The parable of the brothers

The Readings

Philippians 2.1-13

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Matthew 21.23-32

When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe 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 Joe, a Reader at St. Mary's

May I speak in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Tonight, our reading from the Gospel according to Matthew brings us the parable of the brothers. Just to remind you:
“A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”

We KNOW that the answer to this question isn’t going to be what we expect; this seems to often be the case with Jesus, who seems to often speak in paradoxes, inverting social norms, and generally catching us off guard.

When we think of fathers and sons in parables, I guess the first thing that usually comes to mind is the parable of the Prodigal Son. Both that parable and tonight’s parable tend to cause us a few problems with interpretation and understanding today, especially if we see the stories through our 21st Century eyes. As with all the parables, to get even a feel for what Jesus was attempting to teach his disciples, we have to discard our usual ways of thinking and attempt to think like a 1st century citizen of the Roman Empire listening to an itinerant Jewish Rabbi.
Context is everything.

We need to look at tonight’s reading from the context of the society in which the story was being told, and the moment in Jesus’s ministry at which he is telling it.

Let’s start by looking at what’s happening in Jesus’s ministry at this point.

Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem and has been hailed as the ‘Son of David’, the Messiah, by the crowds. A leader who will usher in God’s will to the world. He’s done some healing, he’s withered a fig tree, and he’s turned over the tables of the money-changers in the temple. In other words, it’s not surprising that the priests and elders come to see him and ask Him by whose authority he is doing these things. Jesus immediately turns the tables, and asks them whether the baptism of John the Baptist was of earthly or heavenly origin. This question was quite a beauty; were the priests to say ‘From Heaven’, then Jesus could quite rightly point out to them that in that case they should be following in His footsteps, with the consequent loss of their position in society. And were they to say ‘Of earthly origin’, and retain their power and influence in society, then they are denying John as a man of God and Jesus as Messiah.

They give what they hope is a face saving answer; they don’t know. What is equally interesting is how they come to this answer; they discuss it amongst themselves, and they don’t seem to pray to God for guidance. What matters to them is trying to avoid people thinking ill of them – either Jesus or the crowd.

And in doing so, they lose what spiritual authority and leadership they have. Jesus’s question is forcing the priests to question their understanding of how God is working in the world. Leaders need to do what is right – even if that means you upset the status quo, lose face or upset people.
We now come to the parable.

Let’s try and look at the story from the viewpoint of those hearing it. The chances are that the audience would be mainly men. First century Jerusalem is a very male-oriented society, and respect for one’s father is very important. The cultural context and sensitivities of the priests and elders would colour their thought processes on this. Some would have thought that the son who says ‘No’ but then does the work is a good son; others would think that to publicly defy his father – even if he then went to work – is beyond the pale, and worse than publicly obeying the father and then privately disobeying him.

The father gets the choice of being publicly honoured and privately shamed (the second son) or publicly shamed and privately honoured (the first son). Messy. Indeed, quite a few scholars have suggested that both sons are being pains in the bum here; both could do with some behavioural adjustment – and I suppose THAT wouldn’t reflect well on the father either!

Both sons are defying their father to some degree; in a similar way, different groups of people – the sinners, like prostitutes and tax-collectors – and the religious leaders – were making decisions as to whether John the Baptist was a servant of God or not.

So, the question in the parable now becomes what and who matters to us when we make choices, but there is also something in there about salvation through deeds and salvation through faith.

Now, I have to admit that when I first encountered this parable I would have answered like the priests – Number 1 Son is eventually doing the right thing by his father. Jesus rebukes them when they give this answer – he suggests that those sinners will see Heaven before the priests do! Now, we’re used to the paradoxical thinking that often emerges from the parables, but how does this work?

The first son – defiant to his father, eventually does the right thing after changing his mind. This is the situation of the priests; they publicly make the right noises about worshipping God, just as the son publicly says ‘Yes’ to his father. But when they have seen and heard John the Baptist, they have have denied his holiness – they’ve not done the work in God’s kingdom that would be expected of them. The son in the story, later in the day, changed his mind (sometimes translated as ‘having a change in heart – a much stronger meaning) and did the work requested. In a similar way, there may be a point at which the priests experience a change in heart - do the right thing, and come to see John as holy, and do God’s work ‘in the vineyard’. But until that point, they’re not following the will of God.

The second son says Yes to the father, but then doesn’t follow it up with action. This is the position of the sinners who behaved poorly before encountering John, but when they do encounter John they say ‘Yes’ to him as a righteous man of God. They have shown faith, and respect for God. That faith has granted them access to Heaven before those who expressed denial of God.

This is why Jesus says that the priests will not see Heaven before the sinners. The sinners have seen fit to come to God through John, and acknowledged him as being from God. They say Yes to God, through their faith in John the Baptist. They will be saved through their faith, irrespective of their actions before they came to God.

The priests, on the other hand, didn’t see John in this way, and didn’t acknowledge his position as being from God – even after they heard of his actions. They have said a public Yes to God, through their work and position, but have denied God through their attitude to John the Baptist.

All is not lost for them – they may still experience a change of heart and do God’s will by acknowledging the message of John the Baptist as coming from God; but until they do – until they have that change of heart – they are not seen as being as righteous as the sinners who followed John.

I once viewed this as a disturbing parable – confusing, paradoxical, upside down. Now I view it differently.
We simply need to say ‘Yes’ to God and let Him into our lives.

The act of saying ‘Yes’ is what matters.

And we get lots of opportunities to say yes to God, every day of our lives.
Amen

 

The Prayers
prepared by Catherine

Let us pray….

To the words:
Lord, in your mercy:

Would you respond
Hear our prayer.

Lord, in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the Church...

For the church throughout the world
and especially those churches in dangerous and challenging places.
For the church in Sheffield
For our diocese and deaneries
For Bishop Sophie, and Archdeacon Javaid, installed this week.
For all who have been ordained deacon and priest this week.
For our churches at local level – St John’s, St Mark’s and St Mary’s –
our congregations and communities,
and their businesses, schools and care homes.
May we all be of the same mind as Christ
And serve others with his same humility.

Lord, in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the World…
Exploited by a humanity grasping at equality with God.
For all countries as they grapple with the challenges of Covid-19
For places stricken by war, poverty and the effects of extreme weather or climate.
For those seeking refuge far from home
For those struggling to accommodate refugees
For greater compassion from those who could do more to help.
We pray for our own country, its regions and cities
For wise and compassionate decision making regarding the pandemic
And wise and compassionate responses.

Lord, in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those in need
For the sick and those recovering from illness or injury
for the frail, the scared,
the lonely, the homeless,
the estranged, the bereaved.

In silence we remember those known personally to us who are in particular need.

Lord, in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

We remember those who have died
We pray for their families and friends
And for all who mourn.

In silence we name those loved ones known to us who we see no more
May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

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 included in these prayers is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2000

‘A generous God’ – 20th September 2020 – The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Order of Service

Here you will fine an order of service for this mornings Eucharist in PDF format:

Here is a link to the YouTube channel where the service will live streamed:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv0KDKmAwGyIsE1i07xmiiw

 

Here you will fine an order of service for this mornings Eucharist in Word format:

20 09 20 Order of Service

The Readings

Exodus 16.2-15

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’ So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, ‘In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?’ And Moses said, ‘When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.’

Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” ’ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked towards the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” ’

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

 

Matthew 20.1-16

Jesus said ‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

 

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

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes, Vicar of St John's Ranmoor.

Every other Wednesday morning, at St John’s, we have a collection for a local foodbank. I really enjoy it because it means I get to meet some of my parishoners in the flesh and can have a socially distanced chat outside the church. I think it also serves a need in many people at St John’s. A need to do something. Many people in my congregation are on good pensions and they know that many in our city are struggling and they want to do something to help. Hopefully, the tins and nappies and packets of loo roll do make a difference. But when I take our contributions to the foodbank in the afternoon, I often reflect that this is a terrible way to address inequality. People from St John’s buy things at the supermarket. They bring them to church. I then take them to the foodbank and the foodbank distributes them to people who apply to them for help. It’s very inefficient. It’s demeaning to those who rely on the Foodbank. And it only meets the needs of those who ask for help. As furlough ends there will be more people needing help in the coming months. And some people have been asking whether we need a universal living wage. A basic income which anyone is entitled to. This might help to protect all those who work in the gig economy and might simplify our benefits system.

It’s an interesting idea. One of the arguments against it is that if you pay everyone the same, regardless of whether they work or not, you remove some of the incentive for people to look for a job. Some might even say it smacks of communism. But it doesn’t seem a very long way from what’s happening in our Gospel reading today. The landowner employs different groups of people at different times of the day and pays them all the usual daily wage. It doesn’t seem very fair but it does mean that more people get enough to live on. These workers don’t have any job security or employment rights and many in the world are in a similar situation.

Jesus often uses money in his parables because people care about money. They listen when money is mentioned. But money tends to be used as a metaphor for something else. So what is this parable really about? Well, one interpretation is that it is about the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews, as we know, have been God’s people since the time of Abraham. They and God have had their ups and downs but they are still his people. Heirs of the covenant. Perhaps they are like the workers who started early in the morning. But then, centuries later, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all sorts of other people start calling themselves his children. These Jonny come latelys were now part of God’s family too. That might have been hard in a religion and culture that placed so much emphasis on family and descent. Matthew, we know, was writing for a Jewish Christian audience, and perhaps there were tensions between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. And perhaps this parable tried to address them.

Another commentator reminds us that this parable was addressed to the disciples rather than preached to the multitude. They suggest that there were tensions between the disciples themselves. They were not all called at the same time. Matthew, who we celebrate tomorrow, was called after Peter, Andrew, James and John. And maybe there were tensions between the disciples. Perhaps a pecking order was starting to develop. Just before this week’s passage, Peter reminds Jesus how much they have sacrificed to follow him. Jesus says that many who are first will be last and the last will be first. Our place in the kingdom of God is not determined by how long we have been a disciple. And we know that intellectually but how often in churches do we develop pecking orders. You can’t sit there because Mrs so and so has always sat there. Or you can’t have that hymn because Mr so and so doesn’t like it.

Even if this parable is particularly addressed to the disciples, it still has meaning for us. It’s so easy for us as human beings to establish pecking orders but the Gospel constantly subverts them. Putting down the mighty and exalting the humble and meek, filling the hungry and sending the rich empty away. But this parable is not just about pecking orders it’s about grace. It’s about everyone having the same access to God’s grace, regardless of their status, how long they have been a Christian or how hard they work for the kingdom. We are loved and accepted and forgiven by God because that is what God does. It is his free gift.

Our first reading from the Book of Exodus is a good illustration of this. The Israelites have crossed over the Red Sea and are in the wilderness. And they are getting a bit nostalgic about their old life. They sound a bit like the Four Yorkshiremen in the Monty Python sketch. I won’t attempt the accent but it goes something like this:

Who'd have thought thirty year ago we'd all be sittin' here drinking Château de Chasselas, eh?
In them days we was glad to have the price of a cup o' tea
A cup o' cold tea
Without milk or sugar
Or tea
In a cracked cup, an' all
Oh, we never had a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper:
The best we could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth
But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.

The Israelites seem to have forgotten that they were abused and exploited by the Egyptians. At least there was bread to eat, they said. And now this idiot Moses had brought them to the middle of nowhere and they were probably going to die of starvation. Like children on a long car journey, they kept saying they were hungry and asking, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’

Moses is exasperated and complains to God. And God sends manna from heaven for the Israelites to eat. And the important thing about the manna is that there is enough for everyone. Not too much and not too little. The Israelites are not to hoard it because if they do the manna will become infested with worms and rot. And grace is like that too. It is a gift from heaven. It comes freely and unearned. And there is enough for everyone. Not too much and not too little. Like the daily wage paid to the workers in the vineyard, everyone gets enough.

We may struggle to grasp that sometimes as human beings. But this is God’s work. He does what he chooses with what belongs to him. He chooses to be generous. And we need to learn to accept that free gift of grace and to be generous with others. So that all may have enough. Amen.

 

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

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

Lord God, we give you thanks and praise that we are again able to meet together here at St Mary’s Walkley to worship you, joined via Zoom by those unable to attend in person. Strengthen our faith in these difficult times and make us always ready to reach out to those in need as taught by our Lord Jesus.
Lord in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

We bring before you the needs of the world, where so many are suffering, not just from the effects of the Covid pandemic, but also from acute poverty, hunger, lack of medical care, oppression and war. We pray for all countries in need of wise leadership and those in a position to provide it. Bless the work of the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the European Union, and all the voluntary organisations working to bring emergency aid. Inspire all nations and their leaders to look beyond their own boundaries to work with others for the good of all.
Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

We pray for the Church worldwide, that all denominations and traditions may work to show your love and care to a suffering world. We pray for our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, our diocesan bishops Pete and Sophie, and all clergy and laypeople working to maintain our mission and worship in these difficult times. We give thanks for our partner churches for their support.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for our city and our Walkley Community, especially our schools as teachers and pupils meet again after so many months, with many new conditions to deal with, often, as in St Mary’s School, in buildings where distancing is difficult. We pray also for all the students about to start the new academic year. May they feel welcome and show responsibility in dealing with a very different learning environment from what they could have expected a year ago.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill at this time in mind or body, whether from corona virus or other ailments for which treatment is being delayed. We give you thanks for our NHS and care workers, for all their efforts over the last 7 months, often risking their own health or lives. In a moment of quiet we think of those known to us who are in particular need of your healing grace at this time………
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We remember before you all those known to us who have died recently, and all who mourn them, often without the comfort of families and friends around them. We entrust them all to you as we hold their memory in a moment of silence………
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

With Mary and all your saints we commend ourselves and all your creation to your unfailing love, in which we put our trust.
Merciful Father:
Accept these prayers,
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

‘Far and near’ – 13th September 2020 – The Eve of Holy Cross Day

The Order of Service

Here you will fine an order of service for this mornings Eucharist in PDF format:

20 09 13 order of service

Here is a link to the YouTube channel where the service will live streamed:

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

The Order of Service

Here you will fine an order of service for this mornings Eucharist in Word format:

20 09 13 order of service

The Readings
Isaiah 52.13 - 53.12

See, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him
—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of mortals—
so he shall startle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Ephesians 2.11-22

So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by those who are called ‘the circumcision’—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.

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

The Sermon
by Catherine, a Reader at St. Mary's

Well the schools are finally back. And parents, students and teachers are generally relieved about the return to something like normality. Some things will be done differently for everyone in order to try to keep everyone as safe as possible from the virus. There may be disruptions along the way should there be a case of Covid-19 at the school. But returning to the routine of school and lessons is generally welcome.

Things won’t be the same as they were in March. Staff and pupils will each have had very different experiences of lock-down. Some will have been able to work reasonably well, others not. Some will have had good enough technology to learn at home, others not. Some will have had a home environment conducive to nurturing and learning, others not. Some will have suffered trauma due to bereavement, illness, family difficulties, or the isolation caused by lock-down itself. Others may have come through lock-down unscathed. Others may have even thrived on its restrictions. Schools will find a huge gap between the well-being and learning of different groups of students. There will be those who are pretty much ready to continue learning. There will be others needing a lot of pastoral support before they can face the prospect of double maths on a Wednesday afternoon. There will be, as it were, an “in” group and an “out” group. If this isn’t handled sensitively, it may hinder the educational progress of a large number of young people. It’s a challenging time for our schools.

Churches are gradually reopening too. And we are experiencing some of the same issues that schools are facing. Some of us have found it relatively easy to learn the new technology to keep in touch by video call and email. Others aren’t online, or find online interaction difficult. There have been traumas, illnesses, and the challenges of isolation or being with family members 24/7 among many of us too. And whilst we’ve tried to keep in touch with people individually, it’s not been perfect, and some people have managed this more easily than others. Those who have managed to keep in touch have found that they’ve got to know each other better. But not everyone. Some of us have perhaps returned to church feeling more left out. Others may not feel able to return at all yet. We too have found that there are different groups of people. A group of people who feel near, and a group who feel much further away. We won’t be the only church to feel like this.

