Welcome to St John the Evangelist, Old Trafford--a worshipping, learning community in urban, diverse Manchester. Through church and St John's Centre: stjohnscentre.org , we look to grow with, nurture and serve our wider community. To find out more about the Centre, contact the Reverend Christine Aspinall, who as well as being the Centre Manager is also the Parish Safeguarding Officer: 0161 872 7795 / email@example.com . The Reverend John Hughes is both Rector and Diocesan Environment Officer and can be contacted on 0161 872 0500 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coronavirus / COVI-19
In line with national guidance all services are supended at present and the church is to remain closed. St John's Centre will act as a community hub, not for meetings of course, but to help co-ordinate a response for our Old Trafford community. More about this soon.
John Ward, our Reader, has written this reflection at the start of Passiontide:
Sun. Lent 5 Passiontide 29/3/20
Today we begin the season of Passiontide. Many other Church denominations also consider these days as something special. But why? Just what is it about these two weeks within the Church's calendar that makes us focus on 'passion'?
This word so often suggests to us the subject of love; perhaps a 'passionate kiss', or a very strong, loving, even passionate relationship between two people, or maybe a family's strength in being together?
Today's readings include, from John's gospel, the story of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, and how Jesus visited them. He made the visit because they were close friends. We find those famous words, 'Jesus began to weep', or as we may know them better from other versions, 'Jesus wept'.
This piece shows not only the subject of resurrection by Jesus, or God if you like, but of the love shared between intimate friends and family.
Ezekiel's words remind us of the dry bones and the new life which was breathed into them by God's Holy Spirit.
And, in Romans, Paul speaks about a 'new life' in the Spirit, rather than in the flesh. Just what do you feel that 'life in the Spirit' means to each of us today?
Where is the 'passion' in all this?
We should try to think what the connection between these readings and their meanings really are, and how they relate to the subject of Passiontide, or rather what the subject really means to the Church.
The word 'passion' comes from the Greek and actually means 'a strong feeling', or 'an intense emotion'. This strength of emotion may well cause, as the original Latin translation suggests, a 'very strong suffering'. And it is this subject of suffering which forms the basis of the meaning of Passiontide.
So this morning I'd like to share with you one or two thoughts about some of the things that Jesus had to put up with, the things that were part of his suffering during the months, weeks and days before, and during, his crucifiction and death.
Perhaps most of us think of the gospel readings that share with us the times that occur after Christ's entry into Jerusalem. The joy of the people who celebrate his arrival, who wave the palm leaves, who praise and acknowledge his presence, are not the first time this sort of thing has happened.
Throughout Jesus's ministry, we hear of those who followed; many seemed to think that the life of the Jewish faith was becoming fulfilled with the arrival of the Messiah. For so long, they, and many before them, had been waiting for this. And this really did seem to be something different.
Yet other random teachers had previously declared themselves to be the expected messiah, and what had happened to them? Well, of course, the Roman Empire's representatives had seen them off, or sorted them out.
Crucifiction was nothing new in the local countryside, and many people had been hoisted up to suffer – to hang there for days before they finally died, and their lifeless bodies were left for weeks, in many cases.
Jesus had continued his ministry, you might say for less than 3 years – a very short period, but during that time he had mentioned to his disciples the fact that he faced death, like many others had done. To declare yourself a leader or a king, or even to be betrayed to the Romans as such, was not a good thing.
The results that followed could be frightening to anyone involved. Think of Peter's denial.
But thinking only of Christ's crucifiction comes, I think, far short of the suffering which he really underwent.
We hear many times of how Jesus showed his love to those in need, and yet at the same time was criticized by others, especially the Pharisees, for contradicting (as they thought) the Jewish Law. He knew what was in their minds, and he would be preparing for what might happen. So many of his comments and actions seemed out of place; illegal even.
The happenings at the raising of Lazarus, and Jesus's following words were unacceptable to many.
In John's gospel, after the story of Lazarus, we hear about Jesus telling his disciples how 'unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it won't bear more fruit'. This refers to the death of Jesus, which was to come.
And Jesus then says, 'Now my soul is troubled. What should I say? “Father, save me from this hour”' Then the talk of 'glorification' continues.... (ch 13....)
And much more can be found about the suffering of Jesus in the gospels and other New Testament books.
Well, so much to say......
But where are we today? Our Church, and others, may be open - but is there anybody there?
Are our normal daily, and Sunday prayers being said? Are we giving thanks, adoration, showing contrition, and praying for others?
The answer is, of course, yes. Even if you don't see anyone there, or you can't get there or anywhere else, God is with us – both within and without.
Despite the suffering which is with us at this moment, due to the Coronavirus and the problems which it has brought, life goes on – the people of the Church and other faiths continue to pray, for each other, for those who may be suffering, for those who are recovering, for the souls of those who have died, and for those who have lost loved ones.