Category Archives: Worship

Sermon by the Rev Dr Angela Birkin 27th October 2019 – The Eucharist (Part 4)

Notes from the sermon by the Rev Dr Angela Birkin 27th October 2019 – The Eucharist (Part 4)

Introduction to the Eucharist

We are here this morning to celebrate together the Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper, or the Mass.

In celebrating the Eucharist, we will be drawing on traditions some of which go back to the first Christians, some of which are more recent, many of which have been rediscovered and recovered in the last century or so.

Such as the wearing of vestments – which were derived from clothing worn by civic leaders in the Rome of Emperor Constantine and were adopted by the new official religion of Christianity, taking on a new significance.

Our music may have its origins in medieval plainsong, choral music of the renaissance, the hymn writing of the 18th and 19th century, local folk music or modern pop and rock music and may be played on the organ, the cello, the guitar, the piano, drums or any number of other instruments or no instruments at all. Music may be played live or be recorded.

We may or may not light candles, burn incense, or process around our church buildings.

Our church buildings may be large or small, old or modern, very many such as St Michael’s and St Chad’s and the previous building on this site were built by the Victorians in the gothic style. Our buildings may have stained glass windows, icons, statues or other works of art or may be very plain.

We may bow, kneel, cross ourselves, genuflect or put our hands in the air at various points in the service or we may not. We may use computers and TV screens utilizing PowerPoint with video clips or we may use worship booklets or folders. None of these are right; none of these are wrong. None of these are essential, all have a place in Christian worship

What occurs here may look very different to what is happening this morning at St Michael or St Chad’s but is essentially the same. And is in fact essentially the same as the worship that will take place in Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic Churches all over the world and has taken place in churches back through the centuries.

We gather together with a President, there are readings from the New Testament and possibly from the Hebrew Scriptures, the OT, there is a sermon or talk or reflection, we pray together and share the peace, bread and wine are brought to the table, the president gives thanks over them and they are distributed to those present, and may then be taken out to those who are not present for example due to sickness. You’ll be glad to know that a collection was taken from very early times.

Within an Anglican service the prayers will usually include confession – saying sorry, praise, and intercession for others, and the prayer over the bread and wine, the Eucharistic or thanksgiving prayer will be one approved by the national church.

All prayer will be in the name of the triune God praying to God the creator, through the Son in the power of the Spirit.

Spoiler alert for part 2 of my talk later but I believe that God, the one true God who is love is present in a very special way in this service and that has consequences!

Readings:

Andrei Rublev’s famous icon Abraham’s three visitors at the oaks of Mamre

Andrei Rublev’s famous icon of Abraham’s three visitors at the Oaks of Mamre

2 quotes from our reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians written probably around 54 to 55AD so only just over 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, “Do this in remembrance of me”, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

I find it a bit mind boggling, thrilling and very moving that in this Eucharist this morning we are worshipping God and remembering what God has done for us through Jesus Christ not only in the same way as Christians all over the world today, but also in the same way as the first Christians at the time of Paul; breaking and sharing of bread and drinking wine. Not exactly the same of course but there is significant continuity.

Bread and wine were normal elements of a Jewish meal at the time of Jesus, and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the early church appears to have developed out of a whole range of associations between Jesus and eating and drinking:

  • The last supper of course, but also
  • Many meals with all kinds of people during Jesus’ earthly ministry
  • Miraculous feedings by Jesus – the feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle story of Jesus that is recorded in all 4 Gospels
  • Jesus’ use in his teaching of the picture of the kingdom of God as a feast or wedding banquet, and
  • The resurrection meals – several of Jesus’ resurrection appearances are accompanied by eating such as the meal with the two disciples at Emmaus which we have heard this morning

The first Christians probably met in private homes to share the bread and wine, but when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire following the conversion of the Emperor Constantine church buildings were constructed using the template of the basilica, a secular building rather than the template of the pagan temple, and keeping of the Lord’s Supper settled into a weekly pattern on the Lord’s Day, the day of resurrection.