There were groups who felt like this in the early church. Some felt they clearly belonged to the church community. Others felt more distant. Often the separation into groups happened along Jewish/Gentile lines. Those from a Jewish background sometimes wanted to insist that their Gentile brothers and sisters signed up to Jewish customs and practices such as circumcision. Those from a Gentile background sometimes felt inferior because they didn’t have the Jewish grounding in the faith to start with. They felt more distant. The Christians in Ephesus seem to have come from this second group – they had a Gentile background. And it seems from the letter to the Ephesians that they were indeed feeling rather distant from the Church as a whole, perhaps feeling like second-class Christians.

Paul is keen to address this. He reminds his readers that in Christ, human divisions such as circumcision are irrelevant. Whilst Gentiles were once not part of the chosen people, before Christ, this is no longer the case. They are very much fully Christian, fully members of Christ’s family and fully members of God’s household. Christ has broken down all divisions and brought his people together. Christ has proclaimed peace to those who were far off, and peace to those who were near. Therefore the two groups are to come together as one, and to work together to build up God’s spiritual temple among all his people. This message has held true for Christians experiencing division ever since. It holds true, just as much, for the Church today.

When churches throughout the country moved their activities online during the pandemic, some people felt excluded. However, other people found themselves suddenly included, perhaps for the very first time. People, for instance, who can’t easily get to a church service, perhaps through disability, or caring responsibilities, or work. When they switch on their computer or phone, there is no longer a barrier to being part of a service of worship, or a church community. How then, can the Church work towards re-opening its buildings for worship, whilst continuing to include these once-excluded people, and indeed include them fully?

At St. Mary’s, the word “Inclusive” is part of our strap-line. The experience of lock-down, and having to do things differently, has made many of us realise that we can do so much more to be inclusive. And so now, beginning in a small, imperfect way, you’ll see how we’re attempting to do this. As well as altar and lectern, we now have a laptop set up at the front of church, and the service is being live-streamed to people at home. So our congregation includes not just you and me here in the building, but all you who are joining us now at home. It includes you who are watching the recording later, and you who are reading elements of the service on our website in your own time.

We are all part of St. Mary’s. We are all part of the whole Church of God. God is challenging us to work together, to share with each other, to learn from each other as equals.

Our challenge is to have hearts and minds open and willing to do this.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe

The bidding for our prayers this evening is “God be near us”.
The response is ‘God give us strength'

With thankful hearts we bring our prayers to our heavenly Father...

We pray for the Church of Christ, for Pete our Bishop, Canon Sophie, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary's to create a place of worship here in Walkley. As we return to worship in this place, we offer special thanks to all who have worked hard behind the scenes to make it possible for us to gather together in person once again.

God be near us,
God give us strength

We pray that we always remember the words from Isaiah; that we are members of the household of God. Give us the presence of mind to keep this at the front of our thoughts as we go about our daily lives.

God be near us,
God give us strength

We ask that all civic and political leaders throughout the world remember their power and influence, and that they use their power and words to heal with love and compassion, rather than generate hatred. As politicians in Europe and the UK face the issues of Brexit and Covid-19, we pray for them to show wisdom and good judgement.

We pray for refugees and those people affected by war and climate change at this time, particularly those affected by wildfires in the US and the refugee camp fire in Greece.

God be near us,
God give us strength

We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends. As we enter into yet another period of uncertainty, remind us that you are our strength and our certainty in this quickly changing world.

God be near us,
God give us strength

Lord, we pray for those we know who are troubled at this time, who feel excluded from society, who feel nervous and frightened for the future – especially as we face an increase in incidence of Covid 19. We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or spirit, those that need your grace and blessing. Be with them at this time, Lord, and give them peace and strength. We particularly remember ….

<silence>

God be near us,
God give us strength

We pray for those close to death at this time, and those accompanying them on their journey. We pray for those who have died, recently and in the past, and those who mourn. We particularly remember ….

<silence>

God be near us,
God give us strength

Finally, Lord, we silently bring before you those special to us, and those issues that trouble our hearts and minds at this time.

<silence>

God be near us,
God give us strength

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

 

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

Here am I, the servant of the Lord’ – 6th September 2020 – The Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Order of Service

Here you will fine an order of service for this mornings Eucharist in PDF format:

20 09 06 Order of Service

Here is a link to the YouTube channel where the service will live streamed:

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

The Order of Service

Here you will fine an order of service for this mornings Eucharist in Word format:

20 09 06 Order of Service

The Readings

Isaiah 61.10-end

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.

 

Luke 1.46-55

And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

 

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

The Sermon
By the Revd Sue Hammersley, Vicar of St Mark's Broomhill.

A day of celebration?

It is such a privilege to be with you this morning as we take a tentative step back towards being together in this sacred space again.

I know it’s not the same, but it’s good to gather together today (and for those reading this sermon, I hope it feels good to know that there are members of the congregation meeting together in the building again).

I don’t know how this virus has affected each of you but in so many ways we are all living with profound (and subtle) change, and the lack of clarity about how long this might go on for adds to the tension.  I hope that each of you is keeping well and accepting the support of others when it is offered, as well as offering help where you can.  It doesn’t matter if it’s as simple as a phone call or a postcard, keep in touch and let’s make the most of the contact we can have with each other.

Today is an important day in the life of St Mary’s for another reason too.  Today is your patronal festival - a day to celebrate Mary, the mother of Jesus.  You mark this day on the Sunday closest to the day chosen by the church as her date of birth (September 8) and using the readings for the day which the church sets aside as her commemoration, August 15.

What an appropriate day to come back into the building.  Not simply because it is your patronal festival but also because of the role Mary plays in our faith story.

When we think of Mary we remember how God broke into her life, quite probably before she was ready.  This reminds me that God is always present, always active in our lives – even when we are not willing to respond.

My faith is incarnational: the God of heaven is present on earth; so I am on a mission to bring Mary back to earth too.

We believe that she was a young girl and unmarried – the stigma of being pregnant would surely have meant that any woman old enough to give this their full consideration would have refused.  But Mary, we believe, said yes.  She allowed God to turn her world upside down…

We are living through a time of confusion and uncertainty.  How does Mary’s story speak into our lives today?

 

A manifesto for hope…

Not only does Mary say yes but she is filled with a sense of confidence in the God who can do extraordinary things.

Her song of praise is quite remarkable…

I am sure that you will know this text very well but it never ceases to speak to me.

This young woman has such a vivid sense that the God of heaven is present on earth.

She can see how God turns everything on its head: upsets the balance of power; feeds the hungry from the store cupboards of those who have plenty; honouring the covenant made with our ancestors.  This pandemic has revealed such inequality in our world – even the simplest of instructions to wash our hands requires clean water, but being told to stay at home assumes that home is a safe place.  Here in the UK, here in Sheffield, here in Walkley there will be many people for whom home is not a safe place.  The church must find its voice, as Mary did, yes to sing God’s praise but also to call out injustice, to name inequality and to offer a different model of community, based on God’s kingdom values of love and justice.

Mary, a young uneducated girl, can see that she has been blessed.  Echoing the words in Isaiah, her whole being praises God…

As the earth brings forth its shoots, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

Righteousness and praise belong together.

Whatever difficulties we may face in life I hope that we can hear Mary’s voice of praise, singing to a God who is utterly present, utterly grounded in our humanity, calling us to respond to an invitation to believe in life in all its fullness.  When Mary sings her song of praise her life has just been turned upside down.  She may not be living through a pandemic but her life is full of uncertainty.  But she knows that God is at work within her.

If we have just a fraction of Mary’s faith just think what we could do…

 

Prophetic action…

As the people called to say yes to God, in this place, at this time, how can we help each other listen to God calling us to life in the midst of the chaos and disruption that we face today? How can we ensure that righteousness and praise belong together?  How can we use our faith to make hope visible in our world today?

When Mary met Anna and Simeon in the Temple she was told that her heart would be pierced.  We know that Mary suffered in ways we can hardly imagine, unable to prevent her son from experiencing pain, rejection and death.  She couldn’t protect him but she showed us a way through the difficult paths we tread, a way which always trusted the God who had brought her life, a way that led her through the valley of the shadow of death to a new landscape of resurrection hope.

