‘Hungering for Justice, Joy and a Better World’ – 31st July 2021 – 9th Sunday after Trinity

The Readings

Exodus 16.2-4, 9-15

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.

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.

 

John 6.24-35

So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’

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

 

The Sermon
By Rev'd Sue Hammersley, St. Marks Church, Broomhill

This will be uploaded when available.

Prayers
Prepared by Oliver G

Lord God, we thank you for the work of the international scientific community in the development and delivery of the Covid-19 vaccine. As we appreciate the nature of our globalised world during this pandemic, help us to advocate for vaccine equity to enable all nations to see hope for the future.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord God, we thank you for the rich flora and fauna we see in our gardens and parks during the summer season. As we see the effects of climate change nationally and internationally, we ask that you be with our neighbours in this world, the global village, who are experiencing devastating floods and uncontrolled wildfires. We pray significant steps will be made by our leaders at COP26 later in the year.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Thank you for our community and the people of Walkley. Help us at St. Mary’s to look outwardly, identifying what need there is locally and helping us to respond appropriately. Where we see hunger, help us to bring satiety. Help us to work with local organisations to provide both physical and spiritual food to those who need it most.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord God, we thank you for our families whom we have been able to see more of recently. We pray that you be with those who have no family, or are estranged. We pray they may find your unconditional love through their neighbours and friends.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

As we celebrate the end of restrictions, help us to be aware of those who still have anxieties and apprehensions, and encourage us to go at the pace of the slowest member. Be with those who are still struggling with the physical and psychological effects of the past 18 months. We take a moment of silence to think of those known to us personally who are suffering in mind, body or spirit, and pray that you will bring your healing hand.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

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

The order of service:

The order of service as a word document:

21 07 25 St James the Apostle Eucharist

The order of service as a pdf:

21 07 25 St James the Apostle Eucharist

The Livestream link

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

 

The Readings

Acts 11.27 - 12.2 

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

 

Matthew 20.20 - 28

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

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

 

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

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

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

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

‘Kindness and Compassion’ – 18th July 2021 – 7th Sunday after Trinity

Image reproduced from https://ofhsoupkitchen.org/jesus-taught-kindness

The Readings

Jeremiah 23.1-6

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Mark 6.30-34, 53-56

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

 

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

The Sermon
By Canon Julian Sullivan

The Kindness of Strangers

We were once wrestling with a wardrobe outside St Luke’s Hospice Shop in NetherEdge, trying to fit it in the back of our car. We tried every which way, but it just would not go in. Frustrating!!! A gentle voice said behind me, “Excuse me but if you can wait five minutes while I collect my daughter from school, I’ll come back and that cupboard will easily go into the back of my VW Microbus and I’ll take it home for you!”

True to her word, she returned with her daughter and the wardrobe came home with ease! A young mum on a busy school run, gave the time to help a couple of strangers solve a problem. She will always be in our memory. Kindness multiplies. We were so pleased to solve our problem and she was pleased to help us so we all felt good, even her daughter, who wondered who these new friends were. Never underestimate the power of an act of kindness.

Bees

A few years ago, I took up bee-keeping. In one of the classes attended, a life long bee keeper was asked to say a few words to this group of rookie apiarists about his life with bees. “Eugene, if you could say one thing to the group, what would it be?” He paused a moment: “Love your bees; love your bees. Get to know their ways and learn to understand them. They will be a constant source of delight and always have something new to teach you.” Someone who had seen Eugene working with his bees described it as “poetry in motion.” He treated them gently, did not stress them or crash around when opening the hive, and moved slowly and deliberately as he inspected them. Did they have enough food and space, how were the young, and most importantly how was the queen, who sets the tempo in the hive. You could say he was like a good shepherd, who cared for the creatures in his care with kindness.

From Iona to Lindisfarne

Kindness has always had a place in the well being of neighbourhoods and has played a vital part in the spreading of the gospel of Christ. When king Oswald of Northumbria wanted to introduce the Christian faith to his kingdom in the North East, he called on the monks of Iona, to send someone to tell his people about the christian faith. A monk named Corman was duly dispatched to the region and set about trying to make converts to the faith. After some time he had made no headway and returned to Iona. He complained that the people were a miserable lot who wouldn’t listen to a word he said! Up stood a fellow monk who asked him, “Did you get to know the people, listen to their worries, offer to help with their day to day problems? (These were
turbulent times, with the threat of violence from sea and land.) He replied that he had not. Well what did you expect then, said the monk. You should have taken time to get to know them, to win their confidence and if possible their affection. Then they would have listened to you.

Hearing this, the abbot decided to send this young monk in Corman’s stead. He travelled to the North East from the Inner Hebrides and spent time among the people, getting to know them, listening, making friends, engaging wherever possible in local life. In so doing he won their hearts and not only did they listen to his message but they came to Christ in large numbers and the faith flourished in that region. The monk in question was called Aidan, the place where he based his mission was Lindisfarne, or Holy Island as it is known today and the rest is history.

