‘It’s difficult to talk about death, it’s difficult to talk about dying’ – April 4th 2022 – Passion Sunday

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22 04 03 Fifth Sunday in Lent Passion Sunday Eucharist

The Readings

Isaiah 43.16-21
Thus says the Lord,
   who makes a way in the sea,
   a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse,
   army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
   they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things,
   or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
   and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honour me,
   the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
   rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
   the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
Psalm 126
A Song of Ascents.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
   we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
   and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
   ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
   and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
   like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
   reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
   bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
   carrying their sheaves.
John 12.1-8
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’
Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Rev d Dr Beth Keith

This week as Passiontide begins, our church calendar shifts towards the events of Holy Week. We aren’t there yet, but our readings start to focus on the events leading up to Jesus’ death.
Like birth we have taken death and dying out of our homes, we may get through childhood knowing little of it, confined in hospitals, spoken of in hushed tones, and kept out of sight. In most cultures there are stories, ingrained in how we talk about death, which offer to keep death away from us. These tend to fall into one of four types.
The first type is the story of the elixir of life. In earlier times these were the stories of magical healing potions. Though we might laugh at these stories now, similar hopes are today placed in the discovery of a new medical cure, trials of new drugs, and of herbal remedies.
Many cultures have some kind of resurrection story, that death though occurring cannot hold us. This story of resurrection associated most strongly with Christianity is found in myths and other religions. And, if you’re looking for a more scientific resurrection story, perhaps cryonics may appeal.
Other options in defying death are to talk about the ongoing life of the soul beyond the death of the body. Whilst neuroscience has questioned this by locating the soul within the physicality of the brain, this view persists. The digital age offers us everlasting life in the potential to create avatars to carry on our existence after our physical bodies no longer exist.
And for those who find these three types too fanciful, there are stories of legacy. That we will live on in the lives of those who love us, in our children and the passing on of genes, or in the legacy of our work.
These death stories promise, to some degree, to keep death away, to protect us from death, to keep us from the inevitable. But in the last few years, death and dying has felt closer than ever before, as we have collectively faced covid. Our risks and vulnerabilities have become more apparent. The assumed safety of our daily lives questioned, and perhaps we have also lost loved ones.
During Holy Week we visit and replay the narratives of Jesus death. Whilst we cannot know the extent to which Jesus knew what was going to happen, the gospels suggest he knew about the inevitability of his death, that it would happen soon, and the manner in which it would occur. He seems to know he was dying, perhaps not that day, but that he was already on the path to his death.
Across the history of the church, as Christians have sought to understand Jesus’ death, different aspects or metaphors, referred to as atonement theories, have developed. One of these has been referred to as ransom theory, in which Jesus’ death is understood as an act of ransom or payment that bought the world its freedom from sin and death. Another is labelled the substitutionary or sacrificial victim model, in which Christ’s death is understood as the sacrifice necessary to atone for human guilt and sin. Moral influence theory, takes Jesus’ death as a model of moral behaviour, revealing to humanity how much God loves them. Aspects of each of these explanations and metaphors are found in the liturgies and hymns we will say and sing over the next couple of weeks.
Whilst each of these models are developed from scripture, the writings found in the Gospel of John do not fit easily into any of these. Metaphors of ransom or substitution are entirely absent from John’s gospel. And whilst the gospel talks of God’s love, unlike moral influence theories, John’s gospel emphasises human action to a much greater extent than the atonement theories suggest.
John’s gospel from start to end hangs in the tension of Jesus described as fully divine and fully human. In birth, life, death, and resurrection Jesus brings together as one, reconciles together humanity and God. Whilst other scriptures seek to explain how this reconciliation occurs and give metaphors and imagery for this. Jesus’ explanation of his death in John’s gospel is embedded in his body and in his being, in his humanity and divinity. In this drawing together as one, so God and humanity is drawn together as one.  God and humanity inseparably joined, in birth, in living, in dying.
Rather than explaining this reconciliation between God and us, John’s gospel offers this connection embedded and embodied in the Jesus. Not in explanation or reason but in person. In the living and dying and living of Jesus. In these last events and moments, when Jesus knew his death was coming, in his actions and words, as he connects with those around him, we hear his words of comfort and his words of life.
A few years ago, I read a book called Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler. Professor Bowler is one of the leading theologians writing about the influence of prosperity gospel theology in the church in America. This branch of Christianity that promises a cure for tragedy. At the age of thirty-five and having recently become a mother she was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Her book charts her path.
She writes of her struggle in coming to accept her life and death and the unhelpfulness of the stories which try to protect us from death, in her case, the allure of magic gospel promises about faith and healing. She also writes about the how inevitability of death can open us to a brightness and beauty lost on us in normal life:
"When I was sure I was going to die, I didn’t feel angry. I felt loved. At a time when I should have felt abandoned by God I was not reduced to ashes, I felt like I was floating. The feeling stayed with me for months. And as I spoke to theologians, pastors and nuns they knew what I was talking about because they had either felt it themselves or read of it in great works of Christian theology. St Augustine called it ‘the sweetness’, 
Thomas Aquinas ‘the prophetic light’. "
Her experience chimes with research on those who have near death experiences, that many describe the same odd thing: love. This was something I also felt, twenty years ago, when I was very ill with malaria, and it wasn’t clear I would recover. Though physically thousands of miles from home, and though my family had no idea I was ill, I felt held in their love, and held in God’s. In these moments somehow, we can be drawn further into God, further into love.
There has been lots of research done, particularly within the field of palliative medicine about dying well. These studies suggest that alongside the reduction of unnecessary pain, aspects of dying well include touch, connection, peace, and wonder. The importance of connecting through touch and the body’s other senses. To connect with others and feel the connection that lasts beyond death. To know you will be remembered. To feel peace, wonder and spirituality.
As I read Kate Bowler’s account alongside John’s gospel, I have been struck again by the humanity of Jesus facing his own death. As he allows Mary to wash and anoint his feet, as we heard in our reading today. As he draws together his friends and companions for one last meal, the familiar smells and tastes, the rituals of the meal. As he asks his friend to take care of his mother. As he asks them to keep meeting like this. As he asks them to remember him. As tragedy moves close, we see Jesus drawn further into connection and love with others and with God.
In John’s gospel we perhaps see this clearer than in other parts of scripture, that this inevitable tragedy is necessarily connected to the birth and life of Jesus. That in his birth, God is with us, that in his dying God is with us, and in his rising God is with us. There is so much in between that distracts and distorts that. That pulls us away from our connectedness to God. Things that break these bonds of love. In Jesus’ dying we are reminded of God’s promises, that there is no sin, darkness, or place, that God cannot find us in and love us back to life.
It cannot explain away the horror of tragedy or the depths of loneliness, the pain of grief, it cannot answer for the injustice, but that love persists, braves the horror of bodies broken and left undone. That somehow the world can become more beautiful when life is at its most bleak is the work of God. God with us, God present in our dying, present in our living.

