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Sunday 30th May 2021 – 1st Sunday after Pentecost – Trinity Sunday

WELCOME

A warm welcome to you as we share together the readings, prayers and music on this the 1st Sunday after Pentecost, the feast of the Holy Trinity. For our Reflection this week we welcome back our friend, Kirsty Massey, who first joined us in worship last Christmastide.

OPENING SENTENCES

O God the Father of Heaven:

Have mercy upon us.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world:

Have mercy upon us.

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

Have mercy upon us.

INTROIT HYMN – Firmly I believe and truly

COLLECT

Holy God, faithful and unchanging: enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth, and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love, that we may truly worship you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

1st Reading – Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

HYMN: Ye watchers and ye holy ones (tune: Lasst Uns Erfreuen)

1 Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
Bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones,
Raise the glad strain: “Alleluia!”
Cry out, dominions, princedoms, pow’rs,
Virtues, archangels, angels’ choirs:
“Alleluia! Alleluia!”
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

2 O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises: “Alleluia!”
O bearer of the 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!

EPISTLE – Romans 8:12-17

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 29

Afferte Domino

  1. BRING unto the Lord, O ye mighty, bring young rams unto the Lord : ascribe unto the Lord worship and strength.

  2. Give the Lord the honour due unto his Name : worship the Lord with holy worship.

  3. It is the Lord that commandeth the waters : it is the glorious God that maketh the thunder.

  4. It is the Lord that ruleth the sea; the voice of the Lord is mighty in operation : the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice.

  5. The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedar-trees : yea, the Lord breaketh the cedars of Libanus.

  6. He maketh them also to skip like a calf : Libanus also, and Sirion, like a young unicorn.

  7. The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire; the voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness : yea, the Lord shaketh the wilderness of Cades.

  8. The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to bring forth young, and discovereth the thick bushes : in his temple doth every man speak of his honour.

  9. The Lord sitteth above the water-flood : and the Lord remaineth a King for ever.

  10. The Lord shall give strength unto his people : the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

GLORIA

GOSPEL – John 3:1-17

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

HYMN – My song is love unknown (tune: Love unknown)

REFLECTION – Kirsty Massey

 

ANTHEM: I saw the Lord (Sir John Stainer)

PRAYERS

Almighty God and merciful Father, unworthy as we are, we offer you our humble thanks for all the goodness and loving-kindness you show to us and to all people. We bless you for our creation, sustenance, and all the blessings and gifts which you bestow upon us during our earthly lives; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom we receive true grace, and the hope of eternal life. And, we pray, awaken our minds to such a recognition of your mercies, that we may with true and thankful hearts show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

As our Saviour taught us, 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 blessing of God the Father who tends us, of God the Son who died to redeem us, and of God the Holy Spirit who inspires us from within, rest upon us and all those we love, this day and always. Amen.

HYMN – Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty (tune: Nicea)

ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Toccata/Prelude and Fugue in E major BWV566 (J. S. Bach) played by Christian Barthen on the Rieger Organ of the Stadtkirche von Aalen.

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Sunday 23rd May 2021 – The Day of Pentecost – Whitsunday

WELCOME

Whether you are regular worshipper at St Andrew’s, or have arrived here purely by chance, you are most welcome to share with us in our selection of music, readings and prayers for today, the Day of Pentecost, when we celebrate the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit. Our readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary, and our former minister, Revd Fleur Houston, has provided this week’s reflection.

OPENING SENTENCES

Holy Spirit, Lord of Grace:

You are the eternal Fount of Love!

Come now, O Love Divine:

And seek out this soul of mine!

INTROIT HYMN – Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire (tune: Veni Creator Spiritus)

COLLECT

Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, ignite in us your holy fire; strengthen your children with the gift of faith, revive your Church with the breath of love, and renew the face of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

1st Reading – Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

HYMN: Come down, O Love divine (tune: Down Ampney)

2nd Reading – Romans 8:22-27

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 104 (extract), sung by the choir of Lincoln Cathedral

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

  2. So is the great and wide sea also : wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.

  3. There go the ships, and there is that Leviathan : whom thou hast made to take his pastime therein.

  4. These wait all upon thee : that thou mayest give them meat in due season.

  5. When thou givest it them they gather it : and when thou openest thy hand they are filled with good.

  6. When thou hidest thy face they are troubled : when thou takest away their breath they die, and are turned again to their dust.

  7. When thou lettest thy breath go forth they shall be made : and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

  8. The glorious majesty of the Lord shall endure for ever : the Lord shall rejoice in his works.

  9. The earth shall tremble at the look of him : if he do but touch the hills, they shall smoke.

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

  11. And so shall my words please him : my joy shall be in the Lord.

  12. As for sinners, they shall be consumed out of the earth : and the ungodly shall come to an end.

35b. Praise thou the Lord : O my soul, praise the Lord.

