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Sunday 25th July 2021 – 9th Sunday after Pentecost – 8th after Trinity

WORDS OF WELCOME

Hello, and welcome to you as you are invited to share in our weekly selection of prayer, music and readings from scripture suitable for today, the 9th Sunday after Pentecost. Our readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary, and our friend, Revd. Canon Adrian Alker has kindly provided us with our Reflection on today’s Gospel.

OPENING SENTENCES

O God, the Father of Heaven:

Have mercy upon us, your faithful servants.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the World:

Forgive our sins and protect us from all evil.

O God the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son:

Inspire our thoughts and guide our actions, today and every day.


INTROIT HYMN – Just as I am, without one plea (tune: Saffron Walden)

COLLECT

Almighty Lord and everlasting God, we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies in the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments; that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 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 11:1-15

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”

HYMN – Lord Jesus, think on me (tune: Southwell)

EPISTLE – Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 14

Dixit insipiens

  1. THE fool hath said in his heart : There is no God.

  2. They are corrupt, and become abominable in their doings : there is none that doeth good, no not one.

  3. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men : to see if there were any that would understand, and seek after God.

  4. But they are all gone out of the way, they are altogether become abominable : there is none that doeth good, no not one.

  5. Their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongues have they deceived : the poison of asps is under their lips.

  6. Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness : their feet are swift to shed blood.

  7. Destruction and unhappiness is in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known ; there is no fear of God before their eyes.

  8. Have they no knowledge, that they are all such workers of mischief : eating up my people as it were bread, and call not upon the Lord?

  9. There were they brought in great fear, even where no fear was : for God is in the generation of the righteous.

  10. As for you, ye have made a mock at the counsel of the poor : because he putteth his trust in the Lord.

  11. Who shall give salvation unto Israel out of Sion? When the Lord turneth the captivity of his people : then shall Jacob rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

GLORIA

GOSPEL – John 6:1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

HYMN – Eternal Father, strong to save (tune: Melita)

REFLECTION – Canon Adrian Alker

St John, chapter 6 vv 1-21

The miracle of the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’ has the unique distinction of being the only miracle described in all four gospels and there are even two accounts in St Mark’s gospel where we have a crowd of 5000 people (Mark ch.6) and a crowd of 4000 people (Mark ch.8) A busy time for Jesus!

This story ranks alongside parables such as the Prodigal Son or Jesus walking on the water (also mentioned in today’s gospel from St John) or Jesus turning water into wine as being amongst the most well-known stories about Jesus.

Miracles in the gospels such as the Feeding of the Five Thousand raise important and fundamental issues about how we read, interpret and understand the bible, and in particular the books of the gospel writers. It seems to me there are and have been three approaches in such interpretation – a fundamentalist, literal approach, a rationalizing and reductionist approach and thirdly an approach which tries to understand what was in the minds and hearts of those early writers, whoever St John or St Mark might have been.

The first approach which insists that each word in the Bible is literally true, that the Feeding happened just as recorded, as if someone were there with a mobile phone recording it for Whats App, reduces the bible to a dangerous nonsense. I despair at how such literalism can undermine serious faith, portraying Jesus as a wonder worker, even a kind of magician. At this superficial level serious moral questions emerge– ‘why couldn’t Jesus, if he is from God and can multiply food, not feed the millions of folk starving in Yemen? If he can walk on water, why can’t he save the thousands of migrants who drown in the English Channel? They lead to crass jokes at weddings when the vicar sits on one of the guest tables to be greeted by comments like, ‘we are alright on this table, the wine won’t run out……’

Jesus becomes a Greek like God interacting with humans, a Man-God who can walk through walls, who can be transported up to heaven. Myth and symbol become real life happenings. The saddest aspect of treating the bible in this way is that it makes a laughing-stock of Christianity, in this third millennium.

Now to the second approach of trying to get to grips with a miracle story like the Feeding. There is a search for ‘what really happened’, an assumption that the gospel writers knew of some great feeding event. Perhaps people had all taken their own picnic but soon realised the need to share what they had with others, taking their cue from Jesus and the disciples who might have taken their own bread and fish……If we get too hung up on ‘what really happened?’ we are in danger of missing the bigger theological message and stay in the shallows.

So thirdly, what did these gospel writers intend us to understand?

