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

5th Sunday of Easter

2 May 2021, midnight
Easter

Alleluia Christ is risen!

Readings: Acts 8v26-end; Psalm 22v25-end; 1 John 4v7-end; John 15v1-8

Let us pray: Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak through them; Take our minds and think through them; Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for Yourself, Lord Jesus. Amen.

A word from Our reader Michelle: It’s been a while since I’ve been able to share a sermon with you all and I thank God that he’s given me the grace and opportunity to do so as, for a time, I thought that ministry as I knew it was out of reach for me.

As many of you know I spent a period of time in hospital with complications from Covid-19. It was a horrid time not only physically but mentally too. At the time I felt so ill that I didn’t have the energy to pray only lie there and try to breathe. I knew others were praying for me but I couldn’t do it myself. Both night and day was a torment through the delirium of other patients, the cries of pain, the general beeps of machines, lights and the hubbub of a busy hospital ward.

After my third night of no sleep I was in despair and was feeling that I was not in the environment to even try to feel better as I was not resting and one thing Covid needs to help go away is rest. A sister in Christ rang me and said “put your headphones on and listen to music.” She knew I listened to music a lot during the day to create a peaceful atmosphere and it was what I needed to hear - God’s word without effort. A kind nurse gave me an eye mask, I listened to the music and the peace of lyrics about God’s grace gave me the first proper rest in days.

Now I really know and understand how much God needs us to have peace in order to have some comfort and communication with Him in our lives. Today’s gospel of John mentions “Abide in me as I abide in you.” A biblical definition of abide is to remain stable. Mentally I definitely felt that after my friend’s intervention (even if I wasn’t physically) and indeed, in yesterday’s gospel Jesus says “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” But how many times as believers do we really take that on board? As humans, many of us live to worry, have stressful lives and those stresses bring on illnesses and anxiety. As believers, we know that God wants us to have peace within us. Indeed, earlier in the same chapter of John 14, He says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” In a different translation of the same verse it says “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world took this advice? In this country alone in 2019-2020 work related stress accounted for 51% of work related ill health and an estimated 17.9 million working days were lost due to stress. It would have been so much cheaper to buy a Bible than to pay for that sick leave!

As I get older it has become more important to me to receive that peace from the pressures of life that seem so much more difficult than ever – especially during this pandemic. How many sleepless nights do we lose worrying about situations, people and events that we can’t control? We pray but do we really give it over to God to do His work? Why do we always want to do His job? It’s for Him to take care of not us. “Too many cooks spoil the broth” comes to mind! He tells us in Hebrews 13:5 – “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” and again in Psalms 46 “Be still, and know that I am God.” Even in our most burdensome times He is with us and fighting our battles for us. As it says in today’s reading from Isaiah, the Lord may give us the “bread of adversity” but He also waits to be gracious to us. We know that this means letting go and trusting and giving ourselves peace. Peace of mind, peace of body and the grace of God. Only then can we live the lives that God planned for us, when we let go and let God work unhindered in a life of trust.

I have brought this song to play to you. The lyrics are very comforting and I will play it all so you can freely understand the meaning. (This can be accessed at: https://youtu.be/lK2t7QBanSA)

Let’s pray: Loving God, help us to look to You to find peace, when our faith is weak, when we are in darkness and when we feel we can only shed tears, help us to remember that that peace is in our reach through our trust and relationship with you. Let us all take a little peace from You and with You. Amen

Lords’ prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen

The Grace: May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and evermore. AMEN

Thank you for joining us today. Happy Eastertide - Christ is risen.