A warm welcome!
Although we cannot meet together in our Church building at the moment, our worship of God continues. Please see below this week’s Collect (special prayer) and Bible Readings, a few thoughts from Father Tim, some prayers, and a piece of music selected by David Wood, our Choirmaster.
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The Collect (Special Prayer) for this Sunday
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.
The Bible Readings (New Revised Standard Version)
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle-bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.
Romans 7:15-25 a
15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.
17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.
19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.
20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.
22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self,
23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
At that time Jesus said,
16 ‘To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
17 “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”;
19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.
25 I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;
26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
Some thoughts from Father Tim:
A danger for some Christians is that “they are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use”.
I can see how this can happen, and our Collect this week might appear to lead this way too. The prayer makes a distinction between “things temporal” – i.e. things bound by time – which we “pass through”, and “things eternal” – which by definition last for ever. If this is about treating lightly the gift of life we have now so that we are more likely to look forward to and to achieve a good experience of the life we may have hereafter, then I do think it takes us on the wrong track.
But, if this is much more about quality of life, and “things eternal” can be experienced in the here and now – real strength and holiness, beauty, love and peace – and if the prayer makes us more aware of the need to “make good choices” (as they say in school, these days) then all to the good!
That’s not to say we don’t get depressed about life: we can certainly empathise with St Paul in our reading from Romans as he cries out in frustration at the way life was for him: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate!”. There are times for all of us when we surprise even ourselves by our bad choices or behaviour. To be realistic about the negatives in life, in ourselves and in others, and to face them and try to do something about them is indeed a very good thing.
But, I do think it is a mistake to live as though we believed as Paul says in that same passage, “that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh”. Our bodies let us down in all sorts of ways, but humanity, we are told in Genesis, is “made in the image of God” – and there has to be some goodness in that!
I think that many religious believers live somewhat unhappy, narrow lives by thinking that the world they live in, and they themselves, are simply full of evil and darkness. As Zechariah encourages his hearers, “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope”. We all need that gift of hope in the here and now.
This hope is that somehow the Kingdom of God is working itself out in this world, a place that God loves and inhabits already; that there will be peace to the nations, an ending to wars and conflicts between and within those nations, as we welcome in whatever form he comes that humble King, who arrives not in an armoured motorcade, but on a donkey. As St Paul says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”.
Thinking of our Gospel reading, it is lovely, isn’t it, to see children playing and sense the simple joy they get in what they are up to? I have just seen a little boy and his even smaller brother run sticks along the railings on the Vicarage wall – just for the sensation and sound that gives!
In our reading Jesus describes children playing at “wedding games” and “mourning games”, and getting upset when their friends will not join in acting out these community events they must have seen all around them day by day.
I think he is making the point that adults often fail to see and fully experience what is in front of them, just as at other times he reminds us that the Kingdom of God is often best understood and entered by children not burdened by adult “understanding”, expectations and prejudices:
“ I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants”:
Many of us need to hear again those “Comfortable words” of Jesus, as the Prayer Book calls them:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”.
We do indeed feel burdened by the days we live in, by the many challenges around us.
Sometimes, though, we overcomplicate our lives, and need instead to respond to what is in front of us rather than looking for some meaning or experience somewhere else, or indeed at some other time.
Thinking again of our Collect, “temporal” things can still be wonderfully real and positive.
As T.S. Eliot says in his poem Little Gidding (in Four Quartets) (using the word ‘moment’, I think, in the sense of importance, significance):
“The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree are of equal duration”.
Thinking of these positive things that really matter, wherever we find them, however long they last, whatever they are, is a good discipline for us to learn or re-learn, I would suggest.
I think that life feels too short to limit the ways that God might reach out to us and give an insight into his presence and goodness. We should affirm love and beauty wherever we see it.
And, in closing, we could do far worse than wake up every day and pray this prayer of expectation and hope:
The night has passed and the day lies open before us;
let us pray with one heart and mind.
(a short period of silence is kept)
As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
now and forever, Amen.
Wishing you a sense of God’s blessing and presence in all things good,
Although scheduled weekday and Sunday Services are still not currently being held, we are now
OPENING FOR INDIVIDUAL PRIVATE PRAYER
10 am till 12 Noon
2 pm till 4 pm
Taking into account your own personal health circumstances,
please feel free to visit the Church, be still, light a candle, say a prayer.
Sunday Worship Resources:
** BBC Radio 4 at 8.10 am, and various other programmes on TV during the morning.
** And locally, Fr Colin’s Webcasts via St Paul’s Braintree Website
and Fr Rod’s at St Mary’s Bocking You Tube Channel.
Daily, including Sunday Resources also at:
** Worship Podcast for this Sunday (and previous Sundays too):
** Chelmsford Cathedral:
** The Diocese of Chelmsford’s dedicated webpage:
** The Church of England Webpage:
Our choirmaster’s music choice this week is ‘His yoke is easy, his burthen is light’. This chorus from Handel’s Messiah is sung by the choir of New College, Oxford.
A FREE-PHONE LINE from the Church of England: 0800 804 8044- For a message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, some Favourite Hymns, Reflections and Prayers
24 Hours a Day - Every DayPlease ring in, and tell your friends and neighbours too – especially if they are not on-line!