Intercessions for the last Sunday in Trinity 2020

It’s rather nice to have the opportunity to write some intercessions from scratch this week. So, in case they are of use to others, herewith an approximation to what I will share in a pre-recorded part of our worship this week.

A detail from the screen at St Mary’s Eversley where this week’s service will be livestreamed from, recorded intercessions and all!

If you do use them, in this year or any other, please let me know where and why, and I will remember you in prayer as we share in this ministry together.

Based on the Lectionary readings of 1 Thes 2:1-8 and Matthew 22:34-end

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ,
let us pray to the Father.

We give thanks for those who had the courage to share the Gospel with us, making known the love of Jesus Christ, and helping us to grow in faith and trust in you as our God and King.

We ask you to strengthen those for whom proclaiming the Gospel is dangerous, to the point of having their livelihoods, loved ones and lives threatened, that they might know the courage that comes from seeing others come to faith, prayers answered, and their trust in your justice and mercy fulfilled.

May we, from the safety of comfortable lives, learn to spot the opportunities you give us to share your Gospel, and do so both with boldness and with grace.

God of love
hear our prayer.

We give thanks for those who actions proclaim the Gospel of your love as loud as their words, bringing light where there is darkness, joy where there is sadness, nourishment where there is hunger, hope where there is despair and life where death creeps through the shadows of damaged lives.

We ask you to inspire and encourage those who lead this and all nations to do so with a constant check on their own motivations, a willingness to withstand encouragements to deceive those whose lives have been entrusted into their care, and a humility that doesn’t allow praise, flattery or greed to influence their decisions, their words or their actions.

May we know, with them, that you Lord test our hearts in what we think, and say and do and inspire us all to live out your Gospel of justice, mercy and humility.

God of love
hear our prayer.

We give thanks for all those who work or volunteer in the caring professions at this time, whether in hospice or hospital, care home or college, school or street corner, laboratory or lounge.

We ask you Lord to strengthen their healing hands and hearts as they bring comfort to those in distress, inspire them to explore new ways to bring wholeness to broken limbs and lives, and courage when difficult issues are brought to life.

May we know what it is to be patient with those who are given into our care, to nurse tenderly the pain of those who share their frailties with us, and to pray faithfully for those whom we can’t minister to in other ways.

God of love
hear our prayer.

We give thanks for those whose lives touch ours with fun and fellowship, with love and laughter, with kindness and comfort, in this community and beyond.

We ask that despite the barriers, real and imagined, you will enable us to be bound together as a supportive community, listening to and acting on the needs of others, caring for your creation as revealed in the countryside around us, and encouraging those for whom life feels wasted or wasteful.

As we remember in a moment of silence the needs of those known to us who are grieving, suffering in any way, or struggling to fulfil their vocations to your service and the service of others, may you Lord also help us to know what practical or private assistance we can offer to meet their needs…..

God of love
hear our prayer.

Merciful Father,
Accept te prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Reflections on dew drops and Psalm 19

Psalm 19 (Matthew 21:33-end) 17th after Trinity at St. Mary’s Eversley

It’s been a while since I posted a sermon, but I promised the photographer whose image inspired this weeks 8am reflection that I’d make it available to her, and (for a variety of reasons) this is the simplest way to do so. So…

As the psalmist puts it:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

This week, Paula Southern (someone who in better times visits our bell tower regularly from Crondall to ring), shared a photo on Facebook of dewdrops hanging from a slender spider web, itself suspended across the loop of an iron bird-feeder. Against the morning light the ephemeral jewels of the dew glinted, to be gone again as the sun ran on across the heavens. It captured a moment in someone’s early morning routine that through social media brought joy and beauty to those who couldn’t get up that early, or don’t have those things close at hand in their gardens, or perhaps can’t even get out at all.

Psalm 19 is up there in the list of my favourite Psalms, along with Psalm 8 and Psalm 148 – little jewels in themselves. They celebrate and reflect on the beauty and wonders of God’s creation, the heavens not just in the stars at night but in glorious sunrises and sunsets, and the formation of clouds scudding across the sky. Beauty is something that is not simply ‘in the eye of the beholder’ but often beyond the words of the beholder too, try as we and other poets might. Paradoxically the psalmist points out that the beauty of the heavens and the world around us pours out its own song, sound and words unto the ends of the world itself, and I don’t think the psalmist is referring to the Buzzard’s cry or the Robin’s song that we are so used to when we come to worship here.

Philosophically speaking, this captures the fact that in our humanity we are actually created by God to experience beauty instinctively, and reminds us of the qualities that make something beautiful. As Bishop Christopher Herbert has described it, beauty is “profoundly good in and of itself… points beyond itself to something which is greater… reminds us of our place in the order of things… and reminds us of our relatedness to the world and to other people.”

If we go back to this image of water droplets on a spider’s web… for me at least, those jewelled droplets that Paula photographed were a reminder of the wonders of God’s creation; they brought joy, in and of themselves. But they also pointed toward something greater; to the fact that something so small is created by one of the basic elements of that creation – water – held in tension; and that like them, we need to allow the glory of God to shine on our ephemeral lives. These, our lives, often exist like water held by the tension of the many issues going on around us, and as we are enabled to let the Son of God shines through us, so people can see the beauty, perhaps even a glimpse of the glory of God.

The psalmist goes on to talk about the law, the commandments, and the statues of the Lord, as being pure, bringing joy and renewal to those who in keeping them serve God. Of course in the New Testament, we see that those statutes have been devalued, and a more perfect and better hope is made available to us, by which we draw near to God in Jesus Christ (to paraphrase Hebrews 7:18-19) the true light of the world.

This morning I believe God is reminding us of own ephemeral nature in the context of his creation, but at the same time of the value and purpose of our lives within that. God holds our individual transient humanity, and loves us as we are through Christ who we receive by faith in Holy Eucharist – and that can be the hardest of all things to remember in times of difficulty and hardship, isolation or overwork. But then we’re also linked by that thread of faith, like a sticky cobweb, to the people and places where he wants the love of Jesus to shine, not just on us but through us, to create beauty for others to behold.

We should not presume, as the psalmist strongly hints, to think of ourselves as either unworthy of the place God has made for us in his creation, or as in control of it as to abuse the position we have been entrusted with, at will. We need to hold the right tension between our lifestyles and the decisions we take in the way we govern our lives, and the light of Jesus’ commandment to love him first, and our neighbour, as ourselves.

As we make our confession in a moment, declaring before God our ‘secret faults’ as the psalmist puts it, may we desire more than anything else to make ourselves right with God, so that by whatever thread we are currently hanging, and however transient our lives from this moment, we may be seen as those who shine the beauty of God’s glory into those who encounter us.

Green Tomato Chutney

For over twenty years we’ve been growing enough tomatoes most years to produce ‘GTC’ – Green Tomato Chutney. If we don’t give jars of it to certain friends and relations at Christmas, we get complaints. I had assumed it was pretty well known as a recipe, but from the comments on our Facebook pages this year, apparently not.

So here goes with the whole recipe thing – but remember, this is only a guide! In many years we’ve done an ‘onion free’ version for friends who can’t onion, bulking out the quantities with extra tomatoes and apples. Historically we’ve also done batches with fresh ginger, or Christmas spices. This year, we didn’t have quite enough soft brown sugar, so we used some golden granulated instead because we really couldn’t face going shopping in the rain!

Recipe:
12oz green (ish) tomatoes – chopped
12oz onions – chopped fairly finely
8oz cooking apples – peeled, cored and chopped
12fl oz malt vinegar
12oz soft brown sugar
1.5 level tbs cornflour
3 level tsp ground ginger
1 level tsp salt
0.5 level tsp ground black pepper
0.25 level tsp turmeric
A couple of handfuls of dried fruit – sultanas and raisins

We find we can get 3x recipe in our jam saucepans, and 2x recipe in the largest saucepan we’ve got. We’re very imprecise on the spices – if you like more flavour go heaped on those spoonfuls!

Chop the tomatoes, apples and onions finely.
Place in a pan and cook on a low heat for about half-an-hour. Stir regularly as it will catch, and if it looks like it’s struggling for liquid, add a cup-full of water – we did that with our last (2x) batch today. Add a couple of handfuls of dried fruit.
Put some clean jam jars in the oven at 100c to warm gently – this stuff gets lethal hot, and will crack a jam jar at bottling if you don’t!
Add more than half of the batch’s worth of vinegar, and boil for a further 5 minutes, whilst you…
Blend the cornflour and spices, with the remaining vinegar.
Mix to a slurry, and add with the sugar to the mixture in the pan.
Keep stirring and cook for a further 5 minutes or so.
If the lumps of veg are too chunky or hard, you could take the spud basher to it?!

We use the jam funnel and a ladle to get it into jars. The person in the house with the most ‘asbestos fingers’ get’s to screw the jars on tight. Then leave to cool, wash up and open the windows, if you haven’t already – your house will smell of vinegar for days otherwise!

We always wash down the jars of chutney with hot water when they’ve cooled as I’ve never yet managed to bottle it without getting sticky chutney everywhere. Label when the jars are dry, and store for at least 3 months before trying it – but it can keep for years, if your family and friends don’t get to it first.

To give credit where credit is due, this recipe came from our friends Charlotte and Iain from our Bracknell days, and I can’t remember we where they got it from.

Roasted tomato and garlic sauce

Autumn has arrived, so we finally stripped out the tomatoes from the greenhouse this morning, which left us the rest of the day to process the goods. First up, was our take on a favourite Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall veg recipe with the ripe ones. I think you can jar this, be we don’t – we freeze it in small (3 ladle) amounts, and pop it in stews or use as a soup base during the winter. This is probably the 4th batch of this stuff we’ve made this year – the tomato crop has been immense.

Don’t ask me about quantities, not a clue! But we had enough ripe ones to cover more than 1 of our roasting dishes, so I spread them out across two – the bigger tomatoes are cut in half, and laid out face down. Then I split a whole bulb of garlic across the two dishes – crushed – then drizzled a reasonable quantity of olive oil over the lot. I think the classic HFW recipe involves herbs too, but I’ve never bothered.

I popped them in a hot oven 180c for about a half hour, keeping an eye on them until the top of the tomatoes and some loose garlic bits are slightly crispy. Then comes the slightly faffy bit, where 2 pairs are hands are useful: carefully pour the mushy, liquidy gloop through as sieve placed over a large bowl. Having one person to hold the roasting dish, and one to slide the gloop is ideal.

What we do then is to use a short handled wooden spoon (or my husband prefers a potato masher with our flat-bottomed sieve) to push through as much of the roasted tomato as possible, breaking down the skins, centres and pips until you’ve just got a load of tough husky bits left. You may need to decant to a larger bowl, and you’ll definitely need to scrape the underside of the sieve because that goo is the best bit!

Washing up the sieve is the biggest pain of the whole exercise, but well worth it!

We leave the bowl with cling-film over it to go cold. Then the resulting bowl of flavour-filled gloop is frozen into small batches, and will be added to assorted stews just before the ‘thickening’ stage, all winter long.