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Services

We are still open during this third lockdown for the services on Sundays at 10.00 a.m, Wednesdays at 9.30 a.m. and Morning Prayer at 9.30 a.m. on Thursdays. As before, social distancing will be in place, masks must be worn and there will be no singing, sharing the peace or refreshments after the service. But we will be here and we would love you to join us!

A link to all services in our area which are being streamed can be found on the Diocesan website

First Sunday:

10.00 a.m. Said Communion (when a major church festival there will be a full communion service)

Other Sundays

10.00 a.m. Holy Communion

11.00 a.m. Refreshments in hall

 

Wednesdays 9.30 a.m.

Said Communion - Common Worship order one.

During this current lockdown, St. James's Church, Thornton, is closed. All Wednesday morning services will be held at St. Saviour's until further notice.

Thursdays 9.30 a.m.

Morning Prayer

For the texts for each Sunday see the relevant notice sheet

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
28. 02. 2021

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, that they may return to the way of righteousness: grant to all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, that they may reject those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings
Genesis 17 v 1-7, 15-16
Romans 4 v 13 – 25
Mark 8 v 31-38


Reflection on Mark 8 v 31-38

The selection process for becoming a magistrate is protracted, detailed and stringent. I clearly remember my cohort being really fired with zeal for the work. We were told we were ordinary people from our local communities chosen to do special work for the community, with the knowledge of what the common issues were for our community.

Since then the role and work has changed greatly. The law has become more complex. There are strict guidelines on procedures. We now have to be a whiz on a tablet as paper information and communication has almost disappeared. We are required to work different days, in different places ranging from Huddersfield to Scarborough and up to Northallerton. One should not put JP after one’s name as this may be construed as trying to exert influence or gain favour. The only real reward is a sense of having tried to apply justice to a fellow human in a fair manner.

So I feel for the disciples. They and Peter in particular have just declared Jesus to be the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ. They accepted who he is but have no idea of the mission and how it would be carried out. Their excitement must have reached the clouds. The Jewish nation had been awaiting their promised Messiah for hundreds of years, especially since the conquering Romans arrived. Jesus asks the disciples to keep the great news of who he was a secret for now. Why? Instead, he begins to tell them about how much suffering he must endure. Instead of being welcomed and feted by the leaders and the elite of their nation, Jesus is to be rejected, tried and killed.

Jesus was being frank, but the disciples must have been speechless with shock. What! What was he saying? Do you mean they are not to be hailed by the community as his heroic followers? Jesus knew the end of his ministry was approaching and he thought the disciples had enough knowledge and faith to understand what was about to happen. Jesus was to be rejected by the Jewish leaders, the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law who made up the Jewish Council which was the highest religious court in Jesus’ time.

In predicting all this, Jesus begins to explain God’s plan for defeating Satan and saving humankind. The disciples do not understand, they are puzzled and worried. They were expecting to be given a rapturous reception by the people. The people would then rebel against and defeat the Romans who ruled over them. Israel would again rise to its former power. What Jesus was talking about was not what they had envisaged.

Peter is so shocked he draws Jesus aside and tells Jesus off for speaking in such a way. Peter was thinking of how disheartening all the suffering and death was and he spoke up on behalf of the others. He was saying “Jesus, we have left our families and livelihoods behind to follow you. The people are loving you. You are the Messiah, the Leader, the Teacher, the Son of God. Why are you disheartening us? You have all this power to do great miracles, you can’t be killed in this way”.

Jesus turns and looks at the bewildered disciples. They have already slipped back into their former state of blindness and Satan has gone on the offensive through Peter. Peter and the disciples didn’t hear the important words about ‘after three days rise again’, or, if they heard, they did not understand and did not believe it. They could not look beyond the suffering and death part. After all the time, the teaching and the examples of Jesus’ work, the disciples could not accept anything less than a triumphant end to Christ’s mission. They had set their minds on human things and not on the divine.

The response Peter got seems quite harsh when he was just being a concerned friend and follower. But Jesus knew Peter’s words were the work of Satan. The gospel last Sunday warned us that when the devil had ended those temptations ‘he departed from him until an opportune time’. This was it. “Get behind me” is the Jewish phrase for “be gone” or “get out of my sight, go away”. They are very harsh words to Peter who had just been told he was the rock on which the Church would be built. The disciples were showing they did not understand the plan for salvation.

Jesus would not have shouted at Peter but spoken in deep sadness as he realises it is Satan placing temptation in his path and demonstrating how little the disciples had learned. Peter loved the Lord and could not bear the thought of him dying that way. The hardest temptation we are likely to face is when it comes from someone whom we know cares for us. So Jesus calls the people and makes it clear to them and the disciples what it will really mean to follow in his footsteps.

We say we believe Jesus to be our Messiah and we tend to relate it to where we will be spending eternity. But what does it mean here, now, in our lives, in this city, in this world, in this pandemic? How can we live our lives to show we truly believe in the gospel message? How do we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him? We should not take on suffering for its own sake. We must not go out and deliberately put our lives and the lives of others at risk. Satisfying our own needs should not drive us but caring for the needs of others should.

During this pandemic, many have demonstrated that, even whilst enduring their own personal loss of a loved one or their livelihoods, they have found the capacity to reach out to others in need just as Jesus did. We look around our communities and see the work being done for the poor, the hungry, the sick and the bereaved. God will bless it all.

Intercessions for the Second Sunday of Lent – 28th February2021

Loving God as you revealed yourself to Abraham in ancient days, reveal yourself to us in this present age.  Make us into a faithful people ready to believe your promises and follow you wherever you will lead us.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Holy God, during this period of Lent, give us a new awareness of your presence in our Church and teach us the humility to accept that all our gifts come from you.  Strengthen us as we strive by our small acts of sacrifice to come closer to you and help us be cheerful in our fasting and giving as our Lord Jesus Christ commanded.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Gracious God, we pray for your church around the world.  May your people be built up in faith and live their lives following Jesus Christ our Lord, especially as we are struggling to meet together because of the pandemic. Help us to play our part in the life of the church throughout the world; through our prayers and by our gifts of money and service during this season of Lent and beyond. Give courage to those who find it hard to follow you. Give us a fresh vision that leads to action and strengthen us to serve you in the places where we live.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Father God, we give you thanks for our Local and Church community here in Fairweather Green: for our neighbours, for our friends and for the people around us with whom we work and share our daily lives. We pray for those who are old and lonely, those isolated because of ill-health, and those who find it difficult to be accepted. Show us what we can do to help those around us and teach us to be good neighbours and true friends. We pray for all in our parish, especially this week for those who live in Avocet Close. Bell Dean Road, Charteris Road, Goldcrest Avenue, Lower Grange Close, Marmion Avenue, Merlin Grove, Raven Terrace and The Square
Lord in your mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Gracious God, we pray for the sick and the suffering.  For those undergoing treatments and surgery; for those convalescing and those who are recovered. We pray too for all who administer to the sick and infirm; for those working in our local health centres and hospitals; for those working in care homes and those who daily give help at home; as the vaccination programme moves ahead at speed, we give thanks for the hope it gives us that we may soon be allowed to meet up with family and friends.  We ask for your blessing on all who have asked for our prayers.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Almighty God be near to all those who are grieving today over the loss of a loved one. We raise before you those who have died in the faith of Christ and for those whose belief is known only to you.   We especially remember our dear friend Richard Bailey and ask for your healing comfort for his family. Lord, we thank you for those who have travelled before us and are now at peace in your eternal presence.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our Prayer.

