PASTORAL LETTERS

 

 Pastoral Letter Palm Sunday 28th March 2021

The United Benefice of Kirkdale with Harome, Nunnington and Pockley

 

   

 

Dearest Friends,

Little did I realise that when we started sending out each Saturday evening the Benefice Pastoral Letter and the details of the Sunday Online Service – that we would be still doing so a year later. I am so grateful to Rebecca Thompson, Margery Roberts and John Hastie for helping me to cascade out weekly. I remember recording last year’s Palm Sunday Service in our African Room Study at home, my husband Chris filming the Service in three-minute timeslots on my iPad to then send to James Lloyd in Cropton who then stitched it all together and then uploaded it on to YouTube - if we sent anymore than three minutes it wouldn’t transmit and we had a few Saturday evenings when the transmissions hovered  in the atmospherics somewhere between Harome and Cropton and we could only upload a liturgy of fifteen minutes at the most – and we usually had to ‘  let something go.’ I am ever thankful that James was so encouraging and infinitely patient. Anne Twine faithfully each week puts the Sunday Service up on the Benefice Website. Throughout the year the Services have been richly enhanced by the Choir at St Gregory’s Minster singing a seasonal Anthem or Introit – a remarkable feat – each Choir Member recording at home, sending their individual recording in and then being ‘mixed’ by Caroline or Russell. Congratulations to John Hastie, our Director of Music, who became a Great Grandpa this week – and thank you for working so hard to provide beautiful music.

 

 Gradually the Benefice Online Ministry Team emerged, Mary and Iain Thew in Nunnington and Damian Andrews at St Hilda’s joining James at St Gregory’s. We were able to record a full service, with lovely backdrops for the hymn words and the inclusion of images of the local countryside.  Between lockdowns we recorded ‘live ‘services ‘and later in the day Anne would put the Sunday Service on the Website. It has been a joy to move from Church to Church across the Benefice. This week the Palm Sunday Service comes from Pockley with cameo appearances from our resident TV stars (The Yorkshire Vet) – donkeys George and Mildred (thank you Michelle and Ian Bell, Pockley).

 

Next week for Easter Sunday, I am delighted to confirm that we are recording an online service at St Gregory’s Minster with choral pieces sung by the Choir and this will be available through the Website: www.kirkdalechurches.org.uk and the direct link will be sent out next Saturday with the Order of Service. This will be the last Pastoral Letter unless we go into another lockdown – as we are offering a comprehensive Sunday Service Rota, and we will continue to record at least one of the Sunday Services and put it on the Website and we continue to look to livestreaming. Benefice life looks lively with baptisms booked and when the restrictions ease a real bustle of weddings, Patronal Festivals, and Celebratory ‘bit of a do’ gatherings. I think zoom meetings, zoom Bible Study and zoom Homegroups will be always part of how we now gather- especially in the winter months.

 

 I am delighted to confirm that the Benefice Churches are opening for the Easter weekend – except for St Gregory’s Minster which will open on Sunday 18th April with a Choral Eucharist at 11 am. The Benefice Magazine Outlook April/ May has been printed and delivered; it has all the Sunday Service details included and please check the Website.

 

Please note that we will be continuing with all the Covid Protocols that were in place before the lockdown. The Churchwardens are reviewing and refreshing the Risk Assessments this week. So, we continue to wear masks in Church, we social distance and we use hand sanitiser. There is sadly ‘no singing’ and for a little while longer we urged ‘not to mingle’ before or after the Service

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Good Friday Devotional Services

 St Hilda’s, Beadlam @ 9.30 am

 All Saints and St James, Nunnington @ 2pm

St Saviour’s, Harome @ 6.30 pm

 

Holy Saturday

 St John the Baptist, Pockley @ 6pm -Lighting of the New Fire, Easter Vigil and Easter Communion

 

 Easter Sunday

St Hilda’s, Beadlam @ 9.30 am Easter Eucharist

St Saviour’s, Harome@ 9.30 am Easter Eucharist

All Saints and St James, Nunnington @ 11 am Easter Holy Communion

 

It will be so lovely to be gathered in worship this Easter, to light the Paschal Candles and to fill the Churches with spring flowers. But it will feel very different to other Easters as we still wear the mantle of covid protocols, so aware of those who remain anxious and fearful, those who mourn and most of still unable to be with our family and friends at a holiday time, and in all aspects of our lives still only able to make tentative plans, and so aware that across the world that vaccines are only a distant hope. If we delve beneath the surface of the Easter encounters, which the Gospels describe, we do not find human strength and resolve; we certainly find no blasts of the trumpet or elaborate liturgies. Instead, we find fragility; people who are often at their lowest point, whose whole world has collapsed. In the case of the disciples, it is because they believed Jesus to have disappeared for ever. In the case of ourselves, it is because we come to our discipleship with the pressing questions we want to put to God. These questions may not be answered immediately, or in the way we expect, but Easter is not about putting a heavenly lid on earthly experience; it is about interpreting earthly experience with a heavenly light. The two foundations of Easter faith are always fragility and love. We need to take on the whole Jesus story, the great narratives of life and death, encounter and betrayal, teaching and miracle, and let it speak to us, engage with us, challenge us and perhaps even shake us up and heal us. Every Easter God gives us the freedom to accept and live his risen life of encounter, renewal and forgiveness. Easter is about a God who refuses to give up on us, and that means many things. It means hoping against all hope in the most difficult parts of our lives and world. It means hope and love in our own lives as families and as individuals. Easter has made a mark on human history that is indelible, for the Christ who encounters us in all our fragility and in our love every Easter and every morning and every day.

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 On Palm Sunday Christians celebrate and remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Around the world palm branches and palm crosses will be blessed and there will be a procession – this year socially distanced and perhaps more representative than crowded, just as 2,000 years ago Jesus rode on a humble donkey and was greeted with shouts of ‘Hosanna!’ and ‘Save now!’ by the pilgrim crowds. A Spanish nun, Egeria, who visited the Holy Land around the year 380 describes the bishop and the people processing from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, carrying palms and olive branches and ‘the babies and the ones too young to walk’ being carried on their parents’ shoulders. It is a deep human instinct to identify with historical moments of profound significance by re-enacting them in dramatic ways. So, the story of Palm Sunday becomes our story, our journey with Jesus to the city where He is to meet his death. One of the popular traditional hymns for Palm Sunday was written by Henry Milman, a Victorian Dean of St Paul’s. He wrote dramatic poems and romantic verse dramas, as well as some of the first studies of biblical history to root Scripture in the culture of the day. In his Palm Sunday hymn, Ride on, ride on in Majesty, he sees the Palm Sunday procession as a poignant, funeral procession – ‘in lowly pomp ride on to die’- as Holy Week unfolds. If there was an expectation among the Palm Sunday crowds that this was the beginning of a revolution in which Jesus would drive out the oppressive Roman occupiers, it was not to be. The week that begins with Palm Sunday moves inexorably through the darker moments: The Last Supper, the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (the garden of the pressing out of the olives), betrayal, arrest, torture, mocking, scourging and a trial that shows both religious leaders and political leaders as utterly unconcerned with truth (as Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, asks dismissively, ‘what is truth?’). So, on Good Friday Jesus is nailed to the cross of a criminal in the agony of crucifixion, a scarecrow figure hung between two thieves. That agony ends with a cry from the psalms, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ In the darkness of this dying a Roman soldier points to this tortured figure and echoes the words first heard at Jesus’s Baptism: ‘Truly this man was the Son of God.’

It is the powerful paradox of the Christian Gospel that in this dreadful dying what men and women have seen and known is a God who does not stand aside but who comes down to lowest part of our need. Matthias Grunewald could paint this tortured figure in that most powerful of medieval religious paintings, the Isenheim altarpiece, showing the figure of Jesus with scabrous marks of the same skin disease from which the patients in the hospital in Colmar in which it was displayed suffered. Here is a God whose love reaches out in its fullness to prison cells, the victims of natural disasters, in the midst of the pandemic – in the dying which must come, in whatever ways it comes to each one of us. We brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it so our worth is measured not by what we do but by what we are. It is not ‘I do; therefore, I am, ‘but ‘I am therefore I do.’ And what am I? It is one made in the image of the love of God, who feely gives, and loves us unconditionally with a love that will not let us down and will not let us go. It is the victory of the love of Easter, which breaks into the world surprising us with the joy of a new creation. Easter does not undo Good Friday; it is new life that is born in the grave, in the darkness and nothingness of death, which makes our dying ‘the gate of life immortal.’ As this week Christians walk the way of the Cross it is to be renewed    in that faith, and in that love- in the God whose love will never let us down and will never let us go.

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   Matthias Grunewald   Isenheim Altar Piece                              Michelangelo La Pieta

 

 We warmly invite you to share in the Benefice Sunday Online Service which this week was recorded at St John the Baptist Church, Pockley and is a Service of Holy Communion.

The Service includes the Reading of the Passion Liturgy according to Mark’s Gospel, by Rachel Blizzard and Jan Andrews. There glimpses of the Pockley Donkeys. The hymn words are on the screen so you can join the singing in the comfort of your home and Damian has provided some beautiful Pockley scenes. To access the Service please go to:
 www.kirkdalechurches.org.uk

 

 Direct Link:  https://youtu.be/PTKHeiNh-B8

 

Readings: Isaiah 50.4 – 9a; Philippians 2.5-11; Mark 14.1 -end of 15

 

There are many people with bit parts in the Passion narrative. Jesus, who until now initiated the action, is suddenly passive. Things happen to him, and he rarely speaks. He has entered a different world, which is peopled by a new cast of characters, many of them nameless. However, if Jesus is passive, others have their say about him in word or action.

The Passion narrative is framed by stories about women: one who anoints his body for burial, and two who watch that burial. Jesus describes the anointing as a ‘beautiful thing’ that the anonymous woman does for him. This is a rare description in the Bible of an action as beautiful. The woman’s act of extravagant love was one of the few kind things done to Jesus that week. Her touch was in marked contrast to the touch he experienced when he was manhandled, spat on, flogged, pierced by thorns, and ultimately crucified. Actions that should be tender – a kiss, being dressed, receiving homage – were distorted into acts of cruelty.

In the powerful stage and film adaptations of Michael Morpurgo’s book War Horse, the central character, Joey the horse, cannot speak, but elicits responses from the people around him, drawing out love in the cruel theatre of war. Touch is important: the nuzzling of two horses; the whipping as they struggle to drag a gun carriage up a steep muddy hill; and the exquisitely gentle touch of two soldiers – enemies brought together by compassion – who free the exhausted horse from the barbed wire that traps him. There is always room for beauty in the midst of suffering, if only we will bring it.

 

 The gentle touch of compassionate action, the beautiful gift that the woman gave Jesus in her anointing, is the touch that Jesus probably yearned for in his Passion. He had used touch to heal and restore people, including those deemed untouchable by others, and yet he was not touched that way again until after his death.

Other people move in and out of the narrative, making their small mark. An unnamed person leads the disciples to a large rom that Jesus borrowed from another unnamed person for the Passover meal. Its largeness indicates the presence of many people at the Last Supper. We know his mother and brothers were in Jerusalem, and there were always children at a Passover meal, because a child has particular questions to ask as part of the proceedings. Outside Jesus’s circle there are numerous walk-on parts: the priests buy Judas’s betrayal; Judas brings an armed crowd; the curiosity of a slave-girl and bystanders leads Peter to deny knowing Jesus; another bystander, Simon of Cyrene ( a place that is now part of Libya), is forced to carry Jesus’s cross, leading to speculation that his family was converted), a mysterious young man flees naked from the garden – scholars say he is not Mark, but perhaps there are evocative resonances of Adam and Eve, naked and later cast out of another garden, or of the young man in the empty tomb. It is these bit players who move the story on to its relentless conclusion: Jesus’s cry of agony and abandonment on the cross – one of the few times when God is mentioned in these chapters. Jesus’s suffering draws vastly different responses out of others, and also completes Mark’s story line about people’s gradual recognition of Jesus.

 It began at his baptism, when the voice from heaven proclaimed: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved.’ It moved forward when Peter said, ‘You are the Messiah’, which led Jesus to begin speaking of his suffering. Now, finally, a Roman centurion, inured to the harshness of crucifixion, said of the suffering man: ‘Truly this man was God’s son.’

As we hear this Passion story read in its entirety, we can imagine ourselves in the scene, playing a bit part. It is tempting to want to be an uninvolved bystander, but Paul’s challenge is to be participants who have the same mind that was in Christ. That mind-set includes responding in grateful, beautiful love when we see Christ’s suffering in his people today, in Creation and in his animals, such as the war horse.

 

Love so amazing, so divine.

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

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 Maundy Thursday

  Readings Exodus 12.1-4(5-10)11-14; I Corinthians 11.23-26; John 13.1-17, 31b -35

‘During supper Jesus, knowing he was going to God, got up from the table and began to wash the disciples’ feet.’ Washing feet that were dusty, possibly muddy, from the street was one of the first things that happened when people entered a house, before starting a meal. It was a practical act, done by a servant or a junior member of the host household, much like taking someone’s coat today, and Jesus and the disciples would already have had their feet washed by the time the meal started. So, when, part way through the meal, Jesus rose from the table, tied a towel around himself and poured water into the basin, this was evidently not the routine action. Peter’s response could be because he felt humbled by Jesus’s action, or it could be that he was perplexed at what was going on.

