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25th October 2020

posted 22 Oct 2020, 07:11 by Church Office   [ updated 23 Oct 2020, 01:37 by CHS Info ]

Pram Service


This week in Pram Service we are celebrating all the saints: the old ones, the young ones, the black ones, the white ones, all the saints including you and me!

We’ll be having a saints hunt around the church, marching, singing and making a collage of all the saints (well, some of them).


Both of the readings this week state the core of our faith: love of God and love of neighbour.  Although Jesus is asked for the greatest commandment – just the one- he cannot mention love of God separately from love of one another.  Just as, when God gives the same commandment to Moses, he repeats that love of neighbour flows from God’s very nature.  Helpfully, God spells out some of what love of neighbour implies: of course, some it seems impossible (you shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin for instance!) but love always has a practical nature: actively working for the well-being of one another, treating others fairly and never profiting from someone else’s bad fortune.  This is love that we can commit to building, engaging in active concern for the well-being of the whole community.


First Reading:  Leviticus 19:1-2 15-18

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbour. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Lord.

17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.


Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:34-46

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” 41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions


Prayer - The Collect

 Blessed Lord,

who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

help us so to hear them,

to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them

that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,

we may embrace and for ever hold fast

the hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.


18th October 2020

posted 15 Oct 2020, 10:50 by Church Office   [ updated 15 Oct 2020, 10:59 ]

Sunday 18th October 2020

 Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity – Harvest Thanksgiving




We are thinking this week about harvest, planting and picking; cooking and eating.

As well as the harvest we enjoy we will ponder what fruits of the harvest our homeless friends at Ace of Clubs might like to pick.

Together we will make a giant harvest basket collage full of fruit and vegetables; pants and socks, toothpaste and shampoo.


Today’s Harvest readings ask us to think about where our security lies: the Deuteronomy passage warns the people of God not to treat their goods as their own, gained by their own efforts, but to remember that all the blessings that they receive come from God.  Similarly, the gospel reading gives us the parable of the rich fool who spent all his life accumulating wealth, life is about more than material security.  Winston Churchill said that “you make a living by what you get, but you make a LIFE by what you give”.  Harvest festival is not a time just to give thanks for what we have but to consider what we don’t have: do our lives, like that of the rich fool, lack relationship, community, and an understanding that all that we have and all that we are is for God to use on behalf of the world.



First Reading:  Deuteronomy 8:7-18

7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. 10 You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.

11 Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 12 When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16 and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17 Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

Luke 12:16-30

16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”


22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.


Prayer – The Collect

Eternal God, you crown the year with your goodness,

and you give us the fruits of the earth in their season:

grant that we may use them to your glory,

for the relief of those in need and for our own well-being;

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 forever.


Sunday 11th October

posted 8 Oct 2020, 05:49 by Church Office   [ updated 9 Oct 2020, 12:32 by CHS Info ]

Sunday 11th October 2020

 Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity


This week in pram we will be thinking about feasts: who gets invited and who gets left off the invitation list.

We’ll be making a collage of Jesus’ Big Banquet.


The FEAST features in both of our readings this morning.  The image of the big feast is more than a party it asks us important questions about inclusion, exclusion, judgement and grace.


Isaiah 25:6-9 Feasts were held by dominant states to display the number of lesser states who owed them fealty.  In God’s feast all nations are invited: not just tribute nations but any old nations.  The power belongs not to the host, who does nothing to compel his guest nations to attend, but to the guests who freely chose to come. 

Matthew 22:1-14 Again the political, social and economic power of the feast: the statement about those who owe you allegiance, those whose support you can count upon is the parodied by God’s feast, when again, just anyone can come. We decide to come or not; in judging whether we wish to be in such undistinguished company we find we have judged ourselves.



Isaiah 25:6-9

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
    of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
    the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
    the sheet that is spread over all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,

and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
    Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
    This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Matthew 22:1-14

22:  1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Prayer – The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God,

increase in us your gift of faith

that, forsaking what lies behind

and reaching out to that which is before,

we may run the way of your commandments

and win the crown of everlasting joy;

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. Amen

Sunday 4th October

posted 2 Oct 2020, 02:32 by Church Office   [ updated 4 Oct 2020, 13:39 by CHS Info ]

Who loves grape juice? This week in Pram service we will be exploring growing, picking and eating grapes and how much fun it is to share.

Sunday 4th October 2020

 Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity


The vineyard was often used as a metaphor for God’s people, something he cherishes, cares for and looks after.  The purpose of God’s people, like the vineyard, is to bear good fruit, in this case social justice.

In Isaiah’s vision the vineyard that does not bear fruit will be destroyed and pulled down.  But Jesus’ vision for the future of the vineyard is different.

Here the tenants in the vineyard keep all the fruit for themselves and attack those for whom the fruit is intended.  When he asks his hearers how the owner of the vineyard will react, they assume that he will exact vengeance but Jesus replies “the stone that the builders had rejected has become the corner stone”.

God’s people are indeed failing to be fruitful but their greed and violence will not be answered with destruction.  God will do something radically different: he will build up a new community around the very people that the tenants have sought to destroy.

How they react to this creative and merciful act of God will be up to them.  They may be unable to embrace this new future that God offers because it involves embracing that which they rejected.



Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!


Matthew 21:33-46

33“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come; he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” 42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? 43Therefore I tell you; the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.


Good news everyone! Medics may disagree about whether wine is good or bad but the advice from the Bible is clear: “Bless the Lord, who brings forth wine to gladden the hearts of the people.”

Rejoice! Alcohol is God ordained.

Wine signals joy and celebration, community and concord. It is something to share, something best enjoyed in the company of others.

And so the vineyard (the place where vines are grown and nurtured, grapes are picked and pressed) is a central symbol of the community, the people of God, who work together to produce fruit for all to enjoy.

Today we are told the story of two vineyards: Isaiah’s vineyard is not producing good fruit and in response God promises to tear the whole place down. In Jesus’ re-telling, the problem is not that the vineyard is not producing fruit but that the fruit is not being shared. Here the vineyard is not destroyed but it is taken away and given to others.

The problem lies with a confusion about who stuff belongs to: first the tenant farmers don’t give the fruit to the servants who come to receive it, then they plan to not only keep the fruit but the whole vineyard for themselves.

They act as if everything belongs to them.

We are not so different.

This week I was reading about a young athlete who has just won the 800m championship. When asked about his success, Daniel Rowden said this:

“Most of my athletic performance is down to my genetics, which I have no control over. Then there are the opportunities that I was given as a kid, to have a running club down the road with good coaches and training partners - none of that was under my control. If other people had the same skillset and opportunities, they may even run better than I do. I can pat myself on the back but, a lot of the time, it is not down to me. At the end of the day, God is in control. I live my life to please him.”

I was touched that someone so young and so successful could understand that his privileges were just that, a gift, not a right, that he had done nothing to earn them and so they were not for his own glory.

Whatever efforts we make in life we know that if we had been born a different person, in a different place, with different circumstances, we would not have the same outcome. All that we have is a gift.

But more than this all that we ARE is a gift also.

Or maybe not so much a gift, as a loan. But maybe even loan is the wrong metaphor, what we have and what we are is a tool given to us to use not for ourselves but for others.

Today is the feast of St Francis of Assisi. One of my favourite contemporary Franciscans believes that we need to learn (and usually learn the hard way) the following lessons in life:

1. Life is hard

2. We are not that important

3. Our life is not about us

4. We are not in control

5. We are all gonna die.

Realising this may, of course, make us turn to that bottle of wine that God had ordained to gladden our hearts but, it too, is good news. Liberating news, energising news.

Your life may sometimes be hard, things will happen that you cannot control, it will be short, possibly glorious but short, but the thing is, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

Your life is not about you.

You are a beautiful and unique manifestation of something altogether bigger and more significant.

Life, life in all its fullness, abundant life, eternal life, the energy and power and creativity of God, is lived in and through you.

When we grasp this truth: not just that the fruit of our lives does not belong to us, but that we do not belong to ourselves; then we stop asking what is rightly ours and what we should give or what we should share. It becomes obvious that it’s all meant for sharing; that is the point of a good bottle of wine and that is the point of humanity.

Rejoice and be glad, wine is for sharing and so are we.


Almighty God,

you have made us for yourself,

and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you:

pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself,

and so bring us at last to your heavenly city

where we shall see you face to face;

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.


Sunday 27th September

posted 26 Sep 2020, 00:19 by CHS Info   [ updated 26 Sep 2020, 11:37 ]

Sunday 27th September 2020

 Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

For the last 3 weeks our readings are all about judging and forgiving: the great number of readings on this theme, in both old and new testaments, indicate that this is an area we struggle with.

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 No longer should the sins of the parents be visited upon their children: instead everyone is responsible for their own actions.  No one is judged by association or misfortune but then again no one may blame anyone else either.

Matthew 21:23-32 In the parable of the two sons Jesus tells us that it is not the one who is outwardly obedient but the one who does the work of the Father who is saved.  Reputation, class, family mean nothing: everything is about how we relate to one another: in judging each other we find ourselves judged.  Judging ourselves, we find ourselves unable to live out the new life promised by repentance and forgiveness.


Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

25 Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26 When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27 Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28 Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.


Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:23-32 

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

 23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father[a] went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe himGospel Reading: Matthew 21:23-32 

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.



If you’ve been with us over the past few months, listening to a series of Gospel readings from Matthew’s Gospel, you may think this one follows straight on from the readings we’ve heard during July and August.  But there’s a real step-change here.  Last week we ended half way through chapter 20 – the rest of the chapter describes conversations as Jesus and the disciples travel towards Jerusalem; and the first half of chapter 21 describes not only Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, but also his entry into the Temple where he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the people who profited from selling sacrificial birds, telling them they were making God’s house of prayer into a den of robbers.

So that is the context in which the “chief priests and elders of the people came to him” – they’ve seen him curing the blind and the lame; they’ve seen his anger in the Temple and the crowds showing “Hosanna to the Son of David”; they’ve heard his teaching.  And they don’t like it.  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they ask.  “How Dare You?” is the subtext – and “Who do you think you are?”.  THEY are the authorities here in Jerusalem, and he has no right to be acting this way, gathering crowds around him. 

In our present context we may be asking questions about authority – the uncertainty around Covid and Brexit – by what ‘authority’ does our government tell us what to do?  Ultimately, it rests on truth – Jesus came, as he says in John’s Gospel, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 

The Scribes and the Pharisees are so wrapped up in their own way of thinking, holding on the rules and regulations of the past that they can’t open their minds to who and what Jesus is. They recognise that he speaks and acts with authority, and they feel threatened by that.  The rules they live by help them to hold on to and exercise their own authority, and any threat to the stability and privilege they are enjoying under Roman power is unwelcome.

Jesus’ response is not just a way of deflecting the question – it’s prompting them to think a bit deeper, and it’s very effective, as we can tell by the conversation the chief priests and elders have among themselves.  Jesus could have been more direct and asked them by what authority did John baptise me?  It was at his baptism by John that the Holy Spirit was seen descending on Jesus like a dove, and a voice from heaven was heard declaring, “This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”  Did they deny this?  Did they fail to understand it?  Were their minds so closed that they couldn’t see the need to repent, and to change their ways?

In telling the story of the two sons – one who says he won’t do what his father asks, but then changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard, and the other who says he’ll go, but doesn’t – Jesus is drawing attention to the fact that the Jewish leaders of the day, who think they are obeying God’s laws, are failing to do so.  It is the despised people like tax-collectors and prostitutes who have listened to John’s teaching, and responded to it in repentance, who will enter the Kingdom of God.  Sadly, the Jewish leaders failed to realise is that it was still not too late – if they could change their minds, accept the truth of John’s preaching, they might have been able to see that Jesus’ authority came from God himself.

Our Old Testament reading from Ezekiel provides words which those in opposition to Jesus should have paid attention to: “Turn, then, and live.”  Ezekiel is urging the people to repent and change their ways, as so many of the prophets did, including John the Baptist. The people of Ezekiel’s time believed their suffering was caused by the sins of previous generations, rather than accepting responsibility for themselves. It’s worth reading the whole of this chapter sometime.  The message to “Turn, then, and live” is true for us today.  What are the behaviours, actions, thoughts, attitudes of which we need to repent so that we can truly live?

We are surrounded by the uncertainty of the Coronavirus, and also, now less than 100 days away from our final “Brexit” from Europe.  And if we look ahead into the future, we see a world that is being destroyed by climate change. We can feel very unsettled, and we do.  Do we blame our forefathers for all that is going wrong, or do we accept the responsibility and look to see what we can change in ourselves, and in our behaviour? 

This is the season of CreationTide, when we give thanks for God’s wonderful goodness to us in creation.  There may be things we cannot change – like Brexit – but there are things we can do – like showing our gratitude for creation in trying harder to reduce our own impact on the environment.  The people of St Paul’s Clapham, and several other churches around the country, are celebrating Creation Sunday today, and spending this week before their Harvest Festival next week, focussing on what they can do: use less energy (don’t turn your heating up too high, even though the weather has got colder, and move to a green energy provider if you haven’t already done so); try to drive less and walk or bike more if you can; and eat less meat, or even try to have a full vegetarian or vegan died for a week!

As I reflect on the story of the two sons, I realise I’m rather more like the second one as I speak about trying to act in a more environmentally-friendly way, and yet I still buy foods wrapped in plastic, and although I bike a lot, I do jump into my car too often when I could plan ahead better and not need to rush.  I pray that during this week, we may be able to find time to give thanks for the wonder of creation and we see the season moving from summer to autumn, to give thanks for all the gifts God has given us, to reflect on how we can use those gifts more responsibly, and share what we have with others, so that we can live more fully the lives that God longs for us to live, following in the example for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.  Amen.


Lord of creation,

whose glory is around and within us:

open our eyes to your wonders,

that we may serve you with reverence

and know your peace at our lives’ end,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Prayers of Intercession

We close our prayer together:

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

Sunday 20th September 2020 Trinity 15

posted 17 Sep 2020, 07:18 by Church Office   [ updated 18 Sep 2020, 08:24 by CHS Info ]

 Last week’s gospel told us to stop counting and start loving.  These week’s readings also reflect on our human nature to count, to measure what we have and what others have.  Provided we have what we need we don’t need to count.  The gospel passage is the vicar’s favourite parable, the workers in the vineyard.  The parable asks us whether we really truly want God’s mercy, forgiveness, generosity or would we rather have justice?  Wouldn’t we rather have the good rewarded and the wicked punished? The answer is, of course, YES, if we count ourselves with the good—but are we sure?  The passage from Exodus reflects on God’s provision: what we need from day to day not what we want or can store up for times ahead.


Exodus 16: 2-15 

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 


Matthew 20:1-16 

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”



I don’t know how many of you remember Harry Enfield’s character Kevin the teenager? Kevin would always say “It’s so unfair”. And let’s not be dishonest - there’s a corresponding stereotype in the parent who inevitably responds by saying “well, LIFE’s not fair”. Also in the interests of honesty: there are certain situations in places I’ve worked and in life in general which provoke in me a raw and immediate sense of injustice that I have to admit feels pretty juvenile. Real, and not without justification, but juvenile nonetheless. At least I’m able to keep those feelings to myself, and respond without betraying what’s going on inside. Most of the time. I think.

If I were one of the workers in the vineyard who’d just put in a full day of gruelling work, then been told to wait in line behind those who’d only done an hour, and then seen that they were getting paid the same amount as me, that would certainly have been one of those times. But look at it this way: they would have been the same people I’d been waiting alongside that morning, all of us hoping to get a day’s work, none of us any more deserving than the other. When I was hired and they were not, I’d probably have felt that was perfectly fine - just “the luck of the draw”.

Justice, and the question of judgment that arises from it are persistent concerns in Matthew’s gospel. In today’s reading the master of the vineyard sees what is happening and says so what are you going to do about it? “Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” Again, let’s look at it from another perspective: we are talking about subsistence wages here - that’s what it was like for day labourers in first century Palestine. So in fact the owner of the vineyard is saying to those who were hired last: this evening you and your family will be able to eat after all. It is a vision of a society in which everyone has enough. Of a society in which the luck - or otherwise - of the draw is irrelevant.

And those who worked only an hour presumably spent all those preceding hours waiting, powerless to do anything about their situation. Not an interesting or exciting kind of waiting. Which speaks to our own situation, I would say: we wait for what happens next, with Coronavirus, with the threat of a no deal Brexit. We are perhaps not used to being quite so powerless.

It is interesting that the owner of the vineyard “went out”, the text says, five times to look for workers. The verb used (exelthen) is the same used for the self-emptying love revealed in the Incarnation: as St Paul wrote to the Philippians: “ … though he was in the form of God [he] emptied himself … being born in human likeness”. So what matters is not just that the grapes are harvested, but that everyone is included. No-one is judged and found deserving of being ignored, or forgotten, or excluded in any way. It matters so much that the owner of the vineyard “empties himself” into going out and finding them.

Today’s parable starts with the phrase “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard ...” So the kingdom of heaven is like everyone having dignity. It is like everyone being included. Everyone being sought after, worth the effort of going out all those times to be found, and brought inside, to a place of belonging. And the kingdom of heaven is like when people like me, and like all of us, are prepared to experience raw, pure, Kevin-the-teenager outrage not just at relatively trivial workplace politics or other things like that, but at systemic injustice in society - and therefore, take action.




God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit 

upon your Church in the burning fire of your love: 

grant that your people may be fervent 

in the fellowship of the gospel 

that, always abiding in you, 

they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service; 

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.



Prayers of Intercession

Loving God, we meet you in prayer, counting not what we and others have, but instead asking to follow your way of mercy, forgiveness, and generosity. We come to you now, joining our hearts in prayer:

God of mercy, we pray today for the church, that we may declare the good news of your mercy more fully. In this time of heightened anxiety and fear, may the church be a voice of peace and love. Here in our own church, we pray for continued success as we take on new technologies to make our services more accessible. Throughout the world, we give thanks and pray for all churches who have found new ways to share your message of unmeasurable forgiveness and love.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God of abundance, we pray today for the world, that we may share your abundance more wisely. We pray especially for places where fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters have devastated the land. We pray for safety for the first responders, generous help for those who have lost homes and livelihoods, and wisdom for policy-makers around the globe to address the causes of this climate crisis. Grant us wisdom as we find ways to protect and preserve the abundant gift of your creation.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God of generosity, we pray today for our community, that we may reflect your generosity more completely. We pray for those returning to work, school, and university in this changed world, and especially for those whose health has been affected by the current coronavirus pandemic. We pray too for those around us who lack work, food, or shelter. Guide us all as we find ways to support each other more generously.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God of strength, we pray today for the sick, that we may all be strengthened by your love. We pray especially for those dear to us: for Jane, Heidi, and Albert Bell; Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte, Jo Harvey, and Joshua Clark. We pray too for those who tirelessly care for the sick; may we all find strength as we care for each other.

Lord in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God of our beginnings and our ends, we pray today for the grieving, that they may find comfort in your gift of eternal life. We pray for those mourning the recent losses of loved ones, as well as those remembering the anniversaries of their loved ones’ deaths. Today we remember the family of Matthew Elvidge, Sara Jenni’s nephew, on the anniversary of his death. Grant the departed rest, and grant us comfort in their memories.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

We close our prayer together:

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

Sunday 13th September 2020 Trinity 15

posted 11 Sep 2020, 08:05 by Church Office

     You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 13th September 2020

 Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity


This week we hear Jesus’ call to forgive, not once not twice but an infinite number of times.  For Peter this seems foolish and, perhaps, impossible, and probably for us too.

Yet Jesus’ refusal to quantify the number of times we must forgive or expect forgiveness is because for Jesus it is never transactional, no one is ever owed forgiveness, it is relational.  Something made clear in the passage from Genesis: Joseph’s brothers are sure that they are not owed forgiveness, that in a measuring of good and evil they can expect to receive evil in return for the evil which they have done.  Yet for Joseph it is not about transactions, give and take, it is about relationship: he is now reunited with his family and so his goal is only how to maintain and build that relationship.  God’s greatest desire is not to see us punished for our wickedness or rewarded for our goodness but only ever to be in a closer, stronger relationship with us.

In PRAM SERVICE (8am) this week we are exploring second, third and 70 x 7th chances.  How many times do we want another chance? How many chances are we prepared to give to others? Songs & Story; Prayer and Play for our littlest members.

SUNDAY SCHOOL starts back this week at 9:30am For the first week our theme is Letting go the bad. We won’t get mad, just keep easy.  Bring to the kitchen table your paper, your pencils and crayons, your scissors and maybe we will be cutting out stuff that we will leave behind finding the glory in the space left by the cutout!!  Join us here:, you’ll need the password which can be found in our newsletter. To subscribe please go to our homepage to subscribe.


Genesis 50:15-21 

15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.


Matthew 18:21-35 

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”



How many times must I forgive? As much as seven times?

Surely no more than seven times?

Is it a cruel joke that we have the most radical call to forgiveness in the week that marked the end of the trial of the Manchester bomber and the anniversary of 9/11?

I hope with all my heart that none of us are ever faced with forgiving those who have killed someone we love.  Yet we are all faced with the difficult job of forgiving, forgiving those who lie to us, mistreat us, expect too much of us, belittle us, misunderstand us and betray us.

We all know how Peter felt – how many times must I forgive? Please don’t let it be as many as SEVEN.

Jesus replies 70 X 7 by which he means, not a higher number – but – no number, stop counting.

But then he tells a parable in which the king seems only to be forgiving once: what kind of a role model is that?

Is our forgiveness dependent on how much we too can forgive? Because, if we’re honest, that is probably not that much – certainly not 70 X 7.  

Well, if this parable were telling us that God only offers us forgiveness if we forgive others then the king would have asked the servant to forgive his fellow servant FIRST before offering forgiveness.  But the king doesn’t, there is no prior condition, he doesn’t forgive because the servant is worthy, or good, or has earned it.  The reason the king forgives is because he is moved to pity.

The debt the servant owes is truly mammoth, the equivalent of his wages for the next 150,000 YEARS.  He asks for patience and promises to pay it back in full.  But however patient the king is there is not a hope in hell that the servant will ever be able to pay him back. 

In the face of such a crushing obstacle the king has pity – his heart is moved, he feels how the man himself must feel, trapped, burdened, hopeless.

In agreeing to write off the entire debt the king is behaving in a very unkingly fashion – in his culture kingship, all power, was based on the number of people who owed you an obligation and the size of the obligations they owed:

In writing off the obligation the king was giving up his power, he was radically undermining his own rule.  He was building a completely different kind of kingdom, a different world in which to live: one based not on obligations, or hierarchy or power – one based on forgiveness and freedom.

Not a world of 7 or 70 X 7 but a world with no counting, no score keeping. 

Sadly the servant cannot accept the king’s offer to live in such a world.  Offered forgiveness and freedom and generosity and equality he cannot offer it to someone else.

Why? The debt he is owed is much smaller – about 100 days wages - there was a realistic prospect he would get paid.  So why does he choose to punish his fellow servant instead?

I think the clue is in the repetition: when the king asks the slave for repayment “the slave fell on his knees before him, pleading, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you” later “his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.”


The unforgiving slave has the uncomfortable feeling of having been here before, he remembers for a moment what it feels like to be powerless, to be entirely at the mercy of another person, to have no control over his life. 

The feeling is so unbearable that to end it he does something to prove that he is not powerless but powerful, someone who not only has control over their own life but over someone else’s as well.

The king of course has done the opposite – he has pity, he allowed himself to feel what it must feel like to be oppressed and powerless and so freely gives up his own power to empower another.

God is not a king who makes us earn his favour, whose forgiveness is conditional, whose generosity is fickle, God is a king who literally gives up his power to empower us. 

We are then free to choose what we do with that power and to live with the consequences.

How many times must I forgive my brother, the one who hurt, stole, cheated, lied, betrayed, killed?

The extent to which we are able to forgive as many as even 7 times let alone 70 x 7 will depend upon how much pity we have, how far we can get inside another’s skin, allow ourselves to feel what they might feel, to understand the wounds they have suffered,

 and how much of our power - our sense of justice and righteousness, the moral high ground on which we stand - we are prepared to give away to heal them of those wounds.

Forgiveness is not about counting it is about connecting – it is about allowing ourselves to stand beside another and feel ourselves to be the same.  Children of the same God whose generosity we can never hope to repay.  Children of a God who is always re-opening the door to a whole new world and inviting us to walk through.



God of freedom,
you brought your people out of slavery with a mighty hand.
Deliver us from our captivity to pride
and indifference to the needs and gifts of others,
that we may be ready to love as you have loved us,
and to give even as we have received. Amen


Prayers of Intercession

The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy. As he has commanded us to love and forgive one another, we come before him now to offer our prayers for the Church and the world.

We pray for the Church in this country as we continue to witness to you. Let us be known for our quickness to forgive others, our eagerness to be generous with those in need, our compassion for those who are suffering, and our mercy to those who ask it of us.

We pray for all those who are to be ordained this month, as deacons and priests. That the Lord will send his Holy Spirit upon each one of them to inspire and fuel their ministry in his Church.

We pray for the church here in Clapham, for all the clergy and those who administer our work, especially as we seek to fill two important roles in our parish. Let us pray that the right people will come forward for those. We pray that all will go smoothly as we seek to install the new AV equipment in the church in the coming weeks and months.

That all we do will help us continue to reach out to those who are most in need of the Gospel.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer

As we struggle with an ever-changing situation with Covid-19, and further restrictions on our lives as we strive to cope with everything that is going on, let us pray that the Lord will guide all those who make decisions on our behalf. That nobody will be forgotten or abandoned in our communities, and that we can keep the virus under control to avoid further illness and deaths.

We pray for the NHS, for doctors, nurses and support staff, and for all key workers, as they gear up for the Autumn and Winter seasons, as well as dealing with the backlog of patients who have waited for treatment during the pandemic. We pray with gratitude for all the gifts you have given them, for their skill and compassion and willingness to put themselves at the service of others.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer


We pray for the political situation around the world. For those who continue to negotiate Brexit on both sides. That the Lord will be present in all the discussions and that we might emerge from the negotiations with a plan that will lead our country forward.

We pray for other countries around the world where the political situation remains fragile. We remember Syria, as the people there continue to cope with the effects of a long and devastating civil war. We pray for Belarus, and particularly for the opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova. And for other places on our hearts or in the news. For Malawi, for Libya, for Paraguay.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer


As we all begin to return to our schools and workplaces this month, let us pray for our local community, that we remain conscious of our neighbours, preserve the community spirit that has grown up during these long months of the pandemic, and support one another as we go through another period of change.

Let us pray for those who will suffer the economic effects of the virus: job, home and food insecurity. We pray the Lord will through his church come alongside those in greatest need and help them find all that they need for material and spiritual health.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer


For those who are sick and suffering for any reason, at home or in hospital. Let us pray they will find enduring strength and healing in the name of Jesus Christ. We remember especially in our prayers:

Jane Bell, Heidi Bell, Albert Bell, Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko,  Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte and Joshua Clarke

And we pray for a moment for our own personal petitions.


Let us also pray for those who have died, and for all who are bereaved. Let us remember their loss and show compassion to their needs, and travel beside them on their journey through grief. At this time of year we particularly remember those who died in the September 11th attacks in the US, nineteen years’ ago. May light perpetual shine upon them, and may they rest in peace.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer


Almighty God,

We know that you forgive all our guilt and heal every one of our ills.

We pray and ask you to hear our prayers,

and to teach us your way of compassion, mercy and love.


Merciful Father,

Accept these prayers,

For the sake of your Son,

Our saviour, Jesus Christ.



Sunday 6th September 2020 Trinity 13

posted 4 Sep 2020, 03:57 by Church Office   [ updated 7 Sep 2020, 12:28 by CHS Info ]

You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 6th September 2020

 Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

We’re all in it together seems to be the message of this week’s texts.  They don’t sit comfortably with our modern individualism and attitude of minding our own business.

In the reading from Ezekiel God promises to appoint sentinels to watch over his people. To warn them when their treatment of one another is unjust.  It seems harsh that the sentinels themselves will be blamed for the sins of those whom they have failed to warn; yet it makes clear that we are responsible for one another; building the kingdom of God is not a solo pursuit.   In the gospel passage Jesus points out that our individual relationships impact upon the whole community.  Each of us has power and authority to set one another free with forgiveness and generosity or to bind one another with judgement.   Conflict and disagreement are not the issue, its whether we care enough about one another.  Relationships inevitably break down from time to time but we are called to keep working to mend them when they do.

In PRAM SERVICE  (8am in church) this week we are exploring how to get along with each other: falling out and making up again.  Songs, stories, prayers and this week making friendship paper chains.


Ezekiel 33:7-11 
7 So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life. 10 Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” 11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Matthew 18:15-20 
15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”



 “Where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them”, says our Lord.  It is a wonderful promise, Christ present with us now – the trouble is, the other two or three.

Today’s readings are all about how hard other people are to live with. In our epistle the Roman Christians are being reprimanded for quarrelling and jealousy (as well as the more exciting sins of revelling and drunkenness).  And the gospel reading is a list of instructions for how to try and patch it up when we fall out. From the very beginning neither the church nor its members were perfect and we should not expect them to be. Nonetheless today’s readings are also all about how we are responsible for one another whether we like it or not; whether we like each other or not we are to love each other.

Well, that doesn’t sound so bad.  But, as the letter to the Romans love is not something we should choose whether or not to bestow upon one another, it is a strict obligation, it is what is required of us, we OWE it to one another as a debt.  Fortuitously for those, who like me, are not always easy to love, love does not mean that have to like each other all that time, or that we have to get along with one another all the time, loving one another does not preclude disagreements and disputes; which is a bit of a relief. 

Our readings reveal that right from its very beginning, there was tension in the Christian community, between our calling to love one another and our inability to always get on with one another.  It is good to know that we are not failing to love one another when we disagree with each other, and that we are not failing to love one another when we wound one another, which, because we are human, we are bound to do.  But we are failing to love one another if, having wounded one another, we do not seek, with all our will, to mend that relationship. 

Which is why our gospel instructs us to talk to one another. Jesus tells us to do the opposite of what we usually do when we have been wronged by someone, we usually don't speak directly to the person. Instead, we go and tell two or three or four or five other people.  Often when we are wounded, our primary concern is to lick our wounds and assure ourselves of the support of others, or to justify ourselves and prove that we were in the right. And that’s normal, but Jesus tells us that our primary concern should be to restore our relationship with the person who has hurt us because, we owe one another a debt of love.