GLORIA

GOSPEL – John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

HYMN – Breathe on me, breath of God (tune: Carlisle)

REFLECTION – Revd Fleur Houston

Acts 2: 1-21

John 15: 26-27

16:4b-15

Gaelic, I was led to believe as a child, is the language that was spoke in the Garden of Eden. No other language could be more complex in its structures, no other language could have more words of affection and love. It’s not an easy language to learn from a textbook; you need to learn it from Gaelic speakers.  And you’ll find those chiefly in the Western Highlands of Scotland. I was told how a cousin of my mother’s, Christopher, had begun to give lessons in Gaelic to a friend. One day they decided to go fishing in a small fishing boat on Loch Duich. Suddenly the weather took a turn for the worse, the wind became fierce and the man, who was unable to swim, called out to Christopher in perfect Gaelic, “Help me, man, help me.” Now this was quite extraordinary. For this man had never learnt enough of the language to say this. It was quite inexplicable. Yet in his hour of need he was able to communicate perfectly. You could say that it was, in a way, a Pentecost experience.

Today we read Luke’s great account in the Book of Acts of the first Pentecost experience of the early Church. He relates how, on the day of Pentecost, all the apostles were met together. Now in itself there is nothing unusual about that, for this was one of the three great pilgrimage festivals in the Jewish calendar. A day when devout Jews gathered in Jerusalem; Jews from Israel and diaspora Jews too, who travelled from the countries where they had settled, to celebrate the feast in Jerusalem. Pentecost was a harvest festival; an opportunity to celebrate together God’s providence and care. But for Jesus’ closest disciples, it had an extra significance.

Jesus had returned to the Father, his Resurrection appearances to them on earth had come to an end. But had he not ordered them to stay in Jerusalem and wait there until they were baptised with the Holy Spirit? His parting promise to them was this: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” So in faith they went to Jerusalem and gathered together in prayer; the apostles, Jesus’ mother and brothers and certain other women. They didn’t know what to expect. They knew God was faithful to his promises. They were expecting something, but what that might be? They had no idea.

Then suddenly on the Day of Pentecost, it happened. And what happened was so extraordinary that it eluded description. Luke describes the indescribable in poetic imagery. A great rushing sound as of wind swept through the building. There was a flickering in the air like tongues of fire and these settled on each one of them where they sat. The Spirit was present among the group of disciples, baptising them with fire as John the Baptist had once foretold.

The immediate effect was electrifying. All of a sudden, the community of believers was galvanised with the ability to speak to people in a way which they could understand, as if they could speak their mother tongues. Now we should not assume from this that they were suddenly able to speak in various foreign languages, idiomatically using nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives with impeccable correctness. Nor was it an example of glossolalia, the gift of speaking in tongues – for that is unintelligible to the hearer unless it is interpreted. The gift of Pentecost was something else; it was the gift to speak in such a way that all their hearers could understand, whatever their own language. It was the gift of God. From Pentecost on, the disciples were empowered to leave their comfort zones; to reach across massive boundaries, cultural, religious, and ethnic; and preach the gospel boldly and persuasively throughout the known world.

Their hearers were stupefied and contemptuous. Were these who spoke not Galileans? Rough-cast men from the backwoods, in the north of Israel? Their accent betrayed them. But the language of the Spirit is not some cut-glass heavenly diction, free from the marks of human identity. It is the language of particular human beings who live, work and worship in a particular place, express themselves in a particular way and talk with their family and friends in their own idiom. For the disciples to lose their accents would be to lose a significant part of their identity.

I well remember the day my mother and father bought a television set. I was about 13, I suppose and my brother about 11. They bought the set not for entertainment, but to try to ensure that though we lived in a rural Scottish village, we would learn to speak BBC English, which was much more standardised in those days than it is now. Strange though it may seem to us today, there was a widespread belief at that time that if you were to make headway in life, you had to speak with a standard English accent. As you know, it didn’t work! We never lost the Scottish accent that was our inheritance. 

God is no respecter of persons. God works with real people, flesh and blood people like us, born in a specific place and time, and filled with the Spirit to proclaim the greatness of God in our own accents and in our own way.

Everyone wondered what this meant. Were they drunk? Peter rose to his feet. How could they be drunk? It wasn’t yet nine o’clock in the morning! He went on to remind these devout Jews of the promises of scripture. Had the prophet Joel not seen how at the end of time, God would pour out his Spirit upon all flesh, young men should see visions and old men dream dreams. Men and women, old and young, slaves and free, would prophecy. The signs and wonders they had just seen and heard were a fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy – the power of the future had erupted into human history with tongues of fire. The final era was inaugurated. And so Peter draws his hearers into the victory of God in Christ.  

At the present time we are emerging tentatively from the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic into our new-found freedoms. With a regime of masks, hand sanitiser and social distancing, some of our churches are reopening today, whilst others have not yet re-opened for in-person services. Either way we are taking proper precautions. And to be honest, are we not feeling just a little anxious, vulnerable, and insecure?  It scarcely seems possible that under such circumstances we could attempt to bring the gospel to Upper Hanover Street, let alone to all nations. And yet, the Spirit lives and breathes on through unlikely voices just like ours.