Behold, I am doing a new thing, God says.  Can you not perceive it?

In every time, in every place, God is inviting us to bring hope to life.  We can be sure that it will disrupt our plans, make us question the things we have taken for granted, see the world differently, but if we have eyes to see and ears to listen, hearts willing to be softened and lives open to change then we, like Mary, might allow God to plant hope deep within us; we, like Mary might see the possibilities for that hope to grow in the lives of those around us and we, like Mary, might be willing to suffer the pain of living through our fear because we know that God will never abandon us, that God is always part of a bigger picture.

 

From generation to generation

Here at St Mary’s you are facing enormous challenges.

The church is being called to respond, with faith, to a new way of revealing God’s presence in our midst.  A new way of being the church on the road.  Now is the time and you are the people.

St Mark’s and St John’s are faced with different but similar challenges and we are committed to working together to explore imaginative ways of being church, new possibilities for serving our communities, different patterns of ministry, not because there’s anything wrong with what we’ve done before but because God is always doing new things, God is always breaking into our reality and bringing hope alive, God is always asking preposterous things of us and hoping that, like Mary, we might just say…  yes?

Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe.

With thankful hearts we bring our prayers to our heavenly Father

We pray for the Church of Christ, for Bishop Pete and Canon Sophie, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary’s.  As we gather together again for the first time in several months, we especially thank all those who have worked tirelessly to bring us together in worship whilst we have been separated.
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 influence be used compassionately for the good of all.  Bring clarity of thought and vision to those who make an implement policy. We pray that you offer all of us discernment at this time, so we can make sensible and sound decisions based on truth and sound judgement.  Recalling this morning’s reading, we pray indeed that “the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.”
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.  At this time we pray for school children, students and the staff of our schools, colleges and universities as they also come back together for a new academic year in difficult circumstances.  We also pray for those whose livelihood as been affected by the pandemic.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer

Lord, we pray for those we know who are worried and troubled especially at this time of continuing uncertainty.  We pray for those whose health and livelihoods have been affected by Covid-19, and those who have ongoing health or emotional problems where treatments are still only partially available.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or spirit, those that need your grace and blessing. Be with them at this time, Lord, and give them peace and strength.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer

We pray for those close to death at this time, 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 especially pray for those who have died without the comfort of their family around them, and those who felt fear and felt alone in their last moments.  We pray that they were comforted by your presence, Lord, and that you give strength and love to all those close to death and caring for the dying at this time.
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.

‘Pick up your cross’ – 30th August 2020 – 12th Sunday after Trinity

The Readings

Exodus 3.1-15

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever,
and this my title for all generations.

 

Matthew 16.21-end

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘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 will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’

 

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

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

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

This week I came across the following news story:

Mother Mechthild is the abbess of Abbey of Maria Frieden in Kirchschletten, Bavaria. She is presently being pursued by the authorities in court for having granted asylum in her convent to an Eritrean woman.

“I have stood up for what I consider to be right. I could not be proud of it, I would simply have to accept it. But I would have a clear conscience, because I have stood up for what I consider to be right”,

The Reverend Mother Mechthild Thürmer, told the newspapers, the Verlagsgruppe Bistumspresse with regard to the possibility of her imprisonment.

Quite a woman; and quite a follower of Christ.

After looking at this Sunday’s readings – especially the Gospel reading -  I’d already decided that I could only focus on a small part of the scripture.

It is an astonishingly rich text – I think I worked out that if I put my mind to it I could get maybe 6 sermons out of it – in which Jesus lays out some central truths of our faith.

I decided to focus on one verse, that I think we need to bear in mind on every part of our Christian journey.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Actually making this decision and then encountering the news item above made me think ‘Yep, that’s the one!’

This statement from Jesus is present in the Gospels according to Mark, Matthew and Luke.  Jesus’s Ministry has become widely known, and people have been wondering who He is – some say he’s John the Baptist; some Elijah; others think he is another prophet.  Jesus is able to confirm what Peter thinks He is; that Jesus is ‘the Messiah’.

Jesus then tells them that “undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Now, there are a number of places in the Gospels where I wish that the writer had given us some insight into the reaction of the listeners.  This is one of those moments.  This is almost certainly not what people expected would happen to the Messiah.  And then, to drive this home, Jesus tells His followers that to follow Him they need to deny themselves and take up their own cross.

Powerful words, especially as everyone present would know that the cross was a cruel method of Roman execution used against those who would raise their hand against the state.  This is probably NOT what they all signed up for!

Following Jesus can be looked at in two ways. You might think of following Jesus in the same way you follow the activities of a celebrity or a soccer team; you might follow and study His teachings in the Gospel, in an almost academic way. Alternatively, following Jesus involves you ‘walking the walk’ as well as ‘talking the talk’.  Jesus says (John 14:6) “I am the way and the truth and the life” and in this statement I think we see what approach Jesus expects of his followers.  The way of Jesus is to be walked; the truth to be found; the life of Jesus to be lived.  Following Jesus is an active process, a life changing process.

Jesus is pointing this out to his followers.

This is where things start getting real; your life will change; you may die; this is what following Jesus really means.  Sounds heavy; I have to say that if I’d been there I might have considered this to be a good time to remember I had an important appointment to keep….about 200 miles away.

In Jesus’s statement we’re given three things to do if we wish to follow Him.  They’re actions – not just statements of belief or promises.  We’re told:

To DENY ourselves

To PICK UP OUR CROSS

To FOLLOW Him

At this point it sounds really hard; we’re going to follow Jesus to death.

But, as is often the case with Jesus’s statements, there’s more…

Now, in the version of this statement in Luke 9.23, there is an extra word:

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me”

A subtle but important change; discipleship involves a daily denial, and a daily taking up of the cross.  It’s a process; it’s a lifestyle; the cross may not be the instrument of our physical death, but a symbol of the death of our old life.  When we become a disciple; the change is total – our previous self dies.

So, what are WE to do to become followers – disciples – of Christ?  There is a cost to discipleship.

We deny ourselves – we focus on following the teachings of Christ and become the best representation of Gospel living we can be.  We will never be perfect, and we’ll always have things to do.  We will be denying the prime importance of the daily world in our lives, and making ‘Gospel living’ our prime aim.  We deny our own desires and follow the commandments and teachings of Christ in our lives.

Now – taking up our cross.  None of us wish to put ourselves through pain and humiliation, or even death.  But sometimes, this is necessary for a Christian.  Dietrick Bonhoeffer said “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  This may be physical, literal death – or it may be a great personal loss or struggle – or it may be imprisonment – like Mother Mechthild.  Or it may be something within our lives that needs to be gone.

For example, if we find it difficult to control our anger with people, we can carry the personal cross of being patient and showing humility.

If we are judgemental, we can carry our individual cross of being forgiving.

And we do this daily, as long as is needed.  For some people it will be a lifetime struggle to carry their personal cross.

And finally, we follow Christ; we follow Him knowing that everyone who truly follows Christ is also denying themselves, carrying their own crosses.

May we offer our fellow travellers all the support and help that Christ Himself offers us.

Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by David.

From the rising of the sun to its setting, let us pray to the Lord.

We pray for your world.
For peoples and nations and for those who work across such boundaries.
We offer to you the challenges which affect the whole world and pray that we may each be given wisdom and inspiritation to respond as best we can for the sake of the common good.
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We pray for your church.
Scattered and divided, may she be united in purpose and love of you.
We pray for Pete, our Bishop, Sophie, Bishop Designate of Doncaster, and all who minister within the Diocese of Sheffield.
Praying especially for our partners at St Mark's Broomhill and St John's Ranmoor.
May we all be guided by you in paths that lie ahead.
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We pray for our communities.
Whose with whom we live, work and enjoy life.
With so many necessary barriers between us at this time may we find new and creative ways to live our shared life.
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We pray for those who suffer, in body, mind or spirit.
The lonely, the anxious, the depressed. Those suffering, in pain or grieving.
We pray for the light of your presence with them, your healing in their lives, and where we can ourselves as servants in this work.
We offer to you those known to us and all known only to you O Lord.
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We pray for those who have died.
We give thanks for the gift of their presence in our lives.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them.
May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

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

‘We all have something to offer’ – 23rd August 2020 – 11th Sunday after Trinity

The Readings

Exodus 1.8-2.10

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labour. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labour. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.’

