Intercessions 14th March

Intercessions 14th March

Dear Lord, on this Mothering Sunday, as we come to you in prayer in the stillness of our own homes, make each of us aware of you beside us.  As your son Jesus Christ showed his love on the cross, in his compassion for his mother and his sacrifice for us all, may we know what it is to love and be loved, in words and in actions.  We thank you for the ministry today of John Kiddle and those involved in making our on-line worship uplifting for all and we especially thank Mary for her thoughtful planning in bringing together those leading our worship in music. We are looking forward to opening our churches next Sunday and as we look further forward we pray for our new vicar Revd Dr Melanie Harrington and her preparations for joining us in the summer.

Lord in your mercy                           Hear our prayer

Father, we pray for people all over the world living in fear of any kind: help them to know you are with them and we pray there may be true and lasting peace, justice and freedom in their lands.  We especially pray for all mothers who have to raise their children in places where there is war, famine, terrorism and great uncertainty. For mothers who have had to flee conflict to a different country or are far from their homes and their relatives.

Lord in your mercy                           Hear our prayer

Loving Father, to those of us who have been granted the gift of being mothers, we rejoice in that gift, but let us not forget those for whom Mothering Sunday is a difficult day. We pray for those who don’t have children but who mother and love in other ways.  May they find fulfilment through knowing your love. We thank you for our own mums, for their loving care and may we show that same love in our daily lives.  We pray too for those who have never known their mother or whose mothers have died. We remember all mothers who share in Mary’s suffering of a child’s death and especially for Sarah Everard’s Mum, and also family and friends, during these dark days.  

Lord in your mercy,                          hear our prayer

Lord, we pray that you are able to give us solace and calm at this difficult time, when we may feel detached from you or are feeling isolated and alone. Be near us in our daily lives, and especially if the current stresses are making it difficult for us to turn our thoughts towards to you.  We thank you for the scientists who created the various vaccines which give us hope and pray for those who are working and volunteering to vaccinate everyone with such care and compassion.   

Lord in your mercy                           Hear our prayer

Lord, we pray for our community in Kew of the friendships we have that knit us together and how fortunate we are to live in a peaceful community surrounded by wonderfully green and open spaces.  We pray for our families many separated by distance.  We ask you to take care of them whether they are near us or living farther away.  We pray for our young people who have returned to school this week and we pray for all the teachers and school staff for their energy and innovation in the last few months, dedicated to maintaining education for all.

Lord in your mercy                           Hear our prayer

Father, we pray for those who are suffering in mind, body or spirit and in a moment of silence we think of those whom we know and bring them before you – Peter Low, John Lynch, Canon Robin Morrison, Annie Woolmer, Gemma Fryer, Revd Neil Summers, Adrian Risso Gill.

Lord in your mercy                           Hear our prayer

Comfort those recently bereaved and may they know your loving presence when they feel sad and alone.   We fondly remember all our own loved ones who are in your care and we pray for them.  We remember before God those who have died and are with You.  We remember Grace Hay (Irene Stephens Mum).

Lord in your mercy                           Hear our prayer

Father God, on this Mothering Sunday we remember that from the cross your only Son, Jesus entrusted Mary his mother and John his disciple to each other’s care.  Help us also to care for one another and fill our homes with the spirit of your love.

And finally, a Covid prayer from the Christian Aid Website written by Laura Kelley Fanucci – I am sure we can all relate to it:

When this is over,
may we never again
take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the supermarket
Conversations with neighbours
A crowded theatre
Friday night out
The taste of communion
A routine check-up
The school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend
The stadium roaring
Each deep breath
A boring Tuesday
Life itself.

When this ends,
may we find
that we have become
more like the people
we wanted to be 
we were called to be
we hoped to be
and may we stay
that way–better
for each other
because of the worst.

– Laura Kelley Fanucci

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen

Third Sunday in Lent, 7 March 2021

Third Sunday in Lent, 7 March 2021

Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22

May I speak in the name of God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

This morning’s Gospel reading offers us a powerful image of Jesus – an image so striking that it has inspired some of the most dynamic and distinctive artistic representations of the Lord, who tends otherwise to appear in artistic works as someone who is still and calm – passive, even – as he moves through the turbulence and uncertainty of the world around.  The Gospel reading is striking, too, because it is one of the very few instances in which we see Jesus display anger.  One of the distinctive things about Jesus is that anger seems to be something foreign to him: when challenged, he reproves, employs sarcasm and humour, seeks to instruct and illuminate those who stand against him, and he becomes frustrated; when faced with suffering and spiritual evil, he shows considerable compassion to those so afflicted and is determined in his work to alleviate their burden; when faced with the death of one dear to him (Lazarus), he is overcome with grief; when facing his own suffering, rejection, humiliation, and death on the Cross, his soul is troubled and he is nearly overwhelmed with apprehension and the enormity of what is about to unfold; but he is so rarely angry

What is it, then, about the situation in which he finds himself in today’s Gospel reading that makes him angry?  Are there not so many other situations, so many other people, that might be more obvious places for him to respond in anger?  Pondering this, it seems to me that the Temple is at the heart of the answer: the Temple that had been built as the ultimate sacred space – the sole place on earth dedicated exclusively and totally to God – constructed to house the Ark of the Covenant that contained the words of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses at Sinai.  The Holy of Holies, the inmost part of the Temple and a perfect cube in its dimensions (according to instructions given in Exodus 25-27), had been constructed with order and symmetry in mind and to reflect God’s heavenly throne-room.  The Temple’s purpose was to be the meeting-place of Heaven and Earth – the place of encounter between God and humankind, with the glory of God’s presence seated upon the Ark and the Ark itself serving as the mercy-seat of God’s judgement. 

By Jesus’ time, several hundred years after Israel’s Exile in Babylon, the Ark of the Covenant had been lost, God had departed the Temple (as witnessed by the prophet Ezekiel, who recorded this in Ezekiel chapter 10) and the Temple itself destroyed and re-built, with magnificent additions and augmentations being constructed in Jesus’ lifetime (as St John remarks); but although it was in some significant ways a diminished place, it remained for the Jewish people their central and chief place of worship.  The Ark of the Covenant might have been lost, and the manifest glory of God might no longer have been seen there, but it was the focal point of Israel’s religion and the place in which atoning sacrifices were offered, daily, on behalf of the Jewish people in order that they might be reconciled with God.  It was really important. 

And in the Temple, this place laden with so much meaning and significance for the Hebrew people, this place so intimately associated with the God of Israel – God, who is the God of gods, King of kings, and Lord of lords – Jesus, the Son of God, found…quite a large range of money-making enterprises that verged on a swindle.  As well as the corporate, daily sacrifices offered at the Temple, people came to offer private sacrifices as required in the Law of Moses; and according to the Law of Moses, they had to offer the best of their sort, and not the lame, the sickly, and the worthless.  The animals offered in sacrifice had to be approved of by the Temple authorities, and the Temple authorities found they could benefit from their position as gate-keepers by offering animals they had raised themselves which they would, of course, declare acceptable for use in the Temple.  Not only this, but there had grown up a system of money used only in the Temple – a Temple currency, really – and the Temple authorities had found that they could also do quite well out of controlling the exchange rate.  If you are in charge of the currency used in a place of worship, you can set the exchange rate squarely in your favour!  The place that God had intended as his dwelling-place on earth, the place where humankind could come to draw near to him, sure of his presence and sure that they were standing in sacred space on the very edge of Heaven itself, had become dominated by the pursuit of profit of a decidedly questionable sort.  Those who came to the Temple seeking God and wishing to worship him and offer their prayers to him were being taken advantage of.  Those who worshipped other gods and who came to the Temple in Jerusalem saw, first, not a place abounding with the glorious holiness of the one true God, but people profiting by a swindle.  Those who came to the Temple did not see that God wanted above all things their hearts, offered to him in loving, thankful, praise – but saw that God seemed to require offerings that cost only money.  It was, I think, this dishonourable representation of God and of his holiness, the way in which those honestly seeking God were taken advantage of, and the idea that sacrifice meant something material instead of the sacrifice of our very selves, that led to Jesus’ anger.  If you ever find yourself wondering what sort of things God really cannot stand, these three might well be among them. 

A second striking thing about today’s Gospel reading is Jesus’ declaration that should the Temple be destroyed, he would raise it up again in three days.  St John’s commentary on this reveals that the disciples, at first glance, found this as hard to understand as we might: after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.  The key to unlocking this puzzle is to realise that in sending his Son into the world for us, one of God’s (many!) purposes was that Jesus should be a new Temple.  Now, this does not quite mean that Jesus should be a building in which we worship – or that we can only encounter God wherever it is that Jesus is physically present; the way to understand this, rather, is to look at God’s intentions and purposes:

  • Where the Temple had been the place on earth where the glory of God’s presence had dwelled among his people, in Jesus there was something better – the very presence of God with us, one who is truly human and truly God at the same time.
  • Where the Temple had been the place in which Heaven and earth met, this came to be true in a fuller and more profound sense in Jesus.
  • Where the Temple had been the place in which the faithful could be certain that prayer was offered to God in God’s presence, God instead gave Jesus who, being the presence of God-with-us, hears the prayers of those who reach out to him in faith, trusting him, and offers them directly to God in Heaven (Romans 8:34).  Instead of going to a place to pray, we are to go to a person – Jesus – who offers our prayers to God. 
  • Where the Temple had been the place in which unblemished sacrificial offerings (meaning they were physically whole and perfect) were made, daily, on behalf of those who trusted in the God of Israel to reconcile them to him, Jesus offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice of a different sort (meaning he was perfectly righteous and holy in God’s eyes, untarnished by the sin that afflicts us all), through whom all who trust in him are reconciled to God. 
  • Where the Temple had been sacred space, a place dedicated to God whose home is in Heaven, Jesus instead became that sacred space, that place dedicated to God – but going even further than that, by receiving Jesus in faith through the Holy Spirit, each individual human being who trusts in him becomes sacred space too.  We ourselves become places dedicated to God, sacred to God, belonging to God and – as Jesus grants us the Holy Spirit – places on this earth in which God makes his home. 

