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Morning Worship for 5th July 2020

As you begin this act of worship in your own home remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with you in worship. If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the hymns and join in the singing. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting:

We come in this service to God,
In our need, and bringing with us the needs of the world.
We come to God, who has come to us in Jesus,
And who walks with us the road of our worlds suffering.
We come with our faith and with our doubts;
We come with our hopes and with our fears.
We come as we are, because it is God who invites us to come,
And God has promised never to turn us away.
The Iona Community Worship Book 1991

Collect for the day:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
Without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
Increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
That with you as our ruler and guide
We may pass through things temporal
That we lose not our hold on things eternal;
Grant this, heavenly Father,
For our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
Who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Our Declaration of faith

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts:
The whole earth is full of his glory.
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength;
Ascribe to the Lord, the honour due to his name.
The whole earth is full of his glory.
The Lord shall give strength to his people;
The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts:
The whole earth is full of his glory.

Hymn: Alleluia sing to Jesus.

Readings: Zechariah 9:9-12, Romans 7:15-25a, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-end.

Reflection:

In the Gospel message we hear a combination of responses from Jesus toward those who have heard his Word, those who have benefited from his miraculous power and yet not repented but stayed living the life which they had beforehand. We also hear words of consolation toward those who hear who are not full of the wisdom of the world and yet are fully able to respond to the call from Jesus to be His Disciples.

The sentence which reveals in the words of the Gospel that God’s message has been directed to the infants amongst us, reflects beautifully what Jesus asks from us in being one of his followers.

I have often heard it preached that to be a follower of Jesus is not easy, that it demands a great deal from us, especially as it appears to set us apart from others. But is that really what Jesus intended?

Did he come preaching words of great wisdom, eloquent thought and complicated liturgy with academic prowess in order to chastise us for our sinful ways or did he come to show and reveal to us an alternative response to that of the world?

For me he came to do the later, not that I am saying that he was not gifted in the way in which he engaged with others, for he undoubtedly was, and yet there is something about today’s reading which sets a very different tone both to those who heard him then and to us today.

The Gospel reminds us that Jesus did not come to over-burden us with his message but rather to release us from the complications of the world which had over taken us.

When Jesus says my yoke is easy and my burden is light he really means it.

This is why the Gospel text speaks of God’s Word being delivered to those who are infants. Not that it is primarily addressed to children, for that is not what is meant; instead it reflects those who are just beginning to explore the depths of the world in which they live. There are today millions of people who live fairly simple and straight forward lives and there is a lot to be said for the beauty which is implicit within that way of life. This is the kind of life that Jesus came to guide us toward. It is a natural response to human happiness. So many of the complications of life which at times seem to overpower us are distractions from the reality of a life lived simply yet well.

Jesus reaches out to those who have the capacity to accept and to respond to the call to live life simply loving God and our neighbours. This central thrust of the message of Jesus is exactly what is meant by him when he speaks to us of how light the burden of response is to live out our lives following his example.

To live simply and humbly before God and in the simplicity of life to find inner peace and eternal happiness is the yoke which is placed upon us.

This is not to say that academic brilliance is something to be rejected, or that some aspects of life simply because of the world in which we live may well place upon us greater demands depending on how we engage with it. But what is does say is that the priority of life which should be dominant is not the desire to succeed in the world but to succeed in our response to the Father. If we like Jesus put love first and accept his Word and let it wash over us and guide us then we release ourselves from the constraints of this world and learn to live joyously in the promise of the kingdom which awaits us.

So that is why the Word is often rejected by those who swallow it up as some new teaching and then park it at the back of their minds like so much other knowledge which once assimilated is then never put into practice.

This is why Jesus castigates the wise and the worldly for that is exactly what they do. Yet those who hear, those who accept, those who on hearing respond to the Word fully in the way  they live their lives, are truly welcomed as Disciples of Jesus.

So think carefully about your faith, seek to understand it as fully as you can, but remember what Jesus wants you to do is not to deepen your knowledge and then not to use it, but rather to learn from the simplicity of it how to put it into practice, for in so doing you will grow immeasurably before Jesus and be a living testimony to His Word His Actions and His Love.

Reverend Clive

Sermon

Romans Chapter7!

What a message this brings to us today!

My service reflection for you concentrated on Matthew and the simplicity of a call to follow Jesus, we are however presented here with one of the great debates within the early Church. The dramatic effect that evil can have upon us even when we have heard the Word of Salvation.

Every one of us are sinners in one way or another and so this means that the Church is full of those in need of repentance, forgiveness and absolution. The Church has always sought to be a place where those who have fallen from grace can come and be restored into the faithful community. We recognise that despite our best intentions at times, the sin that clings so closely to us can gain the upper hand and lead us away from our Love for God and our neighbour.

Romans declares that we do not understand our own actions at times “For I do not what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.”

That is a very complicated sentence, it speaks of the inner desires which drive us as individuals. It speaks of those inner demons which plague us often resulting from choices we have made in life. It also brings to mind the guilt which so many of us carry within us for things which we have done which have separated us from God and all of those things which have brought pain and suffering to others.

Life can be complicated if we allow it to be, and weakness is all around us. It is so easy to convince ourselves that our inappropriate actions are not really our fault, but rather the fault of something which lies within us which we cannot control.

This leads us into the debate based around the existence of good and evil intention.

One argument which was taken very seriously in the early Church was the view that Sin and Evil were inherent properties within the human body and we would never be truly free from them until we abandoned the body and rested eternally with Jesus in the Spiritual realm. It was believed by many that only when we were with Jesus in this new way, would we be finally freed from the pain and suffering brought upon us and others by the onslaught of the sin and evil of our bodily existence.

A response to this view was to lead many followers of Jesus to actively seek Martyrdom, willingly abandoning the body of corruption so that they could be with Jesus.

This view was further developed by St Paul as he speaks powerfully of seeking to be rescued from this body of death. He was constantly debating within himself whether it was God’s intention for him to remain or to abandon the world and live in the power of Christ’s eternal glory.

It is in the final sentence however that we are lifted up out of the scapegoating attitude of placing the things which we do which we hate at the forefront of our active lives. For Paul recognises that we are indeed rescued from the body of enslavement by the resurrected body of Jesus our Lord.

Over decades of theological debate the Church still concentrates on the reality of sin and evil which is around us, but thankfully we are now a little more enlightened as to the root cause of the sin which clings so closely upon us. We cannot seek to put the blame for our indiscretions and failures upon evil beings who lead us away from the Light of Jesus, for those inner demons are very much a part of who and what we are. Jesus calls us to address them, to acknowledge them and then to seek to abandon them because he shows us a much better way to live our lives.

