St Helen’s Church

In place of the usual Harvest Festival, this year St Helen’s is reviving St Helen’s is Singing on Sunday 21 November at 5 pm.
This will be a service of songs of praise and thanksgiving chosen by members of the community. There is a sheet to complete in the church, or you can give suggestions to either the vicar, or churchwarden Jenny Stirling and we will accommodate as many as possible.
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Sunday 21st November 2021. Christ the King.

Prayer for today.

Eternal Father, whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord and King; keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit  and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,  one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Readings for today.

Daniel 7: 9-10; 13-14

A vision of a throne in heaven, and upon the throne sits the Ancient of Days.  His clothing, his hair, are as white as snow, his throne of flame, with wheels of fire.

A stream of fire flows from his presence; countless thousands attend and serve him.. The court of heaven sits in judgement; the books are opened.

As I watched the vision in the night, one like a son of man came to the throne upon the clouds. He was presented to the one upon the throne and given dominion over the whole world, that all should serve him. This kingdom will not pass away; it shall never be destroyed.

 

Psalm 93

  1. TheLord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves.

The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.

Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever.

 

John 18: 33-37

Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

Jesus replied, ’Does this question come from you or from someone else?’

Pilate said, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and their leaders who have handed you over to me. What have you done?’

Jesus replied, ’My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world my armies would fight to save me. But my kingdom is not from here.’

‘So you are a king?’ asked Pilate.

‘These are your words,’ said Jesus. ‘I was born and came into the world to bear witness to the truth.  Whoever belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’

 

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

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Walter Milburn, Terry Atkinson, John Watling,  Jimmy Clark and John Harding.

 

Songs of Praise is this evening in Church at 5 p.m.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings.

Over 68 years ago the young Queen Elizabeth was crowned in Westminster abbey.  The most important symbolic act of her coronation was not the placing of a crown on her head but her anointing with oil. Not only has this been the practice throughout our history, but the words used spoke of Solomon being crowned by Zadok the priest. The Old Testament teaches us that it was when Samuel the prophet anointed Saul, and later the boy David, that they received the Lord’s authority to rule over Israel.

‘Are you a king?’ Pilate asked Jesus. All four gospels describe the anointing of Jesus – an anointing by a woman who is in some accounts identified as Mary the sister of Martha.

Jesus accepts this anointing and speaks of it being for his death, and that this woman will be remembered for her action.

So what relevance does this have to you and me? What does the celebration of Christ the King have to teach us?

Yesterday morning in Allendale I baptized three generations of one family. The words of the service spoke of being baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of being a new creation, clothed with Christ, which means, ‘the anointed’.

In one of the greatest hymns of all Charles Wesley asked,

‘And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s  blood?’ and then, ‘Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me.’

Jesus replied to Pilate that  he was come to bear witness to the truth: that is his kingdom.

The Empire which Pilate represented treated its emperor as a god, yet in reality it was often mired in corruption.

The empires of today aspire to justice and liberty, yet inevitably the powerful favour whom they will and strive to maintain their advantage.

Yesterday, that family walked out of Church into the village of Allendale, still subjects of our United Kingdom, with its flaws and aspirations, but they had put on Christ.

Henceforth, through their baptism, they are part of the body of Christ, prophet, priest and king: a king who gave his life for his people, and whose victory was won on a cross.

Today and every day Christ invites us to listen to his voice, and to follow him, to choose life in him and to embrace truth.

 

 

14th November 2021. Remembrance Sunday

Prayer for today.

Almighty Father, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the king of all; govern the minds and hearts of those in authority, and bring the families of the nations, divide and torn apart by the ravages of sin, to be subject to his just and gentle rule; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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

Among those who have died recently we remember  Kenneth Dodd. Please remember Ken’s wife Jane and daughter Lizzie in your prayers, and also Gordon Campbell, William Barber, John Robinson and Harry Robson, whose year’s mind is about this time.

