Monthly Archives: March 2021

Easter Sunday – April 4th – Rev Alison Way

Reflection Video for Easter –

Tiny Church Video for Easter –

Via this page you can access Church of England Easter Day online worship

Acts 10:34-43, John 20:1-18

In the name of God, loving and almighty Father, risen and conquering Son and ever present Holy Spirit Amen

I am going to teach us all a poem today, which captures why Easter is so important to us. As we get to know one another, we will come to realise that poetry is not really my thing in the normal course of events. I appreciate for some poetry is the bee’s knees, but I regret to say it is all usually a bit lost on me!! Any way, this particular poem that caught my eye is very simple and straightforward. It is not riddled with the complicated stuff of poetry like allegory, imagery, irony but it is still really profound. As we start smelling rats about what I am saying, I have to say as poems go this is probably one of the shortest and most memorable I have ever seen. It only contains 4 words spread across 4 lines. There is one more final added bonus – It was also written by a Bishop (one John Pritchard, who was Bishop of Oxford) and therefore must be OK!

Enough I can see we are chomping at the bit to hear it. Let’s reveal it one word at a time. Are you ready……..

So the first word is God. What a great place to start with God. God, all powerful, almighty, awesome and all love – God whose very being is love and who has abundant love for all he has created. Love poured out on each one of us here. Love that is all things and in all things and beyond our confines of time and space. God is love that nourishes us and wants us to grow into his cherished children. Each one is unique and special.

After that great start – the second word in the poem is Resurrection. So it goes God, Resurrection. That is very much a theme of this day – But resurrection is SOOOOO much more than just a theme. The resurrection of Jesus is a reality that changed everything, once and for all and for ever. God in his love for us sent his son Jesus to us, as a vulnerable child to change the order of things decisively. Jesus walked about amongst us, truly human. Towards the end of his life shared with those around him how God loved us. This threatened those in power, who contrived to have him put to death. Jesus then died for us on the cross, but on the third day he rose again, and lived in a new way. A way that enabled us to have real relationship with him and through him to know our God of abundant love through the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus left with us

What comes next in the poem is the most surprising word. That is the word WOW!! It is important when saying the word WOW to use some technique – with a definite softer w at the beginning and end – (with a crescendo and falling on the ow). So it is God, Resurrection, WOW!!. According to my dictionary WOW is an informal word that is used to express wonder, amazement, or great pleasure, or an outstanding success. I think probably both of those meanings apply here with God and the power of the resurrection we have both – Wonder and outstanding success.

In the gospel reading the other disciple and Mary experienced amazing WOW moments at the tomb on the first Easter morning. Turning our attention to the other disciple first. After Mary had found the stone rolled away and had gone to fetch Peter and the other disciple,  they had run to the tomb. Not a Sunday morning jog I suspect, but a serious sprint. For the other disciple – out of breath as we can imagine he must have been. Even though he did not see Jesus at this point, in the atmosphere in the tomb with the discarded grave clothes, there was enough for him to see and believe that Jesus had risen and walked again amongst his disciples. A serious, powerful WOW of wonder

Moving on to Mary her WOW moment is even more dramatic. First early in the morning, she sees the open tomb. She goes to get help, but the disciples she fetches don’t really seem to help her. She is left alone crying outside the tomb. She then first encounters the angels (amazing enough!) and then Jesus (without realizing who he is). There is little doubt that Mary would have been deeply distressed at the turn of events before she recognised Jesus. I can’t speak for you but I find when I am upset, and distressed or been having a difficult time (as Mary had!) I don’t see things very clearly. I get in a muddle more easily and generally it is like living life in a thick fog or cotton wool for brains!!!

Today we also have to remember that we have hindsight – which may not be helping us. We know the story, we know the ending, that is really different from being in the action as it unfolds. But let’s shake off any fat cat complacency we have today, Resurrection on this scale is not every day – it’s a one and only – an earth changing experience. Resurrection is a pure unadulterated WOW!!!!! So let’s not judge Mary for not recognising Jesus, but concentrate on her WOW moment. When it comes it comes simply when Jesus says her name – Mary. This is a very intense, intimate and life-changing moment for Mary and it demands action and response. Once she has recognised Jesus, she moves to embrace him, and then quickly and without delay she went back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples she had seen the Lord.

These biblical WOW moments – the other disciple and Mary’s are upon them without warning Things are not the same afterwards. I think that is the kind of WOW, that John Pritchard was getting to in his poem – God, Resurrection, WOW!!! I hope that at some point during today or over the past weeks we have travelled the road to the cross, we have all had some kind of WOW moment or even multiple such moments. Moments that have made us think. Moments of realisation of something new or different in the  love God has for each of us. Moments that have confirmed to us all the God has done for us through the death and marvellous resurrection of Jesus to take away our sins. Moments that have brought us closer in our relationship with God and that have brought that warm glow into our hearts deep within, hearts on fire with God’s love for us. Also, moments when we have felt deeper resolve to share the good news with others. I hope we will all treasure our own WOW-moments as the other disciple and Mary did and use them to reaffirm our commitment to God and to add spring in our steps as disciples. So that above all we can say in our hearts and in our lives – God, Resurrection, WOW!

