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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

Service Times

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

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

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

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

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

Useful links


Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:


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

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

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