Have we forgotten the immensity of the power that God has provided? Are we underestimating the reality of the Holy Spirit living and working among us?  If so, the message of Pentecost is more important than ever. If we feel that the odds are stacked against us as a church, let us remember that the promise of the Spirit is for all God’s people in every generation.  It held good for those first followers of Jesus and it still holds good for us today. The Spirit continues to bear witness through us. God will accomplish his purposes through us, not because we are powerful – we are not; but because he will continue to exercise his power through us. If we expect great things of God, God will surely achieve great things through us.

Revd Fleur Houston

ANTHEM: God is a spirit (William Sterndale Bennett)

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship Him in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him  in spirit and in truth (derived from John 4:24).

PRAYERS

Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the many wonderful gifts you have bestowed on humankind. Whilst we acknowledge we do not individually possess all these qualities, we know by your holy word that by living and working together we can benefit from the combined gifts of all the members of the one body to which we belong.

We give special thanks for those who have the gifts of wisdom, knowledge and faith; for our teachers and advisors, for our social and spiritual leaders, for our judges and those in any kind of authority. We ask that you continue to inspire and enrich them to exercise their gifts with the utmost care, that we may all benefit from their guidance and advice. We thank you for the gift of healing, and express our gratitude to all who seek to alleviate pain and suffering of all kinds. In particular at this time, we continue to admire the members of the various medical professions, and all who work in our health services, medical centres, hospices and hospitals. We give you thanks for inspiring our researchers, scientists and those who manufacture, prepare, dispense and administer our medicines. We give you thanks for the diverse languages which are spoken by the various peoples of the world; for the skills of the orator, poet, author and translator. We give you thanks for the gift of music, and those who compose or perform it for our enjoyment, and for all the ways it complements the other forms of art and expression. We give you  thanks for inspiring those whose creation is in graphical forms, such as drawing, painting, architecture and design. We recognise that some people can achieve miraculous outcomes through their actions, and that others can predict future events inspired by your will. We give thanks for all who can recognise and understand the significance of the interventions of your spirit, and for the many souls who travelled this earthly path before us, who left us signs that we might follow the righteous path, and help prepare it for the next generation of followers. Lord help us shine as a light in this world, that we being empowered by your Holy Spirit may by our example help others to follow that path which leads to your heavenly kingdom. We ask this in the name of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, who taught us to 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.

HYMN – Love of the Father, Love of God the Son (tune: Song 22)

ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Toccata from Organ Symphony No.5 (C. M. Widor), played by Jonathan Scott

Sunday 16th May 2021 – 7th Sunday of Easter

 WELCOME

A warm welcome to you on this the 7th Sunday of Easter, the Sunday after the Ascension. Today’s set of lectionary readings has been chosen by Professor Clyde Binfield who has also written this week’s reflection. An extra anthem after the prayers has been added this week as a musical reflection on the current state of unrest in Jerusalem

OPENING SENTENCES (from Psalm 122)

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

They shall prosper that love thee.

Peace be within thy walls:

And plenteousness within thy palaces.

INTROIT HYMN – O praise ye the Lord (tune: Laudate Dominum)

COLLECT

Risen, ascended Lord, as we rejoice at your triumph, fill your Church on earth with power and compassion, that all who are estranged by sin may find forgiveness and know your peace, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

 1st Reading – Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus — for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

 HYMN: Hail the day that sees him rise (tune: Llanfair)

2nd Reading – 1 John 5:9-13

If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 1

Beatus vir, qui non abiit, &c.

  1. BLESSED is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners : and hath not sat in the seat of the scornful.

  2. But his delight is in the law of the Lord : and in his law will he exercise himself day and night.

  3. And he shall be like a tree planted by the water-side : that will bring forth his fruit in due season.

  4. His leaf also shall not wither : and look, whatsoever he doeth, it shall prosper.

  5. As for the ungodly, it is not so with them : but they are like the chaff, which the wind scattereth away from the face of the earth.

  6. Therefore the ungodly shall not be able to stand in the judgement : neither the sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

  7. But the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous : and the way of the ungodly shall perish

GLORIA

GOSPEL – John 17:6-19

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

HYMN – Thine for ever, God of love (tune: Newington)

REFLECTION – by Professor Clyde Binfield

A Church in the Making?

[for St Andrew’s, 16 May 2021]

 I have four texts. That seems like over-kill but these are snippets, as texts go. Here they are:-

“… and as the lot fell to Matthias …” [Acts 1 v. 26].

“Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky?” [Acts 1 v.11].

“Everyone was amazed and unable to explain it … Some, however, laughed it off …” [Acts 2 v.12-13]

“Happy the man who … finds his pleasure in the Law of Yahweh and murmurs his law day and night.” [Psalm 1 vv. 1-2].

     It is tempting to see this Sunday as one of those low Sundays. It is sandwiched between two feasts of the Church: Ascension, which was last Thursday, and Pentecost, which the unreconstructed among us still like to call Whitsun and which falls next Sunday. On Ascension Day the Church celebrates Christ as Jesus unconfined. At Pentecost heaven and earth are fused in the fire of the Spirit.

     This Sunday, however, is neither fiery nor unconfining. Thus, what might be regarded as its lead or trigger reading [Acts 1 vv. 15-17, 21-26] is about an election. Given recent events in Sheffield and nationwide, this is oddly apt and disconcertingly prosaic. I want to focus on that.

     From one angle that election in Acts, which was arguably precipitous, was a non-event. From another angle it is a snapshot of a process, a structuring indeed, which has endured to the present and promises to outlive us.

     Before we get to that, however, we must keep in our sights Ascension, which has passed, and Pentecost, which is approaching.

     Think of the great moments of the Christian Year. We can just about encompass the Nativity and the Crucifixion (birth and death happen to us all) but the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and Pentecost are inexpressible. Neither art nor word nor music can begin to get to the heart of those matters. What happened? Did what happened in fact happen as described? Does that matter? Look again at the Ascension:

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there’. [Acts 1 vv. 9-11]

What is going on? Now (this is a spoiler-alert) look forward to Pentecost:

… [T]hey had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages …

     Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled … Everyone was amazed and unable to explain it … Some, however, laughed it off. ‘They have been drinking too much new wine’, they said. [Acts 2 vv. 5, 12-13].

Again, what is going on? Can it have been as here described? Yet that description is stolidly matter-of-fact, so stolidly so that it seems to stoke up our expectations. The inexpressible has been presented as a definite event, located in a time and a place. The incredible is made credible. What next, going forward indeed?

     Thus last Thursday and next Sunday. Now for today. The translation which I have used gathers the first five chapters of Acts under the heading, “The Jerusalem Church”. That rather gives my game away. The context is that decidedly elastic upper room in Jerusalem where, gathered “in continuous prayer” are eleven men, “several women” (Mary, mother of Jesus among them), and “his brothers” (family members). There, one day, Peter “stood up to speak … there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation”. Peter was, as seems always to have been his way, about to be pro-active, going forward (as we would probably now want to put it). It was necessary to appoint a replacement for Judas who, “after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours”, had come to a shocking end. His replacement must be “someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us”.

     There were two candidates, Joseph Justus, known as Barsabbas, and Matthias. The meeting prayed and drew lots (women as well as men?) and “the lot fell to Matthias”.

     That ought to have been momentous, and perhaps it was, but Justus and Matthias to this day are little more than names. Tradition has it that both had been among the seventy missionary disciples. Tradition also has it that Justus survived an attempt to poison him and that that name of his, Justus, implied obedience, indeed devotion, to the Law, which his other name, Barsabbas (suggesting that he had been born on the Sabbath – would that have been Sabbath-breaking or keeping?) perhaps underlined. As for Matthias, tradition has it that he went as a missionary to Ethiopia and that he wrote two books, one of them a Gospel; but neither made it into the New Testament canon. It is most unsatisfactory.

     As, perhaps, was that election. Peter has been criticized for jumping the gun, blundering into a dodgy procedure – drawing lots, indeed – instead of waiting prayerfully for the Pentecostal moment or, rather, for that moment to have settled after it had seized them. The Christian future, it seems (not that we can ever be wholly sure), lay neither with Justus nor Matthias but with an as yet unknown quantity, Saul of Tarsus, not yet Paul, a man who certainly did not fit Peter’s criteria, as outlined at that church meeting.

     I am almost running ahead of myself, because I warm to what seems to have been happening. This bit of a non-event is in fact an event that makes sense of us. We are looking in on the encouragingly humdrum shaping of a church: 120 – not a bad size for a membership; women integral to it; a core of apostles, called and taught by Jesus, though, as Judas proved, that was no guarantee that they would keep the faith; certainly at crisis point and not for the last time; needing to re-affirm their identity … And here Peter comes at last into his own. His inner minister exerts itself. He initiates a procedure – prayer, and the drawing of lots, the latter normal enough for the time – and the group comes together and Peter’s authority is not just vindicated, it is affirmed.

     Years ago, when the Nonconformist Conscience was politically and socially to the fore, Nonconformist ministers would proudly insist that they were radicals when it came to the present but conservatives when it came to the earliest Church. It was such moments as these in that Jerusalem upper room that they had in mind: the Church to which they were witnessing in their radical, up-to-date, Free Church way was the Church which they saw shaping in Acts.

     Our other readings – Psalm and Gospel – tend to bear this out. First, the Gospel reading (John 17 vv. 6-19). Jesus is praying to his Father, with whom he is one. His prayer precedes his Passion; we, with our light of retrospect, might feel that he is praying for the future Church. His disciples have been chosen and now he prays for them, that they might be protected and sanctified, he prays for the unity of all believers, he prays for the disciples’ love. We begin to understand why this prayer came to be known as the priestly prayer of Christ: Jesus at prayer for the future Church.

     Next, the Psalm. It is striking that from the first Sunday after Easter to this Sunday before Pentecost the lectionary has been not so much Old Testament-free as Old Testament-lite. Only the psalm for the day has saved the day for the Old Testament. Today’s psalm is the first psalm of all. What is attractive about it, is the way it holds us to tradition. For its first hearers (and singers) that was the religion of the Torah but for us it is transposed to the Church, making it seem the most natural and satisfying of things. The psalmist comes across as such a decent person, speaking the words of the Law half aloud until they become part of his being. Here are some of them, which I have adapted to suit the inclusively sensitive:

Happy they who/ … find their pleasure in the Law of Yahweh,/and murmur his Law day and night./They are like trees that are planted/by water streams,/yielding their fruit in season,/their leaves never fading …

The relationship of the early Christians to the Law could neither be ignored nor taken for granted. It had to be reinterpreted. We might find that a comfort, as we slot it into our tradition.

     When I was preparing this sermon I turned to Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible. My copy was given to me by Henry Walker, a little sparrow of a Congregational minister. He had bought it in 1926, the year in which his first pastorate began. He found the United Reformed Church a step too far and in retirement in Sheffield he remained a Congregational minister while worshipping each Sunday at Trinity United Reformed Church. When I opened his Hastings a card slipped out. It tickled my historical nerve, it was such an unexpected link to local church life, at once ageless and immediate. On its back he had pencilled key words, I suspect for a Children’s Address, perhaps for a Women’s Meeting, perhaps for what was on the other side of the card: that was an invitation, dated 13 April, 1937, from Bacup Free Churches, for their Third Annual Rally and Conversazione in Ebenezer Baptist Schoolroom: Reception 7-7.30 pm; Refreshments; Collection for Expenses; and such entertainment – Madam F. Collinge, Soprano; Mrs. Martin, Violin; Miss Betty Howorth, Elocutionist; Mr. J.D. Lord, Humorous Songs…

     It was all far too good to be true, and yet true it was. I dug a little further. In 1937 Henry Walker was minister at Bacup’s Congregational Church, hence this card in his Hastings, with its pencilled notes on the back. The evening’s Host and Hostess were Mr. and Mrs. A.T. Foulds. Were they Ebenezer Baptists or Bacup Congregationalists? I know that Henry Walker’s Church Treasurer was Walter Foulds, a mill manager. The Chairman was a fellow minister and Lancastrian, H. Patterson Browell BA (Birmingham). With such a name he could only be a Methodist; and he was – he had entered the Wesleyan ministry in 1917, had been an Army Chaplain in Mesopotamia (three years at Kut-al-Amara; and that was no sinecure, then as much later), circuit work followed and in Sheffield he had found a wife from the cream of the city’s Methodism (her sister also married a Methodist minister who had been an Army Chaplain in the Great War).

    I had found out enough for me to close, enough to link me, and perhaps you, to a tradition that is now as far off as it is yet recognisable, and to such fellowship as we find forming in Jerusalem, thanks to Peter and Matthias and not forgetting Joseph Justus – men whose talents in their lighter moments might have equalled those of Madam Collinge or Mr. Lord, or the Rev. H. Patterson Browell BA, or any who might now be reading this.

 “… [A]nd as the lot fell to Matthias …” of whose future so little is known, what consequences there have nonetheless been.

Clyde Binfield

 ANTHEM: God is gone up with a triumphant shout (Gerald Finzi)

God is gone up with a triumphant shout:
The Lord with sounding trumpets’ melodies:
Sing praise, sing praise, sing praise, sing praises out,
Unto our King sing praise seraphic-wise!
Lift up your heads, ye lasting doors, they sing,
And let the King of Glory enter in.

Methinks I see Heaven’s sparkling courtiers fly
In flakes of glory down, him to attend,
And hear heart-cramping notes of melody
Surround his chariot as it did ascend:
Mixing their music, making ev’ry string
More to enravish, as they this tune sing.

God is gone up …………..

Words by Edward Taylor (1646? – 1729)

PRAYERS

Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for your inspiring words of wisdom and guidance contained in the Holy Scriptures which have been made accessible to us by the many writers who recorded evidence of your mighty works, and of those who have dedicated, and in some instances sacrificed, their lives in translating the biblical writings into our own languages. We thank you that we are able to hear and understand your word and interpret it. We give special thanks today for the prayers and poetry of the psalmist, David, who has expressed so effectively so many of the petitions of your faithful followers throughout the history of your Holy Church. Today we recall David’s prayer for the peace of Jerusalem. We hold this part of the world in our minds as a holy place, yet, like David, we despair that it continues to be ravaged by the extreme hatred and violence of people who do not seem to be able to maintain the peace in the region which David pleaded for so faithfully. It is a pity, Lord, that there appears to be a persistent evil darkening the souls of many who live there, who do not seem to respect the rights of each another to live in the peace and prosperity which seems to have been absent for so long. Lord, help the many people of your holy places, of Jerusalem in particular, dwell together in peace and unity; that it may at last become a happy home to them, and a safe haven. We feel ashamed to members of a species, parts of which are capable of perpetrating acts of warfare, strife and violence against its fellows. Help us to live our lives in fear and respect of you, for therein lies wisdom, truth, peace, justice and love. Reveal your light to the wicked, that they may put away the works of chaos and darkness, and return to the path of goodness. Restore health to the sick, sight to the blind, wisdom to the foolish and eternal life to the faithful departed, granting us in all things your merciful love and compassion. Through Jesus Christ we make our prayer. Amen.

