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

The Order of Service:

Order of service as word file:

21 04 18 3rd Sunday of Easter Eucharist

Order of service as PDF file:

21 04 18 3rd Sunday of Easter Eucharist

 

Livestreaming link:

The Readings

Acts 3.12-19

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

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

 

Luke 24.36b-48

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Death and Resurrection’ – 11th April 2021 – 2nd Sunday of Easter

The Readings

Acts 4.32-35

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

John 20.19-end

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

 

The Sermon
By Reverend Alan Billings

What is the Easter faith that will sustain the head of our church, the Queen, this Sunday?

What Easter does, or should do, is make us think first about what comes before Christ's resurrection, namely his death. Not so much the manner of his death, which was horrible, but the fact of it. Christ died.

We live at a time when the society around us has largely lost its hold on Christian faith. It is secular. We don't always appreciate what that means. But one thing it means is that people now struggle to give death any kind of positive meaning.

For the secular person, the death of a human being is no different from the death of any other living thing – whether a flower, a bird, an animal. Or for that matter, a virus.

Human death is about annihilation. Everlasting unconsciousness and an end of all that we thought important for our life, especially our relationships and the love between us. The love between us and our partner, our children, our grandchildren, our friends, our God. Death sweeps it all away.

This is hard to think about; and most of the time we don't, until we have to. Even then we find ways of not doing it.

So those diagnosed with a terminal illness will often put themselves through every kind of medical intervention possible, however grim, in order to prolong life by a little more and put off thinking about the inevitable end of all our lives.

And those who arrange non-religious funerals will avoid drawing attention to the awful truth that the one we love and the relationship we had with them is no more. They do that by only looking back over the life – because there can be no looking forward – and trying to make the mood of mourners as upbeat as possible.

I went to such a funeral a few years ago. We were told not to wear black but vibrant colours. It was to be a celebration of the person's life. So we looked back. There were a few serious moments but mainly a lot of amusing stories. We almost forgot there was a coffin in the room.

Some one did say that this person will live on in our memories – another evasion. But as Woody Allen said, ‘I don’t want to live on in your memory. I want to live on in my apartment.’

In funerals of that kind it's almost impossible to express the kind of deep sorrow and sadness, the pain, the loneliness, some may be feeling. Sadness is almost out of place.

At no point did anyone break the spell by saying – as the principal mourner does in the film 4 weddings and a funeral:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone...*

The last place for any profound thinking about death is the modern secular funeral. And that is serious because it leaves us unprepared for our own death.

This is not to say we shouldn't be able to remember good times and funny moments at a funeral. But it shouldn't become a complete substitute for thinking about the reality – that this person is gone from our life for ever.

Unless, that is, there is more to be said.

At Eastertide the church says, there is more to be said. And the gospel passages we hear read Sunday by Sunday tell us about that more, taking us gently through the experiences of the first followers of Jesus as they slowly, slowly come to change their perspective and realise that although Christ died there can be a looking forward as well as a looking back.

God did not leave Jesus in death but brought him through it – which is what we mean by resurrection.

The promise for us is that as we, or our loved ones, come to die we do not just look back, we can look forward, even if we cannot know or hardly begin to imagine, what that resurrection life might be like.

In the light of the resurrection of Jesus, we think about death and respond to it differently. We can acknowledge those deep feelings of loss and loneliness. We don't have to pretend that death is anything other than a disaster, a time when we lose one another. But we can also light a candle and say a prayer. For a human death is not the equivalent of the death of a flower or a bird.

For Christ has been raised and we shall be raised. In God's nearer presence we shall know ourselves again and we shall know one another. Christ is risen. Death has no more dominion over him. Or us.

This is the Easter faith we share with The Queen.

 

*The full quotation from the WH Auden poem used in the film has been omitted here for copyright reasons

The Prayers
Prepared by David C, Lay Reader

We pray to Jesus who is present with us to eternity.

Most merciful God,
whose wisdom is beyond our understanding,
surround the Queen and the Royal Family with your love,
that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss,
but have confidence in your goodness,
and strength to meet the days to come.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, light of the world,
bring the light and peace of your gospel to the nations
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, bread of life,
give food to the hungry
and nourish us all with your word.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, our way, our truth, our life,
be with us and all who follow you in the way
Deepen our appreciation of your truth
and fill us with your life.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, Good Shepherd who gave your life for the sheep,
recover the straggler,
bind up the injured,
strengthen the sick
and lead the healthy and strong to new pastures.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, the resurrection and the life,
we give you thanks for all who have lived and believed in you
We remember your servant Philip
who has gone before us with the sign of faith
and now rests in the sleep of peace.
According to your promises,
grant to him and to all who rest in Christ,
refreshment, light and peace;
through the same Christ our Lord.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us,
accept our prayers, and be with us always.
Amen.

‘Good Friday’ – 2nd April 2021

Since we are unable to gather together at the foot of the cross this Good Friday we offer these reflections to aid in personal devotion today. They are written by Paula Gooder and can be found in the book "Walking the Way of the Cross" from Church House Publishing. They are narrated by those at St Marys, St Marks and St Johns.

First station - Jesus in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

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Second station - Jesus betrayed by Judas and arrested

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Third station - Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin

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Fourth station - Peter denies Jesus

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Fifth station - Jesus judged by Pilate

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Sixth station - Jesus scourged and crowned with thorns

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Seventh station - Jesus carries the cross

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Eighth station - Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross

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Ninth station - Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

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Tenth station - Jesus is crucified

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Eleventh station - Jesus promises the kingdom to the penitent thief

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Twelfth station - Jesus on the cross; his mother and his friend

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Thirteenth station - Jesus dies on the cross

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Fourteenth station - Jesus laid in the tomb

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‘Would I have the courage?’ – 28th March 2021 – Palm Sunday

The Readings

Psalm 118.1-2, 19-24
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!

Let Israel say,
‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.

This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.

I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Mark 11.1-11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

 

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

The story we have just heard or read from St Mark’s Gospel is one that many people are likely to be at least a bit familiar with, even if they’re not church goers or particularly religious. It’s the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, riding on a young donkey and being hailed and praised by the crowds who were there for a festival. Many of them threw palm branches or even their cloaks on the road, presumably to mark Jesus’ arrival as special and no doubt many of them were aware of, or had even seen what he had been doing in his ministry among the ordinary people like themselves. No doubt too that this outpouring of adulation was genuine for a lot of them. Maybe some hoped that he would cure or help them or their loved ones with one of his miracles that they’d heard about.

For many years at St Mary’s and most likely at many other churches too, it has been our custom to re-enact this event. Sadly this is the second year that we haven’t been able to do so because of the pandemic safety concerns, so let me refresh your memories. Perhaps like me you can picture it in your mind’s eye. Usually I try to envisage the scene as it was for Jesus. In our very English and quite reserved version we start with a palm procession which begins outside the Hall doors where we gather together and hear the reading. We’re all holding our palm crosses and a few people are carrying larger palm branches. Then as we sing a hymn, we process along the road and make our way into church. Perhaps some of the passers by wonder what on earth we’re doing but they leave us to get on with it. Once inside, we process round the church, still singing, and end up in front of the alter where the big palms are laid down. After this most of the congregation return to their seats and others take their places for a dramatised reading of the Passion of the Christ according to one or other of the Gospels. Like many of you, this is a ritual I’m very familiar with. To start with, I was one of the ones sitting in the pews and our only line in the script was “Crucify him, crucify him”. These words have always gone through me and I’ve usually found myself unable to say them. This in itself feels cowardly as I’m leaving these awful words for others to say who probably feel equally distressed by them. But if we all kept quiet, the dramatised reading wouldn’t work.

Over the years, I’ve gradually moved into more “front of house” roles so to speak and I’ve played various other parts with many more lines in the script including the narrator, the evangelist, even Jesus himself and also Judas. But still the hardest words to say are “Crucify him”.
A couple of times I’ve been called on to allocate the roles for this dramatised reading and I found this hard to do too. Trying to make sure that different people got to play the different roles and bearing in mind who felt comfortable and confident enough to tackle the bigger parts. I found it especially hard asking people to play the part of Judas and hoped they didn’t think it was any kind of reflection on them. As I said, I’ve played that part myself and it made me wonder again why Judas did what he did and how he felt, especially when he realised the enormity of what he had done. Our re-enactment, little and local as it is, can stir up in us deep and powerful thoughts and feelings and questions, not only about the past but about today and all the intervening years too. How did Jesus go from being a healer, teacher, worker of miracles and saviour, praised and welcomed by the rapturous crowds, to being dishonoured, tortured and cruelly condemned to an ignominious death by those same people in the space of a few days? How have others throughout history gone from hero to villain in the blink of an eye and suffered all manner of other terrible fates?

It’s no use kidding ourselves that society is completely different nowadays, we have only to look at what happens on social media or in the press or on television or even on the streets where people are bullied, vilified, trolled or torn to pieces by others who are either angry or affronted or jealous or think they have a righteous reason to do this or because they just enjoy doing so. How desperately sad that this is how things still are. Can we seriously delude ourselves that we are more civilised than people were in the past?

At the end of all this, the question I’m left asking myself is, if Jesus comes back while I’m still around and we get a similar situation to that in Jerusalem, which we probably will, will I have the courage to stand by him or will I go along with the crowd? With all my heart I hope it’s the former but I know that I’m not always as brave as I wish to be. Whatever the circumstances I may find myself in, I pray that God will give me the courage I need, when I need it.

Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy upon us.

At this time of the year we follow the Passion of Christ, and remember all the times when we have fallen short of living by his teachings. Help us not to be people who shout Hosanna one day, and a few days later shout “Crucify him!” Teach us and all your church to worship you humbly, whether at home or via Zoom in these strange times, and help us to live our lives according to your will as we observe Holy Week in the coming days.
Have mercy upon us.

We pray for the world as it struggles to cope with the Covid pandemic. Help the leaders of richer countries to be prepared to share with poorer ones both vaccines and other treatments shown to alleviate some of the worst symptoms of the disease. We give thanks for all the efforts of doctors, nurses, care workers and all the other front-line workers to meet our needs and keep us safe. We pray especially for all in countries suffering oppression, war, violence and natural disasters in addition to the virus, and for the work of Christian Aid, UNICEF, UNHCR, Oxfam and other organisations working to relieve suffering.
Have mercy upon us.

We pray for our City and our local community of Walkley while so many shops and businesses struggle to survive, and many people have lost their income. We pray for our councillors and all who will be seeking election in a few weeks’ time; may they truly work for the good of all. We thank you for the S6 Food Bank and all the others across the city for their efforts literally to feed the hungry in our midst.
Have mercy upon us.

We pray for all who are ill at this time, whether through physical illness or depression. We especially remember those having to wait longer for treatment or operations because of the current extra strain on the staff and resources of the NHS. Be with them in their suffering that they may know your healing grace won, for us on the cross on Good Friday.
Have mercy upon us.

We remember before you all who have died, many as a result of Covid over the past year, leaving behind many heart-broken relations and friends, often unable to meet to comfort each other or to hold the kind of funeral they would like to celebrate the lives of their loved ones. Give them faith in the Resurrection of Christ that their loved ones are not lost to them for ever.
Lord have mercy.

Grant to us all the grace of your Holy Spirit to amend our lives according to your holy word.

Holy God,
Holy and strong,
Holy and immortal,
have mercy upon us.
Amen.

 

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

21st March 2021 – Passion Sunday

The Readings

Jeremiah 31.31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

 

John 12.20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

 

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.

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Julian Sullivan.

God’s Passion

We are all inspired by visionary people, original thinkers who create something out of nothing, turning the equivalent of base metal into gold. The kind of people who found pioneering institutions, start drama festivals, develop new forms of health care and innovative charities, make whole businesses out of nothing, invent life-saving devices, produce works of great art. Trevor Bayliss, invented the wind up radio, wind up torch and solar radio for use in countries where electricity is rare. Andrew Mawsom created a vibrant community centre out of a decaying church at Bromley by Bow in East London with the church at the heart of it. Julia Middleton started Common Purpose, a community leadership programme which has influenced decision makers everywhere.

You can read more in Charles Handy’s Book The New Alchemists, where he identifies three common characteristics of the entrepreneurs I have named above. Passion or determination, Creativity or seeing things with fresh eyes and Tenacity or persistence. Alchemy, building something out of nothing is not a chance affair - unless you care passionately about your enterprise it is unlikely to take wings and fly. We are made in the image of God who is the ultimate alchemist, creating out of nothing! He has invested himself wholeheartedly in his creation, with passion, just as an artist, musician, sports person is fully immersed in their
pursuit. Find the passion - find the champion.

Yet we know that creation is marred, diminished and disfigured in so many ways. If something you have lovingly created and care for is defaced, how do you feel? Can we stretch our imagination to ponder how God sees the defilement of humanity, made in his image, or the natural world, over which we are given the responsibility of stewardship? Perhaps we can begin to understand the passion of God’s purpose in redemption. The reshaping of a new heaven and a new earth. The renewing of hearts and minds - ransomed healed, restored, forgiven.

The Passion of Christ is used in particular to refer to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus which comes into focus on this Passion Sunday as we prepare to mark the events of holy Week and Easter, beginning with the arrival of Jesus the Messiah into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. All through his life and ministry we find clues directing our thoughts towards his passion. Simeon’s words to Mary that a sword will pierce her heart.” His own words full of portent: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, be rejected … and killed and on the third day be raised.” His hearers did not understand what he was saying at the time, but now his words are coming to reality in the journey to Jerusalem, Gethsemane and Golgotha. Through it all we see the passion of his heavenly father: “God so loved the work that he gave his only son so that we
should not perish but have everlasting life.”

God’s purpose from all eternity is to heal what is sick, to mend what is broken, release captives, free the oppressed, like the potter to begin again with the misshapen clay on the wheel. God’s passionate purpose, inspired by love, is now revealed in human history and reaches towards its dramatic climax, as Paul records:

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross.” Phil 2:7-8.

Christ endures the cross as a passionate expression of God’s love for all he has made and his determination to rescue it from bondage to futility and decay. What is truly remarkable is that He begins that rescue mission with us, humanity just a little lower than the angels. Our reading from Jeremiah this morning contains a remarkable promise which resonates throughout the Old Testament. It is the promise of a new, secure relationship between God and his people, based not on laws that are easily broken, but by an unshakeable intimacy where “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” God makes a promise to change our hearts from stone, to hearts of flesh, after his own heart.

The hour has come

Greeks pilgrims ask to see Jesus: Philip and Andrew show some diffidence, perhaps because they are gentiles but Jesus gave them an audience in which he reveals that the long wait is coming to an end.

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23)

We might think back to the wedding in Cana, where Mary mother asks him to intervene in an embarrassing situation. Jesus in emphatic: “This is no concern of mine - My hour has not yet come!” Yet that miracle is the first of his signs that reveal his glory. Jesus embraces our humanity, precious in God’s sight, transfigures it for God’s glory and pleasure and makes it fit for life and purpose beyond our imagining, like water transformed into the finest wine fit for the top table but actually available for everyone. With Mary and the disciples, we are left waiting and wondering when that hour will come and what it will mean. Like a recurring theme running through a piece of music, we hear snatches of a tune, as Jesus gradually reveals the reason for his coming, and what that means for all people.

But now the hour has come! The waiting is drawing to a close. But Jesus goes on to speak words that are difficult to hear:

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies its bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it and those who hate their life in this world, will keep it for eternal life.” (John 24-25)

All around us, Spring is uncoiling and we discover again how everything has a passion for life, vibrating with energy. Many of us will be planting seeds, or nurturing young plants in greenhouses. Every year we experience the truth of Jesus’ words that a seed will remain just that, a seed, unless it falls into the earth and dies, in order to produce much fruit. But it is hard for us to hear that he equates the seed with our life in this world. “Those who love their life will lose it and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Wrestling

I have always found this use of love and hate with regard to our life difficult to understand. But it is about priorities: Jesus is not telling us objectively to "hate" our lives. Rather, He urges us to put our priority, emphasis, and effort into the will of God. Those who want to cling to the world, instead of Christ, will find, like 007,James Bond, that the world, is not enough! Nothing in this world can ultimately satisfy our deepest spiritual longings, be it for justice, spiritual fulfilment, our own highest aspirations. As Augustine says “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” This life is not enough because we are created with passion for something greater, to follow Christ and imitate his sacrificial love.

Lent is an appropriate time to wrestle with these ideas. We belong to God’s kingdom which is our true home. To serve Christ and follow him means to live those values of the kingdom, both as a sign of what is to come and a present reality, reflecting the now-and-not-yet nature of God’s new creation. But living values of love, truth and justice is a challenging, costly enterprise, stretching us to live faithfully day by day. The rewards are high as we bring the light and salt of the gospel, to bear on the needs of our world. We are not alone. We are imitating Christ who himself wrestles with his own calling to do the will of his heavenly father. “Now my soul is troubled - Father save me from this hour - No it is for this reason that I have come to this hour!” In our lenten journey, we look forward with Jesus, to Jerusalem, Gethsemane and Golgotha.

Breaking out

This coming Tuesday 23rd March will mark the first anniversary of National Lockdown. It will be a day of remembrance and lament as we reflect on the terrible damage inflicted on our nation and on our world by Covid-19 Pandemic. We will not forget those who have died, over 125,000 in UK alone. We may think of those who contracted this disease, especially those with symptoms of Long Covid. We may remember those who face financial ruin or debt due to loss of jobs and businesses. We may pray for deprived urban communities, for families coping with hunger and destitution. It’s a day to pray for professionals in health, education and social care; for governments national and local. And indeed for our churches, where access has not been possible. It will be a day for us to stand with the disciples by the cross, to stay with Jesus and
unite ourselves in prayer with those damaged by the pandemic.

Bearing that in mind, it was a joy to witness, on YouTube or Zoom, the licensing this week of The Revd Sue Hammersley as Priest in Charge and The Revd Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes as associate Priest in Charge of St Mary’s Walkley by Bishop Sophie. It was an inspiring and uplifting service in which we heard how the church of St Mary’s Walkley sees itself. I think they speak for all of us:

They see themselves 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, they 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.

