Greetings from St Mary’s and St Andrew’s
It is Ascension Day as I write. This morning 12 gathered by Gainford’s riverside to celebrate the return of Jesus to his home in heaven. It was a joyful day: Jesus returned to his Father, to his place enthroned atop all worlds.
‘Then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.’ (Mark 16:19)
Jesus said: ‘I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’ (John 16:28)
The joyful day is a joyful day for us all. We too have come from God the Father. We are children of God.
I suggest there was a turning point in Jesus’ life on earth, when Jesus fully human faced death and chose to trust His Father God fully so that by his death and resurrection experienced and revealed his full divinity. With complete confidence of his glory and place in heaven, Jesus returns home.
This week we shall sing one of Her Majesty The Queen’s favourite hymns, a hymn that was sung at her Coronation Service 70 years ago: Praise, my soul, the King of heaven. We will approach our Lord, Saviour, Friend, and King as people who ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven…praise the everlasting King.
Living such a public life, Her Majesty’s grief in recent months, despite her exceptional dignity, was laid bare before the world. Our Queen has also been open about her faith, what following Jesus has meant for her in life. I am comforted that her faith includes belief in the everlasting King of heaven. However deep and heavy anyone’s grief, it is temporal and temporary because of our everlasting future with the King of heaven.
St Andrew'sServices this weekend
- + Sunday Holy Communion
St Mary'sServices this weekend
- + Sunday Holy Communion
The Platinum Jubilee
The Platinum Jubilee Celebrations begin this Thursday 2nd June 2022 at St Andrew’s, Winston
• Come, raise your voice in joyful song at the Songs of Praise Service 8:30pm
• Come, raise a toast to our faithful and gracious Queen
• Come, be part of the national lighting of the beacon at our St Andrew’s, Winston
On Sunday 5th June 2022 in Gainford
• Bless our Community Herb Garden, St Mary’s, Gainford Churchyard, 11.45am
• Bless Her Majesty’s 70 Years as Sovereign at our Service on the Green, 12noon
Saturday 4th June 2022: some of us will be attending the 3pm Service in honour of Her Majesty where acts of service are recognised by the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham and blessed at Durham Cathedral.
God is with us and has given us a place with the saints in light. With the risen life of Christ, the ascended King of heaven, within you, go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia!
Rev’d Canon Eileen Harrop
The Notice Board
• Pray for Thomas Smith and Catherine Mason who will be married at St Andrew’s, Winston on Saturday 4th June 2022.
• Pray for the family and loved ones of Norman Winters of Winston, who passed into glory this week.
• Ahead of the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations in early June, Brian and I are pleased to make available the commemorative book ‘Our Faithful Queen’ published to honour Her Majesty The Queen’s 70 years of Faith and Service. Copies will be placed in St Andrew’s Church, Winston, and St Mary’s Church, Gainford – a gift from Brian and me with love and blessing.
• Ukraine Refugee Accommodation Sponsors: A small number of sponsors in Gainford and Winston are preparing to accommodate Ukrainians seeking temporary accommodation. We have formed a Support Group, who will have and share the latest information. If you would like to know more, please email Jill Starr:
• Gainford FUN DAY Saturday 25th June 2022: We are pleased to be putting up our tea tent serving tea and cake for this annual event. We hope many from both St Andrew’s and St Mary’s would offer to help. This is both our community offering and a helpful fundraiser for St Mary’s, Gainford. Please contact Geoff or Sue if you can make cakes, help to serve in the tent, or help set up and clear up: Geoffandsue379@gmail.com Tel: 01325 730379
The Collect for the Sunday after Ascension
O God the King of glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
we beseech you, leave us not comfortless,
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us
and exalt us to the place where our Saviour Christ is gone before,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen
Post Communion Prayer
Eternal God, giver of love and power,
your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world
to preach the gospel of his kingdom:
confirm us in this mission,
and help us to live the good news we proclaim;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The First Reading
16 One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ 18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place before the authorities.
20 When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, ‘These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21 and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.’ 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23 After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ 29 The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ 31 They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ 32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34 He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
20 I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25 ‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’
Sermon, 6th Sunday of Easter: Rev’d Canon Eileen Harrop, 22nd May ‘22 (Acts 16.9-15; John 14.23-29)
Our set Gospel for this Sunday recalls a time of preparation for a transition. Our set New Testament reading describes the Apostle Paul’s experience in a new world that had transitioned from disciples who knew Jesus on earth to those whose discipleship is founded on faith.
In our Gospel passage, the disciple John recalls Jesus’ words: “And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”
Jesus, still present with his disciples before his death on the Cross, is preparing them for what is to come. His death is imminent, and Jesus conveys God the Father’s promises to his disciples. There is to be a handover: Jesus prepares them to recognise and receive the Holy Spirit. They will be receiving ‘the Advocate’, ‘a teacher’ and an active prompter, who will keep them true to all they have known from Jesus. Jesus manages their expectations: they will need peace, but this peace that Jesus leaves with them is not the peace of the world. Jesus prepares them to be confounded: “I am going away, AND I am coming to you”.
Transitions are confounding. So Jesus tells them that all will be well if they exercise faithfulness to God’s word. The integrity and authenticity of what they believe and who they are following are founded on Jesus’ words. Jesus tells them that whether he is there with them in earthly life or gone from them, His Father’s words given and spoken through him will not and do not change. “Those who love me will keep my word… and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.”
From time to time I find myself in the deeply privileged pastoral position of being present with someone in a time of distress. They confess to fearfulness, to failing in resilience and resolve to remain positive. They find no peace especially in the face of prolonged decline of their own health or more often, the distress of a loved one. They have been living with an unwelcome transition and there is no hope of reversal to the former condition. The ultimate transition that confronts them is the same transition that Jesus was presenting his disciples. He will leave them. Death of the human body, even with suffering before, will take Jesus from them. Life for them will no longer be what they had desired and known.
How do we transition well?
In our New Testament reading, the apostle Paul is living out that transition Jesus had prepared not only for the disciples who were with him in earthly life, but for all his disciples to come. Jesus is no longer present with us as in his earthly ministry: Jesus died – he was buried. But death is not the end. The apostle Paul believed, just as we declare today, that Jesus died – he was buried – he descended to hell – then he rose again. In a few days’ time, we celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Jesus the risen and resurrected Lord ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you… Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Last Sunday we heard of Peter’s change from a frightened follower to a disciple trusting in Jesus’ words. Today, we read of the Apostle Paul’s confidence in God’s promptings, and because of his response by faith, he meets Lydia, who asks to be baptised and all her household comes to faith also.
Our earthly life is a transitory life. Our bodies may reveal their frailty differently, but transition is certain. Let us help ourselves and those we love to a good transition in every phase of our lives, even that ultimate transition. We are to be changed from glory to glory, following Jesus on earth as in heaven. Amen