We conclude our prayers with the words our Saviour taught us, saying 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.

ANTHEM 2 – O pray for the peace of Jerusalem (John Blow)

BLESSING

Let us go forth into the world in peace,
Being of good courage,
Holding fast that which is good.
Rendering to no one evil for evil.
Help us to strengthen the fainthearted,
To support the weak,
To help the afflicted,
To show love to all people.
And grant that we,

In loving and serving the Lord,
And rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit;
May receive the blessing of almighty God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
This day and always. Amen.

HYMN – Crown him with many crowns (tune: Diademata)

 ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Fantaisie in Eb (Camille Saint Saens) played by Roger Sayer at the Temple Church, London.

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Sunday 9th May 2021 – 6th Sunday of Easter

WELCOME

Today is the 6th Sunday of Easter, and we bid you a warm welcome to our weekly choice of prayer, scripture and music selected from internet and local resources to fit our lectionary readings. This week’s reflection has been provided by our friend and regular contributor, Jenny Carpenter.

OPENING SENTENCES

This is the day which the Lord has made:

We will be joyful and glad in it!

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain:

And has redeemed us to God by his blood.

INTROIT HYMN – Jesus shall reign where’er the Sun (tune: Truro)

COLLECT

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

1st Reading – Acts 10:44-48

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

HYMN: In Christ there is no East nor West (tune: St Stephen)

2nd Reading – 1 John 5:1-6

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 98

Cantate Domino

  1. O SING unto the Lord a new song : for he hath done marvellous things.

  2. With his own right hand, and with his holy arm : hath he gotten himself the victory.

  3. The Lord declared his salvation : his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen.

  4. He hath remembered his mercy and truth toward the house of Israel : and all the ends of the world have seen the salvation of our God.

  5. Shew yourselves joyful unto the Lord, all ye lands : sing, rejoice, and give thanks.

  6. Praise the Lord upon the harp : sing to the harp with a psalm of thanksgiving.

  7. With trumpets also and shawms : O shew yourselves joyful before the Lord the King.

  8. Let the sea make a noise, and all that therein is : the round world, and they that dwell therein.

  9. Let the floods clap their hands, and let the hills be joyful together before the Lord : for he is come to judge the earth.

  10. With righteousness shall he judge the world : and the people with equity.

GLORIA

GOSPEL – John 15:9-17

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

HYMN – Love of the Father (tune: Song 22)

REFLECTION – by Jenny Carpenter

 “I can’t breathe!” George Floyd’s dying gasp expresses the sense of oppression experienced by millions of people who, simply because of their ethnicity, are denied opportunity and full acceptance. Most white people claim not to be racist, yet we still tend to make assumptions about black people that are on the whole derogatory. Aren’t you surprised when a black youngster, born in Britain but with Caribbean parentage, gets a place at a top university to read engineering or medicine?  Did you see the powerful serialised drama last year on television in which a black elite kept white people under? Such turning of the tables and the undercurrents of fear on both sides came across to white British viewers as extraordinarily unsettling.

In the heady days of the early Church, there was a danger that Christianity would develop simply as a Jewish sect. Even when it expanded geographically, Jewish Christians tended to preach the good news to other Jews. The fact that there was already a Jewish diaspora, with synagogues in most towns in the eastern Mediterranean, meant that Paul and Barnabas naturally made for the synagogue when they arrived in a new town. It was often rejection there that made them turn their attention to the wider local Gentile population. Last Sunday the appointed reading from Acts was the encounter of Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch, a God-fearing person, but not a Jew. Today, our reading from Acts chapter 10 tells of another Gentile God-fearer, Cornelius, and of his dramatic conversion to Christ together with his relatives and friends. But it is also the story of Peter’s conversion to the full realisation that the good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ is for everyone, not just Jews.

Peter is staying at the house of Simon the Tanner in Joppa (present day Jaffa of oranges fame), which is already the centre of a Christian community. He decides to go up on the roof to pray, while he waits for a meal to be prepared. There he has a transformative vision. He sees an enormous sheet being let down from heaven with an array of creatures that Jews are forbidden to eat. Challenged to kill and eat something, he is horrified and refuses, but he hears an insistent voice,“What God has made clean, you are not to regard as unclean.” Three times he sees the vision and hears the voice. He is still puzzling over what to make of it when a soldier and two slaves arrive, sent by Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian cohort based in Caesarea. They recount the parallel vision that Cornelius has had, telling him to send for Peter. Peter now realises the significance of his strange vision and immediately acts on it by inviting them in and giving them lodging. These men are a Roman soldier and two slaves, almost certainly Gentiles themselves. They are in any case acting on behalf of a Roman centurion, representative of the occupying power, and,  however God-fearing, certainly not a Jew. Peter is a guest in Simon the Tanner’s home – presumably Simon was persuaded to agree to this extension of hospitality.  Next day Peter readily goes with the men to Caesarea, taking some of the believers from Joppa along too. It’s important that there will be witnesses to what will ensue.

