A warm light shines on a chalice of red wine and piece of bread
Come and Eat – Draw Near with Faith

Come to this table, not because you must but because you may,
not because you are strong, but because you are weak.

Through small, simple actions, the scattered and dispersed Church is drawn together as one. Bishop Steven concludes our exploration of Holy Communion – the meal through which God will build up his tired and depleted church after the demands of the last 15 months.

We need to come and eat, and be restored.

Bishop Steven has asked some of our very creative liturgists to draw together some resources and prayers for parishes to mark this season of regathering and rededication. These resources invite churches to renew their thanksgiving to God for the ‘wonderful sacrament’ of Holy Communion.

Image from Shutterstock.

Red grapes
Come and Eat – Prayer and Parties

Jesus loves parties. Everyone who reads the gospel knows that. The Eucharist is prayer and parties with a purpose: to fill us with hope and a fresh vision for what this world can become.

As we regather as a church around the table of the risen Lord, what are we to draw from this theme of the Eucharist as a meal which looks forward – a sign of hope and of the kingdom?

Bishop Steven has asked some of our very creative liturgists to draw together some resources and prayers for parishes to mark this season of regathering and rededication. These resources invite churches to renew their thanksgiving to God for the ‘wonderful sacrament’ of Holy Communion.

Image from Shutterstock.

Hands breaking a loaf of seeded bread in half
Come and Eat – The Bread of Life

“The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world”.

Many of us find ourselves languishing in the wake of the pandemic. It’s good to remind ourselves – and the whole world – that Jesus came to bring life in all its abundance. The bread which Jesus gives, and is, is more than the food we need to stay physically alive. This is the nourishment we need to have life, to flourish again.

The second episode in this series on Holy Communion considers the Eucharist as a meal which looks back and remembers, calling to mind the story of manna and of John 6, after the feeding of the five thousand.

The music at the end is is Now the Green Blade Riseth, written by John McCrum, performed by Steve Winwood. Image from Shutterstock.

Come and Eat – The Exhausted Prophet

“The Lord, through his angel, simply sees what is needed. The Lord prepares a meal: fresh bread, cool, clear fresh water in a jar. Time to rest and sleep.”

Welcome to the first in a short series of podcasts on Holy Communion, the profound, wonderful meal at the heart of our faith.

Our starting point is the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19: the exhausted prophet, right at the end of his resources. Because that, if we’re honest, is where we are – tired and worn down, finding every day quite hard.

The Lord meets Elijah where he is – not with big visions or daunting tasks for the future, but with simply what he needs. An invitation to come and eat.

As we reach the sombre anniversary of the start of the first national lockdown, revisit this podcast from October 2020. Take a moment to reflect on all that has passed and cast your fears for the future on the Lord.

Look back over the last six months and reflect for a moment. What part has fear played in your own life and your life’s journey? What part is anxiety playing now in the key decisions of your life? Does it have too loud a voice? Does all of that fear and caution have the support of reason? Are there inner fears which you are keeping buried deep inside and cannot name or talk through with those closest to you? Are those chains of fear shaping the decisions you make in your work or your Christian service?

If that is the case, listen to the word of the Lord to you: “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand”.

The famous Dad’s Army episode at the start of this episode is taken from this BBC clip on YouTube
Photo: Shutterstock

So we come to the final chapter, Isaiah 55. This chapter is about comings and goings, and they set a profound rhythm for the life of God’s people which flows through the worship of the Church.

The first verses of Isaiah 55 offer the most gracious and powerful invitation for thirsty, weary souls: Come. But our prophet turns this into a fuller and deeper invitation still.

Music in this episode is taken from this recording available on YouTube. Photo: Steven Buckley

Three times now, the unknown prophet has sung to us of the servant of God. The fourth song is a reflection on the suffering of the nation and the way God will raise up his people again, no matter how difficult the circumstances or how far we have fallen.

How are we to hear these words afresh today as we walk through the pandemic, as we re-assess our lives and the life of the church and the life of the nation?

Music at the start of this episode is taken from this recording available on YouTube. ‘Take Me To The Alley’ by Gregory Porter is also available to listen to in full on YouTube. Photo: Shutterstock

We often think of comfort as something soft and soothing, like a big hug. But to comfort someone is not simply to wrap them up in cotton wool and tenderness. Comfortable words are words which restore our strength, our core, our backbone.

The next three months or so may well be the hardest of the COVID journey – how can we find the resources to give strength to our communities when we are already tired and worn down?

Music at the start of this episode is from the Fellowship Worship Collective, here on YouTube. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

The prophet sings of love and forgiveness, of new hope and strength in God, to rekindle courage in the hearts of God’s people. The prophet sings of a new kind of leadership, based on humility and gentleness. The prophet sings to tell us not to be afraid even in the face of death. These are comfortable words the whole world needs to hear afresh in this season.

The Comfortable Words I want to explore today unfold a mystery which is at the centre of the universe: that Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth, calls women and men into a relationship of love and entrusts us with a purpose for our lives and a mission to God’s world.

Episode links

  • The Personal Discipleship Plan
    A PDP is an accompanied faith journey with a local minister or mentor that explores six core questions that discern what God is doing in your life and what you might be called to next.
  • Paul’s faith journey (YouTube)
    This short film is a conversation between Paul and his mentor about the difference a PDP has made to his faith journey.
  • Disciples Together
    Disciples Together explores how we can embrace change for the benefit of God’s work in the world and outlines steps for our future ministry.
  • Join Bishop Steven for a webinar
    If you live and worship in the Diocese of Oxford, join Bishop Steven for a free webinar looking at rebuilding ministry with children, young people and families, introducing the Disciples Together principles and new resources you can use right now.

Opening music: John Denver – Sweet Surrender, taken from YouTube.
The Summons (Will you come and follow me), by John Bell, taken from YouTube.
Photo, Shutterstock

One of the oldest books on my shelf is John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, the famous allegory of the Christian life published over 300 years ago. The famous hymn Who Would True Valour See is taken directly from his text. I first read Bunyan as a young Christian and have returned to Pilgrim’s Progress many times. At the very end of Christian’s journey, after many twists and turns and trials, he arrives at last at a great river, symbolising death. There is no bridge over this river and no way around it…

Music: a brief extract from ‘Who would true valour see’ by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band. Available here on YouTube.

Episode image: (c) Steven Buckley | Diocese of Oxford.