Upper Hanover St, Sheffield S3 7RQ // 0114 230 7252

Sunday 29th August – 14th Sunday after Pentecost – 13th after Trinity

WORDS OF WELCOME

Welcome to the last of our collections of prayer, readings and music suitable for the Sundays during the closure of St Andrew’s URC in Sheffield. Next week, on 5th September, our church will be opening again for live worship. Because our choir is still on holiday, I will be taking a short break in order to travel, and to visit friends and family. Thank you for your company for the last eighteen months. I hope you have derived as much spiritual nourishment from sharing such a rich wealth of worship from so many parts of the world as I have from bringing them to you here. So, for the last time, I welcome you to our worship selection. Today is the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, and this week’s Reflection on the Gospel has been provided by our friend, Chris Limb. Next week’s service will be held in our church on Upper Hanover Street, Sheffield, S3 7RQ at 10.45am, when the preacher will be Revd Canon Adrian Alker, formerly vicar of St Mark’s Church in Broomhill, Sheffield.

OPENING SENTENCES

The Lord is my light and my salvation:
He will guide, uphold and strengthen me.
This is the day which the Lord hath made:
Let us rejoice, and be glad in it!

INTROIT HYMN – Lord of our life and God of our salvation (tune: Iste Confessor) led by the choir of York Minster

LORD of our life, and God of our salvation,
Star of our night, and hope of every nation,
Hear and receive thy Church’s supplication,
Lord God Almighty.

2
See round thine ark the hungry billows curling;
See how thy foes their banners are unfurling;
Lord, while their darts envenomed they are hurling,
Thou canst preserve us.

3
Lord, thou canst help when earthly armour faileth,
Lord, thou canst save when deadly sin assaileth;
Christ, o’er thy rock nor death nor hell prevaileth;
Grant us thy peace, Lord.

4
Peace in our hearts, our evil thoughts assuaging;
Peace in thy Church, where brothers are engaging;
Peace, when the world its busy war is waging:
Calm thy foes’ raging.

5
Grant us thy help till backward they are driven,
Grant them thy truth, that they may be forgiven;
Grant peace on earth, and, after we have striven,
Peace in thy heaven.

COLLECT

Almighty God,
who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the LORD your God with which I am charging you. You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today? But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.

HYMN – Let us build a house where love can dwell (All are welcome)

EPISTLE – James 1:17-27

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfilment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 15

Domine, quis habitabit?

LORD, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle : or who shall rest upon thy holy hill?

2 Even he that leadeth an uncorrupt life : and doeth the thing which is right, and speaketh the truth from his heart.

3 He that hath used no deceit in his tongue, nor done evil to his neighbour : and hath not slandered his neighbour.

4 He that setteth not by himself, but is lowly in his own eyes : and maketh much of them that fear the Lord.

5 He that sweareth unto his neighbour, and disappointeth him not : though it were to his own hindrance.

6 He that hath not given his money upon usury : nor taken reward against the innocent.

7 Whoso doeth these things : shall never fall.

GLORIA

GOSPEL – Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

HYMN – Blest are the pure in heart (tune: Franconia) led by the choir of Brentwood Cathedral

REFLECTION – Chris Limb

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

I have a confession to make. As I was reading through this morning’s Gospel passage, I developed something of a wry grin on my face. You see, I don’t know about anyone else, but ever since the start of this pandemic, Pat and I have developed a fixation, when it comes to cleanliness. We always carry hand sanitisers whenever we leave the house (fully masked, of course). We’ve also developed the habit of spraying one another with antiseptic spray whenever we return home and wiping down all the groceries we bring home, before packing them away. Two years ago, I would never have imagined going to such extraordinary lengths, but hey – these are strange times! However, it was only as I was reading through today’s Gospel passage, (and it’s a passage I’ve read many times before,) that I suddenly realised that Pat and I seem to be copying these Pharisees (the guys who Jesus is pointing the finger at), and if that doesn’t give you something to think about, I don’t know what will!

Of course, there’s very little comparison. For one thing, those first century religious leaders weren’t really trying to cope with a global pandemic. Or were they? Perhaps they believed they were. Not an actual pandemic, of course, but they did seem to be preoccupied with the need to be protected from spiritual or moral ‘uncleanness’. They felt it was important to distance themselves from most other people; the regular folk who perhaps weren’t as rigorous in maintaining the high standards they sought to preserve. They believed that they needed to look the part. Keeping up appearances was paramount for these guys. The only issue was (as Jesus pointed out) they’d missed a bit! A very important ‘bit’ at that! They’d somehow managed to overlook the need to ‘clean their inner selves’; their attitudes, motives and thoughts.

And therein lay the problem. Physical, outward cleanliness and smartness is all well and good, but if it isn’t reflected by the same commitment to inner cleanliness, then it’s really a little like bolting the stable door long after the horse has disappeared over the horizon. Or, if you like, using pristine cutlery and beautiful, fine china crockery to serve nasty, mouldy food that really belongs in the bin. Indeed, it’s a point Jesus made elsewhere:

“You Pharisees clean the outside of cups and dishes, but on the inside, you are greedy and evil. You fools! Didn’t God make both the outside and the inside?” (Luke 11:39-40 CEV).

Now this whole situation is triggered at the beginning of the passage by a team of religious experts, who have come all the way from Jerusalem to investigate reports about this controversial ‘healer-come-teacher’, and they’re questioning Jesus as to why his disciples aren’t washing their hands in the ritually prescribed manner (that’s not to say they aren’t washing their hands at all; just not in the way they thought they ought to).

It needs to be said that the disciples aren’t doing anything wrong; meaning they’re not breaking any of the Laws, as laid down by Moses in the first five books of the Old Testament. What they are doing is failing to comply with the so-called ‘Tradition of the Elders’; the thoughts and interpretations compiled over the ages by generations of scholars and scribes, which (and here’s the rub) had so grown in importance as to be considered equal to the actual Scriptures themselves. Now, what these ‘trouble-shooting’ clerics are trying to do here is to accuse Jesus of urging his followers to deliberately break the actual Law of Moses. By implying that the Law and Tradition are one and the same, they’re actually twisting the facts. We’d probably call it ‘gaslighting’ today! They’re trying to manipulate and provoke Jesus. But of course, Jesus isn’t going to play their games. Instead, he goes to the heart of what’s really going on by quoting from Isaiah:

‘The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said, “All of you praise me with your words, but you never really think about me. It is useless for you to worship me, when you teach rules made up by humans.”’ (Mark 7:6-7 CEV).

