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

Our organist entertains!

Doug Jones

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 these links to view some archived services:

https://standrewsurcsheffield.org.uk/web-services-oct-2020/

https://standrewsurcsheffield.org.uk/web-services-nov-2020

CORONAVIRUS

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.

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Sunday 22nd November 2020 – Sunday next before Advent – Christ the King (Stir-up Sunday)

As winter approaches, and at this time when much news in our world seems bleaker than any mid-winter, a particularly warm welcome is extended to you as you share in this act of worship. We are especially delighted that our friend, the reverend Canon Adrian Alker, is here to enlighten us with his thoughts about, and insights into, the relevance of today’s bible readings in our various lives today. As we bring another liturgical year to its close, let us look forward with a degree of hope and optimism to a brighter year ahead.

Let us pray.

Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, that they, bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you be richly rewarded: through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Our introit anthem today is the Jubilate Deo, a setting of Psalm 100 by Simon Johnson.

Jubilate Deo
  1. O BE joyful in the Lord, all ye lands: serve the Lord with gladness, and come before his presence with a song.
  2. Be ye sure that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
  3. O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and speak good of his Name.
  4. For the Lord is gracious, his mercy is everlasting: and his truth endureth from generation to generation.
GLORIA

Today’s lesson from the Old Testament begins at the 11th verse of the 34th chapter of the book of Ezekiel.

For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.

The first hymn today is ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun’, sung to the tune ‘Truro’.

The Epistle comes from the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, beginning to read from verse 15.

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

The Gradual Psalm set for today is Psalm 95.

Venite, exultemus
  1. O COME, let us sing unto the Lord: let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
  2. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving: and shew ourselves glad in him with psalms.
  3. For the Lord is a great God: and a great King above all gods.
  4. In his hand are all the corners of the earth: and the strength of the hills is his also.
  5. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands prepared the dry land.
  6. O come, let us worship and fall down: and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
  7. For he is the Lord our God: and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
GLORIA

The Holy Gospel is written in the 25th chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, beginning at the 31st verse.

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Today’s anthem is ‘Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous’ by James Nares. This rarely heard work takes its opening text from Psalm 33.

For our reflection on today’s bible readings, we welcome back the Reverend Canon Adrian Alker. Thank you, Adrian, for sharing your thoughts with us.

