Services, Sermon and Prayer

Services schedule

Sunday:
Live streamed Eucharist from St Mary’s Pembridge or the Rectory. 11.00 am. You can find this on Anna’s Facebook page or on Youtube.

Dial a sermon:
Call 01584 701985 to hear the weeks sermon read by Anna 

Morning Prayer:
Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday I say Morning Prayer at 9.00 am. You are welcome to join in in spirit.

Zoom Prayers:
Tuesday 9.00 am – Morning Prayer 
Friday 11.00 am – Celtic prayer
Saturday at 7.00 pm – Compline 

If you would like to join in on the Zoom services please let Anna know (This is for security purposes) and you will be sent an invitation. It is very easy to join a Zoom session.

Readings and Sermon 9th August 2020

First reading

Psalm 105.1–6,16–22,45b
1 O give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises, and tell of all his marvellous works.
3 Rejoice in the praise of his holy name;
let the hearts of them rejoice who seek the Lord.
4 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face continually.
5 Remember the marvels he has done, his wonders and the judgements of his mouth,
6 O seed of Abraham his servant, O children of Jacob his chosen.
16Then he called down famine over the land and broke every staff of bread.
17 But he had sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 They shackled his feet with fetters; his neck was ringed with iron.
19 Until all he foretold came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.
20 The king sent and released him; the ruler of peoples set him free.
21 He appointed him lord of his household and ruler of all he possessed,
22 To instruct his princes as he willed and to teach his counsellors wisdom.
45 That they might keep his statutes and faithfully observe his laws. Alleluia.

Second reading
Matthew 14.22–33
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
28 Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29 He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’
32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Sermon

The 8 o’ clock news on Monday was telling me that there has been a ‘spike’ in people in the district of Princes Park in Liverpool, catching the Corona virus. The interviewer asked a number of people what they thought about this. Answers ranged from the liverpudlian equivalent of ‘Que sera, sera’ to ‘Well, if the Government had acted quicker in the first place, this wouldn’t have happened’.

I’m not entirely sure if the ‘this’ in the last remark referred to the government’s response to the Covid pandemic back in March, …. or currently. But either way, it is a completely erroneous response to the question posed. No country has been spared from the Covid 19 virus, irrespective of how quickly or slowly, efficiently or inefficiently they responded. And no one can claim, with any accuracy or fact sadly, that their father/mother/sister/friend etc would not have died if the government had acted differently.

Back in March, when the whole of the U.K. closed down, the popularity polls showed the Conservative government at a high level. People trusted what Boris Johnson and Professor Chris Whitty said, they did what they were told. Since then, there have been suggestions, claims even accusations that the government did not do things correctly, that they acted too slowly, that Chris Whitty and the other experts didn’t really know what they were talking about. People have started to question the experts, to listen to alternative voices; doubts have crept in.

‘Doubt’ can be a strong, and harmful, emotion. It can range from a sense of dubiousness or hesitation, to lack of trust, through to complete fear. It is, in essence, a mental or emotional state where the mind remains suspended between two or more contradictory propositions and the person/persons are unable to feel certain of any of them. When society has doubts, this sadly creates an atmosphere of distrust as the doubts become accusatory in nature, alleging either foolishness or deceit on the part of another.

We have, in today’s Gospel [Matthew 14 verses 22-33] an account of ‘doubt’.

Jesus has just fed the 5000; a story in itself about ‘doubt’ as the disciples must surely have doubted Jesus when He implied that they would be able to cater for such a large number [but, of course, there was no ‘foolishness’ or ‘deceit’ going on, and the doubts were unfounded]. We read that Jesus needs some time to himself so He tells the disciples to go on ahead, by boat, to the other side of the lake in the direction of Bethsaida.

A storm comes up and the wind is so strong that the disciples cannot keep the boat on its desired course. They are not in fear of their lives [as they are in another story about when they were out in a boat] but the weather is proving troublesome. And they have been out on the lake all night, and it is now ‘early in the morning’ so they are pretty exhausted.

Then we are told that Jesus starts to walk out towards the boat, on the lake; on the water’s surface.

When the disciples notice Him, they are absolutely terrified and start screaming out that ‘it is a ghost’.
But Jesus, somehow over the sound of the wind [perhaps there had been a bit of a lull?], tells them that it is Him, Jesus, and that they need not be afraid.

Peter doubts the truth of this [‘two or more contradictory propositions’; is it Jesus or is it a ghost?] and demands proof. The proof he demands reflects, I believe, the exhausted state of mind that he was in. He orders ‘the figure’ to command him, Peter, to walk on the water too!

What an extra-ordinary thing to say! Not only was he wanting to cast off any doubts as to who ‘the figure’ was, but he also wanted a miracle performed, on himself!

But Jesus accepts the challenge and tells him to ‘Come’.

So Peter gets out of the boat, starts to walk on the water [!] and walks in Jesus’ direction.

Now either, as I suggested before, the wind has lulled a bit or, in his excitement or tiredness, Peter had managed to ignore it but suddenly, Peter becomes aware of the strength of the wind and he starts to doubt what he is doing. He becomes frightened, falters and starts to sink into the water. The surface which had been supporting him just a few seconds earlier has now become, in his opinion, unsafe and untrustworthy. He calls out to Jesus to save him.

Jesus reaches out to him, grabs him by the hand and catches him. Seemingly, Jesus was near enough to Peter to be able to grab him…. which makes Peter’s sudden doubts even more odd [except that walking on water is against the laws of nature!]. Jesus then questions him as to why he had the doubts at all, ………… but we are never told what Peter’s reply, if any, was.

What do we make of this story? It is, without question, an account about Trust, Fear and Doubt.

One could certainly read it as, if we trust God, we can do miracles; we can even walk on water. I would agree with this spiritually and metaphorically but I would not advocate it literally. [Oh ye of little faith, I hear you cry!]. However, I have no problem with taking literally the fact that, if we trust God, He will look after us, will support us. And, as this story shows us, even if we don’t trust Him, God will look after us and support us! Because He loves us so much.

Peter trusted that the figure walking on the water was Jesus [even though he issued a bizarre ‘challenge’, he calls the ‘ghost’, ”Lord” which implies to us that he did really think that it was Jesus]. He then trusts what Jesus tells him to do; walk to Him on the water’s surface. But, then, Fear takes over; the Fear leads to doubt and Peter believes he is in danger of dying. [So much for his nickname, Peter ‘the Rock’!]

Isn’t it ironic that Peter’s doubts and fears would have, if Jesus hadn’t caught him, led to the very conclusion about which he was frightened; his death? Whereas, when he didn’t have those fears, even though what he was doing [walking on water] should have led to his death, if he had continued without doubts he would have been safe. His life was endangered because of his doubts, and not protected by them.

I wrote at the beginning that ‘Doubt’ covers a huge range of meanings. To have some element of doubt through Life can be appropriate. To trust in something or someone blindly, without due regard to [contrary] evidence is ignorant. Yet I also believe to doubt something so much that you then feel you can do nothing, is equally disingenuous. Doubt can result in delaying or rejecting relevant action out of concern for mistakes or missed opportunities. When in doubt, for some people, they decide the best course of action is to do nothing at all. Yet, if Peter had done nothing at all when he started to be frightened on the water and had doubts about what he was doing, he would have drowned.

We talk about being ‘paralysed by fear’; we don’t have a similar expression whereby we are paralysed by trust.

We are not designed, both in a scientific and a theological sense, to do nothing. The Bible encourages us, amongst other things, to act; to step out in faith. Think of what happened in the Parable of the Talents to the man who did nothing with his talent. We cannot live, literally, if we stand still and do nothing.

We are, currently, in taxing times. We don’t know what the future may bring, we are not sure of the way forward. But, as I wrote in my sermon about the walk I did a few weeks ago, we know that going backwards is not the way forward, and we know that standing still is not the way forward. We anticipate that there will be further changes affecting our social and economic lives, but also with our Church lives. Our churches are mostly shut, services take place under conditions which everyone finds unpalatable and every parish is concerned how, financially, they are going to function in the future.

I would like to share with you this thought from the famous ecumenical church community of Taize, based in France. In their book ‘Listening with the Heart’, our Gospel passage for today is considered. This is what they write: ‘Peter starts to sink the moment his eyes look away from Christ and see the strength of the wind and the height of the waves. Fear grips him. But when Peter sinks beneath the waves, crying out, ‘Lord, save me!’, the Gospel shows us something important. Not a heroic act by Peter but rather an act of Christ: ‘Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.’ What can we learn from this? That, every commitment to follow Christ is based not on our strength but on Christ’s faithfulness; he rescued Peter when Peter’s faith gave way. If Christ asks us a question, it is this: ‘Do you believe I will be at your side? Do you believe in my faithfulness?’

At the beginning of our Gospel reading, in verse 23, we read that Jesus went to a quiet place and prayed. Each week, our new diocesan bishop, Richard, has been recording a short message; you can find them on YouTube. Last week, his instruction to us all, was to pray about the way forward.

Often people remark that they don’t know what to pray about. I would suggest a good start here is to pray for wisdom and discernment; for ourselves, for our society, for our government, for the Church. And then, for courage and strength and faith that the right decisions will be implemented and that we will be able to, metaphorically, cross the wind swept sea safely and succcessfully, secure in the knowledge that this is with God holding our hands in His.

Amen.

Intercessions

We pray for the flourishing of God’s gifts to his Church, saying:
Lord of the Church, in your mercy hear us.
God our Father, you give us gifts that we may work together in the service of your Son: bless the leaders of your Church, that they may be firm in faith, and humble before you. Lord of the Church, in your mercy hear us.
Bless those who teach, that they may increase our understanding, and be open to your word for them. Lord of the Church, in your mercy hear us.
Bless those who minister healing, that they may bring wholeness to others, yet know your healing in themselves. Lord of the Church, in your mercy hear us.
Bless those through whom you speak, that they may proclaim your word in power, yet open their ears to your gentle whisper. Lord of the Church, in your mercy hear us.
Bless those who work in your world today, that in the complexity of their daily lives they may live for you, fulfil your purposes, and seek your kingdom first. Lord of the Church, in your mercy hear us.

A prayer for us in uncertain times

Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may rejoice in your comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

Anna Branston

Worship and prayer resources to use during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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If there is any way I can help even if you just want a chat call me on 07777692458. If the line is busy do leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I can. You can also email me on abranston2002@gmail.com Anna
Rev’d Anna Branston Rector of the Arrowvale Group of Parishes

Worship at home

The Archbishops of the Church of England have taken the step of suspending public worship until further notice owing to the Coronavirus pandemic.

As they wrote in their letter to the church on March 17th:

“We urge you sisters and brothers to become a different sort of church in these coming months: hopeful and rooted in the offering of prayer and praise and overflowing in service to the world.”

We want to ensure that prayer and worship continues, even though churches have had to suspend their services and activities.

Many of us already pray and study our Bibles at home, but it is hard to keep doing this without meeting with other Christians – especially without Sunday worship.

There are many ways in which we can continue to share in worship together, even if we are not in the same room.

This section contains a range of resources to help you pray and worship at home:

Places to find worship and prayer while at home
Prayers written especially for this outbreak
Prayers for children
Helpful Bible passages

You might find it helpful to set aside specific times of the day and week to pray and worship. Find a quiet place in your home and enable other members of your household to join you. You might want to light a candle to create a prayerful atmosphere and to use as a focus for your prayers.

You could also try praying with others while still physically distant – for example, over the phone, text messaging, or using video calls.

Updates are posted regularly by

Places to find prayer and worship while at home

There is a daily service on Radio 4 every morning at 9.45am.

Premier Christian Radio broadcasts Bible studies at intervals throughout the day.

At noon and at 2.30pm they have “worship hours” which include worship songs, prayer and Bible readings.

BBC One broadcasts Songs of Praise every Sunday at 1.15pm.

If you have access to the internet, there are many churches that are broadcasting their services, either on their website or using Facebook Live.

Some clergy are also sharing daily prayer in this way too.

Online, there are countless resources that provide daily prayer & Bible readings.

Church of England Daily Prayer:

https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/daily-prayer

Pray As You Go

https://pray-as-you-go.org/

24-7 Prayer

https://www.24-7prayer.com/

Prayers about the outbreak

Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may rejoice in your comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, you taught us to love our neighbour, and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you. In this time of anxiety, give us strength to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, and to assure the isolated of our love, and your love,

for your name’s sake. Amen.

God of compassion, be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation; in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light; through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For those who are ill

Merciful God, we entrust to your tender care those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe. Comfort and heal them, and restore them to health and strength; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For hospital staff and medical researchers

Gracious God, give skill, sympathy and resilience to all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.

Strengthen them with your Spirit, that through their work many will be restored to health; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From one who is ill or isolated

O God, help me to trust you, help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me from your love revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the Christian community

We are not people of fear: we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:

we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.

We are not people of greed: we are people of generosity.
We are your people God, giving and loving, wherever we are, whatever it costs
For as long as it takes wherever you call us.

Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference

Prayers of Intercession

Let us pray to God, who alone makes us dwell in safety:

For all who are affected by coronavirus, through illness or isolation or anxiety,
that they may find relief and recovery:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For those who are guiding our nation at this time, and shaping national policies,
that they may make wise decisions:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For doctors, nurses and medical researchers, that through their skill and insights
many will be restored to health:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For the vulnerable and the fearful, for the gravely ill and the dying,
that they may know your comfort and peace:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray, 

to the mercy and protection of God.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

***

Let us pray to the Lord, who is our refuge and stronghold. 

For the health and well-being of our nation,

that all who are fearful and anxious
may be at peace and free from worry:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For the isolated and housebound, that we may be alert to their needs,
and care for them in their vulnerability:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For our homes and families, our schools and young people,
and all in any kind of need or distress:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For a blessing on our local community,
that our neighbourhoods may be places of trust and friendship,
where all are known and cared for:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray, 

to the mercy and protection of God.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

Prayers with Children

A prayer for when a friend is ill

Dear God, (name of friend) is ill.

They are not allowed to go to school or come over to play.

I’m sad because I miss them.
They must be feeling miserable and lonely as well. Please be close to them.
Please be with the people who are looking after them.
Please help them to get better and to know that you love them.
Amen.

A prayer for the world

God of love and hope, you made the world and care for all creation,
but the world feels strange right now.
The news is full of stories about Coronavirus.

Some people are worried that they might get ill.
Others are anxious for their family and friends.

Be with them and help them to find peace.
We pray for the doctors and nurses and scientists, and all who are working to discover the right medicines to help those who are ill.
Thank you that even in these anxious times, you are with us.
Help us to put our trust in you and keep us safe.
Amen.

A prayer at bedtime

Before the ending of the day, Creator of the world, we pray
That you, with steadfast love, would keep Your watch around us while we sleep.

Tonight we pray especially for (names family or friends who are affected by Coronavirus) and the people of (country or place which is affected by Coronavirus).
Please give skill and wisdom to all who are caring for them.
Amen.

A prayer remembering God is with us

Lord God, you are always with me. You are with me in the day and in the night.
You are with me when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
You are with me when I’m healthy and when I am ill.
You are with me when I am peaceful and when I am worried.
Today I am feeling (name how you are feeling) 

because (reasons you are feeling this way).
Help me to remember that you love me and are with me in everything today.
Amen.

Bible Passages

(Extracts are given where readings are longer.)

Psalm 23

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 

I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

(Verse 4)

Psalm 91

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”

(Verses 1-2)

Psalm 139

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

(Verse 23)

Isaiah 41:10

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

John 14

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

(Verse 27)

Luke 12:22-34

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 

Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

(Verses 25-26)

Philippians 4:4-9

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Verses 6-7)

May the peace of God give you renewed hope and wisdom,

May you find the strength you already carry within you to be enough,

May the grace of God be sufficient,

May you find a deep breath when the air around you is thin,

May you grow in compassion in these days,

May you love well, not in spite of these anxious times,

But because of them.

  • Sarah Bessey