Sunday 31st January 2021 – 4th after the Epiphany
Welcome to you all to this week’s selection of words and music for worship on the 4th Sunday after the Epiphany. There is an emphasis on the theme of Hope this week, and our reflection has been provided by the Revd. Helena Roulston, Chaplain to Sheffield University.
INTROIT: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels (Edward Bairstow), sung by the choir of Guildford Cathedral, directed by Barry Rose.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail: whether there be tongues, they shall cease: or whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as I am known, even as I also am known. And now abideth faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians:13)
Collect for today.
God our creator, who in the beginning commanded the light to shine out of darkness: we pray that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ may dispel the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, shine into the hearts of all your people, and reveal the knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Old Testament Lesson: Deuteronomy 18 : 15-20
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.”
HYMN: How sweet the name of Jesus sounds (tune: St. Peter)
EPISTLE: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him. Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.
GRADUAL PSALM: Psalm 111
I WILL give thanks unto the Lord with my whole heart : secretly among the faithful, and in the congregation.
The works of the Lord are great : sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.
His work is worthy to be praised and had in honour : and his righteousness endureth for ever.
The merciful and gracious Lord hath so done his marvellous works : that they ought to be had in remembrance.
He hath given meat unto them that fear him : he shall ever be mindful of his covenant.
He hath shewed his people the power of his works : that he may give them the heritage of the heathen.
The works of his hands are verity and judgement : all his commandments are true.
They stand fast for ever and ever : and are done in truth and equity.
He sent redemption unto his people : he hath commanded his covenant for ever; holy and reverend is his Name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom : a good understanding have all they that do thereafter; the praise of it endureth for ever.
GOSPEL: Mark 1:21-28
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching–with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
HYMN: King of glory, King of peace (tune: Gwalchmai)
Today’s reflection, entitled ‘Hope’, has kindly been provided for us by Revd. Helena Roulston. It may be helpful to know that a TED* talk is a modern form of short, motivational speech given by a gifted speaker to inspire a team or committee to higher achievement (TED stands for ‘technology, entertainment and design’). A few phrases have been edited to better suit the digital reader.
A climate change activist, colleague and friend of mine once said that the problem he had with Christianity is hope. He went on to explain that hope allows Christians a ‘get out’ clause from being active to support the movement towards creating a healthier world. Hope that everything would one day be okay; that God would reign and there would be a new heaven and a new earth. So why worry about this one?
Interestingly, a few months later that same person sent me a link to a TED* talk that explained why hope was necessary in the climate change movement. Without hope, the woman explained, we have no motivating drive at all. She continued to say that there were two forms of hope. Passive hope; the hope my friend assumed to be found in Christianity, the hope one has which allows one to do nothing, thinking that all will be well in the end. Then there is active hope; the hope that motivates us to act, in the belief that the action will lead to a good outcome. The hope that as small and insignificant as we appear to be, we can make a difference.
You may be wondering what all this talk of hope has to do with our readings today. The Psalm for today, psalm 111, has the title in my Bible ‘Praise God for his wonderful works’. The praise is in the introduction, but the rest of the psalm continues to explain why we might be praising God at all; a little bit like an answer to the question “why should we hope?”.
In the current situation, it can feel like our hope is really being tried and tested. I recall a Facebook post from a friend back in April asking people to “stay indoors; I’ve got plans for June”. She hoped that by then we would be coming to the end of restrictions, and able to enjoy a normal summer. Well, we did have quite a good summer weather-wise, but in other ways it was far from normal. As the autumn came our hopes were again unfulfilled; but then with schools opening, and with the introduction of graded tiers of restrictions, we began to hope that we had the pandemic under control. But we didn’t. Then next, our hope for a better summer this year was renewed with the great news of the rolling out of the vaccine, yet even now that hope is being tried and tested once again as we find ourselves in another extended lockdown. It is understandable that our sense of hope may be feeling rather weak just now. We may find ourselves asking the question when this will end. When will we be able to hug our loved ones and sing in church once again?
But it is this wavering hope that the psalmist addresses. Our hope is not an empty one. It is not a hope founded upon dreams, and it is certainly not a passive hope. Our hope is founded upon the promises made by our God, and on the wonders that God has already done in our lives and in the lives of countless people before us. “Great are the works of the Lord”, the psalmist writes. “He sent his redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever”. I invite you to read through the psalm again. Let the words of promise and hope sink in, deep within.
Hope is not a nice-to-have feeling or an emotion. We need hope to survive. We cannot do without hope. I would suggest that hope, true hope, the hope that comes from psalms like this one, can never be passive; it keeps us alive.
During this past week, the nation has marked Holocaust Memorial Day. The theme for this year was “Be the light in the darkness”. Stories were told of countless men and women who risked everything, even their very lives, to be a light for others; to be the light in the extreme darkness of genocide. There were stories from Holocaust survivors, and from survivors of more recent genocides, who would certainly have perished without the hope that one day they would be free. Hope literally kept them alive.
Hope cannot be diminished.
