We are still open 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
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.
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.
For the texts for each Sunday see the relevant notice sheet
The Second Sunday of Epiphany
Prayer for the Day
Readings for the Day
1 Samuel 3 verses 1-10
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.
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 –
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST
Prayer for the Day
Reflection on the Baptism of Christ: Acts 19 verses 1-7;
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY
Prayer for the Day
Reflection on Matthew 2 v 1-12 Epiphany 2021
Today we are reflecting on the way God controlled the many strands of people and their actions to bring about the presentation of Jesus to the whole world. We are celebrating the Feast of Epiphany. In the Anglican Church this is the day we celebrate the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles through the actions of the Magi.
God’s plan started coming together from the moment humanity fell from grace and we were driven from the perfection of Eden. Over the past two weeks our Old Testament readings have drawn to our attention all the prophecies in the bible that point to the coming of God’s Son into the world as Saviour of humankind.
Our first reading today is from the prophet Isaiah speaking 8 hundred years before Jesus was born. Isaiah calls on the people to arise, shine for the glory of the Lord had risen upon them, their hearts will rejoice, and the wealth of the nations shall come to them. They shall bring gold and frankincense and proclaim the praise of the Lord. We know about the angel’s visit to Mary telling her she has been chosen to bear God’s Son to be born in human form. Mary is related to Elizabeth who is descended from King David. We saw Joseph playing his part in taking Mary as his betrothed. That ensured that Jesus would be born of the blood line of Abraham and King David to show Jesus’ descent from a Royal household on earth. Joseph obeyed God by protecting Mary and taking her as his wife despite the child not being his.
God was in control of Caesar Augustus so he called for the census that would compel Joseph to go to Bethlehem with his heavily pregnant wife so the child would be born there. The town is packed with people which ensured the child’s humble place of birth and the shepherds could visit him. Then there were Jewish people already scattered throughout surrounding countries, living hundreds of miles from Judah and Jerusalem, teaching and practising their faith. They were there to spread the word that a Messiah was expected and what the signs of his coming would be. The Magi, who were men of wisdom, had heard the Jewish stories. They knew how to interpret astrology which is the movement of the planets and stars. They made the necessary preparations and set off on a journey of months to see the child which is to be born.
In Jerusalem we have King Herod calling himself King of the Jews and ruling over the people. His family were amongst the wealthiest, with great influence, but he was only half Jew and was given the title of King by the Romans. We also have the Pharisees and Scribes, the gentry of the Jewish people and the senior people in the synagogue with knowledge of scripture. Into this palace God brings the Magi asking for the child who has been born King of the Jews.
They had seen his star rising and have come to worship him. This would fulfil the words of Psalm 72: 11 which says ‘All kings will bow down to him’. The people of Israel had been waiting for hundreds of years for this Messiah and here his birth is announced by foreigners arriving in Jerusalem. These are gentiles, what do they know? What is worse, the magi are asking the most dangerous person for help. Coming from a land far away these Magi did not know about Herod, how he murdered his favourite wife and his own sons, amongst many other relatives and people who he thought were a threat. Herod says ‘go, find the child, them come and tell me so that I too can go and worship him’. The Magi set off and are guided by the heavenly star right to where the child lay. They pay him homage which is to worship him as royalty.
Throughout the years God has been in control moving all the pieces into the right place for the salvation of all humankind. The homage paid by the foreign Magi is accepted as the first sign that Jesus came for all people, for all nations, and that the saving act of Christ was for us all. The work of God in the world would not be limited to a favoured few. The gifts presented by the Magi are what would normally be given to one of royal birth because they were rare and expensive not because the Magi understood the significance to the life of Jesus. Gold would have been exchanged for money to help the family flee to Egypt and live there. Frankincense, an expensive perfume, is used in the incense at the altar when worshipping God. Myrrh is what the women would have been bringing to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body. To emphasise the extension of the love of God to the whole world, the Magi get a dream from God warning them not to return to Herod. They go home by another road which helped in preserving the safety of Jesus, as well as the lives of the Magi themselves.
