Morning Service for Trinity 17

HYMN Christ whose glory fills the skies NEH 234 – Ratisbon

1 Christ, whose glory fills the skies,

Christ, the true, the only light,

Sun of Righteousness, arise,

Triumph o’er the shades of night;

Dayspring from on high, be near;

Daystar, in my heart appear.

2 Dark and cheerless is the morn

Unaccompanied by thee;

Joyless is the day’s return,

Till thy mercy’s beams I see;

Till they inward light impart,

Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

3 Visit then this soul of mine,

Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;

Fill me, radiancy divine,

Scatter all my unbelief;

More and more thyself display,

Shining to the perfect day.

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 

We recall our Lord’s command to love and in a moment of silence we confess 

the many ways we fail to keep his command:

Most merciful God, 

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly, love mercy,
and walk humbly with you, our God.  Amen

May the God of love and power
forgive us and free us from our sins,
heal and strengthen us by his Spirit,
and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.


THE COLLECT

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. Amen.

FIRST READING – Esther 7.1-6,9,10; 9.20-22

So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favour, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.” Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.

Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

HYMN O God of Bethel, by whose hand NEH 416 – Martyrdom

1 O God of Bethel, by whose hand

Thy people still are fed,

Who through this weary pilgrimage

Hast all our fathers led:

2 Our vows, our prayers, we now present

Before thy throne of grace;

God of our fathers, be the God

Of their succeeding race.

3 Through each perplexing path of life

Our wandering footsteps guide;

Give us each day our daily bread,

And raiment fit provide.

4 O spread thy covering wings around,

Till all our wanderings cease,

And at our Father’s loved abode

Our souls arrive in peace.

GOSPEL – Mark 9.30-37

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell., And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

SERMON

What a hotchpotch of readings provided for us this morning. The passage from Esther was a description of an averted pogrom against the Jews at the time of their subjugation to Persian rule. The festival Mordecai inaugurates is known as Purim – and is still celebrated by Jews to this day, though in the spring not now. 

This week is another Jewish festival, Sukkot, the feast of Booths, a harvest thanksgiving where people remember the first harvest of the promised land by building shelters recalling the days when they had to stay out in the fields to defend their harvest. You will remember that on the mount of Transfiguration Peter offered to build shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Maybe he offered because it was Sukkot, which would mean that it is in this time of year that Jesus began his long journey from this mountain to Jerusalem for his last passover, betrayal, trial and crucifixion. The countdown to Easter begins now.

The passage from Mark reads like a collection of independent sayings linked together. In one saying Jesus tells the disciples that they do not have the monopoly on the use of his name, he will not allow anyone to have exclusive use of his ‘brand’. Jesus counts anyone of goodwill as a friend. 

Other sayings contain frightening hyperbole about the priority of faithful discipleship. Anything that gets in the way should be unceremoniously cut off. This sounds all rather extreme but if accept it is not literal but metaphorical then we consider the experience of, for example, addiction, from cigarettes and alcohol to drugs, the process of recovery is said to feel like a part of oneself being cut off – any struggle with addiction involves deprivation, and to deprive yourself of something is to cut it from you. Such amputation is of course life-saving surgery. 

But our possible addictions spread wider than drink and drugs, our addiction to control, to the need to dominate perhaps, or our addiction to the material as opposed to the spiritual, to the extravagant rather than the simple. The saying tells us that it is better to look different, stand out (like an amputee), than to accept the destructive ways of the normal. 

But there is an entirely different reading of the text which points to the use of the body as an analogy of the community of faith – and it altogether more likely to be Mark’s true intention in this passage. In this understanding the concern is about apostate members who threaten the community in a time of persecution. They are to be ‘cut off’ to protect the others.

In fact, the whole passage holds a tension between the inclusivity of the community, eg., including those of good will, and maintaining the internal discipline of the community in members not causing believers to fall away (skandalise – Greek to cause to stumble) or to threaten their safety through treachery.

The last saying about salt might be thought to remind the community that what makes it distinct is inclusivity and reconciliation. Salt being a common analogy for convent and fellowship – see Ezra 4.14, Numbers 18.19. Even through this tension the community is to remember that the values of the kingdom remain at its heart, including reconciliation and forgiveness, or it is nothing.

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

HYMN I thou who lamest from above NEH 431 – Duke Street

1 O Thou who camest from above,

The pure celestial fire to impart,

Kindle a flame of sacred love

On the mean altar of my heart.

2 There let it for thy glory burn

With inextinguishable blaze,

And trembling to its source return

In humble prayer, and fervent praise.

3 Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire

To work, and speak, and think for thee;

Still let me guard the holy fire,

And still stir up the gift in me.

4 Ready for all thy perfect will,

My acts of faith and love repeat,

Till death thy endless mercies seal,

And make my sacrifice complete

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION – Claire Cooper

Lord, you are the host here and we are your guests. We come in the knowledge of your welcome, to feast upon the riches of your Word. Yet we are also hosts to one another. 

Help us to welcome each other with joy and kindness and help us to extend the hand of friendship to all around us.

Lord we pray for all who are caught up in the turmoil of war around the world. We pray especially for the people of Afghanistan. We remember the women who fear a return to the repression of their rights and those going hungry due to the worsening economy, the drought and the Covid Pandemic. 

We remember refugees from Afghanistan and other nations who have arrived in our country. Help us to make them all feel welcome. 

We also pray for the thousands who have been evacuated and possibly lost their homes due to the volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.

We pray for William, and all those who minister in our Benefice. We give thanks to everyone who has worked tirelessly and given up their time voluntarily to support the organisation and upkeep of our churches. We pray for our congregation – that we continue to grow as a community, drawing strength from one another. Help us to find ways to make our church a welcoming and hospitable place to come to

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer. 

Lord we pray for the communities of Hursley, Compton and Otterbourne. Help us to remember those who may be isolated or lonely as the Autumn season begins and nights get longer. We pray for those affected by mental health difficulties, both adults and children. Be there for them Lord, while we support them where we can.

We pray for anyone who is ill. We bring before you those known to us……and remember them in a moment of silence. Lord let them feel your presence and lift their spirits.We ask that you support and protect them and their family, friends and carers.

We pray for all those who have lost their lives in recent weeks. We remember the family and friends who have lost loved ones recently and we ask that your presence brings them comfort, strength and hope in their grief.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.

Father, we bring our prayers, our hopes and fears and our worries to your table, knowing that you will welcome us  and draw us closer to you. Thank 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
The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord make his face to shine upon and be gracious unto you.

The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The Lord God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

the holy and undivided Trinity, guard you, save you,

and bring you to that heavenly city,

where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

HYMN Fight the good fight NEH 359 Duke Street

1 Fight the good fight with all thy might,

Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right;

lay hold on life, and it shall be

thy joy and crown eternally.

2 Run the straight race 

through God’s good grace,

lift up thine eyes, and seek his face;

life with its way before us lies,

Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.

3 Cast care aside, upon thy Guide

lean, and his mercy will provide;

lean, and thy trusting soul shall prove

Christ is its life, and Christ its love.

4 Faint not nor fear, his arms are near,

he changeth not, and thou art dear;

only believe, and thou shalt see

that Christ is all in all to thee.

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