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Intercessions for Trinity + 5 Year B (Proper 9): 5 July 2015

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Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury Pilgrims 13th c via Wikimedia

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified: hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: 2 Samuel 5.1-5,9-10

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, ‘Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.’ So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

 

Psalm 48

Refrain: We have waited on your loving-kindness, O God.

Great is the Lord and highly to be praised, *in the city of our God.
His holy mountain is fair and lifted high, *the joy of all the earth.
On Mount Zion, the divine dwelling place, *stands the city of the great king.
In her palaces God has shown himself *to be a sure refuge. R
For behold, the kings of the earth assembled *and swept forward together.
They saw, and were dumbfounded; *dismayed, they fled in terror.
Trembling seized them there; they writhed like a woman in labour, * as when the east wind shatters the ships of Tarshish.
As we had heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, the city of our God: * God has established her for ever. R
We have waited on your loving-kindness, O God, * in the midst of your temple.
As with your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; * your right hand is full of justice.
Let Mount Zion rejoice and the daughters of Judah be glad, * because of your judgements, O Lord.
Walk about Zion and go round about her; count all her towers; * consider well her bulwarks; pass through her citadels,
That you may tell those who come after that such is our God for ever and ever. * It is he that shall be our guide for evermore.

Refrain: We have waited on your loving-kindness, O God.

Father of lights,
raise us with Christ to your eternal city,
that, with kings and nations,
we may wait in the midst of your temple
and see your glory for ever and ever.

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12.2-10

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven –  whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows –  was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Gospel Reading: Mark 6.1-13

Jesus came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.


Jane Williams focuses on St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and you can read what she has to say here, by searching ‘speculation’ (p86). Similar points are made in ‘The Ministry of the Word’, extracted here.

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Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, help us to focus on the work you want us to do as the Body of Christ. Amongst all the excitement of moving forward in one part of the Communion, with concerns amongst many that we are departing from your word, we know that without our help you will not move; by ourselves we cannot move, but together with you, we can. *

Lord, our eyes turn to you as our guide for all eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord of grace, you have raised up the leaders of this world from among your people. Lend to all those in authority, we pray, the wisdom and the strength to deal with the problems faced by our planet, some of which seem impossible to solve. Give them imagination and courage to find solutions, and the ability to lead others into the future.

Lord, our eyes turn to you as our guide for all eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, you sent out the twelve apostles on the mission of missions with nothing to sustain them beyond the hospitality of those they encountered on the path. Open now the hearts of all people to share what they have of your bountiful goodness, and make our communities places of welcome and willingness to build together for the generations yet unborn.

Lord, our eyes turn to you as our guide for all eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, come into our weakness with your power. We know that, when life seems most difficult and pain most present, hope can simply ebb away. We know that those who wait upon you renew their strength: when we reach the end of our own resources, give us the faith and confidence simply to let go, knowing that you will breathe into us new strength for the road ahead.

Lord, our eyes turn to you as our guide for all eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, give joy and peace to those whom we have loved who have now departed this life, and grant them joy and peace in your eternal kingdom. And be with all those who mourn their loss.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

 

Prayer after Communion

Grant, O Lord, we beseech you,
that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered
by your governance,
that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

* Words spoken by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, quoted by the new Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, in an interview (at 9.43 minutes). “By himself, God won’t. By ourselves, we can’t. But together with God, we can”.

Copyright acknowledgement: Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA  Some material  included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for Trinity + 4 (Proper 8 ) Year B: 28 June 2015

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Raising of Jairus’s daughter, Cathedral of Monreale, Palermo 12th c

 

The Collect

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that with you as our ruler and guide we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not our hold on things eternal; grant this, heavenly Father, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: 2 Samuel 1.1,17-27

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. (He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said: Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen! Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon; or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult. You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor bounteous fields! For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more. From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, nor the sword of Saul return empty. Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

Psalm 130

Out of the depths have I cried to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice; * let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
If you, Lord, were to mark what is done amiss, * O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, * so that you shall be feared.
I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; * in his word is my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord, more than the night watch for the morning, * more than the night watch for the morning.
O Israel, wait for the Lord, *for with the Lord there is mercy;
With him is plenteous redemption *and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 8.7-15

You excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you – so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something – now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has – not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.’