Many who convert to the faith of Christianity do so because they simply recognise the forgiving nature of Jesus Christ. They can see a way out of their present situation, and be therefore enabled to live differently with greater strength and determination putting their demons behind them.

This is what is meant by repentance, a recognition that we are sinners, that we constantly fail to live like Jesus, but we know that as we are a part of him through the blessed resurrection, that we are forgiven unconditionally by God.

Forgiveness is not just about absolution.

When the fruits of God’s love are used in the reconciliation of a penitent they require a response from the heart. If we are forgiven and then sin again in exactly the same way, then we have missed the point. Having been forgiven by Jesus is not just a few priestly words said over us, but a life changing event which opens up the possibility of being a true disciple of Jesus.

It is a joy to know in our hearts that when evil desires and unwelcome actions from us in relation to God and our neighbour come upon us that we have a way to remove them. Forgiveness begins with the self, for we will never be able to forgive others when they sin against us if we have not learnt to forgive ourselves.       

Jesus forgives us, we must learn to do likewise, for when we are freed from the sin which clings so closely upon us, and abandon ourselves into the love of God completely, then and only then do we truly become like Jesus.

By living in this life within the body of Jesus Christ our earthly bodies are transformed into a physical and spiritual representation of the love of God.

Our bodies are therefore no longer to be despised or rejected as instruments of evil intention, for through the power of resurrected love they have become immersed in the glory of the Father.   

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Reverend Clive

Hymn: How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations. Use these headings for your silent prayers to God or use words and address them to Him who hears every word we utter.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,
Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for mercy and grace.

Heavenly Father, we pray today for your Church as it seeks to respond afresh to your call in the world. For those Churches who have opened once more for worship, we pray for their Leaders, their Congregations and the Communities for whom they pray. As they rejoice being together in your name in a safe and secure way, may the power of your Holy Spirit rest upon them, wherever they may be in your world.

For all those Churches and places of worship which have remained closed today, we pray for the community of the faithful finding new ways to support and encourage one another and to continue to hold all those around them in the mantle of your love. As we seek to respond as best as we are able to all that is expected of us. Let us remember those words from the Gospel which declare to us, that the Lord’s yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Let us respond fully to the Word of Life, and live out our lives giving you the honour and the glory which you are due.
Father hear us as we continue to pray for the NHS with all the pressures and strains still upon it, that they would receive all the protection and supplies they need, that they would experience God’s protection in their work, courage for each day and stamina to care for all those who are so dependent upon them. For the sick and vulnerable that they would receive the care they need in their hour of weakness. For the lonely in our parishes, that they would know God’s presence in their solitude and receive a friendly call from their neighbours. We also give thanks for new bubbles of care now opened up to them, rejoicing in the bringing together of some part of family life.

For those in authority charged with leading the fight against the virus: for our Prime Minister and his Ministers, for Scientists working on vaccines and other means of fighting the infection.

We pray especially at this time for the people of Leicester returning to a position of lock down, and for all communities where the prevalence of Covid 19 is rising once more bringing anxiety to all caught up within it. May you give them the strength they need to persevere and may your blessing rest upon them and bring them peace.

And so we pray

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn: What a friend we have in Jesus.

Blessing:

God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love,
Defend you on every side,
And guide you in truth and peace;
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Morning Worship for 28th June 2020

As you begin this act of worship in your own home remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with you in worship. If you have YouTube then please find an appropriate version of the hymns and join in the singing. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting:

O Lord God Almighty, Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, the mysteries of whose being are unsearchable: accept, we beseech thee, our praises for the revelation which thou hast made of thyself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, and one God; mercifully grant, that ever holding fast this faith, we may magnify thy glorious name; who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
Bishop John Dowden

Collect for the day:

Almighty God,
Whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul
Glorified you in their death as in their life:
Grant that your Church,
Inspired by their teaching and example,
And made one by your Spirit,
May ever stand firm upon the one foundation,
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.

Our Declaration of faith

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts:
The whole earth is full of his glory.
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength;
Ascribe to the Lord, the honour due to his name.
The whole earth is full of his glory.
The Lord shall give strength to his people;
The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts:
The whole earth is full of his glory.

Hymn: All my hope on God is founded.

Readings: Acts 12:1-11, 2 Timothy 4:6-8.17-18, Matthew 16: 13-19.

Reflection:

Peter has often been called the ‘Prince of the Apostles’ because of the words of Jesus re-naming him, from Simon to Cephas. This was the Aramaic form of the Greek word Peter, which means ‘rock’. Jesus said that on this rock he would build his Church. But both Peter and Paul came to be seen as having different roles to play within the leadership of the Church: Peter in witnessing to the Lordship of Christ and Paul in developing an understanding of its meaning for Christ’s followers. Peter and Paul have been remembered jointly on the 29th June since the very early days of the Church, it being regarded as the anniversary of their martyrdom in Rome in about the year 64.

It is a celebration which always reminds me of some of the highlights of my ministerial career. As it is at this time that Ordinations are carried out in our Cathedrals. In my role as Director of Ordinands I will have seen and helped to assess those seeking to be ordained, supported them throughout selection and training and it is on this day each year that a number of them would gather together with me on retreat before being ordained. I have led several of those retreats myself with talks and worship. Then was to come the ordination itself. In Canterbury I would robe up in the Bishops Palace and with a verger before me would lead my Ordinands into the Cathedral, I would then proudly declare before the Archbishop that I had examined these candidates and believed them to be suitably prepared for the great office to be placed upon them.

Such a significant moment and the highlight of my year, but not one year.

One year right in the middle of the retreat just days before the great day, my Father suddenly died. I left my candidates behind with one of my assistants to take my place in the great procession and drove home to prepare the arrangements for my Father’s Funeral and to be with my family.

Glorious expectation and the greatest day of my year replaced with sadness, grief and pain. St Peter and St Paul the blessed Apostles devoted their lives in encouraging the faith of others but for themselves it brought both great joy and personal tragedy. We remember their martyrdom today, we feel the pain thrust upon them and the sad loss it brought to the Church. Just as I each year at this time feel the disappointment of missing out on Ordination Day for some of my candidates in whom I had invested so much of my life. Whilst at the same time through the personal loss of my Father would feel peace in my heart in preparing him to enter into his own place before the Lord.

