Fifth Sunday after Trinity

O Christ the Same

The Judean wilderness after the rains

The Eucharist on Youtube

The Eucharist

The Gathering
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Greeting
The Lord be with you                                     
and also with you.
Prayer of Preparation
Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of Penitence
God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son Jesus Christ
to save us from our sins,
to be our advocate in heaven,
and to bring us to eternal life.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith,
firmly resolved to keep God’s commandments
and to live in love and peace with all.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour
in thought and word and deed,
through negligence, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.

We are truly sorry
and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for us,
forgive us all that is past
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name.  Amen.

The Absolution
Almighty God,
who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon you,
pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,
and keep you in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
The Gloria (Taize Gloria)
Gloria, gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, gloria, alleluia, alleluia! (X 3)
The Collect
Old Testament Reading
For the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Gospel Reading
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
Glory to you, O Lord.
The Gospel Reading concludes with:
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living

and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son

is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession
The Peace
Offertory Prayer
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation:
through your goodness we have this bread to offer,
which earth has given and human hands have made.
It will become for us the bread of life.
Blessed be God for ever.
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation:
through your goodness we have this wine to offer,
fruit of the vine and work of human hands.
It will become for us the cup of salvation.
Blessed be God for ever.
The Eucharistic Prayer (Prayer E)
The Lord be with you        
and also with you.    
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.
Father, you made the world and love your creation.
You gave your Son Jesus Christ to be our Saviour.
His dying and rising have set us free from sin and death.
And so we gladly thank you,
with saints and angels praising you, and singing:
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

We praise and bless you, loving Father,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord;
and as we obey his command,
send your Holy Spirit,
that broken bread and wine outpoured
may be for us the body and blood of your dear Son.
On the night before he died he had supper with his friends
and, taking bread, he praised you.
He broke the bread, gave it to them and said:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of me.
When supper was ended he took the cup of wine.
Again he praised you, gave it to them and said:
Drink this, all of you;
this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.
So, Father, we remember all that Jesus did,
in him we plead with confidence his sacrifice
made once for all upon the cross.
Bringing before you the bread of life and cup of salvation,
we proclaim his death and resurrection
until he comes in glory.
Great is the mystery of faith:
Christ has died:                   
Christ is risen:                        
Christ will come again.
Lord of all life,
help us to work together for that day
when your kingdom comes
and justice and mercy will be seen in all the earth.
Look with favour on your people,
gather us in your loving arms
and bring us with the Blessed Virgin Mary,
St. John the Baptist, and all the saints
to feast at your table in heaven.
Through Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all honour and glory are yours, O loving Father,
for ever and ever.  Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.  Amen.

The Agnus Dei
Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world,
have mercy on us.

Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world,
have mercy on us.

Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world,
grant us peace.

Behold the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world.
Happy are those who are called to his supper.
Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,
but only say the word, and I shall be healed.
Prayer after Communion
The Blessing
The peace of God,
which passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God,
and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.  Amen.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ.  Amen.

My God Accept My Heart This Day


The Intercessions by Harvey Howlett
 Mercy and truth are met together; 
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Let us pray to God our creator,
who calls us to look for the earth’s goodness,
and entrusts all creation to our care and tenderness.

For all who live in captivity to debt,
whose lives are cramped by fear
from which there is no turning
except through abundant harvest;
Lord, we pray: 
                        may those who sow in tears
                        reap with shouts of joy.

For all who depend on the earth for their daily food and fuel,
whose forests are destroyed for the profit of a few;
who live with the effects of war and violence
Lord, we pray:
                        may those who sow in tears
                        reap with shouts of joy.

For those who labour in poverty,
are oppressed by unjust laws,
are prevented from speaking the truth,
and long for a harvest of justice;
Lord, we pray:
                        may those who sow in tears
                        reap with shouts of joy.

For all who are captive to greed and waste and boredom,
whose harvest joy is choked
with things they do not need;
Lord, we pray:
                        may those who sow in tears
                        reap with shouts of joy.

For all who are struggling in this current pandemic
who are living in fear and fighting the impact of the virus
for all who are ill and for all who have sought our prayers
Especially: Joanna, Andrea Linsell, Harriet, Van, Pat and Chris Hembrow, Dorinthe, Philip Chester, Nigel Ford.

Lord, we pray:
                        may those who sow in tears
                        reap with shouts of joy.

For those who have died 
and those whose memory of death we hold near:
Especially, Nicholas Gooude, Phyllis Kennedy, for those whose Year’s Mind occurs this week: Winifred Brewer, Albert Rowe, Jo Child, Tom Lovett, Alan Clifford, Herbert Gagen, Vera Burgess, Audrey Sargent, Elsie Bond.

Save them and us from all that holds us captive,
hat our mouths may be filled with laughter
and our tongue with songs of joy
Lord, we pray:
                        may those who sow in tears
                        reap with shouts of joy.

Mercy and truth are met together; 
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.  Amen


The Sermon

No doubt many of you have been spending a lot of time in the garden during lockdown.  Some of us have even turned to growing a few vegetables to try something different and see what we can do.  I know that will come as a surprise to many of you, the idea of a vegetable garden at the Vicarage, but I can assure you it wasn’t my idea.  After a few weeks in the spring admiring the strawberry plants and tomato plants coming on, I ordered a small packet of Maris Piper seed potatoes to show willing.  My grandmother used to always keep a potato patch so I thought it would be an easy win, not to mention eating all those lovely, fluffy roasted potatoes over the autumn and winter to come.  Ten seed potatoes arrived a few days later and I set to preparing the ground, adding loads of the compost at hand.  Digging over took some time, but all was ready as I carefully measured out the depth and distance for each seed, then watered.  It took several days before I saw a reward for my efforts, so much so I began to worry they might have been duds; and then they all appeared one after the other.  Like any gardening, they require work most everyday but I am still looking forward to my reward.  The most important thing is that the soil was good to start with, the compost added to that, and I followed the directions to the letter.
The passage from Isaiah underlines that it is God who provides the rain, the growth, our food to eat.  We rely on his goodness to survive.  That would have been much better appreciated and understood in a society where life and death were separated only by seasonal rains and a decent harvest.  Drought meant hunger and death, something we are cushioned against in the West by technology and our wealth in a society that can import whatever it desires from any corner of the globe.  If you don’t believe me, just read the packets in the produce aisles at the supermarket to see how far that veg has travelled to get to you.  It’s quite the eye-opener.
Back to God.  In the parable of the sower, the crowd in front of Jesus would have identified the sower with God.  They would have been mystified at his recklessness, slinging seed willy-nilly without regard to the landscape.  Wheat seeds would have been cast across a field for planting, either before ploughing or just after to be quickly covered to avoid being washed away or devoured by hungry birds.  But no one would have wasted valuable seed by throwing it on a path, or amongst weeds, or over stony ground.  These would have been avoided or prepared for planting just like the field itself.  In short, God is a lousy gardener!  Rather than watch Gardeners’ World and taking Monty’s advice like the rest of us, God throws the valuable seed to the four winds and takes his chances.  Recklessly extravagant and wasteful!
Those who heard it first time round would have sat there thinking where they “fell” in the landscape.  The Disciples were slow to catch on, but proper subsistence farmers would have understood quite quickly the foolish nature of the sower and made the connection to God’s overwhelming generosity and his willingness to take a chance on everyone.  God didn’t rate just the Pharisees or the authorities in Jerusalem, he made a direct offer to each person individually.  That offer of salvation was take it or leave it, but the offer still stood.  The decision was theirs, just as it is ours today.  The uncomfortable truth is, just as Jesus well knew, most people said “No thanks” and walked away empty-handed.  They had the chance and decided it wasn’t their cup of tea.  I don’t doubt that if Jesus had promised everyone wealth and prosperity, and delivered it, there would have been a stampede, as we sadly see offered again and again by those who preach a “prosperity” gospel, one that fails to enrich anyone but the minister touting it.  But God, as we know, isn’t out to satisfy our greed.  The stakes are far higher than that!
As Jesus unpacked the parable for his dim-witted friends, he showed great insight and understanding of human psychology and what motivates us.  The spiritual dilettante who pursues the latest fad until something better comes along, the ardent devotee who keeps looking over their shoulder to see what the FTSE 100 is doing, and those who simply can’t be bothered; stand in contrast to those who accept Jesus at his word and follow him, even though they/we may not fully understand, we are nonetheless on the journey of faith trusting in God’s goodness.  Down through the ages, this parable has been used to make sense of the different responses to the Gospel.  It has comforted many an evangelist as they have seen a mixed response to their efforts, some experiencing abject failure.  Others have used it as a sieve to categorise individual responses to God’s love.  Many are written off as loses, others welcomed and celebrated.
This simple insight into human nature became very dangerous in the hands of Reformed theologians at the Reformation when the idea of predestination took root, the assertion that God specifically created a few lucky individuals for salvation, while creating the rest destined for the fires of Hell.  Brutal and unloving however you look at it.  I may be oversimplifying what is essentially a 16th century response to a theological problem, but it seems to me a total denial of the grace of God, something illustrated in the sower’s lavishness.  This emphasis on grace is part of our Catholic inheritance, that and the Reformed predestination are both evident in the Church of England even now, pulling in tension against the other, subtly for the most part but still destructive. 

When we read the parable of the sower we will personally evaluate where we are or hope to be in that division of responses, but we could look at it from the perspective of the Church itself.  The parable explains away why we often get so little traction in the community when we make the same offer as Jesus did.  We get the same range of responses: enthusiasm, indifference, hostility, abundant life.  As God is the sower and so incredibly generous, we may just leave it all to God and carry on quietly in our little corner.  We know he will sort it all out, so let’s enjoy ourselves in the meantime.  But will he?  Is it all down to him?  Do we not have a crucial part to play in this story of salvation?  Does what we do or don’t do make a difference?  If not then why did Jesus commission his followers to share his message?  Jesus failed to convince all of his “audience” to believe and trust in him, and so will we.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our work cut out for us, nor does it take into account the role of God’s grace at work through us.  That grace often comes through in what we do and say.  Someone only needs to hear it or see it for it to make a difference.  We can make that connection possible.
We have learnt over these last few months that the Church is far more than just a building.  While it has been empty, we have still been sharing that message of love and hope that Jesus entrusted to his Church.  As we work our way towards reopening and discovering the new “normal” as Church, we will need to take into account how we live out our faith and what role we play in the recovery of our community, in this changed landscape.  God’s endless generosity is our model, his the love, all we have to do is share it and keep sharing it.  It’s that simple and we will continue doing just that.  As Alan Bennett famously wrote, "Keep on keeping on" and that is what we will do.  God will keep planting, we will keep caring and tending, the growth is his and ours.  And, as a lovely bonus, come September there will be lovely Maris Piper roast potatoes for Sunday lunch at the Vicarage.  We'll pass on the runner beans and the marrow, thank you!  Now if only I could find some chocolate beans....


The Sower stained glass window at St Johns


Sent Forth by God's Blessing