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Lord of all life and power; who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him: grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ, may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen
John Chapter 20 Verses 1-18
From our Gospel reading we read a little about Mary Magdalene. But what do we know about her? We know she was a devout follower of Jesus; she was there at our Lord’s crucifixion and she was the first to come to the tomb on that Resurrection Sunday. It is clear that Mary loved Christ and it is her of love of Him that is the focus of how John begins his resurrection narrative. The crucifixion devastated Mary and she came to the tomb filled with grief. Her love for her Lord drove her to the tomb, she needed to be there. He was the most significant part of her life. He had changed everything for her and now she needed to be there for Him, even though, as she thought, he was dead.
We can only imagine where her faith stood at that time. She had surely heard our Lord speak of his resurrection. However, the disciples had also heard Jesus’ words and yet, after Peter and John saw the empty tomb, they returned to their homes. They had not fully understood what Jesus had told them.
Here we have faith and reality colliding. The reality of the crucifixion and trust in Jesus’ words concerning resurrection were at war in the minds and hearts of those who loved Jesus. All Mary knew was that her Lord was dead and placed in a tomb and now his body was gone.
Peter and John had come and gone; Mary had stayed. She had to; her love kept her there. Little did she know that her love for Jesus would result in the strengthening of her faith. Although everything seemed lost, she would find more than she could ever imagine.
Love overcame fear as she bent over to look into the tomb. Through her tear-filled eyes she saw two angels in white. They asked why she is crying. Then Jesus stood behind her and asked her the same question. She answers that she is crying because she believed her Lord to be dead and she thought that his body had been stolen. Her love was strong and now her faith would be strengthened. Now she would understand Jesus’ words, now faith would become reality.
Jesus said to her ‘Mary’. The Lord whom she loved spoke her name. The Lord who had called her from a life of futility had now called her to a life of possibility, a life that was even stronger than death.
Mary’s story teaches us an important truth. Even in the darkest hour, if our love for Christ is strong and it keeps us close to him, he will come to us. He will call us by name and strengthen our faith by showing us a life full of hope and possibility.
JUST A THOUGHT
We cannot contrive to fall in love, it happens involuntarily. We cannot contrive to see the point of a joke, it happens involuntarily. We cannot contrive to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. It happens involuntarily. A spontaneous force possesses us. Believing in the Resurrection is seeing, suddenly all our difficulties, disappointments, conflicts and failures and everything else that dogs our days, in a new light. And this new way of seeing allows us the conviction that everything that has the potential to deaden us can be brought to life. We will not be granted exemption from the anxieties and disappointments that are part and parcel of living. We cannot dodge them. They keep coming. Inevitably.
But what this seeing in a new light will allow us to do is to penetrate their grim outer casing and transform the cynicism and despair that otherwise would go with them and have their own way. We are then freed from the fear that these obstacles will destroy the meaning and value of our lives. And this is the truth of the Resurrection.
I commend to you the following link to a video of ‘Easter Hymn’ by Mascagni with powerful imagery and wonderful music.
The eyes of the Lord are on those who love him, a mighty shield and strong support, a shelter from scorching wind and a shade from noonday sun, a guard against stumbling and a help against falling.
Easter reminds us that each time we deny you, Lord,
another nail is sharpened;
and each time we defy you, Lord, into your hand it’s hammered.
When faith is weak, temptation strong and courage fails,
forgive us, Lord and once again become that risen presence within our
May the blessings of Easter be with you and those you love at this time and throughout the coming year.
With my love and prayers,
Holy Trinity Church
I trust this letter finds you safe and well.
Further to my letter of February 2021, I am very pleased to be able to advise you that at its meeting today, the Church Council agreed to re-start services inside the church with effect from this coming Sunday the 7th of March 2021 at 11.00 a.m.
We will, in accordance with government and church regulations maintain social distancing,you must wear masks or visors and .attendees’ names and contact details will be registered, The Holy Sacrament will be offered in one kind only and no singing of hymns will take place.
I am optimistically hopeful that this is the start of the church returning to a new kind of normality, which will become more apparent in due course.
In the meantime I thank you for your patience and understanding and look forward to seeing you soon at Holy Trinity Funchal.
With my prayers and blessings.
Chaplain, Holy Trinity Funchal.
Sunday 28th February 2021
Second Sunday of Lent
Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, that they may return to the way of righteousness: grant to all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, that they may reject those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same: through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Mark Chapter 8 Verses 31-38.
