News from the Benwell & Scotswood Team
Piet Mondrian, The Tree, 1913
Oil on canvas, Tate St Ives
Congratulations Brenda McCutcheon, included on the Queen's birthday honours list 2021!
Our own Brenda McCutcheon, sewing teacher and churchwarden at St Margaret's Scotswood, has been recognised for her incredible work enabling her students to make PPE for the NHS at the height of the pandemic, she even continued the work when in the hospital herself!
She is to be made a Medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM). Well done Brenda and your students for using your skills to help others!
Worship in all our churches Sunday 4th July
9.45am Venerable Bede
9.45am St James
11.15am St John's
11.15am St Margaret's
We continue our experiments with worship in Benwell and Scotswood on the first Sunday of the month. In July we will have a Sunday service in all four of our churches for the first time in over a year! We will try out a new pattern of service times to make it possible for our clergy to sustain worship in all our buildings without calling in outside help.
Please remember: Hands, Face, Space.
We still need to sanitise our hands on entering the church, wear a face covering, and stay 2 metres apart.
We are now allowed to meet inside the church after the service, in socially distanced groups of 6 or less, or two households. As long as the weather is good, we will continue to go outside after the service, but this means we can shelter from the rain if necessary!
Please remember face coverings still must be worn (unless you are medically exempt or while doing a reading in the service).
Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
we thank you for feeding us at the supper of your Son:
sustain us with your Spirit,
that we may serve you here on earth
until our joy is complete in heaven,
and we share in the eternal banquet
with Jesus Christ our Lord.
James, Christina, and baby Xavier
Ali Zareie and his family
The Riches Family
All those who are Struggling at home or in hospital with Covid 19
Rest In Peace :
All who lost their lives from Covid 19
Ezekiel 17.22–24 Thus says the Lord God: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind. All the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it.
He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’ He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’ With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
The Revd Dominic Coad, Team Vicar.
This week I was very moved by a story in the news, a story which, I warn you, was really quite upsetting. Norwegian authorities announced that they have finally identified the body of a 15-month-old boy who washed up on a beach at New Year. His name was Artin Iran Nazhad and he, along with his family, were lost at sea last October as they attempted to cross the channel as refugees on the final stage of their long journey from Iran. This terrible story had an impact on me because the child was so young and because, of course, the family were making a similar journey to many members of our church family.
It is very difficult to understand why such tragic things happen, indeed the sad truth is that this didn’t have to happen. Countries could work together to assure a fair and swift system for judging asylum claims and a plan for helping refugees travel from place to place. Take away the desperation and lack of options and we would no longer see children drowned in the Channel or the Mediterranean or anywhere else. It is a great failure of our time that we have not found a way to prevent such deaths, a failure which, I hope, will one day be as hard to fathom as we now find, for example, the public executions that were an accepted part of life in Medieval England.
It didn’t have to happen, but it did. And when things like this happen, I feel it as a challenge to my faith. Jesus promised us that the Kingdom of God was coming, a kingdom in which justice and peace are the rule, and yet the world seems more unfair and unloving than ever. When will the Kingdom of God come? How much longer will we have to wait?
Well, if you sometimes feel that way too then our Gospel reading provides us hope: Jesus understands and he knows that working and waiting for the Kingdom of God is hard. That’s what this morning’s parable is about, waiting for the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells us that ‘The Kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.’ To understand this it it’s helpful to know something about Jesus’ time.
As you might know, Jesus spent most of his ministry in the countryside. In doing so he was making his life look like the lives of the vast majority of people. Today around 55% of people worldwide live in urban areas. In Jesus’ time it was 1%. Most people’s lives were spent in small communities, spaced far apart, and this shaped the lives they lead; lives spent working the land and running the household. Cooking, cleaning, mending, cultivating plants, tending animals and trading; these were the businesses of most people’s lives.
It’s no coincidence then that Jesus’ parables are full of people sowing and harvesting crops, tending animals and keeping house. Sometimes preachers suggest that this is so that Jesus could speak to people in a language that they understood but I tend to think this is a little patronising – the people of Jesus’ time were just as able to find meaning in stories set in strange and distant settings as we are.
No, I think that Jesus filled his parables with the familiar things of life because he wanted people to understand that the stories were relevant to those ordinary everyday things. The Kingdom of God is compared to someone sowing seeds because the sowing of seed, and the food it produces, is relevant to the Kingdom of God. God cares about whether those seeds grow or not and in his Kingdom people won’t have to be afraid of what will happen if they don’t. The sowing of seed isn’t only a metaphor, standing in for something else, it is part of the meaning of the parable: in the Kingdom of God, people’s crops will finally grow and they won’t be hungry.
But that brings us back to our original question: when will the Kingdm of God come, when will people’s crops finally grow. As we heard, Jesus tells us that ‘The Kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.’ Another thing its helpful to know in order to understand this is what growing was like for the people Jesus is speaking to.
Gardeners today know how, from year to year, some crops will do well and others will do badly. Up and down the country people will chat over garden walls and between allotment plots, ‘it’s a good year for courgettes’ or ‘my green beans aren’t doing so well.’ But it’s hard to conceive of how uncertain growing was in Jesus’ time. When we grow veg in our gardens, we plant commercially produced, reliable seed, into compost with a balance of nutrition and, crucially, we pull out our hose and water whenever we need to.
The people Jesus is speaking to didn’t have irrigation, which means they had no mechanism for watering their crops. Although irrigation had already existed for many centuries, these poor farmers wouldn’t have had the means to do the engineering necessary. It meant that it really was very unpredictable when seed would germinate and how the crops would progress.
So, when Jesus says the seeds sprouts and grows, we know not how, he is speaking to a genuine uncertainty about how the crop will grow. And because these poor farmers relied so completely on what they grew, this uncertainty really was life and death. Here we see that Jesus’ talk about the Kingdom of God takes in completely the real material uncertainty of people’s lives. Life was tough for the people hearing Jesus’ parable, a Kingdom of justice and peace must have felt very far away.
For us too, especially when we consider injustices like the death of Artin Iran Nazhad, it may well seem that the Kingdom of God is very far away. Jesus understands this. He gives us this image of the farmer, apprehensively watching his field, hoping and worrying. But he also reassures us that the seed will sprout, even though we may not know how or when, and tells us to be ready to harvest it when it does.
Many of us see and experience the injustices of the world and wonder when God’s Kingdom will come. Some of us await the Home Office to pronounce on our fate and wonder what our future holds, some of us attend Foodbank or see the queues outside church and wonder when people will stop going hungry in our nation, some of us come to church broken, even desperate, and wonder when we will find joy and love in our lives.
The harvest will come. Those little seeds we plant of justice and peace, they will germinate and, in God’s power, will flourish. We may not know how, we may not see it in the way we expect, but that growth will come. And, Jesus tells us, just like the huge shrub that grows up from the tiny mustard seed, God’s Kingdom will be greater than we could possibly imagine.
So don’t despair, life can be tough and the world unjust, but God’s Kingdom is greater.