Faithful God as we go out into the world today help us to remember that your son was tempted by the Devil but chose faithfulness before popularity, service before fame and sacrifice before power. Give us the strength to reject temptation through our Lenten journey and beyond it throughout the rest of our lives.
Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Blessing

Christ give you grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross and follow him: and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
21. 02. 2021.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings
Genesis 9 verses 8-17
1 Peter 3 verses 18-22
Mark 1 verses 9-15


Reflection on the Baptism of Jesus:  Mark 1 v 9-15

When someone is accused of a crime the law sets out certain criteria as to when the police or the judge can claim that the accused person has been well identified by a witness. The best level of identification is when there is a good, clear, long look by someone who was a relative, or friend, or workmate or neighbour and so forth. What everyone acknowledges is that seldom do two persons see the same thing. Major problems can be when the witness is not identifying the person but talking about their car or their clothes.

Is the witness lying on purpose? Does the accused person say he was nowhere near the place in question? Is there other compelling evidence? There is a host of other stuff to consider. You may have heard it said on the tv a week or so ago that the system prefers women witnesses because they see more detail and are more reliable.

For non-Christians and for those at the beginning of understanding their faith, and even for some long-standing Christians, one of the major difficulties in reading Scripture is reconciling the four books of the New Testament that are called the Gospels. These books are about the birth, ministry, trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. But they all tell it slightly differently. They each home in on different aspects.

We have four writers who were not writing at the same time or in the same place. We now know that the Gospel of Mark was written first and some of what the other Gospels have were copied and reinterpreted or extended from Mark, or from another source. Each writer has even changed some of the sequences of Jesus’ miracles because it helped their particular theology or the essential points they wanted to get across. They come from different backgrounds so are influenced by their personal perspective.

The main thing with Mark is that he tells us about Jesus from a Gentile Christian view, whereas the other Gospel writers tend to see Jesus from the Jewish Christian viewpoint. Mark tells of Jesus with an understanding of the problem of being human (us), the person of Christ and what salvation is all about.

In our Gospel reading today, in a very short space of seven verses, Mark tells us about the marvellous event that was Jesus’ baptism, the terror of the temptations in the dessert and what this means for God’s kingdom and our salvation. We are still only up to verse nine of the first chapter of Mark. Mark totally ignores the long list of who was the son of whom in arriving at Jesus’ birth. He sees no need to establish Jesus’ right to royal descendancy from King David. Jesus is the Son of God. That supersedes any earthly relatives. The details of Jesus’ birth are just that – of limited importance. Mark gets straight to the point - what is Jesus doing here? Jesus is the Good News. He is the Son of God. He is here on a mission for his Father. This is it.

Christ the Son of God has come down from heaven, being born a man with his Father’s mission to save humanity. His first action was to humbly present himself for baptism by John. Although sinless himself, he had taken the sins of humanity on his shoulders so he must be baptised as they were. We have to look to the other Gospels for more details of this astonishing event. We have been blessed with the benefit of hindsight and the knowledge of others. We now know that Jesus was setting the example for us in humility and grace, doing what was right and proper for all to see.

Jesus submitted himself to baptism by John as being in accordance with God’s will. Christ was showing his readiness to comply with all his father’s commands and statutes ‘to fulfil all righteousness’. Jesus comes up out of the water and, without a pause, heaven burst open and the spirit of God descends on him like a dove and rests on him. The tearing of the skies suggests the world cannot be mended to what it was before Christ’s arrival. The baptism of Jesus has opened up a whole new chapter in our relationship with God. Heaven has opened enabling direct communication with God, and from God, through the Holy Spirit. When we do God’s will as he commands, we too can expect to be in communion with him and receive communication from him.

The dove descending on Jesus signalled our deliverance from sin. The voice of God welcomes Jesus as he sets out on his mission to save humanity ‘You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased’. Jesus’ divine identification is revealed to the world. He was there with God before the creation of the world, he took part in the creation of the world and all that is in it. In his baptism Jesus publicly accepted the work his father sent him to do. He started out on his ministry to bring forth justice to the nations. Here we have the first appearance of the Holy Trinity - the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit - here on earth.

Without any explanation from Mark, we hear of the Holy Spirit driving Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. This was, and still is, a very dangerous place. It was way out on the margins of society.

Wild beasts were living out there. But, throughout the Bible, it was a place where God frequently met with his people. It was the area that God led them out of before taking them across the river Jordan to the land he had promised.  In the book of Hosea, it was the place where God spoke to the people alluringly in order to bring them back to himself. It was a place where people could flee to in order to escape persecution. Many of God’s prophets fled there in times of need. Here is where Jesus resides for forty days and forty nights, doing battle with Satan. Satan has come himself to do battle so we know Jesus was none other than the Son of God as only he could defeat the devil.

Jesus was not attacked by the wild beasts, which is more evidence of his supreme power. In addition, God sent His angels to care for him. The other Gospels tell us that Jesus had fasted for forty days at the end of which he was famished. And that is when Satan arrives to tempt him. I’m sure we have all noticed that it’s when we are at our lowest ebb that temptation comes beating at the door. That is why we are advised to never go into a supermarket when you are hungry. That will be the end of your efforts to lose weight.

In Lent we too retire from the world in small ways.  We hopefully do a lot of inward looking as we try to draw closer to Christ. We make simple pledges for Lent and hope to resist the temptation to break them. Jesus overcame his temptations on our behalf so that he can come to us in our times of trial. Jesus offers us God-given courage with an awareness of God’s ministering angels, and with trust in God’s love.

I pray you will have a blessed Lent with the minimum of temptations and the strength to overcome them.

