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Sermons & News

Morning Worship for 20th September 2020

As you begin this act of worship 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:

God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit
Upon your Church in the burning fire of your love:
Grant that your people may be fervent
In the fellowship of the Gospel that,
Always abiding in you, they may be found steadfast in faith
And active in service, 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: Bread of Heaven, on thee we feed.

Readings: Jonah 3:10-4:11, Philippians 1:21-30.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 20:1-16

Reflection:

Generosity, struggle and a yearning to be with Jesus.

These are the three key themes we are presented with today, and all three interconnect with one another.

We begin with that glorious reading of a very grumpy and unhappy Jonah, yearning for something to ease his suffering which the Lord duly provided and then angry that he then lost it so quickly. In a period of great discomfort the Lord provided him with shade and then overnight he took it away again. Jonah once again complains and that is when the Lord teaches. The generosity of God is so great that it cannot be made in a night nor does it depart in one. A bush can come and grow and be a real blessing and the loss of it for Jonah was considerably difficult for him to bear, but at the end of the day it is just a bush. Hence the reason why the Lord preserves the city of Ninevah, despite its iniquities it has potential and cannot simply be destroyed or discarded from God’s mercy.

This awareness of the need to preserve great numbers of people and animals is something which has become so important to us all at this time. We are doing our best to preserve so many from the onslaught of this terrible pandemic right across the world, and yet at the same time we are slowly realising that there is another great threat looming over us and that is the extinction of so many habitats from the natural world, with the result that so many of God’s creatures are disappearing at a rapid rate. It is heart-breaking to see so much devastation, with forests being destroyed, ice shelfs breaking apart whilst at the same time devastating fires in America and Australia are sweeping destruction upon so may. We can see the desperation in the eyes of so many people and so many of God’s creatures and yet unless we stop, rethink, re-prioritise it will be too late for so many of them.

There is therefore a requirement for a change of heart from each one of us as we look at the way in which we consume the natural resources of our world. Time to rethink and to re-prioritise.

That is exactly the message given to Jonah, to look beyond the immediate and to seek to be creative, forgiving and to think more on restoration than on destruction.

We then move on to that reading from Philippians, where Paul is torn between fruitful labour in the here and now or the glory that awaits him in the Kingdom of God. He yearns to be with Jesus and yet he knows that he has been called to stay, to labour, to teach and encourage, he is struggling personally facing his own hardships and he is torn spiritually between doing the Lord’s will and being with his master. It is this aspect of personal suffering which again hits home to us today, when so many are facing their own struggles and the huge demands that life and Covid are placing upon them. Suffering is at such a level that it is easy to understand how people today can be a bit like Jonah and a bit like St. Paul, quick to blame and to complain and torn apart inwardly unsure of the direction to take in life, what is best where do we turn how can we make sense of everything that is currently placed before us, life is such a struggle, on what can we truly depend, where will we draw our comfort from?

Then we receive the blessing of Gods generosity and mercy, the Gospel story is truly amazing, it takes us from the simple activity of hiring a few labourers to work in the vineyard to full awareness of the generosity of God.

This story seems strange to us at times as we are not that familiar with the way that people are hired for labour. In the days of Jesus labourers would simply gather together in the market place and some would then be hired whilst others would not.

Indeed in many parts of the world this is still the daily routine of many, and that is sadly often still the case for some people even within our own society. Resulting of course with the inevitable outcome that their families struggle and go hungry.

I guess in the fields which surround us today there will be some who gain work whilst there are others who sadly will not. The generosity of the farmer can only extend to those whom she or he needs to do the work that is required, it would be counter- productive to hire more people than were really needed. But in this beautiful story, Jesus reminds us that God’s generosity knows no boundaries it is continuous and given equally to all his children.

Once again from a human perspective the labourers who toiled under the heat of the sun all day are like Jonah, quick to complain about their lot, and to look immediately on the unfairness in human terms of the wages which were given to those who had only laboured for an hour. Here the teaching of Jesus hits hard at home, once again, it is a reminder that we must change the way in which we approach our lives.

We are called to abandon self- gain, and not to constantly complain about our sufferings. We are called by Jesus to be like the landowner who recognised the need to give a good days pay to everyone, because that is what they would take back to their wives and families. Life is not about the acquisition of material things nor about an excess of financial security, it is surely more about being grateful that we have a secure place to rest, enough food to eat and a little left over to help others.

We are called by Jesus to be like the landowner to be generous in our dealings with others, we are called not to destroy God’s holy mountain but to preserve and care for it, and we are also called to care for everything that the Lord God has created, for the Lord God looked down on all that he had done and he saw that it was good.

