Our organist entertains!
Hello! Welcome to St Andrew’s URC, Sheffield. You’ve arrived at a special page devoted to our organist, choir and music. We hope to share with you something of our musical experiences, featuring stories and audio from our services and concerts.
Click on this link to view some archived services:
Whilst we are unable to worship God at St Andrew’s in the normal way, we thought you might like to access a selection of hymns, psalms and anthems which we might have experienced if we had been allowed to attend our regular worship. Check below to find the readings for some recent Sunday services and links to some suitable music.
Sunday 25th October 2020 – 20th after Trinity – 21st after Pentecost
A warm welcome to you, and thank you for sharing in today’s service.
The text selected for both the Introit Anthem and the first hymn today is Isaac Watts’ great hymn, ’There is a land of pure delight’. To set the scene for our opening theme, here is a lovely setting by Grayston Ives, sung by the Cathedra Schola of Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Atlanta, Georgia. If you would like to follow the words, please scroll down to the first hymn.
A Prayer for today.
God of all who wander in the wilderness,
you go before us as beacon and guide.
Lead us through all danger,
sustain us through all desolation,
and bring us home to the land
you have prepared for us. Amen.
The OLD TESTAMENT LESSON is from the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 34, beginning at the 1st verse.
Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain — that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees — as far as Zoar. The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigour had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended. Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses. Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
The 1st hymn today is, There is a land of pure delight, sung to the tune ‘Beulah’.
1 There is a land of pure delight,
where saints immortal reign;
infinite day excludes the night,
and pleasures banish pain.
2 There everlasting spring abides,
and never-withering flowers;
death, like a narrow sea, divides
this heavenly land from ours.
3 Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
stand dressed in living green;
so to the Jews old Canaan stood,
while Jordan rolled between.
4 But timorous mortals start and shrink
to cross this narrow sea,
and linger shivering on the brink,
and fear to launch away.
5 O could we make our doubts remove,
these gloomy doubts that rise,
and see the Canaan that we love
with unbeclouded eyes;
6 Could we but climb where Moses stood,
and view the landscape o’er,
not Jordan’s stream, nor death’s cold flood,
should fright us from the shore!
The Epistle today is taken from Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Thessalonians, Chapter 2, beginning at the 1st verse.
You yourselves know brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you, that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
The GRADUAL PSALM set for today is Psalm 90, which is sung by the choir of Westminster Abbey.
- LORD, thou hast been our refuge : from one generation to another.
- Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made : thou art God from everlasting, and world without end.
- Thou turnest man to destruction : again thou sayest, Come again, ye children of men.
- For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday : seeing that is past as a watch in the night.
- As soon as thou scatterest them they are even as a sleep : and fade away suddenly like the grass.
- In the morning it is green, and groweth up : but in the evening it is cut down, dried up, and withered.
- For we consume away in thy displeasure : and are afraid at thy wrathful indignation.
- Thou hast set our misdeeds before thee : and our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
- For when thou art angry all our days are gone : we bring our years to an end, as it were a tale that is told.
- The days of our age are threescore years and ten; and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years : yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow; so soon passeth it away, and we are gone.
- But who regardeth the power of thy wrath : for even thereafter as a man feareth, so is thy displeasure.
- So teach us to number our days : that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
- Turn thee again, O Lord, at the last : and be gracious unto thy servants.
- O satisfy us with thy mercy, and that soon : so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.
- Comfort us again now after the time that thou hast plagued us : and for the years wherein we have suffered adversity.
- Shew thy servants thy work : and their children thy glory.
- And the glorious majesty of the Lord our God be upon us : prosper thou the work of our hands upon us, O prosper thou our handywork.
This psalm is titled ‘A Prayer of Moses the man of God’. Some commentators think this was not the same famous and familiar Moses, but the evidence is much stronger for believing that this was indeed the great leader of Israel. This is the only song of Moses in the psalms, but there are two other songs in the Pentateuch (Exodus 15 and Deuteronomy 32), as well as the blessing of the tribes of Israel in Deuteronomy 33. If we connect it with any particular time in the life of Moses, the best suggestion is the time described in Numbers 20. “The historical setting is probably best understood by the incidents recorded in Numbers 20: (1) the death of Miriam, Moses’ sister; (2) the sin of Moses in striking the rock in the wilderness, which kept him from entering the Promised Land; and (3) the death of Aaron, Moses’ brother.” (James Montgomery Boice) this psalm is divided into sections:
(verse 1) speaks of Yahweh the refuge and protection of His people.
