The Sign Of The Cross
Dear Friends, I wonder how you’re doing? For many of us the adjustments to family, work, social and exercise routines have profoundly changed in a very short period of time. For some on the frontline of the fight against Coronavirus it has meant longer hours, stressful decisions, physical isolation from family members and very little time to process all that’s going on. For others it’s meant trying to juggle childcare, home schooling and working from home and perhaps feeling that you’re not really doing anything well. Some of you will be worried about jobs and the viability of your own businesses and perhaps keeping enough food on the table.
I expect most of us will be concerned for the health of family and friends, and also ourselves. Some will be grieving the loss of someone we love, and the restrictions are making things that much harder. For others this crisis, as horrendous as it is, will have been an opportunity to slow down, take stock of what’s important and reframe your priorities towards a more sustainable future.
One thing for sure is that this epidemic has brought to the surface many conflicting emotions and priorities, but in all the adjustments it’s been good to observe the many messages of hope that have been shared. Hope is a powerful force.
For instance, perhaps you’ve seen the many pictures of rainbows children (and some adults) have painted and placed in their windows. This is something children have been doing to spread hope and from a Christian perspective it immediately reminds us of the story of Noah in Genesis 6-9.
The interesting thing about the sign of the rainbow is that Noah had to go through the flood before the sign of hope appeared. For Noah the rainbow was a sign of God’s covenant with all creation after the crisis had passed. The rainbow was the sign that humanity’s evil would not be judged in the same way again. So after the flood whenever it rained and the rainbow shone in the sky, Noah would be reminded how God rescued him and his family through the danger and it would be a sign of hope for the future.
And for us looking at the sign of the rainbow in the context of the danger we now face, it can give us hope for our future because of God’s covenant faithfulness in the past.
But now with Palm Sunday approaching, we’re reminded of the much greater sign of God’s new covenant promise. This is the sign of the cross.
The cross reminds us of the crisis Jesus had to go through on our behalf, so that afterwards we might have an even more magnificent hope. We’re able to look back at the cross in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection to remind us of how Jesus was judged for all humanity’s sin so we can be rescued into the grace and forgiveness of God.
When a Christian looks at the cross it reminds us of John 3.16, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’
The cross is a sign of God’s ongoing covenant faithfulness and on Palm Sunday through Holy Week to Easter Day we have the opportunity to enter deeply into this promise again. That’s why in preparation for Palm Sunday, Blackburn Diocese is encouraging as many homes as possible to make a cross and place it in the window of our homes (maybe alongside the rainbow!). This will be a sign of hope to those who pass by that in the saving work of Christ there is healing, life and salvation. This fun video briefly shows the idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcXvfzJZ09w .
We’ll also be using the crosses you make in our Palm Sunday service so it would be great if you could have one ready. Initially the cross could be simple and fairly plain, made of paper, card, wood or any other material. However, when Easter comes you may like to decorate it with colours, flowers etc as a sign of your hope in the resurrection. May you find hope in the cross at this time. Blessings to you all, Revd. Mike.
Holy Week Service Sheets for Live Broadcasts
To take part in our Holy Week services as they are broadcast please download the service sheet by hovering over the Resources tab at the top of the page, then clicking on Holy Week and you will see the different services as they are available. So far we have our Compline service which will be taking place on Monday 6th, Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th April at 8pm. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday service sheets will be available shortly.
Sunday Service Sheets for our Live Broadcast
Daily Prayer and Daily Bible Readings for home reflection
Please read the following UPDATED letter to the Church from Revd. Mike Barton 19/3/2020
Dear Friends, it very much looks like we’re heading for an ‘Online Easter’ and I’m taking steps to see how as many of us as possible can join together, even though we may be separated in different houses, in various acts of worship over the coming days. One thing that will definitely happen this Sunday 22nd March is a Sermon and Prayers will be posted on the church website which you’ll be able to listen to here: https://www.stlawrencewithstpaul.org.uk/7/Sermons
As I look at the journey during the remainder of Lent towards Easter Day, I can see three different focuses emerging. These come under the headings of The Candle, the Cross and The Crown.
This Sunday it’s Mother’s Day and the theme is ‘The Candle’.
About this Bishop Jill writes:
“This Sunday is a National Day of Prayer and Action for the Coronavirus epidemic. In our nation, we have seen astonishing answers to prayer at times of national crisis. On 4th August 1918, George V called for a National Day of Prayer, 100 days later the armistice was signed to end the First World War. On 22nd May 1940, George VI called for a National Day of Prayer, this was followed by the “miracle of Dunkirk” where miraculous numbers of Allied troops were rescued. We are asking for God to stop the spread of this virus, to protect all those whose lives and livelihoods are at threat, to give our government great wisdom. May he banish fear and sow seeds of faith and hope that cause us to serve outwards as a community and nation. We encourage you to use this opportunity to pray, act and to light a candle of hope”.
As part of your Sunday act of devotion could you light a candle at 7 p.m. and place it in your window as a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer?
More details will follow about The Cross and The Crown but hopefully this will help provide some structure to your worship on Sundays up to Easter.
I also promised to post some interesting resources for you to consider and look at as well.
