Category Archives: Sermons

Virtual Easter Experience

Eglwys Llansadwrn church Carmarthenshire Sir Gar


Welcome to the electronic version of the Easter Experience and visit in your imagination the important events in the Easter story. At each point you will find a simple retelling (with a Bible reference) and some visual prompts. You will also find an invitation to interact with the story and reflect upon it at each stage:

  • Hopes and Dreams (Palm Sunday)
  • Servant King (Maundy Thursday)
  • Remember Me (Last Supper)
  • Alone (Garden of Gethsemane)
  • Sharing Our Sorrows (Good Friday)
  • Resurrection (Easter Day)

You might like to start your virtual journey by reading the following prayer by Saint Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours:
Yours are the only hands with which he can do his work,
Yours are the only feet with which he can go about the world,
Yours are the only eyes through which his compassion
can shine forth upon a troubled world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

The Story of Easter retold for children and families

Easter is a very special time of year. It is when Christians remember what happened to Jesus before he died and what happened afterwards.

On Palm Sunday Jesus and his friends made their way to the great city of Jerusalem. They were going there to celebrate Passover. At Passover, even today, the Jewish people remember how God set them free when they were slaves in Egypt.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey, the ordinary people went wild. They threw their cloaks into the road to make a royal pathway for Jesus; they waved palm branches to welcome him and shouted: ‘God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord.’

But some of their leaders weren’t so happy. ‘This Jesus is a troublemaker,’ they said. ‘We need a plan to get rid of him.’

Jesus and his friends got everything ready for the Passover meal. When they were all together, Jesus took a bowl of water and a towel. Then he knelt down and washed his disciples’ feet. Then he dried them.

‘Why are you doing this?’ one of them asked.
‘I am being your servant,’ said Jesus. ‘I want you to serve one other, just as I am serving you.’

Then Jesus broke some bread. He gave each one of them a piece and said: ‘When you eat bread like this, I want you to remember me.’

Then he poured out some wine, and said: ‘When you drink wine like this, I want you to remember me.’
Then they all sang the special Passover hymn. And they went out to a garden called Gethsemane where olive trees grew. It was a place they knew well and it was very peaceful there. Jesus told his friends to keep watch while he went away by himself to pray.

During the night soldiers came to arrest him. They took him for questioning to the Temple leaders. People came and told lies about him. They said that he deserved to die. Some of them made fun of Jesus.

Next day, Friday, he was taken to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate knew that Jesus was a good man but he gave in to the crowds who wanted Jesus to be put to death. So the soldiers took him away and nailed him to a cross.

When Jesus died, a friend took his body to a beautiful garden, and laid him in a tomb cut out of the rock.

The next day was Saturday, when nobody was allowed to do any work. So it was Sunday before some of Jesus’ women friends came with special oils and spices for his body. But when they got to the tomb, the tomb was empty.

An angel told them that Jesus wasn’t there; he was alive.

Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead at Easter and is still alive today. That is why Easter is such a happy time.

HOPES AND DREAMS (stones to hold; a pathway strewn with palms leading to a simple wooden cross)

When Jesus came into the great city of Jerusalem, the crowds were excited and restless. Many had heard of Jesus’s teaching and miracles. They longed for a leader who would help them drive the Romans from their land so that they could live in peace and prosperity. As Jesus rode through the city gates on a young donkey the people cheered and praised God: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.’ As people threw their cloaks and palm leaves onto the ground to pave the way for Jesus, their hearts were full of hope. Some of the religious leaders grumbled at Jesus but he told them that even if the crowds were silent, the very stones would cry out.
(Matthew 21.1-10)

Part of being human is to hope, and to dream. Some of our hopes and dreams are personal, but others are more public. At the time of Jesus, Palestine was ruled by the Romans. The people dreamed of overthrowing their Roman conquerors. They were hoping for a Messiah, a leader who would set them free.

In your imagination . . .

Choose a stone and hold it in your hand. Let it represent the hope or dream you hold most dear. Then take it and place it with the other stones by the cross at the end of the road.

SERVANT KING (a pitcher and a bowl of water, towels and cushions)

Jesus took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel . . . When he had finished, he put on his outer clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “teacher and Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.’

(John 13.3-5, 12-15)

Jesus lived in a hot, dry land. Most people travelled from place to place on foot. It was the custom to welcome visitors by washing their feet in cool, clean water. Normally a household servant did this.

Think about . . .

how God might be calling you to serve others

In your imagination . . .

Ask God to help you serve others in a special way this Easter. Now dip your fingers into the water and make the sign of the cross on the palm of each hand.

REMEMBER ME (a table, a candle, some bread, some wine)

On the night before he died Jesus had supper with his friends. He took some bread. He thanked God for it and broke it. Jesus gave the bread to each of his disciples and said: ‘Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Do this to remember me.’

(Matthew 26.26)

Most of us have objects we treasure which help us to remember important times in our lives. When Christians meet together, we often share bread and wine to remember the last meal that Jesus had with his friends before he died.

In your imagination . . .

Please sit and light a candle. Now imagine Jesus blessing the loaf and giving you a piece of it. Imagine him blessing the cup of wine and giving it to you to drink. Think of the love Jesus had for his friends and for the world.

ALONE (green plants, holding crosses*, a tray of sand)

I have called you by name, you are mine.

(Isaiah 43.1)

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

(Jeremiah 31.3a)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
(John 14.27)

Jesus knew that soon the soldiers would come to arrest him, and he would be sentenced to death. He went with his friends to a garden called Gethsemane. There he asked them to keep watch for him while he prayed to God for help. But his friends were tired and they fell asleep. In the darkness Jesus felt very alone. Even so, he trusted himself to God’s care.

In your imagination . . .

Take one of the holding crosses and hold it in your hand. Think of a time when you were lonely or afraid. Now re-read the verses from the Bible, then place the cross gently in the tray of sand.

*Holding crosses are usually made of olive wood in the Holy Land. They are shaped to fit into the palm of your hand and give great comfort in times of stress.
SHARING OUR SORROWS (large cross draped with red ribbons streaming down, small crosses each with a different group to pray for: for, such as NHS staff and Coronavirus patients)

Soldiers led Jesus outside the walls of Jerusalem to Golgotha, the place of the skull. A crown of thorns had been placed on his head. The soldiers nailed him to the cross and fastened a notice to it: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’. While they waited for Jesus to die, the soldiers cast dice to see which of them would have Jesus’s robe for themselves. When he became thirsty, the soldiers offered him a sponge soaked in vinegar.

At three o’clock Jesus died.

(Matthew 27.27-50)

The Cross reminds Christians of the death of Jesus, but because he rose again it has become a sign of hope for anyone who is suffering.

In your imagination . . .

Please say a prayer for someone who is suffering today. Either imagine taking hold of one of the ribbons on the Cross and ask God to help the person you have chosen, or take one of the small crosses and pray for the person or situation on the label. You don’t need to use many words, just: ‘Dear God, please help . . .’

RESURRECTION (pop-up tent veiled, white sheets and cloths inside)

After the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and two other women set out at dawn to visit the tomb where Jesus had been laid. As they reached the entrance, they were startled by the dazzling figure of an angel. The angel said, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. He has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.’

(Mark 16.1-6)

Like the women, Christians look into the empty tomb to remember that the son of God was crucified, but, after three days, rose from the dead. We believe that this is the greatest miracle the world has ever known. It is why churches often create an empty tomb or make an Easter garden. It is why we celebrate Easter.

Think about:

how the women felt when they heard the angel’s words
what God might be saying to you today.

In your imagination . . .

Choose one word to describe the miracle of the empty tomb. Treasure the word in your heart this Easter.