The Prayers
Prepared by Lizzie I

God who listens
We pray for our church communities, particularly in our mission area of St Mary’s, St John’s and St Marks. We give thanks for the communities of friendship and love that have grown out of our Lent groups this year and the opportunity to pray, lament and reflect on the last two years.  Help us look forward with hope and not give up on looking for your transforming presence in unexpected places and encounters.  As Easter approaches may we continue to discern creative ways of sharing your extravagant and limitless Love.
Your Kingdom come
Your will be done
God who longs for justice
In the week of fuel costs doubling, we hold before you those who are making the stark and impossible decision between eating and heating, particularly in this community. Bring compassion to those who have the political power to support and help those struggling. Help those of us who can to discern how to give voice with those who lack agency or capacity to do so.
We continue to pray for and with organisations who  give voice to the sin of food and fuel poverty, and which seek to give agency to those living it,  particularly the Trussell Trust and Church Action on Poverty.
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
God who feels suffering
We lament the loss of all life because of the violence of war. We hold before you the despair and desperation of those held captive because of the desire for control and power of others. We pray for those who are starving and dying in places that are besieged – Tigray in northern Ethiopia, Mariupol in Ukraine. As food and aid attempts to get to those places, be with and protect those who seek to provide help in the most dangerous of conditions.
We pray that we do not become numb to the horror of war – that we continue to bear witness to the suffering of others, even in places we do not know, and we pray for peace and reconciliation in all places of conflict.
Your kingdom come
Your will be done.
God who is present to the bereaved, the unwell, the dying,
We hold before you all those we know and don’t know who are sick at this time, and for those caring for them
We pray with the bereaved in this community and continue to hold before you the lives and families of
Sunita, Glenda, and Don
For all those we love, but no longer see.
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
Amen.

‘Bearing Good Fruit’ – 20th March 2022 – 3rd Sunday of Lent

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22 03 20 Third Sunday in Lent Eucharist

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The Readings

Isaiah 55.1-9
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
   come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
   come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
   without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
   and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
   and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
   listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
   my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
   a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
   and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
   for he has glorified you.
Seek the Lord while he may be found,
   call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
   and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
   and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Psalm 63
A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
   my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
   as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
   beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
   my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
   I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
   and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
   and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
   and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
   your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek to destroy my life
   shall go down into the depths of the earth
Luke 13.1-9
At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’
Scripture quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon

By Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes

In the past few weeks we have witnessed unimaginable suffering in Ukraine. Defenceless people attacked as they hide in their homes or try to flee the Russian onslaught. Though President Putin uses spurious excuses there is no justification for what is happening. The suffering of others raises big questions for us as human beings.  It is as old as the hills and different cultures and different eras have found different answers to it. It’s probably the biggest challenge that we face as people of faith. The traditional Old Testament answer to that question is that suffering is a punishment for sin. Certainly, the sufferings that the Israelites endured in the wilderness were perceived as punishments for their immorality and faithlessness. Paul seems to have accepted this interpretation as he looked back on that time in his First Letter to the Corinthians. And it was this world view that Jesus had to work with in his ministry. People assumed that those who were ill or were suffering in some way had sinned, or their parents had sinned.
But when people come to ask him about it, Jesus confronts this view. It appears that Pilate had murdered some Galileans and many thought that they must have been particularly sinful. We do not exactly know what incident Jesus was referring to. The historian Josephus tells us that Pilate used funds from the Temple to build an aqueduct and when some Jews opposed this many were brutally killed by his soldiers. So the incident that Jesus is referring to doesn’t seem entirely out of character.
We don’t know anything about the tower of Siloam either but it seems that this was just an accident. A story in the news that would have made the front page when it happened but was soon forgotten about. In neither case, says Jesus, were those involved particularly sinful. His message is that we are all sinners and we all need to repent. By dying on a cross, Jesus showed us that God is not remote from our suffering but shares in it with us. By rising again, he showed us that suffering does not have the last word. It should not define us.
That does not mean, however, that we should take God’s grace for granted. The events that Jesus mentions, the war in Ukraine, these all remind us that life is fleeting and precarious. We cannot take it for granted. And we need to use it wisely. The prophet Isaiah reminds his people that God loves them and longs to refresh the thirsty. He longs to feed them with rich food. But he tells them that the time is now. The banquet is prepared. They need to listen to him, to seek the Lord while he may be found, to call upon him while he is near. The wicked need to abandon their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. They must return to the Lord so that they can know God’s mercy.
And having returned to God, they need to be fruitful. Returning to the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree. A man planted one in his vineyard but it failed to bear fruit. I had the same experience in my last house. My father gave me a fig tree which was an offshoot of his tree. But it never produced anything and I’m afraid I got rid of it. The man in the parable is inclined to do the same but the gardener begs for a stay of execution. He is more merciful than I was.
The gardener promises to take care of the fig tree. To dig around it and put manure on it. And I find this interesting because for fig trees to be fruitful you have to be quite tough with them. You have to plant them so that their root growth is restricted. You usually plant them next to a wall and you might create a box of paving slabs around the roots. And although a fig needs plenty of sun, it does pretty well on poor soil so it seems odd that the gardener wants to add lots of fertilizer. I wonder if Jesus’ hearers would have known that. Perhaps they would have interpreted this horticultural largesse as another sign of God’s abundant grace and love.
But even the gardener says there are limits. If the tree doesn’t bear fruit he says that the owner would be justified in cutting it down. It’s a phrase we hear a few times in the New Testament. Not just from Jesus but from John the Baptist too. And it leaves us with the question: are we bearing good fruit? Both as individuals and as a church? The past few weeks have reminded us how blessed we are in so many ways. We live in peace and security. We have access to healthcare. We have shelter, food and warmth, though these are becoming more and more expensive. And what do we do with these blessings? How do we spend our lives? How are we a blessing to others? All of us will have different answers to that question. My wife and I are fortunate to live in a five bedroomed vicarage. Our children have left home so we are thinking about hosting Ukrainian refugees. But there are so many other things we can do.
Today is our APCM. And it’s an opportunity for us to look back and give thanks for God’s faithfulness over the past year. It has been amazing to see the evolution of the worship here as we come through the pandemic. St Mary’s is hugely blessed with some very committed and gifted people who have given so much. It’s been lovely to see people coming back to church and people joining for the first time. And of course, that growth and change will continue. Hopefully, Covid restrictions can be further eased. We can resume things that we did before the pandemic but also start new things. Do things differently. St Mary’s Church is very well placed to serve this community of Walkley and we need to think about how we do that better in the future. We are thinking about this building and how it can be developed to be of greater service to people here. So as well as looking back we are also looking forward. Thinking about how we as a church can be more fruitful in the future. Perhaps some of us here are called to take on new responsibilities. God has given us so much. There is so much for us to be thankful for. How should we respond to that in the months to come? Amen.

