St Helen’s Church

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.

It is within love that we learn to trust, and love which frees us to be ourselves with one another.

Yet love given requires love in return if it is to mean something.

Perfect love means learning to be of one mind with the one we love and who loves us. Within such a love there is freedom, trust, abundant life and yes, fruitfulness.

Within such a relationship, pruning is not seen as a brake on freedom but as the discarding of the things that do not matter, not living for or being ruled by our possessions, for instance,  and as a way to enable us to bring forth the finest and the best of ourselves.

Within such a love, and having the mind of Christ we may indeed ask the Father for whatever we wish, and trust that it will be done.

 

 

 

 

25th April 2021. Easter 4

Prayer for today

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: raise us, who trust in him, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, that we may seek those things which are above, where he reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings

1 John 3: 16-24

This is love: that the Son of God laid down his life for us; we too must lay down our lives for one another. How can God’s love abide in anyone who, having the good things of this world, sees another in need and does nothing?

Children, let love not be about words but truth and action. And so we will know we are from the truth even if our hearts condemn us before God, for God knows everything and is greater than our hearts. If our hearts do not condemn us we have boldness before God. Because we are obedient and pleasing to God we receive what we ask of him.

This is his commandment: that we believe in the name of Jesus Christ and love one another. For those who obey his commandments abide in him and he in them. We know he abides in us by the Spirit he has given us.

 

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.

 John 10: 11-18

Jesus spoke to the Pharisees: ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired man does not care for the sheep. He  sees the wolf coming and runs. The wolf scatters the flock and snatches them. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and they know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.  There are other sheep, not of this flock. I must bring them too: they will listen to my voice. There will be one flock and one shepherd. The Father loves me because I freely lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I freely lay it down. I have power to lay it down and to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.

 

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 who have died we remember Doreen Beniams, and also  Thelma Kirker-Head, Dorothy Wilson,  Mary Ann Hudson Smithurst, Elizabeth Johnson and Andrzej Ciupska, whose year’s mind is about this time.

Thoughts on today’s readings

A couple of years ago I spent some time supporting a woman in hospital from a country far away. She had become seriously ill whilst on holiday and was stranded in Hexham hospital. It was clear that she found the culture of the NHS difficult to fathom.

What was disconcerting was her assumption that the motivating factor for everyone working in the hospital was money. This meant, for instance, she never had to say ‘Thank you.’  The nurses and others were just doing what they were paid to do.

My experience is that our hospitals could not function without a considerable amount of good will. Staff frequently go the extra mile and are often emotionally invested in the people they care for. The thinking is often, ‘How would I want this person to be cared for if she was my mother?’

And so I washed this woman’s dirty clothes and brought her books to read and befriended her in the hope she might feel less alienated and alone.

As a child I was frequently in trouble with my father, no doubt deservedly so. Parenting in the West Indies was quite traditional and along the lines of, ’Spare the rod and spoil the child.’

One day we were at the seaside. I was seven or eight years old and had not learnt to swim: I think I was afraid of the waves.

There were rocks in the sea and I was jumping from one rock to the next. Suddenly I slipped and ended up under the water.

I had no idea how to get out and thought I would drown.

My father dived in and carried me out to the shore.

I was sure I would be in trouble but when I looked I saw that he was bleeding, cut by the rocks when he dived in to save me.

In that moment I understood that my father loved me.

The hireling that Jesus describes is only interested in his wages, motivated by money. He will not put himself at risk for the flock; self-preservation is paramount. There is no room here for love or meaningful relationships.

The Good Shepherd  knows his flock, and they know him, and they recognize his voice.  They will trust him and follow him.

He understands his flock because he cares enough to want to understand. He is not motivated by his wage but by his passion for the sheep. They know he cares just as a child knows whether someone cares about them or not. He puts their life, their welfare, before his own. There is a relationship between the Good Shepherd and his flock, a relationship of love.

You cannot have a relationship with money: it’s just a tool, a very useful tool. If you love money it will not love you back!

Does this mean the shepherd does not need a wage? No, but this is not his only motivation.

I was listening to the story of Stephen, a young doctor in Kenya.

During the pandemic Stephen was caring for patients with COVID. In the disorganized and rather corrupt healthcare system in which he worked he was not provided with protection, and was not paid for many months.

He fell ill himself, and was unable to pay for the treatment he himself had been giving to his patients.

He died, leaving a wife and an unborn child.

In spite of the injustice he experienced and the danger of the situation in which he found himself, he did not abandon his patients, because he was a doctor.

Christ the Good Shepherd moves among is flock today in many places. He speaks in all the languages of the world, and his face is the face of the whole human race.

The sheep know the voice of the Shepherd, and recognize  and understand that the Shepherd loves them.

Today the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the flock.

May his spirit abide in us also.

 

 

 

 

18th April 2021. 2nd Sunday after Easter

Prayer for today

Almighty Father, who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord: give us such knowledge of his presence with us, that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life, and serve you continually in righteousness and truth, through Jesus Christ your son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God , now and for ever. Amen.

Readings

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us: that we should be called the children of God. The world does not recognize this because it did not recognize him, and yet that is who we are right now. What we shall be has not yet been revealed but when he is revealed, we shall be like him. All those who have this hope purify themselves, as he is pure.

He was revealed to take away sins; in him there is no sin.

No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has seen him or known him.; do not be deceived.  All who do right are righteous, as he is.

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause;

You set me free when I am hard-pressed;

Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

‘You mortals, how long will you dishonour my glory?

How long will you worship dumb idols and run after false gods?’

Know that the Lord does wonders for the faithful;

When I call upon the Lord, he will hear me.

Tremble, then, and do not sin;

Speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.

Offer the appointed sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord.

Many are saying, ‘O, that we might see better times!’

Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.

You have put gladness in my heart more than when grain and wine and oil increase.

I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; for only you , Lord, make me dwell in safety.

 

Luke 24: 36-48

As the disciples returning from Emmaus spoke with the eleven, Jesus stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’

They were terrified; they thought it was a ghost. ‘Why are you afraid?’ he asked, ‘Why do you doubt?  Look at my hands and feet and see it is I ; touch me and see that I am not a ghost.’ He showed them his hands and feet; their joy was mixed with disbelief  and he said, ’Have you anything to eat?’ they gave him some baked fish, and he ate before them.

He said to them, ‘These are the words I spoke while I was still with you – everything written about me in Moses, in the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ The he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. He said to them, ‘It is written that Messiah must suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name must be proclaimed to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things.’

Among those who are sick we pray for  Doreen Beniams, 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 who have died we remember John Scott, and also  Melvyn Hull, John Nixon,  Caroline Clarke, Emily Pearce and Jack Cross, Whose year’s mind is about this time.

Reflections on today’s readings.

In this year when, I feel, death has been so much a part of the experience of so many people, a question I have been asked many times is, ‘Will I see him again? Will I see her again?’

In the face of the awfulness of grief and bereavement, people, those with faith and those without it, look for signs of hope for themselves and for their dead, whom they continue to love.

Often at such times we are given moments which feel like grace, in a dream or in a vision, in a sense that we have been given a share of that person’s spirit, in the knowledge that at a particular moment we knew we were not alone. But is this our mind trying to help us to bear what is unbearable?

I am aware of a grim milestone: across the world over three  million people have now died of COVID 19. Most of them were, relative to us, very poor. Their bodies were laid to rest in haste and with little ceremony in graves which will never be marked by noble monuments, but for each one tears were shed and hearts were broken.

Yesterday I watched as the body of the Duke of Edinburgh, after a wonderful life of service, was brought into St. George’s Chapel in Windsor.  The coffin was covered in a brightly-coloured standard proclaiming his rank and ancestry, but the sober nature of the service was at one with the declaration of Thomas Gray in his ‘Elegy’, ‘The paths of glory lead but to the grave.’

Our Gospel reading today presents us with the appearance of Jesus to the disciples when the two disciples had just raced back from Emmaus to tell them , ’We have seen the Lord!’

His appearance confuses and terrifies them, despite his greeting, ‘Peace be with you.’ ‘What does this mean?’ they seem to asking, and ‘Why is he here?’

And indeed we need to ask the same question. What does the appearance of the risen Christ have to do with me? In other words, how does this help me?

Surely it is not simply a pattern for ourselves. I cannot believe that my parents, whose worn-out bodies lie together in Tewkesbury cemetery, hoped to reappear one day in the form in which they died.