(verse 2) talks about the eternal origin of Yahweh.
(verse 3) The judgment of the eternal God.
(4-6) God’s perception of time and our perception of time.
(7-8) God’s judgment on their open and secret sins.
(9-11) Man’s frailty understood against the eternity of God.
(13-17) Praying for mercy and blessing.
The Holy Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 22, beginning to read from verse 34.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”‘? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
The hymn ‘Rejoice, the Lord is King’, sung to the tune ‘Gopsal’.
Once again, we are indebted to Chris Limb for this week’s reflection on the bible readings.
Today’s Gospel reading begins hot on the heels of an altercation which Jesus recently had with some of his critics, and which ended with his opponents, a team of Sadducees, being seen off with a flea in their ear, much to the amusement of the onlooking Pharisees.
In the complex patchwork of religious and political life in first-century Judaea, the Pharisees and Sadducees were rival factions who enjoyed nothing better than being able to score points off each other. And so we can perhaps sense some of the hooting and ‘high-fives’ that were going on amongst the Pharisees as they gleefully watched their rivals storm off in a huff.
It’s against this background, brimming with back-slapping and ‘bonhomie’, that one of their number decides to ask Jesus a question. It’s not the usual trip-wire-laden ‘poisoned chalice’ type of question they usually preferred to throw at him. Not the type of question designed to explode in his face and get him into heaps of trouble whichever way he chooses to answer it. By contrast, this is a comparatively ‘soft’ question. Almost on a par with the sort of thing a government minister might ask his ‘Right Honourable Friend’, during Prime Minister’s question time. It isn’t a hard question by any means. The sort of thing anyone remotely familiar with Jewish Law could answer without breaking into a sweat:
“What is the most important commandment in the Law?”
And, not surprisingly, Jesus replies without any hesitation whatsoever:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. This is the first and most important commandment.”
He’s actually quoting from verse 5 of the 6th chapter of Deuteronomy. And then, by way of something of a bonus, Jesus throws in another piece of Scripture, this time from Leviticus chapter 19, verse 18, to describe the second-most-important commandment:
“Love others as much as you love yourself. All the Law of Moses and the Prophets are based on these two commandments.”
So there it is. ‘Love God, and love your fellow man’. This is safe ground. Nothing controversial here at all.
Our Moslem brothers and sisters would stand shoulder to shoulder with us in full agreement on this point. Often referred to as the “Golden Rule”, it is a point of commonality, and expressed in one form or another by most of the world’s great faiths.
But then, quite ‘out of the blue’, Jesus decides to mix things up a bit by ‘throwing a curve ball’ into the midst. He begins, quite innocuously, by asking their opinion of the Messiah:
“What do you think about the Messiah? Whose family will he come from?”
And, quite predictably, their immediate answer is:
“He will be a son of King David “
Of course, what other answer could there be?
And then Jesus quotes from Psalm 101, a psalm written by David himself, which describes The Lord addressing “My Lord” (meaning the Messiah).
And then he hits them with it right on the chin!
“If David called the Messiah his Lord, how can the Messiah be a son of King David?”
It must have been one of those shocked, ‘double take’ moments:
“Say. What was that again?”
In a deeply rooted, patriarchal society, which taught as second nature a great reverence for one’s ancestors and forefathers, the idea of someone as significant as King David showing such awe towards one of his descendants would have been unimaginable.
Surely this Pharisee must have read this passage before. After all, he and his colleagues prided themselves with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. Had it never occurred to him to consider its full implications?
Isn’t it true? The moment we believe we’ve got it “all sewn-up and figured-out”, that’s the same moment we’re almost guaranteed to have overlooked something very important.
The truth is, Jesus wasn’t really a descendant of King David; a fact we’ll be exploring in a few weeks’ time, as we read again the Christmas stories as told by both Matthew and Luke.
Joseph, husband to Mary, was himself a direct descendant of King David, and although he doubtless provided the boy Jesus with all the love and care which only the best of fathers could have given a son, Joseph was not Jesus’ father. Jesus had no human father. He was literally the Son of God. What do we make of that idea? What would the average ‘man in the street’ in first-century Judaea have made of this? In that culture, it was of the greatest importance for people to understand their roots; their ancestry, where they came from. This sense of inherited continuity being passed down from one generation to the next. Now, unlike anyone else who’s ever been born, Jesus came into the world directly from God. His roots, his ancestry were with God Himself.
