Do not be Afraid
An Opening Prayer
Blessed are you, God of compassion and mercy,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
In the darkness of our sin,
your light breaks forth like the dawn
and your healing springs up for deliverance.
As we rejoice in the gift of your saving help,
sustain us with your bountiful Spirit
and open our lips to sing your praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.
Most of us, including me, are at home, taking heed of the Government’s guidelines to avoid all unnecessary travel and contact with people to curb the spread of Covid-19. Some of us are at work because the jobs we are doing are providing key services to our community and cannot be undertaken from home. Wherever we are, we are not alone. We are never alone, because as we welcome Christ into our lives, he comes to dwell with us, to dwell in us, to dwell in our homes and places of work, by his Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to his disciples before he ascended into heaven and went to dwell with his Father, that he would send them the Holy Spirit who is the Comforter, the Advocate, the Counsellor and the Spirit of Truth. It is in John’s gospel, chapters 14-16, where he talks to his disciples just before his death - possibly in the upper room at the Last Supper - about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. One of the things he says is:
‘I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him because he lives with you and will be in you.’
A little later in the same chapter, Jesus says:
‘The Counsellor (Paraclete, sometimes translated as Advocate or Comforter), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you...Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’
Yesterday morning, on a sunny Mothering Sunday, before all churches were (very sadly) closed for personal prayer as well as for worship, I was praying the Daily Office of Morning Prayer. This is my habit, whether or not I am in church. This morning I am in the middle of praying, and I know that both Tony and Michael, amongst others are praying with me in their own homes. It is a commitment we have made between ourselves to pray individually, yet together, at 9pm, for ourselves, for the church, for our world, and, of course, for those we love: our families, friends and the wider church family.
Yesterday’s Old Testament reading was so pertinent to our current situation when our minds, our community, our country and the world are reeling from the invisible attacker, Coronavirus. Isaiah does not mention the person and work of the Holy Spirit which Jesus spoke of; he focuses on the presence and salvation of the Lord God. He prophesies to Israel in the midst of a very difficult time in the nation’s history, when they were under attack, not from a virus, but from neighbouring armies. But this prophecy is also looking forward to the time when God will bring salvation, not only to Jacob and Israel, but to the whole world, through Jesus.
Read these words of comfort and turn them into a prayer for yourself and those you love.
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour....
Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.’
We continue in prayer using the words of today’s Collect, followed by the Lord’s prayer:
absolve your people from their offences,
that through your bountiful goodness
we may all be delivered from the chains of those sins
which by our frailty we have committed;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for Jesus Christ's sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Trusting in the compassion of God,
as our Saviour taught us, so we pray
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
You may remember the hymn which takes these words and sets them to music (thank you David T-C for reminding me of it):
‘Do not be Afraid’ by Gerald Markland (115 in Mission Praise)
If you want to listen to it and sing along, you can find it here:
The peace of God which passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God,
and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
and the blessing of God Almighty,
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Be with you and remain with you always.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ, Amen
Rev. Wendy Pagden