Sunday, 18th October: 19th Sunday after Trinity

Welcome to today’s online worship offering using the same readings, prayers and reflection that will be shared in church plus some musical offerings. It takes about half an hour to fully participate in this offering so we hope you can find some quality time to interact with it. Thank you for sharing in this worship with us.

The Prayer for Today: The Collect

O God, forasmuch as without you 
we are not able to please you;          
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit 
may in all things direct and rule our hearts; 
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: Name of all Majesty

First Reading: 2 Timothy 4:5-17

As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.  As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Do your best to come to me soon, for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.  Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry.  I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.  Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will pay him back for his deeds.  You also must beware of him, for he strongly opposed our message.

At my first defence no one came to my support, but all deserted me.  May it not be counted against them!  But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

Hymn: O Thou who camest from above

The Gospel Reading: Luke 10:1-9   The Mission of the Seventy

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.  He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laburers into his harvest.  Go on your way.  See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.  Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.  Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’  And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.  Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid.  Do not move about from house to house.  Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

Hymn: Through all the changing scenes of life

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

Luke the Evangelist and APCM

Today is the feast day of St Luke – or Luke the evangelist who wrote both one of the four gospels and the book of Acts.  And we know that Luke was a physician.

St Luke Icon | Luke the evangelist, Saint luke, Gospel of luke

Only so much information can be pieced together from his writings and from the rest of the New Testament. Unlike the other New Testament authors, he was almost certainly a Gentile rather than a Jewish Christian. He was a close friend of Paul and often accompanied him and his co-workers on their adventurous missionary journeys. And of course, Paul referred to him in the first reading we heard today. In this privileged position he was an eye-witness of many of the great formative events of the Early Church.  On the road with Paul.

Of his medical background we know virtually nothing, but his writings give away some characteristics of the gifted clinician. He was a meticulous and accurate observer, who checked and rechecked the minute details of his records. At the beginning of his Gospel he writes that he had ‘carefully investigated everything from the beginning’ (Lk 1:3). Over the last century archaeological investigations in the Middle East have confirmed Luke’s remarkable and detailed accuracy on several occasions. 

He was an educated man. As a physician he belonged to a literate elite who had the benefit of an extensive classical education. According to biblical scholars his command of the Greek language is excellent, and he writes stylishly for an educated and secular audience, as a gentile for Gentiles. Michael Wilcox writes, ‘Had there been coffee tables in the homes of the Roman Empire, they would have been one destination which Luke would have wanted his books to reach’. 

But above all else, Luke’s writings show that he was fascinated by the human condition in all its complexity and ambiguity. It’s perhaps this aspect of his writings which tells us most about him. Of all four Gospels, Luke’s is the one which emphasises both the compassionate humanity of Christ and the all-too-human frailty of those he came to save. Luke takes particular delight in portraying the socially inferior as well as the powerful. He depicts prostitutes, children, cripples and others on the margins with as much sympathetic detail as rich men and Pharisees. In comparison to the other Gospel writers he places much more emphasis on the role of women in Jesus’ life, remarkable in a time and culture that tended to despise women. Luke was not merely interested in the social elite. He witnessed and recorded the stories of those whom Jesus met with on the road throughout Galilee and Judea.

“On the road” … the observant among you may have noticed that I used those words twice before – talking of Luke being on the road with Paul and just now on the road with Jesus.

They are words used by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby at the final address of an online conference I attended just before I went on retreat as he repeated time and time again, “The Holy Spirit is on the road”.  And they are words which hit me between the eyes.  Justin was talking about the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch and how the Holy Spirit sent Philip out to the wilderness road to be ready for the encounter with the eunuch returning from Jerusalem to Africa, trying to make sense of the prophecy he was reading.

This year has felt much like a wilderness experience for our churches at times.  Buildings shut, congregational singing banned, sharing of coffee and fellowship not allowed, numbers limited for special services such as weddings, baptisms and funerals.  

And there is no point me standing here on this APCM Sunday and outlining a detailed plan for the coming year when in the current situation we know only too well that all our plans are fragile and subject to circumstances beyond our control.

But perhaps this is our opportunity to be more readily and visibly on the road, not absorbed with trying to recreate church life as it was, but looking eagerly, persistently, expectantly to see where the Holy Spirit is on the road we are walking and what the Holy Spirit is doing around us in our neighbourhood.  And then joining in.

