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Sunday, 27 March 2022
We continue to enjoy the lovely spring weather as we met today at 10 am for the 4th Sunday in Lent, known as Mothering Sunday. We had a Family Eucharist celebrated by Father Roger, who gave us an informative and entertaining address on the subject of Mothers!

The Choir sang 'Fairest Lord Jesus' as the anthem, this piece is based on a Silesian folk tune arranged by Martin How. At the end of the service posies of flowers were handed out to all the mothers in the congregation, and slices of Simnel cake were given to everyone as they left.

We came home to another beautiful sunny day to celebrate all our Mothers, Grandmothers, and our Mother the Church.

Posies of Flowers and slices of Simnel Cake for Mothering Sunday

Colossians 3:12-17

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Colossians.

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, 
clothe yourselves with compassion, 
kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 

Bear with one another and, 
if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; 
just as the Lord has forgiven you, 
so you also must forgive. 

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, 
which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, 
to which indeed you were called in the one body.
And be thankful. 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; 
teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; 
and with gratitude in your hearts 
sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

And whatever you do, in word or deed,
 do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

John 19:25b-27

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

Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, 
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, 
and Mary Magdalene. 

When Jesus saw his mother 
and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, 
he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 

Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” 
And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.


First, a question. Do you remember what colour robe the Bishop turned up in, two Sundays before Christmas? Rose pink. There are two days in the year when the clergy can wear pink. Today, Mothering Sunday, is the other one. But we haven't got a good pink vestment, and really pink doesn't suit me, and the blue we wear in Lent is good. It is one the colours for Mary, Jesus' mother, and we think about her today.

Next, the puzzle. Sometimes I get people to think about the letters in the word 'mother'. People think what words they can make, and I have to say what they have to do with mothers. Words like 'her' or 'therm', which is about keeping you warm. Always someone comes up with a particular word to defeat me. What might that be? We'll come back to that.

Today, then, we're thinking about mothers and those who look after us, or used to look after us, when some of us were much younger. The main thing is that good people do look after us when we are young. Often it is the mother and father we’re born with, but not always, and we might have brothers and sisters, who might help look after us. I had no brothers or sisters but was lucky, and I had a good father and mother. When I became a teenager at thirteen, in very different days from these, I lost my mother through illness, but ... I had one grandmother, one Godmother, and one aunt not far away, so was lucky.

When we are young, we get used to our family caring for us, but sooner or later will be grateful to them. And today is a day to thank our mothers. Love and caring must flow two ways. In our Bible reading, when Jesus is going to die on Good Friday, he cares about Mary his mother. If she is a widow by then, she needs the help of her family. A widow wouldn't usually have much of an income of her own. So, Jesus asks his friend John to care for her, and asks Mary to treat him as a son.

About only ten years after first becoming a teenager I became father, as you often did long ago, and the whole family story started up again. Our three children are all quite different, our six grandchildren are all very different. One grandson is 16 and well over 6' - how did that happen? One was until recently a little shrimp but is now growing and very good at tennis. One grandson is keen on the plants as I am. One granddaughter does ballet, which I certainly missed out on, but is also keen on solid geometry which is one of my things. The family would all still be very special even if they weren’t so interesting.

Now, another family. I have two cactus plants. One is a nice, neat, good-looking plant with lots of showy yellow flowers. The other gets too big, too prickly, and it doesn't have many flowers, but ….. the flowers are very big and mauve and white. I thought I would be a little bee, buzz, (some have sometimes called me a little b), and I did some pollinating, and one of the two plants had a seed pod. I sowed the seeds and now the two have babies. 109 babies a year and a half old. All different. Some are big babies like this, some tall like this one. This one is is pale and weedy – but it might have a very good flower, or lots of flowers, and baby no. 79 has two heads! I'm going to keep them for few years and see how they develop. A few might be really nice, and the rest will have to go.

That is the difference. In a human family you don't get rid of any, everyone always matters for ever. We should care for them as best we can for ever, even if they are a problem and a pain. 

Even more importantly, that is how God treats us. Everyone is one of God’s children, even if they have no idea about God, and God cares for everyone and values everyone, even if they are awful people. And if we know about God, we must also try to be like God, and care about everyone's welfare, even if they seem pretty horrible and a waste if space.

So, what else? Has anyone thought of the word to catch me out? XXX. Now mothers aren't usually interested in XXX. My mother wasn't interested in XXX. But I was, and she helped and encouraged me to do my own thing, which is what a good mother does.

