Articles

A reflection for Sunday 19th November 2023 by the Rev'd David Warnes

Matthean version of the Parable of the Talents

In these days of higher interest rates, many people have been asking the question “where would it be best to invest our savings?” We are, of course, very fortunate if that’s a question for us since many people have no savings to invest. I remember some years ago checking out the website of a major British bank, which shall remain nameless, where you could only get at information about savings accounts and interest rates by first answering a series of intrusive questions. “None of your business” was my immediate reaction to that exercise – but I had no trouble whatsoever in deciding what sort of saver I am. I plumped for the cautious option.

Today’s Gospel – the Parable of the Talents – reads like the story of an over-cautious investor and seems to paint a picture of a scarily judgemental God. It’s one of a series of parables in which Jesus is explaining what the kingdom of heaven will be like, and most people down the centuries have assumed that God is there in the parable – that God is the master who goes away on a journey, leaving his three servants in charge of his wealth. 

It's important to bear in mind that Jesus’ style of storytelling was vivid, and that he sometimes made use of hyperbole – he exaggerated to make the story more emphatic. It’s also important not to take the story out of the context of Jesus’ whole teaching about God. Keep in mind that he told his friends that God, mindful of the fall of every sparrow, was far more mindful of their needs and problems. Keep in mind also one of his most memorable stories – the loving father who welcomes home the prodigal son without a word of blame or criticism. I don’t think that the point of this story is that we should think of God as the master who condemns the cautious and fearful servant who has buried his share of the money.

A talent was a vast sum of money. The best way of explaining it is to think about how many years of a labourer’s pay it amounted to, and the answer is twenty years. Expressed in terms of someone in Scotland working a forty-hour week on the National Minimum Wage for twenty years, a single talent equals £433,472 at 2023 values. The employer in Jesus’ story is therefore a very trusting person. Between them, the three slaves are entrusted with almost £3.5 million. These facts may help us to understand what is at first reading a puzzling parable. 

I say puzzling because at first reading the master in the story seems harsh and judgemental and that’s not the God whom I encounter in Jesus Christ.     I don’t believe that God  “reaps where he does not sow, and gathers where he did not scatter?” 

Perhaps the question we need to ask of this story is “For what is the servant being condemned?”  On the face of it, it looks as though he is being condemned for failing to make a profit. Read a little more carefully and you’ll see that isn’t the case. The failure of the cautious servant wasn’t a failure to make money for his master. Rather it was that he had a fearful and negative view of his master. 

Anyone who has watched small children develop knows that the child who is able to take risks and become more adventurous is the child who is secure in her or his parents’ love. The third servant was paralyzed by fear of his master and was completely unable to take risks. And it is that fearful view of his master for which he is condemned. So we have two kinds of servant here – the first two know that their master is generous and kind, that he trusts them rather than micro-managing them, that he wants them to be free to take risks and that he will reward them generously for making good use of their freedom. The third servant has a false image of the master – he imagines him to be hard and unreasonable in his demands. He is afraid of the master, and his fear paralyses him.

So today’s Gospel asks us the question – “What’s your image of God?” Is it a loving heavenly Father who gives you the gift of freedom and wants you to venture into the world, to take risks and to make yourself and your talents available to others? Or is it a stern disciplinarian – a very demanding parent who is quick to punish? The latter image is unhealthy and unhelpful because it makes people fearful and cautious and fear and caution are the very opposite of what Christianity, the faith into which Zoe will shortly be baptized, is about. 

It's helpful to know that our English word “talent” is derived from the Greek word talanton that the Gospel writer uses. We are all blessed with God-given talents and part of the adventure on which Zoe has embarked is the adventure of discovering, with the help of Katie and Drummond and her Godparents, what her talents are. May she enjoy them in the freedom that God gives her. May she never think of God as an exacting disciplinarian but rather as the loving and generous source of her existence and the existence of everyone and everything. The call of Jesus is not a call to be cautious and to obey the rules, but rather a call to the kind of love and outreach that Jesus himself practised, a call to engage with the world and to use our God-given talents to make it the place of love and acceptance that God means it to be.    

 


 

A Remembrance Day reflection by Canon Dean Fostekew

Very few of us today will have a direct remembrance of those who died in WWI and increasingly as the years past from the end of WWII, this will become the same. No one in my immediate family actually knew my great, great Uncle Ern. My Grannie knew him but not my father and now they are both dead the link to him is very fragile. I have his photograph, in his Sapper’s uniform, on my desk but I doubt any of the next generations of my family will do so. The heroes like Uncle Ern are being forgotten as the individuals they were and are becoming part of a historical event that no one now alive was part of.

Recently while waiting for the Paddington train from Reading Station I saw opposite a Great Western Railway locomotive dedicated to those who lost their lives in WWI and most especially to those who received a Victoria Cross for their bravery. As well as the major name dedication every single man and woman who worked for GWR and who died in WWI was remembered. I was very happy to see the

locomotive in its special livery because it told me these men and women were not yet forgotten, especially as for some their names were accompanied by their photograph as well.

‘Lest we forget’ words associated with Remembrance Day are I think increasing important words and sentiment. War is awful, it destroys lives and countries and changes things dramatically and violently. Because of this you might think that we humans would remember not to fight and destroy each other - sadly events all too current in the world today show this not to be true. For an ideology or a few miles of territory we fight to prove a point and never stop to count the cost in hums lives and the destruction of Creation. How God must weep to see what we do to each other!

We wage war because we forget what war does. The majority of our population in great Britain has not lived through a major war and politicians and others can because of this, sometimes be too quick to commit to the use of force in a conflict. When the immediate memory is lost the collective memory is not

strong enough to make us think about what war and violence actually costs and does to us.

What I mean by the collective memory of war is that it becomes simply a historical event that happened years ago and has little impact on the individual. Although saying this one can be surprised. A recent report in the Church Times told of how Dr. Megan Olshefski a historian walked the infamous Death March from Dunbar to Durham. Following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 the Royalist soldiers and supporters were march from Durham to be incarcerated in Durham Cathedral. Of the 4000 who began the march only 3000 reached Durham, the others dying on the way and the inhuman treatment of them in Durham over the next two years increased the death toll to well over 3500. Those who survived were later released and many emigrated to New England. The Battle of Durham was 375 years ago but Olshefski was surprised by how many knew of the march as she followed in their footsteps. She said of the experience:

“I was surprised to find many ... knew the story already, dnd those who didn’t were excited to learn it.”

It was good that Olshefski set out to remember those who made the march to Durham and those who died and perhaps her actions will cause those who met her or saw her walking the Death March to remember those who died in 1650 once again. No one knew those men today but they are now not forgotten.

I hope and pray that as the collective memory of WWI and WWII grows, we will not forget the individuals who gave their lives to ensure we live our lives in freedom. Remembrance is more than just remembering it is honouring the memory of the dead with dignity and thankfulness and acknowledging that they did not died in vain even if we still have a lot to learn about living peacefully together.

LEST WE FORGET. LEST WE FORGET.

A reflection for All Saints and All Souls Sunday 5th November 2023 by Canon Dean Fostekew

Betty was always there. The chair by the wall of the third row up from the altar that was her spot. She was there for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer with the clergy and for each of the daily masses. The only time she wasn’t there was when she was in the body of the Church for the Solemn high Mass on a Sunday morning or for Evensong and Benediction, when she sat in the choir stalls with the rest of us. 

Betty, as far as I was and still am concerned was a true saint of God. She lived a life dedicated to prayer and was a gentle and supportive friend to many. She didn’t make very old bones as cancer took her act about 70 but she always reminded me of Anna in the Temple waiting to greet the Messiah and in the meantime caring for God’s people that she met. 

As you can tell, I still vividly remember her and it will be nigh on 40 years ago that she died. I valued her prayers then as I explored my vocation to ministry and I value them still, now that she resides in the presence of God. 

Betty would never have thought of herself as ‘saint’ material. She did what she felt she had to do to fulfil her Baptismal vocation as a Christian. It was nothing remarkable or special, it was just what she did. She is not acknowledged as an official saint of the church but as I have said as far as I am concerned she is a saint and I suspect that those who remember her think so too.

So often we think of saints as being truly remarkable people or those who gave themselves to a martyr’s death - yes these are saints but there is a ‘greater company of heaven’ than those listed as ‘saints’.

Who are your saints? Ponder for a moment and ask yourself why they are your saints?

Do you like me include with people like Betty one or two official saints? My list includes; St.Benedict for it is his Rule of Life that I try to follow and to put into practice in my daily life; St.Thomas, who doubted as I too doubt and regularly question my faith; Mary the Mother of Jesus who said Yes, when she need not have, she encourages me to do things I might not say yes to and St.Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father figure who has inspired me as a step-father to deeply love the boys that aren’t my flesh and blood. 

None of my saints were perfect, Benedict got exasperated with his monks, his patience was limited. Thomas didn’t get it right at times. Mary as we are told in the apocryphal Gospels got cross with Jesus and smacked his bottom! Many saints are not perfect and at times I wonder quite how some got into and remain in the calendar of saints days. Yet there must be something in their lives that resonates with others for them to be there. I suspect that it is to do with their flawed humanity, and that  by acknowledging their flaws we are given hope in over coming our own!

That for me, I think, is the point of saints,  they are an encouragement to us to always try and do our best despite ourselves. None of us are perfect but even the most imperfect of us can still encourage others to do better and to keep on trying. 

One thing all the saints are examples of are of people who said their prayers, even if they struggled to do so. Betty wasn’t perfect but she faithfully said her prayers and it is that that I remember and am thankful to her for. All of us are called to be saints and how do we achieve that status? It is by saying our prayers in this world and the next and we do this best in this world when we come together in the Eucharist for as our liturgy tells us: 

“Help us, who are baptised into the fellowship of Christ's Body to live and work to your praise and glory; may we grow together in unity and love until at last, in your new creation, we enter into our heritage in the company of the Virgin Mary, the apostles, and prophets, and of all our brothers and sisters living and departed.”                                                                                     1982 Scottish Eucharistic Liturgy

Living and departed we gather in the Eucharist making prayer to God and continuing our journey into sainthood.

One can never proclaim oneself to be saint but you might be surprised by those who already think you are one!!


 

A reflection for Sunday 22nd October by the Rev'd David Warnes

We live in a very questioning culture; a culture in which the wrong kind of questioning is becoming more and more common. You’ll have heard examples of the wrong kind of questioning on Radio & TV news and current affairs programmes, from journalists whose aim is to catch politicians out by, for example,  repeatedly asking them for some statistical detail which they haven’t committed to memory. 

The wrong kind of questioning is the kind that we find in today’s Gospel – a trick question designed to catch Jesus out.

Is it lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor or not?

If Jesus replied that it wasn’t lawful to pay Roman taxes, he would be in serious trouble with the Roman authorities. If he said that it was lawful to pay the taxes, then he would disappoint a lot of people who thought that he was the Messiah and hoped that the Messiah would liberate them from Roman rule. 

The trick question misfired badly. Jesus asked them to produce a Roman coin, a coin which they shouldn’t have brought into the Temple. The coin had images of the Emperor Tiberius on one side and of his mother Livia on the other, and graven images are forbidden in the Ten Commandments. Jesus then asked them about the inscription, knowing perfectly well that for him and for them, the inscription was blasphemous. On the coin Tiberius was described as “Son of the Divine Augustus” – in other words, the son of a god. And the first of the Ten Commandments says:

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Having sidestepped the trap and embarrassed those who had posed the question, Jesus then said something important.

“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Or, in the well-known words of the King James Bible

“Render unto Caesar…”

And down the centuries, Christians had wrestled with what that means. What is the right relationship between a Christian and a government which may be very far from Christian in its principles and policies?  This was a problem with which Jewish believers had faced when they were forced into exile in Babylon, and Jesus would have been very familiar with the advice that the prophet Jeremiah gave them:

“…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

That advice was not uncritical endorsement of the government of Babylon, any more than Jesus was offering an uncritical endorsement of the emperor Tiberius. And if you watched the recent repeat of the BBC series I Claudius you will know what a brutal and immoral man he was. Rather Jesus was pointing to the possibility of seeking the common good. 

In a democracy that is easy. We enjoy extensive freedoms including regular opportunities to choose who governs us, but that places us in a privileged minority. For some Christians in Hitler’s Germany or in Stalin’s Russia, seeking the common good involved opposition to the government leading to imprisonment or death. Today many people live in oppressive regimes, where voting can change little and minorities face persecution. Think of Muslims in India or Christians in Iran and Pakistan. In situations such as those, seeking the welfare of the city may well involve risky and sacrificial opposition. A Chinese citizen who questioned his government’s human rights record would place himself or herself in jeopardy.

What we are called to render to Caesar isn’t unquestioning obedience. Today’s Gospel challenges us to think about how the freedom to question which we enjoy, and which many do not, should best be used in our political life. It shouldn’t be about entrapment or humiliation.  

The great 20th century spiritual writer Thomas Merton wrote that:

“Love knows no question. It is the ground of all, and questions arise only insofar as we are divided, absent, estranged, alienated from that ground.”

In a fallen and divided world, it remains both possible and necessary to question in a constructive way. Our questioning should be sincere, arising from a genuine desire for truth and not from the wish to score a point. The best questioning is a prelude to listening; listening to those whose views and policies we find uncongenial or challenging; listening not only to the powerful but to those whose voices are drowned out by the powerful. That kind of questioning, that kind of listening, acknowledges our common humanity as children of God and acknowledges the call to love our neighbour which arises from that. By questioning in that way, we can both render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s. 


 


 

Zoom Harvest Liturgy for Tuesday 17th October 2023 at 4pm

Zoom Worship October 2023 ‘Harvest’    see email for login deatils

Introit: Festive music for Trumpet and Organ

LOBE DEN HERREN played by Hans Huber and Norbert Duchtel

Welcome

O Lord, open thou our lips;

And our mouths shall shew forth thy praise.

O God, make speed to save us;

O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

Praise thee the Lord;

The Lord’s name be praised.

Hymn

We plough the fields, and scatter The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered By God’s almighty hand; 

He sends the snow in winter, The warmth to swell the grain, 

The breezes and the sunshine, And soft refreshing rain:

All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, 

Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love.

He only is the Maker
Of all things near and far,
He paints the wayside flower, He lights the evening star.
The winds and rains obey him, By him the birds are fed; 

Much more to us, his children, He gives our daily bread:

All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, 

Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love.

We thank thee then, O Father, For all things bright and good; 

The seed-time and the harvest, Our life, our health, our food. 

No gifts have we to offer

For all thy love imparts,
But that which thou desirest, Our humble, thankful hearts:

All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, 

Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love.

Text Matthias Claudius (1740 – 1815) tr Jane Campbell (1817 – 1878); Tune WIR PFLUGEN by Johnann A P Schulz (1747 – 1800) harmonised J B Dykes (1832 – 76)

Psalm 150 (sung by Durham Cathedral Choir; music by C V Stanford)

O praise God in his holiness: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him in his noble acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him in the sound of the trumpet: praise him upon the lute and harp. Praise him in the cymbals and dances: praise him upon the strings and pipe. Praise him upon the well-tuned cymbals: praise him upon the loud cymbals. Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be: world without end, Amen.

Reading 1 Isaiah 35:1-10

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord,

the majesty of our God.

3 Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart,

‘Be strong, do not fear! ...

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

6 then the lame shall leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;

7 the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

8 A highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it,

but it shall be for God’s people;

no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray ...

but the redeemed shall walk there.

10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain joy and gladness,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Magnificat

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord: Unnumbered blessings, give my spirit voice; Tender to me the promise of his word;
In God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his name: Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done; His mercy sure, from age to age the same;
His holy name, the Lord, the Mighty One.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might: Powers and dominions lay their glory by; Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight, The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word: Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord To children’s children and for evermore.

Text by Timothy Dudley Smith (b 1926) Tune WOODLANDS by Walter Greatorex (1877-1949)

Reading 2 Joel 2:21-28

21 Do not fear, O soil;

be glad and rejoice,

for the Lord has done great things!

22 Do not fear, you animals of the field,

for the pastures of the wilderness are green;

the tree bears its fruit,

the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

23 O children of Zion, be glad

and rejoice in the Lord your God;

for he has given the early rain for your vindication,

he has poured down for you abundant rain,

the early and the later rain, as before.

24 The threshing-floors shall be full of grain,

the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

25 I will repay you for the years

that the swarming locust has eaten,

the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,

my great army, which I sent against you.

26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,

and praise the name of the Lord your God,

who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again

be put to shame.

27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,

and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.

And my people shall never again

be put to shame.

28 Then afterwards

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,

and your young men shall see visions.

NuncDimittis (sung by the choir of Clare College, Cambridge)

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace: according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen; thy salvation. Which thou hast prepared: before the face of all people; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles: and to be the glory of thy people Israel. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

Prayers

The Lord be with you;

Answer. And with thy spirit.

Minister. Let us pray.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.

The Lord’s Prayer

As our Saviour Christ hath commanded and taught us we are bold to say:

Our Father, which art in heaven hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
Amen.

O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us;

And grant us thy salvation.

O Lord, save the King;

And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.

Endue thy Ministers with righteousness;

And make thy chosen people joyful.

O Lord, save thy people;

And bless thine inheritance.

Give peace in our time, O Lord;

Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.

O God, make clean our hearts within us;

And take not thy Holy Spirit from us. 

ANTHEM by Maurice Greene sung by St Salvator’s College Choir.

“Thou visitest the earth and blessest it; and crownest the year with thy goodness.”

Let us pray.
O Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us the fruits of the earth in their season, and hast crowned the year with thy goodness: give us grateful hearts, that we may unfeignedly thank thee for all thy loving-kindness, and worthily magnify thy holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost promise that when two or three are gathered together in thy Name thou wilt grant their requests: Fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen.

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercies defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hymn

Come ye thankful people, come, 

Raise the song of harvest-home! All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied; 

Come to God’s own temple, come; 

Raise the song of harvest home!

We ourselves are God’s own field, 

Fruit unto his praise to yield; 

Wheat and tares together sown, 

Unto joy or sorrow grown;

First the blade and then the ear, 

Then the full corn shall appear: 

Grant, O harvest Lord, that we 

Wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, 

And shall take his harvest home; 

From his field shall purge away 

All that doth offend that day; 

Give his angels charge at last

In the fire the tares to cast, 

But the fruitful ears to store 

In his garner evermore.

Then, thou Church triumphant, come, 

Raise the song of harvest-home;
All is safely gathered in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin, 

There for ever purified

In God’s garner to abide:
Come, ten thousand angels, come, 

Raise the glorious harvest-home!

Text Henry Alford (1810 – 71) Tune ST GEORGE’S WINDSOR by George Job Elvey (1816 – 93)

The Grace

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.

Closing music

A harvest medley from the Cumberland Choir with the London Festival Orchestra