Just before today’s reading, in fact in verse 30, Peter says to Jesus “You are the Christ.” Peter recognised that Jesus was the King the Israelites had been expecting, and His coming had been prophesied in the Old Testament. From this point onwards in Mark’s gospel, the question becomes: “What does it mean for Jesus to be King?”
Notice that the very first thing Jesus teaches them, in verse 31, is that “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected and that he must be killed.” This is Jesus teaching them about what it means for him to be King: Not that he will suffer, but that he must. It is part of his mission.
People sometimes have the view of Jesus as a weak character, someone who is blown around by the winds of chance, and someone who ends up being killed because he manages to annoy the wrong people. But that is not at all how the Bible sees it. Jesus says that his death is part and parcel of his mission.
In fact, when Peter takes Jesus aside to take him to task, in verse 33 Jesus rebukes him because he does not “have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Jesus says that it is the plan of God himself that Peter is opposing.
But all this raises a question: why was it so necessary for Jesus to die? One of the clearest answers to that question comes in the Old Testament, from Isaiah 53. This is a prophecy, written 500 years before Jesus was born, about what he would come to do. Verses 5-6 say,
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
I don’t know whether this is still the case, but in the past if someone was working very hard and being a bit of a swot, we might say to them “get a life!” The implication being that they weren’t really living life if they were reading books and studying all the time. And I think sometimes that is how we perceive the Christian life to be: not being promiscuous in our relationships, Get a life! Not going out getting drunk at the weekends? Get a life! Life is out there to be lived – get out there and please yourself!
But what Jesus says here is that people who lose life for him and for the gospel will actually find it. Living a life with Jesus as Lord is the most amount of life that it is possible to have. Jesus says in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
But there’s more! Notice back in verse 31 how Jesus says that after three days he will rise again. Those who would follow Jesus, who deny themselves, who take up their cross, will ultimately join in his resurrection. The apostle Paul says, in Romans 6:5,
“If we have been united with [Jesus] like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”
MY THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
It is my belief that God has a plan for all of us if we but listen to His voice and follow Him. Please don’t however interpret this statement to mean, that theologically I believe in predestination, that is not what I am saying.
Read Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11:-
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
God is a loving God who wants nothing else for us his children but our wellbeing. We were created with a free will and therefore it is our choice whether we have ‘life to the full’ or whether we go our own way. However, there is a warning; – ‘it isn’t easy being a Christian, but then nobody said it would be.’
FROM LAST WEEK
If you read the blog last week you may remember that I was talking about light. After preparing the blog I received a short video on Facebook from the Penha Franca Church, which is the English language Roman Catholic Church in Madeira with Father Bernardino, with whom we work closely. The video showed their small music group performing at last Sunday’s Mass, a Hymn entitled ‘Christ be our Light’. The video reminded me of this wonderful hymn and it’s words and below is a link for you to hear the hymn, please pay particular attention to the words.
Forgive those things we have done which have caused you sadness,
and those things we should have done that would have brought you joy.
In both we have failed ourselves, and you.
Bring us back to that place where our journey began,
when we said that we would follow the way that you first trod.
Lead us to the Cross and meet us there.
With my love and prayers, as always.
Sunday 21st February 2021
First Sunday of Lent
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted for forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen
Mark Chapter 1 Verses 9-15. (The Temptation of our Lord)
It is said that the author John Ruskin once sat with a friend in the dusk of an evening and watched a lamplighter, torch in hand, lighting the streetlamps on a distant hill. Very soon the man’s form was no longer distinguishable in the distance, but everywhere he went, he left a light burning brightly. “There,” said Ruskin, “is what I mean by a true Christian. You can trace his course by the light he leaves burning.”
So, if we were to reflect a little further on this metaphor by Ruskin, we might say that the light that he was speaking of is the love we have for God and for others and that the true Christian is someone who during his lifetime leaves a trail of light and of love. In John 13 Jesus says to his disciples, “By this shall everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And it is love that defines us as followers of Jesus, love that defines us as Christians. Love that burns brightly in the darkness of the world, a love that is manifest in our thoughts, our words, our actions and in the way we live our lives. Above all, ours should be a love that shows. Today, on the first Sunday of Lent, I would like to look at how the love we show forth in our lives helps us to deal with temptation.