As John wrote in the opening verse of his Gospel:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The Gospel writer, having a stab at trying to describe the indescribable. How Jesus “The Word” had always existed as One with God; He was, is, and always has been: God.
The moment He was born in that stable in Bethlehem, God Himself became a human being.
“The Word became flesh,” as John says in verse 14 of the same chapter.
It’s an interesting way of putting it. Words are important, aren’t they?
We’ve heard the phrase “Your word is my command”; a statement of complete loyalty (perhaps by a very eager employee to their boss, or by a soldier to his commanding officer) expressing a willingness to make real, to put into effect the spoken word; the uttered command.
Or what about the written Word? An author may have the most wonderful ideas, the most fascinating stories in her head, yet that’s exactly where they’ll remain. Unknown and unread until she puts pen to paper, or her typing fingers to a keyboard! Expressing those same thoughts and inspirations; making them real, giving them substance and making them available to anyone with “eyes to see and ears to hear”.
This is really what is meant by the Incarnation.
As the thought becomes tangible, a written word on a page, so God Himself became a human being in the form of the Lord Jesus.
Indeed, one of His titles, Immanuel, meaning “God is with us”, acts as a pointer toward this truth.
Which begs the question: Why on earth would God go to so much trouble, bearing in mind all the pain and heartache Jesus endured throughout his ministry, culminating in the anguish he suffered on the cross? Why would God go through all of that? What was His motivation?
Well, it really comes down to one word.
As the nineteenth century poet and hymnwriter Christina Rosetti so poignantly wrote:
“Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine, Love was born at Christmas”.
That’s it. It all comes down to Love. The Love of God given physical form in the person of Jesus.
Which brings us back to this morning’s Gospel passage, with Jesus reminding those very self-satisfied Pharisees about the two most important of God’s commandments.
During the Last Supper, as He sought to prepare His disciples for all the trauma which lay ahead, John records in verse 34 of chapter 13 that Jesus said these words:
“But I am giving you a new commandment. You must love each other.”
Now at first glance we might question these words. Why is Jesus calling this a ‘New’ Commandment? How can it be new? Surely, it’s a very old commandment, written centuries earlier in the book of Leviticus. True, it’s not an easy one to keep, but new? It’s the next few words which Jesus says that make all the difference:
“You must love each other, just as I have loved you.”
Jesus’ entire life was about love. The love of God for a lost and floundering humanity. A love expressed in total self-giving and self-sacrifice. We talk of God’s love for humanity, yet God deals with each of us as individuals. To him we’re not merely faceless statistics. We are each of us unique and beloved by him. As the German aviator and pastor, Dieter Uchtdorf, once wrote:
“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, he loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost, God’s love encompasses us completely. He loves each one of us; even though we are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful or broken.”
Such a mind-blowing, challenging love lived out by Jesus. But how can we possibly follow such an example? Hasn’t he raised the bar too high? Humanly, we’re going to fail miserably. We don’t have it in us. Yet isn’t the resounding Gospel message that with God, all things are possible? If we seriously yearn to follow Jesus’ command, then we surely need to ask him for his help.
In verses 14 and 16 of the 5th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes his disciples, and therefore you and I, in these challenging words:
“You are the light for the whole world. Make your light shine so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven.”
Elsewhere, according to verse 12 of the 8th chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus describes himself as the “Light of the world.”
So, surely, it’s about our allowing that self-same light and love to shine through us in all the things we do and say.
Perhaps these current times of uncertainty are really presenting an opportunity for us to ask him to reveal to us fresh ways in which his love may be made known through us to those around us.
Our anthem today is Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s masterful setting of ‘Blessed be the God and Father’, with its central message to ‘love one another with a pure heart, fervently’.
Let us pray for the needs of the world, and for our deliverance from all that is evil.
Heavenly Father, we pray for the infants and children of our world. We give thanks for the joyous and happy times they bring to their friends and families. We pray that they are receiving all the guidance, protection, love and care they need, and that they may prosper and grow into adulthood freely, able to realise their full potential and enjoy the world which surrounds and awaits them.
We also pray for all young adults, workers and students, and for those about to embark on new courses and careers. We give thanks for the teachers, lecturers and employers who have helped support them in their endeavours until now. We pray that they will be able to maintain and develop a happy and just life, and enjoy the comfort and support of their colleagues, friends and relations.
In addition, we ask you to remember the needs of the more elderly members of our society. Support those who are approaching the end of their careers, who have become redundant, or who have already embraced retirement. We give thanks for the lives of anyone who has recently died, and we pray that they may enjoy a new life in your heavenly kingdom.