Stir Up Sunday and Christ the King

For those of us who are old enough to have been brought up on the Book of Common Prayer in the Church of England before the various alternative services were introduced, this Sunday before the season of Advent was commonly called ‘Stir up Sunday’ after the opening words of Cranmer’s collect. And housewives (sic) and ‘downstairs servants’ would be reminded that this was the time to stir the ingredients of the Christmas pudding in its long gestation for Christmas dinner.
Cranmer of course was rather more piously reminding worshippers that the season of Advent was around the corner, a season that was marked by both a penitential reflection of our shortcomings as we prepare to welcome not only the birth of Christ at the incarnation but also the second coming when Christ comes in glory as judge. Indeed, if and when we are to face our Maker, there needs to be a great deal of self-awareness of the kind of life we have led!
For most of the two thousand years of Christian history, the church has sought to emphasise the need for such accounting, and indeed Christianity very much became a religion of rules and obligations; of punishments and rewards. Furthermore the focus on the kingship of Christ, ‘reigning where’er the sun’ as in Isaac Watts’ hymn or indeed expecting ‘every tribe’ to ascribe majesty to Christ , as in the hymn ‘All hail the power of Jesus’ name’, written in 1787, emphasised for centuries the exclusivity of Christianity above all other faiths. And so the world witnessed religious warfare and utmost cruelty, alongside the beneficial effects of Christ’s teachings.
And so on this Stir up Sunday, as we look ahead through advent to Christmas, and in the depths of a pandemic which has ripped through our communities leaving thousands dead, what might we gain from our readings and theme this Sunday?
It is hard to be ‘joyful in the Lord all ye lands’ as our opening Jubilate invites us to be. Hard, as in our gradual Psalm 95, to ‘heartily rejoice’ to worship the God of all creation. Why did God create Covid 19? Is he such a great God after all?
Our Old Testament reading from the book of Ezekiel is set in a time of exile for the people of Israel when they, too, were having a particularly hard time of it. Who was to blame for their demise? Their rulers? Themselves? Had they been disobedient and not ‘brought forth the fruits of good works’? In this passage the prophet clearly wishes his hearers to keep faith in a God who loves his own. Who is a Good Shepherd? Who will rescue them, feed them, lead them to better pastures? Who will bind the injured, seek the lost, strengthen the weak? But this God is also a Judge who will bear down upon the fat and the strong who bullied the weak. Out of a time of crisis, the prophet holds faith in a God who cares; in a God who loves and who judges.
And of course, this passage finds its New Testament equivalent in our gospel from Matthew 25, when Christ in glory comes to judge the people; separating out the sheep and the goats, in a return to the same pastoral imagery. But this passage strikes a much more contemporary chord with us all, as it lays out the need to feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to visit those in prison. It echoes the Lukan manifesto of Jesus in the temple at Nazareth, declaring his mission to be the light of God’s love in the world. This Matthean passage has spoken to countless generations who have been inspired by the words and deeds of Jesus the Good Shepherd. But as with Ezekiel, there are also words of judgement here. Condemnation for those who fail to feed the hungry; or who fail to clothe the naked, or who show no welcome to strangers. Life will be hell for them.
It is particularly difficult, in this year especially, to find in the theme of Christ the King, that the Christ of God is coming in glory to speak to a world smitten with this dreadful pandemic. It seems as if it is the virus, and not some Lord our God, who is ruling the world. And yet, through these very demanding times, we have also witnessed the very best of human endeavour. The equivalent of the sheep at the right hand of God. Those who have tended to the sick; who have come to the help of the injured; who have comforted those in distress. We have pulled together in community, both locally and globally. We have shared our knowledge; we have seen the fruits of scientific discovery. There is hope in forthcoming vaccines; we lift up our eyes, we see a brighter future.
But there is also judgement to be exercised, there are metaphorical goats. Not all governments, and not all rulers, have been good shepherds. Around the world, there are leaders who have tried to downplay the severity of the pandemic, which has caused excess deaths. In our own country, years of austerity have led to a National Health Service less well able to cope. Lessons will have to be learnt, and judgements will be made.
Today in our country, few people will be thinking about Stir up Sunday, or ‘kneeling before the Lord our Maker’. But in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, they might be inspired to work for, and hope for, a world in which the poor are lifted up; in which the sick are tended to, the stranger welcomed, the prisoner visited. This would be a world in which Love reigns. This would be a world where scientists and others work tirelessly for the common good; and where people of faith see, in all this outworking of Love, the hope which God has called us into.
Revd Canon Adrian Alker

Our next hymn is ‘King of Glory, King of Peace’, sung to the tune ‘Gwalchmai’.

1 King of glory, King of peace, I will love Thee; and that love may never cease, I will move Thee.

Thou hast granted my request, Thou hast heard me; Thou didst note my working breast, Thou hast spared me.

 

2 Wherefore with my utmost art I will sing Thee, and the cream of all my heart I will bring Thee.

Though my sins against me cried, Thou didst clear me; and alone, when they replied, Thou didst hear me.

 

3 Sev’n whole days, not one in sev’n, I will praise Thee; in my heart, though not in heav’n, I can raise Thee.

Small it is, in this poor sort to enroll Thee: e’en eternity’s too short to extol Thee.

 

Let us pray for the whole world, and for all according to their needs.

Today we pray for family relationships of all kinds. As our travel and social interactions have been severely restricted for quite a long time, we have become particularly aware that a multitude of people have become isolated from their friends and relatives, due to the restrictions that are in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Whilst governments and authorities have introduced these restrictions for the good of the community, and for the preservation of life, we have all been affected by the effects of separation from our friends and loved ones; whether or not we have come into direct contact with the virus ourselves. In our own church community, we pray for one another. Most of us are advancing in years. We are thereby potentially vulnerable to the worst of the effects of the symptoms brought by this disease. Some of us were already separated from regular worship with the rest of the church, for various reasons, before this virus struck our community. Now we are prevented from all but the most urgent occasional contact from our friends and relatives, which has contributed to a real sense of loneliness and isolation.

