We are still open during this third lockdown for the services on Sundays at 10.00 a.m. and Wednesdays at 9.30 a.m. 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
10.00 a.m. Said Communion (when a major church festival there will be a full communion service)
10.00 a.m. Holy Communion
11.00 a.m. Refreshments in hall
Wednesdays 9.30 a.m.
Said Communion - Common Worship order one.
St. James's, Thornton, will re-open on Easter Sunday (4th April 2021) so from Wednesday 7th April the former pattern of services will resume - 1st, 3rd & 5th(when there is one) Wednesdays at St. James's; 2nd & 4th Wednesday at St. Saviour's.
Thursdays 9.30 a.m.
Please note: There will be no services on Thursdays until further notice.
For the texts for each Sunday see the relevant notice sheet
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant that, as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect; through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Reflection John 15 v 1-8
Well, my friends, we have come to the end of the saga of the vine bush in the back garden of the vicarage. Last year I again cut it back quite vigorously as four summers have taught me that it needs strong management. I have grown to love this bush and its berries. They are sweet and refreshing to eat. My friend Bev whom you all know has a sister with family in London. Three years ago, when I was inundated with berries, Clara took a large quantity home.
Better still she took a number of cuttings. Last week she sent me photos of the vine which now resembles the best rampant and overladen grape vine from any house in France. When I leave, I am not just taking memories of you all, I am also taking cuttings of that vine as a living memorial of my time with you. I promise to love and care for them praying for a good harvest. Caring for fruit trees and vines is a constant and complicated matter.
In our Gospel reading a moment ago Jesus and his disciples leave the Upper Room heading for the Garden of Gethsemane passing the temple as they go. One of the chief ornaments they walk past is a gigantic golden vine with clusters of grapes some the size of a man. Like all inspirational teachers, Jesus seizes the opportunity to teach his disciples using the vine as visual illustration of a spiritual truth.
Jesus tells them He is the true vine. In the Old Testament, Israel was frequently referred to as the vine which God loved and tended. But over and over again Israel’s waywardness and corruption had made them barren in God’s sight. Instead of promoting or propagating the love and laws of the one true God, Israelites frequently took to the wicked ways of the other nations around them. They found it easier to worship false Gods than to cling to what God had told them to do through the words of Moses. These false Gods appealed to their desire for all the various abhorrent human practices.
Jesus says he is now the true vine, the chosen one sent from God. God owns the vineyard and cares for it. As any vineyard owner or vinedresser would, God’s purpose is that the vines should bear fruit. Any branches that fail to bear fruit are pruned away, when they dry up and become lifeless they are burned. Jesus tells his disciples they are to abide in him and he in them. He has taught them God’s word which has set them apart from other men and women. Jesus has cleansed them but they are not perfect. They must continue to walk closely in his word and in his truth otherwise their work will be in vain.
Jesus likens his relationship with the disciples as He being the vine and they its branches. It is essential for their understanding and their ministry if they are to bear a lot of fruit. Jesus was warning them to take care not to become like the synagogue leaders. Their work and leadership was no longer centred in their faith and closeness to God. They had become hardened and legalistic. They pursued their own selfish interests, their unconfessed sins. They had a careless disregard for God’s truth but laid enormous burdens on the people forcing them to follow the petty rules and misdirecting interpretations of the laws of God.
In our Church today there are many, many occasions when we squabble over petty rules and our own special but biased interpretations of God’s word. We chase management principles that assert the line of power rather than attend to the pastoral needs of the people, especially those who are weak and not seen to be influential. Of course, our traditions provide us with a theological starting point, but we have to experience being one with Christ, being fed and watered by him through our veins because without him we can do nothing.
No matter how wonderfully thought out the latest scheme is, how desperately needed is the outcome; if it is not being implemented in the spirit and love of Christ it will not bear much fruit. It will not prosper and we will have another flavour of the month on our hands. And we will continue to wonder what else we can do to draw souls to Jesus.
Everything that we do must emanate from our belief in, and our love of, Christ Jesus. He will show us how best to share that love with others. As we live in Christ his love will simply ooze out of us and be reflected in all that we say and do. In this way we will show that Jesus truly lives in us and we in him.
Faithful God, we praise you for the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ. Shed his glorious light on all Christian people that we may live as those who believe in the triumph of the cross.
Merciful God, we pray for peace in our troubled world. Where there is conflict make the leaders consider ways toward peace and reconciliation. Protect all Christian people of the world and help them to be an influence in their country for the good of all. We pray for honesty in governments.
We pray for the people who live in West Park Road, West Park Grove and Clement Street. Father God, we pray for all families whose homes are disrupted by anger and bitterness and where relationships are breaking up. We thank you for the gift of your Son, our Saviour, who walks with us on our life’s journey and, as he gladdened the hearts of his friends when they saw him raised from the dead, may he travel alongside us all.
