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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
Sunday, 9 May 2021
Today our 10 am service was a parish Eucharist, and Father Roger was the celebrant. We had 3 Hymns, and as has become our habit, part of the service was said and the Covid Choir sang some responses. The Choir also sang a setting of the Ave Verum by David Terry. Father Roger's Homily is further down the page.

After the service we held our annual church meeting, chaired by the Church Wardens, who have been re-elected for another year, and several new members were added to the PCC. The report prepared by the Church Warden described how we have managed our way through the Pandemic, and is a tribute to every one who has kept the 'show on the road'.





One bubble returned to Sunday School this week. The theme was to explore what it means to be a friend and to see Jesus as our friend.  The children made friendship bracelets which they were all wearing in school on Monday and some have given them to others as a sign of their friendship which is lovely.






Sermon

 In Eastertide, as we think of Christ rising, we think also of the body of his followers becoming alive and  active in the world. So we read from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles quite a lot in church, right through to Pentecost, and will recall that it was written by St Luke, who also wrote Luke’s Gospel, and who travelled round with St Paul and kept diaries he could quote from later.

With so much, we need a perspective. The first 70 or 80 years of the Church are complicated. We may have found the last 70 or 80 years complicated, and we will have seen many changes in our Church. I remember the old ladies sat on the left side of the church. The men on the right. The ladies had imitation fruit on their hats and dead foxes round their necks. When I was ordained, we used, illegally, the Marriage Service from the 1928 Prayer Book, to avoid mention of brute beasts and carnal lusts which were in the old 1662 service. Eventually Series 1 church services, Series 2 services, Series 3, the Alternative Service Book and eventually Common Worship in the year 2000. Over the years we went from Ruridecanal Conferences to synodical government. I was taught as a child in Sunday School by a capable and well-trained deaconess, which was a serious lay role, but not Holy Orders. No women deacons, or priests, then. The Church finally had the good sense to ordain her as a priest, but not until she was in her late 80’s. Had I not married Christina when I did, she would have completed training as one of those deaconesses, whom you don’t see these days, wearing a dark blue veil. So much has changed in the lifetimes of our older members, and that is just in the Anglican Church, not the whole Church.

The first 80 years, or so, of the Church was not steady and simple either. Christians started as a group of Jews following Jesus. In the Roman Empire the Romans had their own gods, and to be a proper Roman you had to make sacrifices to them. But they went easy on the Jews, as long as they didn’t cause trouble, and Christians were tolerated for a while, being seen as just a part of the Jewish community. At the end of Luke’s Gospel he says that the Christians were – at that stage - happily worshipping in the Jewish Temple. But cracks appeared – Christianity was not he same as Judaism, in the way it valued Jesus. Christians were thrown out of the Temple. They were now a minority group, and minority groups were often suspected, unjustly, of unsavoury practices and became unpopular. In the summer of 64AD, half of Rome burned down. The Emperor, Nero, didn’t say, ‘sorry folks, I think it was me’ – although he was the No.1 suspect. He made the Christians the scapegoat. Not a nice man, the next year he brutally murdered his second wife. Christians were now seen as something separate from the Jews, so no longer had the same protection from persecution as the Jews. There would be ten periods of persecution for Christians until the Roman Emperor Constantine became Christian in the early 300s AD.

When things were tense in the years after Nero, Luke, it seems, wrote his Gospel and the Book of Acts. Saying to the Roman Empire, ‘Christianity is built on the best things of Judaism, and is something, - not just for the Jews, - but for the whole world, - for your whole Empire, - and it deserves the toleration you give to the Jews. Jesus was not a violent revolutionary, but someone of nobility, grace, and charm, someone of values and ideas and can engender helpful qualities in all sorts of people, even the unlikely.’

Looking at today’s first reading, we are reminded that the first Christians had a tough time steering the right course, as some of us may today. The first Christians had three sorts of people on the scene, Jews, who might become Christians. Gentiles, called proselytes, who followed many Jewish ways and standards, but who never officially converted to Judaism, and might now want to become Christians. And then there were people who had never been Jews, but who, also, might be attracted to the Church. If the first Christians were Jews, and Christianity began as a part of Judaism, did not those wishing to be Christian ought to become proper Jews as a first step? In our reading St Peter managed to get things right, which he didn’t always, saying, ‘it’s blindingly obvious that these Gentile people who, by God’s grace, have actually found a Christian experience and commitment, blindingly obvious that they must join us right now in Christian baptism – no need for them to become Jews first!’ 

It was baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. It seems that the first Christians joined professing that ‘Jesus is Lord’ that is, Jesus is at one with God himself. It was only later that ideas of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, developed.
 
Peter had his Jewish food traditions, and traditions about how he could, and couldn’t, mix with Gentiles. Traditions, - ways handed down, - ways the Almighty seems to have led his people into in the past, ways which, therefore, demand loyalty. Loyalty can be good, as long as it remains about focusing on God and serving God in the present, and doesn’t become simply about continuing with what we are used to, what we fancy, and what we are comfortable with. Because - guess what – as Peter found out – God can change the status quo. And if we are not truly glimpsing what he is about, now, we might find ourselves on the wrong side of the situation, defending the indefensible. We might see failing to accept the ordination of women as that sort of scenario. 

But Peter struggled, as we might, with change. In his letter to the Galatians, St Paul remembers calling Peter a hypocrite on one occasion. Hypocrite, of course, literally, means play actor. Paul, who had been a strict Jew, but was converted to reach out as a Christian leader to the Gentiles, he and Peter had been eating Gentile food with Gentile Christians. When some heavyweight conservative Christians turned up from Jerusalem, and were watching him, Peter lost his convictions and courage, and stopped eating with the Gentile Christians, and St Paul told him off.

There can rarely have been a time when Church life was not challenging and demanding. You have your Annual Church Meeting this morning. If that were challenging and demanding it would not – necessarily - be a bad thing at all.

One of my favourite prayers for the beginning of a Church meeting goes like this:

Holy Spirit of God, source of knowledge and creator of fellowship, open our minds to recognise your truth, and our hearts to welcome it. That, in company together, we may learn your will, and be strengthened to obey it. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Fr Roger


Acts 10:44-48

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

While Peter was still speaking, 
the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 

The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded 
that the gift of the Holy Spirit 
had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 

for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. 
Then Peter said,

“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people 
who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 

So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. 
Then they invited him to stay for several days.


John 15:9-17

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

Jesus said to his disciples:

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you;
abide in my love. 

If you keep my commandments, 
you will abide in my love, 
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments 
and abide in his love.

I have said these things to you 
so that my joy may be in you, 
and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, 
that you love one another as I have loved you. 

No one has greater love than this, 
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

You are my friends if you do what I command you. 

I do not call you servants any longer, 
because the servant does not know what the master is doing; 
but I have called you friends, 
because I have made known to you everything 
that I have heard from my Father. 

You did not choose me but I chose you. 
And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, 
so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 

I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.





Sunday, 2 May 2021
This morning, being the first of May, we had our Family Eucharist. We are maintaining social distancing so we cannot have every one in Church, and the Sunday School has not yet returned, although it is planned that they will come back next week. They will meet in the bubbles they are in at school in the new rooms, and then come into church for the communion and return to the rooms afterwards. This morning we had Father Roger as the celebrant, and Mrs Field gave us an update on the Sunday School and talked to us about the Gospel, her address is below.
The choir sang the hymns, but the Gloria was said by all. During communion the Choir sang the responses, and whilst the congregation were receiving the Choir sang 'Now the green blade Riseth'  as a motet.
We left in the sunshine, anticipating the rain and wind to come!









The 5th Sunday of Easter – Godparent Day

Today’s reading from St John’s Gospel is such a delightful reading for Family Service and, in normal circumstances, would be such a good reading to talk about with the help of the Sunday School members.  But, of course, we can’t do that this year. A number of you have asked why the children aren’t  leading the Intercessions or taking part in the Talk at Family Service.  The reason is the pandemic. We must abide by the Government’s general regulations regarding distancing, sanitising and the wearing of masks and we must also follow the regulations for Places of Worship.  In the recent survey that was carried out, there were questions asked about the lack of involvement of different members of the laity for the readings and the intercessions as there used to be.  The reason for this is the same.  We are required to restrict the number of voices speaking at a service to one or two and to minimise movement around the church to only that which is necessary. The churchwardens are responsible for ensuring that the church is covid secure and they feel that they should not delegate that responsibility to other sidespersons at this time and are therefore carrying out these duties themselves at each service.  We shall return to normal ‘service’ as soon as possible! And laity will be involved in services as they were before.

