‘Harvest’ – 3rd October 2021

The order of service

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

21 10 03 Harvest Order of Service

To download this week's order of service as a word document, please click here:

21 10 03 Harvest Order of Service

Livestreaming

Please find a link to the church's YouTube channel here:

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

The Readings

Jeremiah 32:1-3, 5b-15
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, ‘Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed?’

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.

And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

 

Matthew 6.25-33

Jesus said, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’

 

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 Michael Bailey

Will be made available when possible.

The Prayers
Prepared by Shirley.

Creator God, on this day when we celebrate Harvest we pray for your Church in this country. We are truly grateful for what you have given us, please help us not to forget all those who are hungry, here and throughout the world, those whose homes have been wrecked by famine, flood, invasion and other disasters. Be with all those in need of any kind and help all charities as they seek to serve them.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer. 
Creator God, we pray for all clergy and lay workers throughout the Sheffield Diocese. Please be with our Bishops, Pete and Sophie, and all those at St. John’s, St. Mark’s and here at St. Mary’s. Please give them all wisdom and great faith.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer. 
Creator God, we pray for all those in Sheffield who are homeless, and those needing help from foodbanks. Please be with The Archer Project and with those organizing or receiving help from local foodbanks.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer. 
Creator God, please be with all those known to us who are sick, in mind, body or spirit. Cover them with your unfailing love.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer. 
Creator God, be with all those who are nearing the end of their earthly lives. Give the freedom from pain and anxiety and grant them a peaceful end. We remember those known to us who have died recently or in the past.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer. 

Finally, a prayer adapted from a speech by Chief Seattle in 1854.

Creator God, every part of the earth is sacred. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.
The air is precious; for we all share the same breath.
This we know, the earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.
This we know, all things are connected; like the blood which unites one family.
Our God is the same God, whose compassion is equal for all.
For we did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand of it.
Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves.

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

‘Pick up your cross’ – 12th September 2021 – 15th Sunday after Trinity

The order of service

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

21 09 12 15th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

To download a Microsoft Word version of the order of service please click here:

21 09 12 15th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

To watch the service on Youtube, please click here:

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

The Readings

Isaiah 50. 4 - 9a

The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.

 

Mark 8. 27 - end

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the 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, a Reader at St Mary's.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

CS Lewis, in a 1944 pamphlet for the Electrical and Musical Industries Christian Fellowship, wrote:

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of port would do that. If you want a religion to make you really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

Of course, Christianity will bring us joy and ultimate salvation, and Jesus reminds him that he will relieve us of our burdens, but the process of getting there might be hard going. In fact, in scripture, we’re reminded that if we follow Jesus, people may well hate us for it; in some cases Christians may die for our faith.

So…I’ll start today by asking the question ‘Will Christianity make us uncomfortable?’ to which I’d reply ‘Only if it’s done properly’.

Today’s Gospel reading includes the following two statements from Jesus:

He famously admonishes Peter with the words ‘Get behind me, Satan’.

He tells his disciples ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’.

The people are becoming aware of this new teacher amongst them; some are saying that he is a returned Old Testament prophet, or Elijah, or even that he is the recently executed John the Baptist. And a number will no doubt be wondering whether He is the promised Messiah come to free the people of Israel from their Roman occupiers.

Peter tells Jesus that he believes him to be the Messiah, but when Jesus starts telling the people that He will be abused, tried, executed and will rise again from the dead Peter tries to tell Jesus to not say these things. After all, if Jesus is the Messiah the people are hoping for – the one who will free them from oppression – how can he do this by dying? I can imagine Peter thinking that all Jesus needs to do is call upon an army of angels to defeat the Romans, and poof! Society will be purified, Israel’s supremacy amongst the nations will be secure, all will be good! Of course, Peter is thinking in purely worldly terms; he misses the point of what Jesus is saying, and His teacher swiftly admonishes him.

The words ‘Get behind me, Satan’ may seem quite harsh to us. In Judaism – and we need to bear in mind that Jesus and his followers are Jews and are steeped in those traditions – Satan is often regarded as a being subservient to God but representing the evil intentions within all men. When Jesus says ‘you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ to Peter, He is telling Peter that the Messianic promise Jesus offers is not dealing with the local problem of the Roman garrison, but the over-arching issue of the saving of mankind and the defeat of death that can only be obtained through His sacrifice on the cross.
And Satan has already attempted to tempt Jesus with Earthly prizes – like dominion of all the land he could see from the top of the Temple in Jerusalem – when he tempted Jesus during Jesus’s time in the desert.
As Jesus had seen off the tempter himself, he was clearly not going to be deflected from His path by Peter, who in mis-understanding Jesus has effectively become an unwitting mouthpiece for Satan. Peter is projecting his own thoughts and desires as to what the word ‘messiah’ means to him on to Jesus, rather than understanding Jesus’s true Messianic destiny, which must lead to the cross.

Jesus then goes on to tell the people listening that if anyone wants to follow Him, they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. Let’s break this down.

What does it mean ‘to deny oneself’? These days we look at this in terms of not following up on our desires, delaying gratification or generally ‘doing the right thing’. We might deny ourselves puddings if we want to lose weight, or put off spending money if it would cause us some problems. But This is trivial compared to what Jesus meant; to his listeners, the idea of self was wrapped up with where they belonged in terms of community, class, sex, caste, freeman or slave. To be asked to deny themselves wasn’t about giving something up; it was about transformation. They were being asked to transform themselves – to turn their back on where they were in society and life, and start afresh.

Hearing the phrase ‘pick up your cross’ would probably cause the number of potential followers to thin out somewhat. The cross was recognised as a tool and symbol of oppression, torture and death. Crucifixion was the punishment for treason, for example. It was a humiliating, slow, public and painful death. Were you to be sentenced to be crucified, ‘picking up your cross’ had a literal meaning – you were expected to carry the means of your own execution to the execution site. Today we understand taking up your cross as a symbolic means of describing engaging in struggle; to Jesus’s audience there was little that was symbolic about it. Following Jesus could get you killed.

To genuinely follow Jesus – to walk in his footsteps, follow his ways – involved massive sacrifice. You would be denying your role and place in your existing society to join the followers of an itinerant, potentially heretical teacher from a non-descript part of the country whose teachings managed to upset both secular and religious authorities. Apart from turning your back on society and losing any social standing you had, and probably falling out with family and friends, imprisonment and execution would be ever-present threats.

As Lewis said ‘If you want a religion to make you really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.’

For those of us in this Church this morning, it’s unlikely that we will suffer imprisonment and death as the price for following Christ. Jesus reminds us that in today’s reading that it is a possibility. But we need to look at our society, our friends and family, our social media lives, the world in which we live and ask ‘Are we denying ourselves when we need to to follow Christ? Are we picking up our cross? Are we making the sacrifices we can make – even if they are desperately uncomfortable – to allow us to more closely follow Jesus? The world today asks a lot of us if we are to truly follow Christ. All Christians must be wary of what Bonhoeffer called ‘cheap grace’.

