Do not be afraid

Jesus intuits that his friends are in trouble and comes to save them from their peril on the sea. They are terrified, they cry out in fear. And then Jesus speaks the words of calm, the often repeated phrase from the Messiah’s lips, “Do not be afraid!”

My favourite bible stat claims that the phrases, “do not be afraid” or “fear not” occur 365 times, that’s once for every day of the year. Jesus used this or a similar phrase regularly during his ministry. We can take from this that Jesus – standing in the context of Jewish wisdom and divine care – understands what fear is. This means that God knows fear. Far from being a trait of the weak and cowardly, God knows that fear is real and awful and demonising.

In the gospel this week, the disciples journey down from the mountain and escape from the crowds and return to the lake in their professional capacity as fishermen. Jesus withdraws too, but not for long. He intuits the danger coming from the lake. The boat is in trouble, so are his students! Jesus walks out to the place of fear and stills the storm.

Jesus walks on the water but Peter does not. We all know that when a beginner learns to swim, it is ultimately fear that prevents them from staying afloat. Similarly here, Peter panics, loses touch with himself, with his God and begins to sink. So, in order to walk on water – or, in fact, to walk through life, we need to keep our focus on Christ and not panic.

Fear is such a common, felt emotion. It attacks us for different reasons through a variety of contexts. It is one of the most foundational of human triggers leading to the fight or flight response. Thanks to Peter, we are shown how this closest follower of Jesus suffered acutely from his own human condition and environment. Peter was afraid. If Peter feared, then surely we have an excuse to fear too? But what, I wonder, do we fear and why?

It is not for me or this post to enquire too deeply but it is a question for reflection. Jesus knows our self imposed limitations, our neuroses and inherited traumas. The storms come and go and sometimes it feels like we are drowning under external forces and internal voices. But the stillness of Jesus remains. In fact Jesus invites us to take steps of faith, like Peter. It might be a terrifying prospect but sometimes we need to make that step if we are to grow stronger and survive the trauma.

“Do not be afraid” – perhaps we need to use this as a mantra and claim it for daily life?

OTHER NEWS

The Partnership Quarterly

Contributions of no more than 600 words for the September e-issue are welcome, please/thanks.  The deadline is Sunday 16 August. Please send, preferably by e-mail to one of the editors: Ann Stedman (ann.stedman@btinternet.com), Michael Daniell (michaeldaniell51@gmail.com) or John Harding (john.harding22@gmail.com). 

Livestreaming
Last Sunday was our first livestream event. The broadcast was far from perfect but we are determined to learn from our mistakes. The sound quality is the main issue which is difficult to control in such a reverberant space. Please do subscribe to the Facebook Live event and ‘like; and ‘share’ as much as possible. Go to your Facebook timeline page or watch another time on the church’s facebook feed from its website homepage: https://www.stmichaels-summertown.org.uk

Upcoming Services

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St Michael & All Angels Parish Church is open from Saturday to Wednesday for private prayer from 10am – 20m. If you would like to chat to a priest, please phone Gavin, the vicar, on 07833 251939.

Sunday worship is at 8am, 10am and 6.30pm. Please bring a face mask. Distancing measures are being observed.

Finding a boat

It is through this intentional decision to make time and space for God and his nature that we can discern our way ahead.

Before we find our boat, I want you to put down the metaphorical anchor! This week, and for all the weeks to come during this pandemic, we will be livestreaming the 10am Parish Eucharist. If you are shielding or unable to attend church for whatever reason, you will be able to join us in real time! All you need to do is go on to our facebook page – click here https://www.facebook.com/stmichaelssummertown/ at 10am on Sunday. You might have to hover your mouse over the video in order to press the sound bar so that you can hear according to your own needs. Don’t worry if you are unable to make 10am. 

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The service will be shown on our website home page – https://www.stmichaels-summertown.org.uk – and kept there for you to watch at your own convenience. If you are able, please subscribe, ‘like’ or ‘share’ so that our Facebook profile grows and therefore the church’s mission flourishes into more households and communities. It is also important to feedback any comments so that we might continue to improve and make the livestream experience for the flock unable to reach the sheepfold! Many thanks in advance. Please pray for our new venture, that it will be fruitful and that it serves God’s world.

And now to the boat….! 

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Alone on the water

This is a reference to this Sunday’s gospel from Matthew in which, after hearing that John the Baptist had been killed, Jesus retreats to a boat on the lake. My sermon speaks about the importance of seeking God in a safe space as we continue to endure the trauma of this pandemic. So, my pastoral advice is to commend that you seek a boat to sail in order to ‘get away.’ It is through this intentional decision to make time and space for God and his nature that we can discern our way ahead, then good religion is enabled. In the case of the gospel, a miracle of generosity takes place. So, please go out and find a boat and rest and find yourself in the company of God and seek out his reassurance and peace.

OTHER NEWS

St Michael’s is open for private prayer from Sat-Wed 10am – 2pm. On Sunday, public worship takes place 8am, 10am & 6.30pm. Please arrive early in order to disinfect your hands, be welcomed and shown to your seat. We recommend that you wear a face mask. Communion will be given in one kind. Please refer to the Covid-19 leaflet attached. 

UPCOMING SERVICES

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Remember to find the video on our website from Sunday morning onwards

Mustard seed theology

The Christian narrative is not about riches and grandeur, or success and fortune, but about searching for the small seeds of encouragement, justice and beauty.

On this Seventh Sunday after Trinity, we celebrate the last recorded service at home before we return to church and share the experience to those shielding through live-streaming.

In this Sunday’s text from Matthew’s Gospel, we hear the parable of the mustard seed. This smallest of parables is used by Jesus to demonstrate something of God’s kingdom. Jesus then offers his listeners an array of other examples of what the kingdom is like. He needs to offer a variety because this is a kingdom that no-one has seen, heard of or experienced. This kingdom is different. Alyson Peberdy shares with us a real example of a mustard seed flourishing into a large shrub. This, like many tales of compassion and courage, demonstrates that the Christian narrative is not about riches and grandeur, of success and fortune, but about searching for the small seeds of encouragement, justice and beauty. Therein lies God’s kingdom.

Please take a look at the video because in it I play out the parable of the mustard seed.  The ‘wondering’ questions at the end demonstrate how we might enter more deeply into the parable – if we are able, remembering that we cannot always enter parables although they are always open to us!

Talking of doors being open, the Eucharist will be celebrated at 8am this Sunday – hooray! Thank you for being so patient. The 10am Eucharist will be celebrated from next Sunday onwards. Here is a prayer giving thanks to God for our safe return:

Almighty God,
we praise you for the many blessings
you have given to those who worship you at home and
in your house of prayer which we know as St Michael & All Angels:
and we pray that all who seek you there may find you, and, being filled with the Holy Spirit, may become a living temple acceptable to you;
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.

Please also bring a pen for the track and trace register which we will take before the service. If you prefer, you can complete the form at home and simply give it to the welcomer at the church entrance – the narthex. There will be a plate for your offering (if you contribute to the ministry of the church without signing on to the Parish Giving Scheme). 

We will attempt to livestream the 10am Eucharist when we go back next Sunday. This means that you can watch and pray with the church family from the safety of your home. I will provide detailed instructions on how to do this, plus the possibility of ‘dialling in’ with your phone if you haven’t got computer access. More to follow!

I would like to personally thank everyone who has helped during the lockdown and those who are preparing the church for a safe welcome for private prayers and public worship. I would also like to make a special mention of those who are unable to help physically but have been praying for seeds of faith to grow and flourish. What an army you are – mustard seed growers – daring to plant and nurture. Let’s now keep the parable box open so that more people might see what the kingdom might look like.

Stay blessed,

Working with weeds

In order to live the apostolic life we must be aware of the weeds, especially if they prevent other flowers from flourishing.

The 6th Sunday after Trinity – we hear how Jesus talks about how the Kingdom of God is revealed, sometimes surprisingly, living alongside weeds as well as fruit and flowers.

The subject matter of the Gospel this Sunday (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) is about discernment. Jesus talks in parabolic language about the the weeds and the wheat growing together. I am not a particularly knowledgeable gardener and sometimes I find it difficult to differentiate between weeds and flowers. What makes a weed a weed anyway? I’m continuing to come up with definitions. My current favourite is a plant that is not invited to grow among those that have been chosen! In order to live the apostolic life we must be aware of the weeds, especially if they prevent other flowers from flourishing. However, we also need to be prepared to work with the weeds, even if we would prefer to imagine that they might die off and never return.

Weed free gardens do not exist – look at the vicarage garden at the beginning of the video! We are called to live in weedy places as well as manicured places. Even though it is our calling to replace some of the weeds with plants that are beautiful, fruitful, abundant, we are also asked to live in a state of containment. Many gardeners know that gardening is the vain attempt to control the wildness of nature. So, I see the weeds in Jesus’ parable as real – something akin to social evils, the things in life which cause injustice and disharmony in society. If our faith is lively, connected and transformative, it will help us to discern where these weeds are growing. It is the duty and purpose of any follower of Christ to have a horticultural insight into the fabric of the soil, the growth within the garden and discern between the weeds and the good fruit. This analogy refers not only to our corporate life as Christians but also as individual seekers of God’s love. This is why we are called to be prophetic (listen to Mary Gurr’s homily).

Enjoy your gardening for the rest of this weekend. I also hope that you have been able to get close to the soil during this lockdown period? I am beginning to realise that when we get close to nature, when we touch it, feel it, smell it – then we better understand who we are within God’s natural order. We are part of something greater. It is quite humbling. Even the weeds are part of something greater but I will leave their purpose to God’s care and attention.

SPIRITUAL HEALTH

I am keen to hear from anyone who wants to learn more about what a healthy spirituality might look like. Perhaps you have been affected by the lockdown and through social distancing. How has your faith helped (or perhaps hindered) your approach to the pandemic? Have you felt that you have drawn closer to God in faith? What have you read? What is your discipline in prayer? These are the questions that I am most interested in. If you would like to make time to talk these things through, I would be delighted to respond.

Please remember that you can stay in touch with St Michael’s in various ways because we operate on different digital platforms. You might like to ‘share’ or ‘like’ the output with family, friends or colleagues. We are trying to “keep the rumour of Christ alive” when we are unable to meet as we would like.


 †      StM&AA website www.stmichaels-summertown.org.uk

 †      A Blog for All Seasons  gavinknight.me

 †      Facebook https://www.facebook.com/stmichaelssummertown/

 †      Twitter – @StMichaelsSU

 †      Instagram – @stmaa_summertown

 †      YouTube – Summertown Parish Church https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFx4HGfkIx1GCGp9Sc2oNAg

 †      A Church Near You – https://www.achurchnearyou.com/search/?lat=51.77962953034491&lon=-1.2639201133363835&place=&text=

God bless you, those you care for and those who care for you.

No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels! See what’s going on by clicking here which will transport you to our website.

God’s fashion

What if you let God re-shape you and re-form you? I have a suspicion that God is not wanting to force a makeover or even a takeover.

It has been good to collaborate with our long time mission partners, USPG – the United Society Partners in the Gospel. In the sermon this week we hear about their work focussing particularly on the people of the Philippines.

Within the Eucharist this week (celebrated by Gavin) we see and hear from our mission partners – USPG

USPG attempted to re-brand itself a few years ago by ditching its long and (some thought) archaic name and creating ‘US’ or United Society. As a concept the simplifying of its name and the intimation of togetherness (US) was helpful but many of its loyal volunteers and partners felt that the charity had lost something along the way. I know that the stakes are high when we attempt to re-brand a product or even an organisation. I was involved (as a trustee) with the new image and branding of Lady Ryder’s Charity, The Sue Ryder Foundation, which became Sue Ryder Care. Many of the old guard felt disenfranchised and unsettled by a change of image and even values. Only time, income and the quality of care provided testified to whether the changes were valid and appropriate.


The Church of God has seen many changes in its 2000 year history, some for the better; some not! The Church must look again at how it is perceived by the world in the light of the Covid pandemic. At a local level, St Michael’s – with thousands of other parish churches – will also have to reappraise its mission and ministry, not least because lifestyle patterns have changed -possibly permanently. People ‘do’ church online now. Will there be such a need to return to church even after a vaccine has been discovered, tried and tested? Will church ever be the same again?


The place of church, the bricks and mortar, is still a sign of Christian witness. The stones are steeped with prayers of thankfulness and petition. The building is representative of a greater body – the Body of Christ – you and me. The people of God will need to be served as always with grace and truth. What might this look like going forward? How might we, as a fellowship of love, continue to proclaim the Gospel together? Many questions are being asked and nobody really has the answers. Perhaps this is the time, the moment, to trust in God alone. And there is nothing new in that little spiritual directive! 


Question – if you were to re-brand or re-model yourself what would you look like, sound like, how would you move? How would your soul charge? How would your heart beat? How would your body knit? What if you let God re-shape you and re-form you? I have a suspicion that God is not wanting to force a makeover or even a takeover. Yet God is lovingly waiting to fashion us again and again into his own image. This source of creation and re-creation is longing for our acceptance and invitation to be changed. Take care this week to meditate on these things.

Go in peace…

OTHER NEWS


THE REVD CHARLES DRAPERWe give thanks for the ministry of Charles Draper who has been a wonderful colleague and priest of St Peter’s Church, Wolvercote. I will be dropping in on Charles to share a gift from the Partnership Churches. Thank you Charles for your wise counsel and prayerful support over these last 5 years. God bless you in your deserved retirement.

IMPORTANT STEWARDSHIP REQUEST
St Michael & All Angels is losing c£2000 per month as a result of the current crisis. We have not been able to hire out the halls. We have also lost the weekly giving offering Sunday by Sunday. It costs approaching £450 per day just to keep the building and grounds going and well maintained, and we are very dependent on goodwill offerings and donations. Many of our parishioners pay regularly by Standing Order through the Parish Share Scheme or by Direct Debit. These regular payments have become a lifeline. May I ask all those who do not give in this way to consider setting up a Standing Order or Direct Debit. The instructions to do so follow here.

I fully understand that this request comes at a time when many of us are feeling the pinch. I am also aware of the sacrificial generosity of many in order to support the church’s continuing ministry and mission.

Regular stewardship Standing Orders
Transferring directly into our bank account is the most efficient for us and, by using your online banking, this is usually straightforward and leaves you in complete control. No need to give your private bank details to us or any external organisation — just give your bank our bank details. You can change the amount at any time using your online banking, or visiting your local branch. Our bank is CAF Bank:

Account:  St Michaels & All Angels Summertown
Sort Code:  40-52-40
Acc No.:  00011607

Please don’t forget to Gift Aid if you are able. The Gift Aid form is attached to this message.


THE CHURCH IS OPENING UP….

Saturday – Wednesday for private prayer – 10am – 2pm. Welcomers are present at all times to help and guide if necessary.

Sunday – Contemplative 1/2 hour – 6.30pm. 

I will be issuing updates about further changes soon. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the weekly services that we are providing online?