Let us pray..

Address given on 26 September 2021

Readings: James 5: 13 – 20 & Mark 9: 38 – 50

One day a florist decided that he needed a haircut, and headed off went to the barber’s nearby.
After the cut, the barber said to the man, ‘I’m not taking any money from you. This week, my first customer of the day gets a free cut. Nothing to pay’
And the florist left the shop looking tidy
and feeling very pleased.

When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a ‘thank you’ card
and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Soon, in came the baker ready for a haircut,
and when he tried to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I won’t take your money. This week, my first customer of the day gets a free cut. Nothing to pay’.’
The baker was also a happy man, as left the shop.
The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a ‘thank you’ card
and a dozen doughnuts waiting for him at his door.

A little later, the local Member of Parliament came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I cannot accept your money.
‘This week, my first customer of the day gets a free cut. Nothing to pay’.’ The Member of Parliament was very happy and left the shop with a smile on his face.

And the next morning, when the barber went to open up, – there were a dozen Members of Parliament all fighting to get to the front of the queue.

I have to admit that that story I neither true, not original – I just stumbled across it among one of my old school friends’ musings online, and wondered what it says about our general attitude towards MPs and others in leadership roles today, or positions of power today.

Certainly anyone in public life tends be seen as fair game for the “celebrity treatment” in the press – who can build up and then destroy an individual’s reputation almost in the blink of an eye, and without much fear of redress.

For a society which used to be marked by deference to those in authority, a good deal has changed in the past half century – whether for good or ill you can decide!
In today’s gospel, it’s Jesus’ leadership style that comes under the spotlight.

That opening phrase – “after leaving the mountain” – refers to the transfiguration: some of his closest disciples have just witnessed Jesus transformed in dazzling light, by the power of God. They know without doubt, now,
that he is something out of the ordinary –
and presumably expect him to begin to assert his strength and authority. But what he actually does is start talking about his own impending death.

The disciples just don’t get it –
why is he talking like this, just at the moment when everything seems to be going his way?

And, interestingly, they were “afraid to ask him”.

Was Jesus in fact something of a tyrant –
a temperamental, fiery leader whom you just didn’t ask?
Or were they afraid of upsetting him; or perhaps of just looking stupid, yet again?

And whatever the reason for their reticence in approaching him, it’s also intriguing that Jesus didn’t want anyone else to know that he was there in Galilee.

He wants to teach his disciples without distraction –
the important stuff has to be done away from the glare of publicity: private briefings, and subcommittees are apparently nothing new!

And, perhaps prompted by talk of Jesus’ death,
the disciples then begin arguing over which of them is the greatest – rather like children squabbling over who should be the leader for their next game. And, when Jesus catches them at it, they’re rightly embarrassed.

Maybe those who’d been with him on the mountain, at his transfiguration, felt somehow “chosen”;
perhaps those who’d been closest to him as he performed some of the more dramatic healings felt that they could bathe in his reflected glory;
but Jesus simply reframes the terms of reference:
“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all
and servant of all”.

Just as his own power will be revealed by offering up his life, so true greatness is seen not in those who cling to power in order to enrich themselves, but those who use what power and influence they have to give life to whoever they can help.

Jesus makes his point by indicating a small child – in those days certainly not regarded as having much status: even the gospel writer refers to the child as “it”, not he or she!
And Jesus, the great teacher, equates himself with this child: “whoever welcomes one such child .. welcomes me”.

If you want to achieve greatness, he seems to say,
pay attention to the those who have no power –
who can’t repay you for any kindness shown.
And if that doesn’t seem to make sense,
well let’s just think a little closer to our own experience.

Most of us who were around in the 1980s and 90s, will probably remember Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and the things she said and did, more clearly than most of the MPS of the time. Gratitude, and the legacy of lives touched by kindness, apparently last longer than short term power and status.
James also makes a passing reference to leadership, when he urges the faithful to call on the elders of the church
“to pray for and anoint the sick”.
Not a risk assessment or a PCC meeting is sight, notice!
A reminder, perhaps, that our leaders are not meant to be managers – but primarily men and women of prayer and devotion – and if the church structures that we’ve created work against that, then they need to change.

For all of us, James underlines the need to pray,
not just when we are in need of help, but in all things – celebrations included.
Because in doing so we allow our minds to be focussed on what really is important in our lives, and other people’s lives;
we open our minds to notice things we may have overlooked;
and we root all our experiences in the goodness of God.

I’m not sure whether, like Elijah, we’re ever going to gain power to make it rain or not rain –
although the ability to engineer rain by night and sunshine by day is certainly appealing!
What we can hope to learn through prayer
is that true strength comes through knowing
and confessing our own weakness.
It’s in owning that weakness and dependency on God, that we open ourselves to receive power from him.

Perhaps not power to do everything we think we want to do, but power to do what is in our best interests,
and for the building up of those around us.

Perhaps then we ought to pray more often for our leaders:
to pray for leaders who are not self-reliant –
to pray for leaders who are not afraid to make mistakes with the best of intentions and to be honest about them – to pray for leaders who are willing to identify themselves with the most vulnerable in society;
and to pray for leaders who recognise
that bigger and better plans than their own,
are always unfolding in God’s good time.

And perhaps we could ask that those same attributes might be formed in us.

Holy Week and Easter 2021

Services (in church)

Palm Sunday  (28 March) – 10.45  Morning Prayer, with Shorter Holy Communion

No service on Wednesday.

Maundy Thursday  –  6.30pm Eucharist with the stripping of the Altars.

Good Friday  – 2 – 3pm Liturgy of the Cross.

Holy Saturdayno services.

Easter Day6.30am – Liturgy and First Eucharist                                                                                

We will gather in front of church, around the brazier for the opening reading and responses, before blessing the new Paschal Candle and proceeding into church for the Eucharist.

                        –  9.30 Easter Communion at St Catherine’s,                                                                             

                        –  10.45 Easter Celebration at the Parish Church.  


If you hope to attend the 10.45 service, please email Christine Matthews on wiltonpcc@btinternet.com (or drop a note to The Parish Office, West Street, Wilton, SP2 0DL) with numbers in your household/bubble who will be attending.

And for the 9.30 service at Netherhampton, please contact Katie Ray on 01722 335701

Online resources

Recordings of some services will be available in the usual way, on our Facebook page and Website.

Stations of the Cross – with reflections by Fr Timothy Radcliffe – are available on the Website (under “Praying at Home” or “Recent Posts”

Daily meditations – from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday – a listed under “Holy Week 2021”

Bishop Richard’s reflections continue – listed under “Countdown to Easter”. 

You will also find some of last year’s resources on both the Website and Facebook Page.

Not Crowded Out

Reflection for Palm Sunday

It’s been a quite while since most of us have been part of any crowd. Certainly the largest gatherings that I’ve been part of, in the past year, would be the congregations here at All Saints’ and on Christmas Day – with around 100 people. Not exactly huge then!

But we’ve been reminded recently of the power, and unpredictability, of ‘the crowd’.
The recent vigil on Clapham Common, in response to the murder of Sarah Everard was described as “initially sombre with most people speaking in hushed tones or quietly reflecting.”
But then, first some speakers hijacked the event for their own agenda and, after dark, the sheer numbers present gave to many of those gathered a sense of strength and a determination not to be shepherded by the police or local councillors urging them to disperse. There IS strength in numbers, and sometimes a general feeling of dissatisfaction can gain powerful momentum and focus.

That’s been very evident in the protests in Bristol over the past week – demanding the right to protest, and causing a significant amount of damage in the process.
I don’t want to get into the rights or wrongs of either protests – what I’m interested in is the way that gathering in large numbers can somehow heighten the emotions of all those present, and the way that the mood of the whole crowd can be swayed – very powerfully and very quickly – by even a small number of determined voices.

It only takes one determined heckler in the room, to give any stand-up comedian a seriously bad day.

The crowds who welcomed Jesus were quite a mixture.
There were those who’d been following him – drawn by the things he’d been saying and doing; or by the stories told about this man who appeared, only recently, to have raised Lazarus from the dead.
There were also, no doubt, those who were drawn by the crowd itself – who just wanted to know what was going on: caught up in the excitement without really knowing what it’s about.
And there were those who knew plenty – who saw in Jesus a man whose claims were quite possibly blasphemous, and who very likely represented a threat to their own authority. They were there to see for themselves just what that threat looked like, in person.
As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the crowd welcomes him – full of anticipation and rejoicing. They had no red carpet to roll out for him – but the cloaks that some laid down were expensive things: an extravagant gesture –echoed by those who laid down the leafy palm branches to soften the way.
And the shouts of welcome were for a king – who comes in the name of God.

Clearly, that was too much for the Pharisees, keeping careful watch from within the crowd.

And, in Matthew’s version of this event, they demand that Jesus should “order his disciples to stop”. Jesus refuses, claiming that even if the crowd were silenced, the stones around them would cry out instead. The power of this moment cannot be stopped.

But, as with any demonstration or gathering, the mood can change very quickly. And within a matter of days, those scheming for Jesus’ downfall will have sown enough doubt in the hearts and minds of those around them, to turn the cheering crowds into the baying mob – demanding Jesus’ execution.
Again, the shifting emotions are somehow intensified by the sheer numbers in the crowds; and no pleading for calm or reason, even from the Roman Governor himself, will be heard by them.
And with that shift of mood, Jesus’s fate is sealed.

Interesting to note then, how Jesus handles all this.
By now surely Jesus IS aware what his role must be – he has already been preparing his disciples for the time when he will no longer be with them: reluctant though THEY may have been to hear what he was telling them.

Jesus neither hide as away from the crowds,
nor seeks to change them –
he makes no attempt to silence the excited shouts of welcome, nor to counter the savage demands for his death.

Instead, it seems, he works with the crowds – accepting, and even encouraging, the intensity of their emotions – but subtly reinterpreting those things.
Yes he IS a king – but not quite in the sense that they had imagined. Yes he MUST die, but not because he claimed to be God, but because he IS God – determined to reveal the depth of his love for those same crowds, and for all people.
I wonder if there’s something in that for us to take on board, as we react to the people around us,
and the crowds who gather around the causes of today.

When Paul urges the Philippians, “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” – it is a call for obedience, for control over their own emotions.

Not much is new in any generation – but old emotions can still run high. And perhaps the example of Jesus should encourage us not to try to shut down the voices of today’s crowds, as the Pharisees did –
not to seek to change the story, as Pontius Pilate did,
but to try and sense the mood of the people – what is driving people to gather and protest – and to reinterpret those things:
to help give meaning to the today’s events within the context of God’s unfolding story across the ages.

All humanity and all eternity is held in tension within the mysterious figure who rides into Jerusalem – to be welcomed, rejected, crucified and to rise again.
We have quite a week ahead of us – go with the crowds, but keep your eyes on him.


All being well, our services for Holy Week and Easter will include as much our “traditional” observances as possible.

(All services will be at the Parish Church, apart from Easter Morning.)

Palm Sunday falls on 28 March.

We will attempt to provide Palm Crosses to those whom we know are shielding/unable to get to church, so that you can “join us” in symbolically taking up your own cross. There will be a special service of Morning Prayer, with Shorter Holy Communion for those who wish to stay.

There will be no Wednesday service that week.                                                                                             

Instead there will be a simple Eucharist on Maundy Thursday at 6.30pm – with the stripping of the Altars, I preparation for Good Friday.

On Good Friday we will follow the Liturgy of the Cross from 2 – 3pm.

Holy Saturday will be a day of emptiness and silence, with no services.

Easter Day celebrations begin with the Liturgy and First Eucharist at 6.30am.

We will gather in front of church, around the brazier for the opening reading and responses, before blessing the new Paschal Candle and proceeding into church for the Eucharist.

For all of the above, no pre-booking is necessary.

There will then be a 9.30 Easter Communion at St Catherine’s, for which spaces must be pre-booked:

please contact Katie Ray on 01722 335701

The 10.45 Easter Celebration at the Parish Church will not include Holy Communion – as we hope to welcome as many parishioners as would like to come.                                                                     

If you hope to attend this service, please email Christine Matthews on wiltonpcc@btinternet.com (or drop a note to The Parish Office, West Street, Wilton, SP2 0DL) with numbers in your household/bubble who will be attending.

Requests must be received by Sunday 28 March, and you will be advised, no later than Weds. 31st, whether or not we have been able to allocate a place for you.

Celebrating the Vision

Revd. Caroline Titley

Reflection for 24 January 2021

Revelation 19:6-10 John 2:1-11

Celebrations. They have been in short supply during the pandemic.

I am sure that we can all think of family gatherings that had to be cancelled or reduced drastically in scale. For many of us, our circle of relatives, friends and acquaintances has become narrower over the past 10 months because large gatherings have not been allowed. And in our church context, we cannot accommodate all the people who would like to come to our major services because of social distancing, although our comparatively large church is a blessing at this time.
It is in this context of living constricted lives that we read John’s account of the Wedding at Cana: the type of celebration that we cannot, at this time, attend. I must confess to a certain wistfulness at the prospect of attending a wedding celebration. The possibility seems like a past age.
The wedding at Cana was a typical example of a Jewish wedding, with the extended family present: a privilege, a gift for all who were invited, an occasion of joy. The mother of Jesus, Mary, seems to be the senior family member present and interestingly seems to call the shots. Jesus and his disciples ‘had also been invited’, the gospel writer tells us. It was a gathering of the clan.
A question we should ask ourselves is what lies behind our longing for these celebrations?
The author of John’s gospel can help us here. First a bit of background. The writer went through a very careful process of deciding what he would include in his gospel about Jesus’s life. In the very last verse of his gospel he writes, ‘’there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written’. So the choice of the wedding at Cana, a story not included in any other of the gospels, was deliberate. It is the first of the 7 signs (or miracles of Jesus) that John chose to include in his gospel, along with 7 sayings of Jesus – 7 being the symbolic number for divine plenitude, divine abundance.
The story builds on John’s picture of Jesus so far, his cosmic significance– in the beginning was the word- then the role of his forerunner, John the Baptist, and then the calling of the first disciples. There is no nativity story. Jesus’s mother, and his extended family, are introduced in the Wedding at Cana.
The celebration was a gathering of family members but it pointed to more than this. While we are individual children of God, we are also part of the people of God, part of something greater than ourselves. Meeting together in fellowship was and is an expression of this.
For the people of Israel, Yahweh, the LORD, was connected deeply to them. A metaphor used was Yahweh as husband. And this idea was developed in the New Testament where Jesus was identified as the Bridegroom, with Christians, not Israel, as the Bride.
The wedding at Cana points also to the character of God: to a generous LORD, rooted in the teaching of the Old Testament. A good example is found in the prophecy of Isaiah who has a vision of the LORD helping his people following the oppression of exile:
‘on this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-natured wines strained clear.’ (Isa 25:6).
The Wedding at Cana culminates in a revelation of God’s glory. Jesus turned the water into plenteous quantities of wine and, in the words of the Gospel writer, ‘revealed his Glory’.
So where might this lead us? The Book of Revelation encourages us to ‘rejoice and give him the glory’. ‘God’s glory can be reflected in the radiance of a single face but it is also expressed in the joy of our communal life.
So, both in our families and friendship circles, and in our life within our local church communities, I think we would do well to hold in our heads the vision of God’s glory from Scripture, and to look forward to the time when we can gather together. In this way we maintain hope that we can collectively, once again, rejoice and celebrate his glory in person, whilst also welcoming those who are housebound, working or living away from home, or for another reason want to join us online.
We can look forward to God’s abundance in the full panoply of our music, part of worship from the earliest times, and particularly the singing as a congregation which we cannot do at the moment. We can look forward to re-opening our smaller churches at St Catherine’s, St Peter’s and St John’s Priory for public worship. We can look forward to sitting beside one another, and to sharing the peace in the ways we wish. And, most of all, we rejoice in the prospect of worshipping in joyful communities, welcoming back those who have had to stay away for so long and greeting with open arms all who want to explore the glory that is God’s.