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, ‘because’, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’

 

Romans 12.1-8

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

 

Matthew 16.13-20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

 

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

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes, Vicar of St John's, Ranmoor.

One of the things that the lessons that I have taken from Black Lives Matter and the whole Windrush scandal is that it is important that we know our history. And not just the history of those in charge but the history of minorities. Those who peddle racism in this country often forget that many BAME people came to this country in response to a labour shortage in the post war era. In our first reading from Exodus, we have another example of the past being forgotten. A new pharaoh has come to the throne in Egypt and he knows nothing of the story of Joseph and of how the Israelites came to live in Egypt. And like many tyrants since then he decides to blame this minority for the ills of his nation and treats them as second class citizens.
But this story is not really about pharaoh. It’s about a group of remarkable, subversive women who find ways to fight the patriarchy. There are not that many stories about women in the Bible but this is one of the best. Too often, they are just given walk on parts and frequently they go unnamed. But in this story, we are told the names of some of the women involved and that that’s often a sign that people are doing something important.

The first two important women are Shiphrah and Puah. Like all midwives they have devoted themselves to bringing new life into the world. Pharaoh commanded them to kill every Hebrew boy that was born but they disobeyed him. Though pharaoh was thought of as a living deity and had absolute power, these women ignored his instructions and pretended that they never got to the births of the Israelite babies in time. The midwives feared God more than they feared pharaoh and God blessed them for their courage.

And then we have the story of Moses, one of those Hebrew boys. According to rabbinic literature, his mother’s name was Jochebed. And like any mother, she was tenacious in trying to preserve the life of her son. She hid him in that famous Moses basket in the reeds and set his older sister Miriam to keep an eye on him. And then pharaoh’s daughter came to the river to bathe. Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions give the princess many names. All three traditions bless her for preserving Moses’ life. She knew that he was a Hebrew baby. She knew that her father had ordered that such boys should be killed. But she used her limited power as a princess to save him. Moses’ sister Miriam was quick to make the most of the situation. She offered to go and find a wet nurse for the child. And so Moses’ mother ended up being paid to bring up her own child, something that many are still campaigning for today. Moses’ life was spared and he went on to lead the exodus, a defining event in Jewish history.

This story of seemingly powerless women subverting the system is an interesting contrast to our Gospel reading. Jesus asks the disciples who people say that he is. And they come up with a variety of responses. Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ And then Jesus asks the disciples who they say he is. And Peter comes straight back with the answer, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ He is right on the money. And Jesus praises him for his faith and insight. And he names Simon Peter, Peter, the rock on which he will build the church. And he gives him the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

And part of us wants to say, hang on a minute, this is Peter. The one who keeps putting his foot in it. The one who will deny Jesus three times. He is the rock? Can that be right? A whole system of power and influence, money and buildings has been built on this rock. But I suspect that none of those things were in the minds of Jesus or of Peter when those words were first uttered. Jesus knew Peter’s shortcomings. He knew that Peter would let him down. But he also knew that Peter had moments of huge faith and would ultimately follow him to the cross, and it was on these things that the church was to be built. In many ways, Peter stands for all of us. We all have times of doubt, times when we let Jesus down. But like Peter we have moments too when the clouds seem to clear and faith suddenly comes alive and that’s enough for Jesus. He can work with that just as he worked with Peter.

Peter is a reminder that we are called, warts and all to follow Jesus. And use the gifts that we have been given in his service. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, exhorts us to present ourselves as living sacrifices. And warns us not to be conformed to this world. Not to live by its standards of racism or sexism or any other sort of ism. But to see ourselves as God sees us. With sober judgement. Paul warns us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. And too often those words have been used by the powerful to keep others in their places. Perhaps they should be addressed to some of the people who are currently in power who seem to have a sense of entitlement but perhaps lack the gifts they really need. That work of self-examination goes both ways. Some may need to develop a bit of humility while others may need a bit more self-confidence so that they can take their rightful place in the church and in the world. They need building up not taking down.

As Paul says, like the parts of the body, we all have different gifts. And it is important that each one of us uses those gifts to the full. If we only use the gifts of a few people we are disabled as a church, as a nation and as a planet. As a church, I hope that we can model a way of working in which all can use their gifts. Where those without power do not have to subvert the system as the women around Moses had to. And where those who have power, as Peter ultimately did, are allowed to express vulnerability and make mistakes. We are all members of the one body and all of us have a part to play. Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Barbara.

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

O God, the creator and preserver of all, we pray for people in every kind of need; make your ways known on earth, your saving health among all nations …

At this time of reception of exam results, we pray for all those involved in the grades debacle: the students, their parents and teachers, and the universities facing difficulties as a result. We pray for a good and wise outcome that supports all students in preparing for their future.

We pray for all those in leadership roles throughout the world, that they can find ways to lead their people out of these dark times to lives of peace, prosperity and good health. We pray that each one of us does our best to treat the world you have given us with all the love and good care that it deserves. Please help us to learn the best ways to achieve this.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

 

We pray for your Church throughout the world; guide and govern us by your good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life …

We pray especially for all those involved in preparing and leading worship within our mission area, including St Mark’s Broomhill, St John’s Ranmoor and St Mary’s Walkley. Please help us all to find safe ways to return to worship within our church buildings, as well continuing to worship together online. We know that there is no one right way to worship you – please help us to reach all of your family at this time of trouble and in the future.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

 

We commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are any ways 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 …

We pray for all those suffering from physical illness at this time, whether from covid-19 or from other causes. We pray also for all those suffering from mental distress at this time of great upheaval. Please bring them all your healing and comfort.

We pray for all those who are in financial trouble or who face losing their jobs or their homes. Please bring them your comfort too.

We pray also for all of those named to you in our hearts, knowing that you will know them and help them.

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 pray that they have found their place in your heavenly kingdom. …

All this we ask for Jesus Christ’s sake.
Amen.

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 included in these prayers, is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000

‘It’s not fair’ – 16th August 2020 – 10th Sunday after Trinity

The Readings

Genesis 37.1-15

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, ‘Send everyone away from me.’ So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ And they came closer. He said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.” And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honoured in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.’ Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Matthew 15.10-28

Then Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ Then the disciples approached and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?’ He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’ Then he said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

 

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

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

“It’s not fair”

The exams were abandoned, but the results are in. And the students aren’t happy. There has been much hand-wringing and u-turning, dismay and protest. It was always going to be difficult working out a fair system for grading our school leavers this year, but pretty much everyone thinks that it could have been handled so much better. Students feel that their grades have been arbitrarily lowered at the whim of an algorithm. Schools which have not performed as well in previous years feel that this year’s more able cohort may have been penalised. Students who might have pulled out all the stops at the last minute feel that they have not had the chance to show what they’re really capable of. And so the cry goes out “It’s not fair!”

“It’s not fair” is a complaint that every parent will be familiar with. “Why was my brother allowed to go out when I wasn’t?” “Why was my sister given more pocket money than me at the same age?” “Why is my friend allowed to have a mobile phone and I’m not? It’s not fair!”

“It’s not fair” was a sentiment felt keenly by the 10 older sons of Jacob. As we were reminded in last week’s reading from Genesis, Joseph, was the favoured son, the golden boy who could do no wrong, the apple of Jacob’s eye. Joseph was honoured with a fancy coat and given only light duties while they had to go out all day and look after the sheep. And we were reminded of the outcome of such unfair treatment. The jealousy felt by Joseph’s brothers had dreadful consequences. At first they threw him in a pit, intending to leave him there to die. Then they relented slightly, deciding instead to sell him into slavery, and pretended to Jacob that he’d been savaged by a wild animal. And in doing so, they broke their father’s heart.

It’s not been fair for this year’s school leavers. Life often isn’t fair for children growing up. Things definitely weren’t fair for Joseph’s brothers. We can see and understand this easily.