The Prayers

Adapted from Common Worship: Times and Seasons

With confidence and trust let us pray to the Father.
For the one holy catholic and apostolic Church
For our own local churches – St. John’s, St. Mark’s and St. Mary’s,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For the mission of the Church,
that in faithful witness it may preach the gospel
to the ends of the earth,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For those preparing for baptism and confirmation
including those from our local churches …
and for their teachers and sponsors,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For peace in the world
For Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and other areas of conflict…
that a spirit of respect and reconciliation may grow
among nations and peoples,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For the poor, the persecuted, the sick, and all who suffer
For those known personally to each of us…
for refugees, prisoners, and all in danger;
that, like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori,
they too may be relieved and protected,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For those whom we have injured or offended,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For grace to amend our lives and to further the reign of God,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
In communion with all those who have walked in the way of holiness
including those known to us personally …
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
God our Father,
in your love and goodness
you have taught us to come close to you in penitence
with prayer, fasting and generosity;
accept our Lenten discipline,
and when we fall by our weakness,
raise us up by your unfailing mercy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.     
Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here, is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council

‘Called by God together’ – 6th February 2022 – Fourth Sunday before Lent

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22 02 06 4th Sunday before Lent Eucharist

The Readings

Isaiah 6.1-13
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’ And he said, ‘Go and say to this people:
“Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.”
Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.’
Then I said, ‘How long, O Lord?’ And he said:
‘Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is utterly desolate;
until the Lord sends everyone far away,
and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.
Even if a tenth part remains in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak
whose stump remains standing
when it is felled.’
The holy seed is its stump.

Luke 5.1-11
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of
Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

 

Scripture Quotations are from: The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Sermon
By Revd. Sue Hammersley

I love the story of the miraculous catch of fish because, notwithstanding the miraculous outcome, it is so human and so helpful for weary disciples.

How often do we approach our faith with a sigh…
What’s the point? I pray but nothing seems to change… I ask God for guidance but remain in the dark… I look at everything the world is going through and wonder why God seems so remote…

The seemingly innocent request from Jesus to “let down your nets for a catch” must have been galling…
Simon was a fisherman, Jesus was a carpenter…
Simon had spent all night fishing and was exhausted. He’d already started cleaning the nets and putting them away – it wasn’t quite as straightforward as Jesus might have made out, what he was asking of Simon was costly.

I can imagine a certain “tone of voice” in Simon’s response…
We know these waters and we’ve worked them hard all night – what do you know? Oh, but you say “let down your nets” and everything will be OK – let’s see about that – watch and learn – carpenter boy…

So, when Simon can hardly manage the catch of fish the whole scenario turns on its head – from scarcity to abundance, from cynicism to possibilities, from exhaustion to delight…
What we’ve all been going through has been exhausting at so many levels.
The idea that God might be asking something particular of us might feel overwhelming at the moment. But God’s view of the world is different from ours.

One of the things we sometimes overlook in this story is that Simon was not able to fish alone – it would have taken a team of fishermen to do this work. We are not called to serve God on our own but to use the many resources which are around us to make a difference.

Simon Peter’s revelation, on seeing the enormous number of fish was to fall to his knees and apologise… His shortcomings hit him like a slap with a wet fish. Like Isaiah he could have called out, “Woe is me! I am lost!”
But far from chastising Simon, Jesus sees this as the opportunity to ask more of him. Blessed are the poor in spirit for they know their need of God and with God all things are possible, so put down your nets now – I need your boat to help me teach the crowds about the abundance of God’s love – abundance which is even greater than this catch of fish.

Moving from despair to delight is the message of today’s Gospel reading and, in order to make that move we might have to change something in our own lives. Change can be threatening and difficult but Jesus is constantly calling us away from that which separates us from God’s liberating love and towards that which is life-giving – not just for us but for those around us.

Today we remember the extraordinary call upon Princess Elizabeth, aged just 25, in 1952. She knew that she would follow her father but how could anyone be ready or imagine that her call would continue for 70 years, at least?

Fear is a common response to being called by God. Isaiah narrates the terror that, having seen God, this man of unclean lips would surely die – and yet his call is affirmed and he states, “Here am I, send me!”

When Simon Peter falls to his knees in shame, Jesus reassures him by saying, “Do not be afraid”.

Fear paralyses where love liberates, but our freedom is not permission to withdraw, it is the authority we need to be the people we are called to be, to use the resources which have been given to us to let God’s kingdom break into the world and turn it round.

I don’t think I am talking this morning to a group of fisherfolk but, as a church, maybe we are being called upon to approach things from a different perspective? Perhaps there are different ways in which we are being called upon to serve the people of Walkley? Please pray for the recruitment of a parish administrator, we have received some very strong applications and will be holding the interviews in a couple of weeks. The person who is appointed will help us to look at what we are doing from a different angle, to offer some support to the existing team and release them to be able to develop aspects of their role which they might not have been able to focus on for a while. But we’re not appointing someone who is going to miraculously draw new members to our church, all of us together are responsible for helping people find their way to the church and all of us are responsible for bringing the teachings of the church to life in the ways in which we live our lives.