This morning we will make an Act of Remembrance during our Prayers of Intercession.

Readings for today

Daniel 12: 1-3

A word was given to Daniel during the reign of Cyrus:

‘At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. It will be a time of anguish, greater than any that can be remembered. But at that time your people shall be delivered, all those written in the book. Many who sleep in the earth shall rise, some to everlasting life, some to everlasting shame.

The wise, and those who lead many to righteousness, will shine like the stars, for ever and ever.

Mark 13: 1-8

As they came out of the temple, a disciple said to Jesus, ‘See, Rabbi, the great stones, the large buildings!’ Jesus replied, ‘Do you see all this? Not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’

The were sitting on the Mount of Olives, looking across to the temple. Peter and Andrew, James and John, asked him, ‘When will this be? What will be the sign that this must happen?’ Jesus began to say, ’Many will come in my name and say, ”I am he!” and lead many astray. Beware of them.  Do not be alarmed when you hear of war and the rumour of war. All this must take place, but the end is till to come. Nation will rise against nation; there will be earthquakes and famines. This is only the beginning of the  birth pangs.’

Note: Next Sunday evening at 5 p.m. in church there will be Songs of Praise , a chance to sing some of your favourite hymns, with the support of the Shire Ladies.

Thoughts on today’s readings

Last night in Glasgow, two weeks of negotiations between representatives of most of the countries of the world at COP26  ended with the chairman in tears, and they were not tears of joy.

Those whose homes and livelihood are most vulnerable to climate change are those who will feel the greatest impact, but all of us inhabit the same planet.

Standing on a hillside in Wharfedale yesterday, on a still morning and under blue skies, I looked down on a perfect village, where children attend the school which first opened 350 years ago, and the flag of St.George flies from the ancient tower of the Parish Church.

Up the sides of the hills the fields are divided and protected by stone walls which have stood there for centuries. From there it is difficult to imagine, let alone hear, the rumour of war and the shudder of the earthquake, yet in that Church today the dead of two world wars will be commemorated, including those who never returned to their village.

Visiting friends in East Germany in the 1980s I used to have to pass through the intimidating and very physical symbol of tyranny which was the Berlin Wall. I could not then have imagined that within a very few years it would be torn down, so that not one stone is left standing.

Some years earlier, climbing through the lush tropical forest to the highest point on the island of Montserrat, in the Caribbean, I could not have imagined that the day would come when a volcanic eruption would render half the island uninhabitable – not for few months, but probably for centuries to come.

To the disciples in Jerusalem, the great stones of the newly-rebuilt temple seemed as immoveable and permanent as perhaps was the Roman Wall when it was newly completed, with its network of earthworks, roads and military bases.

The demolition of a wall is not always a disaster, and today there are many across the world who wait in hope in the shadow of walls and wire fences.

The words of Jesus are a warning against following the latest Messiah, or giving credence to prophets of doom. Even the most extreme events are, he says, only the birth pangs, and he goes on the predict the persecution and sufferings of his followers.

We do well to remember that earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.

The word given to Daniel spoke of a cosmic struggle to parallel the sufferings of the age, but also contained a promise, that God would deliver his people. and of the resurrection to glory of the faithful.

The young men we remember, who lost their lives in the mud and filth of the battlefield, in the freezing ocean or in the wreckage of their plane, never lived to see their hopes and dreams realized, but their names are not forgotten.

The children and grandchildren of those who were tattooed in  concentration camps where their humanity was taken away from them, now fill the earth and bear a witness which cannot be denied.

Let us pray for wisdom, so that we may ourselves be led, and lead others in ways of righteousness.

Sunday 7th November 2021. 3rd Sunday before Advent.

Prayer for today:

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life: grant that we, having this hope, may purify ourselves even as he is pure, that when he shall appear in power and great glory we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom, where he is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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

Among those who have died recently we remember Sal Adams and Kenneth Dodd. Please remember Ken’s wife Jane and daughter Lizzie in your prayers.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Gordon Grubb, Moffit Reed, Ken Barron and Harry Robson.

