Seven Churches in South Oxfordshire

From the Rector: Tuesday 19th March 2024

A different kind of prayer.

Dear friends,

If you were asked to define prayer, what would you say? Most would centre on a reply that was something like “asking God for things” – whether that be aid in difficulties or a material improvement in life circumstances. In the New Testament, Jesus mines this vein in the Lord’s prayer, expanding our engagement with God beyond the simple “give us” to  “lead us” and “forgive us”, as well as a deeper focus upon the character of God the Father, the one to whom we pray. Elsewhere we find Jesus  commending the prayers made in faith (that is, in trust that they are heard), the gospel writers noting that when there was faith in Jesus then the wonders of God’s kingdom were manifest, whether by healing, exorcism or miraculous provision.

This “praying as if it has already happened” kind of prayer is both childishly simple and unutterably profound. But it is in full view at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The crowd welcomes him with raucous cheering, celebration, and cries of joy; “Hosanna!” they shout, surrounding the Saviour as he enters the city. This Hebrew word, transliterated unchanged in the Greek of the New Testament, is both prayer and acclamation. As a word it means, roughly, “save!” – an imperative, which when used as a prayer, becomes “(God) save (us)!” However in its popular usage in the first century it had become a shout of joy, hope and anticipation – we see this because the crowd pairs the word with the coronation verses from the Psalm 118;  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” This was one of the verses used for the enthronement of Israel’s Kings. So when the crowd cry “Hosanna!” in their jubilation and excitement they are putting everything into the divine and eternal present. In their usage, “Hosanna!” becomes “God SAVES us!” – meaning God is saving us right here, right now. Salvation is no longer something longed for in the future, but coming to pass right before our eyes. Prayer and reality are blurred by the faith that sees God is acting in the present moment.

When we pray then, let us try to keep everything in the present, continuous tense. That is to try to look at things as if God is already with you in them. As if God is already helping you with them. As if He is already doing something about it. “Dear God, I know you can see this mess. Thank you for helping and guiding me though it. Keep holding onto me, dear Lord, and let the peace in my heart grow so that it becomes larger than the pain. Thank you that you are here with me.”

On Sunday we commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. We have our own chance to shout “Hosanna!” Do come along and receive a palm cross, to keep on your noticeboard, or in your window, to remind you that God is saving you, not at some distant point in the future, but now, day by day, moment by moment, step by step, and that he is always with you.

Worship Services for Palm Sunday 24th March

9.30am Holy Communion at St John’s Stoke Row with Revd Romey Poston

11am Holy Communion at St Peter and Paul, Checkendon with Canon Kevin Davies.

Midweek zoom service: Wednesday Evensong at 5.00pm  410 935 129

Holy Week and Easter

Easter celebrations ahoy! Ahead of it all there is a Spring working party at Checkendon Church this coming Saturday (23rd) from 10-12noon to spruce up both church and churchyard ahead of the festivities. Do lend a hand!

Monday 25th March – Wednesday 27th March 7pm daily. Quiet service of Compline at St John’s Stoke Row. A chance to close your day in prayer and reflection.

Wednesday 27th March 2pm Checkendon School Easter Communion service in Checkendon Church. Everyone from church and community is very welcome to come along – the school choir will be singing, and after communion there will be refreshments for parents and community members alike.

Thursday 28th March: Maundy Thursday Communion at St John’s Whitchurch Hill, at 7.30pm. A shared service for the whole Team, led by the Revd Dr James Leach.

Good Friday, 29th March: Easter Activities for all ages, led by members of Checkendon Church, in Checkendon School Hall, from 10.30am-12noon. There will be a great choice of activities suitable for all ages – video, craft, colouring, music and hot cross buns. Everyone is very welcome to this relaxed and informal session exploring the Easter story.

Easter Day: Sunday 31st March. Easter Celebrations at  St John’s Stoke Row at 9.30am, and also Checkendon Church at 11am. Come and rejoice at the resurrection of Christ!

Lastly, thank you all for your support for your churches and your communities. There is a deep intertwining between love and prayer which brings fruit in its season, both outwardly in our lives, and inwardly in our hearts. May God’s grace keep you growing in faith and holiness.

Canon Kevin



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