Epiphany lasts to the end of February giving us additional time to think about what the Incarnation means to us. To really think about how we see the reality of God working among us and how we have responded to that. What difference has it made to our lives and the way we see and treat others to know that God was working his purpose out as our Lord Jesus came into the world, lived, died and was resurrected as Saviour for us all?
Not just for a select few but for everyone. Amen.
Intercessions for The Feast of the Epiphany
As the Magi came from the east to worship your Son: Father, grant to Christians everywhere that same spirit of adoration, that through our worship we may reflect the glorious light of Christ
The new year will bring significant changes to our country as we finally break old ties with the EU and establish new ones in different places. We pray you will bring support to our government and politicians so they will lead this country with fairness and integrity.
Lord God, as we face the start of 2021 we pray for the world. Let the star of your justice always shine in the hearts of those who are in authority. Enable all nations to recognize the sanctity of each and every human life in their care so that all may experience an abundance of peace and security. Most especially we pray that this year will see the end of the pandemic as the programme of vaccination continues worldwide to all nations, rich and poor.
Father God, Your Son shared the life of his home and family at Nazareth: we give thanks for his presence with us in our homes and in our lives. Guide us in our relationships with family and neighbours, especially those in trouble or need and bless those who have guided and enriched our own lives. We remember especially those who live in West Park Road, West Park Terrace and Clement Street.
May this year be filled with God’s grace and light, especially those under the clouds of homelessness; illness; or unemployment. Bring to them the hope of new beginnings
For people newly diagnosed with illness, bring them your calming peace and reassurance from their carers, and may your love flood their lives with hope and comfort. Ensure, Dear Lord, that we always express our gratitude to the people who have looked after us, in whatever capacity, during these unexpected times.
Eternal God, as we go out into this New Year we ask for your loving presence with us to share in its joys and to strengthen us in its sorrows.
Christ the Son of God perfect in you the image of his glory and gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom; and the blessing of God, the Father , Son and Holy Spirit be with you today and throughout the coming year. Amen
First Sunday of Christmas
Prayer for today
Readings for today
Reflection on Luke 2 verses 15-21.
Greetings again everyone as we reflect on another wonderful aspect of the incidences surrounding the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am so sorry you missed out on the first 14 verses of this 2nd Chapter of Luke. I was not being perverse but from Christmas Eve night through the course of Christmas Day the Church requires that we reflect on John 1 verses 1-14. If you worship at a Cathedral having three or more services during this time you are guaranteed to hit the bar. We only had one service due to the pandemic, hence the reading last Friday on Christmas Day.
What we have missed out on are the details of Jesus’ birth. The when, the why, the where and the how. Today being the first Sunday of Christmas, we are back in the normal flow of Luke’s story. We pick it up after an angel has visited the humble and lowly shepherds in fields way out of town where they are guarding their sheep.
After terrifying the shepherds by appearing in their midst, the angel informs them of the birth of Jesus and the amazing implications and proposed outcome of this birth for humanity. They are given the means by which they could identify this particular baby. Jesus would be wrapped in strips of cloth, which was common practice, but this baby would be found lying in the animal feeding trough.
The single angel convinces the shepherds with the appearance of an army of angels praising God and declaring peace between God and humanity. The shepherds immediately leave their flocks – an absolutely unheard-of action – and hurry into town to find the child.
On arrival they find the little family in the circumstances just as promised. They were so shaken by the accuracy of what the angel had said to them they felt compelled to inform the parents and anyone else willing to standstill and listen to their story.
These were men with a well-known level of dishonesty and lacking in spiritual virtue, to the point where their evidence was not accepted in court.
Everyone was amazed at their tale and you can just hear the snide remarks of disbelief. But Mary knew better. She had experienced her own part in this story so far. What the angel proposed for the future of Jesus chimed with what angel Gabriel had told her.
Mary took this as confirmation of the role God has asked her to play in the arrival of Jesus, his only Son, on earth. She treasured the affirmation of her faith in God and wondered where it would all lead. But she kept her own counsel in all this.
