Daily reflections - older posts 
Sunday 29th March 2020 
‘I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord’ (Ezekiel 37:14). 
Jesus is the embodiment of that great promise to Ezekiel, God the Word actively at work in the world. Now he calls on us to follow him and to work with him: ‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father’ (John 14:12). As St Paul writes: ‘Jesus died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them (2 Corinthians 5:15). 
Today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, is known as Passion Sunday. It is also the day our clocks go forward, encouraging us onward into Spring (from the Old English of which we get our word Lent) and its promise of abundant new life. The longer, brighter days speak of hope and a sense of exuberant vitality – God’s promise of better days to come. 
Sunday is the day for us to gather together as God’s people in worship. We may not be able to do this physically in our Church building, but we can certainly do it spiritually as the Church. I have posted a service of Morning Worship recorded for today on our website - see our Latest News page - together with a separate recording of the gospel reading. In addition, the website has a copy of the service sheet so you can join in. 
Nationally the Archbishop of York has recorded a 'front room' service at Bishopthorpe Palace which you can find at https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online from 9am. 
Our Bible readings start now to focus on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem – his path to the cross and beyond: God’s great act of salvation. This is preceded by today’s Gospel reading, the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45). Paradoxically, Lazarus’ death and his return to life, a fore-shadowing of his master’s future and a witness to his power, sets in motion the determined plot to destroy both men. Plans are being laid in Jerusalem which will lead inexorably to Calvary and to a death which gives us all life. The High Priest Caiaphas, that astute politician and advocate of expediency, will shortly utter those sardonic yet prophetic words ‘it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ (John 11:50). 
The prayer for this Sunday: 
Most merciful God 
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ 
delivered and saved the world: 
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross 
we may triumph in the power of his victory; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we also remember those getting married this year. This has been a very difficult time for many of them with some very hard decisions to be made. 
Saturday 28th March 2020 
Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die’ (John 11:25-26). 
Jesus follows his statement with a question: “Do you believe this?” He asks this question of each of us. Life can be hard and sometimes we need reminders of the assurance we have in Christ, and that with God all things are possible. We hear Jesus calling us to believe in him and to trust him, as he tells us personally “I am the resurrection and the life”. 
Life seems quite topsy-turvy just now. Every morning my diary tells me of my appointments and commitments for the day – each one an important notice. They are not real, though, because they have all had to be cancelled. Instead my life now is a pattern of email and telephone communication, recording services to post on the St Laurence website and preparing these reflections and other material. Then there is my daily constitutional, a delight in this fine weather – giving me the opportunity to walk around the village, greeting those I pass and perhaps having a chat with them. 
We have been rediscovering the traditional British art of queuing, all at a polite two metres apart. Yesterday I waited my turn outside the Co-Op – not for too long, I have to say – and when I got inside there was more available than I found a week ago. The atmosphere was calm and friendly and afterwards I got some of the 60%-proof hand sanitizer which Downton Distillery are producing and offering us all for a donation. 
It is amazing how quickly we are settling into the new realities of life. For the Christian this comes from that security and trust we have in God. From God comes all that is – he who is the very source of all creation and of life itself. ‘Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand (Psalm 37:23-24). 
The Archbishops wrote yesterday: Not being able to use our church buildings is, of course, a huge loss to us all… it shows that we are facing up to the same restrictions… and doing all that we can to take a lead in encouraging people to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Moreover, to pray from and in the home may help us to show that the church is, as we all know, us, the people of God, not our buildings. 
So let us hold fast to God’s words through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine’ (Isaiah 43:1). 
We pray: 
Almighty God, 
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: 
raise us, who trust in him, 
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, 
that we may seek those things which are above, 
where he reigns with you 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we also remember those at University and College whose studies have been made so much more difficult suddenly. 
Friday 27th March 2020 
‘Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised’ (Hebrews 10:35-36). 
At this time of enforced isolation, we could be tempted to turn our back on the world around us, to try and lose ourselves in books or television or our gardens. These all help, of course. They are a great comfort and support and we are very fortunate to have them. Indeed I have always found gardening a good way to be restored and at peace, and was digging my vegetable patch yesterday. It brings to mind the poem ‘One is nearer God's Heart in a garden Than anywhere else on earth’ (Dorothy Frances Gurney). I don’t think that’s true but it certainly does come close. 
So what should be our own response as followers of Christ? The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews is clear. He reminds us that we need endurance and that we do not abandon our confidence in the will of God. As St Paul tells us: ‘endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us’ (Romans 5:4-5). In the words of the prayer after communion this week, we ask God to ‘give us grace to endure the sufferings of this present time with sure confidence in the glory that shall be revealed’ (https://www.churchofengland.org/). 