I am not sure which of these parallels (there are others one might add besides) between Jesus and the Temple you find most compelling, or most intriguing.  Speaking for myself, I think it is probably the final one – that in Jesus, God has extended the function and purpose of the Temple at Jerusalem to those who receive his Son in faith, and that through Jesus we become living temples (living dwelling-places) to be God’s dwelling-places on this earth.  We are to understand that God wishes to dwell in places he has made by his own hand, not in any Temple (no matter how glorious) built by human hands (1 Corinthians 3, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Peter 2, among many references); God wishes to dwell on this earth in the most beautiful territory he can imagine – a territory whose beauty is not defined by any type of landscape or quality of aesthetic, but the territory he sees most beautiful of all which is each and every human being who is redeemed in his Son, reconciled to him, reclothed in righteousness, made fit for his presence, now and in eternity.  This is how God sees those who trust in him and receive Jesus whom he sent into the world to reconcile it to him.  This is how God sees you and me – not just as interesting semi-autonomous characters in a play he has written, but as places in which his greatest desire is to dwell, to occupy every last part of us and of our lives so that we are transformed and restored in him, and so that we become lamps burning with God’s light and love in this, his world. 

What does this mean for us?  What does this mean for us, particularly, as we journey through Lent on the way to the Cross and the empty tomb, to Good Friday and Easter Day?  I think the first reading set for today, a reading giving us the Ten Commandments, might offer an answer.  We might remember these commandments (or some of them!) relatively well – but I suspect we probably skim over the first part of the first one: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  This is an important statement, because it gives context and meaning to all the commandments that follow; it declares the purposes for which God acts, and to amend it, slightly, in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us I offer you the following: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery in which you were slaves to sin.  In offering Jesus as a new Temple, and in making us (through faith in Jesus) his dwelling-places on earth, God wishes to deliver us from the house of slavery to sin, instead giving us a place in his Kingdom where his children live in freedom in his presence – not a freedom to do every last thing that crosses our minds, but a freedom to love and know God as our Father, and to be known and loved, fully and totally, by him.  It is a wonderful gift, and it is a gift that God gives totally, fully, unreservedly, and freely to us – but with the world as it is, and ourselves as we are, it is also a gift to which we must keep returning, in gratitude, so that in the course of this life we grow into it more and more completely.  This is why the Church keeps Lent – so that we have a season in which we put at the forefront of our minds the purpose of growing closer to God who made us, who loves us, who has re-clothed and redeemed us in Jesus, and who makes us his earthly dwelling-places.  Lent is given so that we might look intensely and purposefully at our lives and our lives of faith, seeing where we glorify God and where we do not, seeing where God’s light shines within us and where it does not – and so that, trusting in God, in his love and mercy, and in his sincere desire for our good, we might seek his transformative grace that builds us up into edifices that are fitting for his presence and that glorify him.  May God bless you in this, this Lent.

In the name of God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen. 


Loving God

We thank you that we can be together in this way to share the service and the Peace together, without fear.

We pray especially this weekend for the visit of Pope Francis to Iraq. We pray that his meeting with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, spiritual leader for millions of Shia Muslims yesterday…. will encourage further reconciliation between Muslims and Christians. Today, the Pope will visit the church in Qaraqosh which was occupied by Isis for 2 years- they/who forced over a million Christians in Northern Iraq to flee for their lives.

We pray for those who have suffered one atrocity after another and have been terrified by savage abuse of power in their lands. We pray for all refugees who have fled war-torn countries, who long to go home, and who are now living in over-crowded camps, hemmed in by suffering, where water-borne diseases and Covid 19 are spreading and there are no vaccines to protect people.

We pray that our government, who along with the USA and other western countries have bought 1.2 billion vaccines more than we need, will respond to the 130 countries in the world who have no vaccines at all- and will share the vaccines…..Generous God, help our Govt. to discover ways of thinking and being that heal rather than hurt; help them to know that they- we – can create a more loving, just and peaceful world. With your grace, help us never to be complacent about the prevailing inequalities of our day

You said in your Son “whatever you do to the least of these my brethren, you do to me,” help us to change the misaligned way we live. There is such an imbalance in the way we allocate so many resources. Help us always to follow your imperative towards mercy. We pray for those who are giving spiritual, psychological and physical care, and support to those who are worn out.

Lord, who lives in unspeakable places, in your mercy, hear our prayer….

Lord, we know so little about your life before you began your ministry. You are hidden in a completely ordinary life in Nazareth. In your Son, you assume the insignificance of ordinary life; you are taking the time to be, to absorb, to observe the patterns and concerns which you will one day gather in, to tell your extraordinary stories which teach us so much about ourselves and which enlighten every little thing that happens to us.

Help us at the moment, when we remain either alone, or with one other, or with  children to notice how we relate, to see our need for control, our need to be right; help us to spot triggers which make us go into reactive and inflexible positions. Give us the grace to be still, to stop long enough to listen carefully, and grant us the courage to be silent.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are ill:

Grace Hay, Peter Low, John Lynch, Canon Robin Morrison,

Annie Woolmer, Gemma Fryer, Revd Neil Summers.

And for those who have not been able to be with their loved ones through these times.

We pray for those who have died:

And for those who have had to let them go into your fathomless, abiding love.

Almighty God, accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour, Jesus Christ.

Sunday 28th February – sermon and intercessions

Sunday 28th February – sermon and intercessions

St Luke’s & the Barn Kew. 2nd of Lent.February 28th

On the face of it, the link between this mornings readings from Genesis and St Mark’s gospel is not obvious. In the Old Testament reading, there is the promise given to Abram as an old man that his descendants will be blessed, and in the gospel reading there is the first prediction of his Passion made by Jesus to his disciples, and they would face suffering themselves.

But in fact both readings have something important to say about faith – living by a reality which is unseen.

The story of Abraham is a myth – that’s not to say it’s not true, but the memory of the story goes so far back into the mists of pre-history that its details are hazy and unverifiable: an old man of 99 with a childless wife being promised an heir. Nevertheless, the story has been remembered for thousands of years as foundational, precisely because it is a religious myth; it tells us something which is theologically true, even though the historical setting of the story is uncertain.

Religious history begins with Abraham, the archetypal man of faith. He is given a promise that he and his descendants will be blessed and become a great nation. They will be a covenant people, and on the basis of that promise, that covenant, Abraham has the faith to set out, leaving behind all that was known and familiar, and travel to another country, the name of which he did not yet know. And much of the Old Testament story is really the story of living by that covenant promise from those modest beginnings with Abraham, through the wilderness years under the leadership of Moses to the time when God’s promise to make of Abraham a great nation was fulfilled.

To the prudent or cautious, such behaviour might be regarded as foolishness. Abraham could have rationalised his way out of going; (he could have pleaded old age ), but this would have only been an excuse for not accepting the risk of obeying God. It is that quality of faith which is above all else the essential ingredient for finding new life in the new world. Such behaviour was and is either unnatural or it is supernatural! But faith and religion at some point demands more than what is natural and straightforward. Common sense would tell you to hold on to what you know and stay where you are. Or as we might say  – to remain in your comfort zone.

That was Peter’s reaction when Jesus first predicted his passion. He took Jesus on one side and told him it’s all too risky, this business of obeying God. And Jesus with uncharacteristic bluntness rebukes Peter: ‘Get behind me, Satan’. And then he goes on to say that being a follower of his means sharing in his Passion: ‘ For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it’.

I remember the words of a wise nun, in a Lent talk at the Barn many years ago, who said that the journey of faith begins when we let go of self-preservation. Faith is about a change of heart, and maybe even a change of direction, re-routing us away from cautious and self-centred attitudes of self-preservation and mere survival, and opening us to the risk of faith, sacrifice and self-surrender. Living by true faith, as opposed to clinging to old securities , which is sometimes mistakenly called faith, is always a sign of apparent contradiction and will sometimes  have the mark of foolishness about it. It’s at the heart of Christ’s teaching and challenge:

‘ Fore whoever loses his life for my sake, and the gospel’s, will save it’.

In the 14th century, Julian of Norwich had a remarkable vision of the cross. It was a time of the Black Death which was to wipe out more than 40% of the population. It was an ugly age in many of its aspects – the church was divided against itself with two competing popes. Added to this there was the Hundred Years’ War  between England and France. Yet in the midst of all of this, from a tiny cell in Norwich, Julian writes of her revelation of the cross revealing Christ’s love, mercy and compassion for the world. Her writing expresses the experience of many during this time of pandemic, a year on. She writes in her 16th Revelation:

This word: ‘ you shall not be overcome’ was said very distinctly and firmly to give us confidence and comfort for whatever troubles may come. He did not say you will never have a rough passage, you will never be overstrained, you will never be uncomfortable, but he did say: ‘ you will never be overcome’. God loves us and delights in us, so he wills that we should love and delight in return, and trust him with all our strength. So all will be well, all manner of thing shall be well’.

Nicholas Darby.

Intercessions for Second Sunday of Lent

We have heard how Abraham put his trust in God. Help us to have the faith to do the same. We pray that our efforts this Lent will strengthen our faith and bring us closer to you.

Jesus spoke of the suffering he knew was to come. Help us to endure whatever suffering we encounter and comfort those whose pain has been caused by or increased by this pandemic. We particularly pray for all who are suffering mentally from the restrictions on their lives.

We pray for the many people around the world suffering from a lack of the freedoms we enjoy, whether due to war, poverty or political repression. Give them hope for the future and help all those working on their behalf.

We give thanks for the skills and dedication of the scientists who have created vaccines to fight the pandemic. We pray that these and other measures will enable us to follow the government’s plan for a return to normality. 

The pandemic has had some positive effects on our society including a greater sense of community in many areas, a better appreciation of the work done by the NHS and other caring professions, more help for the homeless and a greater willingness to do voluntary work. We pray that these positives continue to improve the lives of many.

We pray for all those who are sick and particularly Peter Low, John Lynch, Canon Robin Morrison, Annie Woolmer, Gemma Fryer, Revd Neil Summers and Rosemary Murray.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sermon and prayers 21st February

Sermon and prayers 21st February

Mark 1: 9-15; 1 Peter 3: 18-end; Genesis:8-17; Psalm 25:1-9

In normal times we all have to move on at some point in our lives. We all have to leave one part of our life, which may have been comfortable and familiar, and we have to move on. It is something we do throughout our lives. We leave school, we leave home to go to college or to set up our own household, we move because of jobs or family circumstances. Over and over, we move on. And it can be scary. Can any one of us say in all honesty, when moving to the next big phase of life, that we have not been nervous or anxious about what lies ahead? Sometimes we can’t wait to leave. We’re ready to go. Other times we would rather stay put. Regardless of how or why it happens, change is a part of life. It happens in lots of different ways and at different times.

In the Gospel we read that Jesus had left his home in Nazareth. The carpenter shop and the family life with Mary and Joseph were now behind him. He was moving out into the World where he would be loved, hated, feared, but above all noticed. He left his home and now stood with John in the Jordan, the transit stop between that home and the wilderness. There he was baptised. Then the Heavens were torn apart, the Spirit descended like a dove, and a voice declared:” You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And from there the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.

Moving on is not, however, simply about the circumstances of life. It has always been the way of God’s people. Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. God told Abram to move to a new country. Moses and the Israelites left Egypt. Noah and his family moved in dramatic circumstances casting off from dry land into the unknown. When Noah saw the flood waters, he must have been petrified, but he trusted in God.

When Jesus stood on the banks of the Jordan, he may have been thinking “Right well here we go, this is it!” He too must have been nervous and anxious.  He knew why he had come to Earth; he knew what lay ahead and, as he was human as well as divine, he must have at least been apprehensive.

I think it unlikely, though not impossible, that someone here might be thinking “Hey, he is just repeating word for word the sermon he gave us on 18 February 2018”. Well so far that would be correct. What I have said up to now is pretty well what I said then. But now I will go in a slightly different direction.

None of use would have guessed in 2018 where we would be now. We are all probably itching to move on, to get on with life. The vaccine and its so far pretty impressive, roll out holds a spark of hope that life will get back to some form of normality. The last year has been pretty depressing. So many hopes and dreams and just life in general put on hold. We want to move on.

But what the messages we get from today’s readings confirm to us is that, despite the difficulties of life, the frustrations and worries, God is there for us, just as he was for Jesus, just as he has been for his people throughout the ages. Noah saw the World destroyed; Jesus stood on the threshold of a life about to be transformed. God has a covenant with us as he had with Jesus and Noah and all his people. Wherever we may be, whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in, there he is blessing us, encouraging us, caring for us. And as we move on through life, we go through not only a physical journey in which we gain many experiences and deal with changes in our bodies and our lives, but we should also be going through a spiritual journey with God alongside us.

In my sermon three years ago, I spoke about our spiritual journey, our pilgrimage with God. We all need times to reflect on where we are on that journey, whether there are things in our lives that hinder us rather than help us and whether there is anything we could be doing to grow spiritually. We all need a little bit of God time, when we can devote ourselves to prayer, not just on Sundays, but every day. Over the last year some, but by no means all, of us may have had more opportunities for being alone and for approaching life more calmly and quietly. For having God time. Have we used this time profitably? I must admit that I cannot necessarily claim that I have. I hope those of you who have had the opportunity, have been more successful.

Prayer and contemplation should be what this holy season of Lent is about. Traditionally on Ash Wednesday many people were marked with the ashes of remembrance, ashes often made by burning the previous year’s palm crosses. And now today the Gospel takes us with Jesus into the wilderness. The two occasions cannot be separated. Wednesday’s ashes are about moving on. And Lent is about sacrifice, reflection and contemplation. Lent and life can take us to somewhere uncomfortable, somewhere new, somewhere where we need to make adjustments.

But just as Jesus used the forty days he spent in the wilderness preparing for his Ministry, we can use the forty days of Lent to reflect, to pray, to prepare ourselves for the traumas and momentous events of Palm Sunday and Good Friday and ultimately the joy of Easter. Let’s make the most of it!

And to him be praise for ever! Amen.

Intercessions First Sunday of Lent 2021

Let us pray

Dear Lord

On the first Sunday of Lent, we think of the many meanings that Lent holds for us.

Lent is a time of testing and of temptation – we’ve heard today how temptation was all around in the wilderness.  An interesting perspective on this can be seen in the photo of the church on the peak of Mount Tibidabo in Barcelona on today’s church email.  Tibidabo means “I will give to you” in Latin and early Monks thought that it was a perfect place for Satan to tempt Jesus, offering all the wonders of Barcelona from an “exceedingly high mountain”.

Lord, help us to resist temptation wherever it come from.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lent is a time of taking stock.  Perhaps of counting our many blessings like the arrival of Spring flowers; the fact that we live in a democracy where the majority of people try to live with consideration of the common good; and the hard work that has taken place in the development and distribution of Covid vaccines.  It’s sometimes easier for us to think of the trials of life and taking stock can perhaps help us to take a more balanced view of both the good and not-so-good things that fill our lives.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lent is a time of reflection, of thinking how we can improve.  We think of John Wesley’s words:-

Do all the good you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lent is a time of drawing closer to Christ.  We think of his church and in particular we pray that the process of selecting our new Vicar goes smoothly and provides a good outcome for all involved.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all the staff who work in the NHS, who have month after month taken care of the health of the nation and many of whom have worked unceasingly under great strain.  We pray for the carers and in particular for those who are ill at the moment: Peter Low, John Lynch, Canon Robin Morrison, Annie Woolmer, Gemma Fryer, Revd Neil Summers, Margaret and Hugh.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We think of those who have passed on, both recently and not so recently.  We pray that they rest in peace with you and that those who mourn them can feel your peace which passes all understanding.  In a moment of quiet, we think of those who have died and are known to us.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.


Kew St Valentine Sunday before Lent

Kew St Valentine Sunday before Lent

Mark 9: 2-9                   Revd Elisabeth Morse

Today is St Valentine’s day. A day when messages of love are traditionally sent. Which is odd because St Valentine himself was the victim of a brutal murder, a martyr under the Roman Emperor Claudius. Quite how St Valentine’s death was made to metamorphose is, as they say, a ‘mystery’. But I have a story, a modern day story which I think, quite remarkably. combines the two – murder and love. It comes from an amazing book called ‘Tattoos on the heart’.  Hence you see its link with Valentine’s day. But it is not a book about cards and flowers but about gang culture.

The book was a bestseller in the US and won a couple of awards. The author is Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who, for over 20 years has run a gang intervention programme in Los Angeles. LA has the dubious title of being ‘the gang capital of the world’. And the book is the story of his ministry, a ministry of compassion with some of the most frightening boys – and a few girls – who have walked this earth.

It is very American – and by that I mean that Brits like me have a bit of difficulty understanding the language. But there is no difficulty getting a picture of the lives of these gang members with their guns, drugs, prison sentences and tattoos. One of the most important ministries Father Boyle offers is laser treatment to remove tattoos – it is a sort of ritual cleansing for these youths before they can move onto to a different way of life. He also offers them work. He runs a flourishing silk screen industry which employs these young people giving them work – which they crave – and a new start in life.

As you might expect, there are lots of heart-warming stories of gang members who manage to change their ways. Which is great – that’s what we want to hear! But there are almost as many stories of these boys being gunned down. All that work, all those tattoos removed, all those honest wages at last earned, boys becoming parents determined to be better dads than their own fathers – and then, after all that, so many of them still end up dead. Not, please, because they have changed their ways but because someone from the past wont forgive them or simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Father Boyle has conducted hundreds, almost thousands, of funerals of young gang members. And so, in one chapter, he asks – what is success? Because his programme is dependent, like all such programmes, on funding. And funding these days is nearly always based on outcomes. Grant giving bodies want the programmes they fund to be successful.

But as Father Boyle knows, success and failure have little to do with living the gospel. What Jesus did was stand with the outcasts until they were welcomed or until he was crucified – whichever came first. Jesus defied all the categories on which the world insisted: categories like good and evil, success and failure, pure and impure, right wing and left wing. The right wing hated him aligning himself with outsiders – people you ought neither touch nor be near. And the left wing hated him when there was no revolution. The Left screamed ‘don’t just stand there, do something’ and the Right shouted ‘don’t stand with those awful people at all’. What Jesus did was stand in solidarity with the outcast – until he ended up being crucified for it. Father Boyle would be the first to say he prefers success stories to failure and decades of death. It is what Father Boyle calls ‘the slow work of God’.

In one sense the deaths and failures easily outweigh the successes but, for all its tragedies and sheer awfulness it is a book filled with humour, joy and generosity. You can see why the young outcasts of LA love him. They love him and he loves them. It is a story of unconditional love and, despite the chilling statistics, that’s what makes it a book, paradoxically, of hope.

The Father Boyles of this world are rare – we don’t love like he loves – and that fills us with shame. But it is the sort of shame that is not meant to diminish us but to challenge us so that we see what true humanity is capable of.

And taking a long, hard look at ourselves and our shortcomings is what Lent is all about. This is what the symbolic act of ashing on Ash Wednesday is all about. When mediaeval pilgrims started out on their journey they covered themselves with ash. It was a way of telling the world ‘I mean what I say’ – a bit like each member of Alcoholics Anonymous openly admitting to being an alcoholic. Ash Wednesday is about each one of us facing our sinfulness. It is a politically incorrect day that brooks no excuses, no plea of mitigating circumstances. And yet, despite all our failings, we hear God still calling us to be disciples. 

Then, having acknowledged, faced up to, confessed that we are sinners, we have the rest of Lent to come to terms with our sin, but also with God’s mercy and forgiveness. Lent is a time to take stock, as we focus on discipleship in a world of suffering.

But everything will change. We don’t have to stay in the ghetto.

So perhaps a Lenten discipline could be to look for and respond to the glory of God revealed in other people – like Father Boyle. Because people like him help us realise not just how far we fall short but also the good human beings are capable of. Which gives us hope.


Let us pray to the God of glory, revealed to us in his Son, Jesus.