PRAYERS

Loving God, as the Church begins this season of Lent, we ask you to remind us of what is important and what is not; of where we are wandering away, and where we need to change so that by Easter we will be renewed and strengthened for your service in the world.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Let us pray for people, in all parts of this troubled world and in all kinds of need.   Lord shine your light upon those who live in danger of violence, persecution, oppression, loss and injustice because of their race or belief.  We pray that the hearts of those who visit the evils of prejudice and greed upon others maybe turned from darkness and awakened to the true light in the love and compassion of the Lord.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Dear Lord keep us under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious, the fearful and lift those up who are brought low that we may rejoice in your comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.  
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus Christ you taught us to love our neighbour and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you, therefore we pray for all who live in Arthur Avenue, Brindley Grove Rodding Avenue and Sheldrake Avenue. In this time of anxiety, give us all strength to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick and to assure the isolated of our love and your love.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Merciful God we entrust to your tender care those who are ill or in pain, those awaiting surgery, or cancer treatment knowing that whenever danger threatens your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.   Please give skill, sympathy and resilience to all who care for these people and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father we pray for those who hearts have been saddened by the death of someone dear to them, for members of our families who have died and whose anniversary we recall.  Help us to experience the comfort of the Holy Spirit within us and the fellowship of the church family around us until we are reunited once more in your heavenly kingdom.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your son our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

BLESSING

Christ give you grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, take up your cross and follow him: and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

THE TRANSFIGURATION
14. 02. 2021.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty Father, whose Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross; give us grace to perceive his glory, that we may be strengthened to suffer with him and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings
2 Kings 2 verses 1-12
2 Corinthians 4 verses 3-6
Mark 9 verses 2-9

Reflection on The Transfiguration

Before she married, my eldest sister and I went on holidays together to Jamaica. One morning, 14 years ago, I was sitting on my bedroom balcony, high above the town, looking out across the town and the bay. It was only 7am but the sun was already high in the sky and the view blindingly, beautifully breath-taking. As I said my morning prayers, as set in this book, I was shaken by the thought that there were Anglican Christians, if not exactly all around the world, then in many churches and homes in England, saying the same prayers; encountering the same readings; feeling the presence of the one God.

Our Gospel reading today tells us of the transfiguration or transformation of Jesus in the presence of the three closest of his disciples. Jesus has taken Peter, James and John up a high mountain and there something tremendous happens. His clothes become dazzlingly whiter than any bleach job. You can just imagine the disciples standing there, blinking in the glare from the whiteness.

In a couple of blinks, they then see the prophet Elijah and the law bringer Moses standing there talking with Jesus. Luke’s gospel records the disciples as being extremely tired and sleepy up till then. They had struggled to keep their eyes open, as they will do again later in the garden of Gethsemane. They were rewarded by witnessing the glory of Jesus and the presence of Moses the great lawgiver, and Elijah the great prophet. They were the greatest in the Old Testament. Both were symbols of God’s covenant relationship with his people.

The two prophets are talking to Jesus about what is to happento him, about what was to happen in Jerusalem resulting in Jesus’ physical departure from his disciples and our world. The disciples could clearly see the Jesus they knew so it was no hallucination, but he was transformed by this bright, white radiance. A miracle was happening to Jesus, instead of being done by him. And dear Peter feels the need to say something.

He starts off well enough “Master” he says, “it is good for us to be here”. He appreciates being present to witness Jesus being glorified. But the experience is overwhelming, and he is so amazed he talks too much. He burbles out the first thing that comes into his head and ends up saying something inappropriate or, as our young people used to say, ‘totally naff ‘. Peter offers to build three altars. The writer Tom Wright accuses Peter of lowering the tone with his childish suggestion. But Peter couldn’t help it. He was taking on the future role as spokesperson for the others and, in the presence of such magnificence, he was out of his depth.

Peter says, “Let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah”. In his naivety Peter has misinterpreted what has happened in all sorts of ways. Firstly, he is putting Jesus on a par with Moses and Elijah even though a little earlier he had been assuring Jesus that he recognised him as the Messiah. Moses and Elijah are seen with Jesus, but they are on a totally different plain. Moses and Elijah were simply conduits for God’s word to his people at a given time. Jesus was the word made flesh, the means of saving all humankind for all generations.

Secondly, Peter, like King David, may have wanted to capture and retain the presence of God’s glory among the people, as if God could be contained in a dwelling. Thirdly, Peter like many, believers and unbelievers, did not understand the uniqueness of Jesus and his mission to humanity. Perhaps Peter was highlighting his own failure to understand the necessity of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Perhaps Peter wanted to linger in a place where God’s presence had been experienced. Just as I felt on my holiday.

Moses and Elijah were pointing towards Jerusalem where Jesus’ departure would take place. For some time, Jesus has been teaching his disciples and gradually opening their eyes to the truth and wonders of God’s Kingdom. Jesus has been revealing himself to them as the Messiah. Not the warrior king they were expecting but the bringer of salvation, the saviour of humanity’s soul. This transfiguration, or vision, was telling the disciples that Jesus was here to continue and then complete the work begun by these two greatest prophets.

We can look back and see other coincidences between these two prophets and Jesus. They too were sent by God but rejected by the people. Like Jesus, they too had a life of loneliness and being misunderstood. They too had a habit of going up high mountains to meet with God. Here they are in this radiant light talking with Jesus. This image shows Jesus caught up with God - he is bathed in the love, power and kingdom of God. It transforms his whole being with light in the way singular special moments in life can transform our faith. We and the disciples are being shown that Jesus is the highest prophet and the true Messiah. The two who came before were just introducing him and giving the people some clues as to what was to come.

This vision of the glory and power of Jesus will help to sustain the disciples in the days to come, as they cope with his death and resurrection and the persecution they will personally suffer as they preach the Gospel. The disciples will never again mistake Jesus for a mere man because here they have their eyes opened.

God sends a cloud to envelop the group and then speaks - not to Jesus but to the disciples. God affirms that Elijah and Moses were important in preparing the way, but Jesus is the real deal. They see and hear his heavenly Father confirm Jesus as the Son of God. God commands the disciples to fully accept the authority of Jesus and listen to him. The disciples are being enabled to look beyond the veil which Saint Paul says Satan holds in front of the eyes of unbelievers. Paul assures us this keeps them from seeing the light of the Glory of Christ who is the image of God.

Jesus is here to finish the work so listen to him. When God steps back, Elijah and Moses also disappear, showing that Jesus is greater than the two of them, he is all that is now needed to save us all. Paul reminds us that God has charged us to proclaim the gospel. In so doing we enable light to shine out of darkness. This light comes from our knowledge of the glory of God which we see in the face of Jesus.

As they come back down the mountain the disciples are aware that they have not fully understood what has happened. They have to be able to take it in themselves before they can share it with the others. It would be after Jesus’ resurrection that they would fully understand - all would be made plain. We have the hindsight and knowledge that the disciples did not have. We have more of the story. In the scriptures we have the opportunity to see the light of the glory of Christ. Our walk with God requires a different way of assessing the world and demands a different perspective on moral values. It means we cannot sit on our mountain and look down on the world through sunglasses. Yes, take in the beauty of God’s creation; feel his presence all around; then we have to declare his love and word to all people. We have a gospel to proclaim. It is good news for all mankind. Difficult in this pandemic but even pandemics have to bow before the power of God. Amen.

Prayers

Holy God, you know the disorder of our sinful lives: set straight our crooked hearts and bend our wills to love your goodness and your glory in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Loving Father, we pray for your church throughout the world. As we prepare ourselves for the discipline of Lent, keep us strong in faith, true to our Lenten rule and faithful to your word.                                 

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Creator God, we thank you for the gift of your creation. Help us to care for it, respect its resources and keep it fit for future generations. We pray for world leaders whose decisions and actions affect so many, and for those at the other end of the spectrum who have to suffer the consequences through hunger, hardship and deprivation.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our city and our local community; for all who maintain the fabric of society whether through their employment or by voluntary activity. We pray for all who live in the parish especially this week for those who live in Rose Bank Place, Belshaw Street, Green Top Street and Jesse Street.

 Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Healing Lord, we pray for all who are suffering in body, mind or spirit and for those who look after them. We pray for all affected by the pandemic; the bereaved, those suffering in hospital or at home, the medical staff who care for them, and all who are involved in the vaccine rollout.      

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Redeeming Lord, we pray for all who have passed beyond this mortal life, those who have died recently and those whose anniversaries occur at this time. May they rest in peace and rise in glory. According to your promises, grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom.

Rejoicing in the fellowship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Cyril and Methodius and all the saints, we commend ourselves and all people to your unfailing love.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

BLESSING

Christ Jesus, the splendour of the Father and the image of his being, draw you to himself that you may live in his light and share his glory; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.
 Amen.

 

THE SECOND SUNDAY BEFORE LENT
07. 02. 2021.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image; teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings
Proverbs 8 verses 1, 22-31
Colossians 1 verses 20-25
John 1 verses 1-14

Reflection on Colossians Chapter 1 verses 15 -20

Our church lectionary requires us to use today’s Gospel reading once during the two days of Christmas celebration. We looked at this reading on Christmas morning as it was our only service of worship so, today, I would like to look at the reading from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colossae, a city which he had never visited, but Paul assures them they are known to him by reputation.

Paul initially tells this congregation that he considers them to be a faithful, loving, productive community who participate in the universal fellowship of Christians by their faith in Christ and love for all Christians everywhere. But Paul soon focusses in on the main reason for his letter. He had heard that some of this new congregation were drifting away from the essence of his teachings and believing things he considered to be heresy. The main complaint was that some of the Colossians were trying to reduce Christ to the level of a mere man and disputing his position as God’s Son and part of the Holy Trinity. Paul wanted to bring them back to the purity of his gospel.

As a rule, our scriptures do not strive to prove the existence of God or provide lengthy explanations and arguments about the deity of Christ. Our reading today is an exception. One writer noted that these few verses provide the most complete statements on Christ as part in the triune God that can be found in the New Testament. Here there is no possibility of seeing Jesus as merely human or of inventing a hierarchy of angels who will take on the role of mediation between God and humans. Christ is supreme.

Paul says that Christ makes visible that which is invisible. Being the image of God, Christ himself shows us what God would be like if He was visible. The Gospel reading tells us that Christ, called the Word, was in existence with God before the world was formed. Everything that might have come after the Word is of no relevance since Christ, being the Word, came before all else and is superior to anything since.

Jewish belief places great store in the pre-existence of other factors that were and are in place to mediate between us and God. These are the word of God and the Law. In our scriptures these are Wisdom and the Word. Wisdom as shown to us in Genesis. Wisdom is there with God and his Son, the Word, at the creation. Wisdom is expressed as someone who delights in what God has created.
Non-believers cannot accept the idea of the Christ, who appeared as human on earth, being part of the creation process before the earth existed. As Christians we believe that Christ is our only route to God and the mediator from God to us, therefore we can grasp the aspects of the universe that was and is created around us.

Paul assures us that Christ was God’s agent in the making of all creation and since then has ensured that every individual factor in creation would work as part of the overall whole – that is, until humans start to interfere and try to manipulate aspects, especially when this is for personal advantage. Jesus in his personification to us is presented as God and His purposes. We try to interfere with this at our peril as history has always noted.

Prayers

Ever living God, our creator and redeemer, you love us and know us better than we know ourselves. With a word you created all things and so we pray you will hear the words of your children as we pray; giving thanks to you for your church, the world and its peoples.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Mighty God, we pray for the worldwide Christian Church in all its diversity. We pray especially for those churches who meet together in difficult and dangerous circumstances and just now for churches who cannot meet in person but only online. May they feel your abiding presence to uphold their courage and strengthen their faith. We pray for our absent friends, who usually worship here, we pray for Dorothy who leads and inspires our worship and looks after our congregation. For Grace and Patrick and Almaz who look after our church.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Creator God we pray for your world and its peoples with all their needs, questions and longings.  As we struggle to understand the reasons behind the devastating effect of the virus; we know that in the midst of such events your love is shown in the acts of bravery, selflessness and compassion which follow. We pray for all who suffer in such dreadful circumstances and for those who are tasked with providing medical and community support and, eventually, in the long task of recovery that will follow.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Loving God we pray for our neighbours; all who live in this parish; those in need in our own community; the sick and the dying; the young and old; the housebound and those in care homes, hospitals and hospices and for the work and devotion of those who care for them. 
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Merciful God be close to those who feel the pain of grief at the loss of a loved one whether recent or as each anniversary passes. Help us to support all those who mourn with our prayers, with words of comfort and with practical help as they struggle to come to terms with their loss. And receive the people who have died into your eternal kingdom.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Help us during the coming week to live the Good News of your word. Help us to spread the warmth of your love to everyone we meet whether in person or online.

Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

Blessing

May Christ, the Son of God, gladden our hearts with the good news of his Kingdom. Amen.