The world is not enough. It needs God’s passionate concern for alleviating the world’s suffering, working through his church. It needs the explosive presence of the seeing and liberating Spirit of God, in the midst of human life, bringing healing, wholeness and peace.

So let us pray for creativity, tenacity and Passion to be alchemists, taking base metal and turning it to gold through the transforming passion of Christ.

“The vitality and passion and wakefulness of God be mine
That I may be fully alive this day!!
Celtic Benediction J Philip Newell

Amen

The Prayers

Prepared by Catherine B

Christ, by your Passion
Write your covenant on our hearts.

We pray for the worldwide church,
for unity within its great diversity,
for co-operation wherever we can,
for open dialogue, mutual respect,
and the skills to disagree well
whenever we find things difficult.
We pray for Sue and Matthew,
now formally licensed
as our ordained ministers at St. Mary’s,
and for our sister churches
of St. Mark’s and St. John’s
as we prepare to re-open our church buildings for worship.

Christ, by your Passion
Write your covenant on our hearts.

We pray for the world,
for the people of Tanzania,
mourning the loss of president John Magufuli,
for the people of France,
entering another lock-down,
for war-stricken places
with no end to the violence in sight,
for areas of poverty and famine.

Christ, by your Passion
Write your covenant on our hearts.

We pray for our nation and local communities
for all those involved in administering the census
and those who will use the data
to make plans for the next decade.
For all those working in health and education
and in our shops and providing other essential services.
For all those striving to end violence.

Christ, by your Passion
Write your covenant on our hearts.

We pray for all who are ill or downhearted,
For the lonely and bereaved,
For those caring for sick friends or family members
We name in our hearts anyone particularly known to us...

Christ, by your Passion
Write your covenant on our hearts.

We remember those who have died
and pray for their loved ones,
Thinking of Sarah Everard
and all who have died at the hands of another person,
Thinking of those who have died
after illness or a long life.
Thinking of those known to our own community,
and, in particular, of Frank.

Christ, by your Passion
Write your covenant on our hearts.

As we begin to ponder more closely
Christ’s passion and death,
we think of that grain of wheat,
falling to the earth,
dying,
and the resulting new life
about to spring forth in abundance.
A year into the pandemic
we think of the many mini-deaths,
sacrifices,
and changes made
in our own lives
in our community
in our country
and worldwide over the past year
and pray that they too
might bring forth something new
and abundantly fruitful.

Christ, by your Passion
Write your covenant on our hearts. Amen.

‘Turning aside to the miracle’ – 14th March 2021 – Mothering Sunday

The Readings

Exodus 2.1-10

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

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

 

Luke 2.33-35

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

 

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

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Dr Alan Billings

Mothering Sunday – or Mother’s Day - affects people very differently. For some people this is one of the most important celebrations of the year. It’s a chance to be pleased and proud that you are a mum, or to give thanks for your own mum, or both. It’s an opportunity to give thanks for the blessings of family life.

But other people might have come to church today – if you can remember when we used to do that - and felt uncomfortable, or they wouldn’t come at all. There are many reason for that: it may be because they are not mothers; or they couldn’t be mothers even though they wanted to be; or they are mothers on their own; or because they had bad experiences of their own mother, or bad experiences of being a mother; or they just feel the whole motherhood-childhood-family thing has been overdone or sentimentalised.

So we ought to begin by recognising that Mothering Sunday is a day of mixed emotions.

It’s also a day that has been somewhat hijacked. When it began in the distant past, this Sunday, mid-Lent, was not particularly about mothers. It was about taking a break half way through Lent when you may have been fasting, and having a bit of a holiday, going to mother church, and saying prayers before an image of Mary the Mother of Jesus.

Servants were given the day off and not expected to work – and that would mean big numbers of people, especially women, who were in domestic service. Many took the opportunity of going back home. My grandmother was in service when she was a teenager and recalled this practice in her later life.

Over the past century Mothering Sunday has gradually turned from all of that to being a day to celebrate mothers and for families to get together. So the church’s Mothering Sunday has turned into the card, chocolate and flower-sellers Mothers Day. Nothing wrong with that, and many will get great satisfaction and pleasure from it.

But what about those who are not so sure? If you are someone who might feel left out or this is not for you, cheer up. There are helpful things we can all think about today – sub-themes of Mothering Sunday if you like.

Let me suggest one.

Quite a lot of those who will receive flowers today are not just mothers, they are grandmothers as well. I have heard being a grandmother called ‘the vocation of the second chance’. A second chance either to do again all those things you did with your own children the first time, or, more likely, to do those things which you never quite had the time to, or got round to, the first time.

Above all, it’s a second chance to receive – to receive and enjoy being in relationship to another human being.

Perhaps it’s around the idea of receiving from another human being that we should concentrate our thoughts this morning.

When we are parents we are often very busy, very rushed, very tired, very preoccupied people. We don’t always have the time or space or opportunity to be able to step aside and receive what the old Mothers Union prayer called ‘the blessings of family life’.

One young mother told me some while ago that she and her husband had decided they needed a weekend away without the children – though they loved them dearly. To get to know one another again – as she put it. They stayed at a nice hotel - but spent most of their weekend asleep, they were so exhausted.

Our society values being energetic, getting things done. We champion the vigorous virtues. The downside is that it does often squeeze out time for simple appreciation. Giving and making a contribution may be prized above receiving. So perhaps grandmothers on Mothering Sunday have a role in helping all of us to understand again the importance of just receiving.

We need to be able to do two things simultaneously:

We need first to recognise how God’s greatest gifts to us often come through the ordinary things of life – like having children, like being a mother or grandmother. And that requires of us a certain attitude, a proper humility, to be able to appreciate and give thanks for the ordinary things God gives us day by day.

And second, we need to seize the moment. Mothering Sunday says to us: those precious moments that God wants to give us will come in the ordinary relationships of life. So don’t get into such a pattern of busyness that you can’t seize the moment and appreciate them when they come.

RS Thomas the Welsh poet and priest once wrote this:

Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

When God lights up the ordinary for you, seize the moment.

The Prayers
From Common Worship, copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2002 and published by Church House Publishing.

As children of a loving God who always listens to our cries, let us pray to our Father in heaven.

Loving God, you have given us the right to be called children of God. Help us to show your love in our homes that they may be places of love, security and truth.
God of love,
All hear our prayer.

Loving God, Jesus, your Son, was born into the family of Mary and Joseph; bless all parents and all who care for children; strengthen those families living under stress and may your love be known where no human love is found.
God of love,
All hear our prayer.

Loving God, we thank you for the family of the Church. We pray that all may find in her their true home; that the lonely, the marginalized, the rejected may be welcomed and loved in the name of Jesus.
God of love,
All hear our prayer.

Loving God, as we see the brokenness of our world we pray for healing among the nations; for food where there is hunger; for freedom where there is oppression; for joy where there is pain; that your love may bring peace to all your children.
God of love,
All hear our prayer.

Loving God, accept the cries of our heart as we offer you prayers;
through them transform us and all creation until you are in all and through all.
We ask these and all our prayers in the name of Jesus.
Amen.

‘Where we meet with God’ – 7th March 2021 – 3rd Sunday of Lent

Drawn by Rev'd Caitlin Thompson

The Readings

Exodus 20.1-17

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

John 2.13-22
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

 

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

The Sermon
By Joe P, St. Mary's

The content of today’s readings is pretty well known. The Ten Commandments, and the story of Jesus cleansing the temple.  Now – spot quiz – at first glance, what do they both have in common?

I could do with a ‘Countdown Timer’ here….

Well, they both appear more than once in the Bible.

The list of commandments we know as the Ten Commandments occurs 3 times; Exodus 34 is the only place where the label "The Ten Commandments" is used in the Bible. The other two listings (Exodus 20 – tonight’s reading -  and Deuteronomy 5) are normally referred to as the Ten Commandments, but the actual text doesn't describe them as such.

And cleansing the Temple – that appears once in each Gospel.  The narrative occurs near the end of the Matthew, Mark and Luke’s Gospels, and near the start in the Gospel of John – our OTHER reading tonight.

Now, remember how I said ‘At first glance’ in my question? Well, some scholars believe that these refer to two separate incidents, tonight’s cleansing happening at the start of Jesus’s Ministry, and the other three Gospels describing a different event that took place at the end of Jesus’s ministry. I think that this is quite reasonable; John’s Gospel also features more than one Passover, so more than one visit to the Temple by Jesus would certainly happen.

So – why did Jesus behave like this? We know from his previous experiences that Jesus wasn’t a stranger to the Temple in Jerusalem; he once ended up there ‘on His Father’s business’, as he put it, when he was a boy, and we can understand his affection and respect for the Temple.  The Temple was the Third Temple – the Temple of Herod, initiated by Herod to try and gain favour with the Jewish people.  By the time today’s reading takes place, it’s still not complete – it would only be completed about 6 or 7 years before it’s destruction in 70 AD.

It’s worth taking a look at the context of why the animals were in the temple precincts anyway, and what the money changers actually were.

At Passover, people would come to Jerusalem from all over Israel – and from further afield as well.  All worshippers at the Temple except women and children - would be expected to pay a half-shekel Temple Tax - worth about £2.50 at the current value of silver – and would also be expected to provide a sacrificial animal; a lamb or calf.

Now, the money had to be sanctified - Temple money. You couldn’t just give over any old cash. Each year different coins would be produced, and as a visitor you would exchange your currency for the Temple coins with which to pay the Temple Tax. This is where the money changers came in.  Similarly, many people coming to Jerusalem would find it easier to buy a sacrificial animal on arrival, rather than bring one with them on a long journey.

There was also a risk associated with bringing your own sacrificial animal.  Anything presented for sacrifice had to be of highest quality and would need to be approved by the Temple authorities before it could be sacrificed.

And here we find things get a bit messy, and potentially corrupt; money changers would charge a fee for each transaction they carried out.  Sellers of sacrificial animals would sell at a much higher price than would be normally expected, and it was often suspected that the Temple authorities would be ‘encouraged’ by the sellers of sacrificial livestock to disapprove as many ‘out of town’ animals as possible. Quite a few opportunities for the world of commerce and human greed to come between a worshipper and God.

Initially, the animal dealers were based outside the Temple, in the valley of Kidron on the Mount of Olives, but eventually, by the time Jesus visits, they’ve moved in to an area of the Temple called the Court of the Gentiles – the part of the temple that is open to Gentiles as well as Jews. In other words, part of the worship space has become a combination of a bank and a cattle market.

In Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 11 Verse 17, we hear that the temple was designed to be a place of worship for all nations. Gentiles who wished to worship God could, in principle, do so in the Court of the Gentiles – however, this area was now not really fit for worship – and this is why Jesus is so angry. His Father’s house is not fit to be a place of worship for all nations, if the gentiles have to worship amidst animals and moneychangers.

There’s a general idea amongst people that here’s where we see ‘Rambo Jesus’ – wading in and whipping the people as well as the animals to get them out of the Temple Court.  This is how it’s portrayed in at least one painting; but it’s not the case; the whip was used to drive the animals out, and Jesus turned over the tables over the money changers and generally ruined business for the day.

His disciples remembered what was said in scripture about the coming Messiah – that they would be overcome with zeal for the house of the Lord.  Well, this meets the bill.  The Jewish authorities, unsurprisingly, were less impressed and asked him on whose authority Jesus was asking.  His answer – that he would be able to raise the Temple in 3 days – rather foxed them.  But this answer, combined with the scriptural reference – was remembered by Jesus’s disciples after his death and resurrection, and reminded them again of the truth of the Scripture and of His teachings.

Temples are not just buildings. As Jesus pointed out – the body is a temple; even our human bodies.

Our Temple is our body, heart, mind and soul.  The place where we meet with God.

What do we do in our temple to interfere with worship? Who are the sellers of sacrificial animals and temple money-changers in our hearts and minds?  Maybe:

The noise and bustle of the market place of ideas

The sense that what we bring – our thoughts, feelings, our very body itself - isn’t clean enough, good enough or pure enough?

The sense that we need to change what we are for something else to become acceptable?

What can we do to cleanse our heart and mind to make accepting Jesus easier, to make worship and prayer easier?

We can bring Quiet in to our hearts.

We can accept and embrace the we’re broken; we’re fallen; we will never be perfect. That’s fine. We just try not to sin; be repentant. It’s an ongoing process; try again, fail again, try again.  Keep at it.  That’s how we are – that’s how God expects to find us. Be yourself and present yourself to Jesus humbly, throwing yourself on his grace and mercy.

We are unique; we are made in the image of God. There is nothing in what we are to change, just how we behave.

Driving out these distractions and impediments to worship from OUR temple is not easy.  I feel I’d have more luck with shifting sheep and cows and overturning a few tables than I would in controlling and disciplining my occasionally unruly heart and head.

But, we need to make our temple suitable for worship of the Lord.

May our equivalent of whips and table turning be effective.

The Prayers
Prepared by Siobhan H

As we journey together through the season of Lent, Gracious God we ask that you help us on the path of repentance and renewal.

Faithful God,
We pray for all who share in the ministry of this community, that they bring compassion and understanding to all those in need. As Sue prepares to be licensed as Priest in Charge and Matthew Associate Priest, we ask that you grant them the wisdom, understanding and strength they need to fulfil their call. May they have joy in their ministry and be enabled to have times of rest and retreat. Inspire them and the laity with vision and commitment, so they may be instruments of your divine grace and love.
We pray to the Lord
Lord hear our prayer

Creator God,
Thank you for the lengthening of days, for the coming of growth, life and birth. Help us to appreciate the wonders of our world and create in us a desire to care for our environment for the benefit of future generations and all your creatures.
We pray to the Lord
Lord hear our prayer

Loving God,
As schools fully reopen next week we pray for teachers, students, and their families that you would ease any anxiety about going back to school they may have. Especially we pray for our church school of St Mary’s. May it be a place where every child matters, where healthy relationships are formed, knowledge acquired and positive memories made.
We pray to the Lord
Lord hear our prayer

Everlasting God,
We pray for all who are sick in mind, body or spirit and for the nurses and professionals who care for them. For all people in our local nursing homes; may the palm crosses and cards we are preparing to send remind them of their great worth. For those at home being cared for by loved ones; that they may be supported by their community and know your loving presence close to them. Be with those meeting this week from our churches, as they seek to find ways to support those with a dementia diagnosis and their carers.
We pray to the Lord
Lord hear our prayer

Merciful God,
We pray for those we love but see no longer. Grant them your peace, let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
We remember before God those who have died recently especially Diane Gascoyne.
Bless all who mourn with the comfort of your love.
In a moment of silence we pray for own prayer intentions.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen

See Clearly and Speak Out – 28th February 2021 – the Second Sunday of Lent

The Readings

Genesis 17.1-7, 15-16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’

Mark 8:31-38

Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

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

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

When I was in my 20s I attended a conference. It explored issues such as peace, justice, fair-trade and the environment. At a workshop on Speaking Out they suggested that you don’t have to be an expert on something in order to talk about it. We were each given a card and told not to look at it. Then in turn we were to stand up, look at our card and talk about what was on it. All went well. Then it was my turn. I stood up, looked at my card, proclaimed the word “Gaia”...and stopped. I knew “Gaia” only as the name of a fictional organisation in the 1980s television series “Edge of Darkness”. There was a disclaimer at the end saying that this “Gaia” was completely unrelated to the Gaia movement. If I’d talked about the fictional Gaia of the television series, people would have been misinformed about the real-life movement. It turns out you did actually need to know something about a subject before speaking out on it!

If you can’t see it clearly yourself, it’s probably best not to tell others about it just yet. Let’s bear this thought in mind when exploring this week’s Gospel reading. In order to set the scene it helps if we start reading from Mark 8.22.

Jesus and his disciples, plus a crowd of taggers-on, have been travelling through the villages and towns of Galilee. In Bethsaida, a blind man has been brought to Jesus for healing. Jesus leads him away from the village, away from onlookers, and begins to heal him. At first, the man sees only partially – he sees people, but they look like walking trees. Jesus lays his hands on him again, and his sight is fully restored – he now sees clearly. Jesus tells him to go directly home without passing through the village. Keep this to yourself for now!

Jesus and his followers continue on their way. Whilst they are walking, Jesus asks his disciples who people say he is. They reply: “John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the prophets”. He then asks them who they think he is. Peter immediately declares that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus orders the disciples not to say anything to anyone about this. Keep this to yourselves for now!

In today’s passage, Jesus starts to teach the disciples what being the Messiah means. It means suffering, rejection by the religious authorities and death, then rising again after 3 days. We’re told that Jesus says this quite openly – everyone can hear about what it means to be the Messiah in general terms.

Peter won’t have this. He takes Jesus to one side, and has a quiet word in private. “Jesus, this won’t do – this isn’t what people signed up for.” We can assume Jesus chooses not to keep the conversation private, for he turns to all the disciples and rebukes Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You’re thinking of human things not divine things!” Everyone can hear this too.

Then, turning to the crowds, Jesus stresses what it means to follow where he is going. It means letting go of their own personal needs and wants, and of what society wants from them. It means suffering and possibly death. They need to understand this.

Openness. Secrecy. The blind man is brought to Jesus in the open. He is healed in private. You can talk openly about what it means to be the Messiah, but must keep secret, for now, the idea that Jesus is the Messiah. Peter rebukes Jesus in private. Jesus rebukes Peter openly.

Not seeing. Partially seeing. Clarity of sight. The man can’t see. Then he can see, but imperfectly. Finally he sees with great clarity.

Who is Jesus? Some don’t see at all. Some get a rough idea – John the Baptist, perhaps, or Elijah, or a prophet? Peter sees clearly. Jesus is the Messiah!

Peter thinks he sees clearly. But then it turns out he isn’t seeing clearly at all, because he doesn’t understand what it means to be the Messiah. This rejection, suffering and death, and rising again business just doesn’t fit Peter’s picture of the Messiah. So perhaps it’s just as well Jesus has cautioned his disciples to keep this quiet for now.

Who is Jesus? As he travels from village to village, from town to town, many are following him, curious, hopeful, expectant. What do they see? What do they think they see? Do they see where all this is leading? If they want to be a part of what Jesus is doing, do they fully see what this will mean?

What does it mean to be a true follower of Jesus? It doesn’t mean watching a series of miraculous healings, although healings are certainly taking place. It doesn’t mean listening to an intriguingly good storyteller, though that’s happening too. It means means taking up the mantle of suffering and death just as Jesus is soon to do. It means challenging those in power, with all the risks that that involves.

Jesus is quite open about this. He wants his disciples and the crowds to understand exactly what they are signing up for if they want to follow him. They must do this with clarity of sight. They mustn’t encourage others to follow him too if they themselves don’t see clearly what it may mean.

Following Jesus means suffering, possibly even death. If those wishing to follow him cling on to personal, human and societal needs and wants, they will not experience the fullness of life that God freely offers. But, paradoxically, if those followers sit light to their personal human needs and wants and embrace the possibility of suffering, they will find that God-given life in abundance. See that fully, and one can speak out in confidence.

The Prayers
Prepared by Barbara

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

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

We pray for this wonderful world that you have given us. Please help us to be good stewards of your creation.
We pray that we can understand the lessons that you want us to learn from this pandemic, thinking particularly of how you want us to care for this wonderful world, so that we can stop destroying it.
We pray that all countries play their part in preventing further global warming. Please help those countries who have contributed most to the problem to recognise our responsibility to help those countries most heavily affected, who haven’t usually contributed much to the problems but suffer most.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

We pray for all of those affected by the Covid-19 epidemic.
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 all those who have lost someone they love and ask that you comfort them in their grief.
We pray for those who are struggling with their own illness: please bring them healing.
We pray for those suffering from loneliness and isolation: please help us to be your agents in bringing them contact and comfort.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

We pray for those affected by any sort of relationship breakdown at this loneliest of times: couples who are no longer couples; housemates who can no longer bear each other’s company; young people who feel that they are not able to grow into independent adults; people who find themselves at risk of abuse. Please help us to notice when people need help and to bring them the help they need.
We pray for all our children: please help us to work out how to balance their education and need for face-to-face friendships with our need to keep those more vulnerable to the virus safe.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

We pray for all countries facing unrest and changes of government. Please bring all our leaders the skills needed to lead us wisely, in peace and good will. We pray especially for the people of Myanmar, Yemen and Syria.
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.
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 pray especially for your servant Malcolm, who died 27 years ago but is still sadly missed by his family. Please comfort them. 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

‘Getting beyond the wilderness’ – 21st February 2021 – 1st Sunday of Lent

Image from Tearfund's reboot campaign: https://www.tearfund.org/campaigns/reboot-campaign

The Readings

Genesis 9.8-17

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

Mark 1.9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

 

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.

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes

Today we begin to journey with Jesus in the wilderness through the forty days of Lent. Many of us will be feeling that we have been in the wilderness for quite a long time now. But around the world, many more people are experiencing an even greater wilderness with the effects of climate change. Some people are experiencing enormous floods like the one in Noah’s time that we heard about in our first reading. Other people are experiencing prolonged drought. Today, as well as being the first Sunday in Lent, we are marking Climate Sunday. And as part of that, I would like to invite you to watch a short film from Tearfund about a woman called Orbisa who lives in northern Ethiopia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXuEkAtZLi8

In Lent we spend a bit more time thinking about our sinfulness. The things that we have done wrong or the things that we haven’t done that we should have. And we tend to think in terms of our individual sins. We might decide to give up chocolate or alcohol. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But we’re also aware that sin isn’t just an individual thing. As human beings we share in the sins of the world. And one of the greatest sins of our time is the damage we are doing to our planet and the impact it is having on nature and on the poor. And perhaps that’s something we need to spend a bit more time with this Lent. Thinking about the bigger picture and our part in it.

Like Orbisa, Jesus knew what it was to go without water. Without food. We’re told that the devil tempted him, and in other versions of the story Jesus was tempted to make bread out of stones; to put God to the test by throwing himself off the temple; and to take power over the nations. Jesus could have done any of these things but he didn’t. He resisted temptation. Because we live in a rich part of the world which hasn’t suffered as much from climate change we may be tempted to ignore it. To do what we want and let other people deal with the consequences. People in other countries. Generations still to come. But as followers of Jesus we are called to do more than that. To repent and change.

It’s easy for us to feel powerlessness in the face of climate change. It is such a huge issue. But we are not powerless. As the film said, we can pray, we can campaign. And we can act. Even though this is a worldwide issue there are still things that we can do as individuals. Collectively, our small actions can make a difference. For a start, most of us are driving less at the moment and we’re certainly not flying anywhere. And that might be something that we choose to continue with after the pandemic. Walking and riding bikes are good for us and good for the planet. Some of us might want to change our diets. Fasting during Lent has a long history. Before refrigeration, many people ate less meat and dairy during Lent because it just wasn’t available. Meat production contributes a lot to global warming so we might choose to have a meat free day each week. We could eat more fish which would help our fishermen who are having a difficult time at the moment.

And there are lots of other things that we can do at home. We can change to LED light bulbs to reduce our energy consumption. We might want to think about changing to a renewable energy supplier. As the weather warms we can get out in the garden and enjoy planting seeds and encouraging wildlife. Plants help to capture carbon and they also make us feel better. When we do plant things, we should avoid using compost with peat in it. Peat bogs store even more carbon than forests and need to be preserved. We can improve our own soil by creating a compost heap. We can recycle more. And just buy less stuff. All of these things help to reduce our carbon footprint. And they are all in the spirit of simplicity that we see in Jesus.

St John’s Building Group has been thinking about how our church can reduce its carbon footprint and we hope to share some ideas soon. We are already using more LED bulbs and monitoring our energy use. In April we hope to plant some more trees in the Parish Centre grounds. Some of us did the RSPB bird count a couple of weeks ago and we’re putting up boxes for swifts. We’re also looking at the church’s investments and making sure that we don’t put our money into fossil fuel industries. There’s a lot more to do but I’m delighted that St John’s has just been awarded our Silver Eco Church Award. There are only two other churches in the Diocese that have received this award and this is a major achievement.

Climate change is a huge issue. There are lots of people in all sorts of wildernesses at the moment. But we are not powerless. There are things we can do. At the end of his time in the wilderness, Jesus came to Galilee and proclaimed good news, saying the kingdom of God had come near. We too can get beyond wilderness and bring good news to people like Orbisa. We can all help to bring God’s kingdom nearer. Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared By David C, Lay Reader

With confidence and trust let us pray to the Father.

We pray for the world.
Where human greed and violence have marred the beauty of creation.
We pray for a right relationship between ourselves and the natural environment.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

We pray for the church.
For its mission to all peoples and in all places. For our Bishops Pete and Sophie.
We pray that humility and loving service may the hallmark of your church.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For those who are eager to learn about the faith
and those who would be baptised or confirmed at Easter.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For the poor, the persecuted, the sick, and all who suffer in body mind or spirit.
We pray for knowledge of your grace in their lives and your healing presence.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

In communion with all those who have walked in the way of holiness.
Those from our own lives who we miss and those who have no one to pray for them.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

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

‘We walk on holy ground’ – 14th February 2021 – The Sunday next before Lent

Painting of the Transfiguration by Raphael

The Readings

2 Corinthians 4.3-6

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Mark 9.2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

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

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Alan Billings. 

Many years ago when I was a curate, I conducted a wedding. After the young couple had exchanged their vows, the verger was supposed to switch off the microphone that stood in front of them. He forgot, and as we prepared to sing the second hymn, we heard the bridegroom talking to his new wife. He called her, ‘My little fish finger’.

My little fish finger. He called her this, of course, not because she was golden brown and covered in breadcrumbs, but as a term of affection. Some of us may have been doing something similar today, which happens to be St Valentine’s day.

It is sometimes quite difficult to find the words to express some of our deepest feelings or to describe some of our most profound experiences. The Bible is full of descriptions of people encountering God – and as often as not they seem very strange when they get put into words.

Take Moses. On one occasion he went up Mount Horeb. Here he met God. He had some overwhelming experience of the presence of God. How could it be described? It was as if a bush was on fire, yet was not consumed. Transfigured, we could say. Genesis goes on: “Then … God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”

God cannot be seen or even imagined – his presence is mysteriously felt. For Moses it was as if you were in front of a burning bush. God is utterly other, utterly holy. Moses is fearful. Yet God also draws near; he speaks to Moses.

And God identifies himself - as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. I have always read that as a way of saying that God exists beyond time and through all times; he has no beginning or end, and he keeps faith down the generations with his people.

But I came across a commentary on it by rabbis: they have a second explanation for those words – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – which I rather like. They say that this is a reminder that each person’s experience of the one God is different. Abraham’s experience, Isaac’s experience, Judaism’s experience, your experience, my experience, may be different – but it is the same God.

Then we have the gospel for today. We jump forward 1200 years. Jesus and his three disciples on another mountain. And the disciples have an experience which is equally strange and mysterious.

They see their teacher and friend, Jesus, transfigured in front of them, rather as the burning bush was transfigured for Moses. Again, a sense that this is holy ground, a little fearfulness. Yet God draws near and speaks to them out of the cloud that overshadows them, ‘This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him!’

This incident – the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain – comes at a critical moment for the disciples. They have recognised Jesus as the one sent by God. This experience nudges them towards a hard and bitter truth: that the way of the messiah is inescapably the way of suffering. That will put the faith they have in Jesus to the most severe test. A test they will at first fail before they can draw again on this experience and understand Jesus for who he is.

Transfigurations. Strange mysterious encounters with God. A sense of God’s utter holiness, his difference from us, his distance from us – for he is God and we are mere mortals, sinful mortals at that. A sense that we are on holy ground. Yet a sense too of God’s nearness to us, his approachability, his wanting to speak to us. All these emotions mixed up together. No wonder when they try to describe it all, it comes out in such odd ways.

I suspect we all have experiences of God which are equally strange and hard to put into words. People often have them when they step aside from life’s busyness – to come to church or say their prayers, or go on retreat.

But they come out of the blue, unbidden. And they can happen anywhere – in the countryside, in the house, walking down the street, as well as in church. At any time of day. They may come when we are doing something overtly religious – like saying our prayers or receiving the sacrament or singing hymns. They are just as likely to come, though, when we are doing something very mundane – like washing up or sweeping the yard. Cooped up at home in lockdown.

They are a funny mix of sensing God’s presence, sensing his holiness, his difference from us; a little fearful; yet also being aware of his nearness, his calling our name; a feeling of being safe in his presence. Sometimes, when this happens, the world around us lights up or takes on a transfigured appearance in some way – sometimes.

We couldn’t live in this state of heightened awareness all the time, of course; but we do need these moments when we glimpse God, when we encounter God the living and the true – what the NT calls seeing the glory of God. They are often only moments, sometimes only fleeting moments. But we need them. They refresh our spirits, they rekindle our hopes, they give us the strength and courage we need to go back to the mundane world and do battle again.

Alan Billings

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe. 

The bidding for our prayers this morning is “Lord, have mercy” and the response is “Christ, have mercy.”

As we look towards the start of the season of Lent, we pray for God’s Church throughout the world. We for our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, for Bishop Pete and Bishop Sophie, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary’s and our sister Churches.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We are called to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and recognise that we are slaves for Jesus. During the time of reflection ahead of us, we pray that we may bring the light of the Gospel in to clearer focus in our own lives, as well as helping others perhaps see it for the first time.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We pray for all those in authority, and those who have influence in the world, that their power and voices be used compassionately for the good of all. We pray that the international community can come together to resolve the ongoing issues with our changing climate, especially the effects it has on the poor.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends. we continue to deal with Covid 19, help all of us to work together for the good of all. We thank you for the skills and knowledge that scientists and medical staff have been able to use to develop treatments and vaccinations for this illness, and for all those involved in distributing vaccinations.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

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

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, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

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, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

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.