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Order of Service
The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here.
Prelude: Variations on “Coronation” by Robert J. Powell (b. 1932) with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ
Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector
Introit: “Come Ever-Gracious Son of God” by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort
The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; And blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.
Hymn: 518 “Christ is made the sure foundation” (vv. 1, 4), Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ
1 Christ is made the sure foundation, Christ the head and cornerstone, chosen of the Lord, and precious, binding all the Church in one; holy Zion's help for ever, and her confidence alone. 4 Here vouchsafe to all thy servants what they ask of thee to gain; what they gain from thee, for ever with the blessèd to retain, and hereafter in thy glory evermore with thee to reign.
Collect for Purity
The Gloria S277, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young accompanying
The Collect of the Day
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord,who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,for ever and ever. Amen.
First Reading: Jeremiah 28:5-9 read by David Blake
Psalm 13 sung by members of the St Martin’s Chapel Consort
Refrain: I will put my trust in your mercy. 1 How long, O LORD? will you forget me for ever? how long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long shall I have perplexity in my mind, and grief in my heart, day after day? how long shall my enemy triumph over me? 3 Look upon me and answer me, O LORD my God; give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death; 4 Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," and my foes rejoice that I have fallen. 5 But I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help. 6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has dealt with me richly; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High. Refrain.
Second Reading: Romans 6:12-23, read by Pat Nolan
Gradual Hymn: Hymn 359 “God of the prophets” (v. 1,2) sung St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ
1 God of the prophets, bless the prophets' heirs! Elijah's mantle o'er Elisha cast: each age for thine own solemn task prepares, make each one stronger, nobler than the last. 2 Anoint them prophets! Teach them thine intent: to human need their quickened hearts awake; fill them with power, their lips make eloquent for righteousness that shall all evil break.
The Gospel: Matthew 10:40-42 proclaimed by Linda+
Gradual Hymn: Hymn 359 “God of the prophets” (v. 5
5 Make them apostles, heralds of thy cross; forth may they go to tell all realms thy grace: inspired of thee, may they count all but loss, and stand at last with joy before thy face
The Sermon: Mark+ (a stand alone sermon recording and text also appear below on this page)
The Nicene Creed: -(we recite together)
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. She has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Anthem: “A Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester” by L. J. White (n.d.) , sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young at the organ
O holy Jesus, most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly. Amen.
Prayers of the People: led by Linda+
The Lord’s Prayer
The General Thanksgiving
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
Final Hymn: “The God of Abraham praise” (vv. 1, 4) sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with organ
1 The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above; Ancient of everlasting days, and God of love; the Lord, the great I AM, by earth and heaven confessed: we bow and bless the sacred Name for ever blest. 5 The whole triumphant host give thanks to God on high; “Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” they ever cry; hail, Abraham’s Lord divine! With heaven our songs we raise; all might and majesty are thine, and endless praise.
The Postlude: Trumpet Tune by Martha Sobaje (b. 1948) Steven Young on St Martin’s organ
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By Babylon’s Rivers
I love history as I know do many of you. History is the great teacher if only we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Much of the Old Testament is Israel’s history book. But from our point of view, it’s a particular kind of history; a history of the ups and downs in the relationship between God and a chosen people; the relationship between human and divine.
We too, are also a people in relationship with the divine, the God of Israel and the God and father of Jesus. In that respect biblical history is our history also. The times and places may change between then and now, but the context for human experience – lived out in relation to the divine presence of God in the world – remains either alarmingly or reassuringly the same. God invites, we sometimes respond, but mostly we go our own way until the disaster forces us back – crying to God for deliverance from the consequences of our own follies.
The prophet Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry to Judah about 627 BC and ended it about 570 BC. His career spanned the period of political turmoil that culminated in Judah’s final defeat by the Babylonians (587 BC) and with it the destruction of Jerusalem, the burning of the temple, and the exile of the significant parts of Judah’s religious and civic leadership. The nation lay broken.
In chapter 28 we find Jeremiah arguing that true prophets have always delivered the hard message of God’s truth as a mirror held up to reveal the real state of things in contrast to the convenient and comfortable message of God’s peace lulling people into believing that all continued to be well. With a hint of sarcasm he chides Hananiah: when we see the peace you prophecy then it will be known the Lord has truly sent a prophet.
The disputation between Jeremiah and his fellow prophet Hananiah can be roughly dated approximately seven years after the exile has begun. Jeremiah and his opponents who are still in Jerusalem offering alternative versions of what God is doing. Hananiah, perhaps to inspire a sense of revolt against Babylon, has prophesied the exiles return in two years. With the full restoration of the temple, God will once again grant peace to the nation. Jeremiah represents the minority opinion – revealing the feel-good message of make Israel great again for the dangerous and ultimately futile distraction for what it was.
Like the profusion of today’s political pundits and religious commentators, at any one-time Israel always had many prophets – whose messages competed for public attention. A common mistake we make is to view the work of Israel’s prophets as predictors of the future. This is a misleading notion. In reality they were less predictors of the future and more promoters of God’s agenda in the politico-spiritual crises facing the nation the present time. They tried to call attention to what God wanted and what God was doing.
Because all prophets claimed to be delivering God’s message, it was always difficult to tell whose message was the true one. Because we are no strangers to competing truth narratives peddled by today’s politicians – amplified by media pundits and social commentators of all persuasions, the situation outlined in Jeremiah 28 rings with an uncanny familiarity. The point of biblical history is to remind us that there is nothing new under the sun; as it was then, so it is now.
We are hearing at the moment the message America is broken. This is a particularly painful message to hear because it’s a negation of all we want to believe. From the far extremes of right and left and just about every position in between, we hear a similar message: America is broken. However, there is no consensus on what it is that is broken and how to fix it.
Israel had been utterly broken leaving the Jews two possible responses – acceptance or denial of reality. The denial faction led the prophet Hananiah sought to distract public attention with a set of alternative facts that predicted the immanent decline of Babylonian power to be followed by a full restoration of Israel – pretty much as it had been before Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem and temple. We know about the wishful thinking of denial in high places – there’s no need to worry, the virus is beaten and we will open up the country to be the best and even better than ever best – the best nation in the history of the whole world!
Hananiah and his cohort circled Jeremiah like gloating vultures, mocking his message of doom and gloom as unpatriotic. They took him to court, they had him imprisoned – all in an attempt to silence him. Jeremiah’s message was – listen up people, the nation really is broken, and this situation is not going to be easily fixed any time soon. For Jeremiah knew that the only true fix was repentance leading to root and branch reform. He also knew that a true fix would take time. He was correct, it took 70 years before the exiles returned.
Sometimes it’s the unpatriotic message that contains the only real seeds of hope. Jeremiah encouraged the exiles in Babylon to build houses, to marry and have children, to serve the city to which they had been exiled, and to get on with rebuilding their lives in as foreigners in strange place. In other words, there was no alternative to getting on with life in changed circumstances and accept of the unpalatable reality: Judah was broken.
Gradually the exiles heard Jeremiah’s message of hope. The community settled down by the rivers of Babylon and while they wept when they remembered Zion, they actually got on with the kind of root and branch religious and cultural reform that laid the foundations that enabled the Jews to survive as a community into modern times.
At the local level –within the maelstrom of the crisis, the prophet’s message sounds dire – some might even say unpatriotic. But crisis -when correctly viewed against the backdrop of God’s intention and purpose for the world – becomes opportunity.
The Coronavirus aside, there is nothing in America that is broken which cannot -given courage, hope-filled vision, and perseverance – be fixed. We trust that given time even the virus itself will eventually be neutralized as the eradication of plague, smallpox, polio, measles, AIDS, etc shows.
A modern-day Jeremiah would counsel us to take the crisis of brokenness seriously – not as a counsel of despair – but as the rallying point for the unleashing of the creativity and ingenuity that Americans excel at. The modern-day Jeremiah, a he or she, would counsel us to overcome our sense of helplessness and fear; to give up the illusion of seeing things as we want them to be and begin to see things as they really are. He or she would redirect our attention to the unleashing of American knowhow, the spirit of our creative and bold innovation, our courageous and incurable hopefulness. A modern-day Jeremiah would encourage us to believe that the glaring stain of racism is not stronger than our inherent sense of natural justice, and that when accepted with repentance crisis is reframed as opportunity. Speaking metaphorically, he or she would encourage us to build houses, marry and have children, and serve as agents for the evolution of justice in our society, and the repair of the creation.
By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when remembered Zion. There on the trees along the water’s edge we hung up our harps – and then we got on with the task of fashioning a new future for ourselves in which all our people can flourish.