Loving God, comfort the sick and suffering with your living presence. Heal and strengthen weak bodies, calm confused minds and reassure the lonely with your company. We raise before you those we know with particular needs we have been asked to pray for. As the numbers of dying and those infected with covid 19 fall, we pray that this is the final peak of the pandemic, and we now have a means of controlling the virus in this country and world-wide.
Merciful God, we remember before you those who have died in the hope of the resurrection. Unite us with them in your undying love. Help us to always remember that death could not hold your Son Jesus Christ and that new life for him means new life for all who believe in him.
Gracious God, your Son Jesus Christ stands among us and we have seen the marks of your saving love. Breathe on us with the power of your Holy Spirit and send us out to share the peace of Christ with all who may cross our paths in the weeks ahead.
God the Father, by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead, strengthen you to walk with him in his risen life; and the blessing of God almighty, Father Son and the Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always. Amen.
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: raise us, who trust in him, from the death of sis to the life of righteousness, that we may seek those things which are above, where he reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Reflection On “VOCATION”
Today we again have a veritable menu of issues giving us a choice of what to deliberate. It is the 4th Sunday of Easter so how is it going for you? It is the date allocated for celebrating the life of the Evangelist Mark who is it is felt wrote Mark’s Gospel. This is considered to be the first record of the life of Jesus based on Mark’s observations and Peter’s preaching of the good news. Today is also Vocation Sunday when the church calls on us all, in whatever capacity, to dedicate ourselves to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Vocation! What do we mean when we speak of ‘vocation’? Some people speak of certain careers as being a vocation, generally careers that involve caring for others, with a degree of sacrificial work. The work is usually hard, with long hours and relatively less remuneration. One feels called to the work heedless of, or because of, the challenges involved, the ‘X factor’ is satisfaction in the work well done.
Within the church, vocation is still often interpreted as a call to ordained ministry which is the narrowest of definitions because, as Christians, we all have a vocation by faith. By our baptism and confirmation, we are all called to minister to God’s people in one form or another. We promise to serve one another within the Body of Christ and, as his disciples, to engage in God’s mission to the world. We exercise our Christian vocation by ministering to our families, to friends, in caring for our neighbours and to colleagues at work. We tend to be very reticent about trying to evangelise our colleagues and most employers would object to such attempts, but like Zacchaeus, in our working life we should undertake our duties in a manner that reflects our Christian faith and way of living.
It was only whilst reflecting on my application to be considered for ordained ministry that I verbalised this aspect of God’s work as being ministry to my community. We have a vocation of the laity that ministers to the community through social work where we function extensively, demonstrating a mission of love and service to the marginalised in our society. We are demonstrating Christ’s command to love our neighbour as ourselves, although we often don’t recognise it as such. Lay members contribute to the life of the church through numerous roles many of which now include formal training making the work more effective.
During long periods of interregna, the faith, skills and strength of the laity maintain churches internally and externally and are essential for their survival. Every aspect of work in the church is a vocation. Effective cleaning and flower arranging teams enhance the beauty of a church built for the praise and glory of God. On the other hand, one might reflect on the advice one parishioner received. This man felt a calling to ordained ministry but was told he needed to be more humble and start by becoming a member of the cleaning team. He was obedient and did so for two years until God opened another door to where He wanted that person to go.
You see, for many of us there is the problem Jesus highlighted in our Gospel reading today. The Jews would not accept that he was the Messiah because he did not fit the mould. Christ did not come with the mirror image criteria that would allow the people and temple officials to see him as one of their kind. It was insufficient that Christ performed the work of his father and they would not accept the evidence of their own eyes. They had failed to listen to him in the past therefore why would they believe his words now? However, Christ says we are his sheep, he calls us and those who hear his voice believe and follow him.
God calls a variety of people to different work in His church, giving them a personal vocation and what the father has given no-one can snatch away. It is contrary to God’s work to deny those who believe they hear his call without appropriately testing that call. A more positive and proactive approach might be called for in the discernment of vocations. Quite often the person being called may not hear it as such and, like the young boy Samuel, runs in the wrong direction.
It was Eli, spiritually wise and experienced in God’s work, who pointed Samuel in the right direction. It frequently requires the spiritual observance of wise members of the church to recognise that someone is being called and direct them accordingly. The numerous demands on the average community-aware church require leadership that is able to identify and empower members to respond to their personal call. There should be no ‘them and us’ divisions, only a prayerful and effective discernment process that identifies what each one of us is being called to do by God.
Collaborative working does not mean that everyone becomes a minister in their own right, but we become members of a company of disciples committed to mission and working to individual strengths. God has given us endless opportunities to work for him, the wellbeing of humanity and our salvation. So, today we stand still and say, ‘speak Lord for your servant is listening’.