We know that God holds us in his heart and guides us in his way. ‘It is by God’s will that we have been sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:10). He has chosen something very special for each one of us. He has called us out to a particular service, but it is up to us to carry it out. God has assured us that we will receive what he has promised us, even in the midst of painful trials. He wants us to share that with those around us, bringing his life and hope - like yeast in the world. The clapping last night for the NHS was a sign of this and of our community coming together. 
On Wednesday I was privileged to assist in an act of great generosity. I met Richard who had a very large amount of milk and bread from a Greggs distribution centre that has had to close under the new government directives. Rather than throw it away, he wanted to find someone who could make good use of it. I was able to direct him to Alabare in Salisbury who were very glad to take it. Our thanks to Richard, and for all other acts of generosity this week. 
St. Ignatius’ wonderful prayer for generosity: 
Lord, teach me to be generous, 
to serve you as you deserve, 
to give and not to count the cost, 
to fight and not to heed the wounds, 
to toil and not to seek for rest, 
to labour and not to look for any reward, 
save that of knowing that I do your holy will. 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we also remember our Bishops and all Church Leaders. Theirs is an unenviable task as they seek to lead and encourage us all in the Church at this time. 
Thursday 26th March 2020 
‘The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf’ (John 5:36-37). 
Actions speak louder than words, and at the heart of our faith is a God that acts. God came and lived among us as one of us in Jesus. As we hear (especially at Christmas) Jesus is Emmanuel – ‘God with us’. We have a God who identifies with us and is not afraid to ‘get his hands dirty’. This is not about some high philosophical principle, but effective action summed up in a life of practical love. God knows what it is like to live as one of us. He has himself experienced the joys, the trials and temptations, the highs and the lows. We can trust that he is working for our good, even when we may not understand how. 
We may be restricted to our homes, but thankfully the weather is glorious and we can rejoice in the beauty of the earth and of all God’s creation – and we can at least get outside and enjoy it. That said, as I went for my one-allowed constitutional yesterday the streets were oddly quiet and empty. I did have some conversations (at a distance, of course) but there were really very few people about. 
This idea of keeping our distance sits uncomfortably with us. We are social beings, designed to interact with one another. I was struck by a letter to a newspaper last week from a Vicar in the Midlands: ‘A new phrase has come into our vocabulary, “social distancing”. This is inappropriate. What is required is physical distancing. Let us strive to maintain social togetherness and support through the myriad methods of electronic communication we have. Let’s start talking to each other on the phone again, and use social media and emails to encourage each other, keep our spirits up and maintain levels of mental health. For those who are physically isolated, such connections may be life-saving’ (Rev C Mary Austin, Tibberton, Worcestershire). 
Today we are asked to remember especially all who work in the NHS who are doing a most amazing job. The organisers of Clap for our Carers are urging us to applaud NHS staff this evening in a mass display of support and solidarity for frontline medical workers tackling the coronavirus pandemic. We are encouraged to clap from our front doors, gardens, balconies or windows at 8pm on Thursday 26 March (while maintaining a safe distance from our neighbours) to show our appreciation for all the doctors, nurses, GPs, emergency workers and pharmacists involved in helping care for those affected by Covid-19 and other sick patients “during these unprecedented times”. 
We pray: 
Gracious God, 
give skill, sympathy and resilience 
to all who are caring for the sick, 
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure. 
Strengthen them with your Spirit, 
that through their work many will be restored to health; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we also remember our Lay Pastoral Assistants, who give valuable support to those who need it – especially the lonely and vulnerable. 
God bless. 
Wednesday 25th March 2020 
Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her (Luke 1:38). 
Today we remember the visit of the angel to Mary, nine months before Christmas. Whatever our perspective, Mary was a quite extraordinary young lady. Her response and willingness to offer herself in service is an example for us all, and a sign that God works out his great plan for us by working with and through his people. Her song of praise ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,’ (Luke 1:46-47) has inspired generations; and she knew the pain that such self-offering could bring ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too’ (Luke 2:35). 
Yesterday I, along with all the clergy in the Church of England, received a letter from the Archbishops confirming the new guidelines and instructing us that all churches were to be closed. They say ‘Our church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own’. It was a sad moment and felt very poignant as I went over to St Laurence to put up the notice. A place that has known and sustained countless generations of prayer is now shut up and locked. 
It can be hard to know what God intends for us in this increasing strange and difficult time. What we do know, though, is that he wants us always to be a loving, prayerful community. Bishop Nicholas tells us, ‘We are now a Church that says our prayers at home. The Pope has asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to join him and other Christian leaders in saying the Lord’s Prayer at 11.00am (12 noon in Rome) tomorrow, the Feast of the Annunciation. Let’s all do it!’. 
