‘God in a changing world’ – 28th November 2021 – The 1st Sunday of Advent

Order of service

This morning's order of service is available here:

21 11 28 Advent 1 Eucharist

21 11 28 Advent 1 Eucharist

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

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The Readings

Jeremiah 33. 14 - 16

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

 

Luke 21. 25 - 36 

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

 

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
The Revd Canon Dr Alan Billings.

When I heard on Friday the news headlines and the weather forecast for this
weekend, I thought they must have picked up today’s gospel reading by
mistake. It wasn’t quite St Luke but it didn’t seem far off. This is Luke:

There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on the earth
distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the
waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming
upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

On Friday night the weather map had red and amber alerts all over it and in
the way the broadcasters these days love to inflict cruel and unnatural
punishment on their journalists, reporters had to stand on exposed beaches
or harbour walls, lashed by wind and rain, to tell us the bad news about Storm
Arwen. They didn’t really have to say anything. They just had to stand there
and try not to get blown over. The detail of what they said was all lost on me. I
just wanted them, soaking wet and shaking with cold, to get inside
somewhere with a mug of coffee and some fish and chips.

This was after weeks of climate change warriors – like my ten year old grand-
daughter - telling us that unless we radically change our lifestyles - swap cars
for bikes and take all our holidays in Cleethorpes - we are destined to see our
summers blighted by plagues of locusts and our winters made desperate by
overflowing rivers.

And all this against a background of a pandemic that we cannot control.

I can’t remember a time when we had so much to be anxious about.

And perhaps the key to our anxiety is in that word ‘control’. For the first time
in my lifetime I have felt, as never before, that our old confidence that
whatever the world threw at us, we could in the end bring under our dominion,
our control, was shaken.

If that is what we are beginning to feel, we are right back where those who
first heard these words of Jesus were. They lived in a world that they knew
very well was beyond their control. And from time to time that scared them:

There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on the earth
distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the
waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming
upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Now, for us, the powers of the heavens are being shaken. And we are
experiencing what they experienced: the realisation that in the end, we
cannot control the world in which we live.

We’ve lived with that illusion for a very long time, hanging our confidence on
those words in the first creation story in the Book of Genesis. God said to the
man and the woman: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it;
and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and
over every living thing that moves upon the earth’.

We read those words ‘have dominion over’ to mean ‘do what you like with’.

We forgot that we were created in the image of God and after his likeness,
that our having dominion over was to mirror his having dominion over, which
was not exploiting the world but loving it, caring for it, looking after it.

And because we misread that text, we thought we had a God-given right to
exploit and we thought that meant the world was ours to control.

Now we know. Like those first Christians we are having to acknowledge that
the world is not ours to control and we are as frightened by events in the
natural world as they were. The centuries of hubris are over and we will learn
the hard lesson the hard way:

There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on the earth
distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the
waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming
upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

But we cannot stop there. That would deliver us back into the world of the
pagans from which Christian faith delivers us. Jesus goes on to address us in
2021 quite directly.

The kingdom of God, he says, is near. The day of God is near. So:

Be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with
dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day
does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.

What will give us back our confidence and take away our fear is not the false
god of control. We cannot control the world. We cannot control the future. But
we can find the true God in all the ever changing circumstances of our lives,
however those changing circumstances turn out.

This season of Advent starts the Church’s new year with this call to people
who are fearful, but who know that their security does not lie in trying to
control things but in knowing that they can find God in a changing world.

Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape
all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

The Prayers

In joyful expectation of his coming to our aid
we pray to Jesus.

Come to your Church as Lord and judge.
Help us to live in the light of your coming
and give us a longing for your kingdom.
Maranatha:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to your world as King of the nations.
Before you rulers will stand in silence.
Maranatha:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter.
Break into our lives,
where we struggle with sickness and distress,
and set us free to serve you for ever.
Maranatha:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to us as shepherd and guardian of our souls.
Give us with all the faithful departed
a share in your victory over evil and death.
Maranatha:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come from heaven, Lord Jesus, with power and great glory.
Lift us up to meet you,
that with Mary, Mark, John and all your saints and angels
we may live and reign with you in your new creation.
Maranatha:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay;
give new courage to your people,
who trust in your love.
By your coming, raise us to share in the joy of your kingdom
on earth as in heaven,
where you live and reign with the Father and the Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Amen.

Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is included here,
is copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2006 and published by Church House Publishing.

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

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

21 11 21 Christ the King order of service

The Readings

 

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

The Sermon

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

 

We hope to provide this shortly

The Prayers

Prepared by Barbara

 

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

‘Peace’ – 14th November 2021 – Remembrance Sunday Evening

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

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The Readings

Hebrews 10. 11 - 25

And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, ‘he sat down at the right hand of God’, and since then has been waiting ‘until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.’ For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
‘This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds’,
he also adds,
‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

Mark 13. 1 - 8 

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?’ Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

.

The Sermon

Will be uploaded later on.

The Prayers

Let us pray for all who suffer as a result of conflict,
and ask that God may give us peace:

for the service men and women
who have died in the violence of war,
each one remembered by and known to God;
may God give peace.
God give peace.

For those who love them in death as in life,
offering the distress of our grief
and the sadness of our loss;
may God give peace.
God give peace.

For all members of the armed forces
who are in danger this day,
remembering family, friends
and all who pray for their safe return;
may God give peace.
God give peace.

For civilian women, children and men
whose lives are disfigured by war or terror,
calling to mind in penitence
the anger and hatreds of humanity;
may God give peace.
God give peace.

For peacemakers and peacekeepers,
who seek to keep this world secure and free;
may God give peace.
God give peace.

For all who bear the burden and privilege of leadership,
political, military and religious;
asking for gifts of wisdom and resolve
in the search for reconciliation and peace;
may God give peace.
God give peace.

O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those whose memory we cherish,
and those whose names we will never know.
Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world,
and grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm.
As we honour the past,
may we put our faith in your future;
for you are the source of life and hope,
now and for ever.
Amen.

‘We Will Remember Them’ – 14th November 2021 – Remembrance Sunday

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

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Order of service

This morning's order of service is available here:

21 11 14 Remembrance Sunday

21 11 14 Remembrance Sunday

The Readings

Isaiah 2. 1 - 4

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
   Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

 

Matthew 5. 1 - 12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The Sermon

Will be uploaded later on.

The Prayers

Let us pray for all who suffer as a result of conflict,
and ask that God may give us peace:

for the service men and women
who have died in the violence of war,
each one remembered by and known to God;
may God give peace.
All    God give peace.

For those who love them in death as in life,
offering the distress of our grief
and the sadness of our loss;
may God give peace.
All    God give peace.

For all members of the armed forces
who are in danger this day,
remembering family, friends
and all who pray for their safe return;
may God give peace.
All    God give peace.

For civilian women, children and men
whose lives are disfigured by war or terror,
calling to mind in penitence
the anger and hatreds of humanity;
may God give peace.
All    God give peace.

For peacemakers and peacekeepers,
who seek to keep this world secure and free;
may God give peace.
All    God give peace.

For all who bear the burden and privilege of leadership,
political, military and religious;
asking for gifts of wisdom and resolve
in the search for reconciliation and peace;
may God give peace.
All    God give peace.

O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those whose memory we cherish,
and those whose names we will never know.
Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world,
and grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm.
As we honour the past,
may we put our faith in your future;
for you are the source of life and hope,
now and for ever.
All   Amen.

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

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

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

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

21 11 07 3rd Sunday before Advent order of service

The Readings

 

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

The Sermon

to be included shortly!

The Prayers

Prepared by Siobhan H

 

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

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

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

21 10 31 Memorial service

21 10 31 Memorial service

The Reading

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

The Sermon

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

 

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

The Prayers

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

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

‘Jesus Wept’ – 31st October 2021 – All Saints Sunday

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

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21 10 31 All Saints order of service

 

 

The Readings

 

Wisdom 3. 1 - 9
A reading from the Wisdom of Solomon.
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt-offering he accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them for ever.
Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect.
John 11. 32 - 44
When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his
feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would
not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who
came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and
deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to
him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said,
‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who
opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a
cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the
stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord,
already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would
see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus
looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I
knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of
the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’
When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come
out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips
of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them,
‘Unbind him, and let him go.’
Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org 

The Sermon

By Canon Dr Alan Billings

 

