St Helen’s Church

14th August 2022. 9th Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today. Almighty God, you 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 he fruit of the Spirit in love, and joy and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Readings:

Hebrews 11: 29 – 12: 2

It was  by faith that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on foot; when the Egyptians tried to follow them they were drowned. It was faith that caused the walls of Jericho to fall down after  seven days, and because of her faith Rahab was saved, for aiding the Israelites.

From Gideon to David, Samuel and the prophets – by faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, overcame lions, escaped the sword, and put invaders to flight. Women received their dead restored by resurrection. Some suffered torture and floggings, and horrible deaths; others wandered , destitute and persecuted, in the skins of animals, through deserts and mountains, resting in caves –  the world was not worthy of them.

Praised as they were for their faith, these did not receive what was promised, for god had provided something better, in order that they might not, separate from us, be made perfect.

Since then we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside the sin that clings to us and run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Let us look to Jesus , the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was before him endured the cross, disregarded its shame, and has taken his place at the right of the throne of God.

Psalm 82

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty;
he judgeth among the gods.

How long will ye judge unjustly,
and accept the persons of the wicked?
Defend the poor and fatherless:
do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy:
rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
They know not, neither will they understand;
they walk on in darkness:
all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
I have said, Ye are gods;
and all of you are children of the most High.
But ye shall die like men,
and fall like one of the princes.

Arise, O God, judge the earth:
for thou shalt inherit all nations.

 

Luke 12: 49 -56

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and I long to see it kindle! I have a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how I am troubled until it is completed.

Do you imagine I am come to bring peace on earth? No, but rather, division. From now on a household will be divided: father against son and son against father; mother–in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter–in-law against mother-in law.’

He also said, ‘When you see a cloud rise in the west, you say, “It is going to rain,” and it does. And when you see the wind blow from the south, you say, “The heat will be scorching,” and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to read the signs in the earth and the sky; why then can you not interpret the present times?’

Among those who are sick we pray for Daniel Bradley, Suzie Dent, Sharon Hatfield, Nick Cook,  Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .   

Among those whose year’s mind is about this time we remember  Allan Peacock and Wynn Charlton.

Thoughts on today’s readings

Last week my daughter, flying home from the Netherlands, looked down as the plane crossed the coastline bordering the North Sea.

Usually the green fields of England lie below her on such a journey, but now she looked down on a brown and parched land more closely resembling an island in the Mediterranean at the end of a hot Summer.

This year we are seeing closer to home the threat that has been facing our world for some years. This year it is not only the forests of North America, Spain and France which are burning, but also of Redesdale and Derbyshire.

In this morning’s Gospel we read how Jesus told his disciples that he was come to bring fire to the earth, and speaking of the signs of the times: it all sounds uncomfortably, graphically, close to home.

Decades ago, in more optimistic times, television programmes celebrated ‘The ascent of man’ and people spoke of how the human race had ‘come of age’.  We had, we thought, the knowledge to solve every problem, and the means of creating and sustaining the world we wanted to live in.

Instead, I feel a more accurate image for where we truly are is of a child playing with a box of matches inside a barn filled with bales of straw.

And what, when the Summer is over and the days turn cold, will happen to those who labour long hours for low wages, who already are burdened with debt and struggle to make a home for themselves and their families?

It is little wonder that many of our young people ask themselves in what kind of a world they will grow old, and whether it is a world into which they would want to bring children.

We can share the frustration of Jesus at the wilful blindness and wishful thinking of those to whom he came but the truth is that he did come, and did so because it was the will of the Father to save and to reconcile the world.

Was it all a ghastly mistake? Was God rather too optimistic?

The writer of Hebrews responds by pointing to the great cloud of witnesses: those who kept faith and found that they were not disappointed, despite the great cost of keeping that faith, the trials and suffering they had to undergo.

He records how God acted to save his people, and how the best, and the fulfilment of our hopes, still lies before us.

The calling to the Church is now as it perhaps always was, not to waste time on introspection or in survival strategies, but to be awake and see the signs and the need around us. The calling is to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ and to know that we never walk alone on our journey of faith, our journey of life.

The calling is to allow ourselves to be the hands and the lips, the heart, the feet, the arms, indeed, the body of Jesus Christ for the world which he came to save and for which he gave his life.

 

 

 

 

7th August 2022. 8th Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today:

Almighty Lord and everlasting God, we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies in the way of your laws and in the works of your commandments that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved both in body and soul, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Among those who are sick we pray for Daniel Bradley, Suzie Dent, Sharon Hatfield, Harry Cook,  Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  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 . 

Among those who have recently died we remember Faye Smith.

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

Readings:

Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16

To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. It is by faith our ancestors received God’s approval. By faith we understand the world was created by God’s world: that which is seen was made from that which cannot be seen.

By faith Abraham obeyed and set out to receive as his inheritance a place of which he knew nothing. By faith he lived as a foreigner in the country God had promised him, living in tents as did Jacob and Isaac to whom the promise was also given. For he looked forward to a city founded and built by God.

By faith Abraham became a father although he was too old, and Sarah was barren, for he trusted God to keep his promise.

So from Abraham, whose body was as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and the grains of sand on the shore.

These all died in faith , without seeing the promises fulfilled, but saw them from afar and welcomed them, knowing they were but sojourners on earth. In this it was clear they sought a homeland. They could have sought to return whence they came but instead longed for a better, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be their God, and has prepared a city for them.

 

Verses from Psalm 33

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord;
and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
13 The Lord looketh from heaven;
he beholdeth all the sons of men.
14 From the place of his habitation
he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.
15 He fashioneth their hearts alike;
he considereth all their works.

16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host:
a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.
17 An horse is a vain thing for safety:
neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.
18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him,
upon them that hope in his mercy;
19 to deliver their soul from death,
and to keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waiteth for the Lord:
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart shall rejoice in him,
because we have trusted in his holy name.

22 Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
according as we hope in thee.

 

Luke 12: 32-40

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not be afraid, little flock. It is your Father’s will to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make for yourselves purses which will not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there is your heart also.

Be equipped for action; light your lamps. Be like those who wait for the master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds ready and waiting. He will take off his coat, make them sit, and serve them to eat. If he returns at midnight, or at dawn, and finds them ready, blessed are those servants.

Know this: if the householder had known at what time the thief was coming, he would stopped him from breaking in. You also must be ready; the Son of Man is coming at an hour when he is not expected.’

Thoughts on today’s readings

The opening verses of our first reading, from the 11th chapter of the Epistle to Hebrews, are for me the most beautiful in the Bible on the nature of faith. There is something wonderful and amazing about faith itself. At weddings I never cease to be awed as I witness two people give themselves unconditionally to each other and, indeed, trust and accept unconditionally the person who stands beside them.

Of course they are perhaps, in the majority of cases, buoyed up with the natural optimism and, some might say, inexperience of youth, but not all weddings are like that.

The writer of the Epistle to Hebrews uses as his example of faith the aged Abraham, who after a lifetime of building up his wealth in his native city, and aware that advancing years had left him and his wife without an heir apart from Eliezer, the senior servant of his household, nevertheless trusted in God and set off into an unknown country, to live as a nomad amongst its strange tribes, having believed in the promises of God. That faith was counted to him as righteousness; from Abraham and Sarah came a great nation, living in the promised land.

Yet the writer of this epistle points out that God’s purposes and promise are not fulfilled in the success of a particular race or tribe but through faith alone, and the promised land is not found in the passing glory of a piece of property but in the city of God and the coming of God’s kingdom, which we pray for whenever we recite the Lord’s Prayer.

As I read our passage from St. Luke’s Gospel I am struck by the tenderness and compassion of Jesus as he addresses his struggling and fragile followers. Not only were there few of them, but they were not people of importance, consequence or power.

No doubt they were not wealthy either, but in a sense Jesus urges them to behave as though they were rich. In essence he says, ‘Do not hoard or squirrel away what you have: give it to the poor. Then you will have treasure which will not depreciate, treasure which none can rob or defraud you of. Be sure that where your treasure is, there also is your heart.’

Does this sound crazy or reckless? But have you never heard the old saying, ‘Cast your bread upon the waters, and it will come back to you – buttered!’ Like someone learning to swim, there is only one way to discover that you will not in fact drown, and that is to cast yourself out into the water.

When Jesus tells his disciples that where your treasure is, there also is your heart, it reminds me that we are not commanded to fear and obey but to love God with all our being.

The commitment which so amazes me when I am witness to a marriage is possible because of the love of that couple for each other: the person who stands beside them is their treasure; there is their heart also.

Christ shows us abundantly in his loving sacrifice on the cross how unconditional is God’s love for his flock, how precious we are.

God’s invitation to us is to love and to trust, to work for that kingdom of God which will not crumble away.

God who created from old Abraham and Sarah his chosen people, who called that unimpressive group of Galileans to be his little flock continues to bless those who follow and labour in faith, hope and love.

 

 

 

Great is thy Faithfulness

 

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,

As Thou hast been, thou for ever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness,

Great is thy faithfulness;

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed thy hand hath provided, –

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

 

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon and stars in  their courses above,

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is thy faithfulness…

 

Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is thy faithfulness….

 

31st July 2022. 7th Sunday after Trinity.

Prayer for today:

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

Among those who are sick we pray for Daniel Bradley, Suzie Dent, Sharon Hatfield, Harry Cook,  Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  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 .   

Among those who have recently died we remember Faye Smith.

Among those whose year’s mind is about this time we remember Jean Capes.

Readings for today:

Colossians 3: 1-11

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above , where Christ is, at God’s right hand. Do not set your mind on earthly things but on things above, for your have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, you will be revealed with him in glory.

So put to death whatever in you in earthly: evil desires, impurity, passion, idolatrous greed. Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.. Once you also followed that way and lived that life. But now get rid of all such things: slander, abuse, wrath, and malice. Do not lie to each other, for you have stripped off the old self and its practices and put on the new, renewed in the image of its creator. In this renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised,  barbarian, slave and free; but Christ is all in all.

Verses from Psalm 49

Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:

Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?
No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
and not see decay.
10 For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.
11 Their tombs will remain their houses[b] forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had[c] named lands after themselves.

12 People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.

Luke 12: 12-31

Someone in the crowd called out to Jesus, ‘Tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ Jesus replied, ‘Who appointed me as your judge or arbitrator?’ but he said to the crowd, ’Beware greed of all kinds; life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ He told them a parable: ’A rich man had land which produced in abundance. He thought to himself, ”What shall I do? I have nowhere to store my crops. This is what I’ll do: I’ll pull down my barns and build new ones big enough to store all my grain and goods. I will say to my soul, ’Soul, you have ample for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry.’” But God said to him, ”Fool! Tonight your life is demanded of you. All these things; whose will they be?’ And so it is for those who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich towards God.’

 

Thoughts on today’s readings:

At first sight there is a temptation, when reading these passages, to feel a little smug, to think they refer to those whose lives are driven by a love of land and money, by those who are driven by greed – an urge to accumulate wealth. It’s possible to think the target is those who fall out over an inheritance, but I look closer, and realise the target is ..me!

As always, Jesus asks the question, ‘Why do you presume it is right to try to remove the speck from your brother’s eye when you have not dealt with the great beam in your own?’

His demand is that I look at myself honestly, and ask whether the way I live my life really makes it clear that love of God and faith in God is the focus of all I do. This is underlined in the letter to Colossians, which asks, ‘What difference has your baptism, has your identity as a Christian, made to the way you live your life and relate to others?’

If God is the focus Jesus puts before us, then the antithesis of God is sin. And sin is basically putting oneself at the centre, making the self the absolute, and looking at everything from that perspective.

In the parable the rich man is a fool because he thought he could guarantee himself a merry old age by keeping hold of his wealth and putting it in a secure shelter, as though that would make any difference. He is a fool for forgetting that life cannot be bought: it is a gift, and the length of our lives is not something we can determine.

But what about me, with my various small pensions? Are they any more than castles built upon sand? Am I not a fool if I think they will make any difference to how long I will live?

After 2000 years Christ’s words are still fresh in our world where we are told that retail therapy is a way to spend our way out of depression and unhappiness by getting yet more stuff.

I remember , more than 30 years ago, the incredulity of a young East German, coming from a country of empty supermarket shelves to England for the first time, at the realisation that we throw away so much fresh food, and indeed that the low prices we pay depend upon that over-supply.

To be sure we are learning the lessons, and food banks and community shops are showing the way but, when half the population of North Africa is wondering whether they will have any bread this winter, will our response be generous?

The temptation of sin is to retreat to the bunker with our supplies, or to hide behind our locked gates… as though we were, in a sense, already dead!

For sin feeds on fear and anxiety, our chronic need to control our lives, and offers the lie, the myth of autonomy and independence.

Faith by contrast enables us to live in dialogue, with the focus on the other, and to discover that having stepped out in faith and love we have not drowned beneath the waves but are supported, that having been liberated from the idolatry of the need to possess we are not poor but have so much more to give.

Sin places the self at the centre therefore makes it impossible to see the other, impossible truly to love.

It is sin which ruins our relationships, because we see others as the solution to our needs, because we cannot truly hear or listen, and rather see others as projections of our desires and fantasies.

Sin prevents us from seeing the image of God in the person who is in front of us.

There is only one end to sin, and that is death, but God loves all that he has created, and so we have been shown a better way in Christ,  the person who is that way, that truth , that life.

So may I remember daily how fragile and limited is my life.

May I listen well to God’s word: the word is addressed to me.

May I lift up my eyes to Christ.

Then I may take on board his word and begin to amend the hardness of my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24th July 2022. 6th Sunday after Trinity.

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

Readings;

Genesis 18: 20-32

The Lord appeared at the oaks of Mamre and said to Abraham,

‘How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah; how grave is their sin. I must go down and see whether they have done according to the outcry that has come to me. If not, I will know.’

The men turned towards Sodom, but Abraham stood before the Lord and said, ‘Will you sweep away wicked and righteous together? Suppose there are 50 righteous within the city? Will not the judge of the earth forgive the city for the sake of the 50 righteous? ‘

The Lord replied, ‘If I find 50 righteous within the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.’

Abraham said, ‘Lord, I am but dust and ashes; but if five of the 50 were missing, would you still forgive the city?’ The Lord answered, ‘For the sake of 45, I will not destroy it.’ Again Abraham spoke to the Lord, ‘Suppose 40 were found?’  ‘For the sake of 40, I will not do it,’ he replied. ‘Let not the Lord be angry if I speak,’ said Abraham, ‘but suppose 30 are found there?’ And the Lord said, ‘I will not do it, if 30 are found there.’ Abraham said, ‘Let me take it upon my self to speak to the Lord; suppose 20 are found.’ The Lord replied, ‘For the sake of 20 I will  not do it.’  The he said, ‘Let not the Lord be angry if I speak once more. Suppose 10 are found there.’ The Lord answered, ‘For the sake of 10 I will not destroy it.’

 

Psalm 138

  1. I will praise thee with my whole heart:
    before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.
    I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name
    for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth:
    for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
    In the day when I cried thou answeredst me,
    andstrengthenedst mewith strength in my soul.

All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O Lord,
when they hear the words of thy mouth.
Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord:
for great is the glory of the Lord.
Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly:
but the proud he knoweth afar off.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me:
thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies,
and thy right hand shall save me.
The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me:
thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever:
forsake not the works of thine own hands.

 

Luke 11: 1-13

Jesus was praying , and afterwards his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those in our debt.

And do not bring us to the time of trial.’

And he said, ‘Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ”Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers, “Do not bother me ; the door is locked and we are all in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, though he will not get up for the sake of friendship, persistence will make him get up and give him whatever he asks for.

“And so I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; knock, and the door will be opened to you; search, and you will find. For whoever asks receives, whoever searches finds, and to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Would any of you, if your child asks for a fish, give them a snake?

“Or a scorpion if they ask for an egg? If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

Among those who are sick we pray for Daniel Bradley, Suzie Dent, Sharon Hatfield, Harry Cook,  Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .

Among those whose year’s mind is about this time we remember Arthur Pinkney, Billy Best, Jessie Lowery and Margaret Greenwood.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings.

The first reading today, from Genesis, reads like an exchange in a middle eastern souk or bazaar, as Abraham appears to haggle with God for the lives of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

This is to misunderstand the passage, however, which is concerned to establish that the God of Israel, the God of the Bible, is not a God of blind wrath, sweeping away the good with the evil, but a God of justice and of mercy, willing to spare the wicked and sinful for the sake of the righteous few.

Note that the number 10 refers to 10 men, 10 Jewish men, the minimum number required to establish a synagogue, a community of the righteous who observe the law and intercede for the world in which they live. God hears their prayers, and for their sake would not punish the wicked city.

Some years ago, a film on TV acted out a story set in a barracks in Auschwitz, where a group of Jewish prisoners, rabbis and lawyers, put God on trial for abandoning his people and breaking his covenant. At the end of the trial, having found God guilty, the question was asked, ‘So what do we do now?’ Back came the answer, ‘We are Jews,; we pray; that is what we do.’ And so the closing scene of the film shows the men rocking in prayer, with their hands covering their heads in the presence of God, reciting the words of the prayers they were taught when, as boys, they passed through the bar mitzvah to take their place as adult members of their community.

Prayer is one of the things which defines us as people and sets us apart from the other creatures of the earth.  It is one of things which, week by week, I encourage the children of our school to do, so that it may become a natural part of who they are, and of course it is at the heart of what we are here for whenever we meet as Christians, whether here in Church or elsewhere.

It is no surprise, then, that the disciples of Jesus asked him to teach them to pray: they saw how essential it was to his life and ministry.

The prayer he taught them is not a sort of magical incantation or formula; it is extremely plain, and comprehensive.

It begins by echoing the temptations to which Jesus was subjected:

Lord, give us the bread we need for each day; it is your kingdom and your rule we look for and for which we pray; your name alone is holy; you alone we worship.

We acknowledge our faults before God in trust that we are forgiven, even as we are merciful and forgiving to those who are in our debt.

We pray that God will spare us from a burden or a trial too heavy for us to bear.

The rest of the passage underlines the plain and direct nature of the prayer Jesus commands his disciples to make – the same as his own prayer to the Father.

