Morning Service for Trinity 8

HYMN - Lord teach us how to pray aright - Tallis 1st mode - NEH 406

1 Lord, teach us how to pray aright

With reverence and with fear;

Though dust and ashes in thy sight,

We may, we must draw near.

2 We perish if we cease from prayer;

O grant us power to pray;

And when to meet thee we prepare,

Lord, meet us by the way.

3 God of all grace, we bring to thee

With broken, contrite hearts;

Give, what thine eye delights to see,

Truth in the inward parts;

4 Faith in the only sacrifice

That can for sin atone;

To cast our hopes, to fix our eyes,

On Christ, on Christ alone;

5 Patience to watch, and wait, and weep,

Though mercy long delay;

Courage our fainting souls to keep,

And trust thee though thou slay.

6 Give these, and then thy will be done;

Thus, strengthened with all might,

We, through thy Spirit and thy Son,

Shall pray, and pray aright.

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 Lord and everlasting God,

we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern

   both our hearts and bodies

in the ways of your laws

   and the works of your commandments;

that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever,

we may be preserved in body and soul;

through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

FIRST READING - Genesis 32.22-31

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

HYMN - Bread of heaven, on thee we feed - Bread of heaven - NEH 276

1 Bread of heaven, on thee we feed,

For thy flesh is meat indeed;

Ever may our souls be fed

With this true and living bread,

Day by day with strength supplied

Through the life of him who died.

2 Vine of heaven, thy blood supplies

This blest cup of sacrifice;

'Tis thy wounds our healing give;

To thy cross we look and live:

Thou our life! O let us be

Rooted, grafted, built on thee.

GOSPEL - Matthew 14.13-21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

SERMON

There is a story of a boy who, hearing of Albert Schweitzer and his work in Lambaréné hospital in Gabon used his pocket money to buy a bottle of aspirin and asked the US Airforce to drop it over his hospital. The story got out and four and half tons of medical supplies were eventually airlifted to Schweitzer’s hospital. He said, “I never thought that one child could do so much.”  According to St John's account, at the heart of the feeding of the 5,000 is one boy offering to share his lunch. .

Matthew, following Mark, starts his telling of the feeding of the 4,000 with Jesus withdrawing from the crowds and seeking a place to be alone with God. And that brings us to the story of Jacob at the ford of the River Jabbock. Context here is all. Jacob’s crossing of this river is his return home, where he must face his brother, Esau. He has left the service of Laban, and through shrewd dealing and clever husbandry he has a significant fortune in livestock and people. He has a clan of 11 children from his two wives and their two maid servants; he has retainers and herds of camels, donkeys, goats and sheep. He is wealthy and successful and he now needs a place he can call home, and to find that place he must face his brother. Esau hasn’t been idle either, he has a force of 400 men - Jacob has wealth, Esau has power. Jacob is justifiably frightened to meet his brother whom he last saw breathing threats of murder and revenge, having been cheated out of his father’s blessing. 

He prepares the ground by sending on ahead of him large numbers of animals as gifts for Esau, in three waves he sends them across the Jabbock. Then, in the dead of night, he sends his family ahead of him. He is left alone, and alone he crosses and faces a man whom he must wrestle to get across. The struggle is endless, neither will let the other go. Jacob will not give up. Eventually, the man dislocates Jacob’s hip, but still Jacob will not give up. The man demands that he let him go as the dawn is breaking and the darkness of the night in Palestine is lifting, but Jacob won’t let go, even in great pain, he demands first a blessing. Only then does the stranger ask him his name, the dubious name of Jacob, ‘heal/trickster/over-reacher/supplanter’, that he was given at birth, as he contended with his twin brother at their delivery. The stranger changes Jacob’s name to Israel, some say ‘God preserves/God protects’, others, ‘he struggles with God’ - such is the challenge of etymology in Hebrew [I sra el - or Y = he; Sara = permits, perseveres, strives; El = God]. The text gives its own meaning, ‘as you have struggled with God and man and have overcome’. Jacob asks for the stranger’s name, which he doesn’t get, but is left with the profound realisation that he has seen God - face to face. Jacob leaves Penu’el [face of God] with a blessing, but also crippled.

All that is interesting, but there is more, and it is in the more that the story becomes fully realised. Jacob has still to meet his brother, and he fears that the result will be worse than a limp. But Esau runs to meet Jacob and embraces him, and kisses him. Esau has forgiven him. They both weep. Esau declines the gifts as unnecessary, though Jacob insists. Esau wishes to accompany Jacob from there, but Jacob politely finds excuses to leave him and heads off in another direction - he is still the shrewd and wary Jacob.

What Jacob says at their meeting is the heart of his whole story, “To see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favourably.” And Jacob should know! He has had two encounters with the divine, one in a wrestling match he couldn’t win, but wouldn’t lose, the other in the forgiveness of a wronged brother. The one has left him blessed, but crippled, the other humbled. 

The juxtaposition of the two meetings should cause us to ponder on the ways we encounter God, in our own struggle not to let go, but also in the generous love of those around us.

HYMN - O Thou who at Thy Eucharist - Song1 - NEH 302

1 O thou, who at thy Eucharist didst pray

That all thy Church might be for ever one,

Grant us at every Eucharist to say

With longing heart and soul, 'Thy will be done.'

Oh, may we all one Bread, one Body be,

One through this Sacrament of unity.

2 For all thy Church, O Lord, we intercede;

Make thou our sad divisions soon to cease;

Draw us the nearer each to each, we plead,

By drawing all to thee, O Prince of Peace:

Thus may we all one Bread, one Body be,

One through this Sacrament of unity.

3 We pray thee too for wanderers from thy fold;

O bring them back, good Shepherd of the sheep,

Back to the faith which saints believed of old,

Back to the Church which still that faith doth keep:

Soon may we all one Bread, one Body be,

One through this Sacrament of unity.

4 So, Lord, at length when sacraments shall cease,

May we be one with all thy church above,

One with thy saints in one unbroken peace,

One with thy saints in one unbounded love:

More blessèd still, in peace and love to be

One with the Trinity in Unity.

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 - Jenny Walmsley 

Keep us safe, good Lord, in this time of uncertainty and distress, help us to rein in our own desire to venture out and socialise so that we minimise the spread of the virus. Let us remember those already suffering from displacement, famine and disease who now have to contend with the ravages of Covid 19 in their desperately underfunded communities.
Help the people of East Africa battling plagues of locusts as well as disease and stem the corruption in many countries which prevents aid reaching its poorest and most needy citizens.  

Lord in Your mercy. - Hear our prayer

We pray that world leaders see past their own agendas and genuinely support those looking to them for honest advice.  Give them the insight to heal divisions in our society, and particularly to tackle the imbalance in the mental health, schooling and experiences of families and children during the last three months.

Lord in Your mercy. - Hear our prayer

We pray for your church and all who work so hard to keep it alive to remain a vibrant and steadying force. We especially thank William, Myra, Lindsay and Sheila for all they do to keep our local church alive. Let all people of faith feel the support, fellowship and love of their beliefs and help our community to reach out to everyone we know in this difficult time. Lord in Your mercy. - Hear our prayer

Merciful God be close to those who are suffering, afraid or in isolation. In their loneliness, be their consolation; in their anxiety, be their hope; in their darkness, be their light. Help everyone who is ill to have the strength to believe in your care and love and all those who look after them to have the fortitude and sympathy needed. Give your tender support to all NHS and care home workers and your wisdom to all the scientists searching for a way to defeat this virus. Strengthen them with your Spirit, that through their work many may be restored to health.

We remember those who have died during the pandemic and we ask that you comfort those that mourn them with your gentle support, love and care.

Lord in Your mercy. - Hear our prayer

And, for us all, a prayer printed in Salisbury Cathedral, which is just as relevant here:

God of all time and eternity, we thank you for the gift of this place, for its beauty and peace. Still our hearts as Jesus stilled the storm. Make us thankful for the good things that have been, bring us hope to face whatever has been difficult, and courage to endure all that lies ahead, for you are our God and we need you.  

Merciful Father, 

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

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.

BLESSING
May you find in Christ crucified a guide in times of darkness,

a strength in times of weakness and the assurance that life is eternal;

and the blessing of God Almighty, 

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

be among you, and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN - God is love let heaven adore him - Blaenwern - NEH364

1 God is Love: let heav'n adore him;

God is Love: let earth rejoice;

Let creation sing before him,

And exalt him with one voice.

He who laid the earth's foundation,

He who spread the heav'ns above,

He who breathes through all creation,

He is Love, eternal Love.

2 God is Love: and he enfoldeth

All the world in one embrace;

With unfailing grasp he holdeth

Every child of every race.

And when human hearts are breaking

Under sorrow's iron rod,

Then they find that selfsame aching

Deep within the heart of God.

3 God is Love: and though With blindness

Sin afflicts the souls of men,

God's eternal loving-kindness

Holds and guides them even then.

Sin and death and hell shall never

o'er us final triumph gain;

God is Love, so Love for ever

O'er the universe must reign.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen