St. Mary's Church

Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Sixth Sunday after Trinity

10 Jul 2021 • General news

2 Samuel 6. 1-5, 12b-19

1David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. 3They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart 4with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. 5David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.

12So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; 13and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. 15So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

16As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

17They brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the LORD. 18When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts, 19and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.

Ephesians 1. 3-14

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ 4before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.

5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people to the praise of his glory.

Mark 6. 14-29

14King Herod heard of the healings and other miracles, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ 15But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’

17For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’ 23And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ 24She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’ 25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptizer on a platter.’ 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. 

Stephen Baker

Reflection for Sunday 11th July 2021

Mark 6: 14-29

What does the word ‘pride’ mean to you? What images does it conjure in your mind? It’s a word we use quite a lot, these days. We have ‘gay pride’ marches; a couple of days ago, I got an email in work, telling me that July is ‘Disability Pride Month’; and we are currently in the middle of the delayed European Football Championship, with much attendant talk of ‘National Pride’. As a parent, I am quite keen that my sons should know how proud I am of their achievements.

Yes, we use the word ‘pride’ a lot, and we tend to use it in quite positive ways. We are encouraged by the society in which we live to take pride in ourselves – to be proud of our nation, our contributions, our work. In the early days of the national lockdown, when our hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed, we were encouraged as a nation to show our pride in the work of the NHS, by displaying rainbows and taking part in the weekly ‘clap for carers’. Some days, it seems that we are being encouraged to show pride in many, many different things. Are we in danger of forgetting that pride wasn’t always such a prized attribute?

In the third century, a group of early Christian Hermits formed a loose community in the Scetes Desert of Egypt. They have become known as the ‘Desert Fathers’, and some of their writings have survived to the present day. One of them, Evagrius Ponticus, taught his disciples that there were seven ‘evil spirits’ that needed to be overcome if they wanted to become spiritually pure – each one representing a human vice. One of his disciples brought this list to Europe, where the Roman Church adopted it eagerly. The list became known as ‘the Seven Deadly Sins’ – and Pride is one of the vices on that list. Although we see pride as something positive today, the Early Church instead taught that it was negative, a thing that needed to be conquered.

Ponticus may have had today’s Gospel passage in his mind when he created his list of seven ‘evil spirits’; because it is the story of what happens when a foolish man lets his pride get the better of him. It is a rare example of a story in the Gospels which does not feature Jesus – he is mentioned in the first verse of the passage, and after that doesn’t appear in the story at all. It is doubly rare, because it is also a flashback – the passage mentions that Jesus has been compared to John the Baptist, then tells us that John is dead at the hands of King Herod, then skips back to tell us the exact circumstances of John’s death.

Herod Antipas is a strange figure in the Biblical text. The son of Herod the Great, he stands apart, appearing in the Gospel narrative only rarely, but always having quite an impact when he does. The Gospels call him ‘king’, but that is a title he was actually forbidden from using by the Romans. Film versions of the Gospel story usually portray him as a weak, bitter man, much given to excesses and struggling desperately to hold on to what little power the Romans allow him – think, perhaps, of the late Christopher Plummer portraying him in Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth. It’s a portrayal that owes a lot to this particular Gospel story. Here we see Herod fully giving in to his excesses, throwing a wild birthday party. His daughter dances for him, and Herod, keen to show off for his assembled guests just how proud he is of his daughter, offers her anything she wants. She asks her mother Herodias for advice, and Herodias sees an opportunity for revenge. John the Baptist had made an enemy of Herodias by his public denouncing of her adulterous marriage to Herod, her former brother-in-law. She demanded that Herod place John in custody – and Herod, having done that, but fearing and respecting John as a prophet of God, had refused to punish the man further. So Herodias now persuades her daughter to make a simple, but gruesome, request: John’s head on a plate.

