15th October 2023 10.30am – The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

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The Readings

Philippians 4.1-9

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Matthew 22.1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’


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 the Revd Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes

The Prayers
Prepared by Barbara.

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

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

We pray for all of those affected by natural disasters, thinking especially of those affected by earthquakes in
Afghanistan and by flooding in Libya. Please help us to help them.

We pray for all those who live in Australia, and particularly for the indigenous people who are probably
feeling hurt and rejected today, following the rejection of the plan to give them a recognised political voice.
We pray for all those affected by war, thinking particularly of people in Israel and the Gaza strip,
Kazakhstan and the Ukraine. Please bring strength and comfort to those affected and help those on both
sides of any conflict to learn to value and respect each other, so that they may live in peace.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

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

We pray especially that Christians worldwide may value and love each other. Please help each of us to value
and respect our neighbours, whatever their religious beliefs, remembering that we are all your children.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

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

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

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

We name to you in our hearts all those known to us both near and far who are suffering the loss of friends
and loved ones, asking that you bring your comfort and healing to them at this time of grief.

Live Love by Richard Bott (a minister in the United Church of Canada)

In a world that is hurting,
sometimes to the point of overwhelming
our ability to respond,
there is one thing we must hold on to -
in all that we say,
in all that we do,
in the choices we make,
in the core of our being and
in our outward facing interactions -
live love.
In the complexity and the confusion,
in simplicity and in certainty -
live love.
When you are confronted by
your neighbour's anger,
or another's fear,
or one's own apathy -
fill your words,
fill your actions,
fll your self
from that Divine well of agape -

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

8th October 2023 10.30am – The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

Philippians 3.4b-14

even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes”?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

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 the Revd Canon Dr Alan Billings.

These are some words from today’s gospel:

‘When the chief priests and the pharisees heard his parables, they realised
that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared
the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.’

The story that Jesus has told the crowds is brutal. But it’s not hard to see
what he was getting at, as the priests and pharisees realised.

Once again, it’s a story about a wealthy landowner. He seeks to add to his
wealth by renting out his vineyards and wine press to tenants while he is
away. His slaves – yes, he has slaves, because slavery has a long history in
our world – the landowner’s slaves have already spent time and effort
planting the vines, building the wine press and making it all secure with a
fence and a watch tower.

Now the tenants must look after the growing crops until the harvest. At
harvest the landowner will take part of the produce and the tenants will divide
the rest between them.

But the tenants have other ideas. They want everything for themselves. So
that when the landowner sends his slaves for his share of the harvest, his
rent, they treat them badly, killing one. Perhaps they didn’t value their lives
that much; they were only slaves. But even when the landowner sends his
son to collect what is due, they have no respect for him either, and kill him as

So what is Jesus getting at when he tells this very violent story?

The priests and the pharisees realise he is telling the parable against them;
and they are not happy.

I think what Jesus is saying to the Jewish religious leaders in this parable is
something like this.

You are like the tenants in this story. Their mistake was to think that the entire
harvest belonged to them and they could do what they liked with all of it; the
landowner was cut out. Your mistake is to think that the harvest of religion, all
the good things that come through faith, belong entirely to you, they are yours
to do with what you like, and you try to cut out even God.

So what did that mean in practice? How did these good people, these
religious people, the priests and the Pharisees, how did they try to cut God

They did it by trying to exclude from God’s presence the very people that God
was most concerned about.

The whole life story of Jesus is about that.

These pious Jews were forever trying to exclude from the faith all those
whom they looked down on or despised but whom God sought to raise up –
and they criticised Jesus when he tried to include people rather than exclude

Sometimes it was children. They tried to stop children being brought to Jesus
so he has to say to them, ‘Let the children come to me and do not hinder
them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’

Sometimes it was foreigners. So Jesus goes out of his way to heal the
servant of a non-Jewish, Roman soldier, a centurion. The centurion had
impressed him by his humility. Although he is a senior military officer, he is
anxious for his servant’s health. Although he can command and order others
about, he says to Jesus, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my
roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.’

Sometimes it is women that the priest and pharisees want to exclude. So
Jesus makes a point of speaking to a woman at a well, asking her for water
and having a lively conversation with her. And to make it even more
provocative, she is a Samaritan, a non Jew.

We could go on. All these groups of people – the little children, the foreigner,
the woman - all these, the religious leaders viewed with suspicion when it
came to thinking about who God cared about, who God would have dealings
with. In this respect, the values of Jesus are very different from the attitudes
and values of the leaders, and if those leaders are to re-think their attitudes
and values they need the strong challenge of this violent parable.

Like the tenants in the parable who thought the harvest was theirs to do with
as they pleased, even cutting out the landowner, so these religious leaders
thought religion and the fruits of religion were theirs to do with as they
pleased, cutting out God. Jesus comes to challenge that in both his words
and actions.

If we are to follow him in our day we have to hear that message and apply it
to ourselves.

This is why on the front of our service booklet at St Mary’s, whenever we
come together, we remind ourselves of the values of Jesus which we share.
We are a congregation who are eucharistic – we gather as equals before
God, equally in need of God’s love and forgiveness, the harvest of faith. We
are inclusive – men, women, little children, born here or born somewhere else
– none of that matters. No one is cut out.

Put that together and it makes this a safe place to be with God.