There will be a service of Songs of Praise on November 21st at 5 p.m. in Church.

Please let me or one of the Churchwardens know of any hymns you would like to sing at this service.

There is a meeting of the PCC on Wednesday evening in the Parish Hall.

The funeral takes place in Church tomorrow afternoon at 1.30 for Anne Adams (Sal). Please remember her family in your prayers.

Readings :

Jonah 3: 1-5, 10

The word of the Lord came to Jonah, ‘Go to the great city of Ninevah and proclaim the message I will give you.’

So Jonah set out for Ninevah. It was a city so great that it took three days to walk through it.  As he walked through the city, Jonah cried, ‘In forty days Ninevah will be overthrown.’

The people of Ninevah believed God. From greatest to least they fasted and put on sackcloth.

When God saw how they had turned from their evil ways he changed his  mind about the disaster he was going to bring up them, and did not do it.

Verses from Psalm 62.

He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved.

In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.

Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.

10 Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.

11 God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.

12 Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.

Mark 1: 14-20

After John had been arrested Jesus came into Galilee.

Walking beside the lake he came across two fishermen , the brothers Simon and Andrew. They were casting a net and Jesus said to them ‘Come with me and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus. Further along he saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee in a boat, mending their nets.

Immediately he called them, and they left their father and the hired men in the boat, and followed him.

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?

Will you go where you don’t know , and never be the same?

Will you let my love be shown,

Will you let my name be known,

Will you let my life be grown in you,

And you in me?

 

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?

Will you care for cruel and kind,

And never be the same?

Will you risk the hostile stare,

Should your life attract or scare,

Will you let me answer prayer in you,

And you in me?

 

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?

Will you let the prisoners free,

And never be the same?

Will you kiss the leper clean

And do such as this unseen,

And admit to what I mean

In you, and you in me?

 

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide

If I but call your name?

Will you quell the fear inside

And never be the same?

Will you use the faith you’ve found

To reshape the world around

Through my sight, and touch, and sound

In you, and you in me.

 

 

Lord, your summons echoes true

When you but call my name.

Let me turn and follow you

And never be the same.

In your company I’ll go

Where your love and footsteps show.

Thus I’ll move, and live, and grow in you,

And you in me.

 

Thoughts on this morning’s readings

Waking to a dark November morning I hear an unexpected sound.

In the distance a blackbird is singing. You have to listen hard to hear him over the roar of the wind, but his song is as unhurried and melodious as on a Spring morning. Why is he singing? Is he some sort of innocent herald of global warming, when the northern winter will have been replaced by a season of darkness?

All he knows is that the dawn is coming, and he must sing.

One thing which strikes me in the readings for this morning is how little those whom God calls know or understand of the message which will be given to them or of the mind and will of God.

First we have Jonah, not-so-fresh from the belly of the whale, finally accepting God’s command to preach a message of destruction to the mighty city of Nineveh. The astonishing point of this story is that this pagan people listens to this rather uninspired foreign preacher and take his message seriously. They turn from their wicked ways in repentance and God changes his mind!

In the gospel we read an account of Jesus calling his first disciples.

Again there is no sense of any explanation. ‘I will make you fishers of men,’ he tells them. It’s not exactly a complete programme.

Is it something they recognised in him, something as compelling as the dawn breaking and the sun rising, which caused them to leave everything they know and follow Jesus?

In our own times of uncertainty  we have looked to science and to computer modelling to try to help us look ahead, and plan wisely, yet so much that has happened is completely beyond anything any of us had imagined possible.

Could it be that faith is not such a bad guide after all?

The couple who make their vows to each other in marriage do so without any guarantees whatsoever. Of course they love and trust the person they are marrying, but have no way of knowing what life will hold for them. Faith and trust and love are essential ingredients in everything worthwhile that we do.

And the song of the blackbird tells me that though it is November and the clocks have gone back, the sun will rise and this morning, like every morning, will be a thing of beauty, where Christ is present.

How often have I arrived on a hospital ward thinking I knew what I had to do there, to find instead that I was indeed expected but that I was being directed to something entirely different, which then was plainly where I was meant to be that day.

For if I am listening, I may hear his call, and go where I am sent and fulfil his purpose for me, not knowing or understanding in advance what that might be, but trusting that he is already there and will provide all that is needed.

31st October 2021. All Saints Sunday.

Prayer for today:

Almighty God you have knit together those you have chosen into one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: grant us grace so to follow your saints in all virtuous and godly living that we may come to those inexpressible joys which you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Readings

Revelation 21: 1-6a

A vision of a new heaven and a new earth: the former things have passed away; the first heaven and the first earth, death and mourning, are all passed away. A new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven from God, like a bride for her husband.

A voice in heaven declares, ‘God makes his home with his people: they will be his people and he will be their God. Every tear will be wiped away. I make all things new. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.’

Verses from Psalm 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 11: 32-44

Mary fell at the feet of Jesus , weeping, and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw and all the people weeping he was moved and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ ‘Come and see,’ they replied.  Jesus wept. Some people said, ‘See how he loved him,’ but others said, ‘Could he not have kept this man from dying?’

Jesus came to the tomb. A stone was rolled across it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’  Martha said, ‘He has already been in there four days; there will be a stench.’ Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ So they rolled the stone away  and Jesus prayed, thanking his Father who always heard him, before crying out, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ The dead man came out, still wrapped in the grave clothes, and Jesus ordered them to let him go.

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

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember James Henry Short, Millett Ridley, John  Pickworth, Joyce Best, Douglas Capes and Keith Herdman.

Please write down the names of any for whom you wish a prayer to be said this morning.

There will be a service of Songs of Praise on November 21st at 5 p.m. in Church. Please let me or one of the Churchwardens know of any hymns you would like to sing at this service.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings.

On the high altar of Hexham Abbey are words  from this morning’s first reading for All Saints,  embroidered in Latin, ‘Ecce tabernaculum Dei hominibus’: behold, the dwelling of God is with men.  The word used for ‘dwelling’ : tabernaculum, also means  ‘tent’. It reminds us that , although we make our homes in houses built of stone, and worship God in churches which have stood for centuries,  the Bible teaches us that the people whom God called to be his own were nomads, moving across the wilderness to find pasture and water for their flocks.

Different to the farming families of our countryside, who have basically farmed the same area for centuries, they understood that they were sojourners in the land.

There will be millions today who know only too well how fragile is their home: those whose land is being swept away by floods and a rising sea, those land is rendered uninhabitable by the encroaching desert, those whose homes were destroyed by war and disaster.

Many years ago, when I was a new curate in Newcastle, an old lady from the Church exclaimed, ‘The clergy! They’re like ships in the night!’ and she was right. After a few short years I had moved on. Although I have been here for over 25 years, I live in a house provided by the Church and accept that  there is a sense in which I will always be an ‘incomer’, as much I am grateful for this parish and feel it is home.

Those characters from the Old Testament, the patriarchs and their families, were buried in places remembered by their children, who then moved on. Those graves are long-forgotten , yet their names and their stories live on. When the Bible tells us that God dwells with his people, it follows that we dwell with God, who is beyond time and space.

The setting for our Gospel reading is the grave of Lazarus, where Jesus declares by words and signs that in him God is Lord over  life and death: he is the resurrection and the life.

This underlines what Jesus says when speaking of the God of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob. This is the God, not of the dead but of the living, Jesus tells the people.

We remember: it is part of what makes us alive, of what makes us human, but our memory is fragile and fading.

All Saints and the commemoration of All Souls reminds us that those we remember are not simply part of our past.

