Today we are celebrating the Feast of St Peter and St Paul; those first leaders of the early church who laid the foundations of the world-wide church of today. We have two Bible readings, a reflection from Jane, our Vicar, some appropriate hymns and prayers. We’re back to just under half an hour today so hopefully, you will be able to find a quiet time to join us in worship.
The Prayer for Today [The Collect]
Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you in their death as in their life: grant that your Church, inspired by their teaching and example, and made one by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, 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: The Church is one foundation; follow the words below
The church’s one foundation
is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is his new creation
by water and the Word:
from heav’n he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.
Elect from ev’ry nation,
yet one o’er all the earth,
her charter of salvation
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with ev’ry grace endued.
‘Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore;
till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.
Yet she on earth hath union
with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly,
on high may dwell with thee.
Our First Bible Reading: Acts 12: 1-11, Peter delivered from Prison
About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.). When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.
The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.”
And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
Psalm 125: They that put their trust in the Lord. You can listen to the psalm and follow the words below.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but stands fast for ever.
As the hills stand about Jerusalem, so the Lord stands round about his people, from this time forth for evermore.
The sceptre of wickedness shall not hold sway over the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous turn their hands to evil.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are true of heart.
Those who turn aside to crooked ways the Lord shall take away with the evildoers; but let there be peace upon Israel.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for evermore. Amen
Our Gospel Reading: Matthew 11: 16-19 – Peter’s Declaration to Jesus. You can watch this dramatised version of the Gospel reading or simply read the text below.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Hymn: For all the Saints.
Today’s Reflection: from Jane, our Vicar
The Confession of Peter (“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”) is celebrated on 18 January, and the Conversion of Paul (on the approach to Damascus) a week later on 25 January. In my previous parish we always celebrated the latter in style because it was our patronal festival.
Yet every 29th June is traditionally called the Feast of St Peter and St Paul and we remember the martyrdoms of both apostles. This painting of the two famous saints, believed to be by Carlo Crivelli circa 1470, hangs in the National Gallery.
Another name for this season is Petertide and it is a time when new deacons and priests are ordained. Our own curate, Suzanne, was to be ordained priest this weekend, had Covid 19 not put a spanner in the works. And we remember her especially in our prayers this week as she lives with the disappointment of a postponed priesting.
Both Peter and Paul were larger than life figures. Peter the blustering impetuous, uneducated fisherman and natural leader of the 12, and Paul the highly educated Roman citizen and well respected Pharisee. And perhaps you need to be larger than life to carry out the roles they played in the development of the early church … even if they weren’t the easiest people to live with … as I suspect was the case.
Peter with his new found courage on the day of Pentecost preached to thousands and together with his fellow apostles found himself suddenly teaching and nurturing a group of 3000 new converts. And Paul, blinded and convicted by his meeting with the Risen Christ on the Road to Damascus, takes the church in a new direction reaching out as he believes he is called to do, to those beyond the confines of Judaism right across the known world.
I wonder what heated arguments they had when they met together. We know a bit about one debate at the Council of Jerusalem which is described in Acts chapter 15 … and it’s one which Paul wins … though I have a sneaking suspicion that Peter was half on board already after his experience with the Roman Centurion Cornelius described in Acts chapter 10. Perhaps it took the two of them together to persuade the church as a whole to change its mind and fully embrace Gentile Christians and share Eucharist together. But this weekend we remember particularly their courage and faithfulness to Christ even to death. If you stick your neck out and stand up for what you believe is right and important then you risk being attacked by those who don’t like what you say and do. They knew what had happened to Jesus but nonetheless they chose to follow in his steps and continue to be faithful disciples to the end of their lives.
It’s what we exhort every baptismal candidate to do isn’t it? We say together “Remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life” Perhaps we need to stop and think sometimes what that actually means. For Peter we think it meant literally taking up his cross and for Paul, the Roman citizen, it almost certainly meant death by the sword at the order of the Emperor.
The cost of Christian faith is something that potential new priests and deacons reflect upon. But the cost of discipleship applies to us all.
We are lulled into a false blandness of religion here in the UK but we need to ask ourselves whether we would really stand up and be counted if the chips were down. And whilst we may not know the answer to that question until facing the reality, it might remind us to pray for those who do find themselves in that situation today.
Meanwhile we give thanks for the example of Peter and Paul and ask for a share of their courage and conviction as we continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for us, here in this parish, amongst our neighbours, families and friends.
Anthem: Tu es Petrus; Palestrina [1525 – 1594]
You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it And I will give you keys to the Kingdom of Heaven
Our Prayers for Today: you can listen to the prayers read today by Phil and follow the words below or simply read the text below.
For all the saints who went before us, who have spoken to our hearts and touched us with your fire, We give you thanks O Lord. For all the saints who live beside us, whose weaknesses and strengths are woven with our own, We give you thanks O Lord. For all the saints who live beyond us, who challenge us to change the world with them, We give you thanks O Lord.
Lord hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.
Lord, your church is built on Peter’s faith and leadership. We give you thanks for the countless leaders in our world whose deep convictions, religious and otherwise, have changed how we think about ourselves and others, and inspired us to play our part for the common good. Grant that we, like them, may overcome our weaknesses and serve you without wavering. Calm our anxieties, heal our cowardice, take away our shame and make us free for your service.
Lord hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
Lord, as those who seek to be your witnesses in today’s world, where your claims are so often largely ignored or denied, we pray that we may bear our Christian witness by what we are and not simply by what we profess or preach. Like Peter, give us strength of character, a deeper understanding of people and their needs, and a love that is humble, outgoing and sincere. So may our lives reflect something of your grace.
Lord hear us. Lord graciously hear us.
Lord, surround the frightened with your tenderness, give strength to those in pain, hold the weak in your arms of love, and give hope and patience to those who are recovering.
Lord hear us. Lord graciously hear us.
Lord, we pray to you for those we love, but see no longer. Grant them your peace; let light perpetual shine upon them; and in your loving wisdom and almighty power, work in them the good purpose of your perfect will.
Lord hear us, Lord graciously hear us
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.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn: Lord of the Church
This Week’s Notices
- In line with Government guidelines, St Nicolas church building will be open next Wednesday from 12 noon until 2 pm. Also in line with Government guidelines, next Sunday (5th July) at 10:45am, it is hoped to hold our first act of corporate worship at St Nicolas Church. We are awaiting further written guidance regarding this so keep an eye on the website this week for further information.
- Lavender: Is your lavender particularly lovely at the moment? If so, please pay attention to this request! If you are growing lavender in your garden and are not intending to use the flowers when they finish, please would you harvest them and bring them to church? Hilary has the wonderful idea of drying them to make some lavender bags to raise more money for church funds. More about this in due course; the important thing now is to make sure we collect the flowers!
- 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). Revd Shemil Mathew, Chaplain to Oxford Brookes University, presides from his home this week and the address is given by the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester. The service begins with a special prayer from the Rt Revd Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading, to honour and mourn those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack in Reading last Saturday night.
- 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 email@example.com 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.
Final Hymn: Lift High the Cross
Bless to us, O God, the road that is before us, Bless to us, O God, the friends who are around us, Bless to us, O God, your love which is within us. Bless to us O God, the light that leads us home. [Ruth Burgess]
A Final Voluntary: To cheer us on our way – Trumpet Voluntary by John Stanley.