John frames this story with references to love, beginning by recording that Jesus loved his own who were in the world – his family and friends – to the end. He ends it with Jesus commanding his friends to love one another just as he has loved them, because this will be the way that everyone will know that they are his disciples. Everything about the foot-washing is in the context of Jesus’s love. John also states that Jesus’s action was precipitated by the knowledge that his hour had come. That realization had apparently come to him a few days earlier when Philip and Andrew brought the group of Greeks who were asking to see Jesus. Jesus’s enigmatic response, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’ (John 12.23), appeared to ignore the waiting visitors entirely. Instead, he was caught up in what their arrival – symbolizing the non- Jewish world coming to him – meant for him. Now he picked up that theme of glory as soon as the betrayer had left the room, ‘now the Son of Man has been glorified and God has been glorified in him.’

How did Jesus express his love to his friends and reveal God’s glory? He washed his disciples’ feet. We are rightly stung by the example of his humility and each Maundy Thursday around the world this is followed as a worked example of loving and serving one another. Having our feet washed is often harder than washing other people’s feet. It makes us more vulnerable. In part it is that we become aware of the imperfections of our feet as we expose them (and perhaps the smell), but it is also that we are rendered immobile because someone else is gently holding the feet that we rely on to get us around. Foot -washing enforces stillness. For the disciples it enforced attentiveness to Jesus because, almost inevitably, when people have their feet washed in Church, they look at the person washing them.

 Contrast that with the Israelites in Exodus. At the first Passover they were to eat on the run, loins girded, sandals on their feet and staff in hand, and they were to eat it hurriedly. No time for foot-washing. Again, it was an event framed by love, God’s love for his enslaved and abused people. Love to which they were to be attentive and which was to shape their life and action for ever after. So, the reading begins with the words, ‘This month shall mark you for the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you, ‘and it ends, ‘This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord.’ From that time onwards, their sense of time was to be ordered, indeed dictated, by memory of God’s deliverance. And so, it is for us. Jesus’s actions at the        Last Supper of taking and sharing bread and wine, as described by Paul, have shaped the lives of Christians ever since. As Gregory Dix put it, ‘the sheer stupendous quantity of the love of God which this repeated action has drawn from the obscure Christian multitude through the centuries is in itself an overwhelming thought’ (Dix, 1945). Shoes on or off, that love is expressed in service, in allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, in being ready to move when called, and by ordering our lives within the love of God. Amen.

 

 Collect Prayer for Maundy Thursday

 God our Father, you have invited us to share in the supper which your Son gave to his Church to proclaim his death until he comes: may he nourish us by his presence, and unite us in his love; who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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In the middle of a crisis, whether personal or national, there’s a day when everything stops. There is a moment when the pace of events slows, the phone goes quiet, the torrent of words dries up. At the time of a death, this is especially true. In the initial stages of grieving, time itself takes on a new meaning. And what is already true becomes more evident: that our lives are a series of moments. From one moment to the next, the world can tilt on its axis: the doctor says you have cancer; the policeman says your daughter has been in an accident …. In an instant you have entered a new world; a shocked, motionless world where life suddenly becomes a series of silent, endless afternoons. Holy Saturday is in the Church’s year, a silent, endless afternoon. The crisis of crucifixion is over, the legs are broken, the soldiers have been stood down, the crowds have dispersed and the headiness and barbarism of the last few days have brought those who witnessed it to their knees. It is      for those of us who live this side of the Resurrection, an in between day, a day when nothing happens, although we know next. However, for the power of the resurrection to be fully known, it cannot be anticipated. Today must be a day when the stone is firmly fixed across the entrance of the tomb with no hint of what is tom come.

In a convent in London is a set of paintings relating to the events of this week by an artist known for his contemporary portrayals of Jesus and the iconic moments of his ministry. When he was commissioned the artist and the sisters imagined what would be happening on the evening of Good Friday into Holy Saturday, the day after the catastrophe of Christ’s death. They imagined together that Mary, the mother of Jesus, would visit Judas’s mother. Two grieving mothers one whose son was executed, one whose son took his own life, both of whom played essential parts in the redemption of the world. These kind of teachings about Holy Saturday rescue the Easter weekend from the bland woodland greys and browns of contemporary cared shops which serve to flatten the contours of what, even for those who do not believe, is often described as the greatest story ever told.

Reminding ourselves that the wooden cross remains a cruelly ingenious instrument of torture and execution leads to a deeper appreciation of the seismic meaning of the resurrection. The medieval artists had it right, robing the grieving Mary in lapis lazuli and selling all that they had for the gold leaf to illuminate the scene. Today, Holy Saturday, the redemptive arc of Easter is fractured. In fact, the narrative is plunged into darkness on this day, the day when the tomb remains sealed and God is silent. The Passion of Christ has been   at the centre of events, but this day the tomb is sealed, silent and lifeless. But the spiritual underpinning of the whole week has what might seem like a surprising twist. The Latin root of the verb’ to suffer’ literally means ‘to allow.’ In the King James version of the Bible, this meaning is used in the phrase that is in Jesus’s rebuke to his disciples, ‘suffer the little children to come unto me.’ Allow this to be. Allow this to happen. When people suffer a tragedy or an illness, they often say there’s no way round it, you have to go through it. Facing it head on means allowing this to be so and trusting that it won’t destroy us. It is important to say in the context of Holy Week that there are some events in our lives and in the life of the world that are simply wrong and will forever, this side of eternity remain unmended. Holy Saturday expresses in particular what is known to be true for those who have suffered; which is that in the spiritual stuckness of a tomb day, as Holy Saturday is, lie the   seeds of new life and nothing less than our redemption. Our spiritual task is somehow to find the strength to allow it, to say ‘Amen: let it be so.

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Benefice Zoom Lent Course – Monday Evenings at 7.30 pm

 

‘The Joy of the Gospel’

 We come to our final session of the Benefice Lent Course based on Pope Francis’s inspiring and acclaimed reflections on sharing the love of God in the Evangelli Gaudium ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ (and shaped by the reading of The Book of Joy the work of Desmond Tutu with the Dalai Lama); a time we study together to rediscover the joy of encountering the good news of Jesus and the transformation that is possible when we communicate that good news to our neighbours, our community, the world. I would also like to thank dear and beloved friends who worship at St Clare’s in Ocean View, who took Chris and myself to their hearts when we spent time with the Venerable Fr Richard – for their joy in the Gospel and their beautiful example of truly living their Christian Faith in their day to day living and to whom I will be ever grateful – and how we have laughed and had fun. Thankyou. Dorothy and Albert, Joyce, Shirley, Yvonne and Konrad, Heather and remembering Barry RIP, Debbie, Sharone and all the Lay Ministers and Prayer Warriors, Jenni – Lee, Tania and Anton, Janis and so many more.  Kerchang!

 

  The gathering will be for about an hour and is by zoom

Meeting ID 455 158 2082 and Passcode 773845

 

Pastoral Letter to hand! All are welcome to join in the journey- even if you can’t make every Monday!

Session 6 - Being filled by the Spirit.   Luke 1 46- 55

And Mary said, ‘my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors Abraham and to hid descendants for ever.’

 

  When we lack boldness in your Gospel

 Fill us with your Spirit, O Lord   

When we lose faith in your love

 Fill us with your Spirit, O Lord

  When our passion flags

 Fill us with your Spirit, O Lord.

 

  Then send us out, in the power of that Spirit, to proclaim your love, justice and passion

 

 Blessed Holy Week! Please get in touch any time to pray, to have a conversation or help with a practical problem. With my love and prayers Sue. Revd Sue Binks 01439 770523 and binksharome@btinternet.com

   

 

 

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter for the Fifth Sunday of Lent March 21st

The United Benefice of Kirkdale with Harome, Nunnington and Pockley

Passiontide Begins

 

Tuesday 23rd March ‘National Day of Reflection’ organised by Marie Curie

Share in a Minute of Silence at Noon and Light a Candle at 8pm

Reach out to someone you know going through a bereavement

Support Number 0800 090 2309

Dear Friends,

As we arrive at the Fifth Sunday in Lent, we know that our journey is almost at an end. Like children on a driving trip out, we are tempted to ask, ‘are we there yet?’  Similarly, I think this is how we are all feeling as we navigate coming out of lockdown as we tentatively follow the roadmap out. The answer is yes and no. We have almost two weeks left until our Churches are filled with glorious spring flowers and lilies, the sweet scent of resurrection. Therefore, as St Paul reminds us, we live in the time of the already and the not yet. On this Sunday, the week before Palm Sunday, we are given glimpses and foreshadowing of the story that will shortly unfold before us, that of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. The texts this day speak of death and new life made possible by our God. The words of God call us to expect the unexpected, to dream of the impossible. As the psalmist reminds us, when we remember what God has done for us in the past and think ahead to what God has yet to do, we are like those who dream. We live in a world that makes it hard to be dreamers. Dreams, visions, and hopes for new life are quickly dismissed as impossible, foolish, and unrealistic. Yet we know we have experienced those moments of the impossible when we, like Ezekiel, have seen dry bones flourish or the desert bloom. Those glimpses stun and startle us, but we also know that that they do not mean the journey is over. They come as gifts that strengthen us for the journey that continues until we finally gather together at the heavenly banquet that has been spread for us by our loving Father.

 

On Friday I had the privilege of taking Mrs Ada Elizabeth ‘Peggy’ Hutchinson’s (99) RIP funeral at Stonegrave Minster. Peggy with her husband Frank, a threshing contractor, lived, farmed and brought up their four children in Stonegrave and were part of the warp and weft of the farming fraternity of our corner of Ryedale with close friends in Nunnington and Harome. The couple were highly respected and deeply loved and Peggy was remembered as a wonderful cook and baked much sought-after brown bread. We hold the family in our prayers.

 

  I am delighted to report that John Ashworth, long serving Churchwarden at Pockley, is to begin new treatment for his Parkinson’s condition at the James Cook Hospital next week. John’s treatment was put on hold last year. John proudly tells me that his son Angus will be returning to our TV screen on Monday 22nd at 9pm in ‘The Yorkshire Auction House.’ A wonderful double rejoicing.

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 We warmly invite you to share in the Benefice Online Sunday Worship which this week comes from St Hilda’s, Beadlam. It is a Service of Holy Communion and includes hymns with the words on the screen that allow you to sing with the Choir in the comfort of your own home. Damian Andrew, a member of the Benefice Online Ministry Team provides beautiful backdrops of our Benefice Churches and local countryside as we sing our praises to God.

 

The service can be accessed via the Benefice Website www.kirkdalechurches.org.uk

 The Direct Link is: https://youtu.be/ixrxsl4mBE8

 

The Readings are: Jeremiah 31.31-34; Hebrews5.5-10; John 12.20 -33

Hebrews 5.5 -10

Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you; ’as he says also in another place ‘You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek.’ In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

 John 12.20 -33

 Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’. Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

A Reflection

 

 

Hebrews 5.5-10: ‘the source of eternal salvation’ verse 9

 

Jesus is a dynamic figure in these verses: a moving target, the one who travels, who passes through the heavens, the one who transgresses boundaries, who is agile, mobile, indefinable by heaven or earth. Jesus is not a remote figure, an extra-worldly bronze statue of a God; he is the one who tramples over previously accepted boundaries between life and death; he is responsive, compassionate, understanding of the frailty of the human condition because he himself offered prayer with loud cries and tears. The description of Jesus the high priest in infused with an iconoclastic energy and refusal to be ossified by our human need for clarity or safety. This is God out of the box. Jesus Christ is a dangerous presence, an unfettered, rampaging and suffering divinity who recognises no limitation except the limitation, willingly chosen, of being human. Even the son ‘learned obedience’ while on earth and through this contemporary confinement, returned to the eternal realm somehow more authentic than he had come – offering radical hospitality

 

The last seven statements Jesus made before he died are all intrinsically linked to one another because all of them relate to the practice of hospitality. For someone facing imminent death it might seem like a strange choice of theme, but it is exactly what makes this particular death so significant.

 

In Jesus’s first statement from the Cross, ‘Father, forgive.’ He uses some of his last breaths to plead for God’s grace to be shown to all who have conspired to kill him: strangers and enemies, Jews and Romans, soldiers hammering nails through his wrists and onlookers mocking and insulting him. Jesus asks his Father to welcome in hospitality even those who are murdering him.

 

 Jesus’s second phrase, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’ Is addressed to a criminal dying on a cross next to him. Amid extreme pain and suffering Jesus offered words of comfort, privilege and belonging that a dying man could cling to. Jesus’s hospitality of the outcast is a defining feature of his life; born in the presence of unknown shepherds, living surrounded by the marginalised and dying, offering hope, hospitality and VIP welcome to a felon.