A famous theologian was once asked to sum up the Christian faith in a sentence. This was a man whose entire career was spent thinking, teaching and writing about Christianity. He wrote twenty six volumes of theology. And now he was asked to capture the essence of it all in a sentence.
What is the gospel? In a sentence.
He thought for a moment, and then said, ‘Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.’
He quoted the first line of a well-known children’s hymn. Well, well-known to us because we speak English. Perhaps not so well-known in Switzerland where he was a professor, unless that is they had seen the film, The Bodyguard, in which Whitney Houston and Michelle Lamar Richards, the Marron sisters, sing it together.
But the professor was sure that if you knew those few words you could work outwards from them to understand all the key messages of the Christian faith. ‘Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.’
Now if someone were to ask me to sum up Christianity in a sentence I might point them to today’s gospel reading. And in it to the shortest sentence in the bible. It’s usually translated into English in two words - ‘Jesus wept’ - though the version in our reading unnecessarily doubles it to four words ‘Jesus began to weep’.  Let’s stick with ‘Jesus wept’.
Two words. Two crucial words which give us the answer to so many questions that we or others might have about our faith.
What I mean is this.
When I was last a vicar I had a woman in my congregation who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I’ll call her Joan. Joan had but a short time to live. She was fifty three. It came as a terrible shock to her.
Over the few remaining months of her life I visited Joan many times but could never be sure what her mood would be, something that her husband found really difficult. We had times of deep depression and utter despair. She said little or nothing and cried a great deal. Then there were moments of calm reflection, looking back over her life, recalling some things with real pleasure. On these occasions she would smile. But the most difficult visits were when Joan was angry – very, very angry. An anger that often robbed her of whatever strength she had that day. And her anger was usually, sooner or later, directed at God.
She had questions. They often came down to asking whether she had been right to have faith in God at all. Given what she was going through, was it true, could it be true, that God cared – cared for her? This questioning mood made God seem very remote. Remote, cold, uncaring – a million light years away from her and her anguish.
At these moments I would sometimes read some of these verses to her – not to make any point about life after death, but to say something about the nature of God.
‘Jesus wept’. If Jesus is God in human form, living among us, then what we have in the reading today is a window onto God. ‘Jesus wept’. And if Jesus wept, God wept.
The emotions we feel as human beings are the emotions God feels. This is why you can have the seeming paradox of Jesus on the cross asking the same question as Joan. She too suffered and part of her suffering, as with Jesus, was knowing that her life was coming to its close. She cried out in anger: ‘God, are you bothered, do you really care?’ Jesus cried out in the same anger and pain on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.’
And that is the paradox that lies at the heart of our faith, the God we cry to – do you not understand, do you not care? - is the one who knows what it is like to feel, as a human being, abandoned by God. ‘Why have you forsaken me?’
I read these words to Joan for another reason, and that is to do with what becomes of us after death.
Today’s gospel reading is a story about a man who died being restored to life by Jesus. But I wouldn’t want to pin any ideas of life with God after death on that. After all, the restoration of Lazarus is like every miracle, a temporary affair in this life. The sick who are made well will get sick again. Lazarus will die. If that were not true, Lazarus would still be around somewhere, aged 2020 plus.
No, all miracles are temporary and passing. What is not temporary or passing is what is revealed about God in this verse. Jesus wept.
Jesus was – as the passage says – deeply moved at the death of his friend.  And it is on that that I would base my understanding of what happens to us after death. If God in Jesus is moved at the death of Lazarus, and wants to restore their relationship, will he not also be moved at the ending through death of the relationship we have with him. And will he not seek to restore it in his nearer presence?
As I said, these two words – Jesus wept -are key to our understanding of God, in this world and the next.

The Prayers

From Common Worship: Times and Seasons

 

We pray for the coming of God’s kingdom.
You sent your Son to bring good news to the poor,
sight to the blind,
freedom to captives
and salvation to your people:
anoint us with your Spirit;
rouse us to work in his name.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.
Send us to bring help to the poor
and freedom to the oppressed.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.
Send us to tell the world
the good news of your healing love.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.
Send us to those who mourn,
to bring joy and gladness instead of grief.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.
Send us to proclaim that the time is here
for you to save your people.Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.
Lord of the Church,
hear our prayer,
and make us one in mind and heart
to serve you in Christ our Lord. Amen.
Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here is copyright © The Archbishops' Council 20xx

‘Losing sight of what’s really important’ – 24th October 2021 – Last Sunday after Trinity

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

21 10 24 Last Sunday after Trinity Eucharist.docx

The Readings

 

Jeremiah 31.7-9
For thus says the Lord:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
   and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
   ‘Save, O Lord, your people,
   the remnant of Israel.’
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
   and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
   those with child and those in labour, together;
   a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
   and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
   in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
   and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Mark 10.46-52
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Scripture quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon

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

 

“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!” Does anyone recognise where this is from? ………. When it first came into my mind I thought the speaker was the Mad Hatter but in fact these are the words of the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland” as he dashes around in a great hurry. In the cartoon version of the story, the rabbit looks quite cute and his actions seem amusing, but if we’re honest, isn’t this how we can sometimes find ourselves living as we try to keep up with the pace and pressures of life? If this happens from time to time it’s not necessarily a bad thing; a bit of pressure can even help us to perform better, but if it becomes the norm, this kind of behaviour can have undesirable consequences. One of these is that we can become so preoccupied with what seems all-important that we lose sight of much that really is.
In our reading from St Mark’s Gospel we hear about a man who has lost his sight and longs to have it restored. Although many of us find that our sight deteriorates, particularly as we get older, most of us are fortunate enough not to lose it completely and there is a great deal available, at least in this part of the world, to help us make the most of our remaining vision. But this set me thinking about the many other forms of blindness that we can be afflicted by without even realising it. The sort of things that came to mind are blindness about the needs of ourselves and others, blindness about the consequences of our words and actions or conversely our silence or inaction, blindness to the natural world and what we might lose if we don’t take better care of it and last but not least, spiritual blindness. Hopefully taking a few minutes now to consider some of these issues will help us to take stock of our where we are in relation to them and maybe, if necessary, make some changes for the better.
I think it would be fair to assume that most of us don’t go through life intentionally being unaware or uncaring or blind to the needs of others, but it can happen all too easily, especially if we’re in a position of influence or authority in relation to those concerned. We can think we’re doing the right thing for someone and be acting from the best of motives, but unless we pay attention and take the time to listen and try to see things from their perspective we may get it completely wrong and cause a lot of distress all round. Taking the time to really listen to someone and paying attention to what they are saying is a form of respect and we all like to feel respected don’t we.
In a recent “Thought for the day”, Bishop Philip North referred to people and roles that are largely unseen and therefore unappreciated. In truth there are whole armies of people who do the unseen and often undesirable jobs that keep our societies going; often they are foreign workers or from underprivileged backgrounds and they don’t get paid much but where would we be without them? Another phrase I heard was “Honour the unseen and the disregarded” and this really struck a chord with me and connects to our reading. Jesus did see such people and did value them. He saw those who seemingly had little or nothing to contribute, like Bartimaeus and valued them too.
Why are we blind to some people and their situations? I think it can sometimes happen when we are presented with uncomfortable information and images of people that are very difficult or painful to see. The news is frequently full of such images and when we are presented with them over and over again, understandably we can feel overwhelmed. Who wants or needs a permanent diet of misery, atrocity and despair that pulls everyone down? It’s why someone people stop engaging with the news. Compassion fatigue is an awful concept but one I’m sure we’re all aware of. We can be tempted to look away because we can’t bear to see anymore suffering that we feel powerless to do anything about, we can’t make it stop or fix it, however much we wish we could. But looking away and pretending to ourselves that the bad stuff isn’t happening is not the answer. If nothing else, we can acknowledge the people concerned and what is happening to them and hold them in our prayers. A comment by a Big Issue seller and repeated by other homeless people makes this point powerfully; it isn’t people saying no their requests for money that hurts, it’s being ignored as though they don’t exist, that really hurts.
If we don’t take the time and trouble to examine our thoughts, ideas and beliefs with an open mind, we can be blind about how our views or our actions can impact on others. Again we only have to look at the news to see what happens when beliefs and ideas are fuelled by lies and misinformation and used by people with ulterior motives to whip up hatred and violence. What may seem like an innocuous comment can be misconstrued and hijacked to support something we didn’t mean or wouldn’t want to be associated with. Jesus was no stranger to having his words and actions misrepresented .This sort of abuse has always gone on and sadly it probably always will so we need to be mindful of what we think and say and do.
As well as not noticing others and their needs we can be pretty blind to our own needs. The demands of a busy world where we feel under pressure to work harder for longer in order to keep all the plates spinning can be very damaging and lead to burnout if we don’t find ways to balance it with our needs for rest and recuperation. If we’re not mindful or careful about finding and maintaining this balance, we go on doing the wrong things and damage our wellbeing in the process. That does no good for anyone in the long run including the people or institutions we’re trying to please. Recognising and taking care of our own needs isn’t selfish or weak, it’s essential. What happens to those who need us if we break down?
When we are constantly in such a hurry and so focussed on whatever is on our minds, we can fail to notice the beauty of the natural world around us. We can fail to appreciate how blessed we are that it’s just there for us to enjoy if only we paused long enough to see it. We can fail to grasp just how fragile it is if we don’t start taking better care of it. I have to confess that I’m not a great one for taking long walks in the countryside but something I make a point of doing every day is looking at the sky. It makes me realise how small we really are which might sound a bit strange but it never ceases to fill me with awe, even on the gloomiest of days and I find that uplifting. It helps me to take a few moments to appreciate and be thankful for what I have rather than hankering after what I thought I wanted.
The last issue from the list I started with is spiritual blindness. I don’t propose to say much as I’m not an expert. This is more of an observation. I used to think that it was necessary to commit a lot of time and focus in order to understand something, but I’ve realised this isn’t always true. So often we can read or hear or even study a text and not really understand it, but only last Sunday, as I listened to one of the readings, it struck me how we can suddenly see with greater clarity a meaning in a piece of scripture. It may only be fleeting, but it is what we need at that moment and it is enough. To paraphrase the philosopher, Iris Murdoch, if we get the seeing right, the doing will take care of itself.
To conclude, however madly busy and complex our lives get, and I do understand how all-consuming this can be, we need to take the time to notice what is around us, the people, the kindness, the generosity of spirit, the beauty of nature. Open our eyes and our hearts and our minds to see and value others, as Jesus did and to know that we too are seen and valued by him.

