23rd August 2020
Weekly notices, Church at Home & watch live
(Scroll down for this week's service)
Henry Moore, Stone II, 1977, Etching on paper; Tate Britain
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!
Join us in Church >
Still at home? Watch the service live on Facebook! (don't worry - you do not need a facebook account to watch it)
Watch live on Sunday >
Weekly resources from 'Roots' for families to use to reflect on the Bible readings each week.
Kids' Resources >
It is now a requirement to wear a face covering at indoor venues, including inside churches. There are exceptions to the rule and we will not challenge anyone who is not wearing a mask but assume they are legally exempt.
Please remember 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
Those leading a service do not have to wear a mask, including if you are reading or leading intercessions. The clergy will wear masks during the distribution of communion and after the service.
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.
Submit prayer requests >
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.
Reflection by The Revd Dominic Coad
Online service led by The Revd Chris Minchin
Live service led by The Revd David Kirkwood
Watch here at 10.30am >
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.
Gymnopédie no.1 by Erik Satie.
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.
O God, you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
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 St Paul's letter to the Romans.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God
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
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
This is the gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ
by The Revd Dominic Coad
There’s a lovely moment in Charles’ Dickens novel Bleak House when the heroine, Esther Summerson, is given a set of keys. Esther had an illegitimate birth and does not know her parents but as a young woman she gains a new guardian, Mr Jarndyce, and is brought to Bleak House. There she finds herself unexpectedly blessed with a new family and a real home, and there she is presented with the keys to the house. The keys not only allow her in and out of the house but also give access to the housekeeping and the cellars. In other words, Esther is given the freedom of the house but also the responsibility of managing the housekeeping. She is given a place in the world, with both the freedom and responsibility that comes from being part of a family.
We probably all have memories of receiving keys, perhaps to our childhood homes, perhaps our first home of our own, perhaps a much longed for home. Some of us are refugees; perhaps we’ve received keys to a place to live after long journeys or a long time waiting without a home, I’m sure there will be many mixed emotions attached to those keys.
I was given keys when I came here, keys to each of our churches, and I had just that sense of belonging and responsibility that Esther experiences when given the keys to Bleak House. Yet it’s a privilege that has been of little use for many months this year. On Sunday 15th March we locked each of our churches after the Sunday service; the following Sunday they would all remain locked. To this day, St Margaret and St John remained locked, the Bede is open for Foodbank and only St James is open for Sunday worship.
In the time that followed we became (effectively) locked in our homes as the country locked down. Some of us, including me, were shielding and that meant this period of lockdown was even more stringent, and it means that not much has yet changed, we are still (mostly) locked up at home, and locked out of the lives we used to lead.
When we hear this morning Jesus saying he will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter, we might have mixed feelings. Keys might let you in, or they might keep you out, or they might trap you inside. Keys are a strangely ambiguous symbol, meaning both freedom and captivity, acceptance and rejection.
This ambiguity is present in the image many of us may have of St Peter, standing at the gate of heaven with his keys, checking his list and letting in the saved whilst turning the rejected away. But is this what Jesus had in mind when he gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, did he mean to make Peter his celestial bouncer?
Well, no, I don’t think so. When Jesus says, ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’, he is not planning for Peter to stand guard at the pearly gates. First, this image doesn’t fit with how Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom heaven is not a place we can only get to after we die, it’s certainly not up there in the clouds. The kingdom of heaven is the name Jesus gives to the reality of God’s just rule established on earth.
Second, Peter is not given the key, singular, he is given the keys, plural (and it is plural in the Greek). So, commentators suggest, Peter is not the porter, controlling a single entrance, but the steward who is entrusted with the keys to all the doors. Just like Esther in Bleak House, Peter is being given responsibility not just for the entrance but for the housekeeping, the storehouses and the cellars too.
This metaphor makes a lot of sense when we remember that the kingdom of heaven is God’s just rule on earth. Peter is entrusted not just with letting people in but with giving access to all of it – cellars, storehouses and all. Jesus is giving Peter the responsibility of a just and equitable sharing of the riches of the kingdom. He is taking his own divine power and privilege and sharing it with Peter.
But will Peter use that divine power justly? Will he share the goods of the kingdom rightly? Jesus says, ‘whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Now this phrase is a little difficult to understand, so bear with me…
The Greek here translated bind and unbind is more literally translated as tie and untie, so it doesn’t necessarily carry the connotations of captivity that we might hear in the words bound and loosed. In fact, Jesus is using here terms that were already commonly in use in rabbinic literature at the time.
The rabbis used the terms tie and untie to talk about what kind of conduct is permitted and unpermitted in the community; the kind of behaviour you are tied to or untied from. So we might think of ourselves as being tied to loving our neighbour as ourselves but untied from selfishness. Both speak of freedom in different ways.
But what about Peter’s seeming influence on heaven? Again, a look at the Greek helps, which literally says ‘whatever you untie on earth will have been untied in heaven.’ In other words, Peter isn’t controlling what happens in heaven but he will find that what he decides will also already have been decided in heaven. In other words, in the kingdom of heaven, there will be a natural fit between human and divine action.
So Jesus is giving Peter, and us, the freedom to discern what is right and wrong for the people of the kingdom of heaven and promising that he will make decisions that fit with the will of God. Peter later came to know this in practice when he argued for the inclusion of gentile believers in the faith. Peter led the community to tie itself to love of anyone and everyone who might want to join, and untie itself from the narrowness and self-regard that would have rejected others. In this development the church was in harmony with heaven.
We recognise Peter as having very special authority within the Christian tradition. Nevertheless, we may take Jes