I am not going to recount 1500 years of church history you will relieved to know, but as Anglicans we need to be aware that the Church of England is both reformed and catholic, and therefore contains individual congregations with very different styles of worship and different beliefs about what happens to the bread and wine during the prayer of consecration.

Indeed, any given congregation is likely to include people with different views about the bread and wine which will affect how they receive them. If a church or an individual believes that there is an objective change in the bread and wine, they will tend to be very careful in how the bread and wine are shared, preventing spillage as much as possible and will treat consecrated bread and wine with reverence.

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who was hugely responsible for the Book of Common Prayer which is still a very important prayer book of the Church of England, believed that the bread and wine don’t change at all, but that, as we receive them by eating and drinking, we truly receive the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual way. As Cranmer put it, we “feed on him in our hearts, through faith.”

Whatever our own understanding of what happens when we receive the bread and wine it is important to know that everything we receive at the Eucharist is the gift of God, and is the result of the grace and love of God.

At this point it is also important to say that to receive the full benefits of Holy Communion you do not have to receive both the bread and the wine. In eating the bread or in drinking the wine you make your communion, and the smallest portion is sufficient. This can be very important if a person is unwell or otherwise limited in what they are able to eat and drink.

How often should one receive Holy Communion? That is for the individual to decide. How often we make our Communion does not necessarily indicate how highly we value Holy Communion as those who receive once a quarter may prepare themselves very thoroughly for doing so seeing it as a high point in their Christian journey. In the Church of England non-Eucharistic services such as those of said Morning and Evening Prayer, and sung Matins and Evensong allowed people to worship God and to prepare themselves for the sometimes rarer service of Holy Communion. As a child in the choir of my local church I experienced the service of Holy Communion only every other Sunday, with the service of Matins on the other Sundays.

Over recent decades the Eucharist has been affirmed as the regular main Sunday service in the Church of England, but now some churches are looking again at having a non-Eucharistic service as their main Sunday service perhaps with a said service of Holy Communion earlier or later that same day. This happens at St Chad’s as once a month their Parish Praise service at 9.30am is non-Eucharistic but follows their regular 8am service of Holy Communion.

So, with alternatives available – why the Eucharist?
It is a gift to us from God. In baptism we are incorporated into the body of Christ in a once-for-all sacrament; the Eucharist is the sacrament of ongoing incorporation, where Christ takes us to himself by giving us his very self. In the Eucharist, as in his earthly life, Christ comes to be with us, and through his presence, to unite us to God and to one another.

In the Eucharist we are all guests at God’s table, Christ is the host, the priest is not the host, Christ is. In Andrei Rublev’s famous icon Abraham’s three visitors at the oaks of Mamre are seated around a table on which there is a bowl which resembles a chalice. Jesus is in the centre, the person of the Holy Spirit to the right in robes of blue and green, the person of the Father, the creator in rather diaphanous robes to the left. There is a place for us for each one of us at this table. We are all invited, each one of us, and that invitation, that gracious invitation from God to each one of us gives us all dignity in our individuality.

We are all affirmed by God, and therefore we are to affirm the value of each other, of all people, and in our Communion with God we are to become a community, affirming and supporting each other. We are helped to do this by God who comes to us in bread and wine, and who in the person of the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts and minds if invited.

This physical demonstration of the equality and dignity of all people before God in the Eucharist was important to the first Christians when many were poor or slaves, and that importance is still great today.
We are physical beings with bodies and the fact that in the Eucharist we not only say or think something, but also do something in remembrance of Jesus is significant. As much as I enjoy singing and hearing a good sermon the use of action, of symbol, of something that is tangible can greatly enrich our worship and our understanding of God’s grace.

For example, I was very struck by the reflection of Father Christopher here on Maundy Thursday that when we lift our hands to receive the bread or the cup we often form our hands into a cradle as if to receive a baby or to cradle the head of someone who is ill or dying. The bodily action of receiving the broken body of Christ into our cradled hands can speak to our hearts like nothing else.

