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Sermons & News

Morning Worship for 16th August 2020

As we begin this act of worship for the first time in one of our churches we 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 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:

Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
Be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
And that they may obtain their petitions
Make them to ask such things as shall please you;
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

We believe, O God of all Gods,
That you are the eternal God of life,
We believe, O God of all Gods,
That you are the eternal God of love.

We believe, O God and Maker of all creation,
That you are the creator of the high heavens,
That you are the creator of the deep seas,
That you are the creator of the stable earth.

We believe, O God of all the peoples,
That you created our souls and set their warp,
That you created our bodies and gave them breath,
That you made us in your own image.

We are giving you worship with our whole lives,
We are giving you assent with our whole power,
We are giving you our existence with our whole mind,
We are giving you kneeling with our whole desire.
(From a Celtic Liturgy: Iona Community.)

Hymn: All hail the power of Jesus’ name.

Readings: Isaiah 56:1.6-8, Romans 11:12a. 29-32

Gospel Reading: Matthew 15: 10-20. 21-28.

Reflection:

“Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

I mentioned in my address last week that I can get a bit grumpy at times especially if I am hungry! I love my food and thankfully my wife is a very good cook who likes to be creative and explore new things in the kitchen, so I often get to eat things which are rather different.

It is good to try new things but in Jewish culture food has to be prepared in a certain kind of way and some things are clearly believed to be things which should not be eaten at all. The Rabbis over a long period of time had written down hundreds of examples of such things and created many ritualistic rules and regulations for the faithful to follow. It is not therefore surprising that they found this bit of teaching from Jesus terribly hard to accept!

Jesus’ teaching is of course very revolutionary and seen at times as being heretical by those who had been trained in Rabbinical Law. So what was it that Jesus was saying to them here which caused them so much offence?

Looking at the first part of the Gospel message we can see that Jesus is trying to express the view that wrong thoughts and sayings are more defiling than forbidden food. I for one tend to agree with Jesus. The food we eat simply serves to feed our bodies and enable us to function. That food can be simply sustaining or it can be a real treat. Whether we are eating something simple like one of the great staples such as bread, rice, or potatoes, or whether we are enjoying fresh asparagus with poached eggs, one of my favourites! The result is the same, we are fed and that which goes into us is simply the means by which this is achieved.

What comes out of our mouths however is very different. We are all guilty at times of speaking out of turn, and not thinking things through as carefully as we should. Often things can be a lot worse than that, and the things we say or even the things we may think secretly in our minds can often cause others great pain and personal upset. What is even worse than that, is when we deliberately say or think things of others not accidently or whimsically but with deliberate intent to cause offence. Clearly it is those words and even our thoughts which defile us before God. As God knows all the secrets of our hearts. Each time we sin in this way we defile ourselves before God who wants us to love one another constantly.

Jesus seeks to use his argument to express this very point, but the Rabbis are not convinced, and I scratch my head here and think well why not it is surely not that complicated!

However complicated it is to them, because they are learned men, and they know and believe that what has been revealed to them through the teaching of rabbis of the past is seen as being the revelation of God’s will. So in abandoning the ritualistic expectations of Jewish Law, Jesus is clearly seen as suggesting that it is perfectly in order to ignore the will of God!

This is why Jesus then elaborates the story by referring to the Commandments of God which are so freely disregarded by the looseness of the tongue. If we can through our desires and indulgences stray away from the Commandments of Moses, how greater a sin is that than merely ignoring ritualistic cleanliness?

Jesus gets rather a hard time in this exchange and so goes off to recover and the Gospel then places him in Gentile Territory. The exchange with the Gentile Woman then ensues, with many people both then and today finding this piece of teaching equally difficult to accept. This woman has been following Jesus and his Disciples for a while and was starting to become rather tiresome, his disciples ask him to dismiss her and so he does in a very harsh way. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Ouch! What a rebuke, most of us would have wilted at such a response and walked away either deeply hurt or significantly affronted. But not this woman, she has a need and her need is so strong that she kneels before Jesus asking for his help! He rebukes her again calling her a “dog” but instead of responding negatively she responds with a beautiful humility. Yes Lord, but a crumb of your grace will be sufficient to heal my daughter.

