19th July 2020
Weekly notices, Church at Home & watch live
(Scroll down for this week's service)
Roger Wagner, The Harvest is the end of the world and the reapers are angels, Oil on canvas, 1989; https://www.rogerwagner.co.uk/work/item/14/1984
Sunday, 10.30am at St James'
We meet for Holy Communion as the Benwell & Scotswood Team. Let us know you're coming if you can!
Still at home? Watch the service live on Facebook! (don't worry - you do not need a facebook account to watch it)
Weekly resources from 'Roots' for families to use to reflect on the Bible readings each week.
Let us know you're coming if you can!
10.30am at St James'
We meet for Holy Communion as the Benwell & Scotswood Team.
If you can, please let us know you're coming to help with contact tracing. But don't let it stop you coming if you haven't signed up - we can still take your name on the door.
We will only keep the info for 21 days.
Currently you do not have to wear a face mask in church. Don't feel out of place if you do want to wear one - some people will and some won't.
We will let you know if guidance is updated. The clergy will wear a mask during the distribution of communion, otherwise the most effective way to stay safe is to remain 2 metres apart, wash or sanitise your hands regularly, and stay at home if you feel unwell.
Cranes for Peace
Help us make 75 origami cranes to mark 75 years
since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to support CND's campaign for peace.
You can make them at home, we have some simple instructions to follow and we hope to make a display at St James' when they are all finished.
Venerable Bede works to begin
The faculty application has been approved and work to make improvements to the ramp and toilets in the church hall will begin this week.
During this time the Foodbank will be operating from the the church instead.
You can now submit prayer requests online. This can be done anonymously or by name and the clergy and congregation will pray for you each week.
Help keep our work going and our buildings open.
If you can, please give by standing order - regular donations help us to have a better estimate of our income and ensure we can keep our activities running.
Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Reflection by The Revd Dominic Coad
Online service led by Abigail Harris
Celebrant: The Revd David Kirkwood
or listen and read along here:
The service starts with some quiet music; please use this to clear your mind and acknowledge the presence of God.
'Sorrow' from Songs for Children by Béla Bartók.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God the Father forgives us in Christ and heals us by the Holy Spirit.
Let us therefore put away all anger and bitterness, all slander and malice,
and confess our sins to God our redeemer.
God be gracious to us and bless us,
and make your face shine upon us:
Lord, have mercy. (Lord, have mercy.)
May your ways be known on the earth,
your saving power among the nations:
Christ, have mercy. (Christ, have mercy.)
You, Lord, have made known your salvation,
and reveal your justice in the sight of the nations:
Lord, have mercy. (Lord, have mercy.)
May the Father forgive us
by the death of his Son
and strengthen us
to live in the power of the Spirit
all our days. Amen.
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
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.
A reading from Paul's letter to the Romans.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God
Alleluia, alleluia. The word of the Lord endures for ever. The word of the Lord is the good news announced to you.
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.
Glory to you O Lord
He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ!
by The Revd Dominic Coad
As you may remember, last week we heard the parable of the sower and David encouraged us to believe that the work of God, the divine sower, will eventually produce a wonderful harvest. Yet as we read that parable we might have been left with a nagging question: What happens to those who are not part of that harvest; what of those people who are represented by those barren types of earth, where seed will not grow?
This morning’s gospel is the parable that Jesus told next, the parable of the weeds, and it raises that question even more directly: someone sows good seed in a field but an enemy comes and sows weeds amongst them, at the harvest the weeds are separated from the wheat and thrown into the fire. In case there is any uncertainty as to the meaning of this, Jesus later clarifies for his disciples: ‘the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one… the harvest is the end of the age… [the angels] will collect… all causes of sin and all evil doers and they will be thrown into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Some Christians believe the interpretation of passages such as these is simple: those who do not believe in Christ and confess him as their Lord and saviour will be condemned to eternal damnation. Many of us, including myself, have grown up with this teaching, more or less explicitly taught. If you google ‘reality of hell’ amongst the first hits you will find is a video of a sermon by a man called Rico Tice. He is an Anglican priest, at All Souls, Langham Place in London, and it also happens that I’ve heard him preach in the past, when he led a Christian Union mission week during my time at university.
In his sermon he argues that we need to tell non-Christians that they are not good people going to heaven but that they are sinners going to hell. He says: ‘What is hell like? It is a place of punishment, separation, darkness and fire. Who is it for? It is for those who will not change, who will not submit to their creator.’
I wonder how language like that makes you feel? I frankly find it deeply disturbing. God is love, the scriptures consistently talk of God in this way. Are these the actions of a loving God, to consign unbelievers to eternal damnation in a burning hell? I don’t believe so. The idea that many of the people we know and love may not join us in eternal life is distressing, to say the least. In this time of global pandemic, there will certainly be Christians who have been bereaved and are now greatly worried about their loved one’s eternal fate. I don’t believe God wants us to be afraid.
But what, then, do we make of Jesus’ words in this mornings gospel? As always, it pays to attend closely to the things Jesus says. In the parable, when the slaves ask their master if they should pull up the weeds he says no, ‘for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.’ Instead, the disentangling of the wheat and the weeds cannot happen until the harvest, the time Jesus calls the end of the age. Rico Tice is sure that non-Christians are going to hell but this is exactly the judgment that Jesus is warning us against making in this mornings reading from Matthew.
* * *
Some Christians believe the exact opposite of preachers like Rico Tice. They believe that, somehow, everyone will ultimately be saved through Jesus Christ, that no one will be excluded from God’s loving mercy. This is sometimes called universalism. Universalism holds that God loves everyone, that it is God’s will that all will one day be united in that love and that nothing can prevent God’s will being done.
In our reading from Romans this morning we see Paul trying to get to grips with the enormous scale of God’s love. He says that ‘the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility… in the hope that creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.’ (v. 19-21)
Paul here is grappling with the tremendous scope of God’s plan, with a glorious hope that is too big to be contained merely within the ranks of those who seem to be God’s children. Much of what we see around us seems futile and full of failure, but the whole creation is just waiting for God’s future to arrive, when his glorious work will be revealed.
This is not to say that Paul thinks it doesn’t matter whether or not we believe in Christ, indeed Paul is convinced that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. In the chapters that follow he considers what it means for some people not to believe in Christ. It’s a very personal question for Paul because he is Jew who has become a follower of Christ. Many members of the people of Israel, his own people, have not believed in Christ. He says the question causes him ‘great sorrow and unceasing anguish.’ (9.2)
Paul’s argument over the next 3 chapters is quite complicated and there is not time to explore it fully now, nevertheless, by the end of chapter he says that ‘the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable’ (11.29) and that ‘all Israel will be saved’ (11.26). The promise which God made to Israel remains and Paul has a confident hope that they will be reconciled with God. We too can have a confident hope that God does not want to punish people because they haven’t made the right confession of faith. Salvation is not some sort of quick fire round in a quiz - if you don’t get the right answer, you’re out.
* * *
Yet even as we celebrate the hope we have in Christ, we are still confronted with the rather troubling words of Jesus: that the weeds will be thrown into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Why does Jesus say these things and what does he mean?
Well, we should start by understanding that this is a parable employing an agricultural metaphor. People are no more thrown into the fire than they are literally bundles of wheat or weeds. Nevertheless, the words are hard and Jesus has chosen them deliberately.
We know the great evil that is present in the world, and the chaos that human beings have unleashed upon it; is it any wonder that Jesus talks of fire at the end? When we think of global warming, of nuclear war and, of course, deadly pandemics, don’t we in fact see that fire is already upon us, and of our own making? Jesus’ parable speaks of separation, of judgment; the seeds of evil sprout weeds that must be pulled up and destroyed. We must take this seriously.
Nevertheless, we have to be so careful with such language. All too often, Christians have thought they could discern for themselves where, and in whom, the seeds of evil have taken root, and have acted accordingly. The approach taken by preachers like Rico Tice has often led to very dark ends. This is why Jesus warns us against trying to separate the weeds from the wheat, against dangerous judgments.
Instead, we should take joy in the hope that Paul communicates to us in Romans 8: ‘you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.’
So, does God send unbelievers to a burning hell, as some preachers suggest? As disciples we are all called not simply to accept whatever we are told (even if it’s me preaching!) but to discern for ourselves what is true. There couldn’t be a better test than this: does what you are being told make you feel fearful and trapped, or does it make you feel free; free in the knowledge that you are a child of God?
Let’s embrace the hope that is given us in Christ and the love of God who wills for all people to be united with him.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Those called to lead and guide us at a difficult time.
Stephen Cottrell, newly confirmed Archbishop of York
Christine, Bishop of Newcastle
All churches returning to worship today or preparing to open soon. For wisdom and safety.
All still unable to attend church and feel cut off from the fellowship and sacramental life of the church.
those in government, and those faced by difficult decisions.
Those facing uncertain futures and loss of work or income.
Families struggling at home.
Victims of bullying and domestic violence
Places whose health services are most vulnerable and undeveloped.
An end to inequality. A more sustainable use and equitable allocation of the world’s resources.
Medical staff and health professionals including all working in mental health
The Sick & Suffering
All who have asked for our prayers
The Riches family
All affected by Covid19
Those we have known and loved and whose examples we cherish.
All victims of Covid 19.
Rejoicing in God’s new creation,
as our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want; He makes me lie in pastures green. He leads me by the still, still waters, His goodness restores my soul.
And I will trust in You alone, And I will trust in You alone, For Your endless mercy follows me, Your goodness will lead me home.
He guides my ways in righteousness, And He anoints my head with oil, And my cup, it overflows with joy, I feast on His pure delights.
And though I walk the darkest path, I will not fear the evil one, For You are with me, and Your rod and staff Are the comfort I need to know.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
And the love of God
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us all, evermore. Amen
'Pfänderspiel' from Songs for Children by Béla Bartók.