Before Christmas, at Hallam we held an event we called “The Celebration of Hope”. Participants were invited to share with each other what hope meant to them. The stories that emerged were so moving, beyond all I could have imagined, that my faith in hope was consequently re-ignited.
As Christians we have a calling and a duty to hope, and to be active in bringing our hopes into reality, not just for ourselves but for our world. In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul uses the example of food to illustrate his message. A message about the weak and the strong. The strong, Paul says, should adapt what they say and do in the presence of the weak, so that the weak may feel encouraged in their faith. This message left me wondering would I be in the strong or the weak category. Well, when it comes to hope, I certainly fall into both. There will be times when we feel strong in our conviction of hope; these are the times when we need to hope for others, because we don’t know when we might need others to hope for us.
For when all is said and done, at the close of the day when the press-conferences fall silent; when the children are all in bed and the stars are in the sky, Paul reminds us in those words so often used at weddings, “and now faith, hope and love abide”. For faith, hope and love cannot be overcome; they can never die, and will be the gifts from God that lighten each new day. May you bring hope to the world this day and always.
Revd. Helena Roulston.
ANTHEM: O where shall wisdom be found (William Boyce)
The text of this verse anthem is taken from Job 28: (vv.12-15, 18, 20-21a, 23-28)
Let us pray in the words of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
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.
Deliver us O Lord we beseech thee from all evils, past, present and to come, and at the intercession of the blessed Saints Peter, Paul, and Andrew, [patron saint of this church,] and of all the Saints, favourably grant us peace throughout our days, that by the help of thy mercy and loving-kindness, we may ever remain free from sin and safe from all distress, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
[This extended version of the Lord’s Prayer freely adapted from the Scottish Episcopal Church]
We pray especially today for the remaining survivors of the Holocaust, as they recall with sadness and distress their own experiences during the second world war, when they were impressionable children, facing first-hand the evils of oppression. We are saddened and embarrassed, by the capacity of humankind to generate such hatred against others, that it would deprive them of the very gift of life itself, which you Lord so generously bestowed in the first place. We remember those who have been deprived of life prematurely, whether by cruel intention, ill health or other misfortune, and ask you to look mercifully upon their souls, and transport them into the safe haven of your heavenly kingdom. We also pray that you may enrich all the forces of good in our society, and make them resilient and strong in the face of all forms of evil. Be with us in our own moments of weakness, and enrich us with new hope. And when we are strong, give us the strength to inspire hope in one another.
Finally, we give thanks for the life of our friend and brother, James Dickson, who died peacefully in his sleep earlier this week. We pray for his widow, Jean, and ask that you may be a source of unending comfort to her and all her family and friends as they come to terms with their loss during the difficult days ahead. James has been a faithful servant and a key member of St. Andrew’s for many years, and his wonderful character and endless smile will be missed by us all. Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord; and may your perpetual light ever shine upon him. May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the power of the Holy Spirit be with us all and all those we love, this day and evermore. Amen.
Our final hymn today seems to hint at beginnings and endings. The idea of the stable door standing ajar reminds me of the stone rolled away from the tomb. Jesus, no longer in the manger, escaped from the grave, has finally found a home in our own heart. We will make him welcome!
HYMN: Long ago, prophets knew (tune: Personent Hodie)
ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Prelude on Bryn Calfaria, played by James Bowstead on the organ at Wakefield Cathedral.
Sunday 24th January 2021 – 3rd after the Epiphany
Welcome back to our weekly liturgical diet of prayer and praise! We are still in the season inspired by the Epiphany of our Lord, when we recall the first revelation of Christ to the gentiles, the Magi. There were various methods employed to bring mankind close to God. God made the most significant move by manifesting himself as a human, but angels drew the attention of the shepherds to the manger, whilst the guiding star led the gift-bearing Magi to visit the young child. Throughout history, God has influenced humankind through the prophets, saints, angels and signs. All the time God has been calling us and guiding us to walk closely with him as we tread this earthly road together. So it is right that for today’s introit we hear Stanford’s well-known hymn-anthem, O for a closer walk with God.
INTROIT: O for a closer walk with God (Sir C. V. Stanford)
COLLECT for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Old Testament reading, comes from the 3rd chapter of the book of Jonah, beginning to read from the 1st verse.
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
HYMN: Dear Lord and Father of mankind (tune: Repton)
The Epistle is written in the 1st epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 7, beginning to read from the 29th verse.
I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
GRADUAL PSALM: Psalm 62
MY SOUL truly waiteth still upon God : for of him cometh my salvation.
He verily is my strength and my salvation : he is my defence, so that I shall not greatly fall.
How long will ye imagine mischief against every man : ye shall be slain all the sort of you; yea, as a tottering wall shall ye be, and like a broken hedge.
Their device is only how to put him out whom God will exalt : their delight is in lies; they give good words with their mouth, but curse with their heart.
Nevertheless, my soul, wait thou still upon God : for my hope is in him.
He truly is my strength and my salvation : he is my defence, so that I shall not fall.
In God is my health, and my glory : the rock of my might, and in God is my trust.
