not able to worship in the ways with which we are familiar?
Having to make do with unfamiliar acts of worship in unfamiliar places without those with whom we are familiar around us?
And all we can do is turn to God and pray for deliverance from the feelings of isolation and loneliness, puzzlement and bewilderment and hope that we will remain healthy and come out of the current situation alive.
And just as the disciples were wondering when things would get back to normal for them after Jesus’ death and resurrection so we are wondering when life will get back to some sort of semblance of normality for us too.
How much of what we have doing over the past weeks will become the new norm?
When will we be able to really see friends and family again?
How much longer will this last?
And when will we be able to go to church when we want to?
And the big question is ‘where is God in all of this?’ Has he really deserted us and left us to cope as best we can on our own until we, like the disciples of the first century, have received the power from on high?
The one sure thing is that God has NOT deserted us. He is with us all the time and is suffering with us. God has not caused our current situation, but He is in it with us and He will keep us in perfect peace if our mind is stayed on Him. The important thing at times like this is that we maintain our relationship with Him, that we take Him into our confidence and tell Him what is on our hearts, how we feel and even how we feel about His allowing us to be in such uncertain times too. Read the Psalms. If you aren’t aware already you will be by the time you have finished that the full range of human emotions are expressed in the Psalms. It’s ok to be frustrated, sad, puzzled, questioning and angry as well as full of joy, peace expectancy and love.
Jesus’ parting words to His disciples in Matthew’s Gospel were ‘Lo I am with you always to the close of the age.’ So let’s believe it and trust Him to bring us through this and out the other side even if it means not going back to things exactly as they were before all this happened. Amen.
Eternal God, giver of love and power, your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world to preach the gospel of his kingdom: confirm us in this mission and help us to live the good news we proclaim; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Church of England is producing lots of good material and advice at present. This includes some excellent prayers for us all to use and I commend them to you:
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The Week Ahead – Next Sunday
31st May – Pentecost
Food Banks – Message from the Community
We support 22 independent and Trussell Trust Foodbanks through our Food Stores; the Foodbanks all collect from the stores who support them. To find the list of who we support and how to find out what their specific needs are please go on to our website
Suffolk Community Foundation are in need of donations to support the various Suffolk Charities they are involved with, to support them financially go to https://www.suffolkcf.org.uk/in-response-to-the-coronavirus-threat-suffolk-community-foundation-launches-local-appeal/.
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