6th September 2020
Weekly notices, Church at Home & watch live
(Scroll down for this week's service)
Fra Angelico, Conversion of Saint Augustine, c.1430, Tempera on Wood; Musée Thomas-Henry
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!
Still at home? Watch the service live on Facebook! (don't worry - you do not need a facebook account to watch it)
Weekly resources from 'Roots' for families to use to reflect on the Bible readings each week.
When you come to church remember:
Sanitise your hands when you enter and leave.
Wear a mask (unless you are legally exempt, or if you are reading or leading intercessions)
Stay 2m apart.
Stay at home if you feel unwell (contact us if you need anything!)
APCM - Sunday 11th October
Our 'Annual Parochial Church Meeting' will be directly after the service on Sunday 11th October. This is when we elect people to roles on the PCC, and we hear reports on our activities and finances.
Anyone on the electoral roll can vote. You can join the electoral roll if you are over 16, baptised, and live in the parish or have worshipped with us for at least 6 months.
Baptisms on Sunday 20th September
We are very happy to announce that during the service on 20th September we will baptise several Farsi speaking members of our congregation. Some of them have waited patiently since asking to be baptised before lockdown. Please pray for all the candidates as they take this big step in their Christian life.
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.
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 David Kirkwood
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.
Vals Poetico by Enrique Granados.
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.
you search us and know us:
may we rely on you in strength
and rest on you in weakness,
now and in all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
A reading from St Paul's letter to the Romans.
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
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.
‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’
This is the gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ
by The Revd David Kirkwood
May I speak, and may we all hear, in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen
‘Take up and read. Take up and read’ In the middle of a profound personal crisis, eyes filled with tears, a man, just over thirty, heard a strange voice singing these words. It was a child’s voice, but whether boy or girl he couldn’t tell. He tried to recall was there a children’s song or game with these words, but he didn’t think so. What then? Could it be a message from God? Stopping his tears, he rushed to pick up the book he had been reading, opened it, and read the first words he saw. It was the passage from Romans we just listened to.
not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
The man was Augustine, he lived in the 4th century a time when the Christian church was no longer persecuted but (with the help of the Roman state) was growing steadily. This was the climax of the story of his conversion, told in his own words, in the book known as ‘The Confessions’.
The son of a Christian mother, Monica, Augustine was a brilliant scholar and teacher of philosophy. For years he had been dismissive of the Christian faith, always seeking for truth, but for the most part in other traditions, including the exotic sect known as the Manichees. Recently he had again been drawn to look again at his mother’s faith, and the more he looked the more attracted he became. But there was a problem. Augustine was not sure he could cope with the demands of being a Christian. ‘My inner self was a house divided against itself’
Famously Augustine tells us of his prayer ‘Lord give me chastity..., but not yet.’
We may smile, but Augustine’s’ honesty is compelling, and there is no doubt about the reality of his inner conflict. (Can I really give my whole self to Christ am I really ready for that?) In last week’s gospel we heard the starkness of the claim Jesus makes on his disciples. ‘If any want to come after me , he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it…’
Augustine’s turmoil may not show the swift response of those who ‘without a word, rise up and follow Thee,’ but it is profoundly human. It is also an indication of his seriousness. Becoming a follower of Jesus is no light matter.
Reading this passage was the turning point, ‘I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.’
For years Monica had been praying for just this moment and Augustine tells us of her jubilation, as he went straight to share the good news with her.
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, this is the heart of what spoke to Augustine in this text, the heart of every conversion. Perhaps you find the language of conversion difficult, maybe you feel you have always been a Christian, perhaps the drama and intensity of an Augustine, or a St Paul, seems far away from your own experience, a bit overwrought, not very Anglican. But if that movement from self- centred life , to Christ- centred life is not present can we really be called Christian at all? Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, that is what it means to be a Christian.
But isn’t it enough then, just to live a good life?
‘Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. ‘
Can’t we Just do this, forget all the hysterics and the complicated theology? If only it were so simple. It is so obvious, yet so out of reach. St Paul, throughout this letter to the Romans, speaks from his own experience. Knowing the commands, trying to keep them, straining every moral fibre to be godly and obedient, had led where? ‘That which I would, I do not, and that which I would not, that I do’. An inner sense of guilt and powerlessness, while outwardly a fixed certainty, breathing out ‘threats and slaughter’, and persecuting the infant church. ‘Who will deliver me for this body of death?’ He asks rhetorically and answers, ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord’. Salvation, the turning from sin and death to new life in Christ, is not an achievement but a gift. A gift that is sealed in baptism, as the Christian is united with Christ, putting off the old nature and being clothed anew in Him.
‘Put on the Lord Jesus Christ’, in another of his works Augustine speaks of the human will left to itself without the grace of God as bent in on itself, trapped in pride and selfish desire. The commandment to love, of itself, cannot set the will free. Like the woman in the gospel bent and crippled unable to help herself, nothing can be done, until Jesus brings his healing touch. ‘Put on the Lord Jesus Christ’, the work of God’s grace is to unbind the will and set it free, and this is real freedom but it is a freedom that only finds itself in obedience and service. Another of Augustine’s famous sayings is ‘Love and do what you will’. It is easily misunderstood, what it means is not that, love lets you do whatever you want, but if you truly love, then your actions will be truly loving, and whatever you do will have that quality of love. The good tree will bring forth good fruit. In putting on Christ, we put on the one who in His person has already fully lived the command to love, and His love, in us, then becomes the fulfilling of the law. Well maybe I should stop here. Let’s all just do it. Let’s follow Paul and Augustine and ‘Put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ and we will have no more to worry about.
But then there is that pesky gospel reading, ‘If another member of the church sins against you…’What! How can this be? Haven’t we just heard how those in the church are precisely those who have ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ and so been set free from sin. So how now this sinning? The mysterious reality of post baptismal, post conversion sin, didn’t take long to make itself felt, and the problem of how to deal with it becomes a perennial one. Love may be the fulfilling of the law, but, in the history of the church. sometimes it seems so different Love seems rather to be superseded by law. That this is no new development is clear from today’s gospel.
(‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector.)
What we have here is not so much Jesus speaking -there was, after all, as yet no church as such, when He spoke, as the church reflecting on His words and example, in their new situation. How does the community hold together His word, ‘your sins are forgiven’ with His word, ‘go and sin no more?’ It must offer free forgiveness, but it must also contend with human frailty and guard against a freedom that become a licence for wickedness. Here the gospel suggests a threefold system personal appeal, then two or three together, then the whole church and underlying this disciplinary system is the possibility of what came to be known as excommunication, expulsion from the community. Later this system will grow and develop until there will be church courts and canon lawyers, yes, and inquisitions right down to the consistory courts and clergy disciplinary measures, yes, and Covid regulations of today. A rules based system, law, seems destined to grow with the growth of the community, and if there is to be order and the possibility of justice it may well be unavoidable, yet with the growth of that system simplicity and gospel freedom easily become obscured. Law or Love?
As we ponder that dilemma, let’s take one last look at Augustine. After his conversion Augustine was to go on to become a Bishop in the Church. It was a critical moment in history, the Roman Empire was crumbling away, and more and more, people were looking to the church, not just for spiritual support, but for practical and organisational help. For over thirty years, Augustine faced the enormous complexity of the oversight of a church burdened with many of the tasks that would now fall to secular government, organising welfare, famine relief, hospitals, schools, government administration, diplomacy and so on, not to mention the regular work of a bishop, teaching training and disciplining, clergy and laity alike and striving for gospel truth in the face of all kinds of new doctrines. Truly an immense burden of office. He could not avoid questions of law and policy, binding and loosing in so many fields. No doubt in many things he fell short, no doubt judged by the standards of another age even more, judged as he would have judged himself, by the standards of Christ, maybe yet more. Still his early conviction that in his conversion he had ‘Put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ stayed with him, but it was clear, that though Christ had most definitely made him his own, yet it was still an on-going work. Augustine calls the Holy Spirit, ‘the finger of God’, continually writing the new law of love on the tablets of the heart.
So yes indeed let’s ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’, but let’s also remember, both for ourselves and our brothers and sisters, this is still a work in progress; a work that may go forward in peace and tranquillity but a work that may also call us into the complex questions and disputes of today. None of us will always get it right but maybe ‘Law or Love’ is a false choice. Love must be the start, and Love must be the end, but living out that love, fulfilling the law, means working within the flawed framework of human law, human institutions and human relationships. May we like St Augustine find the grace to do just that.
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 suffragan Bishop for this diocese.
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
The health service.
Teachers preparing for the return of schools.
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.
Love divine, all loves excelling, Joy of heav'n to earth come down: fix in us thy humble dwelling, all thy faithful mercies crown: Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art; visit us with thy salvation, enter ev'ry trembling heart.
Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit into ev'ry troubled breast; let us all in thee inherit, let us find the promised rest: take away the love of sinning; Alpha and Omega be; End of faith, as its Beginning, set our hearts at liberty.
Come, Almighty to deliver, let us all thy life receive; suddenly return, and never, nevermore thy temples leave. Thee we would be always blessing, serve thee as thy hosts above, pray and praise thee without ceasing, glory in thy perfect love.
Finish, then, thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be: let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee; changed from glory into glory, 'til in heav'n we take our place, 'til we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.
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
Evening in the Meadow by Vladimir Rebikov.