A Shem Story for Mothering Sunday 2020

I can’t tell you how sad Shem was when I said there was no Rainbow Church because of coronavirus. Mothering Sunday is one of his favourite days in the whole year.
‘Why do you like this Sunday so much, Shem?’ I asked.
‘It’s the Sunday when I can tell my best joke,’ he said.
I had a funny feeling I wasn’t going to like his answer to my next question, but I pressed on regardless. ‘What’s your best joke, Shem?’
‘It’s when I say “I love you, Mum. There’ll never be another ewe”.’
I groaned. ‘And what does your mum say?’
She says, ‘There’ll never be another Shem!’
‘I think your mum is right. You are one in a million. So, tell me, Shem, why do you get to tell your special joke on this Sunday?’
He looked at me in astonishment. ‘You’re a vicar. Surely you know that today is Mothering Sunday? That’s when we say thank you to our mums.’
‘Yes, Shem, you’re right. Mothering Sunday is very special. Years ago, when your great-great-great-grandmother was young, everybody used to try to go back to their home church, their mother church, for Mothering Sunday, even if they were living miles and miles away. Some of the young women, especially if they were working as servants, used to bake a special cake for their mums called a . . . ’
‘A simple cake,’ said Shem. ‘I know. I’m making one later on. The recipe looks really easy.’
‘I’m not sure about that, Shem,’ I said, ‘A simnel cake can be quite complicated. There are lots of ingredients. It’s called a simnel cake, not a simple cake, because simnel is an old word for flour.’
I could see that Shem was working up to another joke involving flowers, so I kept going. ‘Are you going to put anything on the top of your cake?’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Some possels.’
‘Possels?’ I said and then I realised that he meant ‘apostles’. ‘Quite right. We usually put eleven or twelve little balls of marzipan on top of the cake to remind us of Jesus’s apostles, the friends who worked with him. Now you’re going to have to be quiet for a bit while I tell you today’s story.’
Shem looked down at his feet. That’s usually a sign that he’s ready to listen so I knew I was safe to begin.
‘You remember, don’t you, that Jesus had twelve special friends?’
Shem nodded.
‘They were the apostles, the friends Jesus trusted. One of them was called Judas. We don’t know why, but he betrayed Jesus to the leaders of the Temple. The Temple guards came and arrested Jesus and then he was put to death on a cross.’
‘Is that why there are only eleven balls of marzipan on the cake?’ said Shem. ‘Because Judas did something bad?’
‘Yes, that’s right, but some people still put twelve balls to remember poor Judas as well. He was very sorry for what he had done.’
Shem looked thoughtful. ‘When I do something bad and say I’m sorry, my mum says she forgives me.’
‘That’s right, Shem. Whatever we have done, if we are really, really sorry, then God will forgive us. So how many marzipan balls are you going to put on your cake?’
‘Twelve,’ said Shem firmly. ‘One for Judas too. Are you going to get on with the story now?’
‘Of course,’ I said. ‘Today’s story* is about something that happened when Jesus was dying. One of his special friends, John, one of the apostles, was standing near the Cross to keep him company. Jesus’s mother, Mary, was standing there as well. It must have been very hard for both of them. And then Jesus did a wonderful thing. He told John to look after Mary, and Mary to treat John as her own son. And that’s what they did. John looked after Mary by taking her into his own home. They really looked after each other. And that is what we should do too, especially at this time when people are getting sick. We need to be extra kind to each other and make sure that everybody is looked after.’
‘Can we say prayers for people, and for the nurses and the doctors?’
‘I think that would be very good, Shem. Would you like to say a prayer now?’
And this is Shem’s prayer:
‘Thank you, God, for all the nurses and the doctors who are caring for people in hospital. Thank you for our mums and thank you for our families. Please, God, keep them safe and help us to remember that we are all your family. Help us to be kind to everybody. Amen.’

*John 19. 25-27


The village of Eyam in Derbyshire is famous for the heroic action it took nearly three centuries ago when an outbreak of bubonic plague afflicted the community. At the time plague was rife in London, where the infection was spread by fleas. It was carried to Eyam in a flea-ridden bale of cloth sent to a tailor’s workshop.

Because the cloth felt rather damp when it was unpacked, it was spread out to dry by the fire, thereby releasing its unwelcome inhabitants. The tailor’s apprentice died within a week and after several more deaths the village turned to the vicar and his Puritan predecessor for advice.

They decided on a radical strategy. No one was to enter or leave the village but instead a ring of stones was set which acted as a cordon sanitaire. Food and supplies were deposited at the boundary where villagers left money in a bowl of vinegar.

