Message from the Rector
Our gentle process of opening our churches for worship continues and this week sees our first service of Holy Communion in a church building since March. The national church has issued some guidelines about the consecration and distribution of Holy Communion and they are worth mentioning now. The recommendation is that communion is distributed ‘in one kind only’ – in other words only the bread will be administered to the congregation. During the service the presiding priest will be at the altar alone and will consecrate bread and also a small quantity of wine which he or she will receive on behalf of the congregation. The bread to be distributed will be kept covered throughout the prayer of consecration. Then, to quote the guidelines ‘At the giving of Communion, the president receives Communion in both kinds. The words of distribution (‘The body and blood of Christ’) are spoken to the congregation, and all who intend to receive say, ‘Amen’. At the distribution, Holy Communion is administered in silence. The consecrated bread or wafer will need to be dropped into the hands of communicants.’ Members of the congregation receive the consecrated bread standing and having kept suitable social distancing as they wait. I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I intend to wear a face-covering as I distribute the bread – not for my sake but for the sake of those receiving communion. And hands will be cleaned both before and after distribution.
This all sounds rather daunting but in practice it should not be too difficult – we will all have to become used to some differences from our normal way of doing things, but I think we will soon become used to them. Obviously if rules change, we will adapt (for better or worse!) but at least we are now able to hold communion services in our churches once again.
We are moving towards a time when we should be able to establish a regular pattern of services in all of our churches. We are not quite there yet, and the pattern may mean that there isn’t a service in every church every week, but for this week and next this is what we intend to do.
Sunday 19th July
9.45am Service of Holy Communion in Friston church
10.30am Online service of Morning Prayer (Mattins)
11.00am Service in Aldringham churchyard
Sunday 26th July
9.30am Service of Holy Communion in Knodishall church
10.30am Online service of Holy Communion
11.00am Service in Aldringham churchyard
6.00pm Service of Evening Prayer in Aldeburgh church
The readings that follow cover the fact that we will be having both an online Mattins service and the service of Holy Communion in Friston – so for the Mattins ignore the second reading (Romans) and make the Gospel reading the New Testament lesson. The post-communion prayer is obviously surplus to requirements too – as is the psalm for the Holy Communion service! And if those attending Holy Communion would like to print off a copy of the readings for their own use in church then, of course, they are most welcome to do so.
With love, as ever
PSALM 139 Verses 1-11, 23-24
O LORD, thou hast searched me out and known me : thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising, thou understandest my thoughts long before.
Thou art about my path, and about my bed : and spiest out all my ways.
For lo, there is not a word in my tongue : but thou, O Lord, knowest it altogether.
Thou hast fashioned me behind and before : and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me : I cannot attain unto it.
Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit : or whither shall I go then from thy presence?
If I climb up into heaven, thou art there : if I go down to hell, thou art there also.
If I take the wings of the morning : and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there also shall thy hand lead me : and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, Peradventure the darkness shall cover me : then shall my night be turned to day.
Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee, but the night is as clear as the day: the darkness and light to thee are both alike.
Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart : prove me, and examine my thoughts.
Look well if there be any way of wickedness in me : and lead me in the way everlasting.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son :
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be:
world without end. Amen.
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come?
Let them tell us what is yet to be. Do not fear, or be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses!
Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh for if you live according to the flesh, you will die;
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43
Jesus put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
Merciful God, you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding: pour into our
hearts such love toward you that we, loving you in all things
and above all things, may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire; 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.
Sermon by our Rector, Revd Mark Lowther
Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
I like to think that I’m something of an expert on weeds – well one particular aspect of weeds anyway – growing them. Anyone who has seen the vicarage garden lately, front or back, will know that it sports a rather spectacular collection of weeds of all sorts and one day we really will get stuck in and clear them. At the moment, though, there always seems to be something else that needs to be done first – like writing a sermon …. And I console myself with the thought that a weed is really only a plant in the wrong place. Maybe if I could convince myself that those yellow jobs whose name I don’t know were intended to be there, rather than just having sprouted up of their own accord, then it would be OK. Maybe weeds are really only in the mind.
The weeds that Jesus talks about in our NT reading are a way of illustrating a profound truth about human nature and about God’s call on us all. And those weeds are, as Jesus describes them, sown by the devil. And Jesus seems to be very clear as he explains his parable to the disciples – we are all either children of the kingdom or children of the evil one. The first will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father, the second will be thrown into the fire. It’s a binary situation – one thing or the other. But the God who knows us better than we know ourselves knows that it usually isn’t like that. All of us, at different times and in different situations, find ourselves pulled in different directions and have the potential to allow weeds to grow where God is trying to sow fine wheat. The difficulty comes when we try to name the bad stuff – because words like ‘sin’ and ‘guilt’ are so heavily loaded. They’ve come to take on associations that aren’t helpful.
When I go and see grieving relatives to plan a funeral, I need to ask them if they’d like to include one of the optional parts of the service – the Prayers of Penitence. I read that part of the service to them – it’s a confession and absolution in which the priest says all the words and it begins ‘God of mercy, we acknowledge that we are all sinners.’ And I wonder how those who aren’t regular churchgoers hear those words. We all do get things wrong, we do all fall short of what God is calling us to be – but it can all too easily sound miserable when it is, in fact, the prelude to something very hopeful. That as long as we are prepared to face up to what we get wrong and admit it to God (who knows it already, of course) then we are on the right road, we are forgiven by God, can forgive ourselves (often the most difficult bit) and move on. Let the light in. Cut the weeds down. Use whatever metaphor you find helpful.
The other important thing that Jesus’s parable teaches us is that God is patient. When the slaves ask the master if he’d like them to get rid of the weeds straight away he says ‘no – for in gathering up the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest’. Wait. See what happens. And we live in that waiting time and can uproot some of our own weeds if we really want to. We’ll never be rid of them all – we’re only human after all – but we are offered opportunities on a daily basis to do some gardening of our own.
As any gardener will tell you, some weeds are very pervasive, invasive even, and aren’t (sadly for my theory of gardening) just plants in the wrong place – they’re plants that will eventually harm the plants that we really want to see grow if we don’t do something about them. Pull them up, chuck them on the bonfire. Prepare for those angels who will do it for us if we haven’t already done it ourselves. And, yes, let anyone with ears listen!
God of our pilgrimage, you have led us to the living water:
refresh and sustain us as we go forward on our journey,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Church of England is producing lots of good material and advice at present. This includes some excellent prayers for us all to use and I commend them to you:
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The Week Ahead –
26th July – Seventh Sunday after Trinity
✞ Wednesday Online Services ✞
✞ Meet up with Revd James ✞
Our curate Rev James has been meeting some of you outside in your gardens and in his rectory garden. If you would like a trip out to Friston, or would like James to visit you do let him know on 01728 688451 or email him on email@example.com
✟ Songs of Praise on The Green 🎶
The Parish of St Mary the Virgin would like to invite you to a Benefice ‘Songs of Praise on the green at Friston! This would be a socially distanced opportunity to come together to hopefully sing to the Praise of God (restrictions permitting) and have a picnic afterwards.
Do you have a favourite hymn?
Please let Carole Edwards know by email, phone or letter, your choice of hymn (see below)
Please bring your own chairs and tables for your picnic.
Reply to Carole Edwards, firstname.lastname@example.org or