Holy God, your Son remained with his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection, teaching them to love all people as friends and neighbours. We too are his disciples and we offer our prayers on behalf of the church, the world in which we live and all those with whom we share it.
We pray for our world and we ask that oppressed people in all places may find a freedom which they desire and an abundant life, which is Christ’s promise. We pray, too, for the oppressors that they may learn that people are not tools, or slaves, but children of one Father.
As we pray for our community, we give thanks for the gift of friendship among us and for all with whom our lives are joined. Make us ready to extend friendship to others and to remember the housebound, the lonely and all who do not know you. We pray for all who work hard to keep us safe – physically, mentally and spiritually. We bring before you all who live in our parish, but this week we especially remember those who live in Cemetery Road, Rosetta Drive, Young Street and Mortimer Street
Loving God we pray for those who do not know your peace and for those who are struggling with their lives. We ask for your healing on those who are sick, your strength for those who are tired and your love for those who live with despair and fear. We offer to you in love all who are sick at home or in hospital, especially those known to us and those who have asked for our payers. We pray for all who show your love in their care of the sick, in our hospitals, surgeries and care homes wherever they may be.
We commit to your gracious keeping, those who have passed their brief time in this world and returned to you. Grant them peace and rest as they enter your heavenly kingdom and give strength and comfort to those who mourn. We think especially of those who have recently died and those whose anniversary of death occurs at this time.
Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer
Dear Lord. may we go out from this service with joy in our hearts, taking your love to those we are now able to meet, and sending your love to those we still have to meet at a distance.
God the Father, by whose love Christ was raised from the dead, open to you who believe the gate of everlasting life.
Second Sunday of Easter
Prayer of the Day
Almighty Father, you have given your only Son to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of 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.
Reflection on John 20: 19-31 Easter 2021
Our Lord is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
I have always found it strange reading about someone who gets so carried away with the latest storyline in one of the soaps, that they would go up to an actor in the supermarket and actually abuse him or her for their perceived bad behaviour. Such persons can’t separate reality from a TV programme and it must be really frightening to be on the receiving end of this displacement of feelings.
Today we are basking in the still fresh and joyful glow of Easter Day. But this was not how the day started for the disciples. They have returned to the upper room where they shared the last meal with Jesus. They feel the need to be close to the Master whom they loved, the place where they were last happy with him, to draw some comfort from reflecting on that last night together. They had closed and locked the door for fear of the Jews who they thought would come and take them away to make them suffer the same fate as Jesus.
So, they are sitting huddled together in fear. Mary Magdalene’s report about seeing the Lord alive had no effect on them. They had seen Jesus die and Mary was only a woman. The testimony of one woman was not accepted in Jewish law - there had to be another to support her account. Mary was deeply grieving so possibly not in her right mind. The disciples had not remembered or didn’t believe a word of what Jesus told them about his resurrection.
It is into this tense atmosphere that our Lord suddenly appears. Jesus was not confined by death, neither was he was confined by a sealed tomb, so he could not be kept out by a locked door. Jesus stood amongst the disciples and said, “Peace be with you”. Those are such wonderfully comforting words that we share them at every communion. At this point Jesus is keeping a promise he had previously given the disciples – to bring them peace.
It was important that the disciples didn’t think this was some magician’s trick, or a hallucination, or a ghost, so Jesus shows them his wounds. From a distance they had seen him receive those wounds, so they now know he is not their grieving imagination playing tricks on them.
The wounds confirm Jesus’ suffering on the cross, the wounds confirm that the person in front of them was real and he was the same one who had died and was now alive. Their Lord had returned! The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
The disciples are overjoyed. Jesus tries to calm them by again giving them his greeting of peace. The peace that Jesus offered them was the gift of his kingdom. Jesus then gave them their great commission. As the Father had sent him so he was sending them. Jesus was God’s special representative in the world, carrying out God’s mission. There was to be no more hiding away behind closed doors. There were souls to be saved. Jesus tells the disciples he is empowering them with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would transform them so they would no longer be reliant on a physical Jesus whom they could see and touch. The disciples would be empowered to speak, preach and heal with such conviction that they would bring others to faith in Jesus Christ.
However, one person is missing during this wonderful event. Thomas, or Doubting Thomas as he has become known, was not present to witness the resurrection scene and the commissioning of the others by Jesus. In high excitement the others inform him that they had seen the Lord. But Thomas is sceptical, obstinate and scathing. He declares that unless he can touch the wound of those nails and the hole from the spear in Jesus side, he would not believe.
There are times when a story is just too good to be true, especially when you think about who is doing the telling. If we had really thought about the glorious tales we were being told about the wonders of Brexit; thought of the wider sense of something affecting the whole community; something that would affect every minute aspect of our lives; something that had consequences for our children and grandchildren who were not able to vote, would we be in the position we are in now; having some of the arguments we are having with our so-called allies?
