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Service for the Fifth Sunday after Easter

[Keep a moment of silence, calling to mind that, though we are unable to gather together, we share fellowship as a Church family as we offer this short act worship in our own homes]

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Collect

God our redeemer, you have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your Son: grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his continual presence in us he may raise us to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Gospel Reading: John 14,15-21 

A reading from the Gospel according to St John

Jesus said, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Reflection 

We return again to the upper room on the evening of Maundy Thursday. It was where Jesus shared the Passover meal with the disciples, washed their feet, told them he was going to prepare a place for them in the Father’s kingdom and claimed to be ‘The Way, the Truth and the Life’. Today’s Gospel reading follows on from last week’s and it invites us to reflect on Jesus’ commandment to love and his promise that he will never abandon us. It’s part of what we call his ‘farewell sayings’.  

Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will is one of the key themes in John’s Gospel. As the Word made flesh he came to reveal the glory of God’s love for the world. We see that glory in his passion, his saving death on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the dead.

Just as Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will so he calls us to do the same. Towards the end of his farewell words to his friends he gave the Church this great commission, ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ [John 15.12]

But our Lord knew that his way of sacrificial and saving love would be difficult for his disciples to follow, for it means ‘taking up the cross.’ It’s why he promises that, if we love him and keep his commandments, he will send us the ‘Advocate’, the ‘Spirit of Truth’, to be with us for ever.

The word that John uses for ‘Advocate’ cannot really be translated. The original, which gives us ‘Paraclete’, could mean many things. Usually it referred to someone who was called in to help. It could refer to a witness who gave evidence in your favour in court; it was used for a lawyer who served as counsel for the defence; or for an expert called in to give advice; it was also a person who was tasked with motivating dispirited soldiers or an unproductive work force. Jesus tells us that the ‘Advocate’ will do all of these things because he is ‘The Spirit of Truth’.

Our Lord also says, ‘I will not leave you as orphans.’ The word ‘orphan’ is from the Greek for ‘fatherless’. It not only referred to those who had lost their parents it was also used for disciples who no longer had their teacher with them. In the upper room Jesus promises to be with us, as he came to the disciples after the resurrection, and as he comes to us now as the Risen Lord.

Today’s reading reminds us that, as people of faith, we see the world differently. A secular generation closes its heart and eyes to the presence and reality of God. The Spirit of Truth doesn’t force its way into people’s lives, it always waits to be received. It’s in this power that we live and go out to serve Christ in the world. It’s also why we believe that we are never alone, because the Paraclete abides in us and in each other. When we become dwelling places of the Spirit of Truth our Christian lives become supercharged.

Living with the present lockdown has become the ‘new normal’ for us. Many are living behind locked doors, as the fledgling Christian community did that first Easter. If we venture out, for work, to shop or for exercise we can feel the sense of general anxiety, literally in the air that we breathe. The mixed messages we are hearing from politicians about how we will eventually emerge from lockdown are also worrying, especially for the more vulnerable members of our society.

So these words of assurance and promise that Jesus speaks to us from the upper room are perhaps more encouraging than they have ever been. As his followers we know that he will never abandon us. At a time when we can’t make our holy communion with him we know that he sends us the Paraclete, to dwell in us during these challenging days of pandemic. It’s through the gift of the ‘Spirit of Truth’ that we never lose spiritual communion with our Lord and with each other.  

Prayers

We turn to the Lord, who is our shelter and strength in times of trouble.

Lord, we pray for our community: for the elderly, confined to their homes; for children, removed from school; for those who are fearful for what the future will bring; for those offering extraordinary kindness to neighbours and strangers; that we may know your presence;

Lord, hear us.

Lord, we pray for key workers: for all medical staff and hospital workers, who know the risks they face; for medical researchers, seeking a cure; for social workers, protecting the vulnerable; for care workers, providing support to those who have no other help; for farmers, delivery and shop workers, keeping the nation fed; for cleaners, fighting the spread of infection; that they may be strengthened in their work;

Lord, hear us.

Lord, we pray for the world: for the leaders of the nations and their governments; for those charged with making difficult decisions at this time; for areas most besieged by the pandemic, especially in the developing world and in areas of conflict where resources are scarce; may they be guided by your truth;

Lord, hear us.

Lord, we pray for those who are sick: for those who have contracted coronavirus; for those with other illnesses and conditions which leave them vulnerable; for those with poor mental health; that they may know your healing love;

Lord, hear us.

Lord, we pray for the Church: for the body of Christ throughout the world; for John our bishop, our clergy, lay ministers, and all the people in their care; that they may know the power of your Spirit;

Lord, hear us.

Lord, we pray for those who have died: for those taken suddenly by the virus; for the families and friends they leave behind;  that they may know your peace;

Lord, hear us.

We offer up our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows to God, our refuge and strength. 

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.

Prayer for those who are unable to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion

O Blessed Lord, in union with the faithful throughout the world, at every altar of your Church where the Eucharist is being celebrated, I desire to offer you praise and thanksgiving. I present to you my soul and body with the earnest wish that may always be united to you. Since I cannot now receive you in the Sacrament, I invite you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you and embrace you with heart and mind and soul. Let nothing ever separate you from me, so that I may live and die in your love. Amen.

[Keep a moment of silence for spiritual communion with the Lord and with our brothers and sisters]

The Spirit of Truth lead us into all truth and give us grace to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father; and the blessing of God Almighty, X the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen.