Local Traffic

Popular Posts

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Audio files are available on "The Message" page.


Pentecost’, Giotto di Bondone (1266-1336), Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

Dear Friends

Although not so numerous as those for Christmas and Easter, the Feast of Pentecost has a number of hymns for the season, mostly invoking the Holy Spirit to come upon us – ‘Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire’ is a particularly well-known example, composed by John Cosin (1594-1672), and based on the Latin Veni, creator Spiritus. It is quite often sung at confirmations and ordinations.

Another ‘responsory’, based on a psalm, goes ‘Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people, and kindle in them the fire of your love; send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.’

As I write, we are still in ‘lockdown’, and one unforeseen beneficial side-effect of this has been the ‘renewal of the face of the earth’. The enforced relaxation of human activity has given nature a chance to renew itself – skies are less cluttered with vapour trails, and the reduction of vehicles on the roads has given towns and cities cleaner air. I’m sure you can think of other benefits of this kind. Of course, we are also aware, conversely, of deleterious effects on the economy, but it does raise the question as to whether we need to, or should, return to our previous frenetic ways – do we really need, for example, to make so many journeys in gas-guzzling vehicles, or to continue to be such ‘frequent fliers’?

The present crisis has given us pause to reflect more deeply on how much we depend upon our planet’s natural resources, and whether we might organize our lives in more ‘eco-friendly’ ways – no longer simply as consumers, but as responsible stewards of God’s creation.

Perhaps this Pentecost, we might ask the Holy Spirit to come upon us afresh, as individuals, and as a community of faith, so that not only we, but the whole face of the earth, can be renewed?

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Feast of Pentecost

God, who as at this time
taught the hearts of your faithful people
by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit:
grant us by the same Spirit
to have a right judgement in all things
and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort;
through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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.'

Psalm 104.25-35, 37

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
in wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

Yonder is the great and wide sea
with its living things too many to number,
creatures both small and great.

There move the ships,
and there is that Leviathan,
which you have made for the sport of it.

All of them look to you
to give them their food in due season.

You give it to them, they gather it;
you open your hand and they are filled with good things.

You hide your face and they are terrified;
you take away their breath
and they die and return to their dust.

You send forth your Spirit and they are created;
and so you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
may the Lord rejoice in all his works.

He looks at the earth and it trembles;
he touches the mountains and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will praise my God while I have my being.

May these words of mine please him;
I will rejoice in the Lord.

Bless the Lord, O my soul.

1 Corinthians 12.3b-13

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

No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;

and there are varieties of activities,
but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,
and to another the utterance of knowledge
according to the same Spirit,

to another faith by the same Spirit,
to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

to another the working of miracles,
to another prophecy,
to another the discernment of spirits,
to another various kinds of tongues,
to another the interpretation of tongues.

All these are activated by one and the same Spirit,
who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

For just as the body is one and has many members,
and all the members of the body, though many, are one body,
so it is with Christ.

For in the one Spirit we were all baptised into one body—
Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—
and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Gospel John 20.19-23

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

It was evening on that day, the first day of the week,
and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
"Peace be with you."

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again,
"Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you."

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

Sunday, 24 May 2020
Audio files are available on "The Message" page.


‘The Ascension of Christ’, Albrecht Durer, Woodcut, 1510, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Dear Friends

Some churches celebrate the Ascension of Christ on the Sunday after the Ascension, rather than on the feast day itself, which always occurs on the Thursday before the seventh Sunday of Easter.  Being a fairly traditional church, we at St Mary’s have kept to the time-honoured pattern of celebrating Ascension on the actual day (which this year would have fallen on 21 May), retaining the following Sunday as the seventh of Easter.  I feel somewhat vindicated in keeping to this separate celebration of the Ascension, which enables us to focus during the Sunday, in John 17:1-11, on the passage from what is known as Jesus ‘High Priestly prayer’.

In this prayer (which takes up the whole of chapter 17), Jesus discloses a knowledge, not only of the situation which pertained at the time (ie during the Passover of circa AD33), but also of the future, when, in verse 20, he says, ‘I ask not only on behalf of these (ie those in the upper room), but also on behalf of those (ie including ourselves) who will believe in me through their word, that they also may be one as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.  I have given them the glory you gave to me that they may be one as we are one.’

This passage is usually recommended also for reading during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – ie that Jesus’ oneness with the Father may be replicated in Christian communities as they join together for worship and service.  As we know, there has been much progress in Christian ecumenism during the last fifty years or so, although there are still, of course, also many areas of difference and even disagreement.