Purely in physical terms I have been struck by the way in which conversations happen during this period when I have been taking a walk around the parish more regularly.  It is not in these four walls that we meet our neighbours, discover their needs and concerns, and are able to share God’s love with them – it is outside this building.  Justin Welby’s talk challenged me to make it a much higher priority to be physically out on the road and not sat at my computer writing sermons or answering emails or doing things here inside the church building.

Perhaps Suzanne and I have an advantage as the collar we wear lets people know the faith we profess and may make it easier for certain kinds of conversation.  But equally being without the collar can be a tremendous advantage.  

Away on retreat last week, sitting in a remote Greek village participating in mindfulness meditation with a small group of eight others, no one except the retreat organisers knew who I was or what I do in everyday life.  And for much of the week I was relatively quiet over the shared evening supper, listening and engaging with other people’s fascinating stories – the young woman who was coming to the end of two years cancer treatment having discovered she had cancer during her first pregnancy;  the erstwhile Buddhist monk and musician; the more elderly lady who walked with a stick and turned out to have had an amazing adventurous past travelling across the world long before exciting gap years were commonplace; the Dutch man who was part of the most recent world clipper race … now indefinitely postponed due to Covid 19; the woman struggling to get to grips with ageing (she was my age!), who was a writer and interior designer; the bright young London city lawyer totally cut off from her family in New Zealand because of the pandemic.  And of course, we shared in conversation about the retreat itself and Greece.  

So when the moment finally came about four days in when someone finally asked, “What do you do, Jane?”, I was intrigued to see what the reaction might be.  

“I’m a Church of England vicar – a priest”

On some faces there was a dawning recognition and murmurs of “that makes sense” – but for one, it was the most exciting story of the week …. I won’t repeat here in church the amazed blasphemy that emerged from her mouth, but she went on repeating excitedly “I’ve never met a real live vicar before.  Are you really a vicar?”  Had I arrived wearing a clerical collar she would probably never have engaged in conversation with me.

There are many people out there who have never darkened a church door, and may never do so.  But they certainly won’t if we don’t encounter and engage with people where they are and take the good news of God’s love out in word and deed, and in our being, as those who live and radiate the peace and joy that only being in God’s presence can bring.  So, I want to encourage all of you today to be alert and awake to the Holy Spirit’s prompting out there on the road.  In your friendships, your chance encounters, your professional lives.  

You may not be answering the question “what do you do?” But perhaps you may get the question “what sustains you?”  or “how do you cope with the current situation?” or “how do you make sense of life when the news is so full of gloom?”  with a simple answer such as: “I’m a Christian.” Or “faith in God” or “knowing God loves me and is with me” or “I pray every day”.  We all put things differently but we can all give an answer and then wait to see what kind of conversation the Holy Spirit opens up, and where and how he prompts us to get involved.

This may feel at times like a wilderness year, but the Holy Spirit is active on the wilderness road.  And invites us to join with him.  Let’s open our eyes and ears to God’s prompting and take those opportunities as we go forward. 

Anthem: Judge Eternal, throned in splendour Malcolm Archer

Today’s Prayers: from Phil Taylor: in church today, the choir is singing the anthem ‘Rejoice in the Lord Alway’. These prayers are based on the words of this anthem.

Hymn: Let all the World, in every corner sing

Notices for the Week

Annual Parish Church Meeting: This takes place after the morning service in Church today. There will be a report on the outcomes of the meeting on this website (News section) later this week.

Lighthouse: If you know children and young people, please do pass this message on to them!

“After Lighthouse Live in the summer, Lighthouse Central will be putting on a series of continuity online events, starting with a Light Party on Friday 30th October. We have brand new presenters and we’ll tell a Bible Story about Light (and duck billed platypi!) and how we can all show the Light of Jesus. There is also a brand new drama featuring Captain Noah’s Spaceark! Plus all the favourite Lighthouse songs with actions. It will be available here https:// go.allstarskidsclub.com/catalog from 5.00pm on Friday 30th October so do please encourage members of our church family to join in.

Our next event will be a Christmas Lighthouse Live and then an Easter event. Our fervent prayer is that we will be able to deliver physical Lighthouses in the Summer 2021.”

Final Hymn: Christ Triumphant

Blessing:

May the blessing of the Lord
rest and remain upon all his people,
May the Lord meet in mercy
all who seek Him;
May the Lord comfort with tenerness
all who suffer and mourn;
And may the Lord hasten his coming,
and give us the blessing of peace.   Amen

Voluntary: Prelude in C Major

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