And in the following verses, Jesus begins to spell out some the ways in which these religious ‘legal-eagles’ have found ‘loopholes’ in the Law enabling them to avoid technically breaking the ‘letter of the law’ while at the same time riding roughshod over the ‘spirit of the Law’. The example he quotes is a clever way in which people could be allowed to get out of providing for their aged parents, by claiming the money they’d have spent looking after Mum and Dad had been ‘earmarked’ for the Temple, thereby ‘legally’ breaking the fifth commandment:

“Honour your father and mother.”

The words “double standards” and “hypocrisy” come to mind; some of the very things Jesus could not abide!

And he takes the argument beyond the realm of ceremonial ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’, and literally goes to the heart of the matter. By this time, he’s no longer with the Scribes and Pharisees or, indeed, with the crowds. Now he’s ‘opening up’ to his disciples as he says these words:

“What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. Out of your hearts come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder …    All these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.” (Mark 7:20-21, 23 CEV).

These are hard words. The enemy within. Or as the American animator and satirist, Walt Kelly, once wrote:

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

And if I could paraphrase Abraham Lincoln:

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can fool God none of the time”.

And that’s really the point, isn’t it? Something which involves each one of us. There are no exceptions. We can convince other people (and we may convince ourselves) that we’re really decent sorts; that we’ve never really done anything wrong. And yet the truth is God sees absolutely everything about us. He’s sees beyond all the masks we wear to impress other people. He sees right to our very core. He understands us completely.

All of this would be very disconcerting indeed if it wasn’t for the fact – the incredible, world-changing fact, that God loves us despite all our faults. He loves us.

As the presbyterian minister and author, Richard Halverson, once said:

“There is nothing you can do to make God love you more! There is nothing you can do to make God love you less! His Love is unconditional. Impartial. Everlasting. Infinite. Perfect.”

And that really embodies the entire Gospel message in a nutshell.

As we heard Jesus say in this morning’s passage, when he laid bare the dilemma we all face (whether we recognise it or not):

“All these come from your heart, and they make you unfit to worship God.”

And yet God broke his own heart by entering into our world, sharing all our fears; our anxieties, our pain, our nightmares; and taking them to the cross, in order to heal our damaged and broken hearts, and bring us home.

The Lord Jesus – the ultimate bridge-builder – bringing healing, reconciliation, and a whole new beginning, for each and every one of us.

As Isaac Watts, the hymnwriter, so beautifully put it:

“Love so amazing, so divine,
  Demands my soul my life my all.”

And that’s the point, isn’t it? It all comes down to Love.

John writes in his first letter:

“My dear friends, we must love each other. Love comes from God, and when we love each other, it shows we have been given new life.” (1 John 4:7 CEV).

And of course, when we talk about this type of ‘love’ we’re not merely speaking about warm, fuzzy feelings. We’re talking about an active, muscular, nitty-gritty kind of love.

Those well-known verses from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians are an eloquent definition of ‘Love’:

“Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick-tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth. Love is always supportive, loyal, and trusting. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 CEV).

Have you ever tried reading those verses, and replacing the word ‘Love’, with your own name? I have, and it was a bit embarrassing as well! (To be honest, I don’t come anywhere close to this standard.)

I’ve always thought that these words are really a beautiful description of Jesus himself. Love incarnate.

And here’s the thing.

It’s his Love which makes all the difference; at work inside us, enabling us to become channels, conduits, that he can love other people through us. That we in turn become a part of his bridge-building work of cosmic reconciliation.

And with God, all things become possible.

Chris Limb

ANTHEM – Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels (Sir Edward Bairstow)

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is charity.

PRAYERS

Dear Lord, it is sometimes difficult to bring our prayers and petitions before you. We know that you know us better than we know ourselves. As we cast our eyes around us, we see evidence of great goodness working in our world in some places, yet at the same time we also despair at the inhumane acts wrought upon others by those with wicked and evil minds and intentions. As followers of our your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, we advocate a life of peace and goodness; and we aim to do your will and to keep your commandments to preserve life and love and respect one another.

Yet, Lord, there are some who do not acknowledge your existence, or accept your authority, and show contempt for your Word. There seem to be many who have other gods; those who crave power or wealth, leaving others poor, weak and helpless. There are some who mock your holy Name, and many who no longer keep a holy or sabbath day. There seem to be more liars, cheats, thieves, adulterers and murderers in society today than our justice systems can handle. Despite the best efforts of good people to maintain, restore and encourage what is right, the forces of darkness seem to gain strength, and in some parts of the world, threaten to overwhelm the shining lights in the hearts of those who love you and strive to follow the path you have prepared for us. Help us, Lord, to remember that we are beneficiaries of the gracious gift of your love, and that you give us the strength to face you every day in confidence that we do our best to serve you. Help us to shine as a light in the world, reflecting the power at work in us through your Holy Spirit. In the words of St Francis, we pray first for ourselves as individual members of your body, and then in the words our Saviour taught us, the prayer for all your people:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

BLESSING

Go forth into the world in peace;be of good courage; hold fast that which is good; render to no-one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted ; support the weak; help the afflicted;honour all people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be with us, and remain with us for ever. Amen.

FINAL HYMN – The Church’s one foundation (tune: Aurelia) led by the Scottish Festival Singers

ORGAN VOLUNTARY – Sonata No. 2 (Paul Hindemith), played by Wanying Lin on the organ of Stuttgart School of Music and Performing Arts

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Sunday 22nd August 2021 – 13th Sunday after Pentecost – 12th after Trinity

WORDS OF WELCOME

Hello, and welcome to our weekly selection of prayer, bible readings and music selected for today, the 13th Sunday after Pentecost. According to our usual custom, we are following the Revised Common Lectionary, and we are delighted to welcome Pauline Ratcliffe from The Leprosy Mission who has kindly written our reflection this week.

OPENING SENTENCES

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of Wisdom
And to depart from evil, that is understanding.

INTROIT HYMN – Angel voices ever singing

COLLECT

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

OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – 1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43

Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD. Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. He said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. Therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O LORD my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive. “Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name –for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm–when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.

HYMN – Stand up, stand up for Jesus

1
Stand up, stand up for Jesus
ye soldiers of the cross;
lift high his royal banner,
it must not suffer loss:
from victory unto victory
his army shall he lead,
’til every foe is vanquished,
and Christ is Lord indeed.

2
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
the trumpet call obey;
forth to the mighty conflict
in this his glorious day:
ye who are men now serve him
against unnumbered foes;
let courage rise with danger,
and strength to strength oppose.

3
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
stand in his strength alone;
the arm of flesh will fail you,
you dare not trust your own:
put on the gospel armour,
each piece put on with prayer;
where duty calls, or danger,
be never failing there.

4
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
the strife will not be long;
this day the noise of battle,
the next the victor’s song:
to him who over-cometh
the crown of life shall be;
he with the King of glory
shall reign eternally.

EPISTLE – Ephesians 6:10-20

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 84 (Chant: Parry in E)

Quam dilecta!

O HOW amiable are thy dwellings: thou Lord of hosts!

My soul hath a desire and longing to enter into the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young: even thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be alway praising thee.

Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee: in whose heart are thy ways.

Who going through the vale of misery use it for a well: and the pools are filled with water.

They will go from strength to strength: and unto the God of gods appeareth every one of them in Sion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: hearken, O God of Jacob.

Behold, O God our defender: and look upon the face of thine Anointed.

For one day in thy courts: is better than a thousand.

I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God: than to dwell in the tents of ungodliness.

For the Lord God is a light and defence: the Lord will give grace and worship, and no good thing shall he withhold from them that live a godly life.

O Lord God of hosts: blessed is the man that putteth his trust in thee.

GLORIA

GOSPEL – John 6:56-69

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

HYMN – Bread of heaven on thee we feed

BREAD of heaven, on thee we feed,
For thy flesh is meat indeed;
Ever may our souls be fed
With this true and living bread,
Day by day with strength supplied
Through the life of him who died.

2
Vine of heaven, thy blood supplies
This blest cup of sacrifice;
‘Tis thy wounds our healing give;
To thy cross we look and live:
Thou our life! O let us be
Rooted, grafted, built on thee.

REFLECTION – Pauline Ratcliffe (The Leprosy Mission)

ANTHEM – How lovely are the messengers (Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy)

PRAYERS: A SHORTENED LITANY, remembering those fleeing AFGHANISTAN, the victims of CORONAVIRUS and anywhere the LIGHT of CHRIST is hidden by darkness.

O God, the Father of Heaven:
Have mercy on us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the World:
Have mercy on us.
O God the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son:
Have mercy on us.
O holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three Persons and One God:
Have mercy on us.
Redeemer of the the world, do not judge us when we offend you or one another, but save us from our sins:
Spare us, O Lord.
From evil and mischief, and from all wicked temptation:
Good Lord, deliver us.
From hypocrisy, envy and pride; from hatred, malice and all uncharitable thoughts and actions:
Good Lord, deliver us.
From all temptations of the flesh; and from abusing the mind, body or spirit of others:
Good Lord, deliver us.
From misuse of the earth’s resources; from the effects of flood, plague and famine:
Good Lord, deliver us.
From crime, injustice and oppression; from invasion, war and sudden death:
Good Lord, deliver us.
From lack of compassion and empathy; and from ignorance of your Word and Commandments:
Good Lord, deliver us.
For all the nations of the earth; and for all in authority, that they may govern with fairness and wisdom:
Lord, hear our prayer.
For Elizabeth our Queen and all the Royal Family; for all the members of her government, that good health and security may be maintained in our land:
Lord, hear our prayer.
For your blessing on all your people; and that all nations may live together in unity, peace and harmony:
Lord, hear our prayer.
For the weak in body, mind or spirit, for all in need or danger, or close to death; that you will comfort, support, reassure and strengthen them:
Lord, hear our prayer.
For the souls of all who have died; that you will see them safely home, and comfort those who are left in grief and mourning:
Lord, hear our prayer.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
Grant us peace.
Lord, have mercy upon us:
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

The grace of our LORD, Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen.

FINAL HYMN – Now is eternal life

NOW is eternal life,
If risen with Christ we stand,
In him to life reborn,
And holden in his hand;
No more we fear death’s ancient dread,
In Christ arisen from the dead.

2
For God, the living God,
Stooped down to man’s estate;
By death destroying death,
Christ opened wide life’s gate.
He lives, who died; he reigns on high;
Who lives in him shall never die.

3
Unfathomed love divine,
Reign thou within my heart;
From thee nor depth nor height,
Nor life nor death can part;
Our life is hid in God with thee,
Now and through all eternity.


ORGAN VOLUNTARY – Choral Song and Fugue (Samuel Sebastian Wesley) played by Simon Lumby at the organ of St Aidan’s, Leicester. In memory of the late Brian Pearson, my first choirmaster at St Alban’s Church, Dartford, later Vicar of St Aidan’s, Gravesend. R.I.P. He played this regularly!

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Sunday 15th August 2021 – 12th Sunday after Pentecost – 11th after Trinity

WORDS OF WELCOME

Welcome to you on this the 12th Sunday after Pentecost. Our selection of prayer, music and readings from scripture is selected in accordance with the Revised Common Lectionary, as is our custom, and we invite you to participate by interacting with us in your own way as you choose from the comfort of your own home, or wherever you happen to be. The reflection on this week’s readings has been kindly provided by Revd Dr Michael Bayley.

OPENING SENTENCES

The Lord is gracious and merciful:
And all his works are great!
Glory to God in the highest:
And peace to His people on earth.

INTROIT HYMN – Christ is alive! Let Christians sing (tune: Truro)

COLLECT

O God, you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
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.

OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established. Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

HYMN – Be thou my vision (tune: Slane)

EPISTLE – Ephesians 5:15-20

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts. giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 111

Confitebor tibi

GLORIA

GOSPEL – John 6:51-58

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

HYMN – Just as I am, without one plea (tune: Woodworth)

REFLECTION – Revd Dr Michael Bayley

Preparing for COP

It is all too easy to despair when confronted with the doubts and anxieties and worries about covid and the climate emergency. Both seem so complicated. Both seem so relentless. Covid is constantly in the news and the climate emergency, powered by our relentless consumerism, has been reminding us recently that it really is an emergency with, for example, the floods in Germany, Holland and Belgium, the devastating heatwave and fires in North America and over it all hangs the vital COP 26 meeting in Glasgow in November. This is the meeting of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (thus its title COP 26) at which the 197 countries attending need to agree the far-reaching, urgent and radical steps that are needed if the climate emergency is to be tackled effectively. Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK, said: “Practical, funded and deliverable plans (by governments) to keep us below the supposedly safe limits (of heating) are almost non-existent. Urgent climate action was needed decades ago – now we are almost out of time. The UK government has a huge responsibility, as host of the UN climate talks, to ensure world leaders sign up to policies that not just put the brakes on the climate crisis but slam it into reverse.” (Guardian, 9.7.21) This is what I want to focus on this morning. It is tempting to say, ‘Well, realistically there’s nothing I can do about it.’

So, we need to consider what resources we have available. I think one of the most difficult things to do when confronted by such an immense challenge as the climate emergency is to keep on keeping on. Many of us have been campaigning, protesting, writing letters, seeing MPs and trying to stir our government, and indeed the governments of the world, into action which measures up to the enormity of the crisis. My question is, how do we keep on keeping on?

This morning’s reading from John might not seem to be obviously relevant but let’s look at it more carefully. We all know that John’s gospel is very different from the other three, and in many ways it is difficult; for instance the harsh line that Jesus often seems to take with the Jews. John is the latest of the gospels, probably written round about the year 100 or a bit later. Ephesus has been suggested as a possible place where it was written but there seems to be no scholarly unanimity about that. However, I think we can be fairly sure of the setting within which it was written. This was a church under pressure. The Christians may well have just been kicked out of the synagogue and so were not feeling very friendly to their Jewish neighbours. But more important than that is the way the story is told. There is a strong case for saying that it is not so much an objective account of what happened, but that it expresses the lived experience of the members of that Christian community. Ian Wallis, who many of you will know as the vicar of St Mark’s before Sue, suggests that whilst Luke’s gospel tells the story of Jesus up to the resurrection, and then his history of the church in the second part, the Acts of the Apostles; what we have in John is the two parts combined. I have found this a most helpful way to read Jesus’s discourses at the Last Supper.

But I think it is also helpful here look at what John records Jesus is saying in this morning’s reading: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you will have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me and I live because of the father so he who eats me will live because of me.” (John 6: 53 – 57)

This may seem to be rather extravagant language but I think it could reflect the experience of those early Christians, possibly in Ephesus, of life in their Christian community and in particular of their experience of worship at the Eucharist. They experienced that they were fully alive because of their experience of sharing the bread and wine, because of their powerful experience of the presence of Christ, and this passage simply reflects the way in which their lives were suffused by the power and strength of Christ. “He who eats me will live because of me” reflects not what they thought they ought to believe, but what was actually true for them, and the sheer power of their meeting round the Lord’s table.

This, I believe, is the sort of conviction, experience, or mindset that enables us to carry on carrying on and refuse to give up. I’m often reminded of a saying of Winston Churchill: “It is not enough to say that we have done our best: we have to do what is necessary.”

Let me now be entirely practical. It is often helpful to be able to do something, so I have something very simple to suggest. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has a clear and well-focused letter addressed to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak. It says that he should produce the money to make the government’s pledge to cut emissions possible; work with his fellow G20 finance ministers to provide the hundred billion dollars needed for the poorer countries on the front line of the climate crisis; and restore the 0.7% of the overseas aid budget. You can see the details attached via the link below*. It is something that has to be done online.

If some of you are able to do that it would be marvellous. Naturally we are especially keen to contact Tory MPs and if by any happy chance anyone has a good contact in a constituency held by the Tories who might be prepared to go and see their MP, do please let me know. Hope for the Future are a marvellous charity based in Sheffield who have an amazing track record in enabling constituents to have fruitful contacts with their MPs. They have said they will be very happy to help.

And we can pray. Sometimes I feel we often look on this as a last resort when everything else has failed, instead of it being the first resort out of which everything else springs giving us, in the words of Ephesians, inward strength and power through his Spirit which is based in the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love.

How do we do this?

Be informed. If you want a focus for this pray for Alok Sharma, the U K Minister who will serve as president of Cop 26. He has an awesome responsibility. You may like to know that some articles will be appearing in the Broomhill Messenger.

I have always been bothered by the phrase in the Lord’s Prayer “lead us not into temptation.” Pope Francis has suggested that it is better to say: “Let us not fall into temptation.” In my own prayers I add to this and say “let us not fall into temptation or despair” because I find despair is a great enemy from which I need to be delivered. It helps keep me on track working and praying about the climate emergency.

I find this prayer by Jim Cotter resonates with me especially well.

Be with us, O God, as we struggle for a more just and sustainable world; yet remind us that our actions so often tighten the mesh that binds the oppressed. Keep us from pride in our own strength, and keep us from despair when evil seems entrenched. Renew our trust in your good purposes for us all. Give us the gift of discernment, that we may know when to strive in the power of your spirit, and when to be still and wait for your deliverance. Come in your good time, but come soon.

