United Benefice of
St Mildred’s, Whippingham
St James’, East Cowes
21st February 2021 : First Sunday in Lent
CURRENT WORSHIP ARRANGEMENTS
We are back! For those who feel confident to attend, our services have now resumed, since this was the majority verdict of both PCCs. However, please do not feel pressurised into attending if you do not feel safe to do so: the PCC decisions were not unanimous. Even if you have had the vaccine, be aware that others have yet to do so, and that those who have been inoculated can still be carriers of infection. Contrary to all our longstanding habits, this is not a social occasion, and you are strongly discouraged from lingering afterwards, either indoors or outdoors, to chat.
Meanwhile the diocesan website www.portsmouth.anglican.org still has a direct link to parishes that are streaming live worship, while for those unable to access such resources this pewsheet continues to contain material for offering a “spiritual communion” at home. You must do whatever feels right and safe for you – though of course we very much look forward to seeing some of you in church. Wrap up warm!
Previous services at Whippingham are now being shown on YouTube via the following link:
Today’s service will appear on YouTube later this week.
FOR YOUR PRAYERS THIS WEEK:
Give thanks for: our local communities; the church family; supportive friends
Pray for: the lonely; those in prison; all living in poverty; all suffering extreme weather, especially in Texas
PRAYERS FOR THOSE IN NEED:
Please pray for: HRH Prince Philip; Irene and Henry; Richard Gray; Bob Hitchens; Dave; Reg and Eileen King; Beryl; Maureen & Gordon; Joy and Dave; Oliver; Rita; Catherine Rushworth and her anxious family; Stuart; Paul and family; families of those in mourning
Give thanks for: improvement in Catherine Rushworth’s health
If you wish particular names to be added to the prayer list, please inform Rev Susan. All names will be reviewed on a monthly basis. Please keep Rev Susan updated if you would like a name to stay on the list beyond the current month.
PRAYERS FOR THE DEPARTED:
Dorothy Russell ~ Funeral: 9.45am, 22nd February at the crematorium
Ena Young ~ Funeral: 1.00pm, 22nd February at Newchurch
Brenda Palethorpe ~ Funeral: 12.45pm, 2nd March at the crematorium
Please pray for these and their families on the relevant day if possible.
COLLECT FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
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.
OLD TESTAMENT READING Genesis 9 : 8-17
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ 12God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ 17God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’
GOSPEL Mark 1 : 9-15
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
Spot the difference! Our front page image contains a quotation from the story of Noah’s flood that also forms part of our Old Testament reading today. There is one rather important difference – or so it seems to me.
Now that you have had a look, it is clear that there is a major difference between “it will be something special to see” and “it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth”. The reason is probably quite simple – Google images (where I found the picture) is not interested in words such as covenant and prefers to focus on the visual aspect of the rainbow. But while without question rainbows are spectacular, there is something far deeper in the idea of a covenant between God and every living creature. A rainbow is simply a pleasing diffraction of light caused entirely naturally: a covenant is a lasting mutual commitment. And if you think about the fact that rainbows curve down, not up, you can also appreciate that a bow used as a weapon points towards the person being targeted rather than towards the person doing the attacking. The implication is that God makes himself vulnerable to all that his creation can launch at him.
And what do we launch at God? More often than not, it is our sinfulness, which we launch at God on a daily basis. The things we do that we class as sin wound God as surely as if we crucified him all over again. That’s a sobering thought. Yet alongside that, the prayers that we offer God are also often like arrows that we deliberately (or more often desperately) fire at God, especially in times of stress and pain. Now arrow prayers (as they are known) are perfectly valid, and certainly better than no prayer at all, but they cannot and must not be the sole offering we make. A spiritual life composed entirely of arrow prayers makes for a very fragile relationship, just as in human relationships a conversation composed entirely of urgent demands for help will not grow into anything of permanence. We need both if we are to honour our own side of this covenant God is promising through the rainbow image.
