Preceding the Ray`s talk was the Collect for the day and Bible readings by two members of the congregation. Prayers were said following the talk.
O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in you, mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without you, grant us the help of your grace, that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Ezra 9:5-15 - Read by Caroline
John 16:16-24 - Read by Ken
Talk by Ray Harvey
Ezra is on a guilt trip on behalf of Israel, convinced that the experience of conquest and exile is all the result of apostasy. Jesus, in John’s Gospel, puzzles his disciples by predicting his departure, followed by greater joy and security in God’s love.
Underlying each passage is an experience of loss, confusion, disorientation, and a trial of faith. Frightening and bewildering circumstances have engulfed the faithful, or (in the case of Jesus’ disciples) they are about to.
The Israelites of Ezra’s time had been conquered, invaded and forcibly removed from their homeland. When the longed-for return to Jerusalem finally happened, reconstructing their society was harder and more controversial than they had expected. As if warning his disciples against complacency, Jesus describes a testing time of anguish, bereavement and sorrow soon to come, with a rather vague promise of happiness thereafter. Drawing on the image of labour and childbirth is not, as we might imagine, to trivialize the experience: pain, anxiety and uncertainty attended childbirth with tragic frequency, making a safe delivery an all the more heartfelt cause for rejoicing.
So how do we learn the lessons of a difficult time?
Like the exiles returning to Jerusalem, our rural communities are, like the rest of society, emerging into a need to re-think how we live as community. We have become painfully aware of inequality. The scars of loss, ill-health and poverty remain for many. We are freshly aware of the value and fragility of the natural world. Our work, our worship, perhaps even our faith, have been turned upside-down by the unnerving events of the past year.
Jesus reassures us, along with his disciples, that there is hope and comfort ahead; but the new life to which Jesus rises and call us to follow will not be the same as the old one. It calls us to seek new priorities, not old idols; and in shaping our future, to place all our faith and courage in the living God, whose promise is to be with us through whatever lies ahead.
Nearly back to normal?
For those of us who have received both our COVID jabs – or even just the one – and who live in areas of Britain with low case rates, there may be a real sense of opportunity and an excitement about the possibility of getting out and about.
But others may well be feeling anxious about the risks inherent in greater contact with others, the pressure of having to say ‘yes’ to invitations to gather or the proximity of areas with increasing COVID rates and the presences of new variants.
As you spent time in your rural community over the next few days, listen well. What is the mood? What are people excited or anxious about? How might you and your church family respond to new local opportunities and challenges?
Heavenly Father, we come to you with mixed emotions: excited at the prospect of time with friends and family, looking forward to shared meals and shared homes, anxious about what the future holds.
We come to you celebrating, grieving, joyful and angry at the life and death we see around us.
We come to you grateful that in all we face you walk alongside us. Give us the courage to respond with compassion to those who are hurting and to work for justice for those who are oppressed.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer
God of newness and renewal, lead us, and those we live, work and worship alongside in our rural communities, into the future with a new understanding of how we can live our lives in harmony and compassion with one another and with the earth, and above all in the constant presence and guiding power of our loving Creator. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer
We pray for the sick, for those in our parishes, for those known both personally to us and in our nation.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer
We commend into God’s eternal care all the faithful departed. We pray for all who mourn the loss of a loved one. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer
As we remember the 6th June 1944 and welcome world leaders to Cornwall this coming week……..
Lord of the nations, we honour the bravery and sacrifice of those who served. Grant us similar courage to recognise and restrain evil in our own day, and may those who lead the nations of the world work together to defend human liberty, that we may live peaceably one with another. This we ask in the name of the Prince of Peace, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ Amen
With thanks to Canon Carol Wardman, Bishops’ Adviser for Church and Society, Church in Wales for some of the content.