Gospel Reading: Mark 5.21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?”’ He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’ While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

The RSCM has “We don’t want to be a nuisance to anyone, least of all to God. So we don’t bring him all our wants and desires, fears and woes. Yet here is Jesus on an urgent mercy mission, being interrupted by a woman with a need which she hardly likes to bother him with, touching just the hem of his garment. And our God stops to give her his full attention. It’s not an interruption for him.

You can read Jane Williams here, by searching for ‘Jairus’ (pp84-5). She carries on the RSCM’s point: ” Don’t be afraid, Jesus says.  God’s love is not that small. There is enough for the woman and for [Jairus’s] daughter. There is enough for all.”

This is just as well, because our psalmist this week is writing ‘de profundis’, from the depths of despair. But he has confidence in God’s mercy and forgiveness, and waits in the darkness with hope for the new dawn.
 

Prayers of Intercession

We pray in the name of Christ, by whom we are raised to new life.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, look in your mercy on your Church. Our hope lies in your word and we draw strength from you and from each other as we gather to worship you. Heal your Church, both the wounds of the past and those we inflict on each other in the present. Heal the dissensions which divide us from one another, and bring us into unity of love in you, so that we may reach out to a troubled world in your name.

Lord, make us whole that we may do your will: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, in a world whose web of life is intricate and beautiful, save us from carelessness and blindness. In a world whose creatures are so varied and so vulnerable, save us from wanton plundering. In a world whose oceans should cleanse the earth, save us from absent-minded pollution. In a world whose forests protect the very air that we breathe, save us from the urge to destroy them in the name of profit. In a world whose fruits are rich and plentiful, save us from waste and greed. *

Lord, make us whole that we may do your will: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, you have given to us in abundance: may we share that abundance with those whom we live amongst. Help us to overcome all that divides us, and to build up all that makes for the common good. When new ventures are struggling to survive, we ask you to breathe on them your life-giving oxygen, and water them with your living water so that they may be brought to thrive.

Lord, make us whole that we may do your will: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we bring before you all those who are empty, exhausted or in anguish. All those who feel themselves alone, marooned in a bleak wasteland, and unable to see a brighter horizon. Like  watchmen waiting for the morning, they hope for the dawn. Pour on them, we pray, your healing grace, so they may feel the reality of your compassion and love and  begin once more to hope in the possibilities of the new day.

Lord, make us whole that we may do your will: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we pray for the souls of all that have recently died. Comfort all those whom they loved, and were loved by in return. And may the departed arise to life eternal in you.

 

Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

 

Prayer after Communion

Eternal God,
comfort of the afflicted and healer of the broken,
you have fed us at the table of life and hope:
teach us the ways of gentleness and peace,
that all the world may acknowledge
the kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

* Based on prayer 877 by Angela Ashwin in her Book of a Thousand Prayers

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Post Communion (4th after Trinity) © 1985 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada: The Book of Alternative Services Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Collect (4th after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for Trinity + 3 (Proper 7) Year B: 21 June 2015

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Calming the storm, Hitda-Codex, 11th century via Commons Wikimedia

The Collect

Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts whereby we call you Father: give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, that we and all creation may be brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God; 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.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: 1 Samuel 17.(1a,4-11,19-23)32-49

The Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah.  A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armour of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield-bearer went ahead of him. Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to the camp. They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.” Early in the morning David left the flock with a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. David said to Saul, “Let no-one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armour on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield-bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly towards the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Psalm 9.9-20

Then will the Lord be a refuge for the oppressed, * a refuge in the time of trouble.
And those who know your name will put their trust in you, * for you, Lord, have never failed those who seek you.
Sing praises to the Lord who dwells in Zion; * declare among the peoples the things he has done.
The avenger of blood has remembered them; * he did not forget the cry of the oppressed.
Have mercy upon me, O Lord; * consider the trouble I suffer from those who hate me, you that lift me up from the gates of death;
That I may tell all your praises in the gates of the city of Zion * and rejoice in your salvation.
The nations shall sink into the pit of their making * and in the snare which they set will their own foot be taken.
The Lord makes himself known by his acts of justice; * the wicked are snared in the works of their own hands.
They shall return to the land of darkness, * all the nations that forget God.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten * and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.
Arise, O Lord, and let not mortals have the upper hand; * let the nations be judged before your face.
Put them in fear, O Lord, * that the nations may know themselves to be but mortal.

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 6.1-13

As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’ See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see – we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return – I speak as to children – open wide your hearts also.

Gospel Reading: Mark 4.35-41

When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

The Revd John Proctor writes in The Ministry Handbook: ‘We too may be entering times when Christianity will be widely despised, even pitied. What commends the gospel will not be the social prominence of those who follow and represent Christ, but the resilience, integrity, and inner worth of our lives – our inner peace amid the storm –  …Tradition has thought of the boat as Christ’s Church, battered and fearful amid turbulent times, yet always secure and protected in the company of Jesus. More personally, the disciples would remember that night…Jesus controlled the situation and restored it: suddenly they were encompassed by majestic calm. Even the realm of life we know best, he understands.”

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, you know that our Church is storm-tossed like the disciples’ boat on the Sea of Galilee. We seek above all to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to all that have ears to hear, but the winds and the waves blow us constantly off target. Calm the fears of your people and help us, we pray, to ride out the storms as we work together to remain afloat. And, in the moments of intervening calm, may we know your peace.

Lord, give heed to our pleas when we cry unto you for help: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, you have promised to be a refuge for your people in time of trouble. Look with compassion, we pray, on all the peoples of the world who are so cruelly or incompetently governed that they can only flee, abandoning all that they have. The hope of the weary grows dim as they struggle beneath a pitiless sky to find a place of safety. Work in us the costly ways of peace, that in justice and with gentleness your will may be done throughout all the earth.

Lord, give heed to our pleas when we cry unto you for help: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, help us in our daily tasks to play our part,  remaining steadfast with our eyes fixed on the goal. Walking by faith and putting one foot in front of  the other, lend us both courage and hope to rise above those things which frighten us, so that we may continue to carry out our daily tasks and care for those in our immediate surroundings, with new resolve every morning.

Lord, give heed to our pleas when we cry unto you for help: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, give us the grace to walk by faith, and through every storm of life to keep our gaze fixed on you. Watch over us, so that in the small hours of the morning when our hope is at its lowest ebb, you will remember our frailty and strengthen our sinews so that we may withstand the daunting waves of the open seas. Help us to keep watch with you and maintain our course in the direction you would have us sail, until dawn returns and the world resumes its familiar and comforting contours.

Lord, give heed to our pleas when we cry unto you for help: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we bring before you those who have departed this life in recent days….Bring us all at last to the quiet haven of our hearts’ desire where, in the company of all the saints,  you live and reign for ever and ever.

 

Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

Prayer after Communion

O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Amen

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): 1 Samuel 17.(1a,4-11,19-23)32-49 © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Post Communion (3rd after Trinity) © 1992 Janet Morley: All Desires Known (SPCK) Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000

“More TV Vicar?” by The Revd Bryony Taylor

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The advantage of waiting until this week to talk about Bryony’s new book is that we have had a chance to see how it has been reviewed generally, and I am happy to tell you that it has both won critical acclaim and is also the book everyone is discussing at the water-cooler. Quite a feat!

First of all, Bryony tells us some of the background to ‘More TV Vicar?’ and how she came to write it.

When Dawn French was asked by Richard Curtis to play the Vicar of Dibley, she wasn’t altogether sure at first, she revealed on Desert Island Discs: ‘”I thought, ‘How on earth do you play a central character who’s so blooming good?’ I thought ‘Where are the flaws? Where is the monster in this woman?’ That’s what I understand comedy to be.” Dawn French initially assumed that you can’t be funny and good at the same time. She discovered that this wasn’t true when she visited the (real) Revd Joy Carroll’s house with Richard Curtis (who wrote the sitcom) and saw that she had a mug that said ‘Lead me not into temptation, I can find it myself’– seeing this gave him permission to write a character that had quirks and flaws as well as happening to be a member of the Anglican clergy.

When we hear the word Christian, or vicar, or priest, a number of images come to mind – not all positive. The likelihood of these images having been informed by what you have watched on television over the years is extremely high. That is what I explore in my book ‘More TV Vicar?’ What do the various portrayals of Christians and clergy over the years on British TV say about what our society thinks of believers? And what do our responses (if we’re Christians) to these characters say about us? Many of the characters are part of the comedy heritage of our country. Why are vicar characters used so much in comedy, and when does the satire move closer to mockery or offense? I wanted to explore these issues by looking closely at each character in turn and analysing what is going on under the surface of such well-loved figures as Revd Geraldine Granger, Father Ted and even the Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells (from Blackadder).

The book is a fun romp through a range of characters that fall into the categories of the ‘good, the bad and the quirky’ and asks the question, ultimately, what would Jesus watch?

 

What I find fascinating about Bryony’s MTV is the mirror it holds up to the Church as a whole, particularly the Church of England as the established church, and the relationship between Church and people. And the extent to which these mirrors are accurate, perhaps more so than we would like, and the extent to which they distort.

The reader embarks on what appears to be a catalogue of vicars on television, set in their context. Grouping the programmes into the good, the bad and the quirky, we begin with the good. What one might call the Robert Browning view of the universe: God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world. The church forms part of an Arcadian idyll, with notional – but not serious – flaws, like the revolting cakes cooked by the village spinster in The Vicar of Dibley. The scriptwriters seem cheerfully confused about the difference between the parish council and the PCC, with the Revd Geraldine Grainger being an ex officio member of the former. But this is not a serious objection, since the viewers are well aware that we are in an alternative universe.  G K Chesterton appears, at first sight, to have set his Father Brown down in the same Hovis setting but, this being G K Chesterton, there is some serious theology and philosophy. And then we complete this tour of the horizon with the bad and the quirky.

But this is not a book about television at all… I’m on to you, Bryony. This is a very clever book, which uses the water cooler (formerly village well) concept to gather people around to discuss what they saw last night on the telly. And then, hardly perceptibly at all at first, but gradually more insistently, we get analysis of the role of the Church in the 21st century: its evolution, urban vs rural ministry, disparate congregations and the people of God, stresses and strains on the clergy, as well as on the structures (both physical and metaphorical) of the Church; and some thoughts on its future. Suddenly, we are in much more serious territory, but have been led here through familiar pastures: by the end we are considering the various aspects of ecclesiology quite seriously enough for the Anglican Journal. Very neat, in fact a virtuoso piece of writing.


More TV Vicar?
Christians on the Telly: The Good, the Bad and the Quirky

Bryony Taylor
978 0 232 53170 1
Paperback |16
Darton, Longman and Todd

Intercessions for Trinity +2 Year B (Proper 6): 14 June 2015

mustard seed

The Collect

Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth: send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you. Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: 1 Samuel 15.34 – 16.13

Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel. The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’ Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Psalm 20

Refrain: We will call on the name of the Lord our God.
May the Lord hear you in the day of trouble, * the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
Send you help from his sanctuary * and strengthen you out of Zion;
Remember all your offerings * and accept your burnt sacrifice;
Grant you your heart’s desire * and fulfil all your mind.
May we rejoice in your salvation and triumph in the name of our God; * may the Lord perform all your petitions. R
Now I know that the Lord will save his anointed; * he will answer him from his holy heaven, with the mighty strength of his right hand.
Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, * but we will call only on the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought down and fallen, * but we are risen and stand upright.
O Lord, save the king * and answer us when we call upon you.

Refrain: We will call on the name of the Lord our God.

Merciful God,
purify our hearts in the flame of your Spirit
and transform our toil into an offering of praise,
that we may reject the proud rule of might
and trust in Christ alone,
for he is our Lord for ever and ever.

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5.6-10(11-13)14-17

Brothers and sisters, we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord – for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. The love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Gospel Reading: Mark 4.26-34

Such a large crowd gathered around Jesus that he got into a boat and began to teach them using many parables. Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’ Jesus also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’ With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

The RSCM (2009) has: “We are so often plunged into another of Jesus’ wonderful parables and analogies throughout the gospels that we forget the preface, ‘the kingdom of God is like…’ Nearly all his stories and sayings meant to point to this kingdom. So what is it like? St Mark’s record includes the hope of planting, the trust of leaving things to God, the wonder of growth and the faith of starting small. A place of hope, trust, wonder and faith. Is this the kingdom we convey in what we say?”