O put your trust in him alway, ye people : pour out your hearts before him, for God is our hope.
As for the children of men, they are but vanity : the children of men are deceitful upon the weights, they are altogether lighter than vanity itself.
O trust not in wrong and robbery, give not yourselves unto vanity : if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.
God spake once, and twice I have also heard the same : that power belongeth unto God;
And that thou, Lord, art merciful : for thou rewardest every man according to his work.
The Holy Gospel is written in the 1st chapter of the gospel according to Mark, beginning at verse 14.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
HYMN: Will you come and follow me? (tune: Kelvingrove)
A Reflection on today’s Gospel reading: Revd. Fleur Houston
Mark, in these verses, is calling us back to basics. Maybe we need that. At a time when all our familiar church arrangements are thrown into disarray by the pandemic, when we ourselves are surviving in lock-down, often under extremely testing circumstances, when many of us are struggling to keep our head above water, we could be forgiven for thinking that repentance is not our first priority. And yet the summons of Jesus is insistent: “Repent and believe the good news.”
Now this has implications for our church and for ourselves as individuals. First of all, Jesus’s ministry is fulfilled through the community of his disciples. His first followers were fishermen, living with their families by the sea of Galilee. Jesus spotted two brothers, Simon and Andrew, casting a net into the sea. He interrupts them at their work and calls them to a new vocation. These are his first disciples. The next two are also fishermen, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, mending nets – he calls and immediately, without question, they follow. Jesus doesn’t ask for a CV or for testimonials of good character. His call to discipleship is an uncompromising break with business as usual. And those who are called obey.
That obligation did not die along with the first followers of Jesus. It applies to all Jesus’ followers through the ages, it applies today to this congregation of St Andrew’s in Sheffield and it applies to the congregation to which I belong on the other side of the Pennines in Macclesfield.
Now we may well feel that to fulfil the ministry of Jesus in our world is too huge a charge to be entrusted to frail ordinary mortals like most of our church members. Who are we to shoulder such responsibility? What would be more natural than to sit back in apathy or dejection, to shield ourselves from Jesus’s call and wait for someone more worthy than ourselves to take it on? If this is how you are thinking, then think again. Jesus makes just one requirement of his followers – only one, but it is huge and if taken seriously it will lead by God’s grace to the renewal, not only of the church but also of the world. So we must take heed. Much is at stake. As he announces the coming kingdom of God, Jesus calls his hearers, whoever they may be, man or woman, young or not-so-young, Jew or Gentile, to turn away from evil and to turn to God. Like his cousin, John the Baptist, he urges with the utmost seriousness the need to repent.
This is a salutary message for our churches to hear at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. All Christians everywhere are called in common cause by their Lord to repent: a penitent Church is a reconciled and reconciling community, freed from sin by the grace of Christ to work for the healing of the world. There are occasions when the need for this seems all too obvious. This coming Thursday, on the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz, many will remember with sorrow the extremity of human evil that is known as the Holocaust. This was industrial mass murder on a colossal scale, when millions of Jews and others were exterminated. As the skeletal survivors were liberated before the horrified eyes of the world, never again, it was said, never again.
And yet there has been recently a dramatic increase in anti-semitic rhetoric and violent incidents in many countries, with a pernicious persistence of Holocaust denial, especially on-line. This is often the first expression of rising intolerance and violence against minority communities, Jewish, Muslim, Christian. We have all seen it. We saw it in Bosnia, we see it in the genocide of Rohingya in Myanmar and the Uighurs in China. On our doorstep in the UK refugees and those who are homeless are regularly abused and vilified. Many of our churches are complacent. But to be complacent with such things is to be complicit in their perpetration.
We as churches are called by our Lord to be self-aware. And as we do, we know that through the grace of God we can together be a force for good for the healing and reconciliation of the world.
What applies to our churches applies also to individual followers of Jesus. “Repent and believe the good news.” Jesus is not talking here about a token confession of inadequacy in the comforting knowledge that God will forgive. He is summoning his hearers, then and now, to something much more profound, challenging and all-embracing than that. He is calling us to examine ourselves unflinchingly. We may not like what we see but only when we are aware of the extent of our own frailty will we know the full measure of God’s love and mercy in Jesus Christ.
The hymn-writer Charlotte Elliott knew that. She was fragile all her life – so frail that on one occasion she was unable to help out with preparations for a fund-raising church bazaar in Brighton. This may seem quite trivial to us, but not to her. She was overcome by an abject sense of uselessness. Her misery was profound. It moved her to think about her frailty and to contrast that with the gracious acceptance shown by God to all who respond to him in faith. Awareness dawned that she did not have to achieve anything before responding to the call of Jesus – she could come to God just as she was. And the hymn which she wrote on that occasion inspired millions of people all over the world to do the same; it became the rallying cry of countless campaigns by Billy Graham.
Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I aim, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
Because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am, thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am, of that free love
The breadth, length, depth and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Charlotte Elliott (1789-1971)
Revd. Fleur Houston
Just as I am, sung by the Billy Graham Crusade Choir.
