Sunday Readings for 25 September 2016 – Trinity 18

Trinity 18 – Proper 21 – Year C

Amos 6.1, 4-7     1 Timothy 6.6-19      Luke 16.19-31

In the western world, there are very many people who have more money than they need to provide for the basic requirements of life, perhaps even the majority. A few are rich enough to live in the modern equivalent of the kind of luxury described by Amos, and many more aspire to it. But in the same society, in the same cities and districts in which people indulge themselves in such a manner, there are also people who remain desperately poor. Extremes of poverty and starvation continue to blight the world in which we all live, and the contrast between their suffering and the lives of the pampered rich is a greater scandal today than in the time of Amos, for the means certainly do now exist to put an end to it. Those who flaunt their wealth should know that they inspire not only envy among their contemporaries, but the wrath of God, who has given the world enough to eat, yet sees his children starving and dying of diseases which a few pence will prevent or cure.

When our human existence is viewed from the prophet’s perspective, the choice is a simple one: we should be content, as Paul says, with food and clothing. Once we go beyond these essentials, we begin to create cultures of dependence upon money and the spiritually and materially harmful things which it can buy. Greed for more money, or the desire to defend our riches once we have them, leads us into competition, conflict and war. Vast sums are spent on modern arms races, and money is wasted on a prodigious scale, sums which could go far towards ending poverty altogether. But in the process of defending the privileges of the few, the needs of the many are overlooked, and indeed they become the victims of war, or the threat of violence. But those who accept patiently the daily bread which the Lord provides play no part in such a spiral of temptation and darkness. Lives in which the virtues listed by Paul predominate bear witness to righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Those who do have wealth can escape the curse it brings by disposing of it appropriately, in the service of others and for the common good.

The parable of Dives and Lazarus is profoundly contemporary, in a world where industrialisation has made it possible for some individuals and some societies to obtain and to abuse extraordinary riches. Those who hold the purse strings can not avoid the spectacle of poverty which continues to be visible on the streets down which they travel, let alone in the news bulletins which inform them about the wider world and the cries of the poorest for relief from the bleak burdens of starvation and disease. They prefer to harden their hearts against any sense of common humanity, viewing themselves as elites entitled to avoid as far as possible any contact with the ordinary mortals who live and work and struggle to survive down below. Natural justice, let alone the judgement of God, requires that they should one day experience for themselves the denial of humanity which blinds them to the evidence seen by their own eyes. It is a sober warning that the love of money is so addictive and insidious that even when the opportunity for repentance comes our way, when we are rich we will very likely continue to close our ears to the words of the prophets, and remain unmoved by the Cross.

Rev Stephen Trott

 

Sunday Readings for 18 September 2016

Trinity 17 – Proper 20 – Year C

Amos 8.4-7          1 Timothy 2.1-7        Luke 16.1-13

Paying lip-service to the moral requirements of our faith but doing precisely the opposite in practice and in one’s mind deceives nobody, least of all God who sees both our actions and the intentions of our hearts. The commandment, Thou shalt not steal, requires of us honesty in all things. When dishonesty is practised systematically, so as to exploit those who are in too weak a position to insist on justice, the wrongfulness of the crime is magnified many times. There are many who become rich in this way, all the while knowing that what they are doing is profoundly wrong. They justify themselves with many excuses, but the prophets continue to denounce them for their iniquity, and they are already under the judgement of God, from whom nothing is hidden.

Power and wealth can be morally neutral, when used wisely and for the common good. There can be good rulers and good laws, which benefit everyone. Every society can if it so chooses model its life and its laws on the pattern laid down in the Scriptures, where God has revealed and the prophets have reiterated the fundamental principles for building a kingdom founded upon the justice which lies at the heart of the divine law. It is entirely right that we should pray for this world to become a godly society, in which the blessings of God in creation are enjoyed by all his children, as signs of the more perfect kingdom which is to come. Rulers who have acquired rank, status or wealth are as much under the judgement of God as their weakest subject, and they too need our prayers, so that they may acknowledge the source of all good things, and bow down in worship as they serve the one true King who is sovereign over us all.