Instead of worshipping in the church, outdoor services were held so that a safe distance could be observed between worshippers. Over the course of fourteen months many of the villagers died but their quarantine arrangements meant that the plague did not spread beyond the village.

We live in difficult times. The corona virus pandemic has brought out the best and the worst in people. On the one hand we hear of panic buying which has led to supermarket shelves being emptied as people stockpile essential goods. On the other hand, medical staff up and down the country are daily risking their own safety to test and care for people infected with the virus.

And there are individual heroes, such as the Chinese doctor who first raised the alarm and who was accused of spreading an anti-social lie until the authorities could no longer deny the truth of what he was saying; sadly he lost his life after becoming infected with corona virus.

The Chinese authorities have subsequently been praised by the World Health Organisation for the radical measures they took to try to prevent the spread of infection. In the process many people have had to sacrifice their individual liberty for the sake of the wider community.

This is maybe not the jolliest of addresses on Mothering Sunday but our readings today all speak in one way or another about family and family responsibilities. The Old Testament reading tells the story of Hannah, who was desperate for a child and prayed for a son whom she would give up to God to be a servant of the Temple. Her life had been blighted by childlessness so this was a sacrifice she was glad to make. God granted her prayer and Hannah kept her side of the bargain. When the time came for her little boy to be weaned, she gave him up to God’s service.

The Gospel reading involves a different kind of family situation. Here it is Jesus on the Cross, commending his mother and the beloved disciple to each other’s care. “‘Woman, here is your son,’ he says to Mary. And to John he says, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.’” Jesus is offering himself for the wider human family, but he is still able to think about his own immediate family.

In the epistle, the New Testament reading, Paul talks about the virtues expected of individuals within the Christian family: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

The current crisis offers an opportunity for us to foster these values within our church family for the sake of our local community. Compassion and kindness are essential if vulnerable people are to be supported, whether they are isolated because they are in the ‘at risk’ group, or whether they are self-isolating because they are already sick. Fetching shopping or being at the end of the phone are two ways in which we can help.

It is a time when we should also exercise patience. People vary enormously in the way they react in a crisis and we should be patient with anybody whose dread of infection makes them a prisoner in their own home. They too need our compassion and our help.

It is a time for the community itself to develop cohesion and to rise above any disputes. ‘Above all clothe yourselves with love,’ Paul says, ‘which binds everything together in perfect harmony.’

We cannot afford to be anything other than united in the current crisis. It is not going to last for ever but it is unlikely to be over quickly, so we have ready to be in this for the long haul.

It is also an opportunity to do some personal housekeeping and try to resolve anything which might be holding us back in our spiritual lives. If there are people with whom, for whatever reason, we are at odds, this is the time to mend fences and build bridges. Christian ministers know that reconciliation is particularly important when life hangs by a thread. Do not let this opportunity pass you by if you need to say sorry to someone or, conversely, do not make it difficult for somebody to say sorry to you.

It is also a very good time to rediscover the importance of Bible reading if that is what we need to do. In the current enforced ‘leisure’ most of us should have ample time on our hands for the things which can sometimes get neglected in the midst of busy lives. It is also an opportunity to encourage those around us to consider the importance of their spiritual side. The pressure of the situation means that it might be easier than normal to have this kind of serious conversation.

Finally, let’s not forget the importance of prayer, not only our personal prayers but also prayer for others and for the needs of the whole world.

On this Mothering Sunday family comes first, but we need to enlarge our view of family to include not just our immediate relatives, but our extended human family and the ultimate and heavenly family to which we all belong.

Lent 3 March 15 2020 John 4.4-45

In the course of our lives there are sometimes moments which, when we look back upon them, turn out to have been watersheds, turning points which changed our lives for ever. It might be meetingsomeone for the first time, or hearing a dramatic piece of news, or even experiencing a personal crisis. One thing l can almost guarantee: when something affects us that deeply it is generally speaking not a comfortable event, and sometimes it is deeply troubling.

I wonder what was going through the mind of the Samaritan woman in the story as she went to draw water at the well. Almost certainly it wasn’t something which filled her with joy! There was a reason why she was fetching water alone at the hottest point of the day. Normally this would have been a sociable activity, one which the women of the town would have done together but earlier in the day or later when the sun was lower in the sky.

The Samaritan woman however seems to be a bit of an outcast, which is hinted at by her dubious marital situation – five husbands and now a partner possibly married to another woman? But there are any number of reasons why she has had a string of men in her life.

Life expectancy could be brutally short and women were economically dependent upon men for their survival. But whatever her circumstances, the woman goes out to fetch water on her own at a time of day she knows that she is unlikely to meet anyone and therefore can avoid all those disapproving looks and unkind remarks.

To her surprise she finds someone already at the well, a man. It is an unlikely meeting. Now there are a number of reasons why Jesus should not have spoken to her. First and foremost, he is a Jew and she is a Samaritan, two closely related ethnic groups who, as so often happens in families, had become sworn enemies. Jews would normally make a detour to avoid Samaritan territory but instead Jesus takes the direct route.

Secondly, he is a man and should not have spoken to an unchaperoned woman. It is why his disciples are so shocked when they come back from their shopping trip to find them in lively conversation. But they know better than to ask questions for their master is anything but conventional. Here he is engaged in a conversation which will transform a social outcast into the very first evangelist. In the course of it, a teasing exchange with Jesus turns into the moment of truth for the woman when she finds herself coming clean about her marital situation. It is an uncomfortable moment. But she is intrigued by this
straight-talking stranger with the offer of miraculous water that gives eternal life, and the revelation that he is the promised Messiah.

The Samaritan woman may not realise it as she rushes back to tell the townspeople what has just happened to her, but this encounter has released her from her captivity and isolation. And when she tells her neighbours that Jesus knew all about her, they are clearly impressed enough to find out for themselves. They certainly don’t dismiss her testimony and are so convinced by the power of her testimony and the conviction with which she delivers it that they go out to see Jesus for themselves.

She is the catalyst that hooks their interest until they have had a personal experience of Jesus. Once that happens her work is done though l can’t imagine that it is the end of her career as an evangelist.

Well that’s her side of the story, but what about Jesus? Was it chance that led him to the well outside the city of Sychar? Was it chance that he was sitting there exhausted, alone in the heat of the day? Was it chance that made him ask for a drink of water from the lone woman coming to the well?

And what about the conversation between them?

Jesus steers it expertly so that the woman is led to the point where she has to say that she has no husband. Notice that Jesus doesn’t criticise her. It seems that his insight into her situation is enough to convince her that she is in the presence of someone very special, someone about whom it is not unreasonable to ask the question: can this really be the Messiah? It seems to me that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing throughout the episode. This was mission, spreading the word through the most effective means.Person to person. Not through some kind of specially selected religious person with impeccable moral and theological credentials, but through someone on the margins, someone who has seen a bit of life and is no doubt carrying the bruises.

A few weeks ago our student minister Heulwen shared with us something of her experience on placement in a charismatic church in Bristol. Their worship differed radically from ours – no formal liturgy, little use of scripture in services – but lots of emphasis on uplifting music and on real-life stories, testimonies from people willing to share their experience of Jesus. The value of testimony is that it is real. It is that person to person transmission that was the mark of the early church. Testimony, real-life stories about the way that Jesus changes lives, puts flesh and blood onto the bones of formal liturgy, just as the vision of Ezekiel showed the valley of dry bones becoming animated with the breath of life as they gained flesh and substance.

Somehow we have got to be able to communicate our experience of a living God, rather than tending dry bones of old creeds and practices. I don’t think we are going to be replacing the organ with a band any time soon or holding services two hours long with 30 minutes of hymn singing at either end, but the key to the worship witnessed by Heulwen was the focus on the Holy Spirit. I sometimes think of the Spirit as a potential electrical charge flowing unseen but powerful, waiting for the invitation of the on-switch. I think we need to start switching onto the grid and praying for renewal and revival.

Asking for opportunities to share our faith in ways that are meaningful to people for whom God seems distant at best, at worst, non-existent. So let us pray as hard as we can for the Holy Spirit to intervene in our current situation and give us new strength and new enthusiasm to share our faith – even if that has to be at the end of a phone! If the outcast woman at the well can do it, then so can we!