Message from our Rector, The Revd Mark Lowther
Some very good news to begin with, though it is good news that we need to think about a little. Providing that the government is able to stick to its proposed timetable, and many restrictions really are lifted on Monday July 19th, we will once again be able to sing hymns in our churches. We will also be able to worship without wearing a mask and distribute Holy Communion in both kinds (bread and wine) just as before. This is all wonderful, but I feel the need to ask a question or two, along the lines of ‘we may be able to, but do we want to’? I would quite understand someone who either wished to continue wearing a mask, wished not to be close to someone who is singing or who wished not to receive wine from a common cup. Our congregations include quite a few vulnerable people, and I would not want them to feel pressurised into doing something with which they were uncomfortable or, even worse, feel that what was going on in church excluded them. We have a couple of weeks to work out what we would like to do in each of our churches and I would very much value your opinion. Please do let me, one of the churchwardens or one of the clergy team know how you feel and we will take your opinions into consideration as we make our plans. There will, doubtless, also be advice from the national church that we should heed, though I do hope that any such recommendations are flexible rather than dictatorial. More on this subject next week, no doubt.
A word or two to flesh out one of the notices further down the sheet, about Project 48. One of Johann Sebastian Bach’s most extraordinary creations is the two books of keyboard pieces that he called ‘The Well-Tempered Klavier.’ Each book contains a pairing of a Prelude and a Fugue in all 24 keys (12 major and 12 minor), so 48 pieces in all, and they’ve come to be known in musical shorthand as ‘the 48’. Now, by an extraordinary coincidence, there are 48 counties (‘ceremonial counties’) in England and pianist Libby Burgess has come up with the amazing idea of performing ‘the 48’ in all 48 counties, raising money for some good causes as she does so. All the details are here – www.bachproject48.co.uk – but if you would like to dip into Libby’s performances in Suffolk, she will be performing the 2nd book of Preludes and Fugues in Aldeburgh church on the afternoon of Sunday August 1st. She has split the music across two recitals, at 2 and 4pm and the money raised goes to three excellent musical charities which, among other things, support young musicians and those whose lives have been turned upside down by the Covid outbreak and the lack of opportunities to perform. Great music, great causes.
Finally, I draw your attention to the notice about plans for a couple of outdoor Friday markets in Aldeburgh in August and the fact that our Zoom coffee mornings resume at 10.30am on Tuesday. Drop in for a few minutes and a bit of chat – and bring your own beverage of choice!
With my love and prayers, as ever
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.
This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb-line.’ Then the Lord said,
‘See, I am setting a plumb-line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’ Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the very centre of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, “Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.” ’And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’ Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycomore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’ For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’ And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
Sermon for 11th July – Sixth Sunday after Trinity,
by our Rector, The Revd Mark Lowther
Our Gospel reading is one of the most famous of its stories that doesn’t involve Jesus – and it’s an extraordinary story of human cruelty – Herod’s daughter asking for the head of John the Baptist to be given to her on a plate. Herod had promised her anything she asked for and so, even though the story says he was ‘deeply grieved’ (because, it says, he liked to listen to him) he gave the orders for John the Baptist to be beheaded, the girl got what she asked for and then she gave it to her mother – who, the story says, had a grudge against John and wanted him dead. It’s a powerful, colourful story – and it’s not surprising to find that it’s been embroidered a bit over the years, painted, re-written and even set to music.
In the early years if the 20th-century the German composer Richard Strauss made it into a short and shocking opera that was actually banned in this country for a few years. The opera is a version of the play about the story written by the Irishman Oscar Wilde – and he originally wrote it in French – so it’s a story that has crossed languages and national boundaries a good deal. And the details that have been added that aren’t in the bible are interesting. Mark’s gospel calls the girl Herodias (after her mother)
but only a few years later, still in the 1st century AD, another writer, Josephus, had given her a different name, one that has stuck – Salome. The Wilde play and the Strauss opera both use it. And then there’s the dance that the girl performs for Herod. It’s become mythologised as the Dance of the Seven Veils in which Salome dances seductively, gradually removing her veils to reveal more of herself. It’s not in the bible, not even in Josephus – part of the historical myth.
The big question is … why is it here? What’s it doing in Mark’s gospel – the shortest and most direct of the four, the one least likely to have diversions from the main story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus? Well, the hint comes at the very beginning of the bible-reading we’ve just heard.
The place where Mark slots the story of John the Baptist’s death in is when there’s a lot of talk about who Jesus really is. ‘Jesus’s name had become known’, it says …. And some people thought he might be Elijah, the Old Testament prophet who had come back – the significance being that it says in the Old Testament that when Elijah returns, the Messiah will soon be here – that’s why, to this day, when Jewish people eat their special Passover meal, called a Seder meal, there’s a spare place set at the table, and a spare cup of wine poured out. Elijah might come! And when the meal is over one of the children is sent out to see if they can see Elijah. They’re always disappointed, of course. Well, maybe next year ….. But back in bible times some people thought that Jesus was Elijah returned. But others, including King Herod, said, no, not Elijah, but John the Baptist returned from the dead.