So what do we mean by a covenant? First of all, we ought to acknowledge that a covenant is something instituted by God rather than by humans. Humans make promises (which are often broken) whereas God offers covenants. And there seem to be two kinds. First of all, there is the old covenant, such as in the Noah story, where God’s blessing is bestowed as a result of human obedience and with the expectation that that obedience will continue. But then there is the new covenant, otherwise known as the covenant of grace, which hinges on our believing in Christ as our Saviour and results in our redemption. (“This is my blood of the new covenant…” should be understood in this context). A covenant of the old type required animal sacrifice, the shedding of blood: the new covenant is sealed by the shedding of Christ’s blood. Would the first disciples have understood that? Probably not! Only after the death and resurrection of Jesus would those words begin to make sense to them, as they wrestled to understand ad come to terms with a story that was far greater than they had ever imagined.
That story is, of course, our story, and Lent is a time when we might very well find ourselves looking again at our faith, at how far we are true to our calling as disciples and whether we live up to the commitment to believe in Christ and live our lives as he demonstrated and taught that we should. These are our forty days of wilderness, and at the end we shall celebrate the overcoming of death and the resurrection of our Lord. In a pandemic, it is a particular challenge to us. But it is not a challenge that we face unprepared. Ad it is worth noticing that Jesus too faced his wilderness as an experience for which he was prepared, in the full knowledge that he was loved by God: You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
As we face our Lenten challenges, it would be good if every day we reminded ourselves of those words and spent a few moments calling to mind those signs that we are indeed loved by God. It might be helpful to review each day at its close, looking for those blessings that we didn’t notice at the time, those little rainbows of hope and encouragement that brightened the day. That just might give us the strength then to go back through our day looking again at those times when we were tempted in one way or another, and either giving thanks for resilience or seeking penitently God’s forgiveness. And we could do worse than to close with words from today’s Collect:
Almighty God, give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
INTERCESSIONS(Supplied by Jane Brand)
Almighty God bless your Churches all over the world, especially those facing persecution, poverty and war, as well as the coronavirus.
Bless Justin our Archbishop, Christopher our Bishop, Peter our archdeacon, Susan, Mike and Peter, here in East Cowes.
You show us as you did Noah, the rainbow and all the beauties and life of the natural world, to remind us of You and your Love for us.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer
Creator God give grace to our Queen and all the royal family, the Government and all those in authority. Care for all those making decisions that effect so many people, that they may be guided by wisdom, kindness and courage.
We give thanks for all scientists, medical staff, carers and essential workers. May we show our gratitude to You and to them.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer
Lord of all healing, bless all those who are ill, Prince Philip, all suffering with Covid 19 and others whose diagnosis or treatment has been delayed. Give Grace to their loved ones, families, friends and all those who mourn. Help all to take full advantage of treatments and preventative measures.
Give strength and patience to young people who are missing school, learning and fun at Colleges and Universities and those whose career plans have been drastically changed.
Grant those who no longer have work and whose livelihoods are shattered, courage and resilience to face an uncertain future.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer
Lord of Love help us all to use this peculiar Lent, here in the U.K., to take time to note what is really important in our lives, love, family, friends, work, enjoyment and fun. Help us to live our future lives nearer to the image of Your Son Jesus Christ.
Accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ,
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:
you renew us with the living bread from heaven;
by it you nourish our faith,
increase our hope,
and strengthen our love:
teach us always to hunger for him who is the true and living bread,
and enable us to live by every word
that proceeds from out of your mouth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
To conclude, either listen to the music links below or simply rest quietly in God’s presence
ST MILDRED’S CAFÉ
The Café is currently open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11.00am – 2.00pm for takeaways only. While we are grateful to those who volunteer, it must be stressed that we will ONLY open if people feel it is safe to offer this service and that any volunteer should feel free at any point to withdraw if they need to do so. Our continued thanks to the team for their dedication at this very difficult time.
CHOOSE A LENT COURSE!
Option 1: Live Lent (The diocesan Lent course for this year)
If you choose this option and would like to read the full book, I am happy to order you a copy. (SPCK, £9.99) However, you can get the general flavour from the extracts shown here
Session 1: The Greatest Story of All Time
And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14
In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:14
And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. Mark 16:15
This session explores the story of Jesus and how evangelism is rooted in the resurrection. It aims to encourage you to think about how the first disciples heard and told Jesus’s story and what that means for evangelism today.
This session is based around Chapter 1 of Hannah Steele’s book Living His Story. A featured passage is below, but you are encouraged to read the whole chapter as the questions often reference the book.
Featured Passage, from Chapter 1 of Living His Story
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a story. It is a story about God that can be told and recited, studied and analysed, debated and discussed. Robert McKee is a lecturer in storytelling who has coached many Hollywood screenwriters and he says this is about our sense of connection with the idea of stories: ‘Our appetite for story is a reflection of the profound human need to grasp the pattern of living, not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.’ We show this hunger through the stories that we tell of our lives, often using a narrative to describe how our day has been.
When we meet someone for the first time, we tend to get to know them through recounting experiences we have had rather than presenting a list of facts. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a story, but it is quite unlike any other story we will ever encounter. In fact it is not something that we simply hear and understand but a reality in which we live and find our sense of belonging. His story is the living story that makes sense of all the other stories in our lives.
On the first Easter Sunday morning the women set off for the tomb, taking with them spices that they had prepared for Jesus’ dead body. They thought that Jesus’ story had come to an end. Peering into the tomb these women began to grasp that something in the fundamental structure of the world had changed. Though they did not fully realise this at that moment, they had seen into a world where death was no longer the final frontier, where sin did not get the last word. They glimpsed a new world where resurrection is possible and where death is defeated.
To the other disciples this announcement initially sounded unbelievable, so much so that they had to check it out for themselves. What these disciples discovered that first Easter morning was that the Jesus story was far from over; in fact, it was only just beginning. The gospel is the good news of the risen Jesus. It is the narrative which stands at the centre of human history and upon which the Christian faith is built.
The good news of the risen Jesus is the story we are called to pass on to others. We must be reminded once again of why the good news is really good news for those around us. We need to learn not only to say what Jesus did but to communicate in the way that Jesus did. As witnesses, one of our roles is to connect this story with the stories of those that we meet. Our job is not to change the story to try and make it fit better with contemporary values. Our role is to help people to see its relevance and significance to them.
We do this in a number of ways, through speaking of our own story and talking of the difference that Jesus makes here and now.
We do it through connecting the gospel with the stories that shape our cultural landscape, which so often point to the gospel but which we can often fail to see.
We do it through listening to others and finding points of connection.
We do it through prayer and through living out the story in our character and actions.
• Evangelism has come to be a word with a lot of specific connotations and is often misrepresented – rather than trying to convert people to our way of thinking, evangelism should be about inviting people to take part in God’s story. We need to learn not just to say what Jesus did, but to communicate in the way Jesus did.
• The term evangelist only appears three times in the Bible. The word that is used much more often is ‘witness’, and the first disciples were all called to be Jesus’ witnesses. There are people with a natural gift for evangelising and preaching in public, but as disciples we are all called to be witnesses to the power of Jesus in our own lives.
• Most people start attending church because of personal invitation from friends and family. Evangelism should be invitational by nature, but sometimes we place too much focus on an invitation to church when it should be an invitation to Jesus – even if it’s just an invitation to start asking questions.
• As witnesses, our job is to connect the story of the gospel with the stories of those around us, and to show them that it is relevant and significant to them. We need to be imaginative with our evangelism to find new ways of making that connection.
Questions to ponder:
1. How did you first come to hear Jesus’ story? How did his story help you to make sense of your own?
2. What are the fears or concerns that hold you back from evangelism?
3. We’ve heard that personal invitation is still the most effective form of evangelism – who first invited you to the church and into the story of God? How did they do it? What can you learn from the people that helped you on your journey of faith?
4. How can you connect the story of the gospel to people in your local community?
Option 2: Lent at Home (A less word-based course suitable especially for use at home. The clue is in the title!)