Jesus is a shrewd observer of our human behaviour and of our moral character, and he has a great deal to say about our love of money, which is such a corrosive commodity, even in the hands of those who think themselves righteous. Money has its uses for commerce within our world, and when used rightly it can bring great benefits to all. But it can easily become an obsession which masks our conscience and our awareness of the means, fair or foul, by which it is being generated. Today’s parable illustrates just how insidious our dealings can become and how deceitful our transactions, as we handle money and seek to use it to our own advantage. Even the master who has been cheated admires the ingenuity of his dishonest servant, who has devised a system with which to defraud him. The warning which Jesus then issues is a powerful one: if we can not be trusted with something which has no eternal significance, how can we be trusted in things which really are important? We must learn to love God first of all, and then we will put material things in their true perspective, as tools which we may use for the common good and to the praise and glory of God.                                                                                                                  

Rev Stephen Trott

 

The Litany on Independence Day

THE LITANY

 O GOD the Father of heaven  : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O God the Father of heaven  : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

 O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

 O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.

Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; neither take thou vengeance of our sins : spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.

Spare us, good Lord.

From all evil and mischief; from sin, from the crafts and assaults of the devil; from thy wrath, and from everlasting damnation,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all blindness of heart; from pride, vain-glory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From fornication, and all other deadly sin; and from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From lightning and tempest; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder, and from sudden death,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion; from all false doctrine, heresy, and schism;  from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and Commandment,

Good Lord, deliver us.

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and Circumcision; by thy Baptism, Fasting and Temptation,

Good Lord, deliver us.

By thine Agony and bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension; and by the coming of the Holy Ghost,

Good Lord, deliver us.

In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our wealth; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgement,

Good Lord, deliver us.

We sinners do beseech thee to hear us, O Lord God : and that it may please thee to rule and govern thy holy Church universal in the right way,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to keep and strengthen in the true worshipping of thee, in righteousness and holiness of life, thy Servant ELIZABETH, our most gracious Queen and Governor,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to rule her heart in thy faith, fear, and love, and that she may evermore have affiance in thee, and ever seek thy honour and glory,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to be her defender and keeper, giving her the victory over all her enemies,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless and preserve Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Charles, Prince of Wales,  and all the Royal Family.

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to illuminate all Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thy Word; and that both by their preaching and living they may set it forth and shew it accordingly,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to endue the Lords of the Council, and all the Nobility, with grace, wisdom, and understanding,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless and keep the Magistrates, giving them grace to execute justice, and to maintain truth,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us an heart to love and dread thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments,

 We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace, to hear meekly thy Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit.

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such as have erred, and are deceived,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand; and to comfort and help the weak-hearted; and to raise up them that fall; and finally to beat down Satan under our feet,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to succour, help, and comfort all that are in danger, necessity, and tribulation,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve all that travel by land or by water, all women labouring of child, all sick persons, and young children; and to shew thy pity upon all prisoners and captives,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to defend, and provide for, the fatherless children, and widows, and all that are desolate and oppressed,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to have mercy upon all men,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth, so as in due time we may enjoy them,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us true repentance; to forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, to amend our lives according to thy holy Word,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Son of God :we beseech thee to hear us.

Son of God :we beseech thee to hear us.

O Lamb of God : that takest away the sins of the world;

Grant us thy peace.

O Lamb of God : that takest away the sins of the world;

Have mercy upon us.

O Christ, hear us.

  O Christ, hear us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

  Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

  Lord, have mercy upon us.

 

Then shall the Priest, and the people with him, say the Lord’s Prayer.

OUR Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread;  And forgive us our trespasses,  As we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation,  But deliver us from evil.  Amen.

 Priest. O Lord, deal not with us after our sins.

Answer.  Neither reward us after our iniquities.

Let us pray.

O GOD, merciful Father, that despisest not the sighing of a contrite heart, nor the desire of such as be sorrowful:  Mercifully assist our prayers that we make before thee in all our troubles and adversities, whensoever they oppress us; and graciously hear us, that those evils, which the craft and subtilty of the devil or man worketh against us, be brought to nought, and by the providence of thy goodness they may be dispersed; that we thy servants,  being hurt by no persecutions, may evermore give thanks unto thee in thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

O Lord, arise, help us, and deliver us for thy Name’s sake.