Our Gospel

Which brings us neatly to our gospel reading in Mark 6 where we find Jesus and the disciples in the thick of it. In the midst of a lot of coming and going, with no leisure even to eat properly, Jesus had heard of the death of John, his cousin and was mourning his loss. But he was also thinking of the welfare of his disciples who needed, some relief from the demands of their very public ministry with Jesus. He listened carefully as they told him all they had done and taught and wanted to cut them some slack. It is very easy to drive ourselves and others hard, when the need is great. During the 90’s we undertook a major refurbishment in down town Bramall Lane. Looking back it was at times relentless, but we could have looked after each-other better, because by completion, some of us were very poorly indeed. We might have taken more notice of this passage where Christ put his disciples first and invited them away to a deserted place to rest and recuperate. We should have built in more parties and spaces to relax.

When they arrive by boat at the deserted place, they find it overrun with people. It was like Scarborough beach in the holiday season (Remember that?). They were desperate to see Jesus, and as he looked out on them, he saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he responded with compassion. Compassion embraces patience and wisdom; kindness and perseverance; warmth and resolve. Jesus showed all these qualities in abundance which meant that he did not try to hide from the crowd, or escape, like celebrities do, but realising their needs, he engaged with them, responded to their needs and gave them a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. No one in that crowd will have forgotten that encounter with Jesus as they came away healed, affirmed, encouraged and enriched being in the presence of the one who said “I have come that you might have life; life in all its fullness.

The DNA of the Church

We took the train to London recently after a long break from travel of any kind. I resorted to my habit when on a train, of gazing out of the window as towns, village and countryside speed by.

As I did so, I noticed something as if for the first time: the number of church towers and spires often surrounded by trees, rising above their surroundings. I wondered who they were dedicated to and thought of how each spire represented a distinctive Christian community, a parish church, engaged in the ongoing life of their neighbourhood, taking their cue from the one who shared our life, living and dying to create a new humanity, Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven. Who blessed those around him with those qualities of compassion and kindness, healing and forgiveness, reconciliation and the breaking down of barriers.

Ephesians

It is easy to under value the presence of a church in every community, woven into local history, playing a part in everyday life. Our reading from Ephesians contains what has been described as the new humanity of the people of God, modelling the quality of life of God’s kingdom. Speaking to Jews and Gentiles, Paul spells out the implications of what Christ has done:

“Christ is our peace ... breaking down the dividing wall, the hostility between us ... so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two (Jew and Gentile) thus making peace. He describes the life of the young emerging church as having access to God through Christ - no longer strangers and aliens but citizens with the saints and members of the household of God ... built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone ... joined together and growing into a holy temple in the lord ... in whom you are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”

This is not directly talking about Gareth Southgate and the England football squad, although he almost could be, the confidence and respect they had in each other shone very brightly with such spirit within the squad: Solidarity, sportsmanship, a real sense of togetherness. But this is the DNA of the church to which we belong, of which we are the visible signs in this present age. We may be tempted to think that the church is a modern day irrelevance and it is true that much of what we do goes unnoticed and unreported, but hear what Ann Morisey said to us at one of our diocesan days:

“In every community, the church is likely to be the largest and most diverse membership organisation, the most significant generator of social capital, a significant source of adult education learning for daily life; the most grass root network of voluntary organisations; the most long lived, best able to tell the story of the neighbourhood. The most significant provider of community facilities. The parish is a tree of life and anchor for a complex ecology of community activity, a blessing to its neighbourhood and beyond. Adults and children can find their way within a living community of faith as part of the world wide church. It has a calling to be more than a gathered community of the faithful, to serve the need of all, work for the good of all and communicate the gospel to everyone.”

St Mary’s Walkley

We can set alongside Ann Morisy, the way in which you describe your own aspirations here at St Mary’s Walkley:

We see ourselves as a church that welcomes and includes everyone, in their uniqueness, lifting the lowly, feeding the hungry as only the body of Christ can. As Christ’s people, we aspire to be agents of God’s healing grace, offering the ‘balm of Jesus Christ’ to a wounded world, be it physical, emotional, relational, reconciling. St Mary’s is a eucharistic community giving thanks together in a shared meal in the presence of our crucified, risen, ascended Lord, at the heart of the people of God.

So be encouraged. Compassion and kindness provide the atmosphere in which we can make Christ known, enriching our communities with the encouragement, challenge and hope of the kingdom of God.

I leave you with this thought from Alan Turing: (Mathematician,Computer Scientist, Code Breaker)

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of, who do the things no one can imagine.”

Amen

The Prayers
Prepared by Siobhan H

We pray for all those called to be shepherds in our Church and for those who have dedicated their lives to spreading the good news of the gospel. We pray for the spiritual growth of our mission area, as we seek to listen well to each other, engage with shared ministry and utilise our many gifts. May we reflect compassion and care in our communities and be agents of God’s presence in our world.
Lord in Your mercy,
Hear our prayer

As Covid restrictions are eased, we pray for all in our country, that we show responsibility, consideration and care for ourselves and for others and abide strictly by the guidelines which our healthcare professionals recommend to defeat this very contagious virus for the good of all God’s children.
Lord in Your mercy,
Hear our prayer

We pray for those affected by natural disasters and from human violence. We particularly remember those affected by floods in Europe and fires in North America. May they find comfort and support from agencies seeking to support them.
Lord in Your mercy,
Hear our prayer

We pray for all teachers, school staff and children as they finish their last week at school. Help them to rest, recuperate, and to be restored, spending time with those close to them. Thank you God for your sustaining love which has helped them during this year of uncertainty.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer

We pray for those who are sick, in mind, body or spirit. Comfort and heal them and restore them to health and strength.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer

We remember all those we have loved who have died.
May the Lord of life raise them up and welcome them into their heavenly home.

In silence we bring before God our personal prayer petitions

Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers
for the sake of your son
our saviour,
Jesus Christ,
Amen

‘The death of John the Baptist’ – 11th July 2021 – 6th Sunday after Trinity

We regret that we are unable to offer a live-stream of this week's service.

The Readings
Amos 7.7-15

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb-line.’ Then the Lord said,
‘See, I am setting a plumb-line
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by;
the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the very centre of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said,
“Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land.” ’
And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’

Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycomore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

Mark 6.14 -29

The Death of John the Baptist
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’ And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

 

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 Catherine B, a Reader at St. Mary's

Today’s gospel story is as puzzling as it is gruesome. We’re told that John the Baptist has severely criticised Herod for his irregular marriage. So why has Herod not killed him earlier? Why has he put him in prison for protection? Why does he like to listen to a man he fears and finds perplexing?

When you look more closely at his situation, for someone who is supposed to be the ruler of the area, he doesn’t seem to have much agency. His wife has left her previous husband for him. It doesn’t sound as if it’s a love match – perhaps she thought that being married to Herod would bring her more prestige and power. But John the Baptist is a threat. He has pointed out that their marriage isn’t lawful in the eyes of the Jewish faith. You can imagine her nagging Herod to do something about John.

So Herod has John imprisoned. It’s a bit of a compromise. John is contained, but not killed. There is a part of Herod which recognises that John is a holy man. John has important, albeit difficult truths to tell and Herod wants to hear them. But for his wife, this spells danger. Herod could fall for John’s charms and her access to power and prestige could be felled in one blow. So she begins to plot.

Herod’s birthday arrives, with a big party attended by many influential men. The wine flows freely and everyone has a good time. Herod’s wife sends her daughter into the room to dance. It goes down splendidly. Herod promises the girl anything she wants – yes even half his kingdom! She immediately goes to ask her mother for advice. Who grabs her chance. Ask for the head of John the Baptist.

So she does. And Herod’s mood changes from joviality to despair. He’s been trapped. He can’t back down and refuse the girl his offer – it would be seen as weak. No one would ever take him seriously again. He’d be deposed, lose everything, most likely killed. So he gives in to the request. John is beheaded, and in a gruesome parody of the great banquet – his head is brought to the feast on a plate.

Why does the church set this powerful story about John’s death set for this week, bang in the middle of what the church calls “ordinary time”? Why not during Lent or Advent – the traditional times in the Christian year for focusing on John the Baptist?

Well, if we look at the start of the passage, it’s not directly about John the Baptist at all. John is already dead and buried.

The passage is about Jesus. He has been preaching his message of repentance, has been healing the sick, and has sent his disciples out to do the same. The mission is going well. People don’t know Jesus that well yet, and are asking who he might be. Is he John the Baptist? Is he Elijah? Is he another prophet from that great tradition of prophets?

The story is also about Herod’s reaction to hearing about Jesus. When news of Jesus reaches Herod, you can imagine his heart sinking, his guilt rising. This Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead! You cannot keep important, difficult truths down. It’s only then that we are told what had happened to John.

John the Baptist wasn’t raised from the dead. His disciples heard about his death, collected his body and buried it. And that is the end of John’s story.

But who was he? In other gospel passages John makes it quite clear that he is not the Messiah, not Elijah, not the prophet. He may be charismatic and have a message for the people. But ultimately his role is to point to someone greater.

And John’s death points too, to the way in which that someone greater would die. Jesus, too, would be arrested and imprisoned by a weak leader. Someone who found him intriguing, would have kept him alive, but who bowed to political pressure to have him executed. Today’s story is early in the gospel, but already points to the way in which the gospel story will end. Like John, Jesus will be put to death in a gruesome manner by a puppet leader.

But it’s not quite the end. John’s story ends with his burial. Jesus’ story continues - death, burial and then a mysterious empty tomb and the promise of new life. You cannot keep important truths down.

The Prayers

Prepared by Veronica H

In the power of the spirit and in union with Christ Let us pray to the Father.

Oh God, Creator and Preserver of us all, we pray for people in every kind of need, especially for those who have fled oppression and remain in refugee camps far from their homes, or who find themselves rejected when they seek a new life elsewhere. We remember how Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt when their baby’s life was in peril, and pray that the wealthier countries of the world will reach out to provide shelter and food, and welcome those in dire need. Grant to national leaders and to us all in our daily lives the wisdom to use the resources of the earth according to your will.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the Church worldwide, for the Church of England that it may continue to be in every place to minister to every community, with its churches open to all who wish to enter and join its fellowship. We pray for parish priests everywhere who lead our worship, visit the sick and all in any spiritual need, and help congregations understand their calling to build up our common life by reaching out and serving our whole community. We give you thanks for the clergy at St Mark’s and St John’s and all who take services here, our Readers, and the contribution of all our congregation.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all children and young people whose lives and education have been disrupted by the pandemic, and for the teachers and lecturers who have worked so hard to ensure that their pupils are not only supported in their learning, but have also ensured they are fed where families are in difficulties. We ask your blessing on staff and children at St Mary’s School.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill at this time, especially those who are suffering long Covid or have long-term conditions and are apprehensive at the spread of the new variant during the forthcoming easing of restrictions. Help us to think of the needs of others as we are allowed greater freedom in our daily lives. We give you thanks for our NHS workers and carers, and the scientists who have developed vaccines in record time. In a moment of silence we remember by name those we know who are in special need of your healing grace…………..
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We remember before you all those who have died prematurely as a result of Covid, and all others who have died through other illness, accidents or have simply come to the end of their natural life- span. We remember before you all those we loved and see no more…………..

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

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

 

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

4th July 2021 – 5th Sunday after Trinity

The Readings

Ezekiel 2.1-5

He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

 

Mark 6.1-13

He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

 

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

The Sermon
By Rev'd Shan Rush, St. Marks Church

If I were to ask you what is significant about July 4th, I expect that most of you would say it is Independence Day. That is true, but for me, July 4th is significant for another reason. 11 years ago today was the day I was ordained Deacon at Sheffield Cathedral, and to me marks the day I was sent out from here, St Mary’s Walkley to serve my curacy at St Mark’s. Having left, I did not imagine that I would be back, and I hope I don’t experience the rejection we are told Jesus was met with in the first 6 verses of the gospel reading!

On this, the first occasion I have both presided and preached at St Mary’s since I left, I’m going to focus on the mission of the twelve, and the themes of vocation and ministry.

It strikes me that all too often the focus of a sending church is put on the person being sent, whereas in reality it is not simply about those being ordained, it is about the whole people of God recognising God's call and affirming it, whether that call be theirs or someone else’s.

When we are introduced to the disciples by Mark, they are not painted in a very positive way - lacking in understanding and needing explanation, described by Jesus as being fearful and lacking faith, questioning Jesus so it makes you wonder whether they would have fit into a person spec for the job, met the criteria at interview and why Jesus would send them out to preach repentance, heal the sick and cast out demons. There’s a phrase, ‘God does not necessarily choose the qualified, but qualifies the chosen’ and it was the kind of encouragement I needed at the stage I felt called.

I’m not sure that many of you know the part members of this congregation played in helping me to recognise my calling. Recognition was key, because without it, I’d have carried on doing what I was doing. Each of us needs to be in tune with the Holy Spirit in order to recognise when God’s hand has been placed upon a certain individual to perform a certain task, whatever that task may be.

Let me tell you some of my story, how I find myself where I am today.

Although I didn’t recognise it, to me my faith journey began at conception. My name Shan, was given to me because my mum had heard it on a holiday in Wales and liked it. The English equivalent is Jane, the female version of John, and when I think of this I’m reminded of John the Baptist, whose calling began before his conception in the womb of Elizabeth. The angel Gabriel foretold his birth to his father, the old priest, Zechariah, at which point he was given the name of John, a name that means “the graciousness of GOD,” because he would announce GOD’s graciousness in the coming of the Messiah – Jesus.

Although not regular churchgoers, my parents chose to have me baptised in the Methodist Chapel in the village my dad had been born and brought up in when I was 3 months old.

As a family, we only attended church intermittently, usually when visiting relatives at Christmas and Easter. Sunday school and attendance with Brownies and Guides were the only other occasions until I joined a house church as a teenager. On leaving home, church attendance stopped until I purchased my home here in Walkley. At that point , a friend invited me to attend church with her and her husband. Little did we know where that simple invite would lead. Initially I was confirmed, then after a few years, the question of my role within church kept cropping up in conversation. I was happy reading the lesson, leading intercessions and assisting with administration of the chalice, but something kept prompting me that there was more for me to do. I’d started to explore things I could do as a lay person like reader training and pastoral care. Somehow, none of these felt right for me and I abandoned them, plodding steadily on doing the things I’d always done and felt safe doing. God doesn’t give up easily and prodded me through several different people from different contexts asking the same question - have you ever thought about becoming a priest? I hadn’t, and initially didn’t want to. My hesitancy was based on a number of things. Firstly, I already had a vocation as a nurse and was working at the Children’s Hospital in a job I loved and found fulfilling, so why would God call me to something different? Secondly, I didn’t feel I had the skills or knowledge needed to be a Priest, and thirdly and probably more importantly, I was afraid of the unknown.

“If you don't get out of the boat, you’ll never walk on water.” These words of challenge were spoken to me by a member of this congregation Edna, who had been baptised in her 80’s and who was not afraid to ask difficult questions as I continued to grapple with the idea that God might be calling me to ordained ministry, to become a priest, a calling that would mean me facing the discernment process which might lead to rejection, and if I were accepted, would mean undertaking training before leaving St Mary’s and moving on to a new place.

Could I remain within the safety of my current job or did I need to accept this invitation to step into the unknown like the disciples in today’s gospel.

I was referred to a vocations advisor. Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs, a strategy that gave them support, companionship on the journey. St Mary’s gave me not only one companion, but a group of people to travel alongside me on my journey of discernment.

Jesus instructed the disciples to take nothing with them on their journey – no food, no extra clothing nor money. This meant that His disciples would have to depend on the generosity of others to meet their needs. I was gifted generous people who shared time, wisdom and hospitality.

The disciples left and began preaching and working miracles. These men were not learned. They were simple fishermen and workers. Yet, Jesus empowered them to give to heal others and to give them spiritual food. In the same way, you reached out and touched my life with your love, care and prayers, giving the gift of your interest, time and support, both in the journey of discernment and through training, and some of you continue to journey alongside me to this day, 11 years later, as I continue to discern what I’m called to do in life. Each of us called not only to reach out to those who gather in the building, but to reach out to those who are not seeking and have never encountered Jesus.

We live in a world not dissimilar to Jesus time, a world where some are hungry for faith and others are completely disinterested in learning about Jesus. Despite this, we are still called to share the good news of Gods love for us, to heal the sick and to reach out to those in need and you don’t have to be a priest to do this.

The disciples were not Priests. For each one of us, his call is present but may take shape very differently. I believe Lay ministers, each one of you, are the primary hands and feet of Christ in the world, in the workplace, the family, amongst friends, a belief borne out of my own experience.

All of us are called to identify the work that God is doing in our lives, and to build up God's people for works of service in the church and wider world. We are part of a diocese which seeks to encourage and affirm all ages, backgrounds and pathways as people seek to find out what God is calling them to. This is becoming clearer as clergy numbers are reduced and more of the ministry within the parish falls to laity who are told they are being liberated for the whole mission of God. The new model of oversight ministry is designed to mobilise the whole people of God. It’s a time of transition and it’s hard for everyone as we adapt to new ways of working, especially with the added complication of the pandemic. As things start to open up, there will be new needs within our Mission Area and opportunities to serve God in our communities. May we journey together, supporting, nurturing and encouraging one another as we discover who we are, work out how we want to live and try to accomplish the task of sharing what we learn through gathering, praying and eating together with the world outside these doors. Jesus deliberately sends us out with the minimum of resources so we can meet others from a position of need, vulnerability and humility, not from a position of power armed with multiple resources. We are called to recognise Gods presence in the ordinary encounters of our day, and to notice the ways in which we are nourished and given life, and to respond by offering love and hope in this broken and needy world.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe P

We pray for God’s Church throughout the world. We pray for our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, for Bishop Pete and Bishop Sophie, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary’s and our sister Churches. We pray that we, and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world, continue to be aware of your presence in our lives.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all those in authority, and those who have influence in the world, that their power and voices be used compassionately for the good of all. We pray for peace in those parts of the world affected by violence, and pray for all those whose lives have been affected by extreme weather caused by climate change.

As both the United States and Canada remember their foundings, we pray that those countries can look back at their past relationships with indigenous peoples and find a just way forward, and pray that all modern countries can look at their history in an open and honest fashion.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends. We pray for all those in the city involved in education and training at the end of a difficult year, and pray that the vaccines continue to successfully keep the rate of serious Covid related illness under control.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or spirit. We pray that God’s power and spirit will fill them and bring them the healing and peace that belong to Christ’s kingdom.
We also pray for those involved in delivering the vaccination programme throughout the world, and those clinicians and scientists who have made vaccination possible. We pray that steps are taken to ensure that the poor of the world are not forgotten at this time.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those close to death, and those accompanying them on this final part of their Earthly journey. We pray for those who have died, recently and in the past, and those who mourn. We pray for those who have died without the comfort of their family around them, that they were comforted by the presence of the Lord.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

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

Rejoicing in the communion of Mary and of all the Saints, let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life, to God.
Merciful Father:
accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour,
Jesus Christ.
Amen.

 

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

‘If it is a girl…’ – 27th June 2021 – Fourth Sunday after Trinity

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

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

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

The Readings

Wisdom 1.13-15, 2.23-24
Because God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things so that they might exist;
the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them,
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
For righteousness is immortal.

For God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.

Mark 5.21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

 

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

The Sermon
By Canon Dr Alan Billings

Let me read you part of a letter. It was written rather a long time ago. In fact about the time of Jesus. But it has survived. It’s from a man, called Hilarion, a Roman, who is working away from home in the port of Alexandria, in Egypt.

Hilarion writes to Alis, his wife, who is not with him, but is at home with their child. And Alis is pregnant.

Hilarion writes home because some of the others he is working with may be returning ahead of him and he doesn’t want Alis to worry. Miraculously the letter has survived, and this is part of what he says – take your hankies out because it’s really so loving and tender:

Hilarion to Alis … Know that we are still in Alexandria. Do not be anxious; if they really go home, I will remain in Alexandria. I beg and entreat you, take care of the little one, and as soon as we receive our pay I will send it up to you.

Now put the hankie away and brace yourself, because he goes on to talk about the pregnancy.

If by chance you bear a child, and if it is a boy, let it be; if it is a girl, cast it out.

Hankies again for the last sentence. She had asked him not to forget her while away, and so he says:

How can I forget you? I beg you then, not to be anxious.

The first time I read that letter I had to re-read it to be sure I had read it aright. Such tenderness:
take care of our little one …

But then in the next breath, such callousness:
if it is a girl, cast it out.

How could someone capable of showing such affection and love towards his wife and child one moment, express such terrible sentiments towards the unborn child, should it be female, the next. The answer, of course, is that this is a society that does not rate females as highly as males.

But now contrast that with what we read in today’s gospel. Here is another man, Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue – a sort of churchwarden – whose little girl is sick, very sick, in fact, dying. He could have shrugged his shoulders and taken the view that, though sad, it would be one less mouth to feed, one less who would always be a financial burden until he could marry her off to a man with a job – a Hilarion type, perhaps.

But Jairus is not like that at all. He clearly loves his twelve year old daughter and will do anything for her. He will even go begging for help from this probably rather dishevelled travelling preacher, Jesus, form the insignificant village of Nazareth.

So he seeks out Jesus and throws himself down in front of him and asks for help. All very undignified for a churchwarden; but he’s desperate because the little girl is at the point of death.

I quoted from that contemporary letter to draw out something that we, reading Mark’s gospel in 2021, might not fully appreciate. Namely, this loving attitude towards children who were female was not universally shared in the society in which Jesus lived. They could be regarded as a burden, literally more trouble than they were worth. It’s important that we recognise that this was not the view of Jesus. This is why he goes with Jairus to the house and heals the little girl.

But before he does that, Mark, who compiled this gospel adds another story. Again, I think we need to appreciate just what Like is doing here. Having told us through the story of Jairus and his daughter about the attitude of Jesus towards female children, he then wants to make it clear that this is not just Jesus being kind to a child, who happens to be a girl. This is the attitude of Jesus to all who are female, whether children or adult. The two stories are put together to make just this point.

And the point is strongly made.

The woman in the crowd who seeks out Jesus is anxious because her utterly debilitating medical condition – menstrual bleeding that never stops - is something that she would almost certainly be ashamed of.

The social conventions of the time required women to keep away from others during the times of their periods – something that for her would mean a permanent lock-down. So she approaches Jesus gingerly and fearfully.

And for that reason, when she touches his garments. he stops and speak to her: ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

Sometimes, when we hear the gospels, we don’t spend enough time just thinking about what they are saying to us. Sometimes it takes the church centuries before important truths that have always been there, jump out at us and we think them obvious.

The attitude of Jesus towards women was faithfully captured by the gospel writer 2000 years ago. To our eternal shame we have often not noticed.

The Prayers
Prepared by Barbara W

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

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

We pray for all of those affected by the Covid-19 epidemic.
We pray for those countries currently suffering from upsurges of the virus, thinking especially of those in South America and in the Indian subcontinent: please help them to keep their most vulnerable citizens safe.
We pray for the worldwide success of vaccination campaigns, and that vaccines are made available to all countries, regardless of their wealth or lack thereof. We pray that we can play our part in this!
We pray for those suffering from loneliness and isolation: please help us to be your agents in bringing them contact and comfort.
We pray for those affected by any sort of relationship breakdown at this loneliest of times: please help us to notice when people need help and to bring them the help they need.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

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

We pray for all Christian communities in this country and around the world, as we strive to find new ways of being your family that do not put each other in danger during this pandemic. Please help us to reach those who most need your comfort and help.

We pray especially for our worshipping community of St. John’s Ranmoor, St. Mark’s Broomhill and St. Mary’s Walkley as we learn new ways of joining together in love for you. Please help us to feel your presence in a world turned upside down and to share that presence with others.

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

We commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are in any way afflicted or distressed, in mind, body or estate; comfort and relieve them in their need, give them patience in their sufferings, and bring good out of their troubles …

In moments of peace and contemplation, we name to you all those known to us who are suffering. Please care for them and for all those of whose suffering we are unaware.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We remember those who have gone before us in the peace of Christ, and we give you praise for all your faithful ones, with whom we rejoice in the communion of saints …

We name to you in our hearts all those known to us both near and far, asking that you bring your comfort and healing to their families and friends at this time of grief.

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

 

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

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

The order of service:

The order of service as a word document:

21 06 20 3rd Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The order of service as a pdf:

21 06 20 3rd Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Livestream link

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

The Readings

Job 38.1-11

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

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

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

 

Mark 4.35-41

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

 

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

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

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

The Prayers
Prepared by David, adapted from Common Worship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Order of Service

The order of service as a word document:

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

The order of service as a pdf:

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

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

The Readings

Ezekiel 17.22-end

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

 

Mark 4.26-34

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

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

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

 

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

The Sermon
By Joe P, a Reader at St Marys. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what do we have.

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

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

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

The writer George Knight has suggested that this parable:

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

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

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

The Apostle Paul felt this as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘The Lens of Goodness’ – 6th June 2021 – 1st Sunday after Trinity

The Order of Service

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

21 06 06 1st Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

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

21 06 06 1st Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Livestreaming link

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

The Readings

Genesis 3.8-15

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent,
‘Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.’

 

Mark 3.20-35

and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

 

The Sermon
by Revd Cate Thompson

 

It’s an inevitability of faith that we will encounter doubt – in fact, I would argue that doubt plays a necessary role in the cycle of belief and unbelief that draws us deeper into understanding.

 

But we aren’t alone in our questioning – Jesus’ claims were (and still are!) radical. A carpenter from Nazareth, a wandering Galilean is starting a movement, drawing crowds to see him heal the sick, perform miracles, cast out demons… and hear him teach with authority about the will and Kingdom of God. He is gathering Disciples and declaring that they now share this same authority.

 

Who is this man to make such claims?

 

How did he go from craftsman to rabbi?

 

Why should we listen to him – the carpenter – over the religious leaders with all their study and education?

 

Even his family – who would have heard him speak with wisdom from his early years (enough to astonish the teachers in the temple in Jerusalem) – cannot grasp this sudden claim to authority, this sudden move to action – a change dramatic enough that people are saying that he’s having what we’d now call some sort of episode.

 

Scribes have come all the way from Jerusalem to investigate and conclude that he must be possessed. But Jesus responds calmly and logically: what purpose would there be for the power of a demon to cast out demons?

 

In the face of this doubt, Jesus’ response is as to say: look at my actions - are they the product of love, of peace, of justice, of joy? Do they bear the fruits of the Spirit? If you doubt my origins, then trust the goodness of my actions. Doubt me, but do not doubt the Spirit.

Then if you trust in the Spirit, you can trust me.

 

This is the line of thought that I find helps me most when I find myself doubting. When I find it hard to believe, it is my trust in the goodness of the faith that carries me through until I can believe again.

 

It is the goodness of Jesus that says to me, ‘even if he isn’t the Son of God, even if there isn’t a God - this way of living, of treating people, of acting is good.’

And this lens of goodness also helps me interpret the faith – it is the question I ask when I encounter something I don’t understand or find difficult to believe: is it good? Because if it is good, if it demonstrates the fruits of the Spirit, then I can trust that it is consistent with the God of love and goodness. But if the answer to ‘but is it good?’ is no, then just maybe it is something to be challenged.

 

In doing this we, like Paul, are looking beyond the now and towards the divine – beyond the temporary corruptions of human stumbling to the eternal truths of God: of love, of peace, of justice, and of joy. These are the values to which we aspire, and which speak of the Spirit in our lives.

 

And it is this lens of interpretation that causes me to be passionate about justice and active about inclusion. I look at the systematic racism in our world, in our church, see that it is not good, and know this is not of God. I look at the growing divide between rich and poor, see that it is not good, and know this is not of God. I look at the stigmatisation of LGBTQIA+ people, see that it is not good, and know this is not of God. I look at the destruction of our environment, see that it is not good, and know this is not of God. …and I could go on.

 

But it doesn’t stop at recognising what is good and what is not – it can’t.

 

As Jesus says look at my actions to see that I am good, so our actions must reflect that goodness. We must seek to transform the unjust structures, to respond to human need through loving service, to safeguard creation – as through these actions we proclaim the Gospel, the Good News of God’s redeeming love.

 

Let us pray,

 

Help us, Good Lord, to trust in your goodness:

when we doubt,

when we praise,

when we hope.

In our questioning, may we be drawn ever deeper into knowledge and love of you,

that we may understand your goodness and embrace your eternal truths

of love, justice, peace, and joy.

May this be the lens through which we see the world

and interpret our faith.

And may our actions reflect your goodness

as we seek to transform this world to good.

We ask all this for the sake of your redeeming love.

Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe.

We pray for God’s Church throughout the world. We pray for our
Archbishops Justin and Stephen, for Bishop Pete and Bishop
Sophie, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those
whose time and talents are given to St Mary’s and our sister
Churches. We pray that we, and all of our brothers and sisters
in Christ throughout the world, continue to be aware of your
presence in our lives.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all those in authority, and those who have influence
in the world, that their power and voices be used
compassionately for the good of all. As the G7 governments
prepare to gather together, we pray that they will make
decisions that are just, compassionate and forward-thinking.
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. As the country
prepares for a further relaxation of Covid restrictions later this
month, we pray that levels of the illness can be kept under
control. We pray for those employed in hospitality and other
business areas that have been seriously affected in the last year.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or
spirit. We pray that God’s power and spirit will fill them and
bring them the healing and peace that belong to Christ’s
kingdom.
We also pray for those involved in delivering the vaccination
programme, and those clinicians and scientists who have made
vaccination possible. We pray that steps are taken to ensure
that the poor of the world are not forgotten at this time.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those close to death, and those accompanying them
on this final part of their Earthly journey. We pray for those who
have died, recently and in the past, and those who mourn. We
pray for those who have died without the comfort of their family
around them, that they were comforted by the presence of the
Lord.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

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

Rejoicing in the communion of Mary and of all the Saints, let us
commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life, to God.
Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Amen

‘God is like a Shamrock’ – 30th May 2021 – Trinity Sunday

The Order of Service

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

21 05 30 Trinity Sunday Eucharist

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

21 05 30 Trinity Sunday Eucharist

The Livestreaming Link

To watch the live-stream of the service on YouTube, please click here:

The Readings

Isaiah 6.1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

John 3.1-17

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

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

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

I’m generally fairly oblivious about dates and special occasions. By this I mean that apart from Christmas and New Year, I tend to not realise that a particular date may be a bank holiday or festival or when we mark something or someone. In the past this has made me less than popular at home when I’ve not thought to request time off work. And it’s been the case with today because until a few weeks ago I hadn’t realised that today is Trinity Sunday. It was only in a chance conversation with my friend Joe about a month ago when I said I was preaching on the 30th May he said “Oh, Trinity Sunday” and then he indicated that it was a great opportunity to almost certainly commit some form of heresy, indeed that it would be almost impossible not to. Immediately a number of thoughts sprang into my mind and I decided that rather than tie myself in knots trying to avoid saying anything out of order, I’d jump straight in with both feet, get the potential heresy out of the way then we could all relax. So here goes!

One of the funniest descriptions of the Trinity I’ve ever come across was in a film called Nuns on the Run. If you have never seen it and you’re in need of a good laugh I would thoroughly recommend it. In it two gangsters, played by Robbie Coltrane & Eric Idle, are trying to escape from some other gangsters, from whom they have stolen some money, and in desperation they dive into a laundry that happens to be part of a convent and they don very old fashioned full length nun’s habits. They successfully evade the other gangsters but quickly get spotted by the nuns and have to pass themselves off as visitors from another convent. They’re given hospitality but also invited to teach a class of teenage girls about the Trinity. Sister Euphemia of the five wounds (Eric Idle) tells Sister Inviolata of the Immaculate Conception (Robbie Coltrane) that he knows absolutely nothing about the Trinity and has no idea what to say. Sister Inviolata, remembering what he had been taught by his old priest tells him to think of God like a shamrock with three leaves on one stem representing the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately things don’t go according to plan in the lesson and Sister Euphemia gets flustered by the girl’s questions about the Trinity and in panic he says “God is like a shamrock, small, green and split three ways. Class dismissed!” and he makes a run for it before he can be grilled any further on the topic.

Hilarious as this is, it highlights the fact that the Trinity is a very difficult concept to understand let alone explain to anyone else, even for those of us who come to church regularly. So I looked up some definitions. According to the Britannica website “Trinity, in Christian doctrine, the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead. The doctrine of Trinity is considered to be one of the central Christian affirmations about God”. Another from The Gathering Community says “The doctrine of the Trinity means that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Simply stated, God is one in essence and three in person.” There is also a diagram which is rather helpful. It shows that although God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, the Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son, each is a distinct entity but all are inhabited by God. It can still sound a bit beyond us though. In fact I think the harder we try to explain it the more potential for confusion there is. To bring it down to more human terms I remember a friend telling me that the way she thought about it was that she was a daughter, a mother and a grandmother; one person with three distinct roles or aspects of herself.

In reality we all have multiple roles through which we relate to others in different ways so maybe it shouldn’t be so hard to grasp that God relates to us in different ways. It’s just a personal impression but I think there are times when we can feel closer to God as either the Father or Jesus or the Holy Spirit depending on what is going on in our lives or perhaps we as individuals are more attuned to one of these. For me personally I tend to talk to the Father most of the time but there have been times when I have felt the closer presence of Jesus. I note that some of my friends obviously sense the work of the Holy Spirit and trust that he or she will support them through life’s twists and turns.

One more snippet from the internet that made me smile and feel a bit better about not being an expert was this. “The Trinity is a controversial doctrine; many Christians admit that they don’t understand it, while many more Christians don’t understand it but think they do.” On balance, I think I’d rather admit to being one of the former.

As our reading from Isaiah seems to indicate; we may not feel worthy to be God’s messengers but by his grace we can have a role to play. Perhaps by being open and honest about finding some aspects of the Trinity hard to grasp, we may give others the courage to at least give it a hearing. Admitting that we cannot and do not know and understand everything about God is a not a weakness or a failing. Perhaps it’s a saving grace.

The Prayers
Prepared by David C.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,
praying to the almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
for mercy and grace.
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Father of heaven, whose love profound
a ransom for our souls has found:
We pray for the world, created by your love,
for its nations and governments …
Extend to them your peace, pardoning love, mercy and grace.
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Almighty Son, incarnate Word,
our Prophet, Priest, Redeemer, Lord:
We pray for the Church, created for your glory,
for its ministry to reflect those works of yours …
Extend to us your salvation, growth, mercy and grace.
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Eternal Spirit, by whose breath
the soul is raised from sin and death:
We pray for families and individuals, created in your image,
for the lonely, the bereaved, the sick and the dying …
Breathe on them the breath of life
and bring them to your mercy and grace.
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Thrice holy! Father, Spirit, Son,
Mysterious Godhead, Three in One:
We pray for ourselves,
for your Church, for all whom we remember before you.
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Bring us all to bow before your throne in heaven,
to receive life and pardon, mercy and grace for all eternity,
as we worship you, saying,
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest. Amen.

Adapted from Common Worship: Times and Seasons. Copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2006 and published by Church House Publishing.