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Sunday, 20 September 2020
This morning our service was Mattins, and our readings from the King James version of the Bible. The Choir were able to sing the Venite and the set Psalm, but the Te Deum and Benedictus were said by everyone. The Choir also sang some short hymns. It was lovely to have some choral music again, the choir sit in the south Transept socially distanced from each other and a long way from every one else so we feel 'covid secure'.
The weather continues to bless us, with warn sunshine late into September which also helps to keep us safe.


‘Jonah and the Whale’ – Icon, based on an original fresco at Meteora

Dear Friends

Both our readings this morning, from the third chapter of Jonah, and the parable about the landowner who chose to pay all his labourers equally (Matthew 20:1-16), are, among other themes, about God’s freedom to be merciful to whomever he chooses.  There are, as some commentators have noted, elements of comedy, or even pantomime, in the story of Jonah, the ‘reluctant preacher’, who, rather than being delighted with the positive response of the people of Nineveh to his message, goes into a sulk because God has decided not to inflict the city with the punishment which had been threatened.

In today’s reading, we join the narrative in the middle of a battle of wills between God and Jonah, with Jonah lashing out furiously, insisting that it is now better for him to die rather than live.  He is sitting in a self-made booth, in a desert area outside the city, waiting to see what will happen, when, in an almost ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ episode, God causes a large bush to grow which provides shade and, for a while, makes Jonah happy.  But then comes a reversal when, the next day, a worm attacks the bush which withers as fast as it grew.  And the reversal continues as the sun’s heat increases, augmented by a sultry wind.  Inevitably, Jonah starts to complain again and insists, when God asks if he is right to be angry, that he certainly is.  God, however, has the last word, pointing out that, just as Jonah is upset about losing a bush, which he had not caused to grow, so God can be upset about a city full of people and animals (it seems that the writer is an animal-lover) who do ‘not know their right hand from their left’.  It is a vivid story, which certainly highlights God’s boundless compassion – but it leaves us, perhaps, with unanswered questions.  We never hear what happened to Jonah, who is left sulking in the desert.  Did God get to the bottom of his anger and resistance to the people of Nineveh’s repentance? Why did God choose Jonah to carry his message to the city, when it might have been easier to choose someone less stubborn?

Perhaps, in addition to the generosity and compassion of God, the story carries a further message for us.  God has a way of undermining our religious trappings, to get at what is really underneath.  Even if we appear to be faithful disciples, what about our underlying motives and driving forces, our own besetting sins that we manage to cover up most of the time?  What are our equivalents of Jonah’s simmering and raging anger?  Jonah’s attitudes, after all, were not without foundation and were rooted in something deeper than mere chauvinism, since Assyria’s strategy for expansion was to deport the surviving peoples of conquered lands, including Jonah’s own people.  Nevertheless, God extends his sovereign mercy to the people of Nineveh, as well as to Jonah himself, and this, surely, gives us hope when we consider our own need for repentance.

Fr Stephen


God, who of thy generous mercy didst send the Holy Spirit 
     upon thy Church in the burning fire of thy love:
grant that thy people may be fervent
     in the fellowship of the gospel
that, ever abiding in thee,
they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 45:9-22

A reading from the book of Isaiah 

Woe to you who strive with your Maker, 
earthen vessels with the potter! 
Does the clay say to the one who fashions it, 
"What are you making"? 
or "Your work has no handles"? 

Woe to anyone who says to a father, 
"What are you begetting?" 
or to a woman, "With what are you in labour?" 

Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, 
and its Maker: 
Will you question me about my children, 
or command me concerning the work of my hands? 

I made the earth, 
and created humankind upon it; i
t was my hands that stretched out the heavens, 
and I commanded all their host. 

I have aroused Cyrus in righteousness, 
and I will make all his paths straight; 
he shall build my city and set my exiles free, 
not for price or reward, says the Lord of hosts. 

Thus says the Lord: 
The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia, 
and the Sabeans, tall of stature, 
shall come over to you and be yours, 
they shall follow you; 
they shall come over in chains and bow down to you. 
They will make supplication to you, saying, 
"God is with you alone, 
and there is no other; there is no god besides him." 

Truly, you are a God who hides himself, 
O God of Israel, the Savior. 

All of them are put to shame and confounded, 
the makers of idols go in confusion together. 

But Israel is saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation; 
you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity. 

For thus says the Lord, 
who created the heavens (he is God!), 
who formed the earth and made it 
(he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!): 
I am the Lord, and there is no other. 

I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; 
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
"Seek me in chaos." 
I the Lord speak the truth, 
I declare what is right. 

 Assemble yourselves and come together, 
draw near, you survivors of the nations! 
They have no knowledge— 
those who carry about their wooden idols, 
and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. 

Declare and present your case; 
let them take counsel together! 
Who told this long ago? 
Who declared it of old? 
Was it not I, the Lord? 
There is no other god besides me, 
a righteous God and a Saviour; 
there is no one besides me. 

Turn to me and be saved, 
all the ends of the earth! 
For I am God, and there is no other. 

Matthew 20:1-16

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

Jesus said to his disciples.

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner 
who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 

After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, 
he sent them into his vineyard. 

When he went out about nine o'clock, 
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 

and he said to them, "You also go into the vineyard, 
and I will pay you whatever is right.' 
So they went. 

When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, 
he did the same. 

And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; 
and he said to them, "Why are you standing here idle all day?' 7

They said to him, "Because no one has hired us.' 
He said to them, "You also go into the vineyard.' 

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, 
"Call the laborers and give them their pay, 
beginning with the last and then going to the first.' 

When those hired about five o'clock came, 
each of them received the usual daily wage. 

Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; 
but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 

And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 

saying, "These last worked only one hour, 
and you have made them equal to us 
who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' 

But he replied to one of them, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong; 
did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 

Take what belongs to you and go; 
I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? 
Or are you envious because I am generous?' 

So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

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

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