 

THE PRESENTATION OF CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE
(CANDLEMAS)

31. 01. 2021.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, clothed in Majesty, whose beloved Son was this day presented in the Temple, in substance of our flesh: grant that we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts, by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings
Malachi 3 verses 1 - 5
Hebrews 2 verses 14 – 18
Luke 2 verses 22 – 40

Reflection on
The PRESENTATION OF CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE - CANDLEMAS

One of the theories I was taught as a teacher in training was commonly called the psychology sandwich for talking to students about a piece of work which has been marked. The sandwich is used by politicians giving speeches so you will quickly remember hearing it or, worse yet, remember having it used on you.

It goes like this: Mary, you have done or said this, and this, and this, which was brilliant. But you did this and this and this which was downright awful and terrible and useless. However, you did this and this which was great. OK?

The idea is the student leaves with a little bit of their spirit intact and don’t feel too hurt by the fish paste or spam in the middle of the sandwich. What I never understood was how the speaker would think the listener would not recognise what had happened. For me, I quickly stopped listening to the opening good bit or the good bit at the end because I was focussing on the nasty bit in the middle. 
Our Gospel reading is about Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple in Jerusalem. He was only a baby but even so, this occasion was as dramatic as all his visits to the Temple would be in the future. Mary and Joseph had taken the baby to the temple to perform two of the requirements of the laws about giving birth, which God gave to Moses. The first is found in Exodus chapter 13 where the Lord says to Moses ‘Consecrate to me all the firstborn, -- whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, be it human or animal, is mine’.

Exodus goes on to say that every firstborn male child must be redeemed to God, in memory of the fact that God saved the lives of all the firstborn of the Israelites but killed all the firstborn of the Egyptians on the night before the Israelites left Egypt and slavery. This redemption of a firstborn son was by payment to the priest of 5 shekels, or less according to what the family could afford. Our Lord being the Son of God was pure from sin, so why did he need to go through this process of redemption from sin?

Well, he had come into the world and taken our human form. He was to live by the laws of the world, whilst being fully obedient to his Father in heaven, as an example to us. Jesus was born according to the laws of nature, and to the then chosen people of God, so he complied with the laws of Moses, as given by God. The second requirement of the law about giving birth is that the mother must stay in seclusion for forty days after the birth of a son, in order to be purified (80 days for a daughter – yes ladies, we are more expensive).

After this the new mother presents herself at the temple with her sacrifice in order to be designated clean in spirit. The normal gift for sacrifice would have been a young lamb plus a dove or a pigeon. But poor people could give a second bird instead of the lamb. Mary and Joseph presented two birds for sacrifice, so we are reminded of the humble but law-abiding and devout status of the parents of Jesus.

Then, to the astonishment of Mary and Joseph, two wonderful things happen. They would have been in one of the outer chambers of the temple as women were not allowed into the inner chambers. They would have been standing in a crowd of parents taking part in a similar service when they are approached by Simeon, a righteous and devout man. In looking forward to the consolation of Israel, Simeon was looking for the coming of the Messiah who would be the deliverance and salvation of the people. All Israel was looking forward to this because a Messiah is what you pray for, and hopefully get, at the end of a time of great suffering. The people had certainly been suffering terrible oppression for a few hundred years and the more faithful a person was, the harder they looked for the Messiah to come and deliver them.

Simeon had looked continuously and harder than most and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Indeed, through the Holy Spirit, God had told Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. Wherever he was and whatever he was doing at this time, the Holy Spirit inspired and guided Simeon to that part of the temple where the Holy Family was.

As the family stepped forward to do what was required Simeon took the child in his arms. Simeon praised God in the wonderful words of verses 29 to 32 of our Gospel Reading. We now call this the Song of Simeon, or the Nunc Dimittis. It is frequently said as a prayer at the end of Holy Communion in many churches. Simeon says he is ready to die peacefully now that he has seen God’s salvation which was the baby through whom God would bring salvation to humanity. Simeon was saying that he had seen the promised Messiah who had come to save humankind and therefore he was now happy to die, whenever God called him, tonight even. This was a salvation, Simeon says, which God had prepared for all people, not just the Israelites, but the Gentiles too, not just one nation, but for all nations, for you and for me.

This salvation would be a light revealed to us, the Gentiles, but also to the Jews, for whom this would be a glory when they see Jesus as the Son of God. No wonder Mary and Joseph were amazed! They were still shaken up from the visit by the shepherds, and the wise men were an even bigger shock.
This holy man had not set eyes on them before, how did he know all of this? Simeon blesses the parents, the couple chosen for the great work of caring for this child, the Messiah sent from God. Every child is a gift from God and so is to be cherished and cared for, but oh the joy and trepidation of being gifted with the care of the Son of God, the one who is to be the salvation of the world. Wow. Simeon says this child is ‘destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed’.

Was Simeon warning us that people will be divided in their acceptance of Christ as the Son of God? For those who rejected Christ, would this be their downfall at the end of time, and for those who accepted Jesus would this be their rising at the resurrection and their entering into salvation? Simeon was certainly right about the many who would oppose Jesus, both during his ministry and after his death, to this very day even. This opposition expresses the inner ungodly thoughts of such persons.
Then Simeon gives the bad news to Mary. Here comes the fish paste in Mary’s sandwich because all of this salvation was going to cost her dearly. A sword would pierce her soul. This we know will happen as Mary stands grieving at the foot of the cross, watching her son die.

Then Mary is greeted by the widow Anna, an elderly prophetess who spent her every waking hour fasting and praying in the temple. Anna too is guided by the Holy Spirit and, recognising the child, gives God thanks and praise. Then she goes out to tell anyone who had been looking for this salvation that the Messiah had come. Anna represented the people on the lowest rung of society – she was a woman, a widow, old and very poor - but she was chosen by God to be the first evangelist. Mary the young mother was given the back of her sandwich as Anna confirmed Simeon’s prophesy. Humanity was saved.

Alleluia, Amen.


Prayers

Everlasting God, thank you for welcoming us in love, hear us as we pray for the church, the world and for all its inhabitants.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Faithful God, we pray for Christians everywhere.  Sustain them in their worship and prayers in whatever way that is happening at this time. Where churches are closed, guide and encourage church leaders to find different ways to reach out to people.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

God of every land and nation, you spoke your word and revealed your good news in Jesus Christ. We pray for our troubled world its peoples and their leaders. We pray for those caught up in war, and violence, and hatred. May peace abound and righteousness flourish that we may vanquish injustice.  We pray for the on-going fight against the Coronavirus pandemic and for all governments and their health authorities that they take appropriate steps for the good of all their people.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Holy God, although we are sometimes separated by language and culture from the people we live amongst, we long to see your will done here on earth as it is in heaven. We pray for our neighbours, and all who live in our parish, accepting with gratitude their support, and seeking ways to offer ours. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Father of all humanity, we ask you to look to the sad, the neglected; the broken; the bewildered and anxious people of our communities.  Open our ears, eyes, hearts and hands to their needs. Show us how to love them as you have loved us.  Save us from the sin of arrogance and conceit, in a world that places the wealth of a few above the wellbeing of the many.
We place before you all people who are doing extraordinary things for others in these extraordinary times. Give them the support and stamina to continue.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Merciful God, your love reaches beyond the grave. At the end of our days on earth be with us and with those we love. May those who have gone before us rest in your eternal peace.  We remember before you those who have died, and we pray for all whose life is saddened by the death of a loved one, be with them in their loss.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Lord God we pray for ourselves; as we start the week ahead, we ask that in all we do, we walk more closely with you at our side safe in the knowledge that your Fatherly love and care knows no bounds.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of Your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ

Blessing

Christ the Son of God, born of Mary, fill you with his grace to trust his promises and obey his will; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Third Sunday of Epiphany
24. 01. 2021.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings
Genesis 14 verses 17-20
Revelation 19 verses 6-10
John 2 verses 1-11

Reflection on John 2 v 1-11 The Marriage at Cana

Until last year, Caribbean weddings were an exceedingly expensive affair. You invited a particular person and partner, but with no knowledge of how many children and extensions would be arriving as well. Sending out a detailed list of desired gifts with the invitation, along with stating children were not allowed, was unheard of and would be ignored. You definitely had to cater for extra guests by at least a third to make sure you did not run out of food and refreshments or you would be the subject of gossip for months.

In our Gospel reading Jesus and his disciples have been invited to a wedding in a little village not far from Nazareth. Mary, Jesus’ mother, seems to have a role in organising and overseeing things. This was a big relatives and community celebration. The ceremony would have been late on a Wednesday evening if the girl was a virgin, and on a Thursday if she was a widow.

After the legal ceremony there would have been a noisy and joyous procession to the groom’s home where the partying then went on for at least a week. The cost would be great - but standards had to be upheld.

Jesus’ first miracle takes place as part of this very happy occasion. He is at the wedding party. Everyone is having a great time - then oops! They run out of wine. This is a major issue because it is the job of the groom and his family to provide enough refreshment for all the guests.

Mary is sure that Jesus can help. She holds the knowledge of the intimate circumstances of his miraculous birth. She is sure he is here on earth for a great, godly reason, therefore he must have tremendous powers and she has absolute faith that he can do something to help.

She is being a bit of a bossy mother when she tells him of the emergency and her implied request that he does something about it. How often do we make these subtle demands on our children even when we can remember the same being made on us and the resentment or annoyance we felt at the time.
Jesus points out to her that, really, it is not her job, and certainly they have no right to request that he fixes the social mess that the family’s negligence has brought about. Jesus is no longer living under Mum’s roof so is no longer subject to her rules. He is not being rude or uppity when he addresses her as ‘woman’. It is the same terminology that he will use later, on the cross, when he commends her into the care of his beloved disciple John.

His mother seems to understand that whatever Jesus needs to do, and whatever will be, are all in the hands of his Father the Almighty. She tells the servants that whatever Jesus says they are to do, do it. She has acknowledged that her son is no longer a child to be instructed what to do, he is now on the path that his heavenly Father has set for him.

Everyone who is walking with him can now only follow. The heavenly Father is in charge. Despite his words to his mother, Jesus does take charge. He orders that the enormous water jars standing to the side be filled with water. They are filled to the brim. These water jars are there for the act of ritual cleansing according to a Jewish law going back into the Old Testament.

Jesus changes the ordinary, earthly water into an abundance of quality wine. This is an amazing act. This new wine represents the new age of Jesus. The old Judaism is over, the old beliefs are over, the old institutions are over. They are all replaced by Jesus who requires new wine skins to hold the new words of his Father God.

In marriage, as in all long-term relationships, we are proposing a new start in a new partnership. We put away our old ways of seeing our own personal needs as being the centre of all our decision making and actions. We look to the needs and wellbeing of our partner and we grow in love. We give and receive courage and support to face each day.

Similar to the path that Jesus trod, it is not easy or smooth, but with love as the bedrock, and the Lord as our guide, we travel the river of the life in hope. At the back of our minds, we know there will be an end someday, but we choose to ignore it, and it will not equate to the same pain as Mary watching her son slip away on the cross.

But our faith gives us the reassurance of knowing that on the day of resurrection we will be re-joined with our loved one to live in love, joy and peace, in God’s presence for ever more. Amen.


Intercessions

Lord God we thank you for those whose influence has led us to come and worship here today, our family members, Sunday School teachers, church leaders and all who have encouraged us to follow the Christian way.   We give thanks for the fellowship we have here at St Saviours and for Dorothy’s ministrations as we seek to put our faith into practice in our daily lives.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord we pray for all churches throughout the world where people of different backgrounds and beliefs come together for worship and where there is hostility towards Christianity may peace prevail amongst nations. Please give wisdom to our Bishops, Archdeacons, all faith leaders along with leadership teams.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Merciful father we pray for young people who once more have had their academic lives interrupted due to the Covid virus, please be with them and their parents as they attempt the difficult task of home schooling once more, may teachers and tutors make life a little easier and more educational for all with on-line learning sessions. Lord we ask that you keep our young people safe and free from boredom which can lead to problems in their lives at the present time as they experience isolation from their friends.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Merciful God we entrust to your tender care those who are ill or in pain knowing that whenever danger threatens, your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe, please comfort heal and restore them to health and strength.   We pray for all doctors, nurses, medical researchers, that through their skills and insights many people will be restored to health and this dreadful virus amongst will be wiped out.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Gracious Lord we pray for our community, that our neighbourhood may be a place of trust and friendship where all are known and cared for especially today for those who live in Green Close, Shelley Grove, both Vine Terrace East and West, Ladyroyd Close and Gate, Bullroyd Lane and Olive Grove.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray Lord for all who have died recently, may I mention today Sheila Holdsworth, sister to Hilary our Secretary and choir member, along with those whose anniversary fall at this time, we know you will welcome them into paradise where there will be no sorrow, weeping or pain, but the fullness of peace and joy with your Son and Holy Spirit forever. Please be with all who mourn loved ones, especially Hilary and her family at this time.

Merciful Father accept these prays for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ.

Blessing

May the living waters of Christ cleanse us, may the Spirit descend upon us, and the blessing of God be with us this day and always. Amen.

 

The Second Sunday of Epiphany
17 January 2021

Prayer for the Day
Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings for the Day

1 Samuel 3 verses 1-10
Revelation 5 verses 1-10
John 1 verses 43-51

Reflection on John 1: 43-51.

When I started my working life I had very few educational qualifications. Truthfully, I fell into Nursing and Midwifery rather than actually feeling called to these professions - but then found I was a natural, caring was my niche.

When I went to Mirfield to train as a priest, I found that all except one person had come from another career. This became evident in this particular young man’s responses to some of the learning we were required to do - academically proficient though he was, his person skills were abysmal and I for one prayed for his first congregation.

In our gospel reading we are told that Jesus found Philip - most of the other disciples either came to Jesus after hearing his preaching or they were brought by others. Jesus singles Philip out and says, “follow me”. What was so special about Philip? Well, his name was a fairly common Jewish name, but Philip really seems to have been an ordinary kind of man.

It is worth noting that in his time as a disciple Philip never stepped forward on his own but would refer people to one of the other disciples. Maybe he and his friends had heard about this new teacher, but he didn’t make the effort to go and hear Jesus himself. He wasn’t in the middle of his daily work - or we are not told this - not like Simon and Andrew or James and John who were asked to put down their fishing nets and follow Jesus, or there was Levi the tax collector who immediately walked away from his legal job.

Jesus however sought Philip out and he came immediately and willingly. We are told that Philip was from the city of Bethsaida which is also where Andrew and Simon Peter came from. There must have been something in the air there.

Soon after joining the other few new disciples, Philip goes and finds his friend Nathanael and joyfully announces “We have found him of whom Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament wrote”. He has not been with Jesus two minutes before he is bringing others to join. This is wonderful! A writer describes this as “one lighted torch serving to light another”.

When we examine many churches that are growing in numbers, we find that it is the newer members who bring others in. Research supports this stating that 85% or more of all converts or new disciples, have come to Christ at the invitation of someone they trust such as family, neighbour, close friend or business associate. It also reveals that the most enthusiastic and patently genuine witnessing to the love of God, and of his Son Jesus, occurs in the first two years of one’s Christian experience.

Philip’s new-found faith just bubbles out of him with pure joy. “I have found Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph” he says. We can assume that the way Philip phrases his words meant he and his friends had been discussing the stories that were running around the neighbourhood and the city about this new Messiah.

When he mentions where Jesus is from Nathanael looks at him sceptically, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” is the belittling but frank question. Nathanael is being very up front in speaking his thoughts and repeating the general opinion of those who know people of the city of Nazareth – or at least think they do. It’s a bit like those horrible remarks that Londoners used to make about places like Barnsley. But there was no malice in Nathanael’s question. Philip isn’t put off in the least and responds happily “come and see”. You can just imagine him dragging Nathanael through the street by his coat sleeve in his enthusiasm to get to Jesus.

When did we last feel ourselves so full of joy in our faith? How willing are we to say to a friend come and hear what we have to say about Jesus? Did we feel the service was too solemn? Well, in the past we could have brought them to the All-Age Service or the Parade service. We can still bring them and show enthusiasm for God. Particularly in these difficult times as the world struggles for something to trust and believe in. We never know what Jesus’ and our friend’s response will be.
Nathanael did not know what to expect but listened to Jesus’ greeting to him. “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit”. How Nathanael’s heart must have lifted. Jesus did not just acknowledge him as a fellow countryman. He identified his innermost being, his true characteristics. Nathanael came to Jesus with no hidden agenda. No secret desires. No conditions of service. Nathanael is taken aback and asks Jesus how do you know me? Jesus says I saw you before Philip called you, when you were sitting under the fig tree. Not just under a tree but specifically the fig tree.

We need to remember that we too are transparent to God. This is a major lesson for politicians and people who consider themselves to be more important than us ordinary folk. We can say all sorts of things to each other. At times it will be prudent to say nothing at all. But at all times God sees where we are, what we are doing. He hears our deepest thoughts and, thankfully, often answers our most secret prayers.

God is the only one who truly knows us and reaches out to us as Jesus reached out to Philip and Nathanael. We too can respond to him with “Rabbi, you are the Son of God”, and willingly follow wherever our faith leads.  


Intercessions – Sunday 17th January 2021 –
 Second Sunday of Epiphany

Everlasting God, you spoke to awaken Samuel with Your call, and so we ask you to open the ears of your chosen ones.  Hear us now as we pray for the church and the world.
Lord in Your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Creator God, we pray for the nations of our world and their leaders.  We continue to pray for peace in your world, and especially for those involved in the process of reconciliation and bridge-building between peoples, cultures or nations.  Help us wherever and whenever we can in our everyday lives to be instruments of your peace.
Lord in Your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Faithful God, we pray for your church in all corners of the world.  Guide those who lead our worship in wisdom and truth and unite us all no matter what our denomination to worship together in peace and harmony.
Lord in Your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Father God, we pray for our families, our friends and our neighbours and all who are part of our pastoral care - especially for children and young people around the world; that they may receive the loving care and support they need for their health and well-being, as well as good food, clean water, safe shelter and education.  We pray for all in our parish and today we especially remember those who live in Lane End Close, Cottage Green, Thornton Court, Craven Court, Thornton Road and Shuttleworth House.
Lord in Your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Loving God you called the Apostles to be ambassadors for Christ and gave them the power to heal.  Help us to bring healing by our thoughts, our care and our prayers that we may strengthen the spirits of those we love especially at this time when the pandemic is still so virulent and so many are affected both in body and in spirit. We give thanks for the unstinting efforts of all those involved in caring for the sick in whatever capacity.  Give them the strength to continue their efforts in such difficult times.
Lord in Your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Merciful God, be with us in our mourning as we pray for all who are coming to the end of their journey here on earth and for all those who have died and now rejoice in the fullness of eternal life. We bring to mind those who are known to us and whose anniversary of death occurs at this time.  
Lord in Your mercy: Hear our prayer.

As we go out into the world, help us to open our ears to your calling, to do your will and to show, by example, your love to all we meet.

Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.   Amen

Blessing
May Christ, the Son of God, gladden our hearts with the good news of his Kingdom. Amen.

THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST
10th January 2021

Prayer for the Day
Eternal Father, who at the baptism of Jesus revealed him to be your Son, anointing him with the Holy Spirit: grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit, that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children; through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings
Genesis 1 verses 1-5
Acts of the Apostles 19 verses 1-7
Mark 1 verses 1-11


Reflection on the Baptism of Christ: Acts 19 verses 1-7;
Mark 1 verses 4-11.

