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Established for ever and ever (02-03-23)

A Bible Reading: Psalm 148. 1 - 6 Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created, and he established them for ever and ever— he issued a decree that will never pass away.

This little paragraph from the then Bishop of Leicester, Ronald Ralph Williams, caught Mum’s eye:

“Those of you who have heard me preaching at St Helen’s have often heard me draw a comparison between the castle, now so largely in ruins, and the church, still going strong. I do not draw any detailed conclusions from there two features of the Ashby landscape, but they do seem to me to symbolise the passing nature of earthly and material grandeur, and the eternal unchanging message of the Gospel and the love of God.”

The bishop then went on to encourage the church to grow, to love and to serve the Lord, and to lustily sing his praises Sunday by Sunday.

Ashby is not the only place with a ruined castle but a healthy worshipping church. We see the story repeated up and down the country. Even when the church itself is threatened, it somehow survives. During the early 15th century, the Lollards met in a deep hidden chasm in the woods, called Lud’s church on the Stafforshire edge of the Peak district. These followers of John Wycliffe, an early church reformer, were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. The church in China has worshipped underground and flourished and grown for many years despite persecution. During Covid, the church didn’t die; it went online and outside, and again discovered new ways of being. Praise cannot be silenced.

We are created to praise God and his praise cannot be silenced no matter what happens. God’s praise is built into the whole of creation. God has established his rule and his reign for ever and ever, a decree that will never pass away. Our four churches are a similar age to St Helen’s in Ashby, built on the monastic foundations of love, obedience and charity. Let us fix our eyes on that unchanging message of the Gospel and the love of God, as we faithfully serve God and grow the churches here today. And may our legacy be vibrant congregations to carry the Gospel message and the continuing voice of praise onwards into eternity.

A Prayer

Creator God, we praise your name for all you have made and for all those faithful souls who have gone before us. Keep our hearts full of praise and faithful to our calling, that your church will continue to serve you in the years to come. Amen. Praise him, you heavens and all that’s above, Russell Fragar, from Hillsong

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