Then Jesus responds with healing grace. Not because she has worn him down, but out of her mouth has not come forth that which defiles, but out of her mouth have come the words of faith, a faith so strong that Jesus recognises perhaps for the first time in all its fullness, that he has not been called by God to seek out the fallen amongst God’s chosen people, but rather that he has been called to reveal to all humanity that God shows no partiality.

The result of the food of faith is instantaneous healing. Jesus reaffirms his original instruction to the rabbis that surely cleanliness rules and elitism must give way if they are found to stand in the way of real need or moral obligation.

So enjoy the fruits of the earth, enjoy the food you find before you, eat well and sensibly with due regard to your health and wellbeing. Think on those who have no food or cannot afford the choices which so many of us take for granted, and seek to do what you can to aid them in their distress.

But think seriously about what you say and think of others, let your words be words of kindness and support, and think only on how by the life that you live you may become like Jesus, and offer the gift of healing love to all whom you meet.  

Thanks be to God.

Reverend Clive

Hymn: Happy are they, they who love God.

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 freely the grace of your forgiving love given to us by Jesus was given to all those whose faith proved strong and secure. We pray that our faith in Jesus may continue to bring us strength and hope at this time.
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 continue to pray especially at this time for the travel, hospitality and tourism sectors facing so much disruption and uncertainty, for those small businesses which are crumbling, for all who face financial ruin and all whose future prosperity and security are now under threat.

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:  I cannot tell why he whom angels worship.

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 9th August 2020

As we begin this act of worship for the first time in one of our churches we 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 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:

Almighty God, who sent your Holy Sprit
To be the life and light of your Church:
Open our hearts to the riches of your grace,
That we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
In love and joy and peace;
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

We believe, O God of all Gods,
That you are the eternal God of life,
We believe, O God of all Gods,
That you are the eternal God of love.
 
We believe, O God and Maker of all creation,
That you are the creator of the high heavens,
That you are the creator of the deep seas,
That you are the creator of the stable earth.
 
We believe, O God of all the peoples,
That you created our souls and set their warp,
That you created our bodies and gave them breath,
That you made us in your own image.
 
We are giving you worship with our whole lives,
We are giving you assent with our whole power,
We are giving you our existence with our whole mind,
We are giving you kneeling with our whole desire.
{From a Celtic Liturgy: Iona Community.)

Hymn: At the name of Jesus.

Readings: 1 Kings 19: 9-18, Romans 10: 5-15,

Gospel Reading: Matthew 14: 22-33.

Reflection:

What a joy it is to hear those words from the Epistle to the Romans!

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” A direct quote from the prophecy of Joel. It is amazing that Paul can so easily use this reference from the Old Testament in a new and imaginative context. Paul sees the Lord Jesus as the promised Messiah and also recognises the validity of the openness of the Gospel to all nations. There is a clear directive in Paul’s argument that Old Testament Prophesy is fulfilled in Jesus, speaks of Jesus and creates the scene for something new and dynamic to happen to God’s children.

Hear we see Paul espousing that the Gospel message of Salvation is universal in its offering, especially however to those who are aware of the need to be shaken from their complacency and driven to do something about the plight they find themselves in. It is in the quality and depth of their efforts in seeking to receive the universal gift of God that people will be able to rejoice in receiving it.

In the Church of today we really do need to take notice of Paul and seek to recognise the need for us as followers of Jesus to be:

Awoken from our complacency

To be driven to do something about it

Then to rejoice in receiving the promise of our Salvation.

So what do I mean about the need to be driven from our complacency?

Well we have an aging population in our churches, as is so clearly evident before us. Many worshippers love their Hymns, the Liturgy and especially the buildings in which they worship. These things have become dominant in our thinking and sadly in our response to Jesus.