And then the final word of the poem, which is as indeed it should be Amen. So, the full thing is God Resurrection WOW!! Amen. That’s fantastic however I feel a ‘but’ coming on. That’s fantastic BUT like Mary we need to carry this message out from here and in our hearts to fulfil that Amen. Remembering that Amen means so be it! This is what our #Livelent Lent study has been all about too – sharing the good news. So today rejoicing and every day let’s live it, breathe it in and share the good news of Jesus Christ.

God Resurrection WOW!! Amen

The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 #LiveLent God’s Story, Our Story – Stephen Hance

(Church House Publishing) – Poem from Living Easter throughout the year – making the most of the resurrection – by John Pritchard, SPCK 2005.

Good Friday – 2nd April – Rev Alison Way

The Video link for a Good Friday Service is:

Via this page you can access Church of England online worship for Holy Week – There will be services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day

Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Based on Luke 23: 32-38

In the name of God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit Amen.

Just after Jesus was crucified, in Luke’s account of the crucifixion, Jesus says ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’. It is a startling statement and one that really contrasts with all that is happening at the time. I shall be exploring just two of the evident contrasts in these words of Jesus at his crucifixion.

The first contrast I want to explore is this. The contrast between what Jesus is experiencing and what he says. In the midst of this dreadful experience, we see Jesus remaining true to his vision and his mission: what he had come to do and why he had come to do it. Those words – Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do show that in his heart and in all his being that God is still his Father,  That love for all is still at the very core of his message  embedded in his words of forgiveness, even in this the most extreme of situations. Love embedded in forgiveness is central. Indeed, love embedded in forgiveness was in all the teachings Jesus had shared with his disciples and followers. It is central to our understanding of what being a Christian is all about. Firstly, there is God’s overwhelming forgiveness of us and secondly, our lives should  be characterised by our forgiveness of our neighbour.

The second contrast, I want to draw out from this statement in this passage is between what Jesus is saying and how those around him are behaving. Jesus is asking God to forgive them. What are the other people, the ‘them’ in this situation doing:

Firstly and most obviously there are the soldiers. They are there by order, doing their jobs. They are gambling over his meagre possessions and finally taunting and scoffing at Jesus

The second group of people looking on were the rulers – which we interpret as the chief priests, scribes and so forth. Their primary purpose for being there was to see that the job was done and  that Jesus was dealt with once and for all or so they thought…

And yet there was also a third group present – the people watching. No words are given to the people in this account. Are they joining in with the taunting and mocking of Jesus on the cross? Or are they standing there passively, silently looking on? Watching Jesus’ ultimate humiliation and suffering on the cross. As a society, we are not very tolerant of those who stand by and do nothing or those who passively watch injustices or wrong doings. In these circumstances the media has headlines like ‘why did no one help’. In those cases when great suffering and neglect come to light we investigate and censure, we try to find those to blame. Those who have not intervened. Those who have stood by and let it happen.

Having said that though it is also possible to characterise the people standing silently differently. They could be or at least some of them could be entirely sympathetic to Jesus.  They could be watching the events unfold feeling powerless to do anything against the ruling powers of the day. They could have started hostile but are moved and transformed by what they see. It is possible that they are looking on and seeing deeper into the situation and seeing that this was Jesus’ final,  ‘once for all’ and ground-breaking act of love on the cross.

As we ponder Jesus on the cross that first Good Friday and look on silently ourselves – are there matters in our hearts we should be dealing with? Do we need to seek forgiveness or to forgive others? Or do we need to look deeper at the cross and what Jesus’ love means for us? Let us pray and reflect in the silence.

Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit – Based on Luke 23:39-49

In the name of God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit Amen.

We now turn our attention to the last words of Jesus. Jesus crying out in a loud voice – “Father into thy hands I commit my spirit – and then Jesus breathed his last.” These words echo the psalmist in psalm 31 where it says Into your hands, I commit my spirit. The only real difference between the psalm and what Jesus says is that Jesus begins by addressing his words to God as his Father. This indicates his unique intimacy and loving relationship with our Father God.

In the different translations of the Bible we have today, the verb given in Jesus final words in Luke’s gospel differs. Some translations use commit –  like the version we read today where as some use commend, others use entrust. Let’s explore what Jesus meant by this phrase by exploring the fullness of the meaning that these different verbs give to us.

So starting with commit. Jesus cries out in a loud voice – Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit. To commit means to give entirely to a specific person, activity, or cause;  To make an investment through performing an act. In this case Jesus gave entirely of himself to make a new relationship between God and all people. He gave without resistance, he gave completely. His investment was with his pain and suffering, and ultimately his investment was his life. The act he was performing was to die out of love and compassion for all people.  Not to die quickly or peacefully, but to die a long lingering and painful death. Jesus’ commitment speaks to us of our commitment to God. In our hearts as we say today once again – Father, into your hands we commit ourselves, our bodies and our spirits. Are we ready to give entirely, completely to God as Jesus did? To invest in God’s plan for our lives and to live our lives, performing the acts that God wants of us.