We should be persistent and confident in prayer, not taking ‘no’ for an answer. Jesus compares this to a man who knows that, though his friend will not help him for friendship’s sake, he will do so because of his persistence, and because of the duty of hospitality.

After all, Jesus says, sinful as you are, you know how to care for your own children. How much more will God give the Holy Spirit to those  who ask him!

Then let us be constant in prayer. Let it be our first action when we wake and our last when we lie down to sleep.

May we know and trust that when two or three are met in prayer Christ stands among them, and his Spirit enables them to pray.

May prayer be the heart of all that we are as Christians and do as the Church. May we teach our children and children’s children to approach their Father in confidence, in trust and in faith.

 

 

 

 

trinity

17th July 2022. 5th Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today:

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

Readings;

Genesis 18: 1-10a

The Lord appeared to Abraham as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day, camped beside the oaks of Mamre. Looking up he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them Abraham ran and bowed before them, saying, ‘My Lord, if I have found favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let water be brought to wash your feet, and rest under the tree. Let me bring you a little bread to refresh you, and then you may pass on, since you have come to your servant.’ ‘Do as you have said,’ they answered.

He went into the tent and said to Sarah, ‘Take some of the best meal, and make some cakes.’ He went and chose a fine calf and gave it to the servant to prepare. He took curds and milk and the calf and set it before them, and stood by under the tree as they ate.

They asked him, ’Where is your wife Sarah?’ ‘In the tent,’ he replied. Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’

Psalm 15

1.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.

Luke 10: 38-42

Jesus came to a village, where Martha welcomed him into her home.

She had a sister, Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his words. Mary was distracted by her many tasks and came to Jesus and said, ‘Do you not care, Lord, that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Martha, you are worried and distracted about so many things, but only one thing you need.  Mary has chosen the better part: it will not be taken from her.’

Among those who are sick we pray for Daniel Bradley, Nancy Graham, Suzie Dent, Sharon Hatfield, Harry Cook,  Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .  

Among those who have died recently we remember John Moore, and pray for Kathy, Helen and Jenny. There is a thanksgiving for John’s life here in Church on Thursday at 12 noon.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Mary Elizabeth Crowe, John Calderbank, Kate Shilling, James Common, Florence Tate, Isobel Smith, Margaret Moffatt, Mildred Flatman, Jean Grubb and Elizabeth Lindsay Oliver.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

The passage from the Old Testament which is read this morning is one of the most beautiful and mysterious in the Bible, and inspired the Russian painter Andrei Rublev to produce one of the most wonderful icons. I hope I have managed to attach it to the mailing this morning.  The story begins by saying, in effect, ‘The Lord appeared to Abraham.. Three men stood before him.’

This is completely different from other appearances of the Lord in the Old Testament, and has been used by Rublev as a meditation on the Holy Trinity. We see three beautiful figures sat at a table, with a chalice in its centre. The figures are communing with one another, but the fourth side of the table faces the observer: we are being invited to come and sit at table with the Lord. It has been pointed out that the shape of the composition echoes that of the chalice: at the heart of the being of God is the sacrifice of Christ, the means by which we are able to participate in this divine communion.

In the story Abraham is roused from his contemplation in the heat of the day by the appearance of unexpected visitors. As a good Middle-Eastern host he immediately makes them welcome, giving orders to his wife and household so that appropriate hospitality may be offered. Note that throughout the story Sarah, as a virtuous wife, remains out of sight (but not out of earshot) in the tent.

The punchline of the story is that Abraham, despite the wealth which enables him to be such a generous host, is a childless old man facing an uncertain future. When the Lord speaks, it is to tell him and Sarah that when he returns next year, she will have a son.

From being the generous host, Abraham has become the one who receives from God; receiving a gift so improbable that Sarah laughs out loud.

The Gospel reading also focuses on an act of hospitality. Martha is overcome with the consequences of inviting Jesus (and presumably his disciples) to her home. The expression of her frustration is not simply because Mary her sister is not helping her but, more than this, because she is behaving like a disciple, and therefore a man, sitting at the feet of the teacher and learning, so that she too one day may have the knowledge to go out and be a teacher of the word of God.

Jesus’ reply is not intended to disrespect Martha and her hospitality, but to remind her of what is essential. The word of life, the Kingdom of God, have come close to her, indeed are under her roof. It is important that she should not be so consumed by what it is she feels, as the host, she has to do, that she is unable to receive what it is that the Lord, whom she has invited, has brought her.

The passage illustrates well what St. Paul wrote to Galatians: in Christ we are a new creation, where there is no longer Jew and gentile, slave or free, male or female.

Hospitality is one of the things which makes us human: to be a host is a joy and a privilege, and guests are precious.

Who knows whom we may receive into our homes unexpectedly, or the blessings of that encounter?

One thing is certain: it is open to us to make Christ present at our table and in our homes, and wherever two or three are met, and to see and hear with the eyes and ears, and the mind and heart of a disciple.

In bread we bring you, Lord, our bodies’ labour.

In wine we offer you our spirit’s grief.

We do not ask you, Lord, who is my neighbour?

But stand united now, one in belief.

Oh we have gladly heard your Word, your holy Word,

And now, in answer, Lord, our gifts we bring.

Our selfish hearts make true, our failing faith renew,

Our lives belong to you, our Lord and king.

 

The bread we offer you is blessed and broken,

And it becomes for us our spirits’ food.

Over the cup we share your Word is spoken;

Make it your gift to us, your healing blood.

Take all that daily toil plants in our heart’s poor soil,

Take all we start and spoil, each hopeful dream,

The chances we have missed, the graces we resist,

Lord, in thy Eucharist, take and redeem.

 

 

 

10th July 2022. 4th Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today:

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

Among those who are sick we pray for Daniel Bradley, Nancy Graham, Suzie Dent, Sharon Hatfield, Harry Cook,  Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .    

Among those who have recently died we remember Robin Dodwell and Ann Blewitt, and also Robbie Hutchinson, Jean Grubb, Jean Hall, Enid Taylor, Mary Capes and Pauline Stephenson, whose year’s mind is about this time.

Readings:

Amos 7: 7-17

The Lord showed Amos a vision. He saw the Lord standing beside a wall with a plumb line in his hand. The Lord said, ‘I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; never again will I pass them by. Their high places and sanctuaries will be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’

Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam the king, saying,

‘Amos is conspiring against you in the midst of Israel; the land cannot contain all his words. Amos has said, “Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will be sent into exile,”.’

Amaziah said to Amos, ‘Fly away to Judah, prophet, and prophesy and do your work there. Never again will you prophesy at the king’s sanctuary in Bethel.’

Amos replied, ‘I am not a prophet, but a herdsman and I tend to the trees. The Lord took me and sent me to prophesy to Israel.

‘Hear the word of the Lord: you have said, “Do not prophecy against  Israel. Thus says the Lord, “You wife will become a prostitute and your children will be killed. Your land will be parcelled out, and you will die in exile in a foreign land,”’

 

Verses from Psalm 25.

  1. Unto thee, OLord, do I lift up my soul.

O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.

Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.

Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.

Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.

Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.

Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.

The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.

10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies

 

Luke 10: 25-37: the parable of the Good Samaritan

A lawyer asked Jesus, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’

Jesus replied, ‘What do you read in the Law?’

‘Love the Lord your God with your heart and your mind and your soul and your strength, and your neighbour as yourself, ‘ he replied.

‘Do this, and you will live, ‘said Jesus. But he, wanting to justify himself, asked, ‘And who is my neighbour?’

Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He fell into the hands of robbers; they beat him and stripped him and left him half dead. By chance a priest came by on the same road; when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he saw him, went by on the other side.

But a Samaritan on the road saw him, and came near, and had pity.

He tended his wounds and put him on his own animal, and took him to an inn to care for him. The next day he gave the innkeeper two denarii and said, ‘Take care of him; when I come back I will give you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell among thieves?’

‘The one who showed mercy,’ he replied.

Jesus replied, ‘Go and do likewise.’

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

Alongside that most familiar bible story, beloved of preachers, the Good Samaritan, we have a much less comfortable passage from the book Amos. How to make sense of this?

First of all let us consider the passage from the Old Testament.

It seems that in those days there were official, professional prophets, who were recognised, and came from families or bands of prophets.

Amos makes it plain he was not one of these. He was an agricultural labourer who had been called by God to deliver God’s word of judgement on the Kings of Israel, who had abandoned the way of the Lord.  This passage records one of a series of visions which he received. In it Israel is likened to a wall which is not straight; in fact it is so far out of true that it will need to be demolished and the builder will have to start again. Of course, the builder is the God of Israel. Amaziah was an officially appointed priest in the sanctuary of the king in Bethel. He had betrayed his calling in order to preserve his position and align himself with the faithless king. He therefore had no respect for Amos, a man without standing in the religious establishment, and attempted to scare him away, implying that he was an outsider from Judea. Amos delivers the judgement of God on the priest, and it is savage: He will die in exile, in an unclean land, his death a symbol of his disgraced and outcast state. Worse than this, his children will be killed. This meant, in a time before there was any hope of  the resurrection, in a word: extinction. There would be no-one to carry on Amaziah’s name or his line. He would have expected his sons to become priests and to succeed him. There would be no-one to say the prayers for him at his own death.

To make his humiliation complete, his wife would be obliged to sell herself very publicly, in the city, in order to survive.

The corruption of the priests is a familiar theme in the bible, from the sons of Eli to the High  Priests who plotted the death of Jesus.

This passage makes it plain  that God’s judgement is severe on those who have been given the greatest authority, those who are meant to be the custodians of justice and truth, those whose lives should be like icons, pointing people to God, but who accommodate themselves to human corruption and corrupt power.

And what of the parable of the Good Samaritan?

Here Jesus is being questioned by a lawyer. This was a man who knew the law, and the words of the bible. He was an expert. In his questions he was trying to establish what Jesus was teaching as regards the interpretation of the law. How much love for God and neighbour was it necessary to provide in order to be worthy of eternal life? In other words, what were the legal conditions for receiving eternal life?   Who was this man Jesus, who after all was neither a professional lawyer nor a professional priest? Was he teaching something contrary to the law?

Our relationship with God cannot be transactional, cannot be reduced to a contract or a formula, and after Jesus replied by telling this parable, there were ‘no further questions.’

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was well-known to Jews returning to Galilee. It took them down to the Jordan valley, avoiding a more direct route which led through, yes, Samaria, a place judged to be unclean and hostile to Jews.

It was on this road that the traveller was robbed and left for dead.

The priest and the Levite did not come near: they would be worried in case they became ritually contaminated by contact with a corpse and unable to fulfil their legal and religious functions.

The Samaritan was not hindered by such precious scruples: he simply saw another human being in distress and cared for him in a practical way. He acted in the wounded man’s best interests: having provided first aid, he left him to be cared for at an inn, paying for his care and underwriting the cost of future treatment.

Note that when Jesus asked the lawyer which of the three was a neighbour to the wounded man, he could not bring himself to say the despised name ‘Samaritan’, as though the very word would defile his ritually pure mouth. Have we not heard public figures in our day refuse to speak the name of those they loathe?

I am reminded of events in the South China Sea forty years ago. At the time large numbers of people were attempting to flee Vietnam by boat. They were vulnerable, in great danger, and many died.

A ship belonging to a Christian organisation, bringing healthcare and the gospel to countries across the world, came across one such boat laden with refugees. It was not their plan to pick up refugees and they knew it might make their work more difficult.

They recounted how they prayed for some time before deciding to pick up these people, and they made a big story about what  they had done for them.

A bulk carrier belonging to the shipping line I worked for also came across some boat people. It is always understood at sea that rendering assistance to those in distress is imperative.

Although the captain was well aware that this would cost the company a small fortune, he organised the rescue of the refugees as a matter of course. The crew of the ship, West Africans from Sierra Leone who were themselves poorly paid, shared what they had, as did everyone on the ship.

Eventually the boat people were landed in the Philippines.

There was no publicity. The company publicly praised the captain, but lost no time in making him redundant: his actions had cost them time and money.

The captain was, as it happens, a Christian. In the long hours on his ships he made tapestry hassocks for his parish church, but he certainly did not make a show of his faith.

Look closer at the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is asking us to consider this: where is God in all this?

The failure of the priest and the Levite is first of all to fail to see that God is in front of them, in the man who lies half dead on the road.

In their blinkered concern to do their legal duty to the God they serve in the Temple they have failed to see that he is right there, in front of them.

For us as Christians there is no excuse at all: week by week we look upon a man who was betrayed,  abandoned by his friends, beaten and put to death, and we sing, ‘This is our God, the servant king.’

But it is by our fruits that we will be known, through our actions that the light of God will shine, and follow the example of the Good Samaritan.

 

 

 

Brother, sister, let me serve you,

Let me be as Christ to you;

Pray that I may have the grace to

Let you be my servant too.

 

We are pilgrims on a journey,

We are brothers on the road,

We are there to help each other

Walk the mile and bear the load.

 

I will hold the Christlight for you

In the night time of your fear;

I will hold my hand out to you,

Speak the peace you long to hear.

 

I will weep when you are weeping;

When you laugh I’ll laugh with you.

I will share your joy and sorrow

‘till we’ve seen this journey through.

 

When we sing to God in heaven

We shall find such harmony,

Born of all we’ve known together

Of Christ’s love and agony.

 

Brother, sister, let me serve you,

Let me be as Christ to you;

Pray that I may have the grace to

Let you be my servant, too.

 

 

 

 

 

26th June 2022. 2nd Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today:

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

Today we welcome Jasper Sydney Swallow by baptism into the fellowship of Christ’s Church. We pray for him and for his parents Amy and Edward .

Among those who are sick we pray for Nancy Graham,  Suzie Dent, Sharon Hatfield, Mary Greenhalgh,  Harry Cook,  Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde    

Among those who have died we remember Hannah Wrighton and pray for Ralph and Jane and all her family.

There is a thanksgiving service for Hannah’s life here in Church on tomorrow at 12.30 p.m.

Among those whose year’s mind is about this time we remember William Lamb Urwin, Carolina Casson,  Mary Hannah Johnson, Laura Cross, Nancy Stobbs, Mary Rutherford, John Evans, Selina Watling and Tony Dolan

Remember in your prayers the 13 men and women who are being ordained as priests and deacons for this diocese of Newcastle at Petertide: Brogan Hume, Helen Young, Linda Hunter, Nathanael Hayler, Paul Knox, Rosemary New, Ruth Stradling, Ryan McKeon, Adam Smith, Ali McCarthy, Henry Hope, Lynn Dean and Sion Hughes – Carew.

I will be on holiday from Wednesday of this week until July 6th. Next Sunday the Parish communion will be celebrated by the  Revd. Canon Chris Simmons.

Readings:

2 Kings 2: 1-2, 6-14

The Lord was going to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah and Elisha were on their way to Gilgal, and Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here: the Lord is sending me to Bethel.’But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you live, I will not leave you.’

They went on to Bethel, and Elijah said, ‘Stay here: the Lord is sending me to the Jordan.’ Again, Elisha refused to stay. So they went on, and a company of 50 prophets followed them at a distance.

They came to the river, and Elijah took his mantle and struck the water.  The water parted, and they crossed on dry ground.

Then Elijah asked, ‘What shall I do for you, before I am taken from you?’ Elisha replied, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ Elijah replied, ‘You have asked for a hard thing. If you see me taken up, it will be granted you.’ As they walked a chariot and horses of fire separated them, and Elijah ascended into heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha cried out, ‘Father, father! The chariots and the horses of Israel!’ When he no longer could see them, he tore his clothes in two. The mantle of Elijah had fallen to the ground. Elisha took it up and struck the water of the river Jordan, saying, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ The waters parted, and Elisha went over.

Luke 9: 51 -62

The days were come when Jesus must go to Jerusalem. Jesus sent messengers before him, but when they came to a Samaritan village, they would not receive him, because he was going to Jerusalem. James and John asked, ‘Shall we command fire to rain down from heaven on them?’ but Jesus rebuked them, and they came to another village.  Along the road one man came to Jesus and said, ‘I will follow you wherever you go,’  but Jesus replied, ‘The foxes have their holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another, Jesus said, ‘Follow me,’ but he replied, ‘Let me first go and bury my father.’Jesus said, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you; let me first say farewell to those at home,’ but Jesus answered, ‘No one who putsh is hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

Thoughts on today’s readings.

On the first Sunday in July in 1988 I was ordained a deacon in Newcastle Cathedral. That afternoon I took some of my visiting family down to the coast at Whitley Bay. Getting out of my not-very-well-parked car in my new black long-sleeved shirt a local wag came up and greeted me with, ‘Naughty, naughty, Reverend!’

To my shock I realised that after 30 years of anonymity I was a marked man.

Later on in my curacy I was trying to tell someone that I felt I was just the same as anyone else. No, they assured me, I was different.

Perhaps the 13 people who are being ordained for our diocese this year, among them Henry Hope, who has led worship here, Linda Hunter at Corbridge and Lynn Dean at Ovingham  are also discovering the very public nature of their calling.

Because it is just that: they are not being ordained just because they thought it was a good idea: they have been called and chosen.

It’s not so much about what they think of themselves but of what the Church and, yes, Jesus Christ, sees in them.

In perhaps a not dissimilar way, if we marry, it is not just to the person we have chosen but every bit as much to the person who chose us.

In very different ways our readings this morning look at this subject of vocation:

Elisha was devoted to his master Elijah. He did not feel ready to let go of him, and there is something very poignant about the account of their final journey together, and his sorrow at their parting, as he tears his clothes in grief. Yet he has literally taken up his master’s mantle and, calling upon the God who sent Elijah, sees the waters part before him as he continues to carry out his vocation to be the Lord’s prophet to Israel.

The reading from St. Luke’s gospel is about Jesus fulfilling his vocation: he must now go to Jerusalem, where he will be lifted up. This means many things: He would be lifted up on the cross and die, but would also be raised from the dead, and raised to glory at his Ascension. Like Moses in the wilderness, he sent messengers before him as he led his people. The Samaritans would not receive him, and it is clear that James and John thought Jesus was Elijah who had returned. ‘Send down fire from heaven!’ they suggested.

But this was not the purpose for which Jesus had been called. A few verses later, in chapter 10, we read how he uses a Samaritan as the character who epitomises the true neighbour.

