Sunday Readings for 23 October 2016

Trinity 22 – Proper 25 – Year C

Jeremiah 14.7-10, 19-22         2 Timothy 4.6-8, 16-18         Luke 18.9-14

In contrast to the individualism and introspection of modern ways of thinking, the Old Testament strikingly places great emphasis on the corporate life of the nation, which is judged according to its collective record of obedience or disobedience to the Lord. Israel has sinned very greatly and is in crisis: the two observations are closely linked. Unrighteousness brings only disaster in its wake, a punishment which is richly deserved and brought upon the people by their own folly and wrongdoing. The further we stray from God’s word, the more we pay the price for our deliberate choice of evil rather than good. We are condemned by our failure to repent and by our preference for rebellion against him. But God is not far away, indeed he “is in the midst of us, and we are called by your name.” The Lord is in fact ready to restore us, but first must come repentance, an open-hearted acknowledgement of the causes of our predicament, before we can expect to receive his blessing.

By contrast, although Paul acknowledges in his writings that he is a sinner, he can point to the record of his life of service of the Lord, in which he has kept faith with God, often at the cost of great suffering which he has borne for the sake of the Gospel. At all times he has striven to give entirely of himself to the uttermost, and now, as the end draws near, he pictures his life as an offering poured out in sacrifice in honour of the Lord. At times it has been a lonely ministry, abandoned by those to whom he might have looked for support and defence, but he is confident that his complete commitment to the Lord will soon be richly rewarded, for in his darkest moments and in his greatest weakness he received all the grace he needed from the Lord to make known the message of salvation to the Gentiles. It is when we learn to rely upon the Lord and not upon ourselves, that we discover how close the Lord is to us, to preserve us from evil and to enable us to carry out our calling.

We deceive ourselves all too readily as nations and as individual souls as to our true standing in the sight of God. We may make all kinds of gestures in the direction of fulfilling our religious obligations, but if our heart is not convinced, if we are not truly converted to faith in God, then our actions and our appearance will remain no more than a façade behind which there is nothing, or worse: it may conceal from our eyes all kinds of corruption which our conscience can not quite hide. To ensure that we do not fall into such a spiritual and moral trap, we should all listen carefully to the prophets, who challenge us to repentance, not as a one-off transaction covering all future debts, but as a lifetime habit of humble and self-critical self-examination, beginning with the premise that we are all sinners in need of repentance, that with God’s help we can always do better, and become more acceptable in his sight. Like Israel, each nation must come to live in the humility which acknowledges God as its Creator, and seeks his will, as it pursues the common good in obedience to his law and calling.

Rev Stephen Trott

Sunday Readings for 16 October 2016

Sunday Readings for 16 October 2016

Trinity 21 – Proper 24 – Year C

Genesis 32.22-31       2 Timothy 3.14 – 4.5        Luke 18.1-8

Jacob is facing a decisive moment and in preparation for this frightening prospect he has sent ahead of him many gifts in the hope of being reconciled with Esau. Finally he is left alone to wait for this encounter, the outcome of which is fearfully uncertain. A struggle takes place against a mysterious stranger but Jacob will not submit to him, and only consents to let his opponent go when his hip is put out of joint. Jacob is privileged to see God face to face, for he is a pivotal figure in the history of God’s people, and he has struggled all night long with the destiny which God has appointed for him and his family. Because of his determination and courage he is blessed by God, and given a name which will endure in history as one who has prevailed in his pilgrimage through life.

All of us face many challenges on our journey, and there is always the temptation either to run away or to accept help from the wrong quarter. As Christians we have a sure guide in the scriptures, with which we must engage and become fully equipped for our life’s work. The word of God challenges and corrects us, and leads us, often against the instincts of our human nature, to a greater knowledge of God’s will and to obedience to our calling. We should not be surprised when some will no longer listen to sound doctrine, but prefer instead to hear the siren voices of those who echo their own thoughts. We should however hold fast to the truth, however unfashionable it may seem in the minds of those who are falling away from the gospel. Even in the darkest moments we must never let go, but persevere in the way of the Lord who will bless us at daybreak.

Sometimes our heartfelt needs seem to be overlooked by God and if we allow ourselves we can become discouraged and lose faith in prayer. Jesus knows this weakness in us, and we should take courage from this and other parables as we struggle with our human nature to entrust ourselves to God. We see in the gospels his own agonising with the Father’s call to obedience, to go up to Jerusalem, to suffer and to die there. There are many moments when he could turn back, and even those in his company who urge him to do so. In the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, we are shown his anguish, knowing that all could be different if he allowed himself to be led astray. Surrendering himself utterly to God’s will his death is quickly followed by resurrection and exaltation. How many of us have not shared the anxious parent’s plea, Lord, I believe: help my unbelief? But final perseverance brings the reward of justice, blessing and eternal life, thanks to the Lord who has prepared the way before us.

Rev Stephen Trott

Sunday Readings for 2 October 2016

Trinity 19 – Proper 22 – Year C

Habakkuk 1.1-4, 2.1-4       2 Timothy 1.1-14          Luke 17.5-10

So many prophets have shared the anguish of Habakkuk as he looked around and saw devastation and suffering, injustice and corruption, and in our lives we too sometimes cry out, How long, Lord? How long must the world continue on its present course, with so many of our brothers and sisters in the human family apparently condemned to suffer from the iniquities of their rulers? How long must the hungry endure the indifference of the wealthy nations, who even profit from their helplessness by buying the food which they grow but cannot afford to eat? How long will it take before mankind prefers peace to war, and the rule of law to oppression? The prophets have a lonely vocation, for they are condemned by those whom they challenge. But faith teaches us that whatever crimes are committed by the enemies of God, his judgement will be the last word: in the end, God.

The Church is accustomed to suffering for its faith, for its absolute commitment to the truth revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul urges Timothy not to lose heart or to abandon the gospel: for grace is greater than any difficulty, and through the laying on of Paul’s hands, Timothy has received all the grace needed to confront and to triumph over the apparent defeats which the apostles have faced. Most if not all the apostles finally endured martyrdom, as have many faithful Christians in the succeeding centuries, suffering precisely because of their conviction that Jesus Christ, not this world’s ruler, is Lord. Their blood bears witness to the grace which he imparts, and speaks powerfully to a world which is accustomed to compromise, to make deals, rather than stand up to the last for the truth. The persecution and suffering of Christians is a sign of the world’s rejection of God, and its determination to silence the word of God.

It would be far easier and more comfortable not to have faith: how quickly the excuses come to mind, how readily the easy way out appears! The apostles themselves have much to learn in the course of their discipleship under the guidance of the Lord himself. They are taught that faith is given to us not for our own self-aggrandisement, but for service in the advancement of the gospel and the building up of the kingdom of God. In years to come, their resolute ministry and martyrdom is evidence that their schooling by the Lord for his service has borne rich fruit. By all human reckoning they were few in number and unlikely seeds for the great crop which they continue to bring to harvest. The scriptures record their human weakness and their abandonment of the Lord in the time of great crisis. But faith eventually triumphed over their lapses, and we owe to them a gift of incalculable price: the handing on of the gift of faith which they received from the Lord, as they carried the gospel from Jerusalem to the world of their own day and into the future, in their preaching and in the written witness which they bear to this day in the scriptures of the New Testament.

Rev Stephen Trott

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