 

 Jesus comforts his mother with his third phrase, ‘Woman, receive your son.’ As if dying for the sins of the world were not a big enough task, even as he dies Jesus secures temporal hospitality for those closest to him. In words reminiscent of a legal adoption formula, Jesus announces to Mary that John is now her son and to John that Mary is his mother. In this simple act Jesus is promoting the hospitality that God has always advocated by ‘setting the lonely in families’ (Psalm 68.6).

 

 The fourth statement from Jesus, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ is a cry of desolation. It is a quote from one of David’s psalms, which seems to describe the crucifixion with uncanny accuracy: the ridicule and insults, his heart melting like wax, his thirst and the gambling for his clothes, and the isolation and despair. Somehow, mysteriously, Jesus was forsaken by his Father so that we could be forgiven. Here is the ultimate act of hospitality – Jesus was displaced from the presence of God so that we could be welcomed into it.

 

‘I thirst’, is Jesus’s fifth phrase from the Cross. It is an ironic request from a man who once described himself as the water of life, who once provided wine for a wedding and once stilled the waters of the Sea of Galilee. The man who taught his disciples to quench the thirst of strangers as evidence of their love for God becomes that thirsty stranger in need of a drink. Jesus accepts wine vinegar from a stranger, accepting hospitality even at this darkest of moments.

 

 The sixth statement is:’ It is finished’. Jesus’s own suffering is finished. He has fully identified with the pain of humanity. The sacrifice has been completed. Humanity’s captivity to sin is ended by the payment of a ransom. The Passover is finished as Jesus, the Lamb of God, takes away the sins of the world. The decisive battle with evil is over because Jesus has conquered. Our exclusion from God’s presence is finally ended, the door is thrown open wide. We can finally be welcomed home.

 

 The seventh and final phrase is spoken as darkness falls. ‘Into your hands I commit my Spirit’. These words demonstrate Jesus’s unwavering trust in his Father. The words on Jesus’s lips are borrowed from Psalm 31, in which David declares, ‘In you, Lord I have taken refuge. In great personal distress, David seeks asylum in God’s protective care. Jesus now asks for the same hospitality from God.

 

Although he was on the receiving end of the greatest hostility that humanity could muster, Jesus turned the Cross into the place of greatest hospitality. The Cross offers faith for the doubter, hope for the despondent, belonging for the lonely and salvation for the lost. The Cross is not just a place of death, but a doorway to eternal life, a welcome into a relationship with God and an invitation to radical hospitality.

 

There is an old story about the child who is reprimanded and told to sit down, and who eventually does so unwillingly, with the retort:’ I may be sitting down on the outside, but inside I’m standing up.’ I think we all know about doing what is asked of us with bad grace, only because we know it is futile to resist. That is not true obedience; it is compliance. It involves our actions, not our hearts. In Hebrew thought, the heart is the seat of the will rather than of the emotions; so, what was required of the Hebrews, and now of us, is to listen with our hearts, and not just to feel that we love God, but to act accordingly by choosing the way of obedience. We are not enslaved and forced into compliance- there are still free choices to be made in any situation, and God does everything to help us obey in love. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus learned obedience to God through what he suffered, with loud cries and tears in prayer. It was not blind or enforced obedience, but resolutely offered obedience, and it was something that he had to go on offering as his life unfolded. In the Gospel reading Jesus realised that his ministry was reaching its climax and this precipitated yet another willed act of facing a cruel death. Despite being deeply troubled, Jesus articulated his options, and shaped by his overarching commitment to God, again chose the path of obedience. For Jesus and for Christians, obedience offered to God is a response to and of love. On this Passion Sunday, we hear again in the Gospel the invitation to follow Jesus like faithful servants. We are invited to have obedient hearts, hearts inclined to God that are sitting down on the inside as well as the outside.

 

 Collect Prayer for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Most merciful God,

Who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ

Delivered and saved the world: grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross we may triumph in the power of his victory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

  *

Artist James He Qi                                                               Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham

The Annunciation of our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary – 25th March

Readings: Isaiah 7.10- 14; Hebrews 10. 4-10; Luke 1.26- 38

Collect

We beseech you, O Lord, pour out your grace into our hearts, that as we have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought to the glory of his resurrection through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Have you ever wondered how Gabriel appeared to Mary? Luke leaves the question hanging, tantalisingly unanswered. Artists have had a field day. Among my hundreds of pictures of the Annunciation there is no artistic stone left unturned. Gabriel stands, he kneels, he commands, he beseeches, he cajoles, he leans towards Mary, he pulls back from her. He is in such a hurry that he is   still halfway down from the ceiling when speaking, he is composed and kneeling gracefully in front of her, he is tranquil, he is flustered; he whispers, he declaims, he shouts, he wags his finger. Mary kneels and serenely as though this happens every day or she pulls back in fright. Gabriel looms over her and she is overwhelmed, she stands solidly while Gabriel pleads. In one picture her cat has a fit, in another the cat looks on curiously. Mary scowls, she smiles knowingly, she is impassive. In one modern picture a tiny angel climbs her neck to whisper in her ear, while Andy Warhol’s understated painting simply shows Gabriel’s raised hand on the left of the picture and Mary’s tense fingers pulling back on her prie-dieu on the right-hand side. That depiction is far from Braccesco’s painting in the Louvre where Gabriel zooms in on a sort of fifteenth- century surfboard and Mary, quite reasonably, ducks as he heads straight for her head at full tilt.

 

Yet in the Bible most angels looked human when they appeared and Gabriel may have looked like any other person in Nazareth until he opened his mouth and spoke God’s message to Mary. Only then did the enormity of this encounter become clear. From this day on both heaven and earth were changed because Mary said ‘yes’ to God’s astonishing proposition that God the Son should be born into this world and she would be his mother. Sometimes God’s ways of doing things are way beyond anything that any sensible human could think up. Mary’s response to the angel’s message is staggering. ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.’ ‘Here am I’ echoes Isaiah, although unlike Mary he did not know what he was letting himself in for. Mary did not ask for time to think it over or talk to her parents or fiancé, as would be the cultural norm. Instead, this young girl from a backwater village in a small part of the Roman Empire quite simply said ‘yes’ to God and risked all the consequences. In Hebrews Christ says, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will.’

Maybe he learned this from Mary. I wonder if St Benedict had Mary’s response in mind when formulating his three monastic vows of stability, obedience and conversion of life. Stability – the refusal to run away when things get too hard – is there in Mary’s statement ‘here am I’ as she positioned herself before God, open to God’s unexpected intervention in her life.

 

Obedience is more than doing what we are told; it is the recognition that we are not our own or totally autonomous individuals, ultimately, we are God’s. So, Mary described herself as the servant of the Lord. As Jesus pointed out, obedience is not just saying we will do what is asked, but actually doing it. In Mary’s case she was called to a lifetime of obedience by this one response, and the Collect points to the cost of that obedience: ultimately, she was faced with her son’s cross. Conversion of life is expressed by Mary’s prayer, ‘Let it be with me according to your word’. It is openness to growth in holiness as God leads us; it is not change for change’s sake but focussed commitment to godly living as we follow God’s lead, risking the new things that God does in and through us. God’s call to us usually comes in more subtle ways than an angel with enormous wings arriving on our doorstep, or dropping in through the ceiling, or however we may imagine the Annunciation actually happened. Thank God for the creativity of artists who have opened up so many possibilities. We will each recognise some as more true in our experience of God than others. The more demanding question is how we respond when God does come, as God will.

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Benefice Zoom Lent Course – Monday Evenings at 7.30 pm

 

‘The Joy of the Gospel’

A six-week study course in sharing faith, based on Pope Francis’s inspiring and acclaimed reflections on sharing the love of God in the Evangelli Gaudium ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ (and shaped by the reading of The Book of Joy the work of Desmond Tutu with the Dalai Lama); a time we study together to rediscover the joy of encountering the good news of Jesus and the transformation that is possible when we communicate that good news to our neighbours, our community, the world.

 

  The gathering will be for about an hour and is by zoom

Meeting ID 455 158 2082 and Passcode 773845

 

In the past the Lent Course would have been held in the Millennium Room or in/ and in my sitting room. The current situation of lockdown provisions and protocols is a challenge. But let us have a go via zoom to prayerfully gather to engage with Scripture and for Lent to make this commitment. Each week in the Pastoral Letter I will include the passage for the week, the basis of the session and during the session we will endeavour to connect it with the teaching of Pope Francis. I hope we will share our thoughts and reflections; I will also include the closing prayer for each week which will reflect the particular passage we are studying each week – so have this Pastoral Letter to hand! All are welcome to join in the journey- even if you can’t make every Monday!

 

Session 5:  Making the Kingdom Present in our World.

The proclamation of the Gospel involves action as well as words. In particular listening to the cry of the poor and seeking peace.  Luke 4.16 -21

This week’s Scripture Passage.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, ‘to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’. And he rolled up the scroll, gave back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them,’ today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

 

What does the Lord require of you?

God calls us to love justice.

 

What does the Lord require of you?

God calls us to steadfast love.

 

What does the Lord require of you?

God calls us to walk humbly with him. Amen.

 

 Our closing session will be held on Monday 29th March ‘Being Filled with the Spirit’

 

 

A Warm Welcome to the Diocesan Vision for our Children and Young People

*

 

I am delighted to tell you that the Children of Light Festival is about to commence. Our launch service is available for downloading and streaming for Sunday 21st March. You can watch it on the Diocese of York Facebook page at 10am or download it from our webpages. In this service the Archbishop will be commissioning children and young people as bearers of Jesus's light as we start our year of activities and events to inspire and resource churches in their engagement with children and young people. Details on how to access the service and all the Children of Light Festival resources can be found here.

 

 

  I pray that the week ahead is gentle, kind and fruitful. Please contact me at anytime for prayers, a conversation or help with a practical problem. With my love and prayers as we travel the Lenten Journey with Holy Week on the horizon. Sue. Revd Sue Binks. 01439 770523 and binksharome@btinternet.com

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter for Mothering Sunday and Fourth Sunday of Lent 14th March 2021

United Benefice of Kirkdale with Harome, Nunnington and Pockley

 

Dearest Friends,

It feels to have been a deeply significant week, quietly momentous, that sense of still waters running deep. Our children and young people have gone back to school and college with families reverting back to familiar routines tempered by covid protocols. I was in Nawton on Monday morning and it was so joyous to hear the children in the playground – squealing, giggling and chatting - it was glorious; an antidote to the overwhelming sadness of the Harry and Meghan Interview. I think all of us as we approach Mothering Sunday will be holding the parents of Sarah Everard in our prayers. This is the second Mothering Sunday that we haven’t been able to mark by distributing to everyone in the congregation a posy of spring flowers, an exuberant potted primula or the sharing a slice of the Simnel Cake with a cup of tea after the Service. I know children of all ages will be going for Mothering Sunday walks with mums and grandmas, inspired by the resolutely cheerful spring flowers and the unfurling buds, as we prepare to fling wide the doors of the Benefice Churches for Easter, to light the Paschal Candles, and shine the marvellous light of Christ into the world. I am glad and relieved to report that Rebecca Thompson, Paul Smith and Joan Barr are all back home from hospital stays in York Hospital – and again we are so thankful for the care and expertise of the NHS.

*

o

Madonna and Child …Flight    Jill Sim             The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary   Titian

 I saw this sculpture in Lent 2017 in Ely Cathedral. It is by the artist Jill Sim and titled ‘Madonna and Child …. Flight’. The work shows a young woman running at full pelt with a child in her arms. Her headscarf and full- skirted dress evoke media images of mothers and children fleeing from the embattled cities of Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Mozambique ...Her trainers could identify her with almost anyone. Her body is tilted forward for speed, and the infant is almost sliding out of her grasp. The artist has allowed the piece to be exhibited as a reminder of the suffering and desperation of all refugees, and also to highlight the efforts of the local refugee- resettlement campaigns. With this powerful icon of parental determination to protect their children in mind, it is startling- even shocking to read the final line of the episode from the story of Samuel’s birth and infancy which provides one of the Mothering Sunday’s Old Testament Readings (Samuel 1.20 -end) Hannah, who has been given the son that she longed for after praying in the temple at Shiloh, takes him back as a toddler to present him to Eli, the high priest. ‘She left him there for the Lord.’ (1 Samuel 1.28). That matter-of – fact announcement confronts a modern sensibility, attuned to agonising narratives of what it means to give up a child, and continually presented with evidence of the failure of institutions to care for the children entrusted to them.

 

The story of Hannah and Samuel would later influence the apocryphal Gospel of James and its account of the infancy and childhood of Mary. It describes how Mary’s parents handed over their three-year-old daughter to be brought up in the Temple. The subject is a popular one in art, and Titian’s depiction of the tiny girl ascending a steep flight of steps, at the top of which stands a bearded figure in high- priestly robes, eloquently evokes the solitariness of the child. It hangs in Venice, and perhaps it served to console the parents who gave their daughters to convents because dowries could not be found for them. The promise of a holy destiny might have gone some way to reconciling mothers and fathers who did not find separation easy just because it was practical.