Christina Rosetti’s beautiful hymn ‘In the bleak mid-winter’, in Harold Darke’s lovely setting, underlines the same simple message with the closing words, ‘Yet what I can I give him: give my heart’. A gentle reminder that we are still in the season of Epiphany.
Let us pray for the needs of the world; for ourselves and the whole community of humankind.
Heavenly Father, we give thanks for the security of our own homes, and that we are safe, warm and dry. We pray especially for those who have been displaced from their own homes due to the recent stormy weather just across the Pennines. More widely we think of anyone facing insecurity who may be away from home and unable to return due to travel restrictions, political unrest or any form of oppression or prejudice. We pray for members of our own communities who may be trapped abroad, and for those from afar who are seeking a safe refuge here. We remember the Magi, who travelled from foreign lands to honour the new-born King, but had to divert their return journey to avoid capture by King Herod. We remember how the King subsequently ordered the massacre of hundreds of innocent children under two years old, in a vain effort to eradicate any potential threat to his own kingdom; it is too painful for us to imagine what distress these actions must have caused to the families concerned.
We pray for the people of the United States of America, who seem far from united at the present time. We ask that you may strengthen the forces of goodness at work in that community, and protect those who value calm and peace from any forms of extremism or injustice. Endue their new leaders with the wisdom to govern fairly as they strive to restore confidence and balance in their own society structures, and help to ease tensions throughout the world created by confused messages at home.
We pray for Christian folk throughout the world, and for anyone who is following the path prepared for us by our Lord. Here is a lovely prayer which has comforted and inspired many people during times of stress:
One night I had a dream…
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and
across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, There was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
You would walk with me all the way;
But I have noticed that during the
most troublesome times in my life,
There is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why in times when I
needed you the most, you should leave me.
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious
child. I love you, and I would never,
never leave you during your times of
trial and suffering.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
Lord Jesus Christ, reveal to us your footmarks,
that in them we may plant our own;
in faith and trust we follow you duly,
founded in your strength alone.
Lord guide us, call us, support us,
and uphold us to the end;
that finally in heaven you will receive us,
as our Saviour and our Friend. Amen.
HYMN: O Jesus, I have promised (tune: Wolvercote)
ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Organ Sonata No.3 in A (Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy) played by Alexander Pattavina at the organ of Christ Church, Bronxville.
Sunday 17th January 2021 – 2nd after the Epiphany
Welcome to our selection of prayer, readings and music for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany. A significant theme of today’s service is responding to God’s call, not forgetting the way in which the magi followed the light of the star to the young child as their own amazing response. In praise of their incredible pilgrimage, we begin our service with the hymn, ‘Songs of thankfulness and praise’, sung to the tune ‘St. Edmund’.
Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Old Testament reading, comes from the 3rd chapter of the 1st book of Samuel, beginning to read from the 1st verse.
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.” Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.” As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.
HYMN: I, the Lord of sea and sky (Dunblane Cathedral)
The Epistle is written in the 1st epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 6, beginning to read from the 12th verse.
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
GRADUAL PSALM: Psalm 139 vv.1-18 (Wakefield Cathedral)
O LORD, thou hast searched me out and known me : thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising, thou understandest my thoughts long before.
Thou art about my path, and about my bed : and spiest out all my ways.
For lo, there is not a word in my tongue : but thou, O Lord, knowest it altogether.
Thou hast fashioned me behind and before : and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me : I cannot attain unto it.
Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit : or whither shall I go then from thy presence?
If I climb up into heaven, thou art there : if I go down to hell, thou art there also.
If I take the wings of the morning : and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there also shall thy hand lead me : and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, Peradventure the darkness shall cover me : then shall my night be turned to day.
Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee, but the night is as clear as the day : the darkness and light to thee are both alike.
For my reins are thine : thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks unto thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made : marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well.
My bones are not hid from thee : though I be made secretly, and fashioned beneath in the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect t: and in thy book were all my members written;
Which day by day were fashioned : when as yet there was none of them.
How dear are thy counsels unto me, O God : O how great is the sum of them!
If I tell them, they are more in number than the sand : when I wake up I am present with thee.
The Holy Gospel is written in the 1st chapter of the gospel according to John beginning at verse 43.
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
HYMN: I cannot tell why he, whom angels worship (Londonderry Air)
Today’s Reflection by Canon Adrian Alker
The Second Sunday of Epiphany
For those of us of a certain age, when attendance at Sunday School and familiarity with bible stories was part of our growing up, today’s story from the Old Testament book of Samuel, comes with many resonances. The call of God to the boy Samuel in the temple; then Samuel thinking it was his master Eli calling him, has all the hallmarks of a ‘dream theophany’, of God speaking to the sleeper via a dream. Three times the boy is woken up. Three times he goes to ask Eli what he wants and, finally, Samuel understands that it is the voice of God with some rather unwelcome news for Eli and his household! A very familiar tale.
The call to discipleship in the New Testament is rather more down to earth. It takes the form of Jesus calling his disciples by the shores of Lake Galilee although in today’s gospel reading from John, it is the newly-called Philip who finds Nathaniel and invites him to meet Jesus.
Common to these readings is a sense of being called by God to a task, to a way of life, to a process of transformation and renewal, which the Collect for the week hints at. The term ‘vocation’ – ‘calling’ – is often used to describe those who are preparing for ministry in the church. But the term vocation is now rightly applied to many professions, be it medicine, the law, teaching etc. However, it does seem to me that all people can have a sense of a calling, not just those fortunate to have a good education, and a background which enables them to succeed in their chosen career. If we are all children of God, then we should surely have the potential to be all that God wants us to be – full of his grace, his truth and his love.
Many years ago, back in the 1970s, I began work as a Careers Advisor, helping young school leavers to try to achieve their dreams, at a time when there were many opportunities for young people to go to university or into an apprenticeship, to seek out a craft trade or enter one of the armed services. Sadly, since then, opportunities for youth employment have narrowed, and in some areas of work have almost disappeared. Nevertheless, it is so important to maintain that sense of vocation, and to enable each person to develop his or her particular gifts and skills in order to pursue a worthwhile career.
Samuel’s call was part of how the people of Israel were to transition between a people ruled by prophets to a land under kingship. The call of Jesus was to an invitation to bring in the kingdom of God on earth, and all that meant in social, economic and political terms as well as religious! But not all calls are welcome or religious! In recent months my wife and I have been looking after a very old relative, who in the middle of the night, wakes us up for reasons less prosaic than hearing a voice! And that in turn reminds me of all those carers, nurses and doctors who work through the night, attending to the calls of their patients. In this awful pandemic, we rightly applaud those whose vocations have brought them into the caring professions, but we are also aware of our dependence on the multitude of other workers – supermarket staff, refuse collectors, newsagents and postal workers, pharmacists and a host of other people who contribute to the common good.
In this season of Epiphany, when we remember the magi offering their gifts to the Christ child and when we recall Jesus’ own baptism and his sense of being called by God to a special mission, we are led to recall all those instances when the light of Christ has shone into the dark places of our world, bringing the love of God, bringing a sense of hope, even of joy. People of all faiths and none can feel a sense of calling to do good to others. Think of all those volunteers who tirelessly distribute food parcels to needy families, or those who have volunteered to knock on the door of some person who is alone and shielding and in need of distanced conversation. Many who volunteer, be it in working in youth clubs, in sporting clubs, in helping asylum seekers – so often such people fund their sense of vocation in these ways.
Together we are all called into that great hope of seeing the kingdom of God here on earth. We glimpse it in the selfless work of those who care for others, who attend to their needs in the middle of the night. This pandemic has called us to see how our world is interconnected, it has brought forth so many heroic acts of saving love. Perhaps it is teaching us to value what really matters in life and a determination to change society for the better. We pray that the light of God’s glory might shine in and through us in whatever ways we are called to do the divine will.
Canon Adrian Alker
ANTHEM: Tre magi de gentibus (C. S. Lang), sung by the choir of Wakefield Cathedral
Let us pray.
Dear Lord, to whom we call in times of need, look mercifully on our transgressions, forgive our shortfalls and protect us from our own weaknesses. Help us to recognise your voice when you are calling out to us. Give us the strength and wisdom to respond to your voice; inspire us to be diligent in your service, and resilient enough to continue as faithful warriors in your battle against the sins and evils of the world which confront us daily. Help us to live out our lives as you would have us live them, looking after our minds and bodies that they may grow to become living temples of your spirit, and true beacons of your love in whose image we were once created. Be with us day and night, and support us when we are weak in body, mind or spirit. Help us to be worthy disciples, guiding us along the road you have prepared for us to follow, just as you led the shepherds to the manger at your incarnation, and guided the magi by the light of a star as they brought their precious gifts to present to you when you were a young child. When we reach the end of the road, enfold us in your loving arms and transport into your everlasting kingdom. These things we ask in the name of our Saviour, in whose words we pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Send us out in the power of your Spirit,
send us out in the strength of your love,
to live and work to your praise and glory
in the name of Christ.
Send us out in the hope of your promise,
send us out in the light of your word,
to love and serve as the hands and feet
of our Saviour, Jesus Christ;
And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all, this day and evermore. Amen.
HYMN: ‘Who is on the Lord’s side’, (tune: ‘Rachie’)
ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Dieu parmi nous (from La Navité du Seigneur) – Olivier Messiaen, performed by Roger Sayer at Temple Church, London.
