Your weekly update from the Benwell & Scotswood Team
Services this week
Sunday 21st Aug
9.45 at St John's - Holy Communion
11am at St James - Hub Service
4pm at St Margaret's - Evening worship
Wed 24th Aug
10.30 at Venerable Bede - Holy Communion
Weekday service at Venerable Bede this Wednesday!
Join us at 10.30am this Wednesday, 24th Aug, for our monthly communion at the Venerable Bede.
West Road, NE4 8AP
Wholeness & Healing service this Sunday at 4pm
Join us at St Margaret's at 4pm this Sunday, 21st Aug. This is a special service of restoring our hope in God and asking for healing for ourselves and our world- physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially.
St Margaret's Scotswood, Heigley Street, NE15 6AR
Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions
make them to ask such things as shall please 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.
Isaiah 58.9b–14 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. 13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honourable; if you honour it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Luke 13.10–17 10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ 15But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
By Revd Chris
What do you consider to be appropriate behaviour in church? In the Gospel today we have an argument between the leader of a place of worship and Jesus about what is appropriate on the sabbath. I am not sure whether you find this a comfort or not, but it seems the idea of what we do in church and on Sundays has always been, and always will be, controversial.
Don’t worry, I am certainly not suggesting that the way things are organised is the right way. But our readings today can hopefully help reveal something of what is truly important about the idea of sabbath and public worship.
In today’s Gospel Jesus is in one of his rebellious moods, the leader of the synagogue is indignant that Jesus has dared to heal a woman crippled with pain on the sabbath. I can just imagine the leader, red-faced and spluttering about ‘plenty of other days in the week to do that’. Jesus of course responds with a divine put down. He says that if we would give our animals some water on the sabbath, how could we not heal a fellow human being in need. His point is we cannot stop being human on the sabbath and God cannot stop being God.
We can all be insistent, me included, about what should or shouldn’t happen on Sundays. Yet, unfortunately, rarely are there two people who ever think the same. For most of us this is simply because we care, and actually that makes me glad - church is the place we bring our greatest hopes and beliefs. The problem is when we each have deeply held beliefs which do not match up with each other, we inevitably end up in conflict.
The impossible expectations we create for ourselves in church remind me of a job advert for a perfect, and impossible, vicar I once saw online:
The perfect Vicar preaches exactly 10 minutes. They condemn sin roundly but never hurt anyone’s feelings. They work from 8am until midnight and are the church caretaker. They should be 29 years old and have 40 years’ experience. The perfect Vicar has a burning desire to work with youth and spends most of their time with the elderly. They smile all the time with a straight face.
They are single and, most importantly, good-looking, and their spouse helps run the social committees while raising 3 well-behaved children. The perfect vicar attends all church councils and committees and is always busy evangelizing the unchurched. They make 15 home visits a day and are always in the office when needed. The perfect vicar is always in the next parish.
Evidently this was written by a jaded minister somewhere in the world, and I’m not quite that jaded yet. But it does draw our attention to the impossibility of meeting everyone’s expectations in church. So what is the way forward in such an impossible situation? Does somebody have to sacrifice what they know to be true and deeply important? No, of course Jesus offers a different way forward.
For Jesus the Sabbath is holy, and holiness is revealed in seeing a woman in need and God’s desire to heal her pain. We don’t stop being human on the sabbath, and God does not stop being God - he does not stop answering prayers because it’s his day off. It is a holy day, and holiness is when we set aside something as important. The sabbath is time where everything else is swept away and we attempt to fully see each other and our needs, to see God and understand God’s hope for us and our world. If anything, the sabbath is the time both we and God are revealed in all our fulness.
Very crucially, the Bible tells us the holiness of the sabbath is about loving relationships, not individual needs and desires. Our first reading says this: if you honour [the sabbath], not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
Essentially God tells us not to make church the way you want it, but the way others need it. That does not mean going for the lowest common denominator, so it works for no one. It means we shape things together with compassion, expanding the edges to include people who are different to us, and rejoicing at every new person who encounters God. Essentially we must be a community that thinks more about the needs of those who are not here than the needs of those who are. Doing church together is always more important that doing it in the way “I” want. I’ll say that again: doing church together is always more important that doing it in the way I want.
Our first reading says:
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Sabbath should declare our holiness as a community, we move together, we choose to take the hard path of loving each other, even when we think differently. We choose to care for those who do not care for us. Whatever day or time we keep it, the ‘sabbath’ means to set aside time in our lives to reveal love for each other.
I will end with a quote from our first reading, reminding us that holiness can only happen with the power of God’s grace:
11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
Surely that is the most wonderful promise for how our lives in church will transform Benwell and Scotswood and the lives of all around us.
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Prayers for others:
Stan and Sonja
Moe and Mary
The Riches Family
Post Communion prayer
God of our pilgrimage,
you have willed that the gate of mercy
should stand open for those who trust in you:
look upon us with your favour
that we who follow the path of your will
may never wander from the way of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.