In my former life as a midwifery lecturer two of the students who I consider the most outstanding were in my very first tutorial group. They both struggled academically but, with support, they worked hard to get the necessary grades. What was outstanding however was their ability to care for women in pain and distress. At the end of her training one student attained the lowest examination mark, but on the recommendation of the ward sisters I awarded her the class prize for the highest standard of hands-on clinical care. I was so proud! But not half as proud as the student’s parents and children sitting in the audience, clapping. A great biblical scholar, Matthew Henry, pointed out ‘those who would rise high must begin low’.

On this day we are celebrating the Baptism of Christ as our Lord steps forward into the world. The baby, born in a manger of humble parents, has become a grown man ready to carry out his heavenly father’s work. He comes out of Galilee, where his earthly father Joseph hid the family on their return from Egypt, to Jordan to be formally presented to the people. John the Baptist has been proclaiming the coming of Jesus. He has been warning the people of the judgement to come and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The people are flocking in their hundreds to be baptised.  Not just the people from the countryside roundabout Judea, but those from the big city, the city of Jerusalem.

They come to be baptised in the murky river Jordan. Mark’s Gospel also picks up on John’s weird clothing and diet but shows that John’s words are so powerful the people are drawn to him, compelled to listen and believe. John tells the people this is great, this is wonderful, it is an important step that is being taken for the saving of their souls, but it is not enough. There is someone else who was to come who would be more powerful than John. Despite the power, attraction and wonder of his ministry John warns that he himself was not even fit to stoop down and undo the strings of the coming person’s sandals.

We see the humility of John as he recognises the limitations of his work and what his type of baptism offers. Wow, how powerful was this next person going to be? John could only baptise them with water as a sign that they had repented of their sins and were prepared to confess them openly and begin a new way of living. The one who was coming would baptise them with the Holy Spirit. In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles we heard of the new Christians of Ephesus who believed and were baptised in water, but they admitted that they had not received the Holy Spirit. Paul feels they have been misled a little so he baptises them in the name of Jesus, just as you and I were baptised. Then, as he touches them, they receive the Holy Spirit.

It is an important distinction of truly holy people that they recognise their continuing need for the spiritual washing that only Christ can give. Jesus came in humility to be baptised. He did not need to be baptised. Having committed no sin, he was pure so was not in need of repentance. But Jesus had come among sinners to be baptised by a sinner, just like any sinner, among all the other sinners. Why? Well, Christ was immediately demonstrating two of the greatest characteristics of a God-fearing person – humility and obedience.

Christ the Son of God has come down from heaven, being born a man, with his Father’s mission to save humanity. His first action in carrying out this work was to humbly present himself for baptism by John. Although sinless himself, he had taken the sins of humanity on his shoulders so he must be baptised as they were. He was identifying himself with his people, with all our troubles and needs. Jesus was setting the example for us in humility and grace, doing what was right and proper for all to see. He submitted himself to John and his baptism as being in accordance with God’s will. Christ was showing his readiness to comply with all his father’s commands and statutes ‘to fulfil all righteousness’.

Jesus set the principle of doing what was right and then teaching it to others. He came to John in all humility for baptism and thereafter he constantly preached the need for, and rewards of, humility. He complied with the old ceremonial law on washing, then he endorsed the gospel teaching of baptism for the Christian church.

Jesus comes up out of the water and, without a pause, the heavens burst open and the spirit of God descends on him like a dove and rests on him. Heaven opened enabling direct communication with God and from God with the Holy Spirit. Here we have the first appearance of the Holy Trinity - the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit here on earth. As we hear in every Eucharistic prayer, it is through Christ, and in Christ, in unity with the Holy Spirit, that we have direct access to God. When we do God’s will as he commands, we too can expect to be in communion with him and receive communication from him. Nowadays we have the dove as a sign of love and peace. In biblical times the dove was a sign of deliverance - for example like the dove which came back to Noah signalling deliverance from the flood.

The dove descending on Jesus signalled our deliverance from sin. The voice of God welcomes Jesus as he sets out on his mission to save humanity ‘You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased’. Jesus’ divine identification is revealed to the world. He was there with God before the creation of the world, he took part in the creation of the world and all that is in it. Because of our many and terrible sins Jesus was sent on earth by God to redeem humanity. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and was made man.

In his baptism Jesus publicly accepted the work his father sent him to do and started out on his ministry to bring forth justice to the nations.

Jesus is the Son of God but also the servant of God, coming not to be served but to serve. He set us the example of humility in accepting God’s work, and obedience in carrying out that work. He commanded us to witness to God by preaching peace, doing good by caring for the oppressed, living lives that are evidence of our love of God and our neighbour. For us, our baptism marks the beginning of a Christian participation in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. We are given a new name as we are reborn in the Holy Spirit and our whole life becomes a journey of faith in Christ. On the day of judgement, when Christ returns, by the Grace of God he may be able to say to us ‘In you I am well pleased’.

Amen.

Prayers

Heavenly Father, at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son; may we recognize him as our Lord and know ourselves to be your beloved children; through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Holy Father, we pray for your church throughout the world, remembering today our link dioceses of Erfurt, Sudan and West Virginia.  In this diocese we pray for Bishop Nick and Bishop Toby and all who minister under them.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Creator God, you have made us in your image and likeness.  In our diversity we reflect your presence in the world.  Help us to live in sustainable ways so that this marvellous unity and diversity is respected.  O God, help us to share in your love for the whole of Creation.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Loving Father, we pray for our city and our local community, for our emergency services, our social services and all whose work maintains the integrity of the community.  We pray for all who live in the parish, especially this week those who live in Allerton Road, Bullroyd Ave, Bullroyd Cres, Bullroyd Dr, The Oval, Hedge Side, Hedge Way and Hedge Close.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Healing Lord, we pray for all who are sick in body, mind or spirit and for those who look after them.  Give them strength to endure their present situation and hope that the future may bring an enduring resolution to their condition.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Eternal God, we pray for those who have left this mortal life, those who have died recently and those whose anniversaries occur at this time.  May they rest in peace and rise in glory.  According to your promises, grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom. Rejoicing in the fellowship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, William Laud and all the saints, we commend ourselves and all people to your unfailing love.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our saviour Jesus Christ.

Blessing

May the living waters of Christ cleanse us, may the Spirit descend upon us, and the blessing of God be with us this day and always.

 

View a copy of the weekly service sheet here