You can read Jane Williams here by searching ‘alarm’ (p.80).

Prayers of Intercession

That we may grow in the service of Christ, Lord, we pray in his name.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, when we feel daunted at the sheer number and weight of the tasks which face our Church, mindful that we are fewer and fewer in number, remind us once more of the mustard seed and the hazelnut of Julian of Norwich.  If we look solely at externals, we see only how puny is the material we have to work with. But, small and insignificant though they may be, these spheres each contain within them spinning atoms of vast universes beyond all our imagining.

Lord, help us to see a world in a grain of sand: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, we pray for those who govern the nations of our world on behalf of the people. Give them strength in time of trouble, grant them your light and your wisdom, and support them through the prayers of our hearts.  Lord of compassion, guide all those who bear public office that they may use their power for the common good. May they remember their promise to serve all the people and take from them, we pray, the thirst for power and wealth.

Lord, help us to see a world in a grain of sand: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, we ask for your help in all our efforts at building communities within our community. You have promised us that, no matter how small the initiative, if we will plant it and tend it, you will send the sun and the rain to help it flourish. Though we may not succeed at first attempt, give us the courage to try again, and the readiness continually to persevere, should that be needed. And may all that we do be to your greater glory.

Lord, help us to see a world in a grain of sand: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we bring before you all those who pray for shelter from the storm, and protection from thunder, lightning and rain. Teach us instead how to undergo the tempests of this life, which come to all. Instead of craving security above all, show us the comfort of sheltering with friends and sharing the bare necessities. Help us to comfort each other in moments of shared danger or distress. Bring us hope out of our emptiness, energy out of fear and new life out of grief and loss.

Lord, help us to see a world in a grain of sand: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we pray for those who have triumphed over death and the grave and come home to you. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Collect (2nd after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Disability And Jesus: The Organisation

disability and jesus

I became friends on Facebook a while ago with the Revd Katie Tupling, as a fellow Christian active on social media. And then we linked on twitter, where she describes herself as “daughter, sister, wife, mother, priest, loved by Jesus… views all my own.” After a while, it dawned on me from some of the things she said that Katie is disabled, but it hasn’t prevented her from becoming ordained so that she can share God’s love with the rest of us.  The Revd Katie does, all the time, but she only has to be in order to inspire us. Not that I think she would care for this small tribute, as you can see from the following:


Dave Lucas, a colleague of hers from Disability and Jesus, explains how the organisation came to be formed and what they are currently doing:

About eighteen months ago now a conversation  took place on Facebook between a group of us disabled Christians bemoaning the lack of good quality Christian literature on the subject of the Church and disability, literature that was up to date with the Equality Act, with the latest thinking of disability scholars and that was culturally relevant to church in the UK, with so much of what was available coming from the US.

After a series of these conversations we began to realise that we were morphing into a sort of team, spread across the whole of the north of England. So we picked Harrogate as a kind of centre point and in May 2014 we had our first meeting.

It immediately became clear that writing a book on its own was not going to be enough; yes, we needed written material but we thought such material would be far better being delivered by disabled people themselves, people like us. We now have a core team of four people: three Anglican clergy and one disability professional, Katie, Bill, Laura and Dave.

Katie, who has cerebral palsy, is a vicar in Dore. Bill and Laura are team vicars in Billingham: Bill has suffered with depression and anxiety and Laura with fibromyalgia and ME. Dave is an access auditor and he is blind, a guide-dog owner and diabetic.

So since May last year the team have given advice to several churches,written several articles and a couple of guides, delivered talks and workshops and built up a big following on Twitter and Facebook.

In an effort to become better known and to make ourselves more available to the C of E nationally, we have taken a leap of faith and booked ourselves a stand this July’s meeting of General Synod in York.

We need to raise around £1000 pounds to purchase an exhibition stand and to meet printing costs to produce copies of the guides we have written.

To that end we have set up both a Paypal and a Just Giving account both of which can be accessed via our website at www.disabilityandjesus.org.uk.

If you need more info you can email: info@disabilityandjesus.org.uk

Or you can call Dave on 07703 347107

Please take a look at our site to find out more about us and if you feel you’d like to donate please do.

Every Blessing

Dave Lucas

 

Intercessions for 1st Sunday after Trinity (Proper 5) Year B: 7 June 2015

shutterstock_225204682

The Collect

O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in you, mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without you, grant us the help of your grace, that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: 1 Samuel 8.4-11(12-15)16-20(11.14-15)

All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to govern us.’ Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only – you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.’ So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plough his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’ But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, ‘No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.’ Samuel said to the people, ‘Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.’ So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.

 

Psalm 138

Refrain: Your loving-kindness, O Lord, endures for ever.

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart; *before the gods will I sing praise to you.
I will bow down towards your holy temple and praise your name, because of your love and faithfulness; * for you have glorified your name and your word above all things.
In the day that I called to you, you answered me; * you put new strength in my soul. R
All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord, * for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the Lord, * that great is the glory of the Lord.
Though the Lord be high, he watches over the lowly; * as for the proud, he regards them from afar. R
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will preserve me; * you will stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies; your right hand will save me.
The Lord shall make good his purpose for me; * your loving-kindness, O Lord, endures for ever; forsake not the work of your hands.

Refrain: Your loving-kindness, O Lord, endures for ever.

Lord our God, supreme over all things,
look upon the humble and lowly
and put new strength into our souls
to complete your purpose for us
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4.13-5.1

Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture – ‘I believed, and so I spoke’ – we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.  So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Gospel Reading: Mark 3.20-35

The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his companions could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ – for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

At this point, as we return to Ordinary Time, Jane Williams takes the Related readings, whereas I am following the Continuous. The gospel reading is the same, and today her comments are only on the gospel. You can find them here, by searching ‘relentless‘ (p.78). She ends:

relentless

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, you have warned us that a house divided against itself will not long be able to stand. Help us, we pray, for the Church which is one in the greatness of your love, but divided by the littleness of our own. May we become less preoccupied with those things that divide us, the better to concentrate on those we hold in common. Help us to see ourselves as rays from the one sun, with you our common source of life, and may we transmit your light all over the earth through your heavenly grace.

Lord, without whose help we can do nothing good, in your mercy: hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord of truth and judgment, lead us in freeing our world from the evil that threatens us. At the point of crisis, lend us your discernment that we may see the way that leads to peace. When we are overwhelmed by the growing gulf between rich and poor, the memory of your Son, who lived without material wealth, inspires us with hope that the true strength of the gentle and merciful will overcome the brittle force of the fearful and powerful, and that at the last the unrecognized will indeed inherit the earth. *

Lord, without whose help we can do nothing good, in your mercy: hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, we ask you to bless our families, friends and neighbours. Help us in our relationships with them, and fill us, we pray, with love and forgiveness to any who have offended us. May we receive them in love, acknowledging that we too have need of healing and pardon in our turn. Lord of community, whose call is more insistent than ties of family or blood, may we also never neglect our service beyond our own immediate circle to your greater glory.

Lord, without whose help we can do nothing good, in your mercy: hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we pray for all those whom we love who suffer in body, mind or spirit. May their pain be lessened, or may they find the strength to endure. Comfort them with your presence, we pray, and help them to hold fast to that which is good, and not to lose heart.

Lord, without whose help we can do nothing good, in your mercy: hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, extend our vision, we pray, so that we may look beyond the immediate to the eternal. We remember before you all those who now see you in that glory which is beyond measure as they join you with the multitudes beyond number.

Lord, without whose help we can do nothing good, in your mercy: hear our prayer

 

Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

*Based partly on Jim Cotter’s mediation on Psalm 138.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Collect (1st after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Three At Table: by Chris Fewings

1024px-Ewenny_Priory_chapel_interior

Ewenny Priory Chapel, Vale of Glamorgan via Wikimedia under CCL

Three at Table

a reproduction of Rublev’s icon

Come in, they said. This
is the empty stone chapel
in a remote village, this
is the impenetrable Sinai cloud, this
is the tent of meeting in the desert: this,

here, now, is the drawing of water
into wine, the sharing in our divinity.
Here, wherever you are – soaring flailing
empty full, dancing hobbling
feasting fasting, wrestling fondling
together or alone – are the angels
of the temple all about you; this
is the invitation. To take your place

in this trinity, you need
no more than the newborn’s prayer,
the blind man shouting through the crowd
to see, the lama sabachthani; no
calm assurance, no knowing
what might happen, no
composure, just the dark, the need

the cry.

Chris Fewings is now the editor of Ground, an online journal of poetry exploring faith.

Rublev’s icon can be seen here. Chris contributed a prose piece on Trinity Sunday in 2013.

The Decline Of The Church And The Strangeness Of God: by Andrew Bennison

HS 001

I find that few things are more humbling, as a teacher, than being forced to go ‘back to basics’: you’re trying to explain an idea or concept and – despite your best efforts – the looks of confusion and incomprehension remain. You realise at this moment that it is pointless to continue re-wording, revising or clarifying your explanation – the weaknesses in understanding are much more foundational, and you need to return to the fundamental premise or first principle of your topic, without which nothing further makes sense. The lesson plan is ditched and you need to think on your feet. In my experience the ensuing process is often unexpectedly fruitful for the teacher: returning to the starting point of your knowledge can prompt you to see the whole topic in a new light. This might involve re-discovering what originally fascinated or perplexed you, and being startled that what has over time become dull and prosaic now strikes you afresh as radically strange, complex and exciting. In short, the experience can lead to something of an epiphany.

 

Of course, this experience is not confined to classroom teaching. Last Sunday (Pentecost) I was taken by surprise when a curious member of my family, who is not a church-goer, asked me a simple question: ‘What is the Holy Spirit?’. My reply, which sought to sketch out a Trinitarian theology in layman’s terms, produced only confusion and incomprehension. I soon realised that this was the wrong question to be answering; for a meaningful conversation to develop I would need to go ‘back to basics’, and start with the question ‘What is a Christian?’ And so I did. I set aside some time to write an answer to this question for an imagined interlocutor who knows none of the stories or vocabulary of the Christian faith – indeed, for whom the word ‘faith’ itself produces little recognition. The experience was extraordinary. In my writing I discovered afresh the outlandish ‘strangeness’ of Christian faith when explained systematically. It felt simultaneously familiar and radically unfamiliar. Indeed, it sounded so odd that I felt embarrassed at the prospect of sharing it with friends and family. And yet I still believed it with my whole heart.

 

For me, the true epiphany was the thought which followed on from this: could it be that the crucial task of the Church in our time is to rediscover the ‘strangeness’ of Christianity? The Church of England is currently facing up to a profound existential crisis, prompted by the sustained – and possibly terminal – decline of church-going in recent decades. The ‘Reform and Renewal’ programme currently proposed to meet this crisis is couched in the calm, dispassionate language of institutional decision-making, but I cannot help but suspect that a dominant motivation is fear. Indeed, as someone contemplating a lifetime of ministry in the Church, I am myself conscious of the fear which the prospect of decline instinctively provokes: am I setting myself up, I wonder, for an unstable career in a dying, demoralised institution, forever on the back foot as churches and congregation disappear around me and the Church progressively loses its influence in the public sphere?

 

Confronted afresh by the ‘strangeness’ of Christianity, however, I begin to see the prospect of ‘decline’ in a new light. As I consider the ongoing wrestling with mystery which characterises my life of Christian faith, I am sceptical that a majority of those in historic Christendom have ever orientated their lives in faithful response to the call of Jesus Christ. The Christian life is hard – it is, after all, the way of the cross – and the testimony of history would seem to indicate that ‘Christian’ has been for many Western people down the ages (perhaps even for many churchgoers) more a marker of identity than a description of their lived inner reality. Could it be therefore that the collapse of Christendom provides the opportunity for the revival of the strange, distinctive witness of the Church? Could it be that, shorn of its cultural dominance, architectural presence and political influence, the Church of England is freed to refocus on what truly matters most: hospitality, fellowship, prayer and worship? I was struck by the Revd Sam Wells’ sermon observation at St Martin-in-the-Fields on the Fourth Sunday of Easter that ‘the critical mass of the sorted and normal no longer assumes church is part of what it means to be sorted and normal’. When our Christian identity loses its comforting sense of security for us, I wonder whether we will find a renewed security in fellowship with God and one another, embracing our new-found freedom to live as salt and light in the world?

