Greetings from St Mary’s and St Andrew’s
Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’ (Acts 2:10-12)
I am partial, very partial, to The Commonwealth, of which Her Majesty the Queen is the Head. It was formed in the powerful spirit of transformation and reconciliation, of love that seeks forgiveness and friendship that binds not from subjugation and domination but of mutual respect and desire for all who choose to be members to come together in a new future. I believe that the Spirit that came upon the people of God gathered from all over the world at the first Pentecost stirred and stayed in them. By her joyful faith in God through Jesus, God’s Holy Spirit had alighted on Her Majesty and moved her with heavenly wisdom and love to conceive of the Commonwealth and to invite the nations across the world to join her.
“The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them.” (John 15.13)
On her 21st birthday, this is what Her Majesty the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth, heir to the throne) sought to do, asked us to help her, to pray for her, as she prepared herself to dedicate her life in this way. ‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.’
St Andrew'sServices this weekend
- + Sunday Holy Communion
St Mary'sServices this weekend
- + Service on the Green
The Platinum Jubilee
The Platinum Jubilee Celebrations begin this Thursday 2nd June 2022 at St Andrew’s, Winston
• Come, raise your voice in joyful song at the Songs of Praise Service 8:30pm
• Come, raise a toast to our faithful and gracious Queen
• Come, be part of the national lighting of the beacon at our St Andrew’s, Winston
On Sunday 5th June 2022 in Gainford
• Bless our Community Herb Garden, St Mary’s, Gainford Churchyard, 11.45am
• Bless Her Majesty’s 70 Years as Sovereign at our Service on the Green, 12noon
Saturday 4th June 2022: some of us will be attending the 3pm Service in honour of Her Majesty where acts of service are recognised by the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham and blessed at Durham Cathedral.
God is with us and has given us a place with the saints in light. With the risen life of Christ, the ascended King of heaven, within you, go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia!
Rev’d Canon Eileen Harrop
The Notice Board
- Pray for Thomas Smith and Catherine Mason who will be married at St Andrew’s, Winston on Saturday 4th June 2022.
- YOUTH SAINTS meet at 5.45pm (Bible Study) and 6.30pm (YS and Creation Club) this Thursday 9th June at St Mary’s, Gainford. New members always welcome, 8-12 year olds for Youth Saints and older youth for Creation Club for Games, Craft, Music, Conversation, and Food!
- Our next SERVICE OF MESSY CHURCH FOR ALL THE FAMILY is on Sunday 19th June 3.30-5.30pm
Our theme is going to be Jesus and Zacchaeus. We end our time by sharing a meal together. Everyone is welcome!
- Ukraine Refugee Accommodation Sponsors: A small number of sponsors in Gainford and Winston are preparing to accommodate Ukrainians seeking temporary accommodation. We have formed a Support Group, who will have and share the latest information. If you would like to know more, please email Jill Starr: email@example.com
- Gainford FUN DAY Saturday 25th June 2022: We are pleased to be putting up our tea tent serving tea and cake for this annual event. We hope many from both St Andrew’s and St Mary’s would offer to help. This is both our community offering and a helpful fundraiser for St Mary’s, Gainford. Please contact Geoff or Sue if you can make cakes, help to serve in the tent, or help set up and clear up: Geoffandsue379@gmail.com Tel: 01325 730379
The Collect for Pentecost
Holy Spirit, sent by the Father,
ignite in us your holy fire;
strengthen your children with the gift of faith,
revive your Church with the breath of love,
and renew the face of the earth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Post Communion Prayer
who fulfilled the promises of Easter
by sending us your Holy Spirit
and opening to every race and nation
the way of life eternal:
open our lips by your Spirit,
that every tongue may tell of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The First Reading
16 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13 But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 9 Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
15 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
Sermon, Sunday after Ascension: Rev’d Canon Eileen Harrop, 29th May 2022 (Acts 16.16-34; John 17.20-26)
2 well-known hymns came to me from our Bible readings today. ‘And Can It Be’ was written in the mid-1800s by Charles Wesley and set to music by his contemporary Thomas Campbell. One verse sings out:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
This hymn rolls together the deliverance of the slave-girl whose spirit of divination was abused by her owners to earn them a great deal of money by fortune-telling, and Paul’s and Silas’ chains falling off as they sang praises to God in the depths of a physical prison.
More than 3 centuries later, a new version of Amazing Grace is also blessed by our readings today:
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Saviour has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace.
Singer Songwriter Chris Tomlin rolls together our readings about Paul and Silas and the words of Jesus in our Gospel. Here are Jesus’ words:
“Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
Father… you loved me before the foundation of the world. Jesus’ words about God the Father, giver of life to you and me, sum up Amazing Grace. Before the foundation of the world, God conceived us out of love for us. That love was unconditional and complete. And God has not changed his mind.
And this is what we mean by ‘grace’. Despite the world falling into sin and humankind turning against the Father, God’s love remains full and absolute for us.
Jesus helps us to understand God’s amazing grace. He says, ‘those…whom you have given me, may be with me where I am’. That is a big deal: Jesus is ascended to his home in eternal glory! Whatever we have done, whether the sins of our ancestors, the accumulated sins that have scourged and hurt the world that God created and gave to us, we may have the glory of eternity by our faith in Jesus. Now some may say, “but that’s not unconditional”. Listen again to what Jesus tells God the Father:
“Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am…”
Jesus desires that we have all that God has given. However, we can create and choose the ‘but’ and hold off on ‘may be’.
The scene from Acts is worldly and practical. The exploitation of the girl with her special gift is abuse that is repeated in countless variations in every generation and in every place.
When I was an organisation change consultant, I saw many gifted and intelligent young graduates appointed as select management consultants by highly reputed global companies. They believed they were affirmed by their huge salaries and material incentives; by clients who positioned them as business saviours; and by the power of their recommendations to strip assets and to take away or to create hundreds of jobs. Whether knowingly or otherwise, they savoured the power. But they worked unconscionable hours and within 10 years, many were burnt out. They were living a lie.
Today, we speak of social justice and of modern-day slavery. But the chains that bind are far more subtle, and are no looser or less enslaving than the injustices of food poverty or the modern-day slave trade.
Evil enslaves the drug baron and trader even as they create and enslave addicts. The wealthy business owner who chooses to drive up profit with low wages and high prices just because they can get away with them, is enslaved. Bureaucrats, who have gloried in their huge salaries and bonuses as reward for producing meaningless paperwork, are enslaved by their permitted theft and fraud.
The actions of those who abused the slave girl stirred up the authorities to imprison her liberators Paul and Silas. This is what happens today when the wealthy and well connected exercise their manipulative influence over public servants in every place around the world. There is a war in Ukraine and some world leaders have proposed that the Ukraine President cedes eastern Ukraine to satisfy the aggressor. Let’s cut our losses (they think) to restore our situations. When Barings Bank collapsed, the authorities jailed the junior trader, Nick Leeson. Much of the system that enslaved the world in corrupt practices then has remained unchanged.
God’s Word today is as it ever was, truth-telling, cautionary and difficult to bear. BUT it is not only truth-telling, cautionary and difficult to bear: it is purifying and full of hope. When we receive God the Father even as Jesus has honoured his Father, the wiles of the world will not be hidden from us. We will not remain enslaved by deception and ignorance. And in Jesus, we will be received into eternal glory.
Paul and Silas stood firm in the power of the Holy Spirit. They had no regrets for delivering the slave girl from her abusers. Their captivity by the authorities who yielded to the abusers was temporary. The world’s actions could not and did not prevail against God’s power. Expressing their faith in hymns of praise to God ‘…all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened’. Not only were they freed, but all around them also, even their jailer. As a child I sang this hymn:
I know a risen saviour he’s in the world today.
I know that he is living whatever man may say.
May we live our lives not deceived by the world but shaped by God’s Word and by God’s Amazing Grace. Amen