During the next 5-10 minutes we are going to have some quiet me time. A time to relax in peace in the presence of Jesus. Just be aware of your breathing, breathing in and out slowly, and at peace, breathe in and out. As you breathe out let go of any worries you may have. As you breathe in, feel Jesus love coming into your body. For a little while leave problems with Jesus. This is a time for just you and your saviour. Relax, you are in Jesus holy presence, begin to feel his presence upon you. He loves you with a deep love, a love so deep it will never leave you. These last few months have been difficult for everyone. No human contact, cut off from the company of family and friends, couldn't go outside your own house, couldn't go to church. I pray that it won't be very long before we are all able to meet and have worship and fellowship together. But you weren't alone, Jesus was with you all the way. Now as things are slowly opening up, beginning to have more contact with the outside world, things improving slowly each day, we can get very anxious about going into the wide world with busy people. Afraid this virus is taking hold again. But relax for Jesus is with you all the way, he will love and take care of you, keep you safe, just put yourself in his loving arms, love him as he loves you, trust him with all your life, his love conquers all. The peace and presence of Jesus surrounds you all the days of your life. Jesus loves you with a great and wonderful love. Be at peace with yourself and rest with Jesus's peace now and forever. Feel refreshed, feel his new life within you. A love that will never die. Now be aware again of your breathing, in and out feel at peace with yourself and know that the deep love of Jesus rules in your heart. Amen.
THE VICAR PROVIDES FOOD FOR OUR SOULS As we are not able to meet together on Sundays to praise God and hear his Word due to the coronavirus pandemic, I am providing weekly sermons on line as food for our souls. Please read them and meditate upon them. If you know of anyone who would appreciate a paper copy as they are not online, please inform me and I will arrange for it to be delivered to their home. SAINT MATTHEW [SEPTEMBER 21] Readings: Proverbs, 3.13-18; Psalm 119, 65-72; 2 Corinthians, 4.1-6; Matthew 9.9-13. CollectO Almighty God, whose blessed Son called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist: give us grace to forsake the selfish pursuit of gain and the possessive love of riches that we may follow in the way of your Son Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. SERMON MEDITATION MATTHEW 9. 9-13. As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners’. Who was Matthew? Matthew was one of Jesus's disciples. In Mark and Luke’s gospel he is named Levi, the son of Alphaeus. Before becoming a disciple this Galilean was a hated tax collector. Tax collectors were Jews employed by the Roman occupiers of Palestine to raise taxes from their fellow citizens. They were extremely unpopular because they turned their backs on their fellow Jews to get rich. Furthermore, they were not nice people and were invariably corrupt: extracting too much money from people to feather their own nests. Amazingly, as Jesus passes his tax booth in Capernaum, he spots this unscrupulous rogue and calls him to follow him. Immediately, Matthew leaves his work and without hesitation follows him. Lessons for life 1. Matthew was called by grace to follow Jesus Matthew was a man with a bad reputation and was completely unworthy to be called by Jesus and had nothing to commend himself to him. Yet, despite this, Jesus made the first move and called him to be with him. Why? Simply because he needed him to be with him and to help him with his work. He was more interested in what Matthew could become, once he allowed Jesus to mould him in his image, rather than what he was. The incident reminds us that Jesus makes the first move in calling us to follow him. It’s part of the divine initiative: we are called by grace. Jesus isn’t looking for extraordinary people with great talents and abilities, but ordinary men and women who are willing to serve him. Jesus can take what ordinary men and women have to offer, and then having moulded them in his image, he is able to do extraordinary things with those meagre talents. Take time to reflect on the privilege you have been given having been called by God’s grace to be a follower of Jesus. Thank god for that call.
