16th August 2020
Weekly notices, Church at Home & watch live
(Scroll down for this week's service)
Francisco Goya, The Dog, c.1819-23 (detail)
Oil on plaster transferred to canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid
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!
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Weekly resources from 'Roots' for families to use to reflect on the Bible readings each week.
It is now a requirement to wear a face covering at indoor venues, including inside churches. You do not have to wear a mask while leading a service, including if you are reading or leading intercessions. The clergy will wear masks during the distribution of communion and after the service. There are exceptions to the rule and we will not challenge anyone who is not wearing a mask but assume they are legally exempt.
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Reflection by The Revd Anne Marr
Online service led by Dominic Coad
Live service led by The Revd Chris Minchin
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.
Country Pageant by Herbert Howells.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son Jesus Christ
to save us from our sins,
to be our advocate in heaven,
and to bring us to eternal life.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith,
firmly resolved to keep God’s commandments
and to live in love and peace with all.
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 God of love and power
forgive us and free us from our sins,
heal and strengthen us by his Spirit,
and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord God, Lord of heaven and earth,
as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer,
give us patience and courage never to lose hope,
but always to bring our prayers before you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah
Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.
And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered.
(Isaiah 56. 1,6-8)
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God
To whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life
and we have believed and have come to know
that you are the Holy One of God.
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
This is the gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ
by The Revd Anne Marr
May I speak and may we all hear in the name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Collect summarises a key aspect of today’s readings:
Be persistent in prayer. Give us the patience and courage never to lose hope
It was hope that drove the Canaanite woman to Jesus, and courage which enabled her to persist, despite being referred to as a dog!
Dogs don’t get a very good write up in scripture. To the Jews, and indeed to most cultures world wide – even today – dogs are scavengers, pests, a nuisance, and to be feared. Even the tame house dogs kept as guard dogs, which Jesus referred to, were not greatly respected. The disparaging term ‘Gentile dog’ was in common use then. The woman was a Gentile – a Canaanite – the ancestral enemies of the Jews. Here, Jesus uses dogs as a teaching aid. He did the same for me 20 years ago…
I took our young Labrador on retreat to Holy Island. Very early one morning we went for a walk. When we moved out of the village, I let her off the lead. An hour later, as we re-entered the village, I realised the leather lead was no longer round my neck. Too good to lose, I decided to retrace our tracks and search for it, all the while anxious in case the dog didn’t keep safely by my side.
Whilst walking it occurred to me that God doesn’t ever put us on a lead for our safety. God simply invites us to walk alongside and to trust his word and commands. This was exactly how Jesus approached the woman in the gospel – he made sure she was truly alongside him in trust and faith before he granted her request.
After a fruitless search, the dog and I stopped on the shore to watch the sun rise over the distant horizon. I had by then almost given up hope of finding the precious lead, but was glad that God had used the loss to teach me an important lesson in faith. The incoming tide lapped up to my toes, so I looked down and there at my feet lay the leather lead, barely visible amidst the pebbly sand. What had made us stop and stare at just that place, and at that moment on the shoreline? ‘Thank you God’ we said – the dog and I - and off we went for breakfast.
The shore on Holy Island is borderland territory – beyond which are other lands, out of our vision. Today’s Gospel features borderlands. It records the only occasion when Jesus is outside of Jewish territory – in a ‘foreign’ land. His disciples were anxious yet Jesus chooses this time and place to show them about his mission - that he came not just to the lost sheep of Israel but also to those outside the ‘fold’. It foreshadows the going out of the gospel to the whole world; it shows us the beginning of the end of all barriers…. barriers of culture / race / gender / sexuality…
There are also social boundaries in any society which ought not to be crossed. The Canaanite woman crashed through a load of them. She had the audacity to push her way through a crowd of Jewish men, despite being a woman and from Gentile enemy territory; the audacity to interrupt Jesus’ conversation to ask a favour; the audacity to answer back when he seemed to be dismissive. She transgressed all the social boundaries of her day, and Jesus grasped the opportunity.
If someone brushed aside my hopeful request with such brutal language as Jesus seemed to use to the woman, I would probably shrink away in shame for having asked an inappropriate favour, or in indignation that I wasn’t seen as worthy enough. Like a dog I would wander off to lick my wounds. Not that woman in the gospel – she came bouncing back with a cheeky reply which earned her the attention she craved.
Did Jesus lose his patience? No. He admired her faith and courage and sent her away with the answer she had begged for. She was an example to his disciples of the true measure of faith, and that God’s compassion is not restricted to the ‘in-crowd’.
What we don’t know from the reading is how Jesus looked at the woman, what tone of voice he employed. We are currently aware of how difficult it is to judge the mood or emotion of the person speaking to us when they have a mask covering most of their face. The subtle muscle changes round the mouth and nose are crucially important to fully understanding what is being said.
Did Jesus look at the woman with impatience or irritation like the disciples? Or with tenderness and compassion in his eyes? Was his quip about dogs spoken in humour, as the response she would expect from a Jew? She was certainly quick to pick up on the image and express gratitude for the crumbs. Did Jesus smile, or even laugh, at this feisty display of courage? ‘Your request is granted’ were the words she wanted.
Let’s look again at the Collect Prayer.:
‘Be persistent in prayer. Give us courage never to lose hope.’
The woman in the gospel came to Jesus filled with love for her child, full of hope for healing, and placing all her faith in Jesus. She had the courage never to lose hope, and the guts to confront Jesus, even when he seemed to dismiss her. She came to this ‘Son of David’ in irrational hope and found the ‘Lord of Love’ and compassion.
Sometimes life can be so difficult, circumstances so painful or empty, that we may be tempted to give up on hope, to give up on God. Not every mother gets the answer to prayer she hopes for. Our current pandemic is a killer disease and many die despite the earnest prayers of mothers and children.
You may have watched the moving documentary film ‘Anthony’ about the brutal murder of 18 year old law student Anthony Walker in an unprovoked, racially motivated attack in Mersyside in 2005. You may wonder why his mother’s earnest prayers in the hospital, where her son lay dying, were not answered like the woman in today’s gospel. There is no easy explanation, just the stark reality that sometimes injuries are too severe to be healed. Any healing has to be forged through the pain, as the cross bears witness.
Anthony’s mother, Gee, sees racism as a disease and is determined to bring healing in the wake of its brutality. For her, the cross is where oppression and pain meet liberation and hope. Her forgiveness of the perpetrators and her tireless work to help other young black students fulfil their dreams as law students is inspirational.
Sometimes love heals in ways beyond our vision and understanding. Sometimes when we focus all our hopes onto one thing we may not be able to see the wider picture, which Jesus can. There are times when we may fear that, like writing the word in the sand, the force of the tide may wash ‘HOPE’ away. Sometimes we simply need to write the word ‘HOPE’ somewhere else in the sand of our life’s shore, alongside those famous footprints of Jesus, trusting that in time we will see the full picture and understand. In some circumstances holding on to hope is the most courageous thing we can do.
When circumstances dog your dreams, and your world shrinks around you, and you can’t see beyond the horizon, hold on to courage, hold on to hope, hold onto Jesus…
and remember Psalm 31: ‘Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.’
Lord, whatever we face, give us courage to persist and never to give up hope.
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.
Those called to lead and guide us at a difficult time.
Archbishops Justin and Stephen Bishop Christine, those involved in finding a new Archdeacon and Bishop for this diocese.
Abigail and all preparing for ordination or whose ordinations are ‘on hold’.
All still unable to attend church and feel cut off from the fellowship and sacramental life of the church.
For our parish as we seek to proclaim good news to all.
Those facing uncertain futures and loss of work or income.
Victims of bullying and domestic violence
Places whose health services are most vulnerable and undeveloped.
Medical staff and health professionals including all working in mental health.
Refugees and asylum seekers.
The Sick & Suffering
All who have asked for our prayers
The Riches family
Linda, Stuart, and their son David
All affected by Covid19
Those we have known and loved and whose examples we cherish.
All victims of Covid 19.
Let us pray with confidence
as our Saviour has taught us:
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.
All my hope on God is founded, all my trust he shall renew; he, my guide through changing order, only good and only true: God unknown, he alone calls my heart to be his own.
Pride of man and earthly glory, sword and crown betray his trust; all that human toil can fashion, tower and temple, fall to dust. But God’s power, hour by hour, is my temple and my tower.
Day by day our mighty giver grants to us his gifts of love; in his will our souls find pleasure, leading to our home above: love shall stand at his hand, joy shall wait for his command.
Still from Earth to God eternal sacrifice of praise be done; high above all praises praising for the gift of Christ his Son: hear Christ’s call, one and all – we who follow shall not fall.
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
Andante (from Sonata op14 no2) by Ludwig van Beethoven.