‘Far and near’ – 13th September 2020 – The Eve of Holy Cross Day

The Order of Service

Here you will fine an order of service for this mornings Eucharist in PDF format:

20 09 13 order of service

Here is a link to the YouTube channel where the service will live streamed:


The Order of Service

Here you will fine an order of service for this mornings Eucharist in Word format:

20 09 13 order of service

The Readings
Isaiah 52.13 - 53.12

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.

Ephesians 2.11-22

So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by those who are called ‘the circumcision’—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.

Scripture Quotations are from The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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

Well the schools are finally back. And parents, students and teachers are generally relieved about the return to something like normality. Some things will be done differently for everyone in order to try to keep everyone as safe as possible from the virus. There may be disruptions along the way should there be a case of Covid-19 at the school. But returning to the routine of school and lessons is generally welcome.

Things won’t be the same as they were in March. Staff and pupils will each have had very different experiences of lock-down. Some will have been able to work reasonably well, others not. Some will have had good enough technology to learn at home, others not. Some will have had a home environment conducive to nurturing and learning, others not. Some will have suffered trauma due to bereavement, illness, family difficulties, or the isolation caused by lock-down itself. Others may have come through lock-down unscathed. Others may have even thrived on its restrictions. Schools will find a huge gap between the well-being and learning of different groups of students. There will be those who are pretty much ready to continue learning. There will be others needing a lot of pastoral support before they can face the prospect of double maths on a Wednesday afternoon. There will be, as it were, an “in” group and an “out” group. If this isn’t handled sensitively, it may hinder the educational progress of a large number of young people. It’s a challenging time for our schools.

Churches are gradually reopening too. And we are experiencing some of the same issues that schools are facing. Some of us have found it relatively easy to learn the new technology to keep in touch by video call and email. Others aren’t online, or find online interaction difficult. There have been traumas, illnesses, and the challenges of isolation or being with family members 24/7 among many of us too. And whilst we’ve tried to keep in touch with people individually, it’s not been perfect, and some people have managed this more easily than others. Those who have managed to keep in touch have found that they’ve got to know each other better. But not everyone. Some of us have perhaps returned to church feeling more left out. Others may not feel able to return at all yet. We too have found that there are different groups of people. A group of people who feel near, and a group who feel much further away. We won’t be the only church to feel like this.

There were groups who felt like this in the early church. Some felt they clearly belonged to the church community. Others felt more distant. Often the separation into groups happened along Jewish/Gentile lines. Those from a Jewish background sometimes wanted to insist that their Gentile brothers and sisters signed up to Jewish customs and practices such as circumcision. Those from a Gentile background sometimes felt inferior because they didn’t have the Jewish grounding in the faith to start with. They felt more distant. The Christians in Ephesus seem to have come from this second group – they had a Gentile background. And it seems from the letter to the Ephesians that they were indeed feeling rather distant from the Church as a whole, perhaps feeling like second-class Christians.

Paul is keen to address this. He reminds his readers that in Christ, human divisions such as circumcision are irrelevant. Whilst Gentiles were once not part of the chosen people, before Christ, this is no longer the case. They are very much fully Christian, fully members of Christ’s family and fully members of God’s household. Christ has broken down all divisions and brought his people together. Christ has proclaimed peace to those who were far off, and peace to those who were near. Therefore the two groups are to come together as one, and to work together to build up God’s spiritual temple among all his people. This message has held true for Christians experiencing division ever since. It holds true, just as much, for the Church today.

When churches throughout the country moved their activities online during the pandemic, some people felt excluded. However, other people found themselves suddenly included, perhaps for the very first time. People, for instance, who can’t easily get to a church service, perhaps through disability, or caring responsibilities, or work. When they switch on their computer or phone, there is no longer a barrier to being part of a service of worship, or a church community. How then, can the Church work towards re-opening its buildings for worship, whilst continuing to include these once-excluded people, and indeed include them fully?

At St. Mary’s, the word “Inclusive” is part of our strap-line. The experience of lock-down, and having to do things differently, has made many of us realise that we can do so much more to be inclusive. And so now, beginning in a small, imperfect way, you’ll see how we’re attempting to do this. As well as altar and lectern, we now have a laptop set up at the front of church, and the service is being live-streamed to people at home. So our congregation includes not just you and me here in the building, but all you who are joining us now at home. It includes you who are watching the recording later, and you who are reading elements of the service on our website in your own time.

We are all part of St. Mary’s. We are all part of the whole Church of God. God is challenging us to work together, to share with each other, to learn from each other as equals.

Our challenge is to have hearts and minds open and willing to do this.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe

The bidding for our prayers this evening is “God be near us”.
The response is ‘God give us strength'

With thankful hearts we bring our prayers to our heavenly Father...

We pray for the Church of Christ, for Pete our Bishop, Canon Sophie, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary's to create a place of worship here in Walkley. As we return to worship in this place, we offer special thanks to all who have worked hard behind the scenes to make it possible for us to gather together in person once again.

God be near us,
God give us strength

We pray that we always remember the words from Isaiah; that we are members of the household of God. Give us the presence of mind to keep this at the front of our thoughts as we go about our daily lives.

God be near us,
God give us strength

We ask that all civic and political leaders throughout the world remember their power and influence, and that they use their power and words to heal with love and compassion, rather than generate hatred. As politicians in Europe and the UK face the issues of Brexit and Covid-19, we pray for them to show wisdom and good judgement.

We pray for refugees and those people affected by war and climate change at this time, particularly those affected by wildfires in the US and the refugee camp fire in Greece.

God be near us,
God give us strength

We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends. As we enter into yet another period of uncertainty, remind us that you are our strength and our certainty in this quickly changing world.

God be near us,
God give us strength

Lord, we pray for those we know who are troubled at this time, who feel excluded from society, who feel nervous and frightened for the future – especially as we face an increase in incidence of Covid 19. We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or spirit, those that need your grace and blessing. Be with them at this time, Lord, and give them peace and strength. We particularly remember ….


God be near us,
God give us strength

We pray for those close to death at this time, and those accompanying them on their journey. We pray for those who have died, recently and in the past, and those who mourn. We particularly remember ….


God be near us,
God give us strength

Finally, Lord, we silently bring before you those special to us, and those issues that trouble our hearts and minds at this time.


God be near us,
God give us strength

Rejoicing in the communion of Mary and of all the Saints, let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life, to God.

Merciful Father:
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour,
Jesus Christ.



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