In the letter to the Ephesians (chapter 4) we read of the way in which these two themes, of the Ascension, and the unity of all Christians (and, indeed, pointing implicitly also to the unity of all humankind), are inextricably linked:-
‘He went up to the heights, took captives, he gave gifts to humanity.  When it says “he went up” it must mean that he had gone down to the deepest levels of the earth.  The one who went down is none other than the one who went up above all the heavens to fill all things.  And to some, his gift was they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; to knit God’s holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God . . so the body grows until it has built itself up in love.’

Our unity in Christ, then, through baptism and participation in worship, service and the sacraments, is a foretaste of the fullness of the glory which awaits us in heaven, when Christ, as our head, shall be ‘all in all’ – a wonderful promise indeed, especially during times of trial such as we are currently going through.

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

O God the King of glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
we beseech you, leave us not comfortless,
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us
and exalt us to the place where our Saviour Christ is gone before,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Acts 1.6-14

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

When the apostles 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."

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet,
which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away.

When they had entered the city,
they went to the room upstairs where they were staying,
Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas,
Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus,
and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.

All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer,
together with certain women,
including Mary the mother of Jesus,
as well as his brothers.

Gospel John 17.1-11

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

Jesus looked up to heaven and said,
"Father, the hour has come;
glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,

since you have given him authority over all people,
to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

And this is eternal life,
that they may know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

I glorified you on earth
by finishing the work that you gave me to do.

So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence
with the glory that I had in your presence
before the world existed.

"I have made your name known
to those whom you gave me from the world.
They were yours, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.

Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;

for the words that you gave to me I have given to them,
and they have received them
and know in truth that I came from you;
and they have believed that you sent me.

I am asking on their behalf;
I am not asking on behalf of the world,
but on behalf of those whom you gave me,
because they are yours.

All mine are yours, and yours are mine;
and I have been glorified in them.

And now I am no longer in the world,
but they are in the world,
and I am coming to you.
Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one, as we are one.

Thursday, 21 May 2020
Audio files are available on "The Message" page

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."

Ephesians 1.15-23

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Ephesians.

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus
and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason

I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation
as you come to know him,

so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened,
you may know what is the hope to which he has called you,
what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,

and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power
for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

God put this power to work in Christ
when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above every name that is named,
not only in this age but also in the age to come.

And he has put all things under his feet
and has made him the head over all things for the church,

which is his body,
the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gospel Luke 24.44-53

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

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 worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;

and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Wednesday, 20 May 2020

If your screen is too small, here is the poem.

The Old Parish Church

C Champneys Burnham

My stones were laid. my building planned
When conquering Normans ruled the land
My tower was raised,strong, stout and tall
To house the bells whose clamorous call
Through all the country round did cry
"Come, enter in. Your Lord is nigh."
I've watched as through my great west door
For centuries long came rich and poor
Sword bearing baron in his might
Penurious peasant in his plight
From powers pursuing men would flee
In hope of sanctuary in me
Swift archers came who from my yews
The wood for new long bows did choose
Came Puritan and Quaker  maid
Gay Cavalier - Restoration blade -
I welcomed them whate'er their mood
As mother hen enfolds her brood
All England came - of that be sure
How varied were the clothes they wore
Rich robes and laces, furs and frills
Thick gaberdines to ward off chills
Soft silken gowns with swirling flair
Homespun linen, cloaks threadbare
Cromwellian dress, demure and staid
Bright uniforms with golden braid
And khaki too - how much I saw -
When England's youth went twice to war
To England's throne in rich procession
Came kings and queens in due succession
Angevins and Tudors held their sway
Hanoverians, Stuarts had their day
Throngh changing years a changing throng
Fill my walls with unchanging song
I christened them 'mid infant tears
And married them in later years
Some - not all - the Sacrament received
But all I hope in God believed
Through church gate shade at length they passed
'Neath churchyard green to sleep at last
Though customs die and fashions fade
Yet I to God have faithful stayed
Within my quietness you will find
Tranquillity to ease your mind
Come, quietly sit and feel around you
How centuries of prayer surround you
The unseen hosts that filled this place
Bear witness of God's love and grace.
Sunday, 17 May 2020
Audio files are available on "The Message" page.