Rather he emphasises the total commitment required of those who accept his invitation to follow him: no looking back, no divided loyalties, no prevarication.

When I was ordained I did not turn my back on my family; in fact they were always hugely supportive.

However, I left my home and that part of my life behind in order to serve the community to which I had been sent.

The people of those Churches became family to me and I soon realised how much I had gained.

To follow Christ is indeed to walk the way of the cross, but his burden will not crush us, and the blessings are beyond measure.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

19th June 2022.  1st Sunday after Trinity

Prayer for today:

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

Readings:

Galatians 3: 23-29

Before faith came and was revealed, the law was our guard and our prison. We were under the discipline of the law until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. Now faith has come, so we are no longer subject to a custodian, for in Jesus Christ you are all children of God through faith. You who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. And so there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free , there is no longer male or female, for you are one in Jesus Christ. And if you belong to Christ you are the offspring of Abraham, born according to the promise.

Luke 8: 26-39

Jesus and his disciples came to the country of the Gerasenes, beyond Galilee.  As he stepped out of the boat a man of the city met him , who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and sheltered among the tombs. When he saw Jesus  he fell down, shouting, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, son of God. Do not torment me, I beg you!’ – for Jesus had commanded the spirit to come out of him. “What is your name?” Jesus asked. “Legion,” he replied, for many spirits had entered him. They begged Jesus not to send them into the abyss.

On the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; the demons begged Jesus to allow them to enter these. Jesus allowed them to do this. The demons came out of the man and entered the swine; the herd rushed down the bank into the lake and were drowned.

The swineherd saw what happened and ran into the town to tell the people. They came out and found Jesus with the man, clothed and in his right mind. When they heard how Jesus had healed the possessed man they were very afraid and asked Jesus to leave them.

So he got into the boat and returned. The man he had healed begged to come with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Go to your home, and declare all that God has done for you.’ And he went his way, telling throughout the city all that Jesus had done for him.

This morning we share the joy of Lianne Chandran as she comes to Church for her baptism, and pray for her and for all her family.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Mary Greenhalgh,  Harry Cook,  Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .

Among those who have died we remember Hannah Wrighton and pray for Ralph and Jane and all her family.

There is a thanksgiving service for Hannah’s life here in Church on Monday 27th June at 12.30 p.m.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember James Alder, Nora Tailford, John Lowdon, James Oliver and George Watling.

 

Thoughts for this morning.

This morning, here at Whitley Chapel, we welcome Lianne and her family and friends, gathered to celebrate her baptism.

It is difficult to exaggerate how big a day this is for you, Lianne. This is not a spur-of-the moment decision: you have told me that at least from the age of 12 you realised that this was something God was calling you to do. As a child you attended a Church school where you were taught to pray. In more recent years you felt very strongly that it was here at Whitley Chapel that you wanted to be baptized, and here you are this morning as an adult, a wife, a mother with a family of your own, children whom you and your husband are in turn teaching how to pray.

From your home in Saudi Arabia you have made the journey to this point, week by week, accompanied by members of the community here in Hexhamshire, thanks to zoom, as together we have explored God’s word in the bible and shared our common faith in Jesus Christ.

Of course this is one of the things we do whenever we meet as the Church, the body of Christ, and our first reading this morning speaks to us of baptism. St. Paul, writing to the Church in Galatia, describes faith as a liberation, and baptism as a sign of that faith, and because our faith in Jesus is something we share, then it is something which unifies, something which defines us, and frees us from the divisions in human society.

Before that faith came, he writes, the law was a necessary guide, discipline and protection, but laws divide. Laws can be drawn up which separate and discriminate between men and women, laws have existed which separated and discriminated between people on the basis of race and, of course, laws existed which allowed human beings to be classified as property to be bought and sold as slaves.

This was the world in which St. Paul was writing and from which he came, and so the vision he puts forward is all the more wonderful and amazing, of a world of faith in Jesus Christ, where each person is defined as a dear and precious child of God and therefore, through faith, a sister, a brother, with the inheritance through faith which was promised to our forefather Abraham.

And so this morning you, Lianne, are a witness to us through your baptism of that living faith in your life, of that faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yesterday, in the beautiful meadow beside the Rowley Burn called Abbey Holm, people gathered at the invitation of Robin and Carol Charlton, who have also been supporting Lianne in the past weeks.

There beside the river we sang, and listened to others singing, and speaking of how God is at work. It was a time of refreshment, to rest in the Lord.

This morning, as we do every Sunday, we will gather at the Lord’s table in faith as one family to receive in bread and wine our Lord’s gift of himself: his life to renew our lives, refreshment for our souls.

To this Church we come at so many points in our lives: we come to celebrate with joy, and we come in sorrow to grieve, but always in the knowledge that we are at home here, that this is a place of refreshment.

The poor man in the gospel reading who was healed by Jesus and liberated from his torment wanted to get into the boat and remain close to the one who had given him his life back. But Jesus told him to go home and tell others what God had done from him.

As we go from here this morning may our lives bear witness to that God we know in Jesus Christ, and to the great things he has done in our lives: good news for all God’s children.

 

 

One more step along the world I go,

One more step along the world I go,

From the old things to the new

Keep me travelling along with you.

 

And it’s from the old I travel to the new,

Keep me travelling along with you.

 

Round the corners of the world I turn,

More and more about the world I learn.

And the new things that I see,

You’ll be looking at along with me.

 

As I travel through the bad and good,

Keep me travelling the way I should.

Where I see no way to go,

You’ll be telling me the way, I know.

 

Give me courage when the world is rough,

Keep me loving though the world is tough,

Leap and sing in all I do,

Keep me travelling along with you.

 

You are older than the world can be,

You are younger than the life in me.

Ever old and ever new,

Keep me travelling along with you.

 

 

 

 

 

12th June 2022.  Trinity Sunday

Prayer for today:

Almighty and  everlasting God, you have given us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the unity; keep us steadfast in this faith, that we may evermore be  defended from all adversities; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings:

Romans 5: 1-5

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have the grace in which we stand, and so we can boast of our hope of sharing the glory of God.  More than that, we boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Psalm 8

1.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!

 

John 16: 12-15

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I have still many things to say to you,  but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak from himself, but whatever he hears, and will declare to you the things that are 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, and so I tell you he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

 

Among those who are sick we pray for  Mary Greenhalgh,  Harry Cook,  Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .    

Among those who have died we remember Hannah Wrighton and pray for Ralph and Jane and all her family.

There is a thanksgiving service for Hannah’s life here in Church on Monday 27th June.

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Harry Eastwood, Helen Thompson, Arthur Atkinson, John Greenwood and Ulric Dixon.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

When we read St. Paul’s assertion that we are justified by faith, he does not mean faith in ourselves, self-confidence, but faith and trust in God, as apart of a life focused not on ourselves and within ourselves but on God, on another.

In marriage two people make a step of faith: they put themselves, all that they are and all that they have, in the hands of another person, in whom they have faith and trust. Such a thing would make no sense at all unless they trusted and knew that this person loves them. And yet they cannot know in that moment how life will turn out, and cannot know everything that there is to know about the person who stands beside them and holds them by the hand. It is a step of faith. And so often it is that love, that trust and that faith which makes them more than the sum of their parts and enables them together to endure and to overcome the trials of life and, more than that, to flourish and be fruitful.

And so it is with faith in God: we do not put our faith in a projection, an idea, a fantasy, a void, but in the reality of God experienced through faith, made known to us in the person of Jesus Christ, dwelling in us in his Holy Spirit.

God is one and undivided but the Trinity reveals to us that the focus of God is not the contemplation of self but community, communion and creation.

It is the nature of the Father to create, of the Son to make the Father known to the world through the focus of a human life and through that person, Jesus Christ, to reconcile, restore and save the world. The Spirit of that one God flows out, invisible, into all the world and into our lives, revealing to us what was beyond our comprehension and empowering us to be more than the sum of our parts.

The Trinity reveals to us God who is not simply the object of our worship and veneration but who reaches out to us and lives in us, fragile and imperfect as we are. In the Spirit of God we are living members and part of the body of Christ, of that divine communion and community, even in our mortal bodies.

Our fleeting earthly glory is being changed daily through that communion and we will at last be changed with the fullness of the glory of the risen and heavenly Christ.

 

 

 

5th June 2022. Pentecost Sunday

 Prayer for today:

God who as at this time taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit; grant  us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the  Holy spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 Readings:

Acts 2: 1-21

When the day of Pentecost came they were together in  one place. Suddenly from heaven came a sound like a mighty rushing wind; it filled the house  where they were sitting. Tongues of fire appeared, resting on each of them all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

There were in Jerusalem devout Jews from every nation on earth. A crowd gathered because of the noise, and they began to hear them speaking in their native languages.. They were amazed and asked, ‘Are these not all Galileans? How is it that we each hear them speak in our own languages, though we come from all over the world? What does this mean?’ Others mocked and said, ‘They are full of new wine.’

But Peter stood with the eleven and said, ‘You men of Jerusalem, listen to what I say. These men are not drunk: it is 9 in the morning. For now is come to pass what was prophesied by Joel,

‘In the last days, says the Lord, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions and your old men will have dreams. I will pour out my Spirit upon slaves, both men and women, and they shal prophesy. I shall give signs in heaven and on the earth, blood and fire, and smoke. The sun will be darkened and the moon will turn to blood before the coming of the Lord’s glorious day. 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 14: 8-17, 25-27

Philip said to Jesus, ‘Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’

Jesus replied ‘Have you been with me all this time, Philip, and still you do not know me?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own: the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me: I am in the Father and the Father is in me,  or else believe because of the works themselves.

Truly, the one who believes in me will  do the works I do, and will do greater works than these, because I go to the Father.

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father and he will send you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him , because he abides with you, and will be in you.

These things I say to while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the  Holy Spirit ,  whom the Father will send you in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of what I said to you.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither be afraid.’

Among those who are sick we pray for  Elsie Nicholl, Mary Greenhalgh,  Hannah Wrighton,  Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .    

Among those who have recently died we remember Ann Blewitt, and also Ridley Roddam, Joyce Swallow, Jack Cross and Helen Craig Eastwood, whose year’s mind is about this time.

This evening at 6 p.m. Songs of Praise for the Queen’s Jubilee in church.

Thoughts on Pentecost Sunday

A few days ago the vicar of a parish not far away was talking about the election of two new Churchwardens at one of the Churches he serves. ‘You have done so well, ‘ I said.

‘No, ‘ he replied, ‘If any good has come, it is God’s work.’

This may sound a little bit like the sort of thing English clergy might say, but it does fit with what these readings for Pentecost say to us.  To his disciples who, like Philip, did not really understand who he was or what was to come, Jesus said that he would send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. That Spirit would provide the words, and be the power that would enable to do such great things as they had seen Jesus do and greater things yet. That Spirit would be with them and in them, as the Father was in Jesus and he in the Father, so that his words and actions were those of the Father.

On the day of Pentecost the followers of Jesus who were gathered together did not know what their future was going to look like. It is unlikely that, as people of Galilee, they imagined it would involve being able to proclaim the good news of God in all the languages of the world. There was something boisterous about this event: the noise caused a crowd to gather.

The points I take from this account are these:

They were all gathered together, not scattered, and it was because of Jesus that they were gathered together, whether they were praying or whatever they were doing.

The Spirit  of God was an enabling Spirit, an empowering Spirit: they found themselves doing what they previously had believed themselves incapable of doing, and it was God at work in them.

This was not some sort of possession, a kind of spiritual takeover, but rather a liberation. They were so full of it that some onlookers thought they were intoxicated.

This was not just about giving them a lovely warm feeling, or some inner personal spiritual experience.

The title of the book from which this reading comes says it all: Acts, Praxis in Greek. The purpose of God was that his work might be done, his good news, in action and in word, shared with the whole world, not as some mystery revealed only to a few elect, nor to one race defined by their language, but to the whole world, prolific and diverse.

I am reminded of our friends who spent 14 years in Africa, translating the Bible into one of the languages of  Ethiopia, a bible which was published just a few years ago.

As Peter declared to his hearers on that first Pentecost, the Spirit of God is not just being poured out on the young, but the old too will be given visions and dreams. Not only would the children of Israel prophesy, but even those totally without power or freedom who lived their lives in slavery, would receive the very same Spirit and be the prophets of the Lord.

Pentecost comes like an explosion of joy, to remind us of all that God has done and continues to do in our day.

These last days have seen a sort of coming together in our own country. After two years when we had to stay apart from one another and isolate in order to protect others and ourselves, people have embraced this opportunity to act together.

Crowds are not always positive events, but these have been days of renewed hope and of communities strengthened.

The focus and catalyst has been the Queen, the celebration of her unique life and service, just as, at the start of the pandemic, hers was a unique voice of hope and comfort.

But her jubilee has given voice and action to countless others, empowering, encouraging, joyful.

So let us give thanks this Pentecost for our God whose Spirit we see at work in old and young in every corner of the world, the same Spirit which was poured out on the young women who became our Queen 70 years ago, and continues to be at work in her life.

 

Colours of Day

 

Colours of day dawn into the mind,

The sun has come up, the night is behind.

Go down in the city, into the street,

And let’s give the message to the people we meet.

 

So light up the fire and let the flame burn,

Open the door, let Jesus return.

Take seeds of his Spirit, let the fruit grow,

Tell the people of Jesus, let his love show.

 

Go through the park, on into the town;

The sun still shines on, it never goes down.

The light of the world is risen again;

The people of darkness are needing our friend.

 

Open your eyes, look into the sky,

The darkness has come, the sun came to die.

The evening draws on, the sun disappears,

But Jesus is living, and his Spirit is near.

 

29th May 2022. Sunday after Ascension.

Prayer for today:

O God the king of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: we beseech you, leave us not comfortless but send your Holy spirit to strengthen us and exalt us to the place our Saviour Christ is gone before, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings:

Acts 16: 16-34

At Philippi there was a slave girl who had a spirit of divination, and this earned a lot of money for her owners by fortune-telling. For many days she followed Paul and his companions, crying out, ‘These men are slaves of the most high God; they proclaim the way of salvation.’ In the end Paul lost patience and turned and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I order you to come out of her.’ It came out of her, but when the girl’s owners saw that their source of income was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the authorities in the market place. They told the magistrates, ‘These men are causing a disturbance.

They are Jews who advocate customs which are illegal for us Romans.’  The magistrates ordered them to be stripped of their clothes and beaten with sticks. Then they had them thrown in jail and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. He put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

At midnight Paul and Silas were singing and praying to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. There came a violent earthquake. It shook the foundations of the prison; the doors were opened and everyone’s chains fell off. When the jailer saw all this he drew his sword to kill himself, supposing all the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted loudly, ‘Do not harm yourself; we are all here.’ The jailer sent for lights; he went in fear and trembling and fell on his knees before Paul and Silas.

He asked them, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you and your household will be saved.’ They spoke the word of the Lord to him and his household. He brought them and washed  their wounds; and set food before them; he and his household were baptized and they were filled with joy.

 

Psalm 97

  1. TheLord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.

Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.

A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.

His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled.

The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.

Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods.

Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O Lord.

For thou, Lord, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.

10 Ye that love the Lord, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.

11 Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.

12 Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

 

 John 17: 20-26

Jesus prayed to the Father, ‘I pray not only for these, but for those who will believe in me, that they may be one. As you are in me, Father, and I in you, may they also be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. The glory you gave me I have given to them, so that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me, that the world may know that you sent me and have loved them as you have loved me. I pray Father that these you have given me may be where I am,  to see my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the world was founded.

Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know, and these know you sent me. I made you name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’

 Among those who are sick we pray for  Elsie Nicholl, Mary Greenhalgh, Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .   

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember William Hawkins, Ian Hudspith, Jack Cross, Joyce Swallow and Hazel Lee.

Next Sunday in Church we celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of the Queen  with Songs of Praise at 6 p.m.

 Thoughts on today’s readings

Looking at today’s readings, and thinking about the Ascension, and our understanding that Jesus Christ is ascended to the Father, where he intercedes for us, I feel we are being led to think about justice, and what these readings have to say about this.

Philippi was a Roman city, many of whose inhabitants were veterans of the Roman army. Its citizens would have been proud of their identity as citizens of the mightiest empire on earth, and placed their confidence in the laws to which they were subject, but which also provided them with the ground of their expectation of justice.

Within the same empire, however, there was a colossal number of slaves. They were the property of their owners, to be bought and sold, and had no rights. Their value was entirely based on their economic worth, how useful they were to their owners.

Old, sick slaves were frequently turned out on to the streets to die.

The slave girl in this account was no doubt well cared–for whilst she brought wealth to her owners as a fortune teller, but once the spirit that possessed her had been cast out, much of her value was gone too. For her owners it was a simple matter of damage to their property, an attack on their wealth, and they were furious.

More than this, they saw Paul and his companions as foreigners, non-Romans and, worse than this, Jews, members of a troublesome race whose laws and religion placed them at odds with those of the empire.

They stirred up a mob which dragged the men before the magistrates and alleged they were a danger to public order.

As the men had already been tried in the court of public opinion they magistrates did not bother too much with due process but had them publicly shamed and brutally beaten before being securely locked up.

But the jailer, whose job was to enforce this expression of, justice, on pain of death by the sounds of it, was about to experience the power of the God to whom the men had come to bear witness, and the justice of God.

For in the night the earth was shaken, even as Paul and Silas were praising God, and all the prisoners found that their bonds had been released.

The jailer fully expected to find the prison empty, and the prisoners gone, and was prepared to pay for this with his life, but instead found that Paul, his prisoner, was offering him the mercy of God: his life as a free child of God, an inheritor of the kingdom of God, forgiveness and reconciliation, the justice of God offered to us through Jesus Christ.

Paul and Silas did not need to escape: Jesus Christ had set them free long ago with a freedom that mobs and magistrates, jails and beatings could not take away.

They were willing servants of Jesus, commissioned to bring his good news to the whole world, the greatest task and privilege of all and had seen the power of that good news.

They were bound to Jesus Christ but with bonds of love.

In their baptism they had put on Christ and in his Spirit they knew they were one: one in their fellowship with one another and in their common faith, and one with Christ himself, members of his body.

God’s love and God’s justice and God’s glory were revealed when his only Son was also tried in the court of public opinion and sentenced to horrible death, shaming and public, on a cross in order to pay the price of human sin and make reconciliation to God possible.

