Virtual Services

Easter 4 – 3rd May 2020

Welcome

Welcome to AST – if it’s the first time, you’re a regular or joined us in the past few weeks.

Inspired by the wardens pictures I realised we’re lucky to be where we are in the world – Sheffield and the SW side – right on the edge of the Peaks District. We have easy access to this kind of landscape and have the ability to share these kinds of images with each other, so that we can all appreciate it even if we can’t get out ourselves for whatever reason.

It’s great to be reminded, as our individual, work and social lives have been so disrupted, of the permanency of some things. The hills are still rolling, the seasons are still turning – we are in an unprecedented but transient time! This uncertainty and anxiety will pass.

To mix ideas from ANE creation mythology and the Enlightenment the chaotic maelstrom of the primaeval waters are still being held back and order and process and the complex patterns and predictability of the world are in constant motion. That is a comfort no matter your beliefs!

So. Take a moment to think of the things that are giving you an anchor, a feeling of stability and permanency at the moment – be it routine, be it friends, family pets, faith, well-loved books – just gather up those thoughts, rest in them, and then give thanks to God for them

Worship

Praise

Before we look at our bible reading, let’s spend a moment in praise. This song is honest about the reality of life, and yet encourages us to praise throughout.

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out, I’ll
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I’ll
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name, oh

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

God you give and take away
Oh you give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name, oh

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name

You give and take away
God give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

God you give and take away
Oh you give and take away
But my heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Oh you give and take away
God give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name, oh

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
Blessed be Your name

Word

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2
42-47

We’ve gone in the past few weeks from the account in the fourth Gospel of the disciples locked in the upstairs room, through the appearing of Jesus and him sending them out, up to the Holy Spirit empowering them at Pentecost. We looked at Peter addressing the crowd and explaining to the Jews how they had ridiculed, tortured and killed the one who was their historically promised Messiah – the rescuing king.

  • The hearers are cut to the heart at this realisation. Jesus was the one they were waiting for, but they had ended him. Peter then goes on to explain this wasn’t the end – that actually through this act of sacrifice, God has taken upon himself the burden of humanities broken relationship with him and made it right for those that accept it.

The trajectory of that journey is interesting. We see the transformation of the believers from a terrified post-Easter group, full off uncertainty and doubt, to a group empowered by the Spirit, commissioned by Jesus to go out and be like him, to love the world and live life as it was mean to be. That uncertain, transitional and transformative time is sometimes referred to as a liminal space. It marks a phase, and a transition. We’ve all experienced them: buying a new house, moving to a new place, changing or losing a job, starting a new school. They can be uncomfortable, but they are transient. Some of these similar feelings are stirred up as we think about the current world pandemic – and that is entirely normal and justified. But it is a time that will pass, and like the believers in Acts God is with us in it, and is faithful.

In our reading today we see the impact of the Spirit and that message of Peter’s is remarkable. People take to heart the message of Peter, and suddenly they began to behave differently. It is significant that they are described as having all things in common – in 1st Century Palestine the social convention involved reciprocity: the idea that a favour done deserved a favour in return. This was seen in trade, in the Greek interactions with their gods, and in every-day civic life. So the idea that these new Christians had ‘all things in common’, and sold their possessions to share amongst the group is a huge shift in their thinking. They were modelling the selflessness of Jesus in a hugely counter-cultural way.

Phil explained last week that we have a God who just keeps on giving – who, in Jesus, the Lion of Judah pursues humanity in our rebellion and in the darkest paths of our lives.
Even as we, time and time, again fall short, turn away, act and don’t act, ignore, fail to notice and even try push God away He leaves open the way for the breach to be repaired and for a new relationship to be established. That is the model the early church, described in our reading today, seek to model – a brutally generous giving of self.

A reading for today that we didn’t pick up on was 1 Peter 2:19-25. This is a section where Peter is dealing with different subjects but in connection with the selflessness of Jesus the words of v23 caught my eye: While being reviled and insulted, He did not revile or insult in return; while suffering, He made no threats.
These words are worth remembering at our present time as much as any other – without stretching and torturing this too much we are all experiencing this global pandemic in different ways, stressed and anxious in different ways and a kind word returned instead of a sharp one, a smile instead of an insult may go a long way.

And so, I want to leave you with these three thoughts:

  • We are in this uncertain liminal space at the moment – but we have a God who is faithful, has planned through the ages for humanity, and who is with us today by the Spirit. We can take comfort in that.
  • The early church, enabled by the Spirit, were characterised by their sharing everything in common – their time, energy and possessions. There is no better time for us to model that too – there are many community and faith based initiatives, as well as our own, somewhat different, frontlines where we can get involved.
  • Be kind. Christ modelled this, and in this time it is needed as much as ever. To paraphrase the band Jars of Clay, and misquote the author Jack Womack all in one sentence: Fill your days with small rebellions against the world, make them filled with random acts of senseless kindness.
  • How can we mentally and spiritually slow down, and take comfort from the presence of God?
  • How can we model more closely the early church?
  • What random acts of kindness will we engage in this week?

Witness

Prayers of Intercession

Spend some time in prayer for whatever and whoever is on your heart. The following prayer may help as a starting point, or to pray on its own.

Anchor us Lord,
for we can feel our islands drifting
and many are hopeless,
uncertain or afraid.

We are tossed this way and that
looking all around for some help in the waves…
Europe? America? Other nations? Ourselves?
Which party? Which leader?
Who can save us now?

Anchor us Lord,
for we often choose to float
on our own dreams and worries
rather than pursuing an honest, diligent present
that humbly builds a future on the priceless value
of each and every one in seven billion.

Anchor us Lord,
for we can feel the pull of old scars,
competing alliances
and rival identities
straining our connections,
stretching our unity
and causing us to seek to stand
as a divided people
half-way determined on more division still.

Anchor us Lord,
for you alone can hold us fast and true.
Steady our course
and give us the courage our hearts
– and our nation –
so desperately need
to weather the seas of uncertainty
anchored in hope – trusting in you.

Anchor us Lord,
in the image of your Son.
Help us to reach out to those around us,
to share, to heal, to be.
Give us abundant kindness
as we navigate in these current waters.
Be with us and we in you.

Adapted from www.thesanctuarycentre.org/

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.

Ali has been contacted by Nigel Hardiman who lives in Totley Hall Croft. He has set up a What’s App group called S17 Connected. The aim is to bring folk together and hopefully offer a little assurance that there are people close by willing to help if it is needed or perhaps just someone who will have a chat. It covers just a small area of Totley (about 150 homes) but if you live within the area of this map and would like to join please get in touch with Ali who has all the details. (Please don’t ask to be part of this if you do not live in this specific area)

Close

As we come to the end of our time together today, our parting thoughts may be much like those of last week: We can shine the light of Christ in these challenging times – in may different ways and places.

Father, thank you that you have revealed more of Your love and steadfastness to us today.

We ask You to send us out from here in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fan into flame the gifts that you have given us, Come reveal Your grace and truth to us each day.

For Yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, Forever and ever.

Amen.