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Sunday, 13 June 2021
It was a beautiful early summer morning this Sunday when we met for our Parish eucharist at 10 am. The Church Yard Working Party have done a great job of tidying up the churchyard and it was looking particularly lovely in the sunshine. We are on our journey through Trinity now, and the Gospel told us of one of Jesus Parables, the story of the mustard seeds. In his sermon Father Roger discussed the use of Parables in the Gospels and how they make us work hard to deeper understanding of the Good News. You can read his words below. Our Covid Choir sang hymns and as an anthem 'Fairest Lord Jesus' a traditional hymn, set to a Silesian folk tune. 
We left church after the service to enjoy the beautiful weather,  refreshed and spiritually renewed.
the Covid Choir

Socially distanced congregation









 2 Corinthians 5:6-20, 14-17

.A reading from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians

Brothers and sisters,

we are always confident; 
even though we know that while we are at home in the body 
we are away from the Lord— 

for we walk by faith, not by sight. 

Yes, we do have confidence, 
and we would rather be away from the body 
and at home with the Lord. 

So whether we are at home or away, 
we make it our aim to please him. 

For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, 
so that each may receive recompense 
for what has been done in the body, 
whether good or evil. 

The love of Christ urges us on, 
because we are convinced that one has died for all;
therefore all have died. 

And he died for all, 
so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, 
but for him who died and was raised for them. 

From now on, therefore, we regard no one 
from a human point of view; 
even though we once knew Christ 
from a human point of view, 
we know him no longer in that way. 

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: 
everything old has passed away; 
see, everything has become new! 


Mark 4:26-34

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.

Such a large crowd gathered around Jesus
that he got into a boat and began to teach them using many parables.

Jesus said, 
"The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 

and would sleep and rise night and day, 
and the seed would sprout and grow, 
he does not know how. 

The earth produces of itself, 
first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 

But when the grain is ripe, 
at once he goes in with his sickle,
 because the harvest has come." 

Jesus also said, 
"With what can we compare the kingdom of God, 
or what parable will we use for it? 

It is like a mustard seed, 
which, when sown upon the ground, 
is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 3

yet when it is sown it grows up 
and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, 
and puts forth large branches, 
so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." 

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, 
as they were able to hear it; 

he did not speak to them except in parables, 
but he explained everything in private to his disciples. 


Collect

Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Chrsit's sake,
who is alive and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit
one God, now and forever.
Amen.


Address

A congenial Gospel reading – plants, one of my passions. And ‘parables’, - the word links to Maths, parabolas, another of my favourites. y = ax2 + b, that sort of thing. But we must spot the main issue here. These stories might be parables about plants, but they are Jesus’ “parables of the Kingdom”. It is the Kingdom of God that we must have an eye to!

Jesus speaks about the Kingdom using many parables. The thing about a parabola in maths is that it is a curve which heads for a certain line, but never gets there. As it approaches, it veers off and turns back away again. So - a parable points to something, but doesn’t get there and spell it out – we have to think out where Jesus is pointing.

The Kingdom is obviously about the world, and people, being in line with what God wants. We look at the world, and look at ourselves, and look at the Church, and think, ‘O dear!’  Things don’t seem ideal, maybe rather depressing. But these parables today are actually meant to encourage us.
 
One of the crops I like to grow, in a small way, is early potatoes. As long as the soil is in reasonable shape, you plant the seed tubers, and – apart from perhaps keeping the frost off the shoots, if needed – you don’t do a lot, and get on with something else. It seems that nothing special is happening. But, but, the new potatoes develop, and when they are ready, we’re very interested then, and actively enjoy the crop, as I’ve been for the last week or so.

Our first parable is along those lines. The man sows seed; he doesn’t seem to do anything very special, but, in due course, - great! A valuable crop has been arriving. When it’s come, the man is suddenly active and excited, enjoying the harvest.

In the second of today’s parables, the tiny seed gradually becomes an impressive plant. How did that happen? We’re not sure. We may have planted a seed, but probably haven’t done anything very special towards the big successful outcome. 

So, in each case, a low-key, apparently insignificant action, followed by very little action, remarkably delivers the goods.

Jesus, it seems, is speaking of himself, and his friends and the Kingdom of God which he announces. On the face of it, Jesus is an untrained disloyal Jew going round with a group who are very far from being the leaders or scholars of their society. Jesus may see himself and his few followers as looking like a very unpromising new little group to have the momentous job of announcing the Kingdom - the great new stage of all of humanity’s life with God.

But Jesus was very likely familiar with a passage in the prophet Ezekiel, a picture about God making a very big tree grow from a very unlikely little cutting, - so that birds will come to nest in it. That picture is about God restoring the nation’s life - beginning in a very small unpromising way. 

The passage from Ezekiel goes like this:
‘“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. ‘“I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.”’
Ezekiel 17:22-24

So Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed might be Jesus teaching that what he and his friends, - at first sight few and insignificant, - what they bring, is nothing less than the Kingdom, the great new stage of life with God. Jesus may well have known that when Ezekiel spoke about the unlikely little cedar cutting growing huge, he had hoped God would bring a great new stage of things. Ezekiel had wanted to inspire hope and confidence in God around the time the Jews were exiled in Babylon nearly 600 years before Jesus. Assurance that God can work through small beginnings.

We may well get exasperated with the Church. The whole Church has long been very divided. I find the deep divisions in the Church of England, which have now become institutionalised, and, seemingly, made permanent, - I find that inappropriate and painful, on a daily basis. In the Church some grapple with unfair workloads whilst others seem not to be contributing. Financial constraints seem to destroy sensible and appropriate clergy staffing and decent patterns of worship in many places. Clergy training moves in questionable directions. There are moves by some to try to get the bishops’ pay cut and one diocesan bishop has met a rebellion! But we must soldier on as best we may. The parable seems to say that, - in spite of all - ‘It’s essentially alright – God is accomplishing things – persevere and try to see the good’. 

Remember, too, that – as in a conflict - the frontier of God’s Kingdom is never static. It advances and retreats, and its boundary runs through our very selves. We, as individuals will not often be completely on the side of the angels!

There is a quote somewhere, which, I can’t find, to the effect that the Church has an uneasy history, and many and obvious current flaws, but it is only through the Church that any of us has received the Gospel, and it is only through the Church that future generations will receive the Gospel. We have to hang in, and we should do so with real hope. 

Fr Roger
Sunday, 6 June 2021
 This morning we set about ‘Beating the bounds’-not of the parish-but of the churchyard. Due to the current Covid regulations our Rogation walk was restricted to only consecrated ground. After singing ‘Morning has broken’ we walked to the kissing gate area and prayed for the arable farm down Church Farm Lane. We continued then to the extension to the churchyard and saw that Chris Spiby had put a few of his cows in the adjacent field. The children among us were delighted to see them!  We prayed for all farmers who have animals which provide us with food. After that we thought about the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and we were reminded of the contribution of insects as Jane Robinson had brought a hive, minus bees, for us to see. Continuing on we prayed for all domestic animals and appreciated the presence of two pet dogs walking with us. Then, at the north gate with thanked God for our gardens and the green spaces. Finally, we gathered at the church entrance where, after a prayer, we sang ‘For the beauty of the earth’. Father Roger then said a final blessing.

 








2 Corinthians 4:13 - 5:1

A reading from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

Just as we have the same spirit of faith 
that is in accordance with scripture—
“I believed, and so I spoke”—
we also believe, and so we speak, 

because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus 
will raise us also with Jesus, 
and will bring us with you into his presence. 

Yes, everything is for your sake, 
so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, 
may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. 
Even though our outer nature is wasting away, 
our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 

For this slight momentary affliction 
is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 

because we look not at what can be seen 
but at what cannot be seen; 
for what can be seen is temporary, 
but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, 
we have a building from God, 
a house not made with hands, 
eternal in the heavens.


Mark 3:20-35

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.

The crowd came together again, 
so that they could not even eat. 

When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, 
for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, 
“He has Beelzebul, 
and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 

And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, 
“How can Satan cast out Satan? 

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 

And if a house is divided against itself, 
that house will not be able to stand. 

And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, 
he cannot stand, but his end has come. 

But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property 
without first tying up the strong man; 
then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, 
people will be forgiven for their sins 
and whatever blasphemies they utter; 

but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit 
can never have forgiveness, 
but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 

for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; 
and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 

A crowd was sitting around him; 
and they said to him, 
“Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, 
asking for you.” 

And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 

And looking at those who sat around him, he said, 
“Here are my mother and my brothers! 

Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Sunday, 30 May 2021
This morning we met at 10 am for a Parish Eucharist celebrated by Father Roger. We have reached Trinity Sunday, and this was reflected in our Hymns, readings and in Father Roger's sermon. The Covid Choir, now down to 6 people as per the guidelines, sang the Alleluias of St James as the anthem. We were blessed with a beautiful sunny morning most welcome after such a cold and wet month.



 




Romans 8:12-17

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans.

Brothers and sisters,
we are debtors, not to the flesh, 
to live according to the flesh— 

for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; 
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, 
you will live. 

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery 
to fall back into fear, 
but you have received a spirit of adoption. 
When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 

it is that very Spirit bearing witness
with our spirit that we are children of God, 

and if children, then heirs, 
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—
if, in fact, we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.


John 3:1-17

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, 
a leader of the Jews. 

He came to Jesus by night and said to him, 
“Rabbi, 
we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; 
for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 

Jesus answered him, 
“Very truly, I tell you, 
no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

Nicodemus said to him, 
“How can anyone be born after having grown old? 
Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 

Jesus answered, 
“Very truly, I tell you, 
no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 

What is born of the flesh is flesh, 
and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Do not be astonished that I said to you, 
‘You must be born from above.’

The wind blows where it chooses, 
and you hear the sound of it, 
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. 
So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 

Nicodemus said to him,
“How can these things be?” 

Jesus answered him, 
"Are you a teacher of Israel, 
and yet you do not understand these things?

“Very truly, I tell you, 
we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; 
yet you do not receive our testimony. 

If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, 
how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 

No one has ascended into heaven 
except the one who descended from heaven, 
the Son of Man.

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, 
so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 

that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world 
that he gave his only Son, 
so that everyone who believes in him may not perish 
but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world 
to condemn the world, 
but in order that the world might be saved through him."


Address

Today, Trinity Sunday. Last autumn we had ideas of God the Father, in Advent and at Harvest. Then, from Christmas to Ascension, we focussed specially on the life, death and Resurrection of God the Son, and then, last Sunday, at Pentecost, we focussed on God the Holy Spirit. Today is something of a summing up of all that, our vision of God as the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are three momentous readings set for today, of which we heard two. All having to do with how we see God.

It is in the name of the Trinity that we are baptised, and it is our understanding of God as Trinity that sets us apart from the other faiths which follow one God. For us the idea of the Trinity is a rather startling but wonderful mystery, but for Jews, Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses it is something shocking and distasteful which they cannot take on board.

If you we were to ask what happens next in our year, after Trinity Sunday, the summer is largely about attending to Jesus’ actual teachings, except when we meet a saint’s day.

The reading which we didn’t hear was a famous one from Isaiah the prophet, set way before any ideas of the Trinity. The great prophets often had special experiences at the time when they realised that they had their demanding vocation, and when they had to then decide whether to rise to it. So it is that Isaiah says that he had a vision of God in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem around 740 BC. In Isaiah chapter 6 we read: ‘In the year that King Uzziah died,’ says Isaiah, ‘I saw the Lord, high and lifted up, and his train filled the Temple’.

‘I saw the Lord’, said Isaiah. But the giddy truth is that he cannot tell us anything much of God at all. Isaiah speaks of God’s train, of his angelic attendants, of smoke, of the building shaking. But of God himself he can actually say nothing. But he does feel deeply unworthy, and God somehow helps him with that, and Isaiah is willing for the work that he’s called to as a prophet. But he is told that his ministry will be a disaster, people will not respond. And Isaiah asks how long problems will continue, and the answer comes, ‘until the land is desolate’. Saying that following God has to be open-ended, we can’t have expectations or make conditions. Many, perhaps, would like the idea of serving God if success as a minister would have guaranteed results, and be certain to have prestige and a nice career. Many people might have a notion of serving God, but quite likely in an uncostly, advisory capacity, but it doesn’t work like that! But, whatever happens to Isaiah himself, the message seems to be that God’s initiatives and people’s faithful efforts will bear fruit in the end.

In the next reading, from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we are told that God, - following his help to us in Christ - God is going to help us work with him, if we are willing, by somehow himself dwelling within our very selves. So that we will know God, as the human Jesus did, as Abba, Father.