Firstly, I’d very much recommend you watching this Video from Bishop Julian for people across the Diocese of Blackburn in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. This will be the first of a series of messages from senior clergy in the Diocese over the coming weeks.
Secondly, as you perhaps know Revd. Gill and Gerald Mack have a great love of poetry and they sent me this poem which could be used as a Lectio Divina exercise, picking out the word or phrase that strikes you as relevant in this time of isolation and crisis:
The Forgotten Years – Clive Sansom
We celebrate his end and his beginning-
His low beginning and his shameful end;
We know the story of disciple winning,
The molten glance converting man to friend;
We know the healing hand that calmed all fears,
The healing words of truth and acts of love;
But what of all the years before those years.
The days between the Temple and the Dove?
I see him walk among the flowering hills,
Finding God branded on each living thing-
Frail winter sparrows that the sharp air kills,
Spring lilies that out-Solomon a King.
I think he walked beyond the belt of flowers
Into the desert where few strangers trod,
And in those silent, unrecorded hours
Within his own still heart discovered God.
So, in the wilderness, a rose was born,
In parching soil an oasis greened for man;
There is the treeless waste, arid, forlorn,
The journey to the cross-branched Tree began.
Returning from the desert, love-compelled,
The pulse of mortal living was renewed,
But always, in the largest crowd, he held
Within his heart that God-filled solitude.
And finally, a prayer.
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing the nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Please read the previous important letter to the Church from Revd. Mike Barton
Church is not closing, it’s changing for a season
Dear All, these are challenging times but as Christians we’re called to be a people of hope, and that is who we shall be. The first key message I want to share with you is that church is not closing, it’s just changing for a season.
We might not be able to meet in large groups for worship services, but we can still spend personal time with God investing in our spiritual growth through bible reading and prayer and over the coming days please continue to visit this website where various different resources and links will be shared to keep you encouraged. Sunday Sermons will still be available to listen to at https://www.stlawrencewithstpaul.org.uk/7/Sermons and as we draw closer to Holy Week and Easter more will be added. I’m also in the midst of seeing how we can harness the benefits of technology so that while we might be stuck in our homes, we can still communicate with each other face to face.
Meanwhile St Lawrence Church will remain open for private prayer between 9.30am – 3.30pm every day and St Paul’s Church will be open between 9.30am – 12 noon on Wednesday’s and Thursdays. Please do feel free to come in for a time of quiet contemplation – just remember to wash your hands well with soap using the toilet facilities provided as soon as you enter and suitably space yourself from other people.
The second key message I want to share is how we might use this time positively by seeing it as an extended period of Sabbath rest. Our modern lives have been getting ever more out of control and perhaps we could use this time to re-set our priorities onto a more sustainable footing. These should be geared towards seeing life, like rest, as a gift from God and recapturing a sense of God’s holiness.
Individually this might look like starting a prayer or bible reading habit, let me recommend two resources for this. For daily prayer visit: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-liturgy-and-prayer-resources where you can use and download lots of useful resources. For bible reading: http://www.bibleinoneyear.org/ and here you even get a short commentary from Nicky Gumbel to help explain some of the more complex bible passages.
Corporately, let’s think about what it might mean to love our neighbour, could we donate something extra to the foodbank or pop a note through their door with your phone number should they need your help or a simple chat? Lots of people in Longridge have already engaged in such initiatives and it’s been amazing to see.
The third key message is an encouragement from scripture, Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Yes, for this season our race of perseverance looks a little different but we remain in a community of faith and fellowship, the Lord Jesus Christ remains the one we pattern our lives on, and he is sovereign over all to the Glory of God.
Finally, this poem by Lynn Ungar called Pandemic can help to give shape to our present witness.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
Let us especially pray for those suffering from and helping those with Coronavirus right now.
Yours in the love of Christ,
Revd. Mike Barton.
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The events and services below may now not take place due to Coronavirus but we will update as soon as we have any further information.
Festival of Crosses
This will be held in St. Paul's Church from Palm Sunday - Easter Day.
There will be crosses displayed by both schools and community organisations as well as many of our church groups and we look forward to viewing the imaginative as well as the meaningful ways the crosses have been prepared and presented.
In addition to the daily Holy Week services, St. Paul's Church will be open from 1.30pm - 3.30pm throughout the week, including Easter Saturday to enable people to view the crosses in peaceful contemplation.
lent and Easter services
Mothering Sunday - 22nd March
Passion Sunday - 10am, 29th March
Palm Sunday - 5th April
Compline services - 8pm at St. Paul's, Monday 6th April - Wednesday 8th April
Maundy Thursday - 7:30pm, 10th April at St. Paul's followed by 'The Watch' and compline
Good Friday - 11th April, 10am All Age Worship at St. Paul's and 6.30pm Evensong at St. Lawrence
Easter Day - 12th April
Other Forthcoming Dates
Good Friday walk - 10th April
VE Day Themed Spring Fair - Saturday 2nd May
Vicarage Garden Party - Sunday 5th July
Parish Day Trip to Chester - Saturday 22nd August
Harvest Walk - Sunday 11th October
Christmas Tree Fair - Saturday 28th November