2. Matthew turned his back on materialism and turned to Christ Before he was called to be a disciple he had probably heard about Jesus already. It seems that he was so eager to respond to the call of Jesus because he was discontented with his way of life. Although he had lots of money and material things he still was not happy or contented. He felt empty inside. When Jesus spotted him he readily turned his back on materialism and turned to Christ because Jesus could give him something that money could not buy: fulfilment, satisfaction, security and joy. Jesus filled the gap in this man's life. I know that it's nice to have fine things and a bit of money behind you, but at the end of the day these things cannot bring you lasting joys and deep satisfaction in life, especially when sickness and bereavement arise. Only a deep personal relationship with Jesus can fulfil the longings of the soul and meet our deepest need in the face of all of life's circumstances. Wise indeed is the man or woman who like, Matthew, turns their backs on materialism and turns their face to Jesus. 3. Matthew invited his friends to meet Jesus The first thing Matthew did after being called by Jesus was to invite him and his disciples to dinner to meet his friends. From the word go he put evangelism at the top of the list of his priorities. He wanted his friends to have the same fulfilment that he had discovered. Jesus's other disciples did the same. When Andrew first became a disciple he brought his brother Peter to meet Jesus. Philip found Nathanael and brought him to Jesus. When was the last time you brought someone to Jesus? Sadly, most churchgoers don't, and that is one reason why our churches are so empty. Holding Christian dinner parties for non Christians like Matthew did are a highly successful means of evangelism in many middle class parishes with many professionals, but would go down like a lead balloon in working class areas. Instead, we have to find other means to invite friends and relations to meet Jesus and join his church. When things get back to normal maybe we could invite them to hear a speaker at a fish and chip evening, or an afternoon tea or a pub service. Maybe you too have got realistic ideas too. Think and pray about it. 4. Matthew used his skills in the service of the church Finally, Matthew used his skills in the service of the church. He was one of the few disciples who were literate, and so he took his pen to write a gospel giving us an account of the life and ministry of Jesus. Through his work, countless generations of Christians have had an opportunity to meet the same Jesus who called him to be a disciple. We have all got different skills. Some are good with their brains and others are good with their hands. Jesus wants us to put these God given skills and talents at the disposal of the church so that they can be used by Christ as a source of blessing to others. What happened to Matthew? Having responded to Jesus’s call he was one of the few privileged people who experienced Jesus’s resurrection. After Pentecost we are told by Church fathers such as Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria that Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries such as Ethiopia and Persia. INTERCESSIONS Lord you called Matthew to leave his tax booth and become a follower of your Son, Jesus. Thank you for calling me also to be a disciple of Jesus. Make me worthy of my calling by being faithful and loyal to him. Loving Father, hear my prayer. Eternal God, when Matthew became a follower of Jesus he turned his back on money and materialism to concentrate on the deeper things in life. Look in your mercy on all those in our society whose lives are dominated by money and material things. Open their eyes to the folly of their ways, and help them to see that true happiness is to be found in having a relationship with you. Loving Father, hear my prayer. Almighty Father, Matthew used his talents in your service and dedicated his life in making Jesus known to others. We pray that you will inspire me too to put all my gifts and talents at your disposal. Help me also to follow Matthew’s example through showing Jesus to others and making him known in the world. Loving Father, hear my prayer. Lord, Matthew met with opposition for being a disciple of Jesus. Look in your mercy on all who suffer in our world because they are followers of Jesus. Uphold them in their trials and tribulations. Look in your mercy upon all who suffer through sickness, cruelty, violence and folly. Grant them relief in the way that you know best. Loving Father, hear my prayer. Merciful Father, you called Matthew to glory at the end of his life, and he now lives with the saints in heaven. Grant me and all your faithful people a place in your kingdom with him, and bestow upon us all eternal peace at the end of our pilgrimage. Loving Father, hear my prayers as I offer them up to you, in the name of our Saviour and Advocate, Jesus Christ. Amen.
FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY Readings: Genesis 50. 15-21; Psalm 103; Romans 14. 1-12;Matthew 18. 21-35. SERMON MEDITATION: PROVIDENCE (RHAGLUNIAETH) GENESIS 50, VERSE 15-21 15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Misfortune comes our way Sometimes when misfortunes and disappointments come our way, we feel that we are in the grip of dark forces beyond our control. We feel that we are victims of blind fate. Our misfortune is so unfair and pointless. Maybe we begin to doubt. Where is God? Why has he allowed this to happen to me? What sort of God would allow so much meaningless suffering to happen in the world he has made? Does everything happen by chance? Does everything happen by chance? Are we victims of blind fate, or is there a hidden purpose for what happens to us? The Christian’s answer is that, although we will never fully understand the reason for all that happens in the world, God is still in control of world affairs. He is actively involved in the world he has made, working out his purposes that may be hidden from our eyes. Indeed, in every age God is able to overrule other people’s evil intentions, and use the sufferings and misfortunes of individuals, to foster his eternal purposes and to promote some greater future good. As Saint Paul states: “We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose”(Rom. 8.28). An illustration from the Joseph epic The Joseph saga illustrates this great truth. A series of misfortunes beset Joseph, beginning with his brothers beating him up and selling him as a slave to the Ishmaelites. What good could out of such evil intentions? Surely, here was a classical instance of a falling victim to life’s cruel purposeless misfortunes. Or was it? Other nasty things happen to Joseph later, including him ending up in an Egyptian goal because the lecherous wife of his master, Potiphar, tells lies about him. More back luck! Or was it? There this interpreter of dreams comes to Pharaoh’s attention, he’s released from prison and becomes his chief minister. If we proceed to the end of the story, with Joseph overseeing the distribution of food during time of famine, with the advantage of hindsight as we look back at the chain of apparently meaningless events beginning with his brothers’ cruelty to him, we can discern the hand of God at work using Joseph’s suffering to further his saving purposes. As Joseph himself remarked: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive.” God overrules to fulfil his purposes From the story of Joseph we can see that God is always working behind the scenes, controlling and allowing but not forcing the pace of events, permitting rather than directing things to happen, and at the same time achieving his purposes through people’s evil actions arising from their free will. He can use any happening or human situation to bring about ultimate good. Sometimes in our own experience as we look back on our lives we may see that some of our greatest disasters turned out to be our greatest blessing. Events we once thought had no purpose to them, events that were perhaps calamitous in their immediate consequences, can in fact be blessings in disguise. More illustrations i. St. Paul Think of the example of Saint Paul. Time and again God used his various imprisonments as golden opportunities to advance the gospel. ii. The Cross The prime example of God’s amazing ability to bring good out of evil is the cross. God uses the wicked actions of evil men to bring about greater good, for through the suffering of Jesus on the cross comes salvation to repentant sinners. iii. William Cowper (or Cooper) William Cowper, born in the eighteenth century, was a close friend of John Newton and a great poet and hymn writer. Despite his many uplifting hymns, Cowper suffered from severe depression all his life, spending eighteen months in an insane asylum and trying on several occasions to take his own life. However, on each occasion it seemed that God intervened and overruled Cowper’s attempts. On one occasion he planned to jump in the River Ouse, only to have his attention diverted by meeting a man seated at the exact place where he intended to commit suicide. Returning home, he threw himself on his knife, but the blade broke. His next attempt was to hang himself, but the rope snapped. After his recovery from this dreadful experience, he was so impressed by the realization of God’s overruling providence that he was led to write the hymn, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform: He plants His footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm.
Trwy ddirgel ffyrdd mae’r uchel Iôr Yn dwyn ei waith i ben; Ei lwybrau ef sydd yn y môr, Marchoga wynt y nen. Conclusion Nothing happens by chance. God is in control of his world working his purposes out. One day that last few pieces of the jigsaw of our own lives will fit together, and we will be given a clear picture of why everything that happened to us was for reason. I finish with some favourite words of mine from Saint Paul: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known”(1Corinthians 13.12).
SHORT INTERCESSION Loving gracious Father, I thank you and praise you for your kindness to me. I thank you for your grace that upholds me as I travel through life. I thank you for your material gifts and your spiritual blessings. I thank you for giving me Jesus, my changeless friend and companion on my journey through life. I ask you to enable me always to have a grateful heart and never take your blessings for grant. Father God, in your mercy hear me. Father God, the giver of life, so many of people in your world and in your church are spiritually asleep at the present time. You want us to waken up. Send your Holy Spirit upon all your children to awaken us. When that happens we will become spiritually alert, you will be able to use us fully in your service, and we will be ready to meet Jesus at the end of life. Father God, in your mercy hear me. Lord of the world and the church, I pray for St. Catherine’s during this difficult period. I pray that though our doors are closed you will continue to use our fellowship to do your work and be a beacon of light in this part of your vineyard. Bind us all closer together and closer to you. Father God, in your mercy hear me. Living Lord, you depend on us to do your work in the world. Use me in your service. Take my hands and work through them.. Take my words and speak through them. Take my ears and hear through them. Take my heart and set it on fire with love for you and your children in our world. Father God, in your mercy hear me. Loving Father, I pray that you will protect all children and teachers from sickness and danger having returned back to school. May your healing hand be upon all who ill, especially victims of coronavirus. Teach us all to be vigilant at this perilous time. Father God, in your mercy hear me. Merciful Father, hear my personal prayers which I bring before you.... Father God, in your mercy hear me. Eternal God, I pray that I may always be spiritual alert, and be ready to meet you when you call me to leave this mortal body and enter into your everlasting abode. Father God, in your mercy hear me and enfold me in your love. Amen.