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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."

Service Times

First Sunday in the Month:
10:00am Family Service

Second Sunday in the Month
10:00am Parish Eucharist

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

Fourth Sunday in the Month
10:00am Parish Eucharist


  • The 8:00am said Holy Communion will recommence for all Sundays beginning Sunday 2nd May 2021

  • 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.

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