2nd August Pew Sheet - Wyre Forest West Group of Parishes


2nd August Pew Sheet


Dear Friends,

 

As I’m sure you are aware, the ‘strongly recommended’ wearing of face coverings, will from 8th August become compulsory in our church buildings. Please bring a mask with you, if you attend one of our services, but we will have a few for emergencies and possibly some for sale to help raise funds for the church.


I have just been notified that Jill Cockerton, who has done so much for the church in Far Forest and Mamble for many years, has sadly died. Please remember her daughters, Jenny and Angela, in your prayers.


Today’s gospel reading from St Matthew’s gospel is I’m sure quite familiar to everyone. It concerns the only miracle, apart from the resurrection of Jesus, which is mentioned in all four gospels. Each gospel writer has written about it in slightly different terms which in itself is quite interesting to study, but today I have decided to look at just one verse of this reading, verse 14 – ‘He saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.’


Unfortunately, not many weeks go by without the problem of sickness and suffering confronting us and the terrible situation which the whole world finds itself at the moment with coronavirus, has bought it home like never before. Television, the radio and newspapers presents us with pictures and stories of those suffering throughout the world – one only has to conjure up one of these places in your mind to see the faces of young and old who have lost so much and are suffering so much pain. Although not on a huge scale, most ordinary lives are also touched by tragedy sooner or later, through accident or sickness. Sad, inexplicable things are constantly happening no farther away than some of the homes in our own villages.


If there were no God, there is of course no problem. It wouldn’t take the pain away but whatever happened, happened. We need not look for sense or meaning in a life which is simply a succession of accidents in a meaningless, materialistic universe. Those of us, however, who not only believe in God, but believe in a God of love, cannot help but torment ourselves with the attempt to square our faith in God’s love with our experience of life which seems so often cruel and senseless.


The Bible does not dodge the problem, in fact it approaches it head on. Jesus himself wrestled with it many times. Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus, the fall of the tower of Siloam, a neighbourhood south of Jerusalem’s old city which collapsed killing 18 people, perplexed him, the beginning of this gospel reading Jesus goes off on his own to a deserted place to contemplate that his relative and friend John the Baptist had been beheaded. Now I have never, as far as I know had a relative beheaded, but friends and relatives have died tragically, or suffered through illness. All the problems we face, He faced, right up to his agony in the garden of Gethsemane and His own terrible death. He faced this problem with a heart sensitised by love, faced it and came through it with his faith in the Father’s love undiminished. So, how did he do it? How can we learn from him? The answer is in the three phrases that I have picked out from the reading. ‘He saw a great crowd, he had compassion for them and cured their sick.’


He saw a great crowd. The sight can’t have been a pretty one. It would have been a hot day, people would have been pushing and shoving trying to get a better spot to see and hear him, and many would have been carrying friends and relatives with all sorts of conditions. Your tendency and mine would have probably been to look away. Not so Jesus. He not only looked at them but he saw them. Saw them as individuals as real people. An IRA bomb killed the son of a friend of mine some years ago. I had never actually met Tim but I’d heard a lot about him from his father. I had felt sorry for the families of people killed by IRA bombs before but suddenly it was a real person – an individual who I knew something about. I literally cried non-stop for 3 hours when his death was announced, and the effect still lives with me today and has increased the intensity of my feelings whenever I hear about a similar incident.


Once, in the house of Simon the Pharisee, a woman of bad reputation appeared, and Jesus asked Simon, “Do you see this woman?” Obviously, Simon could see her she was standing in front of him, but what Jesus wanted to know was whether he saw the woman as a real person, as a child of God, created in God’s image. Like us, Simon probably had everyone sorted out into categories – these are people I choose to mix with, these I will talk to but only if I must. All the time our eyes are skimming over the surface of people deciding whether they are our sort of people or not. But we don’t see them – not as people. Do we really see the homeless people on our streets, many of whom are mentally sick or there through no fault of their own? You only have to walk around Worcester City centre let alone Birmingham or London or Manchester to see them. If we really saw them wouldn’t we try to do more for them?


The first thing that we must learn from Christ is how to see – see each person as an individual someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister - see beyond to the real person with their wants and needs. We must learn not just to admit that there is evil in the world, but to see with the eyes of Christ the pain and sorrow and bewilderment and despair of so many in distant lands and round about our own community.


This brings us on to our second phrase this morning - he had compassion for them. If we are led by Christ to really see other people, then we shall be led by him to take the second step and this will hurt us. How would we have reacted to the great crowd that came to meet him? In despair, perhaps – what can I do about this, or perhaps irritation – the waiting lists on the NHS are getting ridiculous or Social Services should do more. Jesus initial reaction was compassion. Compassion means to suffer with. It applies ultimately only to Jesus who suffered with every one of us as he hung on the cross, dying for us. But in some small way if we have the spirit of Christ in us, we too will suffer with those about us.


If we see with the eyes of Christ and feel the heart of Christ, then inevitably we will be led on to the third step he took: Jesus saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. Now Jesus could have reacted by saying that what he had come to do was so much bigger than this crowd that he couldn’t be side-tracked from his overall mission to the world. He could have reacted to these few sick souls with a why should I bother with these who are close at hand. He could have concentrated on preaching and teaching which might, long term, have had more effect, but he couldn’t stop himself. He could not hold himself back from doing what he could to help. Not only did he heal but he then went on to feed them. He took what was available to him and used it to great effect.


And this is our challenge. The fact that we cannot do everything in a world with so many problems should not stop us from doing what we can. When we see the problem of suffering as a challenge to be met and try to meet it, then as said by The very Revd Dr John Gray who was minister of Dunblane Cathedral, a place that has seen its share of suffering – ‘then we shall come to an understanding of the heart lying far deeper than our minds’. Then we will see with the eyes of Christ, feel with the heart of Christ and then do what we can to alleviate the suffering that confronts us. And in so doing we will be fed by Christ, just as he did the 5,000. Fed by the abundance of God’s creation to satisfy our physical need and fed by the body of Christ to feed our spiritual need – And all ate and were filled! Amen.


Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.


May the love of Jesus Christ sustain us, and the joy of Jesus Christ fill us, and the power of Jesus Christ strengthen us as we work for the growing of the kingdom; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always. Amen.


With All my Blessings Rev Sallie

 

Bible Readings for today – 8th Sunday after Trinity


Genesis 32.22-31, Psalm 17.1-7,16, Romans 9.1-5, Matthew 14.13-21


Collect for this week


Lord God, your Son left the riches of heaven and became poor for our sake: when we prosper save us from pride, when we are needy save us from despair, that we may trust in you alone; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Requests for Prayer


Please continue to pray for all those who are ill, especially Annie Round, Paul Mills, Freddie Kemp, Sylvia Jenkins, Susan Godwin, Edna Mills, Mary McGrath, Lucy Fischer, Pearl Green, Margaret Wright, Polly, Maureen Boswell, Sylvia Perkins and Peter Cotterill. We also pray for all those suffering with, and affected by, Coronavirus (COVID-19).


Pray for the family and friends of Sheila Lloyd and Jill Cockerton and all those who have recently died and for those who mourn.


Intercessions


As the church of God, let us be still, and pray together.
Lord, you are the bread of heaven, giving life to the world. You fill our emptiness with your goodness. You come to our weakness with your strength. Come, refresh, renew, restore us.
Lord, you are the bread of life; feed us now and evermore.


We pray that your church may hunger and thirst after righteousness for everyone. May your church seek to care for and feed the hungry in spirit. May we seek out the lost, and those in desert places, and offer them the sustenance of your word. We pray for Bible study groups and outreach groups.
Lord, you are the bread of life; feed us now and evermore.


We remember before you the starving peoples of our world, those who suffer from famine, poverty or war, all whose lives are diminished through malnutrition and neglect. Let the harvests of the world be neither hoarded nor squandered. We pray for all whose lives are fragmented, for all who are broken. Lord, you open your hands and satisfy the needs of every creature.
Lord, you are the bread of life; feed us now and evermore.


We give thanks for those who have fed us and cared for us. We remember all who have shown compassion and tenderness. Lord, bless our loved ones, our homes and communities. Fill our deep longing for you with your presence and your peace.
Lord, you are the bread of life; feed us now and evermore.


We pray for all who feed drained and empty, all who have no energy or strength. Lord, have compassion upon the weak, the weary, the harassed, the helpless, and for all who are suffering and continue to suffer from the effects of coronavirus. We come to you for renewal, refreshment and hope.
Lord, you are the bread of life; feed us now and evermore.


We give thanks for those who no longer hunger or thirst for they have been refreshed in your kingdom. May we look forward to the day when we share with them in the glory which is everlasting.
Lord, you are the bread of life; feed us now and evermore.


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