Keep, O Lord your Church, with your perpetual mercy; and, because without you our human frailty cannot but fall, keep us ever by your help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation.

Thanks be to God.

Reverend Clive

Hymn: King of glory king of peace.

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

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. We pray for all faithful communities that, their Congregations and the Communities for whom they pray may rejoice being together in your name in a safe and secure way.

We pray at this troubled time for patience and calm within our communities, and as we recall the generosity of the landowner help us to be generous toward others, to seek to ensure that all your people are given the help they need to prosper, praying especially for all those who are especially vulnerable within our communities and throughout the wider world.

We pray for those communities suffering from the Coronavirus where there is a lack of resources to care for them and for all within our own communities as we see the threat of a further increase of the pandemic 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 they need, and that they would experience your protection in their work, find 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. We pray also for those charged with ensuring that the law is upheld and that we continue to show concern for others in the way in which we live our lives.

We pray especially at this time for all who are separated from wider aspects of family life. For those struggling with ill health of whatever kind, that they may find strength and solace through their faith in you. Bringing before you at this time those whom have asked for our prayers.

Finally Father we pray for all who have lost loved ones throughout this troubled time, as they struggle with loss and the restrictions placed upon them in saying their last farewells, may they find that inner peace which comes through faith and so be comforted by your presence with them.

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: Guide me O thou great Redeemer.

A Song of Peace:

Spirit of God, teach us your ways,
That we may walk in the way of peace.

Come, let us go up to the mountain of God,
To the house of the God of Jacob.

That God may teach us his ways,
And that we may walk in his paths.

For the law shall go out from Zion,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

God shall mediate between the nations,
And shall judge for many peoples.

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war any more.

O people of Jacob, come:
Let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Spirit of God, teach us your ways,
That we may walk in the way of peace.

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 13th September 2020

As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing on-line. 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 thank you, O Lord our God,
For making us rise from our beds
And setting upon our lips these words of praise
So we may worship you and call upon your holy Name.
As you have continually blessed our lives
With goodness and mercy
So we pray to you now: send your help
To those who stand in your holy and glorious presence
Awaiting your abundant mercy;
And may those who have served you unceasingly
In love and awe, praise, worship and adore
Your unutterable goodness.
For to you belong all glory, honour and praise,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Now and for ever, to the ages of ages. Amen.

Collect for the day:

Almighty God, whose only Son has opened for us
A new and living way into your presence:
Give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
To worship you in spirit and in truth;
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

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and will not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and my song,
And has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.

On that day you will say,
Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name;
Make known his deeds among the nations,
Proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing God’s praises, who has triumphed gloriously,
Let this be known in all the world.

Shout and sing for joy, you that dwell in Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.
Isaiah 12: 2-6

Hymn: And can it be.

Readings: Genesis 50:15-21, Romans 14: 1-12,  

Gospel Reading: Matthew 18: 21-35.

Reflection

Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, not seven times, but I tell you, seventy – seven times.

Let us think on the significance of this before examining the story of the king and his slaves.

Seven was a significant number suggested by Peter, it went far in excess of the three pardons recommended by the Rabbis of the day, however it still fell a long way short of that suggested by Jesus. This is because the argument here is not about an arithmetic level of forgiveness but about the conduct of the heart in relation to others.

Jesus responds by reminding Peter that just as God forgives over and over again so must we, there must be no limit to the level of forgiveness we offer to others because our forgiveness must come from the heart and be sincerely meant. Over and over again people can do rather trivial things which can cause us upset, even I out on my bike the other day was upset by the comments of a motor cyclist behind me at traffic lights, I was in the middle of the road waiting to turn left, when he came up behind me. He then starting shouting over the noise of his motor bike demanding to know which way I was going either left or straight over. I was rather upset by his tone and so just ignored him and waited for the lights to change then promptly turned left, at which further abuse came my way as he went straight on. Presumably I was an irritant to him because I was taking up most of the road, but I just carried on regardless, but was angry at his response as it just spoilt a lovely afternoon. Then of course I thought things through and forgave him as I guess it would not have hurt much for me to have responded to him, but it was his tone and his impatience which had made me rather more obstinate than I would usually be. It is in knowing how to respond to others which is the key here for Jesus and for me. Forgiveness would have been better served if I had responded to the shouting in rather a more positive way, but forgiveness is not easy as it often implies weakness or submissiveness toward others which is not always a positive or healthy approach to human relationships.

