Easter 2020
We hope you are coping well with the problems caused by Covid-19. If you feel you are not, do please seek help from the many sources available – it is a blessing to receive, as well as to give.  The photo on the left is our church Christmas tree that Chris has turned into a cross, as a reminder that the Babe of Bethlehem became the Man of Calvary.
We were looking forward to celebrating Easter at a benefice service of Holy Communion in our church, but sadly this is now not possible. The Oxford diocese is live-streaming a 'virtual' Eucharist each Sunday at 10am, and also at other times during Holy Week, and these can be viewed at any time; you will also find an order of service so that you can join in.
The following extract is relevant:
When I pray in my chamber,
I build a sanctuary there.
When I cast a prayer out upon the street,
a spire rises suddenly to the skies.
When, without voice, my soul prays in any place,
my whole being becomes a church.
When my faith kindles and flames into praise
the whole created world becomes a Minster.                                                    Eric Milner-White

Below are the Collect, Confession, Epistle, Gospel and Sermon which would have been used at St Giles, together with the hymns that had been chosen.  Please note that clicking on the title of each hymn will cause a video to appear in a separate window which you will need to close when the hymn ends (or before!).  We are very grateful to Revd Ron Bundock for sending us his sermon and also the second of the two poems that we have inserted after the final hymn.  Feedback on this method of 'doing church' would be very welcome.

Easter Day, 12th April 2020

The Collect for Easter Day
Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.

Hymn:  The day of resurrection, John Mason Neale, tune Ellacombe
The day of resurrection!
Earth, tell it out abroad;
the Passover of gladness,
the Passover of God;
from death to life eternal,
from earth unto the sky,
our God hath brought us over
with hymns of victory.

Our hearts be pure from evil,
that we may see aright
the Lord in rays eternal
of resurrection-light;
and, listening to his accents,
may hear so calm and plain
his own 'All hail', and, hearing,
may raise the victor strain.

Now let the heavens be joyful,
and earth her song begin,
the round world keep high triumph,
and all that is therein;
let all things seen and unseen
their notes of gladness blend,
for Christ the Lord is risen,
our joy that hath no end.

Jesus Christ, risen Master and triumphant Lord,
we come to you in sorrow for our sins,
and confess to you our weakness and unbelief.

We have lived by our own strength,
and not by the power of your resurrection.
In your mercy, forgive us.
Lord, hear us and help us.

We have lived by the light of our own eyes,
as faithless and not believing.
In your mercy, forgive us.
Lord, hear us and help us.

We have lived for this world alone
and doubted our home in heaven.
In your mercy, forgive us.
Lord, hear us and help us.

Reading:  Acts, chapter 10, verses 34-43

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Hymn:  Now the green blade riseth, John Macleod Campbell Crum, tune Noel Nouvelet

Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid Him, Love who had been slain,
Thinking that He never would awake again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

Forth He came at Easter, like the risen grain,
Jesus who for three days in the grave had lain;
Quick from the dead the risen One is seen:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Jesus' touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

Reading:  St John's Gospel, chapter 20, verses 1 to 18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Sermon by Revd Ron Bundock

As I thought about Easter and the days Jesus spent before the disaster of crucifixion and the triumph of resurrection I compared our current experience of suffering, lock-down and isolation with what Jesus experienced and felt there was a common thread – different in severity of course – but similar. Jesus was asked by his Father in heaven with whom he had a unique hot line to sacrifice himself in a ghastly way to redeem the world. Despite his doubts and terror he did it. We are being asked by our Government (with whom we do not have a hot line) to isolate, to voluntarily give up our freedom of movement to save the world – or the little bit we come into contact with – at cost to ourselves. Most of us (but not all) are prepared to make this small sacrifice for a limited time with an end in view. The comparison between what Jesus did for us and what we are prepared to do for ourselves and others is startling. How we react to the request/instruction to isolate depends on who we are; what our objectives in life are and our relationship with society, our family, our friends and with God and Jesus. Isolation and Easter ask us the same serious question “Who am I?”

Jesus asked himself the same question as he agonised about his future in Gethsemane. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and theologian reflected on this as he waited execution in his condemned cell in 1945.

