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Sunday, 22 March 2020

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’ FROM THE REVEREND STEPHEN GUISE, PRIEST IN CHARGE – SUNDAY, 22 MARCH

Only very recently we have been told to hold no more church services (although weddings and funerals continue to be exempt from this, with certain provisos), until it is felt that there is no further danger of infection from the coronavirus. We understand the danger, but the directive is a severe blow to committed Christians who will have to do without the regular celebration of the Eucharist. I and many others have been racking our brains to discover a safe way to worship, to pray, hear the word of God, and to receive the sacrament. However, we must accept the current restrictions, and that these may be in place at least until September, unless the situation changes dramatically.
We are anxious, nevertheless, that churchgoers and others still feel part of a worshipping community, and so we are happy to confirm, firstly, that the church will remain open during daylight hours, as is currently the case, for private and quiet prayer (the epistle and Gospel readings for each Sunday will be placed on the lectern, for reference). Secondly, we shall be using the church website, to make available the Collect and references for the Sunday readings, together with a synopsis of what I would have been expecting to preach about at the normal 10.00am service – and a copy of this, too, will be placed on the lectern.
So, for this Sunday, 22 March, the main service would have been a Family Communion for Mothering Sunday and, as this will be only a few days prior to 25 March, the theme would have been the Annunciation, for which the Collect is as follows:-

Collect for the Annunciation
Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts that as we have known the incarnation of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion may we be brought unto the glory of thy Resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.’

Meditation on the Annunciation


In the famous passage (Luke 1:26-38) near the beginning of his Gospel, the evangelist recounts the unique episode in history in which Mary receives the message from the angel Gabriel that she has been chosen by God to bear His Son – Mary’s humble ‘yes’ to God, despite her own understandable perplexity in the fact of this astounding and unexpected news, marks not only a turning-point in her own life, but in that of the salvation of the whole world. It is a scene that has inspired many artists, including Fra Angelico, whose famous fresco of 1450 (as above) may be seen in San Marco, Florence – a beautiful, and restrained, depiction, containing all the essential elements, including the angel, the Virgin Mary herself, and the Holy Spirit represented as a dove. Subsequent versions included a fenced-off garden (with allusions to the reference in the Song of Solomon to a ‘garden sealed’, reflecting the idea of God’s protection of Mary’s chastity), a lily (another symbol of purity) and a closed book in Mary’s hand.

How can we relate this narrative to modern-day motherhood? Although Mary’s vocation was unique, we may feel that her reaction to the news from Gabriel would resonate with that of many mothers-to-be. It is quite common for many, as they receive confirmation that they are ‘expecting’, to feel a mixture of both excitement and trepidation, since life will never be quite the same again. And, when the new-born child has arrived, most can’t help wondering how things will pan out. If we are honest, most of us who are parents (or grandparents!) nurse all sorts of hopes and expectations for the latest addition to the family, and many of these are confounded as the child grows and develops his or her own character – and often subsequently follows a career path, or makes life choices, we could not possibly have envisaged! But, of course, we continue to love and pray for them, trusting in God’s grace, and that they will be happy and fulfilled in the way that is right for them.

And we can also, on Mothering Sunday, give thanks for our own mothers, for the pain they endured in giving birth to us, and for all the nurturing and security they provide - as well as looking to the Church as our spiritual mother, in which our faith, from baptism onwards, is nurtured, and to Mary herself, the ‘mother of Christians’ whose example of love and fidelity is set before us in narratives within all four Gospels.

In these particularly uncertain times, too, we can reflect on the mature Christ, who is ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, and we can respond, as Mary did to the angel’s message, to God’s love and changelessness in faith and trust.

Fr Stephen

Readings

1 Samuel 1:20 -end
Hannah conceived and bore a son.
She named him Samuel, for she said,
"I have asked him of the LORD."

The man Elkanah and all his household
went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice,
and to pay his vow.

But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband,
"As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him,
that he may appear in the presence of the LORD,
and remain there for ever;
I will offer him as a nazirite for all time."

Her husband Elkanah said to her,
"Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him;
only - may the LORD establish his word."
So the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him.

When she had weaned him, she took him up with her,
along with a three year old bull, an ephat of flour,
and a skin of wine.
She brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh;
and the child was young.

They slaughtered the bull,
and they brought the child to Eli.

And she said, "Oh, my lord! As you live my lord,
I am the woman who was standing here in your presence,
praying to the LORD.

For this child I prayed;
and the LORD has granted me the petition that I made to him.

Therefore I have lent him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he is given to the LORD."
She left him there for the LORD.


Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent b God
to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,

to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph,
of the house of David.
The virgin's name was Mary.

And he came to her and said,
"Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you."

But she was much perplexed by his words
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her,
"Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favour with God.

And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you will call him Jesus.

He will be great,
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.

He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end."

Mary said to the angel,
"How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

The angel said to her,
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be holy;
and he will be called Son of God.

And now,
your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son;
and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.

For nothing will be impossible with God."

Then Mary said,
"Here I am, the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me according to your word."
Then the angel departed from her.



Service Times

10:00am Sunday Service

Useful links


Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:


  1. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  2. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  3. Prayer for today.
  4. The C of E youtube channel.
  5. We will be updating Fr Stephens Message page on a regular basis.
  6. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  7. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.