I hope that together we can discover and relish in the delight of our faith, a delight which can be more infectious and more long-lasting than any virus.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe P

With thankful hearts we bring our prayers to our heavenly Father

We pray for the Church of Christ, for Bishop Pete and Bishop Sophie, our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary’s, St John’s and St Mark’s.
We pray that we may hold firmly to the teachings of the Gospel, so that we may follow in the footsteps of the Apostles.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth 2nd to her throne, we thank you for the long and loyal service that Her Majesty has given to this country.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for world leaders at this time, that they can come together in a spirit of peace and willingness to resolve tensions in Ukraine. We pray that all leaders value truth, justice and compassion above personal power and influence.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends. We pray for those who have health worries and financial concerns at this time. We pray for those with responsibility in local government, that they make the best decisions for our city.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or spirit, those that need your grace and blessing. We pray that God’s power and spirit will strengthen them and bring them the healing and peace that belong to Christ’s kingdom.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those currently close to death, and those accompanying them on this final part of their Earthly journey. We pray for those who have died, recently and in the past. We pray for those who mourn. We particularly hold Catherine and her family in our prayers at this time.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

Finally, Lord, we silently bring before you those special to us, and also those issues and concerns that we have in our own lives.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the communion of Mary, Mark, John and of all the Saints, let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life, to God.

Merciful Father:
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour,
Jesus Christ.
Amen.

 

Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000

‘God’s Generous Love’ – 26th December 2021 – St. Stephen’s Day

To watch this morning's service on Youtube, please click here:

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

To download the order of service, please click here:

21 12 26 St Stephens Day Eucahrist (1)

The Readings

Acts 7.51-end
[Stephen said] ‘You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are for ever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.’

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.

Matthew 10.17-22
Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

The Sermon
By Canon Dr. Matthew Rhodes

It is good to see you all on this Boxing Day. I wonder why you are here rather than at home nursing a hangover or having a lie in. Perhaps it’s because you are really hard core Christians who never miss a Sunday, in which case, well done. Or perhaps it’s because you need to get out of the house. If you’re on your own this year as many of us are, it’s good to be with others. Or perhaps you have a house full and need to escape. Whatever your motivation, you are very welcome and I might just have the very saint you need.
Today we celebrate the Feast of St Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Yesterday we gave thanks for the birth of the baby Jesus, but in the space of 24 hours our faith has to leave the stable and the ox and the ass and encounter some rather adult themes.
I heard some children on television the other day suggesting that Boxing Day was so named because the sport of boxing was created on this day. The truth of course is that the boxes in question are Christmas boxes which are traditionally given to servants and tradespeople. But there is still a certain amount of violence connected with today. There’s always quite a bit of violence and murder on the television at this time of year.
Perhaps it provides a balance to the need for us to be nice to each other at Christmas. A bit of spice to balance the sweetness of this time. But whatever the reason, it seems that violence at Christmas goes back a long way. In the church calendar on Boxing Day we hear about the brutal killing of Stephen by the religious authorities. He was stoned to death for his faith in Christ. And Saul, who later became St Paul, looked after the coats of those who did the stoning.
Stephen’s story reminds us of the may Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith. Sometimes we may be called on to give a reason for the hope that is in us and we pray that like Stephen, we can be brave enough to do that. We also pray that as Jesus promises in our Gospel, the Holy Spirit will give us the right words to speak. And it may be that we need to find the right words to say at home too. Christmas can be a stressful time and an hour in church may help us to know what to say, or not say, when we get home. I have a lot of respect for Stephen but part of me wonders if he should have kept his mouth shut a bit more. Sometimes it’s a case of least said, soonest mended. What I really admire him for though is the fact that he was able to forgive the people who were killing him. And if Stephen could do that surely we can find it within our hearts to forgive those who cause us pain.
One of the themes that comes to the fore today is the theme of charity, or caritas, which is sometimes translated as love. Stephen showed enormous charity to his killers. And we are called to be charitable to the people we encounter. To our nearest and dearest and also to our neighbours. Boxing Day reminds us of the need to be generous to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. And that is strongly reinforced by the carol which we will sing at the end of this service. Good King Wenceslas. It’s a carol beloved be carol singers for generations because it tugs at the purse strings of those who hear it.
The carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’ may not give God much of a mention but hopefully it will send us out in a good mood. Willing to play our part in building the kingdom that Jesus came to inaugurate. Like Wenceslas and Stephen himself, we are called to reflect God’s generous love to the world. To give of ourselves as God gave of himself when he sent his son to be one of us. Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Sue H and Sybille B

Saviour, we hear your call.
Help us to follow.

Holy God,
though this world depends on your grace,
it is governed and tended by mortals.
We pray for those
who walk the corridors of power
in the parliaments of this and other lands,
whose judgements we value or fear.

Saviour, we hear your call.
Help us to follow.

We pray for those who hold key positions
in the worlds of finance, business and industry
whose decisions may profit some
or impoverish many.
May they always value people higher than profit;
may they never impose burdens on the poor
which they would not carry themselves;
and may they never divorce money from morality
or ownership from stewardship.

Saviour, we hear your call.
Help us to follow.

We pray for those in caring professions,
who look after and listen to
kind, cruel and cantankerous folk.
May they always sense the sanctity of life
and every person’s uniqueness;
may they help and heal
by their interest as well as their skill;
and may they be protected from the tiredness
which comes from an excess of demands.
We hold before God all who have asked for our prayers and all we carry in our hearts this day.

Saviour, we hear your call.
Help us to follow.

May the words we have shared this Christmas
lead to courageous acts which transform people’s lives;
may the carols we have sung
help others sing, even in their sadness;
may the gifts we have exchanged
deepen our spirit of generosity
throughout the coming year
and may the stories we have told and retold
be good news of great joy to us and all people

Saviour, we hear your call.
Help us to follow.

We rejoice in our communion with Stephen
and all the saints and martyrs,
whose hope was in you, the Word made flesh
and with whom we for evermore are one.
Lord, receive our prayers
and perfect them by your heavenly intercession,
to the glory of the Father.
Amen.

‘God’s Unmasking’ – 25th December 2021 – Christmas Day

We regret that we are unlikely to be able to live-stream our Christmas morning service.  If we do manage it, you can access it here:

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

To download a copy of the order of service, please click here:

21 12 25 Christmas Day Eucharist

The Readings

Isaiah 9.2-7
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Luke 2.1-20

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Canon Dr. Alan Billings

For the past two years or so, in my day job, I have been having meetings that have followed a strange ritual. Well, it would have seemed strange in all previous years, but it has now become quite normal.