We have grown up with the Church of God being offered to us in a certain way, where the expectations placed upon followers was to attend, take instruction, to amend our lifestyles and to seek to be like Jesus. However this has indeed led to a very deep level of complacency in our thinking about the reason why we worship at all. Christians may enjoy singing hymns, they may love the poetic balance held within liturgy, and will spend countless hours raising money to preserve buildings and to keep things as they are, but times are changing and we need to be driven out of this complacency and be awoken to look again at the message of the Gospel and to act upon it.

But what can we do, how can we respond when we are mostly approaching three score year and ten!

Well what we can do is to stop doing what we have been doing and look to do something new, doing new things takes energy and some of that is in shorter supply than perhaps it once was, that is just a fact of life and there is nothing we can do about it. So how can we respond afresh to the message of Salvation which comes to us from Jesus, when we are growing older, weaker and have fewer people around us to do the things we have always done?

Whether we like it or not the church has to change, we have to become something new. We cannot simply continue to do or to be what we have been. The reality of the Christian life which Paul spoke so clearly of in Romans was just as vital then to the future of the Church as it is today.

So what can we do? Or rather what can we stop doing! Everyone wants their church to grow but that is the first thing we should stop, because it does not speak about the Gospel! What we should be seeking to grow is the Church, not our church.

Because in today’s world seeking to re-build what we already have by seeking to attract those who do not come is doomed to failure.

It does not take long for an Institutional Religion to become complacent and to lose its vitality. But in order to address this unfailing reality the Church has to become totally different to what it has been. This is nothing new we have talked about it for generations, but time has ran out, there can be no more conversations, the time has come to act and to act decisively.

This is what Paul meant when he was speaking in Romans! Being a follower of Jesus means abandonment, abandoning our hopes and aspirations our longing to be vibrant as we once used to be, in order that we may respond instead to the promise of Salvation brought into being for us by Jesus.

What needs to grow, what needs more financing and resourcing is the ability of the Church to be effective in the proclamation of the message of our Salvation. Now this will not be for everyone, many will not want to change but it is imperative for the sake of the world that we do.

Our current crisis is a global crisis, our world is struggling and life has become very different, I hear so often people saying wont it be good when we can get back to normality, but I say to you as Paul said to the Romans, normality has gone, past ways of responding to the Law have gone, instead we are called to confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and to believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, for only when we believe and seek to respond with our heart will we be truly saved.

So let us look forward, adapt, change and abandon what was, put our trust in the Lord Jesus, and in so doing let us be no longer a church but part of the Church with the promise of Salvation offered to the whole of the world. Let it be the Gospel which drives us forward with joy in our hearts, for as Paul reminded the Romans in the words drawn directly from the prophecy of Isaiah: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News!”

Thanks be to God

Reverend Clive

Hymn: Make me a channel of your 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 our Bishops, Senior Staff and all Officers charged with finding a new direction for your Church at this time. We pray for patience, understanding and love to be shared by all as we begin to change the way which we worship and the way in which the Church is governed.

As we prepare for 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 abandon much of the past and be directed into new approaches that will enable growth and mission to take precedence in our Church life.

We pray for all families today, as they celebrate the Summer Season with their children. We pray that they may all keep safe and enjoy quality time together. We pray for all teachers and school staff, that they may find time for some rest and relaxation amidst all the preparations required of them to be ready and fit for a safe return for all children in September.

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 continue to pray especially at this time for the hospitality sector and all those seeking to bring joyful participation back into the lives of so many, may they enjoy the return of the means of social engagement whilst seeking to keep themselves and others safe and secure.
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:  Go forth and tell.

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 2nd August 2020

As we begin this act of worship for the first time in one of our churches we 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 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:

Almighty Lord and everlasting God,
We beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern
Both our hearts and bodies in the ways of your laws
And the works of your commandments;
That through your most mighty protection,
Both here and ever,
We may be preserved in body and soul;
Through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
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

We believe, O God of all Gods,
That you are the eternal God of life,
We believe, O God of all Gods,
That you are the eternal God of love.

We believe, O God and Maker of all creation,
That you are the creator of the high heavens,
That you are the creator of the deep seas,
That you are the creator of the stable earth.