A little diversion. Over the years my three children have often called me ‘Father’, rather than ’Dad’.  Father, a perfectly normal word. The Jews have their special polite and reverent word to address God, in their prayers, ‘Abinu’. Jesus changed that by using ‘Abba’, the common, intimate word for father, used in the family. We are now, as Christians, drawn into that intimate relationship with God ….. but do we actually want that? Aren’t we much more comfortable keeping God at a distance?

Time was, even recently, when 'thee’s and ‘thou’s, were an intimate way of talking. But not so much now. But they seem to have survived, in the Church, as a formal respectful language for addressing God. But God in Christ has gone to great lengths to come alongside us as one of us, wanting to draw us into an amazing intimate relationship with him, using the normal familiar word for father. If we then, in the name of respect, decline the intimate, and use rather cold, and distant, ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s it is, - perhaps, a questionable approach, - which might suggest that we want to keep God – ever so respectfully – at a safe distance from us, whether he wants that or not!

A number of other thoughts occur. Even before the pandemic, social isolation, was coming to be seen as an issue. That is, apparently, where some people have no one close to them at all, with whom to share their lives. 

The doctrine of the Trinity suggests that within God himself there is a community of love. Community somehow at the heart of things. The love within the Trinity somehow spilled over to create us and share life with us.

If God is indeed, - as the hymn says, - the ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind’, and if true life is about relationship with him, and humanity is intended to be a community, God’s family. If all that is true, then the Church has a big challenge. Tackling social isolation is very much something for us.

But challenges for the Church are great. We must show to the world the most genuine sort of human community. The Church must be a model of good community. But we actually have glaring failings. The safeguarding situation has been light years away from being a model for the world. Our record on racism is iffy. Jesus prayed on the night before his death that his followers might be one, that the world may believe. Mission and Unity go together. The divisions in the Church make us unimpressive, and evangelism difficult. We can’t even agree globally when to celebrate Christmas and Easter, or agree within our local Anglican Church as to which of our own priests we can receive communion from, with what some call ‘safety and confidence’.

And we must be careful not to, thoughtlessly, imitate secular ways of doing business, in our methods of Church government, of making money, and in our systems of honours, prestige, careers and titles. The Pope wisely told his cardinals that they should get themselves red woollen cassocks, - expensive flashy red silk ones are not really appropriate, chaps.

The Church in England has much to do. We are getting deeper into a minority situation. The majority of the population, I think, is apparently, no longer wanting Anglican bishops in the House of Lords, or seeing them as relevant to the Country’s life. Besides trying to help our communities, where help is needed, and besides trying to do the right things about the environment, we need to build up our people by study of Bible and Doctrine, working with all ages, and focussing on good liturgy every Sunday.

Time was when the Church was at the centre of community life. If we try to behave like that now, in a largely secular world, people understandably resent that. We are thought to be punching above our weight. But, the local Church is nevertheless called to exhibit something special about true humanity and true community, while, at the same time, having to relate suitably to non-church, secular, community organisations with their different visions and aspirations. But, in doing so, the Church of the living God cannot thoughtlessly retreat, and lapse into seeing itself as just one more group among many, which would be to betray our calling. Our relationship is with God, the Trinity, a God embodying true community within his very self, and we mustn’t lose that focus.

Fr Roger

Sunday, 23 May 2021
On an unseasonably wet and cool day we met at 10 am for the Eucharist of Pentecost. The Celebrant was Father Roger, and the Covid Choir sang Pentecostal hymns, including 'Come Down Oh Love Divine' and as a motet during Communion a Hymn from New English Praise 'Spirit of God unseen as the wind' words by M V Old, set to an arrangement of the Scottish folk melody the Skye Boat Song. 
Father Roger preached the sermon, and for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, the Sunday School children came into church to receive communion or a blessing as appropriate. They were wearing crowns of flames that they had made during their session signifying the arrival of the Holy Spirit. They had also made biscuits to enjoy after Sunday school














 

 Acts 2:1-21

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

When the day of Pentecost had come, 
they were all together in one place. 

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound 
like the rush of a violent wind, 
and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, 
and a tongue rested on each of them. 

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit 
and began to speak in other languages, 
as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven 
living in Jerusalem. 