LENT AT HOME (2021) Lent is a season when many people make a special focus on enhancing their ever-growing and loving relationship with God. Christ’s life, ministry, and death are remembered during this season. Also, it can be a time to think about our own journey of faith – the good bits and the bad – as we prepare ourselves for Holy Week and Easter. In this course are depictions of some objects, readings, actions and prayers to help you in that preparation. Perhaps you might be able to gather together an actual collection of the objects referred to.
How to use this course
Beginning on the first Sunday of Lent (TODAY!) there is an object, Bible reading and reflection for each week of Lent. The Bible readings are taken from the Sunday readings used in church during the season of Lent. At some point during the week, spend a little time with the object, readings, actions and prayers. You might like to use it as a prompt for conversation with others in your household or you might want to leave the object somewhere you will see it as a reminder to continue thinking about these things throughout the week. May you have a blessed Lent and remember that God loves you.
Week 1: Dove
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:9-15
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.
Action: Take the dove in your hand and think about the baptism of Jesus. Reflect on the baptism vows that were said for you or you said for yourself. Or think about the gift of baptism and if you would like to receive that gift from God.
Father God, we thank you that you are our heavenly Father.
We thank you for the gift of baptism
and the new relationship with you
offered through your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
EVENING WORSHIP ON ZOOM
If you would like to take part in a weekly Zoom service of Celtic Evening Prayer please tell Rev Susan and I will send out an online invitation. You do not have to own a computer to do this: Zoom can be downloaded onto an i-phone or an iPad very easily, after which it is just a question of responding to the link that will be sent to you by email. See below for the service format….We will (if people wish to do this) be starting on Wednesday 24th at 8.00pm.
The service below can be used alone, with no Zoom participation, if preferred.
A Celtic Service
of Evening Prayer
Minister: The evening mist rises from the ground to refresh our souls. The birds cease their songs. And in the darkening shadows of night, we come together in prayer.
Minister: Let us worship the Lord.
All: All praise to his name.
Minister: For the joys and blessings of this day, let us worship the Lord.
All: All praise to his name.
Minister: For our Lord Jesus Christ who brought light to the world, let us worship the Lord.
All: May we walk in his name.
Minister: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
All: The darkness in our lives brings us grief, and our sins are heavy to bear.
Minister: Hear what our Lord says:
“Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
When Christ came on earth he lived as a man who knew both hardship and despair. He knows our need. Let us come to him now and lay our burdens at his feet, and confess those sins of which we are ashamed.
All: Eternal King and Father of all, in our pride and our weakness we have failed you and we are truly sorry. We are ashamed that through our own fault we have brought darkness and misery into the world. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour, who died for us, forgive us our sins. Illumine the dark corners of our lives with your spirit of light, and kindle once more the flame of your love in our hearts. Amen.
Minister: Eternal God, you have lowered the canopy of night and its gentle shadows cover us with your peace. May the dews of heaven heal our wounds and wash the tears from our eyes. And may the burning light of Christ banish for ever the darkness from our souls, that we may be at peace. Amen.
Minister: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
A candle may be lit
All: Eternal light shine in our hearts;
Eternal goodness deliver us from evil;
Eternal power be our support;
Eternal wisdom scatter the darkness of our ignorance.
Eternal pity have mercy on us,
That with all our heart and mind
And soul and strength we may seek your face
And be brought by your infinite mercy
to your holy presence. Amen.
At the end of the reading:
Reader: This is the word of the Lord:
All: Thanks be to God.
There follows a time of quiet reflection while music is played.
Minister: Lord, have mercy upon us.
All: Christ, have mercy upon us.
Minister: Lord, have mercy upon us.
Let us pray:
Music is played
Minister: I give thanks…..
I ask for guidance….
I pray for those I love….
I pray for those I have met today….
I pray for those who are suffering….
All: Our Father…..
All: Kindle in our hearts, O God, the flame of love that never ceases, that it may burn in us, giving light to others. May we shine for ever in your temple, set on fire with your eternal light, even your Son Jesus Christ, our Saviour and our Redeemer. Amen.
Minister: Deep peace of the running wave to you;
Deep peace of the flowing air to you;
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you;
Deep peace of the shining stars to you;
Deep peace of the Son of peace to you.
God’s blessing be yours,
And well may it befall you.