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

In other words following Jesus without denying ourselves, without picking up our cross, without ‘walking the walk’. Cheap grace gives us a cheap copy of Christ.

Let’s look to see how we, in our lives, can deny ourselves, pick up our personal crosses, and experience the joy, discomfort and genuine grace of truly following Jesus.

Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

O God our Father, we bring before you the needs of our world, particularly the sufferings of those in war zones, who feel themselves abandoned by their friends to tyranny, are refused access to asylum, with no vaccines to help them fight infection, or are dealing with the results of climate change. We pray that the wealthy countries of the world will work together to relieve suffering, protect the weak, and share resources such as vaccines with those without access to them. We remember Christ’s teaching “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for the Church worldwide that all who call themselves Christians may work together to serve your people in whatever way is most help to them in their circumstances. We pray for our Archbishops, our diocesan bishops, this parish of St Mary’s Walkley and all who work so hard to maintain our services for our own congregation, and thank you for the support of our partner churches St John’s and St Mark’s. Help us all to demonstrate that our churches are open and welcoming to everyone who finds their way into them, whether to services or, as last weekend, an event like the Horticultural Show.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for our community, both the City of Sheffield and Walkley, giving thanks for all those people who give freely of their time and talents to support their neighbours in so many ways. Encourage those organisations trying to restart their normal activities after the difficulties of the last eighteen months. Bless our schools and teachers, especially our own St Mary’s School as they start the new school year, also all the students returning to our universities, who are unsure as to exactly what this year may bring.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill at this time, physically or mentally, after a time of great stress for many in their work, particularly NHS and Care workers. Give them strength to cope with the circumstances they are faced with, particularly the huge backlog of treatments which have had to be postponed because of corona virus, and those suffering pain as a result.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We remember before you all who have died recently, also all who died in the twin towers tragedy 20 years ago. We remember before you by name Muriel, and others known to us in a moment of quiet. Be with all those who mourn.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, John and Mark and all your saints we commend ourselves and all creation to your unfailing love.

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

‘From the heart’ – 29th August 2021 – 13th Sunday after Trinity

The order of service

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

21 08 29 13th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

To download a Microsoft Word version of the order of service please click here:

21 08 29 13th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

To watch the service on Youtube, please click here:

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

The Readings

Deuteronomy 4.1-2, 6-9

So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you. You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!’ For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.

 

Mark 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
“This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’ For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the 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 Alan Billings.

I can’t imagine what it must be like now to be living in Afghanistan.

After a couple of decades without the Taliban, people, especially younger people, had begun to make a distinction between things they thought were important in life and things that were merely conventions. Things that would always matter and things that came and went and could be different.

This was especially true for women and girls. They came to see that they didn’t have to be confined to the home. They didn’t have to look forward only to a life of child rearing and domestic work. They could go to school and college. They could get jobs. Decisions about how a community, a village, a town even a country was run, could be made by women as well as men. The conventions that had kept them subservient and in relative servitude, were only that: conventions. Things could be different.

And this wasn’t about abandoning Islam for western values. There was much about the west – its materialism, for example – that they did not all approve of. And the Quran didn’t say girls should not be educated. But it was about making a distinction between things that matter and things that are more a question of tradition and convention.

Something similar is going on in today’s gospel. I’m not saying that those Jews who were known as the Pharisees were like the Taliban – violent and brutal – but they too were keen to see the conventions and traditions upheld, and they had a powerful influence on society.

One of those conventions was washing your hands before eating. This wasn’t about hygiene. I doubt whether anyone in the first century had much idea about hygiene. It was a tradition, a convention, a ritual, that you washed your hands before having food. Which is all very well if you have servants who have been to the well and got a bowl of water ready for you. Not always so easy if you are a shepherd who has come back tired and hungry after a day on the hills.

Some of the disciples of Jesus don’t wash their hands before eating. The Pharisees notice and criticise. Jesus uses this as a moment for saying something important.

I don’t think he is saying, Don’t follow social conventions, traditions, rituals. After all, they surely have their place. They make it easier for us to live together if we have some agreed ways of behaving, especially in public. And Jesus is not himself accused of failing to observing the traditions.

ut what he is saying is, Learn to make a distinction between these traditions, and things that really matter. Get social conventions into perspective. Because sometimes they will change or need to change.

Now this can cause some confusion, and is probably one reason why we sometimes have periods of uncertainty as traditions change.

I was always taught, for instance, to open a door for a woman and to let her go through it first. When I do this these days – and that would be for my wife, my Chief Executive and the Chief Constable - I am never quite sure whether this is regarded as old-fashioned and quaint or patronising, or even offensive. When they give me a forgiving look I know its certainly one of those.

Social conventions, traditions, rituals, can change, sometimes slowly, sometimes more quickly. But what Jesus is insisting on today’s gospel is that we learn to recognise the difference between a convention and what really, really matters.

And what matters is what he calls the state of your heart. It’s what you have in your heart, what lies deep within you and makes you behave one way or another towards others, that matters most.

He lists some of the evil intentions we might harbour – such as avarice, slander, envy, and so on. And there is a flip side to them which he could also have listed – generosity, kindness, respect, humility, being careful with words, being content with what you have. These things matter more than whether you wash your hands before meals or not.

Conventions and traditions, says Jesus, come from outside – they are what society places on us. They are not to be just cast aside; they help to smooth our way through life if we all know how to behave in certain situations; but they could be different.

But what comes from your heart, these things really matter for good or ill. They mattered then, in the time of Jesus, they matter now. And they will go on mattering down the ages. Because where you have in your heart of hearts truth and goodness, you have within you the eternal values.

The eternal values that take you to the heart of the eternal God.

 

The Prayers
Prepared by Shirley R.

Father of all, we pray for your Church throughout the world, that great family of which we are a part. We pray for all those who are denied freedom and struggle against injustice. Here in the Sheffield Diocese we ask for help and blessings on our Bishops, Pete and Sophie, and all clergy and lay workers, especially those at St. John's, St. Mark's and St. Mary's.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Father of all, every human being in this world is your child and you love us all. Please be with all those suffering from natural disasters and situations caused by human weakness and indifference to the needs of others. Especially we pray for all the Afghan people, those trying to leave their country, those already refugees among strangers and those compelled to remain in Afghanistan. Help us to welcome any refugees who come to our city. Please be with family of the little boy who died so tragically here last week.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Father of all, we pray for the community of Walkley. Please be with all who live, work or visit our shops and businesses. As the new school year approaches we ask you to be with all teachers, support staff, pupils and governors in our local skills. Please be with them at this difficult time.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Father of all, Please be with all those who are sick in mind, body or spirit, and also with all health and care workers as they help those in need.
In silence we remember all those known to us.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Father of all, we remember those who have died recently or in the past.
In silence we remember those known to us.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Father of all, we do not know what today and this week will bring. Be with us when skies fall, agreements shatter and understanding runs out.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

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

‘Knocking off the corners’ – 8th August 2021 – 10th Sunday after Trinity

The order of service and livestreaming link:

The service will be streamed on our YouTube channel here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv0KDKmAwGyIsE1i07xmiiw

The order of service as a PDF:

21 08 08 10th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The order of service as a Word document:

21 08 08 10th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

1 Kings 19.4-8

But Elijah himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

 

John 6.35, 41-51

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

 

The Sermon
By Kath, Reader at St Mary's.

In moments of frustration, when things are not going according to plan; as is often the case for me, I sometimes think that the epitaph on my tombstone will read “She tried. Dear Lord, she tried!” and it’s true. I seem to have spent my entire life trying with one thing or another and much of the time meeting with little or no success. It‘s often deeply disappointing and as I said, frustrating. I’m sure I’m not on my own in feeling this way; we all have our moments! Most of us set out with high ideals and standards for ourselves about the sort of person we would like to be, how we want to live, what we would like to achieve and so on. But then life with all its complexities and complications intervenes and has the disconcerting habit of knocking the corners off us. Our plans and aims are thwarted, our standards compromised, our ideals have to be reassessed, usually in a downward or more realistic and pragmatic direction, and this can leave us feeling a bit like failures sometimes.

This was the impression I got of how Elijah might be feeling in our reading from Kings. The phrase “It is enough, now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” really stood out for me because he seems so spent and demoralised that he is actually asking God to end his life. This is not something most people wish for lightly! In order to understand what has brought Elijah to this state of mind we have to back up a bit and hear the story so far, as they sometimes say on television.

Given that he is such a prominent character and mentioned in the Bible so often, I was surprised how little background information there is about Elijah but here is a short version of what I could find. He was a prophet and miracle worker who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel in the time of King Ahab in the 9th century before Christ. Ahab was married to Jezebel and they were followers of the Canaanite god Baal. Ahab regarded Elijah as troublesome because he persisted in defending the worship of the Hebrew God. Just before the events described in our reading, Elijah has very publicly put Baal to the test by having 450 of his prophets gathered together and telling them to call on their god to set light to a bull prepared as an offering. He gave them a long time and every opportunity to succeed in this endeavour but in the end nothing happened. In spite of their most earnest prayers and entreaties, Baal didn’t show up. Elijah himself then made a similar offering of a bull, but to make the comparison even more definitive, he had gallons of water poured over the wood pyre and filled a trench surrounding the alter with it before calling on God to set the offering alight. God answered his call and the bull, the alter, the water and everything were completely consumed by the fire. Elijah then had the prophets of Baal captured and he killed them all with a sword. This must have been pretty gruesome and terrible but he succeeded in turning the people away from Baal and back to belief in God. Following this event, Elijah tells King Ahab that the drought that has afflicted the land for a long time is ending and again he is affirmed as God’s prophet when the rains come. Ahab sees all this for himself and tells his wife but she isn’t swayed.

When Jezebel hears about the killing of Baal’s prophets she sends word to Elijah that she intends to kill him in the same way and he is afraid and escapes with his servant to Beer-sheba. From there he alone goes into the wilderness. He may have been safe there but it seems that things have taken their toll on him which is where our reading picked up the story. We are not given much detail about what Elijah was thinking and feeling. At the time he lived, violence and killing didn’t seem to be uncommon but I can’t imagine that he ever set out to be a mass executioner. Maybe this is why he says, “I am no better than my ancestors”. The events in his life have made him into the person he is, perhaps not the person he had wanted to be, we don’t know, but at this point he seems to be giving up. He lays down under a tree and asks God to take away his life. He goes to sleep; possibly he hopes that he just won’t wake up again. But God still has plans for Elijah and recognising his need for sustenance, both physical and spiritual; he sends an angel and provides food. Elijah eats and drinks but he still isn’t feeling revived and lays down again. So God sends his Angel a second time with more food and this time with a message that Elijah must take the sustenance offered or he will be unable to continue his journey. He does as the angel says and he is given what he needs to get up and to keep going. Indeed, he keeps going for forty days and forty nights and he makes it to God’s mountain, Horeb.

Amazing as it is, I wondered, what can we take from this story? How can it speak to us? After all, we’re not prophets or miracle workers! But if we look back on our lives, can we see God acting in similar ways for us when we were feeling overwhelmed or dispirited or defeated? It doesn’t have to be in such a dramatic situation as that faced by Elijah; in my experience it’s often in much smaller ways and in more mundane circumstances that we can see where God intervened for us. When I was young and lived with my mum & dad and my sisters; life was often hard because my dad was self-employed and work was uncertain so we had very little money. But I remember hearing him say “The Lord provides” and just as we came up against a problem that seemed insurmountable, like the van breaking down or we couldn’t afford the materials for a job or to pay the dinner money, the wherewithal appeared in some shape or form and we got by. I look back at all the difficulties and disappointments I’ve faced since then, some not so bad, some terrible and I can see how I have been given what I needed to keep going, especially spiritually. Last week in her sermon, Sue talked about our need for spiritual replenishment and how, by joining together in worship week by week we give ourselves the opportunity to be replenished. This made me think of something that happened many years ago here in church. I was in the vestry, probably getting ready for the service when a Church Army friend came in and said, “I’ve been thinking about you and a reading came to mind that I thought was just what you might need”. I think she must have somehow picked up that I was worried about something. The reading was from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 6 verses 19-the end and it’s been my favourite reading ever since. I won’t quote all of it now, just the last four verses which seem most pertinent to what I’ve been saying but you might want to look it up for yourselves sometime.

“Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat? Or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Belief in God doesn’t mean that all our problems will be magically solved but he knows when we are in need and he knows what we need better than we do ourselves. It may not always be immediately obvious but He will provide.

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 the United States and in Indonesia: please help them to keep their most vulnerable citizens safe.
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. We pray that those who are offered the opportunity to be vaccinated against covid19 have the wisdom to take the vaccine they are offered. 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 also for the climate summit Cop26 in Glasgow and for all those who will be attending. Please give all governments the political courage to resist further use of fossil fuels and to invest in sources of renewable energy instead. We pray particularly that the governments of China, Russia, Brazil and Australia revisit their climate plans to reduce their use of fossil fuels and choose to switch their reliance to renewable sources of energy that will not result in the continued overheating of our planet!
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 for all Christian communities in this country and around the world, as we strive to find new ways of being your family that do not put each other in danger during this pandemic. Please help us to reach those who most need your comfort and help.

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.

Today we continue to pray for your church in Canada, and especially for all those denominations involved in running the residential schools where indigenous families were forced to send their children. We pray for all the indigenous children who were abused and neglected while attending those institutions. Torn from their families, forbidden to speak their own languages, starved as a result of extreme and intentional underfunding by the federal government that failed these children by not acknowledging their worth, these children suffered beyond our comprehension and so very many of them died there alone, never returned to their families, even in death. Please help all Canadians to recognise the wrongs done these children, in which so many of us were unknowingly complicit, and to help the bereaved families to find their children’s bodies.