And when we eat the bread and drink the wine, we utilize our senses of taste and smell and sight – receiving Holy Communion is a very bodily experience as well as a profound spiritual experience.

I also know from personal experience that being brought Holy Communion at home when unable to attend services due to illness is hugely important in the demonstration of worth and dignity in the sight of God and the community of God’s church, and of the presence of God in all circumstances good and bad.

Receiving from God and forming community with each other is not the end of the Eucharist however, for accepted and affirmed by God, fed and energized by God we are then sent out to take God’s saving love into the world in thanks for all that God has done for us. The word ‘Eucharist’ is derived from the Greek word for thanks, it is the least that we can do, knowing that we can come back again and again to be fed for our life’s journey and work.

In the Eucharist we remember and celebrate and give thanks for what God in Christ achieved in his life, death and resurrection, and we look forward to the day when God’s kingdom will come and we will all sit together at God’s table dedicating ourselves to work for that day.


If you would like to find out more about this series then please visit Phil Gardner’s site.

All Hallows’ “Last Supper” Style Service

A blog post by our “reporter” Ramona:

This last Sunday (20/10/19) we at All Hallows had a “last supper” style service with a twist. We started as usual in the church space but instead of being seated facing the altar, we stood in a circle very similar to how we stand when receiving the Eucharist. Janet Lindley gave a mini-sermon and we had the confession.

After that, we made our way to the edible food-waste cafe, Rainbow Junktion, that is connected to All Hallows to gather in small groups of about 4/5. On our way into the cafe, we firstly all washed our hands in a symbolic, and also hygienic, gesture.

Firstly, we made the soda bread by sieving the flour, adding the milk and butter and mixing/kneading it into dough. The 2 children in my group loved this bit the most with Hannah making a heart shaped loaf with a smiley face and Aiden making a round loaf, also with a smiley face. They looked fantastic, as did everyone else’s. After that, we all prepared the veg by chopping it up into very small pieces. The children got involved, under constant supervision, and did an excellent job. We may have some budding future Nigella Lawsons and Jamie Olivers amongst our members. We all have Tim to thank for making our pans full of veg into a yummy stew.

Some people, both children and adults alike, either didn’t fancy preparing food or missed out due to lack of space in the cafe so some of those went and sat in the chapel for some quiet contemplation and/or reading and some went back into the church hall to make place mats for our meal. They were all made beautifully and very creative too.

While waiting for our meal, Heston gave thanks to God for the bread, wine (grape juice) and for us and our wonderful lives. We sang the Taize chant “Eat this bread, drink this cup” which then goes onto say “Come to us and never be hungry. Eat this bread, drink this cup, trust in Him and you will not thirst” which got quite comical at one point as we usually only sing it through twice but because the stew was taking a little longer than anticipated, we had to sing it about 5/6 times which even had Heston smiling about it. Irony, as I for one was very hungry.

The fabulous idea for this “service with a twist” came from our self-styled Wednesday group, “The Wednesday Wombats’. It consists of Alice Marwick, Anna Bland, Evie Russel-Cohen, Janet Lindley, Phil Gardner, Toby Parsons and Tim Burt.

Everyone enjoyed this “Eucharistic themed” service which was in the middle of the 6 services exploring the Eucharist All Hallows are currently running and sat very nicely alongside our Eucharist story.

I thought it was a good idea to quote some All Hallows regulars with their words of praise.

“My son (Aiden) and I really enjoyed today. Doing stuff together as a small group was really good and the prayers felt very meaningful as we all paused and came together as a big church. Yes please to doing this again”

“It was great indeed. So well organised and thought through and constantly interpersonal”

“It’s really amazing!’

“Yes, it was great”

As well as our regular faces, we welcomed a good few new ones too. A brill time was obviously had by all, from our youngest member, a mere few weeks old, to our most mature of 80+!
All there is left to say now is,
“Heston, when is the next one?”