The shepherds went back to their flocks shouting and singing God’s praises for presenting them with this knowledge and experience. Do you not find it amazing that throughout history, and particularly in this pandemic, there have been so many examples of unremarkable and previously unknown people coming to the fore?
These are people who have suddenly been touched by their own love of their fellow humans in need, and by the grace of God, that they have conceived and successfully carried out such marvellous schemes for the wellbeing of those in need.
Indeed, God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, that we, that we, might be saved.
On the 9th day after birth, according to the custom for Jewish boys, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to be circumcised and his name publicly declared. This time there were no family and friends around to dispute the child’s name. The baby is named according to that given by Gabriel before he was even conceived by Mary, and which was given to Joseph also. They kept their faith with God. Amen.
Intercessions Christmas 1
God in Trinity, eternal unity of perfect love, Gather the nations to be one family and draw us into your holy life through the birth of Emmanuel, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, we pray for your church throughout the world, for all its denominations and their leaders, and for the work of the ecumenical movement.
Almighty God, we pray for all the nations of the world, that they may be at peace within their borders, with their neighbours and in the wider world. May they come together in efforts to avert climate change, to use resources sustainably and conserve the natural order.
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 Cemetery Road, Rosetta Drive, Young Street and Mortimer Street.
Healing Lord, we pray for all who are unwell physically, mentally or spiritually and for those who look after them. May they find relief from their suffering and distress to calm their stress and bring them peace of mind.
Saviour God, we pray for those who have passed from this mortal life, those who have died recently and those whose anniversaries occur at this time, and for the bereaved. May they rest in peace. Rejoicing in the fellowship of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, we commend ourselves and all people to your unfailing love.
Christ who by his incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly, fill you with peace and goodwill and make you partakers of the divine nature; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
Prayer for the Day
Readings for the Day
Reflection on John 1 v 1-14.
Loving Jesus enter our hearts and make them acceptable to you Lord, our Light and our Redeemer.
I think we have all done the best we can and we can allow the joy of this day to totally take us over despite the major disappointment of not being able to have all the family and friends together as we normally would. Once again, my turkey is still frozen solid after 24 hours but it’s not required till tomorrow so nothing new there.
Joy is the feeling that should be filling us at this time as we gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago. We are celebrating the fact that a child was born for us; a Son given to us. The people who lived up to the point when Jesus was born were thought to be walking in darkness. In a way we too are living in a time of darkness. The pandemic has devastated us, our nation and the world. There are still wars between and within nations. There are many millions of starving people around the world.
Our government tells us it has sorted out the national and international consequences of our moment of excessive pride, incredible selfishness, a lack of Christian love and deceitfulness of heart known as Brexit. In our city there are more than ever people for whom this is no season of Joy but of loneliness, hunger and cold. They feel little hope of things changing for the better in the near future. They cannot see a light, not even a possible end to the tunnel.
We are here today to celebrate the light that appeared for us over two thousand years ago. Our Gospel reading says this light was the word of God. It takes us right back to the very beginning of scripture with the words ‘In the beginning was the Word’. Genesis says ‘In the beginning God said “let there be light” - and there was light’. It was the word of God that started everything and God went on to speak and declare, until he created the whole world.
When The Gospel writer says ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’, he is telling us that Jesus was with God at the very beginning, before creation. ‘The Word was God’ tells us of the relationship between Jesus and God, they were, and are, one. They were and are equal. This is part of the description of the Holy Trinity which is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In Jesus was, and is, the life and the light which we all need in order to live lives that are upright and godly. In the beginning, the Word, that is Jesus, became light in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome him. Light always overcomes darkness. John the Baptist was a man, sent from God but still an earthly man. The job of John the Baptist was to testify to the great light that was coming. The Baptist was not the ‘light’ - he was to testify, to be a witness to Christ, who was the true light. But, for those who preferred to close their eyes, John shouted to get their attention. Christ came into the world as the true light and enlightened everyone.
God sent his Son into the world in a way all humans could understand, he was a helpless baby, born of Mary. Jesus was born among his own people who should have welcomed him, but they rejected him because they didn’t recognise him. The Jewish people were suffering under Roman rule. They desperately wanted a saviour and they expected someone. Some at first thought John the Baptist was this saviour, maybe because of the strange happenings around his birth. The Jews wanted a warrior King to free them from their oppressors. They did not expect the son of an unmarried mother and a carpenter, born in a stable of all places, even though they had been warned by the prophets of the Old Testament.
The leaders in the synagogue, in particular, should have known better as they knew the scriptures. But like many people in leadership today, most of them were too busy trying to protect their own positions, misleading the people and forcing them to live by petty and unfair laws and rules.
So Jesus reached out to the other people of the world, to us who hear and accept the Gospel. To all who received Christ as their Saviour, as God’s word come among us, to those who believed, was given the power to become children of God. We are not children of God because of the accident of birth into a particular ethnic group. We are children of God because we believe in the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of his Son, Jesus Christ. We have seen God’s glory because we believe in Christ becoming human and living among us. We have seen the signs from the work he did among the people. We know of the ministry of his life and we know of his passion in dying for us, thereby providing the means of wiping out our sins.
In this little baby we have God’s son and therefore God himself here among us. God sent his Son to be our light leading us back to him. Christ is our life and our Salvation, our only means of returning to the perfection God created in the beginning. That perfection is in the innocence of a new-born baby, full of grace which is God’s generosity to us, and full of truth in the keeping of his promise to redeem us. Even in these terrible times our only sure hope is to cling to our faith in God and his Son. Today, this is our faith and because of it we rejoice this day for the birth of this little baby. Amen.
CHRISTMAS DAY INTERCESSIONS
Loving God we thank you for this day and all it speaks of –
the fulfilment of that promise through the sending of your Son
the realisation of those long years of expectation,
the glad tidings proclaimed by the angels,
the wonder and mystery of that first Christmas.
For all this means and will always mean
Lord we thank you – Lord we praise you
to gladden the hardest of hearts and most broken of spirits
to stir our minds and capture our imagination.
For all this time means and will always mean
Lord we thank you – Lord we praise you.
We thank you for the special things we associate with Christmas -
the spreading of good will, the sharing of friendship,
the longing for peace and the expressing of love.
For all this time means and will always mean
Lord we thank you – Lord we praise you.
Lord we pray for the sick; bring wholeness to all who are sick in body mind or spirit, all who are far from home or family and suffering at this time. We pray especially for all those who are unable to feel the joy of your Son’s birth due to loneliness, poverty or homelessness. With our loved ones around us, keep us mindful of the refugees and asylum seekers around the world.
Lord we thank you – Lord we praise you.
But above all we thank you for the truth of this day -
the message that you have come to us,
that you love us, that you have shared our humanity
and that you want us to share in your everlasting life.
For all this time means and will always mean
Lord we thank you – Lord we praise you.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ, who by his incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly, fill you with peace and goodwill and make you partakers of the divine nature; and the blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
Have a joyful Christmas
The Third Sunday of Advent
Prayer for today
Readings for Today
Reflection on John 1 verses 6-8 and 19-28
In our Gospel reading last Sunday we heard the voice of someone looking on, announcing the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry – a bit like the narrator in a play. We were given details of where John basically lived, what he looked like, what he ate and most importantly what his job was - all of which raised concern as to who exactly this man was.
Our gospel reading today starts with the bold assertion that he was a man sent from God and his name was John, which was the name God had instructed his father to call him. John’s work was to testify to the great light that was coming. The Baptist was not the light – he was a messenger from God sent to testify, to be a witness to Christ who was the true light. Christ was coming as the light which the people around could all see if they chose to accept him as God’s Son. For those who chose to close their eyes and ears John shouted to get their attention.
John’s baptising activity and robust preaching by the river Jordon is really drawing the people, they come from the surrounding regions of Judea and, more importantly, from the city of Jerusalem. It’s not just the poor, maybe less educated and certainly less sophisticated folk from the countryside. It’s the city dwellers who would be more worldly wise who are flocking to hear his words, accept his teachings. They profess repentance of their sins and are baptised as an outward sign of the promise to turn their lives around and towards God.
People also came who were just plain curious and wanting to know about his work. This was good because in our journey in faith one of the first things we need is curiosity. We must be curious enough to see that there are some people who live their lives in a different way. A way that does not threaten the planet or their neighbour. In fact, quite the opposite – they go to great lengths to preserve the resources of the planet. They are always holding out a welcoming hand to others - and not necessarily people who they feel are like themselves. We must be curious enough to stop and listen when someone tries to say there is this book of learning that can explain the world of the past, the present and the future. We must be curious enough to take that book, read it regularly, and open our minds and hearts to what God in saying to us through the words of scripture. Finally, we must be curious enough to go out and try to live those words. We do this by demonstrating our love for God in the way we care for others who are, after all, his children, just as we are.
So curiosity can be a good and healthy quality to have. In John’s case however some of this curiosity was born of fear in the hearts and minds of the leaders of the Jewish people. Now you have to see things from their point of view. They were the ones with the knowledge of the laws and particularly the religious statutes.
They would interpret these for the people, with the inclination to put their own bias on what they teach. They were in authority over their people. Some of this authority came from their position, as laid down by the Jewish faith, and some of it from their Roman masters, in their role of intermediary between the Roman rulers and the ordinary people. These religious leaders did not want to upset the status quo. If there was any new teaching of the people going on they wanted to make sure it was along the right lines.
The Jewish people were suffering under Roman rule. They desperately wanted a saviour and their prophets of old had told them to expect someone, but they were unsure as to who or what this someone would be. So, the Jewish leaders sent out a delegation of priests and Levites to investigate John the Baptist. These were learned men who could ask the right questions and be sure to get clear answers. They obviously had never come across some of our politicians or come to think of it some of our religious leaders, but I digress.
Knowing that John the Baptist was the son of a priest they expected straight answers to their straight questions. Who are you they demand? Was John claiming to be the Messiah, the Christ? John is honest and states “I am not the Messiah”. “Well are you Elijah”? They all knew the story of Elijah being taken up to heaven alive, in a flaming chariot. The Jewish people speculated that he was still alive up there somewhere and would return to save them. No, says John, I am not. “Are you the prophet” they ask. They were maybe thinking this might be another Moses, come to lead them out from under Roman rule. “No”, says John, sounding rather curt and definitely unhelpful. “Who are you?” Tell us about yourself demand the interrogators. They sound a bit cross and maybe even afraid at the thought of going back to their masters without a clear answer. John replies by referring them to scripture and the words of the prophet Isaiah, which they should certainly have recognised.
Instead of all the negative answers he has been giving up to now, John declares positively, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord”. These were the religious leaders of the people, charged with living a life that should be blameless before God. But their lives were corrupt to the point where they could not recognise the manifestation of God’s word before their very eyes. They were charged with guiding the people into a right relationship with their God. They should have made the way of the Lord straight in their teaching to the people, but instead they mislead them, forcing them to live by petty and unfair laws and rules. The interrogators then demand to know what John thinks he is doing baptising all and sundry if he is neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. They knew the rules about ritual washing and ceremonial cleansing for people born into the Jewish faith and race. Only gentiles who were converting to the faith needed to be baptised. John was baptising Jews as if they were on a par with the gentiles, was he mad?
John says humbly “It’s only water, but standing among you is one whom you do not know. He is coming after me and I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal”. Untying the sandals of the master’s feet was the work of the lowliest slave, but this was where John placed himself in relation to Jesus. Up till this point John had still not given them his name, he was of no significance. The one coming after him was the important one. Jesus the Christ was coming. In fact, he had arrived and was standing among them, but they were so blind they could not recognise him. As we wait and watch for the second coming of our Lord, we pray we won’t have trouble recognising him. He will come with a great shout and the sound of trumpets that will rend the heavens. He will come with his host of angels singing and glorifying God. But will we have lived the life of faith that will make us joyful to see him, confident that we will be received in heaven by God the Father. Lord, I pray. Amen.
Intercessions for Advent 3
God for whom we watch and wait, you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for your Son; give us courage to speak the truth, to hunger for justice and to suffer for the cause of right, with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Loving Father, we pray for your church throughout the world as we all prepare ourselves to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord.
Creator God, we pray for the whole world, your creation. People everywhere are suffering, directly and indirectly, because of the pandemic and the efforts to contain it. May these measures bear fruit so that we may enjoy a brighter future and a less constrained way of life.
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 on the Middlebrook estate.
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.
Second Sunday Of Advent
Prayer for Today
Readings for Today
Isaiah 40 verses 1- 11
Today, being the second Sunday of Advent, we celebrate the work of the prophets and reflect on their connection with John the Baptist and the good news they brought about the coming of the Messiah.
In the Old Testament reading, Isaiah prophesies quite clearly about the appearance of John the Baptist and what his work would be. He was to prepare a sinful people for the ministry of Jesus. In the opening sentence of our Gospel reading Mark proclaims loudly. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. He tells us the when (they were at the beginning of the process); he tells us the what, i.e. the good news of the salvation of humankind; and he tells us who, i.e. Jesus Christ the Son Of God. Mark follows this with a quotation from the prophecies of Isaiah, adding the words of the prophet Malachi (Malachi 3 v 1).
Apart from an incident whilst his mother was pregnant, we have heard nothing of John until he appears in the desert of Judea, aged about 26 years, and started preaching. This was a historically important place for the Jews. The law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai which is in that area, the prophets would often go into the area to commune with God, and many groups within Israel associated it with God’s forthcoming deliverance.
John’s message was a call to the people to repent as the kingdom of God was near. This message would be the same one preached by Jesus during his ministry and by the apostles on their missionary travels. It echoes the call of the prophets in the Old Testament as they call the people into a right relationship with God, one that must affect every aspect of their lives. It means a change of mind as it changes one’s attitude toward God. This means confession of sin, prayers to say sorry and abandoning sin.
John’s garment is of camel’s hair with a leather belt. Camel and goat hair were often woven into a thick dark cloth used as an outer garment by poor people, wandering and living in the dessert. It was almost waterproof and protected from all the elements. It was also worn as a protest against luxury, or a symbol of distress, or self-affliction. It spoke of the repentance to which John was calling the people.
John ate locusts, a type of grasshopper, which was permissible food for the Jews. It was high in protein and could be ground into flour. Along with the honey from wild bees John was on a fairly reasonable diet! John’s protest diet, his protest clothes and his protest message all emphasised his call to repentance. In the light of the prophecy of Malachi the Jews were awaiting God’s intervention.
John was calling the people to remove all the obstacles out of their lives, to get themselves ready, preparing their hearts and lives for the arrival of Jesus, with the kingdom of heaven as their reward. John inspired and fired them with his message of the kingdom of heaven being near. The people listened attentively. They were fed up of the other kingdoms and rulers dominating them. They wanted to return to their glorious past under kings David and Solomon. There are so many people today who are hankering after our glorious past when we ruled the world, exercising power over other peoples and other nations. Let’s not mention Brexit.
Thousands of people came to John from Jerusalem and all over, into the dessert, to confess their sins and be baptised by him. They resolved to put their old ways behind them in readiness for God’s coming. Being baptised by John was a once in a lifetime baptism, symbolic of purification. The people were glorifying God and rejoicing in their re-birth. But John points the people onwards to another person. He is pointing the people to the coming of the one who will begin God’s kingdom on earth. This is the core of John’s ministry. He is prophesying to the ministry of Jesus. John tells of a more powerful being, coming with the power of God. As the servant of God’s Son, John says “I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thongs of his sandals”. He accepts his role as being second to Jesus. In being second he is submissive to Jesus. He states clearly he is not the one, he is merely the loud voice appealing to their consciences as they live in a desert of sin.
John teaches the people the difference in the baptism he offers and what Jesus will offer. He has been baptising with water, but the Messiah will baptize those who repent with the Holy Spirit - but for those who have not repented it will be judgement by fire. For us, John’s message is a warning of God’s judgement if he suddenly comes and finds we have not truly changed our ways. He holds out the powerful invitation to us to change our lives.
Peter’s letter to the Christians scattered throughout the lands, also warns of the sudden reappearance of Jesus at the second coming and the fervent need to be leading lives of holiness and godliness. John’s preaching is a definite intrusion into our lives with his hell and brimstone message. His appearance is frightening and his conduct more so. Why is he shouting about confession of sins and repentance? Christmas is normally family time when we are busily getting excited about presents and having a jolly time with friends and family. This year we to be more restrained with warnings of the virus.
We may be reluctant to preach this forceful and frightening message or to listen to it, but after death it will be too late. We need to experience the new birth in the Holy Spirit, to change in our hearts as well as our outward lives.
John warned the Pharisees and the Sadducees that a lifetime spent attending church and reading the holy book would not save them - and neither will it save us. Like John and Jesus, we must understand that outward appearance is of no consequence on judgement day. Our place of importance in society will be worth nothing on that day. We need to have given ourselves over entirely to the directions of the Holy Spirit in readiness for Christ’s second coming. The call of John the Baptist offers us hope - we mustn’t just go through the motions. We are challenged to grow in faith and become true witnesses to God’s presence in the world and the promises of Christ’s second coming.
We should not just be preparing to celebrate the birth of a baby. We are challenged to prepare the world around us so it becomes one where the baby, righteousness incarnate, will be at home. Amen.
As we gather expectantly in God’s presence, let us pray.
God of wisdom and truth, we pray for the world’s leaders and all in authority, that they may lead and govern wisely and honestly, without corruption and for the common good.
God of love and faithfulness, may every family be surrounded and upheld by your presence, the conflicts healed and needs provided for and every act of kindness blessed.
God of wholeness, bring your reassurance and healing, your hope and patience to all who are suffering in any way; bring freedom to all imprisoned by hate or guilt, and a change of heart to all who need to forgive.
God of unending life, bring life in its fullness to us your people, and to those who have completed their time on earth. May they know the freedom and joy of your heaven.
God of warmth and brightness, we praise you for all your many blessings. We offer particular thanks for all the scientists and volunteers working with the Covid vaccine. Father, above all we praise you for coming to save us and set us free.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer For Today
The Art of Waiting
Today we are celebrating the beginning of the season of Advent, a solemn time for Christians which lasts for four weeks. Advent means ‘coming’ and during this time we would normally have a sense of waiting and anticipation, of preparing ourselves to celebrate the first coming of Jesus. This is our preparation time for celebrating Christ’s birth among us and his bringing of salvation to the earth. But this year everything is different, strange even, and I am certainly feeling a little disconcerted and distracted by the overall feeling of loss in the face of the pandemic.
There is a sense of the suspension of time and a lack of direction as we grope our way through the information, advice, rules and regulations. What is open to interpretation and what is not? When will it all end? When can we get back to normal, most people cry? Others appear more certain - there will never be a return to ‘normal’. We need to feel, speak about and demonstrate the Christian hope that Christ coming to earth brought for us all. Today we can consider the different ways in which Jesus comes to us.
Firstly, we can celebrate Jesus’ first coming to us in Bethlehem that first Christmas morning. In preparing ourselves over the next four weeks I pray that one of the things we will call to mind will be the needs of children. We may consider the heavy responsibilities that Mary and Joseph felt as they looked down at their helpless baby wrapped up in strips of cloth and lying in the animals’ feeding trough in a draughty stable. We may consider God’s love for us in sending his only Son to suffer and die in order to reconcile us unto himself. To be the means of our salvation. We may reflect sincerely on Jesus’ commandment to love one another as he has loved us. We may consider the humility with which Jesus lived his life among us and submitted himself to death on the cross.