The first and most obvious theological purpose is to show Jesus as the new Moses, repeating one of the greatest acts of the Exodus, when the Israelites were fed in superabundance with manna from heaven. Like Moses, Jesus crosses the water into the desert, he sits the people down in companies, appoints helpers to distribute the food and feeds them with miraculous bread in such quantities that there are basketfuls left over. Jesus is also acting in the person of Elisha, where some of the details of the Feeding miracle are taken from 2 Kings 4. 42- 44. Jesus then is fulfilling both the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elisha). Throughout the gospels, there is a desire by the writers not only to show Jesus in this inheritance of Law and Prophecy, but to exceed such expectations, by demonstrating his love and outreach to Gentiles as well as Jews. Hence the two accounts in Mark’s gospel of feeding (in one) 5000 people – a ‘Jewish’ number because of its relationship to the Pentateuch, and (in the other) 4000 – recalling the four corners of the earth or the four ‘beasts‘ in the book of Daniel (being the four Gentile empires that had overrun Israel).

This Jesus is for our writers the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets, the awaited One who is the Word of God, symbolized in the giving of bread. To the early Christians the whole of the Feeding story would have been reminiscent of their eucharistic worship, at which they, too, sat in orderly fashion, while deacons brought round to them loaves blessed and broken by the celebrant.

What we are doing here is not trying to answer the question ‘Is this story true?’, but rather, ‘What does this story mean?’ And that, it seems to me, is a hermeneutical principle worth following at all times. I don’t actually care if this is just a story; if there was never really was a crowd of five thousand people on a hillside. What I do care about is what was in the mind and heart of the storyteller. What in his experience was it which led him to put Jesus into this context; to show him in this light?

Those early disciples had experienced in the person of Jesus a love and compassion; a sense of the sacred in their midst; a power which brought healing, peace and reconciliation. They talked about this Jesus. They told stories about him, and about his early followers. They felt his presence as they shared bread and wine; this man who was crucified and yet seemed to be present with them as a Holy Spirit.

This story about hungry people being fed on a hillside still speaks to us today, evoking images of starving children and their parents in countries across the globe. The hordes of people who followed Jesus because they had heard about what he was ‘doing for the sick’ (St John), brings to our mind today the millions of suffering and sick people in places of war and widespread disease. Thank God for agencies such as Médecins Sans Frontières, and the numerous other aid organisations which bring hope and relief to such needy people. They may or may not see themselves as religious, or as followers of Jesus, but their actions speak loudly of the same love and compassion as the gospel writers intended to convey.

Shame on our government which has recently cut overseas aid during this time of pandemic, and shame on those who grieve the Holy Spirit of God, because of their selfishness, and by their displays of indifference toward the suffering of others. If this terrible time of Covid 19 has taught us anything, it is that we must love our neighbour as we love ourselves, whoever and wherever that neighbour happens to be. In our story today, Jesus may not have known who those people on that hillside were, but he did know that they needed feeding. There are times in the lives of all of us when we need some form of sustenance, and it will come; through the generosity of those filled with a spirit of love and compassion, inspired by a burning sense of justice.

Canon Adrian Alker

(edited and recorded for St Andrew’s URC by Douglas Jones)

ANTHEM – Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God (T. Tertius Noble) recorded live at York Minster in 1987

Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed, unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you. Amen. (Ephesians 4:30-32)

PRAYERS

Holy God, Almighty Father, King of Heaven, be with us today as we bring our prayers before your throne. Help us to know what to ask of you, that we may live our lives in accordance with your will, and draw your kingdom ever closer to our own. Help us to be awake, alert and ready to hear and receive your holy Word. Surround us with your protective shield, fortify us with your sustaining power, nourish us with your spiritual food, and guide us with your transforming light; that we may feel defended by you, strengthened by you, fed by you and directed by you; that we may truly become what you created us to be, following the road you have prepared for us to travel upon, and that we may remain worthy ambassadors for you throughout our earthly journey; and also that we may please you in all our endeavours to be a true reflection of you, in whose image we were skilfully created, and by whose hands we were lovingly and wonderfully made. We make this prayer in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in whose words 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
Deep peace of the running wave to you. Deep peace of the flowing air to you. Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. Deep peace of the shining stars to you. Deep peace of the gentle night to you. Moon and stars pour their healing light on you. Deep peace of Christ, the light of the world to you; and may the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon us, and upon all those we love, this day and evermore. Amen.


FINAL HYMN – Guide me, O thou great Redeemer (tune: Cwm Rhondda)

ORGAN VOLUNTARY – Prelude and Fugue in A flat major Op.36 No.2 (Marcel Dupré), played by Martin Bacot

 

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Sunday 18th July 2021 – 8th Sunday after Pentecost – 7th after Trinity

WORDS OF WELCOME

Welcome to our weekly collection of prayers, music and readings for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, following the Revised Common Lectionary. We extend a special welcome to Reverend Jamie Kissack, who has kindly agreed to provide this week’s reflection. Jamie is the Moderator for the United Reformed Church in our region.

OPENING PRAYER

Bless, O Lord, us thy servants who minister in thy temple; grant that what we sing with our lips we may believe in our hearts, and that what we believe in our hearts we may shew forth in our lives. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

INTROIT HYMN – Jesus, where’er thy people meet (tune: Wareham)

COLLECT

Generous God, you give us gifts and make them grow: though our faith is small as mustard seed, make it grow to your glory and the flourishing of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – Jeremiah 23:1-6

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD. The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

HYMN – The King of love my shepherd is (tune: Dominus regit me)

EPISTLE – Ephesians 2:11-22

So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” –a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands–remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 23 (chant in A by Douglas Jones)

Dominus regit me

  1. THE Lord is my shepherd: therefore can I lack nothing.

  2. He shall feed me in a green pasture: and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.

  3. He shall convert my soul: and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness, for his Name’s sake.

  4. 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 comfort me.

  5. Thou shalt prepare a table before me against them that trouble me: thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full.

  6. But thy loving-kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

GLORIA

GOSPEL – Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

HYMN – There’s a wideness in God’s mercy

REFLECTION – ‘The Picture Frame’, by Revd Jamie Kissack (see below for a link to a video version)

Mark 6:30-35 & 53-56

It would be a very strange thing to do, to go into a traditional art gallery and to spend all one’s time and energy examining and commenting on the frames of the paintings!  You might think that today’s lectionary reading asks us to something like this as it is one of those readings which cuts a middle bit out.  And it looks all the more peculiar when you see what has been missed out: two stories, the feeding of the five thousand, and the story of Jesus walking on the water.  Of all the miracle stories of the gospels, surely these two are among the most iconic and memorable!

So we are left with the frame – the narrative of events before and after the ‘masterpiece’ stories.  About these stories, it seems to me that there is something every-day and ordinary.  It is certainly a lively and busy set of stories, but they come nowhere near the drama and impact of the big miracle stories.  Even the healings that take place seem to be mentioned in a matter-of-fact way as if there was nothing very special about them.

But perhaps we should pay attention to this frame (as the lectionary asks us to do), and ask what Mark might want to be communicating through the collection of stories which make it up.  It might be helpful to take the individual pieces of the frame, and ask if there might be an important picture in each?  In particular, it would be good to ask, ‘what picture of Jesus does it give us?’

So I find myself looking for pictures of Jesus.  Here’s the first one:

Mark 6:30 ‘The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.’

Here is a picture of Jesus with him at the centre of a tight group of disciples, the disciples excitedly but wearily telling Jesus about what they have been up to.  (They have just returned from their mission having been sent out by Jesus two by two, without bag, belt, or spare shirt.)  Bring it to mind in your imagination if you can.  What kind of picture is it?  I would suggest that it is a picture of nurturing.

The next picture:

Mark 6:31-33 ‘He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them’

Here is a different picture of Jesus  – a picture of Jesus and the disciples on the move – moving away from the crowd and the pressures of life, disappearing off into the distance.  As you imagine this scene, perhaps we could call it a contemplative picture.

Picture 3:

Mark 6:34 ‘As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

Here is a picture of Jesus looking from afar at the assembled crowd – and passing judgement.  Compassionate judgement, to be sure, but judgement none the less.  ‘They are like sheep without a shepherd.’  Jesus is looking with the penetrating gaze of a prophet, so we could call this a prophetic picture.

Picture 4:

Mark 6:34b ‘and he began to teach them many things.’

In this picture, Jesus is no longer looking on from a distance, but now is in front of the crowd in teaching mode.  Mark rarely tells us what Jesus is teaching, but we can assume, I think, that it will be centred on the Good News.  So this is an evangelical picture.

Picture 5, then, comes after the ‘cut’ in the story – the other part of the frame.

Mark 6:53-56 ‘When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.’

Here is a picture of Jesus moving around through the community and being back in the centre.  Now it is not teaching or encouragement, but healing that is the draw.  And the community reaches toward him to touch him (or the tassels of his prayer-shawl?) in their need for healing.  This is very much a pastoral picture.

So we have five pictures (perhaps you have spotted others) in which Jesus appears differently in relation to those around him.  They come after each other in such quick and breathless succession.   I have named the pictures of Jesus ‘Nurturing’, ‘Contemplative’, ‘Prophetic’, ‘Evangelical’, and ‘Pastoral’.  It is no coincidence that these are all words which we might choose to describe the church – or to describe different kinds of churches, or to describe one church but at different times.  There is no surprise here, of course, because the church seeks to be the body of Christ, or the followers of Jesus, or even the imitators of Jesus.

I wonder which of these pictures comes closest to your experience of church – and St. Andrew’s URC, Sheffield – at the moment?  ‘Nurturing’, ‘Contemplative’, ‘Prophetic’, ‘Evangelical’, or ‘Pastoral’?  Which ever it might be, this set of pictures reminds us that each is an authentic expression of Jesus’ life and ministry.

We might also be reminded that we should avoid the danger of becoming too narrow in our ideas of what church should be like.  There is never only one picture of Jesus, and so there should not be one model of church.  More than that, if we are to be true to the gospel, we need each other to get the whole story.

And as we experience the movement and drama of Mark’s telling of the life of Jesus perhaps we could be encouraged to think about how we might change and experience different aspects of the church’s expression.  After all, it is one of the joys as well as one of the challenges of Christian discipleship that we are not meant to stay in one place and to see the world from one perspective.  Jesus is always moving on – and so should we.

N.B. A video version of this sermon may be viewed here:

ANTHEM – Though I speak with the tongues (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, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

PRAYERS

Dear Lord, Creator and Origin, Alpha and Omega, we marvel at the awesome power, splendour and beauty of the universe; especially of the living planet on which we live, and of which we are but passing custodians. Help us to better care for the natural world and understand the consequences of our many interactions with it. In recent days we have witnessed further evidence of how the earth reacts to increases in temperature, resulting in sudden climatic events such as spontaneous wildfires, excessive rainfall and record-breaking heat, frequently destroying the habitats upon which we and all your living creatures depend. We thank you for the resources you have provided for our sustenance and preservation. Teach us how to use them wisely, and to recognise when our actions may be seen as an abuse of our stewardship. Show us mercy when we fail, guide us when we go astray and enrich us with the wisdom to make the best decisions we are able; so that we may better care not only for the world in which we live, but also for one another, in order that we may dwell together in peace and love, without any kind of injustice or prejudice. Heavenly Father, stretch out your loving arms and show compassion to those who suffer in body mind or spirit. Give hope to those who despair, faith to those who doubt, strength to those who are weak, assurance to the dying and comfort to the bereaved. In the words of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ we pray:

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 – O love how deep, how broad, how high (tune: Eisenach – Sheffield Cathedral Choir)

ORGAN VOLUNTARY – Finale from Organ Symphony No.1 (Louis Vierne), played by Finnish Concert Organist Pétur Sakari at Central Pori Church, Pori, Finland. It is built by Paschen Kiel Orgelbau and is based on French Romantic tradition. This was recorded in 2009 when Pétur was 17 years old.

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Sunday 11th July 2021 – 7th Sunday after Pentecost – 6th after Trinity

WORDS OF WELCOME

 A warm welcome to you who have arrived here today. You are invited to share with us in our weekly digest of prayer, scripture readings and music selected for this the 7th Sunday after Pentecost. Our reflection for this week has been kindly provided by the Reverend Graham Wassell, who is a retired Methodist Minister joining us from Bents Green.

OPENING SENTENCES

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors:
And the King of Glory shall come in.
Who is this King of Glory?
Even the Lord of Hosts; He is the King of Glory!

INTROIT HYMN – From all that dwell below the skies

1
From all that dwell below the skies,
Let the Creator’s praise arise;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Let the Redeemer’s name be sung,
Through ev’ry land by ev’ry tongue.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia
!

2
Eternal are thy mercies, Lord;
Eternal truth attends thy word:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thy praise shall sound from shore to shore,
Till suns shall rise and set no more.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

3
Your lofty themes, all mortals, bring;
In songs of praise divinely sing;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
The great salvation loud proclaim,
And shout for joy the Saviour’s name.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

4
In ev’ry land begin the song;
To ev’ry land the strains belong;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
In cheerful sounds all voices raise,
And fill the world with loudest praise.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

COLLECT

Merciful God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding: pour into our hearts such love toward 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, 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 6:1-5, 12b-19

David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. They brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the LORD. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.

HYMN – Lord of the Dance (adapted from ‘Simple Gifts’ – Shaker melody)

EPISTLE – Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 24

Domini est terra

  1. THE earth is the Lord’s, and all that therein is : the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein.

  2. For he hath founded it upon the seas : and prepared it upon the floods.

  3. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord : or who shall rise up in his holy place?

  4. Even he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart : and that hath not lift up his mind unto vanity, nor sworn to deceive his neighbour.

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

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

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

  8. Who is the King of glory : it is the Lord strong and mighty, even the Lord mighty in battle.

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

  10. Who is the King of glory : even the Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.

GLORIA

GOSPEL – Mark 6:14-29

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

HYMN – God of grace and God of glory (tune: Cwm Rhondda)

REFLECTION – Revd. Graham Wassell

Hello everyone, my name’s Graham Wassell. I’m a retired Methodist Minister and my home church is at Bents Green. I like to be out and about, preaching and leading worship at various churches, as well as playing Crown Green Bowls, walking in the countryside, and, at present, enjoying all the sport on television. I hope I can allow my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to guide me in all parts of life, which is the focus for this reflection.

In the opening chapter of Ephesians at verse12, we read that we who first hoped in Christ are to live for the praise of his glory. So we focus our thoughts today on the call for us to offer our praise to the glory of the Lord. And that’s not just in specific times and acts of worship, but in the whole of our lives.

David, in the Old Testament reading, loses all his inhibitions as he gives everything to praising God in a spontaneous act of worship, which brings some admonition from Michal. Perhaps there’s some jealousy in there.

Psalm 24 calls upon the people of God to come up to the Holy Place, but only if they have clean hands and a pure heart. It’s no good offering worship and praise to God if it’s mixed with falsehood or deceit. Again, we see the importance of whole life worship and praise. There’s no way that we can compartmentalise our lives into secular and sacred. It must be a whole, a unit. Sunday and Monday are no different in this respect.

We can discern that this is what John the Baptist has done in his life. In this most disturbing part of the gospel, we see that John has given his all in praise and in putting the Lord first. He has not allowed his own safety or comfort or reputation to deflect him in his task of living for his Lord, in whom he puts all his hope. In the end, he gives his life in praise of his Lord, the ultimate sacrifice.

But that’s what Jesus has done for us, given his life that we might live and be reconciled to God despite our sin. In response to that, what else can we do but offer ourselves to God in praise and worship? And the call is for that to be in every part of our lives. And for each of us, our response to this call will be different. For some of us, we are able to pour ourselves out in an uninhibited and unrestrained act of worship, just like David did. Others of us are more reserved than that, but it doesn’t mean that our praise will be any less sincere. And sincerity is a major part of this. That’s why we need to come before the Lord,  as in Psalm 24, to ensure we have clean hands and a pure heart. Our praise and worship cannot contain any falsehood or pride or show. If it does, then it’s worthless.

The key thing here, it seems to me, is who is at the centre of our lives. Is it me, myself, or is it the Lord Jesus Christ? If I am at the centre and heart of everything, then I am unable to fulfil this calling. But if I can truly put the Lord there, then it follows that my whole life will be a true act of praise and worship, bringing honour to God. This is what John the Baptist did and it led him to make the ultimate sacrifice. It’s unlikely that we will be called upon to follow in his footsteps, but there will be smaller sacrifices that we are called upon to make. As Paul says in Romans 12, “I appeal to you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

As in all of these things, though, it is an impossible task to live out these demands in our own strength. But the Ephesians passage reminds us at verse 14 that we have the gift of the promised Holy Spirit to prompt us, to strengthen us, to guide us, to admonish us and to help us truly to become God’s people. And again, this is all to the praise of God’s glory.

God has enriched us so much in Jesus Christ. What else can we do but give the best that we can to God’s praise and worship, in the whole of our lives? May we truly live to the praise and glory of God, that his Name may be lifted high, today and every day.

God bless,

                    Graham

ANTHEM – Gloria in excelsis Deo (Thomas Weelkes) sung by Oxford Camerata

PRAYERS

Let us pray. All glory be yours alone, almighty God of heaven; grant peace upon all the earth and goodwill to all your people. Let us praise and bless the Lord, let us worship him and glorify him, let us give thanks to him for his great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, Father of all. Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, true Son of the Father, Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, in the light of our sinful past we plead for your loving mercy; O Lord, seated at the Father’s right hand, receive our prayer. Holy and Immortal One, you are our only Lord; Most High, Jesus Christ, you are at one with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

We bring before our heavenly Father the needs of the whole world, and place in his hands the care and welfare of the whole earthly family. O God, who made the world whole, complete and self-sustaining, and who created humanity in your own image; observe in us, we humbly pray, all the imperfections we have wrought upon ourselves and upon your creation, as a consequence of our lack of will, knowledge or understanding. We ask that you surround us with the touch of your healing hands, as a potter forming what he wills with the clay of life; and refill the many fractures and fissures in our minds and our bodies, in our lives and communities, and in the entire fabric of our world; that it and we may be refreshed, reformed and recreated, so that henceforth we may dwell in our land, and co-exist with our fellows in a spirit of love and friendship, without hatred or prejudice, as honest stewards and caretakers of your creation, and as worthy beacons of your love; shining as lights in the darkness of the world and following the road you have set before us. We entrust to your care the souls of those whose earthly highway has reached its final junction, and ask that you will escort them safely to their destination in your heavenly kingdom.
This prayer, and the prayers of all your people, we commend to you in the words our Saviour 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

Go forth into the world in peace. Be of good courage. Render to no-one evil for evil. Love and serve the Lord in the name of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit; and may the grace of the Holy Trinity rest upon us and upon those we love this day and every day, for evermore. Amen.

FINAL HYMN – The God of Abraham praise (tune: Leoni)

ORGAN VOLUNTARY – Fantasia in F minor (for mechanical clock) K.608 – W A Mozart

Jonathan Scott performs the Fantasy in F Minor K.608 “Ein Orgelstück für eine Uhr” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on the 1968 Hill, Norman and Beard Pipe Organ of St. Oswalds’ Chapel, Ellesmere College, Shropshire UK.

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SUNDAY 4th July 2021 – 6th Sunday after Pentecost – 5th after Trinity

Today’s service follows the Fourth Order for Holy Communion of the United Reformed Church. The music of the service is by Franz Schubert, from his Mass in G, sung by the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, and for any of you who would like to join them, music is included! The reflection this week has been written by Revd Dr David Stec.

Opening Sentences

This is the day which the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord;
for his mercy endures for ever.

Prayer of Approach

Let us pray. Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

HYMN: This is the day the Lord hath made (tune: Billing)

  1. 1
    This is the day the Lord hath made;
    He calls the hours his own;
    Let heaven rejoice, let earth be glad,
    And praise surround his throne. 

  1. 2
    Blest be thy Lord, who came to men
    With heavenly truth and grace;
    Who came in God his Father’s name,
    To save our sinful race. 

  1. 3
    Today he rose and left the dead,
    And Satan’s empire fell;
    Today the saints his triumphs spread,
    And all his wonders tell.

Confession of Sin

Lord God most merciful, we confess that we have sinned, through our own fault, and in common with others, in thought, word and deed, and through what we have left undone. We ask to be forgiven. By the power of your Spirit turn us from evil to good, help us to forgive others, and keep us in your ways of righteousness and love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

In repentance and in faith receive the promise of grace and the assurance of pardon. Here are words you may trust, words that merit full acceptance: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ Your sins are forgiven for his sake. Thanks be to God.

The Kyries

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Gloria in excelsis

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

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, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Lesson from the Old Testament – Ezekiel 2:1-5

He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.” Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

HYMN: Lo! God is here! Let us adore (tune: Surrey)

The EPISTLE – 2 Corinthians 12:2-10

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows– was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

The GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 123

Ad te levavi oculos meos

  1. UNTO thee lift I up mine eyes : O thou that dwellest in the heavens.

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

  3. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us : for we are utterly despised.

  4. Our soul is filled with the scornful reproof of the wealthy : and with the despitefulness of the proud.

GLORIA

The HOLY GOSPEL – Mark 6:1-13

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

HYMN: Lord of all hopefulness (tune: Slane)

 

Today’s Reflection has been penned by our own Revd Dr David Stec.

Ezek 2:1-5

2 Cor 12:1-10

Mark 6:1-13

2 Cor 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ ”

If all three of the biblical passages set for today have one thing in common, it is that of power in weakness. Each is concerned with the power of God to accomplish great things despite, and even through, the weakness of humans.

In the chapter preceding our lesson from 2 Corinthians 12, St Paul speaks about some of the hardships that he has endured for the sake of the Gospel. He has often been at death’s door: Five times the Jewish authorities had lashed him with the forty stripes less one, three times he had been beaten with rods, and once he had been stoned. Three times he had been shipwrecked, and had even been set adrift at sea for a full day. And if all that was not enough, he goes on to tell of his frequent journeys, facing dangers from rivers and robbers, dangers from both Jews and Gentiles in both city and wilderness, suffering toil and hardship, often being sleepless, hungry and thirsty, and lacking warmth and clothing.

St Paul has much indeed that he could boast of, which would prove his apostleship to be genuine. An even greater ground for boasting than all these hardships might have been the visions and revelations that he had received. And this is something that he goes on to address at the being of chapter 12.

He recalls one particular experience that he had had fourteen years previously, referring to himself in the third person as a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven. This was, according to late Jewish speculation, this highest heaven of all; and he tells us that on entry into paradise he heard things that were beyond the possibility of human expression. Exactly how this vision came about, whether in the body or out of the body, he was unable to explain; this was known only to God.

The vision was certainly something that he could quite justifiably boast of, and he had had many other visions too. But he tells us that, in order to prevent him from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, he was given a “thorn in the flesh”. Exactly what this “thorn in the flesh” was, no one knows. Among the many things that have been suggested are epilepsy, malaria, stammering and blindness.

St Paul recalls that three times he besought the Lord about this, that it might leave him. But his petition was not granted him. All that was granted him was the assurance expressed in the words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” He would be enabled to endure this “thorn in the flesh” just as much as he had been enabled to endure so many other adversities on his journeys in the cause of the Gospel. So he concludes by saying, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Our OT lesson (Ezek 2:1-5) makes up part of the call and commissioning of Ezekiel as a prophet. In order to appreciate the impact of this passage, before reading it you first really need to read chapter 1, which describes his inaugural vision.

Ezekiel sees a storm coming from the north, the direction from which God is coming to the exiles in Babylon, among whom Ezekiel lived. He has a profound vision of the glory of God seated upon his throne-chariot above the firmament.

It may seem to us a rather strange vision, involving four “living creatures”, which had the form of men, each of which had four faces: the face of a man at the front, a lion on the right, an ox on the left and an eagle at the back. In a similar vision in chapter 10, these creatures are referred to as the cherubim. Beside the living creatures were four wheels which moved about with them.

Through the use of various strange and mysterious symbols, this vision superbly expresses the reality of the divine transcendence which underlay Ezekiel’s theology throughout his ministry. God is high and lifted up, exalted above all creation and enthroned in majesty above his universe. In Ezekiel’s opening vision he sees things which no words are adequate to describe, just as when St Paul was caught up into the third heaven, he heard things “that cannot be told, which man may not utter”. Ezekiel’s reaction to seeing the glory of God is to fall upon his face.

It is at this point that we join our OT lesson, as God begins to speak to his prophet. And what a contrast this is to what has gone before! The very first words which God utters are the words “Son of man” or “Son of humanity”. This is a literal translation of the Hebrew, and it perhaps does not mean very much to the modern speaker of English. The words “son of” (a single word in Hebrew) are used to mean “someone having the property of”. So Ezekiel is being addressed as someone having the property of humanity, that is to say mortality. This is the reason why, if you are using the NRSV (and various other versions too), the phrase is translated as “O mortal”. But I prefer the traditional “son of man”.

So after the supernal heights of the vision in chapter 1, Ezekiel is straightaway reminded of his mortality. That vision of the glory of God remained with Ezekiel throughout his ministry, and likewise whenever God spoke to him, he reminded him of his mortality by using the phrase “son of man” to address his prophet some 93 times in the Book of Ezekiel.

As a mere mortal, Ezekiel has a daunting task ahead of him. His commissioning as a prophet begins with the words, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels …” And if that was not enough, he is told, “The people also are impudent and stubborn.” He is to go to them and address them using the words with which the OT prophets so often began their oracles: “Thus says the Lord GOD.”

God has given his people the freedom to hear or refuse to hear the message which Ezekiel brings them, thus the outcome of the task which lies ahead of him is by no means certain. But what is certain is that God cares for his people enough to send his prophet to them, and Ezekiel is assured that whether they hear or refuse to hear, “they will know that there has been a prophet among them.”

Our Gospel reading is an account of Jesus being rejected by the people of his home town. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and those who heard him reacted with amazement, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” Mark tells us that they took offence at him.

This was not the first time that Jesus had taught in a synagogue. Mark mentions a number of previous occasions, and right from the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel we see that Jesus had already established a teaching ministry in the area around Capernaum. But this occasion was different. As far as the folk in the synagogue were concerned, Jesus was coming to them not as a prophet, but as the boy who had grown up in their midst, whose family was still among them. They saw him as the village carpenter (or in St Matthew’s account, the son of the carpenter). What right had he to speak with such eloquence and authority?

Thus Jesus was at an even greater disadvantage than Ezekiel. For Ezekiel had been promised that whether or not his message was accepted, the people to whom he was sent would know that there had been a prophet among them, but the folk of Jesus’ home town did not even afford him that honour.

The second half of our Gospel reading is an account of the mission of the twelve apostles. When Jesus sent them out two by two on a teaching and healing ministry, he warned them of the possibility that people would refuse to receive them or listen to them. They were, after all, people from very ordinary backgrounds, making a start on work for which they had had very little preparation, and doubtless it would not be easy to gain the respect of those who whom they had been sent. Yet, evidently their mission did meet with some success, as Mark tersely records: “And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.”

From the pages of scripture we see time and time again that God takes human beings in all their weakness and empowers them to do great things. The greatest example of this is surely what Jesus achieved upon the cross.

If your bible is one of those which prints the words of Jesus in red, it is likely that words spoken by “the Lord” to St Paul in 1 Cor 12:9 will appear in red type: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It was the crucified and risen Jesus who uttered this promise to St Paul. And every time we gather around the Lord’s table to observe the sacrament, we celebrate that same power of his, made perfect in weakness.

Revd Dr David Stec

Prayers for the Church and the World

Almighty God, whose Spirit helps us in our weakness and guides us in our prayers; we pray for the Church and for the world in the name of Jesus Christ. We pray for the Church throughout the world. Renew the faith and life of the Church; strengthen its witness; and make it one in Christ. Grant that we and all who confess that he is Lord may be faithful in service and filled with his spirit, and that the world may be turned to Christ. We pray for the nations of the world our own country all who work for reconciliation Guide the nations in the ways of justice, liberty and peace; and help them to seek the unity and welfare of all peoples. Give to our Queen and to all in authority wisdom to know and strength to do what is right.

We pray for all who serve our community. Grant that men and women in their various callings may have grace to do their work well; and may the resources of the earth be wisely used, truth honoured and preserved, and the quality of our life enriched.

We pray for the sick and the suffering, victims of injustice, the lonely and the bereaved. Comfort those in sorrow; heal the sick in body or in mind; and deliver the oppressed. Give us active sympathy for all who suffer; and help us so to bear the burdens of others that we may fulfil the law of Christ.

We pray for our families, friends and neighbours, and for all who need our prayers. Keep us and the members of our families united in loyalty and in love, and always in your care; and may our friends and neighbours, and all for whom we pray, receive the help they need, and live in peace.

We remember those who have died. Eternal God, accept our thanks and praise for all who have served you faithfully here on earth, and especially for those dear to our own hearts. May we and all your people, past, present and to come, share the life and joy of your kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Invitation and the Gracious Words

All those present may be invited to share in the Lord’s Supper. Hear the gracious words of our Lord Jesus Christ; Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.

The Peace

The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.

HYMN: There’s a wideness in God’s mercy (tune: There’s a wideness)

 The Offertory

If you are partaking of your own bread and wine in your home, you are invited to offer this prayer of blessing:

Eternal God, we come with these gifts to offer our sacrifice of praise and the service of our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Narrative of the Institution of the Lord’s Supper

Hear the narrative of the institution of the Lord’s Supper as it was recorded by the apostle Paul. I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The Taking of the Bread and Wine

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and following his example, we take this bread and this cup, and give thanks to God.

The Thanksgiving

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

With joy we give you thanks and praise, Almighty God, Source of all life and love, that we live in your world, that you are always creating and sustaining it by your power, and that you have so made us that we can know and love you, trust and serve you. We give you thanks that you loved the world so much that you gave your only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life. We thank you that Jesus was born among us that he lived our common life on earth; that he suffered and died for us; that he rose again; and that he is always present through the Holy Spirit. We thank you that we can live in the faith that your kingdom will come, and that in life, in death and beyond death you are with us.

Therefore with all the company of heaven, and with all your people, of all places and times, we proclaim your greatness and sing your praise.

Sanctus

Holy, holy, holy Lord
God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Benedictus

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Holy Lord God, by what we do here in remembrance of Christ we celebrate his perfect sacrifice on the Cross and his glorious resurrection and ascension; we declare that he is Lord of all; and we prepare for his coming in his kingdom. We pray that through your Holy Spirit this bread may be for us the body of Christ and this wine the blood of Christ. Accept our sacrifice of praise; and as we eat and drink at his command unite us to Christ as one body in him, and give us strength to serve you in the world. And to you, one holy and eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we give praise and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

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 Breaking of the Bread

The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup saying ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

The Sharing of the Bread and Wine

Before you take the bread, you may say:

Take, eat – this is the body of Christ which is broken for me; this I do this in remembrance of him.

Before you take the wine, you may say:

This cup, of which I drink, is the new covenant in the blood of Christ, shed for me and for many for the remission of sins.

Agnus Dei

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: Grant us peace.

The Acclamation

Let us praise the Lord.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Blessing and honour and glory and power be to our God for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

Grant, O Lord, we beseech you, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by your governance, that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

HYMN: Ye watchers and ye holy ones

1
Ye watchers and ye holy ones, 
bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones, 
raise the glad strain, Alleluia! 
Cry out, dominions, princedoms, powers, 
virtues, archangels, angels’ choirs: 
Alleluia! Alleluia! 
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia

2
O higher than the cherubim, 
more glorious than the seraphim, 
lead their praises, Alleluia! 
Thou bearer of th’ eternal Word, 
most gracious, magnify the Lord:
Alleluia! Alleluia! 
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia

3
Respond, ye souls in endless rest, 
ye patriarchs and prophets blest, 
Alleluia! Alleluia! 
Ye holy twelve, ye martyrs strong, 
all saints triumphant, raise the song:
Alleluia! Alleluia! 
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia

 

4
O friends, in gladness let us sing, 
supernal anthems echoing, 
Alleluia! Alleluia! 
To God the Father, God the Son, 
and God the Spirit, Three in One:
Alleluia! Alleluia! 
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia

Dismissal and Blessing

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with us evermore. Amen.

ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Prelude and ‘St Anne’ Fugue in E flat major (J S Bach) played by Dr Kris Rizzotto on the Rieger organ at Lillehammer Kirke, Lillehammer, Norway.

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