St Helen’s Church

12th September 2021. Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity.

Prayer for today.

God who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit upon your Church in the burning fire of your love: grant that your people may be fervent in the fellowship of the gospel that, always abiding in you, they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service; through Jesus Christ your son our Lord. Amen.

We pray and give thanks for Tom and Louise, who were married here yesterday.

Among those who are sick we pray for Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,    John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember  Sadie Dinning, John Huddleston, Mike Luke and  Clive Robson.

A notice is on display on the Parish Notice Boards and the Hexhamshire website informing the reader of the plan by St. Helen’s to replace the power supply to the Church. Details of the works involved may be found in Church.

Please note: the vicar will be on holiday from September 13th and until the end of the month.

Next Sunday’s Parish Communion will be led by Canon John Sadler.

Readings:

James 3: 1-12

James writes: we all make many mistakes and those with responsibilities, like teachers, will be judged more harshly, therefore few should be teachers.

To be perfect  requires keeping the whole body in check, like a bridle on a horse. A bit is small, yet guides a powerful horse; a rudder is small, yet permits the pilot to direct a great ship.

The tongue is small, yet full of boasts; like a small fire, it can result in the destruction of a whole forest.

We have tamed the living creatures, yet cannot tame the tongue.

With it we bless the Lord, yet with it we curse those made in his likeness. This should not be. Does a spring pour forth both fresh and brackish water? Neither can salt water yield fresh.

 

Verses from Psalm 116

I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.

Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.

Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.

The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.

For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.

Mark 8: 27 – 38

On his way to Caesarea Philippi Jesus asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ and they answered, ‘Some say John the Baptist, or Elijah, others say , one of the prophets.’

‘But who do you say I am?’ asked Jesus.

Peter replied, ’You are the Messiah.’ Jesus ordered them to tell no-one. He began to teach them how the Son of Man must suffer, be rejected by the priests and elders, be killed, and after three days rise again. Peter took him aside to rebuke him, but Jesus looked at the disciples and said to Peter, ’Get behind me, Satan!

You are setting your mind on human concerns, not the will of God.’ Jesus called out to the crowd, ‘Whoever wants to follow me must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.

Whoever seeks to save their life will lose it. Whoever loses their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

What is the point of gaining the whole world, yet losing your life? What can you give in return for your life?

Those in this sinful generation who are ashamed of me: of them the Son of  Man will be ashamed when he comes with the angels in his Father’s glory.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings:

When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was they referred to figures from the past, including the very recent past in the case of John the Baptist. Among the questions they asked him was when he would restore the kingdom of Israel as in the days of David.  But we cannot put the clock back, or recreate the past.  Even when we try to learn from the past we often view it through the prism of our assumptions and even our prejudices.

All we know is that time marches relentlessly on and that the  future is, for us, unpredictable.

Instead Jesus pointed to a very ugly symbol, one with which the  disciples would have been all too familiar: the cross.

For them it represented the cruelty of the Romans; it represented death used to coerce and inspire fear; it represented  disgrace and humiliation.

Why did Jesus choose such a way? What does it mean for us to hear his order, ’Take up your cross?’

For his followers it would become very obvious:  many of them would in turn suffer death  for witnessing to his Gospel and preaching the way of Jesus, and many of our fellow-christians are  being persecuted to this day.

But I take something else from this: it is humans who build empires, temples and towers but one day even the most beautiful of these will be a ruin, and, an echo of the past.

God is new every morning; God is in the seed that is sown in the ground and must disintegrate in order that new life may come.

God is love that does not accumulate but gives itself away.

Whatever God has touched and embraced is sanctified and becomes the instrument of his purpose.

When Jesus carried his cross he wrestled death from the devil so that it might become the way ahead to resurrection, for the works of Jesus are the works of God.

In inviting his hearers to follow him and take up their cross he is inviting them to do the works of God, to be holy and sanctified as he is. His invitation is to discover that in following him we live in God and God lives in us, and what can we give in return for our life.

Tom and Louise gave themselves to each other in marriage here yesterday, without conditions.

They did not give that part of themselves they like, or those parts of their lives which are not already committed: love gives itself away; love receives and accepts everything.

This morning over 50.000 people will be setting off across the Tyne Bridge on the Great North run.

Some of them will be running for prizes or simply to improve their personal best, but a great many will be running, walking and limping to help others. They will carry the needs, the hopes and the suffering of  strangers and of those they love as, for a few hours, and for the time of recovery afterwards, their bodies bear the burden of their life-giving generosity.

When Jesus carried the cross it was not his own crimes , sin, wounds  or wickedness that he carried but those of all of us.

He, God and the Son of God, suffered in solidarity with his people. In his suffering is our healing. In his death is our life.

Shall we then not daily embrace the way of the cross, for surely it leads to life.

 

 

 

5th September 2021. 14th Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today:

Almighty God, whose only Son has opened for us a new and living way into your presence: grant us pure hearts and steadfast wills to worship you in spirit and in truth, through Jesus Christ your son our Lord. Amen.

Readings:

James  2: 1-10, 14-17

James writes: My brothers and sisters, how can you truly believe in our Lord Jesus if you are impressed by the wealth of the rich, and welcome them into your assembly saying, ‘Sit here, please’, while saying to the poor, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘Sit at my feet.’ Have you not become judges with evil thoughts?

Has not God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith and inheritors of his kingdom? Yet you dishonour the poor.

Is it not the rich who oppress you, who blaspheme the name of God?

Here is the royal law: You will love your neighbour as yourself.

If you fail to keep part of this law you fail to keep all of it.

What good is it to say you have faith if there is no action?

If you see a brother naked and hungry, and say, ‘Go in peace, keep warm; eat well,’ but do not supply their needs, what use is that? Faith alone, if it has no works, is dead.

 Mark 7: 24-37

Jesus went away to the region of Tyre, in Lebanon, and stayed in a house there. He did not want anyone to know he was there but could not escape notice. A woman of Syria, a gentile, whose daughter was troubled with an unclean spirit, bowed at his feet and begged him to make her daughter well.

Jesus said, ‘Let the children be fed first; it is not right to take their food and throw it to the dogs.’

She replied, ‘Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.’

Jesus said to her, ‘For saying that  you may go. The demon has left your daughter.’ And she went home and found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

As Jesus returned to Galilee they brought him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and begged him to lay hands on him.

Jesus took the man aside; he put his fingers in his ears; he spat and touched his tongue. He looked up to heaven and said to the man, ‘Ephphatha: Be opened.’ Immediately the man could hear, and speak plainly.

Jesus ordered them to tell no-one, but they went out telling everyone, ‘He has done all things well: he makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

This morning we  celebrate the baptism of Caleb Bell, and pray for Matt and Zara his parents.

Among those who are sick we pray for Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,    John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

Among those who have died we remember Frank Williams, and also Margaret Lee, William Dunsmore Lee, Angus Pickworth, Audrey Triffit, Lyall Charlton, Carol Little, and Robert Hamilton, whose year’s mind is about this time.

Many thanks to everyone who supported the Church’s Open Day yesterday. It was a lovely thing for people to come in to music, refreshments, a warm welcome, and the chance of a bargain!

Over £900 was raised on the day.

 

From  September 1st a notice is on display on the Parish Notice Boards and the Hexhamshire website informing the reader of the plan by St. Helen’s to replace the power supply to the Church. Details of the works involved may be found in Church.

Please note: the vicar will be on holiday from September 13th and until the end of the month.

Thoughts on today’s readings.

What is striking in the readings for this morning is the descriptions of rudeness and disrespect, first of all in the early  Church towards the poor, then in the story of Jesus and the woman from Syria.

Perhaps it is helpful to be mindful of how these passages might have sounded to those who first heard them, in a very different time and society of ours, more like the traditionalist  Islamic societies of today.

Here is Jesus, a Jewish man, exhausted, going away from his homeland in order to get away from the crowds. Here he is faced with a woman, an unclean infidel, and certainly not a relative of his, who addresses him directly and physically touches him.

Perhaps the people of his day would not be surprised he gives her short shrift.

But the focus of this story is not Jesus but  this mother, her faith , her desperation and her persistence, and indeed, her wit.

For the sake of her child she endures the humiliation and loss of dignity, the rudeness and superiority of this foreigner who she believes has the power to save her child.

This story was first heard long ago, but the image in my head is of those mothers at Kabul airport a few days ago, holding up their children, begging the foreign soldiers to save them from the brutal mayhem which is descending on their country.

In the passage from the letter of James the description of the  disrespect towards the poor is emphasized by the command, ‘Sit at my feet’.  The feet were the most unclean part of the body, fit only to be washed by servants.  A few years ago I read how MPs in the Iraqi parliament expressed their disrespect of their Prime Minister by throwing their shoes at him: their supreme expression of disgust .

In effect the letter of James is telling its readers, ‘How can you claim to  believe in the God whom the Bible teaches us has a particular love and regard for the poor, when you yourselves are far more impressed by the trappings of wealth?

What is the point of the faith you claim to possess if you ignore the needs of the destitute and fawn over the rich?

The God who is my God is God of all, therefore everyone is my neighbour.’

As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, ‘I may have the faith that can move mountains, but if I am without love, it is worth nothing.’

It is part of human nature that we are impressed by appearances, by wealth and power, by what looks like success, by what corresponds to our idea of beauty, that, as it were, we tend to look at the label.

It is true that we live within societies, and tend to follow their rules and conventions.

Yet surely compassion and love are out there too.

For who is not in need of help if not the sick, the old and the vulnerable?

And this morning, like every morning, in their home, in a hospital, in a care home, someone will be caring with respect and tenderness for the needs, physical and emotional, of a stranger who does not have the power to care for themselves.

The hands of the poor reach out to us; the way in which we sometimes treat the most vulnerable and destitute who reach our shores is a reproach to us, but we know what genuine love and true faith look like.

Young Caleb, who is here with us this morning for his baptism, knows already what genuine love feels like, and how precious he is to his family who have brought him here this morning.

May he grow up understanding that he is a precious child of God in Jesus Christ, so that he may be the hands of Christ that bring healing, that he may be the lips of Christ which speak words of faith, of hope and of love, and that he may have the heart of Christ in his compassion for all who are his neighbour, his sister, his brother.

 

Fill your hearts with joy and gladness,

sing and praise your God and mine!

Great the Lord in love and wisdom,

might and majesty divine!

He who framed the starry heavens

knows and names them as they shine!

Fill your hearts with joy and gladness,

sing and praise your God and mine!

 

Praise the Lord, his people, praise him!

Wounded souls his comfort know;

those who fear him find his mercies,

peace for pain and joy for woe;

humble hearts are high exalted,

human pride and power laid low.

Praise the Lord, his people, praise him!

Wounded souls his comfort know;

 

 

Praise the Lord for times and seasons,

cloud and sunshine, wind and rain;

spring to melt the snows of winter

till the waters flow again;

grass upon the mountain pastures,

golden valleys thick with grain.

Praise the Lord for times and seasons,

cloud and sunshine, wind and rain;

 

Fill your hearts with joy and gladness,

peace and plenty crown your days;

love his laws, declare his judgments,

walk in all his words and ways;

he the Lord and we his children:

praise the Lord, all people, praise!

Fill your hearts with joy and gladness,

peace and plenty crown your days;

 

29th August 2021. 13th Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today:

Almighty God, you called your Church to bear witness that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:

Help us to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may be drawn to you; through him who was lifted up on the cross, and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 Readings;

James 1: 17-27

Every generous and perfect gift comes down from the Father of light: he is unchanging. He fulfilled his purpose in giving us birth by the word of truth, so we might be a first fruits of his creatures.

Understand this, beloved: be ready to listen, but slow to speak, and slow to anger; your anger does not work God’s righteousness. Root out from yourself all that is sordid, and the rank growth of wickedness; welcome with gladness the implanted word which can save your soul.

Be those who do the word, not those who merely hear, and deceive themselves. For else we are like those who look at themselves in a mirror but immediately forget what they were like. Those who look into the perfect law, which is freedom, and do not just hear , but act, will be blessed in their doing.

For if any think they are religious, but do not control their tongue, they deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

This is religion, pure and undefiled before the Father: to care for widows and orphans in their distress, and to avoid the corruption of the world.

Psalm 15

Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.

Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Some Pharisees had come from Jerusalem to Jesus and saw his disciples eating without going through the cleaning rituals (for Jews will not eat until they have thoroughly washed their hands, as taught by their elders. They wash everything from the market before they eat it, and have many ordinances regarding the washing of pots, cups, and vessels) So they asked Jesus, ’Why do your disciples ignore the teaching of our elders, and eat with defiled hands?’

Jesus replied, ’Here is what Isaiah wrote about you hypocrites: “The people honour me with their lips: their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain, and teach human laws as divine doctrines.” You hold on to human tradition but abandon God’s commandments.’

He spoke again to the crowds, ’Listen and understand: nothing that goes into someone from outside the body can defile; it is   from within, from the human heart, that evil comes: murder, adultery, avarice, theft, wickedness, fornication, envy, pride, folly, deceit. All these come from within, and they defile a person.’

Please pray for Tim and Geraldine, who were married here yesterday, and Frankie Riley, who will be baptized here this afternoon.

 Among those who are sick we pray for Frank Williams, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett, Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery, Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher Brown. 

 Among those who have died we remember Evelyn Braid.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Garth Parker, Joy Trotter, Mary Backhouse, Marjorie Cowing, Sybil Swallow, Dorothy Proctor, Jane Buchanan, Wilf Oliver, John Shackleton and Margaret Lee.

At a recent meeting we began planning for the Church’s Open Day. This will be on Saturday 4th September from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Your help will be most appreciated.

We discussed the lifting of COVID restrictions and decided, in the light of current rates of infection, to continue with our current practice, asking people to wear a mask in Church and practice social distancing for the time being.

 From September 1st a notice will be on display on the Parish Notice Boards and the Hexhamshire website informing the reader of the plan by St. Helen’s to replace the power supply to the Church. Details of the works involved may be found in Church.

Thoughts on today’s readings

After a year and a half of social distancing, of PPE and mandatory hand washing and sanitizing, these readings strike me with a particular force.

Although there is no doubt these measures are necessary and have probably saved lives and helped slow the spread of disease, there is no denying the less positive changes in  behaviour and state of mind which have also resulted.

Although the slogan in our hospital: ‘working together – staying apart – keeping us safe’ emphasises the positives, the anxiety and wariness are more worrying.

A friend was telling me yesterday about how this has manifested itself in the mental health of a child he knows.

This boy now spends hours obsessively washing his hands; many months of isolation and disruption to his daily life have done him great harm.

What I am not saying is that the Church should be advocating compulsory hugging, or that it should be disregarding the advice of the health authorities or the anxieties or concerns of those we know.

Jesus addresses the Pharisees as ‘hypocrites’. The opposite word to this is the one Paul uses in writing to the Romans: ‘genuine’.

It is when we use rules to condemn and judge others, or to promote a sense of superiority or self-satisfaction, that hypocrisy occurs, for in such conduct there is no genuine love.

What indeed is the point of the most sublime and beautiful worship, if it is not accompanied by genuine love for God and our neighbour?

The long list of sins in our Gospel reading this morning looks suspiciously like something produced by the early Church, but Jesus makes the point, which James echoes: what is the point of obeying the externals of the law, if our tongues and our lives do not reveal the law of love?

I was conscious of how Tim and Geraldine, sitting here next to each other yesterday and holding hands, are two people who have seen much of joy and sorrow in their lives, and have found in each other a love which is genuine, in which they can place their faith.

Love is personal: it has a name and a face. Love feeds the hungry and comforts and heals the suffering.

This is why, in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus begins his ministry at a wedding. Here are two people who have chosen each other; who place their whole lives, without condition, in the hands of this person in whom they place their faith. And this covenant is the basis of the creation of new life, of homes where God’s work is done. Marriage, then, is the image made flesh in the lives of two people, of God’s love for his people and his commitment to his creation which has been made known to us in Jesus Christ.

The little girl who will come her this afternoon for baptism is a blessing on her parents, who came here to be married some years ago. Thy will bring her here as a sign of their trust that the Father’s word of truth will be planted in her life, and bear fruit in a soul who knows whose dear child she is, and bears fruit in a faithful life.

Many people have have shown generosity of spirit in trying to keep one another safe; may we always listen to one another’s needs with love as neighbours.

 

Sunday 22 August 2021 12th Sunday after Trinity 

Prayer for today:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than either we desire or  deserve: pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, save through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.

 Among those who are sick we pray for Evelyn Braid,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,    John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

Among those who have died we remember Carol Allison, and also  Arthur Hall, May Waugh, Joan Herold, Muriel Grace Scott-Easton, Thomas Robert Keens, Mary Backhouse and Garth Parker whose year’s mind is about this time.

There is a Deanery Evening Service at Hexham Abbey this evening at 6.30. All are welcome

At a recent meeting  we began planning for the Church’s Open Day . This will be on Saturday 4th September from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Your help will be most appreciated.

We discussed the lifting of COVID restrictions and decided, in the light of current rates of infection, to continue with our current practice, asking people to wear a mask in Church and practice social distancing for the time being.

Readings:

 Ephesians 6: 10-20

Paul writes:

‘Be strong in the Lord: be strong in the strength of his power.

Put on the whole armour of God, so you may withstand the wiles of the Devil. Our enemies are not of flesh and blood; they are the rulers and cosmic powers of the present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.

So put on the whole armour of God: then may be able to withstand the evil day and,  having done all things, still stand firm. Stand then; tighten the belt of truth round your waist. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.  Be shod with that which makes you ready to proclaim the Gospel of peace. And take the shield of faith: then you can quench the flaming arrows of the evil one. Wear the helmet of salvation, take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray continually; pray every prayer and supplication in the Spirit. Be alert and persevere in praying for all the saints.

Pray for me, so that when I speak I may be given a message to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador – in chains. Pray I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.’

 Verses from Psalm 34

15 The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.

16 The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.

18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.

20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

21 Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.

22 The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

John 6: 56-69

Jesus was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum and said this,’ Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. As the Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, whoever eats of me will live because of me. This is the bread from heaven. It is not like that which your ancestors ate: they died. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever.’

Many who heard him said, ‘This teaching is difficult. Who can accept this?’ Jesus knew their thoughts. ‘Does this offend you?’ he asked, ‘What if you were to see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before? The spirit gives life; the flesh is useless. The words I speak to you are spirit and life. But some of you do not believe.’ For he had always known who did not believe, and who would betray him. And so he said, ‘No one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’

Then many disciples turned away and no longer walked with him.

Jesus turned to the twelve and asked, ‘Will you also go away?’

Peter replied, ‘To whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’

 Thoughts on today’s readings

The words we read this morning speak to us of a world we can recognise. There is no peace: conflict is all around.

Faith is difficult for many, and they cannot accept the words of Jesus. He sends out his emissaries to proclaim the words of eternal life: his ambassadors are in chains.

The powers of this world threaten to overwhelm us: they are beyond our control, and our own strength and defences are not equal to the struggle.

What then are we to do? What hope have we of victory?

Paul writes from prison, in chains and tells his readers to be strong and trust in all that God has provided, and use it boldly.

Jesus has given us truth; it will hold things together.

He has saved us, he has given us a loving relationship with the Father; it will protect us.

Faith enables us to see and know truly so that the falsehoods of the darkness may not overwhelm us.

We are not simply to resist passively, but actively to use God’s word. A soldier will not get far without good boots or looking after their feet .  The thousands of pairs of shoes discovered at Vindolanda show us that this was a truth well known two thousand years ago. To move an army quickly and in good order required well-shod soldiers and good roads.

Likewise we need to be ready to proclaim God’s word of peace, and the sword for our battle is the word of God, which the Spirit will provide.

As Peter declares to Jesus, ’You have the words of life.’

Faith knows that it is the word of life which brought us to life, a new creation born of water and the Spirit.

It is Jesus who is the bread of that life, so that we may not hunger or grow dry with thirst.

The link, the thread, that holds us together as one body with Christ as our head , is prayer; prayer which, Paul tells us, must be persistent and constant.

Prayer, then, is the preparation for all we do, the accompaniment of our actions, and the assurance, the knowledge, that we are never alone; I pray for others; they are praying for me. In prayer we are in Christ.

I have the image of a memory from when I was a very young seafarer, aged 16.  We were west of the Azores, in the middle of a winter storm. I was sent out on deck to check the lashings of some deck cargo. When the ship sat in the trough of the swell, the crest of the waves towered over the bridge. Who could measure the power  in those waves?  What was the power of our ship in comparison? Yet ours was a well-found ship, and we rode the waves, head to wind with an experienced helmsman on the bridge, until the storm was past.

We are not left to struggle in the waves.  We are in the boat, and Christ is with us, and he is the way, and the truth, and the life.

Sunday 15th August 2021.  Feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Prayer for today:

Almighty God, who looked upon the lowliness of the Blessed Virgin Mary and chose her to be the mother of your only Son: grant that we who are redeemed by his blood may share with her in the glory of your eternal kingdom, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

 

Readings:

Isaiah 61: 10-11

The city of Jerusalem exults with joy in the Lord: the Lord has clothed her with salvation, and robed her with righteousness, like a bridegroom placing a garland on himself, like a bride adorning herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots, as a garden causes the seed that is sown to spring up, so the Lord will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

 

Psalm 45: 10 – 17

Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear;
forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house;
11 so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty:
for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.
12 And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat

thy favour.
13 The king’s daughter is all glorious within:
her clothing is of wrought gold.
14 She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework:
the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee.
15 With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought:
they shall enter into the king’s palace.
16 Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children,
whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.
17 I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations:
therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever.
Luke 1: 46-55

Mary said,

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.  From this moment all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me: holy is his name. He has mercy on those who fear him from age to age.

He has shown the strength in his arm.

He has scattered the proud in their imaginings, he has pulled down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. Remembering his mercy, he has come to the help of Israel his servant, as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants for ever.

Among those who are sick we pray for Evelyn Braid,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

Among those who have died remember Pat Glover, and pray for her family.

Among those whose year’s mind is about this time we remember Wynn Charlton, Trevor Fretwell, Geraldine Mortimer, Joseph Benson Clark and Allan Peacock.

At a recent meeting  we began planning for the Church’s Open Day . This will be on Saturday 4th September from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Your help will be most appreciated.

 

We discussed the lifting of COVID restrictions and decided, in the light of current rates of infection, to continue with our current practice, asking people to wear a mask in Church and practice social distancing for the time being.

Thoughts on today’s readings

When you come through the door at Whitley Chapel and turn right, there is a painting displayed, on the wall in front of you.

At first sight it is a very conventional religious painting, Italian in style, from the 17th or 18th centuries. The faces depicted wear an expression of calm, impenetrable serenity.

But have another look: what is going on? The scene is of a young girl being taught to read .

Modern feminism has been very critical of the Church, accusing it of being at least complicit in a society where women were treated as chattel, whose place was in the home and giving birth to and raising children.

The criticism is justified, but perhaps ignores the truth that for many millions of Christians the most important figure in the Kingdom of God, besides Jesus Christ himself, is Mary his mother, whom they revere as the Mother of God.

Her importance comes from our belief that God chose her, uniquely, to be the mother of the Saviour of the world, in the same way that Jesus her Son chose Peter, Andrew, James, John and the rest to be his disciples.

Her response, which we read today in these verses from St. Luke’s  Gospel, is one of wonder and fierce joy.

She emphasizes her own obscurity and poverty, and describes herself as a servant. It is God who has done wonders and will do greater things yet, overturning the powerful in their delusions of grandeur and filling the hungry with good things.

This is coming to pass because God is faithful, even as He has been faithful throughout all generations, from the time He made his covenant with Abraham.

This theme and hope in God’s faithfulness is echoed in the reading from Isaiah. The relationship of God with his people, personified in Jerusalem, is like that of the bride and groom in the beauty and glory of their celebration of marriage, and the fruit of that faithfulness is new life, is righteousness and justice, is the time for celebration and praise.

Today the Church is filled with beautiful flowers for the marriage of Roger and Susanna. They chose each other; Roger chose Susanna, and Susanna chose Roger and yesterday with God’s blessing they committed themselves  unconditionally to each other .  We believe God chooses us, and in Jesus Christ we see the unconditional nature of God’s commitment to us, and the Church is a place, a way and a community within which we can grow in that relationship.

So how did Mary know that it was God who had chosen her?  How did she know who the messenger of God was, the angel who told her she had found favour with God?

This brings us back to the painting on the wall of our Church.

Surely, this picture states, Mary was taught her faith by her own mother, and her own mother taught her to read for herself in God’s holy word, given to Isaiah and to all those who have recorded God’s word in the Bible, how from generation to generation God is faithful to the people he has chosen.

If the ground is to bear good fruit it must be cultivated, cleaned, prepared and fed. For all its faults, the Church has never been content to leave its children, male or female, in ignorance, and education has always been at the heart of its mission.

This pious painting on the Church wall makes a statement of surprising power for our own world today.

Some years ago, a young girl in her teens, Malala Yusufzai, was shot in the head in Pakistan because she was going to school, because she knew she had the right to learn for herself.

She is celebrated across the world today, but bears in her body the wounds: the cost to a child of resisting the men of violence.

Not far from where she was shot millions now live in fear in Afghanistan.  The people of that country feel they have been abandoned by the most powerful nations on earth.

Invading armies are sweeping through the country, their soldiers filled with the promise of power and plunder.

The Bible teaches us that Mary did not run away in the face of  death, but remained beside her Son on the cross.

As her sisters and brothers in faith, we should not turn our faces away from God’s children in their distress, nor should we cease to place our hope, as Mary did, in our God, who put down the mighty from their seat, and exalted the humble and meek.

 

 

 

8th August 2021. 10th Sunday after Trinity.

Prayer for today.

Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants;  and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

 

Readings for today

Ephesians 4; 32 – 5:2

St Paul writes that we are members of the body of Christ, and so Christ should be the model for our behaviour.

No more lies, then, no stealing, but rather we should work so that from our wages we can meet the needs of those in want.

We should not let anger be our master, nor let the sun go down on our anger, or leave room for the Devil to direct our lives.

Let no evil words come from our mouths, but only that which builds up, and gives grace to those who hear.

We must not grieve the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit is our promise for the day of redemption.

So put away bitterness, anger and malice: we should be kind, tender, and forgiving, as God in Christ has forgiven us.

Let us be imitators of God, as beloved children,  and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave his life for us, a sweet-smelling sacrifice pleasing to God.

 

Verses from Psalm 34

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

 

John 6: 35, 41-51

Jesus said,’I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will not hunger; whoever believes in me will never thirst.’

The people grumbled at this saying, ’Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father and his mother? So how can he say he has come down from heaven?’

Jesus replied, ‘Do not complain. No one can come to me unless they are drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise them up on the last day. The prophets wrote, “Everyone will be taught by God.” Whoever hears the Father and learns from the Father comes to me. This does not mean that anyone has seen the Father, except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Truly I tell you: whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread come down from heaven: whoever eats it will not die. I am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, they will live for ever. The bread I give is my flesh, which I give so that the world may live.’

 

 

Among those who are sick we pray for  Evelyn Braid,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw,  Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

 

Among those who have died remember Pat Glover, and pray for her family.

 

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Edith Hull, Allan Peacock, Pat White, Hilda Mackenzie, Christopher Dobson and Elizabeth Flatman.

 

At a recent meeting  we began planning for the Church’s Open Day . This will be on Saturday 4th September from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Your help will be most appreciated.

 

We discussed the lifting of COVID restrictions and decided, in the light of current rates of infection, to continue with our current practice, asking people to wear a mask in Church and practice social distancing for the time being.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

Reading St. Paul’s words to the Christians in Ephesus we can get the impression that they were a rough crowd: lying, stealing.

We might even have a pharisaic moment when we say, ‘Thank you , God that I am not like that,’ but what about the other stuff, about  not bearing grudges, about not nursing our anger, about being tender and forgiving? Are we always  so brilliant in those ways?  It  makes sense in the way St. Paul explains it: that in Christ we are all members one of another; we are God’s beloved children.

For what kind of parent would keep a score of the wrongs done by a naughty child, and store them up as ammunition for a future fight?  Where is the love in that?

Thank God we do not have a Father who painstakingly records our every misdemeanour for a future day of reckoning.

How could I possibly justify myself in that scenario?

Rather, we have the Father who stands and waits in patient hope and love for the return of the filthy prodigal son, who is not interested in his excuses but embraces him, gives him his best robe and organizes a party.

We have the Shepherd who searches without ever giving up for the lost sheep, and has a party with all his neighbours for joy that the lost sheep is found.

Our relationship with God means nothing if it is transactional, if it is like a contract.

We are invited to believe; we are invited to trust; we are invited to love.

The people who listened to Jesus could not believe what they heard, and only saw with the eyes of their own prejudice: they had already made up their minds.

He had fed the crowd with bread, but to them he was just the son of Joseph.

They were so busy justifying themselves that they would  not accept Jesus’ invitation to receive the bread of life, to be in a living relationship with the living God.

Jesus said, ‘The bread that I shall give is my flesh, so that the world may live.’

God’s extravagant love sweeps away my feeble excuses, and washes away the rubbish of my sins.

The question is, do we value this love for the wonder and the treasure which it is? Do we allow ourselves to be loved, and live as members of the body of Christ, as children of God?

It is in the fruits of the Spirit of God that we see whether that amazing gift has made any difference: in being tender-hearted, in working for the relief of others.

In this we may know that we are not stony ground, or a patch of weeds, but good and fertile earth.

‘O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the one that trusts in Him.’

 

1st August 2021. Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today

Almighty God, who sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your Church: open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may bring forth the fruits of the Spirit in love and joy and peace through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Readings:

Ephesians 4: 1-16

Paul writes from prison urging his readers to find their unity in Jesus Christ and to use the gifts that God has given them in Christ: ‘I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, in gentleness, patience and loving forbearance, using every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, one hope into which you were called, one Lord, one faith , one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, through all and in all.

Each of us has been given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift: some to be prophets, some apostles, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry and build up the body of Christ until all come to mature faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.

Then we must no longer be children, blown about by every doctrine and human trickery, but speaking the truth in love.

Thus we will grow into Christ, from whom the whole body, knit together with that with which it has been equipped, and working as one, is building itself up in love.

 

Verses from Psalm 78

23 The Lord he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,

24 And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.

25 Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full.

26 He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.

27 He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea:

28 And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.

29 So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire.

 

John 6: 24-35

After Jesus had fed the crowd the people returned to the same place and found he was not there. They got into the boats and searched for him and when they found Jesus, asked him, ’Rabbi, how did you get here?’ Jesus replied, ‘You are looking for me because you ate your fill with bread. Do not work for perishable food, but for that which endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has set his seal.’

They asked, ‘What must we do to do the works of God?’

Jesus replied, ‘Believe in him whom he has sent.’

So they said, ‘What sign are you going to give us, so that we may see it and believe in you?  Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness. It is written, “ He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Jesus said, ‘Truly, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. The bread of God comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. ’They said, ‘Give us this bread always.’

Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger; whoever believes in me will never thirst.’

Among those who are sick we pray for  Evelyn Braid,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw,  Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Jean Capes and Edith Hull.

At a recent meeting  we began planning for the Church’s Open Day . This will be on Saturday 4th September from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Your help will be most appreciated.

We discussed the lifting of COVID restrictions and decided, in the light of current rates of infection, to continue with our current practice, asking people to wear a mask in church and practice social distancing for the time being.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

Reading this passage from St. John’s Gospel I am struck by how transactional and conditional is the people’s relationship with God:  ‘If you impress us with a sign, we will believe; if you fill us with bread, we will believe.’

Yet before I rush to judgement I need to ask myself how my own faith stands up to adversity and disappointments, and remind myself that I have never had to live in the shadow of famine or military occupation.

St.Paul, writing from prison and daily facing the possibility of death, urges his readers to act in a spirit of unity, forbearance and above all, love, to work always to build each other up, and not to be swayed by the fashionable doctrine of the moment.

For though the living Jesus Christ stands among us as we meet in his name, we should be in no doubt that the old Adam, and the old Eve, are still around.

We still like to be told what we want to hear; that we are wonderful, that we could be immortal, that we should do as we please, and put our trust in all manner of false promises. We still act as though the world revolved around us at its centre, and are blind to the consequences of the way we live, as we turn Eden into a desert.

St. Paul reminds us of how, in Christ, we are all essentially connected to one another. I came to Christ because believers drew me to him, and I glimpsed him in them. In my weakness I am sustained by the prayers and love of others.

In my service I support others in their dark hours and in their distress and it is together that we know that Christ is among us and within us.

We are marked with the sign of the cross because we are not immortal, any more than Jesus was immortal, but as a sign of our faith that  He lives in us now, and that we shall live in him beyond the human , earthly horizon of death.

Then let us listen to one another’s needs in love, and listen to the voice of Jesus.

Let us look to him for our needs and be thankful every day for our blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 25th July 2021. St. James the apostle

Prayer for today

Merciful God, whose holy apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, was obedient to the calling of your Son Jesus Christ and followed him even to death: help us, forsaking the false attractions of the world, to be ready  at all times to answer your call without delay, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

Readings:

Act 11:27 -12:2

In those days  prophets came to Antioch from Jerusalem.

One named Agabus predicted by the Spirit a severe famine all over the world. This happened in the reign of Claudius.

The disciples agreed to send relief to the believers in Judea, each giving according to their ability. They sent it with Barnabas and Saul to the elders.  About this time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the Church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.

Psalm 126

1When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.

The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south.

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

 

Matthew 20: 20-28

The mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, and knelt before him, and asked a favour of him. ‘What do you want?’ he asked.  She replied, ‘Declare that my sons will sit, one at your right hand, and one at your left, when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus said, ‘You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?’ ‘We are able,’ they replied. He said to them,’ You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand or left hand is not for me to grant. It is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’

The ten heard this and were angry with the brothers.   Jesus said to them, ‘You know that the leaders of the gentiles lord it over them, and that their great ones are tyrants.  It will not be so with you.  Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant; whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; in the same way the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Evelyn Braid,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw,  Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

Among those who have died we remember  Robbie Hutchinson, Trish Lanning and  Mildred Flatman. Please pray for Millie’s family. Millie’s funeral will be here in church on Thursday morning.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember William Best, Jessie Lowery and Margaret Greenwood.

At a meeting on Monday we began planning for the Church’s Open Day . This will be on Saturday 4th September from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Your help will be most appreciated.

We discussed the lifting of COVID restrictions and decided, in the light of current rates of infection, to continue with our current practice, asking people to wear a mask in church and practice social distancing for the time being.

Thoughts on today’s readings

The reading for St. James’ day  from Acts speaks to us of a world of famine and cruel tyranny which may seem far removed from our daily lives, yet is not so different from the lives of millions of our fellow human beings today, while the reading from St. Matthew’s Gospel  reminds us of what true Christian leadership involves.

In the early Church prophecy was a recognized ministry, as we read in Acts,  and one such was Agabus, who came to Antioch, predicting a severe famine. Famine was a frequent shadow hanging over people’s lives, and the response from the church of Antioch was generous, sending money to their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem so that they could prepare for the crisis to come.

We know that Herod was a leader who tried to secure his power by carrying out actions which would improve his popularity.

What better, in a time of crisis, than to scapegoat  a group which was unpopular with the religious establishment? And so he had James, a Christian leader and a disciple of Jesus, put to death.

If you read on, you will come to the story of how Herod next had Peter put into prison.

We read in Matthew 19 how Jesus told Peter that the disciples would sit on 12 thrones to judge the tribes of Israel.

Here in chapter 20 we read how the mother of the sons of Zebedee thought this was the moment to secure the best seats for her boys.

She could have no idea what she was asking for. They would indeed drink from his cup and for James this would mean losing his life because he was a disciple  and a leader in the Church.

The gospels invite us to us to look upon Christ on the cross with the eyes of faith and to see there what the disciples could not see, at that time,  that right there the Son of God was glorified as king and judge, while at his right hand and his left hand hung two criminals.

Today, when we are  apt to complain that some items are missing from the shelves of our supermarkets, we need to be reminded that  millions starve, some due to natural disasters, some due to the actions of  the tyrants of today.

Today in many places, entire groups and people, including  Christian groups,  are scapegoated and live under the threat of  imprisonment and worse. Entire tribes are wiped out so that those in power may reward their supporters.

Today, as always, those in power are tempted to make special arrangements for their friends. Perhaps they too benefited from  the ‘old boys network’, or ‘pistonnage’ as they call it in France.

Jesus reminds us that the places of honour belong to those who  wash, care for, and feed the sick and the helpless, someone’s mother, someone’s  sister or brother.

We are here as Christians because Jesus paid the price: he ransomed us so that we might be free; he gave up his life so that we might have life in all its fullness.

Today there are those who put those they serve before themselves. Sometimes they will sacrifice their own health and  their own family life in faithfully carrying out their duty and their service.

Jesus Christ lives and walks among us; he calls us to live in him, that he may live in us.

 

 

 

 

18th July 2021. 7th Sunday after Trinity.

Prayer for today:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things; graft into our hearts the love of your name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all good ness, and of your great mercy keep us in the same, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord . Amen.

Readings

Ephesians 2: 11-22

Paul writes, ‘You were born as gentiles, described as uncircumcised by the circumcised, which is a human action.

You were without Christ, alien to the commonwealth of Israel,  strangers to the covenant of promise,  without hope and without God in this world.  But now, by the blood of Jesus Christ, you that were far-off have been brought near. He is our peace: in his flesh he has made both groups one, and broken down the wall of hostility that divided us. He has abolished the law and its ordinances, creating in himself one new humanity in place of the two, and making peace, so that all might be reconciled in one body through the cross, and putting to death the old hostility.

He proclaimed peace to you who were far-off and peace to those who were near; through him all of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. Now you are no longer strangers and aliens but fellow citizens with the saints, members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone.  In him the whole structure is joined together, and grows into a holy temple to the Lord. In him you are being built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

 

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

 

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

The apostles returned from their mission. They told Jesus what they had done. He replied, ‘Come away to a quiet place and rest.’

So many came to them that they had no time even to eat.

They went by boat to a deserted place, but the people saw them and  hurried there from the towns. When Jesus stepped ashore and saw the great crowds he had compassion: they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. They landed at Gennesareth. When he got out of the boat the people recognized him and rushed there from the whole neighbourhood. They carried their sick to wherever he was.

They begged to touch even the hem of his robe, and all who touched it were healed.

 

Among those who are sick we pray for  Evelyn Braid, Trish Lanning, Pat  and Foston Blair, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw,  Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

 

Among those who have died we remember Robbie Hutchinson and  Mildred Flatman, and pray for their families.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Kate Shilling,  Florence Tate, Isobel smith, Margaret Moffatt, Elizabeth Lindsay Oliver,  and Jimmy Common.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

 

In 1937 the new Methodist Hall in Colliers Wood began to be decorated with a mural of the washing of the feet by Jesus.

The artist was a German expressionist painter, Hans Feibusch, a Jew who had come away from the darkening shadow of anti-semitism in his native Frankfurt.

From then until the 1960s he went on to decorate some 30 Churches in England with powerfully expressive murals, often as part of the repairs to damage caused by bombing during the war. He was eventually baptized into the Church of England in 1962.

His story resonates for me with that of Paul, and of his words to the Ephesians which we read this morning.

We know how Paul, a Pharisee, was confronted by  Jesus Christ , and found in  him the cause and purpose for which he would spend his life. His words describe that hope he expresses in his person and in his life: that Jesus Christ is the good news for Jews and Gentiles alike; that in him all may find peace and union with God and with one another.

To many, it does not always seem so clear-cut or obvious.

The history of the relationship between Jews and the Church is a troubled one.  The overwhelming majority of the population of Germany in the 1930s had been baptized into one form or another of Christianity: it is hard to argue with those who say that  much of the persecution of Jews over the centuries has been carried out by Christians.

The history of our country includes episodes of which we are not proud; however we have a long tradition of providing shelter to those fleeing persecution. Among those were the many Jews, adults and children who, like Hans Feibusch, came here, and whose talents have been a blessing to us all.

Some, like him, found here a Church where they were honoured as welcomed as our elder brothers and sisters in our common faith. In this we have seen something of  St. Paul’s hopes realized.

The paint of those murals is flaking now and their style is no longer in fashion. The churches of Ephesus are now ruins or museums.

It is now over 140 years since Matthew Arnold stood on the beach at Dover and was inspired to write his beautiful but pessimistic poem on the retreat of the sea of faith, yet the tide that ebbs will also flow.

There are many today who work actively for the destruction of faith, and many are led down blind alleys and offered empty promises.

All too often, our children are treated like a resource to be exploited.  Are we in so very different a case to that of the people who came out to Jesus?

If the sheep have no shepherd, the flock is scattered, the vulnerable die or are killed, and there is none to lead them to food , water, and shelter.

The churches Hans Feibusch  decorated in Waterloo and Holborn had been built to serve the poor of London. Damaged and restored, their doors are open this morning.

Christ offers us refreshment when we are weary and hard-pressed, and commands us to rest before we resume our  labours.

He sends us out because he has compassion for all God’s children, and invites us to work with him and feed his lambs and tend his flock.

 

 

 

11th July 2021. Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today.

Merciful God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding; pour into our hearts such love towards you that we, loving you above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Readings.
2 Samuel 6: 1-5, 12-19

David the king gathered the chosen men of Israel to bring the ark of God from the house of Abinadab to the city of David.

David and the house of Israel danced before the Lord with all their might with songs, and music on harps and lyres, cymbals, castanets and tambourines. David sacrificed as the ark set off on its journey, and as the ark was brought into his city.

As the ark came into the city of David Michal the daughter of Saul looked down. She saw the king leaping and dancing and despised him.

When the ark was set in the tent, which David had pitched for it he blessed the people in the name of the Lord and distributed food to all of them. Then they returned to their homes.

Psalm 24

The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?

He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.

Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.

10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.

 

 

Ephesians 1: 3-14

Paul begins this letter by listing the blessings of those who are in Christ.  First, he chose us before all time to be holy and blameless in love, adopted as his children in Jesus Christ, for this was his will.  Through his blood we are redeemed, forgiven through the riches of his grace.

Secondly, he has revealed the mystery of his will set forth in Christ, to gather up in him all things in heaven and on earth.

Third, in Christ we have been given an inheritance, having been destined according to his purpose, and live for the praise of his glory. Those who heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, were marked with the promised Holy Spirit, the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

 

Mark 6: 14-29

When Herod the King heard of the healings and other miracles Jesus was doing,  they said to him, ‘Elijah has returned,’ and ‘he is like a prophet of old’, and ‘John the Baptist has been raised from the dead,’ but Herod said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has returned.’

Herod had ordered John to be arrested and put into prison because John had rebuked Herod for taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herodias wanted the death of John, but Herod feared him and liked to listen to him.

On his birthday Herod invited guests from across Galilee, and Herodias got her chance. Her daughter came in and danced for the guests, and pleased the king. He said to the girl, ‘Ask me for what you wish, and I will give it you; even half my kingdom!’

She went to her mother who ask for the head of John the Baptist.

‘I want the head of John the Baptist on a platter at once,’ she told the king. Herod was grieved, but dared not lose face in front of his guests; he ordered a soldier to bring the head of John, and they gave it to the girl, who gave it to her mother.

John’s disciples learned of it; they took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

 

Among those who are sick we pray for  Evelyn Braid, Trish Lanning, Pat  and Foston Blair, Mildred Flatman, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw,  Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

 

Among those who have died we remember Robbie Hutchinson and pray for Kathy and her daughters.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember

Jean Hall, Enid Taylor, Mary Capes,  Pauline Stephenson, Kate Shilling, John Calderbank and Mary Elizabeth Crowe.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

Since March of last year, music and dancing in public have been among the activities severely restricted in the attempt to prevent the spread of  COVID. They are two essential expressions of what it is to be human, and we have two readings this morning presenting us with very different stories involving dance and music.

The first reading bursts with the exuberance and joy of David the king dancing for his God as he and his followers bring the Ark of the Covenant to his city. There is something unembarrassed in his actions, for he is inspired by the love of God, but Michal, looking down from her window, sees the king making an undignified spectacle of himself, and despises him.

The Gospel reading focuses on the story of a very different dance.  It is perhaps hard for us to comprehend how shocking this story would be for those who first heard it: not just a woman dancing in public, but the daughter of the king dancing in front of a group of strange men. The story is meant to underline the corruption and decadence of the court of Herod, and leads to the pathetic climax, for Herod reveals his weakness when he cannot go back on his ridiculous promise to the girl and has to order the death of the prophet.

We know the power of music to stir our hearts and calm our spirits, the joy of singing together and that, in the Methodist tradition, for instance, hymns are the prayers of the Church, and yet we also know of songs and anthems that were composed to spread hatred and to incite people to violence.

Dance too is something beautiful, life-affirming and life-giving, yet it too can be reduced to being one of the tools we use in the ways we exploit one another.

As we come to a time where, in a few days, it may be that we will once again be able to share in music and dance, I want to reflect on how this is a blessing and a gift.

Some weeks ago I conducted the funeral of a man who had been married for over 60 years. It was clear how much he and his wife loved each other after all these years, and one of the elements of their relationship was dance.

After all these years there was a complete understanding between them.  Once on the dance floor you were aware that here was not two elderly individuals but one couple in  harmony, moving together easily, holding one another, forming something beautiful, far more than the sum of their parts, an image of the dance, the song, of their life together.

When David danced before the Lord he knew he did not dance alone, and was not seeking to impress his people.

He danced with a partner and his partner was his Lord and God, the Lord who had called him and anointed him, and blessed him as king over his people.

So when we sing and make music, may it be an expression of love. May we join our songs to the song of creation for, as

St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, God’s purpose is to gather together all things in heaven and on earth.

 

 

 

 

 

4th July 2021.  Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today.

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified, hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Readings;

Ezekiel 2: 1-5

I saw heaven opened, and visions of God. I fell on my face, but a voice said to me, ‘Stand; for I will speak to you, mortal.’  A spirit entered me and raised me up, and said to me, ‘I am sending you to the people of Israel.  Throughout the generations they have rebelled against me. They are impudent and stubborn.  You will say to them, “Thus says the Lord.” Whether they listen or not, they will know that there has been a prophet among them.’

Psalm 123

 Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.

Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.

Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.

Mark 6: 1-13

Jesus came to the synagogue in his home town with his disciples, and taught there on the Sabbath. Many who heard were astonished.  They said, ‘Where does he get this from?  What is this wisdom and power? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?  Are not his brothers and sisters here among us?’ So they rejected him.  Jesus said, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and among his own kin,’ and he was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus went and taught in the villages. He called the twelve and sent them off two by two, with authority over unclean spirits.

He ordered them to take nothing for the journey except a stick; no money, no bread, no bag, no spare coat. He said, ‘When you enter a house, stay until you leave that place. If they refuse to welcome you and receive you, shake the dust from your feet as you leave as a testimony against them.’

They went out and proclaimed a gospel of repentance. They cast out demons; they anointed with oil many who were sick, and cured them.

 

Among those who are sick we pray for  Evelyn Braid, Trish Lanning, Pat  and Foston Blair, Mildred Flatman, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw,  Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

Among those who have died we remember Gordon Crowe.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Dina Johanna  Swanepoel (1990), Pat Pickworth (2012),  Jean Grubb (1999) and Jean Hall (2003).

 Reflection on today’s readings

This weekend in this diocese the ordinations take place of Henry Hope(for Hexham abbey), Lynne Dean, Miriam Jones, Alison McCarthy, Adam Smith and Sion Hughes Carew as deacons, and Yvette Daniel, Oliver Dempsey, Rosemary Harrison, Samuel Lochead, Kim Wears, Alan White, Phyllis Carruthers, Samuel Quilty, Paul Rusby, Thomas Sample, and John Storey as priests.

Please pray for them all in their ministry and service.

I remember the first day after my ordination, walking along Stanhope Street in my new black clerical shirt and collar.

I felt like a marked man: no longer would I be able to live in anonymity, and a voice was saying to me, ‘Are you kidding? What do you know about anything?’ In a way, I felt like a fraud.

Only over time would I grow into the ministry for which the Church had ordained me.

When he was speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus asked his listeners, ‘What did you see?’ and answered his own question with, ‘A man, but more than a man: of one born of woman, there has been none greater than John; yet I tell you that the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.’

When Jesus came to his home village with his disciples, what did his old neighbours see? They had heard his words; they knew of his great deeds, but because they did not look with the eye of faith, all they saw was the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and the rest. They rejected him: this was not how they assumed God would send his messenger. Perhaps it was to do with their sense of their own insignificance: ’’Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ Nathanael asked Philip.

The men and women who are ordained this weekend will have come to this point sustained by the prayers and support of their own families and of the communities and Churches from which they come.

Whatever their own sense of bewilderment and unworthiness, they will grow with the love, prayers and support of the communities and Churches to which they are sent, and find that God will use them and equip them with what they need for his service.

I remember a woman ordinand giving an address here at Whitley Chapel many years ago. I knew Helen when she was a school governor at Corbridge; she was a quietly-spoken Scottish woman.  She gave her testimony, and did so very simply and without flourish, and for one of our congregation, who had rejected the idea of the ordination of women, it was as though the penny dropped. Here before her, she understood now, was what vocation looked like; here in this plain-speaking woman, Jesus Christ was at work.

Surely for anyone engaged in Christian ministry, this has to be the greatest hope, the greatest joy, that we should enable others to see Jesus. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said, ‘The least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he’: the seemingly most humble and insignificant person can open the eyes of others to the presence of Christ and to the knowledge and experience of his life-giving Good News.

Here in Tynedale, nearly 50 people from the Deaneries of Hexham,  Corbridge and Bellingham are coming towards the completion of  courses in Pastoral care and in Liturgy and worship.  I pray God will bless them in his service.

No doubt there will be more courses of this kind in the near future.

Let there be no doubt: the Spirit of God continues to come into the lives of people of all sorts and conditions, near and far, and these are reasons for hope and rejoicing.

27th June 2021.  Fourth Sunday after Trinity.

Prayer for today:

O God the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply upon us your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not hold on things eternal; grant this, heavenly Father, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

Readings:

2 Corinthians 8: 7-15

Paul has been writing  of the poverty of the Church in Jerusalem and of his appeal to the new Churches for help.

He writes to the church in Corinth to remind them that they were the first to sign up to this appeal. Let them now make good that promise, he writes.

Let their inspiration be Christ himself who, for their sakes, surrendered all that he had and became poor, in order that through this they might become rich.

He does not expect them to give away all that they have, but appeals to their sense of fairness.

Psalm 30

I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.

O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.

O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.

Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.

I cried to thee, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication.

What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?

10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper.

11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;

12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

Mark 5: 21-43

Jesus crossed the lake in a boat. As he got out a great crowd was gathered. The leader of the synagogue, Jairus, fell at his feet saying, ‘My daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so she may be healed, and live.’

Jesus went with him and the crowd pressed on him. In the crowd was a woman who had suffered haemorrhages for  twelve years.

She had spent all she had on doctors, and had only become worse. She said to herself, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ She touched his hem as he went by, and immediately knew that she was healed. Jesus stopped and demanded who had touched him. The disciples pointed out the crowd pressing on him, but he looked around and the woman, knowing what had happened to her, fell down before him and told him the whole truth.  Jesus said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace; be healed.’

Meanwhile word came that the child was dead. ‘Why trouble the teacher any further?’ they asked, but Jesus said to Jairus, ‘Do not fear; only believe.’  Jesus took Peter, James and John, and came to a house full of people weeping and waling loudly.

‘Why make this commotion?’ Jesus asked, ‘The child is not dead, but sleeping.’  They laughed at him, but Jesus sent them out, and went in  with his companions and the parents of the girl. He took her hand and said, ‘Little girl, get up!’ Immediately she arose and walked (she was twelve years of age). He ordered them to tell no-one of this, and to give her something to eat.

Among those who are sick we pray for Trish Lanning, Pat  and Foston Blair, Mildred Flatman, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw,  Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember

Carolina Casson (2002), Mary Hannah Johnson (1950), Laura Cross (1991), Nancy Stobbs (2001), Mary Rutherford (1999), John Evans (2000), Selina Doreen Watling (2004), Tony Dolan (2011) and Dina Johanna Swanepoel(1990).

 

Thoughts on today’s reading

If in this past year you have had to isolate yourself because of  COVID 19,  and felt yourself to be a prisoner in your own home, you may have a glimmer of understanding of the plight of the woman in this passage from St. Mark’s gospel.

The bleeding from which she suffered made her permanently ritually unclean, cut off from the life of her community.

What Jewish society counted as God’s blessing on woman: marriage and motherhood, were impossible for her.

Do the twelve years of her imprisonment by illness and the twelve years of age of the daughter of Jairus stand for the sufferings of women in the twelve tribes of Israel?

What is certain is that in this passage it is two women who are the focus of the power of God in Jesus Christ, and for whom the presence of  Jesus is not just Good News but healing, liberation and life itself.

Jesus does not respond with disgust to the woman’s touch but addresses her as ‘Daughter’ and validates her faith.

In reaching out to Jesus the woman has been restored to life within her community. She can go in peace.

The age of the little girl indicates that she is on the threshold of womanhood.   Jesus does not see before him a lifeless, unclean corpse, but one for whom he has come as the resurrection and the life.  And so he reaches out and it is in that touch, and in his word, that she receives back her life and her health, and is restored to her parents.

In the love of Christ there is no place for shrinking from those who reach out for healing, for compassion, help and comfort, none is unclean or cut off from the love of God.

His presence and his touch can turn our mourning into dancing (do you remember dancing?), put off our sackcloth and  gird us with gladness.

 

 

 

 

Sunday 20th June 2021. 3rd Sunday after Trinity.

Prayer for today.

Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts whereby we call you Father; give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, that we and all creation may be brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God: through Jesus  Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Among those who are sick we pray for Trish Lanning, Pat  and Foston Blair, Mildred Flatman, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw,  Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

 

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember

John Lowdon (1977), James Oliver (1982), George Frederick Watling (2000), and William Lamb Urwin (1970).

Readings:

2 Corinthians 6: 1-13

We work together with Christ; do not accept the grace of God in vain. For he has said, ‘At an acceptable time I listened to you; on a day of salvation I helped you.’ And now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.

We put no obstacles in any one’s way, so that no fault may be found in our ministry, but as servants of God commend ourselves in every way: through our endurance in the face of all manner of hardships, by our purity, love, wisdom and holiness, with the power of God and the weapons of righteousness, however we are judged. We are treated as imposters, yet are true; as dying, yet we live, as punished, but we are not killed, as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

We have been open-hearted and true in our affection: children, open wide your hearts also.

 

107 O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;

24 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.

25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.

26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.

27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.

28 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.

29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.

30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

31 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

32 Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Mark 4:35-41

It was evening beside the lake. Jesus said, ‘Let us cross to the other side.’ They left the crowd and set off in the boat. Other boats were with them. A gale arose and the boat began to be swamped by the waves. Jesus was asleep in the stern. The disciples woke him, saying, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He awoke, and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ’Who is this? Even the sea and waves obey him.’

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

In all their days with him, it is clear Jesus was preparing the disciples for the life they would live after his crucifixion.

In explaining the parables to them, he sought to open their minds to the kingdom he had come to bring, and in his signs and wonders gave them confidence in the Gospel he proclaimed and embodied.

This story from St. Mark’s Gospel tells us of a different kind of lesson .

After an exhausting day submerged in the crowds, Jesus asked his disciples to take him across the lake.

Here they were in their boat, in their familiar environment, looking after their teacher, yet very soon found that they were helpless in the face of elements of almost infinite power.

As fishermen they knew all too well the danger in which they found themselves.

The presence of Jesus gave them no reassurance or courage. What was he doing, asleep, while they tried to save their lives?

For they saw him as just that, a teacher, albeit one with real authority, and the ability to heal all manner of illnesses.

They could not believe what they were seeing as Jesus rebuked the wind and ordered the sea to be still. Who was this? Who but God could command the wind and the seas?

And so Jesus rebuked them, ‘Have you still no faith?’

For the time would come, as the second letter to Corinthians puts it so eloquently, when apostles of Jesus Christ would suffer all manner of hardships for the sake of the Gospel, and be considered by those who saw them to be worthy of pity at best, of scorn and hatred at worst.

In Christ alone would they find their defence and also the weapons with which to carry forward the kingdom of God.

In Christ alone would they find their treasure and their joy in the face of all things. For then their faith would be put to the test, and then it would not fail, but triumph.

How often we, in spite of our long journeys with the Lord, nevertheless find that our courage and even our faith fly out of the window in the face of adversity and, like the disciples, cry out to the Lord, ‘Are you asleep? What are you doing? Can’t you see we are drowning?’

And yet we know that we have been loved and, that in our darkest hours we were not godforsaken.

In the words of the hymn ‘Through all the changing scenes of life’:

O make but trial of his love

Experience will decide

How blest are they, and only they

Who in his truth confide.

As John Wesley lay dying, at the end of a life of ceaseless preaching and of hardships we can hardly conceive of, he is said to have cried out, ‘The best of all is, God is with us.’

May that be the knowledge which daily gives us the courage to witness to the truth and to set out on to the sea of life, and to know that God never abandons us to the elements, even when our courage and our faith are shaken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13th June 2021 . 2nd Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today;

Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth; send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you. Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

Readings

Ezekiel 17: 22-24

The Lord says, ‘I will take a tender stem from the top of a lofty cedar and plant  it on the high mountain of Israel.  It will become a noble and fruitful tree.  It will be a home and a shelter for birds and winged creatures of every kind.

All the trees will know I am Lord. I bring low the high tree and make the low tree high; I dry out the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord will do this.’

 

Verses from Psalm 92

 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High:

To shew forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,

Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.

For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.

11 Mine eye also shall see my desire on mine enemies, and mine ears shall hear my desire of the wicked that rise up against me.

12 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

13 Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.

14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;

15 To shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Mark 4: 26-34

The crowd was so great that Jesus got into a boat to teach them; he told them many parables. He said, ‘The kingdom of God is like someone scattering seed on the ground. Night and day he sleeps and rises. The seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. Of itself the earth produces the stalk, the head, and then the full grain. But when it is ripe, he goes in at once with a sickle, for the harvest is come.’

And he said, ‘What parable can we use for kingdom of God? It is like a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds; yet when it is sown it becomes the greatest of shrubs. It puts forth great branches, where the birds find shelter.’

Jesus spoke many such parables, but explained everything privately to his disciples.

Among those who are sick we pray for Trish Lanning, Pat  and Foston Blair, Mildred Flatman, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw,  Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

Among those who have died remember Pamela Carr.

Among those whose year’s  mind is at this time we remember Helen Thompson (2014), Harry Eastwood (1966) , Arthur Atkinson (1981), John Greenwood (1990) and Ulric Dixon (2004)

Thoughts on today’s readings.

Earlier in the Spring, when the mornings were frosty, I began making sowings of lettuces in the green house.  The seeds are no larger than grass seed, yet now, those lettuces, planted out, are spreading themselves out. Spinach I sowed in the ground last year has stood the winter, and we are  now eating the big leaves.  It is a thing of wonder that something so small is able to sprout, and grow into  something  so vigorous.

Of course, there is a time for sowing, and the ground needs to be prepared, but so much is beyond our control.

The same apple trees ,which produced an abundant crop last year will, because of the colder spring this year, produce virtually nothing. Drought or pests, and diseases, can easily destroy the plants I have sown.

Jesus spoke to the people in parables. He used images they could relate to in order to speak of that which is beyond human experience: the Kingdom of God. The people Jesus spoke to lived close to the land and observed it closely. What to us may be of passing interest was for them a matter of life and death. A poor harvest meant you would go hungry and some would die.

They understood very well that there is a time for sowing, and that we must sow in the expectation that there will be a harvest. In between, however, much that happens is beyond our control. We have to be patient, and wait as the days go by.

In the arresting imagery of the passage, where God is  described as the Lord of the trees,  God  speaks of taking a tiny shoot, understood to be a future king from the house of David, and making him great , not just over Israel, but over the whole world, and to give shelter to all creatures.

There is a sense in these readings that God’s purpose and attention is for all creation.

What is required of us is that we are ready, at the appropriate time, to do the sowing, that we have the faith and the patience to wait, and  prepared for the harvest.

Jesus gives us the world around us as our teacher: look at it, learn from it, and you will better understand what is God’s purpose.

Then you may  share the sense of  wonder of the mother who looks at her child, grown from the tiny life that began within her body, and sees the miracle of this complete new person.

For the Kingdom of God is not a thing, but begins with a person and a relationship.

The only way for us to encounter this mystery is  as a disciple, within the relationship into which we are invited by Jesus.

 

 

6th June 2021. 1st Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today.

O God the strength of all those who put their trust in you, mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without you; grant us the help of your grace, that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

 

Readings

2 Corinthians  4:13 – 5:1

It is in the same spirit of faith revealed in scripture that we believed, and so we spoke because we know the one who raised Jesus will also raise us with him and bring us with you into his presence. All this is for you so that grace, extending to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

We do not lose heart. Our outer nature is wasting away, but our inner nature is being renewed daily.

The affliction of this moment  is preparing us for an eternal glory beyond measure.

We do not look at what can be seen, which is temporary, but at what is unseen, which is eternal.

If the tent of our earthly life is destroyed, we have from God an eternal house, not made with hands, in the heavens.

 

Psalm 130

 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.

Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.

And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

 

Mark 3: 20-35

The crowds pressed in on Jesus and his followers so that they could not even eat. People were saying, ‘He is out of his mind,’ and so his family came out to restrain him. The scribes from Jerusalem were saying, ‘He uses Beelzabub, prince of demons, to cast out demons!’ So Jesus called them to him and said, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan?  A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand; a house divided against itself cannot stand. If Satan is risen against himself, he cannot stand: he is finished.

You cannot enter the house of a strong man and rob him without first tying him up; only then can the house be plundered.

I tell you truly: people will be forgiven their sins and blasphemies, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven: that is an eternal sin,’ – for they had said,’He has an unclean spirit.’

His mother and brothers were standing outside, and sent for him. The people said, ‘Your mother , your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ Jesus replied, ‘Who are my brothers and my mother?’ He looked round, ‘Here is my mother, and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my mother, my sister, my brother.’

 

 

Among those who are sick we pray for Trish Lanning, Pat  and Foston Blair, Mildred Flatman, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw, Pamela Carr, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

 

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember

Helen Eastwood (2002), Ruth Armstrong (1978),

George Lowdon (1998) and Joan Ross (1984).

 

I will be away from today and until Tuesday evening.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings 

The passage from the second letter to Corinthians has a valedictory feel: the thoughts of someone old coming to the end of their years of service, aware of their failing body, yet intensely alive, intensely hopeful, still speaking and witnessing to that Spirit which he knows by faith.

That hope is based on experience: that God is faithful and, though the writer is facing physical trials and the possibility of death,  he is seeing that faithfulness bearing fruit in God’s grace extending to ever more people.

God is faithful and true, and so Paul does not see what is happening to him as a sort of personal tragedy, but is thankful for God’s blessing on his work and sees what is happening to him as a preparation for an eternal glory which is beyond description. For though he was born in the flesh, and lives in the body, through Jesus Christ he was born again in the Spirit, and that life in the Spirit continues to grow, even as his life in the body comes towards its end.

When the disciples of Jesus asked him to teach them to pray, he taught them to address God as ‘Abba, Father,’ and this was the prayer of Paul too.

If then Jesus invites us to address God, his Father, as our Father, then he is inviting us to know him as our brother, to sit at his table, to drink from his cup, to be alive in his Spirit.

The people who crowded round Jesus, so many that he had not a chance even to eat, did not understand exactly who he was, but they came, their minds were open to him, they came with hope and expectation and, yes, faith. The scribes had made their minds up already. All they needed was a slander to justify their prejudice and so they said he must be crazy, possessed.

Jesus reserved his harshest criticism for them, because they claimed spiritual authority and, by denying that the mighty works they saw were done by God, blasphemed the very Lord they claimed to serve.

The family of Jesus, alarmed by the reports they received, had come to take him in hand but instead he looked on those who had come, not to condemn him or silence him, but to listen to him, because they hoped, because they believed and said, “Here is my mother, my sister, my brother.”

For the presence, the life and the truth of the Spirit of God is seen in its fruits, not in words alone.

The temples, the structures, the trappings are external, just that, and if that’s all there is, they are empty shells.

It is the Spirit that gives life; it is where two or three are met in his name that Jesus is present.

So may the Spirit of Jesus pray with your spirit when you pray ‘Father,’ and in that Spirit may your hope be renewed daily,  and bear fruit in your lives, that there may be joy in heaven and delight in your hearts.

30th May 2021. Trinity Sunday

Prayer for today

Almighty and eternal God, you have revealed yourself as Father, Son,  and Holy Spirit, and live and reign in the perfect unity of love: hold us firm in this faith, that we may know you in all your ways, and evermore rejoice in your eternal glory, who are three persons, yet one  God, now and for ever.

Readings

Isaiah 6; 1-8

In the year King Uzziah died the prophet was in the Temple. He saw the Lord on a high throne; the hem of his robe filled the Temple. Six-winged seraphs attended him, and called out, “Thrice holy is the Lord of hosts: the earth is full of his glory.”

At their voices the house shook, and was filled with smoke.

The prophet cried out, ’I am lost for I, an unclean man, have seen the Lord!’

One seraph brought a live coal from the altar and touched the prophet on the lips, and said, ’Now your guilt has departed, and your sin is blotted out.’

The Lord spoke, ‘Whom shall I send; who will go for us?’ and the prophet replied, ‘Here I am: send me.’

Psalm 29

Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength.

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars; yea, the Lord breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.

He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.

The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire.

The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness; the Lord shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.

10 The Lord sitteth upon the flood; yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever.

11 The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.

John 3: 1-17

A Jewish leader, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, came by night to see Jesus. He said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are sent by God. Only so could you do these signs.’

Jesus said, ‘I tell you truly; no-one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born from above.’ Nicodemus replied, ‘But how can someone be born when they are old?’

Jesus replied, ‘You must be born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God. The flesh gives birth to flesh, and the Spirit to spirit. The wind blows freely; you do not know whence it comes or where it goes so it is with those born of the Spirit.’  But Nicodemus said, ‘How can this be?’

Again Jesus said, ‘How do you not know this? You are a teacher of Israel. Truly I tell you: we bear witness to that we have seen and heard, but you do not accept it. If I tell you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?    Only one has gone up to heaven: the Son of Man who came down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him.

Among those who are sick we pray for Trish Lanning, Pat  and Foston Blair, Mildred Flatman, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw, Pamela Carr, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Ridley Roddam, Jack Brian Cross and Joyce Swallow.

 Reflections on this morning’s readings

The passage from Isaiah opens in the Temple.  Uzziah had ruled for 40 peaceful years over Israel. Ahead lay years of invasion, massacres and exile. It is , if you like, as this terrible storm is about to break, that Isaiah is given this vision of the Lord in the Temple. ‘The hem of his robe filled the Temple’.  Who has measured God, who has comprehended the Lord? Isaiah is faced with something beyond what language can convey, beyond what his mind can comprehend. His reaction is one of terror, as if one were to stand on the threshold  of a blast furnace or a nuclear reaction: here is power that human flesh cannot withstand.

Yet Isaiah has received this revelation for a reason: God has chosen him. The angel with the live coal takes away  his sense of uncleanness in the presence of the Lord and, when the Lord asks, ‘Whom shall we send?’ replies ‘Send me; here I am.’

The Lord does not command ‘Go here! Do this!’ but asks, ‘Whom shall we send?’ and Isaiah knows the Lord has called him, and says, ‘Send me’, just as  Mary would one day say, ‘Here I am: the Lord’s servant. Let it be as you have said.’

Mary said ‘Let it be’, and so gave birth to Jesus, son of Mary, son of God; Flesh of my flesh; God of God.

The Pharisee who comes by night(to avoid embarrassment) to see Jesus knows that  God has done mighty works through Jesus but sees him only as a holy man and addresses him, respectfully, as ‘Rabbi’. He cannot comprehend that he is in the presence of God.

And so Jesus makes clear to him that flesh gives birth to flesh: it can only comprehend the things of the flesh; its horizons are birth and death.

It is the Spirit, that is, God, who gives birth to Spirit, and what is required, that someone may born again, that is, born of water and the Spirit, is faith: belief in other words.

Only those born of water and the Spirit will be able, as Paul wrote to the Romans, to cry out ‘Abba! Father!’

Only those who believe, who are born of water and the Spirit will know what seems inconceivable; that God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

A couple of weeks ago I came across a patient in Hexham hospital. She was very friendly, though struggling a little with confusion. She told me she had been a Methodist minister (on Teesside I think) and was born into the Primitive Methodist Church.  We spoke of the sadness caused by the pandemic, and of the sense of loss from not being able to sing in Church.

‘What is your favourite hymn?’ I asked. She thought , and replied, ‘Fanny Crosby!’ it wasn’t what I was expecting to hear, but on returning to the office, I looked Fanny Crosby up on the internet.

Fanny Crosby was born in New York State in 1820. She was born into a poor family and, when she was 6, lost her eyesight, probably as a result of an infection, like those which rob so many children in the third world of their eyesight even today.  She taught herself music: to play, to sing and to compose, and became one of the greatest composers of hymns: she has 8000 hymns to her name. She had a powerful lifelong faith , mostly expressed within the Methodist Churches. She  gave away almost all that she ever earned to charitable works. She was married, not very happily, to another blind musician named van Alstyne, and so her name is given in our hymn books as Frances van Alstyne. Their only child died soon after her birth, and Fanny died in relative obscurity, as poor as the day of her own birth.

Our second hymn this morning ‘To God be the glory’ is one of her best-known, and perhaps it explains why and how her life is defined by far more than a list of the events in her life.

Disease and poverty robbed her of her eyesight when she was still a child, yet her hymns tell us that she saw the glory of the Lord in the Temple, and with the eyes of faith saw what great things God had done, who gave his only Son so that heaven might be opened to all who believed in him.

The words she was inspired to write are a more powerful and enduring  testimony and witness than many a sermon, and continue to bring worshippers to visions of glory and the hope of salvation.

And so may the Lord open our lips, that our mouths may show forth his praise.

 

 

 

 

Sunday 23rd May 2021. Pentecost.

Prayer for today

God, who at this time taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: grant us by the same light to have a right judgement in all things and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Jesus Christ  our Saviour.  Amen

Readings;

Acts 2: 1-21

On the day of Pentecost the followers of Jesus were gathered together.  A sound like a mighty rushing wind filled the house; tongues of fire appeared and rested on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit ; they began to speak in foreign tongues, as the Spirit gave them power.

At that time Jerusalem was filled with devout Jews from all over the world.  The noise attracted a crowd. They were amazed: each one heard them speak in his own language. ‘Are these not all from Galilee?’ they asked., ’How is it that we all hear them speak in our native tongue?’ But some scoffed, ‘They have been drinking the new wine.’

Peter stood with the eleven and addressed the crowd, ‘Listen to my words . We are not drunk: it is 9 in the morning. Today the prophecy of Joel is fulfilled: ‘In the last days I will pour out my Spirit  on all flesh. Your children shall prophecy; your young will have visions; your old will receive dreams; I will also pour out my Spirit upon your slaves and they will prophecy.

There will be signs in heaven and on earth; blood and fire and mist. The sun will be darkened and the moon turn to blood before before the coming of the day of God’s glory.

Then all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’

 

Verses from Psalm 104

24 O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.

26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.

27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.

28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.

29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.

30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.

31 The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works.

32 He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.

33 I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.

 

John 15: 26-27, 16: 4-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I will send you the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, from the Father to testify on my behalf. You have been with me from the beginning and you will testify.

I tell you this now; when it comes to pass you will remember I told you. I am telling you now because I am going to the one who sent me. None of you asks ‘Where are you going?’  but sorrow fills your hearts. This is the truth: it is better for you that I go away. The Advocate will not come to  you unless I go away.

He will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgement. Sin: because they do not believe in me. Righteousness: because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me. Judgement : because the ruler of this world is condemned. You cannot now bear all I have to say to you.

The Spirit of Truth will come and guide you into all truth.

He will speak that which he hears, and declare what is to come. He will glorify me for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. So I say he will take what is  mine and declare it to you.’

We are asked to pray for the Parish of Holy Cross Haltwhistle, holding their AGM today.

Among those who are sick we pray for Trish Lanning, Pat  and Foston Blair,  Carol Maskell, Mildred Flatman, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw, Pamela Carr, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison, John and Gwyneth Wilde and Christopher  Brown. 

 

 Among those who have died we remember Johnnie Gorham, and pray for Sian and Charlie, and also Frank  Thompson, whose funeral is here tomorrow at 1.30 p.m.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember

Dougie Lamb,  Marjorie Francis Leybourne,  Joseph Nichol, George Forster, Ken Wootton, William Hawkins and Ian Hudspith.

Thoughts on today’s readings

When I was at the beginning of my service as an Assistant Chaplain at the RVI I remember that we were taught that, particularly when we are given bad news, it is likely that we actually remember only 25% of what we are told.

Therefore it is important to have someone beside us who will be able to hear what we cannot, and act as an advocate, to speak for us. I also know that in situations of crisis, when we were dumb and accepted without question what we were told, but without understanding, it was Carole with her knowledge who brought light into the situation.

In this passage from St. John’s gospel, Jesus was speaking to his disciples on the night before his death. Already the shadow of the cross hung over them, and they were filled with dread.

They could not see how this could mean anything other than disaster. Jesus wanted them to be clear about one thing: this was God’s purpose. How then could it be a disaster?

That purpose was not that that they should remain forever in a state of childlike dependence upon Jesus, but go out into the world to fulfil God’s purpose, having the Spirit of God as their Advocate.

Jesus warned them not to accept the world’s judgements as authoritative.

The religious authorities believed they were getting rid of a blasphemer in having him put to death and the Romans thought they had avoided public disorder in giving the crowd what they demanded, but religion is often misguided and public opinion shifts with the wind.

The heart of the issue, Jesus said, is sin: we put our self- interest first, and presume this is the will of God.

The High Priests thought they defended God’s honour by having Jesus crucified, but his journey led not to decay in the grave but to his Father, where his humanity pleads for us. Jesus is alive.

The priests and governor, and Herod too, imagined they sat in judgement upon a disruptive figure from Galilee.

Rather, they sat under God’s judgement, and faced their judge in the one they condemned.

Jesus recognized that this was beyond what his disciples could understand and absorb.  The spirit, the Advocate, would be sent by the Father to guide them.

And so today on Pentecost Sunday we celebrate that God is faithful and true.

On that first day of Pentecost the disciples were gathered as Jesus had instructed, and the spirit came upon them in wind and flame. They emerged from behind their closed doors into the bustle of a Jewish festival and were changed. No longer were they a fearful and doubting group from Galilee, but the Spirit gave them a voice and words and authority to declare God’s marvellous work to the people of the whole world.

Over and over again in recent days I have been asking people I visit, who are often very ill and near the end of their lives, the question, ‘How are you and the Lord getting on?’ and almost invariably the answer comes, ‘We’re getting on fine. He’s always beside me,’ even when that person is weary and sick of their life.

We are not expected to journey alone: the Advocate is there.

God sends his angels in many forms, and his witnesses are often unknown, unseen and unrecognized, even as God’s own Son was unrecognized, just as Isaiah had foretold.

The mightiest empires rise and fall and, like Christ himself, the Church must trust in the Father, love and obey, even when this means allowing those things which must to die, in order that he may raise the new life of His kingdom.

 

 

 

 

16th May 2021. Sunday after Ascension Day.

Prayer for today

O God the King of glory, you have exalted your only son, Jesus Christ, with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:

We beseech you, leave us not comfortless, but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us and exalt us to the place where our Saviour Christ is gone before, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings;

Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26

The believers numbered about 120; Peter stood up among them and said, ‘Scripture was fulfilled, as the Holy Spirit foretold through David concerning Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus – he was one of us and shared in this ministry.

And so one of these men who has accompanied us throughout the ministry of Jesus must become with us a witness to his resurrection.’ Two names were put forward; Joseph and Matthias. They prayed that the Lord would show them which one to choose in place of Judas. They threw lots and Matthias was chosen; he was added to the eleven apostles.

 Psalm 1

Happy are they who have not walked in the council of the wicked,  or lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;

Everything they do will prosper.

It is not so with the wicked:

They are like chaff  which the wind blows away;

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgement comes, nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

But the way of the wicked is doomed.

 

John 17: 6-19

Jesus prayed for his disciples before he faced his passion, ‘Father, these are the ones you gave me from the world: I have made your name known to them. They were yours, you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. They know that all you have given me is yours. The words you gave me I have given to them; in truth they know I came from you; they believe you sent me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world. You gave them to me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Father, protect them in your name, that they may be one, as we are one. I protected them in your name, and not one was lost except the one foretold by scripture to be lost. Now I am coming to you; I say these things so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word; the world has hated them because, like me, they do not belong to the world. I do not ask you to take them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one. Consecrate them in the truth: your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I send them into the world. For their sake I consecrate my self, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

Among those who are sick we pray for Trish Lanning, Pat Blair,  Carol Maskell, Mildred Flatman, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw, Pamela Carr, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison and Christopher  Brown.  

Among those who have died we remember Frank Thompson, and also Millicent Richardson, Anna Rossiter, Neil Robinson,  Bobby Charlton,  and Dougie Lamb, whose year’s mind is about this time.

Thoughts on the Ascension

hen someone is taken from us and we no longer see them our response is not usually one of joy, especially if we love them, yet we are told this is exactly how the disciples responded to the event of their Lord’s  Ascension.  This only makes sense if, firstly, they saw in this the fulfilment of what he had told them must come to pass, and so were filled with hope for what he had promised, the sending down of his Spirit, and secondly, that they already had a sense of the truth of what he had told them, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

The doubt that had clouded their mind was being swept away; faith was enabling them to see and understand what until now had been beyond them.

For Jesus was taken from their sight , not because he had disappeared,  but because, at his Father’s right hand, he prayed for them and, more than this, he remained with them and they in him, and  they would bear fruit in his name.

Three times in the passage from St. John’s Gospel we read this morning Jesus uses the word ‘protect’, yet many of those for whom he prayed would die for their faith, some of them crucified like him.

Jesus did not issue his followers with weapons; he did not produce breastplates and helmets with magical properties; he prayed for them.  He prayed the Father to protect them, so that they might be one, as he and the Father are one. He had protected them from being lost, and prayed the Father to protect them from the devil. He did not ask the Father to rescue them from the world.

Jesus had made the name of God known to his disciples; that is to say, in the relationship of Jesus to the Father they saw the nature of God revealed and that relationship was a relationship of prayer.

Though we naturally fear pain, and see the relief of suffering as the greatest good, we cannot demand of God that we be wrapped in cotton wool. In pain and labour our mothers brought us to birth, and rejoiced to hear in us the cry of life.

We do not come into life in order to hide ourselves away, in case something bad should happen.

We grow up to see the world as beautiful and life as an adventure, and learn that we were made to swim, not to drown.

And yes, we learn to pray, for it is in this that we discover and reveal that we are the children of God, and made in his image.

It is in prayer and though prayer, rather than in the greatest feats of  human endeavour, that we are defined as the children of God.

The beautiful revelation I take from this morning’s reading is this: that at the heart of all that is we find a relationship of love, the love of a child and a Father, a relationship expressed through prayer, and learn that we are invited into that relationship of love, faith and prayer. In this we find that we are indeed one with each other and one with the Father and his Son.

Then in the times of our trials we will find, like David, that we do not need to be weighed down with someone else’s ill-fitting armour, but that the Lord will enable us to overcome.

 

9th May 2021. Sixth Sunday of Easter (Sunday before Ascension)

Prayer for today: God our redeemer, you have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your Son: grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his continual presence in us he may raise us to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ.Amen.

Readings

1 John 5:1-6

Whoever believes Jesus is God’s chosen one is a child of God: whoever loves the father loves his child also.

In this way we love the children of God: by loving God and keeping his commandments. This is not too hard for us; every child of God can win victory over the world because of faith. That person believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus came in the water of his baptism and the blood of his death. To this the Spirit bears witness, for the Spirit is truth.

Psalm 98

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things.

With his right arm and his holy arm he has won for himself

the victory.

The Lord has made known his victory;

His righteousness he has shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

And all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout to the Lord, all you lands;

Lift up your voice, rejoice and sing.

Sing to the Lord with the harp,

With the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord, when he comes to judge the earth.

In righteousness he will judge the world and the peoples

with equity.

John 15: 9-17

Jesus said to his disciples, ’As the Father loves me, so I love you; remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I tell you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. No longer do I call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. I call you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me; I chose you and commissioned you to go and bear much fruit, fruit that will last.

So the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.

This is my command to you: love one another.

Today we pray and  give thanks for Elizabeth Mary and Suzannah Maria Marshall, and for their parents Thomas and Shirla who have brought them for baptism today, and for their godmothers Angela, Margaret, Joanne and Jucinta.

 

Among those who are sick we pray for Trish Lanning, Pat Blair,  Carol Maskell, Mildred Flatman, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,  Ted Tavora, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw, Pamela Carr, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Frank Thompson ,  Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison and Christopher  Brown.    

 

Among those who have died we remember Janet Bailey, and also Giuseppe Sanna and Peter Moore, whose year’s  mind is about this time.

 

Thoughts for today.

This morning in Church we give thanks with Thomas and Shirla and with their godparents for the gift and the wonder of their beautiful children Lizzie and Suzie.

You have brought your children for baptism and they will be welcomed into the family of  God  and as children of God, in the name of Jesus Christ.

In our reading from St. John’s Gospel we hear Jesus praying that his disciples may bear good fruit; fruit that will last. Earlier in the same chapter, Jesus speaks of himself as the vine, the true vine, and of his followers as the branches. We need one another if we are to live, he is saying. The branches cannot live without the vine; they can do nothing unless the leaves break forth, and the purpose of that life is to bear good fruit.

During my years  at sea, many of the people I sailed with were married with children.  What brought them back to sea, what sustained them through the long and often boring and lonely days and nights of  often repetitive work was the love for their families, the need to provide for those they loved.

Yet what I also very soon learned was that on a ship we depended on one another; we had to work as a team.

The decisions I took, the way I discharged my duties, could have life and death consequences for those I sailed with.

When I slept in my bunk I had to trust that those who were awake and on duty were people I could have confidence in, even though we were no more than ‘Board of Trade acquaintances’.

Safety at sea is about more than ticking boxes.

Nowadays I am a very much part-time member of a different team and Shirla, you are here with some of your team from ward 4. Each member of that team has their important part to play and part of that work is saving the lives of patients every day.

The housekeepers do much more than simply keep the hospital clean, essential though that is. Often they are the ones who listen to the patients and their concerns, befriend them, hear and understand their story. In your care for your patients you make it clear to them that they are a person, a unique person, a name, not just an NHS number.

As parents, we love our children; we will do whatever it takes for them, but we recognize our own need for love, help, support; bringing up a family is about more than one or two people.

Thirty years ago, when Carole and I were married in Newcastle, we were hundreds of miles away from our parents and families. Not as far as Brazil, but far away nevertheless..

I know that God blessed us then with those who became for us  mother, sister, brother, in the place where we lived and worked, the one and only Granny Annie among them, and how would we have survived without that love?

Today Lizzie and Suzie will be baptized in the name of Jesus, but what does that mean?

It is not about learning about someone who lived 2000 years ago. It is not about an invisible presence.

St. John’s Gospel begins with these words: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God… the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory: the glory of the only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth.’

In other words, the power through which all life came to be has embraced life in being born as a human being, in the one we know as Jesus Christ. This is God’s eternal purpose, not just a one-off event. That same Spirit of God lives and works and is present in the children of God for all time.

If we ask, ‘Where is Jesus? Where is God?’, he is here.

He is here in me. He is in you, in the faith in which you have brought these children to baptism. And it is our prayer that Lizzie and Suzie will grow up to know and understand that they are children of God, that they are loved by God, that they too may bear the good and lasting fruits of love in their own lives.

Once Jesus was told that his mother and his family had come to seek him he looked around at those who had followed him and who listened to him. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘is my mother, my sisters, my brothers.’

Who is Jesus? Where is God?

I know that I have seen the face of Jesus Christ in the faith and courage of an old woman in a wheelchair.

I know that I have seen the healing hands of Jesus Christ in the tenderness of a young nurse who cared for my own sick mother in the last days of her life.

It is my prayer that Lizzie and Suzie will grow up to know themselves as dear children of the God who knows them by name, who bear his image and likeness, and in whom his Spirit is alive.  May you who love these dear children and are here for them today be those who are for them the face, the hands and the loving heart of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

2nd May 2021.  5th Sunday of Easter

Prayer for this Sunday:

Almighty God, through your only-begotten son Jesus Christ you have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant that, as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires,  so by your continual help you may bring them to good effect, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord. Amen.

Readings:

1 John 4; 7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God.

Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

This is how God’s love was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.

This is love; not that we loved God but that he first loved us and sent his son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Since God has given us so great a love, we ought to love one another. No one has seen God. If we love one another, God lives in us; his love is perfected in us.

We know God lives in us and we in him, because he has given us his Spirit. God abides in those who confess Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.

This is that love made perfect among us: we may have boldness on judgement day, for as he is, so are we in the world. There is no fear in love: perfect love casts out fear. Fear is about punishment; whoever fears is not perfect in love.

Whoever says, ‘I love God,’ but hates brother or sister is a liar.

Whoever does not love the sister or brother whom they have seen cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Here is his commandment: those who love God must also love their brothers and sisters.

Psalm 22: 24-30

I praise the Lord in the great assembly,

I will perform my vows in the presence of those who

worship him.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied, and those who seek the Lord shall praise him, ’May your heart live for ever!’

All the ends of  the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord,

And all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

For kingship belongs to the Lord: he rules over the nations.

To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;

All who go down to the dust fall before him.

My soul shall live for him: my descendants shall serve him;

They shall be known as the Lord’s for ever.

They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that he has done.

 John 15: 1-8

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I am the true vine. My Father is the vine-grower. He cuts of the branches that bear no fruit and prunes the fruiting branches to make them more fruitful.

The word I have spoken to you has already cleansed you.

Abide in me, as I abide in you. The branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine; apart from me you can do nothing.

Whoever does not abide in me withers and is thrown away.

Such branches are gathered together and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish; it will be done for you. My Father is glorified in this: that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.’

Among those who are sick we pray for Trish Lanning, Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,  Ted Tavora, Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw, Pamela Carr, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Frank Thompson ,  Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison and Christopher  Brown.  

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember  Dorothy Short, Mary Robinson and Henry Lockhart.

Thoughts on today’s readings.

Being present at the birth of our children was among the most wonderful moments of my life; one of the things that struck me was how, from the same genetic mix, such very different and unique individuals have sprung up.

At the funeral of the lovely Doreen Beniams as few days ago, I was struck by how physically alike her sons were. Apparently she used to call them by each other’s names (well we’ve all done that); nevertheless their life stories are all radically different.

It was beautiful to see the love they had for one another, just as I am so very grateful when I see the love our children have for one another.

When a baby is born, its cry is a sound that brings joy to all who longed for its birth. The baby is unique, already it character and personality are there; its need is to live and to survive.

But what about love? Surely that is learned from parents, from those who nurture the child, along with language and a name and all the many choices that have to be made for the child.

Jesus said of himself, ‘I am the vine.’ The vine was the symbol for Israel: Israel was the vine the Lord had planted in the Promised Land, and yet Isaiah compared Israel to a vine that, despite the efforts of the grower, yielded bitter wild grapes, good for nothing. Often the Bible stressed the sinfulness and disobedience of Israel; the lack of love for the Lord; the lack of trust in the Lord.

St John’s gospel presents Jesus as the second Adam, obedient and loving, in place of the old Adam, fearful and sinful.

Here he says he is in himself the new Israel; he will bear the good fruit .

If you visit the great vineyards of the world, for most of the year there is not much to see. The vines look like little more than bare stumps, pruned severely. For a brief season they burst into life, and put forth new growth, blossom and fruit, yet even now the vinegrower removes all that is dead or diseased, all that will not bear the best fruit, so that all the energies of the vine are concentrated in producing the finest grapes.

A good vinegrower loves his vines with a passion, yet the vineyard can be a severe looking place.

Untended vines may look very picturesque for a time but produce nothing worthwhile.

Parents do not raise their children to be slaves or clones, but in order to know how to use freedom and live fruitful lives we have all had to learn and to be taught.

I am mindful of a little child at Whitley Chapel school who learned to say the Lord’s Prayer with great confidence.  Fervently she would declare, ‘I will be done!’ Learning to want the  Lord’s will to be done is a work of love.

The first letter of John presents us with a beautiful presentation  of how God brings us , not just to survive as creatures of the earth, but to live as children of God.

First of all and in the beginning God loved us, before ever we knew anything about God.

Next God revealed that love in the person of his only son, and we have seen the depth of that love in his atoning sacrifice.

Now we may know that love and live in God through the gift of his Spirit.

The tiny child cries and demands attention ; its imperative is survival. A little child has little sense of danger. Fear is learnt and to a degree fear is an aid to survival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev Patterson's report 2017
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Vicar's report 2019
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