So how do we fight temptation in this season of Lent? I would suggest to you that we fight temptation not merely by giving up things, resisting things, learning to say ‘no’, commendable though these things may be. True strength comes from something much more positive than that. True strength and resistance to temptation occurs when the love we have for others and for God is strong and true, when we are committed because of this love, when we see with the eyes of this love and when we cannot help but show forth this love in the way we live, the things we say, the way we interact with others.
I began with a story about a lamplighter and I would like to end with a few thoughts about them. Historically, lamplighters were people who lit the gas lamps with a long pole and had often to work in the cold and the dark. Sometimes they would serve as watchmen. And there is a long history of the lamplighter as being a symbolic figure in literature, bringing light to those who have none, and beauty and joy to a world sadly in need of these.
There is a story told about the young Robert Louis Stevenson. One evening he was looking out of the window down an Edinburgh street when a lamplighter came by. The little boy became extremely excited. “Look,” he cried, “there’s a man out there punching holes in the darkness.”
As Christians, we too often work in the cold and the dark. We too, this Lent, need to be on the watch against temptation. And we too need to punch holes in the darkness with our love, a love that shows, a love that charts our course through the darkness of this world. Amen.
MY THOUGHT FOR LENT
Fasting, in general, is a form of self-denial and most often refers to abstention from food. In a spiritual fast, such as during Lent, the purpose is to show restraint and self-control. It is a spiritual discipline intended to allow each person to focus more closely on their relationship with God without the distractions of worldly desires.
Now for those who traditionally give up something for Lent such as alcohol or chocolate etc., it is very commendable. However, this last twelve months has been extraordinarily difficult and if a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate has helped you during these tough times, then I want to suggest that this year, because of the pandemic, you do not deny yourselves these little treats.
The Archbishop of Wales this year in his Lenten address said that rather than asking family and friends what they are ‘giving up’ for Lent the question should be what are they ‘taking up’ for Lent?
So instead of fasting, here are five things that you can do during Lent, which are also spiritual disciplines but not in sense of abstaining. They are connecting with other people, as far as the restrictions allow, physical activity as much as you are able, learn some new skills, give to others of your time and/or resources and pay attention to the present moment.
Paying attention to the present moment is the foundation of meditative prayer. It is a stillness which puts aside the busyness of our lives to listen to what God is saying to us and to see what He is doing in our lives and in our world. We should practice taking notice and perhaps think of five things for which we should be thankful and to focus on these in our meditation and prayers.
A LENTEN PRAYER
God of mystery and wisdom be with us this Lenten season.
It has been a long way already, sickness, worry, isolation, fear, waiting.
Our hearts are heavy our souls are weary our bodies are hurting,
our hope is wavering yet, we know you are with us. Amen.
May the blessings of this Lenten Tide be with you and those you love now and always.
With my love and prayers,
I trust this letter finds you safe and well.
You will recall that in January I wrote to you and advised that it had been decided to suspend Church services for four weeks up to and including the 14th February 2021.
Having reviewed the situation and with an ongoing concern for the number of daily cases of infection on the island, it has been decided to extend the suspension of services for a further two weeks, up to and including the end of February.
I am aware of the importance of the Church worship and fellowship to our congregation and it is with regret therefore that this decision was considered necessary. However, we recognise that it is our Christian duty to protect the vulnerable in our church family.
The decision concerning our Church services will of course be reviewed regularly.
With my prayers and blessings.
Chaplain, Holy Trinity Funchal.
Almighty Father, whose Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross: give us grace to perceive his glory, that we may be strengthened to suffer with him and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen
Mark Chapter 9 Verses 2-9. (The Transfiguration of our Lord)
“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
The Transfiguration is the whole Gospel in miniature. In that single scene, we hear echoes of the baptism of Jesus, Jesus’ fulfilment of the Law and prophets, his predictions of his passion; foreshadows of his death and resurrection, his ascension and future coming in glory.
We hear that Jesus takes three of his disciples and goes up a high mountain to be alone, presumably to pray.
On another mountain, in the midst of the cloud which represents the presence of God, Moses had his transforming encounter with God; saw something of God’s glory, so that he was physically transformed by it, and he received the gift of the Law for the people.
The light however which shines from Jesus is the glory of God which Moses had not been allowed to see fully but which had been sufficient to transform his appearance. Even before a word is said, there is an affirmation of the divinity of Jesus.