And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, 
because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 

Amazed and astonished, they asked, 
“Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 

And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 

Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, 
Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 

Phrygia and Pamphylia, 
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, 
and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 

Cretans and Arabs—
in our own languages we hear them speaking 
about God’s deeds of power.” 

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 
“What does this mean?” 

But others sneered and said, 
“They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice 
and addressed them, 
“Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, 
let this be known to you, 
and listen to what I say. 

Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, 
for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 

No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams.

Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
        and they shall prophesy.

And I will show portents in the heaven above
    and signs on the earth below,
        blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

The sun shall be turned to darkness    and the moon to blood,
        before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord 
shall be saved.’


John 15:26-27;16:4-15

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

Jesus spoke to his disciples:

“When the Advocate comes, 
whom I will send to you from the Father, 
the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father,
he will testify on my behalf. 

You also are to testify 
because you have been with me from the beginning.

I have said these things to you 
so that when their hour comes you may remember 
that I told you about them.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, 
because I was with you. 

But now I am going to him who sent me; 
yet none of you asks me, 
‘Where are you going?’ 

But because I have said these things to you, 
sorrow has filled your hearts. 

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: 
it is to your advantage that I go away, 
for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; 
but if I go, I will send him to you. 

And when he comes, 
he will prove the world wrong about sin
and righteousness and judgment: 

about sin, because they do not believe in me; 

about righteousness, because I am going to the Father 
and you will see me no longer; 

about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

“I still have many things to say to you, 
but you cannot bear them now. 

When the Spirit of truth comes, 
he will guide you into all the truth; 
for he will not speak on his own, 
but will speak whatever he hears, 
and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 

He will glorify me, 
because he will take what is mine 
and declare it to you. 

All that the Father has is mine. 
For this reason I said that he will take what is mine 
and declare it to you."


Address

Pentecost today – a major festival, and many may feel it good and right that we have a Eucharist this morning, when often we don’t.

In the reading from Acts, we find that the disciples - we’re not sure exactly which disciples - are meeting together, still nervous following Jesus’ execution, but happy he is risen. Jesus had died and risen at Passover time. We are now at Pentecost, seven weeks after. The disciples are doing what Jesus told them to do, and prayerfully waiting together in Jerusalem for the next stage of things. It is then that they have a strange experience, ‘like wind and fire’. Some congregations will share a birthday cake today because it was at that time that the Church was born as a group who started to go out boldly and draw others in.

To understand this story, we need to look at some older stories. Firstly, Adam and Eve. A timeless story, saying, really, that the root of mankind’s problems is that we don’t work with God. Adam and Eve wanted to make their own rules, and wouldn’t cooperate when God told them not to eat the fruit. Later on in Genesis, in chapter 11, we have the story of the Tower of Babel. People again wanting to do their own thing. They might believe in God, but they weren’t going to let him be in charge. They thought that God was somewhere up the heavens. So, they said, ‘Let’s get ourselves up there too, on a level with him. We can be in charge’. To build the big tower, they had to work together. But, in the tale, God thinks, ‘I’ll put them in their place.’ He makes them all speak different languages, so they can’t work together, or build their tower.

Things in the New Testament bring something new from God, to humanity’s situation. Unlike Adam, the human Jesus did cooperate completely with the Almighty, and was at one with him. So, St Paul calls Jesus the Second Adam - and Jesus is in real history - not in a timeless story like the first Adam. Newman in the hymn which we will know, speaks of Jesus as ‘a higher gift than Grace’, refining our humanity, and writes, ‘a Second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came.’ Grace is a lifegiving relationship, with himself, that God offers us. But Jesus is a higher gift still, ‘God’s presence and his very self, and essence all divine.’

Just as Jesus reverses Adam’s disobedience, the Christian Pentecost is an absolute reversal of the Tower of Babel story. In that story we have people who, like Adam and Eve, didn’t want to work with God. At Pentecost, the disciples are waiting and praying and very much ready to work with God. In the old story of the proposed tower, language barriers appeared, but, at the Christian Pentecost, strangely, language barriers are overcome, and the Gospel starts moving out into the world.

The Church, has a special relationship with God, changing the lives of individuals, and congregations, and the Spirit works through the sacraments, but, - having said all of that - God can be active in others, especially those of goodwill, whether they know it or not, or know about him, or not. It is not always our role to bring the things of the God to a situation, but to try to glimpse where he is, there ahead of us, and then to co-operate with him.