Revd Dr Michael Bayley

ANTHEM – For the beauty of the earth (John Rutter)

PRAYERS

O God our Father, Creator of the heavens and the earth, we give you thanks for the privilege of being able to enjoy the fruits of the natural world. Teach us how to love and care for our surroundings, but also to understand and respect the strength and power of the forces that sustain us; the heat and light of the sun, the power of the sea and the strength of the flowing river, the erupting volcano and the drifting of tectonic plates; at the present time we pray for the lives of those people fleeing the wildfires of Europe and America, or the flooded expanses of Turkey, India, Russia and China. We pray for those who have lost their homes and having to try and find ways to survive in the most challenging of circumstances. We also pray for those people of the world who are fleeing their homes for reasons caused by the despicable actions of other humans, especially for those under attack in Afghanistan. We extend our prayers to all refugees, and any people who suffer injury or loss of life as the result of the deployment of any form of weaponry, including the victims of gun and knife crime in our own communities. Help us to be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow, and restore in our society the will to provide care and support for those who suffer sadness, illness or any other misfortune. We are sorry for any way we may have caused offence to others, and regret any way in which we may have marred your image in us. We offer you thanks for giving us the life of your son, our saviour Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save us from our sins, and in whose name we pray together:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

BLESSING

May the peace and comfort of our Lord Jesus Christ, the loving mercy of God our Father, and the life and power of the Holy Spirit, source of life and eternal King of glory, be with us all, this day and evermore. Amen.

FINAL HYMN – Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour (tune: St Helen)

ORGAN VOLUNTARY – Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C BWV 564 (J S Bach) played by organist Hans-André Stamm on the Trost-Organ in Waltershausen, Germany

 *LINK from today’s Reflection

Click here (opens in a new window)

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Sunday 8th August 2021 – 11th Sunday after Pentecost – 10th after Trinity

WORDS OF WELCOME

Hello, and welcome to our weekly collection of readings, prayer and music suitable for today, the 11th Sunday after Pentecost. Our Reflection today has been kindly provided by our friend, Jenny Carpenter.

OPENING SENTENCES

The fear of the Lord:
Is the beginning of wisdom.
Out of the deep have I called to the Lord:
O Lord, hear my voice.

INTROIT HYMN – O worship the King (tune: Hanover)

1
O WORSHIP the King
All glorious above;
O gratefully sing
His power and his love:
Our Shield and Defender,
The Ancient of days,
Pavilioned in splendour,
And girded with praise.

2
O tell of his might,
O sing of his grace,
Whose robe is the light,
Whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath
The deep thunder-clouds form,
And dark is his path
On the wings of the storm.

3
This earth, with its store
Of wonders untold,
Almighty, thy power
Hath founded of old:
Hath stablished it fast
By a changeless decree,
And round it hath cast,
Like a mantle, the sea.

4
Thy bountiful care
What tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air,
It shines in the light;
It streams from the hills,
It descends to the plain,
And sweetly distils
In the dew and the rain.

5
Frail children of dust,
And feeble as frail,
In thee do we trust,
Nor find thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender!
How firm to the end!
Our Maker, Defender,
Redeemer, and Friend.

6
O measureless Might,
Ineffable Love,
While angels delight
To hymn thee above,
Thy humbler creation,
Though feeble their lays,
With true adoration
Shall sing to thy praise.

COLLECT

Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions
make them to ask such things as shall please you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom. So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword. Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. And ten young men, Joab’s armour-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him. Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the LORD has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.” The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

HYMN – Lord, thy word abideth (tune: Ravenshaw)

EPISTLE – Ephesians 4:25-5:2

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labour and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 130 (Scottish Psalter)

GOSPEL – John 6:35, 41-51

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

ANTHEM – When David heard that Absalom was slain (Thomas Tomkins)

REFLECTION – by Jenny Carpenter

“I am the bread of life”  That “I am” is a divine claim. This is too much for his hearers to bear and they leave him in droves. The people recognise that there is much that is unusual and distinctive about Jesus. He speaks with an authority not derived from academic study. He seems to have an uncanny ability to understand what makes people tick. He empathises with people at the bottom of the ladder. He has extraordinary power to heal.  He inspires devotion in his followers. It is challenging and invigorating to be with him. Yet many find his claims too much to swallow. Jesus wonders if the disciples will vote with their feet, but Peter says “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. Those closest to him can’t imagine that he will die – he is the most alive  person they know. Yet here John tells us that Jesus will give his flesh – his life- so that eternal life may be available to all who believe in him. This discourse in John’s gospel expands our understanding on the Eucharistic words “ Feed on him in your hearts by faith and with thanksgiving”.

In the letter to the Ephesians, the writer, who was probably not Paul himself, makes it absolutely clear what being a follower of Christ entails. A new deeper relationship with God has come through Christ’s life, death and resurrection and is daily supported by the work of the Holy Spirit. This is not a private gift – something just between me and God. It has to be lived out in the community of believers and in wider society.  It follows that certain emotions, attitudes and practices should have no place. There’s quite a list: control your anger and don’t bear grudges; stop stealing but do an honest day’s work; be careful what you say – if you can’t say a good word about someone, keep shtum! Instead cultivate kindness – in my book an underrated quality and far too rare in our own society. Be tender-hearted – compassion was Jesus’ own hallmark. Forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.  Yes, it is that way round. It is when I recognise that God’s love and forbearance is far more than I deserve that I am triggered into a more forgiving attitude to my fellow human beings. Jesus prayed on the cross “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” God is more ready to forgive than we are to be forgiven. God is also more ready to forgive us than we are to forgive others, but the Holy Spirit will help us to work on that!

Forgiveness is absolutely central to the Christian faith. There are some wonderful examples in the Hebrew Scriptures, our Old Testament, as well. Think of Abraham pleading with God not to destroy the cities of the plain if that means destroying a handful of good-living people along with the bad.

Think of Joseph finally forgiving his brothers for selling him into slavery. Think of the prophet Hosea. He is amazed to realise the way God continues to love and forgive his fickle people Israel This inspires him to take back his own unfaithful wife and build back his marriage.