Herod told her she could have anything. She asks for something he had not anticipated, and that he was not entirely willing to give – and Herod, trapped by his pride into making a foolish promise, is further trapped by that same pride when he can see no way out but to give her what she asks for. He doesn’t want to kill John – he’s wary, perhaps even fully afraid, of the spiritual consequences. But his pride, his unwillingness to lose face in front of his guests, makes him unable to refuse. Herod gives in, and gives his daughter what she asks for, and gives his wife the revenge she wanted. He spends a long time in fear that John will return to punish him, which is why the claim of the people that Jesus is a returned prophet, that he is perhaps John himself, makes Herod very worried. Herod was a proud man, but he was also a foolish one, and that foolish pride trapped him into making a stupid promise, with a consequence he regretted deeply.

So what should we take away from this story? “Don’t be proud? ”I’m not sure that’s practical, or achievable, for most of us. We can’t fully get rid of our pride. It’s a part of our human make up, and it can be a good thing – if we take pride in our work, we do a better job; we struggle more on behalf of the things we are proud of. Perhaps we should reflect that Evagrius Ponticus, warning us of those seven evil spirits, those seven Deadly Sins, was warning us about control – control your pride, or have it control you.

Perhaps our take-away from today’s gospel should be “Be proud when it’s appropriate – but don’t be a fool.”

AMEN

Intercessions for Sunday 11 July 2021

Father God,

This morning we gather to worship you.We come together, each of us from our own lives, with our own thoughts, and hopes, and worries. Let us bring all that is on our hearts, before you. Help relieve us of our burdens and clear in our hearts and minds a space to focus on you.

Lord, we pray for your Church across the world. From the large cathedrals to the small chapels, we think of all those who gather together in your name. We give thanks for your love which unites us and helps us come together in person or in prayer. We pray for the leaders of our churches and think especially this weekend of the General Synod of the Church of England meeting in London. Help members to be drawn together through their discussions and in the decisions that they may take. May they work with a deep desire for unity rather than division. Help us also to respect the beliefs of others even if we do not share them, to celebrate what we have in common and accept our differences. Guide us all in our individual ministry, whatever and wherever that may be, so that we live each day determined to spread your love and the good news that you bring.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Lord, we pray for the leaders of the world carrying responsibilities for the lives of their people. We pray especially for those countries experiencing chaos through political division. We bring the people of Haiti before you and ask for your peace in the midst of the power struggles. We pray for leaders of nations still struggling with the Coronavirus and for those having to make decisions about how to deal with its never-ending threat. Help leaders to consider the fear, heartache and suffering experienced by so many. We pray that they would work together to alleviate pain and anxiety always thinking of the weakest first. Help us, whenever we make decisions that affect others, to always think of the common good.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Lord, as the school summer holidays get ever closer, we pray for those in our communities in need of rest and relaxation. We think of families and friends in need or who have not yet been able to see loved ones due to the pandemic. We pray for all those unable to resume normal levels of work and who feel greater anxiety and stress because of finance worries or a feeling of worthlessness. Help us to reach out to those in need, to continue to support foodbanks and charities during this time and to work together to build a community which really is as inclusive, open and generous as your love.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

Lord we pray for the excitement generated by sporting successes that draw people together and provide hope of greater things to come. We think of the England football team facing a first international and we think of Emma Radacanu the young British tennis player who gave so much in her first Wimbledon. We can learn so much from their determination and commitment to use their god given talents well. We give thanks for the talents you have bestowed on each of us. Help us to use them well and not waste them.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Lord we think especially of all those who are sick in body mind or spirit. We pray for those in distress at a recent diagnosis or those who live in constant pain. We pray for any who are in special need of our prayers at this time and especially those known personally to us. We bring them before you now ……

Lord bring them comfort and ease their pain. Be with them through the dark days of treatment and touch them with your healing hands that they may know your soothing presence. Work through the medical staff so all are treated with compassion and patience.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for those whose hearts have been saddened by the death of someone close and dear to them, for members of our families or friends who have died and whose anniversary we recall. Be with all those who grieve. Be with them at those moments when they have no hope for tomorrow and be with them as they begin to come to terms with their loss facing a changed future without the physical presence of the person they loved. We think especially of the family of Trefor Richards as they prepare for his funeral later this week. Send your Holy Spirit to comfort them.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

Lord we pray for ourselves as we go from our worship today to start the week ahead. Be with us in all we do and may we look to walk more closely with you day by day.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,

our Risen Saviour Jesus Christ.