Heavenly Father, we pray for ourselves, and for all who may be lonely and separated from personal contact with their friends and families. We ask for your protection, and the reassurance of your infinite loving-kindness, as we experience the hours of isolation brought about by the effects of coronavirus on our communities. We pray especially for those who are trying to cope with this situation away from their families and friends; for students, and young people isolated in college halls of residence or other accommodation, unable to return to the relative comfort of a family home; for those in hospital for any reason, unable to be allowed home; for all who have no home of their own to go to. We pray for those able and willing to visit others in isolation, but who are prevented from doing so by the current restrictions. We pray for all who are sick. Comfort them in their affliction and help relieve them from any hurt or pain. Support those who are caring for them, tending their wounds or treating their ailments and, where it is possible, bring about a timely recovery and return them to good health. For all those who are dying, or close to death; for any whose loved ones are nearing the end of life, but who are unable to share their final moments together; enfold them in your loving arms and be to them a tower of strength in their final days. Look with mercy and kindness on their souls and bring them into your everlasting kingdom.

Lastly, we give thanks for our friends and families. We are grateful that, even though we may not be able to meet each other in person, we are still able to maintain contact from a distance using a telephone or computer. We are indebted to those who are working in scientific communities to develop antidotes and vaccines, to help our fight against viruses and other infections of the body or mind. We give thanks for the good news of various successful trials of potential remedies to our current afflictions, and look forward with hope and optimism to a return of relative normality in our daily lives.

We sum up our prayers in the words our Saviour taught his disciples, saying:

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

Eternal Father, whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven, that he might rule over all things as Lord and King: keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in his service; and may the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon us all, this day and always. Amen.

Our final hymn today is ‘All hail the power of Jesus’ name’, sung to the tune ‘Diadem’, and led by massed choirs in St Andrew’s Kirk, Chennai, India. After this hymn, the service will conclude with the canticle, ‘Te Deum Laudamus’ (We praise Thee, O God : we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord).

1 All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ name!

Let angels prostrate fall, Let angels prostrate fall;

Bring forth the royal diadem,

And crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him;

And crown Him Lord of all!

 

2 Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,

Ye ransomed from the fall, Ye ransomed from the fall,

Hail Him who saves you by His grace,

And crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him;

And crown Him Lord of all!

 

3 Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget

The wormwood and the gall, The wormwood and the gall,

Go, spread your trophies at His feet,

And crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him;

And crown Him Lord of all!

 

4 Let every kindred, every tribe,

On this terrestrial ball, On this terrestrial ball,

To Him all majesty ascribe,

And crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him;

And crown Him Lord of all!

 

5 O that with yonder sacred throng

We at His feet may fall, We at His feet may fall!

We’ll join the everlasting song,

And crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him;

And crown Him Lord of all!

 

Canticle – ‘Te Deum Laudamus’, set to music by John Ireland

Organ Voluntary: Toccata from the 5th Organ Symphony, played by Kalevi Kiviniemi at the organ of the church of St.Ouen, Rouen, France.

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Sunday 15th November 2020 – 23rd after Trinity – 24th after Pentecost

Hello. A very warm welcome to you this autumnal day as you share with us in this week’s selection of readings, prayers and music for the twenty-third Sunday after Trinity. Our reflection has been specially recorded by the Reverend Helena Roulston, who under normal circumstances would have led our service in church if we had been meeting today. 

We begin with the Introit hymn ‘Rejoice today with one accord’, sung to the tune ‘Ein Feste Burg’, and led by Sheffield Cathedral Choir.

A Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father,
whose blessed Son was revealed
to destroy the works of the devil,
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life:
grant that we, having this hope,
may purify ourselves even as he is pure;
that when he shall appear in power and great glory
we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom;
where he is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Old Testament Lesson is written in the 4th chapter of the book of Judges, beginning at the 1st verse.

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died. So the LORD sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years. At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.'”

The next hymn today is ‘Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart’, sung to the tune ‘Slane’.

The Epistle is written in the 5th chapter of the 1st epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, beginning to read from the 1st verse.

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

The Gradual Psalm set for today is Psalm 123.

 Ad te levavi oculos meos.
1 Unto thee lift I up mine eyes : O thou that dwellest in the heavens.
2 Behold, even as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress : even so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until he have mercy upon us.
3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us : for we are utterly despised.
4 Our soul is filled with the scornful reproof of the wealthy : and with the despitefulness of the proud.
GLORIA

The Holy Gospel is written in the 25th chapter of the gospel according to Matthew, beginning at the 14th verse.

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

The hymn, ‘Ye Servants of the Lord’, sung to the tune ‘Narenza’.

 1 Ye servants of the Lord
Each for your Master wait,
Observant of his heavenly word,
And watchful at his gate.

2 Let all your lamps be bright,
And trim the golden flame;
Gird up your loins, as in his sight,
For aweful is his name.

3 Watch! ’tis your Lord’s command,
And while we speak, he’s near;
Mark the first signal of his hand,
And ready all appear.