In that act we see absolute love in perfect self-expression: that is the glory of God.

Sixty nine years ago at her coronation, Queen Elizabeth vowed to uphold justice with mercy. In token of this she was presented with two swords whose tips had been broken off.

For justice is never justice when there is no possibility of mercy, just as love is never love when there is no possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.

In the same way, justice which is not available equally to all, but only to a select group is not justice and laws which divide and discriminate are an expression of tyranny.

Our Queen’s understanding of herself as a Christian is central to who she is, and her understanding of being called by God and commissioned by God to serve her people is reflected in her service to this country and to all the nations where she is Queen.

Writing in a world where kings and emperors often had divine pretensions, Paul nevertheless wrote that prayers should always be offered for those in authority.

As we pray and give thanks for our faithful Queen, let us pray that those who make laws may know that they do so in the shadow of the cross of Jesus Christ and that those who administer justice may remember the mercy Christ offered them and his good news of salvation offered to the whole world.

22nd May 2022. 6th Sunday of Easter (Rogation Sunday)

Prayer for today:

God our redeemer, you have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your son: grant that, as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his continual presence he may raise us to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ your son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Elsie Nicholl, Mary Greenhalgh, Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Dougie Lamb, Marjorie Francis Leybourne,  Joseph Nichol, George Forster and Ken Wootton.

 In celebration of  our Queen’s Jubilee there will be a service of Songs of Praise in church on Sunday 5th  June at 6 p.m., at the conclusion of celebrations in the Parish hall.

Requests for hymns and  other suggestions gratefully received.

The PCC meets on Wednesday 25th May at 7.30 p.m. in the Parish Hall.

Minutes and agenda to follow.

Readings:

Acts 16: 9-15

In the night Paul received a vision: a man from Macedonia was calling to him, ‘Come and help us.’ Immediately after this we tried to cross over to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news there.

We sailed from Troas to Samothrace, then to Neapolis and on to Philippi, a leading city of Macedonia and a Roman colony.

There we remained some days and on the Sabbath went  outside the gate of the city to the river, where we supposed people gathered to pray, and spoke to the women who gathered there.

Lydia, who worshipped God, was listening to us. She was from Thyatira and  traded in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to Paul’s words. When she and her household were baptized she urged us, saying, ‘You have judged me to be faithful to the Lord; come and stay at my home,’ and with this she persuaded us.

Psalm 67

 1.God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us.

That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.

God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

John  5: 1-9

By the Sheep gate in Jerusalem was a pool called Beth-zatha, with five porticoes. In these lay many invalids; blind, lame and paralysed.  One man lay there who had been ill for 38 years.

Jesus saw him and said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’

The man replied, ‘I have no-one to carry me to the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way someone else gets to the water before me.’ Jesus said, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk.’ At once the man was made well. He stood up, took up his mat and began to walk. That day was a Sabbath.

Thoughts on today’s readings

If there are common factors in these two readings it is, first, that both  describe events taking place on the Jewish Sabbath, and second, that in both cases the scene is set beside the water.

The calling and journey of Paul and his companions to Philippi is described with the clarity of an eyewitness.

What does this account tell us of what  Paul found at Philippi?

It was a town settled by veterans of Caesar’s campaigns: therefore it would be proud of its Roman  identity.  We know that many gentiles, including women, were attracted to Judaism. The woman described as Lydia came from the city of that name in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) famed for the production of purple. She was a woman with her own business and property, not born a Jew but following the teachings of Judaism. Purple was a luxury product: wearing it was restricted to those of high status.

Paul’s presence with the women on the Sabbath tells us that there was no significant Jewish community in Philippi, and hence no synagogue. That would have required a minimum of ten men. The gathering beside the water was so that the worshippers could perform the rites of cleansing before their prayers.

These women therefore had faith: they were looking for a way to follow God, and were receptive to his word.

The reading is very clear: it was not Paul’s great oratory which persuaded them. He was obedient in following his master’s orders and coming  to Macedonia. He was faithful to those orders in clearly declaring the good news which had been entrusted to him.  The response of faith was Lydia’s, and it was the Lord who opened her heart to his word.

The water which was a sign of their cleansing before offering their worship and coming into God’s presence would  in baptism become a sign of a more radical and permanent change: of putting on Christ, of being defined no longer by externals such as the status which purple proclaimed, or even by cleansing with water, but being a child of God in Jesus Christ, an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The account makes it plain that Lydia’s conversion was not simply a matter of  an individual’s choice: her whole household was baptized with her. In her faith she carried her household with her, just as we ourselves were brought to faith by the faith of others, and carry others in our prayers.

The account of the healing in our gospel reading makes it plain that  Jesus did not heal the man because of his blameless life. Jesus in this account  tells the man to cease from sin lest a worse disaster befall him. The man with his 38 years of impotent waiting is a symbol of  the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, often without faith, often without hope, yet never beyond the compassion of God nor his purpose for them. This man cannot save himself by coming to the healing waters, and has no-one to carry him. Jesus alone has the word of healing for him, for the compassion of God is not switched off on the Sabbath day.

The grace of God is greater than our supposed worthiness or unworthiness, yet for the Lord to open our hearts  demands that we receive his word with joy and believe in its truth.

God in his love for us lent us this planet,gave it a purpose in time and in space: small as a spark form the fire of creation, cradle of life and the home of our race

 

Thanks be to God for its bounty and beauty,

life that sustains us in body and mind:

plenty for all, if we learn how to share it,

riches undreamed of to fathom and find.

 

Long have our human wars ruined its harvest;

long has earth bowed to the terror of force;

long have we wasted what others have need of,

poisoned the fountain of life at its source.

 

Earth is the Lord’s: it is ours to enjoy it,

ours, as his stewards, to farm and defend.

From its pollution, misuse, and destruction,

good Lord, deliver us, world without end.

 

 

15th May 2022. 5th Sunday of Easter.

 

Prayer for today:

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

Among those who are sick we pray for  Elsie Nicholl, Mary Greenhalgh, Neville Short,  Jane Bristow, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .  

Among those whose year’s mind is about this time we remember Anna Rossiter, Millicent Richardson, Neil Robinson and Robert Blackett Charlton.

Readings:

 Acts 11: 1-18

The believers in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God.  But when Peter came to Jerusalem the circumcised believers asked him, ‘Why did you go to the uncircumcised and eat with them?’ Peter explained, step by step, ‘I was praying in Joppa when I received a vision. A sheet was let down from heaven by its four corners; it contained four legged animals, beasts of prey, reptiles and birds. I heard a voice saying, “Up, Peter, kill and eat.”  I replied, “No, Lord, nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.”  But the voice answered, “What God has made clean you must not call profane.”

This happened three times, and then the sheet was pulled up into heaven.  Just then three messengers arrived from Caesarea.

The Spirit told me to go with them and to make no distinction between them and us; these six brothers accompanied me to the man’s house.  He told of seeing the angels standing in his house and saying, “Send to Joppa for Simon, called Peter, and he will give you the word by which your whole household will be saved.”  As I began to speak the Holy Spirit fell on them as it had done on us.  I remembered how the Lord said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Then if God gave them the same gift which he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus, who am I to hinder God?’

With this Peter silenced them; instead they praised God, saying, ‘God has given even to the gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’

 Psalm 148

  1. Praise ye theLord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights.

Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.

Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.

Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.

Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.

He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.

Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:

Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word:

Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:

10 Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:

11 Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth:

12 Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.

14 He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the Lord.

John 13: 31-35

At the last supper, when Judas was gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified, and god is glorified in him. Children, I was with you just a little longer.  You will look for me, and as I said to the Jews I say to you, “Where I am going you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. By this will everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

In bread we bring you, Lord, our bodies’ labour.

In wine we offer you our spirit’s grief.

We do not ask you, Lord, who is my neighbour?

But stand united now, one in belief.

Oh we have gladly heard your Word, your holy Word,

And now, in answer, Lord, our gifts we bring.

Our selfish hearts make true, our failing faith renew,

Our lives belong to you, our Lord and king.

 

The bread we offer you is blessed and broken,

And it becomes for us our spirits’ food.

Over the cup we share your Word is spoken;

Make it your gift to us, your healing blood.

Take all that daily toil plants in our heart’s poor soil,

Take all we start and spoil, each hopeful dream,

The chances we have missed, the graces we resist,

Lord, in thy Eucharist, take and redeem.

 

In three weeks’ time we celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

This will, of course, be celebrated in Church.

The question is whether you would support a service of songs of praise on Sunday evening and what, apart from the National Anthem, we should be singing. All responses gratefully received!

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

One of the most common criticisms of Christianity is heard in the question (though it’s usually more like a statement) ‘If there is a God and that God is all-loving, then how is there so much suffering in the world?’

Today’s gospel reading opens with the departure of Judas from the table at the Last supper as he goes off to betray his Lord for money.

The point in St. John’s account is that Jesus makes no move to stop Judas, and as Judas goes out into the darkness Jesus says, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God has been glorified in him.’

In the first place, Judas has eaten the same bread and heard the same word as the others: his actions are his own responsibility.

Secondly, the purpose of God will be accomplished, and God will be glorified, in the place of suffering when the Son of Man is crucified. This brutal act only has sense in the light of the unconditional love that the Son has for the Father, made plain in his willing obedience, and his knowledge of his Father’s unconditional love for him, and indeed the Son’s unconditional (unselfish, non-controlling) love for his flock.

And so Jesus’ parting commandment is, ‘Love one another; as I have loved you, so also you should love one another. By this shall all know you are my disciples: that you have love for one another.’

Suffering is inescapable in this life; sometimes it is a consequence of human actions,  sometimes it follows on from natural events completely beyond our control. It is what happens at the time and in the place of suffering which matter.

If we think about it, we are no strangers to the experience of sacrificial love.

Yesterday I stood in St. Mary’s Church in Whitby before a monument to the 1861 disaster in which 12 lifeboatmen were drowned just a few yards from their watching families, and one man alone survived.

On that terrible day the lifeboat had been launched three times and rescued the crews of four wrecked ships.

Exhausted, they set out a fourth time when the ship ‘Merchant’ was driven ashore, but waves swept their lifeboat and capsized it. Those men understood the risks: they were all experienced seafarers. They could not have known the  crews they set out to save; they only knew you do not turn your back on another in their time of need.

The surviving member of that crew went on to serve as a lifeboatman for another 40 years, and the Whitby crews continued to rescue shipwrecked  crews, notably in 1881, and in the wreck of a hospital ship in 1914.

Their monument stands in that Church, overlooking the sea, because when suffering is too great to  bear, and  events beyond what words can express, where do we go but to the foot of the cross, to the one who laid down his life for us, to Christ whose story is our story too.

We have seen this love closer to home over the past two years in the many in our health service who placed their duty and the needs of their patients above their own fears and their own interests; I experienced it during the illness of my son in those who put their  care of the sick ahead of their personal lives: their own health and the needs of their families.

Of course pain and suffering grind people down, and the relief of  pain enables people to have a quality to their lives which otherwise would be impossible, but for all that we should not wish to lives our lives as if anaesthetised. That way lies the peril of trying to manage sadness and suffering with drugs, including alcohol.

As Peter declared to the Church in Jerusalem,  the power of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ is gone out into all the world, and we are not orphans.  Let us trust and follow: we will receive all that we need, and Christ will be at our side.

 

 8th May 2022. Fourth Sunday of Easter.

Prayer for today:

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

Today we pray for Charlie White, who will be baptized here this afternoon, and for Alex and Sam his parents.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Elsie Nicholl, Mary Greenhalgh, Neville Short, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .    

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Giuseppe Sanna and Peter Moore.

Readings: Acts 9: 36-43

There was a disciple in Joppa called Tabitha. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity but she grew ill and died.

Her friends washed her body and laid her out in an upstairs room. The disciples heard that Peter was in the nearby town of Lydda and sent for him. He came and found weeping widows, who showed him the clothes Tabitha had made for them. He sent them out and knelt beside the body. He prayed, then turned to her and said, ‘Tabitha, get up’. She awoke and sat up. Peter gave her his hand and helped her get up. He brought her to the saints and widows; this became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Peter stayed on in Joppa in the house of Simon the tanner.

Psalm 23

1.The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

 John 10:22-30

It was winter, the festival of the Dedication, and Jesus was walking  in the portico of Solomon, in the temple. The Jews gathered and asked him, ‘How long are you going to keep us in suspense? Tell us plainly if you are the Messiah.’

Jesus replied, ‘I have told you but you do not believe.  I do works in my Father’s name which bear witness to me, but you do not believe, because you are not of my flock. My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life: they will never perish. No-one will take them from my hand.

What the Father has given me is greater than anything else; no one can snatch it from the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

Thoughts on today’s readings

Today’s readings , as is usual in this Easter season, present us with the theme of the words, life and actions of Jesus Christ being mirrored in the life and actions of the early Church, bearing living witness to Jesus Christ in their preaching and actions in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The disciple Tabitha had faithfully followed the Lord’s teaching: true religion is this: caring for widows, the orphans and the poor in their distress.

Now she had died and her friends did what their love and respect for her demanded, in washing and laying out her body.

But now they sent for Peter and here there are echoes of Jesus and Jairus’ daughter. Peter sent the people out and prayed. His words echo those of Jesus: not ‘Talitha cumi’, but ‘Tabitha cumi’, and he takes her by the hand.

This is not any longer simply Simon the fisherman, the one who betrayed his Lord. This is Peter, who has become the one Jesus called him to be, Peter following his Lord. For that following is not some passive state, not just about waiting to be fed.

That following is about embracing the Lord’s way, and so today Peter restores the disciple Tabitha to life, tomorrow he will preach and bear witness before those who see him as an enemy; one day his arms will be stretched out on a cross, and his following of Jesus on earth will be complete.

To underline this point, we are given the detail that Peter stayed on in Joppa, in the house of Simon the tanner.

Once upon a time in Hexham most people would have known all too well the stench of the tanneries. What kind of a Jewish leader would stay in the home of someone who was so clearly unclean, outside the Law?  The answer is, of course, Jesus, only Jesus.

And he alone has the words of eternal life.

When Jesus was walking in the temple he knew the people who challenged him did not believe him, and did not recognize God at work in his actions. Their minds were closed.

They knew already what they expected of a Messiah. Was this who he was, they wanted to know? In his temptations Jesus had already rejected the invitation to be a great world ruler, or a sort of magician, impressing people with his miracles.

He had accepted hunger and suffering as his lot. He was not going to impress these people.

He pointed out that their failure to give glory and praise to the Father for the great things Jesus had done was the measure of their blindness and lack of faith.

They did not recognize him as their shepherd, they would not follow him, he could do nothing for them; they would not receive eternal life from him.

These words are not written so that we might have a comfortable sense of superiority to those blinkered people who were ready to stone Jesus.

The truth is that God is at work, the Spirit is active every day and in every generation. How comfortable are we, am I with those whose faith, religion, taste, style and so on is very different to mine? Are we ready to rejoice and give praise when we see life restored and Jesus followed in this dynamic way by those who are very different to us?

A new series is about to be aired on television about Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Teresa as she now is in the Catholic Church. In her lifetime she reached out to so many whom no-one else would touch: unwanted children, the destitute and the dying. And yet I am sure the programme will highlight the many criticisms she faced: that she accepted money for her causes from dubious characters and was seen with the disreputable.

Her uncritical love for the Church was criticized and one famous atheist writer accused her of promoting ‘a culture of death.’

Her fearlessness and shamelessness in demanding support for the work her order was doing was judged to be tasteless. In her personal journal, published after her death, she wrote with unsparing honesty of her exhaustion and her sense of spiritual emptiness, amounting to feeling godforsaken.

This is what ‘following Jesus’ may involve, and for Peter it brought him to the cross.

Yet how many children are alive and have a life because  of the work of the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa?

How many  more, poor, old, lonely, spent their last days in peace because of the work of her sisters?

We are unlikely to find the tasteful in the home of the tanner, at the bedside of the dying, or at the foot of the cross but it is certain that Christ is there.

 

1st May 2022.  Third Sunday of Easter.

Prayer for today.

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

We pray for Primrose Hall, who will be baptized here this afternoon, and for her parents Elle and Chris.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Elsie Nicholl, Mary Greenhalgh, Neville Short, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .  

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

 

Readings:

Acts 9; 1-6

Saul was full of violent threats towards the disciples. He went to the High priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus,  authorizing to seize any followers of Jesus and bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.  He was journeying, and nearing Damascus when a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’  ‘Who are you, Lord?’ asked Saul. ‘I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. Get up, go into the city, and there you will be told what to do,’

 Psalm 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

John 21: 1-19

Simon Peter was beside the Sea of  Tiberias;  Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee and two other disciples were there. He said, “I am going fishing,’ and the others said, ‘We will come with you.’ So they  went out but that night they caught nothing.

At daybreak Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not recognize him. He asked them, ‘Children, have you no fish?’ “No,’ they replied.  ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some,’ he said. So they cast the net, and were not able to haul it in, for there were so many fish. The disciple whom Jesus loved said “It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard this he put some clothes on and jumped into the water. The others came in the boat, dragging the net, for they were only about 100 yards off shore.

When they were ashore they saw a charcoal fire, with fish on it, and bread.  Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have caught.’

Peter hauled the net to shore, full of large fish, 153, and though they were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of them dared ask, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. This was the third time Jesus appeared to them after he was raised from the dead.

After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you,’ he replied. ‘Feed my lambs,’ said Jesus.

A second time he said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’

‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,’ Simon replied.  Jesus said, ‘Tend my sheep.’

A third time Jesus asked, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’

Simon was hurt that Jesus asked this a third time and he replied, ‘Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep. I tell you truly:  when you were younger you fastened your own belt and went where you wished.

When you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ He said this to indicate by what death he would glorify God. And he said to Peter, ‘Follow me.’

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

Both today and next Sunday young children will be brought to Church for baptism. They will be signed with the sign of the cross to show in whose name they are being baptized, that they are now members of Christ’s flock, and of their identity as Christians which henceforth is a part of what defines them as people. Often, children are dressed in white for their baptism as a sign of this new identity which they have put on.

Our first reading opens with Saul filled with the urge to slaughter the Christians. He acted as a defender of Israel, fighting a dangerous enemy, but this story reminds me how today there are still those who believe they are doing God’s work by destroying Christian communities and others who regard our faith as dangerous rubbish. In many parts of the world Christians  have been regarded, to quote St. Paul, as sheep to be slaughtered, and the sign of the cross is a reminder of how costly it is to follow Christ faithfully.

The vision Saul received on the road to Damascus  revealed to him the true nature of his actions: in attacking Christians he was attacking Jesus Christ. Every Christian is a member of the body of Christ and an offence against such a one is an offence not just against humanity but against God.

One of the tragedies of the war in Ukraine whose horrors are revealed to us every day is that it is often Christians who are, as it were, crucifying other Christians: Russian Orthodox Christians , from a Church which formerly was itself persecuted, killing and wounding  their fellow-Christians in Ukraine, in the name of their nation.

In the face of  so  much that is the very worst of human behaviour and activity we look to the one who gives us our identity, that is to say, Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and living.

Our gospel reading opens with the disciples, together as a  group, but as they used to be, so to speak, returning to their familiar occupation as fishermen, and quite unaware of the presence of Christ. Peter takes the lead, but though they fish all night, their efforts are fruitless. It is only when they heed the voice of the stranger on the shore that their nets are filled.

Now they realize it is him: it is Jesus. Bringing their bulging net to the shore they find he has already provided fire for cooking and fish to eat, and he invites them to bring their catch to him.

This passage strikes home: how many times do I have to learn to listen to the voice of Christ and to trust it, rather than to follow the way of self-will?

The disciples have been fed and now he has a commission for them. He speaks to Simon Peter, who denied him three times and three times asks ,’Do you love me more than these?’

Simon is overcome by his past failure. No longer can be boastfully claim how much he loves Jesus. All he can say is, ‘You know I am your friend.’ But Jesus has work for him:’ Feed my sheep, feed my lambs, tend my flock,’ he tells him, and then goes on to teach him how when he is old he will glorify God by suffering death on a cross, as his Lord did before him.

Only because he knows Simon Peter, for all his failings, loves him is it possible for Jesus to speak these words to him, for ‘Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.’

We too received the sign of the cross. We too may know already that God has provided and that we have not been left  as orphans, or godforsaken.

To us also Jesus turns his face and asks the question, in spite of our weaknesses and failings: ‘Do you love me?’ and to us also he gives his commission: ‘Feed my lambs” – heal the sick, attend to the suffering, feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless; be the body of Christ.

24th April 2022. 1st Sunday after Easter.

Prayer for today;

Almighty Father you have given your only Son to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, 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  Elsie Nicholl, Mary Greenhalgh, Neville Short, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .

Among those whose year’s mind is about this time we remember John Nixon,  Melvyn Hull, Caroline Clark, Jack Cross, Emily Rutherford Pearce, Dorothy Wilson, Mary Ann Hudson Smithurst, Elizabeth Johnson, Thelma Kirker–Head and Andrzej Ciupska.

Readings:

Acts  5: 27-32

The apostles stood before the council and the High Priest said to them, ‘We gave you orders not to spread this man’s teachings, yet you have done this throughout Jerusalem and are determined to bring his blood on us.’

Peter and the apostles replied, ‘We obey God before any human authority. Our God raised Jesus up, whom you hanged on a tree.

God exalted him to his right hand as leader and savior so that he might bring Israel repentance, and the forgiveness of sins.

We are the witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.

 

Psalm 150

  1. Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

John 20: 19-31

It was the evening of the first day of the week.  The disciples were met behind locked doors, for fear of the Jews.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’

Then he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

Thomas, also called the Twin, was not with them when  Jesus came. They told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he replied, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my hand on the mark of the nails and in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later the disciples were again shut in the house, and Thomas was there. Though the doors were locked Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out to my side. Do not doubt, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said, ‘have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.’

Jesus did many other signs which are not written in this book. But these are written that you might believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that, believing, you might have life in his name.

 Thoughts on today’s readings

Our first reading presents us with the scene in Jerusalem as the disciples are brought before the authorities and are accused of spreading the message of Jesus despite repeated warnings that they must do no such thing.

Their defence is that their primary obedience can only be to God and that it is the God of Israel whom they serve and that it is this one and the same God who has been faithful to his promise to Israel in sending Jesus as his Messiah and who, furthermore, has raised to life this same Jesus, whom the Jews condemned to die, and that Jesus is the means by which God’s people may be saved and the means by which they may repent, be forgiven and be reconciled to God.

In other words, they are not proclaiming a different god or something alien to Israel. This is the same God, the same yesterday, today and always, and they are witnesses to the great things God is doing, even at the cost of incurring the wrath of the official authorities of Israel.

In the gospel reading there is a similar message and emphasis: the Jesus who stands among the disciples is the same Lord whom they followed and lived with before his crucifixion, and yet something has changed:  locked doors cannot keep him out; his body bears the marks of the dreadful suffering he has undergone. His presence fills them with joy, but their joyful news  is not enough for Thomas. It’s not that he doesn’t want to believe, but that he doesn’t want to take someone else’s word for it that Jesus is alive. He wants direct contact with Jesus, not something second-hand.

But when Jesus invites Thomas to touch his wounds, his words make it plain that the Spirit has revealed to him what he previously could not have known: ‘My Lord and my God ,’  he exclaims, for he realizes that the one he had been following is not simply the leader in whom he placed his trust, but that here is God. As St John’s Gospel expresses it, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God….and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’

Here in the wounded man standing before Thomas is the fullness of God: it is an awesome statement and tells us something more about this God: here is not some distant deity, perfect in beauty and wisdom. Rather here is God who has accepted suffering and death for the sake of his creation and whose body bears the signs of the cost of God’s love for us and for our world.  The same God, and yet one who continues to act, whom we understand so imperfectly, and who invites us to  deepen our relationship, to grow, and to be witnesses.

For the scenario in our first reading doesn’t seem remote from today’s world. In many part of the world it takes a courage amounting almost to foolhardiness to speak truth to power and even to exercise freedom of conscience. Those in authority make full use of  technologies old and new to crush anything that might challenge their power and the world view they propagate.

Within our own society self-censorship is not unknown, and gagging clauses at work are not a new thing. Whistle-blowers are seldom rewarded for their courage; who knows how they will fare in their moment of truth?

Yet the Bible reminds us that Peter and the rest did not stand alone in the face of the council in Jerusalem.  Christ breathe Holy Spirit, new life, into them, and given them his authority.

They, fishermen and others,  trusted to God for how they must speak and knew themselves to be his ambassadors, messengers  not of their truth, but of the truth of God which alone can set us free.

 

 

 

 

17th April 2022. Easter Sunday.

Prayer for today:

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

 Among those who are sick we pray for  Elsie Nicholl, Mary Greenhalgh, Neville Short, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .    

 Among those who have died we remember Anne-Marie Allan, and also  Christina Anderson, Jimmy Kirker-Head and Ruby Rose Charman whose year’s mind is about this time.

Readings.

Acts 10: 34-43

Peter spoke to those who were gathered in the house of Cornelius, ‘I now understand that God has no favourites, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message God sent to Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

This message spread from Galilee and throughout Judea:

after the baptism announced by John, God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.. He went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him; we are witnesses of all that he did.

They put him to death on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and caused him to appear, not to all the people,  but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

He commanded us to preach to the people and to bear witness that he is the one ordained by god to judge the living and the dead. All the prophets testify that  everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

 Verses from Psalm 118.

  1. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.

Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.

14 The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.

15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.

16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.

17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.

18 The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord:

20 This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.

21 I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.

22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.

24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

 

Luke 24: 1-12

Very early on the first day of the week the women who had followed Jesus came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in it was empty. They were perplexed about this but suddenly two men in dazzling white stood beside them.

The women were terrified;  they bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; he is risen.  Remember how he told you the Son of man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise again on the third day.’ So they remembered the words of Jesus and returned from the tomb to tell the eleven and the others. These women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and others. So they told the apostles but this seemed like nonsense to them and they did not believe them.

But Peter ran to the tomb and looked in. He saw the linen grave cloths only and went home, amazed at what had happened.

 Thoughts at Easter.

Chocolate today is relatively inexpensive and plentiful, but there was a time when it was a luxury, certainly not something you would have every day.

And so perhaps we can see our chocolate Easter eggs as an aspect of the celebration of this day which is different to any other; chocolate as something delicious at the end of the days of fasting in Lent. For truly we declare and believe something amazing and extraordinary  every Easter.

Our first reading begins with Peter, who is in the house of the Roman soldier Cornelius when he realizes that the Spirit which has come down in power upon Cornelius and his household is identical with Jesus  Christ, Jesus who began his ministry by outraging the men in the synagogue at Nazareth when he told them that the Bible teaches that God does not simply favour the Jews, quoting the story of Elijah being sent to a gentile widow in Sidon, where he raised her son from the dead, and the healing the Syrian general Naaman of leprosy, when Naaman obeyed the instructions of Elisha the prophet.  Peter realizes that Jesus his Lord is Lord of all, alive as his power comes down upon the soldier and his household, comes down upon those who were the enemies of  Israel, and Peter baptizes them.

For it was the soldiers of Rome who put Jesus to death. For them it was just another execution, and they tried to make it more entertaining by dressing him up in a robe and a crown of thorns, and put a mocking title over his head as he was crucified.

And yet one of those soldiers, seeing how Jesus died, as the sky turned black and the earth shook, sad, ‘Truly this was the son of God.’

The account of Easter in St. Luke’s gospel  also begins in a subversive manner.

It was the women amongst Jesus’ disciples who did not run away when he was crucified, and when the Sabbath was over they came to the tomb. They understood that love is stronger than death, but they thought his body was all that was left to them and wanted to honour him by preparing his body with spices.

They were perplexed by the empty tomb, and terrified by the heavenly messengers, yet  carried their message faithfully.

For it was the women who were the first witnesses of the resurrection and they who were first entrusted with this incredible news, women who were usually meant to be silent and invisible.

And because the male disciples were men of their time they dismissed what they heard from the women as hysterical nonsense.

Yet even as Peter was going to the tomb to see for himself, two disciples were making their melancholy journey home to Emmaus.

As they were walking they  were joined by man they did not recognize until, at journey’s end, he sat at table with them and broke the bread and they realized that this was indeed Jesus.

And hurrying back to Jerusalem they announced to those who had followed Jesus, ‘He is risen!’

He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

10th April 2022. Palm Sunday

Prayer for today:

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

Among those who are sick we pray for  Elsie Nicholl, Mary Greenhalgh, Neville Short, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .    

Among those who have died we remember  Audrey Bertorelli, and also  Bill Patterson, Bob Tweddle and Fowler Anderson, whose year’s mind is about this time.

Readings:

Philippians 2: 5-11

Let this mind be in you which was in Jesus Christ: though he was in the form of God he did  not try to seize equality with God., but he emptied himself, and took the form of a slave. Being born in human form he humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God highly exalted him and gave him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 Verses from Psalm 118

  1. O give thanks unto theLord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.

Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord:

20 This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.

21 I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.

22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.

24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.

26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.

27 God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.

28 Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.

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

 

Luke 19: 28-40

On his way up to Jerusalem, Jesus came to the Mount of Olives and sent two of his disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village up ahead. There you find a colt tethered, which has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying the colt?’, tell them, “The Lord needs it.”’

Everything was as the Lord had said; the disciples brought the colt to Jesus, they put their cloaks on the colt, and  set Jesus on it.

As he rode, the people spread their cloaks in the road.

As he came down from the  Mount of  Olives the disciples loudly praised  god for all the deeds of power they had seen. They shouted ‘Blessed is the king  who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven! glory in highest heaven!’

Some pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop,’ but he replied, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would shout out.’

Whitley St. Helen’s Annual Meeting is in the Parish hall on Wednesday evening at 7.30 All are welcome.

 

We meet at Church on Good Friday at 10 to make the Easter garden and  act out the story of the Passion, followed by refreshments at the Vicarage and egg rolling.

At 2 p.m. there is an outdoor service and meditation at Abbey Holm, next to Whitley Mill House.

 

Easter Sunday services are at 8 and 9.30 a.m.

 

‘Jill Halfpenny’s Easter walks ‘ is on BBC 1 on Good Friday at  1.30 p.m.

 

Thoughts on Palm Sunday

At the edge of the woods the blackthorn is in blossom.

The beautiful white blossom is a herald of Spring, the promise of fruitfulness and harvest, but the blossom is fragile, and the nights are icy. Who can say, come the Autumn, whether those thorny branches will be covered in sloes?

Nevertheless, despite the cold air, I have watched bees collecting pollen on the flowering currants in the garden, securing their survival for another season.

There is a toughness in nature: life has a way of finding a way.

 

The disciples who followed Jesus to Jerusalem and  to the Temple thought their hour had come.  This is where it was going to happen. They sang their psalms of triumph. To be sure, he was not on a horse but on a donkey, and they were not a massive crowd, but they had seen the deeds of power he had done.

They knew there was no-one like Jesus: surely here was God’s plan to restore Israel?

In a few short days the springtime of Palm Sunday would indeed be completed in harvest, but they would see the Lord’s anointed, the second Adam, nailed to the tree, his dying body the fruit of the fulfillment of God’s purpose, the songs of praise of the crowd turned to the shout, ‘Crucify!’

Spring is coming across Europe, even in Ukraine.

But in that country, whose harvests of corn and sunflowers have for decades met the needs of so many countries, the fields are ploughed up with the tracks of tanks, and from the skies rain down munitions carefully designed to kill as many people as possible.

The martyred bodies of children and pregnant women, of the old and those who could not escape will in the end rest in the earth, but who will tend the wounds seen and unseen, of the terrified  children who have lost the lives they knew?

We should beware religion which simply acts to validate human activity, or to bless our power structures.

Palm Sunday reminds us that God’s purposes are far more subversive and radical.

The reading from Philippians quotes an early Christian hymn recalling how God, the word of God, embraced not only human form but the status of a slave: not for him the rights of the citizen, much less the trappings of power and success, but obedience, and the humiliating death of a criminal, outcast from his own people: foolishness indeed to the Greeks, and a stumbling block for the Jews.

And yet, as the hymn continues, in this God’s strange design has been realized, and at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue declare he is Lord.

Jesus Christ lives indeed, and we walk the way of the cross to Easter in the knowledge that he is with us.

There is no shortage of things for us to be doing the Lord’s work.

Christians across Europe, lay and ordained, are following the way of Christ the servant, obedient in spite of  the darkness and the  terrible deeds of war, faithful in the face of danger, in the knowledge that Good Friday must be followed by Easter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3rd April 2022. 5th Sunday in Lent. Passion Sunday.

 Prayer for today:

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

Among those who are sick we pray for  Mary Greenhalgh, Neville Short, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .    

 

Among those whose year’s mind is around this time we remember Alan Hocking Newby, William Armstrong, Margaret Pigg and William Moralee.

I am unable to be with you this morning, having tested positive for COVID on Wednesday. I am very grateful to the Revd. Henry Hope for agreeing to lead our worship, and hope I can get back to work very soon.

Readings:

Isaiah 43: 16-21

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way through the mighty waters of the sea, who brings out horse and chariot, army and warrior; they lie down, they are snuffed out like a wick:

Do not remember or consider the former things. I am about to do a new thing, and now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

All the wild animals will honour me,  for I give water in the wilderness, to give drink for my chosen people, whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.

Philippians 3: 4b – 14

Paul writes: If anyone should have confidence in the things of the flesh, it is me. I was circumcised on the 8th day, an Israelite, of the tribe of Benjamin, born to Hebrew parents. As to the law, I was a Pharisee, zealously I persecuted the Church. According to the law, I was blameless.

Yet whatever gain I had from all of this I now count as loss because of Christ. In fact I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

For his sake I have endured the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having my righteousness from the law but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection  and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, in order that somehow I can attain the resurrection from the dead.

I have not yet achieved this or reached that goal, but press on to make it my own, because Christ has made me his own. Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to that which lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 126

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

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

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

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

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

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

John 12: 1-8

It was six days before Passover. Jesus came to Bethany, to the house of Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was at table with him. May took a pound of costly perfume, made from spikenard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair, and the house was filled with  the fragrance of the perfume.

Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray Jesus) said, ‘Why  was this perfume not sold for 300 denarii and the money given to the poor? (He said this not because he cared for the poor but because he was a thief. He kept the common purse and stole from it)

Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought this in order to keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You will not always have me with you.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

27th March 2022. Mothering Sunday

Please stay for a cup of tea or coffee and a piece of cake after the service. Flowers will be distributed during the service.

Prayer for today:

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

Among those who are sick we pray for  Mary Greenhalgh, Tracy Rieckert, Neville Short, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .   

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember Marjorie Howdon, Margaret Shackleton, Winne Golightly, Vesta Annie Overton, Jennie Hawkins and Suzanne Tordoff.

Readings for today:

2 Corinthians 1: 3-7

Paul  writes, giving thanks to God who consoles us in all our afflictions so that we may be able in the same way to console those who are afflicted. Just as Christ suffered abundantly for us, so abundant is our consolation in him. If we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are consoled, it is for your consolation , which you experience when you suffer patiently the same sufferings that afflict us. We have an unshaken hope in you: you share our sufferings and our consolation.

Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

The scribes and Pharisees complained, because the tax collectors and sinners came to hear Jesus, and he ate with them. He told them this parable:

There was a man who had two sons. The younger came to him and asked for the share of the property which he would inherit.

So the man divided his property, and a few days later the young man took all that he had and travelled to a far country. There  he wasted his property in dissolute living. Then when he had spent everything there was a severe famine in the land. He was in need and found work feeding pigs. He would gladly have eaten the pigs’ food; no one gave him anything.

Then he came to his sense and said, ‘How many of my father’s servants have bread enough and to spare, while here I die of hunger! I will arise and go to my father and say to him, “I have sinned before God and against you; I am not worthy to be considered as your son; use me as a hired servant.” ‘

He set off but while he was still far off his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran to him and embraced him.  The son began to say, ‘Father I have sinned; I am not worthy to be your son,’ but the father said to his slaves, ‘Fetch the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Kill the fat calf; let us eat and celebrate, for this my son was dead, and now he lives again; he was lost and now he is found.’ And so they began to celebrate.

The older son was at work in the field, and asked a slave the reason for the party. He replied, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has killed the fat calf because he has him home safe and sound.’ He was angry and refused to go in; his father came out to pleaded with him.  But he said to his father, ‘All these years I have slaved for you; you would not even let have a young goat  for a celebration with my friends.  And now when your son returns, who has eaten up all your property with prostitutes, you killed the fat calf for him.’

The father replied, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all I have is yours.  We had to celebrate because this your brother was dead, and now he lives; he was  lost and now he is found.’

Hymn:

O God you search me and you know me,

All my thoughts lie open to your gaze

When I walk or lie down you are before me

Ever the maker and keeper of my days.

 

You know my resting and my rising.

You discern my purpose from afar;

And with love everlasting you besiege me;

In every moment of life or death, you are.

 

Before a word is on my tongue, Lord,

You have known its meaning through and through.

You are with me beyond my understanding:

God of my present, my past, and future too.

 

Although your spirit is upon me,

Still I search for shelter from your light.

There is nowhere on earth I can escape you:

Even the darkness is radiant in your sight.

 

For you created me and shaped me,

Gave me life within my mother’s womb.

For the wonder of who I am, I praise you:

Safe in your hands, all creation is made new.

 

Thoughts for today

All across the country people have been making journeys this weekend. They make this journey as children travelling to be with their mothers on Mothering Sunday, Mothers Day.

It’s a chance for them to show their love, to do something  special for the woman who gave them their life, even if they haven’t all made a special cake with marzipan in the middle.

For mothers it is hopefully a time to enjoy the company of their children. There is reunion and rejoicing.

Here at the Vicarage we don’t have a fatted calf, but there will be a piece of beef from a local butcher on the table.

Today however my thoughts are of other mothers, whose day is going to be very different to this.  Across in Eastern Europe, in Ukraine, 4.3 million children have now been displaced from their homes: that’s more than half the children in the country.

Some will have travelled with their mothers and are now in exile, some have been sent to be with friends or relatives, but many are missing. So many are very vulnerable: the scale of the suffering is impossible to comprehend.

In this morning’s reading from St. Luke’s gospel Jesus presents us with an image of God which is very powerful.

This is not a God who is impassive or indifferent, not a dictator or even a judge.

Here is God who is passionate and patient, who cannot separate himself from the fate of his child, even when that child acts as though his father no longer existed.

The story opens with a scandalous act: the younger son demands here and now the share that would come to him on the death of his father: he acts as though his father were already dead. And the father divides the property to give him what demands, and lets him go.

Nevertheless the Father never ceases to love his son and to hope that one day he will return.

And when his son does return, penniless, humiliated, defeated, he runs to embrace him. The father does not need to hear his apology: it is a cause of huge joy that where there was absence, emptiness and death, there is reunion, reconciliation , life and love. What price can we put on that?

Understandably, the older son, who has spent his life in obedience to his father, and lived with the consequences of his brother’s actions, does not share in this sense of rejoicing.

He does not love the returned prodigal:  he describes him to his father as “your son’; he does not consider him to be a brother at all. It is his father who says, ‘this your brother was dead, and now he lives’ : this is reason to rejoice.

The tragedy of the war in Ukraine is that it is between people with a common history: Kiev was the first capital city of Christian Russia. As Pope Francis has said, it is like Cain attacking and killing Abel his brother.

Today I pray for those who, with a mother’s love, comfort frightened children.

I pray that from the ruins and destruction that mark human folly, pride and lovelessness, there will one day come life, reconciliation and hope.

Our world is divided up and exploited, bought and sold as though it was ours rather than that we belong to it.

All things belong to our God, and yet he tells his son, ‘All that I have is yours’.

He waits for his children to return, and to be reconciled to one another.

God our loving parent,

We give you thanks for your presence at every stage of our  life journey.

Keep us in the knowledge of your forgiveness and loving-kindness,

And lead us to rejoicing at our end. Amen.

 

 

20th March 2022. 3rd Sunday in Lent.

Prayer for today

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

Among those who are sick we pray for  Mary Greenhalgh, Tracy Rieckert, Neville Short, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde . 

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

Our Lent studies continue tomorrow with a meeting on zoom at 7 p..m. You will find a link on the e-mail to which these notes are attached.

Next Sunday is Mothering Sunday (and the beginning of British Summer Time!) I hope we will be able to share flowers and cake at the end of the service.

 Readings for today

Isaiah 55: 1-9

The Lord says, :  all who thirst, come to the waters; you that have no money: come, buy and eat. Buy wine and milk without price or money. Why spend on what is not bread? Why labour for that which will not satisfy? Listen to me carefully, and eat what is rich and good. Come and listen to me, that you may live.

I make an everlasting covenant with you, my steadfast love for David.  See, I made him a witness to the peoples, and their leader.

See: you shall call nations unknown to you, and they shall run to you because of the Lord your God, for I will give you glory.

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and  thoughts.

Let them return to the Lord, so that he may be merciful to them and pardon them.

The Lord says, my ways are not your ways; my thoughts are not your thoughts. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

Verses from Psalm 63

1.O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.

Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.

Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:

When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.

Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

 

Luke 13: 1-9

Some told Jesus about the Galileans killed by Pilate while they were offering their sacrifice. Jesus said, ‘Do you think they suffered because they were worse than others from Galilee? No, but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.

Or the 18 who died when a tower fell on them in Siloam: do you think they were worse sinners than the others in Jerusalem?

No, I tell you, but unless you repent you will perish as they did.’

He told them a parable: ‘A man had a fig tree in his vineyard; he came to it looking for fruit and found none. He said to the gardener,” Look, I have come her for three you looking for fruit on this fig tree, and never find any. Cut it down! Why should it take up space?” the gardener replied, ‘Sir, give it one more year.

I will dig round it and manure it. If it bears fruit, well and good, but if not, then cut it down.’

 

Thoughts on today’s readings.

The reading from St. Luke’s Gospel, with its report of unarmed civilians butchered by soldiers while offering their sacrifice in the temple, and of others crushed by the collapse of a tower, sound grimly contemporary as we listen to reports on the war in Ukraine and the sufferings of the people of that country, our fellow-Europeans and fellow-christians.

As in last week’s reading, Jesus is questioned by those who know he is heading for Jerusalem: doesn’t he realize it’s dangerous there? What will happen to him and to those he is leading?

And underneath is the unspoken question: why did these people die? Was it a punishment for something they had done?

Jesus’ response is brisk: we all stand under God’s judgement. If there is a lesson to be learnt from these horrors it is that our time is short. For emphasis he repeats the point: unless they repent, they too will perish.

He illustrates this with the parable of the fig tree.

Elsewhere in the New Testament Jesus is the gardener: the new Adam, obedient to the Father unlike the first Adam. He  labours to bring God’s kingdom to earth, Eden restored.

The vineyard is also an image for Israel, and there he patiently works, feeding the wretched tree which produces no fruit.

Yet it has its seasons and, if it proves to be literally fruitless, will eventually be  cut down and disappear.

In contrast, the passage from Isaiah is described  as ‘the conclusion of the Book of comfort’, but here too the Lord urges the readers, exiled in Babylon, not to waste their time and resources on simply surviving, on things which do not feed the soul or satisfy.

Rather, he urges, seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. For the Lord is merciful, his pardon is abundant. We will not succeed in explaining God or even in understanding  God’s mind: his ways are as high above our as the heaven is above the earth.

Yet God is not hidden or absent.

As the hymn puts it:

O make but trial of his love;

Experience will decide,

How blest are they, and only they

Who in his truth confide.

The Lord is faithful and has made an everlasting covenant with his people.  Jesus is the assurance of that covenant, the unconditional gift of God’s unconditional love and faithfulness.

From Hexham to Kharkiv and wherever two or three are met in his name Jesus is present, in the prayers, in the breaking of the bread, in the sharing of the word, and in whatever we do for our neighbour for his sake.

On this Spring morning there is blossom at the roadside.

Will it bear fruit or will the frost and the wind make it no more than an empty show?

If there is one message I take from these readings it is this: the time to turn to Christ and to turn away from fruitless paths is now; the time to bear fruit for the kingdom of God is today.

 

 

 

13th March 2022. 2nd Sunday in Lent.

Prayer for today.

Almighty God, you show to those in error the light of your truth, that they may return to the way of righteousness: grant to all who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, that they may reject those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Among those who are sick we pray for  Mary Greenhalgh, Tracy Rieckert, Neville Short, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde . 

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember William Robson,  Florence Newby and Isabella Little.

Our first online meeting to study our Lent book is tomorrow evening at 7. There is a link to zoom on the e-mail I am sending this morning.

Readings for today

Genesis 15: 3-12, 17-18

God spoke to Abram in a dream, ’Do not be afraid, Abram,  I am your shield, your reward will be great.’ But Abram replied, ‘Lord, what will you give me? I am childless; my heir is Eliezer of Damascus. I have no child; my heir is a slave born in my household.’ The Lord replied, ‘He will not be your heir.  None but your own issue will be your heir.’ The Lord brought him out side and said, ’Look up and count the stars, if you are able. So shall your descendants be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord reckoned it to him for righteousness.

The Lord said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought out from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land  to possess.’ ‘How shall I know that I will possess this land?’ asked Abram.

The Lord told him to bring in sacrifice a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove and a pigeon. Abram did as the Lord commanded, and drove away the birds which came to prey on the carcasses.

The sun was setting; Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a terrifying darkness fell on him.

When it was dark a flaming torch and a  smoking firepot passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,’I give this land to your descendants: from the river of Egypt to  the Euphrates.’

 

Psalm 27

  1. TheLord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

 

Luke 13: 31-35

The Pharisees came to warn Jesus, ’Get away from here: Herod wants to kill you.’ He replied, ‘Go and tell that fox, ”Today and tomorrow I cure the sick and cast out demons, and finish my work on the third day. Yet today, tomorrow and the third day I must be on my way, for a prophet can only be killed in Jerusalem.” Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to it!  How often I have longed to shelter your children as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not. Your temple is abandoned, and you will not see me until the day you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

Reflections on today’s readings

This Lent it seems to me that that the way of the cross is for some being lived out in front of our eyes, right now.

In Ukraine men young and old, grandfathers and sons, die in the defence of their homes. Every day the innocent are slaughtered, orphans, mothers in labour, the old and vulnerable, as the enemy blindly rains death upon them.

We hear their cries, we watch in shame, perhaps feeling helpless, aware that we have done little to help.

In this morning’s gospel reading Jesus uses the image of two animals well-known to us: the fox and the hen.

The fox is wild, controlled  only by its instincts: once it has got into the hen run, it will kill everything it can: that is Herod, the amoral ruler set over the Jews by Rome.

Jesus compares himself to the hen, prepared to protect his little ones, even at the cost of his own life: he will not run away.

But Jesus also understands that the tragedy is that it is not Herod who will kill him but his own people.  Those who loudly proclaim  that they are the heirs of Abraham and defenders of true religion will scream for his crucifixion.

And so the Lord will no longer be found in his temple and the holy city will be destroyed.

But we know that this is not the end of the story.

Jesus described himself as the corner stone of God’s living temple.  Though put to death on the cross he was raised again on the third day. In every generation the Spirit has called women and men to be living stones of that temple, and it continues  to do his work today, proclaiming the gospel, healing, sheltering, feeding, defeating evil and despair.

In 1945 cities across Europe lay in ruins, from Coventry to Berlin and from Dresden to Warsaw and Kharkiv, and millions of refugees sought shelter and safety.

In time the cities were rebuilt and thrived, but today that same destruction is at work.

Far from home, old and childless, Abram was skeptical when God told him he would possess the whole of the land .

The Lord raised his eyes to the heavens: as countless as the stars would be his descendants.

Despite centuries of persecution and massacres the descendants of Abraham thrive, not simply on a hilltop in Judea, but right across the world.

Far from home, vulnerable, exhausted and afraid, Ukrainian mothers have brought their children in the hope of finding sanctuary. They will teach their children their people’s story, and the faith  which made of Kyiv one of the first Christian centres of eastern Europe.

The cities will be rebuilt, but let us pray for an end to the madness, and that we may indeed be living stones of Christ’s temple,  providing hope, and shelter, and bringing true peace.

 

6th March 2022. 1st Sunday in Lent.

 

This morning we welcome the Revd. Henry Hope to lead our worship.

The vicar is on holiday until tomorrow.

Prayer for today:

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, may we know your power to save, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Mary Greenhalgh, Tracy Rieckert, Neville Short, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin,  Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .

Among those whose year’s mind is at this time we remember William Flatman,  Frank Casson, Jack  Reed, Anthony Charlton Graham and Robert Mason Pyle.

I note that our Lent study group last year met on Monday evenings at 7 p.m on zoom. I would like to try to do something similar this year. It is short notice, but let me know if you would like to  join, and I will send you a link.  I have copies available of the study booklet, Live |Lent, embracing justice.

Readings.

Deuteronomy  26: 1-11

Moses spoke to the people, ‘When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, to possess and to settle you will take some of the first fruits  of your harvest from the land the Lord is giving you, you shall put it in a basket and take it to the place the Lord your God has chosen as a dwelling for his name. You will go to the priest and say, “Today I have come into the land which the Lord your God promised to our ancestors.” The priest will take the basket from you and place it before the altar of the Lord. You will reply to him, “My ancestor was a wandering Aramaean.  He went down to Egypt as an alien, few in number. There he became a mighty nation.  When the Egyptians treated us harshly an put us to hard labour we cried to the Lord. The Lord heard our voice and saw our sufferings. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with  a mighty hand and in terrifying power, with signs and wonders, and brought us to a land flowing with milk and honey.

So now I bring the first fruits of the land which you, Lord, have given me.” You will set down the first fruits before the Lord and bow down before the Lord.  Then you, and the Levites, and the foreigners who dwell among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty the Lord your God has given to your house.

 Verses from Psalm 91

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

 

 Luke 4: 1-13

Jesus returned from the Jordan filled with the Holy Spirit,and the Spirit led him in the wilderness; there he was tempted for forty days by the devil, and ate nothing. When the days were over he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus replied, ‘It is written, “you shall not live by bread alone”’.

The devil led him and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. He said to him, ‘I will give you their glory and this authority, for it has been  given to me, and to whoever I choose.

If you worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus replied, ‘You will worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’

Then the devil placed him on the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem, and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,” and “ They will bear you up with their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”’

Jesus replied, ‘It is said, “You will not put the Lord your God to the test.”’

When the devil had finished every test he went away from Jesus until an opportune time.

 

 

 

 

27th February 2022. Sunday before Lent.

A prayer from the Archbishops of York and Canterbury:

God of peace and justice, we pray for the people of Ukraine today. We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons.

We pray for all who fear for tomorrow, that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.

We pray for those with power over war or peace, for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide their decisions.

Above all, we pray for all your precious children, at risk and in fear, that you would hold and protect them. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

This morning we welcome Leo Thomas Hector Rutherford by baptism into Christ’s Church.

 Among those who are sick we pray for Tracy Rieckert, Neville Short, Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , Mary Leslie, Hayley Gennery,  Elizabeth Sambell, Natasha Stevens,  Faye Smith, Katherine Patterson, Heather Loughead,  John and Gwyneth Wilde .   

Among those who have died remember Phil Rieckert, and also Stuart White, John Martin, Hilda Walker, George Philips, Thomas Hector Rutherford and Malcolm Caisley, whose year’s mind is about this time.

Notice; I will be away on holiday from Wednesday and until the beginning of next week. Next Sunday’s service will be led by the Revd. Henry Hope from Hexham Abbey.

There are copies in Church of our Lent study book:  Live Lent – embracing justice, with daily readings. Copies are £2.

I hope we can begin our meetings, on zoom, next week. Please let me know if you wish to take part, and if you need a book.

Lent begins on Wednesday with a service in Church at 9.30 a.m.

Readings:

2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2

The hope we have gives us boldness. We are not like Moses, who covered his face to hide the fading of  its glory. For the minds of Israel were hardened. To this day there is a veil over their minds when Moses is read, for only Christ can remove it. Now the Lord is the spirit, and where the Spirit is, there is freedom. And all of us, our faces unveiled, see the glory of the Lord as it were reflected in a mirror, and are being transformed into that same image from glory to glory; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

It is through God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, so we do not lose heart. We have renounced acts of shame and darkness; we refuse cunning or falsifying God’s word. By stating the truth openly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

 

Luke 9: 28-36

Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. As he prayed his appearance changed; his clothes became dazzling white. They saw Moses and Elijah talking to him. They appeared in glory, talking with him about his departure which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Though Peter and his companions were sleepy they saw the glory and, just as the two men were leaving Jesus, Peter said, ‘Master, it is good to be here. Let us make dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah,’ for he did not know what he was saying.

Just then a cloud overshadowed them, so that they were terrified, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ And then Jesus was alone with them.

At that time the disciples said nothing to anyone of what they has seen.

Thoughts on today’s readings

Lent, which begins in a few days on Ash Wednesday, was traditionally a time for reconciliation, a time to make peace with our neighbours  and our enemies, a time to make our peace with God – heaven knows, we are going to need some of that this year. One word in our first reading for today stands out, and that word is ‘mercy’: Paul writes, ‘It is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, and therefore we do not lose heart.’

God whom we call Father knows us: there is no need for pretence, for putting on a mask. His purpose is to save us rather than to judge us. We, his Church are entrusted with God’s work, and are called to reflect in who we are the mercy and love we have received and to be ministers of mercy and reconciliation in his world.

One person I have been very much aware of in these past days is a rather short man, born a Jew in Eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Zelenski is the president of Ukraine, an actor for whom television became real life when the voters of his country chose him as their head of state, a sign of their impatience with the corruption of their professional politicians.

In these last days he has become no longer a person playing a role but the voice of his country’s resistance. I do not understand what he is saying, but in his face and in his voice I see someone who understands he is going to be killed for who he is.

When Jesus took his disciples to the mountain to pray he was transfigured with his Father’s glory, so that they saw for the first time who he really was. Their response was one of fear, and Peter could only babble about making shelters; they told no-one what they had seen. Who would have believed them?

St. Luke’s account makes it plain Jesus knew he must go from there to fulfil his ministry and be killed. There would be no mercy in Jerusalem for the Son of God, not from his own people, not from the invaders from Rome.

And yet we are here this morning because he lives, and is alive in his Church: a refuge, a shelter and a home, a community of people who have received his mercy, who are called to serve God’s people and tend their wounds.

The little boy, Leo, loved and celebrated, who knows only the unconditional love of his family and today has everything he needs, will one day have to make his way in the world as it is.

His baptism is a sign of our faith that he will never make that journey alone, but as God’s dear child, a brother in Jesus Christ,

With sisters and brothers across the whole earth, that he will know his life is not a random accident, but that he has his unique calling and purpose, and that his is the delight of his heavenly Father, who does not stand in judgement, but is always waiting for us to return home.

 

 

20th February 2022. 2nd Sunday before Lent.

Prayer for today:

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

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

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

 Readings:

Revelation 4

A door stood open in heaven, and a voice said, ‘Come; I will show you what must come to pass.’ And so in the Spirit I was in heaven; there was a throne and one upon the throne like jasper and carnelian. Twenty four elders in crowns and white robes sat on thrones. Lightning and thunder came from the throne, and seven torches burned before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne a crystal sea.

Around the throne were four living creatures, one like a lion, one like an ox, one like an eagle, and one like a human figure. They had each six wings, and eyes within and without, and day and night they sing, ‘Holy is the Lord God, the almighty, who was, who is, and is to come.’

And as the living creatures gave praise to God, the elders fell before the one on the throne, casting their crowns before the throne and singing, ‘Lord you are worthy to receive glory, honour and power; you created all things, and  by your will they exist and were created.

65 Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed.

O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.

Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.

Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.

By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea:

Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power:

Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.

They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens: thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.

Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it.

10 Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof.

11 Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.

12 They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.

13 The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.

 Luke 8:22-25

Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and told them to take him across the lake. As they sailed he fell asleep. A gale swept down the lake, and the boat filled with water, and they were in peril.

The disciples woke Jesus , shouting, ‘Master, we are perishing!’

He awoke, and rebuked the wind and waves, and there was calm. He turned to the disciples and asked, ‘Where is your faith?’

They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who is this? He commands the wind and waves and they obey him.’

 Thoughts on today’s readings

This Sunday, once again, the action from the reading for the gospel takes place in a boat, on the lake, in a world which was familiar to the first disciples and where they felt at home.

Once again they did as Jesus asked: this time setting off across the lake, and once again their understanding and their expectations were  completely overwhelmed.

Gales are a common event on the lake, and the fear of the disciples was well-founded. They had a healthy respect for and fear of the sea: it provided them with the means to live; it  could also kill them and its power was entirely beyond their control.

No wonder they cried out to their master as he slept soundly in their boat, slammed by the waves and filling with water.

‘Where is the God you have been teaching us about?’ they seemed to ask.

‘Where is your faith?’ Jesus asked, in other words, ‘Surely I am right here, with you, in the boat,’ and at his word the storm ceased and there was a calm.

Who but God could command the wind and the waves? The disciples understood this, but then who was this in the boat with them?  The only explanation was one that made them afraid: this man  Jesus, their master, could only be ….God!

The first reading presents us with a very different vision of being in the presence of God, but again one which the writer struggles to put into words. Trying to describe the glory of God is not only beyond his experience but also beyond what language can convey.

He uses the image of semi-precious stones known to him: jasper and carnelian, to describe the beauty of the one on the throne, he uses imagery of the courts of the ancient world to describe the elders around the throne, now sitting, now prostrate before the throne.

His description of the flames which are the seven spirits of God recall the description in Isaiah 11 of the sevenfold  manifestation of the Spirit in its perfection:

The Spirit of the Lord; the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of understanding, the spirit of counsel, the spirit of power, the spirit of knowledge and the spirit of the fear of the Lord.

This is the Spirit, the prophet foretold, which would rest on the Lord’s anointed, his Messiah, and empower him in its perfection.

Here then is a vision off that Lord in his glory, and of the joy of those in his presence.

Back in the early part of January I was, as you know, contacted by a producer wanting to film the way we celebrate Mothering Sunday at Whitley Chapel.

I agreed, but there was always some doubt in the back of my mind. Would people come? Was it reasonable to ask them to come? What sort of day might we expect in the middle of February? Would we really be able to reach right round the Church?

I had no doubts about the amazing Claire Nixon and knew she was perfect be interviewed by Jill about the simnel cake and its story, but I have to say I was overwhelmed by what happened at Whitley Chapel yesterday.

Not only was the Church filled with people of all ages from our community, but when we went outside we reached right round the Church.

After the days of wind and rain, we went outside into a rather grey February day, but there was a calm – no wind at all.

It was in that calm that we held hands around our Church  and sang, ‘Alleluia, praise the Lord!’ and were able with sincerity to sing, ‘Thank you, Lord, for this fine day!’

The Lord blessed us yesterday and for me it was the reassurance that we should never be afraid to be doing the Lord’s work.

He is always there, even in the storm, and in the night of our doubts and fears.

Our prayers are never wasted, even when it is not clear to us that there is an answer.

Yesterday was a glimpse for me of the people of God in their beauty, and the Lord was in our midst and, I have to say, the cake was delicious!

 

 

 

13th February 2022. Third Sunday before Lent.

Prayer for today:

Almighty God,  who alone can bring order to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity: give your people grace so to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, among the many changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , 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 about this time we remember Emily Herold, Nancy Robson, Alistair Robson, Calum Stobbs and Doris Smith.

On Saturday 19th February a team will be filming at St. Helen’s Church for the BBC programme ‘Jill Halfpenny’s Easter Walks.’

They hope to film the ‘Clipping of the Church’ which we usually do on Mothering Sunday.  We will need really good support;

if you can be there at 11 a.m. that would be great.

There will be hot drinks and cake.

 

Readings:

1 Corinthians 5: 12-20

If it is proclaimed that Christ is raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?

If there is no resurrection, if Christ is not raised from the dead,  our proclamation is in vain and your faith is in vain.

If so then we have misrepresented God in testifying that he raised Christ from the dead. If Christ has not been raised your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we of all people are most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruit of those who have died.

 

Psalm 1

  1. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Luke 6: 17-26

Jesus stood on a plain, and a great crowd of disciples, and of people from Judea and Jerusalem , and from the areas of Tyre and Sidon, came to hear him and to be cured of diseases.

Those with unclean spirits were cured; the crowd tried to touch him, for power came out from him and all were healed.

Looking at his disciples, Jesus said,

‘Blessed are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger: you will be filled.

Blessed are you who weep: for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you and persecute you because of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for so their ancestors did to the prophets: surely your reward is great in heaven.

Woe to you who are rich: you have received your consolation.

Woe to you who are filled: you will be hungry.

Woe to you that laugh now: you will mourn and weep.

Woe to you when all speak well of you, for so their ancestors spoke of the false prophets.’

Thoughts on today’s readings;

In 1944, the centre of my mother’s native city of Le Havre was destroyed by aerial bombardment. The 19th century town hall and many of the city’s records were destroyed, along with the surrounding streets, the docks were flattened, and there was heavy loss of life. As a child, I remember the shells of bombed out churches and the empty lots. A decision was taken to rebuild Le Havre as a very modern city, with wide boulevards flanked by concrete apartment blocks looking out over the ocean. Then we felt it looked rather brutal; nowadays the architecture is admired. The new Church of St. Joseph looks like a rocket aiming for the heavens.

Many cities in Europe had to consider the same question: how do we rebuild? What will the future look like, literally?

In Coventry, the ruins of the mediaeval cathedral still stand alongside its new successor, though the old streets of the city now exist only in photographs.

In Dresden, a baroque skyline was recreated meticulously in the 1990s.

In some cities, like Rome, layer upon layer of history lies under  the feet of those who walk its streets.

The people who came to hear Jesus hoped for change, for the renewal of the kingdom of Judea by God’s messiah, but were they perhaps expecting  Jerusalem  with improvements rather than a new Jerusalem altogether?

What did they make of Jesus’ radical and challenging words?

Were his words designed to shock, to shake them up?

What is clear is that they are consistent with the message throughout St. Luke’s gospel, from Mary’s hymn in Magnificat right though to the description in Acts of the early Church, where the believers held all that they possessed in common.

It is a declaration that God favours the poor and the humble, and will fill the hungry, and will send away the mighty and the rich.

It promises persecution for those who stand beside the Son of God. Yet they will be blessed, joyful, in contrast with the condemnation of those who merely seek the approval of society and are happy to support the status quo.

I feel very strongly that two years ago the world as I knew it came to an end with the first lockdown and in a sense I feel I am still grieving for what will perhaps not return.

The question is, what now?

Slogans like ‘Build back better’ have been heard, but what do they mean?

The question is live, real and urgent for the Churches as much as for anyone, and perhaps the answers will not be ones that are easy to hear.

For years now Churches have, following the example of Christians in North America, been amongst those feeding the hungry through food banks, and have always worked to serve the poor.

Now in Northumberland there is a fuel bank to help people keep warm at home.

It is not hard to find places where this gospel can be applied, but what does God want for us? Where is Jesus leading us?

His words to those who came to hear him were profoundly uncomfortable, but they did not arise from divine wrath, but rather from divine love and compassion.

He healed their sick and rid the possessed of their demons.

As St. Paul reminds his readers, the Christian model, the Christian paradigm, is not mere survival, but death and resurrection.

Let us then really listen to the word of God, for it is life.

Let us receive it with joy and in faith, that it may find in us a fertile field, where it may grow and flourish and multiply, good news in every generation.

 

 

 

 

6th February 2022.  Fourth Sunday before Lent.

Collect from the Queen’s Accession service:

O God, who providest for thy people by thy power, and rulest over them in love: vouchsafe  so to bless thy servant our Queen, that under her this nation may be wisely governed, and thy Church may serve thee in all godly quietness; and grant that she being devoted to thee with her whole heart, and persevering in good works to the end, may, by thy guidance, come to thy everlasting kingdom, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Among those who are sick we pray for  Christina  Baldwin, Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , 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 about this time we remember Mary Caird, Elizabeth Dixon,  Cyril Sparke,  John Johnson, Edward Burn, Roy Pearce and Calum Stobbs.

 On Saturday 19th February a team will be filming at St. Helen’s Church for the BBC programme ‘Jill Halfpenny’s Easter Walks.’

They hope to film the ‘Clipping of the Church’ which we usually do on Mothering Sunday.  We will need really good support;

if you can be there at 11 a.m. that would be great.

There will be hot drinks and cake

Readings:

Isaiah 6: 1-8

In the year King Uzziah died the prophet had a vision of the Lord in the temple. The Lord sat, high and mighty, upon a throne, and the hem of his robe filled the temple.  Around him flew six-winged seraphs, who called out in praise, ‘Holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.’ Their voices shook the temple, and it was filled with smoke. The prophet cried in woe,’I am lost: I am a man of unclean lips; I live among a people of unclean lips, yet I have seen the king, the Lord of hosts.’

One seraph flew to the prophet, carrying a live coal from the altar, and touched his lips, and  said, ‘Now your sin is blotted out, and your guilt has departed.’ The voice of the Lord called out, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ the prophet replied, ‘Here I am; send me.’

 Psalm 138

I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving kindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.

All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O Lord, when they hear the words of thy mouth.

Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory of the Lord.

Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.

 

 

Luke 5: 1-11

Jesus stood by the Sea of Galilee; the crowd pressed on him to hear the word of God. There were two boats on the shore; the fishermen were mending their nets. Jesus got into one boat, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat in the boat and taught the crowds. When he had finished speaking, Jesus said to Simon,

‘Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.’

Simon replied, ‘We have been working all night and have caught nothing. But if you say so, I will let down the nets.’

When the had done this, they caught so many fish that the nets began to break. They signalled to their partners in the other boat to help them. They filled both boats, so that they began to sink.

When Simon saw this he fell down before Jesus and said, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ All were amazed at this catch. With Simon  were James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.

 Thoughts on this morning’s readings.

This morning’s readings present us with  two callings, two vocations if you like: Isaiah in the temple and Simon at the lakeside.

Simon Peter was  a fisherman, someone whose life depended on his knowledge of the waters he fished, on the people he worked with, on his strength and experience.

Even in modern times, the fishermen on that lake go out at night: it is the most profitable time to work.

On that night Simon and his friends had caught nothing; there was nothing to do but mend their gear and wait for another night to fall. Simon was impressed by Jesus: in this account he addressed Jesus not as ‘teacher’, like the others, but as ‘master’.

He had thought he was the one doing Jesus a favour, putting his boat at his disposal so that he could preach without being mobbed by the crowd.

However, Jesus had not chosen his boat at random.

He instructed Simon to go out in daylight and fish, in other words to do something which would have seemed pointless, but Simon listened and did as he was asked.

And now, with the nets filled with this miraculous catch, Simon realized that someone of truly awesome power had been in his boat, not just a teacher but that here was the power and presence of God.

As a fisherman he understood how this was not something which could be explained away, and that God was placing his hand on his shoulder, and he was terrified.

‘Leave me Lord,’ he said, ‘I am a sinner,’ in other words just an ordinary man whose daily life was about work and survival.

But Jesus had called Simon, and so he and his friends left their boats, and the life they knew, to follow Jesus.

Simon became Peter, the rock, and would in time not only  preach and do wonders in Jesus’ name but, like his master, follow him to prison and to his death.

In the calling of Isaiah we read a similar impact on the one being called with the experience of that realization of being face to face with the power and presence of God.

Though the temple was the greatest building in Jerusalem, the hem of the Lord’s robe filled it, and the otherworldly creatures who praised him in their thunderous voices added to the fearsome nature of this vision.

For if the Lord was sitting on a throne, it meant that he had come in judgment on his people, and he was going to send Isaiah as his messenger to pronounce the Lord’s judgment because they had ignored his words, and their fate: that they kingdom would be destroyed and they would be scattered.

No wonder Isaiah was terrified and filled with a sense of his inadequacy for this task. Who was he, that he should look upon the Lord of hosts, and live?

But in his actions God shows that it not about us, and not about our perceptions of ourselves.  It is God who judges, but it is also God who redeems. In this account God sends the mighty seraph to touch the lips of Isaiah with a coal from the altar as sign that God has wiped the slate clean and so Isaiah is able to say, ‘Here  I am: send me.’

These passages may seem remote to us, but is that true?

Surely we too live our lives in sin: that is, we live as though we were going to go on for ever, accountable only to ourselves.

Surely we too consume what the earth provides without considering where all this has come from and what will be left when we are gone.

Surely we too make our decisions based on our need to survive and not guided by the word of God or the awareness of his glory.

When reading this morning’s gospel I was reminded of the contrast of this story with the truly horrific images from the Bay Biscay of the aftermath of the activities of one of the leviathans of today: a huge factory trawler. There on the surface of the sea lie countless hundreds of thousands of dead fish, hoovered up, and then dumped like so much rubbish.

There for all to see is the cost of our obsession with profit and the myth of cheap food: there is a price to be paid.

There are plenty of voices raised by the prophets of today, and Church has its voice too but, like Isaiah and Peter, we are often rightly conscious of being unequal to the task, even unworthy, and perhaps afraid.

But if we live with the knowledge that we are accountable, and  there is a reckoning and a judgement, we serve  God who redeems and provides the means of reconciliation.

The book of Isaiah continues with the promise of Messiah, the description of the Lord’s suffering servant, and the promise of restoration for Israel and Judah.

The gospel proclaimed by Peter was one of the mighty deeds done by God, an invitation to live in him and with him, and of that joy surpassing all the hardships of life.

We have a gospel to proclaim and to live out, and Christ calls us to follow him.

 

30th January 2022. 4th Sunday of Epiphany. Candlemas.

Prayer for today

God our creator, who in the beginning commanded the light to shine out of darkness; we pray that the light of the glorious Gospel of  Christ may dispel the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, shine into the hearts of all your people, and reveal the knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

We give thanks with Victoria and Roger Rutherford and their families for the safe birth of their son Leo Thomas Hector.

Among those who are sick we pray for Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , 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

Robert Purvis, J. Angus Leybourne,  Freddie Wilson, Ralph Curry, Alan Simpson,  Gillian Nixon and Margaret Huddlestone.

Readings for today:

1Corinthians 13: 1-13

St.Paul’s sublime chapter on love:

I may have the voice of an angel and gifts of prophecy; I may have faith sufficient to move mountains, and sacrifice my very life, but if I am without love, it is all worthless.

Love endures: it is patient and kind, it is not jealous, does not seek its own advantage. It takes no pleasure in wrongdoing , but only in the truth. It never loses faith or hope.

Love never ends. Our prophecy and knowledge will pass away: our knowledge and prophecy are incomplete. When completeness comes, the partial will pass away.

When I was a child, I thought and behaved like a child; when I became an adult, I put away childish things. For now we see only reflections in a mirror: then we will see face to face.

Now I know in part; then I will know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three abide: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of them is love.

Psalm 48

  1. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.

Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.

God is known in her palaces for a refuge.

For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together.

They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away.

Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail.

Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.

As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah.

We have thought of thy loving kindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.

10 According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness.

11 Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.

12 Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.

13 Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.

14 For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.

Luke 2: 22-40

The time came for the purification of Mary and Joseph; they brought Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord, as the Law prescribes, ‘Every first-born male will be designated as holy to the Lord,  and to offer sacrifice, ‘a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.’

Now in Jerusalem there was a righteous and devout man called Simeon. The Holy Spirit rested on him and it had been revealed to him that he would see the Lord’s Messiah before he died. The Spirit guided him to the temple at that moment. He took the child Jesus in his arms and blessed God saying, “Lord, now let your servant go in peace, as you promised. My eyes have seen the salvation you have prepared for all nations: a light for the gentiles and the glory of Israel your people.”

The child’s parents were amazed; Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, ‘This child will cause many to fall and to rise in Israel, a sign that will be opposed – a sword will pierce your own soul.’

There was also a prophet named Anna, a widow for many years, who spent her days in the temple in prayer and fasting. She came at that moment, praising God and speaking of the child to all who looked for the redemption of Israel.

When they had fulfilled the commandments of the law, his parents returned with Jesus to  their home in Nazareth. He grew in strength and wisdom, and the favour of the Lord was upon him.

 

Thoughts on today’s readings.

The birth of a child should be an occasion of great joy and celebration. There is the joy of the mother because she has brought this person, this life, into the world, and of the father, as he meets his child for the first time.

We share the joy of Tori and Roger today for the gift of their son Leo, and that of their families.

I remember the birth, 30 years ago, of our oldest child John. I remember it as a time of great activity and anticipation, of joy and excitement. I remember it as a time of wonder and love.

I don’t think we speculated too much about what the future might hold: it was enough that he was there at the end of Carole’s labour and the drama of his birth.

St. Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus underlines the message that he has come from God. The response of his parents is the conventional one for faithful Jews: every first-born belongs to the Lord and so they present him to the Lord in his temple and offer the prescribed sacrifice.

Because this is St. Luke’s gospel, the presence of the Holy Spirit is very clear. The Spirit does not yet rest upon this little child but, as once the Spirit came down upon Mary so that she conceived the son of the most high, and inspired her to proclaim God’s good news in Magnificat, so now the same Spirit is present in the temple, revealing to faithful Simeon that the saviour of the world is here, and inspiring faithful Anna to tell God’s good news to those who longed for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Already, however, darker shadows lie across the road ahead, as Simeon warns Mary of the trials and hostility her son will face, and the suffering she, as his mother, will have to endure.

But how to endure, and where to find the strength? How can we be equal to the crisis, if and when it comes?

St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth about the gifts we receive from God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We should desire the higher gifts: greater than prophecy and the working of wonders, more enduring than tongues of ecstasy, are faith, hope, and above all, love. The word used, agape, describes not the love of passion, but of true friendship, generous and unselfish.

It dos not calculate or manipulate.

It is love alone which, like pure gold, does not rust or tarnish with age, or lose its essential quality.

It alone enables us not to lose heart, to endure, never to lose hope.

This is the love of our God whom Jesus describes as a father, standing every day, looking and waiting for his foolish lost son to return.

This is the love of Jesus himself, giving his life to save not only his friends, but also those who hated him and nailed him to the cross.

It is because Mary loves her son that she does not abandon him when his disciples ran away but stays, faithful even in her powerlessness. And so she is the model for all believers and disciples, and is indeed blessed.

The readings today illustrate the power and endurance of love.

Simeon and Anna were old, at the end of their lives, yet it was their love of God which enabled them not to lose hope, not to lose heart, but to believe; they received their reward and their names live in God’s word and their words remain with us today.

May we desire the higher gifts, and pray the Holy Spirit to equip us with all that we need.

Then we will not fail in the times of trial, and know that in love there is a meaning and purpose not only for our own lives, but for the life of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lord of the dance

 

I danced in the morning when the world was begun

And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun

And I came from heaven and I danced on the earth

At Bethlehem I had my birth.

 

Dance, then wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the dance, said he,

And I’ll lead you on wherever you may be

And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

 

I  danced for the scribe and the Pharisee

But they would not dance and they wouldn’t follow me

I danced for the fishermen , for James and John,

They came with me and the dance went on.

 

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame,

The holy people said it was a shame.

They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high

And they left me there on a cross to die.

 

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black

It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back.

They buried my body and they thought I’d gone,

But I am the dance and I still go on.

They cut me down and I leap up high

I am the life that’ll never, never die;

I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me:

I am the Lord of the dance, said he.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23rd January 2022. Third Sunday of Epiphany

Prayer for today:

Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Readings:

1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a

A body has many members yet the members, though many, are one body, and so it is with Christ. In one Spirit you were all baptized into one body – Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, and all were made to drink of the one Spirit. The body is not made up of one member but of many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not part of the body,’ it is still part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, then where would be the sense of smell? The eye cannot say to the feet, ‘I do not need you.’

On the contrary, the members of the body that seem weakest are indispensable and are clothed with the greater honour; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. God has so ordered this, giving greater honour to the inferior member, so that there may be no dissension within the body, and that members may have the same care of one another. If one member suffers, all suffer with it. If one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

You are the body of Christ, and individually members of it. God has  appointed in the Church : apostles, prophets, teachers, deeds of power, gifts of healing, leadership, service, tongues. Are all teachers? Or prophets?  Do all work miracles? But strive for the greater gifts.

Psalm 19

1.The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

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.

Luke 4: 14-21

Jesus returned to Galilee filled with the power of the Spirit. Reports of him were heard in all the surrounding country. He taught in their synagogues and was praised  by all.

He returned to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was his custom.

He stood up to read, and was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Finding the verse, he began to read, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the prisoners, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

He rolled up the scroll, returned it to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes were fixed on him, and he began to speak, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

Among those who are sick we pray for Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , 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 about this time we remember

Ella Turnbull, Ronald Duncan, Kenneth Trotter, Tom Walker and John Robert Oliver.

NOTICE:  We have patients at Hexham hospital who have no clothes. Ward staff have asked if I can help. They need large or x-large men’s trousers/ track suit bottoms and tops, and large size clothing for women. Can you help?

Thoughts on today’s readings.

On the first and only occasion I attended an international game of rugby, one of the teams competing was Wales, and I was impressed, not so much by the action on the pitch as by the sound of the Welsh supporters in full song. This was not the ragged and raucous sound of football chants but  something deep and powerful, an instinctive harmony.

For though we may be enthralled by the power and beauty of the voice of a soloist, it is the harmony of the chorale, in the powerful thrilling sound of the Halleluiah  Chorus, that the spirit is stirred and the soul is moved.

St. Paul’s wonderful words on the essential unity of the Christian community, the body of Christ, speak to me not simply about Christian unity but about the beauty and wonder of the human family in its almost infinite variety, diversity, and wealth of talent and expression.

We are in the week of prayer for Christian Unity and, though there is only one Church building in Hexhamshire, we are part of something far greater and have been marked and influenced on our journeys of faith  by others from different traditions.

It was from Methodists that I learnt the freedom and joy of extempore prayer, of not being tied to a book, and to understand and respect the ordained ministry of women; it was from Catholics that I discovered the truly world- wide nature of the Church, and from evangelicals the amazing gift of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Our small congregation at St. Helen’s raises its voice in song this morning, and it does so as part of the body of Christ, our prayers and praises  joined to those of God’s people throughout the world and to those of the saints of God in every generation.

In yesterday’s paper there was an article on 15 restaurants across the United Kingdom run by immigrants. It was a celebration of how, from France to Tibet, immigrants have changed and enriched our eating habits. How dull it would be if the leek was our only vegetable, noble though it is.

I like to think that my mother, who came to this country in 1955, made a contribution to its life greater than her success in getting the unsuspecting population of 1950s Newcastle to eat food containing garlic.

It was not one-way traffic: she loved her adopted home and was grateful for all that is good in it, not least in enabling her to study for, and receive a real BA degree, thanks to the Open University.

In Christ we have no reason to fear the other: we bring our gifts and treasures which we may share and, if our hearts and minds are open, may find that we have received riches beyond our hopes and imagining.

God’s Spirit is in my heart,
He has called me and set me apart.
This is what I have to do,
what I have to do.

He sent me to give the Good News to the poor,
Tell prisoners that they are prisoners no more,
Tell blind people that they can see,
And set the downtrodden free
And go tell everyone the news that the Kingdom of God has come,
And go tell everyone the news that the Kingdom of God has come.

Just as the Father sent me,
So I’m sending you out to be
My witnesses throughout the world,
The whole of the world.

 

Don’t carry a load in your pack,

You don’t need two shirts on your back.

A workman can earn his own keep.

Can earn his own keep.

Don’t worry what you have to say,
Don’t worry because on that day
God’s Spirit will speak in your heart,
Will speak in your heart.

 

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.

 

16th January 2022.  2nd Sunday of Epiphany.  Wedding at Cana.

Prayer for today

Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Readings

1 Corinthians 12: 1-11

Paul writes concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit: nobody speaking by the Spirit will say, ‘Jesus is cursed’, and only by the Spirit may one say, ‘Jesus is Lord.’

Though there are many and various gifts and services, they are given by one Spirit and one Lord, and for the good of all.

To one the Spirit may give words of wisdom, and to another words of knowledge, to others faith, and healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, the discernment of spirits, tongues and their interpretation. All these gifts are activated by one and the same Spirit, who chooses to whom they are entrusted.

Verses from Psalm 36

Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.

Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast.

How excellent is thy loving kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.

They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.

For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

10 O continue thy loving kindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.

John 2: 1-11

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited.  The wine ran out, and the mother of  Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus replied, ‘What concern is that to you and me? My hour is not yet come.’ His mother told the servants to carry out Jesus’ instructions. There were six water jars used for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding 20 or 30 gallons. ‘Fill the jars with water,’  Jesus told them. They filled them to the brim. Then he said, ‘Now draw some off and take it to the steward of the wedding.’ When the steward tasted the water, which had turned to wine , he did not know where it came from (though the servants knew) and he called the bridegroom and said, ‘Everyone serves the best wine first, and then the poorer sort once the guests are drunk, but you have kept the good wine until now.’ This was the first sign Jesus did, and revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.

 

Among those who are sick we pray for Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,  Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , 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 about this time we remember Derek Swallow, Freda Chalmers, Constance Wood, Sydney White. Denise Baxter, Eva Dodds, Peter Johnson, George Heslop, Judith Robson and David Leyland.

Thoughts on today’s readings

On the third day: with this introduction we know this is not simply a story about attending a wedding but a phrase resonating about the glory that is to come.

Were Jesus and his disciples late at the wedding?  Is that why there was no wine? We do not know but words of the steward suggest the wine supplied by the bridegroom was not good .

The symbolism in this story underlines that the gospels are written from the perspective of one looking at Christ on the cross and seeking to answer the question, ‘Who is this?’

Why ‘on the third day’? : because it was on the third day that God’s glory was revealed when the power of the grave was broken and Christ was raised from the dead.

Why does Jesus reply to his mother , saying, ‘My hour is not yet come?’ : because it is on the cross that the Father will be glorified in his Son.

Why was the water turned into wine in jars containing water used for the rites of purification? Because it is not by water or through the old covenant that our sins are taken away and that we are cleansed but by the blood of Christ shed upon the cross, that grace which abounds and is ample for the whole world.

Why was Jesus’ first sign and revelation of glory at a wedding?

Because in the covenant of marriage, in the unconditional gift that two people make of themselves to the other, we see a sign of God’s new covenant with his creation. In the person of Jesus Christ, the word of God made flesh, we see the Son of God who gives himself for his people as the bridegroom gives himself to his bride.

The abundant good wine Jesus provided for that wedding,  all 600 gallons of it, finds its echo in the abundance of the gifts of the Spirit which St. Paul describes and which were poured out upon the Church in Corinth.

Wisdom, healing, prophecy, tongues and their interpretation: these all describe a Church filled with the gifts of God.

But reminds his readers that all these gifts come from God alone, and God is one and not divided, and they are given, not for the benefit of the individual but for the building up of the whole people.

These readings assure us that God has in Jesus Christ given his people abundant gifts, and that they are what was needed by them, whether wine for thirsty guests, or healing for the sick, wisdom or prophecy to guide them.

We come together in trust that the same Jesus Christ is among us today, and pray and ask and trust that he will provide us with all that is needed, for our own service and for the building up of God’s kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 

9th January 2022. First Sunday of Epiphany. Baptism of Christ.

Prayer for today

Eternal Father, who at the baptism of Jesus revealed him to be your Son, anointing him with the Holy Spirit; grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit, that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

 Readings for today:

Isaiah 43: 1-7

The prophet speaks the Lord’s words to his people. He calls them by the name of their forefather Jacob, to whom the Lord gave the name Israel: Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I called you by name and you are mine. Though you pass through waters and walk through fire you will not be overwhelmed, for I will be with you.

I am the Lord your God, your Saviour; I gave Egypt as a ransom for you, because you are precious in my sight, and I love you.

Do not be afraid: I am with you. I will bring your offspring from the four corners of the earth, your sons and your daughters from far away – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.

Psalm 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire.

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

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

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

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

Luke 3: 16-17, 21-22

John was in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance; the people were filled with expectation, wondering if he might be the Messiah.  John said to them, ‘I baptize you with water; one more powerful than me is coming. I am not worthy to unloose his sandal. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. On his threshing floor he will gather the wheat into his granary, and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.’

When all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized, the Holy Spirit came down on him in the form of a dove. A voice spoke from heaven, ’You are my beloved Son. With you I am well pleased.’

Among those who are sick we pray for Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , 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 Brian Henricks, and also Mary Atkinson, Josephine Urwin, Phyllis Duncan and Geoff  Brooker   whose year’s mind is about this time.

Thoughts on today’s readings.

We live in the digital age, and increasingly we are expected to conduct all our dealings with the agencies of government online, using automated systems.

Recently I tried to communicate with DVLA, which required me to use my National Insurance number. It’s something I am able to remember, and has always served to remind me of my relationship to those agencies: I am just a number to them.

To my distress, my NI number was rejected by the online process and I was stumped.  The chances of speaking to a person on the phone were pretty slim and for a brief moment I had a ridiculous thought: who am I without this number?

I am pleased to report I found another online service called ‘chat’ which enabled me to engage with someone with a name who kindly sorted me out.

The reading from Isaiah reminds us that  to our God we are never numbers but names. God gave Jacob the name, the nickname if you prefer, ‘Israel’ after he had wrestled all night with him. The name means ‘He struggles with God’.

God sees his people as they are, wilful and argumentative, and loves them and saves them, and will bring them home.

For are they, are we, not made in the image of the one who gave his name to Moses as ‘I am’?

St. Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the impact of the coming of the Holy Spirit: this is the writer of Acts, who gives the dramatic account of the first day of Pentecost, and coming of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus after his Ascension.

In this account of the baptism of Jesus we see on the one hand Jesus’ identifying with his people, coming with them to receive the baptism of John for repentance but then, while he is praying, receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, a sacrifice, and the proclamation that he is the beloved Son of God.

Until now he had lived 30 years of obscurity in the unimportant village of Nazareth (‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ asked Nicodemus}. Until now he was thought to be the son of Joseph, who traced his ancestry back to David. From now on he would be revealed as the Word of God in human form.

As I read this passage I am reminded of the story of the late Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu.

As a young man, he believed his future lay as a schoolteacher. The debasement and devaluation of the education for black children by the government of South Africa drove him towards the Church, where he discovered his vocation as a priest.

Here he challenged that government’s racial policies and, in the Church, provided a space where all could meet on an equal footing. Later, after the end of white rule, he worked to bring together those who had been enemies in a spirit of truth and reconciliation, and did not hesitate to hold the new political world to account for its failures.

There was nothing in this small black man to suggest that he would one day be instrumental in bringing justice to his people but I believe it is clear that he was doing the work of the kingdom of God and that, as a Christian and a priest, prayer was the foundation of his life and his work.

We enter a year  where suffering , injustice, fear , sadness and uncertainty are as present as ever but I am certain that, unseen and unknown, men and women are being called by the God who knows them and loves them to bring his children together and to bring them home.

 

 

2nd January 2022. 2nd Sunday of Christmas (Epiphany)

Prayer for today.

O God, who by the leading of a star manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: mercifully grant that we, who know you now by faith, may at last behold your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ your son our Lord. Amen.

mong those who are sick we pray for Lorraine Dodd,  Julie Austin, Lucas Santo, Anne-Marie Allan,   Kathleen Lee, Carol McKendrick, Roy Walker, Stuart Bell, Maggie Bennett , 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 Brian Henricks, and also Clarence White, James White, Fred Howden and Margaret Nieuwland  whose year’s mind is about this time.

 

Readings;

Isaiah 60: 1-6

A prophecy for Jerusalem, which lies prostrate after the disasters which have befallen her: Arise  and shine! Get up from the ground, for your light has risen: the glory of God has risen upon you. Though thick darkness covers the earth, the glory of God will appear over you. Nations and kings will come to the brightness of your dawn. Look! See them coming to you, carrying your sons and daughters to you. Then you shall see, and be radiant with joy. The wealth of nations shall be brought to you by sea, and on a multitude of camels. From Sheba and  Midian they will come, bringing gold and frankincense, and proclaim the Lord’s praises.

 

Verses from Psalm 72

 Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son.

He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.

The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.

He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.

They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.

In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.

10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.

11 Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.

12 For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.

13 He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.

14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

 

Matthew 2: 1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, when Herod was king, wise men came to Jerusalem asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? We have observed his star rising, and have come to pay him homage.’  This made Herod, and all of Jerusalem , afraid. He sent for the chief priests and scribes and asked them where Messiah was to be born. ‘In Judea, in Bethelehem,’ they replied, ‘As the prophet has written, “You Bethlehem, are not least in Judea, for from you will come one who will be shepherd over my people Israel.”’

Herod spoke privately to the wise men, asking precisely when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Search diligently for the child. When you find him, send me word, that I too may come and worship him.’

So they set out, and the star went before them and stopped over the house where the child was.  They were overwhelmed with joy; they entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. They knelt before him and presented their gifts of gold, of frankincense and myrrh. They were warned in a dream not to return to Herod and returned to their country by another road.

 

 

Thoughts on today’s readings

The passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel contrasts the joy and determination of those who recognised God’s wonderful work in the birth of Jesus with the fear and perhaps indifference of those who did not.

The prophecy of Isaiah was to a city in ruins, stripped of her wealth and power and even of her children by war.

The Jerusalem of Herod would not have recognised that description: the temple had been rebuilt under the patronage of Herod, and was served by priests, though they owed their titles to the goodwill of the Roman authorities.

It was all a long way from Isaiah’s vision of the Lord restoring Zion, and the arrival of the wise men provoked not joy, but fear.

Those whom Herod consulted knew their bibles and could quote the prophecies, yet none of them came to Bethlehem to see this wonderful thing which was come to pass.

Pagan astrologers bowed before him and brought him their treasures, for if Jerusalem could not see the light of God which had risen over it, the heavens themselves had revealed that  glory to those who watched and waited and looked for its appearing.

The day dawns this morning at the start of another year marked by uncertainty and foreboding but it is the season of Christmas and we have celebrated the fulfilment of God’s faithful promise.

To those who believe on his name the light has shone and joy is come into the world. Let us come in adoration, rejoice, and leave anxiety aside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev Patterson's report 2017
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Vicar's report 2019
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