We believe, O God of all the peoples,
That you created our souls and set their warp,
That you created our bodies and gave them breath,
That you made us in your own image.

We are giving you worship with our whole lives,
We are giving you assent with our whole power,
We are giving you our existence with our whole mind,
We are giving you kneeling with our whole desire.
(From a Celtic Liturgy: Iona Community.)

Hymn: Praise to the Lord the Almighty.

Readings: Isaiah 55:1-5, Romans 9:1-5,

Gospel Reading: Matthew 14: 13-21.

Reflection:

Feeding of the 5000  

I think this is one of the best known stories in the Gospel!

I always think on it whenever we celebrate an outdoor Eucharist.

I think of Jesus going off to a quiet place for a bit of a rest, something which I like to do myself. There is nothing better than a little seclusion to be able to spend a bit of quality time with God. I guess many of us will possibly have had enough seclusion for the time being, as we are only just being allowed to engage socially with one another during these difficult times. Yet seclusion is good for the soul! It is great for prayer! It is a good time to think, reflect and to seek to recharge.

Jesus really wanted to have a bit of rest and relaxation, he had just heard of the death of his kinsman John the Baptist and knew that his own ministry was about to enter into a new phase. He was tired from a round of preaching and teaching, and so he went off in search of a quiet and inhospitable place and he found it, the only thing was so did everybody else!

It would seem that they simply could not get enough from Jesus and wanted to hear more and brought many with them who needed his healing grace to rest upon them. So not wanting to let them down he gathered thousands around him and he healed them, and taught them about God and the promise of the Kingdom. But then it grew late, and people were beginning to grow restless as they were themselves tired and hungry. I know myself if I am at a conference and we are receiving lots of input throughout the day, my mind becomes tired and in order to continue to listen and to respond accordingly I need to be fed. My wife will tell you how grumpy I get if I am hungry!

Jesus recognised that those around him were in need of some nourishment and was keen to help them.

But he did not just jump in, he asked his disciples to feed them first just as a test, which of course they failed once more to fully grasp, looking at things physically rather than spiritually.

Then Jesus takes what is available and miraculously changes it.

5 loaves and 2 fish: what were they when faced with so many to feed!

But Jesus shows us that nothing is impossible for God!

And so he does a very special thing, he engages in a Eucharist in the outdoors!

Note the words that Matthew has so carefully placed before us:

Jesus took the bread and the fish

Then he blessed them

Then he broke them

Then he gave them.

Taking, blessing, breaking and giving: the four fold actions of every Eucharist in which we share.

In partaking of the Eucharist of life so little can indeed provide spiritual and physical sustenance for so many. Even leaving behind 12 baskets to be filled with what was left over. Symbolic yes of the 12 tribes of Israel, and yet also such a simple reminder of the providence of God and his abundant generosity.

I used this story about the abundant generosity of God at a baptism service once.

It was a very large baptism which was at our usual family service and so I placed a table at the back of church and filled it with bread of different kinds, simple bread, gourmet bread, unleavened bread, tiger bread, and French bread. All had been taken all had been blessed all were broken into little pieces. But in order to share them everyone was invited to taste just a little of each one and then to log down their favourite. We shared the bread in fellowship and with over 150 in church it did take rather a long time. But eventually everyone who wanted to partake did so. Then we had a vote with a show of hands and the one bread which was liked the most, was the simplest, one of the cheapest nothing special but something which was well known and well loved by many.

Things do not need to be extra special in order to be richly rewarding, Jesus knew all that God wants from us is simply ourselves just as we are warts and all!

Jesus in the feeding of the 5000 shared himself with them fully, ensuring that each and every one of them received a great deal from something so small and insignificant.

Reminding us again of the need for a simple approach to God to be able to fully partake in all of his eternal generosity.

Thanks be to God.

Reverend Clive

Hymn: Christ from whom all blessings flow.

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. 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.

We pray for all families today, as they begin to celebrate the Summer Season with their children. We pray that they may all keep safe and enjoy quality time together. Here at Sibsey, as we re-open for worship this day, we pray for your guidance to be with us as we seek to ensure a safe and secure environment for all those who have come to share in our fellowship.