Ramona


Click here to see more about this amazing celebration


If you would like to find out more about this series then please visit Phil Gardner’s site.

Sunday 20th October 2019 – The Eucharist (Part 3)

On Sunday 20th October we had the third in the Reflections on the Eucharist series entitled “The Open Table”. It’ was a slightly different service – we prepared and then shared a simple vegetarian meal together and our worship combined the preparation and eating of the meal with prayers and readings. There was also space for quiet reflection, and some creative activities.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Reading:
Luke 14:12-24

Reflection by Janet:

Today we’ve been gathering, baking, cooking, decorating, moving tables and chairs, preparing to share a meal together. All very ordinary things, but our reading today reminds us of the extraordinary in the sharing of a meal together.

Our reading tells the story of a man hosting a feast. A wedding banquet. And he wants this to be an amazing celebration. The food is prepared. The table is set.

The invitations are sent out. To important guests. To close friends. Special guests for a special occasion. To fill the room for an amazing party.

But in our story, the people on the invite list send their replies and the worst thing happens – the answer is no, they’re not coming. They are too busy. They have their own things to attend to, their own concerns. They have their work, their businesses to run. They have family and a farm to look after.

But our host is not daunted. The party must go ahead. The room must be full – there is a wedding to celebrate. The table is ready.

So the servants are sent out, to gather people from the streets. The ordinary are the ones who show up, who fill the room, sit at the table, who make the party happen.

As with lots of stories from Jesus, this isn’t just about a couple celebrating their wedding. It is pointing us towards something else. The wedding feast is a picture of Gods kingdom, God’s world order.

This kingdom is the one that began with Jesus, is continuing to come into being now, and will ultimately be completed when Jesus returns, when God finishes his work of bringing about this God’s world order.

In the wedding feast, the servants went out to find everyone who would come. The exclusive guest list for the party was torn up. And this kingdom of God, like the wedding feast, it isn’t just for the VIPs or special friends. The invitation is for us all.

And now, today, as we share our meal together, we are reminding ourselves of this party that started with Jesus. Where everyone is on the guest list. Where we are all welcome. We are all are invited to sit at the table.

The question for us is what is our RSVP? Will we take our place at the table? Will we say yes? Will we say yes to the invitation?

Comments

“…really enjoyed today. doing stuff together as a small group was really good , and the prayers felt very meaningful as we all paused and came together as a big church”

“… a fantastic service this morning! … it was really meaningful and lovely!”


If you would like to find out more about this series then please visit Phil Gardner’s site.

Sunday 20th October 2019

This Sunday is the third in the Reflections on the Eucharist series. It’ll be a slightly different service – we’ll be preparing and then sharing a simple vegetarian meal together. Our worship will combine the preparations and eating with prayers and readings. There’ll also be space for quiet reflection, and some creative activities (aimed at Kids Church, but open to all).

You don’t need to do anything in advance or bring any food – that’ll all be provided. Though if you have time you might want to look at The Feast of Life and Love, the mini-website for the Reflections on the Eucharist series.

Please do come on Sunday at 10:30am prepared for things to be a little different, and open to trying it out!

The whole service, including eating and tidying up, will last longer than normal – but not much different from if you stayed for refreshments on another Sunday. If you can only come for part of it, that’s of course fine, although it’d be great if we could all share the food we’ve made together.

Feel free to ask any questions in advance, and hope to see you on Sunday!

Sermon by Anna Bland 13th October 2019 – The Eucharist (Part 2)

Notes from the sermon by Anna Bland 13th October 2019 – The Eucharist (Part 2 – Kingdom Economics)

Readings:
Mark 6:30–44
1 Cor 11:17–26

Hello for those who don’t know me I am Anna.
I’ve been asked to talk to you about kingdom economics and the Eucharist. The symbol of self-giving love and a meal shared by friends on that fateful night which has resulted in two thousand years if us doing the same.
The gospel reading today is about a different meal shared by 5,000. Thousands fed with a meagre 5 loaves and two fishes.
In my reading for this sermon I came across a theological view I’d never heard before.
Rather than Jesus doing a miraculous multiplication of bread and fish, Jesus sharing the generosity of the young boy to inspire all to share what was in their bags and all were fed as a result.

To quote Myers the theologian who shared this view: ‘the only miracle here is the triumph of the economy of sharing within the context of a community of consumption.’
I love this.
It speaks of a Jesus who isn’t showing off his miraculous power but inspiring a change in each of us.
Making everyone more generous with those around them.
He’s helping us to create community through generosity -something that I think many of us would admit we don’t find easy.
The crowd is likely to have been a real diverse mix of Galilean society:
young, old, male, female, rich, poor, people born in Galilee, people not born in Galilee.
But all shared as equals.
It made me wonder:
Where in our lives could we eat alongside those who different from us?
I believe in this story as in many others Jesus is challenging us to seek out and be generous with those who challenge our view of the world, making us all more well-rounded and compassionate people.
We’re part of a culture built around consumption and forcing us to desire more and more, so never has this been more challenging.
Economist Grace Blakely said at Greenbelt that capitalism as a system is broken.
It’s a system based around gain for the rich and with the poorest paying the price, something we see reflected around the world today.
Unequal trade deals, tax havens, extreme weather hitting poor regions and some rich governments doing nothing – I could go on.
Since the financial crash Blakeley states in Britain the only people who are significantly wealthier are the wealthiest, so the average worker is no better off, the vulnerable are often far worse off due to government policy but the richest few are richer.
How different this is from the generosity of those listening to Jesus on the hill that day 2000 years ago.
One word really stands out to me in that story: all were ‘satisfied’ after the meal.
Not some were stuffed and some remained hungry but ALL were satisfied.
It speaks to us of a system running in a different way, on kingdoms economics rather than earthly economics.
This idea is reflected in 1 Corinthians where Paul chastises them for their Eucharist meals where some, the richer individuals in the party, are full and drunk while others leave the meal hungry.
This has implications for us. Where are we greedy and full, leaving others hungry?
Or do we ever feel that we’re leaving the table hungry?
Where in our lives, in our local communities, can we adopt a system of kingdom economics rather than earthly economics?
One way is as a consumer, as Christians partaking in the Eucharist we are contributing to this global system: where is our bread produced?
Who made the wine?

Gorringe has some strong words for us on this topic: ‘bread which takes from the poor for the consumption of the rich is not the bread of life but bread of death.
In that case our worship is not a Eucharist but idolatry and worship of mammon.’
His words do offer a significant challenge to me and force me to think not only about where my bread and wine come from, but also my veg, tea, coffee, clothes -I could go on.
I believe we’re called to understand our place in the world and in this complex capitalism system and do the best we can to create a more beautiful and equal world from where we are.
One of the reasons the Capitalist system is broken, says Blakeley, is due to climate change and the ecological disasters which are already happening, and are predicted to get worse.
She shared a terrifying message for the future but also her more hopeful view that through this disaster comes opportunity:
because powerful people are now seeing that the capitalism system is leading us to death and destruction and we NEED something different.
It’s no longer optional.
Many here I think would say “about time, and they really need to hurry up.”
With 100 councils declaring a climate emergency and much talk around the green new deal she suggested things are moving in the right direction.

I see a parallel with the child in the feeding of the 5,000 and the young people of today led by Greta Thunberg – the school strikes and their strong views on plastic.
I pray they are leading us to a better, fairer, greener future.
When I read back over this sermon I felt overwhelmed by our responsibility as consumers, campaigners, community members.
And I feared I was only contributing to the feelings of inadequacy many of us feel in the face of such overwhelming problems.
There simply isn’t enough time in the day, week, year or lifetime to make the difference we want in the world.
I believe God sees our intentions for good and even if we don’t hit the mark every time, when we buy something unethical or fail to invite our neighbour in for tea because we are tired, I believe there is always forgiveness and grace.
I leave you with this poem by Thomas Merton, which has relevance for us as individuals but also for our world:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


If you would like to find out more about this series then please visit Phil Gardner’s site.

Sunday 13th October 2019

We will be continuing our series on the eucharist this Sunday at 10:30am when Anna Bland will be sharing her thoughts about the eucharist as “Kingdom Economics”, a divine economy based on sharing, generosity and gift: “you give them something to eat” (Luke 9:13)

If you would like to find out more about this series then please visit Phil Gardner’s site.

Sermon by Paul Magnall 6th October 2019 – The Eucharist (Part 1)

Notes from the sermon by Paul Magnall 6th October 2019 – The Eucharist (Part 1 – Sign of love / Sign of hope)

Readings:
Genesis 9:11-16
Exodus 13:3-16
Acts 2:37–47 

Friday was 4th October the feast of St Francis, the last day of Creation-tide and the time when we focus specifically on God’s Creation, not that we should forget about it for the rest of the year! And Extinction Rebellion will be doing their bit this week to remind us about how we are treating God’s creation.

Today is when we celebrate harvest. We urban dwelling people are more out of touch with the seasons and so harvest might otherwise pass us by especially if we are not involved in growing and harvesting any of our own foods. I will be talking about food today (I never stop thinking about food!) but not so much in connection with harvest.

As I have talked about before, much of our lives, both individual lives and community lives, are guided and influenced by the stories that we tell or are told. If we are brought up to believe that we are superior to everyone else then we will live that way. If we are told that we are worthless when we are young then that is what we are likely to believe as we grow up. If we are part of a nation who believe that they were a great nation once upon a time and that now we have lost our influence in the world then we may well believe that we need to make our nation great again. Some of the stories that influence us are quite obvious, some are much more hidden and subtle.

So today “I wanna tell you a story”!

“Way, Way back many centuries ago, not long after the Bible began!” (Catherine plays tune)

The story of the Bible starts with Creation, something we have been looking at over the last month during Creation tide. The creation story ends with Adam and Eve walking with God in the garden, in paradise. But then things go wrong

Time passes and a very wealthy Jacob with his many wives and sons are living together tending their sheep. Joseph is brought up believing himself to be Jacob’s favourite son and so he acts in a way that really gets his brothers backs up and they try to do away with him. To cut a long story short, as we don’t have the time this morning and I can’t do the whole Bible in half an hour like Heston does, the whole of Jacob’s family end up abandoning their lifestyle and moving to Egypt where they are welcomed. Time passes, Jacobs descendants have increased in numbers and the Egyptians feel threatened by these “refugees” that they welcomed in and so they make them into slaves and all male offspring are killed. Along comes Moses and after some further amazing stories and not a few plagues the Israelites leave Egypt for the wilderness. A new story emerges of how God has chosen them and rescued them from slavery. This is a great new story to live by, they are chosen, special, loved. God is with them. But, and there’s always a but, how will they live in the wilderness? At least in Egypt they had a roof over their heads and some food to eat even if they were slaves!

But God has something else to teach them. The Joy in Enough! Every morning, except the Sabbath, there was enough food for them. It miraculously appeared. There was enough for the day, not too much, not too little, just enough. Except on the day before the Sabbath when there would be enough for the next day as well. We are reminded of this when we pray “give us this day our daily bread” – a prayer for enough, not too much, not too little – a prayer that we should be satisfied with enough.

And so for forty years the people of Israel wander in the desert learning to trust in God, learning how to live in community sharing what they have and that they could live on enough.

Jewish tradition grew from this. Every Sabbath the family would sit together and remember parts of the story of the Exodus using the food of their meal as symbols. For example, in the Sabbath meal on the Friday night they have two loaves of bread to remind themselves that God gave two lots of manna on the day before the Sabbath.

And each year Jewish families celebrate the Passover, Pesach Sedar, with a meal with even more symbolism. Examples include
• bitter herbs to represent the bitterness of slavery in Egypt,
• unleavened bread to represent the speed with which the Israelites had to pack up and leave Egypt, they didn’t have time to let the bread rise
• Salt water to represent the tears of the slaves
• Cushions on the seats to show that they can now recline in comfort at their meal since they are no longer slaves

Pesach Sedar, the Passover meal, is celebrated in many different ways across the world with added symbolism according to the history of that Jewish community eg an additional cup of wine known as Miriam’s cup is used in some communities to symbolise Miriam’s Well and the role of women in the Exodus story.

There is so much symbolism and storytelling in this meal and this has sustained Jewish communities over the centuries through all the good times and the bad times.

So let us go back to the time of Jesus and the stories that the Jewish community were telling themselves at that time, and the way in which Jesus wove old and new meaning into the story.

The Jews were again being oppressed. This time they weren’t slaves in a foreign land, they were living in their own homeland, the land that God had promised them but they were being ruled over by yet another invader – the pagan Romans.

The Romans allowed the Jews a certain amount of religious freedom but they were definitely in charge. They imposed their own rules which often contradicted the religious rules of the time. They taxed everyone. They took over land to grow food and wine to export back to Rome. They set about factory fishing the lakes for fish to in order to send them back to Rome. They were the supreme colonialists. And if anyone contradicted them or opposed them they had the military machine to impose “Roman Peace” and to remind everyone that Caesar was the all-powerful “Son of God”.

The Passover meal gained importance for many Jews as it gave them hope, if God could rescue them from the Egyptians He could do it again with the Romans. It inspired some to resist the Romans, every Passover festival the Romans had to send extra troops to Jerusalem in order to enforce their “Roman Peace”.

Into this situation came Jesus. He reminded the Jews of their story, often re-interpreted it and brought new meaning. Let’s look at a few examples:
• In feeding the 4000 and 5000 he reminded them of the story of God feeding them in the wilderness with manna from heaven, that God supplies all their needs, that they should have “Joy in Enough”. Their wealth was not in material things but in being a community walking with God.
• In listening to, speaking to and healing people from all races, all backgrounds, all walks of life – the untouchables, the women, the foreigners, the oppressors, the other – Jesus reminded them that God is the creator of all and the lover of all Creation.
• Jesus told them that to be the children of God you should love your enemies and pray for them since God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt 5:45)

Jesus told a story of a chosen people that was different from the one that the Jewish community were living by at the time. The narrative of Jesus was about a God who loved all of creation, who provided for all and that we should all respond by loving and caring for all of creation and each other. And this narrative got him into a lot of trouble!

So, back to food!

According to the synoptic gospels the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples was a Passover meal or Pesach Sedar. Jesus took the meal that his fellow Jews ate to remember their time as slaves in Egypt and to celebrate that God chose them as a people and led them out of Egypt, into the wilderness and then onto the promised land, Jesus took that meal and gave it what was to become a new narrative, a new story for his followers. In the Jewish Passover those taking part would discuss the symbolism of the meal – the roasted lamb, the unleavened bread, the wine, the bitter herbs. In the meal that Jesus celebrated with his followers Jesus did the same but differently. He talked of the bread as being his body, of the wine as his blood – as I understand it he was redefining the symbols as speaking of what was happening to him. He was saying “I am bringing to this meal a new understanding, a new narrative, a new story. Use these symbols to retell my story in the same way that Jews have retold their story for centuries before.” Of course, the disciples were so wrapped up in their traditional narrative they didn’t understand until after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The early Christian Church was mostly made up of Jewish followers of Jesus and they would have celebrated the Sabbath and the Passover in the traditional Jewish way but with a Christian narrative. As the church grew and non-Jewish Christians grew in number their practice would have been different as they wouldn’t have had that Jewish tradition, that Jewish narrative to guide them.

Here is a description of early Christian worship from the second century AD.

Early Christian worship
In the middle of the second century a Christian writer, Justin, explains
Christian practice to the educated Roman public, telling how ‘On that day
which is called after the sun all who are in the towns and in the country
gather together for a communal celebration.’ First the writings of apostles
and prophets are read, ‘as long as time permits’; then follows an
exhortation by the president:
Then we all rise together and pray and, when our prayer is ended,
bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like
manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability,
and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to
each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given,
and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And
they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and
what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the
orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other
cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers
sojouming among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in
need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common
assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a
change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ
our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.
[From The Sign of Love, chapter 1, by Tim Gorringe]

Since that time, as Christianity has spread around the world and met different cultures and sub-cultures, been absorbed into the Roman Empire and other empires as the state religion new narratives, new interpretations and new practices have either sprung up or been imposed. Today all the different “flavours” of Christianity have their own emphasises, their own practices, their own narratives. I come from a background of exclusivity in the celebration of this meal. In the church that I first went to only those who were baptised and were members of that local church could take part in the meal, it was held once a month after the service once everyone else had left and consisted of tiny squares of white sliced bread and tiny thimble like cups of non-alcoholic wine plus lots of words. It had it’s good points and it’s bad points!

We all have our own backgrounds. Some of us have no or very little experience of church practices. Some are from so-called “low” church, some are from “high” church, many of us are from Western traditions but some are from Eastern traditions. We all have our own stories, narratives, interpretations that hopefully speak to us through this meal.

Sign of love / sign of hope
Over thousands of years people have been sustained and inspired by the signs of love and signs of hope that they have found in the Sabbath and Passover meals and the Eucharist or Holy Communion. A meeting place for God and people – God and people sat down together, sharing food and wine, listening to one another and caring for each other, sharing one another’s joys and burdens, recapturing God’s plan for all of Creation. I believe that in these times of political and environmental crisis we need this sign of love and hope more than ever. For me, the story of a faithful God working throughout history, through all sorts of people, continually reminding us of His-Story, his narrative for the world, giving us our daily bread, continually breaking down the barriers between us, giving us new life, new hope – I am reminded of all of this in the simple sharing of bread and wine.

Over the next 6 weeks we would love it if we could share and explore our understanding of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, Mass, Holy Communion, whatever you choose to call this meal. It is a central part of most, but not all, Christian traditions. It is so full of meaning and death and life and resurrection, of symbolism and of power and of the power to change.

Amen


If you would like to find out more about this series then please visit Phil Gardner’s site.

 

Creation Liturgy

The following video is made using part of the liturgy that we use at All Hallows during Creation Season.

In the Beginning

Voice 1: In the beginning, God created.

Voice 2: God spoke, and created the heavens and the earth; light and darkness, day and night; land and sea; sun, moon and stars.

And God saw that it was good.

Voice 1: In the beginning, God created.

Voice 2: God spoke, and plants grew: trees and shrubs, flowers and fruit. And God saw that it was good.

Voice 1: In the beginning, God created.

Voice 2: God spoke again, and the seas filled with fish, birds flew in the sky, and animals of all kinds roamed the earth.

And God saw that it was good.

Voice 1: In the beginning, God created.

Voice 2: God spoke, and created human beings, men, women and children, created in the image of God, given the world to care for.

God saw everything that God had made, and indeed it was very good.

Confession

But we have forgotten to care for the world.

In our mindlessness we are ravaging the earth, poisoning the air, polluting the water.

We are destroying our fellow creatures and ourselves.

God our maker, so move us by the wonder of creation

that we repent and care more deeply.

So move us to grieve the loss of life

that we learn to cherish and protect your world.

(Music used by permission: “O Radiant Dawn” by James MacMillan sung by the St Peter’s Singers on their album One Equal Music)

Which colour?

There has been some debate recently about which colour the vicar’s stole (the “scarf” he wears for services) should be. It’s After Trinity (or Ordinary Time) at the moment but today is Pride Sunday – so which one should Heston wear?

Baptism service

It was with great joy that we were able to share in the baptism of Marcus on Sunday morning. As usual with All Hallows, lots of people ended up getting wet, not just Marcus!

After the service Marcus said “Today has being a very special day, one that I will always cherish and never forgot.”