 

Luke records the visit of the adult Mary and Joseph, with the infant Jesus, to the Temple in Jerusalem, with Hannah as a reference point. Already he has linked Mary’s song of joy in response to Elizabeth’s greeting with the song attributed to Hannah as she leaves her son (Luke1.46-55; 1 Samuel.1-10). Mary and Joseph will not leave their child, but the prophecy that they hear from Simeon places the rest of their life as a family under the shadow of loss (Luke 2.34-35). And yet that is not the end of the story, and the Gospel- writer insists that the more sombre note introduced by Simeon’s words should be readjusted to joy. This is Anna’s cue. She sees straight to the ‘redemption of Jerusalem’, and begins to proclaim to all that share that hope that its fulfilment is imminent (Luke 2.38).

 

The carefully controlled oscillation between suspense and relaxation, between darkness and light, and sorrow and joy is the mark of a skilled narrator. Paul uses a similar technique to tell the young and volatile Christian community in Corinth the story that makes sense of its sufferings, and   offers comfort through the assurance of belonging to a larger Christian body, and ultimately to God (2 Corinthians 1.3-7). He has already declared his understanding of his relationship to this community, and, perhaps surprisingly, it is a maternal one. Writing to them as those who have yet grown to mature faith, he explains that he must treat them as ‘people of the flesh, as infants in Christ’. They need to be fed on milk until they are ready for solid food of more demanding teaching. Now, writing again to Corinth he invites his readers to see their sufferings as a form of consolation. They are to know that the consolation that God offers Paul when he undergoes persecution is an abundant resource, and they can draw on it when they find themselves faced with similar persecution.

*

 

 

We warmly invite you to share in the Sunday Benefice Online Worship which is Holy Communion and was recorded at St Gregory’s Minster and includes beautiful choral pieces sung by the Choir of St Gregory’s Minster under the direction of John Hastie, the Director of Music.

 

The Service can be accessed through the Benefice Website:

 www.kirkdalechurches.org.uk

 

and by the Direct Link: https://youtu.be/dMxTBBQBJtmo

 

The order of service will be sent out in an accompanying email to this Pastoral Letter

 

The Readings are:1 Samuel 1.20-end; Corinthians 1.3-7 or Colossians 3.12-17; Luke 2.33-35 or John 19.25b-27

 

It seems an ambiguous assortment of readings for Mothering Sunday, it is nevertheless true to its complexity as a day of refreshment and joy, and the point at which Lent moves closer to the Passion. It is true also to the complexity of the human families, in their many configurations, that God in Christ draws close to himself on the cross.

 

Collect Prayer for Mothering Sunday

God of compassion,

Whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,

Shared the life of a home in Nazareth,

And on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:

Strengthen us in our daily living

That in joy and in sorrow

We may know the power of your presence

To bind together and to heal;

Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

Who is alive and reigns with you,

In the unity of the Holy Spirit,

One God, now and for ever

Colossians 3.12- 17

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This is the word of the Lord.

 

 John 19.25b -27

Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son’. Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.’

 

 A Reflection

Over the past 20 years or so Mothering Sunday has been gently evolving into Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is American and originated in the Mother’s Day Work Clubs, which were a feminist response to the carnage of the American Civil War. Out of these gatherings grew a campaign, led by the activist Anna Jarvis, for a national holiday to celebrate the lives of all mothers. This was fixed as the second Sunday in May and enshrined in law in 1914; a date that has been adopted by many other countries.

 Here by contrast, Mothering Sunday has been part of the Christian liturgical calendar for centuries. It is celebrated, and here we are, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, also known as Refreshment Sunday. It is also Laetare Sunday, a name taken from the Introit of that day’s Mass, Laetare Jerusalem – O to be joyful Jerusalem – that we find the first links with Motherhood. It was a celebration of both the Virgin Mary and the ‘Mother’ Church. On this day people would travel from smaller daughter churches to worship to their larger local church or cathedral. In more recent times the day acquired a further layer of material association when it became the established on which domestic servants were given a holiday to go home and visit their mothers.

Perhaps they carried they carried the traditional fruit and marzipan Simnel cakes they had baked; perhaps they gathered wild flowers from the hedgerows as they walked. In that gentler age they were not assailed by advertisements instructing them to ‘spoil your mum this Mother’s Day’. By contrast Mothering Sunday has a simpler quality, a posy of garden flowers – daffodils and snowdrops, traditional hymns, perhaps the colour pink being deployed liturgically – not so much in honour of mothers – but as a lighter version of Lenten Purple to indicate the lifting of the penitential mood and the spirit of Refreshment Sunday.

But it is Lent. The journey brings us to a cross, gallows and to arms embracing us in love, pinned by rough and rusty nails to splintering wood. Love is always costly - and the love of God that comes down to the lowest point of our need is no exception. At the foot of the cross stands the mother whose heart bleeds for her son in his suffering, to be tended as he instructed by the community of first disciples. I am deeply moved by what seems to me the stark contrast between this moment of tenderness as Jesus responds to his mother and friend, and the cold, brutal dividing up of the spoils of the dead which precedes it. The latter speaks of the closure of history, the finality of death and the turning of intimate, personal garments into objects to be contested for. The women standing near the cross together with the beloved disciple, desolate as they are, retain that intimacy with Jesus. They had known the goodness of God’s love in Jesus, and seen that love made real in his intimacy with others. They honoured Jesus, reflected his love, in the physical caring of his body when they return to the tomb after the Sabbath. It is Mary Magdalene who first sees that the stone has been removed from the tomb, and runs back to summon help from Simon Peter. The little community of the cross will soon become a community of the resurrection. That community restores to us a sense of his compassionate humanity and of his capacity to hold for us a future hope. On the cross, Jesus honours his mother as he takes leave of her. She is not to lose her status as mother. Just as she is given into the care of the ‘beloved’ disciple, so he is given into hers. Mutual, loving, intimate support is re-established at the heart of the new community.   

 Mothering is the nurturing of Christian people – Paul reminds us of the new clothes of baptism – compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience and love. These qualities, the qualities of Christ, should be underneath and flow through all we do. These virtues lead immediately to forbearance and forgiveness in the body of Christ. From these in turn come peace and thanksgiving, wisdom, worship and glory. The practical outworking of these qualities will be different in every household and at every life stage. But for today, whatever you are facing, reflect on these six core virtues. How are you called to put them on and live them out where you live, where you work and where you worship. Community is a tissue of personal relationships expressed through mutual confidence and love; life in common is one of the great answers in the quest for meaning and happiness. Mutual Christian nurture fosters healthy spiritual growth through seeing the journey as faith as lifelong, but to be worked out in community. We must all mother each other in Mother Church. Mothering Sunday is a good reminder that Christian nurture looks to the personal transformative journey promised in the Gospel as a pilgrimage, but enabled and sustained through the traditions of Christian faith and practice, within a shared environment and discovery  towards a deepening knowledge of God – all fostering healthy spiritual growth, offered by Christians to Christians, to strengthen Christian faith and to develop our Christian character – with gratitude singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God. Amen

 

 

On Mothering Sunday all the Benefice Churches are open for an hour or so for Private Prayer and the opportunity to light a candle:

St Hilda’s, Beadlam                                            9.30 am to 10.30 am

All Saints and St James, Nunnington              10.00 am to 11.00 am

St John the Baptist, Pockley                             11.00 am to noon

St Gregory’s Minster, Kirkdale                         11.00 am to noon

St Saviour’s, Harome                                         3.00 pm to 4.00 pm

 

Benefice Zoom Lent Course – Monday Evenings at 7.30 pm

‘The Joy of the Gospel’

A six-week study course in sharing faith, based on Pope Francis’s inspiring and acclaimed reflections on sharing the love of God in the Evangelli Gaudium ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ (and shaped by the reading of The Book of Joy the work of Desmond Tutu with the Dalai Lama); a time we study together to rediscover the joy of encountering the good news of Jesus and the transformation that is possible when we communicate that good news to our neighbours, our community, the world.

 

  The gathering will be for about an hour and is by zoom

Meeting ID 455 158 2082 and Passcode 773845

 

In the past the Lent Course would have been held in the Millennium Room or in/ and in my sitting room. The current situation of lockdown provisions and protocols is a challenge. But let us have a go via zoom to prayerfully gather to engage with Scripture and for Lent to make this commitment. Each week in the Pastoral Letter I will include the passage for the week, the basis of the session and during the session we will endeavour to connect it with the teaching of Pope Francis. I hope we will share our thoughts and reflections; I will also include the closing prayer for each week which will reflect the particular passage we are studying each week – so have this Pastoral Letter to hand! All are welcome to join in the journey- even if you can’t make every Monday!

 

Session 4: Proclaiming the Gospel

 The importance of deepening our understanding of God’s salvation so that we can proclaim it more clearly and with more passion.

This week’s Scripture Passage.    Romans 10.14 -17

 

 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ So, faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.’

 

How will people worship if they have never believed?

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

 

How will people believe if they have never listened?

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

 

 How will people listen if no one proclaims?

 How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

 

 How will people proclaim if no one sends them?

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

 

May the week ahead be gentle and kind. With my love and prayers for you all. Please get in touch any time for prayer, for a conversation and for help with a practical problem. Sue Revd Sue Binks.

01439 770523 and binksharome@btinternet.com

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter for the Third Sunday in Lent 7th March 2021

The United Benefice of Kirkdale with Harome, Nunnington and Pockley

The Crypt at St Mary’s Church Lastingham as we commemorated St Chad on 2nd March

 Dearest Friends,

It seems this week that we are inhabiting two worlds – the time of Lockdown as we work together as community to achieve this final push to overcome the pandemic and at the same, we start to make our plans and preparations for living with less rigorous restrictions – at work, in hospitality, at school and college and in our Church life – with real hope. All the Benefice PCCs/ JCCs meet (by zoom) in the next fortnight as we make plans to gather together in worship and fellowship – as the spring flowers brighten, we are beginning to make plans to fling wide our doors.

 

 Next Sunday,  14th March, Mothering Sunday all the Benefice Churches are open for an hour or so for Private Prayer and the opportunity to light a candle:

St Hilda’s, Beadlam                                            9.30 am to 10.30 am

All Saints and St James, Nunnington              10.00 am to 11.00 am

St John the Baptist, Pockley                             11.00 am to noon

St Gregory’s Minster, Kirkdale                         11.00 am to noon

St Saviour’s, Harome                                         3.00 pm to 4.00 pm

 

 Please hold in your prayers Rebecca Thompson and Paul Smith who have both been admitted for emergency care at York Hospital in the last day or so. Rebecca is our hardworking JCC Secretary for the Kirkdale LEP and Paul is a faithful member of the Choir at St Gregory’s Minster, but who also with his wife Ann helps in all sorts of very practical ways at St Gregory’s. Rebecca is key in cascading out the weekly Pastoral Letter to Kirkdale Parish – I am going to try and send out as widely as possible this week – but it would be really helpful if everyone this particular week could try and send it on as well.  Over the last year we have built up an extended list of contacts. Rebecca’s family are all so involved in the life and witness of Kirkdale Benefice. Over two months in the summer of 2019 Stuart, Rebecca’s husband, helped me de- cobweb (supervised and scrutinized by Gwen Wood) St Gregory’s Minster. We met every Wednesday morning at 8 am to construct a Heath Robinson system of vacuum pipes and brushes to access the heights, cracks and crevices until every cobweb was eliminated; we could only do an hour or so as we had to lean backwards and support the tubing and shine a torch to illuminate the cobweb lace. Tilly and Oz also contribute so much to Parish Life. Tilly is a Server at St Hilda’s and Oz in pre- pandemic times played the sax at the All-Age Worship. They organised the Christmas Shoebox Service last November and are active members of our Youth Fellowship.

 

In 2019 Kirkdale Parish enjoyed a ‘Vision Day’ at the Pilgrim Centre at Lastingham; we began our day together in Holy Communion in the Crypt at Lastingham Church and then had a day looking to the future, as we prayed, reflected and considered how we might share the joy of our faith with our neighbours and communities.

 

Chad was born in Northumbria, the youngest of four sons, all of whom became both priests and monks. They entered the monastery on the isle of Lindisfarne and were taught by St Aidan. Chad’s brother Cedd had founded the abbey at Lastingham and, on his brother’s death, Chad was elected abbot. During the confusion in ecclesiastical discipline between the Celtic – orientated, Anglo- Saxon hierarchy and the pressure from Rome for conformity, Chad became Bishop of York for a time. He graciously stepped back with the arrival in Britain of Theodore, who doubted the validity of indigenous consecrations. This was eventually rectified and Chad became Bishop of Mercia, a huge diocese the centre of which he moved from Repton to Lichfield. Chad travelled extensively and became much loved for his wisdom and gentleness in otherwise difficult situations. The plague was prevalent at this time and Chad died on 2nd March 672.

 

Collect Prayer for St Chad.

Almighty God,

From the first fruits of the English nation

Who turned to Christ, you called your servant Chad,

To be an evangelist and bishop of his own people:

Give us grace so to follow his peaceable nature, humble spirit and prayerful life,

That we may truly commend to others,

The faith which we ourselves profess;

Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

Who is alive and reigns with you,

In the unity of the Holy Spirit,

One God, now and for ever.

 

Archbishop Stephen is asking the whole Diocese to consider how each Church and worshipping community can ‘Live Christ’s Story’ to commend to others the faith which we ourselves profess

 

  On the 1st February, York Diocesan Synod met online and overwhelmingly welcomed and endorsed the refreshed version of our diocesan vision proposed by Archbishop Stephen for the next steps in our journey, summarised as:

  • Becoming more like Christ – which means receiving and knowing the story ourselves. Before we do anything else, we remember who we are: God’s beloved children, those whom he came to seek and save. We also remember that we know this story by prayer and service as well as by Bible study and learning. This is demandingly life-changing, and it happens by God’s grace alone working with us and through us. Without this foundation, nothing else makes sense.
  • Reaching people, we currently don’t – by living and telling this story, remembering that the story we share is those two stories of what God has done in Christ and what God is doing through the Church down through the centuries and in us.
  • Growing churches of missionary disciples - which will be the best way of reaching new people and is the way we’ll grow those we reach, but also to strive to be younger and more diverse and to move towards becoming a mixed ecology church. In every community we want our churches to be places where the story of Christ is known and lived out, and where we let those stories lead us in the ways we have seen in the Mustard Seed and Multiply initiatives.

 

  • Transforming our finances and structures so that together we can support a presence in all the neighbourhoods and networks of the diocese – to find a new story that will not just be about sustaining our life, but recognising that our life needs to be transformed in order to be an agent of God’s transformation in the world.

 The Diocesan Bishops and Archdeacons have met with the Deanery Leadership Teams, including ‘ Northern  Ryedale’ to begin a consultation about how we can apply this refreshed vision at a local level and take it forward. Parishes will be invited to take part during June and July 2021. The initial stage is already under way and during the spring deaneries are considering:

  1. Growth and discipleship: how we might build on signs of hope that we are ‘Becoming like Christ’, ‘Reaching those we currently don't’ and ‘Growing missionary disciples’; what changes might overcome any obstacles
  2. Organisation: what changes to the structures of local churches / deaneries / parishes, and the ways we use our buildings would enable our mission to be more effective
  3. Financial challenges facing the diocese that are becoming increasingly real and need to be addressed
  4. Ministerial re-shaping: thoughts as to how ministry could be re-shaped in deaneries, covering all expressions of ministry, with a view to being more flexible and effective in how we Live Christ’s Story and bring his love to our communities

In preparation for the PCC or parish stage of the consultations in June/July, you can find resources and information under ‘Consultation Resources’ on our 'Living Christ's Story' home page at
www.dioceseofyork.org.uk/living-christs-story:

  • Living Christ’s Story: the vision set out by Archbishop Stephen
  • A video (with subtitles and downloadable transcript) by Archbishop Stephen and others explaining the ideas and the process
  • A downloadable information pack about the Diocese and its people
  • The diocesan budget for 2021as agreed by Diocesan Synod
  • A downloadable ‘Toolkit of Possibilities’ to help your thinking

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We warmly invite you to share in the Benefice Online Sunday Worship.

This Sunday the Service comes from All Saints and St James, Nunnington and is Holy Communion and includes hymns on the screen that allow you to sing aloud in the comfort of your own home.

 

This Pastoral Letter is accompanied by an email which includes the Order of Service. The Service can be accessed via the Benefice Website: www.kirkdalechurches.org.uk

 

And by the Direct Link

 

 The Readings are: Exodus 20.1 -17; 1 Corinthians 1.18- 25; John 2.13 -22

 

 The Ten Commandments were given to a people as they emerged into a nation that had to shape its way of being the people of God. The Commandments have to do with their, and now our individual behaviour, certainly, but essentially, they are about relationships with God and one another, and only have meaning in the context of community. We can see that if we read into the next chapter in Exodus, where they are expanded and applied to everyday life in the culture of the time. We can start to get blind spots when we look at the application of the commandments in our culture and time. In the 1860s, Anthony Trollope wrote of the commandment ‘Thou shalt not steal, ’and the man ‘who stands high among us and implores his God every Sunday to write that law on his heart, spends every hour of his daily toil in a system of fraud, and is regarded as a pattern of the national commerce (Anthony Trollope, Phineas Finn). There is no way to escape the public effects of our private actions. King David discovered, after his adultery with Bathsheba, that forgiveness included facing in front of others the consequences of his affair. Equally, it is in our private actions that our public trustworthiness is revealed: Jesus spoke of the servant who had proved trustworthy in a few things as being put in charge of many things (Matthew 25.14-30). So, when a 2012 US presidential candidate claimed his adultery, concealed while pursuing a former President on the same subject, was forgiven because he believes in a forgiving God, he ignored the impact on his public trustworthiness. Religion cannot be privatized.

 

 The Early Church knew this. So, in addition to keeping Lent as a time of baptism preparation, notorious sinners who had brought the Church into disrepute were excommunicated for a period of public repentance. Their sin had affected the community. Only if they showed clear signs of contrition and repentance were, they readmitted to the fellowship at Easter. It was not long before the whole Church decided to keep a penitential Lent in solidarity with them and with baptism candidates. This approach to Lenten observance has to do not only with our relationship with God, but also with the impact of our lives on Church and society; we are members one of another. We are not saved by our actions, but are ‘created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life’ (Ephesians 2.10). I don’t suppose the majority of people could quote the Ten Commandments if asked to do so. They are not prohibitions but a characterization of the life of a person in relationship with God. God has offered his people a covenant of love, and now he tells them what their lives will look like when they accept his offer. The commandments consist of a wonderful balance of emphasis upon right relationship with God and right relationship with one another. So how can we keep a holy Lent?

 

St Benedict describes, in the prologue of his Rule, a life- giving way that echoes the prayer of the Collect for the Third Sunday of Lent

 

As we progress in his way of life and faith, we shall run on the paths of God’s commandments, our heart overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. Never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may also deserve to share in his kingdom.

 

The commandments are a pathway of joy! This Lent we are invited to walk the way of the cross; the promise is that it will be the way of life, peace and joy. Thanks be to God.

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A Reflection

 

There are people who have let the idea of God go as easily as an old pair of shoes. They seem to be people who never expected much in the first place, who are so used to being let down by parents, by friends, by life – that discarding their hopes comes as naturally to them as breathing. They learned early on that belief is nothing but a shortcut to disappointment, so they saved themselves the trouble, retiring belief in God with belief in Santa Claus, Lady Luck and the Tooth Fairy.  Let us share our story with them and listen to theirs’.So, who is God? It is the question of a lifetime, and the answers are never big enough or finished. Pushing past curtain after curtain, it becomes clear that God is bigger than my imagination, wiser than my wisdom, more dazzling than the universe, as present as the air I breathe and utterly beyond my control. That is, in short, what makes me a Christian. As the creature of a God like that, I need a mediator, an advocate, a flesh- and – blood handle on the inscrutable mystery that gives birth to everything that is.  While Jesus is, in his own way, just as inscrutable, he is enough like me to convince me that relationship with God is not only possible, but deeply desired by God, who wants me to believe that love is the wide net spread beneath the most dangerous of my days.

  To believe that is an act of faith – not a one-time decision, but a daily, sometimes hourly, choice to act as if that were true in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Sometimes it feels like pure make- belief. We read the weekend newspapers, full of stories about violence, addiction, corruption, disaster- or my own life begins to spring leaks and I lie awake in the middle of the night faint with fear. I want a safer world. I want a more competent God. Then I remember that God’s power is not a controlling, but a redeeming power – the power to raise the dead, including those who are destroying themselves – and the red blood of belief returns to my veins … I am in good hands; love girds the universe; God will have the last word. In this age of a million choices, ‘we’ being the Church of God, the Body of Christ on earth, we are the remnant, the sometimes faithful, sometimes unfaithful family of a difficult and glorious God, called to seek and proclaim God’s presence in a disillusioned world. It is a world that claims to have left us behind, along with dragons and a flat earth, but meanwhile the human heart continues to hunt its true home. Today it is crystals and past-life readings. Ours is a restless and impatient race, known for abandoning our saviours as quickly as we elect them for not saving us soon or as well or often enough.

 

Our job is to stand with one foot on earth and one in heaven, with the double vision that is the gift of faith, and to say out of our experience that reality is not flat but deep, not opaque but transparent, not meaningless but shot full of grace for those with the least willingness to believe it to be so. Our spirit should be quick to reach out towards God, not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, or giving generously in the service of others. Our spirit should long for God and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God’s love, and so make a palatable offering to the Lord of the universe.

 

Benefice Zoom Lent Course – Monday Evenings at 7.30 pm

 

‘The Joy of the Gospel’

A six-week study course in sharing faith, based on Pope Francis’s inspiring and acclaimed reflections on sharing the love of God in the Evangelli Gaudium ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ (and shaped by the reading of The Book of Joy the work of Desmond Tutu with the Dalai Lama); a time we study together to rediscover the joy of encountering the good news of Jesus and the transformation that is possible when we communicate that good news to our neighbours, our community, the world.

 

  The gathering will be for about an hour and is by zoom

Meeting ID 455 158 2082 and Passcode 773845

 

In the past the Lent Course would have been held in the Millennium Room or in/ and in my sitting room. The current situation of lockdown provisions and protocols is a challenge. But let us have a go via zoom to prayerfully gather to engage with Scripture and for Lent to make this commitment. Each week in the Pastoral Letter I will include the passage for the week, the basis of the session and during the session we will endeavour to connect it with the teaching of Pope Francis. I hope we will share our thoughts and reflections; I will also include the closing prayer for each week which will reflect the particular passage we are studying each week – so have this Pastoral Letter to hand! All are welcome to join in the journey- even if you can’t make every Monday!

 

Session Three ‘Saying Yes and Saying No

The need to become a community which resists those things that deprive us of life and instead embraces the love of God.

1 Peter 2.9-12

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honourable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.

 

God has chosen us to be his own people

So that we might proclaim his great and glorious deeds

He called us from darkness into light

So that we might proclaim his great and glorious deeds

He has made us a holy nation, a royal priesthood

So that we might proclaim his great and glorious deeds

He has made us his people and shown us mercy

 So that we might proclaim his great and glorious deeds.

 

 Almighty and loving God, may your constant peace abound in our hearts. Help us, that we may commit to being agents of your peace throughout the world. I pray your week will be soaked in peace. Please contact me at anytime for prayer, a conversation or help with a practical problem. Sue  Revd Sue Binks  01439 770523 and binksharome@btinternet.com

 

 

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter for the Second Sunday in Lent 28th February 2021

 United Benefice of Kirkdale with Harome, Nunnington and Pockley

 

Dear Friends,

It has been a super- charged week!  Since the Prime Minister addressed the nation on Monday and indicated the dates and data that would shape the road map out of the Lockdown, combined with the wonderfully mild and sunny weather, the bursts of spring flowers and the gentle green haze mist of new growth, and so many parishioners in their early 60s ringing to say with uncontained excitement ‘we’ve had the jab!’ – I don’t think I have ever had so many telephone calls, emails, WhatsApp messages in my life. A real joy and a privilege as everyone seems so revitalised as they ring to talk about weddings, banns, baptisms, celebrations….

 

 In the light of this week’s developments, mindful of the need to continue rigorously with the distancing and sanitising protocols, I think we will begin to open the Benefice Churches for Good Friday and Easter Services. We plan to open the Churches again for Private Prayer on Mothering Sunday 14th March. There will be an opportunity in each Church to light a candle for our Mothers who are no longer with us, and for children (and grown-ups) to light a candle for their Mothers, to remember all they do for us now, to bring us up as the children and people that we are.

 

 Please hold in your prayers two remarkable nonagenarians, both so deeply respected and fondly regarded: Mrs Joan Barr, from Nunnington who was admitted to York Hospital this week, and Mrs Janet Mathews who is so closely associated with St Gregory’s and Kirkdale Parish, and is very poorly. Please hold in your prayers the family of Bernard Simpson RIP, whose funeral took place at St Gregory’s this afternoon (Saturday 27th). Adam Collier who offered the Eulogy described Bernard as the ‘lynch pin’ of community life in Beadlam and Nawton. Bernard took an active lead in so many aspects of Beadlam/ Nawton life and was especially associated with the annual Charity Tractor Run and it was so appropriate that Bernard’s final journey from Pretty Cottage to St Gregory’s Minster was lined with friends and neighbours, where possible on a tractor, to pay their respects. Bernard himself made his final journey to St Gregory’s by tractor.

 

As we move into the second week of Lent, there is change of gear, as we settle into the disciplines of Lent and we look and focus more intently on the Cross. Olive, Bernard’s widow chose two much loved hymns ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ and ‘How Great Thou Art’, both drawing our attention to the holiness of the Cross. If you look up ‘holy’ in a Bible dictionary, you are likely to get a strong impression that, at least in the Old Testament, being holy means being set apart, and it’s very much to do with being on rather dangerous territory. Remember, when Moses meets God at the burning bush, God says, ‘Take your shoes off. This is holy ground’. And when the people of Israel come to Mount Sinai, they are told not to get too close because it’s holy and so very dangerous. It’s a bit like those notices on electricity pylons, warning of ‘Danger of Death’ with the rather vivid picture of a little cartoon figure with a sort of bolt of lightning going through them. That is what holiness often appears to mean in the Old Testament, and it’s perhaps why one common response to talk about holy places or holy people is to run a mile.

If you turn to the New Testament, at first sight there is a bit of a contrast. For one thing, St Paul. when he begins his letters, often addresses the people to whom he’s writing a ‘holy’ people: to the saints, to the holy people at Corinth, the holy people at Philippi – it doesn’t sound from the way that Paul uses the word ‘holy’, or the way it plays out in his letters, as though ‘holy’ means dangerous and forbidding, as it seems to in parts of the Old Testament. Another crucial passage that turns round our thinking on this is in St John’s Gospel (17.7), where Jesus says to his disciples at the Last Supper that he’s about to consecrate or sanctify himself, and he wants his disciples to be holy in the same way – Jesus is making himself holy by stepping forward towards his death, towards the cross.  The New Testament makes it very clear in a number of passages that the crucifixion is in one sense the supremely holy thing – the holiest event that ever happens – and yet it’s found outside conventional holy places and a long way from conventionally holy people. It’s an execution machine on a rubbish dump outside the city wall. Holiness in the New Testament is a matter of Jesus going right into the middle, muddle and the mess of human nature. For him, being holy is being absolutely involved, not being absolutely separated. This is where the way Jesus talks about holiness at the Last Supper is so transforming. Holiness there is seen as going into the heart of where it is most difficult for humans to be human. Jesus goes ‘outside the camp’, in the language of the Old Testament. If we take this seriously, the Christian idea of holiness is to do with going where it is most difficult, in the name of Jesus who went where it was most difficult and he wants us to be holy like that.

 

The Stations of the Cross

We warmly invite you to share in our Benefice Online Sunday Worship which this Sunday comes from St Saviour’s, Harome and is a Service of Holy Communion and includes hymns on the screen which allow you to sing in the comfort of your own home. I would like to say thank you to the Benefice Online Team who work their way around the Benefice each week to film and record, to edit and stitch and then upload. A heartfelt thank you to Damian Andrew, Mary and Iain Thew, and James Lloyd for their cheerful commitment. The Order of Service which is from Common Worship is especially beautiful in the Lent Season – and even if you are ‘onlined and zoomed out’ I commend that you use its words for prayer this week. If your natural preference is BCP please know this service draws upon the BCP Prayer of Consecration and includes the Beatitudes and prayerfully reflects on the Story of the Prodigal Son as part of the liturgy.

 

This Pastoral Letter is accompanied by an email which includes the Order of Service. The Service can be accessed via the Benefice Website: www.kirkdalechurches.org.uk

 

And by the Direct Linkhttps://youtu.be/6H61TG4thao

 

Readings: Genesis 17.1-715-16; Romans 4.13-end; Mark 8.31-38

 

 

Mark 8.31-38

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 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. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

 

Reflection

 Lent is a time for honing our discipleship. This week we have two stories of the struggle that this may involve. Genesis tells a story of a man whose faith wobbled as he tried to hold his situation in creative tension with the promise of God. Mark recounts how Jesus upset the disciples’ beliefs as soon as they recognised him as the Messiah.

 

Abraham, hitherto childless, had a son through his wife’s slave – a not uncommon way of doing things in those days. He appeared to think that that was it: God had blessed him, as promised, with a son. But, disconcertingly, God appeared again, and renewed the promise, spelling it out that his elderly wife would become the mother of the child of promise. Abraham had to trust all over again. Like him, we never outgrow this challenge. Abraham had to believe and act on this promise. Writing to the Romans, Paul summarized it by saying that no distrust made Abraham waver concerning the promises of God. Paul was drawing a theological conclusion in the light of the whole Old Testament, but Genesis was concerned with narrative and was far more honest about the struggle involved.

 

Mark, at the mid-point of his Gospel, has shown us people trying to understand who Jesus is, and then, at last, how Peter recognised Jesus as the Messiah. Immediately, Jesus interpreted this in a shocking way. The second half of the Gospel changes focus to the suffering and death of the Messiah, an unimaginable scandal that culminated not in a confession of faith, but in frightened people running from an empty tomb. Jesus made this reinterpretation quite openly. In today’s terms, the leader went off- message, in public, and his press office had to act to stop him before he ruined his reputation. So, Peter took Jesus to one side to talk some sense into him, apparently with the collusion of the rest of the disciples, since Jesus looked at all of them before silencing their spokesman. I wonder what was in his eyes at that moment. We may sympathize with the disciples who, in their love for Jesus, wanted to stop him making a seemingly disastrous mistake. It is easier for us, with the benefit of hindsight, but they had to enter unchartered territory, let go of all that they had understood of God’s ways, and turn again in commitment in faith.

 

Lent is a time for the renewal of our commitment to God when it is tested, stretched, or in danger of faltering. Peter and the disciples were challenged to think the unthinkable – that God’s Messiah would suffer – and to remain faithful. Abraham’s faith was put under pressure because he could not conceive the greatness of God’s promises, and was content to settle for a compromise. Paul’s assertion that no distrust made him waver, even though he had some dodgy moments, is an encouragement when we want to be committed to God but vacillate in the face of particular circumstances. Lent is a good opportunity to refocus our gaze on faith’s long horizon, not its short-term view. In doing this, we follow Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross despising its shame (Hebrews 12.2).

 

 In the light of this Sunday’s readings, the Collect ‘s prayer to reject those things that are contrary to our profession refers not just to wrong actions or attitudes that turn us away from the way of righteousness, but also to the narrowness of vision that is paralysed by what is in front of us, and cannot see beyond that to God’s bigger, life-giving picture: for Abraham, the possibility of a child through Sarah; for Peter and the disciples, the possibility that taking up the cross would lead through death to resurrection.

 

 The psalmist (119.33) prays: ‘Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes and I will observe it to the end.’ Lent is a time for turning back if we have wavered, taking the risk of trusting God, and keeping going for the long haul.

 

 

 

Among the Jews at the time of Jesus the cross was known as the tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which formerly was written as a standing or an oblique cross with corresponding letters in the Greek and Latin alphabet. This tau had a special significance. It functioned as a symbol of belonging to God, as a sign of penitence and protection.

 

This probably was also the way in which Jesus and the Jewish Christians first understood the cross: as a seal and symbol of belonging and protection. Those who follow Jesus, be they children, women or men, must bear the tau on their foreheads. They no longer belong to themselves. They are Christ’s, stand under his protection and thus receive a new identity. Later, in baptism, the cross sign was in fact made upon those who joined the company of Christ…. But they did not separate the event of Golgotha from the subsequent resurrection of their Lord. For them the cross was never the sign of a sad memory, but always a reminder of their crucified and risen Lord.  What Jews and Jewish Christians understood essentially as a symbol of belonging and protection has for gentile Christians and the ancient church become a symbol of victory and triumph. From the fourth century onwards, therefore, the cross is often adorned with precious stones

‘The stumbling block of the cross has been removed’ (Galatians 5: 11b)

Not many initially may suspect a connection between a mousetrap and the cross of Christ! Yet it is here in this very phrase, for the Greek word is skandalon which is a wire pin as the trigger of a trap which, after the bait has lured a nibble, suddenly snaps and takes the victim unawares. The sensation is unpleasant, a surprise, a shock. In the Old Testament (Isaiah 8:13 -16) it foretells that the Lord of Hosts will become a rock of stumbling and a stone of offence to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare… and many shall stumble thereon; they shall fall and be broken, snared and taken. Scandal is a term used quite frequently in the New Testament, and today in the media and in general conversation. Jesus said, ‘Blessed is he who takes no offence at me’ (Matthew 11:6). Sometimes it is translated stumbling block, like tripping over an unseen obstacle. We are pulled up sharp and make a wry face like Tom in the Water Babies when fed with pebbles instead of sweet. This is the offence, something that puts us off and tends to create misgivings. Jesus recognised the element in himself. His own townsmen observed, ‘Is not this the carpenter’s son?’ The Pharisees saw he was friendly with disreputable people and sat lightly to traditional conventions. Whenever the shadow of the cross fell across the scene his disciples shivered. He warned his own disciples, telling them so that they should not be scandalised (John 16.1).

This upsetting, offensive, off-putting, scandalous element was concentrated in the cross of Christ, which focussed the whole matter to one, hard, bright point. The apostles afterwards recognised this inescapable factor, to the good people scandalous, to the clever and artistic people ridiculous and repulsive. We must never allow the conventional use of the cross as an ornament, smothered in gold, silver, brass, flowers, to hide the original, stark, revolting deed. It is horrible to see a man, especially a good man, nailed on a cross to prevent him being able to grip and control himself, exposed like a scarecrow, helplessly hanging with blood, sweat and tears pouring from him. Crucifixion is the most humiliating and contemptible form of execution, reserved for criminals, slaves and vermin, associated with shame and shock for ever. The whole process is deliberately off-putting. Imagine yourself present. In any group or from any point of view it is loathsome, repulsive, shocking, scandalous. Its purpose was to stifle the influence of Christ from the start. His enemies, political, legal, moral, religious, jeered. The masses were stupefied, his lieutenants shaken to the core.   The incarnation of all their hopes was pinned to the supreme symbol of humiliated defeat. The trap had clamped down with a bang and a crack. The followers were caught in a corner like sheep for the slaughter. The rest presumably put off for ever. No wonder hostile critics were not slow to point out, amidst the embarrassing publicity of the whole affair, the apparent futility of the occasion. The claims of Jesus and his followers had made shipwreck at the cross. Here was the greatest challenge to show any effective meaning except one more major and final disillusionment. This stumbling -block is the chief task of the disciples to remove if they can. Actually, Christian theology was irritated into existence by this effort to explain the death of Jesus.

 

 

 

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Benefice Zoom Lent Course – Monday Evenings at 7.30 pm

 

‘The Joy of the Gospel’

A six-week study course in sharing faith, based on Pope Francis’s inspiring and acclaimed reflections on sharing the love of God in the Evangelli Gaudium ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ (and shaped by the reading of The Book of Joy the work of Desmond Tutu with the Dalai Lama); a time we study together to rediscover the joy of encountering the good news of Jesus and the transformation that is possible when we communicate that good news to our neighbours, our community, the world.

 

  The gathering will be for about an hour and is by zoom

Meeting ID 455 158 2082 and Passcode 773845

 

In the past the Lent Course would have been held in the Millennium Room or in/ and in my sitting room. The current situation of lockdown provisions and protocols is a challenge. But let us have a go via zoom to prayerfully gather to engage with Scripture and for Lent to make this commitment. Each week in the Pastoral Letter I will include the passage for the week, the basis of the session and during the session we will endeavour to connect it with the teaching of Pope Francis. I hope we will share our thoughts and reflections; I will also include the closing prayer for each week which will reflect the particular passage we are studying each week – so have this Pastoral Letter to hand! All are welcome to join in the journey- even if you can’t make every Monday!

 

Session Two ‘Going Forth’

 The importance of being an outward-facing Church, always ready to be sent forth by God

 

Reflection on Scripture together. Matthew 28.16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

 

Closing Prayers

Lord Jesus Christ, we hear your call to go forth in the world.

 Knowing you will be with us to the end of the age

 

 We go to seek the lost, the poor and the sick

 Knowing you will be with us to the end of the age

 

 We fling wide the doors of our hearts

 Knowing you will be with us to the end of the age

 

 We offer rest to the weary and refreshment to the thirsty

 Knowing you will be with us to the end of the age. Amen.

 

Stay safe and stay holy. Blessings as you continue your Lenten Journey and with my love and prayers. Please call me any time for prayers, for a conversation or a help with any practical concerns. Sue. Revd Sue Binks 01439 770523 and binksharome@btinternet.com

 

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter for the First Sunday of Lent 21st February 2021

The United Benefice of Kirkdale with Harome, Nunnington and Pockley

 

Hellebore Orientalis ‘Lenten Rose’, a perennial flowering plant and species in the buttercup family, native to Greece and Turkey.

Dearest Friends,

As the snow gently ebbed away this week and it became so much milder – not needing to put on quite so many layers – and the reassuring news of the wonderfully efficient rolling out of the vaccine, things are looking so much more hopeful – there seems to a spring in everyone’s step. I continue to be deeply impressed by everyone’s care and concern for each other and the gentle and wry humour that abounds.

We crossed the threshold into Lent this week and I felt it when I went for my daily constitutional on Thursday late afternoon. It made me pause, the way you would if you thought someone was behind you. The sky was a pale, watery blue, and I could hear the sweet twitter of birds in the leafless trees. The ground was damp and muddy, and the air smelt fresh and somehow green. I stopped and looked around. There were hardy clumps of resolute snowdrops and joyful bursts of the small yellow dots of timid primroses and plump brown buds on the tree beside me. I realized it wasn’t cold. And then I felt it again. A stillness in the air, a sense of presence. I felt a ridiculous spurt of happiness. How is it that we live through the seasons, year after year, decade after decade- and still feel that flash of surprise when the change happens? Our lives are shaped by countless beginnings and endings, in the natural world, in our families and relationships, in everything we create; but we never grow used to them. We still feel the excitement, the fear, the happiness, the loss that is in every beginning, and every ending. As a child I felt an almost physical delight reading the passage in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when the icicles begin to melt and patches of green appear in the snow; and then someone whispers, ‘Aslan is coming’. Something was beginning, something was about to change – and to feel that quiver of excitement and apprehension – that is, above all, to feel alive.

 In the Benefice with sadness, we record the deaths of Bernard Simpson RIP (91) of Beadlam, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Olive and the family; Bernard is especially remembered for his involvement in establishing the hugely successful charity fund raising Tractor Run, which has become a local annual tradition. We also sadly record the death of Margaret Keenan RIP (94) of Mill Street, Harome, who so loved the spring flowers and we hold  her daughter Alison and all the family in our prayers. During the week I had the privilege of conducting at St Hilda’s, Ampleforth the funeral of Brenda White RIP (90), who with her husband Reg, farmed at Watergate Farm, Ampleforth but had so many farming friends across our Benefice Villages.

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We warmly invite everyone to share in our Benefice Online Sunday Worship which this week was recorded at St Gregory’s Minster and is a Holy Communion Service. I am delighted to confirm that the ‘Virtual Choir’ at St Gregory’s Minster, under the care of John Hastie, Director of Music, provides the beautiful Choral Pieces. The Service also includes the formal Admission of the Two Churchwarden for Kirkdale Parish (St Gregory’s Minster and St Hilda’s).  Gordon Mellor and James Lloyd were elected at the Annual Meeting in October 2020- but on each occasion that we arranged their Admission we were thwarted by a new lockdown. I am very appreciative of all that Gordon and James are doing, especially in the demands and challenges of taking on this ancient and honourable Office in a pandemic – not  only tackling the routine but taking on new and exciting initiatives. Please hold Gordon and James in your prayers.

 

This Pastoral Letter is accompanied by an email which includes the Order of Service. The Service can be accessed via the Benefice Website: www.kirkdalechurches.org.uk

 

And by the Direct Link. https://youtu.be/0Q7EjR4hYvg


 

The Readings are: Genesis 9.8-17; 1 Peter 3.18-22; Mark 1.9-15

 

Genesis 9.8-17

  God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never become a flood destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to            Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

 

Mark 1.9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

A Reflection

This last year has felt like an extended Lent, over the last twelve months we have ‘given up’ so much, we have been living simpler lives, we have endeavoured to truly live ‘love of neighbour’, we have a renewed awareness of the beauty of creation and the fragility of the ecological balance, we have spent time in reflection and prayer, we have been reminded of the inter-connectedness of the world, and we are especially aware of our mortality – individually and in community. In the first lockdown I was profoundly moved by the declaration that went viral ‘we are all in the same storm, but not necessarily in the same boat’ and we have all been lifted by the blossoming of rainbows everywhere and the particular sense of thankfulness they convey to the NHS and all the key and essential workers – and today’s readings, especially the Old Testament Reading from the Book of Genesis recall the mud and the rainbows of the last twelve months. When we come to mark all that the covid pandemic has been I wonder could we commission a silhouette Noah’s Arc and Rainbow for every Church – a little like the silhouette Soldiers that so wonderfully and with beautifully crafted simplicity mark the 100th Centenary of the end of the First World War and that so effectively capture our thanksgiving of the sacrifice of so many for our freedoms and express our aching sadness and sense of loss. When I pass the Soldier Silhouette at the Welburn crossroads and the Benefice roadside War Memorials with their Poppy Wreaths I am always stirred to pause and remember.

 

 Lent is not tidy, because it faces us with the effects of our brokenness, the effects of sin. This year, Lent begins with timeless stories of floods – and therefore mud everywhere – temptation, wild animals, and a wilderness. Water and wilderness go together, and the epistle links these robust stories of Noah’s deliverance through the flood with baptism and deliverance from the power of sin.

 

 In Genesis, Noah picks up the pieces after the flood. Pictures of the devastation that floods wreak today come to mind: destruction everywhere and the relentless clearing of debris - close to home here the Benefice, in York, across the UK and across the world.  Noah’s burnt offering pleases God (Genesis 8.20- 22), but past experience indicates that rebellion will ensue; so, God takes the initiative, launching into a speech: ‘As for me, I will establish my covenant with you’. Although a covenant requires agreement between two parties, God does not negotiate or consult Noah when setting the ground rules in outlandishly generous manner - not just with Noah, but with all his descendants and every living creature.

This part of the flood story describes how God took the initiative, spoke and creation happened. After the flood’s devastation of the first creation, the same Creator begins again with this universal, unilateral covenant: salvation and blessing are entirely at God’s initiative. As before, the charge is to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 9.7), but some things have changed: now human sin is in the equation; the rest of creation will fear humans, who can now eat not only plants but animals, and murder has to be specifically prohibited. God promises never to destroy the earth again through a flood, and gives the sign of the covenant, the bow in the clouds.

We immediately think of the rainbow, but in the Old Testament, where battles involved bows and arrows, the word usually meant ‘the bow of war’. When the rainbow appeared, significantly it was not Noah, but God – who had the power to override the covenant and destroy the earth – who would remember the everlasting covenant. So, the rainbow would ‘remind’ God, and reassure Noah that God had abandoned his bow of war. It would rain again; there would be thunder and lightning again. When that happened, Noah might well be afraid that water would again destroy the earth. The sun, however, would shine again, sometimes while it was raining. Noah saw rainbows only when it rained, when ‘what I dread has befallen me’ (Job 3.25). Sometimes, it is in the midst of what we dread rather than beforehand that we discover God’s faithfulness, much as we would like to avoid being in the situation in the first place. In Mark, Jesus, after he too has been immersed in water through baptism, is driven – Mark uses a strong word, unlike Luke’s gentler ‘led’ into the wilderness, where wild beasts and Satan await him. For Jesus, just as for the people whom Moses led through the Red Sea into the wilderness, there is no respite. Deliverance by God is followed by the testing of human trust in God in less favourable times. After the temptation in the wilderness, the sun came out, metaphorically, for Jesus- angels ministered to him. But then John was arrested- in Noah’s language it rained again. What did Jesus do? Undeterred, he began preaching the good news of God’s kingdom coming near again, acting as though he saw in the midst of this cruel event the rainbow of God’s covenant.

 

Lent is a time for dealing with the disorder in our lives, the mud that messes up God’s world, addressing not just the effects but the causes – Christian Aid alerts us in this month’s newsletter of environmentally destructive practices that causing or exacerbating flooding across the world and we can see locally in impact of our local rivers floating. We are in the storm of covid -19 and its aftermath; in addition to tending our own concerns, our Lenten disciplines might involve engagement with such hard, big issues that devastate people’s lives. As Christians observing Lent, how do we get our hands dirty, and clear the mud- whether literal, metaphorical or spiritual – that ruins lives. At the same time, we follow Jesus’s example and undaunted by the recurrence of testing, proclaim God’s good news

 

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There are somethings worth remembering about the story of the flood. One is that it was deliberate and it was a planned intervention by God in human affairs. Secondly, there is a mechanism for salvation built into the divine deed, and finally, it was in God’s plan that the waters would subside – destroy, yes, but also to become symbols of life and a new beginning. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s sublime and haunting poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, suggests that although in the midst of apparent plenty, if it cannot save a life, then it is illusory and a ‘mere shadow of the imagination.’ The overture to Handel’s Water Music likewise is able to lift the imagination onto higher ideals of the imagination and a lived life, something that Samuel Taylor Coleridge calls, ‘the suspension of disbelief for the moment’.

In the midst of the destruction by the raging floods, or the gentle drip or sprinkling of the waters of baptism at the font that touches the forehead of a screaming baby, there is a sign of the covenant of restoration and hope that prays to God, ‘for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus’ (1 Peter 3.21) or in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s words, ‘for the dear Lord who loveth us. He made and loveth all.’

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Embracing the precious gifts of our Lenten Practice

 

God’s love for us, revealed in Christ, is the keystone of Christianity. It invites us to faith. The heart of the drama is played out when Jesus was arrested, tortured and died on the Cross, but was then raised from the dead. The intensity of those events and their infinite and eternal significance are celebrated by Christians each year during Holy Week and at Easter. Those celebrations, if they are to be fitting, will not just happen. They call for preparation, and we prepare for them during Lent. Lenten practice commonly falls into three parts: prayer, penance and that care for others we call charity, or almsgiving. And so, people sometimes spend more time in prayer or practise a particular devotion for Lent; they may choose to give up something they normally enjoy, alcohol, perhaps, or chocolate; or they may decide to give money to a worthy cause. But Lenten practice calls for more than specific action. The outcome is never simply guaranteed. When John McCarthy and Brian Keenan were hostages in Lebanon, they coped in part by imagining the future and they dreamt of going to Patagonia, open spaces contrasting with their confinement. Five years after their release they went. One day they visited the Salar de Atacama, described as a vast white plain, one of the world’s largest salt flats. John McCartney became aware that Brian Keenan had detached himself and was sitting at a distance. He went over to inquire, ‘what do you reckon?’ Then he realised that Keenan was angry. ‘I’m fuming!’ came the reply. ‘I am raging about those guys, T.E. Lawrence and Saint- Exupery and what-do- you- call- him Thesiger. All that stuff about religious experiences in the desert.’ He was not impressed. He was discovering that there is nothing automatic about going into the wilderness. God is not available to order. In much the same way, penance is not bound to lead to self-improvement, and distributing largesse is not a shortcut to virtue. Outward actions alone are often empty.

It may help if we look afresh at what we do during Lent. Then we may see that prayer, penance and care for others are not so much a kind of list from which we pick whichever we prefer – one year a little more prayer, another some extra penance – but rather a process through which we may grow in holiness. By prayer we come close to God. It is a simple matter, independent of any intricate technique. It is not to be assessed by lofty emotions or clever words. At its heart is longing. If we want to come close to God, if that truly is what we desire, then it will happen. We may feel no different, but if we tutor our hearts to long for God, God will be with us. If prayer directs our attention to God, penance is teaching us about ourselves. It is not a question of making life hard for hardship’s sake. There is no need for that. But when we find ourselves struggling to fulfil the penance we have chosen, whether abstaining from something trivial we normally enjoy- or committing ourselves to some small task that we would prefer to avoid, we are learning how self-absorbed we can be. Small penances puncture our self-satisfaction and strengthen us spiritually. Caring for others will mean service. Whatever else, the greatest cost will probably be of our time. Prayer, penance and service – Lenten practice weaves a web of relationships, drawing us closer to God, deepening our knowledge of ourselves and encouraging our care for others – all to be embraced as precious gifts.

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Benefice Zoom Lent Course – Monday Evenings at 7.30 pm (starting Monday February 22nd)

 

‘The Joy of the Gospel’

A six-week study course in sharing faith, based on Pope Francis’s inspiring and acclaimed reflections on sharing the love of God in the Evangelli Gaudium ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ (and shaped by the reading of The Book of Joy the work of Desmond Tutu with the Dalai Lama); a time we study together to rediscover the joy of encountering the good news of Jesus and the transformation that is possible when we communicate that good news to our neighbours, our community, the world.

 

  The gathering will be for about an hour and is by zoom

Meeting ID 455 158 2082 and Passcode 773845

 

In the past the Lent Course would have been held in the Millennium Room or in/ and in my sitting room. The current situation of lockdown provisions and protocols is a challenge. But let us have a go via zoom to prayerfully gather to engage with Scripture and for Lent to make this commitment. Each week in the Pastoral Letter I will include the passage for the week, the basis of the session and during the session we will endeavour to connect it with the teaching of Pope Francis. I hope we will share our thoughts and reflections; I will also include the closing prayer for each week which will reflect the particular passage we are studying each week – so have this Pastoral Letter to hand!

 

 The first session: Joy and the Gospel. ‘Our faith in Jesus brings joy, a joy we must share’

 

Philippians 4.4-8

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is nearby. ‘Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’

 

Loving God, you show us the path to life

In your presence is fullness of joy

 Your steadfast love endures for ever

In your presence is fullness of joy

You are the source of good news

In your presence is fullness of joy.

  How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who bring good news.

In your presence is fullness and joy

 

I pray that this week is gentle and fruitful and please feel free to contact me at anytime for prayer, a conversation or help with a practical problem. With my love and prayers. Sue. Revd Sue Binks 01439 770523 and binksharome@btinternet.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter for the Sunday next before Lent Sunday 14th February

United Benefice of Kirkdale with Harome, Nunnington and Pockley

A view of Mount Tabor from Nazareth the Mountain of the Transfiguration recounted in this Sunday’s Gospel Reading

Dearest Friends,

It struck me especially this last week as I journeyed around the Benefice that Lent is a snowfall in the soul. Just as snow makes us see our landscape in a different light, making us renavigate our environment and the wonder at the sight of our own breath, so Lent invites us to distil, reimagine and remember the fragile miracle of life itself.

 I warmly invite you to the Benefice Ash Wednesday Service of Evening Prayer coming from St John the Baptist Parish Church, Pockley and the link will be sent out on Shrove Tuesday. I also invite you to share in our Benefice Lent Course happening via Zoom on Monday evenings, starting on 22nd February, at 7.30 pm for about an hour – the link will be issued in next week’s Pastoral Letter; the theme is ‘The Joy of the Gospel’.

