Sin separates us from God. It is as if we are turning our backs on God. We need therefore to turn back to him and ask forgiveness.
Sin is anything that is selfish or unloving. It including big crimes such as murder, but also includes more common things which we all do – losing our temper, ignoring the needs of others, lying, being dishonest and so on. Jesus told us to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves – every time we fail to obey this simple law we fall into sin.
But God does not want us to be separated from him. So he offers us forgiveness in Christ. There can be no greater example of sin than that the Son of God was crucified – but Jesus died in love, praying that God would forgive even those who killed him. His love is stronger than sin and death, and therefore his love is stronger than any sin we could commit.
The principal way of forgiveness is to come to Confession. Here a person tells God their sins and asks forgiveness. God, working through his priest, pronounces absolution (forgiveness.) Of course God can only forgive us if we are sincere, but if we truly want his forgiveness then we can receive it.
Confessions can be heard after any Eucharist or other act of worship. On special occasions such as Christmas or Easter there are special times for confessions. Do take time to talk to one of the clergy of you would like to know more about receiving God’s forgiveness.
Many people will come to feel a calling to be ordained. This always comes as a surprise to the person called, and it can take some courage to admit that you feel God may be calling you. But if this happens to you then you ought to talk to a priest, or someone else you trust, about it.
Before a person is ordained they need to see and talk with the people asked by the bishop to look after such matters, and will also need to go to a church selection conference. Ordination is a great joy and a great responsibility. But God needs priests in his church and may in fact be calling you!
Jesus healed people because it was a sure sign of God’s love at work. We all need the wholeness only God can give. Some people need healing for an illness, some because of worry, fear or anxiety. In healing God gives us strength to carry on. Sometimes he takes away our pain or suffering all together. Of course if we are very ill healing may be to bring us through death into God’s presence.
The Holy Oil of Healing (which is olive oil) is blessed by the bishop and then used throughout the year. The priest will use the oil to make the sign of the cross on your forehead and both hands. Healing ministry can be offered privately but is also offered at public worship. Ask if you would wish to receive this ministry
In the early days of the Church when a person had been baptised they immediately went to stand in front of the bishop who would lay his hands on their head and pray that the Holy Spirit would confirm (strengthen) them in the faith they had been baptised in. Gradually confirmation became a separate service, mainly because as the Church grew bishops covered an area rather than just one church and so could not get to every baptism.
Confirmation involves a commitment from the person being confirmed – they commit themselves to following Jesus as his disciple. Confirmation is administered by a Bishop. It is not appropriate to ask children to make the sort of commitment involved, so Confirmation is rarely given to anyone under 11 years. Like Baptism, you can never be too old to be confirmed.
Mass – Eucharist – Holy Communion
Jesus died on a Friday; the night before he ate the last meal of his life with his 12 disciples – so this is known as the Last Supper. During the meal he took a piece of bread and asked his friends to share it saying ‘This is my body which is given for you – do this to remember me.’ Then after the meal he took a cup of wine and gave it to them saying, ‘Drink this; this is my blood which is shed for you. Do this to remember me.’
The next day he was dead; then on the first Easter Day he was alive again. Since then Christians have always done what Jesus asked us to do – we take bread and wine, repeat the words of Jesus and receive the bread and wine which we believe God has now transformed so that it holds the real presence of Jesus. It is the holiest thing that Christians do.
When we take the bread and wine we meet the risen Jesus – so this is also known as Communion (‘communion’ means to meet at a deep level.) The service is also known as the Eucharist, since ‘Eucharist’ means to give thanks.
At our churches the Mass is celebrated daily and is at the centre of our worship since it is the service given to us by Jesus himself.
There is a time of preparation and prayer before a person begins to receive Communion, and normally this is associated with a person being Confirmed. If you would like to know more about receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, see one of the clergy who would be happy to talk with you about this.
Jesus himself was baptised in the river Jordan. His last words in Matthew’s Gospel instruct us to ‘make disciples of all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ In Acts we read of those coming to faith in Jesus who were then baptised because they had begun to believe.
St Paul writes that when we are baptised we are ‘in Christ’ – and from this comes the word ‘Christen’ meaning ‘in Christ.’ He tells us that when we are baptised we are united with Jesus in his death and resurrection.
Baptism then is something we read of in the Bible and which Christians have always practised. A person can be baptised at any age, young or old, but we only get baptised once; this is because in Baptism God gives us everything Jesus has won for us in his cross and resurrection. What God gives he does not take away, so we are only baptised once in our lives.
In the Heavitree churches we are pleased to receive requests for Baptism. These generally are booked in on a Saturday in St Michael’s between 17.30 and 18.00. Baptisms take place on a Sunday – we have one Sunday a month when we perform Baptisms. If you would like to talk more informally about Baptism and find out more about what it means, feel free to phone any of the clergy