16 April 2023
Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (8) 16 April 2023
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter (16 April 2023), often known as Low Sunday. Easter Week has continued all last week. But today is Easter Day in the calendar of the Orthodox Church, and last night I attended the Easter Liturgy in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford.
Later this afternoon, I have been invited to speak at Milton Keynes and District Synagogue about synagogues I have visited around the world, which includes some of the synagogues I have visited in Prague last week, and some of the synagogues I have visited in Budapest, Venice, London and Dublin in recent months.
But, before this day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.
As this is Easter Week in the Orthodox Church, I am reflecting each morning this week in these ways:
1, Short reflections on an Orthodox church in Crete;
2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
The Cathedral in Rethymnon:
Although Rethymnon is centuries old as a city, with classical, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman buildings around every corner, I know of no surviving remains of Rethymnon’s mediaeval cathedral, which was destroyed in a raid by Algerian corsairs in 1571.
The Cathedral of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple is a relatively new building. It occupies most of Mitropolis Square was first built in 1834 on the site of an earlier church.
The second cathedral was badly damaged during World War II and was rebuilt as a miniature of Evangelistria, the great basilica on the island of Tinos, so that the present cathedral is refreshingly modern in appearance, both inside and outside.
The tall bell tower beside the cathedral was built in 1899 as a response by the Christians of Rethymnon to the tall minaret built beside the nearby Nerantzes Mosque. The money to build the bell tower was raised through selling postage stamps and a fundraising drive by the wine merchants of the town.
John 20: 19-31 (NRSVA):
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28 Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29 Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Safeguarding the Integrity of Creation.’ This theme is introduced this morning by USPG’s Regional Manager for East Asia, Oceania and Europe, Rebecca Boardman, who reflects on ways to get the climate justice conversation started, in the light of this week’s International Earth Day:
‘There are few places where we might feel comfortable and safe to have difficult conversations. I would like to hope that the Church is one; a space to challenge our own thinking, to reflect and lament on where we have gone wrong, and a space for radical creativity and hope.
‘Churches are places where we need to inspire action on the planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Places where we can debate and dream, where those who society places on the margins are placed at the centre. Places where justice for the planet and all people are at the heart of action on issues like fuel poverty, food waste, drought, and the impact of natural disasters.
‘By showing how these crises are linked to our faith, a sermon focusing on care for creation can be a great way to start these conversations. To inspire preachers, each week the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, of which USPG is a member, encourages authors from across the Anglican Communion to provide a reflection on the lectionary readings from the perspective of creation care and ecological justice.’
To find out more and sign-up visit: preachingforgodsworld.org
The prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (16 April 2023, the Second Sunday of Easter) invites us to pray:
Show us how to touch the earth lightly
and challenge one another boldly
to cherish the world in our care.
Let our doubt and greed
give way to faith and belief
that another world is possible,
Our Lord and our God!
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to rise again for our justification:
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you
in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him:
deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
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