The rest of that first Easter week must have been so irritating for Thomas as he watched the happiness bubbling up in the other disciples and feeling excluded from it all.
A week later the disciples are again in the locked room, with Thomas present, and Jesus appears. After greeting the disciples Jesus turns to Thomas and invites him to touch his wounds. Jesus says, “Stop doubting and believe”. Thomas can see this is the same Jesus who died on the cross. We are not told if Thomas actually touched Jesus, but he was moved enough to declare “My Lord and my God”. This was Thomas’ heartfelt confession of faith in Jesus. Thomas is challenged to change and become like the others who, when they saw Jesus, embraced the new faith.
Then Jesus offers that great blessing to those who have not seen him in the flesh and yet have believed. Jesus points to us and to the faith of the church. Blessed are those who come to faith through the words of the Gospel. How blessed are we and any who would come to faith through our testimony, to the love and salvation granted to us through our Lord, Jesus Christ. That is our faith.
We too have a great commission to spread the Gospel far and wide, to demonstrate the peace which Jesus bestowed upon us and more importantly to spread his love amongst all whom we meet who are in need. Some have been inspirational in showing this aspect of the gospel during the pandemic. Also, all whom we need to accept as our neighbours - no matter how far away they live - as we selfishly abuse the treasures of this world made by God. The need to care for God’s creations is an important goodness for which I will remember His Royal Highness Prince Philip.
As we gather here in God's presence, let us pray.
We bring to you, Lord, the church in all its richness and all its need, all its diversity and all its division. Give us a fresh understanding of what it means to live in you. May we all, laity and clergy together, celebrate the reality of your presence among us, filling us with new life and new hope.
We bring to you, Lord, our nation, our world, our universe; all the areas that are fastened shut to keep you out, all the bewildered confusion about who we are and why we are here, all the doubts and insecurity, and all the searching for inner peace.
We bring to you, Lord, our homes and families, and all the joys and sorrows of our relationships. We bring the rooms in which we eat and work and relax; and invite you into them all. We ask not only for our own families and friends but also for those who live in our parish, especially those who live in the Middlebrook estate, the pupils and all the staff of our schools, the members of our Scout troop, the patients and staff of our hospitals, nursing and care homes.
We bring to you, Lord, those whom life has damaged, and all who find it difficult to trust in you; we bring you those who need refreshment and hope, comfort, healing and inner serenity.
We bring to you, Lord, those who approach death with fear. Have mercy on us all, forgive us all that is past and gather us into your everlasting kingdom of peace and joy.
The God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you and always. Amen.
Prayer For Easter Day
Lord of all life and power, who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new to him: grant that we, being dead to sin, and alive to you in Jesus Christ, may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia.
When the Sabbath was over, which, in the Jewish week means Saturday after sunset, they went to buy special spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Now, very early on a sunny Sunday morning, they set out for the tomb. The rising of the sun has dispelled the darkness which covered the land at the crucifixion. It is the beginning of the week which marked the dawning of a new beginning for humanity. The Psalms repeatedly tell us that weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
This morning we and all Christian people throughout the world are rejoicing as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ nearly two thousand years ago. The women are walking to the tomb with their heads bowed in deep sadness. They are so grief stricken they have not really thought out how they will move the enormous stone that seals the tomb. They have not really thought this through at all as they haven’t tried to get a few of the male disciples to come and roll the stone away for them. But still, they keep on walking just asking each other how on earth they are going to move the stone. They have not really come with any sense of hope and are merely fretting about the stone. This also tells us that they have not remembered, or did not truly believe, what Jesus had told them about rising from the dead after three days.
On arrival they receive their first shock; the stone has already been moved away. The women rush inside, no doubt fearful as to what they may find has happened to their Lord. Their second shock is the sight of this young man sitting there, cool and calm and dressed in white robes. His clothes are amazing and both the women and we are left in no doubt that he is a heavenly body. He is sitting quite calmly in a place they had expected to find a dead body which alarms them even more. He is a divine being and it takes a divine being to explain the divine truth that is beyond human experience and knowledge.
God immediately reassures the women. Do not be alarmed says the young man, the divine messenger from God. He knew who they were expecting to see; Jesus of Nazareth or more correctly his body. The angel confirms their knowledge of the fact that Jesus was crucified. But they are looking in the wrong place. Jesus has been raised, he was no longer in the tomb. Look he was no longer on the stone platform where his body had been placed. Jesus Christ is risen today, alleluia! This is the good news concerning Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. His birth in human form was the first good news in that God sent his Son into the world to save humanity. Christ’s death at Calvary was good news in that it demonstrated God’s love for us that he would send his only Son to die for the redemption of our sins.
But the ultimate good news is the resurrection. It is of central importance to the Christian faith. Any other person who was put to death, however great during his life, could not be the messiah – dying is a normal human process in the course of life. It was Christ’s miraculous restoration to life that proved he was the Messiah. Our faith is our response to the risen Christ not to the empty tomb. The empty tomb is a fact but not the important point because it simply says the body has gone. God sends his messenger to tell the women and us the facts of the resurrection.
This is the basis of our faith - Christ has risen. The women were misguided in seeking Jesus in the tomb. Their plan to anoint was not required. There was no dead body to be anointed because Jesus had risen. “See the place where they laid him” it’s empty. There was no possibility of another body being there because we know it was a new tomb in which Jesus had been placed. Thieves could not have taken the body because the tomb had been sealed. The disciples did not take him away because they were still in hiding. They were in shock at the arrest and death of their beloved teacher and leader whom they had hoped was the promised Messiah come to save Israel.
The resurrection not only gave Israel the real Messiah it gave the world its Saviour. In firstly telling the women the good news then and sending them to tell the disciples, the angel made the women apostles to the apostles. These women have been favoured above the male disciples with the command to spread the good news. Many learned Christians feel this point to be a historical fact because of the Jewish people’s attitude to women at the time. Witnessing by women was not accepted unless there were more than two of them. Even then they risked being ignored as mere hysterical women imagining things.
Also, at the time when the books of the bible were being put into written form, women had already been demoted by the men and pushed into the background of the story of Christianity. So those biblical scholars would not willingly promote the word of women if it were not a true statement and of such profound importance. The women are commanded to deliver the good news to the apostles and hence to the world. Our salvation has been realised. Jesus has fed his flock. He laid down his life for them which caused them to be scattered. Now, as the risen Lord, he will gather them and us into the fold. Peter is specially singled out. The other disciples had also run away and deserted Jesus. So why is Peter being given special attention considering his terrible denial of Jesus? His disloyalty could be seen as the worst example of sin and blasphemy which should have made Jesus reject him in this his hour of triumph. No, the mention of Peter’s name sends the clear message that he is forgiven, that no one is beyond redemption. The last time we heard of Peter he was weeping in great sorrow and shame at his denial of Jesus; can you imagine the joy he felt at being told the master was going ahead to Galilee and he was welcome to meet him there?
The women are commanded to tell the disciples to go, go back to the place where Christ’ ministry with them began. There he will meet them as promised and he will be restored to them. What we now know and believe is that Jesus had been freed from this earthly realm by his resurrection. He has returned triumphant to his divine place at the right hand of God his Father. Every time we say the Creed we proclaim our belief in the resurrection of the body and this morning we celebrate that resurrection.
For us this has been a leap of faith born of the Word of God as the only real way of knowing the truth. And the truth is that Jesus Christ has risen and through him we now have free access to God and a means to everlasting life. Amen.
Prayers for Easter Sunday 4th April 2021
Christ is risen, and the power of His resurrection fills the world with new life, and new hope.
We pray for all people who face aggression and violence, domestically, socially, nationally, and the innocents dragged in, the children in violent homes, the refugees in wars zones, those like you who are persecuted and tortured, bring them peace and an end to their suffering.
Creator God, we pray for the governments of the nations of the world that they lead with integrity and fairness, to the greater good of all. We also remember today those involved in trying to make our world a safer place for everyone; service personnel on active duty fighting against terrorism, police forces responding for the silent majority of law abiding people, and of course at this time everyone involved in trying to keep us safe from the unseen menace of covid.
Father God at this joyful Eastertide we pray for our families and friends whom we hopefully can soon meet and hug. We thank you for the joy of sending and receiving Easter cards and messages of love and for modern communication systems which bring our loved ones so close even when we are separated by distance and by the pandemic. We pray for the people of this parish, especially those who live in Leaventhorpe Avenue, Leaventhorpe Close, Leaventhorpe Lane, Leaventhorpe Way, and Blackburn Close.
Gracious Christ as we remember how you healed so many, we pray for the sick; the sad; the anxious and for the lonely that your very presence will comfort them in their need.
Merciful God, we pray that those who have died may share in the promise of new life won for us all by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ and his triumph over death and the grave.
Faithful God as we go out into the world we pray that we may reflect your love in our families, our church and our community; so that the world can witness that we are followers of Christ and draw others into his loving care.
God, who through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us the victory, give you joy and peace in your faith; and the blessing of God be with you now and always. Amen.
SUNDAY 21ST MARCH 2021
Prayer of the Day
I love the reading from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 which talks about a season and a time for everything under heaven. Verse 2 tells us there is a time to be born and a time to die. Today it echoes particularly in what Jesus is saying.
