Welcome to our weekly worship offering. This week, we have a variety of hymns, our prayers, our Gospel reading and a pre-recorded video of a sermon from the USPG General Secretary, Rev Duncan Dormor related to the Gospel reading and focusing on the work of USPG. It takes about half an hour to share our worship today so we hope you can find a quiet place to enjoy it all.
The Lord be with you, and with Thy Spirit.
Our Prayer for Today (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.
Hymn: To be a Pilgrim
He who would valiant be 'gainst all disaster Let him in constancy follow the Master There's no discouragement shall make him once relent His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim. Who so beset him round with dismal stories Do but themselves confound - his strength the more is No foes shall stay his might; though he with giants fight He will make good his right to be a pilgrim. Since, Lord, Thou dost defend us with Thy Spirit We know we at the end, shall life inherit Then fancies flee away! I'll fear not what men say I'll labour night and day to be a pilgrim.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:35 – 10:8. Either click the link below to listen to the Gospel reading in a modern translation or simply read the text below.
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Today’s Psalm 116: Follow the words below the link
I am well pleased: that the Lord hath heard the voice of my prayer; that he hath inclined his ear unto me: therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
The snares of death compassed me round about: and the pains of hell gat hold upon me. I shall find trouble and heaviness, and I will call upon the Name of the Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous: yea, our God is merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple: I was in misery, and he helped me.
Turn again then unto thy rest, O my soul: for the Lord hath rewarded thee. And why? thou hast delivered my soul from death: mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord: in the land of the living. I believed, and therefore will I speak; but I was sore troubled: I said in my haste, all men are liars.
What reward shall I give unto the Lord: for all the benefits that he hath done unto me? I will receive the cup of salvation: and call upon the Name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows now in the presence of all his people: right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Behold, O Lord, how that I am thy servant: I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid; thou hast broken my bonds in sunder.
I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving: and will call upon the Name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord, in the sight of all his people: in the courts of the Lord’s house, even in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen
Our Sermon for Today: This comes from the USPG General Secretary, Rev Duncan Dormor. You can click the link to see and listen to him or simply read the text below
To look with tenderness.
Between the words that are spoken and the words that are heard, may God’s holy Spirit whisper into the depths of our hearts. Amen
‘Then he said to his disciples. “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest”‘
Warm greetings to you from my home in South London as we gather for worship – remotely, online, in our homes – in this season of Pentecost when we reflect on our Lord’s call to go out into the harvest, to pray for the spirit to inspire us as Christian community that we might be the labourers to bring renewed and renewing life to God’s world.
As we begin to emerge blinking into the light as lockdown eases – so we have been confronted once again with the brutal realities of racial injustice and by those words that speak so powerfully to each one of us at a deeply human level: ‘I can’t breathe’; words that also remind us that in our current context of COVID-19 the reality is that some groups of people have suffered considerably more than others. Injustice has a structural and systematic element.
With the death of George Floyd, the protection and justice that the law is supposed to bring was cruelly denied and abused – again. And inevitably, righteous anger is expressed in gatherings and protests across the world.
And so, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, our attention has been drawn to another deeper more persistent pandemic – that of racism and that justice is not experienced in the same way be people of different ethnicities, classes or backgrounds. And that injustice has been there in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Across the world over the last few months, some of our Anglican sisters and brothers have suffered severe food shortages or a complete collapse in livelihoods with nothing to fall back on. Others, for example, especially the poor and indigenous groups in Brazil or the Philippines, have suffered abuse or worse at the hands of military or police forces during this time.
Our Gospel reading paints a picture of a crowd of people, a crowd of needy people, ‘harassed and helpless’, leaderless, crying out for support – spiritual, pastoral, practical. And as we read: Jesus had ‘compassion on them’. The Greek is perhaps better translated as Jesus ‘was filled with tenderness’. This is the very heart of Jesus’ ministry – that tender love that God in Christ has for his people.
For most of us, crowds of people make us anxious whether their cry is for justice or bread; we recoil from them neediness, we are fearful that we will be overwhelmed. But Jesus’s sees something very different; where others see brokenness, helplessness, a source of despair, he sees beyond to a glorious harvest, he sees the renewed and renewing life of God in those he loves, his people. He sees transformation. And, of course, in today’s reading he calls his disciples and us to join in with him in that transformation, in reaching out to others.
On hearing these words, this call to mission, to a glorious harvest, the challenge to be one of those few labourers, today we may be tempted to think: That’s ‘all very well, but it’s not great timing now; we need to wait. It’s too soon. We need to recover, straighten things out, and then when we’re sorted – we can begin to think of reaching out to others.
And that’s very natural. The current pandemic is of course a unique and extreme crisis. But of course, for many churches it is simply another extreme crisis.
Accustomed to precariousness and vulnerability, the churches in many societies are so often the communities of resilience and hope who reach out, who inspire confidence and build morale helping others to realise their own capacity to repair, rebuild, reconstruct: their buildings, their lives, their communities – often helped by expressions of solidarity and support from within the wider global Anglican family. [For example the impact of Cyclone Idai on the Church in Mozambique: https://uspglive.org.uk/wpress/2019/03/emergency-relief-our-partner-churches-need-your-help/]
One of those extreme crises has been the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has killed 15 million people in Sub- Saharan Africa and had a devastating impact on the economy. HIV/AIDS frightens people and unsurprisingly one of the ongoing legacies of the pandemic is stigma – with those who are HIV-Positive even those who are healthy and on medication, being shunned and stigmatised.
Linda, a woman in the Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe describes her experience as follows: [See an article in the Spring issue of Transmission, (USPG’s supporter magazine, now Koinonia) p. 10.https://www.uspg.org.uk/docstore/252.pdf]
‘I am a forty-year-old HIV positive single mother. I was side-lined by my community and my four children were mocked at school. I felt so much shame and suffering that I contemplated suicide.’
Recognising this, in 2015, the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe launched an HIV/AIDS Stigma Reduction Programme and last year, in my capacity as the General Secretary of the United Society Partners in the Gospel, I had the immense privilege of meeting with some of those involved in this important work.
To succeed the church has had to work with a wide range of groups – traditional healers, village chiefs, hospitals, schools, other churches, the government of Robert Mugabe and his successor – and in partnership with USPG. The work has involved priests and bishops talking about sexual relationships and practices. It has involved the training of lay people, often grandmothers, to talk to teenagers in their communities about all the aspects of HIV/AIDS. It has taken imagination and courage and resolve and commitment on the part of individuals and the church as a community.
The message is simple – it is about living positively – living positively with the diagnosis – but living positively with each other – affirming and accepting and including all. This initiative of the church is not simply about health – it is about self-esteem, belonging, what it means to be human, what it means to be family, community and it has taken the church onto the streets, into the marketplaces and a whole host of different spaces and gatherings. And the labour of such mission has involved – as it so often does – much singing and much dancing. It has been a labour of joy as well as perseverance. It is holistic mission – transformative, renewing of the whole person and the whole community – bringing a harvest of inclusive justice: Local mission, in the spirit of Jesus, gazing on the crowd, helpless and harassed, it does what the most effective sort of mission does – addresses the deep heartache of the people.
Christ-like mission, local and global, begins with that tender heart – with the eye of compassion – that really looks out on the world, and really pays attention, and sees, sees the potential in others in the midst of their pain and anxiety and loss – that breathes it all in yet through the Spirit seeks to breathe out hope and creativity and encouragement. But it also requires courage and commitment to take the first steps – for things to happen; but when it does the transformation is great, the harvest plentiful. The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe faces many, many challenges yet it lives and breathes resilience and hope – and in the midst of all strives for a justice for all. And so, Linda did not follow through with her suicidal feeling, instead her life was changed by the Stigma reduction programmes of the Church in Zimbabwe. In her words. It:
‘changed everything. I declared my HIV status in church. I was fully accepted and elected to be church warden. Now I encourage others to disclose their status.’
It is no different for us: We too are called to look with tenderness on our world, to stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who face extreme challenges as they reach out in mission to others – but also to look with tenderness at our own local communities, to serve those around us, pastorally, practically – and to cry out for an inclusive justice, a justice for all, for a world that has no need for foodbanks, for campaigns like Black Lives Matter or for homeless charities – that all may breathe freely and take their place, perhaps near the centre of our communities.
Our Anthem: Day by Day
Day by day, dear Lord, of thee three things I pray: To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, Day by day. ( Richard of Chichester 1197-1253 )
Our Prayers for Today come from people involved in the work of USPG around the world. You can click the link to listen to the prayers or simply read the text below.
Almighty God, whose will it is that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth; send forth labourers into the harvest, that all may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent, our only Lord and Saviour.
[Anglican Missions Board of the Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia]
Through our lives and by our prayers, Your Kingdom Come
Eternal Lord God, whose servants encounter many difficulties and temptations in the course of their work, sustain them in their vocation, replenish them with the truth of the gospel and keep them faithful in prayer. Grant that in the issues of our day they may lead with courage and wisdom. Guide them by your Spirit in their ministry to the diverse needs of your people, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Bishop Dinis Sengulane, Mozambique
Through our lives and by our prayers, Your Kingdom Come
O God of might and compassion, as your son gently healed and empowered people in pain and despair:enable us to see, understand and reach out to all your children who have tested HIV-positive and who now endure tension-filled waiting, fear, rejection, neglect and isolation. Heal our prejudices and our fears. Give courage to all who suffer.
Through our lives and by our prayers, Your Kingdom Come
Lord God, fill us with your spirit: of challenge to reject silence and prejudice, of compassion in suffering, sorrow and pain, of gentleness to understand the cry for help, of togetherness to love one another.
Through our lives and by our prayers, Your Kingdom Come
God, my Creator, I open my heart to you. May it turn to you as the sunflower turns to the sun. God, my Redeemer, take away from my heart everything that is not love so that I may reach out to you in my own unworthiness. God, my Sanctifier, journey with me along life’s way so that all that I am and all that I do may bring greater glory to you the triune God.
From Sri Lanka
Hymn: Will you come and follow me?
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name? Will you go where you don't know and never be the same? Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known, will you let my life be grown in you and you in me? Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name? Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same? Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare? Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me? Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name? Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same? Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen, and admit to what I mean in you and you in me? Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name? Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same? Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around, through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me? Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name. Let me turn and follow you and never be the same. In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show. Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
Our Notices for this Week
- St Nicolas church building reopens for private prayer next Wednesday (17th) at 12 noon. It will be open for private prayer every Wednesday 12 noon till 2 pm and every Sunday 10 am to 12 noon until such time as we are allowed to hold public worship. Entrance will be via the West door where hand sanitiser is available. Rewashable face coverings will also be available at the door for you to take if you need one, and we ask a donation to church funds if you take one of these. It will be lovely to open the church and welcome you in, but please stay home if you are unwell andespecially if you have a temperature, cough or have lost your sense of taste and smell in order to protect others.
- Now that we are beginning to go out and about a little more, we need to have personal face masks so our very own Busy Sewing Bees have created some useful face coverings for you and your family! The first batch is now available. If you ring or email Jane first, she will arrange for you to collect from the Rectory, or you can get them from St Nic’s during the open hours. This is another fundraising enterprise – maybe you could get a mask for a friend or neighbour as well? Every donation helps to maintain our beautiful building.
- St Anne’s Cream Teas: Due to the current health situation it will not be possible to serve Cream Teas at St Anne’s this summer. We are all disappointed and will miss meeting up with friends for tea but it’s just one more social gathering we are missing out in this year.
As the teas are a major fund raiser for the Church, Sue Blore is planning to serve Sunday Lunches on a monthly basis to try to rectify the deficit. Watch this space for further information in due course.
- The first of Jane’s delicious “Vicar’s lunches” raising funds for St Nicolas Church took place yesterday in the rectory garden with tables placed at safe distances. Numbers are currently capped at six people to comply with government guidelines, but please get in touch with Jane on 01628 661182 or email@example.com to let her have your contact details if you would like an invitation to lunch. Suggested donation £10. What a great opportunity to enjoy some safe company and conversation and good food whilst helping to raise money for the church.
- If you would like to participate in a Eucharistic ‘Virtual Service’, we can recommend streaming the Diocese of Oxford ‘Church at Home’ service at 10:00am at oxford.anglican.org/livestream (You can also download the order of service). This week, Bishop Steven is giving an address on Philippians and the Gospel of Matthew and Revd Skye Denno is presiding from her home in Old Marston.
- Wednesday Compline: This weekly service led by Jane and Suzanne attracts some fifteen people and continues on Zoom: 8:45 for 9:00pm and lasts about 20 minutes. If you would like to join us next Wednesday for a chat and a short service, just drop Jim a line on firstname.lastname@example.org and he will send you the link; it never fails to give us all a lift.
- Action on Coronavirus: If you are aware of anyone who especially needs our prayers or perhaps some contact with Jane or Suzanne, please don’t hesitate to email Jane.
- Offerings/Donations: Our urgent need to increase our funding continues as our weekly offerings are significantly reduced without our church services and we’ve lost out on income from our summer fete. You can click this link to donate now. Thank you.
On our heads and in our homes, the Blessing of God: In our comings and goings, the Love of Christ: In our life and believing, the Peace of the Holy Spirit: At our end and new beginning, may the Triune God welcome us and bring us home. Amen.
Final Hymn: All People that on Earth do dwell; the Old Hundredth which should sent us into the new week with much joy.
All people that on earth do dwell, Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice; Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell, Come ye before him, and rejoice. The Lord, ye know, is God indeed; Without our aid he did us make; We are his folk, he doth us feed, And for his sheep he doth us take. O enter then his gates with praise, Approach with joy his courts unto; Praise, laud, and bless his name always, For it is seemly so to do. For why? the Lord our God is good; His mercy is forever sure; His truth at all times firmly stood, And shall from age to age endure. To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, The Lord is whom heaven and earth adore, From men and from the angel-host Be praise and glory evermore. Amen