We cannot say that heaven is the re-creation on another plane of  remembered human joys and domestic bliss: that temptation is always to make God and the things of God the product of our hopes and projections.

I think the point the evangelists make is that after Easter, Jesus was present with his disciples; he was not absent.

There were times when he appeared to them. His physical body, bearing the wounds he suffered was real : he ate and drank with them. It was the same and yet radically different; no longer subject to the limits of our normal physical existence.

The point is also that no number of physical appearances or miracles could answer the question of the disciples, ‘How does this help me?’

The crucial verse in this passage reads, ‘He opened their minds to understand the scriptures.’ From  now on, they knew that  that Jesus was with them. His spirit had opened their minds. They could make sense of the impossible reality they experienced, and see that the same God who called Moses to liberate his people, who inspired the psalmists and spoke through the prophets had sent Jesus as Messiah, to save not only his people but the whole world, and establish his kingdom.

They and those who heard them and believed would be those who would go out and bring this good news to the world.

The first letter of John reminds us that this is our story because now, even now, we are the children of God but this means that this story has a meaning for us  which it does not have for those who have no faith.

We are God’s children: as Christians we do not belong to the world, and are not defined by it.

We are called to live lives of holiness like Christ.

As Christians we are confident of an even greater salvation to come.

We cannot  demand knowledge which was denied to Christ himself, or else we would despise the wonder of human life, however flawed it may be, and we would not have the compassion to serve our neighbours and  share their joys and sorrows.

I leave the last word with Thomas Gray, as he meditated upon the epitaph of a young man, ‘He gained from heaven, ‘twas all he wished, a friend’, and of his resting place, ‘The bosom of his Father and his God.’

 

 

 

11th April 2021. 1st Sunday after Easter.

Readings.

Acts 4: 32-35

The life of the early church is described in terms of its essential unity: there was a unity of heart and soul; nobody clung to their possessions; everything was held in common. The apostles testified to the resurrection of Jesus with great power, and great grace was upon them all. Nobody was needy: anyone who had property sold it and brought the proceeds to the apostles; it was distributed to any who had need.

Verses from Psalm 107

They that go down to the sea in ships: and occupy their business in great waters

These men see the works of the Lord: and his wonders in the deep.

For at his word the stormy wind ariseth: which lifteth up the waves thereof.

They are carried up to the heaven, and down again to the deep: their soul melteth away because of the trouble.

They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man: and are  at their wits’ end.

So they cry out to the Lord in their trouble: he delivereth them out of their distress.

For he maketh the storm to cease: so that the waves thereof are still.

Then are they glad, because they are at rest: and so he bringeth them unto the haven where they would be.

O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness: and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men.

That they would exalt him also in the congregation of the  people: and praise him in the seat of the elders

John 20: 19-31

It was evening on the first day of the week. The disciples were in a house and the doors were locked for fear of the Jews.

Jesus stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you,’ and he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced to see the Lord; he said again, ’ As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

Thomas was not there, and when the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord,’ he replied, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and touch it, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later the disciples were together, and Thomas was there.

The doors were locked but Jesus stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ He said to Thomas, ‘Touch my hand; place your hand in my side. Do not doubt, but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.’

The disciples saw Jesus do many other things, which are not recorded here. But this is written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that, believing, you might have life in his name.

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 who have died we remember Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and also Ruth Garrett, John Scott and Dennis Scott, and we remember Bob Tweddle, Fowler Anderson, Christina Anderson and Jimmy Kirker-Head, whose year’s mind is about this time.

Reflection on today’s readings

Not long ago I was contacted by a nurse about her patient, who did not have long to live. I visited her to discuss her wish to get married, not for religious reasons but in order to protect her partner of over 20 years. I asked her about her faith; she was a Catholic; she had not been to Church for a long time, but prayed.

And so we prayed, and when I returned the next day she asked me to hear her confession.

It was not the moment to say, ‘I will find a Catholic priest for you.’  She needed to make her peace with God at that moment and I believe it took courage for her to ask.

I did not feel I was particularly practised or well-qualified  but I heard her confession and gave her absolution. I asked her if she wanted communion and with her permission called the Catholic priest, who brought this to her.

She and her husband were married in hospital.  She died before she could get home but in her last days she had done much of  what she really needed and wanted to get done.

My own experience of confession is not that it is a form of oppression. Rather, it is about literally unburdening myself of the stuff I carry round with the help of a priest, in the presence of Jesus. It’s not just about leaving stuff behind, but about seeing molehills for what they are, and being helped to find a way to find resolution and reconciliation in my life.

When Jesus breathed his spirit on his disciples and gave them authority to forgive sins, he was not addressing a well-educated elite. Here were broken ignorant men, terrified and doubting.

The Gospel account makes it plain that the giving of the Spirit was not some sort of light bulb moment : a week later they were still hiding behind closed doors.

Jesus knew that these were the disciples he had been given; these were the ones who had followed him, and so it would be through them that his Spirit must work.

A captain does not usually get to choose who the crew will be. When there is a crisis it is with the ones who are there that he must work, to make sure that the ship is safe.

Parents do not decide the characters of their children. They love the children they have for who they are, and nurture them.

There has been much reporting in these last days on the life of the Duke of Edinburgh.  Reflecting on his marriage to the Queen, an exemplary marriage, he said that tolerance is critical, especially in difficult times and, he said, the Queen has tolerance in abundance.

It is difficult to imagine either of them without the other. Far beyond words, they have been a model of the strength we can give to one another and receive through marriage.

Part of that strength comes from the knowledge and confidence of knowing that within that relationship there is always the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation, because there is love.

It is not for nothing that Jesus began his ministry at a wedding or that marriage is used as an image to describe the relationship between God and his people.

The patient I prayed with understood that her Father in heaven stood waiting with open arms for her to come home, and I was able to help her find a way to make that journey.

Jesus uses the ones he has, those who follow him: me and you among them, as he used those disciples and sent them out.

Do not be afraid to be used by him; he loves us all.

Frail and imperfect as we are,  may we trust that our lives can serve as a model and encouragement for others, and so let you light so shine before others, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4th April 2021. Easter Sunday

Prayer for today:

Lord of all life and power, who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him: grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ, may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen.

Readings:

Acts 10: 34-43

The Roman officer Cornelius had received a vision, and sent to Joppa for Simon Peter to speak to him. Peter spoke and said,

‘I have come to understand that God treats everyone alike, regardless of race. All who worship him and do right are acceptable to him.’ Then he told them how God had sent his Good News to Israel through Jesus Christ, whom he anointed with the Holy Spirit, who healed those under the power of the Devil.

He told how Jesus was put to death on a cross, but raised to life by God after three days; he appeared to chosen witnesses, who ate and drank with him. He ordered them to preach the gospel and to witness that he is appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. All the prophets bear witness to him; all who believe in him will be forgiven their sins through his name.

 

Easter Anthem:

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:

therefore let us keep the feast;

not with the old leaven, not with the leaven of malice and wickedness: but with the unleavened bread of sincerity

and truth.

Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him.

For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin: but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christ is risen from the dead: and become the first-fruits of them that slept.

For since by man came death: by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die: even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Glory be to the Father, and to the  Son, and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

 

Mark 16: 1-8

The Sabbath was over. At sunrise on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome came to the tomb with spices to anoint the body of Jesus.  ‘But who will roll away the stone from the tomb?’ they had been asking.

The found the large stone rolled back. As they entered the tomb they saw a young man in white, seated, and were afraid. He spoke, ‘Do not be afraid. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth. He is not here; he has been raised. See where they laid him. Go and tell Peter and the disciples that he is going ahead of you to Galilee, as he said. You will see him there.’ They fled in terror and amazement, and said nothing to anyone; they were afraid.

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  Alan Newby, William Armstrong, William Moralee,  and Bill Patterson.

Reflections on Easter. 

The passages from the Bible this Easter morning are perhaps surprisingly plain and sober: they do not impress with their drama or language.

Peter, summoned from Joppa by a Roman soldier, is giving a fairly straightforward account of the life and  death of Jesus, and of how he appeared after he rose again.

But if you read on in chapter 10 of Acts, you know that the Spirit of Jesus came down on all who were listening to Peter, gentiles and Jews alike. This is the point of this account; as they were gathered in the name of Jesus, he was there: he was there and he acted and his Spirit came upon them and filled them.