Even in today’s passage about David, we see something close to forgiveness of his wayward son, Absalom, for conspiring with Israel against Judah and making a bid to be king of both. Even such treachery cannot alter David’s fatherly love for young Absalom. It is always a dreadful blow when a young man dies before his parents do. “Would that I had died instead of you” sobs David. David himself was no saint. He could be devious and manipulative to save his own skin and get his own way. Yet he appears to have had a strong faith in God and a sense of his own responsibility under God for the good of his nation.

The most personal of the Psalms are attributed to David, They still speak powerfully to the human condition. Psalm 130 begins in great distress with a sense of alienation from God. It goes on to recognise that all are guilty before God, but that with God there is forgiveness, steadfast love and the power to redeem. This is the psalmist’s ground for hope when at his lowest ebb. This is the psalm which John Wesley heard sung in St. Paul’s Cathedral a few hours before his heart was strangely warmed at a house group in Aldersgate Street. His sense of desolation and frustration was banished by an overwhelming realisation of God’s forgiving power in his own life. His sense of release was palpable. God could and would work through him to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land. Lives would be changed and social justice would be furthered as ordinary people found purpose and transformed their communities. This can still happen today! Through God’s power we can learn to live in loving relationship with God, each other and the whole of God’s creation.

And so, echoing the advice to the Christian church in Ephesus, let us sing the hymn ‘Forgive our sins as we forgive’.

HYMN – Forgive our sins as we forgive (tune: Epworth)

1
Forgive our sins as we forgive,
you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but you alone can grant us grace
to live the words we say.

2
How can your pardon reach and bless
the unforgiving heart
that broods on wrongs and will not let
old bitterness depart?

3
In blazing light your cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew,
how small the debts men owe to us,
how great our debt to you.

4
Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls,
and bid resentment cease;
then, reconciled to God and man,
Our lives will spread your peace.

PRAYERS

Today, Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for a special gift with which we have been endowed, which is the power of emotion. As the Olympic Games in Tokyo draws to a close, we reflect on the many emotions that have affected those who participated in the events as competitors, including their support staff, families and friends; and we give you thanks for the joyful and wondrous moments that we have been able to share as spectators. Many of the participants in the games were seen to offer you moments of prayer before competing, perhaps dedicating their performances to you and asking for your blessing on their efforts. What was frequently evident, particularly amongst the younger competitors, was the way they supported each other’s greatest successes and bitterest disappointments, regardless of nationality, race or creed, without any sense of jealousy or discrimination. Lord, we pray that the generous and caring spirit, so lovingly shared amongst so many competitors at the games this year, may inform and inspire the leaders and communities in the diverse nations from which each of them came; that the goodwill and harmony generated in Japan this week may infect and inspire the hearts of everyone, that they will use the friendships so forged to build bridges and help humankind across the world to seek to love, care for and respect not only one another, but also the world, of which we are but temporary custodians. Lord, we pray this prayer in accordance with your will, because you sent your Son, our saviour Jesus Christ, into this world to save us from our sins, and to restore peace and goodwill to the whole earth. This prayer, and all our prayers we bring before your throne, in the words which Christ himself taught us, saying:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

BLESSING

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace and rise in glory; and may the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon us and upon those we love, this day and evermore. Amen.

FINAL HYMN – All my hope on God is founded (tune: Michael)

ORGAN VOLUNTARY – Finale from the 4th Organ Symphony (C. M. Widor) played by Bernhard Schneider at the Klais organ in St. Aegidien’s Church, Braunschweig.

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Special note: Today’s offering is of something approaching epic proportions, for which the compiler offers no apology! Contained herein you will encounter a magnificent sermon, stunning images, thought-provoking insights, one of David’s most heartfelt psalms in an amazing musical version brought alive by two inspirational composers; culminating in a final hymn which underlines that God’s Son came to save us with a message for people in every corner of the earth. After all that, you are treated to some of Bach’s best counterpoint! Special thanks to all who have contributed to the richness of our worship today. Get ready to participate and enjoy the feast!

Sunday 1st August 2021 – 10th after Pentecost – 9th after Trinity

WORDS OF WELCOME

Welcome to our weekly selection of prayers, music and readings from scripture appointed for today, the 10th Sunday after Pentecost. Our preacher today would have been Frank Elliot-Wright, who has kindly recorded today’s reflection as we have not yet resumed live worship at St Andrew’s. Frank wanted to talk about both the Old Testament readings recommended for today, of which we would traditionally select one, so we have agreed to include both of them. You can listen to the reflection and follow the text as usual, or you may prefer to watch the video. The soundtrack of both versions is the same. The link to the video appears after the text.

OPENING SENTENCES

Let us worship the Lord:
In the beauty of holiness.

Let us bow down before him:
And declare his majestic glory.

INTROIT HYMN – Glorious things of thee are spoken (tune: Austria)

COLLECT

Almighty God,
who sent your Holy Spirit
to be the life and light of your Church:
open our hearts to the riches of your grace,
that we may bring forth the 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 for ever.  Amen.

TWO LESSONS from the OLD TESTAMENT

2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a

When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD, and the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meagre fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveller to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the LORD: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.'” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'” In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

HYMN – O God of Bethel, by whose hand (tune: Stracathro)

1
O God of Bethel, by whose hand
Thy people still are fed,
Who through this weary pilgrimage
Hast all our fathers led:

2
Our vows, our prayers, we now present
Before thy throne of grace;
God of our fathers, be the God
Of their succeeding race.

3
Through each perplexing path of life
Our wandering footsteps guide;
Give us each day our daily bread,
And raiment fit provide.

4
O spread thy covering wings around,
Till all our wanderings cease,
And at our Father’s loved abode
Our souls arrive in peace.