Ordinations have been postponed this year, no great celebrations in our Cathedrals, so please spend a little time today remembering all those in our Theological Colleges who have spent years of their lives in study awaiting this day to happen. Please pray for them as they wait with patience for the time our Bishops will place their hands upon them and ordain them Deacon or Priest. May they have the fortitude to persevere following the examples of St Peter and St Paul, in whose footsteps they will one day follow, becoming the leaders of the Church for the uncertain future which awaits them and us, as we seek to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we live out our lives in service, humility and trust.

Thanks be to God. Reverend Clive   

Hymn: Just as I am without one plea.

Sermon

What a shame that we cannot all be together as a benefice celebrating as we do the feast day of St Peter and St Paul. Here we have drawn together two of the greatest figures in the Christian World, the Apostle Peter who was one of Christ’s intimate inner band upon whom he declared that on this rock I will build my church. And then together with this great figure from Christian History we have St Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, not an Apostle but called to be an Apostle, called in the words of St Paul himself at an untimely occasion, and yet a call which was to transform not only his life but the life of the entire church.

We celebrate the feast day of these two great Apostles today in unison and supporting us in this celebration are the symbols of the saints themselves which tell us so much about their lives and their deaths.

St Peter is symbolized by what is known as the Petrine cross a cross which is inverted. We are told by the historian and theologian Origen that St Peter at the point of his death by crucifixion asked to be put to death on the cross upside down as he was not worthy to be killed in the same manner as his Lord. This inverted cross then has added to it the crossed keys of heaven.  Jesus affirmed the gift of the keys to Peter and alongside this gift came the authority to bind or to loose all things on earth and therefore in heaven. It is on the gift of this supreme authority that St Peter was to rise to become officially recognized as the first Christian Pope.

St Paul’s symbol is added to that of St Peter for today and here we find the shield of faith speaking of the solidity of that faith in the life and witness of the blessed apostle. Added to the shield are crossed swords which speak of his martyrdom but which are often represented as bringing together the sword and the keys of heaven.

Unity brings strength and a sense of common purpose, St Peter and St Paul came from very different backgrounds, a simple fisherman and a learned Pharisee an apostle chosen by Jesus in person another chosen after the resurrection, one clearly with an eye on the salvation of the Jewish nation the other on the gentile world, together they brought the Church out from the darkness and into the light. The cost of that was to be death for them both, but the rewards through their deaths was to be immeasurable.

Leaders often disagree, they have their own agendas they have their own preferences and their own appreciation and interpretation of that to which they are called. Things do not change that much it seems when we ponder on that fact today. But the one thing that stays constant within any form of leadership is that it comes with great responsibility.

Anyone in a leadership role will inevitably have responsibility for others. Caring for those for whom they are responsible therefore has to be key, otherwise leadership can lose its focus and become corrupted and rudderless. St Peter is the patron saint of many institutions and professions, understandably that of fishermen, but also that of ship builders, for it is St Peter who is looked to as being the rudder which guides the ship, without that rudder the ship would be lost and drift at the mercy of the current.

Unity is the key, St Peter may well have been given the keys to heaven by the Lord but those keys through the tradition of the church have now been placed into the hands of all of Christ’s disciples.

What we bind or loose on earth we bind or loose in heaven, this is not an authority which rests in the authority of Popes or Bishops but one which rests upon every member of the Church.

Peter may well have been the rock on which the church was built but we are its builders today. The Church is not thankfully a building, the Church is the voice of the people, the Church has to be united and speak together as one with a common mind and a common purpose. 

That is what will bring us back from the brink of disaster caused by our current crisis. By being a voice which is bound together by the depth of faith like that of St Peter and St Paul the Church will rise above all the restrictions and guidance placed upon us for the wellbeing of all of our members and the wider community and return stronger and more determined than ever, because through the depth of faith the minds of mere mortals are transformed by God.

Paul began his ministry after a period of persecution toward the very Church he was to be called to lead, he responded to his call and brought the Church together, it was largely through the ministry of Paul toward the gentile world, which enabled a sect of Judaism to become the most powerful and influential faith throughout the history of humanity. Helped of course along the way through the response of others in key positions in life, notably the odd Roman Emperor, like Constantine.

Paul opened up the Christian message to every person in the world, called by Christ to be a leader who would enable God’s word to be heard and responded to by all, it was this openness and recognition of the value that God had for every nation under the sun that was to become a crucial element to growth and recognition.

But the key to growth and the key to relevance rests not in the authority of others but on the authority which abides in each and every one of us. Yes we need strong leaders at times to help and to guide us but what is crucial to our own development and the transformation of the Church, is unity and oneness.

Together we are strong and in building on the foundations laid down by Christ in the icons of Peter and Paul we can continue to build the Church in to that which God has called it to be. In sharing and caring for one another we as Christian’s take up our place of leadership in a world which is deeply troubled and afraid, yet it is not that we have lost contact with St Peter, it is not that we are lost and rudderless, only that we as Christian’s today must remember that with any form of leadership comes responsibility. A responsibility to build up the faith in others, for in so doing we follow in the footsteps of St Peter and St Paul and we, guarded by the shield of faith and the sword of truth, place the keys to the kingdom of heaven into the hands of all who believe.

Thanks be to God. Clive

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations. Use these headings for your silent prayers to God or use words and address them to Him who hears every word we utter.    

We come boldly to the throne of grace,
Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for mercy and grace.

Heavenly Father we pray at this time in thanksgiving for your Blessed Apostles St Peter and St Paul, for their lives of service to our Lord and for their love of the Church in which we now stand. May their wisdom and grace wash over us and bring us peace and perseverance.

We pray for all awaiting to be ordained into the Church of Christ: that they may receive the help and guidance they need to enable them to await that glorious day with great anticipation. May the disappointment of this current time be washed away and may they be so filled with the power of your Holy Spirit that they may continue to seek to serve the Lord Jesus with all of their heart and mind and strength.

“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky”

Father we pray for all places of worship now available for individual prayer and soon for that time when we shall again be enabled to gather together to give you praise. We pray that all of our communities may find a place of comfort and rest as they return to come before you. We also pray for those places still closed that as we learn to adapt to our new way of being that they too in due course may be opened again to your praise and glory.

Father hear us as we continue to pray for the NHS with all the pressures and strains still upon it, that they would receive all the protection and supplies they need, that they would experience God’s protection in their work, courage for each day and stamina to care for all those who are so dependent upon them. For the sick and vulnerable that they would receive the care they need in their hour of weakness. For the lonely in our parishes, that they would know God’s presence in their solitude and receive a friendly call from their neighbours. We also give thanks for new bubbles of care now opened up to them, rejoicing in the bringing together of some part of family life.

