Sunday, 5 July 2020

‘And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well’

‘And all shall be well and / All manner of thing shall be well’ (TS Eliot, ‘Little Gidding’ … hope for the future as our churches begin to re-open this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 5 July 2020

The Fourth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity IV)


9.30 a.m.: the Parish Eucharist, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick

11.30 a.m.: the Parish Eucharist, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry

The Readings: Revelation 21: 9-14; Psalm 122; Matthew 21: 12-16

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

I think reopening our churches this morning, as we enter a new stage of coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, leaves us open to many mixed feelings.

Some of us are here, glad to be back in church again this morning.

Some of us are here, wondering if everything is going to be all right.

Many of us are conscious of those who are not here, feeling vulnerable, perhaps even feeling fearful.

In many parishes, I imagine, there are people who have lost the regular rhythm or habit or sense of purpose of going to church on Sunday, and may find it difficult to get back into that practice.

Most of us are going to find the restrictions here this morning strange and off-putting: wearing masks, leaving contact details for tracing, sitting in pews that are not of our choice, wondering about the markings.

Some things are different this morning: fewer readings and hymns so we spend less time in a closed space with one another; listening to but not singing hymns; not sharing the peace; the strange way of administering the Holy Communion … in these attempts to make ourselves safe, we may also be making ourselves uncomfortable.

Hopefully, this is not the ‘new normal.’

Hopefully, we can return to living out the ideal of the Church as community, the church as the living body of the Christ … ‘we being many are one body, for we all share in the one bread.’

How can we balance the joy of reopening our churches with the obvious restraints we must respect?

How do we balance our celebrations with the real mourning and grieving that our families, our parish, our community, our diocese, our nation, all need to acknowledge?

Many people this morning are asking where God has been in the midst of this crisis. Has God been present in the church? Has God heard our prayers? Is God going to hear and answer our prayers?

Psalm 122 is well-known because of the setting we heard by Sir Hubert Parry.

But, as we listened to Psalm 122, were you ‘glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord’?

In this psalm, the author has a vision not of Jerusalem as it was at the time, but of the heavenly city where God dwells and where all people dwell in unity.

His response to this vision is to pray for the peace of the heavenly city and for all who live within its walls, for his family, and for the house of God.

In our reading from the Book of Revelation (Revelation 21: 9-14), after a time of great and many plagues, Saint John is taken to see the new Jerusalem, and in this vision he finds he has an encounter with the glory of the living God.

It is a reminder to us that the Church should be a living example of the hope we have for the kingdom of God, the new Jerusalem, the living Jerusalem, the hope we should have for the future, for all people.

In the Gospel reading (Matthew 21: 12-16), we hear Saint Matthew’s account of Christ’s cleansing of the Temple.

A lot of work has gone into cleaning and preparing this church so that we could re-open it this morning.

But this is not just a matter of parochial, community or family pride. After cleaning our churches and returning to them, are we sure that they are houses of prayer?

And will the blind and the lame, whoever they may be in our society today, find welcome in this church?

During this time of forced lockdown – when our churches have been closed, as we rang the church bell in Saint Mary’s, Askeaton, every Sunday morning to remind all who heard it that the Church is alive and welcoming, as I looked forward to the churches opening again – I reflected time and again on the words of Bishop Thomas Ken (1637-1711):

O God, make the door of this house
wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship,
and a heavenly Father’s care;
and narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and hate.
Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children,
nor to straying feet,
but rugged enough to turn back the tempter’s power:
make it a gateway to thine eternal kingdom.


But I am also assured by the words of Julian of Norwich, quoted by TS Eliot at the end of his poem ‘Little Gidding’:

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

A vision of the heavenly city (see Revelation 21) depicted in the West Window in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Revelation 21: 9-14:

9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ 10 And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Matthew 21: 12-16:

12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
but you are making it a den of robbers.”

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself’?”

I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord’ (Psalm 122: 1) … inside Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Introductory prayers:

Lord, be with us as we open the door.
Come in with us, go out with us.
Do not sleep when we sleep,
but watch over us, protect us and keep us safe,
our only help and maker. (cf Psalm 121)

The Collect:

Almighty God,
we praise you for the many blessings
you have given to those who worship you here:
and we pray that all who seek you in this place may find you,
and, being filled with the Holy Spirit,
may become a living temple acceptable to you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

Peace to you from God our heavenly Father.
Peace from his Son Jesus Christ who is our peace.
Peace from the Holy Spirit the Life-giver.
The peace of the Triune God be always with you.
And also with you.

Preface:

You have revealed your glory
as the glory of your Son and of the Holy Spirit:
three persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendour,
yet one Lord, one God,
ever to be worshipped and adored:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Father in heaven,
whose Church on earth is a sign of your heavenly peace,
an image of the new and eternal Jerusalem:
grant us in the days of our pilgrimage
that, fed with the living bread of heaven,
and united in the body of your Son,
we may be the temple of your presence,
the place of your glory on earth,
and a sign of your peace in the world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Concluding Prayers:

And now to him who is able to keep us from falling,
and lift us up from the dark valley of despair
to the bright mountain of hope,
from the midnight of desperation
to the daybreak of joy;
to him be power and authority for ever. Amen.

Liturgical colour: Red

A note on the choice of Liturgical colours: Green is the colour for Ordinary time, but Red symbolises both the Holy Spirit and the witness of the Church in the lives of the great saints and martyrs.

Hymns:

325: Be still, for the presence of the Lord (CD 20)
338: Jesus stand among us (CD 20)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

Material from Common Worship is © The Archbishop’s Council, the Church of England.



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