We pray for all those Churches and places of worship which are to remain closed for the foreseeable future, 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. May the joy of Christ’s love wash over all his people and fill them with peace, hope and comfort.

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 continue to pray especially at this time for the hospitality sector and all those seeking to bring joyful participation back into the lives of so many, may they enjoy the return of the means of social engagement whilst seeking to keep themselves and others safe and secure.
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.

Letter from the Vicarage August 2020

Hooray! We are back to worship!

It was a sheer delight to be able to celebrate with 27 members of the Church Community at Brothertoft Church on Sunday 26th July, and I am really looking forward to worshiping at Sibsey for the first time on Sunday 2nd August.

It has been a challenge but I am indebted to the hard work and perseverance of so many people who have helped to make it possible for us to open our churches at all.

All the Church Wardens and volunteers have been brilliant! Risk assessments have all been done or are in process ready for various buildings to be opened. We have endeavoured to ensure that all of our buildings are Covid Secure and that we meet the guidelines which have been placed upon us.

There are so many people to thank, especially Mick Harrison and Shirley Rogers, Myrtle Phoenix and Glynis and Hilary Wilkinson amongst others who have helped prepare both Kirton Holme and Brothertoft Churches ready for meetings and for worship, to take the details of registration and to clean them so thoroughly.

Thanks to John Grooby and Nick Seath for their time and expertise in helping to prepare Sibsey Church for Sunday 2nd August, along with Helen and Clem Clement, Monica Everard and Ann Stubley, Stuart and James Hurst and of course my wife Carolyne who have all spent countless hours deep cleaning the church firstly for Individual Prayer and now in readiness for worship, it would not have been possible without them!

Although Holy Communion is still not available at the moment, once we have seen how things go in the various places of worship, then we will decide whether it is time to reintroduce the celebration of the Sacraments. In the meantime we are all sharing together the Morning Worship Service material and reflections which I am still posting online via Facebook and the various Church Websites and my thanks go to Andrew Everard, Jonathan Gendrot and Kate Beaumont for all that they do in keeping us available and up to date online!

I am also very pleased that Clergy, Readers and trained Worship Leaders have agreed to help cover some of the Churches over the next worship period with many thanks to Nicola Bradbury, Simon Spens, Marilyn Casey and June Orford and Reverend Christine Bonnywell for their willingness to lead worship over the coming months.

Although many challenges will continue to face us as the coming months unfold, it is truly joyful to be able once more to gather in church and to give thanks to God.

With my thanks to each and every one of you.

Reverend Clive

Morning Worship for 26th July 2020

As we begin this act of worship for the first time in one of our churches we 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 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:

Lord of all power and might,
The author and giver of all good things:
Graft in our hearts the love of your name,
Increase in us true religion,
Nourish us with all goodness,
And of your great mercy keep us in the same:
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

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you,
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And when you pass through rivers,
They shall not overwhelm you.
When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned:
And the flame shall not consume you.
Do not fear, for I am with you,
I am the Holy One, your Saviour.

Hymn: Lord thy word abideth. (For those at home only.)

In church music will be played for us to listen to reflectively.

Readings: 1 Kings 3:5-12,Romans 8:26-39,

In church music will be played for us to listen to reflectively.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:31-33. 44-52.

Reflection: This will be delivered by the Leader in church.

(For those at home a reflection will be sent through separately by Clive.)

Hymn: Eternal Father strong to save. (For those at home only.)

In church music will be played for us to listen to reflectively.

Reflection / Sermon

Parables of the Kingdom:

I love this piece of teaching in the Gospel of Matthew, as it reminds me of the effective use of parallelism!

Or put another way, the effective use of repeating the same message through a variety of different illustrations. Jesus came amongst us to proclaim the Kingdom of God, but then, just as now, people tend to get confused as to what the Kingdom will really be like. So Jesus gives them parables, short simple explanations easily digested but still holding within them considerable depth of meaning.

He starts with the mustard seed something that begins its life as such a tiny thing but then grows into something great and powerful. That is the first message which comes to us today, the fragility of faith, but if it is given a chance to grow it will do so at a surprising rate and become stronger and stronger as each day passes, so we see here an awareness of the Kingdom being amongst us with huge potential. Jesus then repeats the parabolic message by speaking of the woman with her yeast, carefully mixing it with her flour so that it was all leavened and ready to rise when baked in the oven. The emphasis here is in the need to put things into perspective and to measure the different qualities of faith together so as to get a good result.

I stray from my point just a little now as I share a personal experience of trying to do something recently which did not work out that well. I am not a very good baker but during lockdown I thought I might try my hand at making a carrot cake. I carefully measured out all the ingredients mixed them up following the directions popped it in the oven and after the required time out popped a cake which was as flat as a pancake and totally inedible.

Totally confused I asked my wife what I had done wrong and it would seem it had all to do with the mixing. I am not the gentlest person in the world when it comes to things in the kitchen! And it would seem my heavy handedness had created the problem, I did not get the consistency right hence the reason why the cake did not rise. In this parable Jesus reminds us that care and attention have to be taken when we are seeking to engage with the promise of God’s Kingdom.  

Then we come to the treasure story! At first glance this does not seem like a very good image at all, finding something then hiding it again, in order to purchase the hiding place so as to be the legal owner smacks of dishonesty to me. Surely the right thing to have done is to have shared the treasure with the rightful owner of the land at that time! Jesus however is using the story not so much to give teaching on being true and honest to others, but rather he highlights the fact that when the glory of the Kingdom is discovered it becomes so precious to us that we would happily give away all that we have in order to keep possession of it. This is a difficult message for us today when we are surrounded by so many things which we have desired and coveted over the years. It reminds me of the story of the rich young man who approached Jesus asking what he must do to inherit the kingdom, and when told to give away all that he had, he slipped away quietly refusing to do so because of how much he valued the possessions which he had gathered around him. So I guess that because of the mixed message of the previous parable Jesus repeats it but this time with the pearl of great value, giving emphasis in a clearer way of the true beauty of the promise of God’s kingdom and why we should seek to acquire it above all else.

Finally he speaks of the fishing net thrown into the sea which catches fish of every kind which at first glance seems to be a parable alluding to equality and acceptance, but sadly not!

for he then moves on to describe what occurs when it is full, and then on how we will finally be judged to see if we are worthy or not when we are sorted at the end of the age.  

I used a fishing net in a family service once in the presence of a former Bishop of Jarrow. Bishop Alan came to me afterwards to say how he did not like the net image, as it is a poor image when speaking about those who are caught for Jesus!

The net is not something which catches everything, for by its very make up it allows for tiny fish to escape. It also captures things which do not wish to be caught, and so does not speak of the universal loving acceptance of God to all his people.

If we are truly to respond to Christ’s message we cannot be forced to follow and obey, rather the Kingdom must be like the pearl of great price! We must want it so much that we are prepared to abandon everything else to hold on to it and to engage with it fully, as only then will its treasure be revealed and truly opened up for us.

The Kingdom of God is amongst us and it is beautiful to behold, so let us seek to engage with it fully in order that we and others may not be cast away but rather that all of God’s people may have the joy of living our lives within it. To the praise and glory of God.

Reverend Clive

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. 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.

We pray for our Benefice, as we re-open for worship this day, we pray for your guidance to be with us as we seek to ensure a safe and secure environment for those who will come to be with us.

We pray for regular members re-united with friends in the fellowship of the Church Community and we pray for all who have joined us for the first time, seeking to find some reassurance from God as we continue to go through the many changes placed upon us by our current situation.

We pray for all those Churches and places of worship which are to remain closed for the foreseeable future, 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. May the joy of Christ’s love wash over all his people and fill them with peace, hope and comfort.

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 continue to pray especially at this time for the hospitality sector and all those seeking to bring joyful participation back into the lives of so many, may they enjoy the return of the means of social engagement whilst seeking to keep themselves and others safe and secure.

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. (For those at home only.)

In church music will be played for us to listen to reflectively.

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.