I go into a committee room and stand on the far side of a long table. Other people come into the room and join me, spreading out round the table.

What’s strange is that we are all wearing face coverings. We’re all wearing masks. It’s as if we are a branch meeting of the ku klux clan. It’s only when we are all assembled that we sit down and take the masks off. Then we recognise one another.

This is what the pandemic has done to life in so many offices.

Sometimes I am meeting people whose voices I think I recognise – from seeing and hearing them speak on calls over the internet. But I need them to take their mask off to be really sure that it is them. I need to see their face.

I need to see their face. Because our face is so revealing.

Think of some of the things we say about faces.

She’s got such an honest face.

I wouldn’t trust him. He looks like a crook. He looks. His face gives him away.

I can read her like a book? Why is that? Because her face says it all.

I know there are certain sorts of Christmas present I dare not buy my grandchildren. Oh, they are very polite. My granddaughter would say, ‘Thank you grandpa for the sturdy pair of outdoor shoes you have bought me for Christmas. They’re just what I wanted.’ But her unsmiling face would tell me that the real message behind the politeness is, ‘If only you’d given me the money.’

If two years of being masked has taught us one thing, it’s this. Our faces matter. They are such a big part of the way we communicate with one another. When we talk to one another without masks, we can see immediately any of those subtle changes in expression that speak more than words.

When I first began to marry people as a young curate fifty years ago there was a very dramatic moment in the service when the bride put back her veil and revealed her face. It’s not done any more. I don’t know why or when that tradition began, but the symbolism was very clear. For the couple, marriage was a sort of unveiling or revealing of one to the other. The bride and groom open a door to one another and invite each other in. For that to happen, they had to communicate face to face, not mobile to mobile.

So faces matter. They are the window onto our personalities, they reveal our very souls.

And this is why the face of a dead person can be so disturbing. In one of the crime novels by P.D.James there is a moment where one of the characters sees the face of the murder victim. But the face, the window onto the soul, is saying that the soul has gone. He cries out in his distress: ‘Cover her face.’

If all this is true of human beings, isn’t it also true of God? And isn’t this what we are celebrating today, Christmas Day. Today is the day of God’s unmasking.

This is what the Church means when it speaks about the incarnation. Day to day, God is hidden. Masked, if you like. But once, on this day, he chose to make himself known to us, to show us his face, in the face of this child, this particular human being, once born on earth, once come among us.

So, whenever we find any of those age old human questions forming in the back of our minds – where is God? what is God like? does God love us? does he love me? - the Church points us here for the answers. To this child. Born today. This is God showing us his face, and so giving us that window into his nature, his very self.

Christ in the manger is God’s unmasking. Which is why, whatever the circumstances, for us it’s a Happy Christmas.

The Prayers

Prepared by Catherine B

Jesus, whose mother was Mary:
we pray for parents and carers of children everywhere, and those caring for elderly relatives and friends. We give thanks that Christmas is a time when many families can celebrate together, but remember too those who find family life difficult, or who will be on their own this year.
Lord Jesus,
hear our prayer.

Jesus, cradled in a manger:
we pray for all those who are homeless this year. We think of those sleeping on the streets of Sheffield. We pray for all who have fled their own countries trying to find somewhere safe to live. We give thanks for all charities working with the homeless and refugees and pray for the work that they do.
Lord Jesus,
hear our prayer.

Jesus, sharing the stable with the animals:
we pray for our world and all created life. We think of the joy that being among nature brings, and give thanks. We pray that we might look after our planet wisely and carefully.
Lord Jesus,
hear our prayer.

Jesus, worshipped by shepherds and kings:
we pray for people and nations throughout the world. We pray that leaders act with wisdom, justice and kindness, that all may thrive.
Lord Jesus,
hear our prayer.

Jesus, our Emmanuel:
we pray for all who are finding life difficult, through illness, bereavement or other troubles. We give thanks for healthcare workers, counsellors and all who provide practical support. We pray that we all do our bit to help those we know who need it. In a short time of silence, we think of those we know who need our prayers this Christmas.
Lord Jesus,
hear our prayer.

Jesus, Saviour, child of Mary,
you know us and love us,
you share our lives
and hear our prayer.
Glory to you for ever. Amen.

Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here, is copyright (c) The Archbishops’ Council

‘Midnight Mass’ – 24th December 2021 – Christmas Eve

To watch our Midnight Mass on Youtube, please click here:

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

To download a copy of the order of service, please click here:

21 12 24 Christmas Midnight Eucharist (2)

The Readings

Isaiah 52.7-10
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

John 1.1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

 

Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Joe P, a Reader at St. Mary's

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Well, like the determined lady in the Tesco advert, we’ve made it to
Christmas Eve, in THIS place, which is quite an achievement all things
considered. It’s wonderful for us to be here together on this special
night.

When I was a child I was not a church going boy. I went to Church on
Christmas Day just once. It was the year I was bought a train set for
Christmas (for those interested, Hornby 00 Jinty locomotive in BR
Black, pulling a light engineering rake including a crane) and my Mum
took me to Church so that my father could set the train set up.
When we returned, we were greeted by all of the menfolk in my
family gathered around the trainset, playing. I think I got a look-in
mid afternoon…

For me, Christmas as a child is inextricably would up with women,
particularly my Mum and my Aunty. Most of the time, the general
attitude towards the menfolk was stay out of the way, go to the pub,
DO NOT drink too much and be back for dinner, which would be after
the Queen’s Speech.

This year it struck me how much the women in the Gospel writings
around the birth of Christ are ‘up front and centre’. In a society
where women were not regarded with any degree of equality, Mary
is given the agency to agree to carry Jesus in her womb. She doesn’t
ask Joseph, who simply accepts the truth of what Mary has
experienced and gets on with life. Elizabeth, mother of John the
Baptist feels her own baby acknowledge the Christ-child within Mary
when they meet, and her husband, Zechariah, spends the pregnancy
as a mute witness having been rendered (literally) speechless by the
Angel Gabriel. In the Magnificat, Mary recognises the radical nature
of what God is doing through her:

“He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in their conceit;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and
exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has
sent away empty.”

God is doing this through an unmarried teenage girl – not exactly
someone high up in the social calendar of society at that time. And
Elizabeth? She was 80 odd years old at the time she was carrying
John the Baptist.

And this is just part of what can best be called the paradox of the
incarnation. When we look at the story of the nativity, things unfold
in the way we might least expect! Remember the words of our
gathering tonight:
“Welcome all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span.
Summer in winter, day in night,
Heaven in earth and God in man.”

God is coming to Earth in the form of Jesus – fully human, and yet
fully divine, born in to the world like any other human child yet being
at the same time the divine Word. Our Gospel reading tonight puts it
perfectly:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We
have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who
came from the Father, full of grace and truth. “
One might have expected this event to take place at a centre of
power – Jesus to be born in to an existing royal dynasty, or close to
the centre of Imperial power in Rome. But no; Jesus will be born to
an unmarried teenage mother who has trusted fully in God, in
something of a back-water of the Empire.

Even the circumstances leading to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
seem to turn over earlier experiences that the Jewish people had
with God. In the first Book of Chronicles in the Old Testament, we
learn that King David organised a census of the people of Israel.
Now, in the Book of Hosea, which was written a couple of hundred
years before David’s rule, it was written that “the number of the
children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be
measured.” By doing a census, David was attempting to count that
which God had said was uncountable – and he was punished for it.
But now, the Messiah will be born from David’s family tree, in
Bethlehem – the city of David - during a census arranged by the
Roman authorities, in which the house of David is being counted
rather than doing the counting.

The census attracts large numbers of people to Bethlehem to
register; so many that there is no room for Joseph and Mary.
Whether they are turned away from the inn, or are unable to get
accommodation with family members is somewhat unclear, but we
all know that Jesus ends up being born in what is usually referred to
as a stable. This may indeed be a stable, or it might be the lower
rooms of a family house were used for animals and storage.
Whatever the details, these are humble circumstances. The Messiah
is not born in a palace, surrounded by wealth, guards and servants,
inaccessible to all but the chosen few. He is born in straw and laid in
a manger; his first visitors are stabled animals and shepherds; he is
accessible and available to all – the King of all is born defenceless
into humility.

Thomas Merton, an American Trappist monk, pointed out the by
being born in such a place, Jesus is being born outside of normal
society. He’s not born in an inn, or a family house. During a
gathering together of people decreed by Imperial power, Jesus is
born as an outsider from the very start of His life.
From the beginning, it might be argued that in terms of earthly
power, Jesus ‘didn’t count’. There literally was no place for the King
of Kings to be born in to in the Roman world.
Merton argues:

“Christ’s place is with those others for whom there is no
room…with those who do not belong, who are rejected by
power because they are regarded as weak, those who are
discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured,
exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is
present in this world.”

But even at that moment of birth Mary and Joseph receive the
kindness of a roof over their head and straw for warmth and a place
to lay the baby. And this kindness does not come from those in
authority, but from nameless strangers who share their humanity
with the Holy family.

This Christmas we are again being confronted with uncertainty, with
the potential for further illness, people being away from family and
friends. This night, throughout the world, many people will feel that
they do not count, that there is no room in the world for them, and
that they are not treated as people.

This night, Christ becomes present in the world and joins refugees,
migrants, the poor, the homeless, those fleeing war and the ravages
of climate change, starvation and disease.

As we celebrate our Christmas, let us do what we can to offer those
people room in our hearts through acts of charity and compassion
wherever we encounter the need.

There is enough work for all of us, not just at Christmas, but all year.

The Prayers
From Common Worship: Times and Seasons

In peace let us pray to the Lord.

Father, in this holy night your Son our Saviour
was born in human flesh.
Renew your Church as the Body of Christ.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night there was no room for your Son in the inn.
Protect with your love those who have no home
and all who live in poverty.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night Mary, in the pain of labour,
brought your Son to birth.
Hold in your hand all who are in pain or distress.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night your Christ came as a light shining in the darkness.
Bring comfort to all who suffer in the sadness of our world.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night the angels sang, ‘Peace to God’s people on earth.’
Strengthen those who work for peace and justice
in all the world.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night shepherds in the field heard good tidings of joy.
Give us grace to preach the gospel of Christ’s redemption.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night strangers found the Holy Family,
and saw the baby lying in the manger.
Bless our homes and all whom we love.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night heaven is come down to earth,
and earth is raised to heaven.
Hold in your hand all those who have passed through death
in the hope of your coming kingdom.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

In this holy night Christians the world over celebrate Christ’s birth.
Open our hearts that he may be born in us today.
Holy God
hear our prayer.

Father,
in this holy night angels and shepherds worshipped at
the manger throne.
Receive the worship we offer in fellowship with Mary,
Joseph and the saints
through him who is your Word made flesh,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

 

Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council

‘From the ordinary to the special’ – 24th December 4.00pm – Christingle

Our Christingle service is online only this year. To watch it on Youtube, please click here:

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

If you have made your own Christingle at home, don't forget to have it ready!  You'll need something to light the candle with at the appropriate time.  If you are a child, make sure there is a grown-up with you to help you to do this safely.

To download a copy of the order of service, please click here:

The Bible Reading

Luke 2.1-20

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

The Bible quotation is from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Address

By Catherine B, a Reader at St. Mary's

Last Friday my Christmas tree went up. We added coloured lights and baubles, and hung other ornaments on the branches. I’d like to show you a couple of them. They are both made from recycled materials. The people who made these took things that weren’t very special and turned them into Christmas decorations.

My friend made this angel from sheet music paper. I’m not sure what the music was from, and I’ve not tried playing it. But it makes a very attractive angel. It reminds me of the angels in the Christmas story that we heard today. They told the good news about the birth of baby Jesus to the shepherds. And then they began to sing songs of praise to God.

This second ornament was made by someone in Bethlehem. It used to be a tear gas canister. The town of Bethlehem today is not always a very peaceful place and sometimes the soldiers fire tear gas to make crowds of people go away. But some people in Bethlehem collected the spent tear gas canisters and then turned them into something more beautiful. They’ve decorated them with coloured ribbon to look like little presents that you can hang on your Christmas tree. They’d like us to remember that Christ came to bring peace and joy, and to pray for peace in the land where he was born.

Ordinary or used things turned into something special for Christmas.

Mary turned something ordinary and used into something special for Christmas too. She and Joseph weren’t at home when it was time to give birth to her baby. She hadn’t got a cot or a Moses basket. They hadn’t even got a proper room because everywhere was full. But there was a manger in the stable where they settled down for the night. It was filled with soft hay. After Mary gave birth to Jesus, she turned the manger into a cot for her very special baby.

I’m sad that for a second year we can’t all be in church for this service and enjoy the light from all the Christingles together. But I wonder if you were able to make your own Christingle at home? It’s not too late to have a go – you can make one any time between Advent Sunday and Candlemas – so you’ve got until 2nd February!

Christingles are another lovely decoration made from ordinary objects – an orange, a candle, a piece of red ribbon or tape and 4 cocktail sticks with sweets and fruit on them. If you’ve not made one before, there’s a video on our website showing you what to do.

Your Christingle is full of meaning too:
The orange represents the world we live on.
The candle represents Jesus, who came into the world as a little baby.
The cocktail sticks full of fruit and sweets represent all the good things that are in the world for us to look after and share.
The red ribbon or tape represents all the suffering of the world, and especially the suffering that Jesus went through on Good Friday.
But when we light the candle, we remember that Jesus came into the world to overcome suffering and to be the light of the world, shining brightly for everyone. We remember that Jesus brings hope into lives that are often very difficult.

So like the angels and shepherds, let us give thanks and praise to God.

Happy Christmas to you all!

The Prayers

Lord Jesus,
you were born into an ordinary family:
We pray for families everywhere,
especially for families in difficulty or in poverty,
and for families and relationships that are breaking down.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus,
your bed was in a manger,
because there was no room at the inn.
We pray for all those who have no home:
those who sleep on the streets,
and all who have lost everything
through violence or disaster.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus,
the animals shared their stable with you;
We pray for the earth, and for all living things,
that we might learn to live in peace and harmony with the natural
world,
and treat all of creation with honour and respect.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus,
you were worshipped and adored by shepherds and kings:
We pray for the people and nations of the world,
and especially for peace and understanding
between different faiths.
You came as the light for the whole world,
so in you may we find that we have more in common
than that which divides us.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, God with us,
we pray for people we know who are in need.
We pray especially for children who are in difficulty,
and for the work of The Children’s Society
in standing up for justice
and bringing light and hope into darkness.
Help us to show to one another
the same faithfulness and love
that you revealed at Bethlehem.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus,
you came to be with us on earth
so that we might be with you in heaven:
Keep safely all those who have died.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

‘The Universal King’ – 21st November 2021 – Christ the King

To watch this week's service on YouTube, please click here:

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

To download a copy of this week's order of service, please click here:

21 11 21 Christ the King order of service

The Readings

 

Revelation 1.4b-8
John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds;
   every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
   and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
John 18.33-37
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org 

The Sermon

By Revd. Dr. Beth Keith, Parish Theologian at St. Mark's Broomhill and Broomhall

 

We hope to provide this shortly

The Prayers

Prepared by Barbara

 

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.
O God, the creator and preserver of all, we pray for people in every kind of need; make your ways known on earth, your saving health among all nations …
We pray for all of those affected by the Covid-19 epidemic.
We pray for those countries currently suffering from upsurges of the virus, thinking especially of those in Europe including the United Kingdom: please help them to keep their most vulnerable citizens safe. We pray that all politicians stop using the pandemic to score political points and choose effective means of making sure that all the people they represent are safe and well.
We pray for the worldwide success of vaccination campaigns, and that vaccines are made available to all countries, regardless of their wealth or lack thereof. Please help each of us to give informed reassurance to those we know who are wary of having the vaccine.
We pray especially for all workers in direct contact with the public who are at such risk of exposure to the virus: health care providers, shop workers, bus drivers, schoolteachers and all others similarly exposed. Please help all of us to protect all of them by continuing to wear masks in public and practice safe social distancing and by getting vaccinated, if we have not already done so.
We pray also for all those involved in trying to fight the climate crisis Please give all governments the political courage to resist further use of fossil fuels and to invest in sources of renewable energy instead. Please help each of us individually to contribute to protecting our planet in any way we can.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.
We pray for your Church throughout the world;     guide and govern us by your good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life …
We pray especially for our worshipping community of St. John’s Ranmoor, St. Mark’s Broomhill and St. Mary’s Walkley as we learn new ways of joining together in love for you. Please help us to feel your presence in a world turned upside down and to share that presence with others.
We pray that we can continue to worship together in ways that are safe for all of us, whether in person or online. Please help us to think of each other and let each other know that we care and to remember those who feel increasingly lonely and unsafe as the world tries to go back to normal while leaving us behind.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.
We commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are in any way afflicted or distressed, in mind, body or estate; comfort and relieve them in their need, give them patience in their sufferings, and bring good out of their troubles …
In moments of peace and contemplation, we name to you all those known to us who are suffering. Please care for them and for all those of whose suffering we are unaware.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.
We remember those who have gone before us in the peace of Christ, and we give you praise for all your faithful ones, with whom we rejoice in the communion of saints …
We name to you in our hearts all those known to us both near and far who are suffering the loss of friends and loved ones, asking that you bring your comfort and healing to them at this time of grief.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2000

‘Called to follow him’ – 7th November 2021 – 3rd Sunday before Advent

To watch this week's service on Youtube, please click here:

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

To download a copy of the order of service, please click here:

21 11 07 3rd Sunday before Advent order of service

The Readings

 

Hebrews 9.24-end
For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Mark 1.14-20
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org 

The Sermon

to be included shortly!

The Prayers

Prepared by Siobhan H

 

Holy God, we pray for your church throughout the world, for our Mission Partnership, for our worship team and all who contribute to the life of St Mary’s. We pray for the stillness to listen to the voice of the Spirit as it calls us to discipleship. That each of us may be granted the gifts of discernment and courage, as we seek to follow your call and bring transformation to our communities.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Creator God, we pray for a greater understanding of the wonderful ecosystem which you have bestowed on us and a strong commitment by governments and people throughout the world to protect and preserve it for this and future generations.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer
Compassionate God, we pray for the millions of refugees throughout the world who have fled from war, torture and abuse and who are now suffering from starvation, freezing conditions and rejection. We pray that we and our community can see the face of Christ in each of them and give them an opportunity for a new life of peace and freedom.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer 
Healing God, we pray for those who are sick or suffering at this time. Amid their physical and mental suffering may they find consolation in your healing presence. We pause to remember those known to us who need our prayers at this time.
As winter pressures lead to increased demand in our health care sector we pray for all health care staff and emergency workers. Give them the physical and emotional strength to the demands placed upon them.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer 
Gracious God, we remember those who have died and gone before us, who have helped pave the way for us to be who we are and where we are today. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.
Let us pray for a moment in silence  for our own intentions and for those who have asked for our prayers.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers,
for the sake of your son,
our saviour,
Jesus Christ,
Amen.
Prayers adapted from acireland.ie
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2000

‘Into a living hope’ – 31st October 6.30pm – All Souls Memorial service

To watch this evening's service on Youtube, please click here:

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

To download this evening's order of service, please click here:

21 10 31 Memorial service

21 10 31 Memorial service

The Reading

1 Peter 1. 3 – 2. 3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his
great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through
the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an
inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in
heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God
through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In
this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer
various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more
precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be
found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is
revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even
though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with
an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome
of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace
that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring
about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them
indicated, when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for
Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they
were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that
have now been announced to you through those who brought you
good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which
angels long to look!
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set
all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he
is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the
desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who
called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is
written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’
If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially
according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your
exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways
inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver
or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb
without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of
the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.
Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from
the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on
God.
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth
so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from
the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of
imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For
‘All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures for ever.’
That word is the good news that was announced to you.
Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity,
envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure,
spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed
you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org 

The Sermon

By Joe P, a Reader at St. Mary's

 

I’d like to start tonight by with a quotation from a film that you may recognise:
“A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all, but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that girl.”
That quotation is from the character Mr Bernstein in the film ‘Citizen Kane’. And it’s about a very powerful gift we have – that of memory.
Tonight we remember those we have loved and from whom we see no longer. Mr Bernstein has a vivid and powerful memory of a split second of experience from when he was a young man; such is the power of memory. A smell, a piece of music, the sight of a dress in a shop window may all trigger our memories of those we have lost.
When we remember those we have loved and lost, the triggers may be all around us, all the time.
As Christians, we look at our memories, and our responses to those memories, with the faith, hope and comfort that comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ.
But when we lose friends and family, it can be desperately hard to find comfort even with our faith. We love and remember those who’ve died.
We know that Jesus himself mourned deeply for the death of his friend Lazarus, even though he knew that he could bring him back.  It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that we mourn and feel sad about those we no longer have in our lives.
Our faith tells us that our loved ones are going ahead of us into the closer presence of God. But despite our faith and the hope within it, when our loved ones die, we still suffer.
Tonight’s reading is from Peter’s first letter, a letter of hope to those who find themselves amid suffering and uncertainty – those very situations where faith can be tested.
Although it’s addressed to Jewish and Gentile Christians in many places throughout Asia Minor, I think we all can take something from this letter with the uncertain times that we live in now and that we have recently experienced.
Peter acknowledges that those who read and listen to the words of his letter will have to ‘suffer grief in all kinds of trials’ but that it is through these times of trial that their faith will be refined and proved genuine.
When Peter says, ‘He has given us a new birth into a living hope’, ‘hope’ is loaded with a meaning for the readers of the letter than we might find surprising today. Today we often see ‘hope’ as a rather wishy-washy thing – a general desire for the best whilst fearing the worst.
In scripture, hope doesn’t mean this sort of ‘wishful thinking’. Hope  is a firm conviction for the future – in this case, a promise from the Lord; that they who believe and have faith in Jesus Christ will be resurrected in to a new life.
At the same time the reading also reminds us of how ephemeral and short our lives on Earth are; a sobering but potentially motivating thing for us to ponder on.
Peter quotes the prophet Isaiah – his audience would be aware of the source of the words:
“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
There are many references in Old Testament scripture to the transience of human life on Earth. As well as Isaiah, Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Psalms would all be familiar to Peter’s audience and these words would echo with them, whilst at the same time standing in stark contrast to the eternal nature of the new life in Christ that the faithful are promised.
They’re told in this reading that they can rejoice in the knowledge that they’re protected by God’s power through their faith, until they get their ‘inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.’ – that of resurrection into a new life in the presence of God.
Powerful words of hope indeed from Peter.
But what of those who’re still living; those of us who mourn and grieve for those we miss. What do we have from God during our remaining time on Earth? I think we have two gifts.
First, we’re reminded of life’s brevity. In my diary for today I see the number 1172 at the top right of the page. Based on average male life expectancy for someone like me in the UK, that’s a guesstimate of the number of weeks I have left to live. It decreases by one every week. I update it every Sunday morning; it keeps me focussed.
Secondly, and most importantly, we have the gift of memory. A gift from God that starts off being sharp and painful, but that is smoothed down with time and life experience to become more comforting as time passes. A gift by which we can still express the love we have for those who’ve died, and in some cases, even realise through our memories that they loved us more than they let on at the time!
Marcel Proust wrote in his ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ that memory is “a sort of cutting [that] can be taken from one person and grafted on to the heart of another, where it continues to exist even when the person from whom it has been taken has perished.”
I’d suggest that the cutting is a gift of comfort from God, nourished by our love, and His grace, to keep a link between us and our loved ones.
They go ahead of us to the eternal and nearer presence of God; we who are left here are blessed with their presence in the form of those memories in our hearts and minds until we too join them in that New Heaven and New Earth that we are promised.
Thanks be to God!

The Prayers

Let us pray to the Lord, who has conquered death.

Jesus, bread from heaven,
you satisfy the hungry with good things:
grant us a share with all the faithful departed
in the banquet of your kingdom.
Hear us, risen Lord,
our resurrection and our life.
Jesus, the light of the world,
you gave the man born blind the gift of sight:
open the eye of faith
and bring us from darkness
to your eternal light and glory.
Hear us, risen Lord,
our resurrection and our life.
Jesus, Son of the living God,
you summoned your friend Lazarus from death to life:
raise us at the last to full and eternal life with you.
Hear us, risen Lord,
our resurrection and our life.
Jesus, crucified Saviour,
in your dying you entrusted each to the other,
Mary your mother and John your beloved disciple:
sustain and comfort all who mourn.
Hear us, risen Lord,
our resurrection and our life.
Jesus, our way and truth and life,
you drew your disciple Thomas from doubt to faith:
reveal the resurrection faith to the doubting and the lost.
Hear us, risen Lord,
our resurrection and our life.
May God in his infinite love and mercy
bring the whole Church,
living and departed in the Lord Jesus,
to a joyful resurrection
and the fulfilment of his eternal kingdom.
Amen.