Our worship offering for Sunday, 26th July: 7th Sunday after Trinity.

Welcome to today’s offering of worship. We are using the same readings, reflection and prayers which are being used in church this morning – plus some hymns and music. It takes about half a hour to use this offering so we hope you are able to find this time to spend quietly in worship.

The Lord be with you: and with thy Spirit.

The Prayer for Today [Collect]

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: graft in our hearts the love of your name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of your great mercy keep us in the same; 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. Amen.

Hymn: Our worship today is about ‘growth’. Enjoy this version of ‘King of Glory, King of Peace’

First Reading: Romans 8:26-39 The Love of God in Christ

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.  And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.  And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?  Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.  Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Anthem: Jesu, the very thought of Thee

Jesu, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest.

Today’s Gospel Reading: Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52 The Kingdom of Heaven is like…Either listen to this Gospel reading or simply read the text below.

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.  So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all this?”  They answered, “Yes.”  And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Today’s Reflection: from Rev Jane Cresswell, our Vicar

That wonderful passage from Romans, which we have just read, has to be one of the most glorious pieces of Paul’s writing.  Beginning as it does with the wonderful promise that all things work together for good for those who love God and ending with the confident affirmation that nothing in this life or the next – nothing in our past, our present or our future, can separate us from the love of God in Christ.  What more would we need or desire for ourselves or our loved ones?  When our physical world can at times seem so precarious, even cruelly capricious, it is a tremendous comfort and strength to rest in that promise of God’s desire for good in our lives, and to relax into the certain hope that nothing and no one can cut us off from the love of God.

But how do we square the struggles we may face, the very real anxieties we experience with Paul’s confidence?  Are these the words of a fool or of someone who has never faced danger and trauma and pain in this life?  Indeed not.  These are the words of a man who has known what it is to fear for his life; who has been stoned, beaten and imprisoned for his faith, who has faced dangerous sea voyages and arduous land journeys, who has had to fight for acceptance amongst his fellow believers.

Paul is so rooted in God’s kingdom that the reality of that Kingdom in his life is strong and solid – whatever earthly reality throws at him.

Our gospel readings for the past three Sundays have been from Matthew 13 where Jesus tells many stories to help us understand something of what it is to be part of God’s kingdom – the kingdom of heaven.  All Jesus’ stories point us towards God and towards God’s kingdom.  That’s his primary focus and the stories give us, the hearer, an opportunity to hear and understand something more of God’s kingdom and to begin to live in it.  They invite us to discover something of the joy and the presence of God’s kingdom among us so that we too might know the hope and the confidence which Paul knows.

So let’s look in more detail at the parables we heard read this morning and to help us do that I’ve asked these questions in the light of them:

  • How does the kingdom of heaven grow?
  • What is the kingdom of heaven like?
  • When is that kingdom?

They aren’t in any particular priority order.  But the questions may help us explore the parables.

So how does the kingdom of heaven grow?  Well, the answer I want to give to that question is “it grows slowly and steadily”.  We are told it is like a mustard seed – one of the tiniest seeds, an insignificant thing on first glance and yet a seed which can grow into the most enormous plant, up to 12 feet tall – more like a great tree than a small herb; a tree which provides shelter for many.  But it doesn’t happen overnight.  When a seed is planted it may begin to germinate straight away, but it takes time to push through the soil, to become visible, to grow tall, to grow leaves, to become mature and reach its full stature.  God’s kingdom also takes time to grow.  Full growth is not an overnight process.  The early church began with a few disciples, those who had heard and understood Jesus’ message and it slowly grew as they shared that message in their words and lives across the known world.   

It’s like that in our own lives too – as individuals and as God’s Church in the world.  God’s love takes root in our hearts as we hear and understand the message of Jesus, and slowly, gradually it grows as we nurture that love of God within us and feed ourselves spiritually through worship, prayer and Bible reading.  Sometimes we get disheartened because we feel we can’t see God’s kingdom growing.  But we are invited to trust in the process.  It is growing and wow how it will grow if we only give it the space and the time in our lives! God’s kingdom grows within us and among us until it becomes not only visible but also a place where others can find shelter.  

We’re beginning to answer a different question here, aren’t we?  The question: What is God’s kingdom like?  Well that same parable ends by telling us that it is a place where many can come and find shelter.  Perhaps something of that happens on our Open Wednesdays as different people are able to come here and find welcome and hospitality, a space for prayer, a friendly face and open conversation.  And we needn’t be disheartened if only a few find their way here.  How does God’s kingdom grow?  God’s kingdom grows slowly and steadily.  Jesus’ first hearers probably wanted to hear a story about God’s kingdom arriving in a blaze of glory.  Sometimes we rather fancy that too.  But it isn’t the story that Jesus told.   The Kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed – the smallest of seeds and yet when it is grown it becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.

You may not have realised it but I think we are already beginning to answer the question of When is God’s kingdom for?  So often we think we are praying for a future kingdom – something far removed from our everyday lives.  But I don’t think that is what Jesus taught.  The kingdom is among you, he told his disciples.  Talking of himself, perhaps, and what is true of Jesus is true of his Spirit which he promised to us.  We believe that the Spirit of Christ is here with us now, given to comfort and guide and nurture us as we grow to maturity in God’s kingdom.  The kingdom is among us.  God’s kingdom is now – not grown to full maturity yet, but present and growing in our lives and as a result of that being able to leaven the whole of our society.  It won’t need to be leavened when Jesus comes again and all things are made new.  But it certainly needs leavening now.  “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”  The presence of God in our lives will gradually transform our way of living and through us it will transform the world around us – just like yeast does.  It gets everywhere!  You can’t keep the yeast out of part of the loaf.  Once you’ve put it in and mixed it up, it will do its work.  And that’s what the Kingdom of heaven is like – everywhere, hidden and yet at work here and now in God’s world.  And we are part of that work.

How does the kingdom of heaven grow? – slowly and steadily

What is God’s kingdom like? – it’s a place where people find shelter, a place of joy, a place of loving community

When is God’s kingdom? – Now among us

So today, let us look for signs of God’s kingdom among us. As we open our hearts and hands to receive God’s grace let God fill our hungry hearts and lives with healing love, so we in turn are equipped go out to share that healing love with everyone we meet and turn the kingdom of this world upside down to become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ … the kingdom of heaven.

Hymn: Oh Lord, all the world belongs to You.

Our Prayers for Today

Let us pray for all the world, and also for ourselves, knowing that what we ask in your name you will hear in your mercy. We pray for faith, even as small as a mustard-seed, and for the love to nourish and nurture it that it may grow and flourish.

We pray for the church throughout the world, that people of faith may work together in unity and in prayer to overcome evil and to promote true love among all people. O Lord, you are the beginning of all our good, the wellspring of all our love and the source of all our freedom. Let your grace work on in us, that your will may be done through us, and that we may always rejoice in your presence.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer

We pray for the world, that all may know your love and turn from wickedness and greed. We pray that the enslaved may be free, that the sick may be healed and that the hungry may be satisfied. We thank you especially this week for the initial promising results from covid vaccine trials.  May we treat this world, of which we have been appointed stewards, with respect, wisdom and care for future generations, that the riches with which you have endowed it, sufficient for all, may be husbanded wisely and shared with those in need. 

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer

We pray for all who suffer in mind or body and for those who care for them. We pray for the sick; for those who mourn; for those without faith, hope or love. We pray for any known to us who are in special need of our prayers at this time, especially those known personally to us. We remember them now in a moment of silence …

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer

Jesus Christ is the light of the world, a light which no darkness can quench. We remember before God those who have died. And we remember the light of Christ, which eternally shines and brings hope.  You turn our darkness into light: in your light shall we see light.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Gathering our prayers and praises into one, let us join in the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
Now and for ever. Amen.

Hymn: God is working His purpose out

God is working his purpose out, 
as year succeeds to year, 
God is working his purpose out, 
and the time is drawing near; 
nearer and nearer draws the time, 
the time that shall surely be, 
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God 
as the waters cover the sea. 

From utmost east to utmost west, 
wherever feet have trod, 
by the mouth of many messengers 
goes forth the voice of God, 
'Give ear to me, ye continents, 
ye isles, give ear to me, 
that the earth may be filled with the glory of God 
as the waters cover the sea.' 

What can we do to work God's work, 
to prosper and increase 
the love of God in all mankind, 
the reign of the Prince of peace? 
What can we do to hasten the time, 
the time that shall surely be, 
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God 
as the waters cover the sea? 

March we forth in the strength of God, 
with the banner of Christ unfurled, 
that the light of the glorious gospel of truth 
may shine throughout the world; 
fight we the fight with sorrow and sin, 
to set their captives free, 
that the earth may be filled with the glory of God 
as the waters cover the sea. 

All we can do is nothing worth unless God blesses the deed; 
vainly we hope for the harvest-tide 
till God gives life to the seed; 
yet nearer and nearer draws the time, 
the time that shall surely be, 
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God 
as the waters cover the sea.

This week’s notices

Lucy-Anne Taylor: This week, you will have heard the encouraging news about the Oxford Vaccine Project.  Lucy-Anne has been a volunteer on this project;  we all owe her our grateful thanks and considerable admiration!

Dick Nutt: Sadly, our faithful friend Dick died last Wednesday (22nd).  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Open Wednesday: We are delighted to announce that the midweek Eucharist will start again on Wednesday 12th August at 12.30.  The church will still be open from 12 until 2pm for those who wish to slip in for private prayer.

‘Pathways’: The latest edition is just out and for the first time ever, it is available online as a downloadable PDF. We hear a lot about the environment, but how much of it is from a Christian perspective? How does our faith affect our fears and hopes and shape our actions? How do we share our own views about appropriate responses to the climate emergency? This edition is crammed with useful resources and thought-provoking and personal reactions to this challenge that faces us all. 

Did You Know: Our pew leaflet is always available on our website from the Friday before the Sunday.  So if you want to check out the readings or see the notices in advance, just go to the ‘Services’ section on the website and click ‘pew leaflet’.

Holiday Opportunities for children and young people: The enormously popular and much loved Burnham Lighthouse project cannot take place this year but there are two replacement opportunities happening over the first two weeks of the summer.

1. ‘Lighthouse Live’ Monday 27th to Friday 31st, 10.00 to 11.00am & 4.00 to 5.00pm plus something for young people each evening that week. Details: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=g5cQaF0dmLc&feature=youtu.be

2. ‘Virtual Holiday Club’ Monday 3rd to Friday 7th August 9.00am & 5.00pm.  Details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMT2XubuOx

We live in hope!: with Church of England rules becoming somewhat clearer, we are tentatively planning a PCC meeting for early in September and it will then be possible to schedule our APCM.  More news of this in due course.  Also we would love to be able to return to our monthly Worship for All service and we hope we might be able to do this at the end of October.  If this seems possible, we will arrange a planning meeting about a month before this.

We have just over a month to get over to Windsor to see an exhibition of Pam’s wonderful art. Put on your mask, and get over there!

Services/Events next Week

We are taking the re-introduction of corporate worship in our two  churches very slowly and carefully. In this coming week:

St Anne’s Church Dropmore: is open for private prayer by appointment. [In August, there will be a 9.15am said Holy Communion service every second and fourth Sunday starting from Sunday 9th August] 

St Nicolas Church is open for private prayer on Wednesdays from 12 noon until 2 pm. [Holy Communion at 12:30 from 12th August].

You can join in Wednesday Compline on Zoom: 8:45 for 9:00pm; it lasts about 20 minutes.  If you would like to come, just drop Jim a line on oliverjim1@sky.com and he will send you the link; it never fails to give us all a lift.

St Nicolas Church will be open for a further said Parish Eucharist at 10:45am next Sunday (2nd August) subject to the usual restrictions.

For the time being, our online Sunday worship offering is continuing on our website and our Diocese continues to offer a Sunday ‘Church at Home’ service 10:00am at oxford.anglican.org/livestream. Today, the Rt Revd Humphrey Southern, Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, and an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese, presides. The address is given by the Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Olivia Graham. The service has been recorded in Cuddesdon’s Edward King Chapel. Download the order of service (PDF)

The UK Blessing

The Lord bless you And keep you 
Make His face shine upon you And be gracious to you 
The Lord turn His Face toward you And give you peace 
As we receive, we agree, amen 
Chorus —  Amen, amen, amen Bridge —  
May His favour be upon you And a thousand generations
And your family and your children 
And their children, and their children 
May His presence go before you 
And behind you, and beside you 
All around you, and within you He is with you, 
He is with you

The Blessing UK — At this unique and challenging time in the United Kingdom over 65 churches and movements, representing hundreds of others, have come together online to sing a blessing over our land. Standing together as one, our desire is that this song will fill you with hope and encourage you. But the church is not simply singing a blessing, each day we’re looking to practically be a blessing. Many of the churches included in this song have assisted with supplying over 400,000 meals to the most vulnerable and isolated in our nation since COVID-19 lockdown began. This alongside phone calls to the isolated, pharmacy delivery drops and hot meals to the NHS frontline hospital staff. Our buildings may be closed but the church is very much alive! A number of the churches involved include: Alive Church Lincoln, All Souls Langham Place, Audacious Manchester, Belhaven Parish Church of Scotland, Bridge Church Methodist Cornwall,   Catalyst Vineyard Aberdeen, Causeway Coast Vineyard Northern Ireland, CFC Belfast, Christ Church Tonbridge,  City Church Newcastle, City Gates Romford,  CLM Coventry,  Elim Church UK, Emmanuel Brighton, Emmaus Road Guilford, Gas Street Church Birmingham,  Global Generation, Church Hackney, Church Harbour Church Portsmouth,  Hillsong Bermondsey, Hillsong London, Holland Road Baptist Church, Brighton  Holy Trinity Brompton London, Hoole Baptist Church,  Hope City Church UK,  Jesus House London, Lagoinha London Church, Life Church Bradford, Love Church Bournemouth,  Kerith Community Church Bracknell, KINGDOM CHOIR, Kingdom Faith Church Crawley, KingsGate Peterborough, KXC London, Naujavan New Wine UK, One Hope Project Catholic Charismatic Renewal Pattern Church Swindon,  Pioneer Network Redeemed Christian Church of God, UK Regent Hall Salvation Army Renewal Solihull, Soul Church Norwich, Soul Survivor Watford,  Sound of Wales Sounds of New Wine Southampton, Lighthouse International Church, St. Aldates Oxford,  St George’s Church Gateshead, St Mark’s Coventry, St. Nicholas Bristol, St. Paul’s and St. George’s Edinburgh,  St. Peter’s Brighton, St. Peter’s Brockley, St.Thomas Norwich, St. Thomas Crookes Sheffield, St. Werburgh’s Derby, Symphony The Coptic Orthodox Church, The Liberty Church London, The Space London Trent, Vineyard Nottingham, Trinity Church Nottingham, Vinelife Church Manchester,  Woodlands Church Bristol, Worship for Everyone. 

Original Song “The Blessing” by Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Elevation Worship. Written by Chris Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Steven Furtick

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