‘St Paul Preaching the Areopagus Sermon’, Raphael, 1515, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Dear Friends

We are now nearing the Feast of the Ascension, which, as narrated in Luke and read on Ascension Day itself, is described as a self-contained event.  However, John’s Gospel does not include a description of the Ascension of Christ rising up to heaven.  Instead, the Resurrection narratives seem to imply rather that Jesus goes to the Father – but, while still with his disciples in the upper room, he breathes on them, thereby conferring the Spirit upon them.

In this Sunday’s reading from Acts (Acts 17:22-31), Paul uses a little flattery to try to get the usually sceptical Athenians on his side, with uneven effect.  It’s as if the Athenians shrug their shoulders in a ‘We’ve heard it all before’ sort of way.  Paul in this episode is less forthright and more respectful of his hearers than usual, trying to persuade his listeners (whom he describes elsewhere as ‘itchy-eared’ – i.e. eager to hear, but equally prepared to dismiss, all the latest philosophical arguments) to move on from the ‘natural religion’ of their pagan beliefs to an understanding of God as revealed in the life, death, passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is an approach which, as far as we can tell from Acts and from the information in his correspondence, he does not use again – as he writes in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:21-24): ‘Where are the philosophers? . . . And where are the debaters of this age?  . . . While the Greeks look for wisdom, we are preaching a crucified Christ . . . who is both the power of God and the wisdom of God.’

Subsequently, of course, despite this apparent ‘failure’ of his preaching at the Areopagus, Paul moved on to Rome, another centre of the Classical world, and many of the Greeks did, in fact, embrace Christianity as those evangelists who followed in Paul’s footsteps carried forward the Gospel message to the embryonic Christian communities around the Mediterranean basin.

In today’s Gospel (John 14:15-21), Jesus is exhorting his disciples to eschew fear, to keep God’s commandments, and to expect ‘the Advocate’ from heaven – he is preparing them, in other words, precisely for that apostolic ministry which was to ensure the establishment of Christianity, which, ultimately, would be accepted, under Constantine, as the official religion of the Roman Empire.  There is just a hint in this passage of the Trinitarian implications of the unity between the Father, Jesus himself and the Spirit – although it was, again, not until the great Oecumenical Councils of the fourth century (Nicaea in 325 and Constantinople in 381) that the full doctrine of the Trinity could be agreed.

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

God our Redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the Kingdom of your Son:
grant that as by his death
he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us
he may raise us to eternal joy,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Acts 17:22-31

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said,
"Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.

For as I went through the city
and looked carefully at the objects of your worship,
I found among them an altar with the inscription,
"To an unknown god.'
What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and everything in it,
he who is Lord of heaven and earth,
does not live in shrines made by human hands,

nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything,
since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.

From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth,
and he allotted the times of their existence
and the boundaries of the places where they would live,

so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though
indeed he is not far from each one of us.

For "In him we live and move and have our being';
as even some of your own poets have said,
"For we too are his offspring.'

Since we are God's offspring,
we ought not to think that
the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone,
an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.

While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance,
now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

because he has fixed a day
on which he will have the world judged in righteousness
by a man whom he has appointed,
and of this he has given assurance to all
by raising him from the dead."

Psalm 66. 7-18

Bless our God, you peoples;
make the voice of his praise to be heard.

Who holds our souls in life,
and will not allow our feet to slip.

For you, O God, have proved us;
you have tried us just as silver is tried.

You brought us into the snare;
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.

You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water;
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.

I will enter your house with burnt offerings
and will pay you my vows,
which I promised with my lips
and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.

I will offer you sacrifices of fat beasts
with the smoke of rams;
I will give you oxen and goats.

Come and listen, all you who fear God,
and I will tell you what he has done for me.

I called out to him with my mouth,
and his praise was on my tongue.

If I had found evil in my heart,
the Lord would not have heard me;

But in truth God has heard me;
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer,
nor withheld his love from me.

1 Peter 3.13-22

A reading from the first letter of Peter.

Who will harm you
if you are eager to do what is good?

But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed.
Do not fear what they fear,
and do not be intimidated,

but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.
Always be ready to make your defence
to anyone who demands from you an account
of the hope that is in you;

yet do it with gentleness and reverence.
Keep your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ
may be put to shame.

For it is better to suffer for doing good,
if suffering should be God's will,
than to suffer for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
in order to bring you to God.
He was put to death in the flesh,
but made alive in the spirit,

in which also he went
and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,

who in former times did not obey,
when God waited patiently in the days of Noah,
during the building of the ark,
in which a few, that is,
eight persons, were saved through water.