But then in our Gospel reading we find Jesus saying “it’s not fair”. And it’s rather puzzling. A Canaanite woman is begging him to heal her daughter of a demon. And Jesus’ reaction is somewhat strange, considering we generally see him happily healing anyone who asks for it. First he ignores her. Then he says that he’s only been sent to the lost sheep of Israel. When she kneels before him, he seems to insult her, calling her a dog. And he says “It’s not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs”. We’re left asking why exactly isn’t it fair to heal the woman’s daughter?

Earlier in Chapter 15 the religious authorities have been criticising Jesus’ disciples for not performing the ritual hand-washing before they eat. They are implying that if you don’t wash your hands in a certain way, you are unclean. Jesus has rebuked them, accusing them of passing off human practices as religious doctrine. What’s the point of washing your hands if your heart is full of evil intent?

Jesus knows that his mission is primarily to the people of Israel. He hopes to bring them, and their leaders, back to a right relationship with God. He continually offers them the chance of healing and renewal. He isn’t ready to give up on them and offer God’s grace to others instead. They are God’s special people. It isn’t fair to give to others what God declares is theirs.

But fair, or not fair, they aren’t responding. And the Canaanite woman points this out: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table”. She is open to Jesus, receptive to any scrap of God’s healing grace that is left over or discarded. She will welcome with open arms what the religious authorities of Israel have rejected. Jesus sees this, and so her daughter is healed.

It wasn’t fair to sell Joseph into slavery and break Jacob’s heart. Understandable, maybe, fair, no! He must have felt rejected, unwanted and abandoned. But God was with him in Egypt, and he thrived. He found favour with Pharaoh, and his foresight and administrative skills helped Egypt to prepare during the years of plenty for the years of famine. Food was stored to be fairly shared, not only among the people of Egypt, but also with the refugees from neighbouring countries. And then when Joseph’s brothers came in search of food, he was able to show them God’s abundant grace, calling the whole family to move to some of Egypt’s best land where they too would thrive.

Life often isn’t fair. And this year’s school leavers are feeling it most keenly at the moment. We all suffer from unfairness from time to time. And yet, even when life is treating us unfairly, God continues to be with us. Let us pray that God is close to all the students who feel let down. And let us strive to be instruments of God’s justice, love and grace in this imperfect, unfair world.

The Prayers
Prepared by Hope

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the father.
Dear Father in Heaven bless all those around us who are struggling today, especially as a result of the pandemic.
Bless those who face soon having to lose their jobs, as government support runs out
Bless those who are so short of money now that they don’t know how they are going to cope
Bless children and teenagers who have had no school since March, and have needed it so much
Bless the young people who have received A Level results in England yesterday
Bless those who have had their exam grades adjusted by a complex system.
Bless especially those students who now fear that their life plans are crumbling around them
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Bless those in our own country who are suffering from the effects of violent storms and flooding.
Bless those affected by the derailment of the train from Aberdeen: the injured and the bereaved.
Bless those whose home countries are ravaged by war, as well as the effects of climate change.
Bless those who are so desperate that they struggle to reach this country in overloaded small boats.
Bless all those from this country and around the world who are most directly affected by Covid-19
Bless the people of Beirut. Grant them a better future for their city and their country
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Dear Father in Heaven
Grant us… Faith, in your power to redeem your creation
Hope, for a better future for those who are suffering
Love, which is a part of your everlasting love.
Show us how to understand better the needs of others
Help us to meet those needs, through prayer for guidance and by giving and sharing
Help us to live day by day with awareness of your presence with us in Jesus Christ.
Grant us, day by day, wisdom and strength in the Power of the your Holy Spirit
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We ask your blessing on all those who are living with anxiety and fear at this tough time.
We give thanks for the health workers, counsellors, carers, friends and neighbours who have given unselfish support when it is most needed.
We give thanks for the work of all our local church leaders in this time of digital support and services
Bless them all and be there for them
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We remember all those who have gone before us in the Peace of Christ.
That great cloud of witnesses who have inspired us and with whom we rejoice in the Communion of Saints.
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 included in these prayers, is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000

‘Life’s restless sea’ – 9th August 2020 – 9th Sunday after Trinity

The Readings

Genesis 37.1-4, 12-28

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ So he said to him, ‘Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.’ So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, ‘What are you seeking?’ ‘I am seeking my brothers,’ he said; ‘tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.’ The man said, ‘They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.” ’ So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.’ But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, ‘Let us not take his life.’ Reuben said to them, ‘Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him’—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Matthew 14.22-33

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

 

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

The Sermon
By Dave, Reader-in-training at St. Mary's

Our Gospel passage today is a rarity for St Mary’s. The last section of it is depicted in one of our stained glass windows. See the picture nearby. It shows Peter, who has left the boat with the other disciples in, and moved across the water towards Jesus. Peter has clearly begun to sink and has called to Jesus who will lift him up out of the waves. But we’ve jumped into the middle of the story.

Our passage begins following Jesus’ feeding of 5000 people with two loaves and 5 small fish, see Matthew 14.13-21. A clear expression of his divinity, and God’s ability to turn that which is meagre and everyday into an unending blessing.

Following the miracle Jesus sends the disciples away in the boat, dismisses the crowds and goes up the mountain to pray. He withdraws and spends time with the Father.
When he comes to re-join the disciples, they are in, if not a dangerous situation, then one which is certainly causing them problems. The boat they are in is battered by the waves and they are far from shore. They have followed Jesus’ instructions. They have set out for the far shore, but through no fault of their own, they now find themselves buffeted about.

Jesus comes towards them on the water and they are terrified and fearful. Rather than remembering yesterday’s miracle with the two loaves and five fish, and therefore his extraordinary power, they retreat to their own flawed, human understanding, thinking this must be a ghost. Jesus reassures them, telling them to take heart, which gives Peter just enough courage to speak with Jesus and ultimately step out of the boat.

The wind is still blowing at this point. The water is still choppy. This can be seen in the window, it isn’t a placid millpond Peter has begun to cross. Yet, walk on the water he does. At least for a brief while. The wind and the waves get the better of him though. He loses his focus on Jesus and instead focuses on the tempest around him. He begins to sink, which is where we find the story in our window. Peter is reaching out to Jesus and Jesus is reaching out to Peter.

Jesus catches him, they both go to the boat, the wind ceases and the disciples acknowledge the reality of Jesus’ divinity. The boat with all aboard then makes it across to the far side.

---

The boat in this story is often interpreted as being God’s church, in pretty much every age. Jesus is no longer physically with us in the same way he was with the first disciples. The boat or church is buffeted from all sides as its members, Jesus’ disciples, us, try to steer it where we have been instructed to go. We do our best, but it’s hard work and sometimes it feels like we aren’t moving in the direction we should.
This interpretation raises interesting questions for us.

Jesus isn’t in the boat with us, but he is there on the water, out in the world. Peter is the only one who has the courage to leave the relative safety of the boat to venture and meet Jesus on the water. It doesn’t go particularly well for Peter, but then it doesn’t normally, does it? But he is caught by Jesus, gently chided and returned to the boat.

Under normal circumstances large parts of the church would gather in person to be fed by the generous spirit of God in both word and sacrament. At the end of the service we are dismissed “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” replying “in the name of Christ. Amen.” Here we leave the presence of Jesus in bread and wine and go and seek him in the world. We venture out of the boat, knowing it may not go as well as it could, but that Jesus will catch us, in whatever form that may take.

But those are normal circumstances. Which we are definitely not in.

At the risk of stretching the metaphor a bit, it can feel like we are bobbing around in the water trying to latch on whatever remaining bit of the blasted apart boat floating by. We’ve gone through the initial wrecking of the boat, who would have thought that public worship in the Church of England would ever be suspended for more than three months? We’ve followed our Royal National Lifeboat Institution guidance on hitting the water and floated on our backs till we could assess the situation, work out what life and the church might look like after the wreck. We are now looking at the differently shaped pieces of wood which each of us has and wondering how we can put them all together into something vaguely seaworthy. All the while bobbing along.

I can guarantee that it won’t look the same as it did before. It will probably be more raft-like than ship and maybe that’s okay. A raft has low sides, easy to get in and venture out of, whereas a ship has tall, imposing sides.

