‘Finding Joy in Uncertain Times’ – Easter Sunday – 17th April 2022

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The Readings

Acts 10.34-43

Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

Luke 24.1-12
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
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 Kath Boyd, Reader

Good morning and may I begin by wishing you all a very Happy Easter. I wanted to say this straight away because I genuinely mean it and I don’t want to give any wrong impressions about the value I place on this celebration. I know that today is absolutely very special and for many Christians it is the most joyous day of the whole Christian calendar. I would love to be one of them but without wishing to rain on anyone’s parade, I have to be honest and say that I find feeling joyful rather difficult after all we have contemplated and followed and re-enacted, especially through Holy Week. For this reason I found our reading from Luke’s Gospel particularly meaningful. It wasn’t quite the story I was expecting; (I thought it would be the one where Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for the gardener), but the more I have sat with this one from Luke, the more it feels right for our present times. It conveys a real feeling of uncertainty and perhaps anxiety that the close followers of Jesus must have been experiencing, and at the end of this particular passage, nothing is resolved. We have the benefit of knowing what happens next but those involved didn’t. They were traumatised, they still didn’t know what was going on and in their minds they had just lost the one person who could make sense of it all. Even though Jesus had told them that he would rise again, could they really comprehend that and believe it, however much they wanted to.

As I said, I think this passage conveys their situation very well and I’d like us to look at it in a little more depth but to do this I would like us to step back to the re-enactment of the Passion of Christ that we shared in last Sunday. If we really allow ourselves to take it in, it’s a very, very powerful and heart-breaking portrayal of a ghastly event. At the very end of it we are told that all Jesus’ “acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance, watching”. We are also told that when Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body from the cross and laid it in a new tomb, the women followed him “they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned (presumably to where they were staying), and prepared spices and ointments.” The final service they could perform for their beloved Lord was to prepare his body lovingly for a dignified burial; love and dignity that he had been denied in his death.

The day after the Sabbath the women returned to the tomb to do this service and no doubt they thought they knew what to expect. Perhaps they were a little surprised, and possibly relieved, that the stone covering the entrance to the tomb had already been rolled away but when they went inside “they did not find the body”. Can you imagine how they must have felt; “what’s happened? Who’s taken him and what have they done with him?” I think describing these women as “perplexed” is probably an understatement. Then suddenly two men, who they don’t know, are standing there in “dazzling clothes” asking them “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” and telling them that Jesus has risen as he said he would. They remind the women of all that Jesus had foretold and when they recall this they leave the tomb and go to tell the eleven disciples and all the others what has just happened. Now quite specifically we are told who some of these women are, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James so we know they have been established followers of Jesus for a long time. Imagine then how they must have felt when what they recount of the events at the tomb is dismissed as “an idle tale” and they are not believed. To our modern sensibilities it’s insulting and disrespectful and hurtful but perhaps they were used to it. Even so, I’m sure it still upset them. However, Peter decides to go and take a look for himself. He “ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.”

I can’t help wondering why he didn’t go back and tell the others so that they wouldn’t have been so dismissive of what the women had said but to be fair to him, maybe he was struggling to take it all in himself. To fully grasp the uncertainty that all the people in our passage were experiencing, we have to think ourselves into their situation, see events through their eyes and imagine what they were thinking and feeling. At that point they didn’t know what had happened.

But we do know that Jesus rose again, as he had foretold. Everything wasn’t magically alright and it wasn’t going to be but after they had seen him for themselves, the disciples knew they were not alone; he was and always would be with them.

Everything is far from alright in our world today but as people of faith we know that we are not alone in our struggles and also in our joys; it’s important to recognise and acknowledge both. Jesus is with each and every one of us if we allow him to be. That to me is the power and the beauty of the Easter message that can enable us to find joy in even the most difficult of times. So I really can wish you all a very Happy Easter.

The Prayers
Prepared by Oli Giles

Lord, we pray for our world.
We pray

For those trapped in zones of conflict and corruption.
For those suffering the forest fires, rising sea levels and unstable weather systems as a result of climate change.
For those who are not free to express their opinion and identity openly without fear.
For those who lack access to clean water, secure food stores and basic medical services.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Lord we pray for the gaping inequality in our society.
We pray

for those who have no home.
For those who must rely on foodbanks.
For those who have job insecurity.
For those who can’t afford their prescriptions.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Lord we pray for our families and friends
We pray

For those in abusive relationships
For those experiencing feelings of division and separation
For our loved ones who are terminally ill
For those close to us who are bereaved and grieving
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Lord we pray for ourselves

We pray
For when we struggle to find meaning
For when we feel lost and alone
For when we suffer crises of identity
For when we feel overwhelmed and exhausted
For when we have hit rock bottom.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Lord,
You’ve shared these experiences and know these injustices
You’ve inhabited the darkest place.
Yet, through the unstoppable light of your resurrection you show us that death is not the end.
Wounds can be healed
Division can be reconciled
Our broken bodies can perform transformative acts
Inequity can be challenged
And that across all space and time,
Love wins.
During these uncertain times, help us to share and inspire in others the unstoppable joy of your resurrection.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us,
accept our prayers, and be with us always.
Amen.

Good Friday’ – April 15th 2022

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22 04 15 Good Friday

The Readings

Isaiah 52. 13 - end of 53

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

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

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

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

 

Hebrews 4. 14 - 16; 5. 7 - 9

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

John 18. 1 - 19. 37

 

After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples.

