THE VICAR PROVIDES FOOD FOR OUR SOULS As we are not able to meet together on Sundays to praise God and hear his Word due to the coronavirus pandemic, I am providing weekly sermons on line as food for our souls. Please read them and meditate upon them. If you know of anyone who would appreciate a paper copy as they are not online, please inform me and I will arrange for it to be delivered to their home.
THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (MAY 24) [Set readings: Acts 1. 6-14; Psalm 68. 1-10; 1 Peter 4. 12-14, 5. 6-11; John 17. 1-11]
Collect & PrayerO 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 and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Eternal Giver of love and power, your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into 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.
Today we’re not looking at the set readings, but catching a glimpse of a shipwreck at sea. SERMON MEDITATION: SHIPWRECKED AT SEA [Read Acts 27] ACTS 27, VERSE 44 He ordered those who could swim to throw themselves overboard first and make for the land, and the rest to cling on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all escaped to land.
Paul is shipwrecked at sea At the end of the book of Acts we have one of the most dramatic accounts of a real life shipwreck after a storm at sea. A little ship with 276 souls on board, including Paul who is a prisoner, is making its way across the Mediterranean to Italy. As the ship commenced its voyage from Myra in Turkey to Rome all was relatively calm. Soon, however, difficulties were encountered as the winds were blowing strongly against the boat. Nevertheless, despite grave warnings of the dangers ahead, instead of seeking shelter in a harbour the captain was determined to sail on. This was a foolish decision for before long the ship met a severe storm and nearly everyone on board was terrified. The crew battle to keep the ship afloat but things go from bad to worse. They hit a sand bank and the back of the boat begins to disintegrate. The centurion on board bids those who could swim to throw themselves overboard; whilst the rest were to keep afloat by clinging on to planks of floating bits of wood from the ship. After a long struggle, eventually, the ship ended up shipwrecked but no one lost their life and all reach land safely. We are shipwrecked at sea Have you ever been in danger of being shipwrecked on the high seas of life? Have you ever been sailing joyfully and carefree on the high seas and then suddenly and unexpectedly a storm arises, the old ship hits the rocks and begins to disintegrates beneath you, leaving you floating helpless in the deep waters struggling to survive. It is a dreadful experience to be shipwrecked in life. You feel you are beginning to sink as your whole world is crumbling to dust. All is dark and there is no light in the end of the tunnel. Life becomes empty and meaningless. You feel that you've got nothing left worth living for. Just to get through the day is a struggle in itself. Today, due to the effects of coronavirus storm, many people are struggling to carry on and feel they are beginning to sink. Cling onto planks to keep afloat Next time you are shipwrecked on the stormy seas of life, or if you are in that predicament at the moment, and feel you are beginning to sink because you cannot swim to keep afloat, like those folk on Paul’s ship you too need to grab hold of planks in order to keep afloat until you safely have your feet firmly on dry land again. What are the planks? The plank of common sense The first plank you need to grab hold of is the plank of common sense. The last thing to do in a crisis is to panic or lose your head. Try to keep calm, cool and collected. If you do that you will be better equipped to tackle your problems rationally. Saint Paul used a great deal of common sense on board ship on the stormy waters, giving practical advice and guidance to others. You need to be like him. You should never over-react or magnify your problems out of all proportion, but look at your problems in a balanced way. You need to keep your head. The plank of fortitude Secondly, you need to cling onto the plank of fortitude and perseverance when adversity strikes. Such virtues are in short supply today. Some are used to having an easy life and in the face of the least difficulty go to pieces. You need to be tough and resilient in the face of hardship, gritting your teeth until things get better. The plank of faith Thirdly, should you be struggling on the stormy seas of life, you need to cling onto the plank of faith, having a child-like trust in God your Father and putting yourself under his protection. He’ll never leave you or forsake you. Trust in God. If you do that you'll never sink no matter how severe the storm might be. He'll get you through. The plank of prayer Fourthly, you need to grab hold of the plank of prayer. You don’t have to go to church to speak to God, you can do it anywhere. Indeed, you don’t even have to use a phone. Whenever problems arose, Paul always prayed for help and strength and guidance. You need to do the same. It need not be long: just a simple cry from the heart is sufficient. And God listens for he cares for each one of us, and loves us as if there was only one of us to love. The plank of hope Finally, never ever give up or you’ll sink. Never throw in the towel. Keep on clinging to the plank of hope. Remember, whatever happens to us is for our ultimate benefit. Such a belief was close to Saint Paul's heart. He was the one who wrote to the Christians at Rome: ‘We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose’. Sooner or later you’ll reach dry land again and stand on solid ground until the time will come for you to sail into the peace and tranquillity of the heavenly harbour. Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly, while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high; hide me, O my Saviour, hide, till the storm of life is past; safe into the haven guide, O receive my soul at last!