We pray that Canada’s new Governor General, Mary Simon, who is Inuk in origin, can help to increase recognition and understanding of our First Nations people throughout Canada so that we who are descended from settlers may stop being the problem and start being part of the solution to ensuring that all Canadians are treated equitably wherever they live and whatever their ethnic origin.
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, asking that you bring your comfort and healing to their families and friends at this time of grief.

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

‘Christian Ambition’ – 25th July 2021 – The Feast of St James

The order of service:

The order of service as a word document:

21 07 25 St James the Apostle Eucharist

The order of service as a pdf:

21 07 25 St James the Apostle Eucharist

The Livestream link

To participate in the service through YouTube, please click here:

 

The Readings

Acts 11.27 - 12.2 

At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.

 

Matthew 20.20 - 28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favour of him. And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

 

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 David, a Reader at St Mary's. 

Today the church celebrates St James one of the 12 apostles, the first followers of Jesus. He should not be confused with the other St James also one of the 12 apostles whose feast day is the 1st of May and shared with Saint Philip.
To tell them apart the James we celebrate today is known as James the Great, whereas the other one is known as James the Less. The letter of James in the bible is ascribed to James the Less, which goes to show your writing can be included in the canon of scripture and you can still be considered the less of two James by the church.
But should he be bothered?
What does Christian ambition look like?
Today’s Gospel reading gives us an answer, one that is pretty straightforward and clear cut.
The mother of James and John has come to Jesus to ask a favour. How Matthew portrays this is telling. In the same account in Marks Gospel, which it is believed was written earlier and to which Matthew had access, it is James and John themselves who ask Jesus for the favour. In Lukes Gospel, also written after Mark the incident isn’t mentioned. In a few short years has the church moved from showing the very human, fallible actions of the disciples? Does it instead seek to present an idealised view of their actions and interactions with Jesus?
Maybe. A cautionary tale for us when dealing with events heading out of living memory. It’s very easy to rose tint our view of the past and the figures in it.
But back to the Gospel reading. Jesus has been asked for a favour. James and John would sit at the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom. In the ancient world, as now, these were positions of power and respect. To sit next to the king enabled advisers to speak at will and with relative privacy when engaged in matters of state. This could be for good or ill, think of the character Wormtongue in the Lord of the Rings. He is King Théoden’s advisor and has poured the poison of Saruman into the King’s ear weakening Théoden until Gandalf removes him from the position of power. I’m sure we can recall less fantastical instances of this in our own lives, at work or in the life of the nation, where there are powers struggles and advisors to those in authority have used the position for their own ends.
The favour asked of Jesus falls into the trap of assuming that the kingdom will look like all the other kingdoms. That it will be a place of power games and hierarchy. This isn’t the only time this happens in the Gospels. Jesus was expected by many to boot out the occupying Romans and usher in a golden age for a politically independent kingdom of Israel, with him at its head.
Jesus knows this is not where he is headed. He knows the cup he is about to drink, he death on Good Friday, and is willing to share it. However he makes it clear that the places for the closest advisors are not for him to fill, but the Father.
James does go on to drink the cup that Jesus does and is the first of the apostles to be martyred. Killed by a sword thrust on the orders of Herod Agrippa as recounted by our reading from the Acts of the Apostles. John is said to have died of old age but spent most of his live exiled to the island of Patmos and so lived as a martyr rather than died as one. The other James, the less, is also martyred, reportedly beaten to death by order of the Sanhedrin so that can’t be used to tell them apart.
The other disciples’ reaction to this exchange with Jesus is predictable. They are unimpressed. Jesus, as he often does, uses the situation to teach them something about the kingdom of God. He completely flips the idea of authority and power on its head. In the kingdom those who wish to be considered great must be humble and serve, following the pattern of Jesus. Perhaps in this context being James “the less” is a higher accolade than the “the great”?
I’m sure many of us can think of times when those in authority, in the church, the life of the nation, or in business, have tried to live by different rules to everyone else, to lord it over others with arrogance and tyranny.
This is not to call for anarchy, to have no authorities no one who exercises power. Indeed, authority and power can effect change in the world and the Gospel of Jesus does call for change, justice for the oppressed. But it is to acknowledge that those who do have authority and power must exercise it with the needs of others in mind.
This is Christian ambition. A desire for change to bring about the justice and peace of God’s kingdom.
On Friday I received an email about elections to the General Synod of the Church of England. This body is the church’s parliament, debating issues of importance to the church and the world, and making decisions on the strategic direction of the church and the use of our resources. Its composition is fairly complicated but the majority of lay and clergy members are elected by members of Deanery synods across, of which I and Janet are reps for St Mary’s on the local one. These elections are held every five years and this is an real opportunity to effect change.
Don’t worry. I’m not, as our American brothers and sisters might say, about to declare my candidacy or deliver a stump speech. But I do encourage you to find out about General Synod, what it has debated recently and the issues it will discuss in the coming five years. Speak to me and Janet about the synods and think also if God is calling you to serve on one of them.
To those who are already thinking of standing, again or for the first time. I would say this.
‘whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, we pray to the Father.

O God, the creator and preserver of us all, we pray for all your peoples in any kind of need. We pray for all those suffering from catastrophic floods and fires at this time and all still suffering as a result of the pandemic. We pray that all of us, in our daily lives, and all with responsibilities of leadership of their nations and groups of nations, will realise our part in creating this imbalance in the world you have entrusted to us, and take action to ensure that future generations will inherit the world you created which provided all that is necessary for all life.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for the church worldwide, that all who profess and call themselves Christians will work together to build up our common life in you. May we be like mustard seed in our communities, striving always to serve our fellow human beings, bringing help to all who need it, following the example of Christ and his apostles, like James, whom we remember today. Help us to support our fellow Christians, whether meeting in large groups or small, remembering that Christ taught that when two or three gather in his name, there He is in the midst of them. We thank you for all who assist us in our worship here at St Mary’s, both ordained and lay.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are suffering in mind, body and spirit, those with Covid, those grieving for loved ones who have died, and all those professional workers under great stress in meeting the demands of the last year and a half, and still see no end. We pray also for the many people whose operations and treatment have been delayed, that their needs may soon be met. In a moment of quiet we remember all known personally to us who are in special need of your saving grace……..
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We remember those who have gone before us in the peace of Christ, particularly our former Bishop David Lunn, who died a few days ago in Scarborough. We give you thanks and praise for all your faithful servants. We remember those we loved and see no more…………..
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, James, John, Mark and all your saints, we commend ourselves and the whole creation to your unfailing love.

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

 

‘Happy Fathers Day’ – 20th June 2021 – 3rd Sunday after Trinity

The order of service:

The order of service as a word document:

21 06 20 3rd Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The order of service as a pdf:

21 06 20 3rd Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Livestream link

To participate in the service through YouTube, please click here:

The Readings

Job 38.1-11

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

‘Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb?—
when I made the clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed bounds for it,
and set bars and doors,
and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stopped”?

 

Mark 4.35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey 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
By Kath, a Reader at St Mary's. 

In the not too distant past, when we had more actual bookshops including the Christian Literature shop, where we could enjoy browsing real books and the other items they stocked, I occasionally used to buy some of the little cards with interesting verses or prayers or sayings on them. They can be quite comforting or inspiring or encouraging and last week a few words from one of them came to mind as I struggled to relate our readings from Job & Mark to the fact that today is Father’s Day. The verse went something like “don’t give up though the going seems slow, for you may succeed with another go” and so it proved to be. In fact it has been true of the whole process of writing this sermon. I’ve really had to beat it into shape! I knew that I wanted to speak about fathers and indeed the importance of all people in parental type roles but somehow it just wasn’t coming together in a meaningful or coherent way or saying what I wanted to say. However, I stuck at it and gave the readings another go and then with the passage from Job, the penny suddenly dropped and I could see the relevance. What a relief!
God, the Father, is speaking to Job, one of his children, and by the sound of it, he seems to be really putting him in his place. I suppose it depends how you read the passage and where you put emphasis on the words but the way it sounded to me indicated that God was not entirely happy or impressed. “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements- surely you know! Not a talking to you’d want to be on the receiving end of and by the end of it, some 71 verses later, I imagine Job was pretty uncomfortable and shamefaced.
I found the story of Job a very difficult one to read and I have to admit that he’s a character I have a lot of sympathy with. Perhaps this was partly because at the time when I read it, I could identify with his efforts to do the right things, only to be met with one disaster and disappointment after another. He isn’t perfect, none of us are, but he tries to be faithful and good but eventually, after many painful trials and tests he begins to crack and challenge God about the unfairness of what is happening to him. The response he gets is probably not what he was hoping for. What God is effectively saying is “Who are you to speak of what you don’t know or understand?”
 
The brief passage we’ve heard demonstrates the relationship between parents and children very well. Children don’t always appreciate that parents know and understand far more than they do and that this usually comes from wisdom acquired through life experience. Being told that an unpopular decision is “for your own good“ doesn’t necessarily make it more palatable or easy to accept though. Children may feel that the parental figure doesn’t acknowledge or understand their situation or point of view and they often feel aggrieved about this. I’m sure we can all remember such feelings when as young people we couldn’t get our own way. What we probably didn’t realise at the time, is just how hard it can be, to be the one having to disappoint or say no.
The importance of good role models in the form of parental figures cannot be overstated and just as we celebrate mother figures so we should celebrate father figures too. Whether as fathers, grandfathers, Godfathers, stepfathers, uncles or friends, all have a part to play in nurturing and developing and inspiring those who need their loving care and guidance. Perhaps at this point I should say that I’m well aware that these relationships aren’t always easy; not everyone has a good relationship with their father, some fathers find their role difficult, I’m sure they all do at times, or they may feel inadequate. For many men who long to be fathers, it doesn’t always happen and they have to find other ways to play a fatherly role. However they may feel about their situation though, they all have the potential to play a very positive and important part in the lives of the children who look up to them and depend on them. I’m sure Joseph’s experience of fatherhood was not quite what he thought it would be but without his faithful and loving care, what would have become of Jesus?
It may seem obvious for young people as they are growing up but in truth we all continue to need and benefit from good role models throughout our lives. My own dad died nearly fourteen years ago and I still miss his wisdom, huge enthusiasm and encouragement, especially when we were working together on a new project. I miss being able to ask his advice and to talk things over with him, likewise with my mum and other family and friends who have died. I’m sure you all have people who were special to you whose loving guidance and support you miss.
That said, as adults we are usually the ones with the life experience and the wisdom and the ones making decisions so it can be hard to find ourselves in what can feel like a “junior” role, especially if the person we feel “junior” to is younger than we are. Maybe it’s not so strange with people like doctors and other health professionals or others who are trained in their particular fields but at other times it doesn’t sit so well with us. But in truth we shouldn’t be too proud or stubborn to learn from or be guided by anyone who has more knowledge and wisdom than we do, regardless of age or any other factor. As a nurse I remember learning a lot from auxiliaries and technicians who I was supposedly senior to and let’s be honest, when anything computer or tech related goes wrong, most of us are thinking “where’s a young person when you need one to fix it”!
We need a degree of humility to recognise and accept when we are the ones needing guidance and support and this is especially so in our relationship with God. As with Job, we may not always find some of God’s promptings entirely comfortable, indeed they may very challenging, painful and costly. However worldly wise we think we are, whether we are nine, nineteen, fifty nine or ninety nine we are never too young or old to be in need of God our Father’s loving and guiding presence in our lives.
So to God and to all of you who have loving fatherly roles, I’d like to say thank you for all the good that you do, and Happy Father’s Day.

The Prayers
Prepared by David, adapted from Common Worship.

We pray for the flourishing of God’s gifts to his Church, saying:
Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

God our Father, you give us gifts that we may work together
in the service of your Son:
bless the leaders of your Church, our Bishops, Pete and Sophie,
that they may be firm in faith,
and humble before you.
Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

Bless those who teach, who break open God’s word in preaching
that they may increase our understanding,
and be open to your word for them.
Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

Bless those who minister healing during this time of pandemic
that they may bring wholeness to others,
yet know your healing in themselves.
Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

Bless those through whom you speak, prophets and the voices crying out in the wilderness
that they may proclaim your word in power,
yet open their ears to your gentle whisper.
Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

Bless those who work in your world today,
that in the complexity of their daily lives
they may live for you, fulfil your purposes,
and seek your kingdom first.
Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

Bless those who are uncertain of their gifts
and those who are powerless in this world’s eyes,
that they may be made strong in your gift of the Holy Spirit.
Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

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

 

‘The parable of the growing seed’ – 13th June 2021 – 2nd Sunday after Trinity

The Order of Service

The order of service as a word document:

21 06 13 Climate Sunday - 2nd Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The order of service as a pdf:

21 06 13 Climate Sunday - 2nd Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

Please note that there will be no livestream of this Sunday's service. 

The Readings

Ezekiel 17.22-end

Thus says the Lord God:
I myself will take a sprig
from the lofty top of a cedar;
I will set it out.
I will break off a tender one
from the topmost of its young twigs;
I myself will plant it
on a high and lofty mountain.
On the mountain height of Israel
I will plant it,
in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,
and become a noble cedar.
Under it every kind of bird will live;
in the shade of its branches will nest
winged creatures of every kind.
All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the Lord.
I bring low the high tree,
I make high the low tree;
I dry up the green tree
and make the dry tree flourish.
I the Lord have spoken;
I will accomplish it.

 

Mark 4.26-34

Jesus also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

 

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 Marys. 

May I speak in the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Earlier this US Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert asked the following question during a congressional hearing:

"I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they've found that the moon's orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth's orbit around the sun. We know there's been significant solar flare activity, and so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management can do to change the course of the moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate."

In other words, he seems to believe that we might be able to fix the damage that we have done to the climate via technology.

Unfortunately for the Congressman, it doesn’t work like that. Complex technical fixes and interventions are often popular because they offer a way of fixing things that often doesn’t involve changes to our lifestyles. But Creation has it’s own rules, that we often don’t fully understand, and, as Richard Feynman said ‘Nature cannot be fooled.’

And we are creatures of God’s Creation, and as such, we work within those rules – even when we are bringing about the Kingdom of God.

Today’s readings both emphasise the very organic nature of bringing the Kingdom of God in to being. After all, an omnipotent God could choose to bring about His Kingdom in an instant, but the theme that keeps recurring through scripture – not just in today’s readings – is the sense of the Kingdom of God being cultivated into being, grown with time and love, not just zapped in to existence.

Both Old and New Testament writings draw heavily on agricultural metaphors. We are told be stewards of creation; we are reminded that there are appropriate times for sowing and reaping. Jesus’s parables are particularly rich in terms of these stories – He teaches using images and ideas that would be meaningful to His audience.

This morning I want to focus on the first part of our Gospel reading – the Parable of the Growing Seed:

“He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

This parable occurs just after the ‘Parable of the Sower’, in which we hear the story of the man sowing seeds on to different types of soil – some good soil, some thorny, some rocky. Jesus explains that parable by telling the disciples that the seed represents the Gospel, the sower represents anyone who proclaims it, and the various soils represent people's responses to it.

This parable is about the growth of the Kingdom of God; it’s therefore clear that it’s related to the ‘Parable of the Sower’, but puts a different emphasis on it. It’s a parable that is only to be found in the Gospel according to Mark, and there are a number of interpretations around it. Although it seems to be related to the Parable of the Sower, it doesn’t immediately follow it; the parable of hiding your light under a bushel separates the two.

Some commentators say that the sower referred to is Jesus himself, based mainly on the interpretation that if the sowing of the seed represents the seeding and growth of faith, then the person reaping the ripened grain of faith at the end can only be the Lord.
I’m not sure about this; I like to think that this parable is a lot more general in it’s application.

So, what do we have.

We have a sower – someone spreading seed, who after spreading the seed in what is clearly fertile soil, then leaves the seed to it’s own devices in the natural scheme of things. He doesn’t know HOW the seed grows; he just gets on with the rest of his life whilst this minor miracle of creation unfolds beneath the soil, eventually resulting the plants growing and achieving maturity in their own time.
We have the seed; this can be seen to be the word of the Gospel leading to the Kingdom of God.

We have the soil itself; it’s good soil, receptive soil, soil that is allowing growth. I like to think of this as the good soil described in the Parable of the Sower. This soil can be seen as the heart, mind and soul of someone who is at least somewhat receptive to the Word of the Gospel, and hence is open to having the Kingdom of God start to grow within them.

Even when the sower is sleeping or dealing with the rest of their lives the seed starts to grow; the Kingdom of God is growing, at a rate and by a means set by God, not man.

The writer George Knight has suggested that this parable:

“serves as a "correction provided for any ancient or modern disciples who might be feeling discouraged with the amount of fruitless labour they had extended toward those" who failed to hear the message of which the parable of the Sower spoke.”

In other words, the Parable might be a means of telling the disciples that whilst they may teach the Gospel, and spread the seed of the Kingdom of God in the hearts and minds of people, the growth of that seed is still in God’s hands, not theirs.

Perhaps a useful reminder to us Readers who are often said to be in the ‘Preaching and Teaching’ ministry. And it’s a valuable reminder about Evangelism in it’s broadest terms; we may put the Word of God before people, but how and when faith emerges is not in our hands.

The Apostle Paul felt this as well.

Look what he has to say about the Church in Corinth, when he writes in the first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 3 verse 6:

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”

The growth of the Kingdom of God in Corinth is God’s work; Paul and Apollos were just workers in the field.

The seeds of my own faith were initially sown by my Aunty Harriet when I was a child. It’s safe to say that the seed lay for a while – about forty years – before God prodded it to life. Aunty Harriet died back in 1983; she didn’t see how the seeding the Kingdom of God within me would unfold. And we still don’t know what God has in store for me – or for any of us.

But remember the sower; you never know how and when the seeds YOU cast to others in your life will be contributing to the growth of the Kingdom.

Have faith that God will work on those seeds in His time, to His plan, and for His greater glory.
Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica. 

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we bring before you the needs of the world, in particular those countries where people are in greatest need due to war, illness and oppression. Give wisdom to the leaders of the world’s richest nations, currently meeting in Cornwall, to make decisions which will address these problems and share resources to help our fellow human beings, all of whom are your children.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for the Church worldwide, that it may be a force for good. We pray for church leaders of all denominations that they may always seek to spread the teachings of Christ that we should seek to serve You by serving our neighbours, most particularly those in need. We pray for our Archbishops, our diocesan Bishops Pete and Sophie, and all working in parishes to witness to your word. Especially we pray for members of this church and St Mark’s and St John’s as we work together in partnership in this part of Sheffield.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for our community of Walkley, and all the people working to revive our shops and businesses after the difficult times over the last year and a half. We thank you for all who work to build up our sense of community, at the library, keeping our green open spaces and gardens beautiful, and so making this a welcoming place for newcomers.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer. 

We pray for all who are unwell at this time, who are stressed because of economic insecurity, who are awaiting overdue treatment because of the pressures on the NHS due to corona virus, and those people who are beginning to become infected again. We ask you to be with them and all the medical   and nursing staff and care workers, as they try to deal with the pressures of the last year and longer. May they all know your healing grace. In a moment of quiet we pray for those known to us….
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We remember before you all who are approaching the end of their earthly life, and those who have gone before us in the peace of Christ. We remember by name those we loved and see no more………
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the fellowship of St Mary, St Mark and St John and all your saints, we commend ourselves and all creation to your unfailing love.

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

‘Glimpses of the Sacred’ – 16th May 2021 – The 7th Sunday of Easter

The Order of Service:

Order of service as Word file:

21 05 16 7th Sunday of Easter Eucharist

Order of service as PDF file:

21 05 16 7th Sunday of Easter Eucharist

 

Image by: Rude, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Livestreaming Link:

 

The Readings

Acts 1.15-17, 21-end

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred and twenty people) and said, ‘Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.’
So one of the men who have accompanied us throughout the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.’ So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

John 17.6-19

Jesus said, ‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

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 Siobhan H, Reader at St Mary's.

Glimpses of the Sacred

‘All mine are yours’
‘Keep them’
‘Protect them in my name’
‘So I send them into the world’

These were the phrases which jumped out for me when I first read the Gospel passage we have heard this morning.

In it, Jesus intercedes to his Father on behalf of his disciples. We witness Jesus’ encouragement of them not to dwell in feelings of abandonment or despair, but to hope in the assurances of Jesus’ continuing presence with them. Through the words “keep them” and “protect them”, he reveals his love and commitment to them.
We too are assured in this prayer that each of us belong to Jesus and of his continuing presence with us.

Jesus also tells his disciples to be his hands and feet in the ordinariness of the world and this applies to us too. There is no promise in Jesus’ prayer that as we engage with the world we will be free of illness, suffering, pain or physical death. There is though, the assurance nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

We are all God’s children.
We are all held and protected in God’s name.
We are all sent into the world to live and work to the glory of his name.

For me it is important to set this passage in the context that prior to this prayer Jesus had just instituted the sharing of bread and wine in remembrance of him. It is my belief communion strengthens and sustains us as a way of receiving the love of Jesus deep within us. Over the years communion has led me to recognise grace can be found in both the joys and the sorrows of life.

When I was licensed as a chaplain I promised, with God’s help, to exercise a ministry which serves the whole institution in which I am employed, to be out in the world, to live in the midst of struggle, and to embody the divine attributes of love, compassion, mercy, justice, parity of resources, generosity and unity. Over the past ten years I have come to see our world and all people as sacred and have been open to recognising that the divine is interwoven into the fabric of the ordinariness of our everyday lives.

Today I have been asked to speak specifically about raising awareness of how we can better support people with dementia and their carers in church and out in the community.

As many of you will know, dementia is an illness which affects brain functioning and progressively worsens. It can be a difficult illness for the person who has it and also for their families and friends. This morning I would like to suggest that if we stop assuming dementia is solely an affliction which takes us into a bad place, it may become a grace which moves us into a better place. If we truly come close to those with dementia and their carers we can learn radical new lessons about how to love and live.

My mother had dementia and one of my greatest fears is that I will also develop this illness. For a while I thought it was the suffering of this disease I feared. Further reflection led me to realise behind my fear is one concern:
“If I no longer have capacity, am vulnerable and dependent on those around me, how well will I be cherished, valued and cared for?”

Perhaps my fear is exacerbated by living in a culture where we are held captive to the idols of independence, autonomy, control and productivity. It’s hard to to feel secure when our sense of self is shaped by these things and when we perceive our sense of worth is valued by others in terms of what we add to society.

How would it be if our sense of self was determined not through what we achieve but by how Jesus sees us?

The Jesus who intercedes for us to his Father, who keeps us and protects us, enfolds us in love and accepts us as just as we are. The sanctity and holiness of each of us does not diminish if our memory or body physically declines. It doesn’t change as we age and it isn’t connected to our ability to function in a certain way. It endures through all stages of dementia and this imparts dignity to all people. When the church embodies divine love to all people regardless of their illness or disability it demonstrates all parts of the body of Christ are valued and honoured.

How would it be if we recognised and celebrated our interdependency on one another? If we answered the call to care and to go out into the world embodying compassion for one another. If we recognise there is a mutuality and reciprocity between us and we can benefit too by gaining insights from those with dementia.

The Alzheimer’s society has a strap line which speaks of people ‘living well with dementia’. My experience is that living well with dementia only happens when others enable it. This applies not only to dementia but to any illness or disability where we rely on the support of others. In my experience with my mum, it was small acts of kindness that made a big difference - the lady from the hospice who took mum out each week, giving dad a rest, the local Eucharistic minister who brought communion, the Golden Memories Group where mum and dad danced, sang and shared food with others, neighbours who walked the dog. There’s one memory that particularly stays in my mind which I would like to share with you.

It’s been a hard day, the car journey to Salford difficult as mum is anxious and doesn’t want to get out of the car. Eventually, I persuade her into the Harvester. There are long banks of tables with benches. I order tea and ask the waitress to check mum doesn’t move. In the ladies I breathe deeply in, exhale, and re- emerge into the restaurant. What I see next touches me deeply: the waitress is singing tea for two and two for tea and mum’s joining in. As I sit down a young mother with two toddlers sits at the table next to me. Mum, a teacher of many years smiles at them, trying to engage them and they accept her just as she is. They have been dancing their mum tells me. A moment later a lady and man with Down’s Syndrome sit at the table on the other side of us. Now we are all chatting to one another, three tables together and there is a sense of lightness. Orchestrating all of this is a waitress anticipating our needs, more bread, more tea, some ice cream she enquires. And then it hits me - THIS is communion. I smile, strengthened and renewed to go out into the world again.

Each of us at some point in life will become unwell and very often it is the feelings of things being stripped away, losing independence which people talk about at the end of life or in times of acute illness.

In my work on the dementia unit I conduct services which are adapted to be dementia friendly with familiar hymns and prayers. Before Covid, St Mary’s conducted similar services at Moorend Place and Carol has continued the link with them throughout the pandemic. If we are willing to slow down and in the words of one of my residents “trust God, accept and be still,” we can gain a new window on the world. I now have a renewed appreciation of the beauty of soft pink cherry blossom, the perfumed scent of roses, or the twinkling stars in a velvety night sky deep in the depths of Connemara. The savouring of steaming hot chocolate, freshly whipped cream and fluffy marshmallows. Imagine for a moment how it might be if we were learn to slow down, simplify our worship and be intentionally present throughout. Imagine the gift we might give and receive if we sat fully present with another. Or how much more we might connect more fully with creation if we walked at a slower pace through our world. Accompanying my mum helped me realise our essence is retained and love transcends both dementia and death and somehow, even in grief I know nothing separates her or me from the love of God through Jesus Christ.

I am very aware these are my personal reflections and just as each person with dementia is unique so is their story and that of their families. It is my hope that as the three churches of this mission area we will listen to these stories and begin exploring how we can best support those with a dementia diagnosis and their families.

As we do so, let us remember we are all called, held, protected and sent into the world.

As Jesus modelled for us in today’s Gospel, I’m going to end by offering a prayer adapted from words by Louise Moore.

My spiritual self is reflected in the divine and given meaning as a transcendent being.
As I travel toward the dissolution of myself. My personality, my very essence, my relationship with God needs increasing support from you. My other in the body of Christ. Don’t abandon me at any stage, For the Holy Spirit connects us, I need you to sing with me, pray with me, To be my memory for me, You play a vital role, in relating to the soul within me, connecting at this eternal level. Sing alongside me, touch me, pray with me, Reassure me of your presence, And through you, of Christ’s presence. For we are one bread, one body, We are one body in this one Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe P.

We pray for God’s Church throughout the world. We pray for our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, for Bishop Pete and Bishop Sophie, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary’s and our sister Churches.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray that we may be protected from evil as we try to follow in the footsteps of Jesus through our dealings in the world. Remind us that, we should not consider ourselves as belonging to the world, but that we belong to Jesus.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all those in authority, and those who have influence in the world, that their power and voices be used compassionately for the good of all. We pray that the violence and bloodshed in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank will cease and that a just, long-lasting and peaceful solution will be arrived at.
Lord, in your mercy.
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 in our community who have celebrated Eid this week. We pray for a safe and successful relaxing of Covid restrictions next week, especially with the presence of new variants of Covid-19.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or spirit, those that need strength and grace. We pray that God’s power and spirit will fill them and bring them the healing and peace that belong to Christ’s kingdom. We pray for all those who are feeling isolated and lonely at this time.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those 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, and those who mourn. We pray for those who have died without the comfort of their family around them, that they were comforted by the presence of the Lord.
Lord, in your mercy.
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, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the communion of Mary 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.