So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’, they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’ This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’ Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’

So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.’ The Jews replied, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’ (This was to fulfil what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

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.’ Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, ‘I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ They shouted in reply, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted,
‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’ From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.’

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’

We stand.

Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.” ’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,

‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.’
And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’

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

Our practice on Good Friday is to have the extended Gospel reading of Christ's Passion and no sermon.

The Prayers
From Common Worship Times and Seasons. 

For forgiveness for the many times we have denied Jesus,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For grace to seek out those habits of sin which mean spiritual death,
and by prayer and self-discipline to overcome them,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For Christian people,
that through the suffering of disunity
there may grow a rich union in Christ,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who make laws, interpret them, and administer them,
that our common life may be ordered in justice and mercy,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who still make Jerusalem a battleground,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who have the courage and honesty to work openly for justice and peace,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those in the darkness and agony of isolation,
that they may find support and encouragement,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who, weighed down with hardship, failure, or sorrow, feel that God is far from them,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who are tempted to give up the way of the cross,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
That we, with those who have died in faith,
may find mercy in the day of Christ,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
Holy God,

holy and strong,
holy and immortal,
have mercy upon us.

‘Palm Sunday’ – April 10th 2022

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22 04 10 Palm Sunday Eucharist

The Readings

Isaiah 50. 4 - 9a 

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

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

Luke 22.14 - 23.58

 

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’
He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’ He said to them, ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, “And he was counted among the lawless”; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.’ They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ He replied, ‘It is enough.’
He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’ Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ [[ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’
While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’ When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!’
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, ‘This man also was with him.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ Then about an hour later yet another kept insisting, ‘Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.
Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’ They kept heaping many other insults on him.
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, ‘If you are the Messiah, tell us.’ He replied, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.’ All of them asked, ‘Are you, then, the Son of God?’ He said to them, ‘You say that I am.’ Then they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!’
Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.’ Then Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He answered, ‘You say so.’ Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no basis for an accusation against this man.’ But they were insistent and said, ‘He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.’
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.
Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.’

Then they all shouted out together, ‘Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!’ (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!’ A third time he said to them, ‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.’ But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.
As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

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

Our practice on Palm Sunday is to have the extended narrative Gospel reading and no sermon.

The Prayers
From Common Worship Times and Seasons. 

For forgiveness for the many times we have denied Jesus,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For grace to seek out those habits of sin which mean spiritual death,
and by prayer and self-discipline to overcome them,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For Christian people,
that through the suffering of disunity
there may grow a rich union in Christ,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who make laws, interpret them, and administer them,
that our common life may be ordered in justice and mercy,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who still make Jerusalem a battleground,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who have the courage and honesty to work openly for justice and peace,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those in the darkness and agony of isolation,
that they may find support and encouragement,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who, weighed down with hardship, failure, or sorrow, feel that God is far from them,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who are tempted to give up the way of the cross,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
That we, with those who have died in faith,
may find mercy in the day of Christ,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
Holy God,

holy and strong,
holy and immortal,
have mercy upon us.

‘It’s difficult to talk about death, it’s difficult to talk about dying’ – April 4th 2022 – Passion Sunday

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

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22 04 03 Fifth Sunday in Lent Passion Sunday Eucharist

The Readings

Isaiah 43.16-21
Thus says the Lord,
   who makes a way in the sea,
   a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse,
   army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
   they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things,
   or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
   and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honour me,
   the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
   rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
   the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
Psalm 126
A Song of Ascents.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
   we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
   and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
   ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
   and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
   like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
   reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
   bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
   carrying their sheaves.
John 12.1-8
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’
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 Rev d Dr Beth Keith

