United Benefice of

St Mildred’s, Whippingham

and

St James’, East Cowes

2nd August 2020: Eighth Sunday after Trinity

WORSHIP IN AN UNCOMMON SEASON

Initially at least our services are a straightforward communion service with no hymns – however, we have some introductory and closing music, as well as some extra music during the service. Communion is 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. Please follow the directions of the stewards for going up to receive communion and be aware of the usual social distancing requirements. Communion is administered in the pews to anyone unable to walk to the altar: please advise a steward on arrival if you require this. We are otherwise asked to remain standing to receive the bread.

On leaving the church, please drop your service booklet into the basket by the exit door and note that we are leaving by a different door from the way we came in. At St James’ this will be via the south door at the front, and at St Mildred’s via the royal chapel.

FOR YOUR PRAYERS THIS WEEK:

Give thanks for: progress in vaccine development; examples of good practice in Covid-19 protection measures

Pray for: Christians now being persecuted in China; all travelling; refugees; all getting married

PRAYERS FOR THOSE IN NEED:

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

Give thanks for: the air ambulance; coastguards and lifeboat crews

PRAYERS FOR THE DEPARTED:

Audrey Thorne; Frank Sellman

COLLECT FOR THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

Lord God,

your Son left the riches of heaven

and became poor for our sake:

when we prosper save us from pride,

when we are needy save us from despair,

that we may trust in you alone;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

READINGS

OLD TESTAMENT READING Genesis 32 : 22-31

22That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. 28Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome." 29Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." 31The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 14 : 13-21

13When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food." 16Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." 17"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered. 18"Bring them here to me," he said. 19And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

ADDRESS

Have you got an ology?I believe the idea came up in the 70’s voiced by Maureen Lipman in one of her classic BT adverts. She is phoning her grandson to congratulate him on his exam results, and he has to tell her he has failed everything. Except pottery. (“Well, that’s good, everyone needs plates!”) And, as an afterthought, sociology. Maureen Lipman has no idea what that might be, but she says proudly, “You’ve got an ology and you’re telling me you’ve failed? If you’ve got an ology you can be a scientist!” And it seems that nowadays an amazing number of people have got an ology, which entitles them to make pronouncements on absolutely anything. You notice that especially in a pandemic, and of course it leads to utter chaos. Too many ologies are bad for us.

But there is one ology that actually exists despite its unlikely name – angelology. The study of angels. Of course, it’s a bit speculative. I don’t suppose any of us here have actually ever seen an angel, except in stained glass windows, and that is rarely inspiring. But they crop up all over the place in the Old Testament particularly. Most of them are forces for good, messengers of God who communicate with mortals. But set against that is the curious phenomenon of Genesis 6, where the sons of the gods allegedly are tempted by the beautiful women on earth: are they supposed to be angels? Some people think so, including St Paul, who commands that women should wear hats “because of the angels” to cover their hair. But to think of angels out of context is always a dangerous way to interpret scripture: we have to bear in mind that the Old Testament Bible is a collection of fragments, woven together from many sources and myths – which brings us to today’s story of Jacob wrestling with the angel at the ford of Jabbok.

Now there is plenty of precedent for supernatural appearances near sources of water in primitive folklore – it was a way of warning travellers of the danger of crossing water at night, and the danger was personified as a demon or water sprite. The nearest we get to it nowadays is the tale of the 3 Billy Goats Gruff, with trolls lurking under the bridge. The original Bible text is ambiguous, and it isn’t clear whether the stranger who wrestles with Jacob is God or gods, but the way he is described simply as “a man” adds to the tension of the story – perhaps Jacob thinks it is Esau, coming to murder him – as well he might. But as the fight goes on, something very strange happens. Jacob seems to be getting the upper hand, and the “man” needs to escape by daybreak (shades of primitive myths here, since water sprites had to escape before dawn) – and some sort of bargaining takes place. Despite having his hip put out of joint, Jacob refuses to let the man go until he has blessed him – so perhaps he realises that this is not Esau after all, but a much more dangerous opponent. The blessing takes a strange form – it is the giving of a new name. You shall no longer be called Jacob but Israel. Names are important: the name Jacob means trickster, which of course Jacob is, if you read about his dealings with his father and his brother, not to mention his father-in-law. But he is now to be promoted, as it were: the name Israel is to do with striving and prevailing. And prevailing over God is quite something! It gives Jacob the clue as to who he has been fighting. But the mysterious man refuses to confirm this by giving Jacob his name: he simply blesses him and vanishes.

So – is that an angel? Or is it simply a way of trying to describe God himself?

Whatever we make of it, that encounter marks a turning point in the story of Jacob’s life. The encounter with the mysterious wrestling stranger gives him reassurance as he crosses the river to try and be reconciled with his brother Esau. The message wrung out of his opponent is good: he is blessed and his life will never be the same.

When we are blessed, all too frequently we don’t realise it. We think the good things that happen would have happened anyway and we fail to give God the credit for them. We don’t tend to expect God to send angels to speak to us, either – and maybe he doesn’t need to. He has other ways of communicating with us. He might speak through friends and loved ones, or through total strangers. And while we might say of somebody that they are an absolute angel, we don’t mean it literally. Angels aren’t people: they are a completely different created order. I see no reason to doubt their existence – but I leave their exact role up to God. I doubt whether our artistic representations of them are any more likely to be accurate representations than a five year old’s drawing of Mummy and Daddy. Or indeed than the writings of an ancient scribe editing the text of Genesis. It’s the message that matters, far more than the how and wherefore.

And the same can be said of our Gospel reading today. I have no doubt that Jesus could have miraculously fed 5,000 people with the five loaves and two fish at his disposal: but an alternative way of seeing the miracle is to realise that it consisted in such a huge number of people actually deciding to share their provisions. Why do I come to that conclusion? Because of the small detail that they filled twelve baskets with the leftovers. Where did those baskets come from, if people hadn’t brought them with them? To me, it is a miracle of the conversion of so many people to a new way of using their resources for the good of their neighbour. It’s not the how that matters – it’s the end result. In just the same way, I’m not personally interested in the mechanics of why a light comes on when I press a switch – just that it has an effect on the room. We can get too distracted in worrying about how God functions (which is a scientific question) instead of looking at why God does x and y and z ( which is a theological question). Now we need both science and theology because they can complement each other. All too often we are expected to choose either/or, but actually it is both/and that brings out the best. But if our hearts are right with God, I suspect the ologies will take care of themselves. Amen.

INTERCESSIONS (supplied by Sarah Kite)

Father God, it’s good that many can gather in love and fellowship: let us give thanks and praise that you hear our prayers and petitions.

Creator God may all that encourages the people of the world in goodness, honesty and compassion be blessed and grow, may all that encourages self-seeking and cruelty, prejudice and deceit fall away. May we learn from one another’s cultures and customs and respect one another’s differences.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Loving God, we thank you for the joy of human love and for all those among whom we live and work and worship. We pray particularly for loved ones who worry us with their health or circumstances or life direction. We pray for those among our friends and families who do not know you or whose faith has been shaken.

We take a while of silence to remember those known to us.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Healing Lord, we pray for all who suffer mental or emotional anguish and those who despair. We pray for those facing another day of pain, another day of hunger, another day of fear especially of the ongoing pandemic.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Loving God we continue to pray for those who are suffering with COVID-19, and those who are facing uncertainty about their own health, those who have lost their jobs and find it difficult to feed and look after those they love. We especially pray and give thanks for all key workers and pray that they may continue to have resilience, courage and strength to do the work they do, and for which we are most grateful.

We pray for those who are involved in finding a vaccine that they would have inspiration and fortitude to stick with this important work that they are doing for the wellbeing of us all.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Heavenly Father, we pray for leaders in our own country and worldwide as they seek to lead your people in these difficult days. Please give them compassion, courage and integrity as they make decisions for their people. Praying for our own government and leaders, please help them to be kind, caring and sensitive to the needs of our nation.

We pray for all those who are “ re – opening” in any way, giving thanks that life is gradually returning to our island.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Merciful God we pray for those who grieve for the loss of loved ones. Please comfort them in their sorrow and help them to find peace and reassurance in your love. Today we especially pray for the families and friends of those we know who are recently bereaved and for those whose anniversary falls at this time.

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Gracious God we thank you for this time of prayer and as we look forward to the week to come we pray for an awareness of your love and presence in all we do.

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:

Strengthen for service, Lord,

the hands that have taken holy things;

may the ears which have heard your word

be deaf to clamour and dispute;

may the tongues which have sung your praise be free from deceit;

may the eyes which have seen the tokens of your love

shine with the light of hope;

and may the bodies which have been fed with your body

be refreshed with the fullness of your life;

glory to you for ever. Amen.

To conclude, rest quietly in God’s presence.

NOTICES

THANK YOU

Special thanks to our two retired clergy, Rev Peter and Rev Mike, for looking after the parishes while I have been away and leading the worship last week! Thanks also to our wardens and other volunteers whose labours have also continued to enable church life to continue.

MASKS IN CHURCH

Sadly, from next Sunday it will be compulsory to wear masks in church. We have been given a small supply in case anyone turns up without one. I am very grateful to Tegan’s Nan for making and donating them to us! (Tegan is Elyas’ girlfriend, for those who don’t know!) It is acts of kindness like this that quietly demonstrate the best in human nature.

ST MILDRED’S CAFÉ

The café at St Mildred’s is open from 10.00am – 3.00pm, Mondays to Thursdays. Social distancing is in place, and although it is preferable for folks to eat outdoors, it is perfectly possible to have a table indoors for tea, coffee and cakes. During this initial period the church is 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

The pew sheet is available on the parish website from Sunday afternoon. (You will be able to re-read the sermon and engage critically with it as well as re-read the readings and use the prayers provided!) Those who are unable to receive email will continue to receive a hard copy. Please have a look on your way out and see whether you live near to anyone who needs to have a hard copy delivered. Now that we are open again, I am very grateful for your help in delivering these.

Rev Susan

FINALLY…

I signed up to a church cartoon website! (We all need to laugh sometimes!)