Evening Prayers Friday, 31 July 2020
Have you ever dropped a pebble into a still pond, or watched the ripples as a fish breaks the surface in a river?
By clicking on the link below, you can watch this for just a few seconds:
If you remember a place where you have seen this in nature,
you probably know the temptation to stand and watch a while,
following ripples as they grow, spread and disappear.
I have always felt that it is possible to draw parallels between this experience and our Christian life.
If we rely on a single experience to set us off on the path of faith,
we may well have an initial impact on those around us,
but as it spreads out, or they move away from us,
our impact on others can fade away, just as the pond will regain a smooth surface.
The only way to prevent this happening is to continue to develop our relationship with God.
We need to keep finding new pebbles to drop in the pond
to keep rediscovering the joy or reassurance or companionship which we have in Christ.
The same is true of our Church.
When we find satisfaction and support in belonging to a particular church,
it is tempting to feel we must keep things as they are.
But we need to be constantly asking the question, ‘Is this what God wants of us?’
That’s not to say that the answer will always be, ’No’.
But we need to be prepared for that, or, at least, for it to be, ‘Yes, but God also needs … .’
Perhaps the unprecedented step of closing our church during the present crisis
has provided us with an opportunity to re-evaluate what we want from our church.
If you haven’t already given thought to what you miss most, and why;
to what you value most, and why,
and to which things you find that you miss very little,
then I suggest that it might be a good time to do that.
Not necessarily now. For many of us, it may be far too great an issue to dwell on late on a Friday evening.
But perhaps you might think of setting aside some time over the next few days or weeks to ponder on it.
David reminded us on Sunday of the Ecumenical roots of our church.
These are very important to some of us,
but may be less so to others who either have little denominational allegiance,
or who have not seen the way our church has developed.
But in what I hope may be the not too distant future, when we are able to meet again in the flesh,
perhaps we should have some serious discussions about where we go from here.
Fred Pratt Green’s hymn below reminds us that, if the Church is going to be relevant to the world around us,
we need to keep alert to what we are being called to do
The Church of Christ in every age
beset by change but Spirit led,
must claim and test its heritage
and keep on rising from the dead.
Across the world, across the street,
the victims of injustice cry
for shelter and for bread to eat,
and never live until they die.
Then let the servant Church arise,
a caring Church that longs to be
a partner in Christ’s sacrifice,
and clothed in Christ’s humanity.
For he alone, whose blood was shed,
can cure the fever in our blood,
and teach us how to share our bread
and feed the starving multitude.
We have no mission but to serve
in full obedience to our Lord:
to care for all, without reserve,
and to spread his liberating Word.
© 1971 Hope Publishing Company
And so, let us pray:
Heavenly Father, we come to you this evening with a range of different needs and desires.
We spend a few moments reflecting on these.
You know all that is on our mind.
Help us to sort out: which things are important,
which things may be selfish,
which things we can leave in your hands.
We lay them all at your feet and ask that you will help to direct our thoughts to others who need our prayers.
We pray for one another. We miss each other, Lord.
It’s not, ‘out of sight, out of mind’, but when we don’t meet up and talk to one another,
when we only hear that others are OK and can’t see them to check it out
or to notice the underlying things which may be troubling our friends,
when we can’t exchange a hug, or even a handshake, we can feel cut off.
Help us to find ways to compensate for the lack of contact.
Give us peace of mind and the patience we need to stay with the situation and look positively towards the future.
We pray for our country, as we are being encouraged to return to a ‘new normal’.
We know that there is a need for ‘life to go on’,
but we cannot pretend that all is well
when there are sometimes still over 100 people dying from Covid 19 each day.
Give us faith to trust that you will guide our leaders
to ensure that those who need to be protected
continue to receive the support that they need.
We pray for those who are anxious about mixing with others,
but who feel lonely and cut off when they stay home.
May they be aware of your arms enfolding them
and may they find ways to feel less isolated.
We pray for people throughout the world who live in places where ‘social distancing’ is impossible:
for families living in a single room;
for people whose conditions of work do not allow them to be distanced from colleagues;
for people whose existing health conditions make them more vulnerable to a severe reaction from Covid 19 if they contract it.
We thank you that so far there have been few cases of the virus in Milton Keynes.
Be with those who do have family members with the disease and with those who care for them.
Let us not forget the dedication of those who risk their own lives for the sake of others.
We pray that all who love and wish to serve you may find ways to do so,
even while they are so remote from one another.
We thank you that our Prayer Network is still functioning,
that we can support one another twice a day in these prayer times
and that many of us are able to join in worship together each Sunday.
We pray for all members of our congregation who are not able to do this.
We pray for all who are ill, including George and Ernesto.
May they all be conscious of your love and protection
and be soon restored to full health and strength.
And finally, remembering our call to mission and service,
we pray that once we return to our church building and meet together as your church in the centre of Milton Keynes,
we may together look seriously at our purpose and at what you are calling us to do.
We ask all our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.