FOR YOUR PRAYERS THIS WEEK:

Give thanks for: our church wardens and church musicians; open churches and church services resuming next Sunday.

Pray for: black people suffering discrimination and persecution; all who would have been ordained this week.

PRAYERS FOR THOSE IN NEED:

Please pray for: Bob Hitchens; Dave; Reg and Eileen King; Richard Gray; Beryl; Ena Young; Olivia; Dave and Liz Smith; Brenda; Stuart; Andrew; Gordon; Joy and Dave; Sarah and colleagues; Beryl Carpenter; Rosie and family; Barbara Blacklock; Hilda Bell.

Give thanks for: all encouragers; friendships; carers; the recovery from Covid-19 of Guljon Shahrestani and her family in Afghanistan. (Guljon is Elyas’ sister).

PRAYERS FOR THE DEPARTED:

Victims of Covid-19; all who die alone.

A PRIVATE DEVOTION

(Adapted from Angela Ashwin “Woven into Prayer”)

Lord, touch my lips:

That I may sing your praise with all my heart.

O God, make speed to save me:

O Lord, come to my aid.

Glory to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

Mystery of love, behind, through and beyond all things.

Lord of life, I worship you:

All praise to your name. Amen.

As I turn my face to you, O God,

Let my worship be once more a new beginning:

Cleanse my spirit with your mercy,

Draw me ever deeper into your love,

And accept my offering of praise and prayer

On behalf of the world;

Through Jesus Christ,

Our Brother and our Saviour. Amen.

NEW TESTAMENT READING Acts 12 : 1-11

1About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. 2He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. 3After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) 4When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. 5While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

6 The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. 7Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists. 8The angel said to him, ‘Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.’ He did so. Then he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ 9Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. 11Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’

GOSPEL READING Matthew 16 : 13-19

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 15He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ 16Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 17And 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. 18And 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. 19I 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.’

ADDRESS

I am indebted to Sarah Kite for today’s gorgeous picture of an iris, and as I placed it right under the heading 28th June 2020: SS Peter and Paul I naturally started wondering what connections could be made between such very different focusses. To my delight, I discovered that Iris is the Greek word for rainbow, and the problem was solved.

It is solved because you couldn’t get two more different people as illustrations of sainthood than Peter and Paul. The former is a common fisherman, uneducated, prone to swearing (before he met Jesus!), impetuous, a man of action, a catcher of men as well as of fish. The latter is a former persecutor of men, a citizen of Rome and therefore an influential man, educated, a trained orator, capable of sustained arguments at an abstruse level, (don’t we know it!!) and a meticulous planner. They come from very different ends of the social, temperamental and educational spectrum. Being an inclusive sort of person, and quite fond of rainbows even before the NHS hijacked the symbol, I am therefore delighted that we have both such different saints and the lovely iris to remind us both of their diversity and of the whole colourful spectrum of sainthood.

The symbolism gets even better, however. In Greek mythology Iris is the name of the female messenger of the gods: the rainbow forming an arc between heaven and earth. The connection is obvious – she is the personification of the rainbow, bringing messages to the mortals from the gods. Considering how much of both Peter and Paul’s ministry was in conveying the message of God’s love to the world, one to the Jews, the other to the Gentiles, the iris is a very fitting symbol indeed.

So I want to make just two basic points. First of all, it isn’t always the obvious people in life who are called to be saints – and by “saint” I mean anyone who responds positively to God and lives by the teachings of Jesus. Peter was not an obvious candidate for the role of apostle or evangelist, but Jesus saw in him the qualities that make him stand out: Peter the rock, steadfast, committed, unafraid. The sort of man who wouldn’t lose his head in a storm on the lake, and (given the nature of fishing) a man of patience, able to wait for long periods to get a result. He didn’t need to be an eloquent, educated speaker: he had other gifts. Paul wasn’t an obvious choice either – though perhaps from the vehemence of his persecuting days he was already hugely conscious of God’s holiness. His zeal was misguided but genuine, and when redirected (following his Damascus road encounter with Jesus) led him into a totally changed lifestyle. With hindsight we can see that his gifts were hugely valuable for ministry as an evangelist, a bearer of good news. If we look around us we can all think of people whose faith shines with God’s love and yet who are totally different from each other. There are multiple rainbows of saints, both in heaven and on earth.

The second point is that we are all called to sainthood of one sort or another. We are, like bread, taken, blessed, broken and sent out to do God’s work. So we need to stay in touch with the God who sends us, through prayer, through listening, through watching out for signs of God’s activity and acting on it whenever we encounter it. If we too are God’s messengers, we need to take care what the message is that we are proclaiming. I am bitterly ashamed that, when the corona virus broke out in this country, the Church’s immediate response was to close the doors and appear to shut down. Of course, thereafter Christians have been out and about in the community, running foodbanks, volunteering, being fruitful for the places where they are set. But if we are now able to open our churches for private worship, I question why this could not have been done at the outset, when people desperately needed whatever comfort they could find and would have turned to the symbol of Christ that is most obviously there in every village when most businesses have closed down because “bigger is better” and community has been lost. No, we don’t need buildings for worship, it turns out, but as a focus for prayer and a sign of eternity you can’t beat them in today’s superficial and transient world. Closing the churches was undoubtedly done for the best of motives: but it has seriously harmed our credibility as people of prayer. Prioritising physical health over spiritual wellbeing is a dangerous tactic: and too few people in positions of authority have been openly saying that the government should acknowledge the need for spiritual wellbeing.

And so as we draw nearer to the point when churches are allowed to reopen for worship, it would be good if we came together in a true spirit of repentance, rejoicing that we are forgiven for our shortcomings, and asking God to direct us in our next steps. We are rainbow people, and like the rainbow much of our spiritual life is hidden out of sight. But the part that is on view must be vibrant, defiant even, illuminating God’s love and pointing to hope for the future. The original rainbow of Genesis was a sign of God’s faithfulness: let’s reflect that back into the world for all to see.

Amen.

INTERCESSIONS (Supplied by Mary Marsh)

Give us, our Father, a sense of your presence as we pray.

Grant us gratitude as we remember your love and enable us to lift up our hearts in humble prayer and praise.

We thank you for those whose influence has led us to come to worship you this morning. We remember family members, Sunday School teachers, church leaders, friends and colleagues who have encouraged us to follow in the Christian way. We give thanks for the fellowship which we find in our churches which supports us as we seek to put our faith into practice in our daily lives. Strengthen us, Lord, in your service, so that we, in our turn, may be an encouragement to others

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

We pray for our own country, the Queen, her ministers and all who hold authority. Help the nation to not forget its Christian heritage of charity and service. In this time of heightened security we remember those who put their lives on the line for our security – police, firefighters, lifeboat crews and the NHS. We pray for them and their families.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

We pray for the church throughout the world, remembering that the church depends on its people. WE ARE the church, Lord. Enlarge our vision, encourage, enthuse, empower and energise us all to do your will day by day. We pray for the Christian Church – its national and regional leaders and especially for those who minister to us here on the Isle of Wight.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

God our Father, we remember before you with gratitude those who, in their different capacities serve the community. We pray for those who safeguard the public health and minister to the sick; those who provide for the welfare of the young and care for the elderly and infirm; those who serve in local government, administer the law and preserve the peace. Assist them in their varied duties; deepen within us all the spirit of loving service, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Remember in mercy, our Father, those who are passing through illness, and especially those of whom we are now thinking of in our prayers – and from our pew sheet. Bless all that is being done for their good and surround them with your healing love and power for the sake of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Gracious God you are the hope of our journey and light on our way. Be close to us as we seek to both witness and serve. And let the joy and delight in the gift of your love shine from us to inspire hope in others.

MERCIFUL FATHER,

Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

PREPARING FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

In union, Lord, with the faithful at every altar of your Church, where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated, I offer you praise and thanksgiving. I present to you my soul and body with the sure hope that I may always be united to you. And since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you and embrace you with all my being. Let nothing ever separate you from me. May I live and die in your love. Amen.

You might like to sit in silence for a while, then pray:

COLLECT FOR THE SS PETER AND PAUL

Almighty God,

whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul

glorified you in their death as in their life:

grant that your Church,

inspired by their teaching and example,

and made one by your Spirit,

may ever stand firm upon the one foundation,

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.

CLOSING PRAYERS

Greetings to God the Father

present in all the earth,

and in the heavens,

and beyond the heavens.

Greetings to the Son, Lord of hope,

rising like the dawn in our hearts.

Greetings to the Spirit, power of flame,

giver of peace.

May your peace and power

be diffused and known

among all people.

And may the love of the saints

and the glory of the angels

inspire us in your church

and fill us with unquenchable hope.

I will bless the Lord, Trinity of love:

now and for ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

To conclude, rest quietly in God’s presence.

If you are online, press CTRL+click on the link below for Durufle’s Ubi Caritas and Tu es Petrus:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwE_iI2FAx4

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est

Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor

Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur

Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum

Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero

(Where charity and love are, God is there. Christ’s love has gathered us into one. Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him. Let us fear, and let us love the living God.)

Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam

(You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church)

NOTICES

CHURCHES RE-OPENING FOR SERVICES!! (Hooray!)

We are able to reopen for worship on Sundays as from 5th July – next Sunday! Service times will be as usual – 9.30am at St James’, and 11.15am at St Mildred’s. It will be a straightforward communion service with no hymns – however, we shall have some introductory and closing music, and quite possibly some extra music during the service. At the time of going to press, details of this have yet to be worked out. Communion will be offered in one kind, and there is the option of not receiving at all if you feel it is safer for you to let the priest receive on your behalf.

ST MILDRED’S CAFÉ RE-OPENING

Subject to there being enough volunteers, the café at St Mildred’s will re-open on Monday 6th July from 10.00am – 3.00pm, Mondays to Thursdays. Social distancing will be in place, and although it is preferable for folks to eat outdoors, it will be perfectly possible to have a table indoors for tea, coffee and cakes. During this initial period the church will be available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons for private prayer, but it is hoped to expand this by an extra day to match the café opening times in due course. If you would like to volunteer and are not on the current lists, please contact Peter Robinson (299230) to be allocated a slot at a suitable time. NB The rule about over 70s has been lifted, but please check with me first as I have to give permission!

PEW SHEET

As from next week, I will only be printing out full copies of the pew sheet for those who do not have email and are unable to attend church. These I will bring to church and ask regular worshippers who live near any of the addresses to deliver them, please. There will be a few spare copies email-style in church for any newcomers, but if you have been sent an email copy I ask you to resist the temptation to take one from church unnecessarily! The email copy will not contain the sermon or intercessions and will be more on a par with the pew sheet we had prior to Covid-19. The aim is to cut down on photocopying costs, since we are going to be very short of money.

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Stay safe, as ever, and I look forward to seeing those of you who are able to come to church next week! Rev Susan