 O GOD, we have heard with our ears, and our fathers have declared unto us, the noble works that thou didst in their days, and in the old time before them.

O Lord, arise, help us, and deliver us for thine honour.

 Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;

Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end.  Amen.

 From our enemies defend us, O Christ.

Graciously look upon our afflictions.

Pitifully behold the sorrows of our hearts.

Mercifully forgive the sins of thy people.

Favourably with mercy hear our prayers.

O Son of David, have mercy upon us.

Both now and ever vouchsafe to hear us, O Christ.

Graciously hear us, O Christ; graciously hear us, O Lord Christ.

 Priest. O Lord, let thy mercy be shewed upon us;

Answer. As we do put our trust in thee.

Let us pray.

WE humbly beseech thee, O Father,  mercifully to look upon our infirmities; and for the glory of thy Name turn from us all those evils that we most righteously have deserved; and grant that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and confidence in thy mercy, and evermore serve thee in holiness and pureness of living, to thy honour and glory; through our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

A Prayer of Saint Chrysostom.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost promise that when two or three are gathered together in thy Name thou wilt grant their requests : Fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting.  Amen.

2 Corinthians 13.

THE grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore.  Amen.

Here endeth the Litany.

 

 

Sunday Readings for Pentecost

Sunday Readings for 15 May 2016

Pentecost – Year C – Whit Sunday

Genesis 11.1-9          Acts 2.1-21         John 14.8-17

In a relatively short space of time, the human race has learned how to cultivate the land, to build cities and to share knowledge by means of the written and spoken word. Many great civilisations have left evidence of their achievements for us to admire and to emulate. Some of our pride is justifiable as we marvel at the architecture, the arts, the technology, the societies which we have created. But that pride is also characteristic of our human condition, as we set ourselves up in rivalry with our Creator, and discover that we are puny indeed when our hubris leads on to disaster. Far from building the perfect city or the perfect civilisation we remain hopelessly divided, and so much of the creativity and the wealth which God has bestowed upon us are squandered as we fail to build the kind of society which God’s word in holy scripture requires of us. Until we listen to him we will compete for resources rather than share them, exploit the environment and each other for profit and for power, and make enemies of those whom God gives to us as our brothers and sisters in this world.

Jerusalem was a focal point for travel and for trade in the region, and at the high festivals was filled with people from many nations who came to worship in the holy city. The long list which we are given of the nationalities of those present illustrates the sheer diversity of the languages spoken by those who lived in the city or were passing through it. They were accustomed to the impossibility of communicating with one another, and so were astonished when for the first time, they all heard the same message, each in their own tongue, the message of redemption which God had revealed on the Cross and in the Resurrection. God’s word is the same in any language, good news for everyone who hears what God is doing to reconcile us with himself, and he is equipping and sending his church to every nation to proclaim repentance for salvation. In place of the babel of human voices, hopelessly divided and at odds with one another, the Spirit of God is at work to heal, to renew and to unite us for ever in Christ, extending the saving love of the Lamb of God to all the nations.

Unity is modelled most perfectly in the Holy Trinity of whose nature we are permitted glimpses in this reading from John 14. Philip’s request to see the Father directly is denied, yet Jesus says that to have seen him is to have seen the Father, with whom he is united, and even more astonishingly, he says that the Holy Spirit will continue his ministry among us for ever. He will be in us just as Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus. God reveals himself in faith to those who know him, and hears our prayers as we ask for his will to be done. By faith we will ask for those things which will bring glory to God, and we will keep his commandments because we love the Lord. We are no longer condemned to confusion and division, and to the futility of endeavours which spring from human vanity or selfishness, for God has shown us a better way through the word which he has spoken in Jesus Christ, and empowers us to continue his ministry until he comes in glory.

The Reverend Stephen Trott

Sunday Readings for Epiphany 4 – Year C – The Presentation

Sunday Readings for 31 January 2016

Epiphany 4 – Year C

Ezekiel 43.27 – 44.4         1 Corinthians 13.1–13        Luke 2.22–40

         Just as the Temple was built according to precise instructions, so there is a detailed and complicated set of rituals which are to be performed within it. The prescribed ceremonies provide a way of enacting the spiritual processes which are involved, from repentance to atonement, as the priests offer upon the altar the gifts which are stipulated. God has no need of our offerings or even of a sacred place such as the temple, but through such things he teaches us how to honour him and how to draw close to the holiness of his presence. Above all it is our obedience which makes us acceptable to the Lord, rather than the splendour of our worship or the abundance of our offerings. The glory which was revealed to Ezekiel already belongs to the Lord, and we can not add to it. We must beware lest we fall into the trap of mistaking the means of worship for the One in whose presence we must fall to the ground in adoration, for He alone is the Lord, the Holy God who has made himself known to us in revelation after revelation.
Our experience of the presence of God can take many forms, but in all of them his love is to be discerned, as the consistent sign of the Holy Spirit at work in us. In all of the ways in which God has shaped human history, he intends us to grow in knowledge and love of Him who first loved us before the first day of Creation. Love is the characteristic gift of our faith as Christians, for without it all our labours, however well-intentioned and selfless, do not finally lead to God. But if we have received this gift, then it empowers all that we do in the name of the Lord, flowing through our lives and our worship and transforming us with a numinous quality as God breathes his life into us so that we may live as the Body of Christ. In this way we are privileged beyond our understanding, as we are transformed by the very energy of the Trinity, uniting and binding us together with the living God who created us to receive such unfathomable gifts. The Church is built up from generation to generation into a Temple which is truly acceptable to God, and the gift which endures to the end is the gift of love by which it is sanctified and completed in His presence.
Jesus is the revelation of God’s love for which all the ages had been waiting, for he comes to transform the destiny both of Israel and of all the nations created by God. By his Incarnation, his preaching of the Good News and by his offering of himself upon the Cross, he brings into the world a light which can never be put out, a light which penetrates the darkness of our human condition and reveals the secrets of our hearts, so that we may be cleansed and filled with the knowledge of God’s love. The prophecies of Simeon and Anna speak of a new order of creation, in which God is worshipped in spirit and in truth in a Temple not made by human hands but by the power of the Holy Spirit who unites us to God himself.

The Reverend Stephen Trott

Sunday Readings for 25 October 2015

Sunday Readings for 25 October 2015

Proper 25 – Trinity Last – Year B

Jeremiah 31.7-9          Hebrews 7.23-28           Mark 10.46-52

     The people of Israel were not great in number and their land was tiny when compared to its powerful neighbours. They depended upon the power of God to protect them against their enemies, and flourished when they were a godly nation: but when they turned away from God and his law, they found themselves at the mercy of kings who despoiled their cities and enslaved their people. Time and again the Lord came to the rescue of the remnant of Israel which had remained faithful, and it was by his intervention that his people were restored to their homes and to prosperity, including the very weakest in society, who are the special concern of the Lord who is truly a father to all his children. Those who wept for sorrow may now weep for joy; and just as Ephraim was chosen to receive Jacob’s blessing although he was the younger of the two sons of Joseph, so now this son born in exile in Egypt has found God’s favour as he brings the tribes of Israel back from Babylon to their own land.

The history of Israel is a long narrative of events in which the fortunes of its people rose and fell in proportion to their faithfulness to God, who blessed all the nations in his creation of this world and chose one of them to be uniquely favoured as his own. But his love for Israel was not unconditional: when the people turned away from God they quickly discovered the damaging consequences of rebellion against him, that the wages of sin are death and destruction. In the temple the priests made offerings for sins committed, a shedding of blood without repentance which remained an empty gesture, a hollow ritual repeated ineffectually day after day. The pattern of sin and disobedience which characterises our fallen nature could never be broken by the purchase of sacrifices whatever the tariff set by the temple authorities. What God requires is obedience and mercy which could only find its fulfilment in an eternal high priest, the Son sent by God whose offering is a full and final sacrifice made once for the people he has come to save.

Jesus proclaimed the gospel publicly by travelling from place to place, preaching repentance and salvation to all who would listen, in the synagogues and in the market places. His mission was not only directed to the authorities, to the learned or the wealthy, but to the whole of Israel, including those who, like Bartimaeus, were treated with contempt because of their lowly status, or the suspicion that their condition was a consequence of some grave sin. Whatever lay in the past, however, it was the blind beggar who heard the word of God, and repented, and turned to Jesus to ask for mercy. The “respectable” people tried to silence Bartimaeus, because they perceived Jesus to be a man of importance, but they had not heard the word which Jesus had proclaimed. However Bartimaeus, one of “the blind and the lame”, is part of that faithful remnant of Israel which Jesus has come to save, and when Jesus heals him of his blindness it is a dramatic demonstration to the crowd that the power of God is at work among them. It is not the crowd but lowly Bartimaeus who is remembered throughout history, for he both sees once again, and follows the voice of the Lord who leads him safely on the path of salvation.

The Reverend Stephen Trott

 

Sunday Readings – 18 October 2015

Sunday Readings for 18 October 2015

Proper 24 – Trinity 20 – Year B

Isaiah 53.4-12          Hebrews 5.1-10        Mark 10.35-45

Human history from Abel onwards is stained with the blood of the innocent, the unjustly condemned, the oppressed who have suffered at the hands of those who abuse power for gain or even on a whim. All too often when we have seen people accused or labelled we have joined in their persecution, in a grotesque common purpose which defies justice or true humanity, perhaps uniquely exemplified by the treatment of Jewish people in Europe in the course of many centuries and especially the last century. Isaiah prophesies the coming of the One who will be the victim of false judgement and cruel affliction, who although a lamb without spot or blemish will take upon his own shoulders the burden of the sins of many, a sacrificial victim who has chosen to bear the suffering and death of a criminal in order to redeem even those who have condemned him in place of Barabbas. His offering and his alone could make many righteous through the paradox of his suffering and death and resurrection, so that sinners might receive salvation instead of destruction.

The high priest occupied a special role in the Temple and its function of offering sacrifice on behalf of the people, for he alone was permitted to enter the sanctuary on the day of atonement and to sprinkle it for purification with the blood of the sacrificial offerings. He offered these for his own sins as well as those of the people, knowing that he shared in their failure of obedience to the Lord, leading their worship as one who stood between God and his people. His ministry found its fulfilment in salvation history with the coming of Jesus, our great high priest who not only knew for himself the weakness of our mortal nature, but experienced in his own flesh the agony of a sacrificial victim offered for the sins of the people of God. Jesus was called to be a high priest by his Father, who appointed him to offer the full and final sacrifice of his own blood in order that he might bring the gift of purification and eternal salvation to those who enter the new covenant of faith, our only justification in the sight of God, the prize won by his victory over sin and death.

The disciples of Jesus, who were students slowly learning from a master, asked him questions in order to sharpen their knowledge and understanding of his ministry. It is clear from Mark’s gospel that they had begun to identify him as the Messiah, but it took a long time before they fully understood what this actually meant, and not before they had witnessed his death and resurrection in Jerusalem. From their own knowledge of history they expected him to be a king, and so James and John asked for the privilege of sitting on either side of his throne. His answer anticipates what he later told Pilate, that he is indeed a king, but not of a kind known to this world. It is indeed possible for us to share his baptism and to drink his cup, but the enormous cost of this is yet to be revealed on the cross, for the Messiah has come not to be served, but to give up his life for the salvation of his servants. The price of sin is greater than any king’s ransom, but the Lord who is our high priest intends to pay the price very publicly in the sight of his people, an offering of blood which will atone for many. He was exalted by God because he was ready to make this ultimate sacrifice for the sake of those whom he came to serve, and if we wish to be honoured by God, we must equally set ourselves to serve, and to give sacrificially, and to desire no reward or status beyond that of knowing that we have given ourselves entirely to the service of the Lord and of his kingdom.

The Reverend Stephen Trott