A Shorter Communion Service for Trinity 13

HYMN - Teach me, My God and King - Sandys - NEH 456

1 TEACH me, my God and King,

In all things thee to see;

And what I do in anything

To do it as for thee!

2 A man that looks on glass,

On it may stay his eye;

Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,

And then the heaven espy.

3 All may of thee partake;

Nothing can be so mean,

Which, with this tincture, 'for thy sake',

Will not grow bright and clean.

4 A servant with this clause

Makes drudgery divine;

Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,

Makes that and the action fine.

5 This is the famous stone

That turneth all to gold;

For that which God doth touch and own

Cannot for less be told.

PRAYER OF 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

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
God the Father forgives us in Christ and heals us by the Holy Spirit.

Let us therefore put away all anger and bitterness, all slander and malice,

and confess our sins to God our redeemer.   cf. Ephesians 4.30,32

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,

we have sinned against you

and against our neighbour,

through our own fault,

in thought, and word, and deed,

and in what we have left undone.

We are truly sorry

and repent of all our sins.

For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,

forgive us all that is past;

and grant that we may serve you in newness of life

to the glory of your name. Amen.

May the God of love and power

forgive you and free you from your sins,

heal and strengthen you by his Spirit

and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen

THE COLLECT

Almighty God,

who called your Church to bear witness

that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:

help us to proclaim the good news of your love,

that all who hear it may be drawn to you;

through him who was lifted up on the cross,

and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.


FIRST READING - Exodus 12.1-14

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbour in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

HYMN - Forgive our sins as we forgive - NEH 66

1. ’Forgive our sins as we forgive,'
you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but you alone can grant us grace
to live the words we say.

2. How can your pardon reach and bless
the unforgiving heart,
that broods on wrongs and will not let
old bitterness depart?

3. In blazing light your cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew:
what trivial debts are owed to us,
how great our debt to you!

4. Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls,
and bid resentment cease;
then, bound to all in bonds of love,
our lives will spread your peace.

GOSPEL - Matthew 18.15-20

“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. 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. 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. 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. 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. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

SERMON

Today's Gospel is on the face of it not a huge amount of help. It seems to describe a Church community so closely bound together that disputes between members of the community are so serious as to need a formal complaints procedure to deal with them. This sort of advice can also be found in some of Paul's letters, as he tries to help with the practical aspects of building new Christian communities, but it sits oddly alongside Jesus's usual teaching in the gospels. There were no established churches before Jesus's death and resurrection and it seems strange that he should lay down a formal grievance procedure for them. And yet there is something to learn from this passage. 

But first we should note that either side of this passage are two important and powerful parables. Before it is the parable of the lost sheep, where Jesus teaches the disciples that God does not give up on the sheep that stray from the fold. Following this passage he tells them the story of the unmerciful servant who will not forgive is fellow servant a small debt even though he's just been let off an enormous debt by his master. 

We should also remember that throughout Matthew's gospel we've heard how Jesus seeks out those who have been declared outcast, he especially looks for those declared to be sinners and Gentiles, and even tells a parable about how a tax collector can pray better than a Pharisee. 

So what do we get when we turn to these odd verses about what to do if your brother sins against you. First of all we get a little honesty, conflict isn't avoided, my usual tack of the least said soonest mended is not what's on offer here. The person with a grievance is told to go to the other and tell him what problem is. What happens next I find a little worrying, because he is to go back mob-handed. Following proper legal procedures he is to take two witnesses to note the other person's response to the complaint. If he hasn't been beaten into submission by all that then the whole Church is treated to a recital of the grievance and then, I suppose, it takes a vote on whether the supposedly guilty party is to be thrown out. 

What's further unsettling is that the decision of this community is final on earth and in heaven. Because the community is the people of God, because they speak with the authority of the Lord, their exclusion extends beyond this life and into the next.

So what do we have - we have a community, a group of people that has real importance, not as individuals - and note that there is no particular authority here, no elder or priest or even minister is mentioned – it is the community together that is significant - and maybe there is something to learn in that. 

In our culture we are naturally very individualistic, for our laws protect our rights as individuals only rarely do they address our life as a community. And yet the expression "I am because we are" is true time and again, in every part of our lives we only exist because we exist in communal living - if Covid-19 has taught us anything it has surely taught us that. 

To be a Christian means to be part of the body of Christ, and the body of Christ can only happen in common life with other people – a communion. In extremis we cannot always be present together, but we can be in contact, we can still be connected, and thanks to modern communications that isn't as difficult as once it may have been.

What this passage reveals is the importance of the Christian community, its theological importance as the new Israel, the new people of God, and also its spiritual importance as the place where Jesus is most clearly to be found. 

Rabbi Hanina ben Teradion (executed in AD 135) said ‘When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the Shechinah (the presence of God) rests between them.’ When two or three gather in Jesus's name his presence rests between them. 

As to the whole grievance procedure bit, and the church sitting in judgement, the next two verses in the Gospel seem to answer my concerns: 

"then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I give forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you not seven times, but 77 times." 

That taken with the two parables that bracket this passage leaves me to think that there is no exclusion, there is only forgiveness. You don’t put a convicted larcenist in charge of the church accounts, but neither do you refuse him communion or refuse to speak to him. For without forgiveness there is no community, let alone family.

There may be quarrels, there may wrongdoing - but there must be reconciliation, there has to be reconciliation, or how can we be a community of a God who forgives - for, as someone once said, forgiveness is a bridge that we all stand upon.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 

Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 15.3-7

INTERCESSIONS - Kristin Tridimas

Let Christ Jesus be the armour that we wear; let us throw off the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.

Dear God, as we start a new month; as children start a new school year, let us celebrate beginnings.  Please, Lord, give us the courage to always be able to start afresh; to turn over a new leaf; to live in the moment.  We pray for our children going back to school and for all who educate and care for them:  teachers, classroom assistants, caretakers, secretaries, nurses, cooks and dinner ladies.  May they have a good term, may Coronavirus be kept at bay and may they soon make up for lost time out of the classroom.

Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus teaches us to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’.  This year has indeed been a test of our neighbourliness.  Thank you, Lord, for our three communities where neighbours have pulled together and helped each other out during and after Lockdown.  In an uncertain future, help us to maintain these links; to continue to remember and care for the elderly and vulnerable in our communities and to never forget that for some people the isolation that we experienced in Lockdown, is permanent.

Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray today for all those who suffer in mind and spirit, the depressed, the mentally ill, the lonely and bereaved.  This year there have been many deaths and many bereavements.  We pray for all those left behind.  Bring them light in the darkness, relief in their suffering and the knowledge of your love and compassion.  We pray for all those who have died and commend them to You.  We also remember the homeless, those who have lost their jobs, the refugees landing on our shores and all those who slip through the net of government support.

Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Remembering those who suffer illness, disease and other physical ailments, we pray that you will send them relief.  We think especially of those on our benefice prayer list and all who care for them:  doctors, nurses, care workers, friends, neighbours and relatives.  We think of anyone known personally to us and we pray that Covid 19 will retreat from the world and that suffering will cease.  We pray for the researchers who are trying to find a vaccine and treatment for Covid and who research into many other deadly diseases and illnesses:  cancers; heart disease; malaria and cholera to name a few.  Send them courage, persistence and faith that they will find a way.

Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Thank you for the worshipping communities of Compton, Hursley and Otterbourne and for William and all who minister and preach in our churches and those who care for our churches, especially now with the extra Coronavirus regimes.  Help us to come together in faith and love and always to be welcoming even when our doors are closed and as we look forward to a new week, help us to be kind, joyful, patient and faithful.

Merciful Father, 

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


THE PEACE

The peace of the Lord be always with you

and also with you

HYMN - King of Glory, King of peace - Gwalchmai - NEH 391

1 King of glory, King of peace,

I will love thee;

And that love may never cease,

I will move thee.

Thou hast granted my request,

Thou hast heard me;

Thou didst note my working breast,

Thou hast spared me.

2 Wherefore with my utmost art

I will sing thee,

And the cream of all my heart

I will bring thee.

Though my sins against me cried,

Thou didst clear me;

And alone, when they replied,

Thou didst hear me.

3 Seven whole days, not one in seven,

I will praise thee;

In my heart, though not in heaven,

I can raise thee.

Small it is, in this poor sort

To enrol thee:

E'en eternity's too short

To extol thee.

The Preparation of the Table

Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,

the glory, the splendour, and the majesty;

for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.

All things come from you, 

and of your own do we give you.

Eucharistic Prayer H 

The Lord is here.

His Spirit is with us.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give thanks and praise.

It is right to praise you, Father, Lord of all creation;

in your love you made us for yourself.

When we turned away

you did not reject us,

but came to meet us in your Son.

You embraced us as your children

and welcomed us to sit and eat with you.

In Christ you shared our life

that we might live in him and he in us.

He opened his arms of love upon the cross

and made for all the perfect sacrifice for sin.

On the night he was betrayed,

at supper with his friends

he took bread, and gave you thanks;

he broke it and gave it to them, saying:

Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;

do this in remembrance of me.

Father, we do this in remembrance of him:

his body is the bread of life.

At the end of supper, taking the cup of wine,

he gave you thanks, and said:

Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant,

which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins;

do this in remembrance of me.

Father, we do this in remembrance of him:

his blood is shed for all.

As we proclaim his death and celebrate his rising in glory,

send your Holy Spirit that this bread and this wine

may be to us the body and blood of your dear Son.

As we eat and drink these holy gifts

make us one in Christ, our risen Lord.

With your whole Church throughout the world

we offer you this sacrifice of praise

and lift our voice to join the eternal song of heaven:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, 

your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive 

those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation 

but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, 

and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.,

Though we are many, we are one body, 

because we all share in one bread.

Jesus, lamb of God: have mercy on us.

Jesus, bearer of our sins: have mercy on us

Jesus, redeemer of the world: grant us your peace.

All you who hunger and thirst 

for a better life,

for a deeper faith

for a better world,

here is the bread of life;

feed on it with gratitude.

[Please come to the table to receive the bread, respecting the necessary distance.]

Post Communion PRAYER

God of all mercy,

in this eucharist you have set aside our sins

and given us your healing:

grant that we who are made whole in Christ

may bring that healing to this broken world,

in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Almighty God,

we thank you for feeding us 

with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ.

Through him we offer you our souls and bodies

to be a living sacrifice.

Send us out in the power of your Spirit

to live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.

BLESSING
The power of God be about you,

the love of Christ enfold you,

the joy of the Spirit be within you;

and the blessing of God Almighty, 

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

be among you, and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN - O praise ye the Lord - Laudate Dominum - NEH 427

1 O PRAISE ye the Lord!

Praise him in the height;

Rejoice in his word,

Ye angels of light;

Ye heavens adore him

By whom you were made,

And worship before him,

In brightness arrayed.

2 O praise ye the Lord!

Praise him on the earth,

In tuneful accord,

Ye sons of new birth;

Praise him who has brought you

His grace from above,

Praise him who has taught you

To sing of his love.

3 O praise ye the Lord!

All things that give sound;

Each jubilant chord,

Re-echo around;

Loud organs, his glory

Forth tell in deep tone,

And sweet harp, the story

Of what he has done.

4 O praise ye the Lord!

Thanksgiving and song

To him be out-poured

All ages along:

For love in creation,

For heaven restored,

For grace of salvation,

O praise ye the Lord!

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen