Message from our Rector, The Revd Mark Lowther
I must begin with a huge thank-you for all of the kind messages and cards I have received after the death of my brother, Phil, last weekend. While I was away in Cornwall I was very conscious of the fact that both he and I were being prayed for and I couldn’t be more grateful. I spent just over a week visiting Truro hospital every day, where he was receiving end-of-life care from the wonderfully devoted NHS staff there. The certificate will give his cause-of-death as Emphysema, though it was rather more complicated than that. He died the day after his 62nd birthday and his funeral will be in Cornwall in the first week of July. Rest in peace Phil.
Huge thanks too to my wonderful colleagues, lay and ordained, for keeping the show on the road. As some of you will know, James is currently on holiday, will be back next weekend for our celebrations, and then will be spending a short time on placement at our Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds. This is an opportunity offered to all curates in our diocese and I know that James is very much looking forward to his time with Dean Joe and the team there.
A reminder that next Sunday there will be a single service in the benefice, at 10.30 in Aldeburgh. Our Archdeacon, The Ven. Jeanette Gosney, will preside and preach at a service of Holy Communion at which The Revd Johanna Mabey will be licensed as an Assistant Priest in the benefice, and we will (a year late!) celebrate The Revd James Marston’s ordination to the priesthood. Jo and James have had to wait a while for these celebrations because of … you-know-what – but it will be wonderful to be with them as we mark these key moments in their lives of ministry, and to have Jeanette with us. Please could you let me, Claire or Ken Smith know if you intend to be there – just so we can plan the seating. And afterwards? Bring some food and drink and we’ll share the time together, even if we can’t share the food!
A couple of Aldeburgh domestic notices to end with. Claire is trying to make sure that we have an up-to-date list of keyholders, so if you have any church or church-hall keys in your possession please could you make sure that Claire knows. And we are also on the look-out for more cleaners. The task is not an onerous one – you would be given a particular part of the church to look after, or a particular task to do, so that no-one has to take on the whole building. The commitment need not be more than for an hour or so. If you could help please have a word with Ken Smith, with one of the clergy or with Julian Worster.
With my love and prayers, as ever
Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God; 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.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall
declare to me. ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? ‘Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb? — when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped”?
As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’ See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.
On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
Sermon for 20th June – Third Sunday after Trinity,
by The Revd Johanna Mabey
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
If we ever wanted to make a complaint against Jesus that would stick, not caring would be a hard one to justify! The gospels are full of Jesus’ care and compassion for others. But twice in the gospels Jesus is asked ‘Don’t you care?’ On both occasions the question is put to him by close friends who really should have known better. In Luke’s gospel an exasperated Martha says to him: ‘Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me.’ The other complaint against Jesus is in today’s reading: ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?’ say his disciples.
The panic-stricken disciples are terrified that they’ll die in a storm while Jesus sleeps through it. For experienced fishermen, the fact that they’re so scared tells us that this was no mere gust of wind, but one of those very strong storms that blow up without warning on the land-locked Sea of Galilee…. in desperation they wake Jesus up.
Mark tells us that Jesus was absolutely exhausted. He’d been taken into the boat ‘just as he was’, sound asleep on a cushion, too tired to be woken even by a storm. No wonder his reply was rather terse!
Although the disciples’ question, ‘don’t you care that we are perishing?’ was irrational – Jesus was asleep and oblivious of the storm – it shows the depth of the disciples’ fear, not only about drowning but about whether Jesus cares for their safety and well-being. It’s very human to fear that you’re being abandoned to your fate. Once woken, Jesus did the necessary. He stilled the storm, and then asked his disciples ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ In other words, ‘Whatever is the matter with you?’
He had expected better of them.
In our second reading, St Paul finds himself in a tricky place with the church in Corinth. He’s having to tell them some unwelcome home truths.
We may rattle the list off without thinking about it – ‘afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger’ – but think for a moment about what Paul had been through… the fact that he’d kept faith with God through all this becomes remarkable. How did Paul keep faith? There must have been times when he too asked the same question the disciples put to Jesus, ‘don’t you care?’ It’s a healthy question to ask at times of distress; and it brings God into the conversation.
Today’s readings tell us that we don’t have to pretend to sail serenely through difficulty. It’s ok to say we’re not ok, and there are times when some vigorous and probing conversation with God is called for. We only have to look at the psalms or the book of Job to realise how much a deep questioning of God is central to the Jewish faith.
Paul tells the Corinthians to ‘open wide their hearts to God’ as he has; ‘by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech and the power of God.’ But it’s easy to be kind and truthful when all’s going well – it’s much harder when you’re in crisis. ‘Purity and holiness of spirit’ might also sound rather pious, but I remember reading that after Mother Teresa died, her journals revealed that she’d struggled daily with doubts. Her ‘holiness of spirit’ was hard-won, shaped by the daily challenges she faced in the slums of Calcutta.
Perhaps Jesus’ sharp question to the disciples in the boat is partly annoyance at being woken up but also frustration at their failure to trust him. They’ve panicked and fear that Jesus doesn’t really care about them after all. But what was it that enabled Paul, with a few years’ experience of following Jesus, to be more secure in his response to hardship and fear, than the disciples in the boat? Perhaps it was it the ‘cantus firmus’ in his life. Cantus Firmus means fixed or firm melody. It’s the deep-seated song that’s at the core of who we are and enables us to live with fear and change.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German priest executed by the Nazis during the Second World War, wrote from prison of, ‘a kind of cantus firmus to which the other melodies of life provide the counterpoint’.
‘Where the ground bass is firm and clear, there is nothing to stop the counterpoint from being developed to the utmost of its limits. Only a polyphony of this kind can give life a wholeness and assure us that nothing can go wrong so long as the bass line is kept going…put your faith in the cantus firmus.’
Some of you reading/hearing this might feel you’re being buffeted by forces beyond your control – forces which threaten to overwhelm you. I think it’s very natural and human to sometimes feel that God is asleep on the case, and that Jesus is taking a nap in the hold. Today’s readings reassure us that God is wide awake, and that he does care for us! In every storm God calls us to greater trust and greater faith in him.
President John F Kennedy had a small wooden block on his desk in the Oval Office. On it was inscribed the Prayer of a Breton Fisherman. It’s a memorable, simple one to cherish:
Dear God, be good to me;
the sea is so wide,
and my boat is so small.
O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
PLEASE NOTE – Benefice Service on the 27th
Benefice Service – 27th June at Aldeburgh Church
We hope to have get together lunch after the Benefice Service on the 27th of June to celebrate Jo and James significant milestones in their ministries. Providing everything goes to plan with the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, after much discussion with church members within the benefice, the general feel is that we should perhaps think about a bring and NOT share lunch and bring our own picnics, as Covid is still very much in our minds. Perhaps each church could put together two picnic pack ups for our visitors on the day?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Pilgrims Together on Wednesdays
Please contact email@example.com for the links
☕️ 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 the links
Sunday 27th June
Fourth Sunday after Trinity