St Mary’s Sunday Service for 15th November 2020

We are very grateful to Rev Canon Alison Peden, our Interim Pastor, for letting us have this service to follow should you not be able to attend St Mary’s in person

Pentecost 18  November 15th  2020

Faithfulness,  not success

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

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: the first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this:  “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.       Amen.  Lord, have mercy.

Gloria:   Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away
the sin of the world; have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.  Amen

Collect:   Almighty God, you sent your Son Jesus Christ to be the light of the world.  Free us from all that darkens and ensnares us, and bring us to eternal light and joy; through the power of him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reading:   1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Gospel:  Matthew 25:14-30
‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 
After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave; you have been faithful in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave; you have been faithful in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 
Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return, I would have received what was my own with interest. So, take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Reflection:   ‘Concerning the times and seasons’  …  we ‘NEED TO KNOW! ‘  It’s hard to wait indefinitely for everything to be resolved.   Nearly half a century after Pentecost, Matthew wrote for Christians who wondered when Jesus would return in triumph.  They were being rejected by the synagogues and persecuted by Romans.    As the disciples asked Jesus, “Tell us when the end times will be?”  (Mt.24:3)   

And so Matthew encourages them with a series of Jesus’ parables about those end times.  The boss is away; he returns unexpectedly; he judges; the faithful are commended, but the rest are cast out. It’s the same pattern whether it’s about the thief surprising the sleeping householder, or the foolish virgins, or slaves investing talents or not. 

It’s tempting to focus on the success of the prudent slaves in today’s parable who invested well and were rewarded.  But Jesus emphasises their faithfulness, not their success.  They continued to believe that the master would return, and so they lived and worked actively for him, keeping themselves prepared and ready.

The ones who got cast out were those who froze out of fear or dozed off in boredom.  Living faithfully in expectation means accepting that some of what we do may fail or seem futile and over-optimistic.  But Christian life means committing to God’s future in hope and leaving the rest to God.  We can’t remain indifferent or asleep.

Jesus’ wonderful promise is that even a moment is long enough to wake ourselves up before the surprise return of the Lord.  As William Camden wrote in his Epitaph for a Man Killed by Falling (1605): 

                     “Betwixt the stirrup and the ground
                       Mercy I ask’d;  mercy I found.”

Prayers of penitence and intercession:
Holy God, you are the maker and sustainer of all things. You teach us to be good stewards of your generosity.  But we confess that we have squandered your gifts and used them as if they had been given for us alone.  We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
Lord in your mercy  hear our prayer.

God of righteousness, you call us to be alert to injustice and need, to abuse and prejudice, to suffering and distress.  But we are slow to respond, fearful and indifferent to cries for help.
Lord in your mercy  hear our prayer.

Loving God, forgive us and wake us up;  make us alert to signs that your Kingdom is coming on earth and help us to work with you for the renewal of Creation, in our homes, our community, our country.
Lord in your mercy  hear our prayer.

Give hope and light to those whose lives are dark and troubled;  give wisdom and guidance to those who direct the affairs of the world;  give peace and comfort to those who are ill or approaching death, and surround with your gracious love those close and dear to us …
Lord in your mercy  hear our prayer.

Merciful God, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Great Thanksgiving
Let us lift up our hearts and give thanks to the Lord our God,
for it is right to give our thanks and praise.
              Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
              Hosanna in the highest!

Worship and praise belong to you, Father, in every place and at all times.  All power is yours. You created the heavens and established
the earth; you sustain in being all that is.
In Christ your Son our life and yours are brought together in a wonderful exchange. He made his home among us that we might
for ever dwell in you. Through your Holy Spirit you call us to new birth
in a creation restored by love.
As children of your redeeming purpose we offer you our praise,
with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven,
singing the hymn of your unending glory:

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.

Glory and thanksgiving be to you, most loving Father, for the gift of your Son born in human flesh. He is the Word existing beyond time, both source and final purpose, bringing to wholeness all that is made.
Obedient to your will he died upon the Cross. By your power
you raised him from the dead. He broke the bonds of evil and
set your people free to be his Body in the world.
On the night when he was given up to death, knowing that his hour had come, having loved his own, he loved them to the end. At supper with his disciples he took bread and offered you thanks. He broke the bread, and gave it to them, saying: “Take, eat. This is my Body: it is broken for you.” After supper, he took the cup, he offered you thanks, and gave it to them saying: “Drink this, all of you. This is my Blood of the new covenant; it is poured out for you, and for all, that sins may be forgiven. Do this in remembrance of me.”

We now obey your Son’s command. We recall his blessed Passion and death, his glorious resurrection and ascension; and we look for the coming of his Kingdom. Made one with him, we offer you ourselves, a single, holy, living sacrifice. Hear us, most merciful Father, and send your Holy Spirit upon us that, overshadowed by his life-giving power, we may be kindled with the fire of your love and renewed for the service of your Kingdom.
Help us, who are baptised into the fellowship of Christ’s Body to live and work to your praise and glory; may we grow together in unity and love until at last, in your new creation, we enter into our heritage in the company of the Virgin Mary, the apostles and prophets, and of all our brothers and sisters living and departed.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory be to you, Lord of all ages,
world without end. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer:   Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done;  on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.   Amen.

The Communion:   draw close to Christ in spirit and thanksgiving,
and be nourished by his presence with you and within you. 

Closing prayer:    May the God of peace make us perfect and holy,
and may we be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God has called us and will not fail us. Amen   (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

This hymn looks forward to the grace and mercy offered us at the end of the age:

I will sing the wondrous story of the Christ Who died for me;
How he left the realms of glory for the cross of Calvary.
           Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story of the Christ who died for me,
           Sing it with the saints in glory, gathered by the crystal sea.

I was lost, but Jesus found me, found the sheep that went astray,
Raised me up and gently led me back into the narrow way.
            Yes, I’ll sing …

He will keep me till the river rolls its waters at my feet;
Then he’ll bear me safely over, where the loved ones I shall meet.
            Yes, I’ll sing …

We are very grateful to Rev Canon Alison Peden, our Interim Pastor, for letting us have this service to follow should you not be able to attend St Mary’s in person