This will be my final pastoral letter until I return from holiday at the end of September. I will be coming back each Sunday to take the 10am Eucharist, but after this coming Wednesday 8th September there will be no more Wednesday Eucharists until Wednesday 29th. I return to work on Sunday 26th.
The first Sunday in October, the 3rd, will be our Harvest Festival Service. Harvest donations will be donated to our local Food bank, so please give generously. We will collect tinned, packet or dried food. While I am away offerings for the food bank will still be collected from church on Sunday mornings.
A reminder to those who are on the PCC that there is a meeting in church this coming Wednesday, 8th, at 8pm.
This coming Sunday is the Grove Park Carnival and Chinbrook Dog Show between 11am and 5pm.
We are having an Art and Craft stall at the event to raise funds for the church, and to be involved in a community event. Any more offers for help please contact Alison or Jean. Thanks to Alison for all the work she has put into organising this.
The Quiet Day at Aylesford Priory will be on Saturday 13th November. If you are hoping to go please do get this date into your diary. If you have not been before and would like to find out more about it, please do not be afraid to ask. The cost this year will be £15. Once I am back from holiday I will begin to take names of those who are planning to attend.
Bishop Christopher will be with us for our worship on Sunday 17th October for our delayed celebration of our Mothers’ Union Centenary and also our church’s 135th birthday. We have had to cancel this twice because of the pandemic, so hopefully this time we will be able to go ahead.
My prayers and best wishes be with you all
Introduction, Collect, Readings, and Blessing for Trinity 14
In our worship this morning let us offer our lives into God’s presence;
Let us offer all that has filled our lives in this past week.
Those things which have brought us joy; and those things which have brought us pain.
Those things that we need to forgive; and those things for which we need to say sorry.
Collect for Trinity 13
Whose Son has opened for us a new and living way into your presence;
Give us pure hearts and steadfast wills to worship you in spirit and in truth;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
A reading from Isaiah Chapter 35
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
"Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.
He will come with Justice; He will come and save you."
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Mark
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre.
A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him,
and she came and bowed down at his feet.
Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.
She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
He said to her, "Let the children be fed first,
for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."
But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go--the demon has left your daughter."
So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech;
and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd,
and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.
Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened."
And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
Then Jesus ordered them to tell no-one;
but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
They were astounded beyond measure, saying,
"He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."
May God take our eyes and see through them
May God take our lips and speak through them
May God take our hands and serve through them
May God take our hearts and love.
And may the Blessing of God Almighty - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
be with us and with all for whom we pray this day and always. Amen.
Sermon for Trinity 14
Can we ever change God’s mind on things? I find that an interesting question.
If God is all powerful; all knowing; unchanging and unchangeable, why would God ever need to change his mind? Do we have any right to question God at all? If we trust in God’s purpose should we not simply do as we are told, accept what we are given and simply get on with life?
If God is as good as we say he is; why would God even think of changing his mind? Traditionalists seem absolutely certain on this.
And yet, funnily enough, the Bible seems to have countless examples of where God does change his mind. When God is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness – Abraham begins to plead for them: suppose there are 50 good folk, he says to God. Ok, says God, if there are 50 I won’t do it. There isn’t 50, so Abe bargains for 40, 30, 20, 10 and 5. They can’t be found – but there was a willingness on God’s part to change his mind.
Jonah is sent to Nineveh to tell them they are doomed because of their sins. But when God sees a willingness for change he changes his mind. The prophet Isaiah is sent to King Hezekiah to tell him to get his affairs in order, because God’s had enough of him and he will die from his current illness. Hezekiah pleads and grovels and reminds God of his good points. God lets him off.
When the people of Israel began to worship idols God says: “that’s it, I’ve had enough”
And tells them he is turning his face away from them. Moses reminds God how much he loves them really, and God relents and gives in. In the old testament God not only changes his mind, it would seem he can hardly ever make up his mind!
And he seems to have passed the same personality quirk onto to his Son. In today’s Gospel reading the Syrophoenician woman asks for her daughter to be freed from the demon that oppresses her. Jesus’ first reaction is to refuse. “You don’t go throwing children’s food to the dogs” he said. Bit rude! He could have just said: “My ministry is primarily to my own people.”
But the woman is not put off by his bluntness. In fact, she gives as good as she gets. “Even the dogs get to eat what the children drop” she tells him sarcastically. Jesus is stunned and finds he has to reassess his attitude; reassess his ministry. And, when he does, he changes his mind. And he heals her daughter.
So what does all this tell us about God? Not so all knowing after all? That God’s a bit volatile and goes off at the deep end every now and again? That God can be brought round with a bit of guile and a bit of begging? Well, the Syrophoenician woman certainly didn’t beg. She told Jesus straight! For me, all these stories of God changing his mind tell us about our relationship with God.
They tell us that we are not simply God’s play things, created to do as we are told; But we are God’s children; God’s friends; God’s lovers; God’s own flesh and blood; That our relationship with God is intimate. Like any intimate relationship it is not a one way thing. It is not a relationship where one says that this is going to happen and the other just has to along with it. True relationships are volatile. They involve arguments and disagreements. With those we share our lives with we are not afraid to say: “I am not having that! You can think again!” In true intimate relationships there is an awful lot of “changing our minds”. Sometimes we have to change our mind because we are simply wrong. But sometimes we change our mind simply because we love the other person. We may not be wrong, but we realise a decision we have made is causing hurt to someone we love, so we choose to change our minds. We change our minds simply because intimate relationships are about give and take.
Should it be less so in our relationship with God? God loves us more than we can imagine; and so sometimes changes his mind. Not necessarily because God is wrong, but simply out of love.
Isn’t that what prayer is about? About us and God falling in love; getting to know each other, understanding each other, being intimate with each other? It will involve moments of ecstasy and joy; and moments of friction and anger. As a result of such prayer God may make some changes;
or it may be you or I who need to make the changes. That’s what love is all about. It’s what prayer is about.
Jesus may have begun by being rude to the woman in today’s reading; but he ended up in love. She changed his heart and he changed his mind. And I am sure that her heart was changed for ever.
God is not afraid to change when it’s appropriate. What about you? What about me?