Church of England Diocese of Birmingham St. Matthew with St. Chad, Smethwick

29th March 2020 - 5th Sunday of Lent

29 Mar 2020, 5:30 p.m.

Opening Prayer: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Most merciful God, who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ delivered and saved the world: grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross we may triumph in the power of his victory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, Amen

A Thought for this Week:  Last week as we took action to suspend public worship and events for the foreseeable future at St Matthew with St Chad, Cape Hill, Smethwick, I thought lots of things. I knew that what was happening so suddenly all around us would be making many people feel disoriented and perplexed. I knew that suspension of public worship would leave many lost and at-a-loss as they cope with a strange, unsettling and unfamiliar world. During this time we are being asked to Stay-at-Home and become a new style of Church. As I pondered this situation that we have all flund ourselves in, these words from last Sunday’s Gospel reading sprang to mind. For, Jesus said to a Samaritan woman that he met at a well that: “The time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter”. John 4v23 The Message. It seems to me that these precious words are a living text for the time we have found ourselves in. Words from Jesus to encourage us as we meet with God in prayer. Words from Jesus to assure us as we become Church in new ways. Words from Jesus that bring a message of reassurance to all of us who can no longer gather for public worship.

This week, in my personal bible study I was reading Ephesians 6 using The Message. I found myself particularly struck by the translation and these words that can be found towards the end of the chapter: “God’s Word is … indispensable …”; “…. prayer is essential …”; and “Keep each other’s spirits up … ”. These words stopped me in my tracks and I found myself thinking about the predicament that the whole world has found itself in. Who would have thought it? Here we are fighting an invisible and powerful foe – the virus Covid 19 – and here I was with words from the Bible that help us. For surely in this time of emergency we can still point people to God’s Word, as well as maintain our lives of prayer and at the same time to support others. For we can all do lots of things:

· We can stay at home to stop the spread of the virus.

· We can keep in touch with those we know.

· We can use this time to refresh our prayer life.

· We can contemplate and study God’s Word anew.

· We can take time to listen to God.

· We can give serious consideration to what needs when this crisis passes.

So, even if you are trapped at home, unable to “get online” to speak to others or to get out and volunteer – do not despair because there is still so much you can do as God’s precious children – his Church. For you can: Read the Bible, say your prayers and encourage others as we sit out the storm that passes amongst us.

Closing Prayer:May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all, be with those that you love and all that you pray for, now and always. Amen

Closing Note: This message is sent to you with love and prayers as: a word of encouragement and a sign of hope in these quite extraordinary times.