SevenTH sunday of easter: 24 MAY 2020

Sunday after the ascension

  Ascension window

Welcome to our service 
of Spiritual Communion 
for the Seventh Sunday of Easter: 
The Sunday after the Ascension 

Thank you to all those who are continuing their regular donations to the church. We appreciate all donations to support the maintenance of our building and the continuation of our ministry. Click here to find out how you can make your offering

During this difficult time of physical separation from each other we are, nevertheless, still able to experience spiritually in our hearts and minds our togetherness as the Body of Christ:

The term ‘Spiritual Communion’ has been used historically to describe the means of grace by which a person, prevented for some serious reason from sharing in a celebration of the Eucharist, nonetheless shares in the communion of Jesus Christ and therefore with each other too.  So therefore, we continue to give our grateful thanks for our communion with him and each other, particularly at times when we would ordinarily be present at the Eucharist. 

The Church of which we are members is not defined by the walls of a building but by the Body of Christ of which we are members. In making our communion spiritually, we are joining with Christians everywhere to be nourished by the one who tells us, ‘I am the Bread of Life’.

If you prefer to go through the whole service without having to click for the sound or pick up your Bible for the words, please click on the arrow below. If you prefer to control how you go through the service, skip this one and go on to the text below...

Click on the arrow below to prepare for the service by listening to the bells of Evercreech church in Somerset

Click on the arrow below to hear the Rev'd Jon Rose read the act of penitence.

The readings, intercessions and sermon which follow may be read (using your own Bible for the readings) or listened to, whichever you prefer. 

But first let us reflect together and remember that God is always with us:

Lord God, you are always with me......

You are with me in the day and the night....

You are with me when I’m happy and when I’m sad....

You are with me when I’m healthy and when I am ill....

You are with me when I am peaceful and when I am worried.....

Help me to remember that you love me and are with me in everything I do...

And please forgive me as I think about the ways in which I have fallen short of what you have required of me to live in love and peace with all....

Shall we say together...

Most merciful God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy
forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly,
love mercy
and walk humbly with you, our God. Amen.

And the president at the Eucharist says...

Almighty God,
who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon you,
pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,
and keep you in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter 
Click the arrow to hear the Collect read by the Rev'd Peter Budgell

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. Amen

The first lesson: Acts, 1, 6-14
Click the arrow to see the first lesson read by Brian Golding

Comment: The story of the Ascension can easily seem just “strange”. See it as a picture of the divine vindication of Jesus, leading immediately to the shared life of his followers, the infant church

Psalm 68: 1-10, 32-35
Click the arrow to hear the psalm chanted by Bob Millington

The second lesson: 1 Peter 4: 12-14; 5: 6-11 
Click the arrow to hear the second lesson read by Alison Budgell

Comment: The testing of faith by persecution or otherwise is always hard; but it carried with it the seal of God’s restoration and even the experience of joy.

The Gospel reading: John 17, 1-11
Click the arrow to hear the Gospel and Sermon read by the Rev'd Annita Denny

Comment on the Gospel: We read here the most profound of all statements about the interweaving of Jesus with the Father and then of us with them; it is our assurance for now and always.

The Sermon
We are in the great novena of the church, the nine days of waiting and praying between Ascension and Pentecost.    These were the days when the disciples were gathered in the upper room in continuous prayer.  Today’s Gospel draws us up into the upper room of Christ’s mind.    We are privileged to listen in on the intimate conversation of Jesus with the Father.   He prays for the glory of the father.  And then He prays for the disciples who continue to represent him in the world.    The Father and the Son are one in an intimate communion of knowledge and love.  As Christian disciples we are given the beginnings of this knowledge and are called to share in this love.    In today’s Gospel, prayer and community are equally obvious.   Jesus’ prayer for the disciples is that they “may be one as we are one”.     Christian unity bears witness to our understanding of God’s unifying, reconciling work in Christ, which is not something he just chooses to do, but which demonstrates his own nature.      The prayer of Jesus is known as his High Priestly Prayer and is part of the Farewell Discourse.   In the 5th century AD, Clement Bishop of Alexandria, said that in this prayer, Jesus was acting like a high priest for His people.   Ever since this has been known as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.   That’s a good way for us to think about how we should hear this prayer of God the Son to God the Father.   Jesus is being our Great High Priest.      It was expected of a religious leader to teach his disciples a distinctive prayer which would summarize his teaching for them.  Hence the request of one of the disciples to Jesus: “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”      The central work of Jesus was to set up on earth the kingdom of the Father – a society where God’s rule is the rule of life.    Where there is bread each day for all: no more injustice, discrimination or selfishness but the fair sharing of the resources of the earth.      Kingdom people persevere faithfully as temptation is resisted and evil is totally conquered.   The prayer of Jesus in the upper room repeats the great themes of the Our Father.   The name which dominates this prayer again is Father.    The infinite otherness of God is expressed in the recurring theme of glorification.     Just as the Our Father then becomes a prayer for the kingdom on earth, so too the upper room prayer intercedes for the disciples in the world.     Jesus has glorified the Father on earth by doing his will and making his name known.     Now that his earthly hour is completed, he hands on his mission to his disciples.   “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world ….”  17:11         Every day hundreds of millions of our brother and sisters around the world say the prayer Jesus taught us, praying “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ….”.     Previously the focus for prayer in these days between Ascension Day and Pentecost has been for the coming of God’s Kingdom in the lives of family and friends, neighbours and others that they might come to faith.     Next Sunday on the great feast of Pentecost we are reminded of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and how the Holy Spirit always has an address, speaking in our mother tongue, applying and particularising the work of Jesus Christ to certain individuals in different locations at distinct times.   Thus when we pray “Come Holy Spirit” during Thy Kingdom Come we pray in the specific context of the Covid crisis, with all that we face and all that is unknown.       In the midst of the social distancing necessitated by this pandemic, people have come together in creative and loving ways.    Indeed, some have called this virus a massive “trigger event” with the power to change everything.      As individuals and communities, we can respond with justice and compassion, or we can double down on the pursuit of accumulation with no more than a return to business as usual.      In a recent interview Archbishop Justin Welby was asked how he hoped Britain would recover after the Corona Virus.   Part of his response was that, “We do it with Community and the common good.”  …. Community and the common good …       Don’t we now more than ever long for the coming of the Kingdom of God – where there is no pain or crying, no injustice or loneliness?    Where all have sufficient for their daily needs.    Haven’t we yearned for God’s ways to be seen in all the world?    We long for signs of God’s kingdom and as a church do all we can to serve that Kingdom.         However important prayer is we know that prayer is a call to action.    As we pray during the novena that family and friends might encounter the love of God in Christ, may we pray also that they would experience that love in action through “prayer and care.”      In these challenging and uncertain times we can all reach out to help someone and continue to make a difference.    As a colleague commented: “we need to have confidence in our gifts and in the relevance of the Gospel.”       So, what is this that Jesus prays for His disciples and for you and me who believe through their word?   This is nothing less than eternal life.  That you know God, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.”   This is the prayer that our Great High priest prays for YOU. That our attention is being drawn to these holy words the week before Pentecost is perfect timing.   Having heard His prayer, we anticipate with joy the coming of the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who reminds us of Jesus, who gives us the knowledge of the only true God, which is eternal life.       What then shall we say?   What else can we say but “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.”    Amen.

The Intercessions are prepared by the Fay Wilson-Rudd

Click the arrow to hear the intercessions read by the Fay Wilson-Rudd

Gracious God, having experienced Lent, Holy Week and the Easter celebrations in a different way, we find ourselves, like the disciples of old, waiting.  Waiting …. for the easing of the restrictions on our meeting together in church.  Unlike the disciples of old we cannot come together in an upper room but we can come together through the medium of the internet and the written or spoken word. We give thanks for all who have made our worship as a family of believers possible in recent weeks and we will continue to wait quietly and faithfully, until such time as we can greet one another again in church. 

