Prayers, Readings and Reflection for 5th Sunday of Easter

10th May 2020

Christian Aid Week

Today is the beginning of Christian Aid Week.

Like many church activities at the moment, Christian Aid Week is being done differently this year.

We hope you’ll take time to remember and acknowledge that we are part of a global community. We are neighbours near and far who are going through this coronavirus pandemic together.

May our shared experience unite us in praise and prayer as one human family, separate but together in the home that is God’s world.

Confession and absolution

How many times have you washed your hands today?

We approach our prayer of confession and absolution, mindful of the ritual significance of hand washing in the Bible. Hand washing in Scripture is closely associated with innocence and cleansing from sin. (See Exodus 30:17-21, Psalm 26:6, Matthew 27:24, James 4:8 to mention a few.)

You may wish bring a bowl of water, some soap and a towel to a safe distance before your computer. Or simply join in this prayer as you think about the ritual of hand washing. (You can say it in 20 seconds but it may take 30.)

As we wet our hands renew our thoughts, so we might be transformed. As we lather soap between fingers and over all our hands, purge from us all that brings us harm and might harm others. Remove the invisible guilt and shame that so often keeps us from you. As we rinse our hands, we trust in your overflowing grace, making all things new. Amen.

Old Testament Reading:
Genesis 8: 1-19
Psalm:
Psalm 31: 1-5, 15-16
New Testament Reading:
Acts 7: 55-60
Gospel Reading:
John 14: 1-14

Reflection on John 14:1-7 taken from Christian Aid Week 2020 sermon notes.

A video of this talk is available.

The promises in this gospel reading are often offered as hope and reassurance at times of bereavement and will have a resonance for those who have lost loved ones in recent weeks and months, whether or not as a direct consequence of coronavirus. We have always

believed in life before death, and find in these words of Jesus challenge and inspiration for this exceptional Christian Aid Week.

The comforting words of Jesus: ‘do not let your hearts be troubled’ are spoken to the disciples who have good reason to have troubled hearts. Jesus says these words at the last supper, just after he has washed their feet with his own hands, talked of his betrayal, and of Peter’s denial and his imminent departure (John 13). These are words of comfort and are worth meditating on in these challenging times today.

With many of us spending much more time in our homes, the spaciousness of the Father’s house, with many dwelling places, may sound appealing, particularly to those struggling to find their own space. ‘Dwelling place’ isn’t a term that we often use these days to describe the places where we live, but in this time of forced isolation our homes have become places to dwell more than we may have ever known before.

Jesus uses the word ‘dwell’ again when he talks of ‘the Father who dwells in me’. And in these days when our church buildings have had to remain largely empty and closed for Sunday worship, we are presented with the possibility of gaining a deeper understanding of what it is to dwell in the Father’s presence and to know what it is to have God’s Spirit dwell in us.

The gospels remind us how Jesus frequently rises early in the morning to take the time to abide with and in God. Maybe it is this dwelling with the Father that Jesus is referencing when he talks of doing the ‘works that I do’, along with the healing, ministering, speaking truth to power. This time to dwell with the Father is the source of all his speaking and doing in the world. May we also take strength from our time with God as we consider what we can do in response to these exceptional times.

At some point, perhaps not quite yet, we too need to face up to the honest questions such as how we can reimagine and recreate a world where no one dies of preventable diseases, that we already have vaccinations for and medicines to treat – why are there still more than 7,500 children under 5 dying every day from such diseases? These questions take on a greater resonance this Christian Aid Week.

Right in the middle of the last supper, Jesus encourages the disciples to ask him for anything and he’ll do it. He repeats his offer that he will do whatever you ask in his name. These are hard words to reconcile with the prayers that have seemingly gone unanswered in these difficult days. And they may have been difficult for the disciples to accept in the events that were to follow in the days to come.

These are the words Jesus wants his disciples, his followers, to remember when he’s no longer with them. He wants them to come to him, as he does the Father, with every cause, concern and request, even if they can no longer see him or be with him in person. These are words of hope and promise of connection for us all and always, but particularly in these days when we are so separate, but never alone. Physical absence and separation do not mean abandonment, and by entering into the dwelling place of God in prayer, he brings us back to the way, the truth and the life, again and again.

If you wish, you can make a donation online to help vulnerable communities at www.caweek.org/payin

Prayers

God our refuge, we come to you with open hands, some of us with hearts full of questions, some of us bruised by bereavement, some of us fearful of what the future holds, all of us stunned by the events of this year. Draw close to us now in each of our homes as we place our honest questions and hopes into your open, resurrected, yet scarred hands. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Hear the cry of our hearts, Lord, silent and aloud, for bereaved neighbours, near and far. Comfort those pained by being absent, and hold close those who are hurting alone. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. In this season of Easter, renew us with resurrection hope that while weeping lingers in this night, joy will come with the morning. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. On this Christian Aid Week Sunday, we pray for and with communities across the world who are most vulnerable to coronavirus. We pray for people living in refugee camps and city slums, with limited sanitation facilities, who are unable to wash their hands regularly, and have little opportunity to isolate from others. We pray for Christian Aid partners working to provide soap and buckets, communicating clear, accurate information, raising the voices of the most vulnerable and ensuring they are kept as safe as possible. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. We pray for much wisdom and resources for those in local and national authority for all frontline and key workers here in Britain, Ireland and across the world. Lord, in your mercy, hear all our prayers. Amen.

Blessing

May the presence of the Creator refresh us, may the comfort of the Son renew us, may the inspiration of the Spirit restore us to be love in action, even from a distance, in our neighbourhoods, near and far, this day and for evermore. Amen. Remain in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, alleluia. Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.

If you wish to make a donation to Christian Aid, you can do so online at caweek.org/payin

Prayers and reflection taken from Christian Aid Week 2020