 

Of course, I do not want the Church to decline numerically. I desire to see more and more people finding the peace and healing that comes through knowing God in Jesus Christ. But if, as seems likely, the Church does continue to decline, our hope in Christ – the one who reminds us always not to be afraid – can be undiminished. We will still gather to break bread with glad and generous hearts, rejoicing afresh in the strangeness of God, whose loving reality is both mysteriously immanent and radically unknown. And perhaps we will then pray with renewed confidence: ‘Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people, and kindle in us the fire of your love’.


s200_andrew.bennison Andrew Bennison was at Trinity College Oxford and now teaches history. He blogs at Musings on Mystery and describes himself thus: “History teacher, Christian, identical twin, London-dweller and countryside-lover (among other things). This blog is my attempt to share my experience of the mystery of God, and to create a space for generous conversations.”

 

Intercessions for Trinity Sunday Year B: 31 May 2015

Boss depicting Holy Trinity, Peterborough Cathedral (Wikimedia under CCL)

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and in the power of the divine majesty to  worship the Unity: keep us steadfast in this faith, that we may evermore be defended from all adversities; 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.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Isaiah 6.1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven, * ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name; * worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders; * the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation; * the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; * the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf * and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord splits the flash of lightning; the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; * the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe and strips the forests bare; * in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’
The Lord sits enthroned above the water flood; * the Lord sits enthroned as king for evermore.
The Lord shall give strength to his people; * the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Second Reading: Romans 8.12-17

Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—  for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Gospel Reading: John 3.1-17

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? ‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’

The RSCM has: “So often we attempt to split God into his component parts on Trinity Sunday, but it’s like trying to split the atom, using huge amounts of energy to do something that is potentially very dangerous. Warmth and light – energy emanating from the sun – are integral to it being the sun…No wonder Jesus so often spoke in parables, and no wonder Nicodemus was confused. But at the heart it is a simple story…The Trinity is not, after all, a puzzle to be solved, it is the very life of God in which we are invited to share.”

You can read the whole of Jane Williams on this year’s Trinity readings here, by searching for ‘milk’ (p74), but she begins:

Capture

Prayers of Intercession

 

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, we hear the sound of the wind of your Holy Spirit as it blows through our world and our Church. We know this Spirit does not appear to our timetable, or blow in the direction we are expecting or at the exact strength we would like. Help us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to listen for the wind, knowing that if our doubts are too deep we may drown but if our certainties are too strong we shall stumble and fall. Hold us, Lord, trembling on the tightrope of faith as we seek to do your will.

Lord our creator, powerfully sustaining: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, your voice divides the lightning flash and your glory thunders over the oceans. Your voice resounds through the mountains, echoing your glory and splendour. Your voice whirls through the sands of the desert, the whistling sands of the desert storm. More powerful than tempest or flood, your love embraces all the powers of creation. Give strength, we pray,  to your people and let all the powers of the universe praise you, O Creator, as we worship you in the beauty of holiness. *

Lord our creator, powerfully sustaining: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The local community

Lord, help us to imitate in our own lives the unbroken harmony  and mutual love of the Holy Trinity, moving seamlessly from one to another, drawing on the strengths of each. Lord, strengthen the bonds of our community and may this grace and balance be reflected in our families, our lives and all our relationships.

Lord our creator, powerfully sustaining: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, have mercy on those whose lives are crippled by physical, mental or spiritual strain and anxiety. Release their tension, give them the blessing of inward peace, and restore them to the wholeness which is your will for all.

Lord our creator, powerfully sustaining: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, our mystery, you bring us to life and move between us with love. May we so participate in the dance of your trinity that our lives may resonate with you, now and in the hereafter, in the company of those whom we have loved.

 

Merciful Father, accept these prayers….

*This prayer is based on Jim Cotter’s meditation on Psalm 29.

Prayer after Communion

Almighty and eternal God,
you have revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
and live and reign in the perfect unity of love:
hold us firm in this faith,
that we may know you in all your ways
and evermore rejoice in your eternal glory,
who are three Persons yet one God,
now and for ever.

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Post Communion (Trinity Sunday) © Oxford University Press: The Book of Common Worship of the Church of South India Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000
Collect (Trinity Sunday) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

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