EPISTLE – Ephesians 4:1-16

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 51 ‘Miserere mei, Deus’ (sung in Latin by the Sistine Chapel choir to a plainsong tone with fauxbourdons by Gregorio Allegri, with adaptations from a transcription by W A Mozart)

Verses 1-12 in an English version:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

GOSPEL – John 6:24-35

So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

HYMN – Bread of heaven on thee we feed (tune: Bread of heaven)

REFLECTION – Frank Elliot-Wright (see below for a video version of today’s reflection)

I’ve done something that is, I’m told, a little unusual, for today’s service. I’ve focused on both the Old Testament readings, because they seem so powerfully relevant to everything that’s going on at the moment. We read in them about a man in a high position, corrupted by lust, taking decisions that cost people their lives. Then we have a nation in the wilderness, waiting to gain the freedom that they were promised. They’re weary, impatient, and getting fed up with their leaders. These situations really seem to speak to what we’re living through right now. I’ll be summing up with Jesus’s words in the gospel reading, but first a few words about what we’ve read in 1 Samuel.

This is the aftermath of David’s great sin. As the warrior king of Israel he’s used to getting what he wants. He sees Bathsheba, wants her, and then does something truly terrible. Her husband, Uriah, is in the army, so David arranges for him to be sent to the most dangerous place in the next battle, so that he will be killed and Bathsheba will be all his.

It’s not that remarkable to hear that a man in a high position has been corrupted by lust and power. What is striking is how David comes to realise what a terrible sin he has committed, and how crushed he is by the guilt that he feels. The prophet, Nathan, dares to confront David with his sin – and we see the result of this in Psalm 51 which ends with these words:

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Now, I hope that none of us are feeling as bad as that this morning, and I trust that we haven’t done anything as terrible as David’s sin. But maybe we are spared from feeling like David because we have never had the opportunity to do something so wicked. There must have been countless people in Israel who wanted someone else’s husband or wife, and quite a few of them would have got to thinking something like , ‘if only something would happen to such and such’s other half, that would leave the way clear for me…’ But none of them had the means or the opportunity to follow that sinful thought into action.

Now I’m not saying that you and I would have done what David did. But we don’t know that we wouldn’t, either, because we have never been given the power to get a romantic rival, how should we put this, ‘out of the way’. David assumed awesome power, and in this respect, and on this occasion, he was corrupted by it – massively so. He assumed a huge responsibility as well, and he was only human – all too human.

So, as much as we condemn David’s actions, and we condemn all mighty people in government or leadership who abuse their power, can we really tut over David’s great sin without adding the caveat, ‘there, but for the grace of God, go I…’

We have all lusted after power and status at some point in our lives, in big and small ways. Sometimes we have been given power, responsibility, and the opportunity to look after our own desires above others’. So we have some inkling of what it must be like for those with power to be corrupted in this way, and perhaps we are grateful that we do not have such temptation in our way – especially at the moment.

There’s never been any shortage of people who want political power, but who would be a politician right now? Would you like to be Prime Minister or Health Secretary at the moment? Even when I’ve disagreed with the decisions taken by our leaders during this Pandemic, I’ve always been incredibly relieved that it’s not me having to make these life and death decisions. And that’s what it comes down to. The commentators often say that had decision y been taken instead of decision x, then many more lives could have been saved. We also hear it said that victims of domestic abuse have endured a hellish fifteen months because of decisions taken by ministers. I’m ever so glad that it’s not me having to lie awake at night thinking about how many people have died because of decisions that I have made.

So we pray for our leaders. We always have and we always should. We pray that they will make good decisions, but surely we pray too for the human beings, just like us, that must decide – and then live with whatever suffering and death result from their judgement call.

We get exasperated and angry with our leaders. But still, let us pray for them. Let us never stop praying for our leaders, and may we always think, as we do, ‘there but for the grace of God go I…’

Manna From Heaven
Exodus 16 also seems like an eerily prescient lectionary reading. We have spent the last fifteen months in a sort of wilderness and we are not happy about it. So we definitely identify with the people who were moaning and grumbling about Moses and Aaron.

Moaning is a very human thing to do. It’s how we bond in the workplace or in our neighbourhoods, and now, with social media, we can moan on a much grander scale.  And of course, we all recognise that moaning is not exactly unknown in churches.

We identify with the people moaning at Moses and Aaron because, as far as this pandemic is concerned, we’re just so weary. We want to see the Promised Land. We want the day to come. Just like the Israelites in the desert, we believed our leaders’ promises – we wanted to believe their promises, but we’re getting impatient. We don’t think we can take too much more of this endless waiting, this perpetual wilderness, though of course we will have to.

Even if we move away from our immediate situation with the Pandemic, these verses have a great application for us. While they were enslaved in Egypt the people cried out to God about the terrible treatment they endured. Now that they are liberated, but not yet in the Promised Land, they start to look back on what they left behind and say to each other, ‘you know, it wasn’t that bad, really, in fact it was pretty good. I wish we could go back…’

That’s another way in which human nature has never changed. We’re glad that we’ve left that old habit, addiction or lifestyle behind – but then we get stressed out, things aren’t going our way, and we think about going back to it. We’re always tempted to go back instead of forwards.  Jesus came to set us free, and he does so in so many ways. But in so many ways we just don’t want to be set free. Or rather, we do want to, but then we don’t want to – because we want our salvation to be instant and painless.

Exodus sets out our spiritual lives in narrative form. It’s a four stage process: slavery, liberation, wilderness, promised land. That’s our spiritual journey. Can we recognise these stages in our own lives? We don’t live in the Promised Land yet. The wilderness can be harsh. It can also seem sweet, but only if we keep that vision of the Promised Land before our eyes.

How do we react in the wilderness, when it seems that God is not providing for us? Are we so absurd as to put God on trial? Will we ignore God altogether and try to solve our problems without prayer? These are serious tests, and if we are preoccupied by being annoyed by such tests we will fail to grow and learn from them. God doesn’t just test us when we are deprived, he educates us as well. And that education can be a tough school, but it’s still a blessing. God blesses us when he doesn’t seem to bless us at all. But that’s down to us – he’s trying to teach us something: will we learn the lesson,and so take the blessing that he so wants us to accept?

