First Sunday after Trinity

                                                   

And Miriam sang and the women danced: "Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea."  Likely to be one of the oldest Biblical texts, a celebration of freedom moments after the Hebrews crossed to dry land and Pharaoh's army was swept away by the sea.

Taize Gloria
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-Lvh-B3W9Y

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.

The Intercessions by Andy Down

In the Power of the Spirit and in Union with Christ let us pray to the Father.  Almighty God, our heavenly Father, you promised through your son Jesus Christ to hear us when we pray in faith.

Creating Lord, hear us, your children as we pray for your creation and those in authority.  We pray for Bishops Christopher and Richard, and all your Church in the Service of Christ in this country and throughout the World. Our prayers go out to those in societies where praising your name can be dangerous and not regarded locally as acceptable. Give wisdom and an open mind to all your subjects around the World.

Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love. Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.
Lord in Your Mercy, Hear our Prayer

All seeing Lord, join us as we give thanks for our local community and those in it.  We pray for our ministry team (Michael, Milly, Marilyn and Tony), the PCC and everyone who is still working behind the scenes on behalf of St. John’s.  We look forward to when we can return to the Church to join together in praising your name. 
We pray for our own local community. For all the Key workers who have worked through the Pandemic to keep things going and supporting those affected by the virus. For our neighbours who we have gotten to  know better; And for people both known to us and strangers who help our community by following the procedures that have been put into force to try to halt its spread. Help us all to be responsible in the things that we do in our lives to prevent the spread of the virus by taking heed of the recommended precautions and avoiding situations which may make things worse. May we learn to forgive, as you have forgiven us, that we may live together in unity.
Lord in Your Mercy, Hear our Prayer
    
Comforting Lord, be with us as we pray for those who are suffering.
We pray for the many people who have contracted the coronavirus in the UK and in other parts of the world.  Bring comfort to those grieving loved ones who have died and peace to those worried, fearful and uncertain as the virus spreads.  We also pray for governments and authorities who are developing strategies to contain and deal with the virus and those in the health services who may be risking their own lives to care for sick patients.
In your presence, we hold all who are being cared for in this parish and thank you for the care and dedication that they are receiving. We name before you those with particular needs who are in our prayers, especially Joanna, Anne Rogers, Andrea Linsell, Caroline Wareham, Sam, Sonya, Harriet, Anne. As we hold a short silence to think of those in need close to our hearts, join us in praying for them.// May they know your presence with them, and that you are their strength, their healing, and their salvation.  Pray for those who are caring for them and supporting them. Give them the strength needed at this time.
Lord in Your Mercy, Hear our Prayer

We also remember those whose year’s mind falls at this time, including, Joy Colley, Margery Millar, Marie Larcombe, Kevin Hynes, Arthur Richardson, Winifred Taylor, Gordon Roser, Kath Freeborn, Marjorie Devotto, Eve Chopping, Annie Curtis, Vic Price, Dorothy Fisher, Ellen Humphreys, Queenie Flack. We thank you for the ways in which you brightened our lives by their faith and friendship.  May those in fear of death, find faith through the resurrection.
Lord in Your Mercy, Hear our Prayer

Rejoicing in the fellowship of St. John the Baptist and all your Saints. We commend ourselves and the whole creation into your unfailing love.
Merciful father, Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, Our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

                                         

The Sermon

What follows comes with a disclaimer.  Several people have asked me about the situation in the United States.  I will share my observations and experience, but I do not speak for African-Americans, their voices must be heard and they must be allowed to tell their own story.  What I hope to provide is a bit of context and underline the fact that we here in Britain are in no way blameless in the struggle against racism.
 
As a child I noticed that African-Americans always lived in tightly-knit hamlets scattered across the Carolina countryside, while white families were scattered singly here and there.  At the time I didn’t know why and it didn’t seem important as many of my family lived in various corners of the old family farm.  When I was nine or ten a group of black lads were cycling the backroads and stopped at our house asking for a drink of water.  My father knew them all as he taught several of them in our local high school.  He duly offered them the tap at the corner of the house, something we all drank from playing or working in the yard.  It wasn’t anything unusual.  But before they could reach the tap my mother emerged from the house with a tray of ice-cold lemonade.  I didn’t understand at the time what it meant, but I knew it was important and have never forgotten it.
 
Moses’ sister, Miriam, led the women in dancing when the Hebrews had managed to find safety after crossing the sea as the Egyptian army was swept away by the waves.  Until that moment it looked as if a return to slavery in Egypt was inevitable, overpowered by Pharaoh’s soldiers.  Freedom from slavery had been an unfulfilled dream, becoming a reality only once God acted decisively through Moses.  This motif became a treasured one for African slaves in the American colonies, the Biblical story a coded message of resistance in a hostile environment.  The promised deliverance of the Hebrews held out hope, but there is no dancing in celebration of freedom today and it remains a dream for many.
 
Racism in America is pervasive.  It exists in every state and every community.  Like Covid-19 it is quite possible to be “infected” without knowing it or showing any overt signs.  It kills, as we have seen in the murder of George Floyd and countless others, but it remains largely under the radar, transmitting its values and attitudes to a new generation.  The paradox is that, while overt racism is roundly condemned, instances of police violence against African-Americans and others is a common occurrence; a perverse sort of “bloodletting” that provokes a violent backlash followed by promises of change, change that never comes.  We are left with an endless cycle of violence that accomplishes nothing.
 
Racism in Britain is different.  I didn’t know what a Traveller was until I came to England and was always puzzled by the anti-Irish sentiment in general.  Until the arrival of Eastern Europeans, racism was largely directed at immigrants from the former Empire coming to work in Britain.  In America immigrants from Europe during the 19th Century faced immense discrimination, but quickly learnt that no matter where they had come from, they were “white” and therefore had a higher status than African-Americans.  In the South and elsewhere, poor whites were reminded that no matter how difficult their lives might be, they were “better” than blacks and had a higher status in society; not unlike working class Brits who went out to India during the Raj and enjoyed a status and lifestyle unknown at home. Racism depends on “othering” in order for it to survive, and human nature is forever concerned with pigeon-holing people and establishing an order to suit those in power and placate those at the bottom of the pecking order. 
 
In the United States the wealthiest 1% own 40% of America’s wealth, while the bottom 80% own only 7%.  Let that sink in for a minute.  But before we lay the blame at the feet of the 1%, we need to remember that the wealthiest Americans often don’t care if you are white, brown, or black so long as their homes get cleaned and their businesses and investments keep them rich.  Cheap labour is what counts, not where it comes from or the colour of its skin.  Though the 1% have political influence through their donations to political candidates, their overall influence on American values is minimal.  That privilege lies with the middle class, just over 50% of the population.   By far the largest group of consumers, they hold enormous power that is split between the two main political parties.  When the middle class sneezes, Washington sits up and takes notice.  The same is not true for working class voters, especially those who lost their livelihoods as American industry declined.  These are largely the Rust Belt voters who overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump in his bid for the White House in 2016. 
 
When the Civil War ended and the slaves were freed, the government in Washington enabled African-Americans to vote and stand for election from local assemblies to Congress.  But once Reconstruction ended, Washington withdrew its pressure for equality and whites rapidly filled the void to re-institute white supremacy across the South.  Appalling violence against African-Americans ensued and segregation was firmly established.  This is the era when Confederate memorials proliferated, two-fingers to the North and markers put down to emphasise the re-established order of whites on top.  They came to be seen by whites as tributes to men who gave their lives in a futile cause, ennobled by that sacrifice by descendants who found themselves reduced to poverty.  No matter what one’s circumstances, as long as you were white you had intrinsic worth and superiority over black people.
 
It is no wonder that faced with these Jim Crow laws and constant oppression that African-Americans would seek escape to the more promising states in the North, Mid-west, and California.  The Great Migration from 1916 until 1970 saw six million African-Americans leave the South.  They were not welcomed by any community they moved to, finding instead more discrimination as they were relegated to urban slums and competed for low wage jobs with white, working class people sparking further violence.  After the Second World War and the subsequent baby boom, new housing became a priority often financed by low-interest government loans.  The middle classes fled to the newly-created suburbs, seeking a better quality of life, space, and better educational opportunities for their children.  The downside to this was that the poor, mostly black, were left to their own devices in the inner cities whose tax base had massively shrunk and schools were underfunded.  In many communities the disparity in education has deepened condemning African-Americans to generation after generation of lives lived in poverty.  Banks and other lenders “redlined” communities, excluding the poor from mortgages and ensuring continued segregation across the country. 
 