At the wedding at Cana when his mother asked him to do something about the wine situation Jesus told her “My hour has not yet come”. In John 7 the religious leaders become angry at what Jesus is teaching the people of Jerusalem and try to arrest him. But Jesus slips from them “because his time had not yet come”. In John Chapter 8 we are again told that Jesus could not be arrested because “his time had not yet come”.
Today there is a sudden change and Jesus declares that “the hour has come”. What has happened to herald this? Well, there are two clues in the preceding chapter of John’s gospel.
In that chapter Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Firstly, this causes many people to believe in him which makes the Pharisees and the leaders of the Jewish community very angry, to the point of plotting how they can kill him. In fact, these leaders are so angry they decide to kill Lazarus as well as he was walking, talking proof of the miracle that Jesus had done.
Secondly, the people don’t just believe, they start to worship Jesus. As one of the Pharisees pointed out they were seriously limited in their means of getting rid of Jesus because “the whole world has gone after him”. People were believing and seeking after Jesus. Evidence of this was in the group of Greeks who had come to see Jesus.
The word ‘Greeks’ doesn’t mean these people were from Greece. Greeks was one of many words that the Jews conferred on anyone who was not Jewish. These ‘Greeks’ were likely to be God-fearing Gentiles who admired and respected the Jewish faith.
The group approached Philip initially, probably because he was from the same cultural background. His name was of Greek origin and he came from a predominantly Gentile area. Philip was from their social network. These people didn’t just want to just look at Jesus or meet him as the current celebrity. They wanted to visit with him – to get to know Jesus.
Philip, as he is portrayed in John’s gospel, doesn’t quite know what to say or do, so he goes to consult with Andrew, who often acts as a middleman between other folk and Jesus. Both men then go to Jesus and tell him of the presence of guests seeking an audience, but Jesus seems to ignore the request.
Instead, Jesus announces that his hour has come. The time when he will be glorified. The coming of the Gentiles represents a waiting world. It was a sign that the time had come for Jesus to lay down his life. Jesus’ glorification will be in his return to God, his Father, following and through his death on the cross, his resurrection and his exaltation.
The arrival of these gentiles signals a major change. Jesus offers the parable of the grain of wheat that must fall to the ground and die in order to bring forth a good harvest. Jesus must die in order to give the people life – to give life to you and me. The disciples - we - are involved in this harvesting. As a disciple we cannot cling with a passion to life in this world. We have to give it up, let it go, in order to achieve eternal life.
We share in the resurrected life of Jesus when we put aside the demands and possible rewards of this worldly life. Our lives then become one of love and service, following Jesus and learning to be obedient to him. Jesus’ ministry to his cultural people has ended and he now belongs to the wider world. He now belongs to you and me.
Jesus is the mighty Son of God. But he came to earth in a manner of lowliness and meekness as a poor and defenceless baby. He came to be crucified so that sin and death might be destroyed for eternity. So Jesus was not ignoring that group of Gentiles.
This people from a different culture and belief would come to see Jesus through the faithful witness and ministry of his obedient disciples who would lose their lives to serve Jesus - wherever he could be found. Jesus becomes known to the whole world in a great harvest.
All seeing God watch over the nations of the world in all their plans and actions, conflicts and disasters; guard the children, guide the leaders and give us all your peace, be present in every heart and home; to cherish to challenge, to reassure and to comfort. We pray for all those who live in our parish and those who worship here but live outside the parish.
Gracious God we pray for the elderly, the frail and weak, those who have failing eyesight and those who find it difficult to hear. During this pandemic we think of the lonely who have many memories but no-one to share them with and few friends to fill the long hours of each day as they must isolate themselves from this dreadful virus. Lord, please teach us all to be watchful of their needs and patient with their frailty, loving and serving them as members of your family. We thank you for all medical staff and carers who are working diligently to stamp out the virus and get people vaccinated so once completed we may move to a more normal type of life.
Loving God we pray for all children who have once more returned to school, college or university to try and continue with their learning, keep them free from harm and help them to enjoy harmony with their school friends once more, their teachers and tutors, who are trying to do their best to bridge the enormous gap left in their learning lives by this pandemic.
Lord God even as we pray now there are those who will be journeying through death. We pray for them and all who have recently died and for all those left without their loved ones, grieving or numbed with shock.
May Christ who accepted the cup of sacrifice in obedience to the Father’s will, keep you steadfast as you walk with him the way of the cross.
Prayer for the Day
God of compassion, whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary, shared the life of a home in Nazareth, and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself: strengthen us in our daily living that in joy and in sorrow we may know the power of your presence to bind together and to heal; 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.
Reflection on Mothering Sunday 2021.
There are various aspects about childbearing that is just so amazing. Some women pay enormous sums both financially, physically, psychologically and emotionally to hold a baby in their arms. There have been women who have been diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy but have refused treatment because it would have damaged their unborn child. Many have died soon after giving birth but have felt this was a sacrifice they had to make.