Father lengthen and deepen our attention span as we, your people, listen to your beloved Son, so that we do not fail to hear his will for us or share his longing for the world to be saved.

Dear Lord as we move into the season of Lent may your Church direct our reflections on the Glory of your Son as revealed on that mountain, and may we in turn look to lead others to Christ, your Beloved, that they may also listen and follow Him.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Father, with such humility you entered the world to save it through love’s giving power; increase our desire to enter into one another’s suffering and hardship, as we continue to battle with this Pandemic, helping us to share the world’s resources fairly with one another, and recognising all humanity as our brothers and sisters.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

As our two churches move towards choosing a new vicar to lead us, give wisdom and loving understanding hearts and minds to those making those decisions, that they with prayer and the Holy Spirits guidance find the right person to both carry us forward and unite us more firmly as God’s family and living Church.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Father, let us not take one another for granted, but wake each morning ready to notice the Christ in each person we see and are able to speak to. Let us as parents, grandparents and teachers help to guide our children and teenagers through these both difficult and demanding times.

Let us also give reverence to your hidden presence and power in all creation, and treat your world with kindness and respect.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, in our prayers may we stand alongside all who are too weak, or too confused; all those in hospitals, care homes or indeed their own homes who are suffering from Covid, or from lack of treatment because of it. May all who are suffering sense your love and comfort, and be given strength to persevere, and peace of mind and spirit.

We remember within our own community, Peter Low, John Lynch, Canon Robin Morrison, Annie Woolmer, Gemma Fryer, Revd Neil Summers (St John the Divine, Richmond), Margaret and Hugh.

and any others known personally to us. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Father, welcome into your kingdom of everlasting light all who have come to the point of death. Comfort those who miss their physical presence, and bring us all to spend eternity in your radiant presence.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, thank you for providing always the encouragement and inspiration we need for the work you would have us do; give us the grace to trust your will for us and walk forward boldly in your company.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sermon and prayers 21st February

Sermon. Sunday. 7th February 2021

Readings:  Proverbs 8: 1, 22-31; John 1:1-14

An atheist was walking through the woods. He said to himself: ‘ What majestic trees!’. ‘ What powerful rivers!’ ‘ What beautiful animals!’ As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He glanced back and saw a 7 foot grizzly following him. He ran as fast as he could along the path. He looked over his shoulder and seeing that the bear was closing in on him, he stumbled and fell to the ground. Rolling over, he saw that the bear was right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him. In that moment, the atheist cried out. Time stopped. The bear froze. The forest was silent. As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky. ‘ You deny my existence for all these years, you tell others I don’t exist and even regard creation as some  cosmic accident. Do you now expect me to help you out of this predicament?’

The atheist looked directly into the light. ‘It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps you could make the bear a believer.’ ‘ Ok’ said the voice. The light went out; the sounds of the forest resumed and the bear dropped his right paw. Then he brought both paws together, bowed his head and spoke: ‘ Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.’

Today, the 2nd Sunday before Lent is sometimes known as Creation Sunday, an opportunity we might think for doing the liturgical equivalent of saying to ourselves “ What majestic trees” or even “ Lord bless this food”. Well, our scripture readings will not let us off so lightly! They challenge us to take seriously our relationship with creation as that which is God-breathed and spoken into being by the very Word of God. They challenge us to ask what it means to be made in the image of God and to be those in whom the wisdom of God delights. They ask us to take seriously the concept of wisdom as a vital element in our relationship with creation, with God and with one another.

‘Where is the wisdom we

Have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we

Have lost in information?’         

..wrote T S Eliot in one of the choruses of his poem ‘ The Rock’.

We have more factual information about the nature of the world around than any previous generation. We have the knowledge both to speculate about the origin of life and to project into the future how the world might develop, though the present pandemic was unpredicted and  caught us off guard. We are becoming more aware how our choices and lifestyles today can affect future generations; and what we know about that projected future doesn’t sound encouraging. The rate of melting of the Artic ice cap suggests that the serious impact of global warming and rising water levels will hit us sooner than we think. By the year 2050, in the lifetime of your children or grandchildren, if not you, there will be a projected 150 million climate refugees as countries such as Bangladesh, Egypt, & Holland become uninhabitable. We know we are damaging our world; we know the consequences of potential disaster for generations.  *And there won’t be some miracle vaccination ‘.

  As part of the Lent programme  this year, St Anne’s church is organising a series of weekly informal studies on the  Christian response to climate change, and St Anne’s website has further information if you’d like to know more. In November, the UK will be hosting the 26th UN climate change conference in Glasgow. So climate change is on the global agenda , but all too often it seems we have been powerless to act because our fragmentary knowledge is not informed by wisdom or we’ve simply lacked the will to change.  Our perception of the world around us is not informed by the gifts of wisdom -open eyes, clear vision and enlightened minds.

In the ancient Hebrew tradition, wisdom and creation were bound together in the heart of the community – the Temple. That was where Wisdom dwelt with God, defining and setting the boundaries of creation and imparting her gifts to those whom she anointed.

The Temple itself was modelled on a vision of creation and at its heart stood the Holy of Holies representing the throne of God. This was separated from the rest of the Temple by the Veil, representing the material world screening the presence of God from human eyes.

St John’s great insight, expressed in the opening verses of his gospel we listened to a few moments ago, was to recognise that in the flesh and blood of Jesus the veil that hid the glory of God has been removed – in his words ‘ the Word became flesh and we have seen his glory’. In Christ the anointed one, the Wisdom of God is visible for all to see in the very material of God’s creation. The familiar, opening words of John’s gospel are a testimony to the wisdom and creative purposes of God. In Christ the whole created order holds together and finds it meaning and purpose. To be created in the image of God and to be those in whom the wisdom of God delight is to be in relationship with the whole created order. Christians don’t really have an option of being ‘green’ or not – it’s there in the very life-blood of wisdom which flows through us, in the relationships that bind us. And to close our eyes to the wilful or neglectful destruction of creation is to cut ourselves off from the source of life itself.

It’s the task of a lifetime to seek to understand where knowledge and wisdom begins; of seeking to grow in relationship with the wisdom and word of God made flesh; of seeking to glimpse and respect God’s glory in that which appears mundane, or ordinary; and in all things learning each day to tread lightly on God’s glorious earth.

I began on a light hearted note. I want to end with something more profound on the theme of wisdom and creation which speaks to our current situation as we approach the season of Lent.

It’s from a short series of reflections on the pandemic by Rowan Williams, which he wrote a year ago and recently published as ‘Candles in the Dark’. * 

‘ Here we are nearing a serious Lent, looking around for signs of a transfigured world; looking around what seems a wasteland with no timetable to reassure us that things will be back to normal any time soon. We can’t do what we’d normally do to show our devotion; we can’t gather in celebration and share the food and drink of God’s kingdom.

As we contemplate the coming months, not knowing when we can breath again, it’s worth thinking about how already the foundations have been laid for whatever new opportunities God has for us on the far side of this crisis. The small actions we take to protect one another, to keep open the channels of love and gift; finding new ways of communicating, even simply meditating on how our society might become more just and secure – all of this can be the hidden beginning of something fuller and more honest for us all in the future.

The great question, as and when we have emerged from the immediate shadow of the pandemic, will be: What have we learned? Christians should be able to prompt, and to build on some answers.

Ultimately the question for us as a society is whether we have grownthrough the solidarity into which we have been forced. What if the change has already begun? What if something of a new world has been seen afresh and has kindled a new force of longing for generous, equitable, joyful living together? ‘

Amen .May it be so!

* ‘ Candles in the Dark’ Rowan Williams  SPCK 2020


The news is dark, the world seems dark.  But there is light and we ask you:

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

In the northern hemisphere we emerge from deep winter with Spring just visible in the distance.  Snowdrops hang their elegant heads, robins chirp from lofty trees lining the Kew streets.  Nature is performing its act of annual resurrection reminding us that healing and renewal is possible, even in these suffering times, and we thank you for this.   We thank you for the Christian belief in Jesus’s resurrection and for the message of hope that it gives us. 

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Many good things have happened during this last year and this week in particular we remember Captain Sir Tom Moore, aged one-hundred who walked one-hundred laps in his garden and raised millions of pounds for the NHS and the spirits of people all over the world.   We thank him and pray that he rests in peace.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

We thank you for all those trying to alleviate the suffering – key workers in the NHS, in education, in care homes. We thank you for the scientists being able to produce vaccines so quickly, the planners for organising distribution, and the doctors and nurses for administering it.  We thank you for everyday individual kindnesses and actions, and for the opportunity to reflect and find new ways of living, serving others and finding meaning.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Healing takes time and we pray for all those mourning the death of their loved ones and trying to live on in the aftermath; for those thousands of people sick with Covid 19;  for those anxious for jobs and livelihoods;  for those struggling to care for school children while trying to do their job.  Let us not forgot what can be hidden by the enormity of the pandemic:  those who are homeless; those who have had medical treatment postponed; those slipping into further poverty.  And further afield, let us remember those thousands of migrants struggling to find a home; and those people in Myanmar living with fear and uncertainty under the recent military coup.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for our two churches and for everyone involved in keeping them open for quiet prayer and meditation and for organising and taking part in Zoom services.  We pray in particular for Guinevere and Irene who for a nearly a year throughout the pandemic and more recently during the interregnum have seamlessly, and with infinite courtesy, managed the parish office as if nothing untoward was going on.  We pray for the important meeting next week when the church wardens, and all those responsible, will be deciding about a replacement for Peter Hart.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for the sick in body, mind and spirit, and for all those who love and care for them and who may be adjusting to a new reality and need all your support and strength.  We think in particular of:  Peter Low, John Lynch, Canon Robin Morrison, Annie Woolmer, Gemma Fryer, Revd Neil Summers (St John the Divine, Richmond), Margaret and Hugh, and Anne Freebody, the other grandmother of my grandchildren, who has just caught the virus.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

A few days ago, my husband, Charlie, opened his computer to the following words on the screen:  ‘If we prayed as much as we worried, we’d have a lot less to worry about’.   Let us keep praying.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

Harriet Grace