This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.
It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.
Sunday, 23rd August 2009 Preacher – Prebendary Edward Mason, Rector of Bath Abbey
Director of Music – Geoff Weaver
Organist – Stephen Grahl
Officiant – Canon Robert Jones, RSCM course chaplain
Radio 4 Presentation – opening announcement
BBC Radio 4. [TIME CHECK]. Bath Abbey is the beautiful setting now for our Sunday Worship which explores St Paul’s description of the Christian virtues: ‘Faith, hope and love’. The music is led by members of this year’s Royal School of Church Music Young People’s Singing Course and the service is introduced by their chaplain: Canon Robert Jones.
Rob: Welcome. For the past week young people from all over the country have been exploring music and worship on this summer school: they have been putting in many hours in rehearsals and voice training, culminating in a sung service each day. We have also been learning to live in community, with time for swimming, games and fun as well. Music of many different cultures and styles has brought home the fact that three of the great characteristics of Christianity – faith, hope and love - are universal qualities and desires. These have been our theme this week.
Saint Paul wrote ‘now faith, hope and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love.’ Our first hymn is itself a great hymn of praise to Love.
Hymn: Love divine
Love Divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven, to earth come down,
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
All thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.
Finish then thy new creation
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee,
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise!
Come, almighty to deliver,
Let us all thy grace receive;
Suddenly return, and never,
Never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve thee as thy hosts above,
Pray, and praise thee, without ceasing,
Glory in thy perfect love.
Rob: Let us now pray for that most excellent gift of love:
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake.
Amen. Ministry of the Word Rob: Faith in God has given people strength not only to cope with life but also to live it to the full in the deep assurance of his presence. These words were found scratched on the walls of the Warsaw ghetto in 1942:
‘I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God even when he is silent.’
From before the time of Christ people have sung the songs of faith of the Hebrew Bible, the psalms. Psalm 121 expresses a deep faith in God who has made us and sustains us. The choir now sings these words in a setting from Russia which is full of yearning:
‘I lift up my eyes to the hills above.
From where comes my help?
It comes from God,
the maker of heaven, maker of earth,
for God sustains all life.’
Choir: Psalm 121 – Russian (In Every Corner Sing) Rob Barack Obama wrote his about his early years as a community organiser. He was working amongst the poorest communities in downtown Chicago, and when he came to recall those experiences he took the title for his book from a sermon of a preacher he got to know there. The book is called The Audacity of Hope – it’s a challenging phrase, making you sit up and think, as that sermon of hope in what seemed like a community devoid of hope made him sit up and think. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, when asked if he was ever tempted to despair at the situation under apartheid in South Africa described himself as ‘a prisoner of hope’.
Hope is a gift which stops us from giving up and empowers us in the fight for good. St Paul describes himself as ‘an ambassador in chains’ in the letter to the Ephesians, possibly writing these words we are now going to hear as he sits under house arrest towards the end of his life in Rome.
Reading: A reading from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6, beginning at verse 10.
Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the enemy. For our struggle is not against the enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.
Rob ‘Now we praise you for your Word, living, true and full of light’ – words the choir now sings in response to our reading in an Australian Aboriginal setting:
Choir: O Lord Jesus Marrkapmir (In Every Corner Sing) Rob Faith in God provides the depth of assurance we need to live our lives fully. Hope gives us a horizon beyond the present to which we can respond. But faith and hope need to come down to earth in everyday living – as it says in Scripture ‘let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action’. There is a Jewish saying: ‘we must meet extravagant and unreasonable hatred with an extravagant and unreasonable love.’
The extravagance of God’s love for us is shown in Jesus Christ – his life, his death and his resurrection. Before we hear from Prebendary Edward Mason, Rector of Bath Abbey, we too are invited to live this extravagant love, live the life of Jesus, as our next song, from New Zealand, expresses tenderly.
Choir: He came singing love – 4 part arrangement
He came singing faith, and he lived singing faith;
he died singing faith.
He arose in silence.
For the faith to go on, we must make it our song:
you and I be the singers.
He came singing hope, and he lived singing hope;
he died singing hope.
He arose in silence.
For the hope to go on, we must make it our song:
you and I be the singers.
He came singing love, and he lived singing love;
he died singing love.
He arose in silence.
For the love to go on, we must make it our song:
you and I be the singers.
Homily: Prebendary Edward Mason, Rector of Bath Abbey
70 years ago today, nazi Germany and the communist Soviet Union signed a treaty of non-aggression. It was the final, sordid, deal in the build-up to war and signalled the arrest of thousands of innocent men and women all over Europe: among them, artists, writers and philosophers.
Among them was the Jewish Hungarian author Arthur Koestler; rounded up in Paris, defined as “undesirable”, and thrown into the makeshift prison of the Roland Garros tennis stadium. Reflecting on the day, he wrote, “Only very rarely, in its darkest moments, has humanity been left without a specific faith to live and die for.” Koestler and many other free thinkers believed that all they had longed for had finally been traded for the knock-down price of human ambition.
He describes imprisonment. “The Mills of Misery ground slowly but surely both our bodies and our minds.”
The world was looking into the dark abyss of war. Where were faith, hope and love now?
We’ve just heard a reading from another “undesirable”, also in prison. St Paul.
It’s important that we don’t romanticise Paul or his situation.
Like Koestler, he too was a human being, trapped in prison. Like Koestler, he, too, knew the privations of the damp, the darkness and the loneliness of innocent detention. He too had every reason to despair.
But Paul’s own encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the Damascus Road had changed his life. Here was faith.
From his prison cell he saw with holy clarity new possibilities for human beings. Here was hope.
He had no doubt that those men and women, those first Christians, were called by God to play their part in bringing the grace of God’s justice and freedom to where there is oppression and coercion. Here is love.
Equally, he had no doubt that they – like us today - needed a special inner strength to mould their characters.
Well, because Paul believed that our world, is easily seduced, seduced by evil.
Now this talk of forces of evil, or “the devil’s schemes” can sound medieval to our ears and we might not like the language Paul uses. But surely it’s hard to deny that human beings, men and women like us, find that we are so often seduced away from the good towards the destructive. We only need to open our papers for a few moments or think of the many examples in our own lives and communities.
Last week I stayed in a hotel where, that very night, a young man was murdered in a terrible crime of passion. Perhaps we should be careful before we “rationalize the demons that beset our society.”
Paul knew that those young Christians to whom he wrote in Ephesus, a port city in what is now western Turkey, would be faced with the same seductive influences as we are today. What could he write to save them from being duped into the shoddy and self-serving when, in Jesus Christ, a richer and more wholesome life was available?
Like any good preacher, Paul would have looked around for inspiration. Here in Bath it’s not hard to imagine Paul’s world. Extraordinary Roman Baths fed by hot springs lie close to where I’m standing and Bath Abbey itself is almost certainly built over a Roman Temple where soldiers in all their finery would have been regular visitors.
Perhaps Paul’s eyes fell on the uniform of his Roman guard, and he thought, “that’ll do nicely.”
So, Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus: God has provided you with all you need to face the present situation – whatever it is - all that you need as Christians to become men and women of towering character. Think of it as being like a legionnaire’s armour – and put it on!
God has given you integrity and reliability as a belt – put it on.
As a breastplate, take a reputation for dealing fairly and put it on.
You Christians have the opportunity to bring the best possible news to a suffering world. Think of this as a soldier’s shoes – put them on.
There’s the shield that frees us from the terror of death, a helmet of peace,
and a sword to speak words that meet the critical needs of today.
Well, we in the 21st Century might find Paul’s image of Roman armour as a bit dated. Indeed, the frequent image in hymns of Christians donning military armour and going out as ‘Soldiers of Christ’ makes many people understandably uneasy.
Instead we might think of these things as resources which God has made available to all, resources of faith that will shape our character and decision-making even in those unsupervised moments – those secret times when we are tempted from what we know is for the very best.
That’s why the Christian life, life in the church of God, has so much to offer this country today. It’s one reason why all these young people from the Royal School of Church Music are singing here in the Abbey this weekend, representing thousands more across the country. They have much to sing about.
We sing about what God has made available to all - his armour. If worn, says Paul, we will have in our possession the resources that our society longs for. And we will have all the protection we need as we aspire to create new communities charged with God’s glory.
Seventy years ago, Arthur Koestler despaired of a world without faith to live and die for.
Today, we need men and women with characters free to be effective for good in society without being seduced by the ultimately destructive.
Are we prepared to shoulder God’s armour –the whole lot – in the name of Jesus Christ who lived and died for the world he loves?
For he is the basis of solid faith, joyful hope and enduring love.
Choir: Anthem: Give us the wings of faith – Bullock Prayers
Rob Faith, hope and love are expressed in action, but need to be grounded in prayer. We pray using words of Desmond Tutu:
to give us a deep assurance of your presence with us
in good times and bad.
Choir: Sung response Voice 2 In hope we ask you to broaden our commitment
to the peace and well-being of all the peoples of our world.
Choir: Sung response Voice 3 In love we offer ourselves to be your hands and feet,
your eyes and ears, your Body in Christ for the sake of the world.
Choir: Sung response Rob Let us pray for those in any kind of need,
for those we love and those we find it hard to love,
praying in the words Jesus gave us….:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory
are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
Rob Our service is drawing to a close, as is our summer school here in Bath. These young people in the choir have sung many services over the past week and still have two more to sing today here in the Abbey before going home. We’ve grown together in faith, hope and love . But, above all, maybe we have learned this really important truth: it is not how much we love God that counts, it’s how much God loves us, and that wherever there is love, God himself is there.
Choir Anthem:Ubi caritas– Maurice Durufle Rob God give you grace to follow the saints
in faith and hope and love,
for where there is love,
God himself is there.
And the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen. Hymn: All my hope on God (with descant)
All my hope on God is founded;
He doth still my trust renew,
Me through change and chance He guideth,
Only good and only true.
God unknown, He alone
Calls my heart to be His own.
Daily doth th’almighty Giver
Bounteous gifts on us bestow;
His desire our soul delighteth,
Pleasure leads us where we go.
Love doth stand at His hand;
Joy doth wait on His command.
Pride of man and earthly glory,
Sword and crown betray His trust;
What with care and toil He buildeth,
Tower and temple fall to dust.
But God’s power, hour by hour,
Is my temple and my tower.
Sacrifice of praise be done,
High above all praises praising
For the gift of Christ, His Son.
Christ doth call one and all:
Ye who follow shall not fall.
God’s great goodness aye endureth,
Deep His wisdom, passing thought:
Splendor, light and life attend him,
Beauty springeth out of naught.
Evermore from His store
Newborn worlds rise and adore.
Radio 4 Presentation – closing announcement
Sunday Worship came from Bath Abbey. Members of this year’s Royal School of Church Music Young People’s Singing Course were directed by Geoff Weaver and the organist was Stephen Grahl. The service was led by their chaplain, Canon Robert Jones and the preacher was Prebendary Edward Mason, Rector of Bath Abbey. The producer was Clair Jaquiss. Next week, Sunday Worship comes from Trinity Methodist Church, Penarth in South Wales.