This morning, St Margaret’s Prestwich reopens for public worship to a small congregation of around 20 people. If you were unable to attend – do not worry! the service was live-streamed on our Facebook page:
Here is “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” – the Introit hymn (although it was not sung in church, as it is still not permitted to sing in groups in enclosed spaces)
Here is “Thou, whose Almighty Word” – the Recessional hymn – which was not sung in church.
Rev Deborah’s sermon, which included lighting the Paschal candle, is here:
The Sower and the Seed
(Re-opening of church for public worship)
It is so good to be back in church, to be with you all as we worship together as the body of Christ at St. Margaret’s. The past few months have been very challenging and difficult for us all on many different levels and we have had to adapt and learn to live with many situations and circumstances we never thought would happen, and yet our faith has continued to grow and develop.
Today’s gospel is about the parable of sower and the seed. Why a story? The best stories have a life of their own. They get inside us and have the power to change us. They can coax us out of our comfort zone. They can inspire us, challenge us. They may melt our hearts or strengthen our resolve. They may encourage us, giving us hope when we only saw despair. They can make is laugh or make us cry, but they will not leave us untouched. They won’t provide ready made answers but may leave us feeling that we have just discovered afresh what was already there inside us. How we receive them is up to us. We can hear them as children and then go back to sleep. Or we can hear them with adult ears and respond to their call to wake up something new. Or, put another way, we can hear them with children’s ears, alert and eager to discover where they are leading us – or with adult minds, already solidly set into adult mindsets, going nowhere. They are what they are. How we respond to them lies in our own free choice. The call of a story is a call to the heart, where truths that lie deeper than the literal and the cerebral are glimpsed.
‘He who has ears, let him hear.’
We are familiar with today’s parable. In this parable, we hear about a farmer who has gone out to sow seed. The farmer sows seed along the path where birds would eat it up, on rocky places where the plants would sprout quickly but with shallow roots that the sun would scorch, other seed is scattered among thorns that would outgrow the plants and choke them out as well as its intended destination, among the good soil where it can grow producing a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
In many ways, over the last few months, there has been chance to sow the seed in many different ways. Through lockdown we have reached more people than we have done in a long time. In terms of our gospel reading, we have been sowing seed far and wide with our pre-recorded and live streamed services. We have reached people through Peregrini prayer and the stories used, through the telephone worship service, Messy church at Home and wholeness and healing.
There is a cartoon that came out at the beginning of lockdown. There is a picture of the devil and God. The devil says to God,’ With COVID 19, I closed your churches.’ God responds by saying, ‘On the contrary, I just opened one in every home!’
We have also been sowing seeds through the telephone calls, E-mails and texts that we have sent people and through the many ways in which we have supported one another, our neighbours and our communities.
We don’t know how the seed will grow, but then, that is God’s responsibility. The one thing that we can do is to pray for those seeds that have been sown.
Today, we come back to church, all be it in small steps, but we are here together for the first time in a long time.
We didn’t get chance to celebrate Easter together or to light the Paschal candle, to I thought that today, it would be a good opportunity to do so. The paschal candle is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection, conquering death and bring new life and in many ways is symbol of resurrection for us. It symbolises restoration, regeneration and revitalisation. We have a long way to go until we get to the ‘’new normal’ whatever that may be.
The lighting of the pascal candle reminds us that God has been with us, is with us and will continue to be in the future. We have a long way to go and there are likely to be obstacles along the way, especially as we balance the economy, health and safety and our social lives. The Easter candle is a symbol of hope, that God is with us along that journey both for ourselves as individuals, our church family, our community, our country and the seeds that have been sown.
LIGHTING OF THE PASCAL CANDLE
Light the pascal candle
Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the end.
All time belongs to him, And all ages
To him be glory and power
Throughout every age and forever
The studs are placed in candle, in the sign of a cross.
By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ our Lord guard us and keep us safe. Amen.
May the light of Christ, rising in glory, banish all darkness from our hearts and mind.
The light of Christ, thanks be to God.
A few moments silence for all who have died throughout the pandemic.
The light of Christ, thanks be to God.