We remember our brothers and sisters of all ages who may be suffering from any sickness of body or mind. We pray for anyone who may be experiencing any kind of trouble, sorrow, adversity or bereavement; and for all who are suffering injustice or oppression of any kind. We give thanks for all those whose responsibilities include comforting and caring for the sick, maintaining our laws, working in one of our emergency services or leading us in spiritual matters.
Lastly, we offer the prayer that our Saviour Christ taught his disciples, as we say together:
Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses; as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom; the power and the glory; for ever and ever. Amen.
May the blessing of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit; rest upon us all, now and evermore. Amen.
Our final hymn today is ‘Love of the Father, Love of God the Son’, sung to Song 22.
1 Love of the Father, love of God the Son,
From whom all came, in whom was all begun;
Who formest heavenly beauty out of strife,
Creation’s whole desire and breath of life.
2 Spirit all-holy, thou supreme in might,
Thou dost give peace, thy presence maketh right;
Thou with thy favour all things dost enfold,
With thine all-kindness free from harm wilt hold.
3 Hope of all comfort, splendour of all aid,
That dost not fail nor leave the heart afraid:
To all that cry thou dost all help accord,
The angels’ armour, and the saints’ reward.
4 Purest and highest, wisest and most just,
There is no truth save only in thy trust;
Thou dost the mind from earthly dreams recall,
And bring through Christ to him for whom are all.
5 Eternal glory, all men thee adore,
Who art and shalt be worshipped evermore:
Us whom thou madest, comfort with thy might,
And lead us to enjoy thy heavenly light.
The organ voluntary today Mozart’s Fantasia in F minor (for mechanical clock) played by Balázs Szabó at the Palace of Arts Budapest, from a live recital held in 2008.
At the console:
Or follow the score here (same performance):
Sunday 18th October 2020 – 19th after Trinity – 20th after Pentecost
Welcome to our Harvest Festival!
(from an anonymous 17th century Sermon)
Please be gentle with yourselves and others. We are all children of chance,
And none can say why some fields blossom while others lie brown beneath the harvest sun.
Take hope that your season will come. Share the joy of those whose season is at hand.
Care for those around you. Look past your differences.
Their dreams are no less than yours, Their choices in life no more easily made.
And give. Give in any way you can. Give in every way you can.
Give whatever you possess. Give from your heart.
To give is to love, To withhold is to wither.
Care less for the size of your harvest than for how it is shared,
And your life will have meaning; And your heart will have peace.
A Prayer for today.
Almighty and everlasting God, who has graciously provided for us the fruits of the earth in their season; We give you humble and hearty thanks for your bountiful gifts; beseeching you to give us the grace to use them for your glory, and for the relief of those in need; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Today’s worship begins with the Introit Hymn, ‘To thee, O Lord, our hearts we raise’, sung to the tune ‘Golden Sheaves’.
1 To thee, O Lord, our hearts we raise
In hymns of adoration;
To thee bring sacrifice of praise
With shouts of exultation.
Bright robes of gold the fields adorn,
The hills with joy are ringing,
The valleys stand so thick with corn
That even they are singing.
2 And now, on this our festal day,
Thy bounteous hand confessing,
Upon thine altar, Lord, we lay
The first-fruits of thy blessing;
By thee the souls of men are fed
With gifts of grace supernal;
Thou who dost give us daily bread,
Give us the bread eternal.
3 We bear the burden of the day,
And often toil seems dreary;
But labour ends with sunset ray,
And rest is for the weary;
May we, the angel-reaping o’er,
Stand at the last accepted,
Christ’s golden sheaves for evermore
To garners bright elected.
4 O blessèd is that land of God,
Where saints abide for ever;
Where golden fields spread fair and broad,
Where flows the crystal river:
The strains of all its holy throng
With ours to-day are blending;
Thrice blessèd is that harvest-song
Which never hath an ending.
We bring our prayers of Adoration and Confession
We acknowledge that God is the Lord.
Almighty God, whose glory the heavens are telling; the earth your power and the sea your might; and whose greatness all creatures proclaim: to You belong all glory, honour, might, greatness and splendour, now and for ever, world without end.
We confess that we have not always lived as the Lord’s people.
Almighty God, we admit that we have done wrong; we have lived as if we ourselves were in charge of our lives; we have gone our own way, rebelled against you, withheld our service. We have wasted your gifts, forgotten your love. This is the sin of the whole world, Father, and it is great; it is our sin, and we now confess it.
We remember that God is a loving Lord.
Just and kind as a father is to his children, so are you, O Lord, to those who honour you. You forgive the misdeeds of your people when they confess their sins, and as they return to the right path. King of all worlds, Immortal, Invisible, One and only God, all honour and glory be yours for ever and ever. Amen.
The Old Testament Lesson is from the book of Ruth, chapter 1, beginning to read from verse 22.
So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favour.” She said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you.” They answered, “The Lord bless you.” Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “To whom does this young woman belong?” The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’ So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment. Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favour in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!” Then she said, “May I continue to find favour in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.”
The Hymn, ‘All creatures of our God and King’, sung to the tune ‘Lasst Uns Erfreuen’.
The Epistle today is written in the 1st letter of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 3, beginning from the 1st verse.
And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labour of each. For we are God’s servants, working together.
The Gradual Psalm today is Psalm 65, from ‘A Ceremony of Psalms’, sung by the choir of King’s College Cambridge in particularly festive mood!
- THOU, O God, art praised in Sion : and unto thee shall the vow be performed in Jerusalem.
- Thou that hearest the prayer : unto thee shall all flesh come.
- My misdeeds prevail against me : O be thou merciful unto our sins.
- Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and receivest unto thee : he shall dwell in thy court, and shall be satisfied with the pleasures of thy house, even of thy holy temple.
- Thou shalt shew us wonderful things in thy righteousness, O God of our salvation : thou that art the hope of all the ends of the earth, and of them that remain in the broad sea.
- Who in his strength setteth fast the mountains : and is girded about with power.
- Who stilleth the raging of the sea : and the noise of his waves, and the madness of the people.
- They also that dwell in the uttermost parts of the earth shall be afraid at thy tokens : thou that makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to praise thee.
- Thou visitest the earth, and blessest it : thou makest it very plenteous.
- The river of God is full of water : thou preparest their corn, for so thou providest for the earth.
- Thou waterest her furrows, thou sendest rain into the little valleys thereof : thou makest it soft with the drops of rain, and blessest the increase of it.
- Thou crownest the year with thy goodness : and thy clouds drop fatness.
- They shall drop upon the dwellings of the wilderness : and the little hills shall rejoice on every side.
- The folds shall be full of sheep : the valleys also shall stand so thick with corn, that they shall laugh and sing.
The Gospel Reading is from St. John, chapter 6, beginning to read from verse 35.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”
The Hymn, ‘We plough the fields, and scatter, sung to the tune ‘WIR PFLÜGEN’.
We are indebted to Jenny Carpenter who has chosen this week’s readings and who now provides us with this reflection upon them.
“So Naomi returned together with Ruth, the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.” Bethlehem translates as ‘House of Bread’. In the powerful book of Ruth, it justifies its name.
Naomi, her husband Elimilech and their two sons had moved to the neighbouring country of Moab, because of a local famine. But now, some years later, Naomi, desperately homesick, and seeing no future for an ageing woman on her own in Moab, has returned. Her only hope for the family’s future resides in Ruth, as Naomi is now past child-bearing age. This is a story of female love and loyalty between two gutsy women, one of whom is a foreigner; and the mixture of admiration and pity that their plight evokes in a male relative, who is prepared to go to considerable lengths to secure the happy ending. Ruth’s grandson, David, will become the celebrated king of Israel; and Ruth is cited by the gospel writers as an ancestor of Jesus himself. Do read the book of Ruth for yourself. It’s only four chapters long!
The barley harvest is pivotal. The Mosaic law requires that when you reap your harvest, you leave some grain in the corners of the field. Anything missed from the sheaves is to be gleaned by the poor and the alien. Ruth makes the most of this opportunity. Boaz is concerned not only that she gleans enough for herself and Naomi, but also that she is not harassed by the workmen and, moreover, is entitled to a lunch break. This story is an indictment of many current agricultural practices, notions of land ownership, working conditions and employment insecurity. Not least it challenges our own attitudes toward foreigners who arrive in our own country, wanting to work for themselves and their families, but who are then prevented from doing so, until and unless their applications for asylum are granted.
The second part of Psalm 65 exults in the fruitfulness of the earth. It’s all about the efficacy of rain and rivers. The psalmist recognises that human beings depend upon reliable weather patterns, and praises God for them. Again, an indictment of our intensive agriculture. Overgrazing, excessive use of fertilisers and the clearing of forests have contributed hugely to climate change and loss of biodiversity.
Jesus, in John chapter 6, claims: “I am the Bread of Life”. Bread, whether made from barley or wheat flour, was the national staple food then, and grain of one kind or another is still a basic part of most people’s diet today. When we ‘feed on him in our hearts by faith and with thanksgiving’, we are gaining essential spiritual nourishment. But we can ‘feed’ on Christ in numerous ways; not only when we gather together as a congregation at a service of Holy Communion. According to John, Jesus goes on to say, “Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.” There are echoes here of the welcome and encouragement Boaz gave to Ruth. Wherever bread is shared, readily and joyfully, Christ is there to bless. The couple at Emmaus, recognised the risen Christ, as invited into their home for supper, bed and breakfast, he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it to share between them. Similarly, others will glimpse Christ when the dignity of being ‘bread-winners’ is accorded to them, or when we are able to accept food or gifts graciously from those who have very little to spare. It is so important that people forced by necessity to use foodbanks are treated with respect; encouraged to give as well as receive; and to share how they have learned to make a little go a long way, and to feed a family on a tight budget. We will all need to develop resilience in the face of Covid 19 and the climate emergency, and adapt our lives accordingly.
Paul, in writing to that far-from-perfect church at Corinth, is genuinely distressed at the way they have split into factions and lost sight of the centrality of Christ. They need to get back to basics. To the milk of the Gospel. They aren’t strong enough in the faith to cope with the rich fare of the finer points of doctrine! He goes on to point out that it is dangerous to ally oneself too closely with a particular minister of the gospel. They are only servants of God after all, with specific but different functions in building up the church. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.”
There we have it. It is God who enables growth of every kind. Therefore we offer our thanks and praise to God at this, our virtual, though rooted, Harvest Festival!
This week’s Anthem is a setting of ‘Nun Danket Alle Gott’ by Johann Pachelbel, sung by the Wartburg Choir.
German version (original) English Text written for Birkdale School’s Centenary Service by Douglas Jones, Sheffield Cathedral, 2004
Nun Danket alle Gott, Sing to the Lord our God!
Der grosse Dinge tut an allen Enden; Worship and thanks to the Father be given,
Der uns von Muter Leibe an lebendig erhalt who with the Son and Spirit be ever adored,
Und tut un salles Guts. Who mighty deeds hath done!
Er gebe uns ein frohlich Herz Render now with joyful voices the honour due to Him.
Und verleihe immerdar Friede, Friede Come and praise the King of Heaven: Alleluia!
Zu unsern Zeiten in Israel, With all God’s people upon the earth,
Und dass seine Gnade stets bei uns bleibe, May we pray now that He will bring us salvation,
Und erlose uns, solange wir leben. And we pray for peace among all the nations.
Nun danket alle Gott, Now thank we all our God,
Mit Herzen, Mund and Handen, With hearts and hands and voices,
Der grosse Dinge tut Who wondrous things hath done,
An uns und allen Enden, In whom his world rejoices;
Der uns von Mutterleib, Who from our mother’s arms
Und Kindesbeinen an, Hath blessed us on our way
Unzahlig viel zugut With countless gifts of love,
Und noch jetzund getan. And still is ours today.
We bring our prayers of intercession.
Heavenly Father, we pray for the hungry and the homeless, the broken and bereaved. For all for whom this day brings sadness and little joy. For the lonely and the helpless, and for those whose hope has been shattered, or faith destroyed.
We pray for the struggling and the oppressed. For those without the power to negotiate or bargain. For all whose work goes unrewarded or whose produce is undervalued. For any who feel unwanted, or who believe their skills are no longer needed.
We pray for all who struggle to change the system, striving for justice and fair trade. For those who try to overcome political blindness and public insensitivity. For all who influence our thinking, our buying and consuming. For all who formulate policy and manage the market. For fairness and compassion in all walks of life.
Lastly, we pray for responsible stewardship in our using of your world. For sustainable consumption as well as production. For care for creation and compassion for each other.
Merciful Father; accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
As our Saviour Christ taught us, we are bold to say:
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.
We say ‘The Grace’.
May 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.
The Final Hymn today is ‘Come, ye thankful people, come’, sung to the tune ‘St. George’s, Windsor’.
The Organ Voluntary is César Franck’s famous, ‘Pièce Heroïque’, played by Jean-Baptiste Dupont, on the Cavaille Coll organ in the Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse.