Greetings from Eileen
I count among my blessings true examples from both our churches Christians living out their faith joyfully in our communities. This Saturday’s re-scheduled FUN DAY in Gainford is one such example. Not only are Geoff, Sue, and Peter St Mary’s Churchwardens, Geoff is also a lead organiser for Fun Day; Sue in charge of the Tea Tent; and Peter will be there (even at the height of haymaking) setting up the main gazebo and electrics for this commuity event. We have other examples in Winston with Tea and Chat, village lunches, the Millennium Field committee and the Recreation Field committee. Each of us involved in these ways encourage opportunities for people to share or put aside their burdens even for a while, and to flourish together. I would love that any who are uncertain of their faith or who wonder about returning to church may choose to know Christ because of your joyful witness.
The Church of England has designated September as Creation-tide. Because God’s created world has suffered by people’s choices and actions, we must give urgent and sustained attention to changing our ways. Our diocese has co-organised an Environmental Conference 9.30am -1.30pm this Saturday 4th September on ZOOM. Register using this link if you would like to join in. This week I was among the clergy presiding in a somewhat outrageous event in Bishop Auckland – a funeral service for the death of our world. “Christians should be at the forefront of the environmental cause and movement because in our care for Creation we reflect our love of the Creator.” (Revd Nicky Gumbel, Pioneer of the Alpha course) Check out this link for practical things we can all choose to do that would help restore our world.
Next Thursday our youth group resumes as the first YOUTH SAINTS monthly meeting. Please spread the message to friends and neighbours with young people. ‘It’s buzzing!’ say the youth to their parents.
Youth Bible Time is also resuming from 5.45pm in St Mary’s Church, Gainford. Young people from both our parishes and others from nearby places are all welcome!
Have you watched our broadcast of TOGETHER ON SUNDAY: https://youtu.be/9CsTOpC8rIE
Our churches are open daily for private prayer.
We welcome everyone to join us at services in church every Sunday:
• 9.30am at St Andrew’s Church, Winston
• 10.45am at St Mary’s Church, Gainford
Our congregations now sing together in church! Provision for singing without face coverings is also available in both churches.
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
- 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.
- ‘Living in Love and Faith’ is a national study that everyone in dioceses across the country is encouraged to participate. The issues relating to gender and relationships need open consideration with Christian understanding. Barnard Castle Deanery is holding sessions that we can join. On six successive Wednesdays commencing 15th September the LLF course will be held in St Mary’s Church, Barnard Castle at 7.00pm. For those who prefer to join online, sessions will take place on Thursday evenings (7.00pm) commencing October 21st over Zoom. To sign up email: email@example.com
The Collect for the 14th Sunday after Trinity
your Son came to save us
and bore our sins on the cross:
may we trust in your mercy
and know your love,
rejoicing in the righteousness
that is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The First Reading
James 2.1-10, 14-17
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’, 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?8 You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 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.’ 28 But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ 29 Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’
13th after TRINITY SERMON (Rev’d Eileen Harrop)
James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Have you ever paused in wonderment or perplexity that your life continues normally when somewhere in the world war has broken out or a disaster has happened, and someone else’s world is turned upside down? I won’t lie that, like in the present time, I wonder if I should either spend a week in solitary prayer for the Afghan people and their rescuers, or else work harder to find a way of being practically helpful. However, it may be harsh to define myself as a hypocrite because I am doing neither.
Jesus told the Pharisees and scribes they were hypocrites because what they said and did contradicted what they knew to be in God’s heart.
Last week, I conducted a joyful wedding service – the first in Gainford Parish since the pandemic. The bride had requested a poem, which was much like Paul’s familiar passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13. I was in 2-minds. At one level I found expressions in that poem very compelling. But I discerned that although they articulated the grit of life in words commonplace in the pub and some homes, nonetheless the chosen words were expressions of defilement.
Both our readings from James and Mark address the Christian’s dilemma of living authentically. Sadly, many people no longer have high moral expectations of Christians. They might say: “Even non-Christians and those who don’t go to church behave better than that”. But our authenticity and measure of right Christian living is not what is considered decent or good according to others.
Our point of reference is God’s Word and Christ’s particular example.
James wrote: ‘Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above’. About generosity, some may say, ‘I feel good when I have done something generous’; or ‘I had been poor and I am thankful that now I can be generous’. Others may say ‘why keep earthly possessions when they become meaningless in our graves’, or simply ‘a generous person is a nicer person’, and so on. But James tells us, generosity is God’s gift in us as ‘first fruits of his creatures’.
There are norms that help and others that hinder us from nourishing God’s gifts in us. James illustrates this with an example: ‘be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness’. Righteousness is also God’s gift in us.
When we either excuse ourselves or make excuses for someone who has a quick temper, it does not do us or that person any favours. Anger by itself is neither a good nor bad thing. A Godly person is angered by abusive, terrorising, and hurtful actions; but anger that results in vile speech or violence is sin. James says what really concerns us about anger is that being quick to anger we lose the opportunity to realise God’s righteousness. In listening well, we will discern and act on God’s truth in us. This, says James, is how we should respond to all moral dilemmas. Pausing to listen to God’s word intentionally gives us the power to save our souls. By contrast human laws set to govern people’s actions do not establish good or right behaviour. There is no law that says every person is to care for orphans and widows in distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. This is behaviour that has to come from within. Such a law would be unenforceable.
In the thousands of years that God had patiently encouraged His chosen people, the Israelites, to live righteously, their leaders devised many laws by which they should live. They had laws that prescribed every detail including how they should wash before every meal. But those laws that bound them to ritual behaviour, did nothing to nourish their souls.
James tells the early Christians that their actions are blessed when they listen and act on the word of God.
There is one perfect law that does not bind anyone but frees everyone whose trust is in God:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself’.
We cannot go amiss if we love God as our Lord in this way. Loving God compels us to pause and seek His help with all our thoughts and words and behaviours. This, says James, is how we treat God’s word: ‘…welcome with meekness the implanted word’. Many of us get on with our ordinary day to day lives using our own received wisdom and knowledge of right and wrong and good and bad. But perhaps that is an arrogance.
From the book of Proverbs in the Bible, we are told: ‘in all our ways acknowledge God, and He shall direct our paths’.
Are you familiar with this saying: “I can’t do right for doing wrong”? It taunts us and makes for a guilt-ridden life. Instead, in Christ we have freedom to live according to his perfect law and our right-living is honed as we discern God’s word.