Morning Worship for 7th February 20213 weeks ago
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.
Gilbert of Sempringham: Feast day 4th February.
Born in 1083 in Sempringham, the son of the squire, Gilbert became the parish priest in 1131. He encouraged the vocation of seven women of the town and formed them into a company of lay sisters. A group of lay brothers also came into being and they all kept the Benedictine Rule. Gilbert was unsuccessful in his bid to obtain pastoral guidance from Citeaux for the incipient communities and they came under the ambit of Augustinian canons Gilbert himself becoming the Master. At Gilbert’s death in 1189, aged 106, there were nine double monasteries in England and four of male canons only. It was the only purely English monastic foundation before the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the sixteenth century.
Collect for the Religious
Almighty God, By whose grace Gilbert kindled with the fire of your love, Became a burning and a shining light in the Church: Inflame us with the same spirit of discipline and love, That we may ever walk before you as children of light; 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.
Collect of the day
Almighty God, You have created the heavens and the earth And made us in your own image: Teach us to discern your hand in all your works And your likeness in all your children; Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, Who with you and the Holy Spirit Reigns supreme over all things, 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: Holy, Holy, Holy.
Readings: Proverbs 8: 1. 22-31, Colossians 1: 15-20.
Hymn: We have a Gospel to proclaim.
Gospel Reading: John 1: 1-14.
Sitting quietly on the top of Newton Tor in the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland the sun just beginning to set, darkness creeping like a shadowy blanket across the fells the wind blowing fiercely I discovered a cleft in the hilltop and I nestled within it, protected from the elements all I could see was the last remnants of the sun slowly disappearing when gently out of the ending of the day came a new beginning, an awakening like a chrysalis slowly breaking open, something new and of great beauty suddenly emerging, and life was never to be the same again.
This is what is meant by the transfiguring nature of a calling from God.
For when he touches our heart there is no going back, a call from God cannot be ignored it can of course be put on hold, but there will come a time when the call like the butterfly slowly emerging from its chrysalis will be ready to unfurl its wings to dry them in the sun and then to take to the air
Responding to a sense of call is deeply personal and yet there is also something more which is difficult to speak of, it cannot be formulated into simple words as it is too deep, too unique it is a sign and a sealing of ones heart into the Christ-like role of a servant
Servant-hood is not an element of personal choice widely accepted in today’s society. It is generally considered a sign of weakness a lack of success it is a term which is difficult to equate to leadership. For servant-hood does not speak of power and glory it speaks of subservience, of obedience it is the role of the servant to serve her master.
Who wants to be a servant?
In the ordinal from the Book of Common Prayer the Bishop says to those about to be ordained Priest the following:
Will you reverently obey your Ordinary and other chief Ministers, unto whom is committed the charge and government over you; following with a glad mind and will their godly admonitions and submitting yourselves to their godly judgements?
To which the potential Priests reply:
I will so do, the Lord being my helper
Servant-hood brings with it a willingness to be obedient to God and to his Church, which demands of those called; to seek to be Christ-like in all that they do. Such was the strength of vocational calling which encouraged Gilbert of Sempringham to build up his faithful communities of Lay Sisters and Brothers.
But what does it mean to be Christ-like in the world today. How are those who are called by God to respond and how are they to engage in that sense of calling which will allow them like the butterfly to be transfigured by God and so released into their full potential?
This vocational challenge is of course nothing new, as we have seen through the shining example of St. Gilbert, men and women have been called by God for generations, into service and into the role of a servant. We are all called to have deep and meaningful prayer lives but it is often the case that the business of life often relegates this prayerful activity to limited periods of engagement. Prayer is a crucial element of our Christian lives and for those exploring a sense of calling from God it is of the utmost importance. Prayer is often the medium through which our sense of calling comes and it is prayer which in itself has the power to transfigure. There is within every calling today an element of continuity which connects us to Jesus. And Clive Marsh captures this beautifully in his work on Christology.
Marsh recognises that theology begins with a human experience that is interpretable as the presence and action of God as known in Christ, and as known through our experience of and interpretation of doctrinal tradition. Through the compilation of both experience and tradition a sense of call is grounded in the reality of the past as well as in the present. Prayerful engagement is the medium through which we become Spiritual explorers.
We as Christians are all called to live out a Christian life, and to be a living witness to the faith, those called by God to be priestly become in the words of Austin Farrer The privilege of being a kind of walking sacrament an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace which is recognised by others as the presence of Christ in the community. This is a distinctive call placed upon those ordained into the priesthood, but alongside that distinctiveness lies the priesthood of all believers, through which and in which we are all engaged with the reality of living out our faith within the context of our lives.
For many this today will be a calling from God to be a minister in the workplace, it may mean that for many amongst you that God through Christ and through the office of ordination is now seeking to explore the sacramental nature implicit within our secular environment. This today is opening up many new approaches to ministry and the iconic presence of Christ in the Community is being reimagined. God is calling us out to re-examine and explore wider possibilities of service. We are being challenged by the Holy Spirit of God to recognise within ourselves that to which we are all being called. It is through our engagement with our community wherever that may be realised that we can truly become an iconic presence to others.
All Christians are witnesses and should be able to give a reason for the hope that is within them. For some however that could be a call to consider living in a distinctive community like those set up so long ago by St. Gilbert.
The monastic life is not for everyone however there is within it a sense of re-engagement with an authenticated spiritual life which is centred on generous hospitality, challenging reconciliation and centres of attentiveness to the living God.
Archbishop Rowan reminds us that Christianity encourages us to be faithful to the body, that I am a living body that can be hurt, a body that is always living in the middle of limitations: it encourages me to accept unavoidable frustration in this material and accident prone existence without anger. To talk about pledging the body to the walls in the sense of the fundamental decision to be where and who I am. In order to truly respond to a call from God we are called first to know ourselves more fully. And in the words of Amma Syncletica You can be a solitary in your mind even when you live in the middle of a crowd. And you can be a solitary and still live in the middle of the crowd of your own thoughts.
Here we see another distinctive means of witnessing to Jesus through a call into the solitary life but a life which can still be fully integrated into community, and a life which again is transfigured and brought alive and given power to transform and encourage others though the simplicity of the offering to God of oneself.
Finally to recognise and feel the transfiguring nature of a calling from God we must first of all look for it in our worshipping communities, encourage it to grow and to flourish through building people up into that which God has called them to be. Re-imagining Ministry is exactly what it says, it is not how we can change what we have but rather how we can begin to recognise afresh that which the Church really needs. Re-imagining ministry is not about filling the gaps and enabling that which we have to continue but rather it is to recognise the need for change, the need for some abandonment and the necessity of reforming the church into the creative and dynamic force it can truly be
When gently out of the ending of the day came a new beginning, an awakening like a chrysalis slowly breaking open, something new and of great beauty suddenly emerging and life was never to be the same again.
This is what is meant by the transfiguring nature of a calling from God.
I conclude with a prayer from John Pritchard:
Gracious God, You have given us the privilege of an open door to your presence. When life is shining and full, inhabit our joy. When life is grinding slowly on, touch us with your life. When we long for a clearer vision of you, open our gauze-covered eyes. When we studiously avoid your gaze, tempt us with your forgiving smile. Lead us inexorably to the fulfilment of our lives in the service of your Son. So that, dipped in God and cherished by your Spirit, we may come to you, three times blessed, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hymn: How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.
Prayers for others
This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.
We come boldly to the throne of grace, Let us pray to the Father through Christ who is our light and life. Heavenly Father, hear us as we pray this day in thanksgiving for the life and witness of St. Gilbert of Sempringham, as we remember all those women and men whom he called to witness in your name, we give thanks today for all surviving monastic communities and for the life of prayer and contemplation which they lead, holding us all in prayer throughout the complexity of our everyday lives. We pray for the Diocesan team of vocational directors, and for all who seek to encourage and stimulate an awareness of personal calling amongst your faithful people. We pray for all being called into your church both Lay and Ordained, may your grace rest upon them, that they may feel your presence within them. Father, your Christ in his temple brings judgement on the world: Look in mercy on the nations, who long for his justice. We pray especially for the divisions within American Society, and the tensions and turmoil so evident in that nation. May the faith which is so strong among them build them up and unite them together peacefully in the name of the Lord. Father we pray that you may continue to look in mercy on the needy in our world today. We pray for all struggling with the current pandemic, for all in hospital receiving critical care, we pray for their families and loved ones separated from them at this time. We continue to pray for all the carers, for Doctors, Nurses, Ancillary workers, Ambulance drivers, and for all within the NHS, be with them through their current struggles strengthen them in body and mind so that they may all stay safe and well. Father, your Christ is the one in whom faithful servants find their peace, look in mercy on the departed, that they may see your salvation. We pray with a heavy heart as so many of our loved ones have been taken from us, for those who will rest within your loving embrace we give you thanks. For those who mourn their loved ones we pray that your love may rest upon them and bring them comfort amidst their sorrow. Amen.
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, Jesus I have promised.
A Reading from the last letter of St. Gilbert to his canons
My dear sons, while God gave me power, whenever I came to visit you, I always invited you and drew you towards the love of God, as far as I could and knew how. I pray that my care of you may have found its fruition in lives lived for God. And now I am almost without any strength in my body. I am putting off this covering of the flesh; a way is opening up for me to depart from a life which for a long time now has been hard and weary for me. I cannot speak to you any longer with my voice so by this letter I urge you, for the love of God and for the salvation of your souls, be on the watch ever more carefully to overcome evil and set forward righteousness. Observe the whole Rule of our Order vigilantly and strictly, for you have been set free from the cares of business by the work of the lay brothers, so that you may have the chance to exercise the religious life in all its rigour I have specially gathered you together so that our Order may be ruled and protected by your unwavering religious observance. If you think my care of you has been useful and right, my sons, pray to the Lord, that he may not enter into judgement with me, but by his great gentleness may wipe away my sins and give me everlasting rest. To you whom I leave behind, I give the peace and mercy of God, his blessing and my own. May our joy in each other ever increase before the Lord, and may he himself be glad in us and because of us, whose kingdom and power are everlasting. Amen.
As we prepare to leave And embrace the challenges Of our lives and our world, Let us ask for God’s blessing. May God bless us with strength to seek justice. Amen. May God bless us with wisdom to care for our earth. Amen. May God bless us with love to bring forth new life. Amen. In the name of God, the maker of the whole world, of Jesus, our new covenant, And of the Holy Spirit, who opens eyes and hearts. Amen. And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.