Sadly due to the coronavirus pandemic and following guidance from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, all public worship, ministries and activities at St Matthews have been suspended for the foreseeable future. During that time we will be posting the weekly Collect, Homily and readings here.
ST MATTHEW'S CHURCH
Newsletter and virtual service for
Sunday 31 May 2020
Pentecost Sunday / Whit Sunday
God our saviour,
look on this wounded world
in pity and in power;
hold us fast to your promises of peace
won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
6Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; 6and the prophet Jeremiah said, ‘Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfil the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. 7But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.
9As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.’
1 My song shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord:
with my mouth will I proclaim your faithfulness
throughout all generations.
2 I will declare that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness as firm as the heavens.
3 For you said: ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
4 ‘ “Your seed will I establish for ever
and build up your throne for all generations.” ’
15 Happy are the people who know the shout of triumph:
they walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance.
16 In your name they rejoice all the day long
and are exalted in your righteousness.
17 For you are the glory of their strength,
and in your favour you lift up our heads.
18 Truly the Lord is our shield;
the Holy One of Israel is our king.
12Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
20When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
40‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’
Whoever welcomes you
I was a stranger and you welcomed me
(Jesus, Matthew 25:35)
“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me...”
(Jesus, Matthew 10:40)
Bethlehem is wherever there is “no room”.
(Ken Leech, We Preach Christ Crucified)
AFTER SO many months of locked church doors, it was very, very good to welcome people back into St Matthew’s this week. (Obviously from a socially appropriate distance!) To open those blue church doors wide and finally welcome people into God's house (for individual prayer) was a quiet joy!
I couldn’t help notice that “welcome” is also a keyword in today's very short gospel reading-Jesus uses this word six times in just three verses, and so this is where I will start today!
RADICAL WELCOME and open hospitality are cornerstones of Jesus' ministry in the New Testament. In the gospels, Jesus freely spends time with (and even breaks bread with) anyone and everyone. He especially welcomes those on the margins of society; the sick, the social and religious outcasts, and the poor and hungry – all groups that the living God of the Bible shows a particular concern for.
What Jesus was doing here was absolutely not the equivalent of 1st century liberal inclusiveness, charity or political correctness – it was a powerful and dramatic statement that in the Kingdom of God, there will be no outcasts or rejects.
History tells us that this was not a popular move! And Jesus surely knew that this radical welcoming of the rejected “other” would bring him into conflict with respectable society-the religious and social systems of his day. (See Matthew 9:10–11 or Luke 7 v34 for some of the shocked & outraged responses to his approach!)
But Jesus does not back down. And in Matthew 25, (v 35–40) Jesus even states that how we welcome-or reject-vulnerable and powerless people speaks volumes about our true relationship with God. We see this idea at work again in today’s reading,
(M 10: 40–42) as Jesus sends his followers out into the world, to be accepted-or rejected.
With this theme in mind, here is a tragic and topical story of a time in its history in which the Church of England failed to show the kind of radical welcome to others that we see in the ministry of Jesus, which Anglicans today can hopefully reflect upon, learn from-and change for the better.
THIS WEEK began with Windrush Day (22nd June) – a day to honour the British Caribbean Community, and to celebrate their immense contributions to British society and culture.
On June 22nd 1948, several hundred people arrived from the Caribbean to live in Britain, on board HMT Empire Windrush. After the horrors of World War Two, Caribbean people who had served in the British armed forces were encouraged to come to Britain and help to rebuild the UK.
The Church of England was in a particularly strong position to welcome and engage with the newcomers; a large percentage of the new arrivals were Christians, and Anglicanism was widely practised amongst Windrush arrivals. (In Barbados particularly, Anglicanism had a strong presence and following among sections of the working class.)
And yet while some of the Windrush generation were warmly welcomed into the life of Anglican parish churches, for others it was a very different story, and a deeply painful experience.
Many newcomers – like Doreen Browne – faced humiliating and very public rejection at the doors of Anglican parish churches, and exclusion from the life of the church community. So much so, that this year the Archbishop of Canterbury publicly apologised for the church’s role in failing to be a witness for Christ during this period of modern British history.
IT IS a cautionary and sorry tale. But it is one we can learn from. But from the perspective of today, it does indeed look like the Church of England lost its nerve at a critical moment in British social history, and opted for the kind of false peace that Jesus and the prophets frequently warn us against. (See last week's reading) Many Bishops, clergy and parishioners failed to welcome as Jesus did, and it seems they took the easy road of not rocking the boat, perhaps unwilling or unable to entertain the kind of radical welcome we see at work in the ministry and teachings of Jesus.
But the good news is that today, a great many Anglican parish churches are now actively involved in grassroots community building, campaigns for social and racial justice and making connections with the most vulnerable in our society, especially across London. There are many inspiring stories where the local parish church has been (and is) a powerful voice for those in most need, not turning them away but actively standing with them in their hour of deepest human need.
And here’s an exciting thought – very soon, (we hope – watch this space!) the doors of our church will be opening wide once again; who will we be welcoming through our doors, in the name of Christ? Where will we see his face in the streets of Ealing today?
And if a stranger in dire human need comes through those doors – what are we going to do about it?
In faith and hope and love, let us find out together!
Yours in Christ,