Although we can no longer have our building open, even so as the Church our prayer and service for our community continues across the village. There are a number of national online resources we can use to help us in this (https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online) including weekly streamed services and daily audio. Also there is additional worship provision on the BBC, and more is on its way. 
We should also continue to remember the Trussell Trust, where the need is greater than ever. The Archbishops write ‘Foodbanks should continue where possible.. If you can do consider making a financial contribution to your nearest foodbank’. If you have food you want to donate, there will be a box in The Vicarage porch where it can be left. 
The collect for The Annunciation of Our Lord: 
We beseech you, O Lord, 
pour your grace into our hearts, 
that as we have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ 
by the message of an angel, 
so by his cross and passion 
we may be brought to the glory of his resurrection; 
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. 
In our Parish Prayer Diary for today we also pray for our Flower Arrangers. They are a reminder of the glories of Spring bursting up around us at this time. 
Tuesday 24th March 2020 
‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult’ (Psalm 46:1-3). 
It is just a week since all Church services and gatherings were suspended and we were advised to keep our distance from one another. Now we are told that we can no longer even open the Church for private prayer. It can seem rather as if the world is indeed shaking as we come to terms with a whole new pattern of daily life. it is very unsettling for us all. However we are the Church; we remain a people of prayer, and the Archbishops have called on us to “continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable”. 
I am reminded of the words of the hymn: 
the voice of prayer is never silent 
nor dies the strain of praise away. 
At this difficult time, we are extremely grateful for all those working so hard to keep our public services – most especially the NHS - functioning as effectively as possible, those distributing vital supplies and all who are trying to maintain our common life in as normal a way as possible. 
All this is particularly hard for the vulnerable and alone in our midst who rely on the services and care of others. It has been most encouraging to see the many acts of thoughtfulness and kindness that have sprung up across our village. 
This is a time when community in its truest sense has come to the fore. As the Archbishop reminded us in the service broadcast on Sunday, place is a most important part of who we are. This is that special place we think of as home, gives us our sense of belonging, of identity, safety and security. The current situation has caught many people far from home, adding a particular layer of anxiety for them and their loved ones. We remember and pray for them and reach out to the those in our midst who find themselves in this predicament. 
So it is perhaps particularly relevant that our Parish Prayer Diary for today (Downton Parish News, page 4) suggests that today we pray for new residents in our village. 
We pray (from the Archbishop’s broadcast service): 
God of love and kindness, 
you taught us to love our neighbour, 
and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you. 
In this time of anxiety, give us strength 
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, 
and to assure the isolated of our love, and your love. Amen. 
Monday 23rd March 2020 
‘For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight’ (Isaiah 65:17-18). 
Yesterday evening candles were lit in windows all across the village. Here in The Vicarage, as we lit our own candle we used the words from yesterday: 
We light this candle to remind us 
that Jesus is the light of the world, 
and is always with us 
to show us the way. 
And the Lord’s Prayer: 
Our Father, who art in heaven, 
hallowed be thy name; 
thy kingdom come; 
thy will be done; 
on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation; 
but deliver us from evil. 
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, 
for ever and ever. Amen. 
We lit these candles as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished. Also, though, they declare our faith that there is something - someone who is far greater than anything this world can do. God’s plans for us are good. Whatever may be our present experience. 
Jesus tell us ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12), and ‘No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house’ (Matthew 5:15). As we say in the Baptism Service, we are called to ‘Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father’. 
We pray: 
Lord, true light and source of all light, 
listen to our prayer. 
Turn our thoughts to what is holy 
and may we ever live in the light of your love. 
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 
Sunday 22nd March 2020 
‘Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:14-17). 
Today we celebrate Mothering Sunday, a day when we express our love for mothers. We give thanks for all those who have been responsible for looking after us, and those we ourselves have nurtured and cared for. 
We also think of our ‘mother’ church. Always remember we are each one of us beloved children of God; and the Church is the Bride of Christ. This means he will not forsake us. We are not adrift and alone. God is with us; he watching over us; he cares for us. 
When we hold our Mothering Sunday service each year, we always light our Paschal Candle with the words: 
We light this candle to remind us 
that Jesus is the light of the world, 
and is always with us 
to show us the way. 
Whatever else may have changed God’s presence with us and his deep love for us remain always constant. In the words of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews: ‘he has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?.. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:5-8). 
Yesterday we recorded a service of Holy Communion in St Laurence for today. If you wish to view it/join in with it, you can find it by clicking here
If you hear the bell being rung in church this is a reminder that the prayerful and sacramental life of the church continues and that even though public worship is not taking place the whole community is being prayed for. 