Let’s move on now to considering what Jesus words mean if the verb is not commit but commend. Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit. To commend means express approval of or express a good opinion of; To represent as worthy, qualified, or desirable or present as worthy of regard, kindness, or confidence. In all of this, it means to endorse or recommend. In this case Jesus using the verb commend is endorsing that God’s way is best (irrespective of the personal cost to him). His love of the Father is not just worthy of regard or desirable or a source of confidence, but the essence that flows through his body and his reason for being and his reason for dying. Jesus, commending his spirit to God speaks to us at the very core or essence of our beings. In our hearts as we say afresh this day – Father, into your hands we commend ourselves, our bodies and our spirits. Are we ready to wholly and completely endorse that God’s way is best for us? To express that by our confidence and trusting response to God’s working through our lives. Is this evidenced in our actions?

Let’s move on now to considering what Jesus words mean if the verb is not commit or commend but entrust. So his final words from the cross go – Father, into your hands, I entrust my spirit. To entrust means to confer a trust upon or to be put into the care or protection of someone. In this case, Jesus is entrusting his spirit to God. This shows us that Jesus is aware that his actions – his suffering and death on the cross are ultimately placing him back into the care and protection of his loving heavenly father God. There is a sense in which Jesus is not just entrusting his spirit as he dies, but that he is entrusting the spirits of all the human race into God’s care and protection on that first Good Friday. Jesus, entrusting his spirit to God speaks to us again at the very heart of all that we are as we say afresh this day – Father, into your hands we entrust ourselves, our bodies and our spirits. Are we aware of how much we are in God’s hands? How he loves us and cares for us?  A love brought for us by Jesus, sacrificing his life and entrusting his spirit to God.

Today of all days we remember all the horrors of the cross and yet also all that it achieved. Above all we thank you for Jesus. Father, into your hands we commit, we commend and we entrust our whole beings, body and spirit. Let us pray and reflect in the silence.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995

Maundy Thursday – April 1st – Rev Alison Way

Video Link For Maundy Thursday reflection:

Via this page you can access Church of England online worship for Holy Week – There will be services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day

1 Cor 11:23-26, John 13 1-17, 31-35 

In the name of the God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Amen

Tonight is a very special night in the Church year. It is one of dramatic contrasts – we begin joyful, upbeat and expectant as we re-enact once more, our commitment to sharing bread as Jesus did. To remember, as Jesus asked us, the ‘new covenant’ or promise he made with us and the power he left with us through his Holy Spirit. We end by preparing to go into the night to watch with Jesus in the garden with the words of Psalm 88 bidding us go and pointing to the realities of Good Friday ahead.

For most of us, sharing in communion is a staple and intimate part of our relationship with God – and one we deeply cherish. Something we know is all the more special now as we have had long periods without communion or relying on spiritual communion online! This is in our hearts as we gather specially round the table this night like the first disciples. Well almost, I admit we are socially distanced and can’t do it exactly as we might want this evening.

But we can do what we are doing – and I am so thankful for that. Last year, I remember on Maundy Thursday being particularly sad because we were unable to do what we are doing tonight. In my Christian journey Maundy Thursday has always been significant… My first encounter with it left a deep impression on the teenage me. Over the years I have found many different ways of marking and sharing this feast, which speaks of the faith, hope, love and promise of the Christian way.

Let’s immerse ourselves in the story. We gather tonight knowing the undercurrents of what is to come for Jesus, the importance of these moments, but also the tragedy built into this hour. That deceit and treachery are also at the table along with the coming pain and suffering in the morning. Let’s look deeper for the faith, hope, love and the promise of God that I just talked about.

Where is the faith in the last supper?

For starters in the disciples who prepared for the feast who followed Jesus’ instructions of the when, where and the how given in the other gospel accounts. This is faith to follow where we are guided (even if we can’t explain it or rationalise it). There is also, of course, faith in the words and importantly the actions of Jesus. Jesus acting as the least of all – washing the disciples’ feet. Of this act – Jesus said – I have set you an example –  that you should do as I have done for you.

Does our faith serve others in our words and our deeds? Does it carry the extra load, does it serve others before it serves itself? There is also faith in Jesus demonstrated by his willingness to pay the ultimate price for all. This is my body, that is for you he said – from our passage from 1 Corinthians. For some this line should be translated – this is my body – that is broken for you. Breaking the bread, symbolises how Jesus body would be broken by the cross. This was faith that literally moved mountains, broke down the barriers and opened our hearts to God’s unfailing love for us.

Moving on from faith to hope – where is the hope?

The monk and theologian Timothy Radcliffe defined hope in a talk I heard in 2011 – As living in the moment because that is the only thing that really exists. Here we have the ultimate example of living in the moment. Jesus knowing what is to come – has the presence of mind to wash the disciples’ feet and to share bread and wine to lay the foundations we rely on today to give us hope for eternity. Hope for lives beyond this mortal life. This is all at a point of great crisis for him and one where falling to pieces was also a real option – all in face of the suffering, cruelty and desertion Jesus was to endure for us.

In my life experience of crises and endurance (which like all of us has increased in the past year), I have not always managed to live as hopefully as Jesus did in this pivotal moment for him, but I have found strength in taking each moment on its merits – living simply for that day. Not making things too complicated as we are wont to do! Concentrating on what is possible,  rather than what isn’t. We cannot manage the future via anxiety. We need to let it go, and let God be God to us and live as hopefully as we can in each moment we have as Jesus so clearly did on this special night.

Moving on from hope to love – where is the love?

The love is obviously evident in virtually every action of Jesus – from washing feet, to breaking bread. Also in his words – Jesus said A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

There was a seventies Christian song – which some of us may remember(!) which had the chorus – They will know we are Christians, by our love, by our love. They will know we are Christians by our love. When people look at the Church and look at Christians – Is love what they see? This is difficult with the press the church gets to see how love is at the forefront, with some of the painful divisions and woeful safeguarding scandals to the fore! Brokenness is not just limited to bread this evening but in the church’s representation of God’s love for us. We can’t change that readily other than by prayer, but we can work on how we are the church in our communities. How we are seen and how we respond in love to those around us. Are people warmly welcomed and supported as they are (and as much as we can in the current circumstances)? Are we letting our love of God flourish within us and bubble over into all our lives? This Lent we have particularly concentrated on our acts of love in sharing the best news we have ever had with those around us – however we can and only as we can.

Moving on from love to promise – where is the promise?

The promise is firmly and completely wrapped up in the new covenant Jesus brings in this bread and this wine. His body broken on the cross and his blood shed for us. The new covenant Jesus won for us through his death on the cross, which brought us the promise of God’s love through this life and eternally. The power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in each and everyone of us. That as Jeremiah said and as we thought about on Passion Sunday – The sense that we would all know God (and we would not have to be told about knowing God any more). This is a pretty incredible and awesome shift in how God related to his people and we related to God which was brought through the saving love of Jesus – as we eat this bread and when we can drink this cup. We and countless Christians over 2000 years, are still proclaiming the Lord’s death and the end of death until he comes.

So to conclude in the last supper – we have located faith, hope, love and God’s promise to us in the feet washed, in the bread broken and shared, and the wine outpoured. This is Jesus Christ for us, for yesterday, today and forever. For us in this moment, pandemic or no pandemic, in 2021 with all its suffering, doubts and uncertainties. And yet we still do this in full knowledge of the faith, hope, love and promise God has for us.

We do this in remembrance of him who died for us Jesus Christ. Amen

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995

Palm Sunday – Rev Alison Way

Link to the reflection video for Palm Sunday –

Link the Passion gospel for Holy Week –

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-end, Isaiah 50:4-9, Mark 11:1-11

In the name of the living God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Amen

It is a real rarity to just have the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt as the main topic on Palm Sunday – we would normally also hear the whole passion story. We can’t do that in person this year as it would stretch the time we are together well beyond the recommended limits. To engage with that story at our own pace this Holy Week, there is a video of the Passion Gospel available with some prayers and a couple of our favourite passiontide hymns. It also features a number of readers from both Pen Selwood and Wincanton. (The link is in the newsletter for this week). If we can’t engage with the video I strongly urge us to engage with the story by reading Mark’s gospel (chapters 14 and 15) in their entirety during this coming week, and as we do it dwell in the story in prayer and reflection.

But for now let’s unpack the story of Jesus entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. The story starts with Jesus and his disciples travelling and then gathering at the Mount of Olives – where he also prayed the night after the last supper before he was arrested by the authorities.  As is often the case this starting point on the Mount of Olives is also a link to prophecy – in  Zechariah 14:4 is says – On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; of the coming Messiah.

This whole account resonates with holy texts and religious practice of the day – particularly the kind of festival celebrated as part of the feast of tabernacles. That included the use of Psalm 118 – part of which we also said this morning being used, alongside a procession involving the waving of palm branches.

The kind of procession described also brought to mind the rituals surrounding the anointing of a new king. In the early part of the story told in the first book of Kings, the dying King David had asked that his son Solomon be allowed to ride on a colt to Gihon, where he was anointed prior to being made King (after David’s death and after a brief power struggle). Importantly and resonantly on the long ride to Gihon there was a long rejoicing procession behind Solomon (even though this prefigured the death of a King, in this  instance David).

The whole way this story is told is also pointing to a prophecy in Zechariah chapter 9. In other gospels this verse is quoted in the gospel account – Verse 9 says Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. In Mark’s gospel, which we know is often exceptionally brief and terse in style – the level of detail in this story is all there to make deeper points about the importance of Jesus and what was happening…

Let’s turn next to what the crowd were shouting – Hosanna means save now and the first clause after the Hosanna – Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord is a reference to where psalm 118 goes beyond the verses we said together. The next couple of verses say

25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.  We bless you from the house of the Lord. 27 The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches,

All of that points to where Jesus has come from and who he is, and the traditions the crowds are leaning into at this point. We know how it is (though frankly it has been a while for most of us!) to be caught up in a crowd. In its own way the enthusiasm of the crowd gathered also probably sealed Jesus fate with the religious authorities.

The next statement from the crowd Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! is trying to link the words of the crowd with their history more implicitly. There are a lot of complicated theories about this,  but I think this is about the strands of thought prevalent about the messiah,  and the need in the moment to give Jesus status and credibility as successor to David and recognise his kingship. At the time there was a lot of tendency to talk about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David harking back.

The final part of the chant – Hosanna in the highest as Hosanna means save now, Hosanna in the highest more literally means God save him.  This is ultimately what God did do but not without the cost to Jesus of the first Good Friday that opened up the heart of God’s love to us all.

In the links back to the beginning of Luke’s account of Jesus life, it was also important that Jesus entered the temple at the end. This relates to the backdrop the one who came in the name of the Lord, was to enter the temple and give thanks for their deliverance but also was the one expected. Expected for their redemption and to saved them from their current peril. Anna spoke of the 40-day old Jesus, as for the redemption of Jerusalem, which he was (but not in the way they expected or wanted)

There is a lot going on in this story, when we dig beneath the surface a bit. In our #LiveLent material we have also been asked to dig beneath the stories of films, TV shows and other aspects of our culture to see how to make links to God’s story in our conversations. We were asked to address four important questions during this past week:-

  • Who are we?

  • What is wrong?

  • What is the solution?

  • What is the future?

Hannah Steele also addresses these questions in the accompanying book – which I summarise.

  • Who are we? – We are made in the image of God, capable of loving and being loved, of doing good and looking after our beautiful world.

  • What is wrong? – We and all humankind are also capable of great wrongdoing and of perpetuating injustice to put our own needs first in the place of God’s love for us

  • What is the solution? God intervened in the world by sending his only Son. In Christ God takes on human flesh and walks about among us. His life, death and resurrection are the means by which our relationship with God is restored.

  • What is the future? Jesus speaks of offering us abundant life that starts now and lasts for ever. We live in his kingdom guided by the Holy Spirit to share the good news.

In short, these questions help us to make deeper connections with our culture and ways into conversations. In a different way we have been using some of them to help us understand the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem more deeply in the culture of his day (particularly who are we and what is the future). As this week unfolds and we enter once again into these rich holy mysteries, let’s spend some time thanking God for his love for us and our faith in God.

Hannah Steele in a conversation with a chatty taxi driver summed up her faith thus. There are lots of reasons why I am a Christian, but the most important is that I am irresistibly draw to the person of Jesus. I am drawn by who he was, the things he said and did and the fact that he rose from the dead. That’s why I am a follower of Jesus. How would we sum up our faith and how we would answer the questions – Who are we, what is wrong, what is the solution and what is the future. Think on, reflect on and pray on. Amen


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995, #LiveLent God’s Story, Our Story – Stephen Hance

(Church House Publishing) Living His Story – Hannah Steele (SPCK), Prayer from www.rootsontheweb.

Holy Week 2021

The full plan for worship in Holy Week 2021 is as follows:-

  • Sunday 28th March 10am – The church is open for private prayer between 9am and 11am. Here is a link to the video reading of the Passion for all to watch –
  • Monday of Holy Week 29th March – 8pm Reflection and Compline on Zoom
  • Tuesday of Holy Week 30th March – 8pm Reflection and Compline on Zoom
  • Wednesday of Holy Week 31st March – 8pm Reflection and Compline on Zoom
  • Maundy Thursday 1st April – 7pm Communion in the Holy Space at St Peter and St Paul’s Wincanton – PREBOOKING required
  • Good Friday 2nd April – There will be a short video reflection for all to watch this day
  • Easter Day 4th April – 11:00am Easter Communion in St Peter and St Paul Wincanton, PREBOOKING required

Please read Wincanton – What to expect March 2021 before attending any in-person worship during Holy Week or at Easter

For details to connect to the zoom compline get in touch with Rev Alison and to book a place at worship on Maundy Thursday and Easter Day, get in touch with the Parish office.

Passion Sunday – Lent 5 – Rev Alison Way

Links to reflection video from Rev Alison Way

Links to reflection video from Bath and Wells Diocese

Jeremiah 31:31-24, John 12:20-33

In the name of the living God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Amen

Over the past 6 weeks, I have been reading a bit of Jeremiah every day in my morning prayer time.  This is not an easy read!! It has mostly been day after day of lament and doom as Jeremiah is speaking to a people in very hard times – Jeremiah was around as the Israelite people were overcome by the Babylonians and scattered and dispersed across the Babylon empire in exile, with no prospect of return. Though the circumstances are different the voice of Jeremiah has spoken into the last few weeks and months with some resonances I hadn’t expected. We live in very different times from Jeremiah but challenging and strange ones none the less. Like the exiled Israelites, we are longing for a different future from our current present too, as we begin to take small and cautious steps out of lockdown. I do urge you to participate in whatever way we can in the National Day of Reflection on Tuesday (more information and resources with this week’s newsletter). The day focuses on praying for those who are bereaved with the themes reflect, support and hope on the first anniversary of our country’s first lockdown.

At one level, we definitely need to be thankful that today’s excerpt from Jeremiah set as our Old testament reading is one of the forward looking parts to better times, beyond those current day to day experiences. Embedded in the middle of it was one of the most profound renderings of the promise of the Messiah of God to come in their day. This is the life and love of Jesus that we look back to as we get to the business end of Lent on this Passion Sunday. The passion refers to the amazing love Jesus had for us and the price he was willing to pay for us, and we often describe the story of the cross and the events of the first Holy Week as ‘the Passion’.

In the Jeremiah passage, the word covenant is used throughout. This should be an alarm bell to us that something important is being said. We will remember the covenant with Noah, with Abraham and with Moses, first in bringing them out of the land of Egypt and then with the giving of the ten commandments. There have been references to these in our Old testament readings over the first 3 Sundays of Lent – The first enshrined a non large scale intervention pact by God after the flood via Noah. The second brought into being the special people of God through Abraham and the third, the way of life governed by the law with Moses.