In St. Mark’s account of the first Easter Sunday, the women who loved Jesus came seeking to tend to his dead body.

The messenger at the open tomb told them ,’He is not here: he is gone before you into Galilee. You will find him there.’ And yes, they were terrified and confused.

In two days it will be 19 years since my father died.

I remember going to the undertaker in Tewkesbury, and seeing my father’s worn-out body, dressed in his priest’s  clothes.

I had a very powerful sense of, ‘He is not here.’

A very few days later my sister was married in Tewkesbury  Abbey, where my father had so often worshipped and celebrated.

It was a day of great joy and I believe that for my mother there was a sense of ‘He is here!’. Later, at the reception my father had also helped to plan, surrounded by people we loved, I had to speak. I don’t remember what I said, but I felt very strongly, ‘He is here!’

On his gravestone he caused to be written, ‘I look for the resurrection.’ He knew and trusted that the cemetery was not where he would be present.

I have been conscious this Good Friday and Easter of there being much more interest than usual in religious and spiritual matters, much more about the music and indeed the story of the Passion and resurrection.

After a year of  COVID, the terrible deaths of so many who died alone and without a voice, it’s as though people are asking, ‘Surely that isn’t it?  Is that all there is? Is all we have to look forward to the return to how things were, even if that were possible?  For we cannot; we do not forget.’

I listened on the BBC website to the story of a young woman from Nottingham.

Ten years ago she had her perfect life: newly married with a man she loved, and then the mother of a little boy. Their lives were turned upside down when her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  She says she then had no faith, but one night in her distress she cried out to God to show himself.

She came to the hospice a little later to find her husband beaming. He told her all his suffering had been taken away.

He died a week later but she says that for that week he ‘basked in the Holy Spirit.’

Since that time, she said, Jesus has always been present, she has always known he is with her.

During Holy Week I have been bringing Easter cards to patients in hospital, produced by children from our school. They are all different and unique, and so are the messages they contain.

I came to a lady on Thursday.  After a short while she began to give me her views on the world; what a terrible place it is; how people behave badly; and her general sense of hopelessness.

I asked her if I could give her a card. It had a self portrait of the child on the front and inside was written, ‘Happy Easter! Get well soon! To whoever receives this card: know that God is with you always.’

The woman smiled and said, ‘I will keep this card always.’

We prayed together and I blessed her.

Like Peter, we have been given the most wonderful story, the greatest Good News, to share, but this is more than a story.

When we meet here in his name, Jesus is here, in our song, in the breaking of the bread.

When we cry to him in our distress, he is there.

When we pray, alone, or with someone else, he is there.

The women who loved Jesus and went to seek his body found he was not there. But we are here because they went out and found him, not in a grave  but out in the world, in Galilee and in all the world, among Jews and gentiles alike.

I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come because he is risen. Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

 

28th March 2021 Palm Sunday

Prayers

Almighty and ever living God,  who in your tender love towards the human race sent your son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

 Among those who are sick we pray for  Trish Lanning, Julie Austin, Ian Emmerson, 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, Frank Thompson ,  Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison and Christopher  Brown.  

Among those who have died remember Ruth Garratt, and pray for her daughters Jenny, Rachael and Christine.

Let us remember  Suzanne Tordoff, Jennie Hawkins, Vesta Overton, Winnie Golightly, Margaret Shackleton and Marjorie Howdon amongst those whose year’s mind is about this time.

Readings.

Philippians 2: 5-11

Let the same mind be in you which was in Christ.

Though he was in the form of God he did not grasp as equality with God but emptied himself and took the form of a slave. Born in human form and likeness, he humbled himself; he became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

Give thanks to the Lord , for he is good; his mercy endures for ever.

Let Israel now proclaim, ‘His mercy endures for ever.’

Open for me the gates of righteousness;

I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord.

‘This is the gate of the Lord; whoever is righteous may enter.’

I will give thanks to you, for you answered me, and have become my salvation.

The same stone that the builders rejected has become the chief corner – stone.

This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.

On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Hosanna, Lord, hosanna!

Lord, send us now success.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;

We bless you from the house of the Lord.

God is the Lord; he has shined upon us;

Form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar.

‘You are my God and I will thank you; you are my God and I will exalt you.’

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his mercy endures for ever.

 

Mark 11: 1-11

Jesus and his disciples were near the Mount of Olives, approaching Jerusalem. Jesus sent two disciples to a nearby village. He said, ‘You will find tethered there a colt, whom no-one has ridden. Bring it here, and if anyone questions you, say. ”The  Lord needs it, and will send it back immediately,”

The disciples found everything as Jesus had said and, when questioned as to why they were taking the colt, used the words he gave them, and were allowed to take it.

They put their cloaks on the colt and he sat on it.

Many people spread their cloaks in the road; others spread branches they had cut in the fields.

Those who went with him shouted, ‘ Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of David our father! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

He entered the city, and the Temple. When he had seen all that was there he returned to Bethany with the twelve,  for the hour was late.

Palm crosses have been blessed and can be collected in Church.

Looking ahead:

From tomorrow, and throughout Holy Week, I will be in church to light candles and pray for those who suffer  because of violence against women. I will leave candles for anyone wishing to come and make their own prayers.

Lent studies continue tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. I will send out a link to zoom.

St. Helen’s AGM is on Wednesday  evening at 7.30 p.m.

You will find attached minutes of the 2020 AGM and a link to the meeting. All are welcome.

 

On Good Friday we will  meet outside church at 10 a.m. to create an Easter garden, then follow an Easter Trail at Abbey Holm, next to Whitley Mill House.

There is a service in the field at Abbey Holm at 2 p.m.

A poster for Good Friday is attached.

 

On Easter Day the Parish Eucharist is at 9.30 a.m.

 

Thoughts on this morning’s readings

St. Mark’s Gospel makes it plain how small, how insignificant it must have seemed  to the people in Jerusalem when Jesus and his supporters arrived on that first Palm Sunday.

A noisy group from the north, from Galilee sang the joyful  psalm used by pilgrims coming to the temple, but what impression did their leader make, straddling a young donkey covered in cloaks?

It doesn’t seem as though the important people, in their palaces and in the temple, were aware of his existence.

And yet this was not some spontaneous event.. The donkey was there, ready and waiting, just as, in few days, the upper room would be furnished and ready for the Lord to celebrate the Passover with his disciples. Unseen, unnoticed, Jesus had followers in Jerusalem and at Bethany, the home of Lazarus and his sisters. Mary and Martha.

This first day of the week was just that: the first day.

On this day Jesus recalled the prophecy of Zechariah: that on Judgement Day the Lord would stand on the Mount of Olives Zech. 14:4) and that the people would see their king coming humbly, riding a donkey (Zech. 9:9)

In the coming days Jesus would reveal in words and actions who he was, and how God was going to deal with his people, until his  power and glory were revealed  upon the cross.

Recalling the prophecy of Isaiah, the divine word of God would take the form of a slave, and like a slave be obedient to suffering and death .

Today is the first day, and with those first disciples we sing ‘Hosanna!’ Like them we struggle to make sense of our world, and the purposes of God. Will we be ready when the glory is revealed?

We know he lives today, and it is in  his Spirit we pray and worship, yet need to be reminded and to celebrate the humility and the sacrifice of our Lord and King, the one whose sign we bear, and whom we  follow day by day.

 

 

 

 

21st March 2021. 5th Sunday in Lent (Passion Sunday)

Prayer

Most merciful God, who by the death and resurrection of your son Jesus Christ delivered and saved the world:  grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross we may  triumph in the power of his victory; through Jesus Christ your son our Lord. Amen.

Readings.

Jeremiah 31: 31-34

The Lord says, ‘The days are surely coming when I will make a new covenant with my people Israel. It will not be like the covenant I made with them  when I took them by the hand out of Egypt; the covenant they broke, though I was their husband.

This is the covenant I will make : I will write my law on their hearts; I will be their God and thy will be my people.  No longer will they teach one another, “Know the Lord.” Even the least of them will know me; for I will forgive their sin, and no more remember their iniquity.’

 

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me , O God, according to your loving kindness;

In your great compassion blot out my offences.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.

Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.

And so you are justified when you speak and upright in your judgement.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, a sinner from my mother’s womb.

For behold, you look for truth deep within me, and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin and I shall be pure;

Wash me and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

That the body you have broken may rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins and blot out my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

 

John 12: 20-33

Jesus had entered Jerusalem in triumph.