Christopher Wren, the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, died in February 1723. He never lived to see the completion of his masterpiece, and I suppose that perhaps we would all like to leave some mark on this Earth that says we were here. Very few of us can be builders of cathedrals, or great composers or famous actors. In his 2013 Letter on Evangelism, Pope Francis talks about Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. He recognises that we have different ways of expressing joy, but that it always endures. But of course, life is never full of joy, since we have to manoeuvre our way around suffering of all kinds and the inevitable difficulties that life throws at us. And yet, even in the worst situations, though it can sometimes seem very difficult, I believe it’s still possible to have a sense of wonder and stillness that goes beyond being simply happy, to something much deeper. To maintain that kind of faith in God demands something very profound, which cannot easily be expressed in words. To have a faith that still says ‘yes’ when life has thrown all it can at you is really to turn worldly wisdom on its head. So today we should give thanks for the millions of people who leave their mark on this world living lives of love, compassion, kindness and righteousness. We give thanks for the joy that fills so many people.

 

O God, we thank You for the joy of another day

And for our part in it.

Help us to see You in all things

And to welcome You and the stranger

That together we may share the joy of faith in You

And we thank You for a day well lived. Amen

 

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The Transfiguration Window at Durham Cathedral: Artist Tom Denny

 

We warmly invite you to share in the Benefice Sunday Worship which this Sunday is broadcast from St Hilda’s, Beadlam and is a Holy Communion Service, and I am delighted to report that our Scripture Passages are read by Marie- Claire and Mike Strong, who with their sons John, Thomas and Robert have moved in to the Old Parsonage (formerly Kirkdale Vicarage). The family have moved from Croydon, but fell in love with North Yorkshire and especially our little corner of Ryedale when they were both studying for their MA degrees at York University

 

This Pastoral Letter is accompanied by an email which included the Order of Service and the words to the hymns are on the screen so you can join in with the Choir and sing. The Service can be accessed via the Benefice Website: www.kirkdalechurches.org.uk

 

And the direct link is: https://youtu.be/_eABAXE-sXo

 

 Readings: 2 Kings 2.1-12; 2 Corinthians 4.3-6; Mark 9.2-9

Mark 9.2-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

 

 

Collect Prayer

Almighty Father, whose Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross; give us grace to perceive his glory, that we may be strengthened to suffer with him and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

What did the chosen disciples expect as they tramped up the mountainside, pausing to catch their breath, looking out over the wide plains to Galilee? Surely not the sight of two foundational figures evoking the law and the prophets standing alongside Jesus, the fulfilment of both? Nor Christ, lit as if from within, his purity and holiness shimmering out in uncommon brilliance around them? Nor the sudden cloud cover and the voice from nowhere echoing around their startled ears, the words of God affirming his Son? This profound religious experience comes without warning, revealing Jesus as the Light, the Beloved, and leaving the observers stunned and we can understand Peter’s impulsive attempt to capture the moment, to hold it still long enough to make sense of what was happening before their astonished eyes. Just occasionally in our spiritual life the curtains of heaven are pulled back and we are given a vision of the glorious reality of God.

 

 There are a few pivotal days in the church year, when our focus is redirected in an instant. The classic one is Palm Sunday, but today is another, highlighted by the Collect Prayer. The readings tell of Christ’s heavenly glory revealed on earth, but in the Collect, our task is to get ready for Ash Wednesday, when we are turned round to take a long hard look at our human shortcomings, and, despite them, at God’s amazing and insistent call to us to be disciples.

 

 In the readings we are back with Epiphany’s theme of the revelation of Christ’s glory, to which the appropriate response is awe and wonder. The best Mark can do is to describe Christ’s transfigured clothes as brighter than any fuller or bleach can wash them; in other words, God is better than the best washerwoman. But everything will change. Ash Wednesday faces us with our sinfulness, individually and corporately, and makes no compromises to human sensitivities; this politically incorrect day brooks no excuse, no plea of mitigating circumstances. Then we have the rest of Lent to come to terms with our brokenness, and with God’s mercy and forgiveness. In preparation for this, the Collect has three linked petitions.

 

 The first, ‘give us grace to perceive his glory’, takes its cue from today’s readings: the disciples perceive Christ’s glory, and Paul reiterates what we heard last week about knowing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. In 2010 Durham Cathedral installed ‘Transfiguration’ window in memory of Michael Ramsey, former Bishop of Durham, Archbishop of York and of Canterbury, for whom transfiguration and glory were theological wellsprings. The window stops people in their tracks with its shaft of white light which in low winter sunlight is dazzling. Its immensely detailed images and scenes etched into the glass are perceived only if people stop and look. Its theological artistry challenges us to be attentive, to stop and look as God’s glory sheds light on the events of daily life. Then there is the awkward petition that this petition will strengthen us ‘to suffer with him’. Normally we want out of suffering, not strength to endure it. There is a steadiness about what we pray for here – a stability that, enabled by our perception of glory, is not thrown off balance by suffering.   After the revelation of his glory, Jesus went straight to a scene of suffering, a cameo of the millions of such incidents of suffering in our world; some beyond human control, others sadly the result of human action. Sharing Jesus’s suffering – his own and that of the world to which he brings light – is inevitable if we pray to perceive his glory. The third part of the prayer anticipates the Easter message of hope, resurrection, ascension, and our transformation into his likeness from glory to glory. As Charles Wesley sang, we will be ‘changed from glory into glory’.

 

 On the threshold of Lent, we are called to become more and more Christlike, and thus to share his glory. Lent is a time to take stock, as we focus on discipleship in a world of suffering. But we do so against the backdrop of the revealed glory of God, and with the assured hope of Easter, and our transformation more and more into Christ’s likeness. Most of us are not prone to visions, but can be alert to perceive God’s glory in daily life, those reminders that God is gloriously and rampantly present, if we will but notice. Perhaps a Lenten discipline could be to look for and respond to the glory of God revealed in other people.

 

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Sensing

The Transfiguration is a narrative rich in sensory images. So, come and explore.

 Put on your climbing shoes and come climbing. Climb, climb, climb the high mountain. Feel the atmosphere change as you rise high above the pollution. Hear the sounds of traffic, chatter and work grow faint as you rise above the noise. See the sights of people, houses and farms grow small, as you rise high above the world. Standing there, high on the mountain, you feel on top of the world and as if you have approached the gateway to heaven. Put on your climbing shoes and come climbing.

Put on your sunglasses and come looking. Look, look, look carefully as Jesus stands there before you. See Jesus transfigured before your very eyes. See Jesus’s clothes become dazzling white. See the sky open and Elijah and Moses appear; standing there surrounded by such powerful sights, you feel as if you have approached the gateway to heaven.

 Listen attentively and come listening. Listen, listen, listen carefully as Jesus stands there before you. Hear the divine voice speak from the clouds. ’This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ What is the appropriate response to glory? The command from the cloud is not to heal and proclaim the kingdom, as had happened in Galilee, but to ‘Listen to him’. Standing there surrounded by such powerful sounds you feel as if you have approached the gateway to heaven.

 The Transfiguration is a narrative rich in sensory images. So, come and explore.

 

Intuition

Just occasionally in our spiritual life the curtains of heaven are pulled back and we are vouchsafed a vision of the glorious reality of God.

Have you been out climbing and risen high above the mundane issues of daily life? Has the majesty of height opened your heart to the presence of God?

Have you been walking at night when the sky is clear and when the stars shine bright? Has the magnitude of the night sky opened your heart to the presence of God?

Have you been sailing on the still and open sea miles from all sight of land? Has the vastness of the waters opened your heart to the presence of God?

Have you been out visiting some prehistoric site where the forces of nature have shaped the landscape? Has the unrecorded passing of time opened your heart to the presence of God?

Have you looked into the face of a new-born child and recognised the archetype of humanity? Has the mystery of human life opened your heart to the presence of God?

 Have you been worshipping in the midst of the people of God where the Spirit is at work? Has the conviction of the Spirit’s activity opened your heart to the presence of God?

Have you been meditating alone before the blessed sacrament? Has the reality of the body of Christ opened your heart to the presence of God?

Just occasionally in our spiritual life the curtains of heaven are pulled back and we are vouchsafed a vision of the glorious reality of God

 

 

Thinking

If we are going to appreciate the theological significance of Mark’s account of the Transfiguration, we must interrogate some of his detail. Why, so uncharacteristically does Mark begin the narrative with such a precise location in time? Why six days later? Was this simply to bind this narrative to Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi? Or is this a deliberate echo of the six days during which Moses waited before the Lord spoke out of a cloud (Exodus 24)?

Why does Mark locate the narrative so precisely up a high mountain? Was this simply to emphasise encounter with transcendence? Or is there a deliberate echo of God’s decisive revelation to the people of the old Israel on Mount Sinai? (Exodus 24).

Why does Mark describe with such care the dazzling whiteness of Jesus’s clothes? Was this simply to emphasise the supernatural nature of the occurrence? Or is there a deliberate echo of the way in which Moses had been transfigured by his encounter with God on the mountain? (Exodus 34).

Why does Mark identify so clearly the presence of Elijah and Moses? Was this simply to emphasise continuity with the old order? Or is there a deliberate allusion to Jesus being affirmed by the Law and the Prophet? And had not Malachi promised that Elijah would come before the great and terrible day of the Lord?

Why does Mark refer so purposefully to the voice coming from the cloud? Was this simply to emphasise the mysterious nature of the revelation? Or is there a deliberate attempt to identify the voice as that of God alone, who spoke to Moses out of the self-same cloud (Exodus 24)?

Why does Mark attribute to the divine voice words so similar and so dissimilar to those cited at the moment of baptism? Is this carelessness or deliberate subtlety? At the baptism, when Jesus was anointed Messiah, by John the Baptist, God spoke to Jesus and to Jesus alone, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved.’ At the Transfiguration, when Jesus’s anointed Messiahship has been recognised and confessed by Peter, God spoke publicly, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved.’

If we are going to appreciate the theological significance of Mark’s account of the Transfiguration, we must begin to interrogate some of this detail.

 

 

For Christians St Valentine’s Day marks an acknowledgement of an all-loving God who blesses those who love one another, as Jesus implored his own disciples to do.

 

St Valentine’s Day is traditionally a day for lovers, but the little we know about Valentine makes no mention of lovers. The Acta Sanctorum records the Lives of two martyrs of this name, one a priest of Rome who was scourged and executed two miles outside the city on the Flaminian Way after a life of teaching and healing, and the other a bishop of Terni, some sixty miles north along the same road, who was imprisoned and beheaded in that city. The view that, though both Rome and Terni claimed him, the two Valentines were one and the same is generally accepted. His execution may have taken place under the Emperor Claudius (268-70; not the emperor of Robert Graves’ I Claudius) in whose reign there was a renewal of persecution.

 The association of St Valentine’s Day with lovers may have come from the Roman festival of Lupercalia, when boys drew the names of girls in honour of the goddess Februara Juno. Christian holy days were often substituted for earlier festivals in this way. Chaucer suggested that birds mated on this day. In the Paston Letters, written between 1420 and 1504, there is a letter from Elizabeth Drew to John Paston, her daughter’s prospective husband, dating from February 1477- this notes: ‘Upon Friday is St Valentine’s Day, and every bird chooseth him a mate, and if it like you to come Thursday at night … I trust to God that you shall speak to my husband, and I shall pray you that we bring the matter to a conclusion.’ Her daughter wrote to John Paston as’ my right well beloved Valentine.’ In the 1955 edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints, the custom of regarding St Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers was described as ‘hardly more than a memory’. In the 2000 edition, the Editor notes its enthusiastic revival, though the connection with the martyr of Rome (or Terni) has become increasingly tenuous.

 

 The Bible often speaks about the heart. Not that it locates the heart within the chest cavity or identifies it as an organ that pumps blood around the body. In Biblical understanding, the heart is the centre of the human personality. Poets and philosophers have followed suit, regarding the heart as the seat of consciousness, the place where reason and emotion come together to generate action. When Jesus reflected upon the human condition, he reckoned that our life priorities and investments would indicate what we believed important: ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.’ The heart then acts as the point of convergence where we process thoughts, engage emotions, and turn all that into behaviours, words, responses. It becomes the moral centre, which is why the prophet Jeremiah warns that we need to be aware that the heart can be deceitful and desperately wicked. Perhaps for this reason the Book of Proverbs says, ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.’ Which seems to be suggesting that just as the physical heart is essential to the healthy functioning of the entire body, so our spiritual, moral and emotional life depends upon a good heart. That’s why we must look after, protect and monitor it.

 

To crown all things there must be love, to bind all together and complete the whole.

 

Eternal God, we offer our thanks that through our earthly lives

You speak of your eternal life.

We rejoice in the wonder of creation,

the gift of human life

and the many blessings that our relationships bring.

Renew in us the fruits of your Holy Spirit;

That love, joy and peace may abound in our homes,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

 I pray that the new week ahead is gentle and kind and I pray that your Lenten journey is fruitful. Please feel free to contact me at any time for prayer, a conversation or help with a practical problem. With my love and prayers. Sue. Revd Sue Binks 01439 770523 and binksharome@btinternet.com