Leaving the metaphor behind, how does that look for St Mary’s? It might mean that the weekly commitment to sermons on the website, etc. is continued. It might mean that services back in the building are live streamed. It could mean plenty of other things that have yet to become clear, not least of which is how to respond to what could be one of the biggest economic crises of our time and the need that arises from that. Ours is definitely not the only boat that has been blown apart.

But through all of this Jesus is constant, out in the world, hoisting people onto floating debris, creating chance encounters and pushing bits of broken apart boats together so that we can build a fleet that works for all.
I’d like to finish with the words of the first verse of a hymn by Cecil Frances Alexander.

Jesus calls us o'er the tumult
of our life's wild, restless sea;
day by day his sweet voice soundeth,
saying "Christian, follow me."

Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Catherine

God of work and of leisure:
We pray for all who work on the land -
For those tending livestock or bringing in the harvest
so that others may eat.
We pray for all who work in tourism
with the particular challenges of this summer,
for those unable to take a holiday,
and for those whose holiday has not been the hoped for time of rest.

God of crowds and of solitude:
We give thanks that you are with us
whether we are together, or alone.
We pray for Christian communities everywhere
Challenged to worship and to share your love
together while apart.
We pray for all who are working towards
the safe re-opening of local church buildings.

God of families and rivalries,
and of those who strive for peace:
We pray for all families and communities
For those whose relationships have been strained to the limit by lock-down
For all who are suffering from inequality and injustice.
We pray for the work of mediators, counsellors and politicians
remembering with gratitude the peace-making work of John Hume.

God of strong winds and small boats:
May we feel your presence when times are particularly stormy.
We hold before you all those places of strife, conflict, poverty and disaster.
We pray for migrants crossing dangerous waters in overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels.
We remember those who have lost their livelihood,
or whose jobs are insecure.

God of all who reach out for you, but then lose heart:
We pray for all those who are sad, lonely or downcast
for those whose faith is being tested.
We pray especially for those injured in Beirut’s explosion
and their severely compromised hospitals.
We remember all who are unwell or frail
thinking in particular of anyone known to us personally.
We ask for strength, courage and an assurance of your presence.

God of the missing and the dead:
We hold before you especially this week the people of Beirut,
those anxiously seeking news of friends or relatives,
those mourning the dead.
We remember anyone who has died this week,
and in particular anyone known to us personally.

God of the dreamers and those who see visions:
We look in hope to the fulfilment of your kingdom
on earth as in heaven.
Guide us in our lives
that we may reflect, however imperfectly,
your never-ceasing love for your world
and for all your people.
In Jesus’ name.
Amen.

‘Do we really need to know?’ – 2nd August 2020 – 8th Sunday after Trinity

The Readings

Genesis 32.22-31

The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Matthew 14.13-21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

 

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

The Sermon

By Kath, a Reader at St. Mary's

I think I can say, with a fair amount of confidence that I’m not alone in liking to know how things work. I say “with confidence” because many TV channels are full of programmes about how things work or how they are designed or made and if you’ve ever tried getting a place on a tour of a factory or power station or theatre or indeed any kind of “behind the scenes” visit you will know that they get booked up pretty quickly. Obviously a lot of us “like to know”. We’re curious, fascinated, intrigued and sometimes amazed at what we see and learn and quite rightly so. I’ve been on numerous such visits and loved every one of them and I’ve spent many a happy hour watching programmes like “How it’s Made”, “Kirstie’s Handmade Home”, “Grand Designs” “Abandoned Engineering” and even “Wheeler Dealers” where each episode, Ed China, a mechanic, skilfully restores some clapped-out old vehicle to its former glory. There are some very clever people around!

That said, although we might like or want to know, much of the time we don’t actually need to know how something works in order to use it, appreciate it or benefit from it. For instance, I can drive a car and although I have a rough idea of how it works, I don't know in detail and I certainly couldn’t explain it or mend it if it broke down. Likewise with the computer I’m using to write this sermon, I can operate it without knowing much about how it works nor do I really understand how the internet works in order for it to reach you. Interesting as it all is, I don’t actually need to know.

Maybe it’s quite a leap, maybe not, to say that I have a similar approach to what I encounter in the Bible. I like to know and understand and be able to see an explanation or reason in the stories but that isn’t always possible because some things are beyond the ability of even the cleverest of us to understand or explain so that certainly rules me out. And I’m ok with that! I’m certainly not advocating that we don’t question what we are presented with; that would be foolhardy and has in the past been very damaging and disastrous when faith has been placed in individuals who are either deluded about their own greatness or have ulterior motives, nor should we wilfully ignore evidence that doesn’t fit in with what we want to believe but I accept that there are some things we just can’t explain or know. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t true or didn’t happen or that we can’t benefit and be enriched by them. People who are sceptical or hostile about religious faith want evidence, which believers can’t provide; if we could it wouldn’t be called faith, and the sceptics can’t prove that our faith is wrong or misplaced. The most obvious example of something we all know to be real but can’t be proved with empirical evidence is love. Love can take many forms and expressions of love can be of an even greater variety but no matter how extravagant they might be, they are not proof. In matters of love there is also a lot of trust involved and a willingness to make ourselves vulnerable. We can’t know for certain whether the love professed for us is real however much we want to.

Our reading from Matthew’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, one of the best known of the miracles he performed and it’s a story known to more than just church goers and believers. Many of us choose to believe it but we can’t prove it happened or know how Jesus did it. But do we really need to know in order to benefit or be enriched by it? I personally don’t think so because there is a lot more besides the miracle itself to be enriched by.

To set the story in context, Jesus has been rejected by the people of his hometown Nazareth. In spite of hearing his teaching in their synagogue and being amazed by his deeds they can’t get past the knowledge that he was “the carpenter’s son”, they know his mother is Mary and they know his brothers and sisters and they effectively devalued him. So he moved on. He then received devastating news that his cousin John, who baptised him, had been executed, murdered because he had upset Herodias by criticising King Herod’s relationship with her. Understandably Jesus wanted some time to himself to take in and start to come to terms with what had happened and no doubt to grieve for John. He may also have been frightened; we can’t know.

But his time alone was not to be because the crowds followed him. Instead of insisting on his own need for privacy and space we are told that when he saw them “he had compassion for them”. He goes to them to “cure their sick” and he teaches them. As evening drew near, the Disciples, quite sensibly, suggested that Jesus send the people into the nearby towns so they could get some food. They too were probably thinking of the people’s welfare and concerned for Jesus himself. Imagine their feelings when he said “you give them something to eat”. What? How are we supposed to do that? We’ve only got five small loaves and two fish! No doubt their stress levels were immediately rocketing. But then came the miracle when Jesus blessed the food and gave it to the Disciples to share among the crowd. It would have been impressive if he had fed twenty people with such a modest amount of food but we are told that five thousand men plus women and children, so possibly seven to ten thousand people, “ate and were filled” and there were twelve baskets of leftovers. We can’t know how Jesus did this. Does that detract from the story? Not for me. For those who demand hard, irrefutable evidence before they will believe anything all I can think is that our history books would be a lot thinner than they are and life in general would be a lot meaner and poorer than it is. For me what stands out in the story is Jesus’ loving care and compassion for others, something each of us can do our best to emulate, thereby enriching life for us all.

The Prayers

Prepared by Joe

With thankful hearts we bring our prayers to our heavenly Father...

We pray for the Church of Christ, for Bishop Pete and Canon Sophie, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary's to create a place of worship here in Walkley. At this time when we are physically separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ, we pray for each other.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray that we can exhibit the generosity of spirit, time and resources as exemplified by the feeding of the five thousand. May we all be willing to put whatever resources we have at your disposal, so you can multiply what we offer to further your Kingdom.
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 influence be used compassionately for the good of all. We pray for the late US Civil Rights leader John Lewis, who used his influence and faith to be a cause of ‘good trouble’ in furthering the rights of black Americans throughout his life. As parts of the country go in to local special measures for Covid-19, we pray for those in positions of leadership in those areas.

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 also pray for those in the North West and West Yorkshire where Covid-19 has again flared up, leading to restrictions of family contact. This is particularly sad coming at the time of Eid, and we pray that all those affected may still find your presence around them.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for those we know who are worried and troubled especially at this time of continuing uncertainty. We pray for those whose health and livelihoods have been affected by Covid-19, and those who have ongoing health or emotional problems where treatments are still only partially available.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or spirit, those that need your grace and blessing. Be with them at this time, Lord, and give them peace and strength.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those close to death at this time, 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 especially pray for those who have died without the comfort of their family around them, and those who felt fear and felt alone in their last moments. We pray that they were comforted by your presence, Lord, and that you give strength and love to all those close to death and caring for the dying at this time.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Finally, Lord, we silently bring before you those special to us.
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.

 

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

‘And Mum came too…’ – 26th July 2020 – James the Apostle

The Readings

Genesis 29. 15-28

Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’ Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’ So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me for another seven years.’ Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

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

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

Saints and people who have done great things for God must have been free of the constraints and complications of family, mustn't they? We can imagine them striding across history, dedicated to their calling from God, unaffected by the family ties, responsibilities and complications that can make our own attempts to follow Jesus seem at times weaker and less wholehearted than we might aspire to.

In fact the Bible shows us people whose lives were just like ours, whose walk with God also involved family who sometimes seemed to get in the way! A bit like video interviews on TV that have been interrupted by children or animals, especially in recent months, sometimes family do creep into the narrative.

St. James was one of Jesus' disciples who went on, after the first Pentecost, to be the first apostle to be arrested and martyred by King Herod (Acts 12: 1-2). His saint's day was yesterday, July 25th, but we are remembering him today.

James was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee along with his brother John, working with their father, Zebedee. When Jesus called the brothers to be disciples they were mending nets on Zebedee's boat. Sometimes called the “Sons of Thunder” (or Boanerges), James and John were singled out, along with Peter, to accompany Jesus to the Transfiguration where Jesus' glory was revealed on the mountain top.

Interestingly, the passage from St. Matthew's Gospel that is set for St. James' day, is the story of his mother coming to Jesus to ask a favour for her sons. This story comes as Jesus and the disciples journey to Jerusalem for the final drama of Jesus' life – his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus has just been telling the disciples what is coming, when James' and John's mother comes and kneels before Jesus and asks that her sons should sit on Jesus' left and right in his kingdom.

Were the brothers embarrassed at their mother coming to Jesus like this? Were they taken aback? Had she been badgering them ever since they walked away from their father's boat? I can imagine her repeatedly asking them questions like, “Who's going to help your father now?”, “How are we going to survive?”, “Who will look after us in our old age?” “What are you getting out of following this Jesus?” “Is it worth it?”, “If he is a king, what's in it for you?” *Will you be honoured for being with him?” “Have you asked him what place you will have in his kingdom? If you won't, I will”

And here, now, she does come with them to Jesus. It almost feels like a mum dragging her reluctant children to a situation saying, “Now, let's get this settled.” But these are not children. James and John are grown men, fishermen, who have already spent a considerable time with Jesus, being part of the incredible activity around Jesus, seeing his miracles and hearing his teaching. Are they embarrassed that their mum has come like this? Whatever they are thinking, she does kneel and ask Jesus this favour, that her sons should have honoured places in his kingdom.

Jesus does not get angry, although the other disciples do! Jesus asks the brothers if they can drink the cup that he will drink, can they suffer as he will? They say yes but Jesus still says it is not for him to say who will have prominent places in the kingdom. He reiterates that being a follower of his is not about power or position but about servanthood. His kingdom is not about lordly position, but humility and sacrifice. The first will be last and the last first. Was mum satisfied? She did not get the answer she wanted. We don't know how she reacted; the story moves on.

In our Old Testament reading, Jacob also encounters family complications, with his uncle and father-in-law, Laban, who cheats him by substituting his elder daughter Leah for Rachel at Jacob's wedding. Jacob had returned to his mother's family in search of a wife and had set his heart on Rachel, working seven years for Laban to win her hand. On the wedding night Laban substituted Leah, later saying that it was not right for the younger to marry first. He had had seven years to find a husband for Leah, but she was still unmarried. Laban did let Jacob marry Rachel as well, but demanded another seven years of service.

There is irony in this story, as, before leaving home, Jacob had tricked his own elder brother, Esau, out of his birthright and his father Isaac's blessing for the older son. Now Jacob himself has been tricked. He does get his own back on Laban by amassing a fortune at Laban's expense, but that is another story!

Had Jacob only married Rachel, he would never have had the large family he did, including the twelve sons who went on to the the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin. Only Joseph and Benjamin were Rachel's sons. Laban's trickery had an unexpected positive outcome!

When we look at key players in the Bible it is easy to forget that they were, like us, part of larger families of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, in-laws and cousins who did not always understand what they were doing. These were real people with families who were sometimes helpful, supportive, kind and encouraging but who could also be difficult, obstructive, argumentative, jealous, unsupportive and lacking in understanding.

God deals with all of that. He guides people through the difficulties of family relationships and still manages to lead those he has called to the places where they can be who he wants and achieve what he has planned.

Sometimes we perhaps feel that our attempts to be followers of Jesus are complicated by our families but there is nothing new in that. Remember that in Jacob's family, Joseph's brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery. He went on to become powerful in Egypt and was able to save the family in time of famine. When his brothers eventually threw themselves on his mercy, Joseph said he forgave them because although they meant evil by their actions, God had turned the situation to good.

We live in the real world, in our families with all the complexities that that entails. We encounter the whole range of personalities, emotions, tensions, ideas; all the love, encouragement and support and all the envy, dismay, bafflement and misunderstanding. We encounter other people's ambitions and other people's agendas and sometimes struggle to put our point of view across. But so did the Biblical Old Testament heroes, so did the disciples and apostles who grew the young church after that first Pentecost.

We are who we are with the family we have. God knows our situation. He created us in our families. He called us where we are, not in some other place we might consider would be more ideal. So let us not think things might be easier if only ….. Let us ask God to show us how we can serve him best in the context in which we find ourselves. Let us be servants for Christ and follow the saints of history, following Jesus' word and example.

St. James' mother did not really understand Jesus' kingdom and she was not granted the favour she asked, but James and his brother, John, her sons, went on to serve with distinction as disciples and apostles promoting Jesus' kingdom within which they took their own place.

The Prayers
Prepared by Irving

O God, the creator and preserver of all, we pray for people of every race and in every kind of need: make your ways known on earth, your saving power among all nations.

Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy. Sustain and support the anxious, be with those who care for the sick, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may find comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus, and for all people according to their needs.

We continue to pray for the peace, stability and unity of the world as we continue to respond to Covid-19. We pray for all who are planning our country’s path towards greater freedom of movement and personal contact. May they respond to challenges of Covid with fairness, prudence and sound judgement. May their efforts help alleviate economic burdens, compensate fairly for losses, protect employment and ensure protection for the poor, fearful and isolated.
We pray particularly at this time for ‘the West’s’ relationships with China and Hong Kong, that peaceful, fair and productive outcomes will be found to the current differences and disputes.

At home we pray for all who look after Walkley, its postmen and women, refuse collectors and street cleaners, shopkeepers and businesses, medical workers and school staff. We pray for those who, like Walkey Community Forum and Walkley Library, have continued to support people during Covid.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

We pray for your Church throughout the world: guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led in 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 in Sheffield Diocese, especially at this time the Deanery of Laughton. We pray for and give thanks to all at St Mary’s who have kept our church alive by their newsletters, electronic ‘virtual’ worship and meetings, coffee mornings and in so many other ways. We pray especially for those who are responsible for planning the eventual re-opening of our buildings and resumption of services and other activities.

We pray for all at St Mary’s Church of England Academy as they prepare for the planned re-opening of school and a new academic year.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

We commend to your fatherly goodness all that are anxious or distressed in mind or body; comfort and relieve them in their need; give them patience in their sufferings, and bring good out of their troubles.

Especially we pray for all affected by the Coronavirus, both physically and emotionally. We pray for all who feel isolated, lonely and without hope. We pray for all who care for and treat Covid sufferers and for those working on protective vaccines and treatments.

And in a few moments of reflection, we bring before God our own prayers and concerns…….

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 included in these prayers, is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000