They were and remain part of the Body of Christ, part of the Communion of Saints on earth and in heaven, with who, this morning, we offer our prayers and praise to the one who is for us the Way, the Truth and the Life.

 

 

24th October 2021.  Last Sunday after Trinity. (Bible Sunday)

Prayer for today:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning: help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings:

Isaiah 55: 1-11

The word of the Lord: Come to the waters, all who thirst; come buy and eat milk and wine without price, you that have no money.  Why spend what  you have for that which is not bread? Why labour for what does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good; come and listen, that you may live.

I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my steadfast love for David. I made him a leader for the peoples.  Look; you will call nations you do not know; they will run to you because the Lord God of Israel has glorified you.

Seek the Lord and call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and return to the Lord; he may have mercy on them, for he will abundantly pardon.

My ways, my thoughts, are not like yours, says the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours.

As the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return until they have watered the earth and made it fruitful,  so shall my word not return to me empty, but accomplish my purpose.

 

Verses from Psalm 19

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

John 5: 36-47

Jesus said to the Jews, ‘My testimony is greater than that of John.

‘The works my Father has given me to do bear witness to me , and my Father bears witness to me. You have not heard his voice, and his word does not abide in you, because you have not believed in the one he has sent.

‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them is eternal life, and they bear witness to me.  Still you refuse to come to me and have life. You do not have the love of God in you; I have come in my Father’s name and you do not accept me.

‘You will accept one who comes on his own authority. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory which comes from God?

‘It is not I who will accuse you before the Father, but Moses., who wrote of me.  If you will not believe what Moses wrote, how will you believe what I say?’

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

Among those who have recently died we remember Kathleen Robinson, and also Margaret Robson,  Isla Baynes, Muriel Clark, Millett Ridley, and James Henry Short, whose year’s mind is about this time.

Thoughts on today’s readings

When my son David was 18, he went to Thailand, after finishing his  ‘A’ levels, to teach English to children in a school in a provincial town in the North-East of the country.

People were very kind to him and to the other student from England who was working at the same school. They loved the country but missed many things from home.

One day they discovered that they had won a prize in a local lottery. Immediately they went out and bought a big piece of cheddar cheese! It was something they had been dreaming about.

This reading from Isaiah has a sense of the longing of a people who hunger and thirst, but cautions them against putting their efforts and resources into getting something which will not satisfy, which will turn out to be worthless.

Come to me, says the Lord: I will give you what you cannot buy, never mind afford. Listen to me: you will be filled. Listen to me: you will live.

The passage speaks of God’s covenant with David being as everlasting as God himself, and God’s purpose as unfathomable and his actions as irresistible.

The people are like those who live in a parched land, digging through the rock in the hope of finding water, which may only prove to be brackish.

But God sends the rain, which we cannot buy and over which we have no control; it alone can cause the land to bloom and revive.

Jesus makes a similar observation to his Jewish hearers. Their scholars treated the Bible as if it were a sort of code, revealing its secrets to those who dug deepest.

But why would God do that? For this is our God, who in Jesus Christ warns that unless we become like little children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

Why would the truth of God be accessible only to a select band of scholars with secret knowledge?

Like Moses, like the prophets, the Bible points us to another: to the living word of God, who is Jesus Christ.

How, though can we receive this life if we are persuaded that it is our own genius which will give us all the answers?

How will we receive the good things of God if we are busy worshipping idols of our own making?

How will we hear that word of life if we are gazing at our own navels?

In a few days the great and the good will gather in Glasgow to discuss the future of the Earth.

There will be much posturing and horsetrading, and people will make promises which they may or may not keep.

There have been 25 such meetings before this and it’s not clear what they have achieved.

It is certain we are still unable to make the rain fall or the sun to shine, or even the hungry to be fed or wars to cease.

Perhaps it is time to listen to children, to those whose minds are not already made up.

The Spirit of God is being  poured out today just as it was when the prophet Isaiah gave God’s word to the people.  It is seen, and heard, and received by faith alone, and it is life.

‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy-laden,’ said Jesus, ‘and I will give you rest.’

 

 

10th October 2021.   Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.

Prayer for today;  O God, forasmuch as without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit  may in all things direct and rule our hearts, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

Readings:

Hebrews 4: 12-16

The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than a double-edged sword it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it judges the thoughts of the heart. Nothing is hidden from him, all are laid bare before the one to whom we must give account.

Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our  confession.

For rather than being unable to sympathise with our weakness we have a priest who was tempted in all respects as we are, yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with boldness. So we may find grace and mercy and help in our hour of need.

Verses from Psalm 90

13 Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.

17 And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

 

Mark 10: 17-31

A man came and knelt before Jesus and asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

‘’Why do you call me good?’ replied Jesus. ‘God alone is good .

You know the commandments,’  he said, and numbered them.

‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth,’  the man said.

Jesus looked at the man with love. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’

The man went away in sorrow: he had great possessions.

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to pass though the eye of a needle.’

The disciples were astounded and asked one another, ‘who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ’For humans it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.’

Peter said, ‘We have left everything to follow you.’

Jesus replied, ’There is no-one who has left house and fields and family for my sake and for the good news who will not receive a hundredfold, and eternal life in the age to come. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.

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

Among those who have died we remember  Kathleen Robinson, Gordon Ross and Ian Stephenson.

We also remember Hannah Nichol, John Carter, Ellis Pickworth, Shirley Nichol, Jeanette Shotton, Edward Harding, Allan Hull, Ann Rowsell, William Henry Scott-Easton and  Dorothy Pinkney, whose year’s mind is about this time.

 

The funeral of Ian Stephenson will be here in Church  on Tuesday 12th October at 1 p.m.

The funeral of Gordon Ross will be here in Church on Wednesday 20th October at 11.30 a.m.

I will be away from Thursday 14th October, until the 21st.

Worship next Sunday will be led by the Rector of Hexham, the Revd. David Glover.

Thoughts on today’s readings.

Many years ago, when I was a student of theology in Birmingham, our inter-faith group was having a discussion with members of the local Muslim community.

‘Which version of your bible is the true one?’ they asked. ‘after all,’ they continued, ‘you have so many versions, and in so many different languages, and they are all different. How can you know what the word of God truly is?  We have only one Koran, in Arabic, and it records the word of God exactly as God gave it to his prophet Mohammed.’

One of our students, a young Methodist from Nottingham, replied, ‘The word of God is not written on a page. It is a living person. Jesus Christ, the word of God through whom the world was created, whom I encounter through faith and through the Spirit of God. The words of the Bible are the record of the impact of that living Word on the lives of those, prophets and saints, whose witness we read in the pages of the Bible.

Printed words alone cannot comprehend that living word; that word of God is alive and continues to be at work in the lives of those who encounter it.’

In our first reading this morning the living word of God is described as sharper than a sword, cutting though to the heart of things. Before him nothing is hidden. All creatures are laid bare before the one too whom we must give account.

It does not at first sight sound very attractive: like a sort of divine surveillance, but our Gospel reading illustrates why  we should embrace the word of God, rather than , like Adam, trying to hide ourselves away.

When the rich man came to Jesus, asking how he might gain eternal life,  Jesus looked into the heart of him and knew him, and he looked at him with love.

The problem was that the man could not bear to let go of his great possessions in order to follow Jesus.

In the end his love for Jesus was less than his love for his worldly wealth.

It is these words, that Jesus looked on the man with love, which lie at the heart of today’s readings, I believe.
Of course we may hide away from something or someone who may destroy us, from something terrifying, but why would we seek to hide from the one who loves us?

Again, I feel that the imagery of marriage is helpful. After all, did not Jesus begin his ministry at a marriage?

For in marriage a person joins themselves in love with someone who loves them unconditionally, before whom they are, yes, naked and vulnerable, with whom they do not  need to put on an act or wear a mask.

In the world of work, and in our daily lives, we may hide our personality by wearing a uniform of some sort, by fitting in, by showing only those facets of ourselves we feel are acceptable; we may be judged by standards which are not our own, by the results we appear to have achieved.

There is no hiding place in marriage; it is much better than that, somewhere we are loved and accepted for who we are, and the reality of that loves surpasses all that we could ever have hoped for.

This is the image of that love God has shown us in his living word, Jesus Christ. This is what it means when we read that Jesus looked with love on the man who came to him, even though the man could not love him in return.

God’s purpose is not to shame us, to crush us beneath a sense of our own failings, but an invitation to life and to love; to life in all its fullness, beyond anything we could have hoped for, a life of freedom and not of servitude.

The amazing words of Psalm 139 put it better than I ever could

‘How great is sum of your thoughts to me O Lord: they are more in number than the sand… behold I am fearfully and wonderfully made…..were I to come to the end, I would still be with you.’

 

 

3rd October 2021. 18th Sunday after Trinity.

Prayer for today:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Readings;

Hebrews 1: 1-4, 2; 5-12

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in various ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom  he created the worlds. He is the perfect image of God’s image and glory; his powerful word sustains all things. When he had made purification for sins he took his seat at the right hand of majesty, being so much higher than the angels as his name is greater than theirs.

God did not subject the world to come to angels. It is written, ‘What is the human race , that you are mindful of it? Yet you have made them little lower than the angels, and made all things subject to them.’

Though God made all things subject to them, we do not see all things under their control, but we do see Jesus, who was for a while lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might die for all. It was fitting that God, who creates and sustains all things, should make Jesus perfect through suffering, in order to bring many children to share his glory. For Jesus is the one who leads them to salvation.

Psalm 8

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

 

Mark 10: 2-16

The Pharisees asked Jesus, ‘It is lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ Jesus replied, ‘What did Moses teach you?’ They said, ‘A man is allowed to write a certificate and divorce his wife.’

Jesus said to them, ‘It is because of your hardness of heart that Moses gave you this commandment. But in the beginning, God made them male and female. And so a man leaves his mother and father and is joined to his wife, and the two become one flesh. No one must separate what God has joined together.’

When the disciples asked him about this he said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’

People brought children for Jesus to touch. The disciples scolded the people, but Jesus was indignant and said, ‘Let the children come to me; do not stop them. The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’  Then he took the children in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

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

Among those who have died we remember Kathleen Robinson.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Harry Mould, Judy Dinning, Violet Henderson and James Beevor.

There is a meeting for PCC members on Wednesday at 7.30 p.m. in the Parish Hall

 

Thoughts on today’s readings.

In the account of the beginning of the reign of Solomon, whom the Bible describes as the most glorious of the kings of Israel, we read in 1Kings chapter 3 how God appeared to Solomon and asked what he might give him.

Solomon replied, ‘You have made your servant king in place of David my father, and I am but a little child,’ and so he asked for an understanding heart.

Speaking to the children in school a few days ago I asked them what it is they can do better than me. ‘Football’, seemed to be the answer, but I asked them to consider that they are actually very good at learning, and probably much better at learning than I am.

In the first place their hearing is probably much sharper than mine. Do you remember the ghastly alarms that someone dreamed up some years ago, which emit a sound, painful to hear, at a pitch which children can hear and adults cannot?

You may be sure that whatever you say in the hearing of children has been heard, whether or not they appear to be paying attention.

Their minds are much more open and receptive: if I have problems involving technology, I have to take them to my daughter, to whom this is second nature. My mind seems incapable of making sense of this, or is it just that I am not trying?

There is a notice in our kitchen which reads, ‘Husbands are the best people to share secrets with. They’ll never tell anyone because they aren’t even listening.’ Is someone trying to tell me something?

We are brought up to be responsible and independent as adults, but the other and less positive side of this is that we can end up believing that we know the answers, and so our minds become closed.

Jesus did not urge his listeners to become like little children because of some idea of the purity and innocence of children, but rather because a child knows it is not autonomous, knows that it does not have power, knows that it does not know everything or have all the answers.

When Solomon described himself as a little child it was because of his awareness of how much he needed to learn, and of how totally he depended on the Lord his God.

When the Pharisees came to Jesus it was plain that when they read the Law they were looking at what they were permitted to do. ‘Am I allowed to do this?’ they asked.

In reply Jesus asked them to consider what God wants; what was his purpose in creating the world as it is, men and women as they are.

Solomon’s request was not to find out what he was allowed to do, but what was God’s will and purpose.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God as our Father, when St. Paul  writes to Galatians of the Spirit of God within us praying Abba! Father! this is not  about a retreat into childishness but an invitation to recognize our  relationship to God and in consequence our relationship to one another.

Surely the last year and a half   teaches us how illusory are our ideas of autonomy and independence, how much we rely on others, and how those whose jobs were considered to be extremely humble make the difference between life and death.

 

 

 

12th September 2021. Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity.

Prayer for today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Readings:

James 3: 1-12

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

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

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

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

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

 

Verses from Psalm 116

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark 8: 27 – 38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thoughts on today’s readings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

5th September 2021. 14th Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today:

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

Readings:

James  2: 1-10, 14-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Mark 7: 24-37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over £900 was raised on the day.

 

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

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

Thoughts on today’s readings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet surely compassion and love are out there too.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fill your hearts with joy and gladness,

sing and praise your God and mine!

Great the Lord in love and wisdom,

might and majesty divine!

He who framed the starry heavens

knows and names them as they shine!

Fill your hearts with joy and gladness,

sing and praise your God and mine!

 

Praise the Lord, his people, praise him!

Wounded souls his comfort know;

those who fear him find his mercies,

peace for pain and joy for woe;

humble hearts are high exalted,

human pride and power laid low.

Praise the Lord, his people, praise him!

Wounded souls his comfort know;

 

 

Praise the Lord for times and seasons,

cloud and sunshine, wind and rain;

spring to melt the snows of winter

till the waters flow again;

grass upon the mountain pastures,

golden valleys thick with grain.

Praise the Lord for times and seasons,

cloud and sunshine, wind and rain;

 

Fill your hearts with joy and gladness,

peace and plenty crown your days;

love his laws, declare his judgments,

walk in all his words and ways;

he the Lord and we his children:

praise the Lord, all people, praise!

Fill your hearts with joy and gladness,

peace and plenty crown your days;

 

29th August 2021. 13th Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today:

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

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

 Readings;

James 1: 17-27

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Among those who have died we remember Evelyn Braid.

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on today’s readings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday 22 August 2021 12th Sunday after Trinity 

Prayer for today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Readings:

 Ephesians 6: 10-20

Paul writes:

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

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

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

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

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

 Verses from Psalm 34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 6: 56-69

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

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

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

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

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

 Thoughts on today’s readings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer for today:

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

 

Readings:

Isaiah 61: 10-11

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

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

 

Psalm 45: 10 – 17

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

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

Mary said,

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

He has shown the strength in his arm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Thoughts on today’s readings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

8th August 2021. 10th Sunday after Trinity.

Prayer for today.

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

 

Readings for today

Ephesians 4; 32 – 5:2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Verses from Psalm 34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

John 6: 35, 41-51

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

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

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

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

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

How could I possibly justify myself in that scenario?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1st August 2021. Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today

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

Readings:

Ephesians 4: 1-16

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

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

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

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

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

 

Verses from Psalm 78

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

John 6: 24-35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

Verses from Psalm 104

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Thoughts on today’s readings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Rev Patterson's report 2017
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Vicar's report 2019
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