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.
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….!
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.
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.
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.
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.
In order to live the apostolic life we must be aware of the weeds, especially if they prevent other flowers from flourishing.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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?
Our learning as Christ’s students can never take place in the virtual classroom.
The title of this post is taken from the heading of the July prayer intentions. Each month the intentions strike a particular theme and it is apt that we should focus upon the area of wisdom and learning at a time that schools close for the summer holidays and the long University holidays continue. We have time to reflect a little about how the pandemic has affected students – young and old. We should also think how Christian teaching may enable us to learn from past mistakes so that we make practice wisdom and seek out people and places of wise counsel.
Jesus comes to us as a teacher: “Jesus simply offers himself as the model to follow. He alone is the way to God. Follow him and we will find God.” (From the Homily attached below). It is this teaching, this modelling, that we are most concerned about today. How can we model Christ in a way that is authentic and real? How can we continue to desire to be attentive to our teacher so that we can find the mystery which is God?
Many of us are able to remember one teacher in our lives who was able to make a difference. It might have been at infant school or perhaps at University but through their words and actions something came alive in us. The same, and more – much more, is to be said of Jesus. There was something about his wisdom and learning that turned heads and fed minds and lightened the soul. When he first opened the scriptures as a teenage boy in the synagogue and read from the scroll verses from the prophet Isaiah, there was something in his understanding of the text which brought new meaning.
In the service today, we give thanks to God for the path that we tread. We follow our teacher as protogés – desiring that we may understand our vocation through Christ’s wisdom and learning. Let us also give thanks for teachers at this time, in whatever guise they take, and pray that they may be given God’s grace, perseverance and fortitude to continue in their vocation. In particular, we pray for those who are wearied by virtual teaching and the lack of personal connection with their students. Let us thank God that our discipleship, our learning as Christ’s students can never take place in the virtual classroom. Our wisdom and learning has to come from the reality of Christ before us and within us. Please use the prayer intentions each day this month.
Everyone was so generous to the foodbank last month – we delivered 265 items, way above our long term average and almost twice the volume of the May collection. On behalf of CEF – Thankyou! The collection for July will be Wednesday 8th July at St Michael and All Angels church door, Lonsdale Road, from 11.00am – 1.00pm. Malcolm Sadler will be there as usual (suitably distanced and masked when needed) to receive items. Everything will then be delivered to Cowley the following day.