Morning Service for Epiphany 3 2023


We are all different; our brains and our emotions work differently. Some want to think everything out in a logical manner, some overflow with emotion. Some see God's actions in their every day life; others do not. There is a woman in this diocese who fits the first category. She strikes me as a good, kind, helpful person, but I cannot agree with her, because God intervening in my every day life, putting right trivial problems for me, is not part of my experience.

Morning Service for Epiphany 3 2023

HYMN – Lord the word abideth NEH 407 Ravenshaw

1 Lord, thy word abideth,

And our footsteps guideth;

Who its truth believeth,

Light and joy receiveth.

2 When our foes are near us,

Then thy word doth cheer us,

Word of consolation,

Message of salvation.

3 When the storms are o’er us,

And dark clouds before us,

Then its light directeth,

And our way protecteth.

4 Who can tell the pleasure,

Who recount the treasure

By thy word imparted

To the simple-hearted?

5 Word of mercy, giving

Succour to the living;

Word of life, supplying

Comfort to the dying.

6 O that we discerning

Its most holy learning,

Lord, may love and fear thee,

Evermore be near thee!

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


Christ the light of the world has come to dispel the darkness of our hearts. In his light let us examine ourselves and confess our sins.
Lord of grace and truth, we confess our unworthiness
to stand in your presence as your children.
We have sinned:

Forgive and heal us.

The Virgin Mary accepted your call to be the mother of Jesus.
Forgive our disobedience to your will.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

The wise men followed the star to find Jesus the King.
Forgive our reluctance to seek you.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

Your Son our Saviour in humility accepted the baptism of John.
Forgive our pride and rejection of your ways.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

At a wedding in Cana Jesus changed water into wine.
Forgive our failure to let your transforming presence change us.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

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


Almighty God,

whose Son revealed in signs and miracles

the wonder of your saving presence:

renew your people with your heavenly grace,

and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen

FIRST READING – Isaiah 9.1-4

But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

HYMN Jesus calls us o’er the tumult NEH200 – St Andrew

1 Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult

Of our life’s wild restless sea

Day by day his voice is sounding,

Saying, ‘Christian follow me’:

2 As of old Saint Andrew heard it

By the Galilean lake,

Turned from home and toil and kindred,

Leaving all for his dear sake.

3 Jesus calls us from the worship

Of the vain world’s golden store,

From each idol that would keep us,

Saying, ‘Christian, love me more’.

4 In our joys and in our sorrows,

Days of toil and hours of ease,

Still he calls, in cares and pleasures,

‘Christian, love me more than these’.

5 Jesus calls us! By thy mercies,

Saviour, may we hear thy call,

Give our hearts to thy obedience,

Serve and love thee best of all.

GOSPEL – Matthew 4.12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

SERMON – Dr Keith Atton

We are all different; our brains and our emotions work differently. Some want to think everything out in a logical manner, some overflow with emotion. Some see God’s actions in their every day life; others do not. There is a woman in this diocese who fits the first category. She strikes me as a good, kind, helpful person, but I cannot agree with her, because God intervening in my every day life, putting right trivial problems for me, is not part of my experience.

We heard Jesus calling some of  his disciples. How are we called? It can be by our parents’ influence. It can be though friends’ example. It can be though an inspiring Christian, which in my case was Canon Frank Wright of Manchester when he was Rector of Stretford. I remember getting into conversation with strangers there and, if I said I went to St Matthew’s, the response was always so very positive. Certainly he inspired me and many others. No wonder, he was asked to take on the post of Bishop of Manchester, which he wisely declined.

In my case there was one dramatic event which turned up out of nowhere and which confirmed my discipleship. Thirty years ago, I was leaving the school where I was the headteacher. I was sitting in my car waiting for someone who was coming with me. I had a very strange feeling, like a voice in my head, that it was very dangerous on the road – I even thought of asking my colleague, who was going to go with me, to drive but turned the idea down, because it would have been cowardly and I knew to be very careful because I had had the warning. Then, I tried to stop to talk to someone I wanted to thank, but he was going in another direction so I carried on. As I left the site I found out what the danger was – a motorbike coming very fast towards me; the evidence of the speed of the motorbike was not clear but it seems it was being ridden at over 90 mph – one calculation put it at between 98 and 103 mph. Strangely time seemed to go very slowly in these circumstances and I thought my life was about to end – but at the same time I felt surrounded and protected, not so that I would live, but beyond life. My first feeling after the crash, with surprise, was that the feeling of being surrounded and protected had gone. The car I was driving was in a mess. The motorcyclist was lying on the road at some distance, but I only had one little scratch. I had a chance of life which I had so nearly lost; but what should I do with that life? To try to be the best disciple I can be and tell those who might listen of my experience? My guess is that for many there is no such dramatic event. Perhaps they may have their call through music or art or …..

If then we have all been called, what are we called to do? Perhaps to share the inspiration that has been shared with us. Certainly not to grab those who do not agree with us by the collar and try to make them see as we do, not only because this type of missionary proselytising  is likely to be unconstructive, but since we are all different, it is not right; as one of my favourite hymns puts it “force is not of God”. It seems to me if we try to treat other people so they grow as human beings, and if those we can help are given that help when they need it, that these are the surest ways of passing the message on. If we can show the love of God in action, if we can be the hands that do God’s work in our communities here and now, we are true disciples for today. 

But there may be a cost to our discipleship, just as there was for the first disciples Jesus called. I cite two examples: Frank Wright’s successor as our Rector in Stretford tried to keep up the tradition of being available to help anyone. One day, when he was out, a man turned up at the Rectory and, since he was told the Rector was absent, physically attacked the Rector’s wife. My second example, concerns a  man who was in and out of prison for doing foolish, not very serious things, but once incarcerated he was a model prisoner. Then one day he received a visit from a female prison visitor, a keen Methodist. They married and, now out of prison again, he would bring her tea in bed in the morning. One morning he came with a coal hammer and killed her. We are challenged to be good disciples but being a disciple is not always an easy option.


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

HYMN Tell out my soul NEH 186 – Woodlands

1. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!

Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;

Tender to me the promise of His Word;

In God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.

2. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His name!

Make known His might, the deeds His arm has done;

His mercy sure, from age to age the same;

His holy Name, the Lord, the mighty One.

3. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His might!

Powers and dominions lay their glory by;

Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight;

The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

4. Tell out, my soul, the glories of His Word!

Firm is His promise, and His mercy sure.

Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord

To children’s children and forevermore!.


O Lord,  We have been given, in different ways and to different degrees, that inspiration that was given to the first disciples. We give thanks for that which we have been given and ask that we are given support in passing your message on by word and deed. We pray that we may be faithful disciples.

Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer

O Lord, we pray for all our leaders in church and state that they may follow the way that leads to Your kingdom coming nearer on earth. We pray that they may create opportunities for all to have the fullness of life which Jesus came to enable.

Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer

O Lord, we pray for our families, the communities in which we live and the organisations which we belong to. We ask for your support in fostering good relationships, being effective disciples wherever we go.

Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer

O Lord, we pray for those in special need in body, mind or spirit, especially for those in our benefice and those dear to any of us…. We ask that they may experience your support in their troubles. 

Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer

O Lord, we remember before You those we have known who have died and especially those who have died recently in our benefice. We ask for your support for those who mourn.

Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer

O Lord, we thank you for the help we have received thus far on our earthly journey.

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.


May he who who by his incarnation 

gathered into one things earthly and heavenly, 

grant us the fullness of peace and goodwill 

and the blessing of God Almighty, 

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 

be upon us and remain with us always. Amen

HYMN O Jesus I have promised NEH 420 – Thornbury

1 O Jesus, I have promised

To serve thee to the end;

Be thou for ever near me,

My Master and my Friend;

I shall not fear the battle

If thou art by my side,

Nor wander from the pathway

If thou wilt be my guide.

2 O let me hear thee speaking

In accents clear and still,

Above the storms of passion,

The murmurs of self-will;

O speak to reassure me,

To hasten or control;

O speak, and make me listen,

Thou guardian of my soul.

3 O Jesus, thou hast promised

To all who follow thee,

That where thou art in glory

There shall thy servant be;

And Jesus, I have promised

To serve Thee to the end;

O give me grace to follow,

My Master and my Friend.

4 O let me see thy footmarks,

And in them plant mine own;

My hope to follow duly

Is in thy strength alone;

O guide me, call me, draw me,

Uphold me to the end;

And then in heaven receive me,

My Saviour and my Friend

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen

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