Sunday School is now allowed to return and we shall we restarting next week. Sunday School must follow the same regulations as those for services in Church but must also follow the regulations applicable to the school the children attend.  School is still in bubbles and so we must be. We wanted to tell you that the children will again come in to receive communion or to receive a blessing on 2nd and 4th Sundays but they will not remain in church for the end of the service as there just would not be room with social distancing in place. They will follow a one-way system into the church, to Father Roger at that altar and back out by the other door to return to the Parish Rooms.  The PCC has agreed this plan and if anyone has any questions or concerns about this arrangement, please speak to one of the churchwardens.

Now, back to today’s reading. 

The vine was one of the most common plants in Israel.  It would grow almost anywhere: it grew up walls, up trellises, around the doors of houses; it grew up sticks. It also grew in the wild. For the vine to grow well, it needed the ground to be prepared carefully and it needed regular attention.  If you wanted good fruit, you could not just leave it to chance.

Could it be that with Jesus who says, I am the vine’, we need the same attention? There is no one in whom he will not grow if only the preparation of the ‘soil’ is properly done and then the new growth must be nurtured. Today we expect instant results, instant responses, instant changes in people, instant conversions.  But they do not always happen because we have ignored what is going on at ground level.  We tend to ignore the weeds, the poor environment, the lack of sustenance; we want growth without having to make an effort.

We must remember Jesus’s analogy of the vine.  First we must prepare the ground, to see that the atmosphere is as good as possible for growth.  We need to make sure that it will not be choked by weeds or die from lack of attention.  Many who are young in the faith are lost because they do not receive the sustenance they need.

The Sunday School team and the parents of the Sunday School children do what they can and we are delighted that, since the beginning of the pandemic, we have had 12 new members of Sunday School.  The parents are giving the children wonderful support – two have volunteered to join the Sunday School leaders’ team and, helped by their parents, many of the children have been working on the resources that we have been sending each week during lockdown.  That is quite remarkable since children and parents have been coping with home learning all week!  But it’s not just the young who need help and nurture to grow in their faith.  We all need help. 

CH _ _ CH

What letters are missing from this word?     
Yes, ‘U R’! 

All those new to the faith, of any age, need our support if their faith is to grow. According to my Churchwarden’s handbook, today is Godparent Sunday.  Perhaps some of you have godchildren and perhaps today’s reading reminds us that we haven’t been in touch with them lately?  Maybe we could this today?

Many returns of our recent survey said that you want our church to grow.  It will only grow if we all nurture new life in the church and continue to do so.  Jesus calls himself the vine and says that we are the branches – we are one with him and one with each other.  We need each other to thrive.  We are expected to bear fruit together, to grow in the faith together however old we are.  
A Native American was taught the Lord’s prayer.  He began by saying, ‘Our Father’, then he stopped in amazement. He turned to the priest and asked, ‘Is God my Father?’ 
‘Yes’ was the reply. 
‘And God is your Father?’ 
Again the reply, ‘Yes’. 
‘This is truly wonderful. God is your Father and mine – that means we are brothers!’.
There is an old legend that tells of Jesus returning to heaven and the angels asking who will continue his work. Jesus points to the disciples.  ‘But they are so weak, so human.’ Protest the angels. Jesus replies, ‘I trust them and know they will not let me down.’

St Teresa of Avilla puts it so well:
Christ has no hands, but your hands to do his work today.
Christ has no feet but your feet to speed men on his way.
Christ has no lips but your lips to tell men why he died.
Christ has no love but your love to win men to his side

Chris Field Church Warden


 John 15.1-8

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

Jesus said to his disciples:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 

He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. 
Every branch that bears fruit 
he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 

You have already been cleansed
by the word that I have spoken to you. 

Abide in me as I abide in you. 
Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself 
unless it abides in the vine, 
neither can you unless you abide in me. 

I am the vine, you are the branches. 
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, 
because apart from me you can do nothing. 

Whoever does not abide in me 
is thrown away like a branch and withers; 
such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, 
ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 

My Father is glorified by this, 
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.


Collect

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 forever.
Amen

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

Blog Archive

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