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cause for pause mansfield weekly chapel

Welcome

Week 3

In times of restraint and physical distancing, when the body of Christ cannot meet in one place we are finding new ways to worship together. This self-led order for evening prayer with contributions from members across the Mansfield community, invites us to slow down as we approach the end of the day. You are may conduct your worship in silence or you may use the videos included throughout.

You may wish to begin by lighting a candle in your home (if you are able) and use this time and space to reflect on the activity of the day that has just passed and commit it to God. We are then invited to contemplate the night of restoration that lies ahead, entrusting ourselves to God.

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform sickness into health and death into life. Open us to the power of your presence this day, ready to proclaim your promises of mercy, grace and love to the whole world. Amen.

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!

I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.

When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith for ever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.

The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The Lord will reign for ever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord!

Blessed indeed are they who put their trust in you, O God, our sure rock and refuge. Shine upon us with the brightness of your light, that we may love you with a pure heart and praise you for ever; through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

Isaiah 35: 1-7

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

Reflection

by Harry Twohig (Mansfield College)

When I first read Isaiah 35, there was one phrase at its core that really spoke to me.: “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come.” Now, anyone who is familiar with the Bible will know that this is not the only occasion the words “do not fear” appear within in. When the Angel Gabriel greets Mary, his opening words are do not be afraid. In the Book of Joshua, chapter 1 verse 9, we are told “be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid”, and in the Gospel of John we again receive the same urge. Chapter 14, verse 27: “do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” In fact, in the King James version, the words “Fear not” and “Be not afraid” are said to appear 103 times – although, I will admit, I haven’t counted myself.

It would be fair to say that this message is one of the cornerstones of scripture. But what does it actually mean? I always find myself challenged by the message “do not be afraid” – it appears at first glance that we are being asked not to do something that is a fundamental part of our nature as humans. After all, fear, first and foremost, is a survival instinct. I think the passage from Isaiah 35 goes some way to explaining the true message of this call to not be afraid.

From the first verse, we are presented with a picture of a barren wilderness, “a desert and parched land”. However, there is hope. We are told that, one day, the desert will “rejoice and blossom”, and indeed by the end of this passage it does – ”Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” This goes some way to explaining why we should not be afraid. God’s transformative power appears to know no bounds. It isn’t an abstract, eternal truth. It is a reality and it works in the world around us. It is capable of making the eyes of the blind open, and giving those who are deaf the ability to hear. So, regardless of what inequality or desperate situation you are facing in life, “do not be afraid, for your God will come” and he will save you.

Perhaps when we read this passage we see some similarities with the position that we find ourselves in today. We may feel as though, amid the current pandemic, we are in the wilderness ourselves. Let us make no mistake, things at the minute are tough. But God’s comfort and transformative power is close at hand. Just like the desert in this passage had water gushing forth, we too will experience God’s power in our world, and in our lives. It may be more difficult than ever, but as Christians we are still called to trust in God, and to not be afraid.

I want to end by sharing with you a story from the slums of Kibera, in Keyna, which inspires me to live out God’s call to not be afraid in my life, and hopefully it will inspire you too. It was a true, true privilege to spend some time there last summer with a lady called Gabriella, who, after retiring as a teacher, voluntarily ran a school to educate the children living there. When we first arrived, she invited us into her office, and there she explained to us how she had faced some hostility from the local community in recent years because, in order to win the national elections, the president had pledged to give one billion Kenyan shillings to support education in Kenyan slums. Of course, this money never arrived. However, some of the locals, not understanding that the president had broken his promise, led a campaign against Gabriella, accusing her of taking the money for herself. This campaign was so bad that Gabriella had even received threats against her life. But she remained steadfast in her mission. As we went about our day, we got chatting more to Gabriella, and at one point someone in our group asked her “Gabriella, are you not afraid?” Her reply was simple, and it was truly beautiful. She simply said – “No dear, what do I have to be afraid of? God is on my side.” She too was in the wilderness, at a difficult point in her life, as we all are now, but despite it all, she had total and utter confidence in the power of God. It was that confidence that enabled her to live out God’s call – “do not be afraid.”

Lord, as we go through this difficult period, help us all to trust in you, to know that you will never forsake us, and to believe in your transformative power.

A Moment for Reflection

Prayers of the People

written by Tasha Andrew (Mansfield College)

Father God, may you draw near to us in this time. May you release your comfort and healing on this nation. We pray for those who have lost a loved one, may they find peace, comfort and strength and may you continue to teach us how we can show love to one another from afar.

In this time of restraint, may we abide by the guidelines that serve to protect us, our families and our neighbours. May we find a unique freedom in this lockdown through the seasons of stillness.

We pray for the Mansfield community, apart but still one family. For those who feel isolated, anxious and weary, may they be uplifted. May we continue to encourage and uphold one another as a community.

We pray for frontline workers, for those who make huge self-sacrifices in order to serve their country. May you protect them and their families. We cannot fully express in words our thanks to them. Provide them with the strength they need, the protection they require and the peace we all need.

Lord, hear our prayer.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,

thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen

O God, from whom come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works: give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments; and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God forever. Amen.

We give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have graciously protected us today. We ask you to forgive us all our sins, where we have done wrong, and graciously to protect us tonight. Into your hands we commend ourselves: our bodies, our souls, and all that is ours. Let your holy angels be with us, so that the wicked foe may have no power over us. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

A Final Moment to Pause

Thank you to the Christian Union for contributing to this order of service for evening prayer. If you would like to contribute. Please contact the Chaplain (chaplain@mansfield.ox.ac.uk). Next week's service will be available from midday on Wednesday.

Credits:

Created with images by Andraz Lazic - "Feather on the lake. " • Elisey Vavulin - "untitled image" • Ales Me - "Purple Pasque — the lovely spring flower." • Lina Trochez - "Brindar siempre lo mejor de ti." • CHIRAG K - "untitled image" • Kristijan Arsov - "Sunset over the sea, as viewed through thorny weed" • Adrien Olichon - "Window Church"