The Spirit is a ‘he’ – or even a ‘she’ – a person, not an ‘it’. To speak of the Spirit’s presence and activity is to speak of glimpsing God’s presence and activity. ‘Glimpsing’, because we must not be too hasty in telling people exactly what God is about, which would often be to presume too much. The Church, collectively, has to try to discern what God is about, and can still sometimes get it wrong.

One big message of Pentecost is there, for our personal lives, especially if we face difficulties. Look to God patiently, wait, and pray. The same approach for a congregation, at a time of uncertainty and change.

When I was in Wales, in one Order for Communion, you ended readings not by saying, ‘this is the word of the Lord’, but, ‘Hear what the Spirit says to the Church’. A lady churchwarden, whose father had been an Archdeacon, and whose brother became a bishop, told me, ‘We don’t want that sort of thing here’! But by heaven, they needed it!

As Pentecost is something of a Birthday Party, we might end today on the light side. Two questions: ‘at what age do you stop playing with toys?’ and, ‘why am I asking this question?’ I’m asking because I don’t know! At 77, I’ve not having reached that age! So I’ve thought of a toy for Pentecost.

We don’t know exactly which of the disciples were present in the room at Pentecost. We might think, probably, the twelve apostles, but Judas had left, to be replaced by Matthias. Some think Mary might have been there, and maybe Jesus’ brothers. In a very arbitrary way, we’ll say fourteen people.

I took 14 circles of paper, half black, half white, and laid them flat, in a nice pattern. When the individuals were willing to work together and be part of a larger plan, – as the disciples were at Pentecost – then something strange can happen. The group of individuals seems less flat and ordinary, especially when the pattern is spun round!

And the circle of paper that is called to serve at the very centre of things, and to do lots of rushing round, will be the least one of all. Didn’t Jesus say something like that about how leaders in the Church should behave?



Fr Roger





Sunday, 16 May 2021
This morning, the third Sunday in May, we had Mattins at 10am, and we were joined by Father Luke, the Archdeacon, who took the service. The readings were from the King James Version of the Bible, and we said the Venite and the Te Deum, and the Covid Choir sang the set psalm and the Jubilate in the setting in B flat by  CV Stanford. The choir also sang 'God has Gone up' setting by Croft as the anthem and 3 hymns. 
Father Luke preached and took as his text words from the Te Deum exploring the Ascension of Our Lord as a joyful event, allowing Our Lord to be with us in all places and all times, and anticipating the arrival of the Holy Spirit with Pentecost next weekend. 
The Sunday School have resumed their previous arrangements using the bubbles they are in at school and each bubble attending alternate weeks. 




It was Bubble A’s turn this week to meet at Sunday School.  They learnt about the Ascension of Jesus and made models of him going up into heaven.  Some of the children showed the Archdeacon their models after the service! 

Many thanks to Father Luke for joining us this morning




  


Isaiah 14:3-15

3And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve,

4That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!

5The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers.

6He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.

7The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.

8Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.

9Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.

10All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?

11Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.

12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

13For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

15Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.


Revelation 14:1-13

1And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.

2And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:

3And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.

4These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.

5And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

6And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,

7Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

8And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

9And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,

10The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:

11And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

12Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

13And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
 8AM

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

In those days Peter stood up among the believers
(together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons).
He said, 

“Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, 
which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, 
who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— 

for he was numbered among us 
and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

So one of the men who have accompanied us 
during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 

beginning from the baptism of John 
until the day when he was taken up from us—
one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 

So they proposed two, 
Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 

Then they prayed and said, 
“Lord, you know everyone’s heart. 
Show us which one of these two you have chosen 

to take the place in this ministry and apostleship 
from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 

And they cast lots for them, 
and the lot fell on Matthias; 
and he was added to the eleven apostles.


John 15:26-16.4

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to John.

“When the Advocate comes, 
whom I will send to you from the Father, 
the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, 
he will testify on my behalf. 

You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

 “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. 

They will put you out of the synagogues. 
Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you 
will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. 

And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. 

But I have said these things to you 
so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.
Thursday, 13 May 2021
This evening at 7:30 we held a Eucharist in celebration of the Ascension of our Lord. The celebrant was Father Roger, who also preached, the text of his sermon can be found below. The Choir sang three hymns, and as the Anthem 'God is gone up' By William Croft. This was a joyful service marking the end of Easter tide, and looking forward to the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

The service on Sunday is Mattins, and we welcome Father Luke, the Archdeacon to St Marys. There will be an 8am Holy Communion service taken by Father Roger.


 Acts 1:1-11

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

In the first book, Theophilus, 
I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 

until the day when he was taken up to heaven, 
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit 
to the apostles whom he had chosen. 

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them 
by many convincing proofs, 
appearing to them during forty days 
and speaking about the kingdom of God. 

While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, 
but to wait there for the promise of the Father. 
“This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 

for John baptized with water, 
but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit 
not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, 
“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 

He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods 
that the Father has set by his own authority. 

But you will receive power 
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; 
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, 
in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

When he had said this, as they were watching, 
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 

While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, 
suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 

They said, “Men of Galilee, 
why do you stand looking up toward heaven? 
This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, 
will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”


Luke 24:44-53

Jesus said to the disciples,
“These are my words that I spoke to you 
while I was still with you—
that everything written about me in the law of Moses, 
the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 

and he said to them,
“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer 
and to rise from the dead on the third day, 

and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed 
in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 

You are witnesses of these things. 

And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; 
so stay here in the city 
until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, 
and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 

While he was blessing them, 
he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.

And they worshiped him, 
and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 

and they were continually in the temple blessing God.


At Christmas, baby Jesus was first seen in the world. Thirty something years later, at Ascension, he goes from sight. It is a momentous occasion: today a major Holy Day. Above all, a happy occasion. We celebrate all that God has done in Christ. We celebrate that Jesus has completed his very demanding vocation among us, his suffering now past, and that he takes our humanity, which he first embraced at Christmas, forward to a new stage of life. It has seemed to some that in England, nature usually celebrates Ascension-tide with the attractive flowers of cow parsley!

Jesus’ Ascension was a turning point for the early Church and soon it would be Pentecost. The Church will then be on a path of inspired expansion, reaching down to our own day. Without it we wouldn’t be here, and nor would this building.

Jesus went from sight. The cloud receiving him - a symbol of God’s presence. Heaven not being straight upwards, needing a space rocket! Ascension is essentially about Jesus’ status. A headteacher is ‘over’ a school. That’s about status and importance, not about being airborne. Jesus has gone up - in people’s estimation – gone up, in fact, to the maximum – now he is to be worshiped as at one with God himself. 

Notice, that it is at the very time when people are confident in worshipping Jesus as God, that he goes from sight. That seems very appropriate – you can hardly worship as God someone sitting alongside you. Jesus, similarly, disappears from sight when the disciples recognise him as the risen Lord, at the meal when they’ve walked with him to Emmaus.

Jesus, first seen as God’s incarnate Son at Christmas and last seen at Ascension when his friends finally worship him as God incarnate, and Risen. These are exactly the ideas which separate us from the Jews and Muslims. For them, ‘God incarnate’ is a deeply offensive idea, and worshipping Jesus as God is quite shocking and inappropriate.

We might think today, also, of the whole business of having a God. Who, or what, we worship is perhaps best seen in what we do, and are seen to value, rather than what we say. People might well be attracted to Church life because of friendship, social events, music or whatever. And those things are good, and the Church must be welcoming to all. But at the heart of things must be the love of God and the worship of God, and the humility and sacrifice that goes with that. Parishes, especially when they are struggling, as some are, tend to welcome any leaders who have energy, willingness, money, and ability. All good, but there must also be significant Godliness, or else the energy keeps others from contributing, the less willing are not encouraged to play the part which God wills for them, spending money gets wrongly prioritised, the piper calling the tune, the ability is turned to personal power, which might be very well-meaning or become self-aggrandisement. In the end, the household of God is not a true household, nor a fitting household of God. 

We bear witness to Christ’s Resurrection and his status, and membership of his household, and rejoice in those things, not just on this special day, but constantly. 

Fr Roger

Service Times

First Sunday in the Month:
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Family Service

Second Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Third Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Sung Matins

Fourth Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Variations can be found in the Parish Magazine or the Calendar at the bottom of this page.

Useful links


Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:


  1. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  2. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  3. Prayer for today.
  4. The C of E youtube channel.
  5. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  6. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.

Please note that St Mary's are not responsible for the contents of external links

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