Roger Sayer plays Dieu Parmi Nous by Olivier Messiaen (1908-92). Messiaen was famously a synesthete: he saw colours when he heard sound. Part of the reason that his music sounds the way it does is because, for him, each note had a colour and a meaning, and in combining them he was able to create a dazzling stained glass window of sound. Many of the meanings attributed to colours by orthodox iconography correlate exactly to those which Messiaen saw and reproduced in his scores. He claimed that ‘Colours have their own personalities, properties and powers’ (Messiaen, Traité de Rythme, de Couleur, et d’Ornithologie, 1949-92). The colour green is associated with life and with ‘la Vierge’; red and yellow are the colours of fire, blood and divine love; and white is the colour of purity and heaven. Most importantly, blue is a ‘high’ colour, the colour of the sky, the air, heaven and divine wisdom. Messiaen was also fascinated by numerology, and frequently wrote theologically significant numbers into his music. Dieu Parmi Nous (God with us) is the final movement of Messiaen’s 1935 work La Nativité du Seigneur. After ten chords of fanfare, the pedals play a tumultuous descending melody as God descends to earth, echoed by the calm and gentleness of the strings. This pedal solo uses a rhythm called the ‘Râgarvardhana rhythm’, where the notes are grouped into threes, representative of the Trinity: a dotted minim, three crotchets and three quavers, all heavily accented. The first occurs in the pedal just one bar into the piece. Dieu Parmi Nous brings together all the moods of the preceding movements: excitement, joy, prayer, wonder and glory, and quotes fragments of plainsong from the Magnificat, the Song of Mary: ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord’. Each distinctive section builds toward the work’s monumental conclusion: an ecstatic toccata over the opening pedal theme – God descending to earth.
Sunday 10th January 2021 – 1st Sunday after the Epiphany – The Baptism of our Lord
Welcome to our worship selection for the first Sunday after the Epiphany. Today’s theme is the Baptism of our Lord. We welcome back Jenny Carpenter, who has kindly furnished us with an interesting reflection and today’s selection of prayers. Our choral and organ music today was composed by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, who held mainly cathedral posts as organist and choirmaster, but who was appointed to Leeds Parish Church (now Leeds Minster) between 1842 and 1849. Our introit today is ‘Lead me, Lord’, from his anthem ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul’.
INTROIT: Lead me, Lord (S. S. Wesley)
A prayer for today. Let us pray.
Eternal Father, at the Baptism of Jesus you revealed him to be your Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful to their calling as your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Old Testament lesson is found in the book Genesis, beginning at the 1st verse of chapter 1.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
HYMN: On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s cry
The Epistle is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 19, beginning at the 1st verse.
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied– altogether there were about twelve of them.
GRADUAL PSALM and HYMN: Psalm 29, from Washington National Cathedral, followed by the hymn, ‘Lord, when for us you were baptized’.
The Holy Gospel is written in the first chapter of the gospel according to Mark, beginning at the 4th verse.
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Today’s reflection is written by Mrs. Jenny Carpenter, who gives us some interesting insights from the Methodist tradition.
What is the significance of Baptism?
On this first Sunday of the Epiphany Season we leap about 30 years from Jesus as an infant receiving homage from the magi to the event that marks the beginning of his ministry. It is another Epiphany, though the gospel writers vary in their descriptions of just how public all the aspects of it were. For Jesus it is baptism, confirmation and ordination rolled into one. For John it is the point at which his own ministry will be increasingly superseded by that of Jesus.
Why did Jesus come to be baptised by John? Mark gives no explanation.
It would seem that Jesus has reached a turning point in his life and needs to mark it. He admires what his cousin John has been doing in challenging his fellow Jews to change their lifestyle. So, whatever else it may be, Jesus’ baptism by John is an affirmation of John’s prophetic ministry “Preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. It is also a signal to John that the one he has publicly foretold and prepared the way for is now on the scene.
Secondly, Jesus’ baptism by John is a deliberate identification with the human condition – according to Matthew, John tries to deter Jesus saying, “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?” To which Jesus replies, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” John recognised that Jesus had nothing to repent of, but Jesus is deliberately identifying himself with all who repent and truly seek to serve God. His ministry will demonstrate again and again God’s love for repentant sinners. Undoubtedly he sees Baptism as a deliberate and public alignment with the will of God, and a promise to walk in God’s way of love, come what may.
Thirdly, Jesus’ baptism is a rite of initiation for his own public ministry. He is baptised with water by John, but also with the Holy Spirit by God the Father, in preparation for his own mission. Interestingly, Jesus will not practise water baptism as he goes about his own ministry. Instead he directly offers forgiveness of sin and that causes outrage to the authorities. Neither does he offer baptism with the Holy Spirit until after his death and resurrection.
Jesus (and, according to John’s gospel, John the Baptist) see the heavenly light and the alighting dove and hear God’s voice as Jesus comes up out of the water. John practises total immersion. It is strange that, in western art, most depictions show them both standing no more than waist deep in water or even on the river bank with John pouring water onto Jesus’ head from a basin, chalice or shell. Total immersion remains a very powerful image of cleansing and even of dying. Does Jesus, at this point, realise that violent death may lie in store both for John the Baptist and himself?
The accounts of Jesus’ baptism are profoundly Trinitarian. Father, Spirit and Son are bound together in a supreme dramatic revelatory moment.
The gospel writers’ description parallels those opening verses of Genesis, which we have read……
the heavens being torn open / the primal energy of creation;
the Spirit descending on him like a dove / the Spirit of God brooding on the face of the waters;
a voice from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” / God said, “Let there be light”: and there was light. And he saw that it was good.
So what does this mean for us?
Christian Baptism is one of the sacraments of the Church. The Roman Catholic Church recognises seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing the Sick, Marriage, and Holy Orders. Protestants reduce these to two: Baptism and Eucharist (or Holy Communion), as these are clearly declared in the gospels to be commanded by Jesus himself. They have been part of the Church’s practice from the Day of Pentecost to the present day. Baptism is a Rite of Initiation and can only be performed once.
Listen to “The Declaration” at the beginning of the service of Baptism in the Methodist Worship Book …..
Sisters and brothers,
Baptism is a gift of God.
It declares to each of us
the love and grace of God.
In this sacrament we celebrate
the life of Christ laid down for us,
the Holy Spirit poured out on us,
and the living water offered to us.
God claims and cleanses us,
rescues us from sin,
and raises us to new life.
He plants us into the Church of Christ
and sustains and strengthens us
with the power of the Spirit.
Although we do not deserve these gifts of grace,
or fully understand them,
God offers them to all,
and, through Christ, invites us to respond.”
In the Sacrament of Baptism we identify with the Church through the ages – following the risen Christ’s command at the end of Matthew’s gospel “Go ye therefore and preach the Gospel to all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
In the Sacrament of Baptism we recognise and respond to God’s prevenient grace. This is the argument for infant baptism.
God’s loving care surrounds us and is affirmed and complemented by the local church and family friends who, as well as the parents, promise to provide support for the child in a loving worshipping community.
At a baptism in the Methodist tradition the minister says these words to the person to be baptised:
“for you Jesus Christ came into the world;
for you he lived and showed God’s love;
for you he suffered death upon the cross;
for you he triumphed over death;
for you he prays at God’s right hand:
all this for you,
before you could know anything of it.
In your Baptism,
the word of Scripture is fulfilled:
“We love, because God first loved us.””
Let us, as we embark on what will be a testing year, rely on God’s supporting grace and reaffirm our baptismal dedication, pledging to follow Christ come what may.
Malcolm Guite in his sonnet on the Baptism of Christ says it beautifully:
Beginning here we glimpse the Three-in-one;
The river runs, the clouds are torn apart,
The Father speaks, the Spirit and the Son
Reveal to us the single loving heart
That beats behind the being of all things
And calls and keeps and kindles us to light.
The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings,
“You are beloved, you are my delight!”
In that swift light and life, as water spills
And streams around the Man like quickening rain,
The voice that made the universe reveals
The God in Man who makes it new again.
He calls us too, to step into that river,
To die and rise and live and love forever.
(from ‘Sounding the Seasons, Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year’, Canterbury Press, used by permission.)
Mrs. Jenny Carpenter
ANTHEM: Ascribe unto the Lord (S. S. Wesley)
Ascribe unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people : ascribe unto the Lord worship and power. Ascribe unto the Lord the honour due unto his Name. Let the whole earth stand in awe of him. Tell it out among the heathen that the Lord is King : and that he shall judge the people righteously. Let the whole earth stand in awe of him. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Sing to the Lord, and praise his Name : be telling of his salvation from day to day, and his wonders unto all people. As for the gods of the heathen, they are but idols. Their idols are silver and gold : even the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, and speak not : eyes have they, and see not. They have ears, and hear not : noses have they, and smell not. They have hands, and handle not; feet have they, and walk not : neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them : and so are all such as put their trust in them. As for our God, he is in heaven : he hath done whatsoever pleased him. The Lord hath been mindful of us, and he shall bless us : he shall bless the house of Israel, he shall bless the house of Aaron. He shall bless them that fear the Lord : both small and great. Ye are the blessed of the Lord : you and your children. Ye are the blessed of the Lord : who made heaven and earth.
Prayers of Intercession and Petition
As we enter another period of lockdown, we pray for all those whose lives will be unduly restricted – for children without reliable internet access or a quiet space to study; for families in cramped accommodation where tempers easily fray; for relatives physically separated from each other longing for a hug; for key workers keeping essential services going but longing for some respite; for NHS staff, weary after months of stress. Help those entrusted with making big decisions that affect all our lives and give them a new vision of a fairer society in which well-being is more important than wealth.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Thankful for vaccines to combat the pandemic, we pray that ways will be found to secure their availability to the people of every nation. Help us to recognise that until the well-being of everyone is assured, we can none of us rest secure.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Lord, as we offer you our lives for your greater glory, renew in us your gifts:
the gold of our potential, the incense of our prayers and aspirations, and the myrrh of healing for our own and others’ pain. Feed and nourish us as the Body of Christ so that we may grow daily more like your beloved Son. Fill us with your Spirit so that we may be able to do more than we can ask or think and right the wrongs we have done to this beautiful planet and to our fellow human beings.
We ask these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We say The Lord’s Prayer 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 you and keep you; The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; The Lord look on you with kindness and give you peace. Amen.
HYMN: O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Choral Song and Fugue (S.S. Wesley)
Sunday 3rd January 2021 – 2nd Sunday after Christmas Day
Welcome to our Sunday Worship selection for the 2nd Sunday after Christmas Day, and a happy New Year to you and your loved ones. May 2021 become a year of increasing hope, joy and optimism after the difficulties we endured in 2020.
The Introit anthem today is Henry Purcell’s setting of the opening of Psalm 122, which celebrates the establishment of Jerusalem, a theme which is taken up in our Old Testament Lesson. I was glad when they said unto me, We will go into the house of the Lord.
I was glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord. Even the tribes of the Lord, to testify unto Israel, and to give thanks unto the Name of the Lord. For there is the seat of judgement, even the seat of the house of David. O pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.
A prayer for the 2nd Sunday after Christmas Day.
in the birth of your Son
you have poured on us the new light
of your incarnate Word,
and shown us the fullness of your love:
help us to walk in his light and dwell in his love
that we may know the fullness of his joy;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen
The Old Testament Lesson is written in the book of the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 31, beginning at the 7th verse.
For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel.” See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labour, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, “He who scattered Israel will gather them, and will keep them as a shepherd keeps his flock.” For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD.
HYMN: ‘The King of Love my shepherd is’, sung to the tune ‘Dominus Regit Me’.
The Epistle is written in the letter of Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 1, beginning at the 3rd verse.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
GRADUAL PSALM: Psalm 147
- O PRAISE the Lord, for it is a good thing to sing praises unto our God : yea, a joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful.
- The Lord doth build up Jerusalem : and gather together the out-casts of Israel.
- He healeth those that are broken in heart : and giveth medicine to heal their sickness.
- He telleth the number of the stars : and calleth them all by their names.
- Great is our Lord, and great is his power : yea, and his wisdom is infinite.
- The Lord setteth up the meek : and bringeth the ungodly down to the ground.
- O sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving : sing praises upon the harp unto our God;
- Who covereth the heaven with clouds, and prepareth rain for the earth : and maketh the grass to grow upon the mountains, and herb for the use of men;
- Who giveth fodder unto the cattle : and feedeth the young ravens that call upon him.
- He hath no pleasure in the strength of an horse : neither delighteth he in any man’s legs.
- But the Lord’s delight is in them that fear him : and put their trust in his mercy.
- Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem : praise thy God, O Sion.
- For he hath made fast the bars of thy gates : and hath blessed thy children within thee.
- He maketh peace in thy borders : and filleth thee with the flour of wheat.
- He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth : and his word runneth very swiftly.
- He giveth snow like wool : and scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes.
- He casteth forth his ice like morsels : who is able to abide his frost?
- He sendeth out his word, and melteth them : he bloweth with his wind, and the waters flow.
- He sheweth his word unto Jacob : his statutes and ordinances unto Israel.
- He hath not dealt so with any nation : neither have the heathen knowledge of his laws.
A reading from the gospel according to John, chapter 1, beginning at the 1st verse.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
HYMN: ‘Thou whose almighty word’, sung to the tune ‘Moscow’.
The Feast of the Epiphany falls on the 6th January, in between our Sunday services for today and next week, so it is with great joy that we welcome back our friend, the Reverend Robert Beard, to prepare us for the forthcoming season of Epiphany-tide, with an unusual study of the significant journey of the Persian Kings who went to visit Jesus when he was a young child, bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Continuing the theme of God’s glory, today’s anthem is an extract from Handel’s Messiah, culminating in the chorus, Glory to God.
Let us pray.
Today we say goodbye to Ann Cathels, who has been a great friend and devoted member of St. Andrew’s. Ann has sadly passed away after being admitted to the Northern General Hospital. We give thanks to God for her many years of service, and we pray especially for her soul today. Our thoughts and prayers are with Alison, and all for whom the New Year will be marred by Ann’s passing.
Lord of life, we commend to you the soul of our dear friend. Enfold her in your loving arms and welcome her into your heavenly kingdom. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord of love and eternal source of hope; as we stand at the threshold of a New Year, grant that we may begin to share a period of healing and optimism as our communities begin to recover from the sickness and ill-health associated with various diseases of the mind and body. We pray for the victims of coronavirus. We commend to you the souls of all whose lives have been lost and we give thanks for those who are celebrating the happy outcome of a recovery from their affliction. We also look forward to a time when the restrictions put in place for our own preservation and benefit are finally lifted and give thanks to all the medical and scientific teams who have been labouring to create and distribute the vaccines which will help restore normality to our lives. We pray that people will begin to restore their faith in your very being, and seek to nurture a genuine revival, both of good works in the community and also of sincere worship in the congregations. Help us all to be better stewards of the world which you created for our good health and sustenance. We pray that, following the example of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, more and more will become your disciples on earth and, with us, be bold 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.
Let us say the grace together.
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.
Our final hymn is, ‘To God be the glory’, sung to the tune of the same name by William Howard Douane.
ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Handel Organ Concerto in Bb (Op.4 No.6), played by Karl Richter