From the 1960s the increasing recreational use of illegal drugs by the middle class was seen as a relatively harmless phase young people experimented with or the mark of success as baby boomers enjoyed financial success and a sense of liberation.  A blind eye was turned to the human cost in lives lost by law enforcement officers trying to stop the flow of drugs from south of the border, as well as those coerced into transporting them by rival gangs.  What had once been expensive became widely available and cheap, as cocaine could easily be “refined” into crack.  Now drugs are easily made at home by anyone with a child’s chemistry set.  This has destroyed families and communities across America, with poorer individuals both black and white unable to access the help they need to break their addiction.  The War on Drugs has done little to stop this tragedy. 
 
Even as more African-Americans join the middle class, and many have returned to the South for jobs and higher education, the middle class as a whole has retreated into its own insulated world.  The more liberal-minded make noises and campaign for change, but the economy always takes precedence in a presidential election.  Add to this the willingness of an ambitious president to exploit the divisions in society for his own ends, you have the explosive mix we now contend with.  The billionaire champion of the working class has tapped into the anger of those who felt left behind as manufacturing moved overseas and their towns and cities were left to rust away.  The middle class made little protest, happy that cheap goods fill the shelves of the shops; it doesn't matter where they come from as long as they are cheap.  Donald Trump has exploited the dissatisfaction of the extreme right, especially white supremacists, at the election of Barack Obama.  Under his presidency we have seen the descendants of Union soldiers carrying the Confederate battle flag in public.  White supremacists groups are as prevalent in the Pacific Northwest and many northern states as the Ku Klux Klan has been in the South. 
 
American society is not as polarised racially as it once was.  There is far more integration than there was even thirty years ago, but while we may all work together we more often than not return to separate communities once the working day is done.  Milwaukee, Wisconsin remains the most segregated city residentially in the United States.  While most Americans will have friends and colleagues of different races, there is nonetheless a deep suspicion and even fear of others we do not know of another race.  Fear and mistrust have fuelled continued division and bolster the notion of “otherness” that keeps us apart.  Even well-meaning whites often take the podium and speak for African-Americans rather than making way for black voices to tell their own story themselves.  Insult added to injury.

So what for the future?  To be honest I am not a pessimist by nature, but I cannot see any real, lasting positive change to our current situation.  Politicians on both sides will continue to use African-Americans as pawns in their struggle for political power.  We have seen this with Pelosi and Congressional Democrats “taking the knee” in Kente for a photo opportunity, promising real change.  But that only begs two questions: why haven’t you done something before and just how many people of colour do you employ and on what terms?  In other words are people of colour anymore a part of your lives than just those who clean your toilets or tend your yard?  Post Covid all the attention will be turned to repairing the economy, not just in America but around the world.  Environmental and social justice concerns are always pushed to one side at times like this because all that really matters to the middle class, where ever they are, when the chips are down is money, the jobs and income that sustains their way of life.  The middle class will not willingly make the sacrifices needed to redress the balance and create the level playing field required for real justice.  The poor black neighbourhoods of the inner cities, the segregated suburbs on the wrong side of the tracks, and the rural poverty of the Deep South are of no interest to them because they do not impinge on their daily lives.  It is, after all, someone else’s fault and someone else’s responsibility, be it the government, society, or history.  So no, I see no lasting change though I long to be proven wrong.  The “bloodletting” will continue, as will the protests and the rioting, until we all decide enough is enough and we find the will to make a real difference, and not just settle for “window dressing” and meaningless gestures.
 
Before you think that we have gotten off easily here in leafy green, comfortable suburbia with our excellent schools and big houses, I ask two questions: who have we left behind here in Old Malden, and in the places we may have come from?
 
Toni Morrison, the Pulitzer Prize winning, African-American author, famously said, “If you can only be tall because somebody is on their knees, then you have a serious problem.”  Which begs the question, who is on their knees and what can we do to help them stand tall?

We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder
an African-American spiritual from before 1825 that speaks of the struggle for freedom, as true now as it was then.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jUy8lKjyZQ