Jesus is aware of the complexity of the question from Peter, for we are often left struggling with the idea of repeated attempts at forgiveness. If someone causes us pain and then does so time and time again, our level of forgiveness soon becomes rather weakened as we know in our hearts that simply in seeming to forgive that nothing is likely to change, so our constant offer of forgiveness seems rather pointless. Jesus however reminds us that there are different levels of forgiveness, and we are often miss-guided in the ones which we choose to offer to others. By asking us to forgive limitlessly Jesus puts to one side social norms and expectations and takes us to a new level. This level of total forgiveness from the heart is more to do with moral conduct and Christian responsibility, than merely seeking to be polite or to live up to social expectation. Jesus is telling us that we are called to forgive deeply, it has to be meant in a religious way, for we as chosen images of the Almighty, are called to forgive as God forgives us.

We then come to the story of the king and his slaves. A simple entreaty by the first slave who owed his master a considerable debt is met with a generosity which is quite exceptional. In being forgiven the failure to meet the outstanding debts duly owed to the king the slave having thrown himself upon his master’s mercy, receives it in abundance. He is not thrown into prison his family are not called to suffer rather the entire debt is removed at a stroke, a sign of generous forgiveness which went the extra mile.

The story then hits crisis point as it becomes clear that despite the generosity of his master the same level of forgiveness was not to be found in the slave. He finds himself in a similar position a fellow slave owes him a tiny amount compared to that which he has just been released from, and yet the example of generous forgiveness and mercy which had been placed before him, is received by a cold and empty heart. He is unforgiving and relentless in the pursuit of that owed to him that his mind is left devoid of understanding. To be forgiven by another should always enable forgiveness of others to be the natural outcome. Then we share our good fortune with those in similar circumstances, and when this occurs great joy is spread across the world.

Sadly this taking on of the levels of forgiveness offered to us by God proves so difficult for us, there are countless nations in the world who struggle to feed their people and provide them with the basic necessities of life simply because so much of what they have available is given back to rich countries who have encouraged them to go borrow and be swallowed up by debt. If a jubilee of all international debt was offered to the world, then the world may well soon become a fairer and more self- sustaining environment. As difficult and demanding as that may be for the economies of the wealthier nations, there is within it a depth of understanding, of forgiveness and generosity bound up within it which speaks more clearly of the ultimate levels of forgiveness and mercy offered to us all by God.

The unforgiving slave in the story loses all that he had achieved because of his heartlessness toward another. That is what is at stake for us today, God will continually forgive but forgiveness implies repentance.

If our hearts remain hard toward others even when we are so richly blessed with the generosity of divine forgiveness, then our lives will be remain rather shallow and distant from sharing in the joy of our master. So be generous in the way you forgive others, replace petulance and obstinacy with warmth and love. And do so relentlessly no matter how hard it may be.

For in forgiveness we live our lives before God, constantly forgiven by his generous love revealed to us in and through the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reverend Clive       

Hymn: Amazing Grace.

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,

Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, we pray today for your faithful people, that they may find the ability to forgive from their hearts. That they may be open to your gentle embrace and mercy. Help us all to remove from within ourselves past hurts and sadnesses that we may live our lives fully restored and able to forgive constantly in the image of our Lord.

As we pray for all the communities in which we live and work, help us to be bold, to be strong, yet also to be compassionate as Jesus was, and in so doing may we bring peace and comfort into the hearts of all who place their trust and confidence in him.

We pray especially at this time for all who have returned to school, praying that their lives may be filled with the desire to learn and to grow in wisdom. We pray for friendships to be reunited and for all your children to be safe and secure within their school environments.

We pray for all with responsibilities to care for future generations, for all who teach and for all who support our schools through the professional and voluntary sectors of society. Help them to make wise judgements and for them to uphold the ideals of boldness and strength touched with the blessing of compassion and mercy.

We pray for the body of Christ of which we are apart, may we be emboldened to proclaim your Gospel of Peace in a troubled world. May your healing grace reach out to all who are in need, and through your good mercy may they find comfort and joy.

As we continue to live in a world of change, we pray that you will send down your Holy Spirit upon us, that we may be guided to respond to your call, be prepared to be directed into new approaches that will enable the societies of the world to flourish and to stay safe and secure from illness and pain.

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.

We pray especially for all those known to us from our own worshipping community and indeed from within the communities in which we live, especially for those whom have approached us for prayer at this time. 

And finally we hold before you all whom have lost loved ones throughout this period of change, may they be comforted by your love, and supported throughout their time of sadness.