Let’s pay attention next to a couple of the verses, which explain the new covenant ahead with the coming of Jesus. The Lord says through Jeremiah – No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me.

God had previously promised to love the people of Israel and given them a set of rules to live by, but the people hadn’t managed to live that way. They had repeatedly done lots of things to turn their backs on God. Jeremiah said there will be no need for anyone to teach one another to know God anymore through the law because everyone will know God. This reflects the difference between Israelites needing to learn and be taught the rules in the law to abide by it, to God working from the inside of us via the coming of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. God including everybody not just the Israelite people was also a big and radically inclusive change with the past. God was also not going to rely on teachers or documents to pass the message on. There are flaws in these approaches as other people can get it wrong and of course people can ignore things that are written down! God wasn’t relying on these things as God was going to be with us in our hearts as we know today (and we have probably never consciously known any different).

The new covenant Jeremiah said that God would do then was this.  I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts and I will be their God and they shall be my people.

To understand this idea more, we also need to remember how the heart was understood in Jeremiah’s day. The heart represented the organ of memory, of understanding, of ideas (and, especially, of our wills). Effectively the heart governed why we chose to do what we do (and the functions we would now understand are undertaken by our brains). What we understand though from Jeremiah is that God is able to discern what is in an individual’s heart and live within us through the Holy Spirit Jesus left with us. The phrase about God knowing the secrets of our hearts is a very powerful one.

For Jeremiah – having a new understanding of God in our hearts from the beginning through this promise cuts out the intermediaries of the message (priests/prophets) and our ability to ignore God in our lives.  It puts God at the center of our being – ever present and influential in the choices we make.

With God at the centre dwelling in us, we have been challenged in our #Livelent materials this week in knowing we have really good news, and need to seek ways and moments to share it and show it. This is the best gift we have ever had and it is our responsibility to pass it on. The Holy Spirit is present in our hearts to help us with the words and the actions we need to take, we are not alone in this either, with fellow Christian travellers on the road to encourage us. In the accompanying book by Hannah Steele she defines a number of real life facets to us sharing God’s good news: –

  • Risk taking not comfort seeking. We know great comfort in the love of God, but we need to take the risk to share that comfort with others. The fact we cannot guarantee that in the moment any mention of faith will be well received, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it or plant the seed for later. It can be simple things like for someone who is having a tough time, offering to pray for them in our prayers. My experience is that this is generally well received, but even that might not be. All life is like this – we cannot predict the outcome, but I do feel we need to take each step in faith and be brave especially at the moment.

  • Variety – not one-size-fits-all. The Spirit can work in many different ways, and we can often show the love of God not just in our words but our actions. I have experienced understanding much of God and his love for us through many different actions, attitudes and reactions of others. Often the people God uses have no idea probably how they are helping me and guiding me through how the Holy Spirit is working in them. We haven’t got God’s perspective and we will never know how we may have impacted people by how we live our lives and the love of God we are willing to share. Our job is to be open to the stirrings of the Spirit and co-operative in what God has for us to do or say.

  • Relational not confrontational – All our efforts in this regard start and finish from love of one another. No-one grows into faith in my experience through judgement. This is one of the most insidious sides of social media as it gives us much too much scope to express our judgements forcefully and in the heat of the moment. The gospel has always been shared home to home, from person to person via love – this is just the way the kingdom is… Begin with love, and if what is on your heart doesn’t start there – don’t go there…

  • Seeing God not taking God – We don’t need to know all the answers or assume we are the ones with everything to give. We need to recognise and see where God is at work and join in. Hannah Steele puts this like this The Spirit is always constantly going before us. It is not the case that we are taking God to places where he is not yet present; we are simply following where he leads and being invited to join in with what he is already doing. Again, in my experience, when we get alongside and share God’s love with those around us, this can be a deeply rewarding and inspiring experience as well as a deep privilege.

  • Out there not in here – Much as it is great to be back in our buildings and worshipping in them together, we are not doing that just for ourselves. We are doing that to give us fuel for being out and about sharing the love God has for us with others.

Neither part of this sermon is particularly easy or comfortable today – neither the part explaining the words of Jeremiah or the part asking us to share our faith simply as and when we can, and as and when only we can. But as we face up to the cross of Jesus and his passion for us – being stirred to loving others with his heart matters. As his disciples, we need to draw people to God’s love for them and let the Holy Spirit that is in our hearts be our guide.

Let us pray – Lord God, how can we praise you? How can we know you? Yet you gave us Jesus Christ to show us what you are like and how to love. Teach us again your message of love, and if we ever doubt, lift our eyes to Jesus. Remind us that in the symbol of his cross your love touches and teaches us, our families, our friends, and through us, many more. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995, #LiveLent God’s Story, Our Story – Stephen Hance (Church House Publishing) Living His Story – Hannah Steele (SPCK), Prayer from www.rootsontheweb.

Mothering Sunday – Lent 4 – Penny Ashton

Links to Mothering Sunday Service video

Links to reflection video from Bath and Wells Diocese

Exodus 2: 1-10 and Luke 2: 33-35

I wonder how many of you could tell me, without looking it up what is happening on 19 September, and what it has to do with Mothering Sunday.  I have to confess that I needed to look it up to be sure of the date too!  September 19th this year is to be ‘Back to Church Sunday’ – this is an annual event when many churches make a point of inviting people who may have attended the church before – whether regularly or for a special service or a family occasion –to come back and visit again.  This was started in 2004, and in 2014 was extended to become a season of invitation – starting with Back to Church Sunday and including Harvest, Remembrance, early Christmas and Christmas.  The reason for the development is that people are far more likely to respond to the invitation and to keep coming if they are invited several times.

The link with Mothering Sunday is that from medieval times it was traditionally the day when people went back and visited their mother church – this could be the church in which they were baptised, the local parish church or for a whole parish to visit the cathedral – the mother church.  It became a day that domestic servants were given a day off to enable them to do this, and so it developed into a day for family visits as well.  If you are observing any sort of Lenten fast, you may also be pleased to know that another old name for the 4th Sunday of Lent was Refreshment Sunday when you could put your fast on hold for a day – or in modern terms, eat chocolate!

Over time, the focus of Mothering Sunday has become more and more about motherhood, and sadly often a rather idealised version of it that leaves many of us who are mothers feeling that we haven’t lived up to it.  In the USA, the expression ‘motherhood and apple pie’ has come to mean anything that nobody could possibly disagree with.  The focus on actual motherhood can make this also a very painful day for many people who for whatever reason do not have children.  The church has, for some years tried to extend the value placed on motherhood on this day to all who have any kind of caring responsibility and the thought is very much appreciated.

One thing we learn from today’s readings is that motherhood is tough.  Not just physically, although anyone who brought up a child that didn’t seem to have any need for sleep will know that one, but also mentally and spiritually as well.  Additionally, from our first reading we learn that it can call for real courage and a skill for devious planning.  It always makes me smile to think that Moses’ mother, who does not even get the courtesy of a name managed to pull off the feat not only of keeping her son alive in spite of Pharaoh’s decree, but also to keep him at home until a few years old and to be paid for doing it!

Focus on the virgin Mary has also increased in the celebration of Mothering Sunday – partly because of the gospel reading of the day which we heard earlier, but also I think because the festival of Lady Day or the Feast of the Annunciation falls close to it, always on 25th March.  Most of the biblical references to Mary centre around the Christmas story, and Simeon’s prophecy that was read in our gospel reading today seems to have proved to be true over time, as like so many parents, Mary seems to have had difficulty in understanding her adult son.  Also, like so many parents though, she continued to follow his career, and at least one account has her still present at the foot of the cross, when all must have seemed to be lost to her, but again in the first chapter of Acts after Jesus has ascended to heaven, staying with the other apostles in the upper room.

We have heard a great deal in the last year about the caring professions – both those providing medical care and those working in care homes.  Providing care, like parenthood is no easy option, and any of us who may have had the impression that it chiefly involved smoothing pillows and soothing fevered brows have had our ideas put straight in no uncertain terms this last year if they weren’t before.  We have witnessed nurses who normally care for patients on a one-to-one basis taking on four high dependency patients at a time, and consultants in every speciality moving to critical care to learn new skills.  Skilled therapists have also moved to critical care units to take on whatever tasks -often the menial ones that need doing to support the medical staff, and in care homes, some staff have left their families in the care of the other parent in order to move into the care home, often sleeping on sofas and with no proper bathroom available to them, in order to reduce the risk of bringing the virus in to a place where so many are vulnerable.  Those who care for family members learn quickly that the ability to move heavy weights, do without sleep and have no personal space or time are skills that need to be acquired in a short space of time.

Caring is tough – and those who take it on do so because they genuinely do care for those in their charge.  I have to confess that although I took part, I was never totally comfortable with the ‘clap for carers’ initiative.  At the time I witnessed many in the caring professions giving the opinion that while they appreciated the gesture, what they really wanted was to be properly resourced and paid in order to be able to get on with their chosen profession to the standard that they would wish.  As I am writing this, there is again an angry debate raging around the offered pay rise to nurses of 1%.  This is not a new argument – when I first left home and shared a flat, my flatmate’s car had a sticker in it that read ‘Fair pay for nurses’, Not much seems to have changed in 50 years although I am hoping that she has managed to change the car!

Care can be given in many ways.  Next Saturday is the anniversary of Alison’s installation service – a wonderful occasion for all of us who were there.  But within weeks of that, Alison was required to take measures that at the time were not always popular – her first coffee morning here was cancelled, and shortly after that we were instructed to lock the church and put all public worship on hold.  Decisions about how and when to resume meeting, make the premises safe and get clear messages out to all the congregation may have seemed to some of us to have been needlessly cautious at times, but although I cannot speak for the wardens on whom most of the burden for decision making would have fallen, I am certain now that we have been kept safe because of the sound judgement by which we were led, and would like to express my thanks to her for that now.  This has not been a normal year Alison, and certainly not an easy one, but I don’t think I am the only one who is truly grateful that you were here to lead us through it safely.

As a nation and as individuals, we need to learn that gratitude can be shown in many ways.  Many who are mothers will today be receiving gifts – and in a normal year, so many are treated to lunch out that it is impossible to find a table on the day for an ad hoc pub lunch – as I discovered to my cost a few years ago.  Gestures of gratitude – gifts, cards, meals out etc: are always good to receive, but the gilt can quickly come off the gingerbread if the work of the other 364 days of the year goes unnoticed and unappreciated and is taken for granted.  Mothering Sunday is just one day, but our attitude should surely last throughout the year towards those whom God has sent to care for us.

Lent 3 – Rev Alison Way

Link to the video service for Lent 3

Link to the Bath and Wells reflection for Lent 3

Exodus 20:1-17, John 2:13-22

In the name of the living God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Amen

Gospel accounts of how Jesus was, like the reading set for today, make us wonder what it would have been like to be around Jesus! A long way from the mild Jesus described in some of our carols! Jesus was inspiring to be around definitely, but also and equally challenging definitely!

In John’s gospel Jesus actions of clearing the temple are separated from the events of Holy Week and from the setting I imagine John is describing something that happened the year before the Passover when Jesus was crucified. The description we have is of a disruptive radical Jesus. He can’t bear the market place in the inner courts of the temple and does something about it feeling this stuff is corrupting the worship of God – (worship so central to the commandments we also heard today and of primary importance). The state of the temple was a barometer of how things were in the relationship between God and his people. All this commercial stuff going on to Jesus showed they had lost their way.

By his actions and his words – Jesus is trying to get through to them that he is the bringer of transformation and equally radical change! Jesus is in no mood for signs and wonders that the Jewish people ask for. Instead he explains how his life will be a sign. He says ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”, which they do not understand. They take his references to the temple as meaning the bricks and mortar. We know he is talking about himself as the focus of worship and how his body as a temple  will transform things once and for all and forever, through his death on the cross and his resurrection. Then through the power of the Holy Spirit left with us continue to work transformation in us and in everyone who follows its prompting.

Our #LiveLent material this week has also been talking about the Christian journey and  our ability to share our stories – particularly the stories of how God has worked his transformation in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. As the week activity it asked us to think about how God has changed us and has been at work in us and in our lives?

This is probably a good deal trickier to pin down than last week’s reading a gospel! It asks us to concentrate on when we have known God to be at work in our life? This kind of feels like this is asking for the big and dramatic points of our lives, but at another level if we are open to the Spirit’s promptings this is also in a quieter way an every day reality too and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. In a way it is not the size or the shape of our experiences of knowing God at work in our lives, but our willingness to share our experiences of this transforming love with others and how it has helped us.

The book by Hannah Steele that accompanies our material makes a lot of suggestions about how to share our experiences well. These include:-

Being accessible

  • At its simplest this means being prepared to go there and be vulnerable.

Being authentic

  • Tell it how it is and was (the reality for us).

Being relevant and connected

  • That this is something we feel prompted by God to do that is pertinent to the person we are talking to.

  • Bearing in mind we have probably experienced Christians who are ‘over the top’ in this area, which can be excruciating!

Be respectful

  • By sharing we do not need an instant response and action!

  • We are often in the seed sowing business

  • We do not know the difference we are going to make by our conversation or when it will make a difference. Trusting God to work matters.

And finally be prepared

  • I don’t think this means have a pre-canned speech for every occasion and circumstance as this is likely to come across forced and unnatural,

  • But be open about it and willing to share naturally.

It can be as simple as I have found prayer helpful in whatever circumstances it is and if it is natural and the conversation goes that way. Explain moments where your prayers have been answered. Sometimes we have more opportunities than others to share what it means to us to have God in our lives and to live knowing we are loved and cherished, with the faith and hope and peace the presence of God brings.

To be personal for a moment: On my journey to ordination back in the day when I was an IT professional and theological college was on the horizon (summer of 2002) – I was working my last few weeks in a very high paced software company in Guildford. It was a very intriguing time! I had been working there just over a year at this point. I had been honest about my values and faith as matters had arisen and tried hard to model a Christian lifestyle in a very secular environment. The impact of people realising I was leaving and why was really interesting. In the course of those few weeks I had more incidental conversations and questions by the coffee machine, than I thought was remotely likely. The unfolding news certainly peaked peoples’ interest and natural curiosity, and this was particularly true for those of other faiths, as well as those who shared in our Christian convictions.

What left a deep impression on me at the time was the genuine curiosity, which found an outlet. I had found it a very money orientated, fast cars and prosperity driven place to work! Our clients were large and affluent Pharmaceutical companies and yet not far below the surface were all these questions about meaning, purpose and what life is all about?

I think we are at a point in our society where the bubble of what is important has really burst and people are asking big questions. This means that sensitively sharing our experiences of God and how God has worked his transformation in us will show a different, wholistic and hopefilled path to others. The final reflection for this week in the #LiveLent material quoting Hannah Steele says

Our story becomes more authentic to people when they see that it really does impact the way we live our lives. It is often through our daily lives that we demonstrate the topsy-turvy way of the kingdom of God.

My experience back in the summer of 2002 points to this reality. So, lets pray for opportunities to share. Being accessible, respectful, relevant and connected, prepared in so much as we are willing to give it a go and above all being authentic to our lived experience of God’s amazing love for us.

Let us pray

May the Holy Spirit of God breathe hope into our hearts, transform our fears, and bless us with the gifts of courage, compassion and understanding, that we may share our faith with renewed confidence and new commitment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995

#LiveLent God’s Story, Our Story – Stephen Hance (Church House Publishing)

Living His Story – Hannah Steele (SPCK)
Prayer from