Monthly Archives: April 2022

Easter 2 – 24th April 2022 – Rev Alison Way

Easter 2 – April 24th 2022 – Rev Alison Way

Acts 5:27-32, John 20:19-end

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

In the gospel reading we just heard, it began with Jesus appearing on the evening of the first Easter day, in the locked upper room with the disciples. He said a greeting to them – Peace be with you. Now this is a greeting we still use in Church. If I say it to you – Peace be with you. You automatically say back and also with you or and with thy spirit). Until recently this was accompanied by a handshake or for the more touchy feely hugs and kisses. It comes from the need “to be at peace with our neighbours before we receive communion”. I am not sure when we are going to get back to a more physical approach to each other, but I do hope we will when the rigours of COVID are further behind us.

Let’s go back to the point about Jesus when he said Peace be with you. What did he mean? – He meant completion – In what God had done through him rising from the dead. He meant wholeness – making things the way they would be from now on and forever. When we rest in God’s love for us we will be whole in his completion.

Interestingly the same word Jesus used for peace Shalom is a Jewish greeting – particularly something you would say when you are saying goodbye to someone. The Old Testament concepts around this word are very much a sense of “wholeness” that people enjoy when they follow God’s way for them and live in His power.  It makes sense as that is opened up to all of us – that is the greeting and the wish of Jesus as he met with the disciples on the first Easter.

There are other Old Testament understandings as well as completeness, soundness, and well-being of the total person. This peace is considered God-given, obtained by following the Law. Peace sometimes had a physical meaning, suggesting security. For example in one of the psalms often used in Compline (night prayer). Psalm 4:8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety. It can also mean contentment. The prophet Isaiah says Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace, in peace because they trust in you (Is. 26:3). And it can also point to prosperity (Ps. 122:6–7) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.’

In the New Testament – the meaning of peace grows too! It often refers to the inner tranquillity and poise of Jesus. The peace that Jesus spoke of was a combination of hope, trust, and quietness in the mind and soul, brought about by a reconciliation with God.  Such peace was proclaimed by Jesus in his teaching and  the host of angels at Jesus’ birth.

Jesus also taught about this kind of peace at the Lord’s Supper, shortly before His death (John 14:27) – he said Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. And as we heard today he shared peace with them after the resurrection.

The apostle Paul later wrote that such peace and spiritual blessedness was a direct result of faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1). He said – Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The kind of peace we are talking about is peace that affects our hearts and how we love each other. It is peace that unlocks our hearts. Remember when Jesus appeared to say peace to his disciples. He also appeared in a room that was locked and the reading does not explain how he got in. He just appeared – he did not unlock the door and walk in. Jesus also appeared to unlock their hearts mysteriously in this encounter and has been unlocking the hearts of people ever since. This is all just as mysterious but the unlocking – is to his peace  and wholeness for us. Though in a way this can work just like a key in the door as the first time we really know Jesus for some people
For others this is a much more gradual experience: they have known Jesus all their lives and cannot pin down when it first happened. Somehow immediately or gradually Jesus opens our hearts – His key is his love for us

The difference is that once Jesus has opened our hearts to his peace with his key of love  – he is there forever. Once our hearts our open to him through his spirit he tops us up with his peace! Day by day, week by week, year by year in this life. Until one day we will dwell with him forever in the fullness of his peace… that brings wholeness and inner tranquillity and hope in our hearts and allows us to live in the knowledge that we are loved!

Sadly, this deep inner peace we can experience and know for ourselves doesn’t necessarily bring wellness or peace in our world as a whole. We know this only too well at the moment. The wellness of our world is a real concern currently. As a world we need to face the consequences of our poor choices and step back from much of our consumption of resources and power. At the beginning of this month, the United Nations produced a sobering report pointing to the need for rapid, systemic changes to combat climate change.

The situation for world peace is equally challenging. Watching the unfolding story in Ukraine and other parts of the world where there is conflict and war is very hard to bear. Our best response has been to pray and to help out practically where we have been able to and we must continue to pray for peace in these places, and for a world that values peace and reconciliation over conflict. I end today with a Christian Aid prayer for Ukraine

God of all peoples and nations, who created all things alive and breathing, united and whole, show us the way of peace that is Your overwhelming presence. We hold before you the peoples of Ukraine and Russia, every child and every adult. We long for the time when weapons of war are beaten into ploughshares when nations no longer lift up sword against nation. We cry out to you for peace; protect those who only desire and deserve to live in security and safety. Comfort those who fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Be with those who are bereaved. Change the hearts of those set on violence and aggression and fill leaders with the wisdom that leads to peace. Kindle again in us a love of our neighbour, and a passion for justice to prevail and a renewed recognition that we all play a part in peace. Creator of all hear our prayer and bring us peace. Make us whole. Amen

Copyright acknowledgements

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

Order One for the Celebration of Holy Communion from Common Worship = Text copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2020

Easter Day – 17th April – Rev Alison Way

Easter Day – 17th April 2022 – Rev Alison Way

Isaiah 65:17-end, Luke 24:1-12

In the name of God, Loving Father, risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit Amen

As many of us know – I have been a bit of a captive audience in the last few weeks as I haven’t been at all well. As a result, I have consumed some day time telly in a way I wouldn’t usually, which has regularly featured a 30 second advert from one of the supermarkets. It begins well with Isn’t Easter just the best. The first time I  saw it – My heart soared at this point, because Easter is absolutely the best and beyond that too. Opening out God’s heart of love for us, the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever – AMEN!

If only this advert had stopped there! However it didn’t – A woman trimming a hedge then asked – What’s so great about Easter? And then from the perspective of this famous supermarket – we get what they think is great! I am going to use their ideas – to crack open the answer to the question – What’s so great about Easter – Because the reasons why Easter is the best can be revealed in this most unlikely source if we open our eyes to them! Showing us the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever – AMEN!

The first image used is of cascading easter eggs like this one. Pouring out of a shed and the words – for starters chocolate is everywhere. Hands up if chocolate is on the agenda for today? Who has given some Easter eggs to other people or is planning to? Who has already had some chocolate this morning? (is Easter day the day to have chocolate for breakfast?)…..

In our commercial world, it would be easy to think that Easter is primarily about chocolate!! Around 14 million easter eggs are purchased in this country each year! This tradition started in this country with decorated ordinary eggs. There are records from the court of Edward 1 in 1290, about him acquiring 450 eggs for the sum of 18 pennies. He then having them gilded with gold leaf and painted to distribute at Easter!!

The use of chocolate for eggs was introduced from Europe by our old friends the Victorians. In the days when Chocolate was something still very expensive. Cocoa had come along way – and a lot of effort was consumed making it egg shaped. The use of chocolate came from the sentiment of offering the best they had to mark Easter

The reason eggs were chosen for Easter can be broadly divided into 3 reasons:-

  • The first – The egg representing the rebirth of nature – given to mark the start of spring and new life heralding the kingdom in a new way. SO as Christians an egg represents the rebirth of humanity through Jesus resurrection we mark this day

  • A second alternative is that the egg represents the stone – more convincing without the sparkly wrapper – that was mysteriously rolled away from the tomb entrance, when Jesus rose from the dead. When we tuned into the account in Luke’s gospel reading, which we heard this morning – we find the women as the sun was rising heading to do the important tasks there had not been time to do on Good Friday. The women must have been anxious on their journey to the tomb as to how they were going to roll away the stone – But the job was already done. The way to life in God’s kingdom had been opened out to them and to us.

  • A third alternative is that breaking open the egg reminds us of the tomb. The tomb the women entered – and encountered the two men in dazzling clothes. Another demonstration of God’s power. This was an important moment – and one where the women pieced together what had happened and it’s significance – it’s glory. The first thing they then did was to head off to share the good news.

So like that we can use Chocolate eggs to answer the question – What’s so great about Easter!

The advert went on to say “you can pick and choose who to invite!” and an exchange about an absent family member ensues. I have to take issue with supermarket thinking here and say that one of the very best things about Easter is that Jesus rising from the dead is for all and for everyone and also forever and ever. For the delight of all people as Isaiah had it. Jesus’ resurrection swept away once and for all any divisions set up through God’s earlier promises and opened the kingdom, the power and the glory to everyone. Not just for now but forever and ever!

The advert goes on to answer the question – what’s so great about Easterwith the weather – glorious in parts. I think we can use this to think about our how our natural world, which played apart in the events of the first Easter Day. How God’s power made things happen we can’t explain – like the stone rolled away and the dazzling angels. How we always mark this festival as Spring is breaking forth in our land! and the wonder of this.

The advert and the answer to the question – What’s so great about Easter – then turns to a mountain of these – hot cross buns. Traditionally in our country these are the fair of Good Friday, but for Easter Day -The bun shows us an empty cross reminding us that death could not contain Jesus or limit him through God’s love for him. As St Paul reminds us – Death has lost its sting and the glory of God is revealed. And in one of our hymns – in this amazing way Endless is the victory thou o’er death has won.

The final thing our supermarkets thinks is great about Easter revolves around the Easter bunny. A man lifting weights surrounded by white rabbits and a woman trimming a rabbit shaped topiary bush! Neither of these work well as a visual  to have here, so I have returned to chocolate representations. The history of the Easter Bunny is fundamentally of Christian origins – With the bunny sharing his eggs symbolising us sharing the good news of the first Easter as we saw the women sharing the good news in our gospel. But I think if we use rabbit instead – we can think about some words beginning with R to remind us of what is so important about Easter – like Risen, resurrection and REJOICING!

So to sum up the answer to the question – What’s so great about Easter – that the supermarket posed and  all the things we have revealed using their visuals.