Lord in your mercy:             Hear our Prayer

Gracious God we pray for our Bishops, Robert, Nick & Jackie: give them courage & wisdom to lead us forward at this difficult time.  We pray too for Matt and Laura together with their children as they continue their ministry in Bury St Edmunds whilst planning to move to the Sid Valley in the coming weeks. Assure them of your love, our welcome and our hopes for their ministry amongst the people of the valley. 
Lord in your mercy:    Hear our prayer

Gracious God, we pray for our troubled world, its people and their leaders.  As nations seek a way through the Corona Virus pandemic we pray for those who have died, those who are slowly recovering and those who’ve remained well.  In all our concerns over the pandemic may we not forget those caught up in war, violence and hatred, especially the innocent victims of these evils and those who are abused because of their faith in Christ.  May peace abound and righteousness flourish, may we vanquish injustice and wrong, praying that the suffering won’t last forever. 
Lord in your mercy:     Hear our Prayer

Gracious God, we pray for all the people that we encounter whether during our shopping or exercising or those just passing by. Help us to recognise the risen Christ in one another however stressed and tired we may be. Give us the opportunity to brighten their day with a smile or a word. 
Lord in your mercy:   Hear our Prayer

Gracious God we pray for all who work  in hospitals and care homes – strengthen the doctors, nurses and other staff who have worked tirelessly to support all who are sick; we remember those who didn’t recover from the virus and pray for their families and friends for whom they were more than a statistic. Bring your comfort, peace and protection to all. Lord in your mercy:         Hear our Prayer

Gracious God we give thanks for the way people have worked together for the common good; help us to set aside all prejudice and fear of the unknown, stepping out in faith in the knowledge that you are with us always. 
Lord in your mercy;       Hear our Prayer

Gracious and Almighty God, may our prayers ascend to you just as Jesus Christ, your son, was taken up to heaven.  May the Ascension of our Lord inspire in us feelings of joy and hope rather than fear and separation as we await the coming of the Holy Spirit. 
Merciful Father:  Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. 

Click the arrow to hear the Rev'd Annita Denny read the spiritual communion prayers

Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ John 6, 35

Give thanks for the saving death and resurrection of Jesus and ask him to be
with you now. 
     Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ,
     for all the benefits you have given me,
     for all the pains and insults you have borne for me.
     Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally,
     I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. 
     O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
     may I know you more clearly,
     love you more dearly,
     and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.

                after the Prayer of St Richard of Chichester

You might then add one or more of the following prayers:

     Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your disciples,
     ‘I am with you always’.
     Be with me today, as I offer myself to you.
     Hear my prayers for others and for myself,

     and keep me in your care. Amen.

     O God,
     help me to trust you,
     help me to know that you are with me,
     help me to believe that nothing can separate me from your love

     revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

     Lord, in these days of mercy,
     make us quiet and prayerful;
     in these days of challenge,
     make us stronger in you;
     in these days of emptiness,
     take possession of us;
     in these days of waiting,
     open our hearts to the mystery of your cross.

                 Angela Ashwin

     Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
     we your unworthy servants give you most humble and hearty thanks
     for all your goodness and loving kindness.
     We bless you for our creation, preservation,
     and all the blessings of this life;
     but above all for your immeasurable love
     in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ,
     for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
     And give us, we pray, such a sense of all your mercies
     that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful,
     and that we show forth your praise,
     not only with our lips but in our lives,
     by giving up ourselves to your service,
     and by walking before you in holiness and
     righteousness all our days;
     through Jesus Christ our Lord,
     to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
     be all honour and glory,
     for ever and ever. Amen.

End with the Lord’s Prayer.
     Our Father...

Post Communion Prayer

Click the arrow to hear the post communion prayer read by the Rev'd Peter Budgell

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. Amen


Click the arrow to hear the blessing from the Rev'd Annita Denny

Click the arrow to hear the organ voluntary played by Bob Millington