The second way in which Jesus comes to us is in the daily challenges, opportunities and blessing which we experience but do not always recognise the presence of God in them, particularly if they are in the form of another person. This year has certainly been challenging for us all. We have had to bear the loneliness of not being able to meet and hold our loved ones as we shield each other from the virus. The words ‘love thy neighbour’ have taken on new meaning as peoples of different cultures have reached out in caring and generosity. We are now very much aware of the fragility of believing we are in control of our lives and destinies. I am gradually getting used to a total stranger greeting me from across the street. I feel hope for the human race. Prayer is now central for comfort and reassurance.
The third way Jesus comes to us is when we die. That doesn’t sound a very cheerful point to make for Advent, but it is Jesus’ death that we celebrate in the Eucharist. It is the hope that we are blessed with because Jesus died. It gives us the Christian hope that we will enter a better and happier life in Jesus when we die. So many have been left grief stricken by the death of a loved one, caused by the pandemic, we need the hope that comes from our faith in the face of death. Jesus tells us we are to prepare for this constantly in the way we live our lives. We repent of our sins, we live lives full of prayer and we love and care for others.
The fourth way that Jesus comes to us is in the promise that he will come to bring justice to the world. In the meantime, there will be pain and suffering because God has given us freewill to live lives that are good or evil. In the Gospel reading this morning Jesus is talking about the end of days and the coming of our Lord. Earlier Jesus has been warning his disciples about the total destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem itself in the not too distant future. Not one stone would be left standing on top of another. People would perish in their thousands. As if all that suffering wasn’t bad enough it would then be followed by the end of time. There was to be a length of time between the two events, but Jesus gave no indication as to how long that would be.
As I said last month, we have now been waiting nearly 2 thousand years and we could be here for another two thousand - or he may come tonight. Jesus tells the disciples the rather shocking news that no-one but his Father knows the hour, the day, the month or even the year that this will take place. Not even himself as the Son of God. The angels in heaven are constantly in God’s presence worshipping him. They have superhuman knowledge and powers, but they don’t know. Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Word made flesh and was there with God from the beginning of the world, but He doesn’t know. The miracles that Jesus performed showed he had independent use of his supernatural knowledge and powers. But he purposely limited it to whether it was his Father’s will for him to do so. He willingly remains ignorant of the day when he will return to this world.
Only God knows – we use that phrase in such an off-hand manner but think about it now. What does it mean to say only God knows? All those people who have been predicting the date for the end of the world since whenever – don’t they just look foolish. They obviously had no faith or belief in scripture.
No matter what our circumstances, we have to make our lives secure by living in a manner that seeks the kingdom of God. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians says our faith will strengthen us to the end so we may be blameless on the day Jesus returns. We have to live in a state of preparedness as we do not know the hour when or Saviour will return with salvation for those who have lived righteously. As people of faith we have begun to celebrate the season of Advent – we are waiting expectantly - not for Christmas, but for the second Advent and Christ’s return when he will take us unto himself and to our Father in heaven where there will be everlasting joy in God’s presence.
Holy God, we come to you as we are in our state of worry and distress. We ask for your kingdom to come in us and into our homes; increase our faith and our love for you, so that we may become the lights in areas of darkness that we are called to be.
Holy God, the signs in our world of hate, distrust and greed are shown to us clearly every day. Even in the devastation of the pandemic some are seeking to destroy others. May we see with your eyes the signs of hope and heavenly victory, the opportunities for loving service, for encouragement, reassurance and thanksgiving.
Holy God, bless the parenting and befriending in all our relationships and increase our love for one another. Give us the humility to accept guidance and warnings, lovingly given, and the courage to uphold one another in the faith.
Holy God, we bring to you in love those who are weary with ongoing pain and weakness, those who are frail with age and all who are vulnerable. Pour your living strength into their lives and protect them from all that is harmful especially during this pandemic.
Holy God, we pray for all who are facing real financial hardship, those who face hunger or homelessness, all who face uncertainty and ill health as our health service in stretched to its limits.
Holy God, we pray for all who come to the end of their earthly life, and for those whose lives feel empty without them. Give comfort to the bereaved and everlasting peace to all who rest in your love.
Holy God, your faithful care has brought us to this moment; we thank you for your constant love, forgiveness, strength and protection.
View a copy of the weekly service sheet here