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

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

Oh God, you sent your Son to teach us how to live according to your will, help us to listen to his
teaching and reflect on his life and death, so we may always behave as you would wish us to. May
we be generous to our friends, both near and far, and never forget the needs of those experiencing
real poverty or calamitous natural events like earthquakes, drought or floods. May we never close
our borders or doors to those in real need or who suffer oppression simply for who they are. Guide
the leaders of the rich world to act according to your will.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the Church worldwide, for our archbishops and our bishops Pete and Sophie, and for all
Christian leaders of whatever denomination, that they may always show the right form of leadership
in accordance with the teachings of Christ. We give thanks for all the many Christian organisations
which work for the greater good of all people. We join today with our partner church of St Mark’s as
they celebrate 60 years of re-opening after their church was bombed in World War 2, and give you
thanks for our partnership with St Mark’s and St John’s which has enabled us to maintain our service
to the people of Walkley.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for our City of Sheffield, and for our suburb of Walkley, giving you thanks for the sense of
community in our urban village. We remember also before you all our fellow citizens who are
struggling at this time to meet their needs.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill at this time, remembering James’ mother, Joe, and all others known to us
in special need of your healing grace at this time when Covid cases are increasing.. We give you
thanks for the work of our doctors, nurses and social workers and ask that you support them in their
healing and supportive work which can at times be very stressful. In a moment of quiet we
remember by name all known to us who are suffering at this time.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We remember before you all who have died recently, thinking especially of Keith and Margaret. We
ask for your comfort for those who mourn their loss. In a moment of quiet we think of all those we
have known and loved and see no more.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, Mark John and all your saints, we commend ourselves and the
whole creation to your unfailing love.
Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers for the sake of your only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ

1st October 2023 10.30am – Harvest Eucharist

The Readings

Deuteronomy 8.7-18

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.

Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid waste-land with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

Luke 12.16-30

Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’

He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.

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 the Revd Shan Rush.

It’s by a quirk of fate, otherwise known as an issue with the rota, that I’m preaching this morning but it’s particularly nice for me because my very first time preaching was twenty years ago at a harvest service in the evening. In spite of the fact that I knew all the congregation and I’d checked my sermon with our then vicar, Ian, to ensure that I wasn’t saying anything out of order, in all honesty I was absolutely terrified. So much so that I nearly fainted when I stood up to go to the lectern and when I’d finished speaking I’d held myself so tense that my feet had gone numb and I almost fell over. It’s a wonder I ever carried on with my lay ministry training but here we are.

Harvest is a seasonal service that is still recognised by many people, probably thanks to the fact that it continues to be marked in schools. In my first junior school we took along bags of vegetables that were then collected together to be distributed to people who needed them. However, when my family returned to Sheffield and my sisters and I started new schools and we duly took along our bags of vegetables, we felt acutely embarrassed when we saw that our classmates had brought along prettily decorated baskets containing their harvest gifts. Needless to say that the following year we made sure that we too had pretty baskets of produce to offer.
When I first started coming to this church many people here also decorated their baskets in the same way, but gradually over the years, times and needs have changed and our ways of giving have changed with them. On balance I think that’s been a good thing as the gifts and recipients are better targeted, but hopefully the display of our gifts today represents both the traditional and contemporary versions of harvest festival and everything will be put to good use.

I consider myself lucky in that I grew up with a fairly good awareness of traditional farming activities; we had a farmer’s field behind our house and my friend lived on a farm which I visited regularly. I saw some of what went on with tending both animals and crops and along with many other young people I went potato picking. This was back-breaking work in the cold and wet for the princely sum of 8 shillings per day (40 pence in today’s money) but it was a good experience and for the time the money wasn’t bad. I must admit though, I don’t miss the smell of muck spreading!

I wonder how many of today’s young people or slightly older people for that matter know much about what is involved in farming or where their food actually comes from before it gets to the shops. That said, like our way of marking harvest, farming has changed a great deal and much of it is on a vast scale in order to meet the needs of the food industry who in turn are trying to meet our needs as customers and consumers. Colossal fields, acres or hectares of poly tunnel greenhouses and many animals reared in very artificial environments are all part of it which we should be aware of. Whether we feel ok about it or not is another matter.

Moving on from the growing of our food to its processing I must admit that I find programmes like “Inside the Factory“ both fascinating and very informative as they show what industrial scale food production looks like. It’s very different to the romanticised images conveyed on some of the packaging of the end products but it is impressive nonetheless. Tons of ingredients go through complicated machines and processes, designed, built and run by a lot of very skilled and hard working people to become the food that some of us are fortunate enough to be able to buy.

I make this last point because not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to buy what they need or to grow enough of it for themselves. Traditionally harvest was a time of people coming together to bring in the crops, everyone did their bit and by whatever means of exchange was used at the time, the produce was shared. But nowadays it’s different. All too often we have the crazy situation of massive waste of food and other goods at the same time as some people struggling to afford what they need. Thankfully there is now greater awareness of this and many schemes have been devised such as food banks and community kitchens to avoid this waste and ensure that more people get access to what they need. Our passage from Luke reminds us that life isn’t about acquiring more and more food or anything else which we then hoard for our own benefit. And just in case we’re tempted to be too self-congratulatory about what we accomplish, the reading from Deuteronomy warns against falling into the trap of believing that we are solely responsible for it. We all get help along the way, from God and from our fellow people. Real richness in life is about using what we have along with our God given gifts for the benefit of all. In other words, sharing.

To conclude, and this is something I touched on in a previous sermon but worth repeating I think. We are part of God’s harvest, but unlike everything else that is grown or made we have quite a lot of choice about what sort of “fruit” we become. I don’t think there would be much argument against suggesting that it’s good to be honest, honourable, decent and hard-working because these are good values to have but how about adding to these the “Fruits of the Spirit” and cultivating those attributes too? Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In a world so full of troubles, are we not very much in need of such a harvest.

The Prayers
From Times and Seasons.

Let us offer our prayers to God for the life of the world
and for all God’s people in their daily life and work.

God, the beginning and end of all things,
in your providence and care
you watch unceasingly over all creation;
we offer our prayers
that in us and in all your people your will may be done,
according to your wise and loving purpose in Christ our Lord.
Lord of the harvest,
in your mercy hear us.

We pray for all through whom we receive sustenance and life;
for farmers and agricultural workers,
for packers, distributors and company boards;
as you have so ordered our life that we depend upon each other,
enable us by your grace to seek the well-being of others before our own.
Lord of the harvest,
in your mercy hear us.

We pray for all engaged in research to safeguard crops against disease,
and to produce abundant life among those who hunger
and whose lives are at risk.
Prosper the work of their hands
and the searching of their minds,
that their labour may be for the welfare of all.
Lord of the harvest,
in your mercy hear us.

We pray for governments and aid agencies,
and those areas of the world where there is disaster, drought and starvation.
By the grace of your Spirit,
touch our hearts
and the hearts of all who live in comfortable plenty,
and make us wise stewards of your gifts.
Lord of the harvest,
in your mercy hear us.

We pray for those who are ill,
remembering those in hospital and nursing homes
and all who are known to us.
We pray for all who care for them.
Give skill and understanding
to all who work for their well-being.
Lord of the harvest,
in your mercy hear us.

We remember those who have died,
whom we entrust to your eternal love
in the hope of resurrection to new life.
Lord of the harvest,
in your mercy hear us.

We offer ourselves to your service,
asking that by the Spirit at work in us
others may receive a rich harvest of love and joy and peace.
Lord of the harvest,
in your mercy hear us.

Merciful Father:
Accept these prayers
For the sake you Son
Our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

24th September 2023 10.30am – The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

Philippians 1.21-end

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Matthew 20.1-16

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

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

The Sermon
By Revd Dr Canon Alan Billings.

Jesus was a teacher. A popular teacher who drew the crowds.

One major reason for that was because he taught by telling memorable
stories, stories that would stick in people’s heads and make them think.

Sometimes his stories show us how to live well, before God.

Remember the Good Samaritan – the story about a man who was beaten up
by robbers and left at the side of the road. Several people come along, see
him, but don’t want to get involved. They think only of themselves, not the
man in distress; and so pass by on the other side. (Jesus gives us these
memorable phrases as well.)

The man who is beaten up is, like Jesus, a Jew. But then, in the story, a non-
Jew comes along, a Samaritan. He does not think only of himself, but goes to
help the man who has been robbed. He does not pass by on the other side.
Jesus tells this story to show what it means to be a good neighbour to others,
something he commends. Go and do thou likewise. We continue to speak
about people who are good neighbours as good Samaritans.

But the story in today’s gospel is different. It is not told so that we can copy
the behaviour of anyone in it. It is told to illustrate a contrast. A contrast
between the way we human beings ought to behave towards one another and
the way God acts towards us.

If we are to live together in a reasonably harmonious way, then we need to
treat one another fairly and justly. If we don’t, we are heading for trouble.

This is what the landowner finds in the story when he goes out to hire workers
to gather the grapes from the trees in his vast orchard. He sets workers on at
different times throughout the day – first thing, and then at the 3rd , 6th , 9th , and
11th hour.

In the evening, when the time comes to pay the labourers for their work, he
pays them all exactly the same – a denarius – hardly the living wage – he
pays them the same however long they worked.

And just to make a bad situation worse, he gets his steward to pay them in
reverse order to how he set them on – the last get paid first and the first last.
So that those who had borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat of
midday would know they only got as much as those who turned up for the last

They are aggrieved and mutter.

The story is about bad industrial relations. This is how not to run a business
or indeed any human organisation or enterprise because its unfair, it’s not

If we want to live together in reasonably friendly and harmonious ways, then
we need to treat one another fairly and justly.

But Jesus says this is a story about the kingdom of heaven. So what is it
telling us about God and his ways with us?

It’s saying that, like the landowner, God does not act according to justice
either – that’s the thing that makes you sit up.

The landowner should have behaved with justice. But suppose God acted
with justice. Suppose God gave each of us our just deserts, where would that
leave us? Are there no skeletons in our cupboards? Are there not things in
our past of which we are ashamed? Do we have no guilty secrets? No faults?
No flaws? No failings? Are we such saints that we would dare to say to God,
treat us according to our merits, our just deserts?

But God does not act on a principle of justice. But neither does he act on
some personal and arbitrary whim, like the landowner. He acts on a principle
of mercy. He does not treat us according to our merits, but according to his
mercy, his love.

This is why at the start of our service we cry out, Kyrie eleison, Lord, have
mercy. Not ‘treat me according to justice’, but treat me as a loving father or
mother would treat their beloved son or daughter.

And while many of us may have been Christians for the whole of our lives,
some may have joined our number only in later years. We should not feel
resentful that the reward is the same. No one has special privileges. In the
kingdom of heaven, it doesn’t matter that the last will be first and the first last.

Our reward is God’s eternal love.

At whatever point in our lives we come to our senses and invite God in, we
shall all know the same love. For he treats us not according to merit but
according to mercy.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe.