The Prayers

Prepared by Barbara W

 

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.
O God, the creator and preserver of all, we pray for people in every kind of need; make your ways known on earth, your saving health among all nations …
We pray for all of those affected by the Covid-19 epidemic.
We pray for those countries currently suffering from upsurges of the virus, thinking especially of those in Mongolia, Russia, Latvia, Turkey, Georgia, Romania and the United Kingdom: please help them to keep their most vulnerable citizens safe. We pray that all politicians stop using the pandemic to score political points and choose effective means of making sure that all the people they represent are safe and well.
We pray for the worldwide success of vaccination campaigns, and that vaccines are made available to all countries, regardless of their wealth or lack thereof.
We pray especially for all workers in direct contact with the public who are at such risk of exposure to the virus: health care providers, shop workers, bus drivers, schoolteachers and all others similarly exposed. Please help all of us to protect all of them by continuing to wear masks in public and practice safe social distancing and by getting vaccinated, if we have not already done so.
We pray also for the climate summit Cop26 in Glasgow and for all those who will be attending. Please help the United Kingdom to set a good example to the world, by delivering on promises already made and by increasing the United Kingdom’s efforts to prevent further damage to the climate. Please give all governments the political courage to resist further use of fossil fuels and to invest in sources of renewable energy instead. Please help each of us individually to contribute to protecting our planet in any way we can.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for your Church throughout the world;     guide and govern us by your good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life …
We pray especially for our worshipping community of St. John’s Ranmoor, St. Mark’s Broomhill and St. Mary’s Walkley as we learn new ways of joining together in love for you. Please help us to feel your presence in a world turned upside down and to share that presence with others.
We pray that we can continue to worship together in ways that are safe for all of us, whether in person or online. Please help us to think of each other and let each other know that we care.
We prepare this week for our memorial service next weekend, when we name to you those dear to us who have gone before us into your heavenly kingdom. We pray that this service will bring comfort to all those who grieve.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are in any way afflicted or distressed, in mind, body or estate; comfort and relieve them in their need, give them patience in their sufferings, and bring good out of their troubles …
In moments of peace and contemplation, we name to you all those known to us who are suffering. Please care for them and for all those of whose suffering we are unaware.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We remember those who have gone before us in the peace of Christ, and we give you praise for all your faithful ones, with whom we rejoice in the communion of saints …
We name to you in our hearts all those known to us both near and far, asking that you bring your comfort and healing to their families and friends at this time of grief.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2000

‘Christ in the suffering of others’ – 17th October 2021 – 20th Sunday after Trinity

We regret that due to unforeseen circumstances, we may not be able to live-stream this week's service.  But if we do manage it, you can follow by clicking on the link below:

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

 

21 10 17 20th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

 

Isaiah 53.4-12
Surely he has borne our infirmities
   and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
   struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
   crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
   and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
   we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
   and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
   Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
   stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
   and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
   and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
   he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
   Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
   The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
   and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
   and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.
Mark 10.35-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
Scripture quotations are taken from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon

By Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes

 

It has been a great joy to be able conduct weddings recently. At St John’s we’ve been catching up with all the weddings that have had to be postponed. And last week we had a lovely wedding with lots of children. Quite informal and very meaningful. The bride and groom got quite emotional as they said their vows. They obviously really meant them but I wondered if they could really grasp the significance, the implications, of what they were saying. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part. Huge promises. I’m not sure if I really had much of a clue when I got married.
Last Sunday, I was struck by some other pictures of marriage. We did the dementia training at St John’s which we’re are going to do after the service here later. It was very helpful and meaningful. There were a number of people there whose partners had had dementia. Amazing people, full of love who had really lived out those vows that they had made on their wedding days. for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part. I’m sure they have all had their moments. Times when they were near to breaking point. But somehow, they had found the strength they needed to be alongside those experiencing dementia. To remain faithful to what they had promised all those years before.
If those of us who are married really knew what lay ahead when we made those vows I wonder if we would go through with them. If we really understood what marriage would involve would we say be able to say those words? I don’t know. And yet, somehow, as we change and grow older and some of us fall ill and some of us experience dementia, people find the strength to carry on. To be faithful to the vows we made. To find the love we need. And I can only think that that strength and love come from God. That he gives us the gifts we need to face each new challenge.
That journey has some parallels with our Gospel reading today. James and John the sons of Zebedee have left their nets to follow Jesus. They did it without a second glance and yet they really had no idea what they were getting themselves into. And that’s particularly apparent in Mark’s Gospel where the disciples are often the last people to know what is going on while those on the outside get it straight away. In today’s passage, James and John approach Jesus and ask him a favour. They ask Jesus if they can be his right and left hand men. Sitting on either side of him, basking in his glory. In Matthew’s version of the story it is their pushy mother who makes the request.
Part of our dementia training later will be about how different people can perceive the same things, the same images, the same words, very differently. Because we know how the story goes, we hear the request from James and John as being about heaven. When Jesus is in glory, James and John want to sit on either side of him. But in fact, James and John have very different ideas. They think Jesus is going to seize worldly power and they want to be at the top table when he does.
Jesus tells the two men that don’t know what they are asking but he doesn’t hit them with the full truth. He tried to do that in the verses just before our reading. He told them that he would be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. That he would be mocked and spat upon, flogged and killed. And that after three days he would rise again. But for some reason this seems to have gone right over their heads. The disciples just weren’t ready to hear it. So this time Jesus uses metaphor. He asks James and John if they are able to drink from the cup that he drinks or be baptised with the baptism that he is baptised with. And they readily say that they are. It is only later that they will realise that the cup Jesus was talking about was the cup of suffering. James did indeed drink from the same cup as Jesus. He was martyred by King Herod in Acts chapter 12, one of the first to be killed in the early church. John however lived into old age.
Had James and John understood all this when Jesus called them from their nets they might never have followed him. But as they journeyed with Jesus and grew to love him they gradually discovered the strength they needed to drink from the cup that he drank from when the time came. They were able to let go of their illusions about power and embrace servanthood and vulnerability. They learned to let go of self and put others first. To be more and more like Jesus.
Those who care for loved ones with dementia know all about letting go of self and putting others first. But our readings also speak of those who are themselves suffering from this life-changing condition. Our Gospel reading is just one small example of Jesus being misunderstood. Unable to convey to others what was happening. As with those with dementia, that must have been a very lonely place to be sometimes. A frightening place to be. Jesus knew what lay ahead of him. No one could take that cup from him. And how he must have longed for reassurance. For people around him who really cared and wanted to put his needs first. To be there for him on the journey.
Our reading from Isaiah is one of the suffering servant passages that we often hear read at Easter. For Christians it relates directly to Jesus’ passion and death on a cross. It was probably not a passage that resonated with James and John when they had that conversation with Jesus. But after he died and rose again it would have started to make real sense to them. Gradually, they came to realise Jesus’ glory was to be found not in worldly power but in suffering. In the suffering of others we can see Jesus. Those who are experiencing dementia are worthy of our care not just because of their need but because in them we glimpse Christ. Who was misunderstood, who lost his autonomy. People with dementia can teach us what it means to enter the kingdom of God like a child. Even though communication may be difficult, they are still part of the body of Christ and the body is more complete when they are present. So it’s really important that we learn how to welcome them as brothers and sisters in Christ. How we walk alongside them as well as those who care for them. So I do hope some of you can stay for the training after the service. As we learn more of what it means to serve and walk with Christ. Amen.

The Prayers

Prepared by Veronica H

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, we pray to the Father.
O God, the creator and preserver of us all, we bring before you the needs of the world, especially those countries where hunger and oppression are rife, and especially those countries too poor to afford the Covid vaccines. We pray that leaders of rich countries will remember their responsibilities to the poorer nations, and will make vaccines available wherever there is need. We pray for the forthcoming Cop26 Conference in Glasgow, and that all countries responsible for ever-increasing carbon emissions will actually attend to discuss and work together constructively on strategies to tackle climate change and make the world  safer for future generations of your children.
Lord, in your mercy,                                                                                                                                                              Hear our prayer.
We pray for the Church worldwide, that all Christians will work together humbly to show your love to all your peoples throughout the world. We pray for the Anglican Church, our Archbishops, our Diocesan Bishops Pete and Sophie, and every parish, their priests and their congregations that minister to their community whenever support is needed. We give you thanks for our partner churches St John’s and St Mark’s, and for all at St Mary’s who serve you as Readers and churchwardens, and in so many other ways.
Lord in your mercy,                                                                                                                                                           Hear our Prayer.
We pray for all who are ill at this time, especially those suffering from Covid and all the doctors, nurses and care workers who have been under such strain over the last two years. Give them strength to continue their calling to cure and relieve the sick under very difficult conditions. We pray especially for Judith, and all others known to us in need of your healing grace…………….
Lord in your mercy,                                                                                                                                                               Hear our prayer.
We remember all who have gone before us in the peace of Christ, and give you thanks and praise for their lives with us. In a moment of quiet we remember former members of this congregation and all our family and friends who have departed over the years…………..
Lord in your mercy,                                                                                                                                                               Hear our prayer.
Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, John, Mark and all your saints we commend ourselves and all your creation to your unfailing love.
Merciful Father,                                                                                                                                                                 Accept these prayers                                                                                                                                                           for the sake of your only son,                                                                                                                                           our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000

‘Safeguarding Sunday’ – 10th October 2021 – 19th Sunday after Trinity

The Order of service

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

21 10 10 Safeguarding Sunday 19th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

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

21 10 10 Safeguarding Sunday 19th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Livestreaming link

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

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

The Readings

Amos 5.6-7, 10-15
Seek the Lord and live,
   or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire,
   and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it.
Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood,
   and bring righteousness to the ground!
They hate the one who reproves in the gate,
   and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.
Therefore, because you trample on the poor
   and take from them levies of grain,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
   but you shall not live in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
   but you shall not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your transgressions,
   and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
   and push aside the needy in the gate.
Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;
   for it is an evil time.
Seek good and not evil,
   that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
   just as you have said.
Hate evil and love good,
   and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
   will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Mark 10.17-31
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” ’ He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’
Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’
Scripture quotations are taken from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon

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

 