Bonhoeffer wrote: “Who am I? They often tell me I stepped from my cell’s confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a Squire from his country house.
Who am I? They often tell me I used to speak to my warders freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me I bore the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win. Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself; restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.
Who am I? This or the Other? Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptible weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!“

Bonhoeffer faced the question “Who am I” bravely and honestly and it’s especially relevant and important for us at Eastertide. Each of us has to decide how we react to Easter’s unique pivotal moment in history. Did resurrection happen? Are the witnesses sound and reliable? At Easter we are faced with our reaction to the question ‘who was Jesus’. He was, undoubtedly, a wonderful man, uniquely gifted in teaching and healing. He had a strong bias to the poor and underclass in his time. Yet based on the evidence of what he did during his life and the witness of the Church, Christians believe resurrection proves he was more than just a man, he was God on earth among us. The unique event we celebrate at Eastertide, Jesus brutally killed and buried; revealed three days later alive and still human (though changed). Resurrection is humanly impossible and cannot be explained in any other way than an act of the creator God who chose this way of showing he was in charge and his way is of gentle sacrificial love for his creation. 

The challenge that each of us faces is mirrored in Jesus’ rigged trial by Pontius Pilate. In that trial Pilate and the crowd (led by the Jewish rulers) were offered a choice. Did they choose life for a good man who healed people and taught God’s word in peace or did they want to choose a violent man who was a convicted murderer. The crowd, egged on by Jewish rulers, shouted for the rebel Barabbas, and crucifixion for Jesus. Don’t underestimate the significance of the choice. Each of us faces the choice of following Jesus’ loving Godly way in our decisions and our actions or the world’s selfish way.

However hard the world tries to drive/encourage men and women to follow its way of selfish spurious security, relying on wealth, technology, power, privilege, Jesus’ resurrection was the signal that it will fail. God’s in control in the long run. Coronavirus has shown us we cannot isolate ourselves from the natural world around us. Many of us, as we self-isolate, will feel as Bonhoeffer felt; lonely, isolated, threatened and frightened. Nobody likes it. It imposes pressures we rebel against. But be assured that God IS in control. We can trust him, depend on him and should follow his Son to the huge benefit of ourselves sand others.

In an article in the Church Times Mark Oakley quoted a ninth-century volume of St Paul’s epistles found in Dresden, most probably transcribed by an Irish monk. Despite water damage it is still possible to read a note — in Old Irish — that was written in the margins. In translation, it says:

“Going to Rome is a lot of hassle for little gain.

You won’t find the King you seek there, unless you bring him with you.” AMEN

Easter blessings to you and your family. Keep safe and trust God. Ron Bundock

Hymn: Alleluia, alleluia, hearts to heaven and voices raise, Christopher Wordsworth, tune Lux Eoi

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Hearts to heaven and voices raise;
sing to God a hymn of gladness,
sing to God a hymn of praise:
he who on the cross a victim
for the world's salvation bled,
Jesus Christ, the King of glory,
now is risen from the dead.

Christ is risen, Christ the first-fruits
of the holy harvest field,
which will all its full abundance
at his second coming yield;
then the golden ears of harvest
will their heads before him wave,
ripened by his glorious sunshine,
from the furrows of the grave.

Christ is risen, we are risen;
shed upon us heavenly grace,
rain, and dew, and gleams of glory
from the brightness of thy face;
that we, with our hearts in heaven,
here on earth may fruitful be,
and by angel-hands be gathered,
and be ever, Lord, with thee.

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Glory be to God on high;
Alleluia to the Saviour,
who has gained the victory;
Alleluia to the Spirit,
fount of love and sanctity;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
to the Triune Majesty.

Intercessions for the pandemic from the Church of England website
Let us pray to God,
who alone makes us dwell in safety:

For all who are affected by coronavirus,
through illness or isolation or anxiety,
that they may find relief and recovery:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For those who are guiding our nation at this time,
and shaping national policies,
that they may make wise decisions:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For doctors, nurses and medical researchers,
that through their skill and insights
many will be restored to health:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For the vulnerable and the fearful,
for the gravely ill and the dying,
that they may know your comfort and peace:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Hymn:  Love's redeeming work is done, Charles Wesley, tune Savannah
Love's redeeming work is done;
fought the fight, the battle won:
lo, our Sun's eclipse is o'er,
lo, he sets in blood no more.

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal;
Christ has burst the gates of hell;
death in vain forbids his rise;
Christ has opened paradise.

Lives again our glorious King;
where, O death, is now thy sting?
dying once, he all doth save;
where thy victory, O grave?

Soar we now where Christ has led,
following our exalted Head;
made like him, like him we rise;
ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!
Praise to thee by both be given:
thee we greet triumphant now;
hail, the Resurrection Thou!

The Blessing 
The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make us perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always.

A poem for Easter Day by Edmund Spenser

Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin;
And having harrowed hell didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest die
Being with thy dear blood clean washed from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again;
And for thy sake that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought.
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

A poem by Edgar Guest

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day,
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear.
Fine counsel is confusing but example’s always clear.
And the best of all the leaders are the men who live their creeds
For to see good action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do:
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.