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:  At the name of Jesus.

The Song of Hannah:

Blessed are those who believe,
For what God has promised will be fulfilled.

My heart exults in the Lord;
My strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
Because I rejoice in your salvation.
There is no Holy One like you, O Lord,
Nor any rock like you, our God.
For you are a God of knowledge,
And by you our actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
But the feeble gird on strength.

Those who were full now search for bread,
But those who were hungry are well fed.
The barren woman has borne sevenfold,
But she who has many children is forlorn.
Both the poor and the rich are of your making,
You bring low and you also exalt.
You raise up the poor from the dust,
And lift the needy from the ash heap.
You make them sit with the rulers
And inherit a place of honour.
For the pillars of the earth are yours
And on them you have set the world.

Blessed are those who believe
For what God has promised will be fulfilled.

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 6th September 2020

As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing online. 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 thank you, O Lord our God,
For making us rise from our beds
And setting upon our lips these words of praise
So we may worship you and call upon your holy Name.
As you have continually blessed our lives
With goodness and mercy
So we pray to you now: send your help
To those who stand in your holy and glorious presence
Awaiting your abundant mercy;
And may those who have served you unceasingly
In love and awe, praise, worship and adore
Your unutterable goodness.
For to you belong all glory, honour and praise,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Now and for ever, to the ages of ages. Amen.

Collect for the day:

Almighty God, who called your Church to bear witness
That you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
Help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
That all who hear it may be drawn to you;
Through him who was lifted up on the cross,
And reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever. Amen.

Our Declaration of faith

All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.
Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and will not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and my song,
And has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
On that day you will say,
Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name;
Make known his deeds among the nations,
Proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing God’s praises, who has triumphed gloriously,
Let this be known in all the world.
Shout and sing for joy, you that dwell in Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.
Isaiah 12: 2-6

Hymn: Lord enthroned in heavenly splendour.

Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13: 8-end

Gospel Reading: Matthew 18: 15-20.

Reflection:

Where two or three are gathered together in my name I am there among them.

I have always taken great solace from these few words, as they speak to me of the constancy of God’s presence, they have also confirmed a conviction I have about the necessity of public worship.

I think I could say that I have had hundreds of people, possibly even more than that who when in conversation with me have uttered the words “well, you don’t need to go to Church in order to be a Christian.” It seems to be a commonly held belief that what Jesus calls us to do is to live a good life following his example but that does not mean for many people that they have to spend quality time with others engaging in religious activity!

I have always answered such claims as being understandable and yet rather untrue, as I do believe that you cannot be a Christian unless you come to Church. The difficulty is of course in what we mean by Church!

Although Jesus and his early followers were devoted to the religious life and regularly attended the Synagogue and upheld many of the expected norms of Jewish Religious life, they did create something which was very different for their followers. Not only of course was what they offered open to everyone in equal measure but it could be seen because of the example of Jesus in a number of different ways.

When two or three are gathered is the first part of the quotation to look at, even priests although that in itself has been broadened somewhat under current restrictions, are normally required to have at least two people present before they conduct a Eucharist.

This is centred on what we understand being a Christian really is. For being a Christian is not just about attending church or not, or living a good life or not.

For we all know that thousands call themselves Christian but never or very rarely come to worship, whilst others who do not live good lives at all, are in many cases as regular as clock work!

After all the Church is the place where those who sin come to be forgiven, and so it is not just a place for those consider themselves to be righteous.

When I think about the acts of worship which I have conducted over the last thirty years there have been great occasions, with huge congregations at times, whilst there have also been those quiet times where simply one or two have gathered to be with me. Every one of them of course carry special memories, but I can honestly say that the ones where I have felt the presence of God so acutely have been those quiet and reflective moments spent with just a couple of people. There is it seems something truly intimate about worshipping with just a few people and I think it is that level of intimacy which is crucial.

This is why I am not much of a fan of large gatherings, or meeting up with people via Zoom or the other forms of worship currently being made available. For me personally they simply do not work and leave me cold. That is because it is difficult to create an artificial intimacy of being gathered together as one in the Lord.

Jesus is part of the Eternal God-Head and as such is a part of an intimate relationship with the Father and the Spirit. They cannot be separated, their relationship is a perfected relationship bound together through divine love. When we call ourselves a Christian we are making a public declaration that we have joined that intimate relationship. For we can only be a Christian if we have allowed Jesus into our lives. This does not just mean that we follow him or his guidance to us, it means far more than that.