4 O happy servant he,
In such a posture found!
He shall his Lord with rapture see,
And be with honour crowned.

5 Christ shall the banquet spread
With his own royal hand,
And raise that faithful servant’s head
Amidst the angelic band.

We welcome back the Reverend Helena Roulston, who has provided her reflection on this week’s bible readings.

There is a bit of a problem with the parable Jesus tells in the Gospel reading today that stands out loud and clear, and I want to address this at the start of this reflection.
Many would suggest, and my study Bible agrees, that this is a parable painting a direct picture of God’s Kingdom. Matthew chapter 25, verse 1, introduces the parable of the Bridesmaids with the words ‘the Kingdom of heaven will be like…’. We then pick it up from verse 14 when Jesus starts with ‘Again, it will be like…’, and so it follows that the ‘it’ here refers to the aforementioned Kingdom of heaven.  The metaphors seem to align nicely:
  • the master going away and coming back paralleling the second coming of Jesus that will come with God’s judgement
  • the abundance of wealth that the master entrusts to the slaves; a talent was the equivalent of 15 years work, so 5 talents was an unimaginable sum of money. This parallels the abundant nature of a loving God
  • the reward of the slaves entering into the joy of the master, presumably the heavenly places
  • and even the image of throwing out the lazy, bad slave into the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth fits with Matthew’s image of hell – a place where the unrighteous and ungodly goats will be thrown into (the parable that follows on from v31).
This all feels like a perfect fit until we read that the slave was afraid of his master because he was a harsh man who stole from others, and this image is confirmed by the master himself.  Now, although this may have been an image of God that the Victorians liked to extol to ensure that servants and peasants were kept in their place this is not the revelation of God given to us through the Bible – the God from whom creation was birthed into being through an outpouring of divine love.
Jesus told parables to tell a message through the image of a story, a story that was often startling and unexpected because those are the type of stories that are more likely to stay with us!
I don’t think it is necessary to build a parallel between the master and God. Indeed I would suggest that doing so not only distracts us from the message of the parable but paints an unhelpful and dangerous image of God that could open the path to oppression.
But if God isn’t the master in this parable where is God?  And how does the parable relate to the kingdom of heaven as Jesus clearly suggests it does?
Jesus tells a story of a very wealthy landlord going away and entrusting vast sums of money to three slaves. The heart of the message focuses on the actions and intentions of the slaves; let us build a picture of the character of these slaves as portrayed in the parable:
First, the two slaves who invest. These slaves would have taken time to research good investments and work hard to ensure that interest is made. I would imagine, like all investments, that risks were taken, and the slaves would have had to make shrewd decisions. These slaves were motivated, focused and energised. They had also invested time into getting to understand their master as they knew he would be expecting a gain on the money he entrusted to them. There is an indication that honesty and integrity were important values for these slaves, for their master would not have known if they had kept some of their earned money for themselves. They chose to give back to their master all that he had entrusted them with and all that they had gained from that money.
And what of the third slave? I do wonder what he did with his time whilst the master was away after he had buried the money. The slave took the money, buried it, and waited for his master to return. And I imagine that, whilst waiting, he would have eaten and drunk from his master’s resources, since he had less work to do given that the master wasn’t there. Perhaps that is why the master entrusted the money to the slaves – to give them work whilst he was away. And what the third slave doesn’t take into account as he buries the money, is that not only will he not gain an investment on the money, but he buries it in the ground where it is vulnerable to thieves and robbers. Thankfully, on his master’s return, no thieves had found the money.  He digs it up and gives it back to his master. ‘Have what is yours’, he says.
Now I don’t know whether I have been watching too many films over lockdown, but when I read these words, an unexpected image came to my mind; that’s of that frequent scene in a ‘rom com’ where there is an argument between a couple; shouting and screaming erupts, with the climax of an engagement ring or wedding ring being thrust on the floor in a gesture that says, ‘Have what is yours’, meaning I don’t want it anymore – I want to break our contract together.  At this point, the one who has thrust the ring storms off, and the other partner is left, often lost for words; and you can see the hurt and rejection on their face as their love is thrown back in their face.
Did the master feel this rejection?
Building a character profile of these slaves identifies that we have two very different kinds of people; the one group motivated, energetic and shrewd; the other fearful and cautious.
I wonder if we can feel a connection to both these groups of character traits as we wade through the quicksand of lockdown. I know I do.
But it might not be about judging ourselves against those slaves every moment of each day, trying to prove that we are good investors.
At the beginning of my reflection I argued the case for not aligning the master of the parable with God, because the image here doesn’t fit with the overall revelation of God in Scripture. We all have bad days when we feel dejected, lack motivation, and question our ability to do anything worthwhile. And that’s okay… as long as you don’t let those feelings define who you are.
You are created by the most wonderful, awesome God who gave the songbird a voice, who erected mountains that tower above the earth, and who formed the tiniest amoeba in the deepest darkest oceans. This God created you, and in doing so entrusted you with the Holy Spirit to fire your very being – the greatest of all gifts.
In one of his letters to the Corinthian church, Paul tells us that we are ‘temples of the Holy Spirit’. This is the Spirit at work in us; guiding us, motivating us, instructing us in the ways of love and compassion and moving us when we see God’s presence in the world around us. We can choose to suppress God’s Spirit, or we can connect with that power and passion within us.
Do we struggle with feeling helpless in the face of so much confusion and despair in our world? Jesus is telling us today to give those feelings to God knowing that through the Spirit they can be transformed into energy to make a difference in the world. We can do the things that are difficult because we have the gift of the Spirit within.
From our reading in Judges, we hear that Deborah was moved to lead in battle.
The church in Thessalonica was moved by God’s Spirit to put on the armour of faith, love and hope, in the face of adversity.
How will you be moved by God’s Spirit today? Will you recognise the Spirit that God has entrusted to you?
Creator God, you have created us and fashioned us, and we praise your name for your love. Loving Lord, there are so many of your children in the world today who are fearful, lonely and dejected. In your mercy, renew our trust and strengthen our faith that we may follow the nudges of your Spirit within us this day. Amen
Revd. Helena Roulston