There were Greeks who had come to worship at the festival. They came to Philip and said, ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus.’ Philip spoke to Andrew and Andrew and Philip told Jesus. He replied,

‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life will lose it; those who lose who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; where I am, there also will my servant be. Whoever serves me, my Father will honour.

My heart is troubled. Should I pray, “Father, spare me?”  No; for this reason and this hour I came. Father, glorify your name.’

A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it; I will glorify it again.’ The crowd imagined it was thunder, or that an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, ‘This voice came for your sake, not mine. Now is this world judged; the ruler  of this world will be driven out. I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself,’ and so he indicated how he was to die.

 

Among those who are sick we pray for  Trish Lanning, Julie Austin, Ian Emmerson, 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, Frank Thompson ,  Natasha Stevens, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  Carol Allison and Christopher  Brown.

Among those whose year’s mind is about this time we remember William Dixon, John Reed, Thomas Lee and Alan Proctor.

Thoughts on today’s readings

In these last days, as the warmth of the sun returns, I have begun preparing the ground, clearing, digging and fertilizing it, in preparation for sowing the seeds that wait in their packets.

Sow them at the wrong time and they will not germinate; fail to prepare the ground and the harvest will be poor; don’t get round to sowing them and the seed will lose their fertility and be nothing more than waste.

In today’s passage from St. John’s Gospel Jesus had just entered Jerusalem in triumph. Gentile visitors were wanting to see him, but in response Jesus turned to his Father’s creation to describe in what form his triumph and glory must take place. God would be glorified when his Christ was lifted up, not on a white horse or on a throne, but nailed to a wooden cross and left to die.

Unless the seed falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single grain; if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Those who looked upon Jesus on the cross saw only death, defeat and desolation. For us, upon whom the Spirit of that living Christ has been poured, this same cross is the source of our life, our hope of salvation and the assurance of our reconciliation with God.

In the words of a hymn for this season:

Unless a grain of wheat shall fall upon the ground and die,

It shall remain but a single grain, and not give life.

Behold! behold! the wood of the cross

On which was hung our salvation

O come, let us adore.

Like many in his generation, the poet Wordsworth  placed his hopes for a utopian new world in the events surrounding the French Revolution, a world of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

As news came back, not of the dawn of the age of reason, but of an unfolding reign of terror, his hopes were completely shattered. As he wandered on the windy hills of the Lake District, he was transfixed by a humble vision.

Ahead of him a sea of wild daffodils, each one a fragile bloom, yet unstoppable, waved in their brief glory, as they do at the beginning of every Spring. This was his burning bush, the sign of God’s glory; fragile and sometimes seemingly invisible, yet endlessly renewed, unstoppable and ever present.

For our dreams die, our empires rise and fall, our grand schemes often end in disillusionment, but this is not where the glory of God is to be found.

Last Sunday I was in hospital with a woman who is broken–hearted at the death of her son. I brought with me a modest bunch of flowers from Church, still in bud, and left them in a vase by her window. Three days later I came to her room. The sun shone upon her daffodils, open, and in their brief glory telling their story of the beauty of life. She wanted to speak of her son, and of life after death, and of her gratitude that God had lent her this wonderful person for over 60 years. Here, in her, in her faith, is that Christ who lives, even in her illness, even in her suffering.

We are called to follow, not to hide ourselves away; to pour out our lives, not to stay on the shelf; to get our hands dirty and do the work of the kingdom of God.

Tomorrow evening in our Lent studies we will be considering four questions: Who are we? What’s wrong? What’s the solution? What is the future? And we do so looking on the one who can open our eyes and our minds.

There is a powerful hymn by the poet  WH Vanstone in our red books, it’s number 496, ‘Love’s endeavour, love’s expense’, and its last verse goes like this:

Here is God: no monarch he,

Throned in easy state to reign;

Here is God, whose arms of love

Aching, spent, the world sustain.

Please note:

The Church’s AGM is on the Wednesday in Holy Week, March 31st, at 7.30 p.m.

On Good Friday we will meet outside church to create an Easter Garden.

This will be followed by a Good Friday trail at Abbey Holm by kind permission of Carol and Robin Charlton and, weather permitting, an out door service at Abbey Holm at 2 p.m.

Easter morning Parish Communion will be at the usual time of 9.30 a.m.

 

 

 

 

14th March 2021. Mothering Sunday.

Prayer for today:

God of compassion, your Son Jesus Christ , the child of Mary, shared the life of a home in Nazareth, and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself: strengthen us in our daily living that in joy and sorrow we may know the power of your presence to bind together and to heal, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Readings.

Numbers 21: 4-9

In the wilderness the people complained to Moses about being in the wilderness, and about the poor food. God sent poisonous snakes which bit the people, and many died. They repented of their wrongdoing and begged Moses to pray to God to take the snakes away. God told Moses to make a  bronze snake and place it on a pole. Whoever looked upon this, if they were bitten, would live.

 

Psalm 127: 1-4

Unless the Lord builds the house, their labour is in vain who build it.

Unless the Lord watches over the city, in vain the guard keeps vigil.

It is in vain that you rise so early and go to bed so late;

Vain, too, to eat the bread of toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is a gift.

 

John 3: 14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.

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

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

Those who believe in him are not condemned; those who do not believe are condemned already for they have not believed  in the name of the only Son of God.

This is the judgement: the light has come into the world and people have chosen darkness because their deeds are evil.

Evildoers hate the light and avoid it, so that their deeds may not be exposed.  Those who do the truth come to the light so that it may be seen that their deeds are done in God.’.

 

Among those who are sick we pray for  Trish Lanning, Julie Austin, Ian Emmerson, 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, 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 William Robson,  Florence Newby and Isabella Little.

 Thoughts on Mothering Sunday

Visiting a lady in Hexham hospital I listened as she spoke of the various dramas and disasters which had befallen her children. She was obviously the head of the family; one of her children, a man in his 40s, sat quietly in the room.

After a while I dared to say, ‘A mother’s love is unconditional,’ the lady nodded, ‘but not uncritical,’ I went on. ‘Aye, you’re right there, ‘ a voice came from the corner of the room.

At school this week, the children have written poems for their mothers, and I asked them what makes their mother special.

‘She cooks my dinners,’ was one; ‘She gives me hugs,’ was another, and even ‘I know that however much we row, she will always forgive me.’

Love is about real life; real people. It is about loving those we have, warts and all, not those we imagine we wish we had.

Love acts and does; it is not just about words, does not live inside our heads.

Without my mother, I would not exist.

In love and hope I was made and brought into life and being.

Labouring and in pain she brought me into the world.

In love, faithful and generous, I was raised and supported , and encouraged to become the person I am.

In love I was corrected when I was wrong, and in love I experienced the beauty of truthfulness.

Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in today’s reading from the Gospel are the heart of the good news of Jesus Christ.

God gave what was most precious, the only Son, unconditionally, to save the world by his sacrifice, and be our way, truth and life as children of God, inheritors of the Kingdom of heaven.

Note that Jesus explicitly says, ‘God did not send his son to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.’

There is no word here of the wrath of God; here in the life of Jesus, a real person, is the generosity of God. This is not a God of calculation but of patient hope, like the father who stands and waits for the wandering son to return, and the shepherd who searches until the lost sheep is found.

Love is lived out in real life; it endures through our failures and is strengthened and renewed through repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

We are free; we are not slaves, and that means we are free to reject the love of God. Jesus teaches that in effect we condemn ourselves if we prefer the darkness and imagine it will cloak those lies we seek to hide.

We cannot be forced to accept the love of God any more than parents can force their children to love them.

Yet God is patient and sees what sometimes I cannot: that a fire of love may be kindled even on the mean altar of my heart.

Today I remember so many mothers who have died in this past year. Some, like my mother, were old, and had exhausted their strength, and were tired.

Others were in the prime of their lives, still young, and leave behind children who were in their thoughts and actions to the end, children whom others must now love and support.

This season of Lent prepares us for Christ’s passion and death.

Jesus did not leave his disciples when they were ready, spiritually mature people. He was taken from them when he was young and they depended on him.

And yet, as St. Paul reminds us, love never comes to an end.

His spirit came upon them, so that they were no longer infants, but adults in God.

Today and every Mothering Sunday we give thanks for mothers: for those who gave us our lives, for those who today love and encourage their families; for those who with hope and delight wait to hear the cry of the child who grows within their body; for those who give a mother’s love to the child whose own mother is no longer there.

May we give thanks to our God, who has made us in his own image, and invites us to his table and celebrate with our sisters and brothers, a family that none can number.

 

7th March 2021. 3rd Sunday in Lent.

Prayer for today:

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace, through Jesus Christ your son our Lord. Amen.

Readings.

Exodus 20: 1-17

God spoke these words:

I am the Lord your God. I brought out from slavery in Egypt.

You will have no other gods before me.

You will make no idols; nothing in the form of anything in this world. You will not bow to them or worship them.

I am a jealous God; I punish the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but show steadfast love to thousands of generations of those who love me.

You will not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. There will be no work on the Sabbath day, for in six days the Lord created the world, and rested the seventh day: the Lord blessed this day and consecrated it.

Honour your father and mother so your days may be long in the land the Lord gives you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour.

 

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork.

One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another.

Although they have no voice or language, and their voices are not heard, their sound is gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends of the earth.

In the deep he has set a pavilion for the sun;

It comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

It rejoices like a champion to run its course.

It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens and runs about to its end again;

Nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul;

The testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart.

The commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever.

The judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More are they to be desired than gold, more than much fine gold,

Sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

By them also is your servant enlightened and in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can tell how often he offends?

Cleanse me from my secret faults.

Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

Let them not get dominion over me;

Then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of a great offence.

Let the words of my lips and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

 

1 Corinthians 1: 18-25

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing; to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

It is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.’

Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

The world did not know God through wisdom, and so God has used the foolishness of our proclamation to save those who believe.

Jews demand signs; Greeks desire wisdom. We proclaim Christ crucified; a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to gentiles, but to those who are called, both Greek and Jew, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom; God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

 

John 2: 13-22

Jesus went up to Jerusalem for Passover.  In the Temple he found traders selling sheep, cattle and doves, and the money changers at their tables.  He made a whip of cords and drove them all out, and overturned their tables. “Take these things out!’ he said, ‘Do not make my father’s house a market place.’

The disciples remembered the scripture, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’

The Jews asked him, ’What sign can you show us as authority for doing this?’

Jesus replied, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’

‘This temple has been building for 46 years,’ they said. ‘and will you raise it up in three days?’

But he spoke of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead his disciples remembered his words; they believed the scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Julie Austin, Ian Emmerson, 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, 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 John Reed, Anthony Graham, Robert Pyle and Elizabeth Hart.

Thoughts on today’s readings;

One autumn in the 1980s when I was a theological student I travelled to Rome with a group of young men who were beginning seven years of study to become priests in the Catholic Church in England.   They were not weird in the slightest; they were very much people of their time, but they were not going out in order to change or reform the Church. What struck me was their determination to get their heads round the teachings of their Church in order that this might become their own thinking, their own way of being.

The only explanation for this had to be the depth of their love for their Church and presumably, the completeness of their gift of themselves in the service of Jesus Christ.

My background in the Merchant Navy  had impressed upon me the importance of discipline and order, but the driving force was trade, and the prosperity of the company which paid our wages.

In the college in Birmingham where I studied there was constant debate about the ways in which the Churches needed to change, and what was their relevance.

Looking back, I think I have gained more strength as a disciple from the occasions when I have learned better how to love God and yes, how to love his Church.

The Muslim at prayer, speaking with passion and devotion the name of God, puts to shame the tepid nature of much Christian practice.

The readings set for this morning include the Ten Commandments, which formed part of the Communion Service in the Prayer Book and were therefore for centuries recited in most Churches every Sunday morning.

They are not merely relics of a severe and legalistic past, but remind us of our continuity with God’s people all the way back to Mount Sinai, and that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfil it. Its words are as true and real now as they were then.

However, St. Paul reminds us that our hope does not lie in our merit, in our success in keeping to the rules, but in God’s radical and shocking act of love in Jesus Christ.

Signs and wonders do not change what is in our hearts, and all the wisdom in the world will not lead us to God.

Jesus began his ministry at a wedding, where two people did not make a kind of conditional agreement or contract but gave themselves each to other , and received the other  unconditionally and joyfully.

In such a relationship, commandments are not a burden, or an irksome duty, or a brake on our freedom.

In the face of such love we can respond, as the hymn puts it:

‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next Wednesday 17th  (Ash Wednesday) will be the first meeting of the Live Lent study group which will be held on Zoom at 7 pm.
The group will be following the course of study outlined in the Live Lent booklet. https://www.churchofengland.org/resources/livelent-2021-church-resources-gods-story-our-story
The course is open to all and if you are interested please contact Andrew Patterson either by phone 01434 673379 or email revdocpatt@doctors.org.uk

28th February 2021. 2nd Sunday in Lent.

Readings.

Genesis 17: 1-7, 15-16

When Abram was nearly 100 years old the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am the almighty God. Walk blamelessly before me, and I will make my covenant with you, and you will be many.’

Abram fell on his face and the Lord said, ‘This is the covenant I make; you will be the ancestor of a multitude of nations; kings shall come from you.  You will no longer be Abram but Abraham. My covenant will be an everlasting covenant with you and your generations, to be your God.

Your wife Sarai will become Sarah. I will bless her; she will bear you a son. Nations and kings will come from her.’

 

Psalm 22: 22-30

Praise the Lord, you that fear him; stand in awe of him,

O offspring of Israel;

All you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty; neither does he hide his face from them;

But when they cry to him, he hears them.

My praise is of him 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.

 

Mark 8: 31-38

Jesus began to teach his disciples openly that the Son of Man must suffer greatly, and be rejected by the chief priests, scribes and elders, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Peter took him to one side and rebuked him, but Jesus looked at he disciples and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan; your mind is on human things, and not the things of God.’

He called the crowd, and his disciples, and said, ‘If anyone wants to follow me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross. For whoever wants 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 shall they profit, if they gain the whole world, yet forfeit their life? What can they give in return for their life?  Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this sinful generation, of them will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’

Among those who are sick we pray for  Julie Austin,, Ian Emmerson, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,  Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Jeannette Fisher, 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 Emily Herold, whose funeral is on Tuesday, and pray for her family.

We remember also our friend Harry Jameson, and also Stuart White, John Martin, Hilda Walker,  George Phillips,  Thomas Hector Rutherford, Malcolm Caisley and William Flatman, whose year’s mind is about this time.

We continue our Lent studies on Monday at 7 p.m.

Notes on today’s readings.

Most of us bear the names given to us by our parents.

Perhaps you know the reason for the name you were given; certainly it’s one of the more important things our parents do for us, and it is a part of the relationship that parents establish with their children.

We give names to most things with which we engage, whether it’s scientists or other giving names  to the natural elements, travellers giving names to the stars that guided them, or communities naming the rivers, hills and fields among which they lived. Names make our lives recognizable, they are like signposts; sometimes they express a relationship, or a sense of ownership. Names may be changed too: the names of streets and squares in our cities can change to reflect political realities; in the course of a century a city in Galicia in eastern Europe went from being Lemberg to Lwow and finally Lviv.

Notoriously, in centuries past, slaves brought across the Atlantic from Africa were stripped not only of their freedom but also of their identity, given the names of their masters as a sign that they were now property, bought and sold.

Our first reading today continues the theme this Lent of new beginnings: after the covenant God made with Noah and with all living creatures, today we read of God’s covenant with Abram and with Sarai his wife. The covenant is with both of them because God promises that the childless Abram will, improbably, become the ancestor of  great nations and that  Sarai will bear a son in her old age. As a sign of the covenant God names them Abraham and Sarah; henceforth he is their God, and they are his people.

In other versions of our Gospel reading gives the name Peter or Cephas – the rock, to Simon when he declares that Jesus is the Christ but then, like a bucket of icy water being poured over him, Simon Peter is described as Satan by Jesus when he protests at Jesus’ foretelling of his crucifixion.

Here too, in the  words of Jesus, is an invitation to a new start, a new direction, yet one which must have struck fear and confusion into the hearts of his listeners.

Jesus’ invitation is to put aside our human striving for survival, which in this sinful world must end in failure and death, to put self –determination behind us, and to follow him.