 And baptism, which this prefigured,
now saves you—
not as a removal of dirt from the body,
but as an appeal to God for a good conscience,
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God,
with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Gospel  John 14.15-21

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

Jesus said to his disciples;

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate,
to be with you forever.

This is the Spirit of truth,
whom the world cannot receive,
because it neither sees him nor knows him.
You know him, because he abides with you,
and he will be in you.

"I will not leave you orphaned;
I am coming to you.

In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me;
because I live, you also will live.

On that day you will know that I am in my Father,
and you in me, and I in you.

They who have my commandments and keep them
are those who love me;
and those who love me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love them and reveal myself to them."

Sunday, 10 May 2020
There are audio files of these readings on "The Message" page.


The Stoning of Stephen, attributed to Orazio, Wellcome Library, London

Dear Friends

Today’s Gospel reading (John 14:1-14) continues the meditation on Jesus’ ‘I am’ sayings which have been discussed in previous ‘thoughts for the week’.  The emphasis, again, seems very much to be on reassurance - ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ – so it is not surprising that these words are often used during funeral services.  However, in the context of this Sunday’s lectionary readings, they follow the account, in Acts, of the stoning of Stephen, and, as some commentators have noted, there appears at first to be quite a disjunction between the vivid and bloodthirsty narrative which describes the death of the first Christian martyr and the measured calm of the conversation, in John’s Gospel, between Jesus and his disciples.

The differences should not be over-emphasized, however.  Luke in Acts casts Stephen’s death in the mould of Jesus’ death – both men faced accusations by the populace at the instigation of religious leaders; both had the assurance that they were going to be with God, and both prayed for forgiveness for those causing their deaths.  And the discourse in John should not be read as a leisurely philosophical or theological debate about heaven and the vision of God (although the vision of God is, in fact, one of the many recurring leitmotifs of this Gospel).  Rather, John presents this discussion as one of the last proper conversations Jesus has with his disciples before the events of his arrest and crucifixion unfold.

So what has all this to do with Easter?  In this season of resurrection joy and hope it can perhaps seem rather jarring to read of angry crowds and the brutal death of an innocent man, but putting Stephen’s martyrdom – or any similar contemporary event – in dialogue with Jesus’ promises is a challenge to which Jesus himself invites us.  ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ can in this way be seen not only as a ‘comforting word’ but also as a command to his disciples to resist fearfulness and to trust fully in God.  Easter, in other words, gives a different frame of reference to stories which, on their own, justify fear or despair.  Reframed by the Easter story, the horror of what is wrong is not diminished (stoning can never be made right or sanitized), but the power of Jesus’ resurrection brings hope of new life, and we can trust that, despite appearances, God truly is ‘working his purposes out’.

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Almighty God,
who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
grant that, as by your grace going before us
  you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help
we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.  Amen.

Acts 7:55-60

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Standing before the high priest and council,

Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

"Look," he said, "I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"

But they covered their ears,
and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.

Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him;
and the witnesses laid their coats
 at the feet of a young man named Saul.

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed,
 "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice,
"Lord, do not hold this sin against them."
When he had said this, he died.

Psalm 31. 1-5. 15-16

In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness .

Incline your ear to me;
make haste to deliver me.

Be my strong rock,  a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold;
for the sake of  your name, lead me and guide me.

Take me out of the net
that they have secretly set for me,
for you are my tower of strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
for you have redeemed me,
O Lord, O God of truth.

My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies
and from those who persecute me.

Make your face shine upon your servant;
and in your loving kindness save me.

1 Peter 2:2-10

A reading from the first letter of Peter.

Like newborn infants,
long for the pure, spiritual milk,
so that by it you may grow into salvation—

if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Come to him, a living stone,
though rejected by mortals
yet chosen and precious in God's sight.

Like living stones,
let yourselves be built into a spiritual house,
to be a holy priesthood,
to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God
through Jesus Christ.

For it stands in scripture:
"See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."

To you then who believe, he is precious;
but for those who do not believe,
"The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner," and

"A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall."
They stumble because they disobey the word,
as they were destined to do.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, God's own people,
in order that you may proclaim
the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness
into his marvellous light.

Once you were not a people,
but now you are God's people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

Gospel  John 14:1-14

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

Jesus said to his disciples:

"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God, believe also in me.

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.
If it were not so, would I have told you
that I go to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
so that where I am, there you may be also.

And you know the way to the place where I am going."

Thomas said to him,
"Lord, we do not know where you are going.
How can we know the way?"

Jesus said to him,
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.

If you know me, you will know my Father also.
From now on you do know him and have seen him."

Philip said to him,
"Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."

Jesus said to him,
"Have I been with you all this time, Philip,
and you still do not know me?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, "Show us the Father'?

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own;
but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
but if you do not,
then believe me because of the works themselves.

Very truly, I tell you,
the one who believes in me
will also do the works that I do and, in fact,
will do greater works than these,
because I am going to the Father.

I will do whatever you ask in my name,
 so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

If in my name you ask me for anything,
I will do it.
Sunday, 3 May 2020

Audio files are available to hear on "The Message" on this website.


 Fresco, Christ as the Good Shepherd, Catacombs of Rome

Dear Friends

The Gospel reading for today (John 10:1-10) is taken from the ‘good shepherd’ discourse which is found in John 10:1-30.  We read a section from this discourse each year on the fourth Sunday of Easter, which has thus come to be known as ‘Good Shepherd’ Sunday.  The entire discourse provides an extended meditation on the ‘I am’ sayings in which Jesus confirms that he has been appointed by the Father as guardian and protector of the entire community of faith.

‘The one who enters by the gate (of the sheepfold) is the shepherd of the sheep , , , he leads them out and the sheep hear his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name’ (John 10:5-6). In contrast to the hired man who is a stranger (or even a thief or bandit), the sheep follow Jesus, whose voice they recognise. 

In John 10:7 Jesus likens himself not only to the shepherd but also to the gate of sheepfold – in ancient near eastern cultures this often amounted to the same thing, since shepherds lay down at night across the gap in the stone enclosure in which the sheep were kept for their safety – and promises that those who enter the fold through him will be saved.  John 10:11 emphasises the sacrifice that the good shepherd will make to protect his flock (‘I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’).  And later in the discourse, there is a promise that other sheep are to be brought into the fold (‘And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too’), so that these also may inherit the eternal life which is to be bestowed by the good shepherd (‘I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will steal them from my hand’).

These are moving and powerful images which clearly resonated for the early Christian communities – some of the most ancient images of Christ (for example, those in the catacombs of Rome, or among the mosaics in Ravenna) depict him as the good shepherd.  He is usually shown as quite youthful, carrying on his shoulders a sheep which has been rescued (echoing the parable elsewhere within the Gospels of the ‘lost sheep’).  Again, the emphasis is upon the self-sacrificial love of the shepherd who spares no effort to ensure that the one who has gone astray is not abandoned but brought back to safely.

And these images surely continue to provide inspiration and reassurance for us today, especially, but not exclusively, during times of trial such as the one which we are currently going through.  We have Jesus’ promise that none will be lost (‘none can pluck me from thy hand’ as the hymn puts it) and that we can trust him to guide us into the fullness of eternal life.

Fr Stephen

Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.  Amen.

Acts 2:42-47

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

Many were baptised and were added to the community.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone,
because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.

All who believed were together and had all things in common;

they would sell their possessions and goods
and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple,
they broke bread at home
and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,

praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.
And day by day the Lord added to their number
those who were being saved.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;

he revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his name's sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,  they comfort me.

You spread a table before me
in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil;
and my cup is running over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

1 Peter 2 19-25

A reading from the first letter of Peter.

Brothers and sisters:

For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God,
you endure pain while suffering unjustly.

If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that?
But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it,
you have God's approval.

For to this you have been called,
 because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example,
so that you should follow in his steps.

"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."

When he was abused, he did not return abuse;
when he suffered, he did not threaten;
 but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross,
so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness;
by his wounds you have been healed.

For you were going astray like sheep,
but now you have returned
to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Gospel John 10:1-10

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

Jesus said to the pharisees:

 "Very truly, I tell you,
anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate
but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him,
and the sheep hear his voice.
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

When he has brought out all his own,
he goes ahead of them,
and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

They will not follow a stranger,
but they will run from him
because they do not know the voice of strangers."

Jesus used this figure of speech with them,
but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them,
"Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.

All who came before me are thieves and bandits;
but the sheep did not listen to them.

I am the gate.
Whoever enters by me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

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. St Mary's Facebook page
  2. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  3. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  4. Prayer for today.
  5. The C of E youtube channel.
  6. 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.
  7. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.

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

Blog Archive

Archived posts by year: