Greetings from Eileen
We have arrived at the end of this Summer. Somehow we sense Time having sped away despite the measure of time regulated in days, hours, minutes, and seconds. I could do with Summer restarting all over again.
Responding to feedback, I am making our broadcast of TOGETHER ON SUNDAY available for you to join anytime from now.
Although I sincerely hope these recordings from our churches with contributors from our congregations are especially meaningful to those who are unable to join us in person in church, every broadcast is, of course, for everyone. Our music this time ‘O God you search me and you know me’ is played by an ensemble of violin, harp, and keyboard with a solo voice, reflecting on Psalm 139 – a poignant conversation with God including verses 11 and 12:
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light become night around me”—
12 even the darkness is not dark to You,
but the night shines like the day,
for darkness is as light to You.
Many issues and needs are compelling us to pray:
Afghanistan and all involved in the present situation; people and places still reeling from climate and natural disaster; the resurgence of covid-19 in many places and continued containment measures are affecting mental and emotional well-being. Children, young people, and their families are preparing for the start of a new school/college/university year, hoping that the disruption and uncertainties of 2020 and 2021 are behind them. We are delighted and relieved for couples getting married after almost 2 years of delays. Pray for them too.
Last Sunday, the congregation at St Mary’s, Gainford, were joined by my predecessor Rev’d Martin Jacques and his wife Louise (now in East Devon) who had been visiting friends here. It was a joyful service and many who remember Martin were delighted to see him.
Youth Saints resumes in September on the 2nd Thursday of every month at St Mary’s, Gainford 6.30-8pm.
We are also planning for a new combined Young People’s ministry led by, and comprising, young people associated with both our parishes. More about this in future newsletters.
God is with us. May Christ, who by his incarnation, gathered into one, all things earthly and heavenly, fill you with joy and peace.
Rev’d Eileen Harrop
Our churches continue to be open for private prayer.
Please read the separate page outlining the church’s modified approach
Click for St Mary’s Coronavirus Information
Click for St Andrew’s Coronavirus Information
The Funeral Service of Sylvia PAMela Fidiam is being taken by Rev’d Eileen Harrop on 31 August in Durham Crematorium. Please hold her family in prayer.
Gainford FUN DAY takes place on Saturday 4th September with tea and cakes being offered by a team from St Mary’s Church with generous help from St Andrew’s, Winston. Please do come and have a great day together.
The Collect for the 13th Sunday after Trinity
you search us and know us:
may we rely on you in strength
and rest on you in weakness,
now and in all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The First Reading
17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 In fulfilment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ 6 He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
“This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”
8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’
14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’
21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’
12th after TRINITY (Rev’d Eileen Harrop)
Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69
I wonder what you made of our reading from Ephesians? On the one hand it does not hold back about the challenges we should expect as Christians, and on the other it directs us to all we need to be protected from being harmed by these challenges.
It is a passage that may not suit those who deny the whole of the Bible as God’s Word for our benefit in every way and those who cherry pick the parts that fit with their worldview. I say this because it speaks of ‘the wiles of the devil’ and ‘spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places’. It speaks of the reality of the devil and that forces active ‘in the heavenly places’ are real in our lives.
This spiritual warfare fought in heaven between God’s angelic host and the forces of the devil invades our lives on earth. We are told some of the tangible ways in which we can recognise these forces: ‘our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness’. Something happens to rulers, those in authority and the systems that are put in place by them, and also what happens to our universe.
Because of greed – that is the taste of wealth and power of money that overcomes a great many people – poverty is created. The evil infection of greed creates thieves, liars, cheats and fraudsters, and also those who hide behind authorities and systems to justify poverty.
Because of misplaced power – that is the taste of superiority and domination over others – subjugation is created. The evil infection of misplaced power creates bullies, abusers, autocrats who justify that leadership requires dictatorship, and who deceive themselves that political popularity is an essential means to enable the common good.
Am I being over-dramatic? I remember when the once mighty bank called Barings was brought down by one junior trader. The whole banking system comprised protocols that enabled and encouraged rogue practices. Employees in roles created to act of those practices were paid more than others for taking risks with other people’s money – the riskier their decisions and actions, the greater prospect of higher reward. That one trader was prosecuted and jailed.
Later on, other individuals in banks and investment houses were also prosecuted and jailed, but those in authority prevailed. In Great Britain, where there is relative stability, safety, and security, and because many are comfortable, the devil’s wiles are overlooked. The authorities operate with power legitimately given partly because most of the population do not see nor understand the legislative detail. And indeed, the devil is in the detail.
In my past occupational life, I saw jaw-dropping sums of money assigned to contracts that were unproductive. When these sums are repeated in thousands of projects over more than thirty years (and this is an understatement), and the system goes unchallenged, it is no wonder we have poverty despite the wealth in our country.
Paul uses the literary imagery of battle or warfare.
Jesus had called us to care for the poor, the widows, and orphans; the displaced, the stranger, and the outcast. The prophet Micah said: ‘do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God’. He also said: ‘Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand’.
Ultimately judgement and justice against the power of evil that has infected, and overtaken people, belongs to God. The battle is a spiritual battle waged from heaven and in the heavenly places. It is humbling to accept that our principal role is to walk uprightly in the Lord. If each of us walks uprightly in the Lord, we do not succumb to the forces of evil and instead are able to devote our efforts to loving and caring. That is to do as Jesus did and that Jesus asks.
And how are we then to keep ourselves from falling?
Paul gives us an imagery that we can easily visualise in our minds: ‘Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.’ Just for a moment, imagine this in your mind’s eye. Then ‘As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.’ Imagine that in your mind’s eye. He continues: ‘take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one’. Keep up with your pictorial imagination: ‘Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’ When I completed the picture of putting on this whole armour in my imagination, I pictured the young shepherd boy David.
David was so weighted down by the armour, he couldn’t move let alone fight Goliath. But we are to keep our armour on, as it is the next bit that makes all the difference to the effectiveness of our armour: ‘Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.’
The fight is not ours to be fought on our own, with or without the armour. Make no mistake, the fight is real. But how wonderful that the fight belongs to God, and by His Spirit, we will withstand the terrible evil seen and unseen in the world. Not only would we withstand evil, we are also freed to do as Jesus did and that Jesus asks.
In our Gospel today, we read that many could not accept the truth that Jesus told them and turned away.
Jesus asked the first disciples as he asks us today: ‘‘Do you also wish to go away?’ 68 Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’’
There will be many times when we despair of the evil and injustices in the world that we may be tempted to turn away from Jesus. But friends and children of God, let us respond as Simon Peter did: ‘Lord…you have the words of eternal life… and (we) know that you are the Holy One of God’.