Surely this is part of our experience; and of who we are as Christians.  When we were baptized we were called by our name and  signed with the sign of the cross, not the branding of a slave or piece of property, but a sign of our adoption as a dear child of our heavenly Father. We came through the water of baptism as a sign of our new life, born again in Christ, into a life not determined by the earthly cycles of life and death, but as inheritors of the kingdom of  God, along with Abraham, the father of a multitude, Sarah the princess,  Simon who became Peter, the rock,  Saul who became Paul, meaning ‘little’ and so many more.

 

Sunday 21st February 2021. 1st Sunday in Lent.

Collect for today: 

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:

Give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; through Jesus Christ  your Son our Lord , who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God , now and for ever.

Readings:

Genesis 9: 8-17

God said to Noah and his sons, ‘I am establishing a covenant with you and your descendants, and with every living creature, every animal that came out of the ark with you. I establish a covenant with you: never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.

This is the sign of the covenant I make with you and with all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature upon the earth.’

Psalm 25: 1-10

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you;

Let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

Let none who look to you be put to shame;

Let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

Show me your ways O lord, and teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of our salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.

Remember O Lord your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting.

Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

Remember me according to your love and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.

Gracious and upright is the Lord; therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

He guides the humble in doing right and teaches his way to the lowly.

All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness to those who keep his covenant and he testimonies.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, forgive my sin, for it is great.

 

Mark 1: 9-25

Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As he came up out of the water he saw heaven open and the Spirit coming down on him like a dove. A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son. I am well pleased with you.’

Immediately Satan drove him into the wilderness, where he tempted him for forty days. He was with the wild beasts, and angels waited on him.

After John was arrested Jesus came to Galilee. He proclaimed the good news of God, saying, ‘The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.’

 

Lent studies continue tomorrow, Monday at 7 p.m. I will send out a link to the meeting on Zoom.

 

Among those who are sick we pray for  Julie Austin,, Ian Emmerson, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,  Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Jeannette Fisher, 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.    

We pray for the family of Emily Herold, who died on Monday.

Her funeral is at Whitley Chapel next week. Remember  also God’s faithful servant Paula  Cornell , and our friend and neighbour Harry Jameson, who died yesterday.

Please remember Marjorie Roddam, Derek White, Sheila Robson, Margaret Clark,  and Nigel Gibson whose year’s mind is about this time.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings.

Both readings for this morning give a sense of turning a page, beginning a new chapter, and in that  sense are obvious choices as we begin this season of Lent.

God’s new start with all his creatures on earth is symbolized by the rainbow, something ephemeral and intangible and yet completely real. I am conscious that the colours I see are not the only ones; beyond my human range are other colours, like ultra violet and infra red, also part of the of the rainbow.

In this past year the rainbow has come to symbolize the NHS in its time of unprecedented commitment. It has come to be a symbol of inclusivity, and perhaps gives a sense of the NHS as    available for all; a service which expands its provision according to the needs of the people it serves.

The rainbow in the window over the door of our Church reminds us, as we leave the ark of the building, as it were, of that covenant as we go in peace into the world.

For note this: God’s covenant after the Flood is not just with Noah and his descendants but with all living creatures.

We do well to consider this as we face not only this time of human disease across every nation but our impact  on all our living world, over which God has  stretched his bow. Our rubbish-filled oceans and disappearing forests are also under God’s rainbow.

St. Marks’ account of the baptism and temptation of Jesus are typically brief, but underlines that here too, we are witnessing something new.

John’s baptism in the Jordan symbolized repentance, a desire to make a fresh start, but when Jesus came out of the water he was not just a man and a Jew, acting in solidarity with  his people, but the Beloved Son. From now on he knew what that meant, and what his purpose and doing his Father’s will must involve.

The presence of the wild beasts in the wilderness is not just a picturesque detail: there are echoes of the creation story in Genesis.

When God commissioned the first humans, Adam and Eve, to be stewards of his creation, they were tempted by Satan and succumbed. Their fate was to live in conflict, and struggle to survive. Jesus is not a creature but the beloved Son. He too receives God’s commission and is tempted by Satan, but instead he obeys the Father he knows and loves.

As we set off on our journey through Lent these readings remind us that in the Spirit of Jesus Christ we are not simply creatures of the earth but beloved children.

The rainbow reminds us that we are called to bring Good News to our world, and to treasure that wonderful mystery which is life.

So go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.

 

 

 

Sunday 14th February 2021. Sunday before Lent.

St.Valentine’s Day

Prayer: Almighty Father, whose Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross: give us grace  to perceive his glory, that we may be strengthened to suffer with him and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,  one God, now and for ever.

Readings:

2 Kings 2: 1-12

The Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven but Elisha would not leave his side. He went with him to Bethel, to Jericho, and to the  banks of the Jordan.  Elisha would not listen to the prophets who told him the Lord was going to take his master up to heaven, nor allow Elijah to go on alone.

‘Tell me what I can do for you,’ asked Elijah. ‘Let me inherit a double share of your spirit,’ replied Elisha. ‘If you see me taken up to heaven, you will receive this,’ said Elijah, and then Elisha saw a chariot of fire and horses of fire, and Elijah taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha cried out, ‘Father! Father! The horsemen and chariots of Israel!’ When he could no longer see Elijah, Elisha tore his clothes in two.

 Psalm 50 vv 1-6

The Lord, the God of gods has spoken;

he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.

Our God will come and will not keep silence;

Before him there is a consuming flame, and round about him a raging storm.

He calls the heavens and the earth from above to witness the judgement of his people.

‘Gather before me, my loyal followers, those who have made a covenant with me and sealed it with sacrifice.’ Let the heavens declare the righteousness of his cause; for God himself is judge.

 

Mark 9: 2-9

Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain, and he was transfigured before them. His clothing became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared, and spoke with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi,  it is good to be here. Let us make three shelters for you, Moses and Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were terrified. A cloud overshadowed them, and from it  spoke a voice, ‘This is my son, the Beloved, listen to him.’ But when they looked again, they were alone with Jesus. As they returned down the mountain, Jesus ordered them to tell no-one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Julie Austin,  Emily Herold, Ian Emmerson, Lucas Santo, Harry Jameson, Anne-Marie Allan,  Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Jeannette Fisher, 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 remember Mike Jordan.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Doris Smith, Calum Stobbs, Nancy Robson,  Alistair Robson,  Marjorie Roddam

Thoughts on today’s readings

When Elijah had crossed the Jordan, and he knew the time had come when he must be taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, he turned to his disciple Elisha, who had  steadfastly followed him throughout his last journey on earth, and asked what he could do for him. Elisha asked for a double share of his master’s spirit.

‘It is a hard thing you have asked for,’ replied Elijah, knowing such a gift could come only from God, yet Elisha saw his master taken up to heaven and the Spirit came upon him in power.

His master’s mantle literally was given to him, and he used it to part the waters of the  Jordan as he returned to serve the Lord in Israel.

There is something very poignant about this account of the last journey together of Elisha and Elijah; one can sense the grief of Elisha who does not want to let go of the master he loves.

Indeed , it is love which means that he is not discouraged by the bands of prophets along the way, love which is stronger than his master’s orders; is very closeness which means he sees Elijah taken up to heaven, and the same Spirit come upon him.

This is St. Valentine’s Day, a day of celebration of love.

For many, hopefully, lockdown means being under the same roof as the person or people beside whom we wish to be, though that can have its own stresses this year.

But for many others, enforced separation is the result, direct or otherwise, of the circumstances in which we live this winter.

I have been visiting a lady in hospital from Carlisle, who was married in the same year as my parents, 1955, and who, until illness intervened, cared for her husband, who has dementia.

Most of all she wants to be beside him, whether it’s in their own home or in a care home, and she is restless, no matter how kind and attentive the hospital staff are towards her.

Telephone calls are really important yet sometimes only emphasise the sense of separation, and are not a substitute for physical contact.

And yet we continue to love and, as St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit is love.

When Jesus went up the mountain he did not take all his followers, but three only who were close to him.

They often misunderstood him, and his true identity was completely beyond their imagination, but they loved him, and he knew they loved him.

To them it was revealed that in Jesus is the Spirit of God who gave the Law and the Prophets, symbolized by Moses and Elijah, and to see the man they addressed as ‘Rabbi’ dazzle with the glory of God as once Moses dazzled the people at Mount Sinai.

Then Jesus was alone with them.  The authority of the Law and the Prophets was in him;  Elijah and Moses did not need to remain beside him.  The mantle rested on him, but the path from the mountain top led to the cross; would his disciples remain with him? Perhaps only the ones who loved him would not run away.

So on this Valentine’s Day, we prepare to travel through Lent,  and to walk with Jesus , maybe to the foot of the cross. Let us ask our Father  for the gifts of his Holy Spirit, and may we have the gift of love.

Love is the miracle through which life is created, and in which we are not imprisoned but set free and enabled  to be so much more than the sum of our parts; through love we do not lose hope or courage. So may we be witnesses of our Lord, whose will and purpose is healing and reconciliation  for  his world.

 

 

Sunday 7th February 2021. 2nd Sunday before Lent.

Prayer.

Almighty God you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image: teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy spirit reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever.

Proverbs 8: 1, 22-31

Does nort wisdom call, and understanding raise her voice, saying,

‘Long ago, when god began his work, I was set up, before the creation of the earth. Before there were waters, before the mountains were formed. When he established the heavens I was there. When he made firm the skies above, and the limits of the sea I was there. When he marked out the foundations of the earth I was beside him like a master worker. I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his living world; rejoicing in the human race.

Psalm 104: 25-37

O Lord how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Yonder is the great and wide sea with its living things too great to number, creatures both small and great.

There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan, which you have made for the sport of it.

All of them look to you to give them their food in due season.

You give it to them and they gather it;

You open your hand and they are filled with good things.

You take away their breath and they return to their dust.

You send forth your spirit and they are created; and so you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;

May the Lord rejoice in all his works.

He looks at the earth and it trembles; he touches the mountains and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;

I will praise the Lord while I have my being.

May these words of mine please him;

I will rejoice in the Lord.

Let sinners be consumed out of the earth, and the wicked be no more.

Bless the Lord, O my soul.

John 1: 1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through him; nothing came into being without him. In him was life: the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

God sent John to witness to the light, so that all might believe through him. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world; the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own people, and they did not accept him.

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of  God, not born of flesh and blood but of God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; we have seen his glory; the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Ian Emmerson, Lucas Santo, Harry Jameson, Anne-Marie Allan,  Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Jeannette Fisher, 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 Mary Caird, Cyril Sparke, Elizabeth Dixon,  John Johnson, Edward Burn, Roy Pearce, Doris Smith and Calum Stobbs.

Thoughts on today’s readings.

On Tuesday the season of Christmas came to an end with Candlemas; today’s readings, on the theme of the Creation, lead to look afresh on our lives and on our w. It is as though we are being told: everything begins today.

I write this in the dark of a winter’s morning. I know Spring is coming:  a few days ago I bought packets of seeds of vegetables and herbs, but for now the ground is cold and wet, and there is snow in the air.

I associate this season with the birth of our oldest son John, and with the snowdrops I brought Carole when he was born. They are pretty flowers, tough too, and sometimes sweet smelling, but they are more of a herald of the promise of the life to come , perhaps  as the beginning of St. John’s  Gospel describes John the Baptist.

Psalm 104, which we read this morning,  praises God for the wonders of his creation, but reminds us how utterly dependent we are.

These weeks are a time for us to consider our relationship to God, but also to one another and to his world.

They are a time for us to relate to the world with a little more humility, and to consider the consequences of the decisions we have made.

Surely this is also what scientists of many kinds are also urging us to consider; not that we have the answers to everything, or indeed to anything much at all, but to reflect.

This morning we hear that one of the vaccines, developed with amazing speed and even now being delivered in millions of doses, may struggle to protect from the changing virus.

We need to recognize our vulnerability, our dependence.

There will always be false prophets ready to massage our egos and tell us what we like to hear, but  God sent his prophet to  preach repentance, and change.

In other verses Psalm 104 evokes the awe and fear of seafarers confronted with the immeasurable power of the ocean, and their longing for safe haven.

On filthy, stormy days, I think of those out at sea, watching anxiously  for sight of land: will it be the safe haven or something else? Yet they know that out there, secure on the rock, the lighthouse shines out to guide them to safety.

Christ our light shines even in the storm, and even when we cannot see it. That light so that we may take note of it. It may be we need to change course, lest we end up shipwrecked.

Yet that light shines not simply to guide us and to warn us, but to lead us home to Our Father.

 

Sunday 31st January 2021. Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Please note: Church services have resumed at the usual time of 9.30.

Lent study booklets have been delivered and are available for collection in Church.

The next meeting of the PCC is on February 10th.

Readings

Deuteronomy 18: 15-20

Moses said to the people, ‘ The Lord will raise up a prophet like me from among you, and you will listen to his words. For you said, “ If I hear the voice of the Lord again, or see his great fire, I will die.” And the Lord said, “ They are right in what they say, therefore I will raise a prophet from among them, who will speak the words I put in his mouth. If they will not listen to the words I have given the prophet, they will be accountable.

If the prophet speaks in the name of other gods, or speaks in my name words I have not given, he will die”

Psalm 111

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,

In the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the deeds of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them.

His work is full of majesty and splendour, and his righteousness endures for ever.

He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion.

He gives food to those who fear him;

He is ever mindful of his covenant.

He has shown his people the power of his works in giving them the land of the nations.

The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

All his commandments are sure.

They stand fast for ever and ever, because they are done in truth and equity.

He sent redemption to his people;

He commanded his covenant for ever;

Holy and awesome is his name.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;

Those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

His praise endures for ever.

Revelation 12: 1-5

A sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and crowned with twelve stars.

She cried out in labour. Another sign appeared: a great red dragon, with seven crowned heads and ten horns; with his tail he swept a third of the stars from the heavens.

He stood before the woman so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. She gave birth to a son, who will rule the earth with a rod of iron.

 

Mark 1: 22-28

Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath, and they were astounded at the authority of his teaching. A man with an unclean spirit screamed at him, ‘Are you come to destroy us, Jesus of Nazareth? You are the Holy One of God!’ But Jesus commanded the spirit to come out of him, and with a loud cry, it left him. All were amazed. ‘What is this teaching? Even the spirits obey him.’ His fame spread throughout Galilee.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Ian Emmerson, Lucas Santo, Harry Jameson, Anne-Marie Allan,  Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Jeannette Fisher, 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 Freddie Wilson, Ralph Curry,  Alan Simpson,  Gillian Nixon and Margaret Huddleston.

 Thoughts on today’s readings.

Although there are in every generation self-taught geniuses, and original minds like the great artists, composers and scientists, most of us have acquired our understanding with the help of teachers, whether that be our parents and those who taught us to speak, or those we have encountered in the course of our lives. People came to the synagogue to pray but also to learn. The learning was based on the Bible, and there was a whole body of wisdom and insights gained by generations of rabbis.

Our first reading is a reminder that to be in the presence of God was a fearful, even terrifying , thing.  Therefore God would speak to his people through his chosen prophets, and the prophets would be accountable to God.

Even before the demonstration of power prompted by the appearance of the possessed man, those who heard Jesus knew that here was something different: one who spoke with authority.

I am reminded of  Luke 24: 32; the two disciples reflecting on the appearance of Jesus as they walked to Emmaus on the first Easter Day, ‘Wasn’t it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

It was clear to those who heard him  that Jesus knew what the word of God to the prophets meant because they were his words.

He knew what he was talking about when he spoke of God because he is God; of one substance with the Father, as it is written in the Creed.

This is authority: speaking from knowledge and experience, not just in theories; his word was not empty but active.

Such was his authority that he commanded the unclean spirit to be silent , and to come out of the man, and it left him.

Yet because this was Jesus of Nazareth, a man like themselves, those who were with him in the synagogue did not flee in terror.

It was sin and disobedience which caused Adam to hide in shame from God. In Jesus, God has come to  take away that sin and fear and shame, that we may stand before God and live.

We cannot sit at the feet of Jesus in Galilee and yet we know that Jesus  stands among us.  The Spirit he breathed upon his fearful disciples moves among us even today. Here is the one who teaches with authority, who is the active word of God.

May we listen and learn, believe and trust, and may God’s living word bear fruit in our service.

 

 

 

Sunday 24th January 2021. Third Sunday after Epiphany.

Readings

Revelation 19: 6-10

I heard the voice of a mighty crowd; like the roaring water they cried, ‘Alleluia! Our God reigns! Give him the glory: the marriage of the Lamb has come. His bride is ready; she is dressed in fine linen: the righteous deeds of the saints.

The angel said, ’Write: Blessed are they who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ I fell at his feet , but he said, ‘Do not do this. I am a fellow –servant with you and those who hold the testimony of Jesus.  Worship God! The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’

Psalm 128

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, and who follow in his ways.

You shall eat the fruit of your labour;

Happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

Your children like olive shoots about your table.

Whoever fears the Lord shall thus indeed be blessed.

The Lord bless you from Zion,

And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of our life.

May you live to see your children’s children;

May peace be upon Israel.

 

John 2: 1-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.  The mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited.

The wine gave out, and his mother said to Jesus, ‘They have no wine.’ He replied, ‘Woman, what is that to me and to you? My hour is not yet come.’

His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

There were six water jars, each holding 20 or 30 gallons, used for purification rituals. ‘Fill the jars with water,’ Jesus told them.  Then he told them to draw some off and take it to the steward of the feast. He tasted the water, which had become wine, and called to the bridegroom, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the poorer sort when everyone has drunk, but you have kept the good wine until now.’

This was the first sign which Jesus did, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

 

Among those who are sick we pray for  Ian Emmerson, Lucas Santo, Harry Jameson, Anne-Marie Allan,  Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Jeannette Fisher, 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 about this time we remember

Ronald Duncan, Kenneth Trotter, Tom Walker, John Robert Oliver,  Robert Purvis and John Angus Leybourne.

Thought’s on today’s readings

At first sight it seems very strange that in St. John’s Gospel the public ministry of Jesus begins at a wedding, where he is a guest, and where he acts at the prompting of his mother.

Here is no miracle of healing, no words of wisdom; Jesus is not the focus of the occasion: surely that is the couple, whose guest he is. That is  how it has to be: without the couple, there is no marriage.  Those who come to Church are not married by the priest or vicar; they marry one another. It is their signatures on the certificate which give it validity. All those who sign with them, including the priest or registrar are, in effect, witnesses.

This image of marriage is underlined in our first reading, from Revelation, and it is there to tell us that this is how God intends to relate to his people through his Son, Jesus Christ.

What does this tell us?

First of all, that this relationship is expressed through love.

Of course, we need to be realistic about the nature of marriage in first–century Galilee. Presumably this was a fairly pragmatic affair, often arranged by the families of the couple; did they even know each other before their marriage?

Nevertheless we should not imagine that romantic love is an invention of the modern world. You have only to read the inscriptions on the monuments to their deceased wives left by soldiers of the Roman era who were stationed in this part of the world to realize the depth of their love and indeed their grief for their spouse. Human nature has not changed that much.

Therefore this tells us something about the nature of the loving relationship with his people which is God’s purpose.

It is to be a covenant relationship; that is to say it is not a conditional, transactional relationship like a contract, but one without conditions. At the moment of their marriage the couple cannot predict what the future will hold. In faith and love they step out together into the future, no matter what it holds, for better, for worse.

It is to be a loving relationship where we are accepted as ourselves. Within a marriage we expose ourselves, make ourselves vulnerable, each to the other. There is no place here for wearing masks, for pretence, nor even for fantasies or putting people on pedestals. We need to be loved for who we are.

Because this relationship involves the acceptance of our unvarnished reality it must include the  possibility of repentance for our failings, forgiveness and reconciliation. Only a love which is able to cope with such realities can endure.

This then is the God whom Jesus reveals by beginning his public ministry at a wedding, and the story tells us of the difference his presence makes.

Where before there was water, such as John used for his baptisms, symbolizing the possibility of cleansing and repentance for the reality of human failure, now there is  wine; not just any wine, but the best; not just enough, but more than we could possibly want or need.

This wine, this new wine, is nothing less than the coming of the Spirit of God, poured out and offered for the whole world by the God who not only loves his world and his people, but holds nothing back from them.

Blessed are they who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

 

 

 

Sunday 17th January 2021. Second Sunday after Epiphany.

I regret there is no service in Church this morning.

I hope to be able to resume worship in Church next week.

Readings:

1 Samuel 3: 1-10

It was night and the child Samuel was lying on the ground in temple before the Ark of the Covenant, where he served the Lord.  At that time the word of the Lord was rare; the eyes of Eli the priest had grown dim.  The lamp of the Lord was still burning when a voice called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’  He rose and went to Eli. ‘You called me,’ he said, ‘Here I am.’ He was sent to lie down again. Twice this happened again. Then Eli said, ‘the Lord is calling you. When he calls again, reply, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”’ The Lord stood in the temple and called Samuel by name. ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,’ he replied.

Verses from Psalm 139

O lord you have searched me out and known me: you know when I sit or when I stand; you comprehend my thoughts long before.

You discern my path and the places where I rest: you are acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word on my tongue but you Lord know it altogether.

You have encompassed me behind and before and laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me: so high that I cannot endure it.

Where shall I go from your spirit? Where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend into heaven you are there; if I make my bed in the grave you are there also.

If I spread out my wings towards the morning, or dwell in the uttermost part of the sea,

Even there your hand shall lead me: and your right hand shall hold me.

If I say ‘Surely the darkness will cover me and the night will enclose me,’

The darkness is no darkness with you but the night is as clear as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike.

For you have created my inward parts: you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will praise you for you are to be feared: fearful are your acts and wonderful your works.

 

John  1: 43-51

Jesus came to Galilee. He found Philip, who was from Bethsaida, like Andrew  and Peter and said, ’Follow me.’

Philip found Nathanael and said, ‘We have found the one spoken of by Moses and the prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’  ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ said Nathanael.  ‘Come and see,’ replied Philip. Jesus saw Nathanael and said, ’Here is a true Israelite, free of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ asked Nathanael. ‘I saw you sitting under the fig tree,’ replied Jesus. Nathanael exclaimed, ‘You are the Son of God, Rabbi, the King of Israel!’ ‘Is this why you believe?’ said Jesus. ‘You will see greater things than this. You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

Among those who are sick we pray for  Ian Emmerson, Lucas Santo, Harry Jameson, Anne-Marie Allan,  Ann Wrighton, Kathleen Lee, Jeannette Fisher, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Graham Shaw, Pamela Carr, Bob and 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 remember Margaret Southern  and Roger Spiers, and also Syd White, Denise Baxter,  Eva Dodds, Peter Johnson,  George Heslop,  David Leyland, Sarah Jane Walker and Matthew  Clark whose year’s mind is about this time.

Thoughts on today’s readings.

The images of light and darkness feature strongly in today’s readings, not as a metaphor for good and evil but as an image for  the presence of God and also for his seeming absence when faith grows dim, and in times of trial.

The darkness of night and the dimmed eyes of the priest in our first reading speak to us of his waning faith: he had wandered from the Lord. It was not that God was absent; the  light still burned in the darkness of the temple, and it was not to the priest that the Lord came and spoke but to the child Samuel, who served before the Ark of the presence. Samuel replied, ‘Here I am ; speak, Lord; I am listening.’

The Psalm speaks of how there is nowhere outside the presence of the Lord; for him light and darkness are both alike.

When Nathanael overcomes his prejudice and reluctance and follows Philip and comes to see Jesus, he finds that Jesus knows him already, and is overwhelmed. Yet as for the glory Jesus promises to show him: is it not when he is on the cross that  heaven will be opened and  that those who look will see the angels ascend and  descend upon the Son of Man?

What has this to do with you and me today?

A few days ago I spoke to a young man. He is going through a really traumatic period in his life, yet his voice was filled with joy.   He describes himself as one who blasphemed and had no time for anything to do with Christianity but now, he said, ‘I have found Jesus.’ ‘Did you find him,’ I replied, ‘Or did he find you?’

He laughed, ‘I think he found me,’ and now he is trying to learn and to understand who this is who has come into his life.

Christ is that Sun sent by the Father to help us to see that which we cannot see or understand, and to guide us on our journey through this life, yet what  feels like darkness is not absence.

When the sun shines we do not see the stars, yet they are still there. When night falls we are not helpless: we see the stars. They have guided countless generations on their journeys across trackless deserts and seas to the safety of their harbours and destinations.

When clouds cover the sky we cannot use the sun and stars; it may feel as though we have to guess our way. We have to wait, as often we had to when I was a seafarer, for the moment of light when sight of the sun or stars enabled us to fix our position.

Christ our light still shines for us today; in the darkest night a star may appear to guide us.

The voice of the Lord calls those who are listening; he still comes today and calls us by our name and knows us; we are his.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev Patterson's report 2017
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Vicar's report 2019
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