Jenny Davenport, 5pm Choral Evensong at St John the Baptist Church, Holland Road, 17 April 2016

Jenny Davenport, 5pm Choral Evensong at St John the Baptist Church, Holland Road, 17 April 2016

“They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It seemed too good to be true”.
I often think that we are so exhausted by the spiritual roller-coaster of Holy Week and Easter that we give insufficient attention to the wonderful weeks between Easter and Ascension day when we have the series of readings – of which today’s is one – about Jesus between his Resurrection and Ascension.
The disciples could see, hear and even touch Jesus during this time.  How close they were to him, and how valuable these lovely stories are for us, showing us how we too can feel close to Jesus living with us.  What can we learn from these encounters?
The first thing that Jesus says to the Disciples in today’s Gospel (in The Message version) is “Do you have any food here?” and indeed the encounters we read almost all seem to involve Jesus eating and drinking with his disciples.  There is a real sense of joy and fellowship in these scenes, and it seems to me that these are the two messages for us in the Disciples’ closeness to Jesus in these weeks.
Timothy Radcliffe, the Dominican Friar, in his book “What is the point of being a Christian?” writes that we should recognise a Christian by his or her joy. He writes “Joy is not an emotion of God. It is God’s being” and quotes Dostoevsky saying “It was not people’s grief but their joy that Christ visited. He worked his first miracle – the changing of water to wine at the wedding feast of Cana - to help human gladness”.
This is not to deny the real anxieties and miseries that people suffer. One of my students wrote to me yesterday that he feared he would need to defer the last part of his Masters course as he had just heard that his father had a large cancer in his face. He had been offered major surgery which would remove over a third of his face, but has declined it as his wife has only weeks to live. Joy is reached by confronting and working through such horrors, not by denying or side-stepping them. Radcliffe reminds us that there is no Easter without Good Friday and that “If we share God’s joy then we must share his sorrow at the suffering of the World”. At the same time “There can be no preaching of the good news unless it springs from joy” which should emanate from our knowledge and confidence in God’s love for us.
The second aspect of these post Resurrection encounters is the fellowship. These are shared occasions where Jesus appears to a group of Disciples, rather than to one individual. Jesus’s celebrations were not just festive occasions; they expressed his delight in people. “God is essentially shared life, life in relationship”.  As Master Eckhart writes “The Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs at the Father and the laughter brings forth pleasure and the pleasure brings forth joy and the joy brings forth love”.
Let us remember this love, joy and fellowship as we journey with the Disciples in our encounters with Jesus during the Easter season, and remember that it is not “too good to be true”.

Let us pray
The Church
·     We pray for the Church throughout the World. We pray for our Bishops, Richard and Graham, for our Priest James and curate Peter. May God give them grace to witness to the joy and fellowship of the Resurrection.
·     We pray too for the Eritrean congregation that worships here as they prepare for their Easter celebrations.
Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer

The World
·     We pray for the World, thinking particularly of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, and of people everywhere who are living in fear of violence, hunger or disease.  We pray for those who are working for peace and providing aid for people in need.
·     We pray for the work of Christian Aid, in aid of which we enjoyed our annual quiz this week where we were told of the work they are doing with Syrian refugees.
Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer

The Nation
·        We pray for the Queen and the royal family in this week where she will celebrate her 90th birthday.
·        We pray for the Government and those in authority over us, trying to do their best and not always appreciated for their real dedication to this country and community.
·        In this week as the schools and Universities re-open after the Easter break, we pray for students, teachers and other workers and volunteers in education.
Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer

The Local Community
·     We pray for our local community here in Holland Park. For the people living here and visitors staying in hotels and hostels here.
·     We pray that our work in regenerating the west end of this Church may result in offering a space that the whole community can enjoy.
·     We pray for the lonely in our community, especially for people with no-one to pray for them individually.
Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer

The Sick and the Departed
·        We pray for the sick, thinking especially of anyone in our hearts at this time, including Grant’s parents, and for those tending or worrying about their loved ones.
·        We pray for friends and family who are undergoing a difficult time in their lives, whether from depression, lack of employment, relationship breakdown or any other reason.
·        We pray for the souls of the recently departed and for those whose anniversaries fall around this time, including Ina Davenport.
Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer.

Lastly, we say together the Grace.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen.

Holland Park Benefice