Here’s another thing that we can take from this wonderful passage of scripture, or at least we will if we take note of where the Lectionary edits out the Bible. The reading jumps from verse four to verse nine, missing out something pretty important. That’s where we learn that although God is going to provide Manna from heaven, there will be rules about how it is to be gathered and consumed. And God is interested in finding out how people will respond to this. Now here’s something else to moan about! Isn’t that just like God, to bless us, but then to spoil it all by putting a load of rules and conditions on how we enjoy his blessing?

And this should teach us a deeper lesson that we should take into our whole walk of faith. We understand that God tests us when he withholds his blessing, but we don’t always understand that he also tests us when he blesses us.

Will we enjoy what he has blessed us with in the right way? Will we gather the Manna in the prescribed manner? Will we even consider him as we ‘fill our boots’ with the good fortune that life seems to have thrown our way? This has such wide application because there are so many ways in which God blesses us, so many ways in which he tests us, and so many ways in which he educates us.

If we want to be blessed all the time, whether life is hard or easy, then we’re going to have to stop pushing God out of our heads. We hear a lot of talk about mindfulness, but for Christians true mindfulness is to be ever aware, in each conscious moment, that God is real. He is in charge but he has given us freedom. He’s testing us, blessing us, teaching us, loving us.

How can we manage to stay conscious of God in each moment? Thanks to the true Bread of Heaven.

The True Bread of Heaven
The reading in John 6 is just after the feeding of the five thousand, and in it Jesus gives a commentary on those portions of Exodus and Numbers in which the Israelites are fed manna, or bread, from heaven.  He accuses those listening to him of only following him because of the miracle. All they’ve learned from the miracle is that Jesus is powerful, and that he’s good for a free lunch, but Jesus tells them they’ve misunderstood the meaning of bread from heaven.  And that’s when they say:

Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

And so Jesus says  “…it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.

See how he’s brought the past and present tense together, with ‘gave’’ and ‘gives’? He’s making the point that the bread they’ve just eaten comes from the same source as the Manna that their ancestors ate in the Wilderness.  And it’s worth us remembering that the God who hears our prayers this morning is the same God that sent the Manna in the Wilderness, and the same God that sent Jesus, the true bread of heaven into the world.

Let us really learn the lesson that Jesus is teaching in this passage. Let’s not confuse the signpost with the thing that it is pointing towards. The manna was a great blessing, but it was an even greater blessing that it came from God. The feeding of the five thousand was a great miracle, but again, the real miracle wasn’t in some dazzling display of spiritual power from Jesus, but in the fact that God himself empowered Jesus to do this.

Sometimes my dog loses his tennis ball in the river, even though it seems to me to be quite obvious where it is. So I stand there pointing and shouting at him, ‘There! There! There!’ but my dog never looks where I’m pointing: he looks at the end of my finger. That’s something we sometimes do with God and with Jesus  – we look at the miracle instead of the source of the miracle.

We can take this into our day to day lives. Say a loved one buys you a wonderful gift, or cleans your house for you just because they love you. However wonderful the gift, however much pleasure having the house cleaned gives you, we all recognise that the real gift is that someone feels so much love for you that they wanted to give you the gift. Likewise, Jesus tells his followers to look beyond the literal bread of heaven. He says: “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Let’s focus on Jesus, and, through him, on God. Let’s see what and who lies behind every blessing and every gift. Throughout the coming week let’s feast on the bread of heaven, but let us take the most pleasure of all in the one who provides the feast.

Frank Elliot-Wright

N.B. Here is a video version of today’s reflection:

ANTHEM – Let all mortal flesh keep silence (Sir Edward Bairstow)

PRAYERS

Merciful God, creator of all things and judge of all, we thank you for supplying us with all the things we need to sustain our minds, souls and bodies; in order that we may continue to enjoy the abundant fruits of this world. We thank you for our ability to perceive our surroundings; for eyes which bring us the power of vision, and for ears which enable us to listen; for the gift of touch, that we can feel heat and cold, rough and smooth; for the senses of smell and taste, that we may perceive scents and flavours. We thank you for the gifts of insight and intelligence, foresight and hindsight, discernment and wisdom, creativity and imagination. For all the gifts and blessings of this life, we thank you, Lord.
In our prayers today we are asked to focus our thoughts on those who are in positions of authority over others. Throughout the history of humankind, we have lived in structured communities under the governance of rules and instructions, some of which we have learned through our holy scriptures, and others which have been formulated by governments, decreed by laws and statutes, which are enforced and policed by appointed officials. However, the handling of power can easily become corrupt, and history has sadly recorded many instances of individuals and collectives who have imposed wicked and oppressive regimes on others, resulting in injustice, discrimination, persecution, intolerance, extortion, misery and even death to their unfortunate victims. This day, therefore, we pray that you will support, guide and inform all people who hold positions of leadership and authority over communities, societies and nations; for kings and queens, bishops, priests and religious leaders, presidents, ministers and primeministers, heads of state and governors, leaders in industry and commerce, government ministers and members of parliaments; anyone who has been elected or appointed, or who has been granted or otherwise assumed a position of leadership over others. Equip them with such skills, knowledge and ability, that they may carry out their duties of office with wisdom, fairness, empathy, love and understanding; that all humankind may live together in peace and harmony. Seek out and banish all forms of evil, corruption, wickedness and oppression, that the powers of darkness may be overcome, and the earth be filled with the radiance of your heavenly light.

Finally, Lord, we pray that you will be with us all in our times of need, especially those who do not enjoy all the gifts and blessings of this life; those who cannot see, hear or speak; those who do not enjoy full mobility; those who are sick or infirm; those who are near to death, or who are grieving their loved ones whose earthly life has already passed by. This and all our prayers we offer up to your divine majesty, O King of Heaven, in the words your Son our Saviour taught us, as we say together:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

BLESSING

Send us out into the world, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to live and work to your praise and glory; and the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit rest upon us, and upon all whom we love, this day and evermore. Amen.

FINAL HYMN – Hills of the North, rejoice! (tune: Little Cornard)

ORGAN VOLUNTARY – Fantasia and Fugue in G minor BWV 542 (J S Bach) played by Jonathan Scott at the organ of Newcastle Cathedral.

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