Virtual Services

Lent 5 – 29th March 2020

Welcome

Good morning and welcome to the second of our virtual church services.

As you know the church buildings will be closed to everyone for the foreseeable future.

However, that does not stop us from joining together in worshiping God!

The church Facebook page and web site will continue to be updated with worship resources and other community information. A weekly newsletter will also be distributed by email and post.

Worship

We begin our time of worship with some words from Psalm 130
1 From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. 2 Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer. 3 Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? 4 But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. 5 I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word.
Psalm
130:1-5

Activity

 

Take a moment to offer your concerns to the Lord

Word

As the coronavirus continues to have unprecedented consequences on our lives it feels like we are living in a strange land where people are cut off, facing an uncertain future. Most of the things we took for granted only two weeks ago have disappeared.

People are rightly worried about their health and the health of loved ones. family members isolated in hospital, in care homes, in their own home, or stranded and alone abroad. People are concerned about keeping their jobs, meeting their financial commitments, their school and university qualifications. So much of our usual routine has changed including not being able to worship together in the church building.

Todays reading from Ezekiel is a vision of hope. It’s a wonderful message that God’s Word and His Spirit can bring life and restoration to any soul and to any situation no matter how undeserving, daunted or fearful we might feel.

Read Ezekiel 37:1-14.

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

Ezekiel
37:1-8

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’”

Ezekiel
37:9-14

At the time of Ezekiel’s oracle the Babylonian army had devastated Judea, the Temple had been destroyed and most of the people had been exiled to Babylon. The people in exile felt that they were like the unburied bodies of a defeated army, scattered bones that were considered to be accursed by God. Cut off from God their hopes for themselves were not merely dead they were dismembered and desiccated. They could see no future for the nation of Israel, they were hopelessly dejected.

Into this situation God sent Ezekiel with a message of hope. It was God’s will that these self-confessed bones should live. God commanded Ezekiel to preach to the bones telling them that they should be restored to living bodies. God promised that in the future he would give his people life by his spirit and would transform them into a new creation. This new spirit filled people of God would be raised to their feet as a mighty army that would serve the Lord. It is important to notice that throughout the text God is doing all the work. God says I will put breath into you, I will put flesh and muscle on you, I will cover you with skin I will put breath into you. This breath from the four winds symbolised being filled with the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that gave them life and empowered them for action enabling them to live again and return home to their own land.

It is during the darkest most difficult times that we increasingly need the light of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We need to remember that we have not been left to cope on our own. Jesus promised his followers the gift of His Holy Spirit. In John chapter 14 Jesus said “if you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth.”

As Christians the light of the Holy Spirit is like a flame that burns within each one of us though the intensity of the flame varies from person to person and from day to day. It is in difficult times that we especially need to turn the flame to its brightest because as Galatians chapter 5 reminds us the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are qualities that the world needs us to display more than ever right now. Like the author of psalm 130 from the depths of our despair we need to call for help from our Lord and put our hope in His word. We need to pray to the God who is capable of raising to life those who are physically dead and he will restore to life a shattered community

Ezekiel’s role was to obey He said “So I prophesied as I was commanded” and so our role is to simply obey the commandments of Jesus, loving the Lord our God with all our heart , soul and strength and loving our neighbour as ourselves. Currently we are all being asked to stay at home for the sake of others to think about the effects our actions could have on somebody else. If we don’t want to be ill we should do everything we possibly can to ensure that someone else does not become ill. This demonstrates love for our neighbour in action. It’s a love that requires self-control, patience and goodness. But how can we bring joy? Perhaps a phone call to someone on your street that you know is self-isolating on their own , how can we bring peace? Perhaps an offer to a colleague to pray for a situation that they are facing . How can we bring kindness? Perhaps looking out for a vulnerable person in our street offering to collect their groceries. What gifts of the Holy Spirit can you demonstrate to others in the coming weeks? What gift do you especially need right now? Call on the Advocate that Christ has sent to us and He will guide your way through this demanding time.

So in thinking about this passage:

  • What gifts of the Holy Spirit can you demonstrate to others in the coming weeks ?
  • What gift do you especially need right now? 
  • This week pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you and guide you.

If you noted any responses from last week’s reflection, take time to review them now, too.

Witness

Prayers

Almighty God, Lord of all creation, the one upon whom we depend.

We thank you for all those who are working in essential services.

We ask that you give our government leaders wisdom about what needs to be done to stop the spread of the virus and to stabilise our economy.

We ask that you give our medical leaders insight into how to create a treatment for the virus.

We pray for the medical staff and care workers.

Strengthen their resolve, keep them healthy and honour their hard work and dedication.

We ask that you would comfort and heal all those who are in sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity.

We are grateful that no matter how alone we feel,

You never leave or forsake us.

We are grateful for technology that helps us stay in touch with each other.

Please remind us that this time of social distancing and isolation will not last forever.

Give us strength to endure this difficult season and deepen our connection with you and your people.

Empower us by your Holy Spirit with more of your love , your joy, your peace, your patience, your kindness, your goodness, your faithfulness, your gentleness and your self-control because we need them.

Remind us of your promises, and please heal our world

Amen

Community

The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.

The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.

“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”

The Wardens of All Saints Totley have been producing regular newsletters with helpful links, thoughts and resources. The latest of these is here.

We have also started to add resources for the younger members of our church, to add to this virtual service. They can be found here, and here.

Close

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

Amen.