Now if you’ve read Mark’s gospel right from the beginning you know about John the Baptist and how he lived in the countryside and wore camel’s hair and ate locusts and wild honey and how he baptised people, saying that someone important was about to come. We know a bit about John, his birth – a son to Elizabeth and Zechariah – and then how he baptised Jesus, but we don’t know what then happened to him – he disappears off the scene for 5 Chapters or so once Jesus has appeared. So when Herod says that he thinks that Jesus is John the Baptist returned from the dead we think ‘O, that’s interesting, I didn’t know he was dead …’ Mark’s gospel then goes into a sort of flashback, to tell us the story of how he died.
But the story is important at a deeper level too. When he’s alive, John tells us that someone greater is to come – ‘one who I am not even worthy to untie the thong of his sandal’, he says. One who will baptise you with the Holy Spirit, not just water. And, of course, that person does come – it’s Jesus. But then we learn that John dies a cruel death at the hands of cruel human beings. He’s murdered to satisfy them. Someone really good is put to death in a very harsh way indeed. Does that remind you of anything?
Yes, of course, it’s Jesus again. It’s what is going to happen to him. Like John he’s going to be arrested and tortured and put to death. At the point in the story when people are wondering who Jesus is, we hear about John’s terrible death. And it’s telling us just a bit more about who Jesus is and what’s in store for him in the future.
Even that little bit at the end of the story about John’s disciples coming and taking his body away and burying it in a tomb – even that reminds us of Jesus’s disciples burying his body in a tomb after the crucifixion.
As I’ve said before, if you read Mark’ gospel from the beginning it positively hurtles along. Things move fast – there’s no story of Jesus’s birth and before the end of Chapter 1 we’ve already met Jesus and he’s performing miracles and healing people. For 5 chapters everything seems positive, Jesus has called his 12 disciples together, told them some important things in parables, saved the disciples from drowning when he calms the sea during a storm, brought Jairus’s daughter back to life, amazed people in his home village when he teaches in the synagogue – it’s all positive. And then, just for a moment, when we hear about John the Baptist’s cruel death there’s a cloud over the sun for a moment. Not everything is positive – and we have a sense of what it’s going to feel like when we read about Jesus’s own death. Though, of course, Jesus’s death wasn’t the end of the story. Not by a long way …. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here today, would we? Amen
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.
Sunday 18th July
Seventh Sunday after Trinity
Alde Sandlings Benefice Fun Days in August
As many of you know August is the month for Aldeburgh Church to host their Friday Markets. Unfortunately, last year was cancelled due to Covid. This year things are hugely better, but we still need to approach with caution. So, this August we will have two Friday markets on the 6th and 27th 10am – 2pm. The proposed stalls are as follows:
BBQ, Vegetables, Plants, Fruit and Flowers, Cakes and Savouries, Jams etc, Craft Stalls, General Bric a Brac. Tombola and Games. All the churches in the Alde Sandlings are invited to have their chosen stalls to raise much depleted funds for the churches. Please contact email@example.com if any church members of the Alde Sandlings Benefice would like to have a stall.
✟ Aldringham Outdoor Services ✟
The Aldringham outdoor services started surprisingly with sunshine last Sunday. We welcomed friends and visitors. The services start at 11am in the beautiful Aldringham churchyard. ALL VERY WELCOME
Project 48 Concerts at Aldeburgh Church
We are delighted to announce that we will be joined by pianist Libby Burgess, who will be playing Bach’s Well Tempered Klavier. Tickets £10 on the door in aid of Help Musicians, Youth Music Future Talent and Live Music Now.
Tuesday Coffee Morning with Mark & Friends
Our regular Zoom coffee morning will be from 10.30am – 11.30am every Tuesday. All are very welcome. Grab your favourite morning beverage and let’s have a good ole chat – just like we used to.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info
Weekly Benefice Newsletter
If you would like something added to the weekly newsletter that is relevant to the Benefice, please do let Claire know and we will do our best to include it the following week.
Food Banks at the East of England Co-op
Foodbanks provide a valuable service to those in need in our communities. The Aldeburgh Co-op and Solar in Leiston are doing a grand job in collecting food donations, which are collected regularly and distributed. So please look out for the various collection baskets.
The Trussel Trust Organisation
Food banks in our network have seen an increase in the number of food parcels given out over the last year due to Coronavirus, so any donations are much appreciated. You can find out which items your local food bank is most in need of by entering your postcode here – https://www.trusselltrust.org/give-food/ By clicking on the food bank’s name, you can also find out where to drop off your donations.
Please check the food banks website or social media pages for any changes to opening hours or operations as a result of the Coronavirus before dropping off donations –
If you would prefer to make a financial donation, then please visit the food bank’s website (under ‘Give help’) or you can donate to the Trussell Trust centrally by contacting our Supporter Care team on 01722 580 178 or emailing email@example.com
✞ Friston Sunday Services on Zoom ✞
Friston will be holding a live Zoom service for all those who
To join the Zoom Meeting, please use this link.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info
✞ Pilgrims Together on Wednesdays ✞
The Pilgrims worship together every Wednesday.
Please contact email@example.com for more info