‘Knocking off the corners’ – 8th August 2021 – 10th Sunday after Trinity

The order of service and livestreaming link:

The service will be streamed on our YouTube channel here:


The order of service as a PDF:

21 08 08 10th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The order of service as a Word document:

21 08 08 10th Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

1 Kings 19.4-8

But Elijah himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.


John 6.35, 41-51

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’


The Sermon
By Kath, Reader at St Mary's.

In moments of frustration, when things are not going according to plan; as is often the case for me, I sometimes think that the epitaph on my tombstone will read “She tried. Dear Lord, she tried!” and it’s true. I seem to have spent my entire life trying with one thing or another and much of the time meeting with little or no success. It‘s often deeply disappointing and as I said, frustrating. I’m sure I’m not on my own in feeling this way; we all have our moments! Most of us set out with high ideals and standards for ourselves about the sort of person we would like to be, how we want to live, what we would like to achieve and so on. But then life with all its complexities and complications intervenes and has the disconcerting habit of knocking the corners off us. Our plans and aims are thwarted, our standards compromised, our ideals have to be reassessed, usually in a downward or more realistic and pragmatic direction, and this can leave us feeling a bit like failures sometimes.

This was the impression I got of how Elijah might be feeling in our reading from Kings. The phrase “It is enough, now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” really stood out for me because he seems so spent and demoralised that he is actually asking God to end his life. This is not something most people wish for lightly! In order to understand what has brought Elijah to this state of mind we have to back up a bit and hear the story so far, as they sometimes say on television.

Given that he is such a prominent character and mentioned in the Bible so often, I was surprised how little background information there is about Elijah but here is a short version of what I could find. He was a prophet and miracle worker who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel in the time of King Ahab in the 9th century before Christ. Ahab was married to Jezebel and they were followers of the Canaanite god Baal. Ahab regarded Elijah as troublesome because he persisted in defending the worship of the Hebrew God. Just before the events described in our reading, Elijah has very publicly put Baal to the test by having 450 of his prophets gathered together and telling them to call on their god to set light to a bull prepared as an offering. He gave them a long time and every opportunity to succeed in this endeavour but in the end nothing happened. In spite of their most earnest prayers and entreaties, Baal didn’t show up. Elijah himself then made a similar offering of a bull, but to make the comparison even more definitive, he had gallons of water poured over the wood pyre and filled a trench surrounding the alter with it before calling on God to set the offering alight. God answered his call and the bull, the alter, the water and everything were completely consumed by the fire. Elijah then had the prophets of Baal captured and he killed them all with a sword. This must have been pretty gruesome and terrible but he succeeded in turning the people away from Baal and back to belief in God. Following this event, Elijah tells King Ahab that the drought that has afflicted the land for a long time is ending and again he is affirmed as God’s prophet when the rains come. Ahab sees all this for himself and tells his wife but she isn’t swayed.

When Jezebel hears about the killing of Baal’s prophets she sends word to Elijah that she intends to kill him in the same way and he is afraid and escapes with his servant to Beer-sheba. From there he alone goes into the wilderness. He may have been safe there but it seems that things have taken their toll on him which is where our reading picked up the story. We are not given much detail about what Elijah was thinking and feeling. At the time he lived, violence and killing didn’t seem to be uncommon but I can’t imagine that he ever set out to be a mass executioner. Maybe this is why he says, “I am no better than my ancestors”. The events in his life have made him into the person he is, perhaps not the person he had wanted to be, we don’t know, but at this point he seems to be giving up. He lays down under a tree and asks God to take away his life. He goes to sleep; possibly he hopes that he just won’t wake up again. But God still has plans for Elijah and recognising his need for sustenance, both physical and spiritual; he sends an angel and provides food. Elijah eats and drinks but he still isn’t feeling revived and lays down again. So God sends his Angel a second time with more food and this time with a message that Elijah must take the sustenance offered or he will be unable to continue his journey. He does as the angel says and he is given what he needs to get up and to keep going. Indeed, he keeps going for forty days and forty nights and he makes it to God’s mountain, Horeb.

Amazing as it is, I wondered, what can we take from this story? How can it speak to us? After all, we’re not prophets or miracle workers! But if we look back on our lives, can we see God acting in similar ways for us when we were feeling overwhelmed or dispirited or defeated? It doesn’t have to be in such a dramatic situation as that faced by Elijah; in my experience it’s often in much smaller ways and in more mundane circumstances that we can see where God intervened for us. When I was young and lived with my mum & dad and my sisters; life was often hard because my dad was self-employed and work was uncertain so we had very little money. But I remember hearing him say “The Lord provides” and just as we came up against a problem that seemed insurmountable, like the van breaking down or we couldn’t afford the materials for a job or to pay the dinner money, the wherewithal appeared in some shape or form and we got by. I look back at all the difficulties and disappointments I’ve faced since then, some not so bad, some terrible and I can see how I have been given what I needed to keep going, especially spiritually. Last week in her sermon, Sue talked about our need for spiritual replenishment and how, by joining together in worship week by week we give ourselves the opportunity to be replenished. This made me think of something that happened many years ago here in church. I was in the vestry, probably getting ready for the service when a Church Army friend came in and said, “I’ve been thinking about you and a reading came to mind that I thought was just what you might need”. I think she must have somehow picked up that I was worried about something. The reading was from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 6 verses 19-the end and it’s been my favourite reading ever since. I won’t quote all of it now, just the last four verses which seem most pertinent to what I’ve been saying but you might want to look it up for yourselves sometime.

“Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat? Or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Belief in God doesn’t mean that all our problems will be magically solved but he knows when we are in need and he knows what we need better than we do ourselves. It may not always be immediately obvious but He will provide.

Prepared by Barbara.

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

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

We pray for all of those affected by the Covid-19 epidemic.
We pray for those countries currently suffering from upsurges of the virus, thinking especially of those in the United States and in Indonesia: please help them to keep their most vulnerable citizens safe.
We pray for the worldwide success of vaccination campaigns, and that vaccines are made available to all countries, regardless of their wealth or lack thereof. We pray that those who are offered the opportunity to be vaccinated against covid19 have the wisdom to take the vaccine they are offered. We pray that all politicians stop using the pandemic to score political points and choose effective means of making sure that all the people they represent are safe and well.

We pray also for the climate summit Cop26 in Glasgow and for all those who will be attending. Please give all governments the political courage to resist further use of fossil fuels and to invest in sources of renewable energy instead. We pray particularly that the governments of China, Russia, Brazil and Australia revisit their climate plans to reduce their use of fossil fuels and choose to switch their reliance to renewable sources of energy that will not result in the continued overheating of our planet!
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

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

We pray for all Christian communities in this country and around the world, as we strive to find new ways of being your family that do not put each other in danger during this pandemic. Please help us to reach those who most need your comfort and help.

We pray especially for our worshipping community of St. John’s Ranmoor, St. Mark’s Broomhill and St. Mary’s Walkley as we learn new ways of joining together in love for you. Please help us to feel your presence in a world turned upside down and to share that presence with others.

Today we continue to pray for your church in Canada, and especially for all those denominations involved in running the residential schools where indigenous families were forced to send their children. We pray for all the indigenous children who were abused and neglected while attending those institutions. Torn from their families, forbidden to speak their own languages, starved as a result of extreme and intentional underfunding by the federal government that failed these children by not acknowledging their worth, these children suffered beyond our comprehension and so very many of them died there alone, never returned to their families, even in death. Please help all Canadians to recognise the wrongs done these children, in which so many of us were unknowingly complicit, and to help the bereaved families to find their children’s bodies.

We pray that Canada’s new Governor General, Mary Simon, who is Inuk in origin, can help to increase recognition and understanding of our First Nations people throughout Canada so that we who are descended from settlers may stop being the problem and start being part of the solution to ensuring that all Canadians are treated equitably wherever they live and whatever their ethnic origin.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

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

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

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

We name to you in our hearts all those known to us both near and far, asking that you bring your comfort and healing to their families and friends at this time of grief.

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