We become a part of Jesus, he is within us always in the power of the Spirit, he indwells within us and we are in him, joined together by mutual love and companionship.

That is why you cannot be a Christian without coming to Church, but what do we mean by Church?

Church is not the building we worship in, but rather Church is the people we worship with. Whether that be two or three or several hundred people. We attend Church every time we engage in any activity which is done in the Lords name.

It us that final bit of the quotation which is often missed. “I Am” the eternal name of God, is brought to our attention here. God is with us whenever we meet in his name, but as Christians we are richly blessed by Jesus, as in and through him we are given a deeper opportunity to share in his eternal presence. That requires that we gather together.

We do not of course have to gather in a conventional way at all, but we do have to gather ourselves up in the name of the Lord which allows the intimacy of a personal relationship to be experienced in all its fullness.

I am sure that many of you will have had the joy of going on a personal retreat at some point in your lives. I have been on a great deal. Some have been guided by others and I have been surrounded by people all gathered together in the name of the Lord. Some retreats have however been quite different and I recall many silent and isolationist retreats that I have done in the past. Spending the first four days of Lent in a Passionist Monastery was the way I always began my Lenten observance. My few days isolated on my own in a little room however does not seem to fit the message of being with at least a few others at the same time.

However it does if one opens up the box, if one opens up what Church really is and how we engage with it. You see I may have been in isolation in my little room but I did have a little hatch through which a nun would give me a little bread and cheese to sustain me through my Lenten fast. No words were spoken but intimacy was achieved. I was never completely on my own in both a literal and spiritual way depending on your personal theological perspective, as I always had an Altar with a monstrance upon it holding before me the consecrated bread of the Lord. In this way the whole gathered community of the monastery was with me in my little room, as I gazed and worshipped the physical and spiritual presence of the Lord in my midst.

My tastes have changed and I am sure that is the case for many of you, nowadays I am happier praying with my Lord when I am out for a run or cycling on my bike. I have had some of the most amazing experiences of my spiritual life when out and about within the glory of God’s creation, but I have always on return shared those experiences with others, that is being Church. If our intention is to gather around a few people in the Lord’s name then we can be assured that the Lord will be with us.

There are so many occasions in the stories we hear about Jesus which tell us whenever he needed to speak to his Father he went off to a quiet place, but when he did, it was so often with two or three of his closest disciples. He may well have withdrawn from them to be alone with God, but they were always part of his very being. We are relational beings, and being alone is not natural for us, but that does not mean that it is wrong only harder. Jesus helps so much with this because if we call upon his name when we meet with others he has promised to be with us, to help us, to guide us and to love us. We can all live good lives, but we must meet with others and share what being a Christian is and what being a Christian means to us. So you cannot be a Christian without coming to Church!

But Church is what you make it, Church is being together in some way with others so that the intimacy of inter-personal connectivity can enable the presence of the Lord Jesus to fill us with divine grace.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name I am there among them.

Amen.       

Hymn: Brother, sister let me serve you.

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

We come boldly to the throne of grace,
Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, we pray today for your faithful people, wherever two or three are gathered together in your name. May your blessings so abundantly flow over them that they may truly rejoice as they proclaim your name.

As we pray for all faithful communities we unite together as one in the Lord Jesus, help us to be bold, to be strong, yet also to be compassionate as Jesus was, may we bring peace and comfort into the hearts of his people today.

We pray especially at this time for all who are returning to school, praying that their lives may be filled with the desire to learn and to grow in wisdom. We pray for friendships to be reunited and for all your children to be safe and secure within their school environments.

We pray for all with responsibilities to care for future generations, for all who teach and for all who support our schools through the professional and voluntary sectors of society. Help them to make wise judgements and for them to uphold the ideals of boldness and strength touched with the blessing of compassion and mercy.

We pray for the body of Christ of which we are apart, may we be emboldened to proclaim your Gospel of Peace in a troubled world. May your healing grace reach out to all who are in need, and through your good mercy may they find comfort and joy.

As we continue to live in a world of change, we pray that you will send down your Holy Spirit upon us, that we may be guided to respond to your call, be prepared to be directed into new approaches that will enable the societies of the world to flourish and to stay safe and secure from illness and pain.

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.

We pray especially for all those known to us from our own worshipping community and indeed from within the communities in which we live, especially for those whom have approached us for prayer at this time. And finally we hold before you all whom have lost loved ones throughout this period of change, may they be comforted by your love, and supported throughout their time of sadness.

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:  You servants of God, your Master proclaim.

The Song of Hannah:

Blessed are those who believe,
For what God has promised will be fulfilled.
My heart exults in the Lord;
My strength is exalted in my God.

My mouth derides my enemies,
Because I rejoice in your salvation.
There is no Holy One like you, O Lord,
Nor any rock like you, our God.

For you are a God of knowledge,
And by you our actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
But the feeble gird on strength.

Those who were full now search for bread,
But those who were hungry are well fed.
The barren woman has borne sevenfold,
But she who has many children is forlorn.

Both the poor and the rich are of your making,
You bring low and you also exalt.
You raise up the poor from the dust,
And lift the needy from the ash heap.

You make them sit with the rulers
And inherit a place of honour.
For the pillars of the earth are yours
And on them you have set the world.

Blessed are those who believe
For what God has promised will be fulfilled.

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 30th August 2020

As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing online. 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:

Blessed are you, Lord our God,
Redeemer and king of all;
To you be glory and praise for ever!
From the waters of chaos you drew forth the world,
And in your great love, fashioned us in your image.
May we, the first fruits of your new creation,
Rejoice in this new day you have made;
May Christ your light ever dawn in our hearts
As we offer you our sacrifice of thanks and praise,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Blessed be God for ever.

Collect for the day:

Almighty and everlasting God,
You are always more ready to hear than we to pray
And to give more than either we desire or deserve:
Pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,
Forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid
And giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask
But through the merits and mediation
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.

Our Declaration of faith

In Christ Jesus, the law-giving law of the Spirit,
Has set us free from the law of sin and death.
All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God;
It is the Spirit that enables us to cry ‘Abba!’ Father.
The Spirit itself bears witness that we are God’s children;
And if God’s children, then heirs of God.
We are heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ;
If we share his sufferings now we shall be glorified with him hereafter.
These sufferings that we now endure
Are not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed.
For the creation waits with eager longing
For the revealing of the children of God.
Romans: 8,2,14,15b-17,19.

Hymn: For the beauty of the earth.

Readings: Jeremiah 15: 15-21, Romans 12:9-21

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:21-28.

Reflection:

Love and Denial!

The Epistle and Gospel readings bring together two kinds of Christian idealism. One speaks of love and Christian responsibility, whilst the other speaks of denial, rebuke, suffering, death and uncertainty. At first glance they seem to be an odd combination but surely that is the very point of their juxtaposition. St Paul writing to the Romans begins with the phrase let love be genuine, hate what is evil, and hold fast to what is good.

He then goes on to list all of the Christian virtues which are placed upon us as faithful followers of Jesus. The list is long, and incorporates considerable religious expectation, but expectation which is not ritualistic or pious, but rather expectations which centre on social interaction and personal integrity. This is where the list ties in to the opening phrase which centres on love being genuine.

The world would be a glorious place if every one of us could fulfil all of the expectations that Paul speaks of. It would remove all selfishness and greed and redirect the focus of our lives away from the present reality on to the spiritual realm in which and of which Jesus lived and taught whilst he lived amongst us.

That is why Peter receives such a harsh rebuke from Jesus in the Gospel story. He together with the closest followers of Jesus have just recognised him for who he is, and made the great confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi. So Jesus readjusts his teaching and now begins to prepare them for the rocky road ahead.

I have always felt rather sorry for Peter at this point, just a little earlier he had been cast as the rock on which the future church of Christ would stand, and was given the gift of proffering upon others acts of religious forgiveness, when suddenly Jesus turns on him!

“Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Ouch! One moment built up and the next cast down so heavily, what a crushing moment for him and indeed for those around him, because Jesus now begins to explain to them the second kind of Christian idealism! Denial, rebuke, death, suffering and uncertainty!

Peter responds to Jesus with denial, “God forbid it Lord!

That response is why Jesus was so harsh in his reply, for it was to suggest that the idealised world of the Kingdom which Jesus was now heralding in was not the will of God! Peter got this moment so wrong and the consequences were severe. Peter loved his Lord and hearing the message of his suffering and death was the last thing he wanted to hear, for where would the future be for Israel if this was to be the outcome of his and ultimately their own ministries.

I pause and reflect a little on my own faith journey, I love Jesus and have spent most of my adult life in his service. But what were my expectations or indeed your own when you decided to follow Jesus?

Were we looking for something better, more rewarding then perhaps we had earlier, or were we willingly prepared to deny ourselves take up our own cross and follow him regardless?

I look back and wonder about my life at times, if I had not followed Jesus where would I be and what kind of man would I have become?

Of course one can never truly know as life has a tendency to provide obstacles and unknown events upon us which fashion our lives over a period of time.

And yet I look back and think if my sister had not decided to marry and I had not had the opportunity of willingly taking my mother to church to hear her banns being read I would not be hear.  

I would probably have achieved professional grade status for the electricity supply industry, and been in middle management. I already had my own comfortable home, car, and an enjoyable lifestyle, but it had nothing to do with faith at all. I was simply placing my hopes and aspirations on this physical world and the trappings which we believe bring us happiness. And yet because I did take my mother to church to hear those banns, my life was changed for ever. I was not promised prosperity but rather the opposite and yet it still appealed, why was that so? Because I knew in my heart that is what God wanted from me.

That is what we should all be considering when we think of our own response to Jesus. That is what Peter had missed, his mind was still too focussed on the here and now and on the potential positive outcomes of being a follower of Jesus that he and indeed those around him had failed to grasp the essential element of Christian idealism.

We are called to love and St Paul’s epistle to the Romans declares to us how we should seek to fulfil that calling, and yet that love as we all truly know does not come without a cost.

True love, a love which is genuine is the only love that can bring us the joy of our salvation and satisfy the intensity of all our inner spiritual desires. But does that kind of love truly exist?

In the film Maleficent, true love is defiled in the pursuit of power and prestige. The result is a curse and an eternity of sleep to one who was innocent of any transgression. The story unfolds and only loves true kiss can rescue the princess from her plight; suffering and death await and yet are transformed and renewed by a kiss from the very person who had laid the curse in the first place.

True loves kiss does exist, and it is bestowed upon us by the grace of God in and through Jesus. Love and the road to it is often arduous, painful, and at times apparently elusive, but it is always ultimately attainable, all we need to remember is that opening phrase of Romans 12:9, “let love be genuine.”

So learn to love with all your heart, be prepared to accept the cost that love will bring upon you and rejoice, for if your love is genuine, you will hate all that is evil and hold fast to what is good, and in so doing you will find yourselves ready to receive the gift of Salvation, “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.”

Reverend Clive.

Hymn: Come down O love divine.

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

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 faithful people, we pray that we may learn to set our minds not on human things but on divine ones. Help us always to look ahead to the promise of your kingdom and not be led astray by our own desires.

We continue to hold in our prayers all who are suffering in the Lebanon, may your Holy Spirit of justice and of peace wash over them bringing them the comfort of your merciful grace at this time of tragedy.

We pray for the body of Christ of which we are apart, may we be emboldened to proclaim your Gospel of Peace in a troubled world. May your healing grace reach out to all who are in need, and through your good mercy may they find comfort and joy.

As we continue to live in a world of change, we pray that you will send down your Holy Spirit upon us, that we may be guided to respond to your call, be prepared to be directed into new approaches that will enable the societies of the world to flourish and to stay safe and secure from illness and pain.

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 pray especially for all those known to us from our own worshipping community and indeed from within the communities in which we live and serve you. May you make good your purpose for us as we pray for others, let the love for which we pray be genuine, may we in prayer seek your guidance and so be enabled to hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good.

And finally we hold before you all whom have lost loved ones throughout this period of change, may they be comforted by your love, and supported throughout their time of sadness.

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 for a heart to praise my God.

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 23rd August 2020

As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing online. 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:

Blessed are you, Sovereign God of all,
To you be glory and praise for ever!
In your tender compassion,
The dawn from on high is breaking upon us
To dispel the lingering shadows of night.
As we look for your coming among us this day,
Open our eyes to behold your presence
And strengthen our hands to do your will
That the world may rejoice and give you praise,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Blessed be God for ever!

Collect for the day:

O God, you declare your almighty power
Most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
Mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace
That we, running the way of your commandments,
May receive your gracious promises,
And be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
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

In Christ Jesus, the law-giving law of the Spirit,
Has set us free from the law of sin and death.
All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God;
It is the Spirit that enables us to cry ‘Abba!’ Father.
The Spirit itself bears witness that we are God’s children;
And if God’s children, then heirs of God.
We are heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ;
If we share his sufferings now we shall be glorified with him hereafter.
These sufferings that we now endure
Are not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed.
For the creation waits with eager longing
For the revealing of the children of God.
Romans: 8,2,14,15b-17,19.

Hymn: Christ from whom all blessings flow.

Readings: Isaiah 51:1-6, Romans 12:1-8

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-20.

Reflection:

Who do people say that the Son of Man is?

What an amazing question Jesus sets before his disciples! Is he testing them, have they truly understood who he really is?

Who is the Son of Man of whom he speaks? Well to those who were around him steeped in their scriptures the Son of Man was he who had been foretold who would rescue the fallen world, who would restore the fortunes of Judaism, who would fulfil the purposes of almighty God.

Who have people looked to in answer to this question?

Firstly John the Baptist, the man whose wilderness ministry touched the hearts of many, who brought to them a message of reconciliation to God, who spoke of the promised Messiah and in whose life and ministry revealed so much messianic expectation. There was a commonly held belief that when the time was right he would reappear miraculously to lead the people in triumph to God.

Then there was Elijah the greatest of all the Old Testament Prophets whose glorious ascension into heaven was a prelude to his triumphant return to redeem the people of God. Whose mantle of power would be restored to him, through which he would herald in God’s eternal kingdom and re-establish God’s rule for eternity. He it was together with Moses who was to appear at the Transfiguration, transforming the past into the present reality of Christ, where he would willingly hand over his mantle of power finally to Jesus the Saviour of the world.

Or even Jeremiah that Old Testament Prophet of doom, who suffered much in the deliverance of God’s message of deliverance and salvation through the trauma of suffering. All were majestic figures from the past any one of them could be the long awaited Son of Man, and yet who do they his disciples truly believe the Son of Man to be?

Have they finally realised it, have they begun to fully understand?

Simon Peter responds as the spokesperson for them all and boldly declares: “you are the Messiah, the Sion of the Living God.”

Finally!

Jesus must have been overjoyed at this moment, the penny had finally clicked the message had been understood, and God had revealed Jesus to them. “Blessed are you, Simon son of John! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”

God has acted in a unique way, and revealed his Son to the world through the blessed Simon Peter.

God has opened up his heart, laid bare before his creation his total and abject love for them. This is a moment of tremendous power, and authority is given to Peter as a result.

In return for God’s choice of a willing and devoted servant Jesus bestows upon him the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Power and authority over all, in the name of the Living God.

But that power was not to be exercised yet for the Lord’s time had not yet come, but it was now drawing close, because of this divine revelation to Peter. From this moment Jesus sets his sights on Jerusalem, from this moment the passion begins.

Jesus was to go to Jerusalem, and there to appeal to the nation to follow his teaching and religious leadership. He intended to call upon the people to accept the yoke of the kingdom of God as he understood that yoke, and so to make themselves ready for the kingdom when it should please God to reveal it. This attempt must be made, even though it might result in apparent failure, suffering and death.

Peter was uniquely chosen as the foundation of all that was to come, and he was such a good choice, for from this man Peter the way of the world and the folly of humanity so beautifully crafted within him would be cast aside, through his own reluctance for Jesus to fail and to die, and the rebuke which he was to receive from his beloved Lord, a new beginning would be revealed to humanity. For power and authority was finally to be revealed in all its glory through suffering, pain, rejection and despair. These are the seeds of the Kingdom of God. Peter cast them to take root, in and through the triumphant destruction of the Son of Man.

Peter is the rock on which we all stand, the Church was heralded in at the very moment of his revelation. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

So let us rejoice with Jesus, in this great confession of faith, may its power exude from our hearts and minds, and may we in triumph shout out for ourselves those words of truth, those words of divine revelation, those words on whom all Christian hope depend:

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

Thanks be to God.

Hymn: King of glory king of peace.

Prayers for others:

This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.

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 faithful people, we heard how St. Peter recognised you in your Messianic status and devoted himself to your service. We pray for all the faithful that they may honour you through their actions and their words, and in so doing bring forth upon your people the real gifts of your Holy Spirit.

We pray for the body of Christ of which we are apart, may we be emboldened to proclaim your Gospel of Peace in a troubled world. May your healing grace reach out to all who are in need, and through your good mercy may they find comfort and joy.

We give you thanks for the many gifts you freely bestow upon your people, let us seek to use them wisely for the good of all, ensuring generosity, compassion and cheerfulness.

As we continue to live in a world of change, we pray that you will send down your Holy Spirit upon us, that we may be guided to respond to your call, be prepared to be directed into new approaches that will enable the societies of the world to flourish and to stay safe and secure from illness and pain.

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 pray especially for all those known to us from our own worshipping community and indeed from within the communities in which we live and serve you. May you make good your purpose for us as we pray for others, for your love endures for ever on those who love you.
And finally we hold before you all whom have lost loved ones throughout this period of change, may they be comforted by your love, and supported throughout their time of sadness.

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 all good, our gifts we bring to thee.

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.