Have any of you come across the Poverty and Justice Bible?  It’s a normal Bible, except that every reference to poverty or injustice is highlighted in red.  Over 2000 verses are highlighted; that’s a lot of red!
The people behind this Bible point out something central about God’s Holy Word: Poverty and Justice matter; they are at the heart of the Christian message.
Today’s readings are both "red-letter" passages.
The prophet Amos spoke out against the rulers of Israel.  They took grain taxes from the poor, yet built stone houses and pleasant vineyards for themselves.  Amos warns Israel of the consequences of ignoring God’s message.  They should turn away from evil and seek good.  He urges the rulers to establish justice.  If they do, God will be gracious to them.
They hate the one who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.
Amos spoke truth to power, but Israel took no notice.
What happened next?  Well, within 2 years, there was a devastating earthquake in the land.  And soon after that, Israel was taken over by the Assyrians.The Biblical writers clearly saw this as God’s justice on Israel.
Like Amos, Jesus also spoke truth to someone who did not want to hear.
The young man comes to Jesus, keen to know how to inherit eternal life.  He’s followed all the rules, and kept all the commandments!  All his life!  But it seems that although he’s followed them to the letter, he hasn’t taken on board what they mean.  He’s wealthy and isn’t sharing his good fortune.  Jesus gets to the heart of things.  “You lack just one thing.  Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor.  Then follow me.”
We don’t know the outcome of this story.  We know that the young man went away sad, but not what he did next.  Perhaps he couldn’t bear to contemplate what Jesus had said, so put it to the back of his mind and carried on much as before.  But perhaps, just perhaps, Jesus’ words stuck in his mind, nagged at his soul, refused to go away.  Perhaps this marked a turning point after which he started to think about those less fortunate than himself, and how his wealth might be used to help them.
Today is “Safeguarding Sunday”.  What comes to mind when you hear the word “safeguarding”?  You may think of all the form filling and safety checks necessary for working with young or vulnerable people.  You may think of the horrific news stories where children, women or other vulnerable people have been abused and killed.
But you may realise that Safeguarding is actually at the heart of the Christian message.  The word itself doesn’t appear in the Bible.  But it’s clear that enabling the poor and the vulnerable to thrive, and establishing justice for them is precisely what God wants.
God wants all people to thrive.  All people, but especially the poor and vulnerable, should be treated with love, compassion, respect and justice.  Where this is not happening, God wants their voices to be heard and acted upon.
So often this does not happen.  Institutions, including the Church, have failed vulnerable people over decades.  Abuse has happened. People have not been heard or believed.  There has been a culture of covering such things up.
What are God’s people to do to change this? How can we, to paraphrase Amos,
Seek good and not evil,
that we may live...
...hate evil and love good,
and establish justice in the gate?
Well, thankfully the Church is now taking this matter much more seriously.  And we can all play our part in making our church communities places where everyone can grow and thrive.
We can learn about how society and institutions have failed the very vulnerable, but also how we can help change things for the better.  The Church of England has produced a very good on-line basic awareness course, and I’d encourage everyone with internet access to try it.  We can then share what we’ve learnt with others.
We can also offer financial support to charities that work with at-risk children or adult victims of abuse.
And we can be like Amos, and speak out on behalf of the voiceless to those in power.  We can be like Jesus, and care for the most vulnerable people in God’s world.

The Prayers
Prepared by David.

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

Grant us, Lord God,
a vision of your world as your love would have it:
A world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor;
A world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them;
A world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect;
A world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love.
Give us the inspiration and courage to build it, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Lord in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the Church, for our Bishops, Pete and Sophie, for the communities served by St Mary’s, St Mark’s and St John’s. We give thanks for partnership working where joys may be shared together, and support found in times of sorrow.
Lord in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

On this safeguarding Sunday we come to you loving Father God,
in the knowledge that you hold all your children in unconditional love.
We lift to you those who are vulnerable and in need of protection.
Give them your safety, comfort and peace.
We cry to you for those who are hurting and whose trust has been broken.
Give them your healing, restoration and justice.
We bring to you those who seek to forgive others who have hurt them.
Give them your strength, courage and hope.
For those who by their actions or attitudes have caused hurt and harm to others,
lead them to seek your forgiveness and to enter into true repentance.
Thank you for all who give their time, knowledge, and skills to make our communities safer.
Give them your wisdom, guidance and grace.
For ourselves, we ask you to give us your heart for the vulnerable, the oppressed, the voiceless and the forgotten. Help us to see them as you see them; to value them as you value them, and to nurture and protect them as you desire.
Help each one of us play our part in creating safer places for all your people.
In your name we pray,
Lord in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill at this time in body, mind or spirit. Grant them all your peace and healing presence. In a moment of quiet we think of those known to us who are in particular need at this time
Lord in your mercy:
Hear our prayer,

We pray for those who have died. We hold before God all those who we have known and loved and who have shaped our lives. We pray for those who have died unnoticed by all except for you O Lord. Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
Lord in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

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

Material used from thirtyone:eight, produced for Safeguarding Sunday.