The language of debt and the forgiveness of debt is important in the gospels; In Jesus’ time debt was life threatening – as it still can be today – it brought loss of land, livelihood, family and place in the community. An indebted person was unable to maintain their social position.  If someone’s debt was forgiven, they were restored to their place in the community.

So, it is with love, if we love someone, when they wrong us, our obligation is to do whatever is possible to mend our relationship. Jesus tells us that we have the power to lose or bind, to retain sins or to forgive them. We have the power to destroy or to restore. The choice is always ours. When we choose to forgive, when we choose to love, then we become the place where Christ is present, then we are the two or three gathered in his name.

People are difficult! Community is hard work but it is here that Christ is found. If we did not have one another, we would not have Christ in our midst.


Holy God,
you call us to righteousness and light.
Teach us the undivided law of love,
that we may love your children even as you do,
love you with all our will and strength,
and find our freedom in this blessed service,
taught to us in word and deed
by Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Prayers of Intercession

Lord, grant us the stillness and calm of your Spirit that we might concentrate on these few minutes of prayer together.


Lord of all nations on earth, we ask you to look with your love and compassion on the areas of the world that so desperately need your presence and healing.  We think of Beirut, Belarus and many other places.  We pray that you will help governments to find answers to the cruelty and anguish, man’s inhumanity to man, the heartbreak of refugees and broken families, the hopelessness of so many lives.  Lord, please help the helpless and bring succour to the suffering, through your unconditional love.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

We pray that you will give wisdom and sound judgment to all those in positions of power and authority in our own country and we ask for your blessing on our archbishop, bishops, and on our clergy and all in the team who work here at Holy Spirit in your name.  We bring before you the current campaign to raise money for the means to broadcast our services for those who cannot get to church.  Lord, as you taught us to love our neighbours as ourselves, give us courage to do what each of us can to help those in need; to comfort those in distress; to offer practical help and the assurance of your love to those still lonely and isolated.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

We pray for doctors, nurses and medical staff who are caring for the sick and all those working in care homes.  Lord, keep them safe and support them, and give them the resilience to carry on.  Guide all those throughout the world who are searching for a vaccine and cure for Coronavirus.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

We pray for our local community in Clapham, our families, our friends, our neighbours, the elderly and those suffering depression, hardship and anxiety about work. We think of all those returning to schools and universities and pray that they will remain sensible and safe in your sight.  We bring before you the sick and entrust them to your tender care, thinking particularly of Jane, Heidi and Albert Bell, Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris,  Jane Roberts, Damien Harte and  Joshua Clarke. In a moment of silence let us think of any others close to us or known to us about whom we are concerned ………..  Lord, lift up those who are brought low and keep them in your love.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

We pray for loved ones and friends who have died and we think of all those who are mourning a recent bereavement. We pray especially for Margaret Gale who recently passed, we pray for her family and those who cared about her.  May they find your strength and support in their loneliness.  We remember the slenderness of the thread which separates life from death, and the suddenness with which it can be broken. 

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Lord God, may we know you as the true Messiah and, in spite of all our failings, be rocks to form a sure foundation on which you can build and develop your church here on earth.  Give us your wisdom and surround us with your love that we may live in fellowship with you, in harmony of spirit with others, and for the good of all mankind.

Merciful Father –

Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen.


Sunday 30th August 2020 Trinity 12

posted 14 Aug 2020, 05:14 by Church Office   [ updated 1 Sep 2020, 04:00 ]

You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 30th August 2020

 Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

There are those who will tell you that following God will bring you security and contentment, and it will, but not perhaps in the way we expect.  Today the prophet Jeremiah is having a moan (as usual) God tells him to suck it up.  Life will still be hard, your enemies will still attack you, but that’s OK, because, even through all this, I’ve got you.  Jesus’ message to the disciples is similar: they will know joy and freedom but this will come not through power and might but instead through suffering and humility and self-sacrifice.  Unsurprisingly they do not understand.  Jesus tells them the truth: it is in giving away ourselves that we become ourselves – the way of the cross, the losing of self for love, is the path to God’s kingdom. 


Jeremiah 15:15-21 

15 O Lord, you know;
    remember me and visit me,
    and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance do not take me away;
    know that on your account I suffer insult.
16 Your words were found, and I ate them,
    and your words became to me a joy
    and the delight of my heart;
for I am called by your name,
    O Lord, God of hosts.
17 I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,
    nor did I rejoice;
under the weight of your hand I sat alone,
    for you had filled me with indignation.
18 Why is my pain unceasing,
    my wound incurable,
    refusing to be healed?
Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,
    like waters that fail.

19 Therefore thus says the Lord:
If you turn back, I will take you back,
    and you shall stand before me.
If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
    you shall serve as my mouth.
It is they who will turn to you,
    not you who will turn to them.
20 And I will make you to this people
    a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
    but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
    to save you and deliver you,
says the Lord.
21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
    and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.


Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:21-28 

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”



The night before I celebrated my first Mass, I was in church practising: what to say, what to do, when to lift the chalice, what hand to use to make the sign of blessing.  There were so many things to get wrong and I really wanted to get it right.  Whilst I practised, I prayed and my prayer was “please Lord don’t let me be a stumbling block.  Please don’t let me get in the way, please don’t let my presence be the thing that keeps people from experiencing your presence.”

Well that prayer was not answered. 

The First Mass went fine – as far as I remember I did not drop the host or spill the blood of Christ (though I have done both since).  But, nevertheless, I was a stumbling a block.

I knew that there were people in the worshipping community who did not accept women’s priesthood, who wanted a male priest and so, you know, I couldn’t help but be a stumbling block because there really wasn’t anything that I could do about being me.

I am sure that I have often been a stumbling block for reasons other than my gender – but that particular stumbling block was a given.  And so I had to live with it and so did you. 

There was a particular couple who would not receive communion from me for three whole years.  They had principles and they were sticking to them. 

What was beautiful about that was that they continued to work and worship with me, their stumbling block.  We did not try to persuade each other of the rights or wrongs of the ordination of women but they did not storm off in disgust, they did not only come to church when a male priest was officiating, they continued to be very much a part of the community, I continued to be a part of the community – it was not always comfortable.

Then one day they started to receive communion from me, I was still the same me, still female, I hadn’t changed, but for some reason I was no longer a stumbling block for them: I didn’t ask why, they didn’t tell, I was just grateful.

Many, many years later I was having lunch with one of those same parishioners and she told me that she changed her mind, not about women priests (she was still clear that they were an abomination) but about this particular woman priest, me. 

As we talked, I pondered why, if I could be loved by God and called by God and, on a good day, be used by God for God’s work, why couldn’t another woman, say her?  She burst into tears. 

Last week Jesus called Peter the rock on which he would build his church.  This week he calls him a stumbling block.  He is still the same Peter this week that he was last week, he hasn’t changed.

The stumbling block is still a rock it’s just a rock that’s in the way. 

The question is in the way of what?

Canon Jeffrey John was chosen to be a Bishop in the Oxford Diocese back in gosh I guess around 2004??  All hell broke loose.  A few weeks later Jeffrey stood down. He had been persuaded that if he did indeed become a Bishop he would be a stumbling block in the path of church unity.  Jeffrey John is gay.

If Jeffrey had become a Bishop he may well have been a stumbling block to church unity but he might also have been a rock on which a more inclusive and more Christ shaped church could be built.  In the words of James Finley, maybe what is IN the way IS the way.

Perhaps the only time we stop to think about whether or not the path we are headed down is really the path of God, the cross shaped path that Christ calls us to follow him on, or maybe some other path entirely, a path upholding the status quo, an unchallenging path, a secure and certain path, is when we stumble.

Stumbling blocks challenge us, they hurt, they make us trip and fall.  We don’t like them.  But we need them.  

The times of greatest growth in my life have been the times when I have literally been brought to my knees, when I have fallen and fallen hard.

No one wants to trip and fall.  And no one wants to be the person who makes another trip and fall.  But sometimes we need a stumbling block and sometimes we need to be the stumbling block.  And sometimes all of us, the ones who are stumbling and the ones who are being stumbled over need to stop and reflect together on whether the path that we are stumbling down is actually the right path, a path which is cross-shaped, a path which does not avoid suffering and struggle but which is broad enough for all God’s children.  Or whether what is the IN the way maybe IS the way after all.



God, you are the power of liberation,
calling your servant Moses
to lead your people into freedom,
and giving him the wisdom to proclaim your holy law.
Be our Passover from the land of injustice,
be the light that leads us to the perfect rule of love,
that we may be citizens of your unfettered reign;
we ask this through Jesus Christ,
the pioneer of our salvation. Amen.

Prayers of intercession

Let us pray to God through his Son and in the power of the Spirit

Your Son told his disciples that whoever lost their life for his sake would find it. We give thanks for churches which give much of themselves for the Kingdom and which risk their own security for the greater good. Mould your church into a people worthy of your Kingdom. Grant them your strength of purpose.

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Your Son asked his disciples to take up their cross. We remember all who take up crosses on behalf of others - in Belarus, in Libya, in Syria and in Yemen. We pray for those who defend criminals to ensure justice is done, those who care for people who are physically or emotionally frail. Grant them your love

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Your Son challenged Peter to think of heavenly rather than earthly things. As schools return this coming week we remember  the children, staff, governors and helpers in Bonneville and Macaulay schools and Lambeth Academy. May they embrace the higher goals of learning and friendship in this time of fear and uncertainty. Grant them your wisdom.

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Your Son was weighed down carrying his own cross. We pray for all who follow him in pain and suffering. By name we remember:

 Jane Bell, Heidi Bell, Albert Bell, Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko,  Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte,  Joshua Clarke and,  Jonathan Aubrey. Grant them – and all who care for them – your compassion

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Your Son pointed the disciples to the Day of Resurrection.We give thanks for the lives of those who have gone before us in faith, among them Rev Nick Richards whose anniversary of death falls around this time.  We remember too Mercy Beguma, the asylum seeker who died in Scotland this week. Grant them your peace.

 Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Rejoicing in the company of Aidan, Gregory the Great and the whole of creation we commend these prayers to God who is love.

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

Sunday 23rd August 2020 Trinity 11

posted 14 Aug 2020, 05:08 by Church Office   [ updated 1 Sep 2020, 03:34 ]

You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here soon.

Sunday 23rd August 2020

Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Our Gospel reading this week marks the mid-point of Jesus’ ministry, with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi.  He asks his disciples who people think he is, and then he asks who they think he is.  Simon Peter says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  In Matthew’s Gospel we then hear Jesus giving him the name ‘Peter’, meaning the ‘rock’ on which he will build his church. 

Our first reading, from Romans, also marks a shift - Paul moves from talking of God’s grace and mercy for all people, to explaining to the Christians in Rome how they need to live out their faith – being transformed ‘by the renewing of your minds’ rather than conformed to this world.

We need to be able to respond to Jesus’ question – who do we think he is?  And then, if we agree with Peter, reflect on how we can put into practice what Paul says, and ‘discern what is the will of God’, working together as one body using the gifts God has given us to do ‘what is good and acceptable and perfect’


First Reading:  Romans 12:1-8 

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.


Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-20 

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.



 The conversation Jesus has with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi marks a turning point in the gospel. From now on he will be talking about how he is going to suffer at the hands of the authorities – in next week’s reading we hear him tell the disciples that he will die, and that he’ll be raised on the third day. Unsurprisingly, they can’t understand that, and Peter will protest that it cannot happen. Today, we hear what’s known as Peter’s ‘Confession of Faith’ – he has come to realise that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. Of course, his expectation of what that means is very different to reality, and that’s why next week’s reading is important. For now, Jesus is telling Peter that he is the rock on which he’ll build his church, and “the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” That can be interpreted to mean that the power of death cannot win – the gates will not close to imprison those who have died. What would we answer if Jesus were here now, asking us, “Who do you say that I am?” We might sometimes vary our response, depending on the depth of our faith at the time when we’re asked, but if we consider ourselves to be reasonably orthodox Christians, we probably agree that Jesus is, to use the title of a book by John Robinson, “The Human Face of God”. If we believe that, then the challenge for us is to look at how that makes a difference to the way we live our lives. In our first reading we heard Paul challenging the Christian community in Rome not to let themselves be ‘conformed’ to the ways of the world, but to be ‘transformed’ – and how? – ‘by the renewing of your minds’ – and why? – ‘so that you may discern what is the will of God: what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ 

I wanted to take a break from the series of Old Testament readings we’ve had over recent weeks because this passage is very significant for me. On a personal level that’s partly because the first time I had to stand up in an adult service to read the lesson as a teenager, these were the verses I was given to read, and I have special memories of my father taking the time to ‘coach’ me in how to read well. It was some kind of civic service at the Parish Church in Richmond where I grew up, because I remember that I was in my Girl Guide uniform!  But much more significantly than that personal memory is what I see as a brilliant summary of what it means to be a committed Christian. We must constantly resist conforming to the pressures of society – we need to open our minds to be ‘transformed’ and ‘renewed’, so that we can do what God requires of us. That may mean becoming a ‘living sacrifice, as St Paul says. We sometimes pray after Communion – “…we offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice.” There is a cost to being a Christian – or at least, there should be. I was reading in this week’s Church Times a report of an article in the Financial times about someone who works as a ‘tax lobbyist’. His work involves persuading governments to change tax regulations in a way that enable big corporations to pay less tax. Obviously if big companies find ways to avoid tax, there’s less money available for the government to use to support the poor and disadvantaged in our communities. The issue with this particular lobbyist is firstly that he was part of the team who negotiated a tax break which the HMRC now claims was fraudulent, and, more significantly, he is an ordained priest in the Church of England, serving part-time and unpaid, but still as a priest. The Church Times commentary was asking the question “Should we compare him to all the clergy who are not paid to frustrate the financing of the welfare state, or to all the tax lawyers who would never dream of working as parish clergy?” The two roles seem simply to be incompatible. The journalist went on to point out that if you shop from Amazon you are taking advantage of that company’s ‘sweetheart’ tax deals, and I would add, you’re paying money to a company that doesn’t treat its workers well. Do we allow our minds to be transformed by God so that we can discern his will and do what is good and acceptable and perfect? Do we stop and think enough before all our actions, including shopping, to check if this is what God wants us to do – or to say? Are we careful about the wonderful God-given resources of our created world? Do we avoid using cars when we can walk? Do we go without goods that are wrapped in plastic? Do we stop to think about the conditions in which people work in order to supply our needs? I know I often fail – but each time we fail, we need to repent, and try a little harder the next time to live lives that are ‘good and acceptable’ even if they’re not perfect. 

The second half of our reading from Romans today is about using the gifts God has given us to work together as “one body in Christ” because we are all “members of one another”. The list Paul gives applies as much to the whole of our lives not just as members of a church congregation. When we take time to reflect, we can identify the ways in which we can best work to support and serve others. Our gift may be in teaching or ministry, encouragement or generosity or diligence, or it may simply be ‘cheerfulness’ which we can offer to others, when appropriate. Whatever it is that we offer, it will require ‘sacrifice’ in the sense that if it comes too easily, we may be missing something. The salvation we find in Jesus comes through his death and resurrection, and Paul tells us we have to present our bodies as a ‘living sacrifice, holy and acceptable’ in order that we can be sent out into the world to live and work to give praise and glory to God. Ours is not an easy faith if we truly allow ourselves to be transformed, rather than being conformed to this world. Last weekend we commemorated VJ day – the day when the Japanese surrendered to the allies and the Second World War finally ended, 75 years ago. We now give thanks for the end of the conflict, rather than celebrating a victory. We remember the sacrifices made by so many in order to secure the freedom for those of us who live in the free parts of the world today. The devastating death toll of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be forgotten, nor must the deaths of all those who died during the war, innocent civilians in bombed cities as well as servicemen and women, and we remember all those whose lives were totally changed by their experiences. Sadly that day 75 years ago did not bring an end to all war and conflict. Jesus taught that among those who are blessed are those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and those who are “peacemakers”. If we seek peace and righteousness in whatever small way we can, we will be doing what St Paul calls “the will of God”. Lord, we pray, may Thy will be done.


Through the storms of life, O God,
you are with your people
in the person of Jesus your Son.
Calm our fears and strengthen our faith
that we may never doubt his presence among us
but proclaim that he is your Son,
risen from the dead,
living for ever and ever. Amen.


Prayers of Intercession

Dear Lord,

We pray that you help us to work for you, like Peter who you called to be his rock.

Let us recognise that if we are to be strong, and work in the way you wish, we also

 have to recognise our weaknesses, and seek your help to aid us in our time of need.

 Lord in your mercy- hear our prayer.


We pray today for the church, throughout the world, 

That at these times of trouble, the church may come together in unity

 That it may demonstrate, that we are all part of the same body.

We pray for our Parish:  that we may work for all

We pray for those who are sad,  and for those  who feel  they are lost,

  in a meaningless world, that Christ may renew their faith and hope.

 Lord, in your mercy - Hear our prayer.


Let us  pray for the world,

We pray for peace in the world, especially in those countries where war and hatred of the other , has become a part of daily life.

We pray for all leaders and those whose decisions affect the lives of others

That they may take wise counsel, and listen to those with knowledge.

We pray that leaders will recognise that in order to choose the right way forward for all, they must consider those who have the least,  and need  the most ,

We pray they will follow your example when they are choosing the path to take..

Lord, in your mercy - Hear our prayer.


Let us pray for our own community

We pray for all leaders locally, we give thanks for all those who have stepped forward to help others, and care about the many people in our community who are less able to help themselves

We pray for those who are uncertain of the future, who are coping with insecurity.

Bless them and grant that they are given strength to carry on, and know that you are with them.

We pray for those whose work is fraught with anxiety, and for those who have lost their jobs.

We give thanks for those who are rocks supporting others in this difficult time.

Lord, in your mercy - Hear our prayer


Let us pray for those who are ill or in distress,

We pray for all those who are ill, and for those who tend to their needs. 

We pray for those whose work puts them at risk: may they find strength in

your love.

God our father, Bring healing to the sick and the distressed, and

to all those who are caring for them.

In particular we ask for your blessing on for Jane, Heidi, and Albert Bell; Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte, Jo Harvey, and Joshua Clark.

and in a moment of silence any others known to us .

Lord, in your mercy - Hear our prayer


Let us pray for the departed

We pray for all those who have died and those they leave behind, that they may know the presence of Christ beside them.

We pray for the souls of all those who have recently died,

 Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, And may light perpetual shine upon him.

We pray for all those who are bereaved, that you will surround them with your love.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

Lord in your mercy  -   Hear our prayer

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your son Our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.


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