Fr Roger
Sunday, 20 March 2022
A beautiful morning for the third Sunday in Lent and the first day of Spring. This morning Father Luke the Archdeacon was with us to celebrate Matins at 10 am. We sang the Venite, Psalm 26, the Benedicite in the setting by Lloyd, and the Choir sang the Jubilate Deo in the setting by Stanford. Father Luke spoke about the Old Testament reading from Deuteronomy, describing how the Jews were told to designate themselves as the People of God, and the New testament reading from St John, where Jesus explains that we can show in our lives the grace given to us by Our Lord, both important aspects of our consideration of our Christian life during Lent.
In our Prayers we asked God's care and love for the people of the Ukraine and of Russia.
There was coffee after the service in the rooms.

Due to unforeseen circumstances we were not able to hold our Treasure Hunt, so it has been postponed until after Easter. 

Sunday School made some Daffodils

The Churchyard in the spring sunshine

8am Holy Communion

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

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

I do not want you to be unaware,
brothers and sisters,
that our ancestors were all under the cloud, 
and all passed through the sea, 

and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 

and all ate the same spiritual food, 

and all drank the same spiritual drink. 
For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, 
and the rock was Christ. 

Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, 
and they were struck down in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples for us, 
so that we might not desire evil as they did. 

Do not become idolaters as some of them did; 
as it is written, 
“The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” 

We must not indulge in sexual immorality 
as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, 
and were destroyed by serpents. 

And do not complain as some of them did, 
and were destroyed by the destroyer. 

These things happened to them to serve as an example, 
and they were written down to instruct us, 
on whom the ends of the ages have come. 

So if you think you are standing, 
watch out that you do not fall. 

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. 
God is faithful, 
and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, 
but with the testing he will also provide the way out 
so that you may be able to endure it.

Luke 13:1-9

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

There were some present who told him about the Galileans 
whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way 
they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 

No, I tell you; 
but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 

Or those eighteen who were killed 
when the tower of Siloam fell on them—
do you think that they were worse offenders
than all the others living in Jerusalem? 

No, I tell you; 
but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: 
“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; 
and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 

So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! 
For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. 
Cut it down! 
Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 

He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, 
until I dig around it and put manure on it. 

If it bears fruit next year, well and good; 
but if not, you can cut it down.’”

10am Matins

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

6    Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

5    And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy         might.

6    And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

7    And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in         thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

8    And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine         eyes.

9    And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

John 17:1a, 11b-19

1    These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said,

11    Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one,         as we are.

12    While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have                 kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

13    And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy                    fulfilled in themselves.

14    I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world,                even as I am not of the world.

15    I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from            the evil.

16    They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

17    Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

18    As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

19    And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
Sunday, 13 March 2022
Our 10 am Parish eucharist was celebrated by Father John. The second Sunday in Lent and we are accustomed now to the church without flowers. The Gospel reading, which you can read below, was from St Luke, and in his sermon Father John told us something of the differences between the Gospels and when they were written. In the passage set for today, Jesus talks about his journey to Jerusalem and there to his death and resurrection. The idea of sacrifice, of martyrdom, has been a continuing theme throughout Christianity, and Father John told us of some of the Martyrs of the 20th century. We follow the journey to Jerusalem as we go through Lent looking towards Easter and the hope of resurrection.
The Choir sang 'Hide not thy Face' by Richard Farrant as the anthem.
The Children joined us for communion and we sang our final hymn as a family all together.

There was coffee after the service.

Next week we will be joined by Father Luke, the Archdeacon, for Sung Matins.

The Lent course continues on Wednesday, at Janet's house this week, do come along, each session is complete in itself so anyone can join any time!!

Follow us on Facebook! We have a page, Saint Mary Our Lady, Sidlesham Like and follow us for regular updates!!

More lovely flowers in the Church Yard


Philippians 3:17 - 4:1

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Philippians.

Brothers and sisters,
join in imitating me, 
and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 

For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; 
I have often told you of them, 
and now I tell you even with tears. 

Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; 
and their glory is in their shame; 
their minds are set on earthly things. 

But our citizenship is in heaven, 
and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, 
the Lord Jesus Christ. 

He will transform the body of our humiliation 
that it may be conformed to the body of his glory,
by the power that also enables him 
to make all things subject to himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, 
my joy and crown, 
stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Luke 13:31-35

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

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, 
“Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 

He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me,
I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, 
and on the third day I finish my work. 

Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, 
because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 
the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! 
How often have I desired to gather your children together 
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, 
and you were not willing! 

See, your house is left to you. 
And I tell you, 
you will not see me until the time comes when you say,
‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”


There is a great deal we don’t really understand about the ministry of Jesus. Apart from the birth narratives and the moment when Jesus was twelve and spent time in Jerusalem debating with the scholars in the temple, we have little idea about how he lived and exactly where and when he went anywhere. Of course, his childhood and his work as a carpenter are in Nazareth in Galilee. And he seems to have spent thirty years, the first half or so being educated and the second half working gently and quietly at home, in his mother’s and father’s house. All this is preparation for his tumultuous life on the road and his ultimate offering of himself on the cross.

The three synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke, tell the story of Jesus’ ministry in quite different ways. St John’s Gospel behaves quite differently from the synoptic Gospels, with just seven miracles, which St John calls signs, and long discourses, starting of course with the wonderful prologue to St John’s Gospel. St John’s Gospel is probably the last to have been written towards the end of the first century AD.

St Mark’s Gospel, written in the mid-60s AD, is much shorter than the other gospels and there seems to be a directness about the Gospel, which is highly attractive. Some think that Mark was heavily advised and directed by St Peter himself. Mark cannot have been part of our Lord’s personal ministry, so he relies heavily on Peter, who of course was there and knew and remembered what had been going on. We can imagine that in Peter’s later life, before his imprisonment and death in Rome, he was able to tell Mark all the stories, in fairly random order, of Jesus’s ministry.

St Matthew’s Gospel comes a little later and includes quite a good chunk of Mark’s Gospel, but with a great deal more, especially the lengthy direct language accounts, as for example, chapters 5, 6 and 7, being one lengthy sermon. There are others later on. But Matthew likes things to be in order, more or less, not necessarily the historic order, but an order that he has chosen for his Gospel account.

Luke’s Gospel works quite differently. Think of today’s Gospel reading from St Luke. We have just heard the last few sentences of chapter 13 of St Luke’s Gospel. The whole chapter is curiously mixed. It starts with a discussion between some Galileans and Jesus. Jesus uses the discussion to tell his hearers that they are to repent. ‘Unless you repent’, Jesus says, ‘you will all perish just as they did.’ There is no compromise here. He is very definite. The chapter has three accounts of parables: the barren fig tree, the mustard seed and the yeast. But, Luke adds a wonderful account of the healing of a crippled woman. He healed the woman, but also had a dispute with the Jewish authorities about healing on the sabbath day.

And, in the end, the whole congregation in the synagogue rejoices at the wonderful healing he has achieved. Then Jesus went through a number of towns and villages. He tells the people that they should strive to enter through the narrow door. The people will have said to Jesus, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But Jesus response is to say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers.’ 

Now, at the end of this remarkable chapter, we hear another quite separate account. Fascinatingly, it is some Pharisees who come to Jesus to warn him that Herod wishes to kill him. Jesus is again very direct, saying, ‘Go and tell that fox for me.’ He then talks about the healing ministry he is undertaking and the good things he is doing. But suddenly, he perhaps recognises the danger he is in. And Jesus recognises that he needs to go to Jerusalem. He must be there. He says, ‘It is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.’ And then he has a moment of reflection on the beauty and greatness of Jerusalem itself, the capital city of Israel and the place where the temple of Jerusalem itself is the most significant building in the city.

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem’, Jesus says, ‘the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it.’ Jesus has no doubt that he must travel towards Jerusalem and do as much as he can in teaching and healing on the way. He will eventually arrive there. And in a curious way he longs for the beauty and majesty of Jerusalem, so great a city with its amazing temple. But he recognises that it is also a bitter place, where terrible things happen. And our Lord seems to have a very clear and determined sense that, whatever happens and however it happens, he must in the end arrive there. And he is also clear, although he does not at this stage tell people, that he will die there. This is the conclusion he reached during his forty days in the wilderness. He gives every impression of having worked out what he must do and how he must do it. But the end must be his own tragic death.

The Church of England’s calendar identifies a number of martyrs, some of them better known than others. The first Christian martyr, identified on 26th December, is St Stephen, a deacon. But he is by no means alone. The English prayer book and calendar identifies in this month of March: Perpetua and Felicity and their companions, martyrs at Carthage in the year 203; Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, martyred in the year 1556; and Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, martyred in the year 1980. Last month, we also recognised the martyrdom of Janani Luwum, archbishop of Uganda, martyred in the year 1977. So, we are reminded that martyrdom is not just in the distant past, but in the present. We could add Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest, who was martyred in a German concentration camp in the year 1941. He offered his own life in place of a man with a family. There are many more. One Wikipedia account lists 196 Roman Catholic martyrs from the 20th century alone.

Each of these martyrs suffered dreadful punishments and were finally put to death in often terrible ways. But, each of them speaks to us, if only we could get hold of their accounts, in a powerful way. They finally gave their own lives. Think for a moment of Thomas Cranmer, who was quite old when he was eventually put to death, during the troubled 16th century. He feared his fate. He had been a distinguished archbishop of Canterbury, but now Queen Mary I was determined that he should die. He was burnt at the stake, having first thrust his right hand into the flames. Each one of these martyrs has a story, if only we would know it, that speaks of sacrifice and tragedy. And we trust that each of them has their particular place in heaven.

Lent reminds us of those who have suffered and those who suffer for truth’s sake. They encourage us on our own Christian journey. We do not ourselves expect to suffer martyrdom. But we can link ourselves to those saints and be encouraged to follow in their steps. And we can be inspired by their example, as part of the great company of those who have walked in the way of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Fr John
Sunday, 6 March 2022
So we reach the first Sunday in March, which is also the first Sunday in Lent. We had our Family Service at 10 am and the celebrant was Father John.
The Gospel reading today told the story of Our Lord's temptation by the Devil, and Father John told us a little bit more about the story and how despite great temptations being presented to him Jesus resisted and followed the words of his Father, God, and having spent 40 days thinking about his future he was ready to start his Ministry. As we go through Lent, and think about what we are going to do with our lives to reflect our Lord, we know with absolute certainty that Jesus will be with us every step of the way.
The choir sang 'Turn thy face from my sins' by Thomas Attwood as the anthem the Solo was sung beautifully by Marjorie Litton. We were joined today by the junior choristers who sang during the anthem.
There was coffee after the service in the Rooms

The Lent course starts on Wednesday at 7:00pm in the rooms, do come along and join us!

The Treasure Hunt will be on Saturday afternoon the 19th of March at 2 pm, come and find the Pirate treasure! All moneys will go towards new bird boxes in the Churchyard.

There will be a Fete this year on Saturday July 23rd, we need help!! If you can manage a stall, help set up or clear up on the day, help with refreshments or any other activities please contact the church wardens!!

No flowers in the church for Lent, but the Church Yard is bursting with daffodils!


 Romans 10:8b-13

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans.

But what scripture say?
“The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 

because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord 
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, 
you will be saved. 

For one believes with the heart and so is justified, 
and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 

The scripture says, 
“No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; 
the same Lord is Lord of all 
and is generous to all who call on him. 

For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Luke 4:1-13

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

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan 
and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 

where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. 
He ate nothing at all during those days, 
and when they were over, he was famished. 

The devil said to him, 
“If you are the Son of God, 
command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 

Jesus answered him, 
“It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up 
and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 

And the devil said to him, 
“To you I will give their glory and all this authority; 
for it has been given over to me, 
and I give it to anyone I please. 

If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 

Jesus answered him, 
“It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

9 Then the devil[c] took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to protect you,’

11 and

‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Wednesday, 2 March 2022
 2 Corinthians 5:20b - 6:10

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

We entreat you on behalf of Christ, 
be reconciled to God. 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, 
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As we work together with him,
we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 

For the Lord says,
“At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
See, now is the acceptable time; 
see, now is the day of salvation! 

We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, 
so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 

but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: 
through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 

beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 

by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, 

genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; 
with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 

in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. 
We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 

as unknown, and yet are well known; 
as dying, and see—we are alive; 
as punished, and yet not killed; 

as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; 
as poor, yet making many rich; 
as having nothing, 
and yet possessing everything.

John 8:1-11

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

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. 
All the people came to him 
and he sat down and began to teach them. 

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman 
who had been caught in adultery; 
and making her stand before all the people,

they said to Jesus, 
“Teacher, this woman was caught 
in the very act of committing adultery. 

Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. 
Now what do you say?” 

They said this to test Jesus, 
so that they might have some charge to bring against him. 
Jesus bent down 
and wrote with his finger on the ground. 

When they kept on questioning him, 
he straightened up and said to them, 
“Let anyone among you who is without sin 
be the first to throw a stone at her.” 

And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.

When they heard it, they went away, 
one by one, beginning with the elders; 
and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 

Jesus straightened up and said to her, 
“Woman, where are they? 
Has no one condemned you?” 