  • New life, rolling away the stone, the empty tomb encountering dazzling – The glory of God

  • That Jesus rising is for everyone and for ever in his kingdom

  • The power of God over nature, and new life springing around us

  • The empty cross and power over death

  • Sharing the good news

  • Risen – Resurrection – Rejoicing

To finish this day and the power, love and purposes of God for us it demonstrates. All this enables us to say the final line of the Lord’s prayer deep in our hearts and with great confidence. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever, Amen

Say that with me – For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever.  Amen


The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995

Songs reproduced under CCL 217043 for St Peter and St Paul’s Church – Wincanton

Good Friday Reflections – 15th April – Penny Ashton

Good Friday 2022 – Deliver us from evil

I am very aware that there are people listening to me now who know their bibles very well, and will have noticed that I have shortened the gospel account from John of Jesus execution.  Had I included the full reading that our lectionary sets for today, Angie would have had some 3000 words to read.  I am also aware that there are people here who will have found some parts of the service difficult as we all come from different traditions.  The important thing, however is that we are all here, all together and will walk together behind the cross after this service to place it on a hill in the middle of town to remind people what their holiday with its buns and chocolate eggs is actually all about.

Yesterday evening we held a service of communion and shared a simple meal of bread and cheese together in this church as has been our custom for the last few years – with a break of course for Covid.  After this meal and service, we strip the church of all decorations so that for today and tomorrow it is reduced to bare wood and stone.  I grew up in an evangelical Anglican church in Southsea, which did not go in for rituals or symbolic acts, and the first time I saw the church being stripped I was surprised at how moving I found it.  We have removed from this place of worship everything that might distract us from the bare facts that are placed before us in our bible readings.

In this church for the period of Lent we have been looking in our reflections at the Lord’s Prayer, and the phrase that has been allocated to today is ‘Deliver us from evil’.  So considering that as our theme for today, and looking around us at the church building which has been stripped back to the bare elements, raises the question – why do we call it Good Friday.  We have heard that it was the day when the central figure of our faith – we all call ourselves Christians after all – was betrayed and sold by a friend, submitted to a sham trial, was stripped, flogged, denied and deserted by his friends and put to death with criminals by the will of the religious leaders of his day who almost blackmail the governor of the occupying power to get the sentence that they want.  Finally, his body was given a rushed burial in a borrowed tomb and left with an armed guard in case of grave robbers.   As Isaiah put it – ‘He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’

And yet since the 4th century – for some 1700 years, this has been one of the three days of celebration of Easter and although among many this is a day for penance and fasting before the great celebration that comes on Sunday.  We have the advantage over those disciples who mostly fled in the gospel accounts – we know how the story goes on.  We know the truth of Psalm 30 v 5 – ‘Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.’  We were reminded by the last person to preach at this united service that we are an Easter people – I would take it further – we are a resurrection people.

We have not been able to meet together like this since 2019 – three years ago and they have been years that many people found hard.  In that time, we have lost many people whom we loved – some to the pandemic itself, and others to other things.  Many of us have found it hard to mourn as we need to or have been denied the provision of fitting funerals.  We have also been unable to celebrate the seasons of joy – the wonder of the incarnation at Christmas, or the joy of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Surely the fact that we can at last come together today underlines the Good in Good Friday.

I spoke earlier of the differences that you would find if you visited each of the churches represented her today – differences in layout and style of worship.  I would suggest though that the one thing that we all have in common – and that you would find in each of our churches is the symbol that we gather around today – every one of us, somewhere in our church buildings will have a cross – some of us many and ornate, others fewer, some very plain and simple, but each of them will be unmissable and unmistakeable.  As St Paul says in the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 2 and verse 2: For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (I Cor 2:2)

Or as the Message version puts it: ’I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified’.

And in that message – boiled down to its bare facts, stripped if you like of all decoration, we have the reason why this day is called Good Friday.  The reason why we are able to set aside our differences and worship as one body – one church, one faith one Lord as the hymn says.  And why we can know that because of all this, because of the obedience of Jesus in going to the cross, we have been delivered from evil.

But today is not an ending.  The disciples thought that it was, and mostly hid in fear and grief – and who can blame them.  As I said earlier – we know what happened next, and that is why we must not just use today to look back – Easter Sunday could not have happened without there being a Good Friday, but let us not get stuck there – just as we will celebrate Jesus glorious resurrection on Sunday, so we have to find a way to move forward from the crises that we have endured over the past years, and still – in places like Yemen and Ukraine – endure today.  It is important too that we do not seek to go back to what we have always known – our God has said ‘Behold I make all things new’ (Revelation 21:5).  To move towards the unknown new from the comfortable well known is not easy and will certainly at times be uncomfortable, but I believe it will be worth it.  I also believe that Pope Francis was right when he said, ‘To emerge from this crisis better than before, we have to do so together; together, not alone. Together. Not alone, because it cannot be done. Either it is done together, or it is not done. We must do it together, all of us, in solidarity.’ (Pope Francis, General Audience, September 2, 2020.

More and more we will need each other for support, for encouragement and to remind us at all times that we have more in common than divides us.  To bring each other back on occasions to ‘first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did.’  Today we look to, follow and proudly place in the middle of our town, the cross, because on the cross the work of God’s redemption was perfected.  We read that the last enemy to be overcome is death (I Corinthians 15:26).  In the words of John Donne in his holy sonnet no 10 – Death be not proud he finished with the words ‘And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.’  In the Lord’s prayer we ask to be delivered from evil.  And as Jesus said from the cross – ‘It is finished’.