‘Resurrection’ – 18th April 2021 – 3rd Sunday of Easter

The Order of Service:

Order of service as word file:

21 04 18 3rd Sunday of Easter Eucharist

Order of service as PDF file:

21 04 18 3rd Sunday of Easter Eucharist

 

Livestreaming link:

The Readings

Acts 3.12-19

When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, ‘You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

‘And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.

 

Luke 24.36b-48

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

 

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 the Revd Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes, Assistant Priest at St Mary's.

I don’t suppose I’m the only one who has been reflecting a bit on the death of Prince Philip in the past week. It’s been interesting to observe the very varied reactions among people in this country and around the world. From those who were angry at having their television schedules disrupted to the people of Tanna in Vanuatu who worshipped him as a divine figure. From older members of the population who might remember when Prince Philip married young Princess Elizabeth, to our younger people who probably knew him only as a sometimes politically incorrect elderly man. Prince Philip lived a long and active life. Like Her Majesty the Queen he was a committed Christian. So I find it hard to see his death as a tragedy. But I have come to appreciate what an extraordinary person he was and how much there is in his life that we should thank God for, and not least his support for the Queen.

When preparing services in the past eight days, it has been a challenge to find the right balance between official mourning and the celebration of Easter. Working out how many alleluias I should put in or leave out. People seem to be in such a wide variety of places. And I suppose that was also true in the days after the resurrection. For the vast majority of people, the resurrection passed them by. Many were hostile or at least indifferent to the carpenter who had been executed on a cross. Rumours of his resurrection probably meant very little to them. For those on the inside, to his disciples and followers, there was sadness, guilt, grief, doubt and then elation, joy and peace. But the rollercoaster of emotion continued as Jesus kept appearing unexpectedly. To Simon, and to Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus. And in today’s Gospel we are told that the eleven were startled and terrified, full of wonder and disbelief. The risen Jesus comes to the disciples where they are but the good news of the resurrection is not simple or easy to digest. It disturbs and challenges. And that is probably important. The resurrection should challenge us. Upset old certainties. Make us see the world in new ways.

One of the great legacies that Prince Philip leaves behind is a movement to modernise the monarchy. He understood the power of television and it was because of him that the coronation was televised. He tried to show that the Royal Family was made up of real human beings and he wasn’t afraid to reveal his own humanity. In our Gospel today, the risen Jesus also demonstrates that he is human. Although he can pass through walls and locked doors he is not a ghost. He shows the disciples his hands and feet and invites them to touch him. At the same time though, the risen Jesus seems to be slightly out of focus. Hard to pin down. And perhaps we just need to be open to that ambiguity.

To prove that he is not a ghost, Jesus asks the disciples for something to eat. They give him a piece of broiled fish and he eats it in front of them. I don’t suppose that the risen Jesus really needed to eat but by doing so he showed the disciples that it was his body that had risen, not just his spirit. And for me that is a reminder that the resurrection is about this world. Not just about forgiveness or what happens to us when we die. Not just about the promise of heaven. It’s about the redemption of all that is.

I expect Prince Philip has touched the lives of quite a few of us in one way or another. I was lucky enough to meet him when I got my Duke of Edinburgh Award 34 years ago and even then he seemed quite old. He had had to stop shaking hands with people. As a curate, I helped out a reception at St James’ Palace for the Council of Christians and Jews and I was impressed at how knowledgeable Prince Philip was and by how much interest he took in people. I’m also very thankful for the leadership programme that Prince helped establish at Windsor. In the past week we have been reminded of the extraordinary range of interests that the Prince had. From the Royal Navy to engineering. From carriage riding to painting. And from the environment to interfaith matters. Prince Philip read voraciously and widely and many of his books were on matters of religion.

We don’t often see that range of interests in one person. As I’ve been reflecting on them this week, I’ve been challenged to expand my ideas about what resurrection might mean. Forgiveness of sins and life everlasting are fundamental of course. But resurrection is so much bigger than these things. It is about the whole of our lives. The whole of creation. We are used to seeing resurrection in terms of the arrival of spring. Flowers opening and new leaves budding. And this year we have a strong sense of resurrection as another lockdown ends. As the vaccination programme is rolled out. As shops and pubs and businesses reopen. As a Church, resurrection involves the reopening of our buildings. The resumption of public worship.

But of course, resurrection is much bigger than all these things. Surely it means things like an end to inequality. An end to things like foodbanks. An end to racism. An end to totalitarian regimes. Resurrection is not always comfortable. It unsettles, challenges the status quo. In recent years we have become increasingly aware of our impact on the climate and biodiversity. Resurrection surely means the reversal of global warming and the restoration of creation. And that involves change. Sometimes costly change. But it is something the Church of England has committed itself to and we can all play a part in helping make it happen.

I wonder then what resurrection means to you. What does might it look like in your life? Or in the lives of those around you? How might you help to bring about resurrection in your family life, in the lives of friends or of your local community? What might resurrection mean for the church on the street? Of course, it’s not just about the resumption of public worship but how we go out into the community and share good news with others. Resurrection is not something we can keep to ourselves behind closed doors. Part of our calling as Christians is to share it with others. Jesus sends us, as he sent the disciples, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem, from Walkley, and to the ends of the earth. We are witnesses of these things. Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

O God, the creator and preserver of us all, we pray for all your people throughout the world at this time of mutating pandemic. Guide those in authority to work in partnership with all, especially the poorer parts of the world, to use the inventiveness of our geneticists and virologists to share the vaccines that are being developed. Guide them also to seek peace where there is war, and to bring aid to all who are suffering where there is conflict or natural disaster.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for our Queen and all the members of the Royal Family as they mourn Philip Duke of Edinburgh whose funeral took place yesterday. We give thanks for his life of service to this country and the Commonwealth, remembering how millions of young people’s lives have been enriched by participating in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, in addition to his many royal duties.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for the Church worldwide, especially for the Queen, the supreme governor of the Church of England, that her faith will give her strength at this sad time. As we continue to celebrate our risen Lord, may all Christians seek to live according to the promises made by Christ, and work together for the good of all the peoples of the world.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for our city and community and for the elections due in the next few weeks. We pray that you will inspire successful candidates to work for the good of all constituents in their community. We give thanks for all the volunteers who give their time to provide services, and keep our streets and green open spaces clean and beautiful.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill at this time, whether from corona virus or other conditions and have to wait longer for treatment than normal. Be with them all, and all who work in the NHS at this time of great strain, that they may know your care and healing grace. In a moment of quiet we remember by name those known to us who are suffering at this time.
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We remember those who have gone before us in the peace of Christ, especially your servant Philip and others known to us, including Patricia Browning and her family. Grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom. Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary and all your saints we commend ourselves and all creation to your unfailing love.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.