She said, “No one, sir.”
And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. 
Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”


Jesus said, ‘Go on your way and … do not sin again.’ The Gospel reading we have just heard tells of an encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees over the question whether a woman caught in the act of adultery should be stoned to death. At issue between them lies the interpretation of the Law of Moses and the question who has the power to sit as judge over anyone else. The Pharisees have wanted to set a trap for Jesus. The woman is presented to us as clearly guilty of the charge. She was caught in the act of adultery. She has broken the Mosaic Law. Either Jesus must contradict the Law and allow her to go free thus offending the Jewish authorities and people, or he must condemn her to death, offending the Roman authorities who had denied the Jews the power of capital punishment. Jesus evades the double bind by allowing that someone should begin throwing the stones, but the person must himself be without sin. The oldest and wisest, who know themselves, catch on first and begin to drift away. Finally, Jesus asks the woman whether there is anyone who condemns her. Looking around, she sees no one. Jesus too refuses to condemn, but tells her to sin no more.

Jesus does not compromise. He criticises the Pharisees for seeking to destroy him and he instructs the woman to sin no more. In addition, he acts out his instruction from the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged’, and himself lays claim to the power to condemn or forgive. He forgives. And he writes in the dust. This is the only time in the Gospels Jesus is seen to write. He writes with his finger, just as the tablets of stone with the Law of Moses had been written by the hand of God. Thus he claims authority over the Law and its interpretation. As once more in Lent we are required to face up to our own sinfulness and to the judgement of God, this account is at once reassuring and alarming.

Sinfulness and the judgement of God: these are of course issues we would rather evade. Indeed you and I probably spend most of our lives and most of the year avoiding questions about our own sinfulness and the judgement of God. Both the woman caught in adultery and her would-be executioners seem to be conscious of their own sin: ‘they went away one by one, beginning with the elders’. Are we conscious of our own sin? Or are we really quite self-satisfied, feeling that we rub along quite well generally? Or do we perhaps make semi-conscious excuses for ourselves when we know we have behaved badly – I was feeling tired, run-down; I was particularly vulnerable that day; I had been under a lot of pressure? Perhaps we manage at least with half our minds to offload the blame on to someone else. Does that sound familiar?

When I was a teenager and preparing for confirmation I was given a book of prayers for regular use. It had daily prayers, prayers of praise and thanksgiving, devotions to use in preparation for the sacraments, suggested prayers for the Church and for the world, for families and friends, and for those in need or sorrow. It also contained a section on penitence, being sorry for sin. With it was a list of possible sins, a kind of check-list for daily self-examination. Of course, this check-list prompted all kinds of thoughts. Most of the sins I hadn’t committed nor had much opportunity to contemplate. Adultery was a distant prospect for a pious 13-year old in 1962. Nevertheless, the check-list was a fine means of producing scrupulousness; rather like a list of ailments on a health service website, it provoked certainty that you must be suffering from this and that. But in the end a check-list will produce little conviction of sin.

The New Testament word usually translated ‘sin’ has a slightly different meaning in classical Greek: to miss the mark; to fall short. We might think of an archer, pulling back the longbow and inserting an arrow. He aims at his target a hundred feet away and pulling back with his full strength and aiming high, he lets go the arrow. Rather than flying the full hundred feet, the arrow drops short no more than a cricket pitch length away and flops to the ground. It misses the mark, falls short. So do we, when we sin. We miss the mark; we fall short. And the mark we miss constantly, as the letter to the Ephesians makes clear, is nothing less than the full stature of Christ. Listen for a moment to this marvellous passage from Ephesians chapter four. ‘The gifts he gave were … for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to … the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children …. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.’

And Christ demands of us just as much as he demands of himself. ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ And from elsewhere in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ And the ultimate perfection of the law is nothing less than the law of love. ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ We see the same idea recorded in St John’s first Epistle, ‘God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.’

The mark is Christ. The test is love. We are to grow into maturity in Christ, reaching his stature. Nothing less can satisfy. And we must start afresh today, this Ash Wednesday. ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you must return’, we shall hear again in a few minutes. But in Christ and with Christ and through Christ is glory, if we can measure up to the stature of the fullness of Christ. That is our new task this Lent. Forget the check-lists; forget the excuses; nothing less than Christ will do. We are to be imitators of Christ.

The 15th century spiritual writer Thomas à Kempis begins his book On the Imitation of Christ like this: ‘The Lord said, “Whoever follows me does not walk in darkness.” These are the words of Christ. He warns us that, if we wish truly to be enlightened and freed from all blindness of heart, we must imitate his life and his habits. Therefore our most earnest endeavour must be: to concentrate on the life of Christ.’ That was Thomas à Kempis.

I say to you, and to myself: may our most earnest endeavour this Lent be to focus on the life of Christ and to imitate him: Christ in us the hope of glory.

Fr John

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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