Cornelius has gathered his relatives and close friends to meet Peter and hear the words from God that he has to say. Peter spells out the meaning of his own vision to the assembled company: “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection.” Interestingly, he now turns to Cornelius and says,“Now may I ask why you sent for me?” He already knows this, but wants Cornelius to share his own vision. It’s important that we encourage each other to share our stories. Cornelius does so, thanks Peter for coming, and they all settle down to “listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.”There is a heightened sense of expectation. We all should expect great things from God.

It is interesting how Peter begins his address. He restates clearly his newfound conviction that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Peter goes on to explain the significance of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. While he is still in full flow the Holy Spirit falls on the gathered congregation who begin speaking in tongues and praising God.

What’s this? It’s just like the day of Pentecost, but this time involving Gentiles instead of Jews.

The manifestation of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the same: speaking in tongues and an outpouring of praise. Peter is both amazed and delighted. “These people have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” There is in Christ no distinction between Jew and Gentile. St. Paul will later write to the Galatians “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  The next step Peter takes is to baptise them in the name of Jesus Christ into the fellowship of believers. Peter and his Christian friends from Joppa stay as Cornelius’ guests for several days, no doubt sharing more stories of Jesus, and delighting in the remarkable way that the Holy Spirit is enabling the gospel of Jesus to be disseminated.

This powerful chapter 10 of Acts requires us to examine our own preconceptions and prejudices as well as encouraging us to share the good news of Jesus when given the opportunity.

In  “The Jungle Book”, Mowgli, the boy brought up by wolves, is taught not to be afraid when he encounters animals of different species, but to say to each one “We are of one blood, you and I.”

In his encyclical Fratelli Tutti Pope Francis states that Christians profess “the inalienable dignity of each human person regardless of origin, race or religion, and the supreme law of fraternal love.”

There is no escape from the commandment that Jesus gave and still gives to his followers: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

                                                                                               Amen.

ANTHEM: Greater Love (John Ireland) sung by the Whitgift Choir and the choirs of Croydon Minster

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. Love is strong as death. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness. Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus. Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation; That ye should show forth the praises of him who hath call’d you out of darkness into his marvellous light. I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto to God, which is your reasonable service.

PRAYERS

Let us pray for unity in the Church throughout the world: that we and all God’s family may grow in our awareness that Christ is working within us, empowering and inspiring us. Help us to recognise the imprint of God’s love in the people we meet and in the many encounters of our lives. We pray for all who act as leaders of people, and who hold positions of authority and responsibility; that they may carry out their duties with wisdom and justice, and strive to promote peace and goodwill in our world. We pray for one another, that we may we promote God’s love every day in all we do, and live up to his expectations of us. We pray especially for all missionaries; that their words and deeds may draw others to Christ and that they may be ever refreshed by God’s love. As stewards of this world, we pray that all humankind will learn to show greater respect for God’s creation: that we may recognize our interdependence with the created world and work to preserve the natural balances that God has established. We continue to pray for the sick and infirm, and for those who care for them. We ask for your loving mercy to be poured upon those who seek your comfort in their distress, especially those who have lost loved ones recently. We pray for those who have died. Grant them a share in your eternal kingdom.

We conclude our prayers with the words our Saviour taught us, saying 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.

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

HYMN – God is Love, let heaven adore him (tune: Abbot’s Leigh)

 ORGAN VOLUNTARY: J.S. Bach: Prelude and Fugue in D major BWV 532 played by Christian Barthen on the Rieger Organ of Stadtkirche von Aalen.

 

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Sunday 2nd May 2021 – 5th Sunday of Easter

WELCOME

Welcome to the latest of our selections of prayers, music and readings from the holy scriptures for today, the 5th Sunday of Easter. Our readings follow the Revised Common Lectionary, and the weekly reflection has kindly been provided by one of our former preachers and good friend, Revd Robert Beard.

OPENING SENTENCES

O praise the Lord of heaven:

Praise him in the height!

Praise him, all ye angels of his:

Praise him, all his host!

INTROIT HYMN – Jesus calls us here to meet him (tune: Lewis Folk Song)

COLLECT

O LORD, from whom all good things come: Grant that by your holy inspiration we may think only of such things that are pure and good, and that by your merciful and guiding hand we may accomplish the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1st Reading – Acts 8:26-40

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

HYMN: Tell me the stories of Jesus (tune: Stories of Jesus)

 TELL me the stories of Jesus
I love to hear;
Things I would ask Him to tell me
If He were here:
Scenes by the wayside,
Tales of the sea,
Stories of Jesus,
Tell them to me.

 

2

First let me hear how the children
Stood round His knee,
And I shall fancy His blessing 
Resting on me;
Words full of kindness,
Deeds full of grace,
All in the love-light
Of Jesus’ face.

 

3

Into the city I’d follow
The children’s band,
Waving a branch of the palm tree
High in my hand;
One of his heralds,
Yes, I would sing
Loudest hosannas,
“Jesus is King!”

2nd Reading – 1 John 4:7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 22:22-32

  1. I will declare thy Name unto my brethren : in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

  2. O praise the Lord, ye that fear him : magnify him, all ye of the seed of Jacob, and fear him, all ye seed of Israel.

  3. For he hath not despised, nor abhorred, the low estate of the poor : he hath not hid his face from him, but when he called unto him he heard him.

  4. My praise is of thee in the great congregation : my vows will I perform in the sight of them that fear him.

  5. The poor shall eat and be satisfied : they that seek after the Lord shall praise him; your heart shall live for ever.

  6. All the ends of the world shall remember themselves, and be turned unto the Lord : and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him.

  7. For the kingdom is the Lord’s : and he is the Governor among the people.

  8. All such as be fat upon earth : have eaten and worshipped.

  9. All they that go down into the dust shall kneel before him : and no man hath quickened his own soul.

  10. My seed shall serve him : they shall be counted unto the Lord for a generation.

  11. They shall come, and the heavens shall declare his righteousness : unto a people that shall be born, whom the Lord hath made.

GLORIA

GOSPEL – John 15:1-8

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

HYMN – Alleluia! Alleluia! Hearts to heaven and voices raise (tune: Lux Eoi) led by Sheffield Cathedral Choir

REFLECTION – Revd. Robert Beard

ANTHEM: Blessed be the God and Father (S. S. Wesley)

PRAYERS

Let us pray to the Lord our God, who alone gives to his people the power for good.

Almighty and ever-loving God, grant that your Church, constant in faith and love, may bring forth good fruit. Give unity to all her branches in the strength of Christ, the true vine. Make her leaders wise in the teaching and proclaimimg of the holy scriptures.

Enlighten all in the world who earnestly desire to seek the truth of your Holy Gospel and lead them to those who can show them the way. By your love, cast out the fear that destroys fullness of life. We pray particularly at this time for those caught up in the continuing violence in Myanmar, Yemen, Ethiopia, Syria, Hong Kong and in any place where innocent people are caught up in civil unrest. The world needs your peace, so we pray that you will influence world leaders to recognise the need to end hostilities and to begin rebuilding people’s lives. We pray for the people of St Vincent, particularly those who live in the area close to the recent volcanic eruption, that they may find shelter; for those helping people to evacuate, that they may reach them and get them to safety, for the church and other authorities who are providing support to any who have been displaced, and for resources, particularly the provision of water to drink, for all those affected.

Closer to home, as we begin to see Covid infections fall and numbers of people vaccinated rise, we continue to pray for the people of India where the virus is destroying the lives of so many and causing their hospitals to be overwhelmed.

We pray for all who live or work in our own city of Sheffield as it begins to emerge from the hibernation of lockdown and the associated restrictions on movement. May we all continue to observe caution, thinking not only of ourselves, but also of others, as we begin to rediscover living and working together. Bless our homes and families with the spirit of your love as we seek to continue to live every day in Christ, and he in us.

Gracious and loving Father, send out your healing spirit to all who suffer at this time, whether from Covid infections or any other illnesses, and to all who are living in anxiety or fear, or awaiting medical treatment, and we continue to give thanks for hospital staff, medical researchers and all key-workers at this time. We pray for all who have recently died from Covid infections, or any other cause. In your merciful and saving name, grant them all a share in the eternal joys of your heavenly presence. In this time of sorrow, as we recall the lives of family and friends who have passed away, we remember that you are there in our midst, consoling us with your word. No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what you have prepared for those who love you. Blessed are the sorrowful; for they shall be comforted.

We conclude our prayers with the words our Saviour taught us, saying 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.

The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace, this day and always. Amen.

HYMN – Alleluia! Sing to Jesus (tune: Hyfrydol)

 

ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937): Organ Symphony No.5 op. 42 1st movement: Allegro vivace, played by Bernhard Schneider on the Klais Organ of St. Aegidien’s Church, Braunschweig.

 The large Klais organ of St. Aegidien was built by Johannes Klais of Bonn in 1965

Johannes Klais studied organ building in Alsace, Switzerland and Southern Germany. He founded his own organ building workshop in Bonn in 1882. His way of building organs was closely bound up with traditional construction methods using slider windchests. But as early as before the turn of the century he built high pressure stops with two mouths on pneumatic cone valve chests. In 1906, together with his son Hans, he introduced electric action. Hans Klais took over in 1925. In his time facade design began to come under the influence of the modern age, ergonomic console designs were also being developed. Hans Gerd Klais, the founder’s grandson, took charge in 1965. Philipp Klais, the great-grandson of the founder, studied organ building in Alsace, France; in Germany; and overseas. He now runs the company.

A full specification of the organ can be found here:

Klais-Orgel (aegidien.de)

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