When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, "It is well, it is well with my soul."
QUESTIONS FOR MEDITATION 1. What type of personality have you got? Do you think rationally when problems arise or over-react? 2. Do you have a resilient spirit or do you go to pieces when things go wrong? 3. How strong is your faith? Have you ever had doubts? How do you confront them? What do you think of people who have little or no faith? Have you ever blamed God when things have gone wrong? 4. Do you find prayer easy or hard? Do you find it easier to pray with others or alone? 5. By nature are you a pessimist or an optimist? Have you ever felt complete despair due to life’s cruel circumstances? Have you ever felt like giving up? Does lack of hope imply lack of faith?
SHORT INTERCESSIONS Father God, help all people who are now struggling through the storms of life. Enable them to tackle their problems rationally, so that they do not allow their circumstances to be blown out of proportion and be less able to deal with them. Give them inner peace. Loving Father: Hear our prayer. Father God, grant to all who are facing storms at this time a spirit of perseverance and fortitude. Give them inner strength and resilience. Loving Father: Hear our prayer. Father God, help us to put our trust in you during times of tribulation. Forgive us for the many times when our faith has been fragile. Strengthen our faith in you. Loving Father: Hear our prayer. Father God, your Son Jesus and Saint Paul always prayed to you to seek your guidance and strength. Teach us, your children, to follow their example by seeking your grace and bringing all our problems to you in prayer. Loving Father: Hear our prayer. Father God, you are the focus of our hope in all of life’s bitter circumstances. Help us never to lose hope and be filled with despair. Sustain us until our storms pass and we see the rainbow on the horizon. Loving Father: Hear our prayer.
Adrian Teale, 2020.
THE ASCENSION OF JESUS (MAY 21) [Readings: Luke, 24.44-53; Matthew 28. 19-20; Acts 1. 1-11) Collect: Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens, so we in heart and mind may also ascend and with him continually dwell; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Sermon Meditation What is the Feast of the Ascension Ascension Day commemorates the decisive termination of Jesus’s earthly ministry as a human being and his assumption into heaven. He had come from God, had accomplished all the tasks that the Father had wanted him to perform, including dying on the cross, rising again, and proving to his followers that he was alive, and now returned to heaven. The Biblical imagery of the event portrays Jesus ascending up into heaven from a mountain top in the presence of his followers. The location is in keeping with Biblical tradition where all special spiritual events take place on mountain tops, as it was believed summits were closer to heaven which was considered to be ‘up there’ in the sky, spatially distant from hell which was ‘down there’. However, we no longer believe (or may be some still do!!) in a three-decker universe with the earth sandwiched between heaven, which is above us and hell below us. Most mature Christians believe heaven, the abode of God, isn’t in space but is another plane or sphere – it’s all around us. As we discover in the prophecy of Jeremiah: "I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place only”. Where do you believe heaven is? The Final charge Just before the ascension of Jesus, he gathers his disciples together and he gives his disciples who were gathered with him his final charge or command. This charge is of paramount importance, as it contains Jesus's very last words to his disciples. They are words that he wants them to remember and to take to heart. It’s exactly as if he was leaving them his last will and testament. What was his final charge? We find Jesus’s final charge at the end of Matthew’s Gospel [28.18-20]: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’. The Three Greats Now this final charge can be divided into three sections, each containing a great statement. What are these three greats? Firstly, we have the great claim; then the great commission; followed finally by the great promise. Each section is important for us, his followers. Let’s look at them. 1. The Great Claim Firstly, Jesus makes a great claim for himself. He tells us: “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He’s claiming to have supreme authority, supreme power, dominion and jurisdiction, in heaven and on earth. I remember the late Bruce Forsyth being compère on the 1960s TV show, Sunday night at the Palladium. He had a famous catch phrase which few remember today. What was it? ‘I’m in charge’. I used to say something similar to my old dog, Tinker, when she was a puppy. If she did something wrong, I’d point my finger to her and say ‘I’m the boss’. Fortunately, for both of us she was quick to learn!! To put it simply Jesus is making the same claims himself: ‘I’m in charge; I’m the boss’. It prompts us to ask ourselves: ‘Who is the boss as far as I’m concerned? Who’s in charge of my life? Myself. somebody else, or Jesus?’ What about the church or the world? Who’s in charge? Who should be in charge? Jesus should be. Futhermore, Jesus’s claim has important practical consequences for all who are his followers, be they secular rulers, spiritual rulers, or ordinary disciples of Jesus Christ. Secular rulers who claim to be Christians, should remember that their authority comes to them from Jesus Christ and they should rule their countries according to his will and purposes. Spiritual rulers, such as bishops, should likewise remember that their authority is given to them by Jesus Christ and that the way they rule the Church should always be in accordance to his will. Sadly, this is not always the case. We too as individuals should place ourselves under the authority of Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It means ordering our lives according to Jesus’s teaching and not as the world dictates and commends. It means being obedient, being loving, and being faithful. Ponder on your own life for a while and ask yourself: ‘Do I place myself under Jesus’s authority and endeavour to lead my life according to the way he wants or do I always please myself?’ Remember on judgment day we are answerable to Jesus Christ as the source of all authority for the way we live our lives on earth. 2. The Great Commission Secondly, we have the great commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Here we have Jesus giving the disciples, the embryo of the church, its mission, and its rationale for existence. They were to bring others to him. This was no optional extra for enthusiasts: mission and evangelism is placed at the heart of discipleship. Recalling these words of Jesus, the one thing that should strike us as members of churches in Dyffryn Aman is how much we have failed in our mission. Instead of being on the move we are on the retreat. Why? Maybe, we've concentrated on the wrong things. Our priorities have been all wrong, and now we are reaping our reward. Ask yourself: ‘Have I failed in introducing others to Jesus? Have I tried? What can I do in the future to bring others to Jesus?’ Jesus challenges us to put mission and evangelism at the heart of church life once again. 3. The Great Promise Finally, we have the great promise: "Lo, I am with you always to the close of the age." Here Jesus reassures his disciples of his constant presence with us. Through his spirit, he is with us to help us and strengthen us when we are in need. He is with us to share our joys and sorrows with us. He is with us to help us to accept his authority over our lives and lead lives pleasing to him. He is with us to equip us for the task of mission. The Christian never walks alone, because Jesus walks with us through life, will be with us as we pass through the gates of death, and will be with us to greet us when we pass to the other side. INTERCESSIONS Dear Lord Jesus, as we celebrate your ascension into heaven we thank you that by your life, death and resurrection you accomplished your mission in the world for our salvation. Help us to accept your authority over our lives and live lives according to your will. Exalted Lord: Hear our prayer. Lord Jesus Christ, our ascended Lord and Saviour, who has gone to prepare a place for us in heaven, we thank you for your loving kindness and tender mercy toward us. Help us to be aware of your spirit with us as we journey through this vale of tears towards the Promised Land. Exalted Lord: Hear our prayer. Risen, Ascended Saviour, look in your mercy upon all who are in need in our world, especially the sick and the sorrowful, the homeless and the hungry, the dejected and rejected. Raise their spirits and revive their hope. Help them to transcend their circumstances and alleviate their distress. Exalted Lord: Hear our prayer. King of kings, and Lord of lords, you are our eternal ruler. Teach the leaders of the world and the Church to accept your authority and guide them to act and rule in accordance to your will. Exalted Lord: Hear our prayer. Lord of the Church, you want us to go and make disciples for you. We confess that we have failed in our task. Give us a new desire to fulfil your command, equip us for our mission, and bless our labours done in your service. Exalted Lord: Hear our prayer. Risen and Ascended Lord,you have promised to be with us always;teach us to be aware of your presence,and to abide in your love,that we may walk in the way that leads to glory, Amen.
Adrian Teale, May 2020.
Reverend Adrian Teale, The Vicarage, 10 Bryn Road, Upper Brynamman, Ammanford, Carms. SA18 1AU (01269) 822275