As a midwife, I never ceased to feel my heart race at the moment that baby climbs out of the womb - by whatever means. There was just nothing like the feeling of joy in that shared experience with the new mother. As a midwifery lecturer of many years, I had a sentence of advice for each new group of students “the moment you no longer experience that feeling of joy, that’s the time to pack the job in because that is what your role has become – just a job like any other”.
Another amazing fact is how quickly after the birth nearly all women forget the long hours of pain, some of it body wrenching, as soon as they have that wriggling, screeching little bundle in their arms. One is just never the same after that. Last week there was the story about the 64 years old woman in Spain who had paid thousands of dollars to be made pregnant in America. She was deemed unfit to care for the very young children and they were taken away by the court. I know they meant well but can you imagine her desolation.
The hymns we sing on Mothering Sunday are about love. We do say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and there is nothing as wonderful as the smile of love that a mother directs towards her child. Even those times when the child does something to hurt, distress or shame her, most mothers just carry on loving. Yes, there are occasions when this love can become destructive on either party’s side, but, on the whole, it is this love that shapes, encourages, teaches and sustains us through life.
Today is the day we make great efforts to express thanks to our mothers for how much they have loved us and taken care of us. Those two words, love and care, do spring to mind in this context. St Paul says we should love everybody with the love and care we have experienced from our mothers because this is what binds everything together in perfect harmony, and for that we are to be thankful.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, made a supreme sacrifice in agreeing to be the Father of Jesus. Her faith in God was such she agreed to do this with no idea of what it would entail. Mary would endure the shame of being found to be pregnant before being married and give birth in the unhygienic surroundings of a stable. Mary and her little family would be forced to flee in the middle of the night to become refugees in Egypt. She would spend years wondering what the priest Zechariah meant by a sword piercing her heart. She would spend the desperate hours scouring the city for her twelve-year-old son as he stands in the temple conversing with the learned men of the synagogue. Then there are the years wandering the land in support of her Son and his ministry. Finally, here she is at the foot of the cross watching her son die a horrendous death.
As Jesus’ life slipped away, there were four faithful women standing by in shock, their hearts filled with pain. We have Mary Jesus’ mother; her sister Salome the mother of the sons of Zebedee; Mary the wife of Clopas; and Mary of Magdala. These women who had travelled with Jesus and his disciples on so many occasions throughout his relatively short ministry had no doubt become great friends. They did not run and hide for fear of being killed themselves. Standing near the cross they would have offered him strength and comfort companionship. Most people find comfort in not being alone as death approaches.
As his life ebbs away, Jesus reaches out to care for his mother, as she had cared for him since his birth. “Woman” he says tenderly and respectfully, “Behold your son”. It is to John, the beloved disciple and his mother’s nephew, that he gives the responsibility for her care. Jesus is commending his mother to the care of the disciple he especially loved knowing that he cannot fulfil his caring role as her firstborn son. His brothers have long abandoned him. There is no mention of Joseph, so he is probably no longer alive. A woman in that culture would be bereft and seriously at risk as she has no means of support, especially financial support.
The beloved disciple is being called on to take Mary into his family. The disciple is Jesus’ extended family and cousins were very important in his time. Jesus commends the disciple to Mary as her son and Mary to him as his mother. We then have the clear words of love and care “From that hour the disciple took her into his own home”. Jesus and Mary are now free to face the other issues of his death. Jesus has honoured his mother as is required by scripture, even though his days on this land were at an end.
For the rest of this day and always, children love your mother, care for her. Mothers love your children and enjoy your special day. For those whose mothers are no longer with us, remember them with love and prayers.
Prayers for Mothering Sunday
God of love, passionate and strong, tender and careful; watch over us and hold us all the days of our life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Heavenly Father, we pray today for our local community, for all whose work helps to maintain the fabric of our society for the benefit of all. We pray especially at this time for all who are striving to contain and reduce the threat of the pandemic, that we may resume a more normal lifestyle. We are ever thankful for their efforts so far.
Healing Lord, we pray for all who are sick at this time physically, mentally or spiritually, and for those who look after them. Give them strength to endure their troubles and bring them hope for the future.
We pray for those whose earthly lives have passed, remembering Richard whose funeral is in Friday, Keith Ogier and others 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, Perpetua, Felicity and their companions, and all the saints, we commend ourselves and all people to your unfailing love.
May the eyes of Jesus look upon you; the lips of Jesus speak to you; the hands of Jesus bless you; the arms of Jesus enfold you, the feet of Jesus come to you; the heart of Jesus pour his love upon you; and the blessing of God almighty, Father Son and Holy Spirit, be upon you all, evermore. Amen.
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; 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.
Reflection For Lent 3 John 2 verses 13-22
Christians as a whole have different ideas as to what is appropriate in church. I once attended an evening service at one of the more progressive churches in Leeds. The noise before the service was loud. Folk wandered around chatting and laughing. The members of the band tuned up their instruments enthusiastically, the drummer practised his rolls and the microphones said “One two, one two” - repeatedly. As the service progressed, I could not tell who was leading or identify a logical process. It was a chaotic but joyful service - and it was certainly well attended. I wondered if that was the way forward.
John’s gospel identifies today as Jesus’ first visit to Jerusalem as part of his ministry. It is the Feast of the Passover and Jesus, being a pious Jew, observes the Jewish law to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem for this solemn festival.
Jesus was absolutely shocked to see what was taking place in the house of God. He found that the priests had given permission for the setting up of stalls which sold animals to be used as Passover sacrifices. From oxen for the well to do, to doves for those who were poor. Can you imagine the mess, the smell and the noise in God’s house? For those who had travelled into the city and had to buy their sacrifices there, I bet they were paying through the nose.
The priests would be charging rent for the stalls and fees to certify that the animals were without blemish, as required by Jewish law. The congregation were each also required to pay half a shekel yearly as a kind of poll tax for the use of the tabernacle. The coin of the realm was Roman coinage, which the priests were not allowed to accept, so moneychangers were also allowed to set up shop. They too would have been paying rent to the priests for these stalls. One writer comments ‘if we look closely, we will find that all the great corruptions that occurred in the church owed their origins to love of money and power’.
Jesus, in his great anger, makes a whip and drives out the cows and sheep. Their owners would have had to chase after them to round them up. The moneychangers’ tables were sent flying in all directions and the dove owners ordered to get their birdcages out. Jesus never forced anyone into God’s house, people went to hear God’s word, but he did not hesitate to drive out those who were profaning that holy place. As the Son of God, Jesus had the authority and power to do this. Christ showed his contempt for money by scattering it all over the ground. He was also showing his contempt for all who would use religion for worldly gain.
Like any good parent, Jesus corrected the childrens’ bad behaviour but also gave the reasons for his punishment. “Stop making my Father’s house a market place” Jesus says. The temple was the house of God, dedicated to his honour and for his glory. Those people had turned what was solemn and spiritual into a noisy, messy, indoor market. The temple should have been a place where the people gathered to worship God and where the God of Israel had his dwelling. Before he could begin any teaching, Jesus’ first piece of work was to clean out the house of God.
Jesus, in such a rage, was a shocking sight to the disciples. What had happened to the peaceful Lamb that they had been called to follow? Then they remembered the words of scripture. Psalm 69 v 9 says “It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me”. The priests and traders were offending God in their actions and Jesus, as God’s Son, was hugely offended on his Father’s behalf.
The priests will have looked at Jesus scathingly. For goodness sake – they had been building the place for 46 years already and Jesus reckoned he could demolish it in three days!! But Jesus was speaking of the temple which was his own body, he was already prophesying his own death and resurrection. Jesus is warning everyone that his passion, his zeal for the work of his Father would lead to his body being consumed but to be raised again in three days.
The saying goes:
We can check up on how we all are coping and how our families are doing.
Father God, we thank you that we still have a special place to meet together, to share in silent fellowship and to find inspiration and encouragement. We are grateful for the work of those who make this possible and especially for the selfless leadership of Dorothy as we struggle to cope with our own trials and try to support others.
Father, from the conflicting needs and agendas of the world we cry for mercy for a deeper understanding of one another and a greater desire for co-operation and peace. We pray for sensitivity in handling delicate negotiations and the wisdom which respects and listens.
We pray that in all our relationships you will make us effective channels of your love and forgiveness. Wherever we are, may our conversations and actions be always in touch with the renewing power of God. Bless our neighbourhood and parish, remembering today those who live in Vivien Road, Falcon Mews, Kingfisher Grove, Linnet Close, Mallard Court, Swallow Fold, Osprey Court, Harrier Close and Arden Road. We pray for the workers in our hospitals and care homes and all those on whose work others depend.
We stand alongside those who are suffering in body, mind and spirit. We pray for your living Spirit to envelop and sustain them, bringing healing and comfort, and patience through the dark times.
We pray, Lord, for all college and school pupils and the students who are about to return to their buildings and courses, and to the company of their friends. We pray, too, for all the staff who make this return possible and we thank them for all they have done and are doing. As we rejoice in times of progress, grant us still the wisdom and patience to avoid undoing the good so far achieved.
We pray for those who have come to the end of earthly life. May they, placing their faith in the God of Life, share in the light and joy of Heaven for ever.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
The Lord bless us, preserve us from all evil, and keep us in eternal life. Amen.
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
View a copy of the weekly service sheet here