For those in authority charged with leading the fight against the virus: for our Prime Minister and his Ministers, for Scientists working on vaccines and other means of fighting the infection. We give thanks for new breakthroughs which will help those who are seriously ill, giving you praise for your gift of wisdom and insight to your people.

And so we pray

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn: Take my life and let it be.

Blessing:

God the Father,
By whose love Christ was raised from the dead,
Open to you who believe the gates of everlasting life.
Amen.
God the Son,
Who in bursting from the grave has won a glorious victory,
Give you joy as you share the Easter faith,
Amen.
God the Holy Spirit,
Who filled the blessed Apostles with the life of the risen Lord,
Empower you and fill you with Christ’s peace.
Amen.
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Morning Worship for 21st June 2020

As you begin this act of worship in your own home remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with you in worship. If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the hymns and join in the singing. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting:

O Lord God Almighty, Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, the mysteries of whose being are unsearchable: accept, we beseech thee, our praises for the revelation which thou hast made of thyself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, and one God; mercifully grant, that ever holding fast this faith, we may magnify thy glorious name; who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
Bishop John Dowden

Collect for the day:

Lord you have taught us
That all our doings without love are nothing worth:
Send your Holy Spirit
And pour into our hearts that most
Excellent gift of love,
The true bond of peace and of all virtues,
Without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake,
Who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Our Declaration of faith

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts:
The whole earth is full of his glory.
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength;
Ascribe to the Lord, the honour due to his name.
The whole earth is full of his glory.
The Lord shall give strength to his people;
The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts:
The whole earth is full of his glory.

Hymn: Lord, for the years

Readings: Jeremiah 20:7-13, Romans 6:1b-11, Matthew 10: 24-39.

Reflection:

For my reflection today I would like to draw your attention again to the words of the Collect! In particular that wonderful phrase:

“Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.”

What a wonderful statement that it. When we consider how we believe our God to be a God of Love, this really brings to mind the imperative direction to be beings of love in return. We as followers of Jesus know how much God loves us because he sent Jesus to us. To teach and to guide but most of all to love.  

Jesus is the lover of all people, he does not select or decide whom to love his love is never ending and offered to the whole of humanity. The stories which we have of his interaction with others simply abound in their fullness of this love. He loves the stranger as shown in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He loves those who have sinned including Tax Collectors known collaborators of the Roman authorities and corrupt in their dealings. He loves those who have been shunned by society especially those who suffer from mental illness, and he dares to touch those deemed untouchable by others. Jesus simply loves us as we are, he does not condemn but he does ask that if we are to take advantage of the gift of his love, we must allow it to flow through us and change us. This is where that wonderful phrase hits home.

“Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love.”

This gift is the greatest gift ever offered to humanity, it is an invitation to join in the divine love of the Father.

That love is so powerful that it transforms us and enables us to become more in the image of our Creator. In sharing God’s love poured out upon us so freely by the Holy Spirit we become instruments of God’s Grace in the world.

In sharing in this love which is the true bond of peace and all virtue, we become like Jesus and are enabled to live our lives virtuously in the sight of others. We truly become an imitation of Christ in the midst of the world, when we love others unconditionally. For as followers of Jesus we must share the love poured out so freely upon us with all whom we meet, for if we do not then we limit the power of the gift of love and in so doing we kill the divine fire within us, and then we are counted as being dead before you.

Love is therefore the key to our Salvation, for in responding to Jesus, in the receiving of the gift of divine love through the power of the Holy Spirit we are given all that we need to show forth love to others and lead lives filled with power from on high.

So in this time of trouble where passions are running high, let us remember that there is no place for racism, no place for hatred and rejection, but in our response to that which we see around us there is no place also for violence, and disrespect. Love is the key, all lives matter because every life has within it the power to love, with love as the key to future growth and prosperity let us seek not to limit our love but to cast it ever wider, so that all people may know that we are Christ’s disciples.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Reverend Clive

Hymn: O for a heart to praise my God.

Sermon

For my address to you today I would like to look a little at the reading from Romans chapter 6. Which begins rather oddly with the question should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?

Rather an odd request it seems at first glance but it is asked in relation to the reality that the grace of God is so great that it washes away all sin and corruption and so cleanses us completely. Thus if by sinning we encourage God’s forgiveness then perhaps it is best just to continue to do so. Thankfully the epistle responds immediately with the words, By no means!

Hooray! A straight bit of advice to a complicated question which Paul then tries to explain rather more fully. “How can we who died to sin go on living in it?”

Dying to sin and living in the light of the Gospel of Jesus is what Paul is trying to express. For we believe that as Jesus died for the sins of the world, that for those who follow him that the grace of forgiveness has already been achieved for us. This however does not mean that we can continue to sin, because we as Christians living in the power of Christ have indeed died to sin, because we have died into Jesus!

Baptism is used as the medium for attaining this place of perfection, which is why in the early church, baptism was only ever done at Easter and that would be after a fairly long period of instruction. Essential I would say for any household considering bringing their whole family into the family of the Church. Once sure that they understood what baptism really means only then would they be welcomed into the Lord’s family. Today baptism is somewhat different and those who bring their children to be baptised often only have a limited understanding of what they are actually engaging in.

This is why the Church offers additional teaching to those baptised who wish to confirm that baptism for themselves through the act of personal confirmation by the Holy Spirit.

Being brought into death by baptism is not a great message to portray to those celebrating the birth of a new child, and the Church wants to be able to celebrate such occasions with joy and wonder. The way in which we welcome and encourage families to seek to understand more fully and to continue to engage with the church is therefore vital to both their personal growth and the growth of the Church.

But there is a way in which this complicated message can be portrayed and the baptismal liturgy attempts to achieve this through the immersion into water. Now I would be very uncomfortable immersing a new born child directly into a font filled with water! But it is through the image of immersion that the death of self and the rebirth into Jesus which it brings can so easily be expressed.

The key here is that in order to be raised up into the glory of a life with Jesus. We first enter into that which Jesus came to take away from us, the sin that clings so closely to us is washed away for ever symbolically and so opens up the opportunity to begin to grow again from a different starting point. It is this starting point that parents are reminded of when they bring their children to be baptised. Baptism is not the end of the sacrament of grace but rather the beginning. It marks the beginning of a journey into faith which the child is being entered into. Unable of course to do so on its own at this point it needs the commitment of its Parents and Godparents in order to enable the journey to progress.

We are all therefore on a journey of faith. We have been baptised into the death of Jesus in order that we may live in the resurrected experience of our Lord.

We are therefore enabled to respond whole heartedly to the question should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound! By firmly expressing the response “By no means!”

Let us be proud to live in the light of Jesus, and seek always to encourage others to walk with us in the ways of righteousness, “so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations. Use these headings for your silent prayers to God or use words and address them to Him who hears every word we utter.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,
Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for mercy and grace.
  
Heavenly Father we pray at this time for all those whose lives have been blighted by racism. Those who have felt rejected, scorned or ill-used by others simply because of the colour of their skin. As we see so much unrest, violent demonstration and a call and a challenge for change in our world, we pray that peace, trust and acceptance of all may become the norm in all societies and in all institutions.

“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky”

We pray that all will be seen to be equal, to be worthy of praise and to share in the delights of being human.

Father we pray for all places of worship now available for individual prayer, that communities may find a place of comfort and rest to come before you. We also pray for those places still closed that as we learn to adapt to our new way of being that they too in due course may be opened again to your praise and glory. 

We pray especially today as people send tokens of love to their Fathers or remember Fathers whom they have lost. We pray especially for all who have lost their loved ones throughout this current crisis in our midst.

Father hear us as we continue to pray for the NHS with all the pressures and strains still upon it, that they would receive all the protection and supplies they need, that they would experience God’s protection in their work, courage for each day and stamina to care for all those who are so dependent upon them. For the sick and vulnerable that they would receive the care they need in their hour of weakness. For the lonely in our parishes, that they would know God’s presence in their solitude and receive a friendly call from their neighbours. We also give thanks for new bubbles of care now opened up to them, rejoicing in the bringing together of some part of family life.

For those in authority charged with leading the fight against the virus: for our Prime Minister and his Ministers, for Scientists working on vaccines and other means of fighting the infection. We give thanks for new breakthroughs which will help those who are seriously ill, giving you praise for your gift of wisdom and insight to your people.

And so we pray

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn: O Lord hear my prayer.

Blessing:

God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love,
Defend you on every side,
And guide you in truth and peace;
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Morning Worship for 14th June 2020

As you begin this act of worship in your own home remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with you in worship. If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the hymns and join in the singing. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting:

O Lord God Almighty, Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, the mysteries of whose being are unsearchable: accept, we beseech thee, our praises for the revelation which thou hast made of thyself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, and one God; mercifully grant, that ever holding fast this faith, we may magnify thy glorious name; who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
Bishop John Dowden

Collect for the day:

O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in you,
Mercifully accept our prayers and,
Because through the weakness of our mortal nature
We can do no good thing without you,
Grant us the help of your grace,
That in the keeping of your commandments
We may please you both in will and deed;
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.

Our Declaration of faith

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts:
The whole earth is full of his glory.
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength;
Ascribe to the Lord, the honour due to his name.
The whole earth is full of his glory.
The Lord shall give strength to his people;
The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts:
The whole earth is full of his glory.

Hymn: City of God, how broad and far

Readings: Exodus 19: 2-8a, Romans 5:1-8, Matthew 9: 35- 10:8.

Reflection:

Sharing the proclamation of the good news of the kingdom, with authority to cast out unclean spirits and to cure every disease and every sickness.

These are the divine gifts within himself which Jesus freely shares with his disciples. Gifts of preaching, teaching admonishing and challenging with authority and the ability to help those suffering from mental ill-health and personal sickness.

These gifts speak of a compassionate God who cares for his people and a God who is willing to share his gift of overcoming all that is dark in the world with eternal light.

Today we look upon these gifts and we wonder where they are in our society today. Death and sickness are all around us and many are vulnerable whilst many others are very afraid either for themselves or their loved ones. What a joy it would be if the disciples of Jesus were amongst us now and freely able to cure all from the dreadful diseases and virus’s which plague humanity. How freeing it would be, if all those who suffer from anxiety, depression, or whose mental state has become both damaging to themselves and to others could at a stroke be made well and made whole once more.

Jesus gives his disciples these divine gifts that they may share them with God’s people, and so they do, with huge success. We hear many stories of those who were ill made miraculously well simply by the words or the laying on of the hands of those sent out and blessed by Jesus.

Oh how we could do with them today, so where are the Lord’s disciples?

Everyone who follows Jesus is a disciple.

So as disciples each one of us must have within us something of the divine grace of God. Each one of us must be blessed through following and believing in Jesus that we can both see and therefore look at the world differently from others.

There will thankfully always be those few special people in our midst who have a divine connection with the Lord. Through them great healing can take place and through them miraculous happenings can become real experiences to others and we thank God for them. But for most of us we see ourselves far distant from the position of the blessed disciples whom Jesus bestowed with such power. We are at times too humble and too unwilling to accept the divine gift of God which is within us. I am often looked at by others as a man who has a direct line to the Almighty. And although that is partly true through the gifts which come with prayer and through the sacrament of ordination, I cannot even though some people believe that I can, seek to ask things of God which others cannot.

Power and authority is not a gift just shared with a few, nor is the power to heal or to comfort the lost and the suffering. These gifts are ours to share with others and great things can be achieved if we have faith in them. Of course it is not you or I that heal, bring comfort, or enable hope to be found in the darkest of times, it is God. Such is the strength of the divine power and grace of God revealed to us in and through Jesus, that all things can be achieved and brought into reality, if we have faith.     

At this difficult time it is vital to have faith, without it we are lost, but with it we are all saved in and through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Reverend Clive

Hymn: And can it be.

Sermon

As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, at an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.

Sitting quietly on the top of Newton Tor in the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland the sun just beginning to set, darkness creeping like a shadowy blanket across the fells the wind blowing fiercely I discovered a cleft in the hilltop and I nestled within it, protected from the elements all I could see was the last remnants of the sun slowly disappearing when gently out of the ending of the day came a new beginning, an awakening like a chrysalis slowly breaking open, something new and of great beauty suddenly emerging, and life was never to be the same again.

This is what is meant by the transfiguring nature of a calling from God.

For when he touches our heart there is no going back, a call from God cannot be ignored it can of course be put on hold, but there will come a time when the call like the butterfly slowly emerging from its chrysalis will be ready to unfurl its wings to dry them in the sun and then to take to the air

Responding to a sense of call is deeply personal and yet there is also something more which is difficult to speak of, it cannot be formulated into simple words as it is too deep, too unique it is a sign and a sealing of ones heart into the Christ-like role of a servant, as Paul puts it as servants of God, we have commended ourselves in every way.

Servant-hood is not an element of personal choice widely accepted in today’s society. It is generally considered a sign of weakness a lack of success it is a term which is difficult to equate to leadership. For servant-hood does not speak of power and glory it speaks of subservience, of obedience it is the role of the servant to serve her master.

Who wants to be a servant?

In the ordinal from the Book of Common Prayer the Bishop says to those about to be ordained Priest the following:

Will you reverently obey your Ordinary and other chief Ministers, unto whom is committed the charge and government over you; following with a glad mind and will their godly admonitions and submitting yourselves to their godly judgements?

To which the potential Priests reply:

I will so do, the Lord being my helper

Servant-hood brings with it a willingness to be obedient to God and to his Church, which demands of those called; to seek to be Christ-like in all that they do.

But what does it mean to be Christ-like in the world today. How are those who are called by God to respond and how are they to engage in that sense of calling which will allow them like the butterfly to be transfigured by God and so released into their full potential?

This challenge for those touched by the hand of God, called by Christ into service is in part met by the discernment of others, but the beginning of any exploration into a sense of vocation does not start with us but starts here in the very heart of the worshipping community of Christ. For it is from within you, that God will call. I may have heard the voice of God on the top of Newton Tor and my heart and mind captured by his grace may have been filled in a way that was beyond explanation but it had to be grounded in reality before it could be acted upon.

My Parish Priest and my worshipping Community were central to my growth both of my understanding of what God had placed upon me, but also of why he had done so. This was the beginning of an awareness of the nature of servant-hood.

This challenge is of course nothing new men and women have been called by God for generations, into service and into the role of a servant. In the book of Kings we find an excellent example of a sense of call and a following of one to another, Elisha follows Elijah his master and has done so throughout his prophetic ministry but the time has come for a change there is to be a transfiguration and a ministry ends whilst another begins. 

Elijah says: The Lord has sent me as far as Bethel, stay here I pray, but Elisha says I will not leave you, and from this devotion to service Elijah allows him to journey with him, There is of course an element in this story which also speaks of personal ambition for through his devotion and service Elisha longs to become Elijah’s successor, and seeing Elijah transfigured into glory assures him of his goal.

But ambition is not the key to the story of Elisha it is service, He served first and then and only then did he hope for that service to be recognised.

I would like at this point to draw out parallels in those who offer themselves for service in God’s Church today, and although they are drawn from John Pritchard on the life and work of a priest they are equally attributable to the many existing and emerging ministries into which the Lord is calling his people today.

I have chosen only four elements from Pritchard’s work and will explore their significance for the Church and for those being called to serve within it.

The first is the call to be a Spiritual Explorer

We are all called to have deep and meaningful prayer lives but it is often the case that the business of life often relegates this prayerful activity to limited periods of engagement.

Prayer is a crucial element of our Christian lives and for those exploring a sense of calling from God it is of utmost importance.

Prayer is often the medium through which our sense of calling comes and it is prayer which in itself has the power to transfigure. The account of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ serves to remind his disciples then and now of his ultimate glory and his own sense of calling. He is joined by Elijah engaging with a transfiguration of the past which reminds us that any calling even that of the divine is something which is continuous and eternal.

There is within every calling today an element of continuity which connects us to Jesus. And Clive Marsh captures this beautifully in his work on Christology. Marsh recognises that theology begins with a human experience that is interpretable as the presence and action of God as known in Christ, and as known through our experience of and interpretation of doctrinal tradition. Through the compilation of both experience and tradition a sense of call is grounded in the reality of the past as well as in the present. Prayerful engagement is the medium through which we become Spiritual explorers.

The second element of a call from God is in having and upholding an Iconic Presence. We as Christians are all called to live out a Christian life, and to be a living witness to the faith, those called by God to be priestly become in the words of Austin Farrer The privilege of being a kind of walking sacrament an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace which is recognised by others as the presence of Christ in the community.

This is a distinctive call placed upon those ordained into the priesthood, but alongside that distinctiveness lies the priesthood of all believers, through which and in which we are all engaged with the reality of living out our faith within the context of our lives.

For many this today will be a calling from God to be a minister in the workplace, it may mean that for many amongst you that God through Christ and through the office of ordination is now seeking to explore the sacramental nature implicit within our secular environment. This today is opening up many new approaches to ministry and the iconic presence of Christ in the Community is being reimagined. God is calling us out to re-examine and explore wider possibilities of service. We are being challenged by the Holy Spirit of God to recognise within ourselves that to which we are all being called. It is through our engagement with our community wherever that may be realised that we can truly become an iconic presence to others.

This leads us nicely to the third element of the distinctiveness of a vocational calling and that is to be an attractive witness, a means through which we point others to Christ. All Christians are witnesses and should be able to give a reason for the hope that is in them. For some however that could be a call to consider living in a distinctive community. The monastic life is not for everyone however there is within it a sense of re-engagement with an authenticated spiritual life which is centred on generous hospitality, challenging reconciliation and centres of attentiveness to the living God.

My own experiences of the joy of such engagement was in spending some of my early study time for ministry with the Society of the Sacred Mission in Durham, an open community but one which created an oasis of peace and prayerfulness within the context of city life, creating an alternative yet deeply attractive means of witnessing to Christ. Of course you do not have to join a religious community to be a witness to Christ in this way, one needs merely to recognise how by being attentive to the self and to one’s body that we can effectively give witness to Jesus.

Archbishop Rowan reminds us that Christianity encourages us to be faithful to the body that I am a living body that can be hurt, a body that is always living in the middle of limitations: it encourages me to accept unavoidable frustration in this material and accident prone existence without anger. To talk about pledging the body to the walls in the sense of the fundamental decision to be where and who I am. In order to truly respond to a call from God we are called first to know ourselves more fully. And in the words of Amma Syncletica You can be a solitary in your mind even when you live in the middle of a crowd. And you can be a solitary and still live in the middle of the crowd of your own thoughts. Here we see another distinctive means of witnessing to Jesus through a call into the solitary life but a life which can still be fully integrated into community, and a life which again is transfigured and brought alive and given power to transform and encourage others though the simplicity of the offering to God of oneself.

My fourth element draws us from the being qualities of a sense of call into the more practical doing qualities and in order to do one needs to be able to be a creative leader. God calls those who can by their lives and witness encourage enable and build up the faith in others. In today’s church, leadership is undergoing a transfiguration. It is not just adapting, or picking up models of operation from the secular world but is being given the authority of the past and the present in order to prepare for the future. Creative leaders in the church according to Pritchard need to be able to scan the horizon, keep themselves aware of the bigger picture and act as a cultural analyst asking always for the wisdom and mind of Christ as they seek to creatively engage with church and community, This is what Christian Leadership has been but is it what the Church needs today?

What do we look for when we consider the transfiguring nature of a calling from God?

Particularly in Leadership we have seen the glory of God revealed in splendour not when the Vicar is the person who does everything or controls everything but rather when the vicar can give his blessing to that which needs to be done, A very creative book on church leadership is Jesus Driven Ministry by Ajith Fernando who was the Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka.

Creative leadership speaks of an authority to lead not by what is said and done but rather by what and who you are. In seeking leadership potential having led a worship group or an alpha course or being an effective Youth Minister as important as these things are do not necessarily show that you possess the qualities in leadership which the church requires today. Pioneer ministry has often been said still to be in its infancy and in many respects that is true because the traditional church still struggles to catch hold of what it is that it offers which is different. However all leaders in the church whether they be ordained or not have to have a level of creative ability. It is essential that leaders help to stimulate vision but then have the ability to hold the vision together in powerful prayerful presence whilst allowing others to engage in how the vision is worked out in practicality. Leadership is today being transfigured like Christ, The Christian church is to be filled with the power of God and others are to witness its glory, its continuity and its creativity.

And it is those qualities which we see in Jesus himself when he silences the storm, for here he uses power over nature in order to reveal his power to change, stimulate and transform every aspect of our very being.

To recognise and feel the transforming nature of a calling from God we must first of all look for it in our worshipping communities, encourage it to grow and to flourish through building people up into that which God has called them to be. Re-imagining Ministry is exactly what it says, it is not how we can change what we have but rather how we can begin to recognise afresh that which the Church really needs. Re-imagining ministry is not about filling the gaps and enabling that which we have to continue but rather it is to recognise the need for change the need for some abandonment and the necessity of reforming the church into the creative and dynamic force it can truly be

When gently out of the ending of the day came a new beginning, an awakening like a chrysalis slowly breaking open, something new and of great beauty suddenly emerging and life was never to be the same again.

This is what is meant by the transfiguring nature of a calling from God.

I conclude with a prayer from John Pritchard:

Gracious God,
You have given us the privilege of an open door to your presence.
When life is shining and full, inhabit our joy.
When life is grinding slowly on, touch us with your life.
When we long for a clearer vision of you, open our gauze-covered eyes.
When we studiously avoid your gaze, tempt us with your forgiving smile.
Lead us inexorably to the fulfilment of our lives in the service of your Son.
So that, dipped in God and cherished by your Spirit,
we may come to you, three times blessed,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations. Use these headings for your silent prayers to God or use words and address them to Him who hears every word we utter.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,
Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for mercy and grace.

Heavenly Father we pray at this time for all those whose lives have been blighted by racism. Those who have felt rejected, scorned or ill-used by others simply because of the colour of their skin. As we see so much unrest, violent demonstration and a call and a challenge for change in our world, we pray that peace, trust and acceptance of all may become the norm in all societies and in all institutions.

“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky”

We pray that all will be seen to be equal, to be worthy of praise and to share in the delights of being human.

Father hear us as we continue to pray for the NHS with all the pressures and strains still upon it, that they would receive all the protection and supplies they need, that they would experience God’s protection in their work, courage for each day and stamina to care for all those who are so dependent upon them. For the sick and vulnerable that they would receive the care they need in their hour of weakness. For the lonely in our parishes, that they would know God’s presence in their solitude and receive a friendly call from their neighbours.

For those in authority charged with leading the fight against the virus: for our Prime Minister and his Ministers, for Scientists working on vaccines and other means of fighting the infection.

And so we pray

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn: Lord of our life and God of our salvation.

Blessing:

God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love,
Defend you on every side,
And guide you in truth and peace;
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Morning Worship for 7th June 2020

As you begin this act of worship in your own home remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with you in worship. If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the hymns and join in the singing. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.

The Greeting:

We saw a stranger yesterday,
We put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the listening place,
And, with the sacred name of the Triune God,
We were blessed for doing so.
 
As the lark says in her song: often, often, often, goes Christ in the stranger’s guise.

Collect for the day:

Almighty and everlasting God,
You have given us your servant’s grace,
By the confession of a true faith,
To acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
And in the power of the divine majesty
To worship the unity:
Keep us steadfast in this faith,
That we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
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.

Our Declaration of faith

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts:
The whole earth is full of his glory.
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength;
Ascribe to the Lord, the honour due to his name.
The whole earth is full of his glory.
The Lord shall give strength to his people;
The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts:
The whole earth is full of his glory.

Hymn: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty.

Readings: Isaiah 40: 12-17, 27-31, 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13, Matthew 28: 16-20.

Reflection:

Trinity Sunday is one of those days which clergy either love or find particularly challenging, as we are called to seek to explain to others what is meant by the Trinitarian Faith which we profess to others. Seeking to explore how one thing can be three at the same time is quite complex and yet like all mysteries we can often be guided into the truth by finding simple mechanisms to seek to explain that which at first glance is very complex indeed. I can remember many years ago being asked to think of an image which could be used in order to explore the deeper reality of the Trinity to others. Images came to mind like that of a clover leaf with three segments, three in one and one in three, like a daffodil bulb planted in a pot, roots to feed it the bulb to store it and the emerging beauty of the flower which comes forth from it. Then of course the rather traditional image of water, ice and steam, all three different and yet the same thing. This is a good illustration because it picks up well the distinctive natures of the three elements of the Godhead. But for me they still did not seem to hit the mark, and so I thought a bit deeper and came up with a word.

The word was love and at first glance the image does not seem to fit as there are four letters rather than three so how can it illustrate the Glorious and undivided Trinity?

For me it does so like this:

The L stands for Logos the Greek for Word, this represents Jesus

The V stands for the variety of the gifts of the Holy Spirit

The E stands for the Eternal nature of the Father

But how are they held together?

That is the job of the O

All three reside within the O which binds the others together in the total unity expressed by one Word and the Word is love.

For me God is love and when we seek to explain the complexity of the undivided Trinity, what better word can describe it.

For true love binds all things together, and reminds us that God loves us so much that he sent us his Son in the form of his Word, that he surrounds us with his Holy Spirit which enfolds us continually and that through these mediums of himself he reveals his own nature to us, he is the embodiment of love, three separate natures but only one substance, a substance which stands united as one in and through his eternal love for each one of us.

So think about the Trinity and its complexity and create an image for yourself which enables the complexity to be expressed in a simple way, a way which works for you as you seek to express to others the Trinitarian Faith which we profess.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Reverend Clive.

Hymn: Three in One and One in Three.

Sermon

There is something quite unique set before us today as we celebrate the blessed and undivided Trinity. I am sure you have heard many sermons seeking to explain the three in one and one in three, that which is so simple and yet at the same time deeply mysterious and totally unfathomable.

And yet so many of us walk continually in the presence of the Trinity but we don’t actually realise it, feel it, or at times understand it. I draw you back to the closing words of Matthew’s Great Commission, “remember I am with you always to the end of the age.” Here although setting a great challenge before his Disciples, Jesus knew that he still had so much to tell his Disciples, there was still countless knowledge and understanding still to be delivered, and yet he knew that his disciples were not ready or fully capable of taking it all in, another was to come and it would be the Holy Spirit of God who would guide them into all the truth.

But what is truth? words we remember uttered by Pilate at the trial of Jesus himself!!

Well, let us begin to explore what Jesus meant by living in the truth!

Whilst I was in Canterbury Diocese I was encouraged to attend a training programme set up by the Diocese called the Canterbury Leadership Programme or CLP for short.

I remember that I was quite excited by this as the course was to be held in Bruges and we were going to stay for a week in a beautiful and historic monastery in the centre of the city.

Beautiful buildings, great food, expensive chocolates and hot chocolate to die for, what a great place to go on a training course, gentle worship simply following the monastic offices, and a pleasant if not sparsely furnished place to sleep. Far away from the crowd and yet fully immersed in it, outside of the gateway the bustle of the city, inside the gateway complete seclusion and a silence which transported you into a different world, inside yet outside, separated and yet fully immersed in the life of others, a paradoxical place which reminds us of the truth into which we are to be led by the Holy Spirit of God.

During the course of that week away with a dozen or so other clergy and the team of the diocese, we learnt a great deal, we were refreshed spiritually by the gentle worship and by listening to God through the silence. We studied the scriptures together and in small groups we poured over a few simple sentences of God’s word praying over them, exploring them and looking for new things within them which we had never seen before. This is the truth which was before us then and is before us today, God’s Word, so full of grace and truth, but we often miss it because we pay little attention to it.

I want to pause there as we think a little more about what it means to pay attention to the word of God in the power of the Spirit. I pause because this is something rather different than bible study, When we pray in and through the holy word of God, we create an opening to the divine,  we open a medium of grace in and through which we open our hearts and minds to the will and purpose of God. This demands real faith, we have to believe to the depths of our being that God is with us and we are with God. Jesus opens up this holy place for us and that is how we live within the presence and the power of the holy trinity.

Jesus said he will take what is mine and make it known to you

“He will take what is mine and make it known to you.”

It was this kind of attention to the holy word of God which we were encouraged each day to explore whilst we were in Bruges. Take a simple sentence and open your mind to it was the instruction. Put away the exploration of the context, the political over tones, the cultural significance and the inbuilt nuances of the evangelist and instead simply rest in the words.

I am drawn to a simpler explanation of this exercise which seems to get the tone just right. When I am walking in Scotland I often find myself stopping to admire the Highland Cattle.

I find them extraordinary creatures, I think their horns are magnificent, sometimes they look so sleek and elegant and at other times they are so messy and tangled they almost look uncared for, but then they lie down and over and over again they simply rest as they chew the cud, over and over again, simply doing what comes naturally to them in order that they may be fed, what a great way to feed ourselves with the holy word of God, chewing it over and over again so that we may release the truth which lies within it. 

So with that thought in my mind I went back to the words “he will take what is mine and make it known to you” back to that simple line of scripture, put aside all my other teaching and learning and simply looked at the words to see if anything hit me for the first time and as I did so in preparation for this sermon I noticed the word “is”

He will take what is mine and make it known to you, the is spoke to me, it told me that Jesus does not let go otherwise it would have been a “was” an “is” retains, it is not a hand over but a sharing and it is in sharing that we understand the meaning of the trinity.

In Bruges we shared time together, we prayed together, we looked at the word of God together and we learnt a great deal about the rule of St Benedict and its place in our lives as church leaders and we did all of this together.

It is in sharing all things that the trinity makes sense and enables us to see it, feel it and live within it, to take our place in the divine communication which is what the trinity merely tries to express.

That week in Bruges was really formative for me, I shared things with my colleagues which may in any other context have been left unexplored, and so I learnt things about myself as well as about God. It is in fellowship with one another, in an environment of trust that we truly become attentive to the word of God and take our place within the divine communication of the blessed trinity.

This is what is meant by living in the truth Pilate could not see it for there was no faith in his heart, but we have Jesus who is the truth, and points us towards the truth, for as so beautifully put in the Epistle to the Romans God’s love has flooded our hearts.

Let the image of the flood wash over you, let yourselves be swept away by the love of God, feel him in your heart, wrestle with him, listen to him, feed on him, for in so doing the blessed and undivided trinity ceases to be a complicated doctrine we cannot understand and becomes a living reality in which we live, and through which we are justified by our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations. Use these headings for your silent prayers to God or use words and address them to Him who hears every word we utter.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,
Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for mercy and grace.

We plead before your throne in heaven.
Father of heaven, whose love profound a ransom for our souls has found: we pray for the world, created by your love, extend to it your peace, pardoning love, mercy and grace. Almighty Son, incarnate Word, our Prophet, Priest, Redeemer, Lord: we pray for the Church, created for your glory, for its ministry to reflect your work, for our salvation, growth, mercy and grace. Eternal Spirit, by whose breath the soul is raised from sin and death: we pray for families and individuals created in your image breathe on them the breath of life. Thrice holy! Father, Spirit, Son, mysterious Godhead, Three in One, bring us all to bow before your throne in heaven to receive life and pardon, mercy and grace for all eternity.

Father hear us as we continue to pray for the NHS with all the pressures and strains still upon it, that they would receive all the protection and supplies they need, that they would experience God’s protection in their work, courage for each day and stamina to care for all those who are so dependent upon them. For the sick and vulnerable that they would receive the care they need in their hour of weakness. For the lonely in our parishes, that they would know God’s presence in their solitude and receive a friendly call from their neighbours.
For those in authority charged with leading the fight against the virus: for our Prime Minister and his Ministers, for Scientists working on vaccines and other means of fighting the infection.

And so we pray

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn: Father we adore you…

Blessing:

God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love,
Defend you on every side,
And guide you in truth and peace;
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always.
Amen.