We pray for the Church of Christ, for Bishop Pete and Bishop Sophie,
our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, all here who lead us in worship
and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St
Mary’s, St John’s and St Mark’s.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Today’s readings remind us that we are all equal recipients of God’s
gifts, and that whatever may happen to us in our lives, we still have
Jesus. We pray that we carry these truths with us through the week
to come to give us strength and comfort.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the people of Ukraine and hope for a peaceful resolution
to that conflict. We pray for families on both sides of the conflict who
have seen their members go to war. We pray for the people of
Nagorno-Karabakh that the current uncertain situation is resolved
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those in political office here in the UK, that they may
govern wisely and with the interests of the whole country in mind.
We pray that they do not sacrifice the well-being of the planet for
political expediency.
We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of
Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or
spirit, and those who find life especially difficult at this time. We pray
that you strengthen them and bring them the healing and peace that
belong to your kingdom. In a few moments of silence, we carry in
our thoughts those we know who need your healing presence in their
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those currently close to death, and those accompanying
them on this final part of their Earthly journey. We pray for those
who have died, recently and in the past, and those who mourn. By
name we pray for Catherine and her family.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

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

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

17th September 2023 10.30am – The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

Romans 14.1-12

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgement on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgement on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honour of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honour of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honour of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written,
‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.’
So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Matthew 18.21-35

Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

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

The Sermon
By Revd Alison Wragg

The Prayers
Prepared by Kath

10th September 2023 10.30am – The Blessed Virgin Mary Eucharist

The Readings

Isaiah 61.10-end

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

Luke 1.46-55

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

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

The Sermon
By Revd Dr Canon Alan Billings.

How should we remember Mary, after whom our church takes its dedication?
Down the centuries Mary has been seen and understood in many different

She has been given many different titles: the Blessed Virgin, Saint Mary,
Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Madonna – Ma Donna the Italian for My

In art and statuary she has been painted in beautiful robes, often blue and
white, sometimes wearing a crown.

There have been annual commemorations or feast days in church services.
September 8 has been kept as the feast of Saint Mary for almost 1500 years
– hence our service this morning. And in some churches, mainly Roman
Catholic, the conception of Mary is remembered and the death, the feast of
the Assumption in August.

We could say that as time has gone by, Mary has become more and more
exalted in Christian thinking. So that she became, for example, not just one of
the saints, but the greatest of the saints – because she was the closest to
Jesus and she was the God-bearer – another of those titles.

These ways of thinking about Mary all made sense to people who were
Christians and members of the Church.

But in our day the number of active Christians and church members has
fallen. So these ways of depicting Mary mean less and less to people in a
less Christian, less religious society. If you talk about Madonna, people are
more likely to think of a singer than the mother of Jesus.

These ways of thinking about Mary only really make sense, then, in the
context of the faith. If that is not the context of many if not most people today,
if they struggle to understand what on earth we mean by calling Mary ‘Queen
of Heaven’ or ‘the Madonna’, does Mary have anything to say to our changed
and changing world?

I think the answer can be Yes … if we proceed with care,
Mary is first of all, before she is a saint, before she is Queen of Heaven,
before she is any of these things that Christians have wanted her to be and
have called her … before all this, Mary is a human being. Before she is any of
these things that make her so very different from you and me, she is like you
and me.

What I think we are learning to do in our day is find again what we have so
often lost down the years, Mary the human being.

In many ways, Mary the human being is not only more interesting, certainly
more relatable to, but also more likely to be historically true. Many of those
titles, much of that art, owes more to the Christian imagination than to
anything in scripture or reality.

Mary the mother sets us thinking not just about her motherhood but about all
parenting. As we see what she experiences, we find echoes of our own. She
rejoices in having a child, rejoices in seeing him grow and mature and do
well. But she also knows what every parent fears – she sees him suffer and
knows she can do nothing for him; her child dies before she does. She
reveals to us the truth about love – the more we love another the more we
open ourselves up to pain.

But Mary also experiences things which are not the lot of all mothers, all
parents, but are certainly the lot of some in our world. The birth of her child is
with little or no support. No National Health service. A birth in a stable. There
are women for whom something like this is the reality. And then she has to
take her baby and flee the country for a while and become a refugee. And for
some today this is how it is. And even at the end of her son’s life, his death is
not a natural death but a cruel one, inflicted by the state. Some mothers in
our world know all these things.

Mary the human being, then.

So there is a strange paradox here. The more the Christian Church was
dominant in society – the long centuries of Christian Europe – the more
remote Mary became as we exalted her. We lost sight of the woman who
gave birth to the Saviour.

But now we can find her again. If the old titles no longer help us in our faith,
finding Mary the human being can. From her human experiences we can take
courage and comfort.


The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father. Almighty God, our
Heavenly Father, you promised through your Son, Jesus Christ, to hear us when we pray in faith.

We give you thanks today, for the life of Mary, that you chose her to be mother of our Lord, and that
she remained close and supportive of him throughout his life. We pray for this church, dedicated to
St. Mary, that we may continue to serve our community and join together in regular worship in years
to come.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for our world, for all nations suffering excessive heat, wild fires and flooding. May all
nations, particularly the richer ones who are mainly responsible for these problems, to come
together and agree a strategy to reverse global warming. We pray also for Ukraine and other lands
where there is war or oppression. We ask that all nations who wish to exercise power will come to
accept that working together for peace and cooperation is in accordance with your will.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for our City of Sheffield as it celebrates Heritage Open Days this weekend. We give you
thanks for all the people who have come into this church, perhaps for the first time, and who have
visited Walkley’s other places of historic interest like the Library, the Community Centre and our
friends at Ebenezer Methodist Church. We pray also for all away on holiday, that they may return
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are unwell at this time, for Kath, James’ mother and Alan, and all others known
to us. We give you thanks for the skills of doctors and nursing staff, and all the relatives who give
support at times of illness. Give them the strength to continue in their work after the enormous
stresses of Covid. We pray that any new strain will be addressed before becoming very serious.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer.

We remember before you all who have died recently, particularly Keith Burchell, and ask you to be
with all who mourn their loss. In a moment of quiet we remember all those we continue to
miss……………May they all rest in peace.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, our patron saint, Mark, John and all your saints, we commend
ourselves to your unfailing love.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.


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

3rd September 2023 10.30am – Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

Romans 12.9-end

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Matthew 16.21-end

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
The Cross and Self-Denial
Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

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

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

The Sermon
By Revd Sue Hammersley.

The church has set aside the weeks approaching Harvest as
Creationtide, a time for us to be mindful of the beauty of our
world, the damage we have already caused and the legacy
we leave behind for future generations. It is an opportunity
to reflect on how we might live more simply that others may
simply live.

Some of us are making enormous changes to our lifestyle to
reduce our impact on God’s wonderful world and people in
countries where the devastating effects are being
experienced most profoundly. Others of us are struggling
not to be overwhelmed.

Why does this matter to us as Christians? Because our
relationship with the world in which we live is part of the
outworking of our spiritual life. Understanding God as
Creator is woven through our scriptures and our liturgy. We
see God’s hand at work in the very fabric of the earth, in the
diversity of life forms and in the call to humanity to be
careful stewards.

As we see all kinds of species becoming extinct because of
the behaviour of the human race we come face to face with
the concept of sin – across the world we are becoming
separated from God’s call to us to care.

This morning’s readings don’t directly refer to our
responsibility for the planet, but there is much we can learn
from the encounter between Jesus and Peter.
Jesus is looking ahead to the time when he must suffer, die
and be raised. Looking at the future in this way is deeply
distressing for Peter and he tries to stop Jesus from speaking
in this way, “This must never happen to you!”
Jesus is angry with Peter because he doesn’t understand the
significance of what he is telling them. He utters those
much-quoted words, “Get behind me Satan!”

Jesus could not have been calling Peter, Satan. Peter was
the rock on whom he built the church… Peter was to
become one of the leaders of those first followers of the

But Peter needed to be more open to what Jesus was
teaching him. Peter’s understanding needed to be re-
formed, re-shaped, turned around, again and again. Jesus is
trying to tell his disciples about what is going to happen and
Peter thinks he knows better.

When we hear scientists telling us that the future of our
whole planet is at risk, we can’t take it in… It can’t be as bad
as all that, we are tempted to say.

In the Gospels “Satan” is described as the tempter (Mark
1.7-17; Matthew 3.13-4.6; Luke 3.34-4.6) the voice which
tries to tell us that there’s an easier way than God’s Way.

We don’t have to listen to God’s Word, we don’t have to do
the right thing because round the back there’s an easier path
which means we don’t have to face up to reality, we don’t
have to take responsibility.

This morning’s Gospel passage reminds us that Jesus doesn’t
always tell us what we wanted to hear. His voice can
unsettle, discomfort, turn us upside down… He calls us to
the life-giving path but that is often not the easiest route.
And it is life-giving for whole communities of people, it might
not be immediately clear how it is life-giving for me.
But just as Jesus predicted his death he also foretold his
resurrection. As people who are called to follow Jesus’ Way
we are not to be overwhelmed by despair; this does not
enable us to spread good news, to be people of hope, to
believe that in God all things are possible… We need to
recognise the voice of the tempter who is leading us away
from God’s beautiful Way and say, “Get behind me”.
The tempter is the stumbling block, the voice which says:
you are powerless, there’s nothing you can do, it’s too late,
all is doomed… Jesus says, attend to divine things and you
will find the life which is stronger than death.

Many climate campaigners recognise that change is not
motivated by fear but by hope. They encourage us to begin
by spending more time in the natural world, looking through
a window or going for a walk, noticing the changing seasons
and appreciating where our food comes from.

Yesterday’s Horticultural Show celebrated locally grown
produce. I’m so sorry that I wasn’t here but it was an
opportunity to celebrate the abundance of nature and it is
good that this is done here at church.
In Romans, Paul says,

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Jesus’ friends understood what it felt like to be heading
towards a catastrophe, but as we focus on that which is of
God, the source and fulfilment of life, abundant, fruitful life
for all, we are more able to make the small changes in our
own lives, to campaign for the larger changes in society and
to call for a greater corporate responsibility to protect this
beautiful and fragile earth, not just for humankind but for
every kind of living thing.

[Our] God, you with the Maker’s eye
can tell if all that’s feared is real;
and see if life is more than what
we suffer, dread, despise and feel.
If some by faith no longer stand
nor hear the truth your voice intones,
stretch out your hand and help your folk,
from stumbling blocks to stepping stones.

Iona Community,
Love from Below



The Prayers
Prepared by Catherine

God who brings life to the Church, we pray that we may serve you and others with love, patience, hope and perseverance. Help us to live in harmony with one another.  Give strength and comfort to anyone worldwide whose profession of faith puts them in physical danger.  Help us to stand up for what is right and to hate what is evil, that all might flourish.
God of life
Hear our prayer
God who brings life to our world, we pray for all rebuilding their lives following disasters.  We remember the victims of Hurricane Idalia, and of the wildfires in Canada, Hawaii, and many places in Southern Europe.  We ask that their basic needs for food and shelter are met whilst they rebuild more permanently.  We pray too for those whose lives have been upturned by wars and coups, asking for your peace.
God of life
Hear our prayer
God who brings life to learning, we pray for our schools and colleges.  We ask that new schoolchildren and students may settle in easily.  We pray for staff and children facing additional hurdles this term due to unsafe buildings.
And we remember those worldwide who struggle to get an education for many different reasons, thinking especially of girls and women in Afghanistan.
God of life
Hear our prayer
God who brings life to community, we pray for our city and neighbourhood, giving thanks this weekend for the enjoyable produce show.
We pray for those who struggle to buy healthy fruit and vegetables for their families and for the work of all Sheffield’s foodbanks.
God of life
Hear our prayer
God who brings life and healing, we pray for those who are unwell, lonely, bereaved or in any kind of need.  Give them comfort, strength and peace and open our hearts to help as we can.  In a few moments’ quite we remember [...and] those known particularly to us.
God of life
Hear our prayer
God who brings everlasting life, we remember those who have died.  We
think of the victims of the fire in Johannesburg.  In a few moments’ quiet we remember [...and] all known to us who have passed into your eternal kingdom.
God of life
Hear our prayer
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2000


27th August 2023 10.30am – Twelfth Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

Download The Order of Service for

Watch this week's service on YouTube

Read St Mary's Walkley Church News for 27th August 2023



The Readings

Isaiah 51.1-6

Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,
you that seek the Lord.
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
but I blessed him and made him many.
For the Lord will comfort Zion;
he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Listen to me, my people,
and give heed to me, my nation;
for a teaching will go out from me,
and my justice for a light to the peoples.
I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,
my salvation has gone out
and my arms will rule the peoples;
the coastlands wait for me,
and for my arm they hope.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment,
and those who live on it will die like gnats;
but my salvation will be for ever,
and my deliverance will never be ended.

Matthew 16.13-20

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


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

The Sermon
By Joe, Reader at St Marys.

May I speak in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit –
Amen. Please be seated.

As is often the case with readings from the Gospels, it’s worth taking
a little time to place today’s reading from Matthew in context, to
allow us to get the wider picture.

Chapter 16 in Matthew is often seen as revealing who Jesus is and
what He came to do. I actually came across the teachings in this
Chapter long before I became a practising Christian – they’re actually
used in a short story by the brilliant (if slightly oddball) American
science fiction writer Phillip Dick. What you read when you’re 15
tends to stick with you…..

In this Chapter the disciples are warned that they shouldn’t expect a
multiplicity of signs of the coming of the Messiah, and that they need
to be aware of false teachings and resist them. As we see in today’s
reading, the future of the Church is placed in Simon (now Peter’s)
hands. Jesus explains to his followers what is going to happen to
him, and he utters the famous words ‘Get behind me, Satan’ to Peter
when Peter says that they won’t let Jesus die. And the disciples are
told to deny themselves and take up their crosses should they wish
to follow him, even though it means death. They learn that they will
gain life by losing their lives, and they would see the coming of the
Kingdom of God. Chapter 16 is rich – go and take a look!

Jesus is speaking with the disciples in a place called Caesar Phillipi.
This was a city built by Caesar – it even contained a temple to him -
about 25 miles north east of the Sea of Galilee, and had a mainly
Gentile population. It was also near to a number of old ruined places
of worship to Baal, and a nearby cave was said to be the birthplace of
the Greek god Pan. It’s a place steeped in paganism, and it’s pretty
safe to say that whilst teaching the disciples there Jesus is not going
to be bothered to much by Jewish people wishing to be taught by

At the start of today’s reading, Jesus asks the disciples who the
people think He is, referring to himself as ‘The Son of Man’.:
He asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and
still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

So – some folks think that Jesus and John are one and the same. This
may seem strange to us – after all Jesus and John are preaching at
the same time and in the same general region - but don’t forget that
there’s no social media, regular news or media. It’s all word of
mouth; and people could easily conflate the two itinerant teachers
who had no time for human authority in to one man. Others say
Jesus is one of the prophets returned; and some say he is Elijah. It’s
worth bearing in mind that these were all men who’d preached the
word of God whilst standing up to the political authorities of their
day. The people were longing for an ‘old school’ political Messiah to
lead them out of the grip of Rome.

Despite the importance of these men, by comparing Jesus to them
the people had totally under-estimated the nature and identity of
Jesus. They did get some of it right; they appreciated the
relationship between Jesus and God, but they still regarded Him as a

Jesus continues with the disciples:

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
He’s expecting more from his disciples, his pupils, his followers. He
wants to know what they think after their experiences with him.
They originally were attracted to Jesus as a teacher, but their
experiences with him gave them the insight that He was much more
than that. Jesus was expecting His disciples to go somewhat further
than the general public. And he was not to be disappointed.
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the
living God.”

He acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah, but also refers to Him as the
son of the living God – accepting the divinity of Christ. It’s been
suggested that the phrase ‘living God’ was deliberately spoken by an
inspired Simon Peter to reflect the place in which this discussion was
taking place. Remember that the area around Caesarea Phillipi was
rich in relics of old religions – deserted altars to Baal, the alleged
birth place of Pan – and new attempts at religion – temples to
Caesar. By specifying the ‘living God’ Peter is reinforcing that Jesus is
the son of the true, eternal, living God.

Jesus is delighted with the response, and blesses Simon Peter, telling
him that he didn’t come to this conclusion about Jesus by himself,
but that it was inspired within him by God. He goes on to add:
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build
my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

Simon Peter becomes Peter, a name that means ‘rock’ – but it’s not
totally certain that when Jesus refers to building His church upon this
rock, he’s referring to Peter or Himself. At this stage of his live, Peter
isn’t exactly a rock-like character – he’s hot-headed, and will
eventually betray Jesus after his arrest. But Peter will become a
much more stable, solid and reliable disciple with time, and will be
instrumental in building the early church. It’s worth adding that this
is the first time the Greek word for ‘church’ turns up in the Bible; it
appears only three times in the Gospels, all in Matthew, and then
appears frequently after that in the rest of the New Testament.
Church was not then a necessarily religious place; Jesus is referring
to a community that He is building of his disciples.
And that community will be eternal; not even death – Hades, the
land of the dead – will be able to overcome it.

Jesus continues:

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever
you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you
loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”

Jesus is here telling the disciples that they’re going to be creating the
new church – setting up the rules, so to say. They’ll be responsible
for determining which aspects of the Jewish faith are to be binding
on the people of Christ, and which aren’t. The keys refer to opening
up the new church to people. Peter is a sort of ‘first amongst equals’
within the disciples, but all the disciples are to be involved.
What can we gain from today’s reading?

First, we can take a more active look at our faith. Jesus says “Who
do you say I am?” This is a question that is asked of all of us who
follow Jesus Christ – who is Jesus to us? Who do WE say Jesus is to
us? How often do we ask ourselves this question? Perhaps we
should ask it more often than we do, and be prepared for the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit to enlighten us about our beliefs, as it
did Peter.

Secondly, we might ask about what we can contribute to the church?
Peter was possibly that last person that you might regard as a ‘rock’
at this time. But Jesus still placed great faith within him. There is a
saying ‘Jesus qualifies the called; he doesn’t call the qualified’ – the
disciples – perhaps especially Peter – would not appear on paper to
be the best qualified for the job of building Jesus’s church. But they
did a good job.

What is the Holy Spirit inviting us to contribute to?


The Prayers
Prepared by David.

For the unity of the Church in witness and proclamation of the Gospel.
let us pray to the Lord:
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.

For the peace and stability of all peoples
and for the leaders of the nations. We pray for ongoing conflicts in the world, that peace may overcome violence and swords be beaten into ploughshears.
let us pray to the Lord:
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.

For places of work, education and leisure. For our community of Walkley and all those enjoying a period of rest of over the summer.
let us pray to the Lord:
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.

For a blessing on our homes;
for our relations and friends and all whom we love.
let us pray to the Lord:
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.

For the sick and suffering and all who minister to their needs. We pray for Kath and for all those known to us.
let us pray to the Lord:
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.

Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.

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



20th August 2023 10.30am – Eleventh Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

Isaiah 56.1, 6-8

Thus says the Lord:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered.

Matthew 15.21-28

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


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

The Sermon
By Catherine, Reader at St Mary's


The Women’s World Cup final is about to begin/has just begun.  If you secretly wanted to miss St. Mary’s today in order to watch another Mary’s skill in goal, don’t worry -  I’ll keep this short so you can catch the second half…
Football is tribal.  Us and them.  For at least 90 minutes, you do whatever you can (within the rules) to confound the opposition and win the game.  Sadly with the men’s game, the rivalry between fans often turns ugly.  To maintain order and safety, pubs restrict customers to home fans, and the police bring out the dogs and helicopter.
The women’s game has been refreshingly different, and has become deservedly popular in recent years.  It’s been noticeable that the players are kind to each other and those winning are often quick to console their tearful opponents.
Because you need two teams to make a football match possible.  You need many more to put on a tournament.  You need players of great skill on all sides to make the match challenging and entertaining.  For a World Cup you need teams from all over the world.  This year’s tournament did that well.
Players might be light or dark-haired, have dark or light skin, wear a blue shirt or a red one, but ultimately, they’re all footballers.  Some have only been opponents during this tournament.  During the rest of the year, they play on the same team for the same club.  And all of the teams in this World Cup have faced the same challenge – to encourage people to take the women’s game as seriously as they do the men’s game.  These women have all ultimately been on the same side.  Far more unites them than divides them.
Forming tribes and groups happens in all walks of life.  It happens in sport, politics, between different racial or socio-economic groups and different religious groups.  It happens within the same religious group.
Today’s passage from Isaiah shows that this is not new.  Its backstory is found in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  After 70 years’ exile in Babylon, the people of Judah have permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and temple.  Those who have returned now follow a strict interpretation of God’s Law.  They see the exile as God’s punishment for having strayed from the Law, and want to get things right this time.  They worry that foreigners might contaminate their worship and society with other beliefs and practices.  So they refuse to let the people of Samaria help with the rebuild, and tell anyone with a foreign wife to send her away.
The prophet objects:
...my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
Besides those already gathered.
“You were far away and I brought you home.  But others love me too.  I want them to worship and serve me, just as I want you to.  My temple shall be a house of prayer for everyone.”
The issue is still alive and well in Jesus’ time.
When a Canaanite woman follows Jesus’ group, crying out repeatedly for Jesus to heal her daughter, his first response is to ignore her.  When she persists, his disciples urge him to send her packing.
Finally he speaks.  “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
Is he speaking to the disciples or the woman?  It isn’t clear.  Is he speaking with conviction, in jest, or with a hint of doubt in his tone, suggesting a change of mind?  We don’t know. But she sees her chance, comes nearer and kneels before him.  When he suggests that his own people might need him first...
“It isn’t fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs”
...she is ready with her response:
“Even the dogs will eat up the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
She’ll gladly have whatever his people will discard.
An encounter with a foreigner, a woman at that.  But one in which she stands her ground, opening up the possibility to Jesus’ disciples, yes and maybe even to Jesus himself, that God’s love may be broader than ever previously imagined.  And so her daughter is healed.
Far more unites us than divides us.  God is on your side, my side and their side.  So whatever our individual differences let’s remember as a church that we’re ultimately all playing together for God’s side.  And that God’s love is still broader than we can ever imagine.

The Prayers
Prepared by Kath

God our Father, hear us when we pray to you faith.
We give you thanks for this day, for our lives and the amazing world you have given us to live in. Help us to be good stewards and to look after it for this generation and the generations to come.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Father we pray for your church throughout the world and for those of other faiths who worship you. May we find ways to live together peaceably and handle our differences respectfully and with open minds that we might learn from one another. We pray for those caught up in the inter-faith strife taking place in Pakistan; for the Muslims who believed that their holy book, the Quran had been desecrated and for the Christian community who suffered the indiscriminate violent backlash to this. We pray for a peaceful end to this awful situation and that in time relationships between the religious communities can be rebuilt.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for the world and all peoples, especially those who live in troubled places because of wars, oppression, natural disasters, political strife, economic problems and great need for the basics of life. Father help us to work together to end these terrible situations wherever possible and to share the earth’s resources fairly for the good of all. Bless all who strive for these things. We continue to pray for those suffering the effects of climate change such as excessive heat, drought, wild fires and flooding. Especially we pray for the people of Hawaii who have lost loved one and their homes and livelihoods in the recent terrible fires.  Father help us to change our ways so that we do not destroy our home.
We pray also for all who are caught up in migration due to troubles in their homelands and for those trying to deal with the distressing and complex situations that arise out of this. Father we pray that just and compassionate ways forward will be worked out, especially for those who are in fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for all who are ill and those who are nearing the end of their lives. May they receive the care, comfort and compassion they need. We pray also for those who accompany them on their journey who also need to be supported.
In a moment of quiet let us call to mind anyone known to us who is in special need of our prayers at this time and let us also pray for ourselves and our own concerns and needs.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We remember all who have died, some recently and some long ago. We pray that they are at peace and that those who love and miss them will be comforted and cared for in their grief.
Again in a short time of quiet let us remember those special to us who are no longer with us.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers,
for the sake of your Son,
our saviour, Jesus Christ.
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000



13th August 2023 10.30am – Tenth Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

1 Kings 19.9-18

At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’

He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’

Matthew 14.22-33

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

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


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

The Sermon
By Revd Canon Dr Alan Billings

We use the word ‘miracle’ in many different ways, and sometimes we use it in
a way that is the opposite of what we normally mean by it.

What we normally mean when we speak about a miracle is an occurrence
that seems to defy all rational explanation, something that seems to go
against the laws of nature, like walking on water.

Yet we sometimes speak about a miracle when we mean the exact opposite.
For instance, I read the other day about a new drug that was going to cure, or
at least arrest, a rather rare type of cancer. It was called by the media a
‘miracle’ drug.

But this new drug didn’t defy rational explanation or go against the laws of
nature. It was the exact opposite.

It had been developed by medical scientists not by defying nature but by
understanding nature better. They had discovered how the particular cancer
cells in question could be inhibited by an injection of certain chemicals, a
certain drug. And this new drug caused the cancer cells to shrink. The
miraculous drug was not against nature but working with it.

So why was it called miraculous?

Two reasons, I think. First because this had never been done before. It had
gone beyond what past medical science was capable of doing – and that
seemed miraculous.

And second, because those occurrences we want to call miraculous are
things that take our breath away, things we find amazing. This new drug, that
was going to revolutionise the treatment of one form of cancer, did take your
breath away, it was amazing. It was miraculous.

So I don’t think something has to defy rational explanation or go against
nature for us to call it miraculous. It just has to bowl us over and be
astonishing – and bring us hope and cheer.

In the Bible, there is a third factor for something to be called a miracle. As
well as being out of the ordinary and awesome, it also tells us something
about God or powerfully discloses God’s presence.

So what about the gospel for today and Christ’s walking on water? Is this
something that defies rational explanation and goes against nature or not?

I don’t know.

Part of the reason I don’t know is because the gospels were written in a pre-
scientific age. Unlike us, who have the benefit of a scientific understanding of
the workings of the world, the people at the time of Christ largely didn’t. Of
course they knew that if you throw a stone in the air it will not stay up but will
fall to the ground. Of course they knew that water does not flow uphill. They
could see these things with their own eyes. But they had no understanding of
gravity and how it works. So with a more limited knowledge they might call
many occurrences miraculous if they didn’t understand why they happened,
and if they caused them to gasp in wonder and to give praise to God.

So I don’t altogether know how to answer the question is Christ’s walking on
water capable of a rational explanation or not? But I think I can see why for
the disciples this is a miracle and why St Matthew wants to record it in his

Because this is a story that contrasts Jesus and his disciples. They have
spent the day together, while Jesus talked to the crowds. The crowds have
now gone home and Jesus wants to stay behind for a while on the hillside to
pray alone. So he tells the disciples to get into their boat and go across the
lake. They do so, but they don’t get far. There is a head wind and the waves
get up. Late on, Jesus comes to them, seemingly walking on the water.

And, whatever that is, it is the contrast between Jesus and the disciples that
we are being pointed to. At first, the disciples are fearful and not sure whether
it is Jesus or not. He reassures them ‘Take heart, it is I; have no fear.’

But when Peter tries to reach Jesus, he can make no headway against the
wind, starts to sink and is afraid. Jesus has to support him; and says he has
little faith.

We can picture the scene. While the waves crash around the disciples and
their hearts are in their mouths with anxiety and they turn to jelly, Jesus is
calm and rock-like.

We can see why the first Christians wanted this story in the gospel - because
it says something to all of us who come after.

There will be times when we might not be in a boat and on a lake, but it will
seem as if the world around us is like a choppy sea, the headwinds are
against us, and everything is beyond our control. At those times we need to
hear the voice of Christ as he comes to us, ‘Take heart, it is I; have no fear.’

When we are anxious and turn to jelly, we need to be calmed by his voice,
coming to us over the waves, ‘Take heart, it is I; have no fear.’

When we let that happen, it will be our miracle too.

The Prayers
Prepared by Oli