A Prayer for Mothering Sunday: 
God of love, 
passionate and strong, 
tender and careful: 
watch over us and hold us 
all the days of our life; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 
A reminder that there are services today: from 8.00am - 8.30am the Archbishop of Canterbury will be taking a service in Lambeth Palace chapel broadcast across the country on BBC local radio; BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship from 8.10am - 8.45am; and Songs of Praise at 1:15pm on BBC1. 
Please also remember to light a candle at 7.00pm and put it in your window as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished. 
Saturday 21st March 2020 
‘Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth’ (Hosea 6:3). 
We are called to trust, to love and to serve in Christ. The Archbishops write: ‘by our service, and by our love, Jesus Christ will be made known, and the hope of the gospel – a hope that will counter fear and isolation - will spread across our land.’ 
Today I will be meeting with the couples whose weddings are planned in St Laurence for this year. This is a worrying time for them, as for so many of our community whose lives and plans have been put on hold. 
Bishop Nicholas tells us: tomorrow (Sunday) the Archbishops have called for a National Day of Prayer and Action. From 8.00am - 8.30am the Archbishop of Canterbury will be taking a service in Lambeth Palace chapel broadcast across the country on local radio. Do join him, though there is a small conflict in that BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Worship from 8.10am - 8.45am is themed on the Archbishop’s Lent book, Saying Yes to Life, and the speaker there will be Ruth Valerio. 
Please also light a candle at 7.00pm and put it in your window as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished. 
If we can get the technology right, then later today or tomorrow we will be posting on our website (https://stlaurencedownton.co.uk/) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/stlaurencedownton) a service recorded for Mothering Sunday in St Laurence. 
We pray for our common life in Christ: 
We are not people of fear: 
we are people of courage. 
We are not people who protect our own safety: 
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety. 
We are not people of greed: 
we are people of generosity. 
We are your people God, 
giving and loving, 
wherever we are, 
whatever it costs 
For as long as it takes 
wherever you call us. 
Friday 20th March 2020 
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ (Mark12:28-31) 
Today Jesus reminds us that at the very heart of our relationship with God is to love him, to love our neighbours and love ourselves. 
We remember those on their own at this time - working from home, those self-isolating for whatever reason, and those who live alone. Let us bear them in our prayers but also, more practically, keep in regular contact by telephone. 
The Archbishops write: ‘We have called, along with our fellow church leaders, for a day of prayer and action this coming Sunday - Mothering Sunday (22nd March). Mothering Sunday has always been both a day of celebration for many and a sensitive and emotional day for some. Wherever you are this Sunday please do join in this day of prayer and action and remember especially those who are sick or anxious, and all involved in our Health Service. As one action, we are calling on everyone to place a lighted candle in their window at 7.00 p.m. as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished.’ 
We pray: 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
you taught us to love our neighbour, 
and to care for those in need 
as if we were caring for you. 
In this time of anxiety, give us strength 
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, 
and to assure the isolated 
of our love, and your love, 
for your name’s sake. Amen. 
Thursday 19th March 2020 
‘Praise the Lord! Happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in his commandments. 
They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor; their righteousness endures for ever; their horn is exalted in honour’ (Psalm 112:1,9). 
Today we remember St Joseph, a man who listened to God and quietly got on with what God asked of him. He is an example for us of unassuming service and trust that God would work out all things. 
The Archbishops, in their letter to the clergy this week, write ‘We, the Church of Jesus Christ, with our sisters and brothers from other Christian churches, must be in the forefront of providing practical care and support for the most poor and the most vulnerable, and we offer our services to all those who are beginning to think through how best to provide for those in need.’ 
With the news that schools are to close from tomorrow, we especially hold in our prayers all teachers and parents as they organise distance learning. 
God our Father, 
who from the family of your servant David 
raised up Joseph the carpenter 
to be the guardian of your incarnate Son 
and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary: 
give us grace to follow him 
in faithful obedience to your commands; 
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. 
Wednesday 18th March 2020 
From today’s readings: ‘Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me; make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation’ (Psalm 38:21-22). 
At this time of quite unprecedented disruption to our normal pattern of life, it would be easy to feel that we are forgotten by God. However we know that this is not so. He loves us far more deeply than we can ever know - and asks us to share that love with all those around us. 
As you may have heard, the Archbishops have advised that all public services be suspended until further notice. While our services are suspended I intend to share Bible passages and some thoughts with you by email. If you wish to receive these please let me know. If you know anyone else who would like to receive them, please ask them to pass on their email address. 
From the Church of England website: 
Keep us, good Lord, 
under the shadow of your mercy. 
Sustain and support the anxious, 
be with those who care for the sick, 
and lift up all who are brought low; 
that we may find comfort 
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love 
in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
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