Then Moses and Elijah appear. They represent two great strands of the religion of Israel: the Law which had been given to Moses during his mountain top encounter with God; the Prophets represented by Elijah, who also had his experience of God on a mountain and heard the voice of God. Jesus is shown to us as the one in whom this religion finds its fulfilment and meaning. The Law and the Prophets are the essential background to understanding Jesus; that is why the Church goes on reading them. But, as Paul tells us, Jesus is the essential key to understanding them. They remain veiled, unfulfilled without him.
Moses and Elijah speak to Jesus presumably about “his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem”. The Greek word used is Exodus. It signifies much more than a simple leaving. The Exodus was the liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. The “Exodus” of Jesus, his death and resurrection, will be the liberation of all people from their slavery to the false worship of this world, to live in that communion with God for which we are made.
The cloud represents both the presence and the mystery of God.
The voice from the cloud underscores the importance of what has been happening throughout the ministry of Jesus. The divine voice affirms Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and instructs the disciples to heed Jesus’ teaching. If God were to say only one sentence to us, it might well be “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
MY THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
I think it is important that we listen to God when he speaks to us and be alert to his instruction. For most of us this is rarely a ‘Damascus Road’ experience but more likely through reading the Scriptures, prayer, other people, nature and God’s creation and the Arts. God only wants what is good for us his children. However, the paths in which he will lead us, will not always be easy. We should be careful therefore that we don’t ignore His voice and follow an easier option and also let us not confuse God’s voice with our own will and intention.
It is useful from time to time in a quiet moment to look back over periods in our life, both in the shorter term and the long term and to recognise God’s hand in our lives. But be warned, God is not a God of instant gratification.
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice.
I would like to end this blog with a prayer, as under.
As always with my love and prayers.
Chaplain, Holy Trinity Funchal
God of grace and mercy,
your son Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus.
Send your Holy Spirit on those who grieve,
any who struggle, and all who fear.
Meet us in our times of questioning, anger, and doubt.
Show us what we can do to enable one another
to overcome isolation, distress, and despair.
And make us a humbler people who know our need of you.
In Christ’s name. Amen.
Sunday 07th February 2021
Almighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image: teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever. Amen
John Chapter 1 Verses 1-14 (In the beginning was the word..)
I’d like us to think today about the words in John’s Gospel, the Word becoming flesh, coming to live among us, whose glory we can see, full of grace and truth.
I’d like us to think especially about the ways we see the Word bringing grace and truth into our lives.
The Word is Jesus, of course. By faith we believe that he lives among us today, and that we can see his glory. By faith we can begin to open ourselves up to grace and truth, and as we do, we can see the Word come alive in our lives, Jesus living alongside us and around us.
You know we can just as easily see the Word bringing grace and truth into today’s world if we have eyes to see. We see grace in the great events of recent history – the people from both sides of the Berlin Wall bringing it down; Black South Africans queuing up in long, exuberant lines to cast their first votes ever; Israeli and Palestinian representatives shaking hands in the Rose Garden.
However, there is a warning. In life, the state of grace can prove fleeting. For a moment, grace descends. But then Eastern Europe sullenly settles into the long task of rebuilding, South Africa tries to figure out how to run a country facing huge corruption and poverty, and there are attempts on the lives of the Middle Eastern politicians, sometimes successful.
It has been said that like a dying star, grace dissipates in a final burst of pale light, and is then engulfed by the black hole of ‘ungrace.’
But I’d rather suggest that those moments are like candles lit, which keep on flickering and providing some light, however slight, so that the darkness does not overcome it.
If only we could see it, God is lighting such lights with acts of grace every day. Small acts of kindness – someone asking after you if you are unwell, an unexpected gift or call.
And bigger things – the first smile of a new-born baby; laughter among those you love; the family reunion after maybe long periods of separation; a good conversation with a new neighbour which makes you think you could be friends. It is in these things that we see the Word becoming flesh, coming to live among us, day to day.
These things help us see God’s glory, full of grace and truth. Help us understand what that means.
The best thing about God’s grace is that it shows he loves us, that we are God’s children by adoption and have received a great gift from him. Knowing this helps us love ourselves, and that helps us love others.
If you remember nothing else from this blog, please remember this: “Grace is everywhere.” It is all grace. It is amazing grace. Amen.
MY THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
1 Peter 4:10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
I know at this time, with the continuing lockdown, that we have to observe social distancing etc. However, I am sure that like you and me, a lot of people are feeling isolated, and for some maybe this feeling is magnified, because they live alone. May I suggest therefore that now is a good time to make contact with friends and family and those you love, electronically, just to say hi, are you OK? It is also a better time to make contact with someone with whom you have had a falling out and ask them the same question. Part of God’s grace is love and healing in a broken and hurting world.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love and God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us and those we love now and for ever.
With my love and prayers.
Sunday 31st January 2021
Fourth Sunday of Epiphany
Almighty and ever-living God, clothed in majesty, whose beloved Son was this day presented in the Temple, in substance of our flesh: grant that we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts, by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Luke Chapter 2 Verses 22-40 (Presentation of Christ in the Temple/ Candlemas)
There has always been a tendency in religions – including our own – to divide things up between good and evil, clean and unclean, acceptable and unacceptable. Reflected in our gospel reading today is the ancient idea that women, following childbirth, are unclean for a period of forty days.
This division between good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable is technically called dualism.
Into this divided world, God throws a huge disruption (which is also a tiny disruption) in the form of a baby who was both divine and human. This was completely unthinkable, shattering the biggest division of all – that between God and humankind. You can see that the arrival of Jesus dissolved the division between flesh and spirit – here was God (spirit) in human flesh. Like dominos, I think the dualities are supposed to keep tumbling down – but we forgot to see the pattern and put-up new divisions. As fast as God was demolishing justifications for dividing between good and bad, we were building new ones. It seems as if we always need someone to disapprove of, someone to be ‘out’ while we are ‘in’ We just don’t seem to get the message – we don’t need to trample on other people: we’re OK and so are they.
What God was showing us, in the incarnation of Jesus, is that we have no need to divide, no need to vilify ‘the other’, ‘those who are different’. We don’t need to be make ourselves feel better about ourselves by finding someone who’s less OK than us. We are all God’s children – all the objects of his love. We’re all OK
I think the only line we need to draw is between behaviour that is creative and behaviour that destroys and damages others. And even then, it’s the behaviour that needs to be halted, not the person whose behaviour it is – God loves all his children, even the ones we love to hate.
The feast of Candlemas presents us with a lovely picture of the unity that springs from God, the essential unity of God’s children. For here we have very young and very old, men and women. On the surface there were only Jews there, but Simeon includes us – the Gentiles – in his song – ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles’.
What we don’t have is rich and poor, for all these people were poor – Mary and Joseph brought pigeons which were the offering of the poor: the wealthier would have brought a lamb. Anna as a widow would have had no income of her own and would have lived from the generosity of others. Simeon was old too, beyond working age – so the same would have applied. As Jesus was to discover later in his life, the Temple was ruled by a wealthy and privileged elite. They were there when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple – they were there but they did not see.
Let their inability to see be a warning to us. What or who are we not able to see?
MY THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
I know that during these times a lot of people are feeling alone, isolated and abandoned. In many parts of the world this feeling of isolation is magnified by the closing of places of worship, which removes yet another strand of our previous ‘normal’ life.
Here is a prayer to use during these difficult times. I believe our hope and comfort is found in prayer.
God of hope and love, as our world seems more and more chaotic in this time of Pandemic, help us open our hearts and minds to your peace. Sometimes, Lord Jesus, when we are alone, bombarded by news and statistics, we may feel lonely, scared, apprehensive and afraid that nothing will ever be the same again. In those moments, be with us so that we feel your love surrounding us and help us to remember that you will never leave us. Give us the strength to reach out to other people to share our feelings and fears and to listen to theirs so that together we may find calm in knowing that we are your people and you gift us with all we need, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day. In all things and no matter how we feel, give us the knowledge and wisdom to always give thanks to you that the gift of gratitude may help us return to you and overcome the fear that threatens us. Bless us God, who is Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
I have known for some time the following work by Ryan Hart. Each time I read it I always have feelings of both comfort and tearful emotion.
One night I dreamed a dream. As I was walking along the beach with my Lord,
across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the most recent scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it. “Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, you would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. Never, ever, during your trials and testing’s. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
As always, I send you my love and prayers from Holy Trinity Funchal.
Zoom meeting on the Environment between A Rocha/ Anglican and other Churches. Wednesday 27th January, 18.00 GMT
I thought you may be interested to join this ZOOM meeting about the Diocese of Europe joining in ARoche organisation´s ECO CHURCH PROJECT. ARoche are a well established environmental organiser
There is an introduction by David Attenorough and many speakers. All details on the pdf link below.
Open to all.
Environmental Officer at HTC