Today’s anthem from Guildford Cathedral is ‘Thou hast made me’, a setting of a prayer of John Donne, set to music by Lennox Berkeley.

Thou hast made me, and shall thy work decay? Repair me now, for now mine end doth haste; I run to death, and death meets me as fast, And all my pleasures are like yesterday. I dare not move my dim eyes any way, Despair behind, and death before doth cast Such terror, and my feeble flesh doth waste By sin in it, which it towards hell doth weigh. Only thou art above, and when towards thee By thy leave I can look, I rise again; But our old subtle foe so tempteth me That not one hour myself I can sustain. Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art, And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart.

Let us pray for our world and all people, according to their needs.

Lord God, creator of the heavens and the earth; who has designed and fashioned all living things with precision and beauty, from the smallest microscopic cell to the infinite vastness of space; whose own almighty hand laboured awhile, forming humankind from the dust of the earth in your own image; look mercifully with favour on your unworthy servants, who since the days of the early Israelites have so frequently strayed from the path you laid before them. We confess that, despite our best intentions, we have from time to time fallen short of your expectations of us; and marred that image you implanted in us. We give thanks that you sent your Son to save us from the crafts and assaults of the evil one. Forgive us when we go astray. Renew and restore us by your Holy Spirit, so that we may go forth into the world refreshed and confident to confess that you are the guiding Light of the World, and our Saviour. Amen.
Today we reflect that our scientists, like those of former generations, are working hard to combat the effects of those things which cause death and decay in our bodies; we are thankful for those involved in the formulation of antidotes and vaccines which help us fight the infections which afflict us, especially the coronavirus which is affecting our brothers and sisters all over the world in our present time, preventing us from demonstrating our love for one another, even for our own families. We give thanks for the lives of those who have already fallen victim to the fatal effects of this affliction, and ask that you will help and support their loved ones who have been left grieving because of their loss. Lord, as we grow daily nearer to your kingdom, we ask that you will keep our hearts and souls in a state of good repair, and grant that we may continue to be worthy mirrors of your loving-kindness, as we travel on through our journey of life. Amen.
Using the words our Saviour Christ taught his disciples, we are confident 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.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand,
So may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon us, this day and for evermore. Amen

We conclude our worship with the hymn, ‘Love divine, all loves excelling’, sung to the tune ‘Blaenwern’.

 The organ voluntary, ‘Fugue “Alla Gigue”‘, by J. S. Bach, played on the Mormon Tabernacle organ by Richard Elliot.

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