This Sunday we have a said service of Holy Communion at 9.30am at All Saints’ Church, Westbury led by Rev’d Rebecca Harris with reflection by Rev’d Melanie Otto.
There will be a Zoom service of Morning Praise at 9.45 for 10am with Rev’d Helen Durant Stevensen and Rev’d Caroline Husband.
Please contact us if you would like to join us.
Collect for Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen
Ezekiel 33 : 7 – 11
7 So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked ones, you shall surely die’, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.
10 Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: ‘Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?’ 11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?
Psalm 119: 33 – 40
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
and I will observe it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
36 Turn my heart to your decrees,
and not to selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
which is for those who fear you.
39 Turn away the disgrace that I dread,
for your ordinances are good.
40 See, I have longed for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life.
Romans 13: 3 – end
3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is due to them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due.
8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; 13 let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Matthew 18: 15 – 20
15 ‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’
There must be more to life than this? I am writing this on Wednesday and this is the topic we will be reflecting on as we start the Alpha course tonight.
I am sure it is a question a lot of us have asked ourselves at different stages of our lives. When we have struggled to get the next promotion working all the hours given to us to prove our worth; when we have worked hard for the qualifications that kept as awake at night writing essays and dissertations; when have we found ourselves at odds with friends, neighbours or family, and the distress caused by broken relationships, making us wonder what it was all about.
There have been many people who during lockdown have spoken of the quality of life they have experienced as a result of the enforced conditions; they have come to the realisation that there really was so much more to life than just the rat race that they found themselves in. That being away from family for hours on end, missing special occasions, not making time to see loved ones because of work or other ‘priorities’ really wasn’t the thing that made life worth living for.
But our culture is too quick to tell us that our worth is in our jobs, our qualifications, our looks, our status. We teach our children from the beginning that their worth is in their exam results, and the fact that so many children were utterly distressed with the A level results fiasco a few weeks ago, shows that we have succeeded in convincing many of them that they are only valuable if they have a good set of grades. Sadly in too many spheres of life people are encouraged to prove just how great they are, whether it be at school, at work, in industry, in politics, in sport, and the effect is hugely damaging.
But of course, this phenomenon is not a new thing. Even the disciples were distracted by wanting to be the greatest. Some of them were vying for pole position in Jesus’ company. They wanted the promotion to be his right hand man but the fact that they were actually asking the question showed that they didn’t really understand what Jesus’ gospel was all about. Because it was counter cultural. It wasn’t about showing how skilled they were at performing miracles, it wasn’t about showing what great orators they were, it wasn’t about showing how much scripture they knew. Jesus told them they had to get rid of that kind of thinking, to lose all the trappings of the world, of their adult mentality and become like children, innocent, trusting and humble.
Children have an abandonment about them, a joy that is infectious, an innocence that accepts the world as it is and a belief that the adults in their lives will guard and protect them. And I know we live in a broken world, where children sadly are not always treated as precious beings, but there are also great parents, and it is their example that I want to hold onto today.
Jesus asks us to learn about his ways with the wide eyed wonder of a child. He wants us to trust him for the protection and security that a small child feels as she walks hand in hand with her mummy or daddy. And he wants us to know that we don’t have to prove ourselves worthy of love by our achievements, our status or our possessions. We are loved and valued just because of who we are.
There must be more to life than this? Yes there is! If you want to explore this and many other ideas, then come along and join Alpha!
Rev’d Melanie Otto