This week as Passiontide begins, our church calendar shifts towards the events of Holy Week. We aren’t there yet, but our readings start to focus on the events leading up to Jesus’ death.
Like birth we have taken death and dying out of our homes, we may get through childhood knowing little of it, confined in hospitals, spoken of in hushed tones, and kept out of sight. In most cultures there are stories, ingrained in how we talk about death, which offer to keep death away from us. These tend to fall into one of four types.
The first type is the story of the elixir of life. In earlier times these were the stories of magical healing potions. Though we might laugh at these stories now, similar hopes are today placed in the discovery of a new medical cure, trials of new drugs, and of herbal remedies.
Many cultures have some kind of resurrection story, that death though occurring cannot hold us. This story of resurrection associated most strongly with Christianity is found in myths and other religions. And, if you’re looking for a more scientific resurrection story, perhaps cryonics may appeal.
Other options in defying death are to talk about the ongoing life of the soul beyond the death of the body. Whilst neuroscience has questioned this by locating the soul within the physicality of the brain, this view persists. The digital age offers us everlasting life in the potential to create avatars to carry on our existence after our physical bodies no longer exist.
And for those who find these three types too fanciful, there are stories of legacy. That we will live on in the lives of those who love us, in our children and the passing on of genes, or in the legacy of our work.
These death stories promise, to some degree, to keep death away, to protect us from death, to keep us from the inevitable. But in the last few years, death and dying has felt closer than ever before, as we have collectively faced covid. Our risks and vulnerabilities have become more apparent. The assumed safety of our daily lives questioned, and perhaps we have also lost loved ones.
During Holy Week we visit and replay the narratives of Jesus death. Whilst we cannot know the extent to which Jesus knew what was going to happen, the gospels suggest he knew about the inevitability of his death, that it would happen soon, and the manner in which it would occur. He seems to know he was dying, perhaps not that day, but that he was already on the path to his death.
Across the history of the church, as Christians have sought to understand Jesus’ death, different aspects or metaphors, referred to as atonement theories, have developed. One of these has been referred to as ransom theory, in which Jesus’ death is understood as an act of ransom or payment that bought the world its freedom from sin and death. Another is labelled the substitutionary or sacrificial victim model, in which Christ’s death is understood as the sacrifice necessary to atone for human guilt and sin. Moral influence theory, takes Jesus’ death as a model of moral behaviour, revealing to humanity how much God loves them. Aspects of each of these explanations and metaphors are found in the liturgies and hymns we will say and sing over the next couple of weeks.
Whilst each of these models are developed from scripture, the writings found in the Gospel of John do not fit easily into any of these. Metaphors of ransom or substitution are entirely absent from John’s gospel. And whilst the gospel talks of God’s love, unlike moral influence theories, John’s gospel emphasises human action to a much greater extent than the atonement theories suggest.
John’s gospel from start to end hangs in the tension of Jesus described as fully divine and fully human. In birth, life, death, and resurrection Jesus brings together as one, reconciles together humanity and God. Whilst other scriptures seek to explain how this reconciliation occurs and give metaphors and imagery for this. Jesus’ explanation of his death in John’s gospel is embedded in his body and in his being, in his humanity and divinity. In this drawing together as one, so God and humanity is drawn together as one.  God and humanity inseparably joined, in birth, in living, in dying.
Rather than explaining this reconciliation between God and us, John’s gospel offers this connection embedded and embodied in the Jesus. Not in explanation or reason but in person. In the living and dying and living of Jesus. In these last events and moments, when Jesus knew his death was coming, in his actions and words, as he connects with those around him, we hear his words of comfort and his words of life.
A few years ago, I read a book called Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler. Professor Bowler is one of the leading theologians writing about the influence of prosperity gospel theology in the church in America. This branch of Christianity that promises a cure for tragedy. At the age of thirty-five and having recently become a mother she was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Her book charts her path.
She writes of her struggle in coming to accept her life and death and the unhelpfulness of the stories which try to protect us from death, in her case, the allure of magic gospel promises about faith and healing. She also writes about the how inevitability of death can open us to a brightness and beauty lost on us in normal life:
"When I was sure I was going to die, I didn’t feel angry. I felt loved. At a time when I should have felt abandoned by God I was not reduced to ashes, I felt like I was floating. The feeling stayed with me for months. And as I spoke to theologians, pastors and nuns they knew what I was talking about because they had either felt it themselves or read of it in great works of Christian theology. St Augustine called it ‘the sweetness’, 
Thomas Aquinas ‘the prophetic light’. "
Her experience chimes with research on those who have near death experiences, that many describe the same odd thing: love. This was something I also felt, twenty years ago, when I was very ill with malaria, and it wasn’t clear I would recover. Though physically thousands of miles from home, and though my family had no idea I was ill, I felt held in their love, and held in God’s. In these moments somehow, we can be drawn further into God, further into love.
There has been lots of research done, particularly within the field of palliative medicine about dying well. These studies suggest that alongside the reduction of unnecessary pain, aspects of dying well include touch, connection, peace, and wonder. The importance of connecting through touch and the body’s other senses. To connect with others and feel the connection that lasts beyond death. To know you will be remembered. To feel peace, wonder and spirituality.
As I read Kate Bowler’s account alongside John’s gospel, I have been struck again by the humanity of Jesus facing his own death. As he allows Mary to wash and anoint his feet, as we heard in our reading today. As he draws together his friends and companions for one last meal, the familiar smells and tastes, the rituals of the meal. As he asks his friend to take care of his mother. As he asks them to keep meeting like this. As he asks them to remember him. As tragedy moves close, we see Jesus drawn further into connection and love with others and with God.
In John’s gospel we perhaps see this clearer than in other parts of scripture, that this inevitable tragedy is necessarily connected to the birth and life of Jesus. That in his birth, God is with us, that in his dying God is with us, and in his rising God is with us. There is so much in between that distracts and distorts that. That pulls us away from our connectedness to God. Things that break these bonds of love. In Jesus’ dying we are reminded of God’s promises, that there is no sin, darkness, or place, that God cannot find us in and love us back to life.
It cannot explain away the horror of tragedy or the depths of loneliness, the pain of grief, it cannot answer for the injustice, but that love persists, braves the horror of bodies broken and left undone. That somehow the world can become more beautiful when life is at its most bleak is the work of God. God with us, God present in our dying, present in our living.

The Prayers
Prepared by Lizzie I

God who listens
We pray for our church communities, particularly in our mission area of St Mary’s, St John’s and St Marks. We give thanks for the communities of friendship and love that have grown out of our Lent groups this year and the opportunity to pray, lament and reflect on the last two years.  Help us look forward with hope and not give up on looking for your transforming presence in unexpected places and encounters.  As Easter approaches may we continue to discern creative ways of sharing your extravagant and limitless Love.
Your Kingdom come
Your will be done
God who longs for justice
In the week of fuel costs doubling, we hold before you those who are making the stark and impossible decision between eating and heating, particularly in this community. Bring compassion to those who have the political power to support and help those struggling. Help those of us who can to discern how to give voice with those who lack agency or capacity to do so.
We continue to pray for and with organisations who  give voice to the sin of food and fuel poverty, and which seek to give agency to those living it,  particularly the Trussell Trust and Church Action on Poverty.
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
God who feels suffering
We lament the loss of all life because of the violence of war. We hold before you the despair and desperation of those held captive because of the desire for control and power of others. We pray for those who are starving and dying in places that are besieged – Tigray in northern Ethiopia, Mariupol in Ukraine. As food and aid attempts to get to those places, be with and protect those who seek to provide help in the most dangerous of conditions.
We pray that we do not become numb to the horror of war – that we continue to bear witness to the suffering of others, even in places we do not know, and we pray for peace and reconciliation in all places of conflict.
Your kingdom come
Your will be done.
God who is present to the bereaved, the unwell, the dying,
We hold before you all those we know and don’t know who are sick at this time, and for those caring for them
We pray with the bereaved in this community and continue to hold before you the lives and families of
Sunita, Glenda, and Don
For all those we love, but no longer see.
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
Amen.

‘Manna for the World’ – 27th March 2022 – 4rd Sunday of Lent & Mothering Sunday

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

22 03 27 Fourth Sunday in Lent & Mothering Sunday Eucharist

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

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

The Readings

Joshua 5.9-12

The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.’ And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were encamped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Luke 15.1-3, 11b-end

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’

 

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 Kath, a Reader at St Marys.

It has been my practice, for pretty much as long as I’ve been preaching, to give my sermons titles. For one thing it helps me to find them in the computer files but from the point of view of writing them it also helps me to crystallise the theme and to develop it. Of the two readings we’ve heard today, it was the one from Joshua that spoke to me and I wondered what the concept of manna might mean for us today? I’m also aware that today is Mothering Sunday and I want to mark that too so I’ve been wondering how to combine these two seemingly very different themes. It’s been challenging to say the least.
My working title for this sermon was “Manna for Mamas” which sounds quite catchy but all along something about it just didn’t sit quite right. Much as I want to honour mothers and the role of mothering, particularly on this special day, I also wanted to include everyone else who plays a part in raising and nurturing the next generation because in reality, it is very much a team effort. Even lone parents; and I speak as someone who was a lone parent for a few years, don’t bring up their children single handedly. From family, friends and Godparents to the army of health & social care professionals and teachers and the wider community we all have a part to play. Whether we are directly involved or a little more distanced from it I’m sure we’re all aware that looking after children and bringing them up at whatever age can be demanding, physically, mentally, emotionally and financially and there are times when we need all the help we can get. This brings me to the subject of manna.
In our reading from Joshua we encounter the Israelites as they are for the first time in years eating the produce of land that is now their own and we are told that on that very day, the manna, that had sustained them throughout their years of wandering in the wilderness, ceased. This manna is described as miraculous food provided by God. It appeared each day as a white crystalline substance that the Israelites could gather and eat but they couldn’t store it. They had to rely on God to provide it each day. They had to trust that he would do this to keep them alive and he did so, in spite of their grumbling and ingratitude until they were able to grow their own crops as we have just heard in our story.
When we use the word manna nowadays it tends to be in the context of something good arriving or happening very unexpectedly, in other words when you get just what you need just when you need it. We use the expression “Manna from heaven” and it seems to me that many of these somethings may indeed be gifts from God. The purpose of manna, in whatever form it manifests itself, is to get people through their “difficult” circumstances until they can get to a better place or better times. For each of us those difficult times will be different. For new parents it can be trying to cope with the exhaustion of looking after a baby that doesn’t sleep much or doesn’t feed properly, a bit further on it might be problems with schooling or behaviour, it can be problems with relationships or work or money and for some, later in life, it can be the heartache and problems as roles reverse and we gradually become mothers to our own parents and have to watch them decline. I know there are all too many situations I haven’t been able to include here but God knows what they are and the needs of those concerned and while I can’t pretend that all our prayers will be answered in the ways we would wish, in his own way God does provide for us. He gets us through.
Manna isn’t necessarily exciting, as evidenced by the way the Israelites complained about it, but it is sustaining. It may be in the form of someone looking after baby so we can get some much needed sleep, or someone turning up with a meal when we haven’t had the time or energy or means to cook, or someone giving us a break from caring responsibilities or keeping us company when we’re lonely or scared or grieving, an opportunity to work coming up so that we can better our finances and so on. Helping each other is something that most of us naturally want to do if we can.
The world is always in need of manna but even more so right now and we pray and trust that in some shape or form God will provide it and bring us to better times. Bear in mind, it’s possible that we may have the opportunity to be that much needed manna for someone else or they for us if we let them.
And finally, on this, their special day, let us pray for manna for all mothers and those in mothering roles, especially those who are struggling and suffering.
It seems I did get to “manna for mamas” after all.

The Prayers

Adapted from Common Worship: Times and Seasons

With confidence and trust let us pray to the Father.

Give your Church the courage
to give up her preoccupation with herself
and to give more time to your mission in the world.
We pray for those in leadership that they may serve the needs of the church in the world.
We also pray for those preparing for baptism and confirmation at Easter.

May the blood and water flowing from the side of Jesus
bring forgiveness to your people
and help us to face the cost of proclaiming salvation.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Give your world the courage

to give up war, bitterness and hatred,
and to seek peace.
We pray for the peoples of Ukraine and Russia that peace may be reached and justice found

May the shoulders of the risen Jesus,
once scourged by soldiers,
bear the burden of political and military conflict in our world.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up quarrels, strife and jealousy
in our families, neighbourhoods and communities.
We pray for those we live and work alongside in our city.

May the presence of the risen Jesus,
his body once broken and now made whole,
bring peace and direction as we live with one another.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Give us the courage
to give up our selfishness as we live for others,
and to give time, care and comfort to the sick.
We pray for those know to us who are in need at this time. We offer them to God in the silence.
May the wounded hands of Jesus bring his healing touch,
and the light of his presence fill their rooms.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up our fear of death
and to rejoice with those who have died in faith.
Especially we hold in our hearts those who have shaped our own lives.

May the feet of the risen Lord Jesus, once nailed to the cross,
walk alongside the dying and bereaved in their agony,
and walk with us and all your Church
through death to the gate of glory.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen. 
Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here, is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council

‘Bearing Good Fruit’ – 20th March 2022 – 3rd Sunday of Lent

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

22 03 20 Third Sunday in Lent Eucharist

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

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

The Readings

Isaiah 55.1-9
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
   come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
   come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
   without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
   and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
   and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
   listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
   my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
   a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
   and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
   for he has glorified you.
Seek the Lord while he may be found,
   call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
   and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
   and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Psalm 63
A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
   my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
   as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
   beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
   my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
   I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
   and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
   and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
   and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
   your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek to destroy my life
   shall go down into the depths of the earth
Luke 13.1-9
At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’
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 Matthew Rhodes

In the past few weeks we have witnessed unimaginable suffering in Ukraine. Defenceless people attacked as they hide in their homes or try to flee the Russian onslaught. Though President Putin uses spurious excuses there is no justification for what is happening. The suffering of others raises big questions for us as human beings.  It is as old as the hills and different cultures and different eras have found different answers to it. It’s probably the biggest challenge that we face as people of faith. The traditional Old Testament answer to that question is that suffering is a punishment for sin. Certainly, the sufferings that the Israelites endured in the wilderness were perceived as punishments for their immorality and faithlessness. Paul seems to have accepted this interpretation as he looked back on that time in his First Letter to the Corinthians. And it was this world view that Jesus had to work with in his ministry. People assumed that those who were ill or were suffering in some way had sinned, or their parents had sinned.
But when people come to ask him about it, Jesus confronts this view. It appears that Pilate had murdered some Galileans and many thought that they must have been particularly sinful. We do not exactly know what incident Jesus was referring to. The historian Josephus tells us that Pilate used funds from the Temple to build an aqueduct and when some Jews opposed this many were brutally killed by his soldiers. So the incident that Jesus is referring to doesn’t seem entirely out of character.
We don’t know anything about the tower of Siloam either but it seems that this was just an accident. A story in the news that would have made the front page when it happened but was soon forgotten about. In neither case, says Jesus, were those involved particularly sinful. His message is that we are all sinners and we all need to repent. By dying on a cross, Jesus showed us that God is not remote from our suffering but shares in it with us. By rising again, he showed us that suffering does not have the last word. It should not define us.
That does not mean, however, that we should take God’s grace for granted. The events that Jesus mentions, the war in Ukraine, these all remind us that life is fleeting and precarious. We cannot take it for granted. And we need to use it wisely. The prophet Isaiah reminds his people that God loves them and longs to refresh the thirsty. He longs to feed them with rich food. But he tells them that the time is now. The banquet is prepared. They need to listen to him, to seek the Lord while he may be found, to call upon him while he is near. The wicked need to abandon their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. They must return to the Lord so that they can know God’s mercy.
And having returned to God, they need to be fruitful. Returning to the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree. A man planted one in his vineyard but it failed to bear fruit. I had the same experience in my last house. My father gave me a fig tree which was an offshoot of his tree. But it never produced anything and I’m afraid I got rid of it. The man in the parable is inclined to do the same but the gardener begs for a stay of execution. He is more merciful than I was.
The gardener promises to take care of the fig tree. To dig around it and put manure on it. And I find this interesting because for fig trees to be fruitful you have to be quite tough with them. You have to plant them so that their root growth is restricted. You usually plant them next to a wall and you might create a box of paving slabs around the roots. And although a fig needs plenty of sun, it does pretty well on poor soil so it seems odd that the gardener wants to add lots of fertilizer. I wonder if Jesus’ hearers would have known that. Perhaps they would have interpreted this horticultural largesse as another sign of God’s abundant grace and love.
But even the gardener says there are limits. If the tree doesn’t bear fruit he says that the owner would be justified in cutting it down. It’s a phrase we hear a few times in the New Testament. Not just from Jesus but from John the Baptist too. And it leaves us with the question: are we bearing good fruit? Both as individuals and as a church? The past few weeks have reminded us how blessed we are in so many ways. We live in peace and security. We have access to healthcare. We have shelter, food and warmth, though these are becoming more and more expensive. And what do we do with these blessings? How do we spend our lives? How are we a blessing to others? All of us will have different answers to that question. My wife and I are fortunate to live in a five bedroomed vicarage. Our children have left home so we are thinking about hosting Ukrainian refugees. But there are so many other things we can do.
Today is our APCM. And it’s an opportunity for us to look back and give thanks for God’s faithfulness over the past year. It has been amazing to see the evolution of the worship here as we come through the pandemic. St Mary’s is hugely blessed with some very committed and gifted people who have given so much. It’s been lovely to see people coming back to church and people joining for the first time. And of course, that growth and change will continue. Hopefully, Covid restrictions can be further eased. We can resume things that we did before the pandemic but also start new things. Do things differently. St Mary’s Church is very well placed to serve this community of Walkley and we need to think about how we do that better in the future. We are thinking about this building and how it can be developed to be of greater service to people here. So as well as looking back we are also looking forward. Thinking about how we as a church can be more fruitful in the future. Perhaps some of us here are called to take on new responsibilities. God has given us so much. There is so much for us to be thankful for. How should we respond to that in the months to come? Amen.

The Prayers

Adapted from Common Worship: Times and Seasons

With confidence and trust let us pray to the Father.
For the one holy catholic and apostolic Church
For our own local churches – St. John’s, St. Mark’s and St. Mary’s,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For the mission of the Church,
that in faithful witness it may preach the gospel
to the ends of the earth,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For those preparing for baptism and confirmation
including those from our local churches …
and for their teachers and sponsors,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For peace in the world
For Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and other areas of conflict…
that a spirit of respect and reconciliation may grow
among nations and peoples,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For the poor, the persecuted, the sick, and all who suffer
For those known personally to each of us…
for refugees, prisoners, and all in danger;
that, like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori,
they too may be relieved and protected,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For those whom we have injured or offended,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
For grace to amend our lives and to further the reign of God,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
In communion with all those who have walked in the way of holiness
including those known to us personally …
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.
God our Father,
in your love and goodness
you have taught us to come close to you in penitence
with prayer, fasting and generosity;
accept our Lenten discipline,
and when we fall by our weakness,
raise us up by your unfailing mercy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.     
Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here, is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council

‘A Kingdom of Values’ – 13th March 2022 – 2nd Sunday of Lent

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

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

you can donate to the red cross DEC appeal for Ukraine here:

https://donate.redcross.org.uk/appeal/ukraine-crisis-appeal

The Readings

Genesis 15.1-12, 17-18

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.’ But the word of the Lord came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’ He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’ But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,

 

Luke 13.31-end

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.” Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” 

The Sermon

By Rev'd Dr. Alan Billings

Inevitably, and rightly, all our media this week have been dominated by stories and images from Ukraine. The one that has stayed in my mind most vividly was a brief interview with a young Ukrainian woman in a town in the east that had just been bombed. She stood, dazed, looking around at the smoking ruins of the block of flats where she lived.

Everything was destroyed. She had survived because she had been in a basement. The reporter – I suspect not quite knowing what question to put - asked her what she had lost in the bombing. I think he expected her to talk about material things – the destruction of her home and all her possessions. She paused for a moment and then said, ‘I have lost my future.’

I have lost my future.

She didn’t mean she has no future. But the future that beckons for her, if Russia takes over her country, is a future that will be determined by others and not her, by strangers and not her fellow citizens.

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether the Russian president is mentally unhinged. I don’t know about that; but what I do so see in him is a form of behaviour that we have become very familiar with in other contexts in recent years. We call it coercive control.

We see it, for example, in domestic situations where one partner, usually male, seeks to control his female partner. He must know where she is, what she is doing, who she is seeing. He may control the finances. He may insist on looking at her mobile phone. Psychological and sometimes physical abuse. The partner becomes an anxious or frightened victim, always on edge, always trying to please or at least not displease for fear of the consequences.

When a mother who is financially dependent on her male partner, is subjected to this coercive and controlling behaviour, she can feel hopelessly trapped. Her future is taken from her. To protect the children she suffers the abuse, fearful of what the consequences might be if she should try to challenge or leave. There is support available, but it is a big and brave decision to get it.

Coercive control and the feelings of fear and menace it produces. This is the atmosphere that tyrants generate around them.

And you can see it in today’s gospel. As Jesus gets closer to Jerusalem, those in power start to notice him, and don’t like it. The country is occupied by the Romans but they have installed a local ruler, a Jewish king, Herod, to act for them. He finds the teaching of Jesus threatening and seeks to control him by inducing feelings of fear and menace. Some of those around Herod, Pharisees, come to Jesus to tell him that his life is in danger. In other words, do as you are told, stop teaching, stop healing, otherwise you’ll be taken off the streets and done away with. Coercive control.

Jesus, however, takes the bold decision not to stop but to challenge. “Go and tell that fox”, he says, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow; and the third day I finish my course.”

He refuses to be controlled. But there will be a price. We know what that price will be, because we know the full story. But those around Jesus at this moment don’t. But the menacing words the Pharisees bring - “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you” - must have caused at least a frisson of fear to run through them.

What had they got themselves into? Do they stick with Jesus or get out now, while they can. And if they stick with Jesus, do they arm themselves? You’ll remember that at least one of the disciples did just that, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus was being arrested, struck a servant of the High Priest and cut off his ear.

What tyrants – whether political or domestic - in the end fear most is challenge that robs them of their power. We know that right to the end, those in power in Jerusalem think that Jesus is after worldly power. Later on Jesus will say to Pontius Pilate ‘My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight’.

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual one. A kingdom of values, if you like. But values which can’t be imposed on us. We must freely commit to them – to be loving, to be kind, to be open-hearted, to be generous, to be forgiving.

This is the kingdom Jesus seeks to bring, the kingdom of God. It is not a kingdom of this world but it is threatening to those who rule by coercion because it introduces a quite different power dynamic.

King Herod and Pontius Pilate want coercive control. They have power. They can break human bodies. And that is a fearful thing. The power that Jesus has is nothing like that. It is the power to influence human hearts. To show us a better way of living – better for all and not just a few. But it has to be freely chosen.

And that free choosing is what disturbs the tyrant.

The Prayers
Prepared by Lizzie Ilsley

God, who is Compassion
We come to you as bewildered children, trying to make sense of the world we find ourselves in, asking questions about our place, our role, our complicity and our purpose.
Gather us, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, in our bewilderment.
Help us to turn to your Love as a source of strength and clarity; to fasten our hearts to the truth and to inform our decisions and responses to unfolding crises, near and far.
Help us to speak truth to power.
We pray for those who hold responsibility for decisions which have the power to change peoples’ lives – may they discern what is right, and reject that which is harmful to others.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer

God, who is Mercy
We hold before you all in acute shock and suffering today.
We pray for healing for the families of  those killed recently in ongoing ethnic  violence in western Ethiopia.
We pray for all people who are suffering the effects of individuals’ thirst for power and control,  particularly in Yemen and Ukraine.
We pray for mothers who are giving birth in war zones – particularly the women of Mariopol maternity hospital, bombed earlier this week.
We call to mind families who are grieving the sudden or unexpected death of loved ones – in road traffic accidents, through murder or suicide. We particularly call to mind the family of the 19 year old man stabbed in Bury on Friday. May his family know your love through the care and support of his community.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

God, who is Justice
In the week of a formal apology at Stormant for historical abuse, we hold in our prayers  all those who are living through abuse, and for survivors. We pray for those who do not speak out, and suffer daily, for fear of not being believed.  We hold those who have spoken out, and were not believed.
We pray that the Church, and those who are in authority within it continue to be open and accountable for past and present abuses. Help us to acknowledge and understand that forgiveness is not the opposite of justice and that forgiveness does not remove the need to protect the vulnerable.
We pray for all those  working in safeguarding. May the Church be known as a safe and nurturing place to be, where your grace and compassion is not earnt, but encountered freely and lavishly.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

God whose love is all
We pray for those who are mourning, unwell, and those recovering from illness or accident, particularly those in this congregation and their families
We pray for those who have died, in this community and beyond, and for all those who mourn their loss, including Sunita
Remembering those whom we love, but no longer see
God of justice, truth and love
Inspire us with your Spirit to let your Kingdom come.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

6th March 2022 – 1st Sunday of Lent

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

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

The order of service can be found here:

22 03 06 First Sunday in Lent Eucharist

The Readings

Deuteronomy 26.1-11

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, ‘Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.’ When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.’ You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.

 

Luke 4.1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ’

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you”,
and
“On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

 

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 Shan Rush, Assistant Priest at St Mark's Broomhill. 

Will be uploaded shortly.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe.

 

‘We can help’ – 27th February 2022 – The Sunday before Lent

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

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

The Readings

2 Corinthians 3.12-4.2

Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practise cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

 

Luke 9.28-43a

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’ Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’ While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples,

 

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 David C, Lay Reader

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

I’m going to begin this morning by reading the pastoral letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on the current situation in Ukraine. Some printed copies are available at the back of church if you would like one.

It opens with a verse from scripture, John 14.27.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.

And it continues as follows:

Many of us will have troubled hearts as we watch with horror the attack by Russia on Ukraine. As we have already said, this attack is an act of evil, imperilling as it does the relative peace and security that Europe has enjoyed for so long. The attack by one nation on a free, democratic country has rightly provoked outrage, sanctions and condemnation.

We lament with the people of Ukraine, and we pray for the innocent, the frightened and those who have lost loved ones, homes, and family.

We continue to call for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces as well as wide-ranging efforts to ensure peace, stability and security.

These events remind us powerfully that peace is precious and it is fragile. In Chapter 14 of John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to his disciples at the Last Supper and he leaves them his peace. This is not a mere greeting, but rather something deep and abiding. This peace is something that only Jesus gives; for it is a gratuitous gift, a way of living, something to be received for the gift of peace is the gift of Jesus himself. That is why the Lord is able to offer reassurance to our hearts, why those who receive the gift of the peace of Jesus Christ at the deepest of levels should not be afraid.

Peace, therefore, is so much more than the absence of war. It is a gift, and it is also a decision, a gift that must be received. It is a choice we make that shapes the way we live well alongside each other. It characterises our relationship with God. It comes into being by seeking justice.

In these days of uncertainty and fear, we pray that each of us might again turn to the Lord and receive God’s gift of peace, work for God’s justice, know God’s reconciliation and love, and choose paths not of hatred or destruction, of violence or retribution, but God’s way of justice, mercy and peace.

As Christians, our response to a crisis must always be rooted in prayer. And so we invite you to join with us in praying most earnestly for an outpouring of the Spirit of God, that the world may once again choose peace, strengthening those international bodies that enable us to work and live together as one humanity inhabiting one world.

We pray for those in Ukraine who suffer grievously, for all who take decisions around the world, and for the people and leaders of Russia too.

In practical terms we invite you:

  • to make this Sunday, 27 February, a day of prayer for peace;
  • on Tuesday 1 March at 6pm (GMT) to pray with the Diocese in Europe for the chaplaincy in Kyiv and the churches that serve Ukraine; and
  • to participate with the wider church in Pope Francis’s call to make Ash Wednesday, 2 March, a day of prayer and fasting for peace.

You can find liturgical resources on the Church of England website

However and whenever you pray, pray that the world may choose peace, and be assured of our prayers for you.

With every blessing, Archbishop Justin and Archbishop Stephen

We are using some of the resources mentioned by the Archbishops’ in our service this morning, including the reading from the letter of James, alongside the Gospel set for today the Transfiguration.

I spoke on the feast of the Baptism of Christ in January about three turning points in Jesus’ life, where he prays and receives divine revelation in response. They point to who Jesus is, his nature. The Transfiguration is the second of these. Jesus is praying, as he often is in Luke before major change. His face changes and clothes become dazzling white. Finally the voice of God is heard from heaven ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ Jesus then turns his face towards Jerusalem and his coming passion. Jesus will lay down his life for the world.

Given how much of a mess humanity seems to make of the world, it would be easy to wonder why Jesus does this. In theory he could have opted to be the kind of Messiah that was expected. One who would fight the Roman Empire. One who would accept the temptation of the devil in Luke 4 verses 5 to 7.

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’

But that isn’t who Jesus is.

He doesn’t have those qualities James describes in his letter as earthly and devilish. He doesn’t have bitter envy or selfish ambition in his heart, nor is he boastful and false to the truth.

We have seen a lot of these qualities aired in the last week, and worse, and sadly we may see more over the coming months.

These are not Jesus’ qualities. His are the ones of peace, gentleness, mercy and good fruits mentioned in James. But also those of justice, righteousness and freedom from oppression.

These are the antidote to bitter envy and selfish ambition. We have seen these qualities on display in the last week as well.

It’s hard for us as individuals to effect change in the world for better. This applies to all sorts of different areas of life, social justice, climate change, war and conflict, the list of injustices is long.

We can pray, as the Archbishops’ have asked, and we can watch for where we can make little differences in the world. The kind word, the petition signed, the MP written to.

We will be able to help those suffering in Ukraine, even if we don’t know how just yet.

Amen.

The Prayers

Prepared by Lizzie Ilsley

God, you hold all people in the palm of your hand
We pray for the people of Ukraine in this time of intense shock, fear and uncertainty.
We pray for ordinary Russians who do not want this war. We hold before you the courageous people protesting against the invasion, risking detention.
Be present to the families of all people who have died, who can not grieve fully or give their loved one a dignified funeral.
We pray for all people – all over the world, who are displaced by conflict.
We pray for ourselves – that through prayer and action we can show compassion and solidarity with all your people, and strive for justice and peace.
Help us not to give up on peace.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

God, whose love does not discriminate
We pray for church and all faith communities, here in Sheffield, in the UK and beyond.
We hold those who are working for collaboration between churches and faiths, who may have differing perspectives but who hold in common a desire to see your kingdom come – where the first is last and the last is first – where love triumphs over hate.
Help leaders to discern ways of realising and communicating what we might positively do to pursue justice and peace, including in our own churches.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

God, who holds up the poor first
On poverty action Sunday, we hold in our prayers those, particularly in this community, who are, right now forced to make impossible decisions – whether to buy food or heat their homes.
We pray for the children in this community who are going to school without eating breakfast, or going through a weekend and holidays without a hot meal.
May we embrace righteous anger for ambivalence towards and acceptance of poverty. May we find the courage to name and challenge the systems and policies that perpetuate it.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

We hold before you all who are unwell at this time, and those who have died.
Be present to all those who are grieving and lamenting.
We pray for all those we love, but no longer see.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We end our prayers today with a prayer from the Corrymeela community:
God who sees the weakness
in acts of naked aggression;
God who feels the fear
in moments of acute helplessness:
cure this warring madness,
and shield all who fall in harm’s way.
Leach the poison from the mind
that thinks strength is shown
in a bullying force.
And may an equal strength in solidarity
give resolve to those
whose aim is to protect, and respect,
not just the ones we call our own,
but all with whom we can share
a better, more peaceful world.
Amen.

20th February 2022 – 2nd Sunday before Lent

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

https://tiny.cc/walkleystmary-youtube

The order of service can be found here:

22 02 20 2nd Sunday before Lent Eucharist

The Readings

Revelation 4

After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and cornelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.
Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing,
‘Holy, holy, holy,
the Lord God the Almighty,
who was and is and is to come.’
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.’

 

Luke 8.22-25

One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’

 

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 Lizzie I. 

Will be uploaded shortly.

The Prayers
Prepared by Oli G.

Lord of hope, as we experience this unsettled weather, we pray that you be with those who have suffered damage to their homes over the past few days, and that they are able to rebuild quickly and in partnership with one another. Help us to be mindful of climate change and the effects that it has, and will have, on the poorest in our globalised world. We pray that you will help us to work together locally, nationally and internationally to limit the effects of global warming.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord of peace, we pray you are with the peoples and communities of eastern europe as political tensions run high and the possibility of bloodshed is present. We pray you will be with the leaders of these nations, helping them to resolve disputes without violence and to seek reconciliation and mutual understanding.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord of love, we pray that you are with all those who find refuge in your church. May your loving presence be felt by all who enter sacred spaces kept in your name. We pray that all can feel accepted into our christian community regardless of background, sexual orientation or theology. May you help us to speak out against all those who reject the premise of your all encompassing unconditional love,
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord of light, as we look toward the start of Lent next month, help us to reflect on what has felt like a period of lenten living, with restrictions; times of grief, and often anxiety, thus making celebration difficult. Help us to approach this period of fasting with a gentle heart, helping us do what we can but giving ourselves permission to do what we need to make it through the current hardships.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord of resurrection, we pray for our community. We pray you will be with those who feel lonely or isolated and for those who are grieving or feel lost. We pray you are with those who cannot currently carry out their livelihoods or are struggling with different ways of working. We pray you will be with community leaders as we rebuild after the pandemic subsides, helping us to make our community a rejuvenated space for healthy living and spiritual growth.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord of joy, as the days get longer and lighter, remind us of your never ending and all-encompassing light. Allow us to open up and empty ourselves in order to be filled with your unconditional love. We thank you for the simple things we can enjoy - the early spring flowers, the cheerful birdsong and our green spaces.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.